The anti-Zionist oratory of Dovid Weiss drew an impassioned crowd of about 30 people on the UA Mall yesterday, many of whom held signs or wore stickers to protest Weiss's appearance on campus.
Dressed in a dark suit and a wide-brimmed hat, Weiss dismissed the different sects of Judaism, and called for an end to the Jewish state of Israel.
""There's no such thing as reform, reforming, be more conservative, there's one thing: the acceptance of the covenant that God gave us on Mount Sinai,"" he said.
Most of the people in the crowd were students involved in Jewish organizations on campus who came as part of a protest organized mainly by Scott Brown, a graduate assistant in Near Eastern studies.
Brown first heard of the event on Thursday, and said he had been working to organize students to respond to Weiss's presence on campus so passers-by don't think he is representative of mainstream Judaism.
""I fervently believe that this type of extremism and hatred has to be countered,"" he said.
Brown said that although Weiss says he is a Haredi rabbi, belonging to an ultra orthodox form of Judaism, he is not recognized as such by most Jewish sects.
""Nobody recognizes him as a rabbi,"" said Adam Scott Bellos, a Judaic studies and Near Eastern studies senior.
Bellos also helped to organize the protest, and showed his support for Israel by displaying an Israeli flag at the event, sometimes holding it open with his arms and other times donning it as a cape. He said he was concerned that Weiss was allowed to speak at the UA at all.
For Bellos, a speech promoting aggression — in this case the abolition of the Jewish state — is tantamount to physical violence, and should not be allowed on campus, he said.
""This person supports people that want to kill Jews just because they are Jews, and that's where I draw the line with free speech,"" he said. ""It's dangerous to have this kind of speech unchecked.""
Some protesters at the event held signs that read: ""Neturei Karta: Supporters of Terrorism,"" in reference to Weiss's organization.
Dustin Alpert, a regional development senior, said he didn't agree with anything that Weiss had to say.
""Everything that he believes in is a just a complete joke. He gives Jewish people a bad name,"" he said.
Azad Molla, a political science senior, came to the protest after being invited by a friend via Facebook. He said he hadn't heard of Weiss before, but came to see what he had to say.
What struck him most, he said, was how two opposing groups could peacefully disagree with each other.
Molla was born in France to Middle-Eastern parents, and said this type of discussion could not have taken place in the Middle East.
""You would never see this over there (in the Middle East),"" he said. ""It's so interesting to see two completely opposing viewpoints on the same grass at the same time. It's really nice to see.""
Hosain Bagheri, a first-year masters student in mechanical engineering, promoted Weiss's talk via Facebook.
""I think it's important to hear a different perspective on (the establishment of Israel),"" he said. Baghbri said he was unaware of any instances where Weiss advocated or condoned violence.
Toward the end of the talk, some of the protesters in the crowd got more a more animated, some protesters yelling questions and others talking among themselves.
""The Tribe of Judah rejects you,"" Bellos yelled.
After the talk, Brown called the remaining protesters around him to gently condemn disrespectful behavior, calling it unproductive.
""Anybody that was rude and disrespectful, it was just an issue of bad manners,"" he said. ""But I think it ended on a positive note overall.""