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).

Federations exist to serve Jewish community, not play partisan politics


As the current chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and a past chair of that organization and current chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, we both have seen more than our fair share of communal outrage. During the presidential election, our inboxes filled with emails from people who expressed outrage against one or the other of the candidates. And since the election, they are again filled with emails from people expressing outrage about what they think Federation should or should not do or what we should or should not say.

This past presidential election has activated people in this country — the Jewish community included. Newspaper subscriptions, which were on the decline, are higher than they have been since the 1980s. An activated community is a healthy one. A highly divided partisan and outraged community is more challenging. These challenges at this particular time, a time like no other we have experienced, have consequences that we worry about every day. We take these challenges very seriously, for at the end of the day, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure that the most serious issues that affect our community are being addressed properly, that Jews in need are being taken care of, and that we are ensuring a Jewish future based on Jewish values for our children and grandchildren. It is important that our community understand that we are acting in the best way we know how to fulfill our responsibilities and our mission.

The mission statement of the Los Angeles Federation states “based on Jewish values, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national and international partners.”

And that is what we do. We are focused on Jewish values, not a particular value that may or may not support a political or philosophical position. We are focused on the community as a whole and what is in the long-term best interest of the community as a whole. We realize there are issues that are complex and upon which reasonable, intelligent people can differ. Balancing the needs of an activated community, while ensuring the potency of our voice, is our collective challenge. And to do it well, we must work together and push ourselves to focus on the community as a whole.

At a time when outrage is everywhere, it is incumbent on us to be judicious and thoughtful about how we use our voice. The decision to safeguard our community and continue to service the most vulnerable and the next generation is exactly where our voice should be most prominent by the actions we take. Our Community Security Initiative is working with local Jewish institutions and law enforcement to make sure we are prepared and acting in a responsible manner during this time of increased threats. Our national organization, The Jewish Federations of North America, also is working closely with federal law enforcement with respect to recent incidents of anti-Semitism. The Federation system is active on Capitol Hill encouraging Congress and the Trump administration to take action on issues that are critically important to our community, including urging immediate action to bolster security at Jewish and other nonprofits, and opposing cuts to social service programs that affect our local agencies and our community. At the same time, we are working with our local agencies as they prepare for the possibility of such cuts.

We remain committed to the values of our tradition and to our community. We encourage our entire community to start engaging in internal civil discussions on the issues that concern so many. Our Federation, as convener, will work in the months ahead to bring people together as we confront the serious issues of our time. And we will continue to devote ourselves to our community and continue to respect those caring and thoughtful members of our community who may not always agree with us.


JULIE PLATT is chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. RICHARD SANDLER is a past chair of the organization and current chair of The Jewish Federations of North America.

Adolf Hitler and German President Paul von Hindenburg, Potsdam 1933

The ‘Why?’ exchange, part 2: ‘Antisemitism did not propel Hitler to power’


Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor of Holocaust Studies Emeritus at Northwestern University and chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Professor Hayes received his PhD from Yale University and taught at Northwestern for thirty-six years from 1980 to 2016. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including the prize-winning Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era (1987, 2001) and Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning of the Holocaust in a Changing World (1991).  

This exchange focuses on Professor Hayes’ new book Why?: Explaining the Holocaust (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017). Part 1 can be found right here.

***

Dear Professor Hayes,

In a chapter of your book entitled “Why the Germans?” you write the following about the misunderstood role of anti-Semitism in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power:

Yet the centrality of the so-called Jewish problem was much more important and obvious to Hitler than to the average German voter. We have no reason to think that the antisemitic nucleus of his ideology propelled Hitler’s rise to power. It played an important role in attracting many of the core believers to the Nazi Party, but not the mass of the Nazi electorate. Hitler was a product of crisis and opportunity, and Germans seem to have been drawn to him out of desperation and a sense that only the Nazis were energetic and organized enough to deal with the nation’s woes.  

In your introduction you mention the idea of anti-Semitism bringing Hitler to power as one of the common myths that your book debunks. I would like to ask about the significance of rectifying this mistake: how can debunking this particular myth change our understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust?

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

Getting this right redirects our attention from pre-existing beliefs as the cause of the Holocaust toward politically induced ones, from attitudes toward Jews in Germany prior to 1933 toward convictions about them shaped thereafter. And in doing so, the debunking invites readers to reflect on the conditions that amplify antisemitism and those that mute it, both in the past and in the present.

If a person believes that antisemitism propelled the rise of Nazism, s/he may conclude that preventing a repetition is a matter of stamping out Jew hatred. Good luck with that. The focus is too narrow and negative, and the desirable outcome impossible. But if a person understands that Hitler’s antisemitic beliefs made him nothing more than a political also-ran—the Nazis polled in the single digits in the parliamentary elections of 1924 and 1928—until the economic catastrophe of the Depression increased the appeal of those beliefs to some Germans and, more importantly, handed him the power to inculcate them in those beliefs, then the lesson to draw is different.

That lesson centers around two interrelated points that I make toward the end of the book. First, in the western world antisemitism has been and is a parasitical issue that needs “situational causes” to obtain power. Avoid these, and antisemitism generally remains the property of cranks on the fringes of a nation, just as the Nazis were in Germany in the 1920s. Don’t avoid these causes—sink into economic crisis and political turmoil, raise the level of anxiety in a society—and antisemitism may flourish. Second, the security of minorities anywhere, including Jews, depends on the strength of liberal values of tolerance, civility, and fairness there. The way to fight Jew hatred is to assert positive values in which all people (and peoples) should and usually do have a stake. Let these decay, and the haters will multiply. The Euro-American historical record of the last two centuries suggests that fighting antisemitism is necessary, but not sufficient to prevent the demonization and persecution of Jews. Why? Because antisemitism is too embedded and persistent in Euro-American culture to stamp out entirely, but strong enough to become a governing ideology only when events panic non-Jews into giving power to believers in this superstition. This line of thought is less reassuring than it sounds, since directly confronting antisemitism is actually theoretically easier than heading off or stemming the crises on which it feeds. Antisemitism is containable and largely has been contained in countries that make virtues of pluralism and individual

rights and that enjoy relative political and economic stability. But when these conditions erode, along with norms of decent speech and behavior, antisemitism rises, as if from the dead.

Hatred of Jews propelled Hitler toward the Holocaust, but antisemitism did not propel Hitler to power. In the first place, a majority of Germans had never voted for him and his racism before he became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. In the second place, those who had done so often cast their ballots for reasons unrelated to antisemitism, mostly their own desperation for deliverance from the Depression and political gridlock. And in the third place, Hitler owed his appointment to a group of aristocratic intriguers who persuaded President von Hindenburg to make Hitler Chancellor because they thought they could use him, not because they shared his racism (though some did).

Within six years of Hitler’s accession, however, most Germans affirmed Hitler’s antisemitism or acted as if they did, which amounted to the same thing. Their beliefs and behavior conformed to the prevailing ideology’s call for a kind of mass exorcism. Recognizing that virtually an entire nation quickly fell in behind this program is at least as worrisome as erroneously assuming that it provided the principal fuel for Hitler’s rise.

President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on March 24. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Is Trump owed an apology after the JCC bomb threat arrest? Is anybody?


Literally within seconds of the news of the arrest in Israel of an Israeli-American teenager for the bulk of the JCC bomb threats, Twitter lit up with Jewish anxiety.

“[I] fear the inevitable backlash from haters who we whipped [into] a frenzy for our own nefarious political aims” is how someone responded to the JTA story about the arrest.

A colleague’s friend wrote, “And now people will have another excuse to not take anti-Semitism seriously.”

The shock and anxiety inspired by news of the arrest were understandable. After all, anti-Semitic organizations and websites keep tallies of “false flag” anti-Semitic attacks carried out by Jews in order to discredit the very idea that anti-Semitism exists. (Such incidents are few and far between, and pale next to the actual tally of attacks on people and property, but never mind.)

But the JCC bomb threat hoax wasn’t just an isolated swastika daubing — it was an ongoing story affecting Jewish institutions in nearly every American Jewish community. It shaped a communal narrative that something ugly and insidious was happening out there. And it fueled a political crisis among most American Jewish organizations and the White House, with the former accusing the latter of taking too long to denounce anti-Semitism and to comfort Jews traumatized by the bomb threats and at least two major cemetery desecrations.

Coming almost as quickly as the expressions of anxiety was the political exploitation of the arrest.

“The Ultimate Self-Hating Jew, a 19-yr old Israeli-American, was behind the JCC bomb threats,” tweeted Marc Zell, the co-chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel. “The US Jewish leadership owes @POTUS an apology.”

David Bernstein at the Washington Post’s conservative Volokh Conspiracy posted in a blog: “[T]he fight against actual anti-Semitism and other forms of racism will likely have been dealt a blow because self-serving groups like the ADL chose to hype and politicize the threats without any idea of their actual origin.”

Before we get too far into the rituals of finger-pointing, a few things are worth considering: First, JCCs and other Jewish institutions across the country, and the children and adults who use them, were traumatized by the string of some 150 bomb threats. It cost JCCs members and money, and diverted funds from programs to heighten security. That the main hoaxer allegedly was a Jewish guy living in Israel doesn’t erase three months of anguish.

Second, it is a huge relief to Jewish institutions — and the community that relies upon them — that someone has been caught. Perhaps they can return to business as usual. Let’s give them their moment of relief.

Third, Jews didn’t do this to “themselves.” This was a criminal act by an individual. Blaming all members of a community for the act of an individual is a page out of the anti-Semitism playbook.

Many Jewish groups did go too far, too fast in assuming the identity of the culprit (or culprits), pinning the threats on a political climate inspired by President Donald Trump.

“We’ve never seen, ever, the volume of bomb threats that we’ve seen,” Oren Siegel, the director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said at a news conference following the arrest of the first suspect, Juan Thompson (a copycat motivated by some weird romantic grudge that appears to have had little to do with Jews). “White supremacists in this country feel more emboldened than they ever have before because of the public discourse and divisive rhetoric.”

Bend the Arc, the liberal Jewish social justice group, was more explicit in blaming Trump.

“In recent days, we have seen manifestations of the hatred stirred up by President-elect Donald Trump throughout his campaign,” it wrote in a statement after the first wave of JCC bomb threats. “Trump helped to create the atmosphere of bigotry and violence that has resulted in these dangerous threats against Jewish institutions and individuals.”

At this moment, we don’t know the motive of the Israeli suspect. But assuming this kid was dealing with personal demons and the JCC bomb threats can’t be pinned on typical anti-Semitic ideology, does this mean that the spike in hate crimes tallied in New York and elsewhere didn’t happen? Were these Jewish groups wrong to assume that anti-Semites were responsible for anti-Semitism?

Groups who pinned the bomb threats on an atmosphere that Trump “helped to create” certainly went too far, but does their lack of caution mean that Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric should be forgiven? Should advocacy groups not have called out a campaign and an administration that has tolerated and encouraged the “alt-right” and habitually indulges in ethnically divisive rhetoric?

Ann Coulter — asking “Has ANY anti-Trump story been true?” — joined the chorus of those suggesting the arrest exonerated Trump, though exonerated of what is not clear. Jewish groups wanted a strong statement from the White House condemning the bomb threats and the cemetery vandalism not because he was the perpetrator or a Republican, but because he is the president of the United States. Issuing statements of condemnation and support is what presidents do, automatically and usually inconspicuously. Only Trump has seemed to take this task as an affront, somehow believing that to condemn hate crimes is to take responsibility for them.

Others are saying that the arrest of a Jew in the bomb threats vindicates Trump’s comments last month suggesting that the threats were a “false flag” attack. According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Trump told a meeting of states’ attorney generals that “Sometimes it’s the reverse,” and attacks are made “to make people – or to make others – look bad.”

Some took this to mean that Trump was suggesting a Jew was behind the attack, although more likely he was referring to a political enemy. Whatever he meant, he couldn’t have sounded more tone-deaf. Again, dozens of institutions and hundreds of families were reeling from a series of bomb threats. As in his famous blowup in response to a question from a Jewish reporter about rising anti-Semitism, Trump made the events about him rather than the victims.

The ADL and other Jewish groups have a tough PR challenge ahead of them: keeping the focus on acts of anti-Semitism by traditional enemies — white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the virulently anti-Israel far left — while acknowledging that one of the most extensive and public anti-Semitic acts of recent memory was carried out by a Jew. They’ll need to recast the narrative of resurgent anti-Semitism by omitting the wave of JCC bomb threats, but not at the expense of the victimized JCCs.

As the American Jewish Committee put it in a statement, “This is a lesson in not leaping to assumption[s] about complex links between polarizing politics and anti-Semitic acts. But it does not dispel [the] age-old reality of anti-Semitism.”

And they’ll have to find a way to stay vigilant in a polarized and poisonous political era without being seen as the boys who cried wolf.

Workers placing headstones back on their bases at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in the St. Louis area, on Feb. 21. Photo by James Griesedieck

It’s not the bomb threats, stupid!


Phone calls are an exceedingly cheap form of harassment, which makes them highly likely to be hoaxes. Because likelihood is not certainty, such calls are still taken seriously, and they still incite fear and disrupt lives. But the times I’ve written about the rise in anti-Semitism since the election, I didn’t even include the hoax bomb threats in a list of hate crimes. That’s because anyone can call in a bomb threat, from anywhere in the world.

That’s all the more clear now that we’ve learned that many calls came from one Jewish teen in Israel. But even if not one of the bomb threats came from a white supremacist, we are still in the floodplain of a rising wave of far-right hate.

An anonymous phone call to a JCC rarely represents an intent to cause actual physical harm. But there are acts really threaten endangerment, acts done in-person or to a person. Acts committed from a distance are only more serious if they target specific people: a family in Montana who is attacked by “troll storm”, journalists whose find their image superimposed onto a view of Auschwitz or an oven. In-person acts include swastikas spray-painted on synagogue doors, or much worse, a bullet in a classroom window. Someone can’t do them unless they are ready to show up on Jewish property and risk being identified or caught.

The ladder of escalation increases by orders of magnitude: actions that involve property destruction are another order of magnitude. Actions that destroy the property that stands for and houses the people being attacked rise to yet another order of magnitude: the arson of a mosque, cemetery gravestones broken and knocked over.

These targets, the mosque where people prayed, the grave where someone was laid to rest and where people come to remember them, stand in for real people. Their sacredness and significance comes from that role. Though no one is endangered by a fallen gravestone, a cemetery is called a “beit olam”, an eternal home, or a place that houses eternity. It’s all of our past and, since we all will end up there in some fashion, our future.

There is zero possibility that such acts are commited by a prankster, even an anti-Semitic one. There next step beyond this is violence against living human beings, and we have to assume that is what the perpetrators mean. As I wrote before Purim in the Jewish Journal, that’s “what kind of person you have to be to knock down Jewish tombstones”.

African Americans have faced such direct violence with little break for more than two hundred years in too many areas and circumstances throughout this country. One more innocent black man was slain in New York this week by a white supremacist. Muslims and people who look Muslim now face this level of violence here, though they face far worse violence on a mass scale in a number of Muslim nations. Jews have faced violence for two millenia, but we’ve had a respite, here in America. Though our respite has been disturbed by swastikas and vandalism, we are still one step away from that reality.

I can imagine rightists complaining that this argument ignores the fact that people are afraid of terrifying violence from Islamic extremists. But we are all targets of that violence – Jews, Muslims and Christians, gay or straight, all races, all religions. It doesn’t divide us but unites us. In contrast, one purpose of hate crimes that target a minority group is to divide that group from the rest of America.

The people who knocked down tombstones were not pranksters or cranks or armchair haters. I guarantee that they were not planting “false flags”. But back in February, Trump thought they might be and said so.

Soon after, a person was arrested for calling in some of the bomb threats. He turned out to be African American, probably anti-Semitic but certainly not alt-right, who was mostly focused on trying to harm his ex. Jews on the right felt reassured: false flag theory “confirmed”. Now that the next person to be apprehended, for a much large number of calls, has turned out to be Jewish and Israeli, they are feeling even more justified.

So far, these crimes, from phone calls to arson, have brought Jews, Muslims, and faithful Christians together. Paradoxically, however, they are dividing Jews from each other based on right and left politics.

The Trumpist right – and most alarmingly, the Jewish right – is predictably generalizing to say that the tide of anti-Semitic crime is a hoax without connection to Trump’s rhetoric or followers. But the perpetrators of anonymous bomb threats are an entirely different segment of humanity from the perpetrators of tombstone desecration. Unmasking or stopping the one in no way mitigates the meaning or threat of the other.

Nevertheless, Mort Klein would like the Jews who are worried about Trump-inspired anti-Semitism to deliver an apology to Trump (not for the first time – he’s called for AIPAC, the ADL, and The Forward to apologize to Trump and allies in the past year).

How is it that Mort Klein, Dennis Prager, and their ilk , don’t get the difference between a phone call and a direct act of violence? An insightful analysis of the Jewish left versus the Jewish right by Shmuel Rosner appeared on 3/21 in the Jewish Journal. Rosner, quoting Yehudah Mirsky, suggested that while the left is still trying to create a society of justice where Jews are protected because everyone is protected, the right has regressed to the age of the court Jew, the age when a high-placed Jewish leader would (try to) protect his or her people from the mob’s wrath by asking for intervention from the powers that be. In that model, backing the most powerful is how Jews can be assured of protection.

We have the best-placed court Jews we could imagine, I suppose. The son-in-law and daughter of the President. But that’s all they are. Even so, the right is ready to accept this regression of several centuries, as long as the state of Israel can do whatever and be safe. But that attitude will also lead to our enemies here doing whatever.

The Jewish right, by downplaying manifestly anti-Semitic violence and denouncing other Jews, will help the nativist right and alt-right spread the lie of a Jewish left conspiracy to malign Trump. It’s a claim that could come straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

We will not be safe if we are waiting for Donald Trump to show up for his job and do something. Nor can we count on Mort Klein, David Friedman, Ivanka or Jared – our court Jews – nor on Netanyahu – “melekh Yisrael”, the king of Israel, as he is sometimes praised, to step up to champion the Jewish people outside of Israel.

But we can, and together with our allies, we will.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Twitter has most anti-Semitic content among social networks, survey finds


Twitter emerged as the social network with the most anti-Semitic content in a comprehensive analysis.

The study of the prevalence of hatred toward Jews on such platforms, commissioned by the World Jewish Congress and published this week, was conducted throughout 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of the 382,000 posts deemed anti-Semitic in the study appeared on Twitter, followed by 11 percent posted on Facebook, 6 percent on Instagram and 2 percent on YouTube. The posts were in various languages, according to the survey performed by the Israeli monitoring firm Vigo.

The study applied the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism in determining what content to include in the report, the World Jewish Congress wrote in a statement about the report.

“We knew that anti-Semitism online was on the rise, but the numbers revealed in this report give us concrete data as to how alarming the situation really is,” said the group’s CEO, Robert Singer. “We hope this serves as a wake-up call to all internet forums to maintain moral standards, rid themselves of offensive content, and make the digital world a safer place for all.”

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in June signed a code of conduct with the European Commission that requires them to delete the majority of reported illegal hate speech within 24 hours.

The signing of the accord was hailed as major progress toward reconciling U.S.-based social networks’ adherence to American legislation despite demands by European governments and judiciaries that the firms limit themselves in Europe to the stricter laws on hate speech applied in much of the continent.

Monitor groups have reported failures to comply after the document’s signing. Twitter has been particularly reluctant to comply with European legislation.

In 2013 Twitter lost a protracted legal battle in France over its initial refusal to either disclose details of users who made anti-Semitic statements online or block them for continuing to do so.

The survey’s publication coincided with reports in Poland about the desecration of a cemetery of Soviet soldiers in Warsaw by vandals who spray-painted a Star of David emblazoned with a Nazi swastika inside the burial ground. Police are investigating the incident, the news site Ruptfly reported.

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.”

Photo by Reuters

Jewish groups urge Congress to preserve anti-Semitism monitor


Jewish defense groups urged Congress to preserve the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor.

Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Secure Community Network testified Wednesday before the human rights subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the subcommittee chairman, convened the hearing to examine connections between increases in anti-Semitism in Europe and in the United States.

The witnesses spoke to the topic, but also made the case for preserving the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. A report last month said that President Donald Trump’s administration was planning to scrap the position. No successor has been named for the the most recent anti-Semitism monitor, Ira Forman, who was on hand for the hearing.

The position is mandated by a 2004 law that Smith helped author, and the New Jersey lawmaker has joined Democrats in opposing any bid to scrap it. An array of Jewish groups and lawmakers have also urged the Trump administration to keep the post in place.

Naming a replacement for Forman “will ensure that the U.S. maintains a specialized focus on anti-Semitism,” said Stacy Burdett, the director of ADL’s Washington office.

Mark Weitzman, the director of government affairs for the Wiesenthal Center, said the position should be elevated to the ambassador level.

Speakers suggested — sometimes gently, sometimes less so — that Trump’s team needed to exhibit more sensitivity to the issue of anti-Semitism.

Weitzman cited the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, which omitted any mention of Jews. He noted that anti-Semites seized on the statement as a means of denying Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.

“Even a mistake in the context of this background can be used by people with bad intentions,” he said.

Burdett said that “political leaders have the most immediate and significant opportunity to set the tone of a national response to an anti-Semitic incident, an anti-Semitic party or an anti-Semitic parliamentarian.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the director of international Jewish affairs for the AJC, focused on manifestations of anti-Semitism on the left and right in Europe.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of SCN, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America, said that extremist groups in the United States and Europe are “increasingly the context for each other” by echoing one another in the themes they embrace.

A children’s playground in Brooklyn Heights, New York was vandalized with a swastika in November 2016. Screenshot from Twitter

Five Myths (((We))) Tell Ourselves About Anti-Semitism


My print column this week went to press just hours before news broke that the source of numerous bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the United States is a troubled Jewish teenager in Israel.

That crazy turn of events changes everything and nothing.

It doesn’t obviate the problem of anti-Semitism on the Left or Right. It doesn’t explain the increase in cases of anti-Semitic vandalism and online harassment.  It does fuel the partisan divide over anti-Semitism, with the right pointing to the evidence that American Jewish concerns, or “panic,” are veiled attacks on President Donald Trump, and the left countering that there’s more to the problem than one troubled Jew.

Last week, on this very issue,  I got into one of those online winner-take-nothing tugs of war with Washington Post columnist David Bernstein.

He wrote a column criticizing what he called “panic” within the Jewish community over anti-Semitism. Bernstein said it’s not clear that anti-Semitism from the right is on the rise, or that the many reported acts of bomb threats and vandalism are even coming from the right. He argued that the left may be using the reports as a way to delegitimize President Donald Trump (whom, he made clear, he did not support), and that, in any case, these critics willfully dismiss anti-Semitism when it comes from the left, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

I wrote a column in response, and in the course of our back-and-forth, it became evident to me, based on the hundreds of comments that followed, that anti-Semitism, like Israel before it, is turning into a political football game, and we Jews, for no good reason, are being forced onto opposing teams. 

That makes no sense.

If we can’t come together with a common understanding and response when we are all being attacked, we are in trouble. Circling half the wagons never did the cowboys any good.

So here’s my attempt to get us on the same page: five contentious points on which we can reach some consensus.

1. “Jews are panicked.” No, we aren’t. This was the original point of contention between Bernstein and me, and it’s important. “Panic” implies that vandalism and threats are creating terror in Jewish life, changing our patterns of behavior. There is no evidence of this. Local Jewish groups have wisely reviewed and strengthened their security measures. Life goes on. There is definitely concern, just as you’d expect. But more Jews are upset about Russian hacking and having to cook two Passover seders. Saying Jews are “panicked” gives a victory to the perpetrators that they don’t deserve.

2. “Anti-Semitism is getting worse.” Maybe, maybe not. The Los Angeles and New York police departments both report 100 percent increases in anti-Semitic incidents over the same period last year. But the FBI, which tracks statistics nationally, has yet to release the numbers for 2016. So the answer is: We don’t know. And even if the numbers come in high, we need to be wary of pointing fingers. According to the New York Hate Crime Task Force, from 2011 to 2012 hate crimes in New York City jumped 54.5 percent, from 242 to 375. That was long before Donald Trump.

3. “Jews don’t pay attention to anti-Semitism on the left.” Can this pernicious talking point go away? It simply isn’t true. The entire mainstream Jewish community, which includes all those Obama-loving liberals, has mobilized far more time and resources countering the BDS movement than it has this recent outbreak of anti-Semitism. New initiatives, conferences, policy studies — heck, entire organizations — have been launched and funded to counter BDS and the anti-Israel push on college campuses. Liberal Jewish groups like New Israel Fund and J Street have taken clear stands against BDS precisely because it is founded on the deeply anti-Semitic idea that of all the people on earth, Jews alone have no right to live securely in their own country. These left-leaning groups deserve as much support and praise as the conservative Jews who have stood up to forces from the Trump camp at the risk of losing support within their own constituency.

4. “It will pass.” No, it won’t. Whether you lean left or right, don’t think of anti-Semitism as a pimple to be popped, but more like a chronic disease to be treated.  It’s not going anywhere.  Witness the rise of hard-core fascist movements in Europe.

“Before, pro-fascist sentiments were kept hidden,” a Slovakian activist told The New York Times’ Rick Lyman. “Parents would tell their children, ‘You cannot say this at school.’ Now, you can say things in the public space that you couldn’t say before.”

This is true on the left and right fringes of American life as well — and nothing indicates it is ever going away for good.

5. “Israel will save us.” It may, or it may throw us under the bus. So far, the response from Israel and the Israeli press has been a combination of ignorance, obfuscation and wish fulfillment. In his first public meeting with Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instead of speaking forcefully against anti-Semitism and Trump’s refusal to mention Jews in correlation with the Holocaust, stayed mum. The opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, went to the other extreme, asking for a plan to absorb American Jewry, who presumably would evacuate en masse at the first tipped-over tombstone. And the Israeli press is full of foreboding stories on the beginning of the end of American Jewry, though, of course, more of them end up moving here. As Shmuel Rosner has pointed out in these pages, how Israel reacts will always have more to do with Israel’s agenda. American Jews have to assume we’re on our own — which means we are better off united than apart. n

A view of Donaldson-Brown Hall at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Over 100 leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas left at Virginia Tech Chabad


More than 100 leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas were found dropped on the front yard of the Chabad Jewish student center at Virginia Tech.

The leaflets were discovered at the student center located across the street from the Blacksburg university on Saturday afternoon by the Chabad’s center co-director, Rabbi Zvi Yaakov Zwiebel.

The incident occurred a day after the Jewish student center announced that Chabad was hosting the renowned Holocaust survivor Rabbi Nissen Mangel for a lecture at Virginia Tech in April. Zwiebel told local media he believes the two are related.

The lecture program is to honor Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who was among the 32 people killed in the 2007 shootings on campus. Librescu blocked the door of his classroom so students could escape through the windows.

In a statement issued after the incident, Zwiebel called the appearance of the leaflets a “disgusting act of hate.” The rabbi said he filed an incident report with the Blacksburg Police Department, which he said was “extremely helpful and professional in their response.”

“This incident is all the more surprising seeing as it is the first such act since Chabad on Campus at Virginia Tech was opened more than eight years ago,” Zwiebel said in the statement. “We appreciate Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, who quickly tweeted his support for the Jewish community, and we are in touch with the administration as they proactively respond to this incident.”

Sands said in his tweet, “The propagators of hate may be among us, but they are not welcome in our community.”

A rally on campus in support of the Virginia Tech Jewish community is scheduled for Monday evening.

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.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, at an ordination ceremony in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 26. Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images.

European rabbis: EU court’s ruling on religious garb means Jews, Muslims unwelcome


A European Union court ruled that companies can prohibit their employees from wearing religious clothing and symbols, sparking condemnation from a rabbinical group that the decision amounts to saying “faith communities are no longer welcome.”

The ruling Tuesday by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg also said that customers cannot simply demand that workers remove headscarves if the company has no policy barring religious symbols.

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said in a statement.

The ruling, which came amid a rise in the popularity of anti-Muslim politicians in Europe over the proliferation of jihadist attacks on the continent and ethnic and religious tensions, was on two lawsuits filed by Muslim employees who were sanctioned for wearing religious symbols or prohibited from doing so.

“This decision sends signals to all religious groups in Europe,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in a statement Tuesday. “With the rise of racially motivated incidents and today’s decision, Europe is sending a clear message; its faith communities are no longer welcome. Political leaders need to act to ensure that Europe does not isolate religious minorities and remains a diverse and open continent.”

One of the lawsuits that led to the ruling was by an employee of the Belgian branch of G4S, the London-listed outsourcing and security company. After three years at the firm she decided she wanted to start wearing a headscarf at work for religious reasons. She was fired in June 2006 for refusing to take off her scarf. The company said she had broken unwritten rules prohibiting religious symbols.

In the second case, design engineer Asma Bougnaoui was fired from a consultancy firm, Micropole, following a complaint from a customer who claimed his staff had been “embarrassed” by her headscarf while she was on their premises giving advice. Before taking the job she had been told that wearing a headscarf might pose problems for the company’s customers.

Last summer, dozens of French municipalities banned the burkini, a full-body swimsuit favored by Muslim women, with the backing of the French government before a French court ruled the action was unconstitutional. Many Europeans believed the ban violated personal and religious freedoms, but others in support of the prohibition regarded the burkini and other clothing favored by Muslims as a political statement.

Marine Le Pen, the leading candidate in the presidential race in France, said she would ban Muslim headcovering if she were elected. Asked whether she would do the same for the kippah, the head of the far-right National Front party said she would do so to preserve equality.

The Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle was hit with anti-Semitic spraypaint. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Standing Together Against Anti-Semitism


There is a midrash that, when standing at Sinai to receive the Torah, each person received their own personal revelation but responded in one voice, saying, “Na’aseh v’nishma” — “We will do and we will hear.” It is in that exquisite moment that we became one People. Each of us is an individual, but we — and our fate — are inextricably linked, and we are each responsible for one another.

 The Jewish community today is under attack, with more than 148 terrorist threats to our institutions in more than 30 different communities. Hate-filled vandalism and desecration of our sacred places are being perpetrated to wreak havoc and instill fear. Whenever the Jewish community is threatened in such a vile and insidious way, na’aseh v’nishma — we must stand together to face the challenges of the day in a decisive and powerful way. We may come from different vantage points, denominations, walks of life — we may differ from each other in a thousand ways — but nothing compares to that which unites us. This has been true throughout our history as a Jewish People. 

Now we are putting that shared bond to work on behalf of the entire community. As Jewish organizations of all stripes, we will not stand idly by where there is need, and we will certainly not stand idly by while our people and institutions are terrorized. We are all stronger when we work together. 

In the past few weeks since these threats have magnified in number and scope, Jewish Federations have been active on several fronts:

1)  Local Federations are serving as conveners to bring institutions and leadership together to respond to specific threats and attacks, develop plans to expand security resources and mobilize gatherings where appropriate to demonstrate solidarity. Our JCCs have faced significant challenges with calm and determination, and we salute all of their efforts as well.

 2) Through our Secure Community Network (SCN), we are working with federal officials in law enforcement and homeland security to aid investigations of bomb threats and cemetery desecrations. We are grateful to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement, all of whom have been our partners in facing this challenge.

3) Working with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders and other coalition partners, JFNA is working toward a dramatic expansion of funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps nonprofit groups in religious and ethnic communities targeted by hate crimes.

4) Within the next few weeks we will be enabling every Federation to implement a new, powerful and cost-efficient emergency notification system to link them with the leadership of local Jewish institutions and organizations to enable immediate response to crisis situations.

5) We are working in lock-step collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations, communicating daily and leveraging our shared resources and vast reach.

6) JFNA will be convening with the JCC Association of North America, Hillel International, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools and the Foundation for Jewish Camp to ensure coordination of efforts and best practices among these critical national organizations, which serve the widest spectrum of communal agencies affected by these threats and attacks.

 We will not be deterred or distracted by infighting or petty grievances. We will stay the course and guarantee that when our family, friends and neighbors participate in the wonderful mosaic that is Jewish life, they will find the meaning, community and security they seek.

 Na’aseh v’nishma — standing together as one.

 Richard Sandler is chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman is president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America

The Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle was hit with anti-Semitic spraypaint. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

‘Holocaust is fake history’ scrawled on Seattle synagogue


A synagogue in Seattle was defaced with graffiti denying the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust is fake history!” was found spray-painted on the wall of the Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue on Friday morning.

“There were two things we felt: shock and sadness, and resistance,” Daniel Weiner, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, told NBC News. “We were shocked that this had reached our own community and that such things, such stereotypes had become frequent. But we are also adamant to not give in to the intolerance and growing climate of hate in Seattle and our nation, and will resist.”

With more than 1,500 member families, the synagogue, founded in 1889, is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

The incident comes amid a wave of threats against Jewish institutions nationwide, including more than 100 bomb threats, mostly against Jewish community centers, since the beginning of the year.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

Jewish watchdog ADL announces plans for Silicon Valley center to combat hate online


(JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League will build a Silicon Valley “command center” to combat online hate speech and harassment, the group’s CEO announced.

Jonathan Greenblatt made the announcement Sunday at the South by Southwest music and media festival in Austin, Texas. He said the ADL secured seed funding for the project from Omidyar Network, a self-styled “philanthropic investment firm” started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

“Now more than ever as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other hatreds have exploded online, it’s critical that we are bringing best-in-class technology and resources to this fight,” Greenblatt said in a statement the ADL released ahead of the announcement. “That’s why we will build this center in Silicon Valley, and why we are so grateful to Omidyar Network for providing seed funding for this effort.”

Greenblatt was on stage at SXSW discussing recent hate crimes with Evan Smith, the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper The Texas Tribune. According to the ADL statement, the center will bring together “the best technology” and “seasoned experts” to “monitor, track, analyze and mitigate hate speech and harassment across the Internet, in support of the Jewish community and other minority groups.

The group said it would produce reports and data, provide analysis to government and policymakers and “expose and stop specific cases of online harassment and cyberbullying.”

Brittan Heller, a lawyer who joined the ADL last year, is to serve as the founding director of the new center. She investigated and prosecuted cyber crime and human rights violations at the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“Inclusivity is key to a healthy society and yet this is being challenged and attacked in countries around the world, including the United States. Cyberhate is a big, growing part of the problem and it needs a big response. ADL’s work against hate is unmatched and the launch of the center in Silicon Valley will enable them to further collaborate with the technology industry to tackle these problems.” Stacy Donohue, an investment partner at the Omidyar Network said in the ADL statement.

Since Donald Trump’s election as president, the ADL has repeatedly warned that the anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise and called for action. More than 100 bomb threats have this year targeted Jewish Community Centers and other U.S. Jewish institutions, including ADL offices.

In March, Trump responded to a question from an Orthodox reporter about what action he would take by angrily denying that he was anti-Semitic, earning reprimand from Greenblatt and ADL National Chairman Marvin Nathan.

“It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction,” they said in a statement. “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a potentially lethal problem — and it’s growing.”

Under Greenblatt, the ADL has shown an interest in tackling hate online. After Jewish journalists were targeted by anti-Semitic trolls identifying as Trump supporters during the campaign, the ADL created a task force to look into the issue, which later issued a report. And days after Trump was elected, Greenblatt said the group had seen a spike in donations from people “most interested in seeing ADL scale up its work in the cyberhate space, where the anti-Semitism and hate speech has been most alarming.”

Rapper Kosha Dillz performing in Ventura, California, June 21, 2015. Kosha Dillz is one of the Jewish highlights at this year’s South by Southwest festival. Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images.

SXSW 2017: 5 don’t-miss Jewish events


Austin, Texas, is known for several things: authentic barbecue, hot weather, cowboys — and, increasingly each year, the ever-growing South by Southwest festival.

What began as an indie music event in the late 1980s has swelled to include multiple conferences on film and technology. Last year, over 70,000 people registered to attend the nine-day extravaganza.

As always, this year’s installment, which starts on Friday and runs until March 19, will feature plenty of Jewish artists, innovations and forums — including a session with the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, about the recent uptick in anti-Semitism. And of course, at least one Purim party.

If you’re headed to SXSW, here are some Jewish events you shouldn’t miss.

Trolls: Lessons from Online Anti-Semitism’s Rise  (March 12, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Austin)

After writing an article on Melania Trump in GQ last spring, journalist Julia Ioffe received so many anti-Semitic messages, including death threats, that she filed a police complaint. Sadly, she was just among the first of many Jewish journalists and other Jews active on social media to be targeted by anti-Semitic “trolls” — a term commonly used to describe belligerent online provocateurs — over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. Ioffe, who now writes for The Atlantic, will speak with Chabad Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone about how trolls, once relegated to the fringes of the internet, are now feeling empowered.

Kosha Dillz (March 16, 1:00 a.m. – 1:25 a.m., Scratchouse)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a rapper whose stage name is a Jewish delicacy isn’t your typical hip-hop artist. The Israeli-American Kosha Dillz (real name Rami Even-Esh) has wowed crowds with his freestyle abilities for more than a decade — and he is also known for being able to rap in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Yiddish. According to his South by Southwest bio, he now teaches a class at synagogues around the country on “how to be a Jewish rapper in 45 minutes.” You can catch him at the festival as part of his Oy VEY USA tour, likely spitting tracks from his latest album “What I Do All Day And Pickle,” which he released last year.

YAASSS Queen Esther Purim party (March 12, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Jackrabbit Mobile)

You likely have to be a fan of “Broad City,” the uber-hip sitcom created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, to get why the title of this event is so clever. But you won’t have to get the joke to enjoy this Purim party. Hosted by the Chabad Young Professionals group in Austin, the event will include a traditional holiday megillah reading, a hamantaschen fondue bar, plenty of Purim gifts (known as misloach manot), an open bar and — what do you know — beats from Kosha Dillz.

Orkestar Kriminal (March 15, 1:00 p.m. – 1:40 p.m., Austin Convention Center; March 18, 9:00 p.m. – 9:40 p.m., Russian House)

Orkestar Kriminal is the rare band that lives up to its name, in multiple ways. The Montreal-based group plays (or steals, as band leader Giselle Webber says) songs from the Yiddish-speaking musicians who populated the the criminal underworlds that once flourished in cities such as Warsaw, Odessa and Istanbul. Think one part hyped-up klezmer, one part gypsy rock, one part utter chaos — and a heck of a live show.

Faith & Technology Meet Up (March 12, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., Hyatt Regency Austin)

Jews aren’t the only religious group looking to connect their faith with technology at this year’s festival. This discussion will feature the Anti-Defamation League’s Austin Community Director Renee Lafair, who, alongside Christian and Muslim speakers, will address the ways religious communities are joining together on social media to fight online hate.

Aggrieved, aghast, agape


cartoon-Agape-cmyk

Melanie Steinhardt comforting Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Feb. 26. Photo by Dominick Reuter/Getty Images.

Poll: 87 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans say anti-Semitism a ‘serious’ problem


Seventy percent of American voters see anti-Semitism in the country as a “very” or “somewhat serious” problem, up from 49 percent a month ago, according to a new poll.

The responses differed by party identification, with an overwhelming majority of Democrats, 87 percent, seeing anti-Semitism as a “very” or “somewhat serious” problem, and slightly more than half of Republicans, 53 percent, seeing it as such, according to the poll released Thursday.

The survey was was conducted by Quinnipiac University at the beginning of March.

Jewish institutions, including community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices, have been hit with more than 100 bomb threats so far this year, all of them hoaxes. In the past three weeks, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in Philadelphia,St. Louis, and Rochester, New York.

Respondents were split on President Donald Trump’s response to the bomb threats and vandalism, with 37 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving. Most Republicans, 71 percent, approved of Trump’s response, while most Democrats, 66 percent, disapproved.

The poll also found that 63 percent of American voters think hatred and prejudice has increased since Trump’s election, while two percent say it has decreased and 32 percent say it has stayed the same.

Trump has come under fire for his delayed response to the incidents. Concerning the threats on Jewish establishments, Trump at first deflected questions – and in one instance shouted down a reporter who asked him about it – before calling them “horrible.”

Last month, the president noted the bomb threats and vandalism of cemeteries in his first address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.

The Kansas City incident occurred after a patron ejected from a bar after hurling racial epithets at two workers from India allegedly returned with a gun and killed one of the men and wounded another.

South Carolina state capitol in Columbia. Photo from Wikipedia.

South Carolina House adopts State Department definition of anti-Semitism


South Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a bill endorsing the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as part of an effort to fight discrimination on college campuses.

The bill, which passed unanimously on Friday, defines anti-Semitism to include the State Department’s definition, which considers demonizing, delegitimizing or applying a double standard to Israel to be forms of anti-Semitism.

Under the South Carolina bill, the new definition would be used in probes of possible anti-Semitism at state colleges and universities.

The pro-Israel groups Stand With Us and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for For Human Rights Under Law, a nonprofit that conducts research on campus anti-Semitism, hailed the measure.

“We applaud the South Carolina legislators for standing up against this growing anti-Jewish bigotry, and in a way that fully protects free speech on campus,” the Brandeis Center’s president, Kenneth Marcus said in a Friday statement.

Stand With Us said South Carolina has “taken a lead addressing the rise of anti-Semitism across the nation.”

The State Department definition has drawn criticism for deeming certain types of criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, a theme critics of the South Carolina bill echoed on Friday.

“This language would shut down legitimate debate on South Carolina campuses about policies of the state of Israel and would equate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism,” said Caroline Nagel, a professor at the University of South Carolina, according to The Post and Courier.

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

Calendar: March 10-16, 2017


SAT | MARCH 11

AUTHOR NOAH ISENBERG

cal-casablancaNoah Isenberg and Monika Henreid discuss Isenberg’s new book, “We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie.” Its focus is the award-winning film that was released in 1942 featuring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and a memorable supporting cast. Isenberg, a film historian, reveals the myths and realities behind “Casablanca’s” production. Through extensive research and interviews with filmmakers, film critics, family members of the cast and crew, and die-hard fans, Isenberg reveals why the film remains so revered. He also focuses on the major role that refugees from Hitler’s Europe played in the production (many cast members were immigrants). The book is filled with fresh insights into “Casablanca’s” creation, production and legacy. 3 p.m. Free. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. booksoup.com.

SUN | MARCH 12

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi perform their final show in the United States. 8 p.m. $100. The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. israeliamerican.org/shalom.

TUES | MARCH 14

“BORN SURVIVORS: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORIES OF THREE YOUNG MOTHERS”

cal-born-survivorsWendy Holden chronicled the stories of three young mothers who were torn from their families by the Nazis in her powerful book “Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope.” The three women were strangers, but all a few months pregnant and in need of help to keep it a secret from their Nazi captors. Despite the odds, they all defied death to give their children life. Meet one of the Holocaust survivors, Hana Berger Moran. 7:30 p.m. Free; registration required at ushmm.org/events/holden-losangeles. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 556-3222. ushmm.org.

WED | MARCH 15

IS “ZIONIST” NOW A BAD WORD?

cal-david-wolpeAs the debate over Israel rages on across college campuses and in living rooms throughout the United States, is “Zionist” still a term of support for Israel, or is it now a loaded term? How do younger Americans interpret “Zionism”? Join the Jewish Journal and Hadassah’s Defining Zionism program as we explore how tomorrow’s leaders are thinking about and engaging with the Jewish state, and how their relationship with Israel differs from that of previous generations. Moderated by Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe; Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Sarah Bassin; 30 Years After co-founder Sam Yebri; and Jewish Journal staff writer Eitan Arom. 7 p.m. $10 in advance; $15 at the door. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. hadassah.org/jewishjournal.

“CATHOLIC AND JEWISH CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS”

How does our Jewish tradition understand the concept and practice of mercy and how do we live up to this ideal, which is one of the highest qualities we look for in a human being? Rabbi Steven Silver will discuss “Catholic and Jewish Concepts of Forgiveness.” After lunch, there will be a screening of “Stolen Summer,” a Project Greenlight film about a young Catholic boy who goes on a quest to help a dying Jewish friend get into heaven. 11 a.m. $14; $12 for members. The Rosenberg Cultural Center at Temple Menorah, 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-8444. templemenorah.org.

BEING JEWISH ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS

Harkham-GAON Academy (at the Westside Jewish Community Center) is hosting this event for high school juniors and seniors to gain insight into Jewish life opportunities at college campuses across the country. The event will include a panel of experts on Jewish life at college with the opportunity to ask questions. You will also hear about challenges Jewish college students face. 6:30 p.m. Free. Harkham-GAON Academy, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 556-0663.

SECURITY RESPONSE TOWN HALL

In response to the recent wave of bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers nationwide, and the vandalism at multiple Jewish cemeteries across the country, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will hold a town hall addressing security issues at Jewish sites. Los Angeles Police Department officials and senior representatives from the FBI will speak. 5 p.m. RSVP required at SLoughmiller@JewishLA.org; no walk-ins. The Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.

THURS | MARCH 16

“MEMORY & CONTINUITY OF THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN JEWISH LEGACY”

cal-FabrizioLelliFabrizio Lelli will discuss the extraordinary spiritual rebirth of contemporary Judaism by comparing it with other intellectually significant phases of Apulian Judaism in the past. Lelli studies the history of Apulian Jewish culture, concentrating on written and oral testimonies of former Jewish refugees who were in transit camps in the region of Apulia. Lelli teaches at the University of Salento in Italy. Sponsored by UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. 4 p.m. Free. Pre-registration required at cjsrsvp@humnet.ucla.edu or (310) 267-5327. UCLA, 314 Royce Hall, Los Angeles. humnet.ucla.edu.

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri. Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/REUTERS.

Local cemeteries refrain from security changes, despite heightened concern


Despite recent incidents of vandalism and desecration at Jewish cemeteries across the country, none has occurred in the Los Angeles area, and supervisors here have not yet taken any drastic actions to prevent trouble.

“We don’t feel we need added security measures or added personnel at this time,” Yossi Manela, a funeral director with Chevra Kadisha Mortuary, said.

Chevra Kadisha manages four Jewish cemeteries: Agudath Achim Cemetery and Beth Israel Cemetery in East Los Angeles, Mount Carmel Cemetery in Commerce and Young Israel Cemetery in Norwalk. All four have upright headstones.

Chevra Kadisha’s cemeteries are fully fenced with high gates. Mount Carmel and Beth Israel are open during the day and locked at night. Agudath Achim and Young Israel are always locked, but family members with loved ones buried there have access to the combination lock.

Manela, who has been a funeral director there for 23 years, said it would be too expensive to add measures such as round-the-clock security and cameras.

Jolene Mason, general manager of Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, which has a section of upright headstones, isn’t planning big changes, either.

“We’ve always had security that’s ready for anything,” she said. “That’s not just in light of what’s happening. That’s just our security policy.”

She said she has briefed the private company that handles security measures for Eden Memorial.

“We’ve just let them know in case they weren’t aware of what’s happening around the country and in case the supervisor wants to come and check more so they’re on heightened awareness,” she said. “We’re comfortable with our current security situation.”

Noelle Berman has been director of private estates at Beth Olam Cemetery in Hollywood for 16 years. Beth Olam is the 63-acre Jewish section of the iconic Hollywood Forever Cemetery that routinely draws tourist crowds visiting celebrity graves and droves of guests in the summer for outdoor movie screenings.

Beth Olam, whose graves are marked with Stars of David and menorahs, isn’t separated from the rest of Hollywood Forever. There also are some marked Jewish graves outside of the Beth Olam section, dispersed throughout the rest of the cemetery. Berman said additional security at Beth Olam, or the cemetery at large, isn’t in the plans.

“We haven’t had even one bit of concern as of this moment,” she said.

Berman cited constant foot traffic as a form of self-policing and Hollywood Forever’s central location as a deterrent to would-be agitators.

“Hollywood Forever is a cultural center,” she said. “I think there’s such a sense of community here that’s already built in that makes it feel safe. I can’t imagine anything happening here because it’s always so populated, and it’s right in the heart of Hollywood. The incidents around the country happened in more isolated areas.”

Len Lawrence, general manager of Mount Sinai Memorial Park and Mortuaries, took a different tone than his peers.

“There has been a significant amount of internal conversation about what to do,” Lawrence said. “With what’s happening to other Jewish cemeteries, it would be foolish of us not to review our security procedures.”

Mount Sinai’s two parks, one in the Hollywood Hills and another in Simi Valley, are both owned by Sinai Temple. Lawrence has overseen both for the last 15 years. During his time there, he had never received security-related inquiries by phone or email from concerned family members of loved ones buried in his parks — until now.

“We have spoken to them and assured them we are doing all we can,” he said. “These are sacred grounds that we’ve always protected and need to continue to protect.”

Both parks are fully fenced, locked and rigged with alarm systems. Security is on-site at all times, and both parks are in constant radio communication with a central base station. Surveillance cameras in strategic locations throughout the grounds monitor the parks.

Lawrence pointed out that it has been upright headstones targeted in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y. As memorial parks, Sinai’s don’t have upright headstones. Still, Lawrence said, that doesn’t make Sinai’s parks any less vulnerable.

“Even though we don’t have upright headstones, that’s not to say we can’t be vandalized,” he said.

He said his security personnel are adopting a proactive approach, reviewing protocol in the event of telephone threats and weighing further measures to bolster nighttime security, though for security reasons he declined to provide details.

Last week, a representative from the parks’ alarm system company made an on-site evaluation, and a representative of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Security Initiative (CSI) also came for an inspection.

Ivan Wolkind, Federation’s chief operating and finance officer, established the security initiative five years ago with the aim of helping the city’s Jewish community address its security needs in a more autonomous fashion. His team of five Federation employees, all with backgrounds in either the U.S. military or Israel Defense Forces, offers free site and vulnerability assessments as well as security training to any Jewish institution in Los Angeles. Wolkind said CSI’s city database includes 470 Jewish institutions.

“We have been reaching out, being proactive, and they have been reaching out to us, as well,” Wolkind said of the work with cemeteries and memorial parks. “We just want to make sure procedures and protocols that have been put in place are being acted on and adhered to. It’s also just checking in and making sure people are vigilant.”

Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri. Feb. 21. Photo by Tom Gannam/REUTERS.

Stop celebrating Muslim decency


Being congratulated for basic civility is no compliment

Since the recent wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations, journalistic and social media have vocally celebrated condemnations, fund-raising, and volunteer efforts by Muslim groups in an attempt to bolster interfaith cooperation and rehabilitate the reputation of the Islamic community precisely when its very welcome in America is being questioned like never before.

But nobody deserves congratulations for basic decency. Condemning bomb threats and making donations to repair damage from bias crimes is something good people of all backgrounds do. Liberal hoopla over proper Muslim responses to anti-Semitism is no more than a religious riff on the soft bigotry of low expectations. When Muslims go to extraordinary lengths to show they embrace their Jewish neighbors – and they sometimes do – public praise is appropriate. But headlines about Islamic press releases condemning cemetery vandalism send the opposite message – that in normal circumstances Muslims are callous and heartless.

Imagine these headlines:

  • Asian Driver Arrives At Work Without Incident
  • Jamaican Musician Passes Drug Test
  • Black Man Marries His Children’s Mother

 

While those headlines aim to challenge nasty stereotypes, they actually reinforce their legitimacy.

News stories about broad community efforts to help besieged Jews that contain a sentence “Even the local Muslim community turned out in force” are entirely appropriate. But special congratulations when Muslims act like, well, people are not compliments.

I know how it feels to have my own group celebrated for simple propriety.

As a Zionist, I am perpetually annoyed by hasbara (roughly, propaganda) that celebrates Israeli actions that are only minimally admirable – like an Israeli soldier who shares her sandwich with a starving Palestinian child or an Tel Aviv hospital that provides an impoverished dying Arab woman with free medical care. Yes, I understand that these examples are intended to debunk the idea that Israelis are not decent (although I have yet to see anti-Israel discourse accusing Israelis of withholding sandwiches from orphans). But the very act of highlighting basic decency legitimizes the slander, which is particularly offensive given the many good Israeli actions that are far from just minimally proper.

The people spotlighting Muslim attempts to repair desecrated cemeteries may think they’re rebutting negative stereotypes. But they aren’t. Sorry to say it, but Americans who fear or hate Muslims don’t do so because they think Muslims tolerate vandalism. They do so because they think Muslims tolerate terrorism. These stories will not dent that perception.

Americans are rightly proud of the way its citizens of many groups came together to help one group among them recover in a time of distress – and Muslims should be part of that celebration. But breathless reports that American Muslims aren’t jackasses after all help nobody – including American Muslims.

David Benkof is a columnist for the Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

 

 

 

A children’s playground in Brooklyn Heights, New York was vandalized with a swastika in November 2016. Screenshot from Twitter

The paradox of today’s anti-Semitism


Jewish community centers and synagogues have received threatening calls. Headstones at Jewish cemeteries have been overturned in suburban St. Louis, Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y., and perhaps even in Brooklyn. Jewish writers have found their Facebook pages filled with vitriolic anti-Semitic hatred. Faculty offices have been painted with swastikas and defecations outside the door. Clearly, anti-Semitism is on the rise, and the American Jewish community is rightfully uneasy.

And yet, a recent Pew Research Center survey found yet again that Judaism is the most popular religion in America.

Consider the paradox: How can both be true at once, that anti-Semitism is on the rise yet Judaism is the most popular of America’s religions?

Let’s begin with the Pew survey. What Judaism is the most popular religion in America really means is that Judaism is the least unpopular religion.

Eastern religions are not understood. Muslims are feared and commonly identified with terrorism. Roman Catholicism is in the midst of a deep credibility crisis. Protestantism is divided between evangelicals and liberals, and evangelicals are divided generationally, with younger evangelicals having different views on homosexuality, for example.

Judaism is thus respected and admired — or less disrespected and less disliked than other religions. Little do outsiders know how deeply divided we are.

Why, then, the seeming explosion of anti-Semitism? This, too, must be seen in context.

I doubt there has been an increase in anti-Semitism as much as there has been an increase in the permissibility of the expressions of anti-Semitism and its amplification by the tools of social media.

A bit of history: American anti-Semitism was at its height in the 1930s during the crucial years just before World War II and the Holocaust. Those with anti-Semitic views did not disappear or alter their views in the immediate postwar years. What changed was that they did not feel comfortable expressing anti-Semitism without feeling some social stigma and rebuke both in public and even in social situations. Therefore, many in my generation grew up without hearing many anti-Semitic comments. That changed in the late 1960s with the tensions between Blacks and Jews; it changed again later with some hostility toward Israel and American Jews during the oil crisis of 1973 and 1979. And it has changed more rapidly since the turn of the century with the distance that has developed with the Holocaust. The tools of social networks and the internet magnify anti-Semitism and reinforce those who spew hatred.

No one can deny that the expressions of hatred have intensified the more polarized our society has become, and the explosion of anti-Semitism must be seen as but one dramatic, though not necessarily central, expansion of the expression of all hatreds — toward Muslims, toward immigrants, toward African-Americans, toward gays, toward the poor, toward any minority group, including white Americans without a college education who were at the core of President Donald Trump’s support in the November election.

Although I am deeply hesitant to put this in writing because events even in an hour from now can prove me wrong, it must be noted that in recent days, threats of violence against living Jews — not actual violence — have been sufficient to unnerve the Jewish community. Bombs threats have been called in, but there have been no actual bombs. Cemeteries, however sacred, have been vandalized, tombstones overturned — these are attacks on dead Jews and on the loving memory of living Jews, but not direct assaults on the living. How long this shall continue we do not know, but the costs to the Jewish community in terms of security and even in terms of the enrollment of Jewish children in preschool and day schools and camps are significant.

We also must note that the interests of Israel and the interests of the Diaspora Jewish community are not identical and can diverge easily. When Trump averted directly condemning anti-Semism — he has done so subsequently — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s answer was instructive. “There is no greater supporter of Israel or the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we can put that [the question of condemning anti-Semitism] to rest.”

Trump may be a huge friend of Israel and a stupendous supporter of its prime minister, but while that may be terrific for the Israeli right, it does not necessarily translate into safety and security for American Jews.

It is not the first time Netanyahu misjudged the needs of a Diaspora community. His support of the Mexican border wall was an obvious gesture to Trump, but a slap in the face of Latino Americans whose views of Jews and Judaism are less well developed than other groups and who don’t know that Netanyahu doesn’t necessarily speak for the Jewish people or represent their views.

In the aftermath of the Hyper Cacher killings, the French prime minister and president made bold statements: “France without Jews is not France,” claiming these Jews as Frenchmen and committing themselves to defend the place of Jews and the safety of Jews in French society and culture. Netanyahu went to the main synagogue in Paris and then invited French Jews to come “home” to Israel where “we will protect you,” seemingly forgetting for a moment that Iran was an existential threat to Israel with the potential of nuclear annihilation. Just as France was claiming these Jews as they own, Israel pushed for burial in Israel, seemingly underscoring a perception that they were not Frenchmen, which was a blow to all French Jews.

Similarly throughout Eastern Europe, Israel is enjoying political support from ultra-nationalist, right-wing governments that are rewriting the history of World War II to cleanse their nations of the stigma of collaboration. Local Jewish communities speak out, scholars and public officials speak out while Israel remains silent.

I believe that Jews cannot fight the battle against the explosion of anti-Semitism without combatting all expressions of hatred, reaching out to others and even dialing down the vitriol that has characterized all political discourse. If the expression of hatred is unabated, Jews will be its victims — certainly not its only victims, and in all likelihood, not its primary victims. If we combat this promiscuous hatred together, new alliances may be struck and new possibilities emerge.


MICHAEL BERENBAUM is a professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at American Jewish University.

‘Anti-Zionism’ is the anti-Semitism of choice on college campuses


Hating Israel is the thing to do today on university campuses. It makes you seem “progressive.” It means you’re “woke” and socially aware. It means you’re fighting against a tyrannical regime. It is supporting the struggle of an oppressed people at the hands of white colonialist supremacy. Zionism is racism. Israel is evil, end of story

Except that’s complete nonsense.

Zionism is the support for and affirmation of the Jews’ right to self-determination in their indigenous homeland of Israel. It’s the Jewish civil rights movement. It is the struggle of a native people who have been oppressed for thousands of years, expelled from their land, killed and persecuted wherever they went in the world. It is the celebration of victory, of the return home after millennia of Diaspora, of surviving and flourishing against all odds.

Read the full column on timesofisrael.com.


NADIYA AL-NOOR is a young Muslim interfaith activist with a focus on Jewish and Muslim communities. She is a graduate student at Binghamton University, studying public administration and student affairs administration.

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

4 more bomb threats emailed to JCCs


Bomb threats have been emailed to four Jewish community centers following a wave of threats that targeted 16 Jewish institutions on Tuesday.

JCCs in Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut and Vancouver, Canada, received bomb threats via email either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, according to local reports and Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations.

The emails, according to Goldenberg, appear to be the tail end of a wave of bomb threats Tuesday that targeted JCCs, Jewish day schools and several offices of the Anti-Defamation League. It was the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year. In total, more than 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish sites since the beginning of the year, all of them hoaxes.

The Boulder, Colorado, JCC sent an email to members shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday notifying them of the threat and saying that law enforcement had given the JCC permission to resume operations.

“We take the safety and security of our families, our community, and our staff as a top priority,” the email said, adding that “the continuation of these threats across the country to JCCs, other Jewish institutions, and the Boulder JCC is very disheartening.”

The JCC in Wilmington, Delaware, has received four threats, including one overnight Tuesday. Seth Katzen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, which shares a building with the JCC, said he doesn’t know why they’ve been targeted so many times.

The Birmingham, Alabama, JCC has also received four threats, and several other sites have received three.

“We haven’t seen that drop that other communities experienced,” Katzen told JTA Wednesday. “We’re a resilient and strong community. We don’t want to give in.”

But he added, “There is a wear and tear, no question.”

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.

A headstone, pushed off its base by vandals, lays on the ground near a smashed tomb in the Mount Carmel Cemetery on Feb. 27. Photo by Tom Mihalek/Reuters

Stop celebrating Muslim decency: Being congratulated for basic civility is no compliment


Since the recent wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats, vandalism, and cemetery desecrations, journalistic and social media have vocally celebrated condemnations, fund-raising, and volunteer efforts by Muslim groups in an attempt to bolster interfaith cooperation and rehabilitate the reputation of the Islamic community precisely when its very welcome in America is being questioned like never before.

But nobody deserves congratulations for basic decency. Condemning bomb threats and making donations to repair damage from bias crimes is something good people of all backgrounds do. Liberal hoopla over proper Muslim responses to anti-Semitism is no more than a religious riff on the soft bigotry of low expectations. When Muslims go to extraordinary lengths to show they embrace their Jewish neighbors – and they sometimes do – public praise is appropriate. But headlines about Islamic press releases condemning cemetery vandalism send the opposite message – that in normal circumstances Muslims are callous and heartless.

 Imagine these headlines:

• Asian Driver Arrives At Work Without Incident

• Jamaican Musician Passes Drug Test

• Black Man Marries His Children’s Mother

While those headlines aim to challenge nasty stereotypes, they actually reinforce their legitimacy.

News stories about broad community efforts to help besieged Jews that contain a sentence “Even the local Muslim community turned out in force” are entirely appropriate. But special congratulations when Muslims act like, well, people are not compliments.

I know how it feels to have my own group celebrated for simple propriety.

As a Zionist, I am perpetually annoyed by hasbara (roughly, propaganda) that celebrates Israeli actions that are only minimally admirable – like an Israeli soldier who shares her sandwich with a starving Palestinian child or an Tel Aviv hospital that provides an impoverished dying Arab woman with free medical care. Yes, I understand that these examples are intended to debunk the idea that Israelis are not decent (although I have yet to see anti-Israel discourse accusing Israelis of withholding sandwiches from orphans). But the very act of highlighting basic decency legitimizes the slander, which is particularly offensive given the many good Israeli actions that are far from just minimally proper.

The people spotlighting Muslim attempts to repair desecrated cemeteries may think they’re rebutting negative stereotypes. But they aren’t. Sorry to say it, but Americans who fear or hate Muslims don’t do so because they think Muslims tolerate vandalism. They do so because they think Muslims tolerate terrorism. These stories will not dent that perception.

Americans are rightly proud of the way its citizens of many groups came together to help one group among them recover in a time of distress – and Muslims should be part of that celebration. But breathless reports that American Muslims aren’t jackasses after all help nobody – including American Muslims.

David Benkof is a columnist for the Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.

President Donald Trump on Feb. 28. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters

There is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism


The actual percentage is yet to be exactly known, but it is already clear that a serious number of the major anti-Semitic incidents taking place — such as defacing Jewish graves, painting swastikas on Jewish students’ dorm room doors, and calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions — are being perpetrated by leftists who wish to perpetuate the belief that Donald Trump’s election victory has unleashed a national wave of anti-Semitism.

The same seems to hold true for post-Trump anti-Muslim and anti-Black incidents.

I could cite dozens of examples. Here are a few:

Last week, it was reported that a Black, left-wing journalist was arrested for phoning in bomb threats to the ADL and half a dozen other Jewish institutions.

On Feb. 27, the Minneapolis Star Tribune headlined: “Racist graffiti found at Lakeville South High School.”

The article began: “Swastikas, racial epithets and other racist graffiti were found etched on bathroom stalls at Lakeville South High School on Monday.”

It turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by a non-white student: “A ‘non-Caucasian’ Minnesota high school student has been disciplined after it was determined he was responsible for racist and antisemitic graffiti found in a school bathroom. The scribblings included a picture of a lynching, the phrase ‘Hail the Ku Klux Klan,’ the ‘N’ word, and a swastika” (The College Fix, March 2).

On March 1, the Toronto Sun headlined: “Bomb threats targeting Muslims close Concordia buildings.”

The article continued: “ … a group threatened to detonate ‘small artisanal explosive devices’ once a day until Friday in order to injure Muslim students. The group, which described itself as a chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, or C4, complained about Muslim prayer services on campus.”

The next day, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported: “The man charged in connection with Wednesday’s bomb threats at Concordia University, Hisham Saadi, was a PhD student in economics there. … Saadi is of Lebanese origin.”

The College Fix, which accumulates data on these hoaxes, reported that “At Massachusetts’ Williams College, two students admitted to trashing the school’s Griffin Hall with a ‘red wood-stain substance resembling blood’ and spelled out ‘AMKKK KILL.’ ” The college newspaper, The Williams Record, later reported that the two students did it “to bring attention to the potential impact of the presidential election on campus.”

At Bowling Green State University on the day after the election, a Black student alleged three white males clad in ‘Trump’ shirts called her a racial slur and threw rocks at her. ABC News reported shortly thereafter that the police concluded she made up the story.

MSNBC posted a tweet that contained what appeared to be a video of a female Muslim student beating up a ‘racist’ male pupil at Washburn High School. “Don’t mess with Somali girls in Minnesota,” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell announced. “The dude tried to knock her hijab (headgar) [sic] off, she gave him a hard lesson.”

The video, titled “Welcome to Washburn,” went viral after it was posted to Facebook, with more than 6.5 million views, more than 161,000 shares and more than 29,000 comments.

But the Minneapolis Star Tribune declared the footage a “hoax” and a “play fight” intended as a joke. And school staff confirmed the alleged incident never happened.

Another anti-Muslim incident that was widely reported was proven to be a hoax. A female Muslim student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette alleged that right after the election, two white men, one of whom was wearing a Trump cap, attacked her and stole her wallet and the hijab she was wearing. Her story prompted the ACLU of Louisiana to issue a statement denouncing both the incident and Donald Trump; the FBI launched an investigation; and the story was covered by The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN.

The Muslim student later admitted to police that she made up the whole story.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a San Francisco man who raised a Nazi flag on the roof of his home right after the election was a left-wing Trump-hater.

There are so many examples of hoaxes perpetrated by Black, Muslim and white leftists that they could fill this issue of the Jewish Journal.

The entire notion of a Trump-inspired crime wave is fake news spread by the mainstream media. For more examples, see “There Is No Violent Hate-Crimewave In ‘Trump’s America.’ ”

Donald Trump is no more anti-Semitic than the columnists of this newspaper. Nor is Breitbart.com anti-Semitic. And there is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism in America.

This is only one more example of left-wing hysteria — like heterosexual AIDS in America; the “rape culture” on campuses; the alleged crisis of racist cops wantonly killing innocent Blacks; and global warming threatening life on earth.

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.


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).

President Donald Trump, right, reaches to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump, Netanyahu discuss ‘dangers’ of Iran deal in phone call


President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the Iran nuclear deal in a phone call.

Trump called Netanyahu on Monday and the two leaders discussed “the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers posed by the nuclear deal with Iran and by Iran’s malevolent behavior in the region and about the need to work together to counter those dangers,” read the statement.

Netanyahu and Trump have both denounced the deal, which exchanges sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. But the U.S. president and other top officials have wavered in their commitment to undoing the agreement.

During the phone call, Netanyahu also thanked Trump for the “warm hospitality” during his visit to Washington last month and for condemning anti-Semitism during a joint address to Congress, according to the statement.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment by JTA.

Last Tuesday, Trump noted recent bomb threats on Jewish institutions and vandalism of cemeteries in his first address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.

Nearly 100 Jewish institutions have been targeted with bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The Kansas shooting occurred when a patron who was ejected from a bar after hurling racial epithets at two workers from India allegedly returned with a gun, killing one of the men and wounding the other.

Trump has come under fire for his delayed responses to the threats against Jewish institutions, deflecting questions about it before finally issuing a denunciation. The White House did not address the Kansas shooting until Tuesday, six days after the attack.