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Rabbi’s Update 5/3/2024

Dear Friends:

I had reason to wake up quite early yesterday morning so I spent a couple of hours watching on live TV as the California Highway Patrol dismantled the pro-Palestinian “encampment” in front of UCLA’s Royce Hall and arrested quite a number of it participants. Yesterday afternoon I watched videos of what had been left behind, including not only tents but batteries, flashlights, masks, orange safety vests, food and water, etc. I also saw the graffiti spray painted on the outside walls of Royce Hall and on various statues on the campus. Having seen the UCLA campus in person -- it is truly gorgeous -- this was especially disturbing.

I support free speech and I do not support legislation which seeks to outlaw certain speech based on its content. But erecting tents, graffiti and vandalism, threatening other students and preventing them from going to class, do not constitute “speech”. We also need to remember that the First Amendment applies to the government, not private individuals, and private universities such as Columbia, NYU, Fordham, and USC are not in fact bound by the First Amendment although they have a moral obligation to respect academic freedom. (UCLA as a public university is in a different category but even public universities have a right to impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions to prevent disruption of learning.) It should also be noted that many of the participants in these demonstrations are not students. According to the New York Police Department, 25 percent of those arrested at Columbia and 60 percent of those arrested at City College had no connection to those schools.

Some of you may know that I was arrested once in an act of civil disobedience ( a protest in front of the White House in 1995 calling for the US to take action against the genocide then occurring in Bosnia) and of course ten years earlier dozens of rabbis were arrested and a handful went to jail for protesting too close to the Soviet Embassy. But “civil disobedience” does not include vandalism or actual or threatened violence, and it also doesn’t include demanding that university administrators deliver food to you while you are occupying a university building, as one of the leaders of the Columbia takeover of Hamilton Hall did earlier this week.

There is so much happening that it seems to me a fool’s errand to schedule a specific topic for Adult Education next week. Instead, I will have another “Ask the Rabbi” session where we can discuss whatever might be on your mind. I hope to see you there.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. For my drop-in hours, you do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment; if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. 

Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant or another member of our Jewish community who could use a phone call, please let me know.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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