Lawrence Witt

Aleela The Ripper

The University of Denver law school has been training jurists since 1892. In September of 2004, the school was re-named the Sturm College of Law following the receipt of an important gift from the Sturm Family Foundation. Donald Sturm, a successful businessman and philanthropist, is an alumnus (class of 1958) of the law school, which in 2022, graduated 248 students.

Some of those graduates are no doubt destined to become prominent lawyers, judges, jurists, dedicated public servants, activists and successful business people. And then there is Aleela Taylor.

This week, a video of Aleela circulated on social media showing her tearing down a poster of one of the 222 Israelis kidnapped by Hamas on October 7th.

I don’t pretend to know anything about Aleela Taylor, other than the 2:37 minute viral social media clip that I saw, which currently has well over three thousand views on YouTube.

I do know many people like Aleela. Like her, they also “have degrees”, as she says on the video, but that does not mean that they are overly burdened by intelligence either. For Aleela, I would have hoped that she would have reflected and perhaps even used some of the analytical and research  skills that she honed during her time at Sturm College before her decision to destroy a poster of a kidnapped hostage.

Had she done so, she perhaps would have discovered that the poster that she ripped down in the video that I hope haunts Aleela for a long time, was a picture of Tal Bira, a 62 year old resident of Kibbutz Be’eri. In fact, the poster was inaccurate. Although Tal was initially thought to have been kidnapped, it was later confirmed that Tal was murdered.

No. Tal was massacred. He was massacred together with:

  • His brother Oren Bira, 44 years old.
  • His sister-in-law Yasmin Bira, 51 years old.
  • His nieces Tair, 22 years old and Tahal Bira, 15 years old.

Yahav Bira, Tal’s nephew is the only survivor of the Bira family.

On the same day that Aleela was ripping down the poster, the family was laid to rest in a cemetery in Moshav Hogla in Emek Hefer.

Tal, as was reported by friends, was an amazing uncle. He had a huge heart, he loved to cook Persian food and his nieces and nephew were like his children.

This is the face on the poster that Aleela found offensive. It was not an Israeli flag, it was not a picture of an IDF soldier. It was a picture of a an Israeli civilian whose life was brutally taken simply because he lived in Israel. These posters have nothing to do with  proportionality, they have nothing to do with the false narrative that Israel is an apartheid state (a narrative which Aleela perpetuates in the video) – both topics that I would be more than happy to discuss with Aleela another time. Rather, these posters are reminders of the atrocities, the flagrant violations of international law and the affront to western values committed by evil, bloodthirsty people. Why are these reminders so offensive to Aleela? Why the inability to condemn, denounce and reject the myriad of war crimes perpetuated on civilians by Hamas?

Would Aleela stoop so low and destroy the posters of Kfir – the 9 month old baby boy who was kidnapped, Raz the 4 year old girl who was kidnapped, or Yaffa Adar – the 85 year old grandmother who was kidnapped. Would she have ripped down the poster of Alex Danzig – a 75 year old historian who has dedicated his life to holocaust education. Would she have ripped down the poster of former Chicago resident Hersh Goldberg-Polin? All he wanted to do was dance at the music festival. May they all be returned to their families soon.

In an online article in the “CU Boulder Today” (published on May 10, 2018) entitled “Class of 2018 Looking toward to future as human rights attorney” Aleela characterized her experience of studying abroad in South Africa as having “..learned so much about multicultural human rights — and about myself,” she was reported to have said.

Sadly, those “experiences” did not come into play when she chose to tear down the poster of Tal Bira.

I cannot imagine that the Sturm College of Law is particularly proud of Aleela, a winner of its “2023 Public Good Distinction Award” (although if you would like to find out, please email the College’s Dean, Bruce Smith While I am not sure that the school can revoke a degree, they can and should revoke the award.

I cannot imagine that Donald Sturm and the family foundation, which appears to support many important causes and organizations, including Jewish causes that espouse tolerance, inclusion and diversity, are proud of Aleela.

I especially cannot fathom that Aleela’s Miami-based employer, Americans for Immigrant Justice (“AIJ”), is proud of Aleela (although if you would like to find out, please email AIJ’s president Johanna Oliver-Rousseaux,

AIJ does important work. In fact, one of the services that AIJ purports to provide are kidnapping victim services and they do this while purporting to set a very high bar in regards to “fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment”. In addition, AIJ maintains that “As advocates for human rights, our workplace must reflect our values. We welcome all cultures and identities and value unique perspectives.”.

This week, Aleela failed. She failed to represent her alma mater with dignity. She failed to represent the profession that she is privileged to be part of with class. Perhaps most importantly, she failed to represent and uphold the stated values of her employer.

Shame on you Aleela!

Shame on everyone of rips down these posters. The “rippers” must continue to be called out for their sickening actions.

About the Author
Lawrence Witt is a labor, employment and human rights lawyer with the Canadian firm Miller Thomson LLP. In 2017, Lawrence was co-chair of the Montreal March of the Living Delegation comprising of 250 participants accompanied by 10 Holocaust survivors. In 2019, Lawrence received the Gertrude and Henry Plotnick Young Leadership Award from Federation CJA. Lawrence is also a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program. In the early 1990's, Lawrence studied at Yeshivat Machon Meir in Jerusalem and he subsequently served in the IDF as a lone soldier in the Armored Corps.
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