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Documents reveal details behind planning process of Bruins for Israel rally

The Hillel at UCLA building is pictured. Hillel is a campus organization that organizes and funds events aimed for Jewish students. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Dylan Winward and Catherine Hamilton

Jan. 16, 2024 1:10 a.m.

This post was updated Jan. 16 at 12:41 p.m.

Documents received by the Daily Bruin revealed the details behind the planning of a recent rally hosted by Bruins for Israel.

According to documents obtained through a public records request, a Bruins for Israel event hosted Nov. 7 cost a total of $3,584.67 to organize. This included $1,775 spent on rented tables and chairs for a display symbolizing Israelis who would be missing Shabbat dinners after being kidnapped by Palestinian militant group and political party Hamas. The event included live speakers, prayers, chanting and a march around the UCLA campus.

[Related: Jewish organizations at UCLA host rally to call for release of Israeli hostages]

Dan Gold, the executive director of Hillel at UCLA, said some of the money was managed through his organization, since Bruins for Israel is a subgroup of Hillel at UCLA. He added that Hillel’s subgroups must align with the organization’s core values and mission.

“Any group can try to be a part of Hillel from an administrative standpoint, as long as the mission of that group is Israel having a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people,” Gold said.

Gold also said Hillel individuals who advocated against Israel’s existence as a Jewish homeland would be asked to stop affiliating with Hillel.

Hillel at UCLA is a nonprofit organization, relying on donations from the public without university funding, Gold said, adding that fundraising efforts have increased since Oct. 7 – particularly to fund security for its programs.

The documents The Bruin obtained revealed that BFI spent $1,339.67 on three security guards for the event, organized through the UCLA Events Office. Gold said spending money on security is important because of antisemitic threats in other parts of Los Angeles against Jewish centers and communities.

“Security is a massive concern for our community,” he said. “We’ve had to independently fund all the security for our organization. We’ve had to increase security twofold since Oct. 7.”

Although UCPD was notified about the rally, it did not respond to requests for comment about its role in providing security. A Bruins for Israel spokesperson also said in an emailed statement that the rally’s organizers did not have direct contact with UCPD ahead of the event.

However, Gold said UCPD has helped secure its venues for other off-campus events.

“UCPD has kept an open line of communication. They’ve come by our building during peak times,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive.”

Gold said the security measures were important because of recently reported antisemitism on campus.

[Related: Jewish students express concern over antisemitism on UCLA campus]

In an email sent to UCLA Academic Senate Chair Andrea Kasko, Lauri Mattenson, a lecturer for UCLA’s writing programs, said she wanted guidance on dealing with an email from Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA asking her to cancel class during a rally it was holding Oct. 25.

“I find it inappropriate for students to email faculty in this way,” she said in the email. “As someone who knows many Jewish students at UCLA who are afraid to be here at the moment, I am writing to ask for your guidance about how to deal with this message.”

Mattenson did not respond to requests for comment.

Gold said hate has affected some of UCLA’s faculty, an issue that Hillel branches across American universities have been tracking.

“In some cases, faculty are experiencing anti-Jewish hate from their fellow faculty and sometimes are facing it from their students,” he said. “The situation with Lauri, unfortunately, was not uncommon (and) was not the only situation I was made aware of.”

In a written statement, Mohammad, a spokesperson for SJP at UCLA who was granted partial anonymity for safety reasons, said the email was sent to all faculty members whose classes coincided with a walk-out event and national call for action.

Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesperson, said faculty members concerned about an imminent threat should report the concern to UCPD, adding that they can report to other resources, such as the Staff Diversity & Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Office and the Discrimination Prevention Office.

Gold also said he thought some Instagram stories posted by student leaders, including the Cultural Affairs Commission of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, were antisemitic. The examples he flagged included a repost by Cultural Affairs Commissioner Alicia Verdugo of an article that claimed Israeli soldiers killed Israeli civilians at the Nova music festival, as well as a repost by the CAC of accusations that Israel has harvested organs in the Gaza Strip.

Another post the commission shared on its Instagram story told individuals that students supporting Israel were putting razors in poster papers intending to harm counterprotesters who tried to tear them down. Gold said he thought these claims were false and antisemitic.

CAC did not respond to requests for comment.

Gold said he encouraged all students to report any incidents of antisemitism to the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The documents The Bruin obtained also showed there were plans for the Israeli consul general in LA to speak at the rally Nov. 7, which Gold said did not materialize for security reasons.

However, Gold said even though the Israeli consulate general does donate to Hillel at UCLA, it does not influence the center’s programming. He added in a text message sent after the interview that the local Israeli consulate’s contribution to Hillel at UCLA is less than 1% of Hillel’s annual operating budget.

“We have zero formal relationship or connection to the Israeli consulate,” he said. “Students and student groups sometimes get microdonations from the consul general’s office.”

A Bruins for Israel spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they have not applied for or received direct funding from the Israeli consulate.

Mike Cohn, who is the BFI SOLE advisor, also said in an email sent to Bruins for Israel on Nov. 6 that he would directly lead the march.

“Let the students know I will lead the march with them,” he said in the email. “You have done a terrific job with all of the planning!”

Although the Daily Bruin requested an interview with Cohn, Vazquez could not arrange it in time. However, Vazquez said in an emailed statement that Cohn meant that, if the event included a march, he would suggest the best route for those participating. Vazquez added that it is normal for Student Affairs staff to walk at the front, middle and back of a march to promote safety.

The Bruins for Israel spokesperson said in the emailed statement that the planned events aim to make their community’s voice feel heard.

“Bruins for Israel plans events that are important to the students in our community,” they said in the statement. “Our main priorities are ensuring our students feel safe and heard; therefore, our events are always planned with those two points in mind.”

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Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year statistics and english literature student.
Catherine Hamilton | News editor
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
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