A top J Street leader at Brandeis University harassed a pro-Israel student activist early Saturday morning, calling the student a "shit bag" and telling him that "Jews hate you," according to those who witnessed the incident.
Daniel Mael was walking to his dorm room on the university's campus late Friday night when he encountered Talia Lepson, a J Street U Brandeis board member, who purportedly referred to Mael as a "shit bag" and angrily told him "Jews hate you."
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"I don’t feel comfortable on campus knowing people will lob verbal insults at me simply because we disagree," said Mael, who has filed an incident report with the Brandeis police over what he described at the "uncivil environment that is developing on campus and the attempts to isolate students with differing opinions."
The incident is just one of several at Brandeis lately in which pro-Israel students have come under fire for their attempts to defend the Jewish state on campus from groups such as J Street.
Mael said that he and a friend were returning to their dorm rooms at around 12:45 a.m. on Saturday when he came across Lepson—who says she currently works as a political intern at the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—and a group of her friends.
"As they approached, Talia Lepson give me a really, really intense stare and then I turned to the students and said, ‘Shabbat shalom,’" said Mael, who is an observant Jew. "I was being serious. I thought that religion and politics are not necessarily intertwined. I thought you could still be nice."
Lepson "responded by saying, ‘Jews hate you’," Mael said. "As she continued to walk, she screamed, ‘You are a shit bag.’" Mael said an unidentified person to her right hurled a similar insult.
Students who witnessed the event say they were shocked to see the J Street leader verbally attack Mael.
"It is somewhat scary to witness malice in exchange for benevolence, especially in the context of religion, where we are supposed to set aside politics when embracing it," said one student who witnessed the incident but was not comfortable speaking out publicly.
Mael said that he "proceeded immediately to the university police to file an incident report" following the run-in with Lepson, who has interned at the White House, according to her LinkedIn profile.
A Brandeis University police official said that the department does not speak to the media on the weekend and recommended a reporter call back later.
The incident is reminiscent of outbursts by pro-Palestinian activists on the University of Michigan’s campus who have reportedly called pro-Israel students "dirty Jew" and "kike."
The Friday night run-in has led Mael to worry that Brandeis’ campus is becoming dangerous for those who support Israel.
"Students are taught to stress unity and open dialogue in order to further their education," he said. "Many students that I have spoken to after this incident question whether they feel safe expressing their feelings because of this hate speech."
"I feel this kind of behavior is not conducive to a productive dialogue," Mael added. "It’s essential that we have open channels. Personally insulting people and making them feel unwelcome on campus is not a way to achieve real solutions."
Mael, who has often reported on J Street’s positions for the website Truth Revolt, said that political divisions should not foster feelings of hate.
J Street’s Lepson, who did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment by press time, will be serving as J Street U Brandeis’s vice president next year.
"I joined J Street U Brandeis in the hopes of finding a space in which to voice my concerns of Israeli governmental policy while simultaneously supporting Israel’s right to exist as a state," Lepson wrote about herself on Facebook.
Lepson said that she has "led a delegation of Brandeis students to lobby" against Iran sanctions legislation on Capitol Hill and leads "a weekly meeting on AIPAC’s withdrawal of support for" new sanctions against Iran.
"In my spare time, I enjoy discussing politics and going on rants against the patriarchy," Lepson added.
Mael said that Lepson’s behavior on Friday night is not consistent with the values J Street claims to uphold
"I'm unsure how this attempt to humiliate me fits into J Street U's mission statement that claims, ‘we strive to bring to our campuses and our communities an inclusive, pragmatic, and values-driven conversation able to meet the urgency and seriousness of the challenge that we face,’" Mael said.
The incident also appears to run against Brandeis’s own code of civility, which states: "Regardless of difference in opinion or background, our conduct must demonstrate courtesy and compassion, and reflect our recognition of the dignity of every human being."
A Brandeis University spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.
The school is also still facing criticism rescinding an honorary degree from a leading women’s rights activist.
The Free Beacon will update as more details emerge.