I’m terribly sorry to hear about the four years of tsouris UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller has been made to suffer by pro-Israel provocateur, Rachel Neuwirth. Several years ago, during a campus talk by Alan Dershowitz he approached some Muslim demonstrators and invited them to come hear Palestinian scholar Sari Nusseibeh speak at a later date. Neuwirth must’ve felt provoked by Seidler-Feller’s “consorting with the enemy” so she sidled over and taunted him as a “kapo.”
What happened next depends on who you believe. According to Seidler Feller, he became enraged and got into an argument with Neuwirth. According to the latter, he screamed, punched and kicked her (and she only called him a kapo AFTER the physical attack).
When I was a graduate student at UCLA, Chaim was the Hillel rabbi and I worked closely with him on various projects including the weekly Westwood Minyan. He was and is a deeply passionate man with a good heart. He has mentored thousands of Jewish college students like me in his 30 years of service. His views on the Israel-Palestine conflict are clearly dovish and anathema to Neuwirth. I never in all the time I knew him saw him get angry at anyone. But then again no one ever called him a kapo in my presence.
I don’t countenance physical violence in any form or for any reason. If Seidler-Feller lost control of himself and did any of the things Neuwirth claims, I do not countenance it. But do any of us know how we would truly react if someone pushed one of our most vulnerable buttons? You’d like to think that you would keep your head while all around you lose theirs. But can you be sure?
As for Neuwirth. She has a coterie of Jew-baiters she hangs out with. She’s somehow got hold of the mailing list for an Israeli academic listserv called Alef and sends harassing, abusive e-mails to all the members. After telling her once to “take a hike,” and reporting her e mails to SBCGlobal’s abuse department, I now have them automatically deep-sixed by my spam filter. But before I did that, I kept these two juicy little numbers by her meant to shame two of the list’s members:
“Listen, if you still send things to the Alef list, could you ask them if D. (a regular anti-Semite on the list) is really a transgendered neo-nazi, and whether she had a female circumcision to show her solidarity with Muslim women?”
Or this semi-coherent ramble:
Are you proud of alef member, Mr. T., record? Check this law-life record in the attached
alef = Arafatistan Lovers Encouraging Fanaticism/Nazism.
Calling Seidler-Feller a “kapo” and Alef members “Nazis”–do I detect a theme? She and her minions regularly send out party favors like this to those Jews they wish to bait as she did Seidler-Feller. Now tell me, do you believe that such a despicable human being wouldn’t have provoked Chaim Seidler-Feller by first calling him a kapo?
Given the passages you’ve just read, can this woman viewed as a reliable informant about anything:
Neuwirth told The Journal that she is “neither left nor right” when it comes to Israel, she is just concerned with “reality.”
A member of the Alef list (a respected academic who I’ve known personally) just wrote to me reporting that Neuwirth used to telephone his home “regularly” and “curse” him and tell his wife that she should leave him. The calls were so incessant that he no longer picks up the phone when she calls.
It’s interesting that the pro-Israel right has tarred and feathered Chaim as an abuser. But what about the abuse that she not only heaped on him, but heaps on countless other Jews whom she hounds regularly?
It’s quite a racket she’s got going. She has nothing to lose. She’s a “freelance journalist” (writing for such august publications as Frontpagemagazine) and “real estate broker.” Can’t get fired from those jobs. She provokes him with an obscene taunt. He falls for it. But unlike her, Seidler Feller has something to lose. He loses his temper. And almost loses his career along with his reputation. Naturally, she has him by the shorthairs and squeezes him for everything he’s worth. She gets an abject apology which fully conforms to the “facts” as she sees them. She even gets what she proudly notes as:
a “substantial amount of money” in restitution, to be paid by Seidler-Feller and Hillel.
The Forward’s story about the affair notes another perspective than the one Seidler-Feller has been forced to affirm in his apology:
Seidler-Feller has had many defenders in the Los Angeles area, most of whom have claimed that Neuwirth and her allies were using the incident to oust Seidler-Feller as retribution for his dovish views on Middle Eastern politics. Lawyers for Seidler-Feller initially said he was provoked to assault Neuwirth after she called him a kapo.
The Jewish Journal also quotes an eyewitness who disputes Neuwirth’s claim of physical abuse:
“He [Jeffrey Levine] testified that the rabbi was talking to one of the protesters outside of Royce Hall, that Ms. Neuwirth interrupted and was shouting at the rabbi, that Ms. Neuwirth stuck her fingers directly in the rabbi’s face, and the rabbi removed those fingers, which appeared to be attacking him, and calmly walked away,” Etra said.
Levine did not see Seidler-Feller kick, hit or grab Neuwirth, Etra said. As to the allegations that the rabbi lost his temper, “That did not happen,” Etra said.
Lil Mike’s blog quotes Yigal Arens (that’s Moshe’s son, but with decidedly more progressive views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than his father) on Neuwirth:
“Neuwirth…has a compulsive obsession with those whose position on Israel and Israeli policies she disputes. She has made it her life’s mission to hound such people and groups and has by now become a constant disruptive presence at all meetings, demonstrations, etc., that support Palestinian rights in Los Angeles. She is not to be reasoned with.”
I knew Yigal back in the 1980s when we were both grad students and involved with the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement.
You’ll find another creepy L.A. Jewish character pop out of the woodwork in this incident who you’ve read about here. Remember Allyson Rowen Taylor, the former AJCongress assistant director who wrote an e mail to a Jewish AFSC staffer asking why he supported the murder of Jews? Yup, she turns up in this story too. Is it any wonder?
I’m pleased to say that when The Forward confronted Rowen Taylor about the behavior I described she fessed up and said she’d been a bad girl. But she’d been sorely provoked, you see, because it pained her that Adam Horowitz was such a bad Jew.
Anyway, Rowen Taylor was apparently there supporting her comrade in arms, Neuwirth (two peas in a pod?). Here’s her story:
Allyson Rowen Taylor, who is a regular in Los Angeles pro-Israel circles, told the Forward that, as she was walking out of the event with Rowen Taylor, Seidler-Feller “lunged at me. He was literally spitting in my face.”
…[She] now works for Stand With Us, a pro-Israel campus organization in the area. She said that, after all that has happened, “it was hard for me to sit at a table with him and discuss campus issues.”
I don’t think there’s any chance that Seidler-Feller would sit down at a table with her either. And if he didn’t, I’d understand completely. How could you sit down with a fellow Jew who you know in your heart thinks your a kapo and murderer of your fellow Jews?
As Neuwirth was once a board member of the very same AJCongress that Rowen Taylor worked for, it seems they were one big happy Jew-baiting family. I just wonder how the Congress could’ve ever countenanced a board member who would call a fellow Jew a kapo.
UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post I reported that Neuwirth was a current AJCongress board member. On calling Gary Ratner, regional director, he informed me that she is no longer a board member. He is aware that she lists herself as a current board member at every site where she publishes her “analysis.” He has asked her “countless” times to correct this information. She doesn’t seem to mind “hitching a ride” at the expense of the reputation of the AJCongress. Nor does she mind playing fast and loose with the facts when it suits her.