(Graphic courtesy of Madeleine Isaacs / Daily Bruin Senior Staff)
Following recent events surrounding the Undergraduate Students Association Council and the Jewish community, many Jewish students have felt marginalized and unrepresented by their student government. Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, especially, created a gruesomely divided campus climate that lingered for months, culminating in the necessity for Jewish students to write a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. As a result, many Jewish students have found themselves fearing the results of the upcoming USAC elections, and the implications they may have for Jewish Bruins.
The LET’S ACT! slate has notoriously proven itself to be an anti-Israel, and debatably anti-Semitic, slate at UCLA. For instance, every LET’S ACT! USAC board member voted in favor of divestment during the resolution this past November. Even more chilling, LET’S ACT! presidential candidate Morris Sarafian took an active part in the Rachel Beyda incident this past February, making troubling comments questioning Beyda’s allegiances.
The other major slate, Bruins United, has generally been regarded as a friend to the Jewish community, currently endorsing three candidates of Jewish heritage or ancestry: Heather Rosen, Danny Siegel and Ariel Rafalian. Also, during debates this past Sunday night, candidate Zachary Helder made a clear stance against anti-Semitism, claiming that he won’t take partisan stances that divide, and that divestment is an issue that should be left out of the External Vice President’s office.
Nevertheless, there have been instances in which BU-elected officials have demonstrated antagonism towards the Jewish community. For example, Fabienne Roth was outspokenly in favor of divestment once elected and also played a vocal role in the scrutiny of Beyda’s Jewish identity (although Roth disassociated herself from BU over the summer). Last year, Facilities Commissioner Armen Hadjimanoukian of the BU slate cosponsored the February divestment resolution with LETS ACT! and independent board members — although he ultimately voted against it.
I decided to reach out to every candidate with the intent of transcending the slate stereotypes by giving each candidate the ability to explain how he or she intends to represent the Jewish community if elected. Of course politics are politics, so authenticity is always in question. Ultimately, whether or not such statements are genuine is up to you to decide.
Heather Rosen (Bruins United): “I have a proven track record of representing the Jewish community. I have fought against anti-Semitism, defended Rachel Beyda, stood up against the demonization of the state of Israel, and continuously strove to represent all students.”
Morris Sarafian (LET’S ACT!): “The Armenian community has historically had strong ties with the Jewish community internationally, because of our shared history of genocide. We have worked together in the past to combat future genocides, and as the next USAC president, I intend to utilize these ties to combat anti-Semitism and hate speech on our campus so that all Bruins feel safe. The historically marginalized Jewish community deserves the resources and tools necessary to educate the campus on how to address its concerns, and as president, I will actively reach out to the community continuously to find ways USAC can improve the Bruin experience for the Jewish community on our campus. As the next USAC President, I will take a strong stance against all forms of hate speech and negative campus climate and utilize our intersectional histories to educate the campus on the necessity of inclusivity.”
Internal Vice President Candidates:
Heather Hourdequin (Bruins United): “This past year, I served as the Internal Vice President in which I sat at the Council table during the Feb. 10 Judicial Board appointment in which an appointee was scrutinized for her Jewish identity. During that meeting, I spoke out against anti-Semitism, and I will continue to ensure that there is no room on this campus for anti-Semitism and other forms of hate speech. All Bruins deserve to feel safe and included on our campus, and I will work to ensure that campus is a welcoming place.”
Deyvani Rana (LET’S ACT!): “Anything that makes students feel marginalized on campus needs to be addressed firmly and swiftly. As the next Internal Vice President, I want to actively work on including student organizations in my campaign against hate speech and cyber bullying so that no Bruin feels unsafe on campus. Through the IVP office, I want to provide student organizations access to workshops that inform them about different community conditions in order to sensitize everyone about students and their identities. I encourage all students, including Jewish students, to help me not only outreach but to also collaborate to make these workshops as representative and informative as possible.”
External Vice President Candidates:
Zachary Helder (Bruins United): “The Jewish community at UCLA has been particularly affected by campus climate issues as of late: this is to say that a resolution calling for divestment from companies associated with Israel, and the ‘Beyda Appointment Incident’ compounded into an emblem of disturbing and undeniable campus anti-Semitism.
“USAC has more generally perpetuated this problem because it is trying to tackle issues that should be out of the scope of student government. While USAC should be facilitating conversations on campus, it should not be having those debates itself. After all, it is supposed to represent all students, and it has failed in this respect by alienating the Jewish community.
“As the next External Vice President, I will protect the on-campus Jewish community from external politics, including BDS. Your community should enjoy the same representation and neutrality as all of your peers, and this means not appeasing the behest of one community at the expense of another — in this case, SJP and the Jewish community, respectively.
“But I will do much more than that. All students need thoughtful and skillful defense on important policy issues, particularly the tuition increases. The outside perspective and years of experience I bring will prove invaluable as I transform the External VP office from a broken, divisive, alienating office into one characterized by tact, inclusion, and measurable success, progress on issues like tuition and shared governance, which matter to us all.”
Denea Joseph (LET’S ACT!): “As a black undocumented woman, I understand all too well what it’s like to be marginalized. If elected to be External Vice President, I will fulfill my duty as a representative of this campus and someone who is in solidarity with the Jewish community by providing a listening ear and open mind to ensure that the concerns of the Jewish students on this campus are being heard. “
General Representative Candidates:
Aditi Agrawal (Bruins United): “As a proud Indian student on this campus, I know what it feels like to have my identity politicized — an issue that the Jewish community has to deal with as well. This year, it was incredibly saddening to see council members who pledged to educate themselves and be an ally to the Jewish community unfairly question the loyalty and abilities of an extremely qualified Jewish candidate. As someone who understands the politicization of her own identity, I will strive to be an ally to the Jewish community in any way I possibly can. I have the honor of having a number of Jewish friends and engaging with the community and understanding your perspective, which has been an incredibly eye-opening experience. I hope to be able to continue to forge a strong relationship with the community going forward.”
Anais Leontine Amin (LET’S ACT!): “…it is extremely important that I focus on every single community on this campus. In regards to representing UCLA’s Jewish community, I must say that I do not personally identify as a Jewish female. However, identity categories will never limit myself from reaching out to the Jewish community in order to establish relationships with its members. It is essential that I, as a leader, take the time and effort to learn about community struggles and needs because it is my duty to do so. Being educated on topics pertaining to the Jewish community, attending community meetings, and dedicating time and effort to maintain said relationships with community members is incredibly crucial. My platforms are directed to every single community on this campus and I encourage every student, who feels that representation is lacking, to reach out to me in order for all of us to work together and make sure that we are making UCLA an inclusive university.”
Jaimeson Cortez (LET’S ACT!): “I plan to serve the Jewish community by fulfilling my role as a general representative and actively outreaching to Jewish organizations and Jewish students, ensuring that their issues and interests are brought to the council table every Tuesday. The past few years have created a campus climate that makes many Jewish students feel marginalized and unsafe. That is unacceptable. No matter my personal beliefs on Israel, it’s important that I work as a councilmember to define and educate the student body on the difference between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. No one has the right to feel comfortable all the time, but all Bruins have a right to feel safe.”
Jason Banks Ergina (The After Party): “I’ve always been a friend of the Jewish community. Three of my cousins are Jewish and I am a member of the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. I want to represent the Jewish community by giving them a voice in USAC to counterbalance the anti-Semitic vibes that this present council has been giving out. I plan to represent all students at UCLA by being myself and making the De Neve crosswalk longer.”
Matt Hezlep (Bruins United): Hezlep could not be reached for comment.
Aaliya Khan (LET’S ACT!): “The anti-Semitism and hate speech on campus this last year are completely inappropriate and unacceptable. As a Muslim womxn who has experienced several counts of Islamaphobia and hate speech on this campus, I’ve realized how toxic and negative the campus climate has become not only for Jewish and Muslim students, but for Black students, Latino students, undocumented students and other historically marginalized communities. As your next general representative I will be institutionalizing a non-denominational prayer and meditation space that will encourage interfaith conversation and activities that will allow other students to better know about the Jewish community and provide a safe space and worship space for Jewish students on campus!”
Daniel Siegel (Bruins United): “As a second year Jewish student, I — just like the rest of the community — have had to witness and experience growing anti-Jewish sentiment on campus masked by an anti-Israel culture. Since my freshman year, I have served in student government, but after seeing how Rachel Beyda was treated by the council a few months back, I said enough is enough, I’m running to make sure this crap doesn’t belong at UCLA anymore.
“As a progressive student, part of Bruin Democrats, I am stern in my belief that BDS and specifically divestment at UCLA does nothing to improve the situation in the Middle East, and it contributes to a problematic campus climate. Since the beginning of this year I have served on Bruins for Israel’s Political Affairs Committee and am an avid supporter of the US-Israel bipartisan relationship.”
Transfer Student Representative Candidates:
Keytiana Hempstea (LET’S ACT!): “Being a Black transfer student at UCLA, I definitely know the feeling of being marginalized on this campus and outside of campus. If elected to be the next Transfer Student Representative and as a council member, I would want to continue the Black and Jewish solidarity that we have a long history of and be an open door to that community. When I fight for an inclusive, nurturing and positive campus climate, I ensure to include all of those students and communities who feel like UCLA has not been supportive in their struggle.”
Ariel Rafalian (Bruins United): “Entering UCLA as a transfer, I immediately found a home on campus within the tight-knit Jewish community. The Jewish community at UCLA helped ease my transition into the larger Bruin family and still serves as a strong support system for me. I am now an active member of Hillel and hold leadership positions in both the Persian Community at Hillel and the Transfer Undergraduate Students at Hillel. I understand the challenges facing the Jewish community on campus and will strive to represent all Jewish Bruins to the best of my ability, whether it be on the council table or in the Los Angeles community at large.”
Academic Affairs Commissioner Candidates:
Kevin Sandoval Casasola (LET’S ACT!): “If elected to be your next Academic Affairs Commissioner, I will complete my duty as an elected official to reach out to the Jewish community in listening to their academic needs and make myself accessible to all of the community.”
Trent Kajikawa, (Bruins United): “In terms of representing the Jewish community specifically, I believe it is time to move past the negative comments directed at the Jewish community at UCLA and improve the relationships between the diverse students on our campus. I am a firm believer that USAC should be used to facilitate conversation and make decisions that the entire student body can agree on. If there ever comes a time to make a decision on a resolution or motion, I will reach out to students from all parts of campus — the Jewish community would be one. While I myself do not identify as Jewish, I have personal friendships [within] the community and would ensure that I am doing by best to reach out to them.”
Cultural Affairs Commissioner Candidates:
Amy Shao (LET’S ACT!): “The Cultural Affairs Commission prides itself [on] a legacy of fifty years of arts-and-culture based programming for not only all students of UCLA but as well as the greater Los Angeles community. It is critical that the Commission continues its narrative of inclusivity and education through the entertainment of our programming — edutainment. Thus, moving forward into the upcoming year, the Cultural Affairs Commission will be hosting Culture Talks through the Collective series, one of nine series within the Commission. Culture Talks will serve as a weekly physical space that provides a safe space for the empowerment of student voice on culturally, politically, and socially relevant issues that effect not only communities here on campus, but as well as beyond the borders of UCLA.”
Financial Supports Commissioner Candidates:
Ruhi Patil (Bruins United): Patil could not be reached for comment.
Erineo Garcia (LET’S ACT!): Garcia could not be reached for comment.
Facilities Commissioner Candidates:
Ian Cocroft (Bruins United): “As a councilmember, I plan to represent Jewish Bruins by understanding and communicating the diverse points of view that exist within the Jewish community. Over the past two years, I have sought to educate myself on Jewish culture and the issues facing the Jewish students. Although I have attended countless Shabbat dinners and have even had the opportunity to visit Israel, educating myself on how culture, religion, and politics intersect and affect Jewish life on campus is a constant process. The perception that the Jewish students have divided loyalties or that all Jewish individuals think the same way on certain issues often comes from a place of ignorance, and I will not stand for such ignorance when I am sitting at the Council table.”
Campus Events Commissioner Candidates:
Alexandra Mossler (Independent): “I am a proud Jewish student at UCLA and, as the Campus Events Commissioner, I am looking forward to continuing my active involvement with the Jewish community and being a thoughtful representative on the council table for all students and organizations.”