Holy Chutzpah: 3 Jewish Heroes of 2011
All is not lost. We live in an age of terrifying anti-Semitism, and so far, the Jewish establishment's only real response has been a competition over who can surrender fastest. But Jewish self-respect is not dead.
A few courageous men and women -- barely more than a minyan -- jump out of bed each morning, determined to defend Israel and the Jewish people, combat Islamic outrages, and expose the Jews in the Basement -- the craven, self-appointed Jewish grandees.
True, this handful of heroes are sometimes reviled in their own communities and threatened with lawsuits and jail. They're loudly ignored, defamed, and detested by the establishment. It doesn't matter. Each one is blessed with holy chutzpah -- an invigorating spiritual cocktail of brazen effrontery, steely stubbornness, and passion for justice.
Here are three Jewish heroes of 2011:
A soft-spoken lecturer in Hebrew, Tammi Benjamin finds herself living and working in one of the nuttiest places in America: the University of California, Santa Cruz. It's the sort of campus where Lenin Peace Prize-winner Angela Davis was an esteemed professor in the "History of Consciousness" department, despite her unusual past of fleeing from federal charges that she murdered Judge Harold Haley.
The campus is gorgeous, set amidst towering redwoods. But it incubates the ugliest sort of anti-Semitism, thanks to radical tenured faculty who use the public university to promote their pet ideological hatreds.
For years, Tammi Benjamin has meticulously recorded and politely protested each instance of officially sanctioned Jew-hating. She's documented the professors who recruit students for anti-Israel demonstrations and who soil their syllabi with hysterical, evidence-free accusations of massacres committed by Israeli troops.
She's carefully noted the more than a dozen events since 2001 dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each sponsored by multiple academic departments. In her words, "[a]ll of them have been biased against Israel, often using highly tendentious and unscholarly rhetoric which demonizes Israel and encourages members of the audience to engage in actions to harm Israel."
She's catalogued the harassment of Jewish students in classroom and researched the administration's refusal to respond to anti-Jewish graffiti defacing student dormitories.
And, finally, in 2009, she filed a landmark complaint with the federal government, the first of its kind, charging that the Santa Cruz campus had become a hostile environment for Jews.
In March 2011, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights agreed to launch a major investigation into Benjamin's allegations.
"Such activism has made Rossman-Benjamin, 55, something of a pariah on campus. Not a single member of the Santa Cruz faculty has endorsed her read on the situation -- save for her husband, professor Ilan Benjamin, who chairs the chemistry department," writes San Francisco's Jewish News Weekly.
But Tammi Benjamin presses on, co-founding AMCHA, which battles anti-Semitism throughout the University of California system. She spearheaded a letter signed by over 5,200 people to UC President Mark Yudof, urging him to address the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry on UC campuses forcefully, publicly, and promptly.
Yudof, who likes to claim he's a proud Jew and supporter of Israel, ignored and then dismissed the letter. But Tammi refuses to be deterred, writing back, "Please understand that the Jewish community will not remain silent while Jewish students are being intimidated and harassed at the University of California."
Dr. Charles Jacobs
If ever there was proof that the world needs Charles Jacobs, it was the recent demonstration by Occupy Boston on behalf of Tarek Mehanna.
Apparently, it's now fashionable to make common cause with Mehanna, a young Muslim pharmacist who's accused of plotting to kill shoppers at a New England mall, à la Mumbai, and charged with working as "the media wing" of al-Qaeda.
Federal prosecutors described Dr. Mehanna's delight while watching a video scene of an American soldier whose chest was ripped open and innards set ablaze with gasoline, which Mehanna approvingly called "a Texas barbeque."
If this walking piece of credentialed excrement is now beloved in Boston, as the "Free Tareq" movement has indicated, I'll take comfort in knowing that Charles Jacobs is on the case. Jacobs' self-declared excruciatingly lonely mission is "breaking the silence" about Islamic extremism and unmasking its American practitioners and enablers, many of them centered in Boston.
While the commentariat were tingling with joy over their "Arab Spring" fantasias, Jacobs and his organization, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, were characteristically proclaiming the facts and noting the unsettling Boston connection.
A million jubilant Egyptians turned out in Tahrir Square to welcome back Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the "Theologian of Terror," who used the historic occasion to publicly pray for the conquest of Jerusalem. It turns out that Qaradawi is not just the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the man whose fatwas allow martyrdom against U.S. troops and Israeli civilians.
He's also, God help us, the founding trustee of the scandal-plagued Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
Thanks to Jacobs' fearless persistence, we know the radical list of trustees and directors of this Saudi-funded mega-mosque in Roxbury. And we keep tabs on the outrageous antics that never seem to stop there, such as the odd experience of the public-school children who arrived on a field trip and somehow found themselves flat on the floor, praying to Allah. We know about the extremist speakers they hosted and the pep rally they held for the aforementioned accused terrorist, Dr. Tarek Mehanna.
The Jewish community should fling matzah balls in Jacobs' path in gratitude for what he does to keep them safe. Instead, Jacobs suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous rabbis, who resent his constant puncturing of their beloved "interfaith" illusions. Seventy Boston-area rabbis took out an ad in the Jewish newspaper accusing Jacobs of biblical sins and admonishing the community to have nothing to do with him.
When they're long forgotten, Dr. Charles Jacobs will be remembered for helping to keep Jewish pride alive.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan is the most Jewish area outside of Israel, and what happens there counts.
Lately, thanks to the intrepid Richard Allen, what's been happening is the embarrassing exposure of the local Jewish Community Center's partnership with rabidly anti-Israel groups.
JCC Watch, the upstart organization that Richard Allen founded, chronicles the JCC's insidious alliance with New Israel Fund, B'Tselem, Partners for Progressive Israel, and J Street, all organizations that promote the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement against Israel.
But Allen does more than alert the local community; he also organizes lively protests. Recently, a hundred people turned up outside the JCC, handing out flyers to parents with strollers going into the building and grandparents with walkers coming out, as Richard Allen gravely intoned into the microphone: "This is the list of names of the JCC's Board of Directors who did not do their jobs and exercise responsibility."
And then, he read the Board's names, one by one. Holy chutzpah, indeed!
Stella Paul can be reached at Stellapundit@aol.com.