A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego. Screenshot from YouTube

ADL reports spike in anti-Semitism since 2016


Anti-Semitic acts have become significantly more widespread in the United States since the beginning of last year, nearly doubling in the first quarter of 2017, according to a national report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The U.S. saw a 34 percent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, with an additional 86 percent increase in the first three months of this year, according to the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released on April 24. The audit shows a year-over-year comparison of harassment, vandalism and assault linked to Jew-hatred.

In addition to the national report, the ADL released a companion report for incidents in its Pacific Southwest region, which includes Los Angeles. In California, the audit noted 211 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2016, up 21 percent from 2015.

The reports come on the heels of a pair of polls conducted by the ADL, published earlier this month, that found 14 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

CR_XXXX_2016-17 Audit-graphics_Q1_v3Amanda Susskind, Pacific Southwest regional director for the ADL, noted a number of alarming trends in the audit, some of which she said likely are tied to the national political environment and the November election of President Donald Trump.

“We believe the 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere may have played a role in some of the increase,” she told the Journal.

Though the reports provide only a rough assessment of anti-Semitic acts, Susskind pointed to some causes for concern, namely, the proliferation of swastikas as a hate symbol and, among youth, “a feeling of freedom to express themselves verbally in hateful ways.”

The regional audit notes a Riverside County elementary school vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, including the words “Burn Jews,” and an Indio high school student who wore a Nazi uniform to high school for Halloween.

Susskind said the president’s failure to appropriately check his supporters who express virulently anti-Semitic views helped create a permissive atmosphere for hateful speech.

“I have no doubt that it trickled down into the mainstream and ultimately into the school yards and playgrounds, where kids are starting to become more loose-lipped,” Susskind said.

Nationally, the ADL reported “a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools.”

“Seeing [anti-Semitism] in K-12 is pretty disturbing,” Susskind said. “Not that it’s not disturbing in college, but it’s newly disturbing to us this year.”

As for the swastikas, she said, “I hope it’s an anomaly.”

She noted an “extraordinarily large” number of incidents where swastikas were etched into cars, presumably owned by Jews. The regional report makes note of swastikas scratched into cars in heavily Jewish neighborhoods, including Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Woodland Hills.

The national audit makes particular note of an uptick in anti-Semitic activity since the presidential election. Of the 1,266 acts included in the report “targeting Jews and Jewish institutions” in 2016, almost 30 percent of them occurred in November and December.

During the first three months of 2017, there were 541 incidents, far more than the 291 reported during the same time period the previous year. The 2017 count includes a national wave of phony bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016, and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release.

Susskind was careful to indicate that the incidents in the audit represent only those reported to the ADL or that ADL staffers read about and followed up on, and also that the information was anecdotal rather than scientific.

Moreover, she said there are other arenas where anti-Semitism is entrenched that are not included in the reports.

Susskind said the ADL continues to monitor cyberhate, for instance, which has not abated since the election. She said haters are emboldened when the White House fails to condemn acts of anti-Semitism quickly and strongly.

“There’s a failure of leadership consistently, and in that vacuum, hate rushes in,” she said.

These two notes were left on a house neighboring Chabad of Oak Park in February. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Yisroel Levine

ADL audit notes spike in anti-Semitism since 2016


Anti-Semitic acts have become significantly more widespread in America since the beginning of last year, nearly doubling in the first quarter of 2017, according to a national report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The United States saw a 34 percent uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, with an additional 86 percent increase in the first three months of this year, according to the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released April 24. The audit shows a year-over-year comparison of harassment, vandalism and assault linked to Jew hatred.

Graphic courtesy of ADL.

Graphic courtesy of ADL.

 

In addition to the national report, the ADL released a companion report for incidents in its Pacific Southwest region, which includes Los Angeles. In California, the audit noted 211 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2016, up 21 percent from 2015.

The reports come on the heels of a pair of polls conducted by the ADL, published earlier this month, that found 14 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

Amanda Susskind, Pacific Southwest regional director for the ADL, noted a number of alarming trends in the audit, some of which she said likely are tied to the national political environment and the November election of President Donald Trump.

“We believe the 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere may have played a role in some of the increase,” she told the Journal.

Though the reports provide only a rough assessment of anti-Semitic acts, Susskind pointed to some causes for concern, namely, the proliferation of swastikas as a hate symbol and, among youth, “a feeling of freedom to express themselves verbally in hateful ways.”

The regional audit notes a Riverside County elementary school vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, including the words “Burn Jews,” and an Indio high school student who wore a Nazi uniform to high school for Halloween.

Susskind said the president’s failure to appropriately check his supporters who express virulently anti-Semitic views helped create a permissive atmosphere for hateful speech.

“I have no doubt that it trickled down into the mainstream and ultimately into the school yards and playgrounds where kids are starting to become more loose-lipped,” Susskind said.

Nationally, the ADL reported “a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools.”

“Seeing [anti-Semitism] in K-12 is pretty disturbing,” Susskind said. “Not that it’s not disturbing in college, but it’s newly disturbing to us this year.”

As for the swastikas, she said, “I hope it’s an anomaly.”

She noted an “extraordinarily large” number of incidents where swastikas were etched into cars, presumably owned by Jews. The regional report makes note of swastikas scratched into cars in Jewish neighborhoods including Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Woodland Hills.

The national audit makes particular note of an uptick in anti-Semitic activity since the presidential election. Of the 1,266 acts noted in the report “targeting Jews and Jewish institutions” in 2016, almost 30 percent of them occurred in November and December.

During the first three months of 2017, there were 541 incidents, far more than the 291 reported during the same time period the previous year. The 2017 count includes a national wave of phony bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016 and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release.

Susskind was careful to note that the incidents in the audit represent only those reported to the ADL or that ADL staffers read about and followed up on, and also that the information was anecdotal rather than scientific.

Moreover, she said there are other arenas where anti-Semitism is entrenched that are not included in the reports.

Susskind said the ADL continues to monitor cyberhate, for instance, which has not abated since the election. She said haters are emboldened when the White House fails to quickly and strongly condemn acts of anti-Semitism.

“There’s a failure of leadership consistently, and in that vacuum, hate rushes in,” she said.

The American Technion Society’s Albert Einstein Award went to David, Janet, Jeffrey and Robert Polak. Pictured at the organization’s Los Angeles dinner are (from left) David and Janet Polak; their grandson Ethan; Robert and Victoria Polak; and Lauren and Jeffrey Polak. Photo by Elaine Lee Photography

Moving & Shaking: “Evening of Inspiration,” Suzy & Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award and more


Unconditional love for Israel was in the air at the American Technion Society’s “Evening of Inspiration” on March 16.

“I’m here because I’m an Israel-loving, proud Jew, and because the Oscars never called,” comedian and event emcee Elon Gold said onstage in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.

The gathering, which sought to increase support and awareness for the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, honored David, Janet, Jeffrey and Robert Polak with the Albert Einstein Award.

The Polaks, according to a press release, are “luminaries of the Los Angeles community and multigenerational supporters of the Technion.”

“This evening is more about the Technion than our family,” David Polak said upon accepting the award from Israeli biologist, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and Technion distinguished research professor Aaron Ciechanover.

“No other institute can do the things we can do,” Ciechanover said, before presenting the Polak family with the award.

About 250 people attended the event, including Philip Gomperts, regional director of American Associates Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; financial adviser and pro-Israel philanthropist Barak Raviv; Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Andrew Cushnir; StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein; Jewish Journal President David Suissa; evening co-chairs Rita and Steve Emerson; Helgard and Irwin Field; Denise and Bob Hanisee; and about 15 alumni of the Technion, which is located in Haifa, Israel.

During a showcase and cocktail-hour kickoff for the event, Yael Vizel, CEO of Zeekit and a former Israeli air force telecommunications officer, balanced the obligatory schmoozing with demoing Zeekit, an Israeli fashion startup enabling users to try on clothes while shopping online. She graduated from the Technion in 2010.


From left: IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous; Melissa Balaban, founding president and executive director of IKAR; and NewGround Executive Director Aziza Hasan attend the Suzy and Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award luncheon, where Balaban was honored. NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change organized the event. Photo by Shams Soomar

From left: IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous; Melissa Balaban, founding president and executive director of IKAR; and NewGround Executive Director Aziza Hasan attend the Suzy and Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award luncheon, where Balaban was honored. NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change organized the event. Photo by Shams Soomar

More than 300 guests attended the March 26 luncheon for the Suzy & Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award at the IMAN Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. The event — organized by NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change — exhibited the viability of interfaith work.

“This work between Muslims and Jews is more important than ever,” IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous said as she addressed the audience. “We do this work because it’s right. Now, after a decade of working together to build these relationships in the city, we do it not only out of sense of obligation but also out of sense of love.”

During the ceremony, several guests received awards from NewGround, which marked its 10th anniversary earlier this year. The recipients of the Suzy & Wally Marks Jr. Trailblazer Award were IKAR’s founding president and executive director, Melissa Balaban, and the Aga Khan Council for the Western U.S. The Day School Exchange, a project of New Horizon School Pasadena and Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles, was given the inaugural NewGround Change-Maker Award.

The event had more than 30 sponsors, including Suzy Marks; David Weiner, CEO at Social Studies School Service; the Islamic Center of Southern California; and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. The Ismaili Choir of Los Angeles performed, singing a song in Hebrew, Arabic and English as the guests were served kosher and halal food.

Other guests at the event included Rabbi Sarah Bassin, of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and former executive director at NewGround, and Andrea Hodos, program director at NewGround and creator of Moving Torah Workshops.

Daniel Tamm, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s interfaith liaison and Westside representative, said he is a big fan of NewGround.

“It’s one of my most favorite organizations in Los Angeles,” Tamm said. “I love it because it builds bridges instead of creating boundaries.”

The event raised $85,000 for NewGround, which promotes discussions and partnerships between Jewish and Muslim communities.

Olga Grigoryants, Contributing Writer


Zane Buzby, comedy producer and Survivor Mitzvah Project founder, and actor Ed Asner come together at the Anti-Defamation League annual Deborah Awards. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

Zane Buzby, comedy producer and Survivor Mitzvah Project founder, and actor Ed Asner come together at the Anti-Defamation League annual Deborah Awards. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its annual Deborah Awards dinner March 30 at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, honoring women who exemplify professional leadership and civic contribution.

This year, the ADL honored comedy producer and Survivor Mitzvah Project founder Zane Buzby, sports and entertainment executive Francesca Leiweke-Bodie of Oak View Group, and AEG Executive Vice President Martha Saucedo, who leads the entertainment firm’s external affairs, including its charitable involvement.

“The ADL is honoring Zane Buzby,” actor Ed Asner joked in Buzby’s introduction. “What is that? Is that a condition?”

Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke presented the award to Leiweke-Bodie, his daughter, and Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced Saucedo.

The black-tie event, with about 300 attendees, raised more than $300,000 for the ADL.

Among the celebrity guests were actors Topher Grace, Allen Leech, Frances Fisher and Emmanuelle Chriqui.

Cal State Northridge Police Chief Anne Glavin delivered an address thanking the ADL for its work training law enforcement officers, saying a recent four-hour training session had helped her staff differentiate between hate speech and hate crimes.

Telemundo executive Mónica Gil and longtime ADL supporter and donor Suzanne Prince acted as the event’s co-chairs. Actress and musician Janina Gavankar was the emcee.

Eitan Arom, Staff Writer


Julie Munjack

Julie Munjack

Julie Munjack, director of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Los Angeles, was among 30 Jewish professionals and volunteer leaders from around the world selected by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation for the third cohort of the Schusterman Fellowship.

The foundation describes the fellowship as an “executive leadership program that features individualized professional development experiences.”

Fellows will gain leadership skills, develop strategic networks, and maximize their potential to affect “Jewish organizational and societal change,” the foundation said in a press release.

Munjack, who oversees a staff of eight and leads operations and development efforts for AIPAC’s second-largest market, is the only person from Los Angeles named to the latest cohort of fellows. She was selected through a competitive application process. Her goal, according to the Schusterman website, is to “grow the pro-Israel movement in Los Angeles and train our local leaders.”


From left: Daniel Levine, Amanda Khalil, Nerses Aposhian, Mary Isaac and Darion Ouliguian participated in a panel titled “Indigenous People Unite.” Photo by Mati Geula Cohen

From left: Daniel Levine, Amanda Khalil, Nerses Aposhian, Mary Isaac and Darion Ouliguian participated in a panel titled “Indigenous People Unite.” Photo by Mati Geula Cohen

Students Supporting Israel at UCLA on March 9 held an event called “Indigenous People Unite,” which brought together representatives of the Armenian, Jewish, Assyrian and Coptic indigenous communities to speak about their identities, struggles and futures in the United States and in their homelands.

Speakers included UCLA graduate student Daniel Levine, speaking for the Jewish community; Loyola Marymount law student Nerses Aposhian, president of the Armenian Law Students’ Association; UCLA alumnus Mary Isaac, for the Assyrian community; and UCLA undergraduate student Amanda Khalil for the Coptic community.

The goal of the event was to recognize and bring attention to indigenous people and their stories, to create a dialogue between the communities and show the similarities between each other’s narratives.

Some of the topics focused on biblical Jewish history and modern Zionism, the current conditions of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt, the Armenian genocide and communities in the Diaspora, as well as the Assyrian people’s desire to return to their homeland and how their community maintains its identity.

At one point, in response to a question by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine about “the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government,” Liat Menna, president of Students Supporting Israel at UCLA, responded, “The reason why we are doing this event is so that conversations get started.”

The audience included UCLA students from various backgrounds, as well as UCLA professor emeritus and Daniel Pearl Foundation President Judea Pearl, and Zionist Organization of America’s West Coast Campus Coordinator Leore Ben-David.

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

A row of more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St Louis on Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/Reuters

Poll finds majority of Americans concerned about Anti-Semitism


More than half of Americans are concerned about anti-Semitism and more than three-quarters are concerned about violence against Muslims, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found in two new public opinion polls.

The results show that a majority of Americans, 52 percent, are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews, and 76 percent are concerned about violence directed at Muslims. The ADL based its findings on 1,500 interviews conducted last October and 3,600 in January and February.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL chief executive, said he was heartened by the survey results, showing that people are concerned about Jews and Muslims.

“We conducted two polls to ensure that we fully understood the mood of the country,” he said in a statement. “The good news in this research is that today a large majority of Americans do not subscribe to common anti-Semitic stereotypes. It’s also encouraging that a record number of Americans are concerned about violence against the Jewish and Muslim communities, and are troubled at how intolerance has infected our politics.”

The polls are part of ADL’s continuing research into anti-Jewish attitudes under the ADL Global 100, a project begun in 2014 to establish a worldwide index of anti-Semitic attitudes.

Released on April 6, the new surveys measured, among other things, perceptions of President Donald Trump and whether he holds prejudiced views. A third of respondents agreed with the statement “Donald Trump holds anti-Semitic views,” while half disagreed. The remaining 17 percent “don’t know,” said Todd Gutnick, vice president of communications at the ADL.

The surveys also found that 14 percent of the American population holds anti-Semitic beliefs.

Nearly half of Americans, 49 percent, said Trump could have done more to discourage anti-Semitism, the survey found, and more than 8 in 10 Americans, 84 percent, said they believe it is important for the government to play a role in combating anti-Semitism, up from 70 percent in 2014.

A majority of Americans, 52 percent, are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews, and 76 percent are concerned about violence directed at Muslims.

The polls also examined anti-Semitism in politics and whether “Americans believe there was more anti-Semitism in the 2016 election than previously.” Nearly half of those surveyed, 47 percent, said there was more and 39 percent said the level was no more than in previous campaigns.

Last October, the ADL released “Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign,” a study that concluded that although Trump may not be the cause of anti-Semitism, people who were responsible for spreading hate online often were supporters of Trump as a candidate.

Regarding Muslims, the survey found that 59 percent of respondents agree that “Donald Trump holds anti-Muslim views,” and 64 percent said they do not believe the government is doing enough to ensure their safety.

Perceptions of Trump bias against Muslims may be due, in part, to his efforts to use executive orders to bar individuals from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Federal judges have twice stuck down his orders.

“It’s discouraging to know that Muslims and other minorities feel unsafe. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do,” Greenblatt said.

Overall, the survey found that 34 percent of American Muslims hold anti-Semitic views, compared with 55 percent of Muslims in Europe and 75 percent in Middle East/North Africa.

The poll’s release comes on the heels of several incidents of vandalism targeting Jewish cemeteries and waves of bomb threats that have targeted Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions, including ADL offices, across North America over the past several months.

Authorities arrested two people in connection with the bomb threats, all of which turned out to be hoaxes: Juan Thompson, a discredited journalist in St. Louis who was apparently seeking revenge against an ex-girlfriend; and Michael Kaydar, an Israeli-American teenager who his lawyer said may suffer from mental illness.

The ADL was one of several organizations that compiled data on the more than 150 bomb threats that targeted Jewish centers.

The ADL has been polling anti-Semitic attitudes in the U.S. since 1964. Later this month, the organization plans to release an audit of 2016 anti-Semitic incidents, drawing on data from ADL regional offices, including ADL Pacific Southwest, which serves Los Angeles.

The October survey, conducted by Marttila Strategies, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. The more recent poll, conducted by First International Resources, had a margin of error of 1.6 percent for the general population and 3 percent for American Muslims.

President Donald Trump in Ypsilanti Township, Mich., on March 15. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Jewish leaders owe an apology to Trump and America


Last month, I wrote a column under the headline, “There Is No Wave of Trump-Induced Anti-Semitism or Racism.” I was right. But my being right is not what matters. What matters is that the mainstream media and the Jewish left — which is now essentially almost all of Jewish life outside of Orthodoxy — were wrong. So wrong that it was morally inexcusable.

Some Jewish leaders need to either publicly apologize — to the Jewish community, to conservatives, to America and to President Donald Trump — or be fired from their positions. 

The entire claim that America was engulfed in a rising tide of anti-Semitism was a lie — “fake news.” And the claim that Trump’s election is what aroused all this anti-Semitism was not merely a lie, it was malicious libel.

No Jew has disseminated this libel as much as Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York, part of a worldwide network. The man has engaged in chillul Anne Frank — a desecration of the name of Anne Frank.

Here are a few examples of Goldstein’s public comments:

“The cancer of Antisemitism has infected his [Trump’s] own Administration.”

“Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

“The most vicious antisemites in America are looking at you [Trump] and your administration as a nationalistic movement granting them permission to attack Jews, Jewish institutions, and sacred Jewish sites.”

The entire claim that America was engulfed in a rising tide of anti-Semitism was a lie — “fake news.”

If the organization doesn’t fire this man, it is complicit in his radical politicization of an institution calling itself a center for “Mutual Respect,” and in the misuse of Anne Frank’s name to disseminate political hate.

More important than Goldstein and his so-called Center for Mutual Respect is Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of what is supposed to be the leading American-Jewish organization dedicated to exposing and combating anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League. He has played a leading role in disseminating the narrative that since the Trump election, America has been drenched in anti-Semitism — even comparing its levels to those of Nazi Germany.

As reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December:

“ ‘Anti-Semitic rhetoric in the United States has reached levels unprecedented since 1930s Germany,’ Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt warned a gathering of Israeli lawmakers in Jerusalem on Monday.

“ ‘Anti-Semitism has wound its way into mainstream conversations in a manner that many Jews who lived through Nazi Germany find terrifying,’ he said at the Knesset meeting, which was convened to discuss the plight of American Jewry under the incoming Trump administration.”

Greenblatt’s allusion to Nazi Germany cheapened the evil of Nazism and of the Holocaust; I wrote about left-wing Jews doing this very thing in another column in mid-February.

And note Haaretz’s inflammatory description — “the plight of American Jewry under the incoming Trump administration” — made six weeks before there was a Trump administration!

In December, Greenblatt told NPR:

“We found it so deeply problematic when some of the images and some of the rhetoric [from Trump] seemed to evoke longstanding anti-Semitic conspiracies.”

Greenblatt repeated this charge in February in an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post:

“Last year, we watched as the Trump campaign repeatedly tweeted and shared anti-Semitic imagery and language, allowing this poison to move from the margins into the mainstream of the public conversation.”

That whole charge — made by the left within and outside of Jewish life — was false. But the left has always believed it is OK to falsely accuse conservatives of racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, bigotry, xenophobia, hate, etc. It’s effective, after all.

Greenblatt also wrote in that Washington Post column:

“Trump could have said he condemns anti-Semitism and takes incidents, such as the dozens of threats made to Jewish Community Centers, seriously. But instead, he lashed out against those asking the question.”

It turns out that President Trump was right: There was no eruption of anti-Semitism in America, let alone in the White House. And “those asking the question” did indeed deserve the contempt the president showed them.

It turns out that some disturbed American-Jewish kid in Israel was the source of nearly all these threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). And the handful of other threats to JCCs came from a Black radical.

So, it turns out, as I wrote here four weeks ago: “[T]here is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism in America. This is only one more example of left-wing hysteria. … ”

And, it turns out that the conclusion to my column was also valid:

“Jews who think there is such a wave do so because they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it. In other words, a lot of Jews want to believe that Jews are hated in America more than ever. Yet another way in which leftism has poisoned Jewish life.”

That’s the “poison” that ought to concern Jonathan Greenblatt.

In the meantime, he owes the president of the United States and the American people an apology.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Sarah Silverman speaking during the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Head of GOP in Israel says ‘self-hating Jew’ Sarah Silverman ‘needs a muzzle’


The leader of Israel’s main Republican group called Sarah Silverman a “self-hating Jew” and said she “needs a muzzle.”

Marc Zell made the comments Saturday night on behalf of the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page, which he manages as the group’s co-chairman. The post links to a blog post about a decade-old video clip of the Jewish comedian performing her standup show “Jesus is Magic.”

The Feb. 2 blog post by conservative documentary filmmaker Pat Dollard is titled “Jew Sarah Silverman: “I Hope The Jews Did Kill Christ. I’d Fucking Do It Again In A Second,” and features Silverman delivering a version of that line.

Zell, an attorney who lives in the West Bank settlement Tekoa, said Silverman’s comments “damage” the Jewish community and insult Christians. He said it falls within the mission of Republican Overseas Israel to “call down” public figures like Silverman.

“Republicans Overseas Israel exists in order to not only represent the Republican Party here in Israel but also to represent the Jewish community in Israel to the Republican Party and the millions of Americans who support the Republican Party and our president,” he told JTA Sunday. “I think it’s appropriate to say something about a public figure as widely known as this woman, who during the campaign also had some ‘precious’ views to express about our candidate and our president. People like her need to be called down when they step over the line.”

Silverman — who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and then Hillary Clinton, for president during the 2016 election campaign — has been an outspoken critic of Trump. Last March, during the Republican primaries, she appeared on TBS’ “Conan” dressed as Adolf Hitler and complained of her character being “unfavorably” compared to Trump.

Republican Overseas Israel held a get-out-of the-vote campaign in Israel for Trump during the general election, and Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded video messages for an event the group held in Jerusalem in October. Zell claimed a record number of Americans in Israel cast absentee ballots, though that was widely disputed.

One of Donald Trump’s most prominent boosters in Israel during the campaign, Zell continues to combatively advocate for and defend the president, along with Israel and the settlements. On the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page Thursday, he also deemed the Israeli-American teenager from Asheklon who was arrested last week on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the United States “The Ultimate Self-Hating Jew.”

Four women had commented on Zell’s Facebook post about Silverman Sunday, all agreeing with its sentiment. One invited Silverman to visit the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, saying “Your friends are there, you’ll feel really comfortable and soon the rainy season is over so you won’t drown in your bed.” Others called her a “Trash box” and a “pig.”

Zell responded in a comment Sunday: “Better not to even pass her stuff around. I’m hitting delete.” But the post remained up.

Jerusalem-based journalist Noga Tarnopolsky in a tweet called on the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition to “do something” about Zell, saying of Zell’s Silverman tweet: “This is in your name.”  She also tweeted to the Anti-Defamation League, saying: “Hi & : An online troll is confusing a prominent Jewish woman with a dog. Do something.”

Evan Bernstein, left, and Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League at a news conference at ADL headquarters in New York City on the arrest of Juan Thompson, who allegedly made bomb threats against Jewish institutions, March 3. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Jewish bomb threat suspect undermines groups’ narrative on anti-Semitism


Many Jewish groups blamed white supremacists, emboldened by Donald Trump’s campaign, for the bomb threats that have plagued Jewish institutions since the beginning of this year.

It appears the groups were wrong.

The news that one Jewish teen — an Israeli, no less — was behind most of the approximately 150 bomb threats that have hit Jewish community centers since the start of 2017 is a shocking twist in light of months in which the Anti-Defamation League and other groups pointed their collective finger at the far right.

“We’re in unprecedented times,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, at a March 10 news conference on the bomb threats. “We’ve never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we’ve seen. White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”

The ADL has repeatedly charged Trump with emboldening extremists, anti-Semites and far-right groups in the U.S. Other groups were even more explicit in linking rising anti-Semitic acts this year to the new president. On Jan. 10, following the first wave of JCC bomb threats, Bend The Arc, a liberal Jewish group, said that “Trump helped to create the atmosphere of bigotry and violence that has resulted in these dangerous threats against Jewish institutions and individuals.”

In February, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect said in a statement to Trump that “Rightly or wrongly, the most vicious anti-Semites in America are looking at you and your Administration as a nationalistic movement granting them permission to attack Jews.”

But the perpetrator of the anti-Semitic acts, while his political opinions are not known, does not fit the profile of a white supremacist. According to Israeli reports, he’s a mentally ill Israeli-American Jewish teenager.

He worked from home, using a computer lab with sophisticated equipment, encryption and transmission systems, and a powerful antenna, according to reports. And his father may have known what he was doing.

Israel’s anti-fraud squad arrested the 19-year-old suspect at his home in southern Israel and searched the premises on Thursday. He was brought to court and ordered held until March 30.

The other suspect in the bomb threats, arrested earlier in March, also does not appear connected to the far right. He’s a left-wing African-American former journalist who apparently made the calls in a convoluted vendetta against a former romantic partner.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JTA Thursday that the organization stands by its prognosis of a surge in anti-Semitism and hatred in the U.S. since the campaign. Aside from the JCC bombings, Greenblatt pointed to a range of other hateful activities tied to white supremacists, from abuse of journalists on Twitter and harassment of Jews in Whitefish, Mont. to a South Carolina man who plotted a mass shooting at a synagogue.

“The impact is still the same: you’ve got children, families, the elderly, teens and others who have been terrorized by these attacks,” Greenblatt said. “We’ve seen rising levels of bigotry in ways that are brand new. The emergence of the alt-right and the rising levels of abuse they perpetrated during the campaign against Jews and other minorities is despicable.”

The Anne Frank Center, a small group whose profile has risen in part due to the attention around the JCC threats, said in a statement Thursday that “it doesn’t matter where any suspect is from or what his or her background is.” Bend The Arc CEO Stosh Cotler said in a statement: “Violence and threats of violence, whoever or wherever they come from, are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”

The JCC Association of North America said it was “troubled” by the news that the suspect is Jewish, while the Jewish Federations of North America called the news “heartbreaking.”

Greenblatt and Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security, both said the suspect’s age and location were less relevant than the fact that someone has been caught for making the threats.

“What is relevant is that an individual or individuals were placed into custody who were engaged in or involved in criminal behavior, who were looking to terrorize our community,” Goldenberg said. “I do understand why people may have believed that this was part of a larger effort.”

For longtime observers of anti-Semitism, the news showed the need to be cautious when analyzing hateful acts. Former ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, who has previously called for cooler heads in responding to recent hateful acts, said Thursday that the arrest shows the pitfalls of making assumptions.

“Always take these things seriously, but don’t jump to conclusions,” Foxman told JTA. “History has taught us the source of anti-Semitism does not come from one direction. It’s universal in its nature. … I think it is on the increase, but it’s not in epidemic proportions.”

Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, noted that this isn’t the first time that Jews have committed anti-Semitic acts. In 1989, the former president of the Jewish Student Union at the State University of New York in Binghamton was charged with painting anti-Semitic slogans on campus.

“It is a reminder that we have to be very careful before we talk about a whole wave of anti-Semitism,” Sarna said. “Something like this will surely make everybody a little embarrassed as Jews, but also embarrassed in the sense that it’s not what people imagined it would turn out to be.”

Sarna added that this incident shows Jews may not be as hated in America as it may have seemed. He cited a recent study by the Pew Research Center showing Jews to be the most popular religious group in America.

“It’s good to take a middle ground,” he said. “Yes, there are people who hate Jews, but we’re not seeing storm troopers at the gate.”

Still, Sarna and Foxman noted the string of other anti-Semitic acts recently — the cemetery desecrations and swastika graffiti, as well as a deluge of anti-Semitic harassment on Twitter last year. Because anti-Semitic acts, beyond the JCC threats, remain frequent in the U.S., Foxman does not believe that Thursday’s arrest will lead to anyone downplaying future acts of anti-Semitism.

“It’s there,” Foxman said of anti-Semitism. “So there’s one guy who, whatever his problem was, that doesn’t change the fact that every day there are incidents of anti-Semitism in this country.”

Orly Star Setareh (far right), a dance specialist, leads VBS students in dance at The Music Center. Photo courtesy of the Music Center.

Moving and Shaking: VBS students dance, ADL honors law enforcement, new leadership at LAMOTH


About 40 Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) Day School fifth-graders were among the 18,000 elementary school students who participated in the 47th annual Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, a free arts education initiative held Feb. 28 at The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Nancy Herbst, director of general studies at the day school, was among the adults accompanying the VBS students, who attended a performance by the Ailey II dance company in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before they performed a synchronized dance inspired by Ailey II in The Music Center plaza.

Blue Ribbon is the self-described “premier women’s support organization of The Music Center.”


The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards ceremony was held March 14 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

The event honored law enforcement officials who have played a role in fighting hate in Southern California.

Among the honorees were Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Yadira Perez, who helped apprehend an arsonist responsible for setting a mosque ablaze in Coachella in December 2015, and Cindy Cipriani, senior management counsel and director of community outreach in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, who “has dedicated her life’s work to advancing the values of unity and understanding with humility and compassion,” the ADL statement said.

Perez recalled her decision to pursue the arsonist after spotting him while off-duty: “At that point,” she said, “I felt the risk to public safety outweighed the risk of me catching him.”

LAPD and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators and L.A. city attorneys, who were honored for their takedown of a white supremacist gang in the San Fernando Valley, come together with Joseph Sherwood (seated, front row) and his son, Howard (crouching, far right) at the Anti-Defamation League’s Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards event.

LAPD and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators and L.A. city attorneys, who were honored for their takedown of a white supremacist gang in the San Fernando Valley, come together with Joseph Sherwood (seated, front row) and his son, Howard (crouching, far right) at the Anti-Defamation League’s Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon and awards event.

The fire at the mosque was seen as a vengeful reaction to the killing of 14 people and wounding of 22 earlier that month at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino by perpetrators who claimed terrorist allegiances.

In addition, the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Division, its Orange County Resident Agency, the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California were honored as a group for thwarting “two Anaheim individuals planning to travel to Syria and fight for ISIS,” the ADL said. One of the individuals had planned to fly from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv to join terrorist fighters in the Middle East.

The event’s additional group honoree was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ L.A. field division, the L.A. City Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, which were honored for removing a “stronghold of San Fernando Valley Peckerwoods, a white supremacist gang,” the ADL said.

The more than 250 attendees included Ayelet Feiman, an L.A. city attorney prosecutor who was honored with the Sherwood Prize in 2013 for her efforts on a case involving swastikas drawn in maple syrup outside the home of a Jewish family in Northridge; Joseph Sherwood and his son, Howard; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and others.

The event also celebrated Joseph Sherwood’s 100th birthday, on March 12.

The Sherwood family launched the prize in 1996 as a way to bring attention to the positive contributions of law enforcement.


From left: Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Tuchin, Richard Pachulski and Patricia Glaser attend the American Friends of Hebrew University Torch of Learning Award Dinner, which honored Tuchin and Pachulski. Photo courtesy of AFHU.

From left: Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Tuchin, Richard Pachulski and Patricia Glaser attend the American Friends of Hebrew University Torch of Learning Award Dinner, which honored Tuchin and Pachulski. Photo courtesy of AFHU.

The March 1 American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Harvey L. Silbert Torch of Learning Award Dinner at the Beverly Hilton honored Richard Pachulski, a corporate restructuring attorney, and Michael L. Tuchin, a founding member and co-manager of Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern.

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, who often writes about events pertaining to Israel and has spoken out against President Donald Trump despite being a conservative, was the guest speaker. He discussed what makes America great, noting the disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners who are Americans, many of whom are immigrants. Additionally, he said HU, with its diverse student population of Arab, secular and religious students, embodies what is best about Israel.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is described by an AFHU press release as “the honorees’ longtime friend,” presented Pachulski and Tuchin with their awards.

The event raised $1.2 million for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law.

Attendees included Patricia Glaser, event chair and the AFHU western region vice chair; Michael Karayanni, dean of the Hebrew University Faculty of Law; Richard Ziman, vice chairman of the AFHU board of directors; and Brindell Gottlieb, president of AFHU’s western region.

AFHU raises awareness of and support for Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


From left: Cedars-Sinai Dr. Shlomo Melmed, Isabelle Szneer and Cedars-Sinai Dr. Charles Simmons commemorate Szneer’s donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

From left: Cedars-Sinai Dr. Shlomo Melmed, Isabelle Szneer and Cedars-Sinai Dr. Charles Simmons commemorate Szneer’s donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The family of the late Leopold Szneer, a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor and former Congregation Mogen David cantor, has provided a $250,000 gift to the Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease program.

A dedication and luncheon to celebrate the donation, given in Szneer’s memory and in the memory of the 1.5 million children who perished during the Holocaust, was held Jan. 17 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Szneer, who died in 2016, was imprisoned in Dachau during the Shoah, fled on the Kindertransport to Belgium in 1938 and experienced numerous challenges before immigrating to Los Angeles in the 1950s.

He went on to serve as a cantor, his longtime dream, at Congregation Mogen David in Pico-Robertson, for more than 20 years.

Isabelle Szneer, his wife since 1947 and also a Holocaust survivor, provided the gift in her husband’s memory. “He was a much loved man in the city,” she said.

Attendees at the event included Congregation Mogen David Rabbi Gabriel Elias; Dr. Shlomo Melmed, executive vice president of academic affairs at Cedars-Sinai; and Dr. Charles Simmons, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai.


Beth Kean

Beth Kean

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH), which describes itself as the oldest survivor-founded Holocaust museum in the country, has named Beth Kean its executive director and Paul Nussbaum its president, according to a March 14 announcement.

Kean, who became the museum’s president in January 2016, had also been serving as interim executive director since November, following the departure of the museum’s previous executive director, Samara Hutman. Nussbaum previously served as the museum’s treasurer. Jamie Rosenblood, a current board member at LAMOTH and museum docent who has a background in finance, is succeeding Nussbaum in that role. 

Paul Nussbaum

Paul Nussbaum

The leadership transition is part of “an unprecedented five-year plan to expand [the museum’s] mission of teaching the dangers of genocide and promoting empathy, tolerance and understanding through history, shared knowledge, and personal experience,” the announcement says.

Kean, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, has been involved in various leadership roles on the museum’s board for more than a decade. Her husband, Jon, is a filmmaker whose work includes the documentary films “Swimming in Auschwitz” and “After Auschwitz.”

“The relevance and urgency of our mission has never been more critical than it is in today’s environment,” Kean said in the announcement. “We are creating a strategic plan that will ensure that we continue to provide free educational programming, opportunities for dialogue with Holocaust survivors, and substantially grow our audience while teaching them the relevance of becoming stewards of this important history.”

The museum expects to draw more than 60,000 visitors in 2017, an increase from the 48,000 visitors it had in 2016, according to the announcement.

In the announcement, Nussbaum, the son of Holocaust survivors, expressed optimism about the museum’s continued success.

“We’re aware that we’ve become one of the most cherished cultural assets not only in Los Angeles but in the country,” Nussbaum said. “Our intent now is to establish a roadmap to guide LAMOTH on its journey toward continued growth and awareness.”


From left: Rabbis Elie Spitz, Naomi Levy, Stewart Vogel and Reuven Taff — all of California — received honorary doctorates from Jewish Theological Seminary. Photo by Jewish Journal Staff.

From left: Rabbis Elie Spitz, Naomi Levy, Stewart Vogel and Reuven Taff — all of California — received honorary doctorates from Jewish Theological Seminary. Photo by Jewish Journal Staff.

During a March 2 ceremony at Sutton Place Synagogue in Manhattan, New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) awarded honorary doctorates of divinity degrees to 55 rabbis, including five California rabbis, all of whom are members of the Rabbinic Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

The honorees have served the Jewish community for 25 years or more, on the pulpit, in the classroom and elsewhere.

The local rabbis were Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin, who was ordained at JTS in 1988; Naomi Levy of Nashuva in Los Angeles, who was a member of the first class of women to attend JTS’s rabbinical school, in 1984; Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, who was ordained in 1988; Neal Scheindlin of Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles, who was ordained in 1986; and Reuven Taff of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, who studied at JTS and was ordained in 1988 at a seminary in Israel.

Levy gave remarks on behalf of those being honored.

— Jewish Journal Staff


CORRECTION – 3/28/17: The original version of this story misidentified Orly Star Setareh.

The crowd at last year’s AIPAC conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

AIPAC seeking bipartisan spirit in a polarized capital


Maintaining Iran sanctions, crushing BDS and ensuring aid to Israel are high on the agenda, of course.

But the overarching message at this year’s conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is, if you want a break from polarization, come join us.

“This is an unprecedented time of political polarization, and we will have a rare bipartisan gathering in Washington,” an official of the lobby told JTA about the March 26-28 confab. “One of the impressive aspects of our speaker program is that we will have the entire bipartisan leadership of Congress.”

That might seem a stretch following two tense years in which AIPAC faced off against the Obama administration – and by extension much of the Democratic congressional delegation – over the Iran nuclear deal.

But check out the roster of conference speakers and you can see the lobby is trying hard.

Among Congress members, for instance, there are the usual suspects, including stalwarts of the U.S.-Israel relationship like Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rep. Ed Royce, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Vice President Mike Pence is speaking, and so are the leaders of each party in both chambers.

But also featured is Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a freshman who had the backing of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate who had his request for a satellite feed at last year’s conference turned down. Also present this year and absent last year, for the most part: Democrats who backed the Iran deal.

Among the other speakers are Obama administration architects and defenders of the nuclear deal, which traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

One striking example is Rob Malley, a National Security Council official who didn’t join President Barack Obama’s team until his second term in part because pro-Israel objections kept him out in the first four years. (Malley, a peace negotiator under President Bill Clinton, had committed the heresy of insisting that both Israelis and Palestinians were to blame for the collapse of talks in 2000.)

If there’s a let-bygones-be-bygones flavor to all this, it results in part from anxieties pervading the Jewish organizational world about polarization in the era of Trump. Jewish groups get their most consequential policy work done lining up backers from both parties.

“We continue to very much believe in the bipartisan model because it is the only way to get things done,” said the official, who like AIPAC officials are wont to do, requested anonymity. “This is the one gathering where D’s and R’s come together for high purpose.”

J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, demonstrated at its own policy conference last month that it was only too happy to lead the resistance to President Donald Trump, who has appalled the liberal Jewish majority with his broadsides against minorities and his isolationism. J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, explicitly said he was ready to step in now where AIPAC would not.

AIPAC is also under fire from the right. Republican Jews who consider the lobby’s bipartisanship a bane rather than a boon were behind the party platform’s retreat last year from explicit endorsement of the two-state solution. More recently, Trump has also marked such a retreat, at least rhetorically.

The Israeli American Council, principally backed by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who in 2007 fell out with AIPAC in part over its embrace of the two-state outcome, has attempted to position itself as the more conservative-friendly Israel lobby. The right-leaning Christians United for Israel is similarly assuming a higher profile on the Hill.

And so, in forging its legislative agenda, AIPAC is doing its best to find items both parties can get behind. There are three areas:

* Iran: Democrats are still resisting legislation that would undo the nuclear deal, but are ready to countenance more narrowly targeted sanctions. AIPAC is helping to craft bills that would target Iran’s missile testing and its transfer of arms to other hostile actors in the region.

* Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: AIPAC will back a bill modeled on one introduced in the last congressional session by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., that would extend to the BDS movement 1970s laws that made it illegal to participate in the Arab League boycott of Israel.

* Foreign assistance: AIPAC activists will lobby the Hill on the final day of the conference with a request to back assistance to Israel (currently at $3.1 billion a year, set to rise next year to $3.8 billion). Support for such aid is a given, despite deep cuts to diplomatic and foreign aid programs in  Trump’s budget proposal.

Also a given will be the activists’ insistence that aid to Israel should not exist in a vacuum and should be accompanied by a robust continuation of U.S. aid to other countries. With a Trump administration pledged to slashing foreign assistance by a third and wiping out whole programs, AIPAC is returning to a posture unfamiliar since the early 1990s, when it stood up to a central plank of a Republican president.

Notably absent from the agenda is any item that robustly declares support for a two-state outcome. AIPAC officials say the longtime U.S. policy remains very much on their agenda, but the lobby’s apparent soft pedaling of the issue is notable at a time when other mainstream groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, have been assertive in urging the U.S. and Israeli governments to preserve it.

Let’s stop patronizing the new generation


In the Jewish world today, if you’re young and cool and love to criticize Israel, community leaders will treat you with kid gloves, because they’re afraid of “losing” you. They’re afraid, among other things, that you might join one of those anti-Zionist movements like BDS or Jewish Voices for Peace, or just abandon Israel altogether.

Fear of loss can make people overly timid and deferential.

Take the case of IfNotNow (INN), a young and trendy Jewish activist group that regularly demonstrates against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. These activists are proponents of “Jewish values” who care about Palestinians and are giving Israel a dose of tough love.

Evidently, they believe that the best way to fight the occupation is to demand that it end now, and to demand that other Jewish organizations demand the same. It’s social justice on demand.

Because it’s never too cool to take on young activists who represent the revered “new generation,” there’s a general reluctance in our community and in the Jewish media to criticize INN and its demonstrations. But putting that reluctance aside, I think their PR spectacles can use some criticism. For one thing, they distort the reality of a complicated conflict.

To attract media attention, INN activists like to target high-profile Jewish groups and make an effort to get arrested, as happened last week in front of the AIPAC offices in Los Angeles and last year in the lobby of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) building in New York City. Their message is conveyed in cocky slogans such as, “Moral Jews must resist AIPAC” and “Dayenu—End the Occupation.”

It hardly helps peace to make Israel look like the only bad guy in the conflict.

Now, if I’m a typical Israeli voter who’d love to end the occupation but believes that, at this moment, it will lead to war rather than peace, I might look at such scenes and ask myself: What do these American kids know that I don’t?

To its credit, the ADL called them out last year in a statement from national director Jonathan Greenblatt: “It is unfortunate that INN seems to be more interested in spectacles and ultimatums than in discussion and dialogue grappling with the difficult issues involved in achieving peace. Nevertheless, our doors are open, and our invitation to speak with INN still stands.”

They never took him up on the offer. Indeed, for young activists looking for action and attention, the notion of dialogue must seem dull and tedious. How do you compare a discussion of complex issues with an Instagram photo that makes you look like an anti-establishment rebel?

If there’s one thing rebels don’t like, it’s complications. When I meet with INN sympathizers, I try to offer at least one annoying wrinkle: After Israel leaves the West Bank, I tell them, it’s highly likely that terror groups like Hamas and ISIS will swoop in and start murdering Palestinians, as happened in Gaza. The ensuing chaos and violence would be a disaster for the Palestinians, significantly worse than anything they’re facing now.

That simple point alone gives them pause. It also challenges the delusion that Israel can just snap its fingers and end the occupation, as INN slogans demand.

It takes little courage to yell on a street corner and make demands on the most criticized country on earth. It takes even less courage to go after other Jewish groups because they don’t do things your way. Let’s see if INN activists will ever take on the biggest enemies of peace, those evil forces that make a living delegitimizing the Jewish state and promoting genocidal Jew-hatred.

Maybe one day, we’ll see some Jewish rebels protest outside INN offices and give them a taste of their own medicine. Here’s one idea for a pro-peace sign they can hold up: “Fight Jew-hatred: Are you INN or out?”

It should be clear by now that it hardly helps peace to make Israel look like the only bad guy in the conflict. If INN really wanted to work for peace, it would wrestle with the many difficult issues surrounding the conflict, as Greenblatt invited them to do. Last time I checked, wrestling with difficult issues is also a great Jewish value.

Of course, it’s always easier to just protest and make demands on the Jews, especially if you sense the Jewish establishment is walking on eggshells around you, because it’s so afraid to lose you. But from where I sit, I think we’ll lose the new generation a lot faster if we continue to patronize them and treat them with kid gloves.

Just like INN, I much prefer tough love.

Lillian Pinkus, President of AIPAC, speaking at the 2016 Conference. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

AIPAC paid $60,000 to group that peddles anti-Muslim conspiracy theories


An AIPAC affiliate paid $60,000 during its campaign to thwart the Iran nuclear deal to a group that engages in anti-Muslim extremism.

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, which was launched in the summer of 2015 to rally opposition to the Iran deal, paid the money to the Center for Security Policy, according to a report Wednesday by LobeLog, a Middle East policy news and analysis site.

An American Israel Public Affairs Committee official confirmed the payment to JTA and said it was for an ad. The official did not describe the ad or where it appeared, but Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran ran ads from July 2015 through September of that year in a failed bid to have Congress nullify the deal.

The Center for Security Policy and its director, Frank Gaffney, have drawn fire for sweeping generalizations about Muslims and Islam, including from Jewish groups. In November, the Reform movement and other liberal Jewish groups urged Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, not to accept an award from Gaffney’s group because of his statements, which the Reform described as “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

The Anti-Defamation League stopped short of asking Dermer to turn down the award but decried “baseless claims or stereotypes” propagated by the Center for Security Policy.

Gaffney accuses officials in the U.S. government and elsewhere of acting on behalf of radical Muslims, often with scant evidence or because of tenuous associations. He has suggested that former President Barack Obama, a Christian, is a Muslim, and joined in condemnations of a Muslim community in Tennessee seeking to expand its mosque, calling the Muslims there “stealth jihadists.” Attacks on the Muslims in Murfreesboro have included violence and elicited expressions of support for the community from Jewish groups.

Gaffney is close to Steve Bannon, a top strategic adviser to President Donald Trump. In a New York Times report last month on people who have shaped the administration’s views on Islam, Gaffney described what he sees as a decades-long conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate all levels of American society, likening those he said were adherents of the Islamist movement to “termites.”

The Center for Security Policy also was adamantly opposed to the Iran deal, and its supporters would have been receptive to appeals to lobby congressmen to oppose the agreement. Additionally, the think tank, which advocates for increased defense spending, and Gaffney, a top Pentagon official under President Ronald Reagan, have longstanding ties to the defense and security establishment. Advertising in its published materials would reach important influencers in those communities.

The AIPAC official noted that the $60,000 was a fraction of the $20 million budgeted to defeat the deal, which Israel’s government, AIPAC and most Republicans opposed.

The deal traded sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration said it was the best means of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; opponents said it facilitated the acquisition of nuclear weapons because some of its restrictions would lapse in a decade.

The Westside JCC, which was targeted with a bomb threat on Monday. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Bomb threats alter way of life, peace of mind


When a bomb threat was called into the Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) on Feb. 27, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate the building, the specter of violent anti-Semitism that looms over focal points of Jewish life reasserted itself. Although the distorted voice on the phone issued what turned out to be a hoax — as with the other 160-plus threatening phone calls and emails received by Jewish organizations nationwide this year — and the WJCC had recently beefed up security measures, the community was put on edge.

So, at a March 8 meeting organized by the WJCC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to address the lingering concerns — one day before a second bomb threat was emailed to the WJCC — it appeared the scope of the threat had expanded into the psyches of WJCC members, and heightened levels of stress and suspicion had set in.

The meeting began with WJCC Executive Director Brian Greene summarizing the swift, effective reaction to the bomb threat that led to the building being vacated within seven minutes and a rapid law enforcement response that brought 20 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department. It continued with discussion about how to broach the topic of anti-Semitic terrorism with children, led by the ADL’s David Reynolds. And it concluded with a Q-and-A session with Greene.

The dialogue provided a view into how the Jewish community is reacting to and coping with the wave of anti-Semitism. Fears and frustrations have been adding up. People have pondered worst-case scenarios and considered the sacrifices they would have to make in the name of security, some of them for the first time.

“I think [the bomb threat] was a wake-up call for a lot of parents,” said Jenny Kurpil, who had two children attending the WJCC preschool when the building was evacuated. After receiving a phone call notifying her that her kids had been taken to a secure location, Kurpil said, she broke down in tears. Even though she was confident in the security protocols that were in place, “the actual knowledge that a threat call had been placed [made me] very emotional.”

She wasn’t alone. The meeting was the third that the WJCC organized after the evacuation. An informal bagels-and-coffee huddle was held the morning after the threat, and a WJCC/ADL-organized gathering for preschool parents the following week was so positively received and well-attended that another was scheduled for the entire community.

About 20 people came to the March 8 meeting (half the number of the previous event’s). When invited to describe their feelings about the recent incidents in one word, attendees volunteered “edgy,” “unsettled” and “sad.” When reviewing security protocols, they talked in dark — but in their view, not inconceivable — hypotheticals.

People confronted by such hostile acts often face a psychological challenge, Greene said, as they struggle to reconcile those emotions with the actual risks, considering that none of the bomb threats has resulted in material damages or human casualties.

“The anxiety, the apprehension, the fear that this brings up, it reminds you of all the other [scenarios],” Greene said. “It opens up the door. … It just brings up these emotions in you. Before you know it, your mind’s going to places that are fearful.”

For Amanda Perez, whose children attend the preschool but were not present during the recent scare, going to the meeting wasn’t necessary for her peace of mind.

“I’m an extremely rational person,” Perez said. “My husband is the more emotional person. Even though my kids weren’t here, my husband went bananas. You just have to trust that all the policies are in place — otherwise you’ll make yourself crazy.”

The elevated caution prompted some parents to reconsider friendly habits — such as holding open an otherwise secure door for a stranger — that feel like embodiments of Jewish values but could potentially invite harm. Others admitted that even an official change of protocol on those matters would be difficult to enforce.

But everyone agreed that compromising their usual, relaxed way of life had become a necessary measure.

“My attitude has changed,” one parent said. “I’m more guarded.”

Though people seemed assuaged by the security at the WJCC, they left with a sense that their fear of potential danger — whether rational or exaggerated — was not going away.

“I wish I knew [it would],” said Kurpil, the mother of two WJCC preschoolers. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it will in the current climate we live in.”

A screenshot of the interactive map of recent anti-Semitic incidents published by ProPublica. Photo courtesy of ProPublica.

Over 300 recent anti-Semitic incidents shown on one interactive map


The investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica has produced an interactive map that chronicles over 300 anti-Semitic crimes across the United States from the past few months.

The graphic, which was published Wednesday, is a companion to an article ProPublica ran last week, “In an Angry and Fearful Nation, an Outbreak of Anti-Semitism,” which found evidence of over 330 incidents of anti-Semitism between last November and early February.

Both are part of ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” series, which the company launched last year to “gather evidence of hate crimes and episodes of bigotry from a divided America.”

The interactive map links each pin to local news reports from across the country, allowing users to access the original news stories for each instance of anti-Semitism. About 160 of the incidents involve vandalism, such as spray-painted swastikas and other defacement of public spaces.

Other organizations have documented spikes in anti-Semitic incidents since the election of Donald Trump as president in November. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 100 incidents in the first 10 days after Trump’s election. The New York Police Department recorded 43 anti-Semitic incidents in New York City in the month after the election.

JTA has reported in recent months that dozens of Jewish community centers across the country have been threatened with over 150 phoned-in or emailed bomb threats.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, said at a conference in November that public discourse in the United States on anti-Semitism was at its worst point since the 1930s.

Trump was dogged by assertions during the campaign that he failed to condemn the anti-Semitism displayed by some of his supporters, such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. After avoiding the topic while being asked about it multiple times at news conferences and interviews, Trump condemned the attacks on JCCs late last month.

St. Louis man alleged to have made 8 bomb threats against JCCs, ADL is denied bail


The St. Louis man accused of making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League must remain in jail until his trial, a federal judge in that city ruled.

The allegations against Juan Thompson, 32, are “very serious,” U.S. District Court Judge David Noce said Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Noce said that allowing Thompson to post bail and leave jail would “not reasonably assure the court that he will not endanger the safety of any other person or the community.”

Thompson, who was arrested March 3, has been charged with cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He has no previous criminal record. He made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner he had been cyberstalking, according to the U.S. Attorney of Southern New York.

Thompson’s public defender at a hearing last week had requested house arrest and GPS monitoring, and said his client would stay at the home of his mother and stepfather in St. Louis.

The judge responded Monday that allowing Thompson to stay in the home from which he had allegedly made some threats might not stop him from making more and that GPS monitoring might prevent him from fleeing but would not stop threats, according to the Post-Dispatch.

More than 150 threats have been received by JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions since the beginning of the year, according to the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America.

Chelsea Clinton speaks at an event, April 17, 2014. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Chelsea Clinton cites Purim in scoring congressman who says ‘demographics are our destiny’


Chelsea Clinton cited the lessons of Purim to chastise a congressman who said restoring Western civilization could not be done “with somebody else’s babies.”

“Clearly the Congressman does not view all our children as, well, all our children,” Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who lost the November presidential election to Donald Trump, said Sunday in a tweet quoting a tweet by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “Particularly ironic & painful on Purim.”

Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, is Jewish. Purim celebrates the triumph of Persia’s Jews over a deadly enemy, Haman. Some Jewish traditions cite its lessons as upholding diversity.

King in his tweet praised Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker whose party is among those competing in elections this week in the Netherlands.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” he said. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The tweet was reviled as bigoted almost as soon as King posted it.

“This is so offensive, it’s hard to know where to start,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO, said in a tweet. “America’s greatness is the diversity of our culture, the dynamism of our demography.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., alluded to King’s closeness to Trump, and claims from Democrats that Trump’s election has spurred increased bigotry, in calling the comment “racist.”

“It’s no accident that communities across America have been threatened by emboldened racists,” she said in a statement Monday. “The GOP Leadership must stop accommodating this garbage, and condemn Congressman Steve King’s statements in the strongest and most unequivocal terms.”

In an appearance on CNN on Monday morning, King would not say whether he believed Muslims were “equals,” but defended the tweet from charges that it was racist.

“It’s the culture, not the blood,” King said. “And if you can go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby with as much patriotism and as much love of country as any other baby. It’s not about race.”

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego. Screenshot from YouTube

JCC bomb threats are weapons of fear


The “fear itself” thing? FDR was on to something.

The rash of JCC bomb threats and cemetery desecrations, combined with a general sense that the country is becoming more intolerant, has Jews on edge in ways they haven’t been in years. The head of a major American Jewish organization wrote to me that the recent outbreak of anti-Semitic activity “is the worst America has seen since the 1930s.” (It’s not.)

Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress has declared that “in recent weeks and months we have witnessed an unprecedented and inconceivable escalation of anti-Semitic acts in the United States” — again, an exaggeration.

The stats, tracked rigorously but narrowly by the Anti-Defamation League and haphazardly by the FBI, aren’t in for 2016 or early 2017, the period covering the presidential campaign and that presumably would include the kinds of “spikes” many would like to attribute to Donald Trump’s racially and ethnically charged campaign and emboldening of the “alt-right.”

One of the more worrisome accountings came from the NYPD, which found that anti-Semitic incidents were up 94 percent in the city over this time last year, with 35 anti-Semitic incidents reported in January and February.

But such numbers don’t yet point to an “unprecedented and inconceivable escalation” in anti-Semitism. And they don’t take into account the counter-evidence, like a Pew study that found that Jews are the most “warmly” regarded religious group in the U.S. (“Great news!” said parents and staff huddled outside an evacuated JCC). Or the acts of kindness and concern that followed many of the attacks, from Muslims raising money to restore a vandalized cemetery to the unanimous Senate letter urging the White House to boost security measures at Jewish institutions and assure the investigation and punishment of hate crimes.

Nor can it be overlooked that American Jews are as comfortable and accepted as they have ever been in history. No school, no neighborhood and no profession is off limits. Jews are over-represented in politics, academia and media. Even the high rate of intermarriage is a sign of social acceptance of Jews. Unlike many parts of Europe, where armed guards protect synagogues and observant Jewish men often hide their kippot under caps, American Jews can be out, proud and as loud as they want to be.

But the numbers and sociology can’t account for the way Jews feel, and right now many are not feeling good. The high levels of Jewish anxiety owe t0 a combination of the commander in chief, the political mood, the nature of the JCC attacks and the media.

Let’s start with President Trump: Most Jews didn’t vote for him, and regarded his campaign antics as particularly unsettling, from his appeal among white supremacists and ethno-nationalists to his willingness to exploit the country’s racial and ethnic divides.

In his embrace of a fiercely chauvinistic “economic nationalism,” White House strategist Steve Bannon represents something “unprecedented and inconceivable” in the minds of many Jews. Until Trump, resurgent nationalism seemed very much a problem for Europe, where economic malaise, fear of immigrants and the ghosts of the 20th century have combined into a particularly toxic brew on the right.

Recent Republican and Democratic administrations alike gave at least lip service to the idea of America as a vivid tapestry in which people of all races, religions and nationalities are welcome. Bannon, you’ll recall, is not just a foe of illegal immigration, but of legal immigration, which has “kinda overwhelmed the country,” as he said in a 2016 radio interview with (wait for it) Trump advisor and speechwriter Stephen Miller.

Even for those who believe Trump is the savior Israel has been waiting for, and who accept his disavowals of the alt-right, it upset Jewish assumptions about their position as a privileged minority when Trump couldn’t bring himself to forthrightly denounce the JCC threats and other anti-Semitic acts.

The nature of the JCC attacks are diabolically brilliant in their ability to unsettle Jews. I imagine a lone wolf or a team of hackers, armed with some cheap electronics and a motive to maximize mischief, working off an easy to find list of institutions with “Jewish” and “community” in their very names. There are far fewer JCCs than synagogues, but targeting JCCs assures you of hitting at least one easily identifiable Jewish institution in every consequential Jewish community across the country. I’m betting it’s only an unhappy accident that the hoaxer picked one of the few Jewish places that cuts across all movements and ideologies, and even attracts non-Jews to their fitness centers and childcare programs. That potentially puts every Jew on edge.

Coverage of these attacks, while unavoidable, also instills fear. As the editor of a Jewish news service, I feel implicated: What if in the name of informing the community, we are merely spreading anxiety? Readers rely on us to cover acts of anti-Semitism large and small. These include nasty anti-Zionist demonstrations on college campuses, grotesque internet “memes” originating with the alt-right and increasingly bizarre examples of swastika graffiti, including some carved in snow and one shaped out of human feces. 

But do these various acts, in a country of over 300 million, represent a growing trend or the salacious exception?

And what if we and the anti-Semitism watchdogs are wrong? What if the JCC attacks aren’t the vanguard of the New Anti-Semitism, but a weird and personal vendetta on the part of the hoaxer? Sure enough, Juan Thompson, a suspected copycat charged last week in at least eight of the JCC attacks, turns out to be an unhinged young man whose apparent motivation wasn’t even anti-Semitism but revenge on an old flame.

That doesn’t make the targeted Jew or Jewish institution feel any better. Fear has its own dynamic. JCCs aren’t talking about the members or preschool students they’ve lost as a result of the hoaxes, but word is getting out that the numbers might be significant. You can’t blame the families who just don’t need the tsurris, but you can look at your own behavior and ask in what ways you are making a bad situation worse.

So yes, we need strong enforcement of our hate crimes laws. And institutions that have the security they need. And careful monitoring of anti-Semitism in all its forms. And government leaders who have the backs of targeted minorities and pledge to defend the diversity of multicultural America.

But we also need a reminder that Jews have it pretty good here, and that we shouldn’t give too much power to a kid with a Sharpie, or a hacker with a speed-dial, or a disturbed, disgraced stalker. We have to stand up and say these institutions are ours, and we’re here to stay.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order for a U.S. travel ban, at the Pentagon, January 27. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS.

Zionist Organization of America welcomes Trump’s immigration order, JCPA opposes


The Zionist Organization of America welcomed President Donald Trump’s immigration order banning refugees and new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, while the umbrella body for Jewish policy groups joined an array of Jewish groups opposed to it.

The order “fulfills the president’s basic duty of protecting the nation by suspending entry by nationals from six nations (Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) where current screening abilities are inadequate, resulting in an unacceptable risk that individuals who intend to commit, aid or support terrorist acts here will infiltrate into the U.S.,” the ZOA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ZOA statement comes after an array of Jewish groups, including the Reform movement and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as Democratic Jewish lawmakers, condemned the order. Trump revised the order after an earlier one was stayed by the courts.

The consensus-driven Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups and regional Jewish community relations councils, on Monday evening joined in opposition to the order, but in language less condemnatory.

“We continue to oppose such a travel ban because it reduces the number of refugees coming into this country and still specifically names Muslim-majority countries,” the JCPA said in a statement. “There’s no evidence that refugees from these countries represent a special threat.”

Police search a Jewish Community Center after a bomb threat was reported in the Rochester suburb of Brighton, New York. March 7. Photo By Mike Bradley/REUTERS.

At least 15 Jewish sites threatened in sixth wave of harassment


This is a developing story.

At least 11 Jewish community centers and institutions across North America and four Anti-Defamation League offices have received threats of lethal attack, the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year.

As of midday Tuesday, threats had been reported at Jewish institutions in Massachusetts, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Oregon, Florida, Alabama and at least two community centers in New York, according to Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America. In addition, two threats were directed toward Canadian JCCs, in Toronto and London, Ontario.

Some threats were called in over the phone, others were emailed.

Chicago5, NBC’s Chicago affiliate, reported a bomb threat at the Chicago Jewish Day School on the city’s North Side. The MetroWest Daily News reported that a day school housed in Temple Beth Shalom in Framingham, Massachusetts was also evacuated.

Several of the targeted institutions were evacuated following the threats, but the JCC in Syracuse, New York, was different in nature from the other threats. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, would not elaborate. On Twitter, the Syracuse JCC said people inside had sheltered in place before the all-clear.

Meanwhile, the ADL said its national office in New York, its office in Washington, D.C., and its regional offices in Atlanta and Boston had been threatened.

“This is not ‘normal.’ We will not be deterred or intimidated,” ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement. “It is time for action, and we call on the administration and Congress to take concrete steps to catch those threatening the Jewish community.”

The Portland, Oregon threat came in Monday evening by email, and the JCC alerted local police and the FBI and closed early for a sweep.

In Rochester, the evacuation of members and staff on Tuesday was ordered shortly before 6 a.m., the local ABC affiliate 13WHAM reported. About 75 people were evacuated from the building. Parents whose children attend the JCC day care were notified and asked to make alternate child care arrangements for the day, according to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.

Local and state police officers and FBI agents reportedly were on the scene to sweep the building.

The bomb threat comes less than a week after at least five headstones were toppled at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester.

A JCC Toronto client posted photos on Facebook of the downtown building being evacuated. “We are huddled inside the Second Cup where they are giving out free coffee and tea,” she said, referring to the Canadian coffee shop chain.

Ron Halber, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said a threat to the JCC in Rockville, Maryland, was emailed late Monday night, and necessitated an additional sweep of the premises with bomb-sniffing dogs, in addition to the routine daily sweep the JCC undergoes. There was no evacuation, he said.

“The person who is doing this will fail,” Halber said. “If anything it’s bringing people together, it makes people want to stand up more, this is being a catalyst for greater Jewish involvement and pride.”

Goldenberg, the SCN director, said that in every instance protocols were observed and went smoothly.

“The protocols and processes that these institutions have in place have gone smoothly,” he said. “Our constituents and members have remained safe.”

More than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in PhiladelphiaSt. Louis and Rochester, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York Regional Director, speaking during a news conference at the ADL national headquarters in New York City on March 3. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ADL: Juan Thompson’s arrest alone won’t stop ‘unprecedented’ wave of anti-Semitism


Thanking the FBI and police for the arrest of Juan Thompson, who allegedly made eight bomb threats to Jewish institutions, the Anti-Defamation League called the current wave of anti-Semitic acts “unprecedented.”

“Law enforcement at all levels is a close friend to the Jewish people in America,” Evan Bernstein, ADL’s New York regional director, said at a news conference Friday. “Just because there’s been an arrest today around our bomb threats does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop.”

The news conference was convened after law enforcement announced earlier in the day that Thompson had been charged in connection with the deluge of bomb threats received this year by Jewish institutions. Thompson, 31, of St. Louis, allegedly made bomb threats to JCCs, Jewish schools and an ADL office as part of his cyberstalking of a former romantic partner.

The ADL and several other Jewish groups had met Friday with FBI Director James Comey. According to a statement from the groups in attendance, which were not listed, the meeting concerned recent anti-Semitic acts and collaboration between Jewish institutions and law enforcement.

“All the organizations in attendance expressed the deep gratitude of the entire community for the extraordinary effort that the FBI is applying to the ongoing investigation,” the statement said. “The representatives of the Jewish community left with the highest confidence that the FBI is taking every possible measure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”

According to statistics compiled by the New York Police Department, anti-Semitic acts have nearly doubled in early 2017 as compared to one year earlier. The ADL said that due to the reach of the internet and the quantity of recent bomb threats, white supremacists are more emboldened than ever. 

“We’re in unprecedented times,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “We’ve never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we’ve seen. White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”

In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in PhiladelphiaSt. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

The ADL called on President Donald Trump to take action against anti-Semitism, including by directing the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into the threats, and by creating a federal interagency task force on combating hate crimes chaired by the attorney general.

“We need action to stop these threats,” Bernstein said. “History shows that when anti-Semitism gains the upper hand, courageous leaders need to speak out and take action before it’s too late.”

Segal said the ADL has been tracking Thompson, a disgraced former journalist, since he fabricated the identity of a cousin of Dylann Roof, the gunman who killed nine at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

Thompson was fired from his reporter post at The Intercept last year for fabricating sources and quotes. According to the ADL, he has posted inflammatory tweets about white police officers and the “white New York liberal media.”

Sophie Golden, in striped shirt and headband, uses social media to coordinate meet-ups with her camp friends. Photo by Davina Golden

For JCCs threatened three times, stockpiling blankets, diapers and resilience


Growing up in a small town in Georgia, Harriet Shirley may have had more exposure to Jews and anti-Semitism than the rest of her fellow Christians. She had Jewish acquaintances, read Holocaust nonfiction as a teen and later visited concentration camps on a trip to Europe.

But she was still dumbfounded when the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where she worked as the health and wellness director, received three separate bomb threats since Jan. 9. Shirley had assumed anti-Semitic violence was a thing of the past — a notion her Jewish co-workers did not share.

“Honestly, it makes me angry,” she said. “It also makes me sad. I recognize that a lot of my co-workers have had to live with this stuff their whole lives. It just makes me sad.

“It’s so unfortunate and so stupid that this kind of hatred against any group still exists. We really ought to be past this.”

Since the beginning of 2017, nearly 100 bomb threats have been made to more than 70 JCCs and Jewish day schools across the United States. For most, the threat is a one-time event. But the Nashville JCC and two others — in Birmingham, Alabama, and Wilmington, Delaware — each have endured three.

All three were hit on Jan. 18, when at least 30 JCCs across the country were victimized. Nashville and Birmingham were part of the first wave on Jan. 9, and Birmingham and Wilmington were hit in the last one on Monday. All the calls in five waves of threats have been hoaxes.

The JCCs report that members are still entering the doors. But for staff, the repeated threats have been a shocking and exhausting experience that at times has made everyday work a challenge.

“It’s trying, it’s stressful, it’s everything the people behind these telephone threats want to happen,” said Seth Katzen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, which shares a building with the Wilmington JCC. “But we stay vigilant, we stay on task, we follow protocol, we follow procedure. I’m sure it’s on the back of people’s minds, but we’re a resilient community. We will not let this get to us.”

In all three facilities, nearly all the members have stayed despite the bomb threats. In Nashville, only one of 1,600 members has dropped their membership due to the threats. In Birmingham, two of 200 preschoolers have left the school. Katzen said to the best of his knowledge, none of the more than 100 students had left the Wilmington JCC’s preschool.

Leslie Sax, executive director of the Nashville JCC, attributed its high retention rate to its security procedures, which were first formulated following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The building is removed from a busy area, and a guard is always present near the preschool. In addition, Sax has sent emails out to members following each of the five waves of JCC bomb threats, whether or not her facility was targeted.

“We always struggle: Are we too secure for friendliness?” Sax said. “It’s that balancing act we all have to do. We want to be welcoming, but we also want to be secure.”

Even as the JCC has tried to maintain its routine, Sax has noticed people making adjustments to deal with the threat of an evacuation. The JCC has stockpiled diapers and formula for preschoolers, as well as blankets for swimmers. Some swimmers now leave their car keys near the pool instead of in the locker room. And to stay in contact with the media, Sax has learned to take her phone charger with her in case she needs to exit the building.

“To go for a fire drill, you know to leave the building and congregate,” Sax said. “But when you don’t know if you’re going to be able to go back in the building, you think about what exactly are we going to need to bring?”

All three of the most-targeted JCCs are in relatively small Jewish communities. But neither Sax nor Betzy Lynch, executive director of the Levite JCC in Birmingham, feels that they’ve been targeted due to their size.

“I’m going to make the assessment that it’s probably coincidental,” Lynch said. “I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason to why people are chosen or how they’re chosen. Maybe it’s just random and we got the short straw multiple times.”

Lynch said the community’s intimate feel has been an advantage in dealing with the threats. Birmingham’s Muslims, whose mosque recently received death threats, have also reached out, organizing a recent interfaith prayer rally together with the Jewish community.

“This community is incredibly resilient,” Lynch said. “The outpouring of support we’ve had from the general community as well has been phenomenal. Birmingham is an incredibly generous and philanthropic and faithful community.”

Shirley, the Nashville health director, said she continues to be shocked by the threats. In the meantime, she’s tried to use them to teach her 14-year-old twins about the experience of being a minority in the United States.

“[I’m] trying to explain to them that even though we don’t really recognize it, our heritage, our family group, is one of privilege in a way,” she said. “We’re not part of any of those groups that’s the focus of hatred.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaking at the organization’s Never is Now conference in New York City, Nov. 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of the ADL.

ADL offers reward for information about Philadelphia Jewish cemetery vandals


The Anti-Defamation League offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

More than 100 gravestones were toppled and damaged at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in the city’s Wissinoming section. The vandalism was discovered Sunday.

The reward money leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals is being provided by the Mizel Family Foundation, according to the ADL.

It is not known who committed the vandalism or if the motive was anti-Semitism.

A Gofundme campaign for the Philadelphia cemetery was launched by a private citizen, Raphael Caroline, 31, in the hours after the vandalism was discovered. It reached its $10,000 goal and beyond in seven hours.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia also is collecting donations for repairs to the cemetery.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey in a tweet called the attack on the cemetery “a despicable act of vandalism — these acts of hate cannot be tolerated.”

The state’s governor, Tom Wolf, in a tweet called the vandalism “a cowardly, disturbing act. We must find those responsible and hold accountable.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said city officials are working to discover who committed the attack.

“My heart breaks for the families who found their loved ones’ headstones toppled,” he said in a statement.  “We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators who desecrated this final resting place, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia. I encourage Philadelphians to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to show them that we are the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

Area Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA’s Philadelphia mosque  joined local Jews to help clean up the cemetery.

“They wanted to divide us. We united even more,” tweeted Kashif Chaudhry, a physician and Muslim activist.

“This is America,” read more than one response.

“This Jewish girl from Philly thanks Muslim community of Philly 4 standing w/us,” read another.

A candlelight vigil to support the Jewish community was held on Sunday night.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL headquarters in NY hit with bomb threat


The national offices of the Anti-Defamation League in New York received a bomb threat from an anonymous caller.

New York City Patch reported that the threat was called into ADL’s Manhattan headquarters at about 11:08 a.m. Wednesday, according to police. Neither the report nor the ADL said whether the building was evacuated.

Three days earlier, 11 Jewish community centers across the country were evacuated after bomb threats were called in — the fourth wave of such threats in five weeks. The threats turned out to be hoaxes but forced the evacuation of many buildings.

Two days ago, up to 200 headstones were overturned at a St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery.

“While there is no information at this time to indicate that this is more than a threat, we are taking it very seriously,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement officials to determine if it is connected to similar threats against Jewish institutions across the country.

“This is not the first time that ADL has been targeted, and it will not deter us in our efforts to combat anti-Semitism and hate against people of all races and religions.”

White House senior advisor Steve Bannon at the White House on Jan. 28. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump, the Jews and the political weaponization of anti-Semitism


Was that so hard?

At some point in the past week, it looked like President Donald Trump was never going to use “anti-Semitism” in a sentence. It took a fourth series of hoax bomb threats at JCCs around the country and imprecations from Jewish groups across the ideological spectrum for the president to at last use the “A” word.

“Anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop, and it has to stop,” Trump said Tuesday morning. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and our Jewish community centers are horrible, are painful and they are a reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

That it took so long for Trump to condemn anti-Semitism after twice being asked about it last week, and coming on the heels of a White House International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that somehow omitted any mention of the Jews, was “mind-boggling” to many groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, which said so in a tweet.

It had reached a point that I already started imagining a White House Passover greeting that didn’t mention the Jews.

“Starting at sundown, the world will come together to remember certain events in Egypt,” it would begin, and end with, “I’ve made it clear that all plagues are horrible.”

What made Trump’s demurrals stranger is that denunciations of anti-Semitism are to presidential declarations what kosher symbols are to supermarket goods: It doesn’t hurt to have one, and only Jews usually notice.

So why did it take the administration five tries to get it right? I am counting the two news conferences, in which Trump basically punted on the question from two Jewish reporters; a statement from the White House on Monday that denounced “hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind” without mentioning Jews or anti-Semitism, and daughter Ivanka’s tweet saying “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. .” The JCC hashtag was a nice touch, but not exactly a Queen Esther-style declaration of co-religious solidarity.

Pundits spent the past week trying to explain Trump’s hesitation. Peter Beinart blamed narcissism, using the theory that when Trump hears “anti-Semitism,” he can’t help but take it as a personal attack that he must fend off. I wondered if it was simple belligerence — that the more you ask this president for something, the more he is likely to say “you can’t make me.”

Or maybe he was just annoyed at the ADL, the group most identified with combating anti-Semitism, for repeatedly calling him and his campaign out for either ignoring or encouraging intolerance. Maybe Trump saw CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s Feb. 17 column in The Washington Post recalling how “the Trump campaign repeatedly tweeted and shared anti-Semitic imagery and language,” thus “allowing this poison to move from the margins into the mainstream of the public conversation.”

The most ominous explanation, offered by Bradley Burston from the left-wing Haaretz newspaper and a surprisingly outspoken Chuck Todd of NBC News, was that Trump was throwing a bone to — or at least trying not to alienate — the “alt-right” trolls who formed a small but vocal part of his winning coalition.

“Mr. President, we believe you and many other Jews believe you, so please make it clear that not only are you not an anti-Semite but that you reject people who are even if they did vote for you,” Todd said last week.

If Trump had been struggling with a political calculation, it was reminiscent of one that played out in the 2008 campaign, when then-candidate Barack Obama was being pressed to disavow an endorsement from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. When he was asked about Farrakhan during a debate with fellow Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, you could almost see the thought bubble over Obama’s head as he weighed rejecting Farrakhan without alienating supporters who considered him a hero.

Obama answered by reiterating his “denunciation” of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, leading to a semantic debate with Clinton over the distinction between “denouncing and rejecting.” Eventually the ADL’s then national director, Abe Foxman, declared that Obama had cleared the Farrakhan hurdle.

If Trump’s allergy to the “A” word is a political calculation, what would it be? He knows that three out of every four Jews didn’t vote for him, and perhaps someone is whispering to him, a la James Baker, that he gains no advantage by caving to a special interest as liberal as the Jews.

Trump’s critics pin the issue on his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who came to the Trump campaign after steering Breitbart News, which he himself called a “platform” for the alt-right, among other right-wing movements. In turn, Bannon’s defenders note that Breitbart is enthusiastically pro-Israel and often keeps tabs on anti-Semitism.

But search “anti-Semitism” at Breitbart and a pattern emerges — one that could explain the week that was. The site seems most exercised about Jew hatred when it is committed by Muslims, members of the left wing in Europe, and far left and anti-Israel activists on American college campuses. When it does report on hate crimes in the United States, its coverage is almost always skeptical, highlighting hate-crime “hoaxes” or quoting those who deny that there has been a surge in hate crimes here or in Britain since the U.S. elections or Brexit.

This week, when much of the press corps was focusing on how and whether Trump would denounce anti-Semitism, Joel Pollak, a senior editor-at-large at Breitbart, was accusing the media of hyping fears of anti-Semitism. Pollak blames an “ongoing pattern of false ‘hate crimes’” and the media’s reluctance to report on left-wing anti-Semitism. But mostly he blames general “anti-Trump hysteria.”

“Trump’s critics seem to want to believe false accusations of antisemitism, which justify their hatred of him and maintain a sense of outrage and unity among activists,” writes Pollak.

For Pollak and other Breitbart contributors, the reporting and denunciation of anti-Semitism is a partisan weapon wielded by the left to discredit the right. (Just as Trump asserted that it’s a charge wielded by a dishonest media to discredit him.) Of course, Breitbart also politicizes anti-Semitism, using it as a scarlet “A” to be worn, almost exclusively, by Muslims, campus radicals, self-hating Jews and European leftists. In fact, it has become an increasingly familiar trope both on the left and the right that the other is more anti-Semitic.

At least both sides agree that anti-Semitism is bad, even if they hesitate to take responsibility for the version that metastasizes among their ideological allies. They want to target the Jew haters but are wary about friendly fire.

Maybe the mistake of Jewish groups in seeking a strong response from Trump is that they are living in a simpler past, when both sides could agree that anti-Semitism was an evil, no matter the perpetrators or their politics.

President Donald Trump at the White House on Feb. 16. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Jewish groups, lawmakers berate Trump for blasting reporter who asked about anti-Semitism


The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League decried President Donald Trump’s brusque treatment of a reporter who asked about a spike in anti-Semitic incidents and challenged him to offer an explicit condemnation of anti-Semitism.

“It is honestly mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The American Jewish Committee’s CEO, David Harris, also posted a statement on Twitter.

“Instead of answering a timely and legitimate question, the president chose instead to besmirch the journalist,” Harris wrote.

Jake Turx of Ami Magazine had asked Trump at a news conference Thursday about a recent spike in anti-Semitic incidents, particularly a wave of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers.

Trump interrupted Turx, called him a liar and treated the question as if Turx had asked Trump if he was an anti-Semite, although Turx had prefaced his question by emphatically saying he did not believe Trump was an anti-Semite.

Both statements noted that Trump within the space of 24 hours had evaded other questions about spikes in anti-Semitism, sometimes manifest in expressions by purported Trump supporters: one at the same news conference on Thursday, and one a day earlier at a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The ADL and the AJC implored Trump to address the spike.

“Respectfully, Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit not to bully reporters asking questions potentially affecting millions of fellow Americans, but rather, to help solve a problem that for many is real and menacing,” Harris said.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., chided Trump on Twitter for saying Turx’s question was not “fair.”

“60 bomb threats against Jewish Centers in 27 states,” Deutch wrote. “Oh, it’s fair.”

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., also picked up on Trump’s claim that the question was “unfair.”

“What is truly unfair and deeply disturbing is the Trump Administration’s deafening silence at the continued rise of anti-Semitic incidents across the country, leaving Jewish families fearful for their safety,” she said in a statement. “The Jewish community deserves nothing less than a swift, comprehensive response from President Trump and his Administration on their plans to investigate these dangerous threats.”

Both Deutch and Lowey are Jewish.

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, also released a statement noting that Trump has twice refused to directly address reporters’ questions about an uptick in anti-Semitism.

“President Trump, you are President of the United States. It’s not enough to just not be an anti-Semite, we expect you to do something about it,” Moline said. “Get past being offended and take action to protect the Jewish community. And while you are at it, the Muslim community and all other minority faiths in this great nation.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect separately berated Trump for telling Turx that he was “the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen.”

“Mr. President, that’s an alternative fact on a psychedelic acid trip,” said its director, Steven Goldstein. “Have you been adding magic mushrooms to your chopped liver on matzo?”

Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish activist group, re-released its statement from a day earlier after Trump had avoided the question at his joint news conference with Netanyahu.

“Donald Trump’s inability to simply condemn antisemitism boggles the mind,” the statement said.

Human Rights First, a watchdog, said Trump’s reply was a lesson in how not to respond.

“In our investigation into hate crime in Germany, particularly hate crime associated with xenophobia, we found that the rhetoric of leaders matters a great deal,” the group said in a statement. “Insufficiently denunciatory language like Trump’s normalizes hatred and effectively gives license to hate groups.”

These two notes were left on a house neighboring Chabad of Oak Park in February. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Yisroel Levine

Anti-Semitic incidents probed in Ventura County


The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department (VCSD) is investigating two separate anti-Semitic incidents, including one in which the Chabad of Oak Park received a note Feb. 11 with a swastika drawn on it and the words “Hail Hitler.”

The incident occurred a week after three swastikas were discovered spray painted at Dos Vientos Community Park in the Conejo Valley.

VCSD is investigating the Oak Park situation — in which two suspects were captured on surveillance video by the synagogue — as a “hate incident,” according to VCSD Detective Marta Bugarin. She said the suspects, in the event they are identified, would not be arrested, as there was no defacement done to the building, which is a house on a residential block.

“They [the suspects] didn’t deface anything, they didn’t vandalize anything, they taped it on the front door,” Bugarin said. The police report describes the suspects as “dark figures,” she said.

In a phone interview, Chabad of Oak Park Rabbi Yisroel Levine said he received word from two neighboring families — non-Jewish families — who told him they received similar notes on the same night. That, coupled with the fact that there is no outward indication that the Chabad building is a Jewish center, has led him to believe his synagogue was not specifically targeted.

“When I first heard of our temple [being left with the note], I thought we were targeted. Now I’m not so sure,” Levine said.

This occurred as VCSD authorities continue to investigate the incident at Dos Vientos Community Park in which two swastikas were painted on the wooden boards on the perimeter of a baseball field, and another one defacing the concrete next to it.

Residents of the area discovered the graffiti at the park and notified authorities on Feb. 4, according to Steve Gold, a congregant of Congregation Am Hayam in Ventura County. It has since been removed.

“We called it into the police department to have them investigate it, which they did, and it wasn’t registered as a hate crime because it was not addressed to anyone in particular,” Gold told the Journal.

Gold said he was surprised to find the swastikas in his neighborhood in the first place.

“I really think this is just an independent person who probably has anger issues. I don’t feel in my neighborhood polarizations occurring,” he said.

Bugarin said the department has not identified any suspects in connection with the incident and that an investigation is ongoing.

“Right now, we don’t have any suspects,” Bugarin, who works in the VCSD Thousand Oaks division, told the Journal in a phone interview last week.

“It looks like it was a juvenile who may have done this,” VCSD media relations officer Capt. Garo Kuredjian told the Journal of the park incident.

According to Bugarin, VCSD is investigating the swastika painted onto the concrete but not the two that had been painted onto the baseball field’s wooden boards. She speculated this is because the two on the wooden boards had already been painted over by the time police officials arrived on the scene, on Feb. 6.

Cyndi Silverman, regional director of the Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said the three swastikas discovered at the park were only the latest incidents she has seen in the area. She declined to draw a correlation between the uptick and the election of President Donald Trump.

It’s “definitely a concern, seeing an uptick in hate symbols, especially in public parks,” she said.

Bugarin, however, denied there has been an increase in anti-Semitic activity in her area, Thousand Oaks.

It’s “definitely not something we see or hear about very often,” she said.

Ed Jones, a member of the Conejo Recreation and Park District board of directors, wrote on his Facebook page after the swastikas were discovered, “Such a shame that this symbol of hate would appear in one of our parks.”

The Ventura County incidents followed a mid-December instance of an anti-Semitic scrawl discovered in West Los Angeles, near Temple Isaiah. The phrase, “Why is Jackie O being played by an Israeli Jew?” — a reference to Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in the recent film, “Jackie” — was discovered at a bus stop on a poster of the film “Assassin’s Creed.” A slashed-through Jewish star appears next to the scrawl.

ADL Pacific Southwest Associate Regional Director Ariella Schusterman said the West L.A. incident was “taken care of pretty quickly.”

Both the Dos Vientos and West L.A. incidents were documented via the neighborhood-centric social network app Nextdoor, which provides a platform for residents to describe positive and negative activity in their respective neighborhoods. In separate interviews, Schusterman and Silverman said they appreciated people using Nextdoor to document instances of hate but also reminded people it is important to inform local law enforcement agencies and report them to the ADL, which compiles a record of reported hate incidents and crimes.

“Obviously we want people to call us when we have anti-Semitic incidents or crimes,” Schusterman said, “or to call the police.”

Demonstrators at Chicago’s O’Hare airport protesting Donald Trump’s executive order on Jan. 29. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jewish groups praise court for upholding stay on Trump’s travel ban


Jewish groups welcomed a federal appeals court ruling upholding a stay on President Donald Trump’s ban on the entry of refugees and of travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We applaud the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and hope that it sends an important message to the nation and the world that the United States is a nation that does not exclude people based on their faith and welcomes those seeking refuge,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement it posted on Twitter just minutes after the court ruled on Thursday.

The tweet noted that the ADL had joined an amicus brief in the legal action originally brought by the State of Washington against the ban.

The unanimous decision of the Ninth Circuit panel of three judges was a narrow one, upholding last week’s decision by a federal court in Seattle to stay the ban pending further consideration of its legality.

Also commending the ruling was the American Jewish Committee. “We welcome the 9th Circuit ruling–an important moment for U.S. democracy and values,” it said on Twitter.

HIAS, the Jewish group advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees, tweeted links to the decision. It also has joined an amicus brief against the ban, in Maryland.

One of the HIAS tweets was a reminder that its battle against the ban is not over; Trump’s ban may yet be upheld by the courts.

“We will continue fighting Pres. Trump’s executive order until we’ve re-secured the American tradition of #WelcomingRefugees to our shores,” it said.

HIAS is spearheading rallies on behalf of refugees to take place in nearly a dozen states this Sunday. A focus will be Trump’s executive order. Also backing the rallies are the ADL, the American Jewish World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the rabbinical associations of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called the court’s ruling “a victory for American freedom over Presidential tyranny.”

“The court has sided with refugees who thirst for hope over a president who yearns to hate,” the center said in a statement.

Trump appeared ready to take his case to reinstate the ban pending further legal review to the Supreme Court. “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” he said on Twitter.

Neither Trump nor his team has explained what imminent danger cannot withstand the temporary stay on his order, issued about a week after he assumed office last month; no terrorist committing a crime on U.S. soil has hailed from any of the seven nations listed in the ban.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, called on Trump to give up on the executive order.

“President Trump ought to see the writing on the wall, abandon proposal, roll up his sleeves and come up with a real, bipartisan plan to keep us safe,” he said on Twitter.

Alan Dershowitz, the noted constitutional lawyer, had similar advice.

“Precedent trumps President Trump,” he said on CNN.

Ninet Tayeb album release show Feb. 16 at The Echo.

Calendar: February 10-16, 2017


FRI | FEB 10

SHABBAT IN EGYPT

Experience Shabbat, Egyptian-style, with Sephardic Temple Young Professionals and Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA). Guest speaker Larry Clumeck will discuss Jewish life in Egypt. Authentic Egyptian food will be served (kosher dietary laws observed). This event is intended for Jewish professionals ages 21 to 39. 7 p.m. $30. Tickets available at eventbrite.com. Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. jimena.org.

SARAH SCHULMAN

Sarah Schulman will discuss and sign her book “Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair.” From intimate relationships to global politics, Schulman observes the differences between conflict and abuse. She reveals how punishment replaces self-criticism, and shows why difference is so often used to justify cruelty and shunning. The controversial book illuminates contemporary and historical issues of personal, racial and geo-political differences in a world of injustice, exclusion and punishment. 7 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. booksoup.com.

ISRAELI KABBALAT SHABBAT

Start davening! Young adults are invited to enjoy traditional Jewish-Israeli cuisine and Israeli music. Bring friends or come and make new ones. This event is intended for young adults, ages 21 to 35. Alcohol will be served. 7:30 p.m. $14. Tickets available at eventbrite.com. Address, in Tarzana, provided upon RSVP.

SHABBAT SHIRA: “THE SHABBAT OF SONG”

Celebrate the “Shabbat of Song” with a special service featuring the world premiere of Michael Isaacson’s “Ladorot Habaim” (“For Generations to Come”) and the voices of six congregations: Stephen Wise Temple, Leo Baeck Temple, Temple Akiba, Temple Judea, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and University Synagogue. Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback and Rabbi Jonathan Aaron will narrate the evening of music that will include numerous local cantors. Featuring guest speaker Rabbi Michael Marmur, provost of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 7:30 p.m. Free. Stephen Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-8561. wisela.org.

“RULES OF THE GAME”

Acclaimed Tunisian-American choreographer Jonah Bokaer will frame three works during this program, including “Rules of the Game,” his latest piece. “Rules of the Game” was inspired by Luigi Pirandello’s play “Il Giuoco Delle Parti” and features an international cast of eight dancers, incorporating dance, art and music. Bokaer collaborated with artist and architect Daniel Arsham for “Rules of the Game,” as well as the other two works, “Recess” and “Why Patterns.” They also worked with composer Pharrell Williams. 8 p.m. Tickets start at $29. Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 825-2101. cap.ucla.edu.

SAT | FEB 11

FEIT FAMILY SHABBAT LIVE

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will speak about the current political climate and thoughts about the future. Featuring Rabbi David Wolpe, Craig Taubman and Cantor Marcus Feldman. 10:45 a.m. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. sinaitemple.org.

CELEBRATE TU B’SHEVAT

Celebrate the holiday that’s the “New Year for Trees.” The service will be led mostly in English and feature fruits and other foods from Israel. Noon. Free. Mishkon Tephilo, 206 Main St., Venice. mishkon.org.

SUN | FEB 12

“SUPER SUNDAY”

Join in a day of community fundraising. Sign up at jewishla.org/supersunday. 9 a.m. Free. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8000. jewishla.org.

FAMILY SEARCH LIBRARY

Learn about your family heritage from experienced Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Vallley and Ventura County members and Family Search Library volunteers. They can help you utilize resources including databases such as Ancestry.com. FindMyPast, Fold3.com, MyHeritage (library edition), ProQuest Obituaries, World Vital Records and more. There also are Jewish microfilms of Eastern Europe resources and others. Bring your research documents and a flash drive if you want to download electronic images. 1 p.m. Free for JGSCV members; $25 annual membership at the door. Los Angeles Family History Library, 10741 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 889-6616. jgscv.org.

“GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK & ALL THAT JAZZ”

Come enjoy “The Great American Songbook & All That Jazz on Film” with jazz historian and archivist Mark Cantor. Celebrate the musical genius of the 20th century’s most influential singers, bands and musicians during an afternoon filled with electrifying screen performances by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme and more. Presented by American Jewish University’s Whizin Center as part of the Dortort Program for the Performing Arts. 4 p.m. $15. American Jewish University, Familian Campus, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572. wcce.aju.edu.

FRITZ COLEMAN: “DEFYING GRAVITY”

Fritz Coleman. Photo courtesy of NBC4

Fritz Coleman. Photo courtesy of NBC4

Help continue to improve the quality of life for women, children and families who struggle to safeguard their rights and freedoms by enjoying  a night of comedy with Coleman, the local weathercaster who has won four Los Angeles Area Emmy awards for his comedy specials. Proceeds benefit the National Council of Jewish Women-LA  (NCJW). (The organization will get credit only for advance ticket sales.) 18 and older only. Two-drink minimum. 7 p.m. $15. Ice House Comedy Club, 38 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. (626) 577-1894. icehousecomedy.com.

KEIKO MATSUI FEATURING CARLY ROBYN GREEN

Internationally acclaimed and celebrated pianist, composer and humanitarian Keiko Matsui will take the stage with modern adult-contemporary and smooth jazz artist and songwriter Carly Robyn Green. 7 p.m. $24. Tickets available at tikly.co/events/1779. The Rose, Paseo Colorado, 245 E. Green St., Pasadena.

TUES | FEB 14

“SONGS OF LOVE”

Cantor Kenny Ellis will perform a mix of comedy and music in honor of Holocaust survivor Clara Knopfler. This is the second in a series of three organized events to celebrate Knopfler’s 90th birthday and raise money for the Clara Knopfler Jewish Leadership Scholarship at Cal Lutheran. The scholarship provides support to Jewish student leaders. 6 p.m. $36 donation suggested for the Clara Knopfler Jewish Leadership Scholarship. Lundring Events Center, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 493-3512. callutheran.edu

WED | FEB 15

“TRUMP AND IRAN: WHAT COMES NEXT?”

Join American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Stephen Wise Temple for a panel discussion and Q-and-A evaluating the Iran nuclear deal as the one-year anniversary of its implementation approaches. The panel also will analyze the choices that the Trump administration faces about Tehran, how sanctions relief is affecting Iran’s economy, what Tehran is doing to expand its reach from Syria to Yemen, and the status of human rights in Iran. The panel members will include former Congressman Howard Berman; Heather Williams, senior analyst at Rand and former national intelligence officer on Iran; and Andrew Apostolou, former Iran director at Freedom House and foreign policy analyst. The program will be moderated by Jason Isaacson, AJC associate executive director for policy. Light snacks and refreshments will be served. 6:30 p.m. Free. Stephen Wise Temple Sanctuary, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 282-8080. ajc.org.

STATE OF CYBERHATE

Speakers Brittan Heller, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) first director of technology and society, and Robert Kang, cybersecurity counsel and lecturer, will discuss what role we can play in fighting the spread of hate online. Sponsored by the ADL’s Asian Jewish Initiative and NextGen community. There will be a happy hour after the program. 7 p.m. Free. RSVP (required) to la@adl.org; no walk-ins. Google, 340 Main St., Venice. (310) 446-4232. la.adl.org/events.

THURS | FEB 16

“FRIED CHICKEN & LATKES”

Actress and comedian Rain Pryor, daughter of comic legend Richard Pryor, will open her new solo play “Fried Chicken & Latkes.” Pryor grew up African-American and Jewish in Beverly Hills and has lived a fascinating life filled with pain, poignancy, purpose and lots of laughter. Her unique background led to many adventures that she will share in the course of her show. Directed by Eve Brandstein. 8 p.m. $40. Tickets available at eventbrite.com. Jewish Women’s Theatre, 2912 Colorado Blvd., No. 102, Santa Monica. (310) 315-1400. jewishwomenstheatre.org.

NINET TAYEB ALBUM RELEASE SHOW

Ninet Tayeb is an acclaimed singer, songwriter and actress — and household name in Israel. On the verge of her fifth album, which will be the first to be released in the United States, Tayeb reveals herself as an artist filled with resilience, determination and vulnerability. She won “Israeli Idol,” launching her to instant fame. Her debut album took less than a day to go platinum and yielded five No. 1 singles, and she starred in a long-running TV series based on her life. 7 p.m. $10.50. Tickets available at ticketfly.com. Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. theecho.com.

The assembly hall of the Knesset on Oct. 31, 2016. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Knesset passes historic bill to legalize settlements on Palestinian land


The Israeli parliament passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land.

Knesset lawmakers voted 60-52 in favor of the measure late Monday to legalize some 4,000 settler homes.

The law, which prevents the government from demolishing the homes, comes less than a week after police forcibly evacuated the Amona outpost. It represents the first time the government has tried to implement Israeli law in Area C, part of the West Bank that is under Israeli civilian and military rule, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Knesset member Shuli Muallem-Refaeli of the pro-settler Jewish Home party said Monday that the bill was “dedicated to the brave people of Amona who were forced to go through what no Jewish family will have to again,” The Times of Israel reported.

The bill has drawn sharp condemnation. Leaders of the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, the second and fourth largest parties in the Knesset, respectively, both warned against its passage.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not present for the vote, as his scheduled return from a trip to the United Kingdom was delayed.

Following a Monday meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu denied he had sought to delay the vote after Feb. 15, when he is set to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Haaretz reported.

“I never said that I want to delay the vote on this law,” Netanyahu said. “I said that I will act according to our national interest. That requires that we do not surprise our friends and keep them updated – and the American administration has been updated. This process was important for me because we are trying to act this way, especially with very close friends.”

On Thursday, Trump in his first statement on Israeli settlements since taking office said construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in reaching a peace agreement, though he denied that existing settlements are impediments to a deal.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, which have traditionally been hesitant to weigh in on Israeli domestic issues, both criticized the measure on Monday.

ADL leaders said it would harm Israel’s image abroad and lead to legal repercussions.

“[I]t is imperative that the Knesset recognizes that passing this law will be harmful to Israel’s image internationally and could undermine future efforts to achieving a two-state solution,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director.

The director of ADL’s Israel office, Carole Nuriel, added that the measure “may also trigger severe international legal repercussions.”

AJC said it was “deeply disappointed” about the bill’s passage and called on the Supreme Court to “reverse this misguided legislation.”

“The controversial Knesset action, ahead of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Trump in Washington, is misguided and likely to prove counter-productive to Israel’s core national interests,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

B’Tselem, a watchdog monitoring human rights abuses in the settlements, slammed the bill.

“The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land,” the group said in a statement. “Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature.”

Peace Now, a left-leaning group promoting the two-state solution, also criticized passage.

“By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books,” the group said in a statement. “By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two state solution.”

McVeigh documentary examines the rightward path of extremists


In the wake of dozens of recent bombing threats to synagogues and Jewish institutions throughout the United States, Barak Goodman’s new documentary, “Oklahoma City,” seems particularly relevant. The film traces how the deadliest domestic terrorist attack ever committed on American soil sprang from roots in the white supremacist movement.

The film includes familiar and not-so-familiar imagery of the April 1995 blast that destroyed Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed or injured more than 800 people: charred bodies being removed from the structure’s mangled remains; a surgeon amputating the leg of a trapped young woman, using his pocket knife to finish the job after his other blades break; a bystander remembering the children’s bodies lined up on the sidewalk as a nurse placed toe tags on their feet.

Bomber Timothy McVeigh, who acted with limited help from two accomplices, was executed by lethal injection in June 2001. “But you cannot exonerate the white supremacist movement for the Oklahoma City attack,” Goodman, who lives in New York, said in a telephone interview. “McVeigh was deeply influenced by the ideas and literature of the radical right.”

Groups such as Aryan Nations have long asserted that Jews run the U.S. government and that whites must save America by asserting their white Christian identity. In the 1980s, a paramilitary offshoot of that organization, The Order, named itself after the terrorist cell described in William Pierce’s novel “The Turner Diaries.” The book’s heroes violently overthrow an American government they perceive to be dominated by Jews. Members of The Order in real life robbed banks and armored cars to fund their attacks, and in 1984 four of them murdered Denver Jewish radio host Alan Berg.

McVeigh did not grow up in a white supremacist milieu, but he did develop from his grandfather an enthusiasm for guns and gun owners’ rights while growing up in Pendleton, N.Y. Tall and thin, McVeigh was often bullied by his classmates, who called him “Noodle McVeigh,” leading him to develop what the film describes as his lifelong hatred of bullies.

McVeigh began to see the federal government as the most extreme of bullies while serving in the Army in Iraq, the documentary asserts. Back in the U.S., he became increasingly hostile toward the establishment after he was rejected from an elite Army training unit. His stridency grew even stronger when he was unable to find work despite his military experience. McVeigh then discovered far-right government conspiracy theories and became enamored of “The Turner Diaries,” which he began selling at gun shows around the country. It was at these shows that he met members of white supremacist groups and eventually visited some of their paramilitary sites.

The documentary details how McVeigh became livid upon learning of the deadly confrontations between antigovernment groups and law enforcement in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and at the compound of the apocalyptic Christian Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, the following year. When the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act passed in November 1993, an enraged McVeigh was spurred to action.

He built a five-ton fertilizer bomb, placed it in a Ryder rental truck, parked the vehicle in front of the Oklahoma City federal building and lit two fuses. Moments later, the explosion killed 168 people and injured 675 others.

While McVeigh’s primary motivation was his hatred of the U.S. government, whether he was also racist “has been a controversial area,” Goodman said. The filmmaker said he agrees with Leonard Zeskind, author of “Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement From the Margins to the Mainstream,” whom he interviews in the documentary. “[Zeskind] argues that McVeigh was quite racist and quite anti-Semitic,” Goodman said. “I don’t think you can possibly go around sharing ‘The Turner Diaries’ and touting it as a great book unless you also harbored some of those beliefs.”

Goodman, 53, grew up in a Philadelphia-area home where Judaism was inextricably linked to social justice and civil rights. That philosophy, he said, has strongly influenced the more than 30 documentaries he has produced since attending Harvard and the Columbia School of Journalism. Goodman earned an Academy Award nomination for his 2001 film, “Scottsboro: An American Tragedy,” which recounts how nine African-American teenagers were falsely convicted of raping a white woman in Alabama in the 1930s.

When Mark Samels, an executive producer of PBS’ “American Experience” series, approached Goodman to write and direct “Oklahoma City” about two years ago, the filmmaker quickly signed on. He was intrigued by Samels’ idea to trace McVeigh’s roots to the far right, and he also remembered his shock upon seeing television images of the bombing.

“So much terrorism has happened since in this country, but at the time, this was utterly new within our shores,” Goodman said. “We’d seen these kinds of things happening in Lebanon, but nothing remotely like this had ever happened here in my lifetime. So what we really tried to get across in the film was how people had no context or experience with anything like this.”

As research for his documentary, Goodman conducted about 100 interviews throughout the country, including conversations with an Anti-Defamation League expert, law enforcement officials, first responders, survivors and others. He also perused 65 hours of audiotaped jailhouse interviews with McVeigh, some of which are heard in the film.

Regarding why McVeigh committed his crime, Goodman said, “I think he had a grandiose notion of his own destiny that was totally at odds with the reality of his life. His anger was partly because his circumstances didn’t match his self-regard. He was a smart guy — he had a high IQ — but he had washed out of the military, he was unemployed, and he had had no success with women, even though he thought he was a hot deal. I think a lot of guys who fall under the sway of these right-wing ideologies are looking for something to match their sense of grandness in the world.”

These days, the American public’s focus may be on radical Muslim terrorists, but more than 400 militant white supremacist groups now exist across the country, Goodman said. “The FBI will tell you that they are as aware of the domestic as the foreign terrorists,” he added. “They’re very frightened by them.”

President Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic rhetoric “has provided a kind of catalyzing effect for their ideas … now there’s a kind of license for them to come out and talk more openly,” Goodman added. “[White supremacists] have exchanged their camouflage for suits and ties, but they’re the same people with the same ideas…. We ignore the terrorists in our midst at our own peril.”

“Oklahoma City” will open Feb. 3 in Los Angeles theaters and air Feb. 7 on PBS.

Foxman ‘sad’ over Obama’s ‘vindictive payback’ at UN


This story originally appeared on “>expressed outrage at Obama’s move, asserting that his legacy will be forever tarnished by his action against Israel.

Foxman said that he feels ‘sad’ over the issue. “I think what’s so sad about it, is that this is a President’s empty, vindictive gesture, which undermines any hope for a legacy of a man that seriously tried to bring the parties together for peace,” Foxman said regarding Obama. “He knows the UN. He knows why for 50 years the U.S. stood to defend Israel against the bias and bigotry. He knows what (outgoing UN Secretary General) Ban Ki-moon said last week that it is a biased organization. He knows that there were no peace negotiations without settlements before 1967. He knows about Gaza. He knows all these things and still instructed, in such a callous manner, not even to inform the Israelis before the vote how he will vote.”

“It really is sad,” he continued. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s going to mean much, but it does take away this image that America is Israel’s best friend, best protector, and best shield. That’s what has been destroyed.”

Foxman expressed hope that the United States will regain Israel’s trust in brokering the peace process once Israel feels that it is being shielded and protected at the UN by the incoming Trump administration. “In order to have a role in the Arab-Israel peace, the U.S. needs to have a trusting relationship with Israel, and it’s only the trust that Israel and the U.S. have with each other that could make it happen,” he emphasized. “If there is no trust there, nobody else can be a good or serious mediator.”