The Los Angeles city attorney’s office said Wednesday that it will hold an administrative hearing on allegations that a prominent UCLA rabbi and peace activist kicked a woman after a lecture on campus last week.
City attorney spokesman Eric Moses said the office would not pursue a criminal investigation.
Rachel Neuwirth, a writer, accused Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, the director of the Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, of kicking her Oct. 21 outside an auditorium after a speech by Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz.
Seidler-Feller declined to comment, referring calls to his attorney, Donald Etra. Etra would not comment on whether the rabbi struck Neuwirth.
He acknowledged that an argument took place, and said Neuwirth called Seidler-Feller a “capo,” referring to Jews who served as overseers in Nazi concentration camps. The rabbi was not arrested.
“For someone active in the Jewish community, someone who has devoted his life to service in the Jewish community, whose family experienced the Holocaust, one could imagine that type of allegation is quite incendiary,” Etra said.
Neuwirth, who writes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Internet sites, said Seidler-Feller kicked and scratched her as they were leaving Royce Hall.
Neuwirth said Seidler-Feller had been discussing an upcoming speech by Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University, an Arab institution in Jerusalem, when she mentioned her belief that Nusseibeh had helped direct missile attacks on Israel in 1990.
Neuwirth said Seidler-Feller then attacked her until he was restrained by several students. She acknowledged calling the rabbi a “capo” but said it was not until after he attacked her.
Moses said it is “a fact of the case” that Seidler-Feller struck Neuwirth, but that Neuwirth uttered provocative statements to Seidler-Feller.
“The facts show the actions of more than one party led to this incident,” he said. Moses likened Neuwirth’s action to “an instigating penalty” in hockey, saying “one incident triggered another.”
“Based on the facts of the case, the best resolution will be outside the criminal justice system,” Moses said.
At a city attorney hearing, parties meet with a hearing officer, who can order binding actions to resolve a dispute, Moses said. In a case such as this one, Moses said, an officer could order parties to stay away from each other or direct one or the other to attend anger management classes.
Etra said he is “pleased and gratified” by the city attorney’s decision. Neuwirth’s attorney, Robert Esensten, said he plans to pursue a civil lawsuit.