Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Police Investigate Defacing of Temple’s Bathroom


Police are investigating what an Anti-Defamation League official called a “hate incident” after anti-gay graffiti was found scrawled on the door of a Beverly Hills synagogue’s all-genders bathroom last month.

The profanity-laden message, discovered after an Oct. 15 bat mitzvah party at Temple Emanuel, contained slurs against liberals, gays and lesbians, as well as the synagogue’s rabbi.

“It was definitely a hate incident and, because it took place at a temple, it could be an anti-Semitic incident,” said ADL regional director Amanda Susskind, who is a Temple Emanuel member. “We’re still trying to sort that though.”

Eric Reiter, the temple’s executive director, said the synagogue’s video surveillance system captured a suspect on camera. Reiter declined to identify the suspect, an adult male who he said had a confrontation with a temple security guard that evening. The family holding the bat mitzvah party belongs to Temple Emanuel; the suspect does not.

Beverly Hills police are seeking to obtain the surveillance video, which could yield clues about the alleged crime, Sgt. Max Seubin said in a phone interview.

An Oct. 26 statement co-signed by Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Jonathan Aaron and President Barry Brucker described the suspect as a “non-member attendee [who] vandalized our all-gender bathroom and wrote angry, hateful words against the LGBTQ community, and threatening language directed toward temple clergy.”

“We condemn this act of hatred and do not tolerate hate crimes in our synagogue and beyond,” the statement said.

On Oct. 29, the synagogue held a town hall meeting to discuss what took place and to address any community members’ concerns. Brucker referenced the incident as he addressed congregants during Friday night services on Nov. 3.

The defaced bathroom is located in the synagogue’s sanctuary building, at 300 N. Clark Drive, next to men’s and women’s restrooms and adjacent to the synagogue’s reception hall. A sign next to the door says, “This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression.”

The bathroom was a single-stall family bathroom before Temple Emanuel’s Associate Rabbi Sarah Bassin enlisted the help of JQ International — a Jewish LGBT support organization — to transform it into an all-genders bathroom in 2015.

The vandalism occurred as many Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and non-denominational communities are introducing gender-neutral bathrooms. In the Los Angeles area, these include egalitarian community IKAR and Reform synagogues Stephen S. Wise Temple, Temple Adat Elohim and Kol Tikvah.

Rabbi Rachel Bat-Or, director of the JQ Helpline and Inclusion Services, said many Jewish day schools, synagogues and other institutions from the liberal Jewish movements have inquired about ways to fund the creation of gender-neutral bathrooms.

“It is a radical statement for a synagogue to make and one that is really welcomed by the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We know if we walk into that organization, even if we see only that sign, we know we have stepped into an LGBTQ-inclusive organization and we can assume there are other ways they welcome the LGBTQ community.”

“It was definitely a hate incident and it could be an anti-Semitic incident.” — Amanda Susskind

In separate interviews, Aaron and Bat-Or said they considered the vandalism at Temple Emanuel an affront to progressive Judaism.

“It is a hate crime against Jews but more specifically a crime against progressive Judaism and liberalism — two values I will stand by until I die — to be progressive and liberal and accepting of everybody,” Aaron said.

“I don’t think that it was particularly a Jewish crime — it was an LGBTQ crime,” Bat-Or said. “The fact that it was done in a Reform synagogue and the word, ‘liberalism,’ was used was hate speech against the rabbis and hate speech against liberal progressive Judaism.”

Scott Stone, who is gay and serves on the temple’s board, said he and his partner have two teenage children who spend a lot of time at the synagogue. Years ago, Stone chaired the synagogue’s capital campaign for a renovation of the building where the incident occurred.

“We think of the temple and its buildings as our spiritual home,” he said. “To have someone enter our temple and vandalize it with homophobic and anti-reform Jewish graffiti is as if they broke into our actual home and did the same.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL Steps Up Reporting on Anti-Semitic Incidents


After recording a “massive surge of anti-Semitic incidents” in the last two months of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has taken the unprecedented step of releasing a midyear audit — and found a 67 percent increase in physical assaults, vandalism and other attacks on Jewish people and institutions compared with the same period last year, according to its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt.

Released Nov. 2 and covering the first three quarters of 2017, it was ADL’s first midyear report on anti-Semitic incidents since it began releasing a yearly audit in 1979. The previous report, in April, noted a 34 percent increase in incidents in the United States in 2016.

“I didn’t want to be in a situation where we were waiting 12 months to understand the state of play,” Greenblatt told the Journal. “In order to educate and engage policymakers and political figures and the general public, we needed to take a snapshot right now.”

The new survey — available online at adl.org — found 1,299 incidents recorded by ADL so far in 2017, already exceeding the total of 1,266 incidents in all of 2016.

The report presented a particularly sobering picture for Californians. In the first nine months of 2017, anti-Semitic incidents in the state increased by nearly half, to 197 from 135. In Southern California, that included Nazi graffiti at a Hollywood coffee shop and white supremacist symbols spray-painted on a garage at ADL’s Century City office.

Hours before releasing its survey, ADL’s local staff participated in a “State of Hate” forum in Los Angeles convened by California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Jewish Democrat whose 50th District stretches from West Hollywood to Malibu.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide,” ADL senior investigative researcher Joanna Mendelson told the audience of law enforcement officers, community leaders and clergy at the Nov. 1 event. Mendelson said California leads the country in its racist skinhead population.

“While these groups are a small percentage of the overall population, they’re not insignificant and are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized,” Bloom said. “This is cause for concern.”

Greenblatt echoed Bloom’s concern during a phone call the next day. The Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rallies of Aug. 11-12 “veered into the national consciousness unlike any white supremacist gathering we have seen in recent memory,” he said.

The ADL audit noted an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents after the Charlottesville rally. Of the 306 incidents that occurred in the third quarter of 2017, 211 took place after Aug. 11, more than two-thirds.

Greenblatt said this increase could not definitely be linked to Charlottesville, but he said President Donald Trump’s failure to unambiguously condemn the rallies encouraged white supremacist elements.

“It’s undeniable that the president’s equivocation created an environment in which the extremists felt emboldened. How do I know this? I know this because they said so,” Greenblatt said, referring to ADL’s monitoring of extremist groups at gatherings and on the web.

The State of Hate forum, held in an auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, sought to give law enforcement and other community leaders knowledge and tactics to address this rise in hate. It took place the morning after a suspected terrorist mowed down pedestrians and bikers in a rented pickup truck in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide.” – Joanna Mendelson

The attack made the forum “particularly relevant and timely,” said Dan Schnur, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region, who moderated the event.

“Unfortunately, in 21st-century America, there’s never a bad time to have a discussion like this, and yesterday’s atrocities were just the latest reminders of the challenges we face,” he said.

Besides Mendelson, the other speakers were Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission; political science and Chicana/Chicano studies professor Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University (LMU); and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Coit, who heads the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit in L.A.

Speaking last, Guerra gave Angelenos reason to be hopeful. Citing an LMU survey of 1,203 city residents in January, he said Angelenos tend to view race relations positively, with 77 percent saying that racial and ethnic groups in the city get along. Guerra said the nationwide number is 48 percent, drawing on a similar Pew Research Center poll.

Las Vegas Metro Police and medical workers stage in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1. Photo by Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Jewish groups in aftermath of Las Vegas attack call for tougher gun control laws


Jewish groups responded to the mass shooting in Las Vegas by condemning the violence and calling for gun control legislation.

At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 wounded in the attack at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Strip late Sunday night. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Reform movement were among the groups that called for tougher gun control laws in the attack’s aftermath.

“While we are still learning details and do not know the impetus for the killings, one thing is clear: the threat of mass violence against innocent civilians in America has not abated. This threat must be taken seriously,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. He called for the enactment of “tough, effective gun violence prevention measures.”

Greenblatt said its Center on Extremism is investigating the background and activity of shooter Stephen Paddock and whether he may have ties to extremists or was motivated by any extremist ideology.

B’nai B’rith International said it is “well past time for meaningful, bipartisan gun violence legislation in this country.” It also said: “Though information about the shooter and his arsenal is still being uncovered, we have long held there is no acceptable, reasonable need for civilians to have access to large rounds of ammunition.”

“B’nai B’rith stands in solidarity with the Las Vegas community and with all those impacted by gun violence around the nation,” the statement also said.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman in a statement called for Congress to act to “stem the tide of this senseless violence before yesterday’s tragedy becomes just another record to be broken.”

“Federal lawmakers must act now to restrict access to automatic weapons, reject the current bill before Congress that would make it easier to buy silencers, and instead focus on how to make our communities and our country safer. NCJW expects nothing less from our elected officials,” the statement also said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said the mass shooting cannot be termed a random act of violence.

“Even before all the facts are known we know this: rather than revere gun rights our country must finally revere human life,” he said.

“We mourn those callously slaughtered in Las Vegas and pray for the wounded. But our prayers must be followed by action, long overdue limits to the easy access to fire arms.”

The Jewish Federations of North America in its statement called on people wherever they are to donate blood.

“These attacks are just the latest instances of senseless violence that terrorizes innocent people everywhere and must come to an end,” the group said.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, also called the attack “senseless.”

“On behalf of world Jewry, I condemn this horrific criminal act,” he said in a statement.

David Bernstein, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that while authorities have not determined whether the shooting was an act of terror, “there is no question that it has terrorized and traumatized hundreds of innocent people.”

Cheryl Fishbein, the JCPA’s chair, added: “It is imperative that we come together to address the underlying causes in the days ahead.”

There are over 70,000 Jews and at least 19 synagogues in Las Vegas, according to the JewishVegas.com website.

Sharon Nazarian assumes the role of senior vice president of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, a new position. Photo by Byron Purvis/AdMedia

Sharon Nazarian: The Jewish Iranian leading ADL’s global mission


Sharon Nazarian was 10 when her family left Iran for the United States, fleeing a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. Growing up in Iran, she’d experienced anti-Semitism firsthand as a Jew in a country where Jews were second-class citizens.

As she assumes the post of senior vice president of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — a new position in the organization — her job now is to fight for those experiencing anti-Semitism and racial hatred around the world.

By her own account, she’ll have plenty to do. In a conversation with the Journal on Sept. 6, her first day on the job, Nazarian said the forces of hatred are on the march around the world.

“It’s really a global phenomenon,” she said, “and the ADL has to look at it holistically and see where we can be most helpful to those who need us.”

After Nazarian’s family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1978, her father, Younes, built a fortune as an investor and made a name as a champion of pro-Israel causes. Sharon, now the president of the family’s charitable foundation, took up her father’s devotion to Israel, but went into academia rather than business, earning a doctorate in political science from USC. Later, at UCLA, she taught courses in political science and helped establish and lead the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies.

Nazarian serves on a number of charitable boards, including HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the UCLA Foundation. She also holds public policy posts with a focus on the Middle East; for instance, as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

During her interview, which has been edited for clarity and length here, she declined to provide a detailed view of her strategy at the ADL, because she said she had yet to learn the ins and outs of her new role, but spoke about her priorities and her views about the global environment in which the ADL  works.

Jewish Journal: What global trends are you keeping an eye on as you start your new role?

Sharon Nazarian: Europe has always been an important focus, but today probably more than ever. We’ve seen the shift not only in terms of anti-Semitism in Europe, but with population changes, with refugees, with changing sentiment toward refugees and immigrants. There’s much that ADL can help with, for the Jewish community and the broader community. We can partner with the Jewish communities in those countries to see how our mutual interests can be served.

We’ve seen changes in Venezuela and Argentina. There’s concern there for the Jewish communities that we’re keeping a close eye on. The International Affairs Division has been doing a great job, but at the same time, we have to continue to be very vigilant there.

JJ: We seem to hear almost daily about incidents of violent anti-Semitism in Europe. Is Jewish life there a lost cause or can ADL act to reverse that trend?

SN: ADL is doing a tremendous job of working with Jewish communities of Europe and seeing how we can be of support to them. We feel strongly that they know what’s best, they know what they need. Working in collaboration and partnership with the Jewish communities that are living their lives every day with great difficulty has been our [modus operandi] and we will continue.

The trends are very worrisome, but I think in a way it’s not unique to Europe, and it’s not unique to anti-Semitism. It’s part of social trends that we’re seeing and political trends we’re seeing toward minorities, toward multiple groups. You can see it in Russia. You can see it in Turkey. It’s really a global phenomenon. And the ADL has to look at it holistically, and see where we can be most helpful to those who need us.

JJ: Do you include America in that global trend of rising hatred?

SN: Charlottesville was definitely a wake-up call for all of us. I think ADL was already at the forefront of that, and it was probably no surprise to most of the professionals here at ADL.

I was glued to the television like the rest of us with horror and shock and dismay. I definitely don’t think we can sit back passively and think this is a blip. The vigilance that ADL brings to these global trends is exactly why I joined it.

JJ: The ADL has been vocal in its criticism of President Donald Trump. What do you say to those who feel it has become a partisan group?

SN: ADL’s hundred-year history speaks for the fact that it has always been nonpartisan and it has always spoken for groups who need protection. I won’t say more than that since it’s still Day One, but I think ADL’s actions speak for themselves. And those kind of criticisms, I would reject them.

JJ: How do you think your upbringing as a Jew in Iran affects your outlook at ADL?

SN: ADL’s mission is to protect minorities, and having been a minority in a Muslim majority country, hopefully that will inform me and the shape I give to our international affairs. I’ve spent a lot of time since then immersed in the Muslim world and the Arab world in my travels, in fact-finding missions. I traveled to Afghanistan, to Kabul, as a guest of the Department of Defense, and spending time there, looking at how our forces were helping train Afghani police, and the cultural barriers that existed. The fact that I could speak to the Afghani troops in Farsi — it was very fascinating.

JJ: Part of ADL’s mission is to support Israel, but it recently put out a statement criticizing the Israeli government’s rejection of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. When is it appropriate for ADL to criticize Israel?

SN: Israel obviously has a very special place in ADL’s heart and mind and our activities, and we protect Israel’s image around the world. When it comes down to specific policies, we will speak to ADL’s mission and priority and we’ll take it on a case-by-case basis. It is never our intention to distance ourselves from Israel. Our intention is to be a consistent voice for the mission of ADL, and that will take us where it takes us.

JJ: On the subject of Israel, where do you fall on the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Can you be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic?

SN: For example, when the UC Regents passed the Statement of Principles Against Intolerance for the first time, I think, it nationally introduced the concept of some forms of anti-Zionist speech being anti-Semitic. That was a very important moment for us. I was thrilled as a leader of the Jewish community of Los Angeles that the UC took the stance that they took.

Often anti-Zionist speech and behavior is a cover for anti-Semitism. I am a political scientist and I do believe that we have to be nuanced about these matters to make sure that we don’t curtail free speech, that we don’t curtail criticism of policy.

There is a possibility of being very critical of Israeli policy without being an anti-Israeli. But to be a pure anti-Zionist — no, on that I would say it is a cover for anti-Semitism.

JJ: During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. Is the Iran deal on your radar as you start your new job?

SN: Iran is very much on our radar, whether the deal itself is or is not. What I’ll be more interested in is how Iran is treating its own minorities and its own vulnerable groups. I’ll be watching very closely as a former minority in Iran and now as a senior person at ADL who really cares about how vulnerable groups are treated everywhere in the world.

Nathan Damigo, founder of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa speaking to media in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 14. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

White supremacist group launches campus recruitment effort, says ADL


A group that took part in the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is embarking on a yearlong recruitment campaign on college campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Identity Evropa, a group founded last year that seeks to promote “white American culture,” is engaging in a campaign called “Project Siege,” which involves posting fliers and posters on campuses promoting its goals. The ADL, which  tracked a rise last school year in white supremacist activity on college campuses, has documented 12 campuses where the group has advertised in the new school year.

Identity Evropa led chants of  “You will not replace us” at the Charlottesville rally last month, which some rally-goers then paired with “Jews will not replace us.” Fear of “replacement” by immigrants is a major theme of European nativist movements. Identity Evropa supports a policy of “remigration” of immigrants out of the United States, and does not allow Jews as members.

In August, its members disrupted a pro-immigration forum at Miami-Dade College. During the 2016-2017 school year, the ADL reported 65 incidents of Identity Evropa materials on American college campuses.

“Identity Evropa is actively targeting campuses and their actions are extremely disruptive and unsettling to students,” said ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt. “The message is explicitly racist and anti-Semitic. They know they’re going to get a reaction when they show up on campus. Fortunately their message is near-universally rejected by students and faculty.

Sharon Nazarian

Sharon Nazarian tapped to lead international affairs for ADL


Sharon Nazarian, the founder of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, will lead the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) fight against anti-Semitism abroad as the head of its International Affairs Division.

The ADL announced Sept. 6 that it had hired Nazarian as its senior vice president for international affairs.

“Sharon’s depth and breadth of experience in academia, philanthropy, policy and international affairs makes her the perfect fit to lead ADL’s international efforts,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in an emailed statement. “She brings a level of expertise and perspective that is extraordinary.”

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Nazarian holds a doctorate in political science from USC. She is the daughter of Younes Nazarian, who built the family’s fortune as an early investor in the telecommunications company Qualcomm and is president of the family’s charitable foundation.

The appointment comes as ADL has reported an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States but simultaneously has seen a fundraising surge.

“Today, it’s clear that ADL is needed more than ever — both in the United States and abroad — to stand up against hate and bigotry, and to lead efforts that strengthen collaboration and inclusion worldwide,” Nazarian said in the emailed statement. “I’m thrilled to join ADL and help build on the great work that has been accomplished so far.”

Gene Block, chancellor of UCLA, where Nazarian holds an appointment as an adjunct professor of political science, also lauded the ADL’s choice, saying, “She is a smart, energetic and compassionate person, and I am very pleased that she will now be sharing her talents with ADL.”

Working from the ADL’s Century City office, Nazarian will oversee a staff spread across Washington, D.C., New York and Israel

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 5. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Jewish groups attack Trump’s DACA decision as immoral


An array of Jewish groups and lawmakers attacked as immoral President Donald Trump’s move to end an Obama-era program granting protections to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

The Trump administration said Sept. 5 that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. President Barack Obama had launched DACA in 2011 after multiple attempts failed in Congress to pass an immigration bill that would settle the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants. The program protected those who arrived as children from deportation and granted them limited legal status.

In statements, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the principal objection to Obama’s so-called Dreamers program was that it was unconstitutional because it was established by an executive order, and indicated that Trump was ready to sign any congressional legislation that would accommodate the “Dreamers.” It was unclear what would happen in the meantime or, should Congress not pass legislation, what would happen to the 800,000 people who have sought and received DACA’s protections.

Trump, in a statement, said his hand was forced by attorneys general from conservative states who plan to sue to kill DACA.

“The attorney general of the United States, the attorneys general of many states and virtually all other top legal experts have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court,” he said.

Republican leaders in Congress have expressed a willingness to pass the legislation necessary to protect the affected immigrants, but Jewish groups and lawmakers said ending the program presented immoral perils, given the failures of Congress in the past to agree on comprehensive immigration reform.

“DACA recognized these individuals for who they are: Americans in everything but paperwork,” Melanie Nezer, the vice president for public affairs of HIAS, a major Jewish immigrant advocacy group. “Their hopes and dreams are no different from kids who are born here, and there is no legitimate reason for inflicting this needless suffering on them and their families.”

The Reform movement called the action “morally misguided” and demanded that Congress act to redress the rescission.

“It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center. “We call on Congress to protect DACA recipients from deportation by immediately passing a clean bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 — and on the president to support it.”

Richard Foltin, the American Jewish Committee’s director of government affairs, called the decision “devastating,” and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it was one of “a long list of actions and policies by this administration that have deeply hurt immigrants and their families.” The ADL noted the pardoning last month of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who had been convicted of discriminatory practices against Latinos, and the threat to withdraw funding from cities offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Other Jewish organizations condemning the decision included Bend the Arc, J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Shalom Center and the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. Bend the Arc listed rallies across the country it would join to oppose the decision.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy, said it “strongly opposed” the decision and called on Congress to act to protect the “Dreamers.”

“The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in the struggles of new immigrants and in development of our nation’s immigration policy,” it said. “We believe that Congress must enact a permanent solution and we call on lawmakers to act immediately to protect immigrant youth by passing the ‘Dream Act of 2017,’ bipartisan legislation that would replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection.”

Jewish Democrats also slammed the decision.

“Terminating #DACA now puts 800,000 talented young #DREAMers who love, contribute to, and live in America officially at risk of deportation,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Engel’s counterpart on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the decision was “clearly written with little thought of the human consequences.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the decision “cruel and arbitrary.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, in a long and anguished statement, said he supported Trump’s decision but added that he would work to pass legislation to protect the undocumented immigrants.

“I am very much willing to work with any of my colleagues on either side of the aisle on this issue and others to find common ground however possible,” he said. “Working together productively and substantively, I am hugely confident that long overdue progress can absolutely be achieved at least in part to move the needle more in the right direction.”

Dreamers and their supporters on the night of Sept. 4 held a candlelight vigil outside the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the daughter and son-in-law of the president. The couple, who both serve as advisers to the president, reportedly advocated for continuing DACA.

From left: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind, film director Judd Apatow and comedians Natasha Leggero, Wayne Federman and Neal Brennan appeared Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in support of the ADL. Apatow organized the event, titled “Judd Apatow and Friends.” Photo by Tyler Ross

Moving & Shaking: ‘Judd Apatow and Friends’ support the ADL, Honeymoon Israel receives grant and more


Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow organized an evening of comedy called “Judd Apatow and Friends” in support of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in Beverly Grove.

Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) was joined by comedians Natasha Leggero (“Chelsea Lately”), Wayne Federman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Neal Brennan (“Chappelle’s Show”) and Jerrod Carmichael (“The Carmichael Show”).

Apatow said he was inspired to organize the performance in response to the Aug. 11-12 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., that included anti-Semitic chants, acts of intimidation against local Jews, neo-Nazi demonstrations and the death of woman who was a counterprotester.

Apatow, who is Jewish, publicized the event on Twitter, where he has been active in criticizing the administration of President Donald Trump.

During the event, Apatow “touched on several ADL areas of concern, including anti-Semitism, women’s rights, racism and immigration reform,” the ADL said in a statement.

ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind also spoke at the event and discussed “ADL’s role in monitoring and exposing extremist and hate groups, and protecting civil rights in America,” the ADL said.

The sold-out event raised $8,700 in support of the ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in the United States.

In addition, in a current online campaign, Apatow has pledged to match contributions of up to $10,000 to the ADL’s national office.


Whitney Kirk and Lindsey Arnold were participants on the September 2016 Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles trip. Photo courtesy of Honeymoon Israel

 

Honeymoon Israel, a national Jewish organization that subsidizes newly married couples with at least one Jewish partner to take part in group trips to Israel, recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Some of the grant money will help pay for Honeymoon Israel’s overall operations, while part will go toward the $600,000 invested in its local branch, said Michael D. Wise, co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel.

The 2-year-old organization works to help new couples build connections to local Jewish communities and encourages them to experience a deeper sense of Judaism by visiting Israel with other local couples.

“Seeing, touching and feeling Israel together as a newly married interfaith couple was a profound experience,” Diana and Karen Lovati, a couple from Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Whitney Kirk and her wife, Lindsey Arnold, of Playa del Rey, took Honeymoon Israel’s third trip, which left from Los Angeles in September 2016.

“Honeymoon Israel allowed my wife and me the opportunity to visit and experience the wonders of Israel as a couple, without the fear of being judged as a married, interfaith, lesbian couple,” Kirk said. “Before Honeymoon Israel, we were looking for a local Jewish community, and a year later, not only do we still stay in touch and spend time with the couples and staff we met on the trip, but our community continues to grow through couple-hosted events.”

In a statement, Barry Finestone, president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said the future looks bright for Honeymoon Israel, which continues to grow and expand to more cities.

“The foundation is excited,” Finestone said, “to engage even more couples from a range of backgrounds in this powerful experience.”

— Julie Bien, Contributing Writer


The Valley Jewish Community Center boys 16-and-under soccer team won the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. Photo courtesy of Lori Larcara

 

The Valley Jewish Community Center’s boys soccer team for players age 16 and under took the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games in Albany, N.Y., which were held Aug. 6-11.

The team dedicated its victory to the memory of Dr. David Fett, whose son played on the team eight years ago. Fett, an ophthalmologist who also was a supporter of the Valley JCC, died a few days before the tournament began.

Lori Larcara, mother of Jake Larcara, one of the Valley JCC players, said the team was proud to be playing in Fett’s honor.

“They never lost sight of their goal and the task at hand,” she said. “More importantly, they never forgot that this tournament was for them and Dr. Fett.”

The other team members were Amit Bitton, Ori Bitton, Tal Bitton, Yoav Cohen, Evan Davila, Edan Klier, Mikey Levy, David Luner, Dor Moskowitz, Benjamin Newman and Harel Spivak. The team was coached by Oren Diamant.

Larcara credited the support that all of the Valley JCC’s soccer teams have received from Shay Diamant, Philip Benditson and Kobi Koren, who has been coaching local JCC Maccabi teams for 25 years.

“These gentlemen volunteer their time, compassion and commitment and bring in donations of approximately $20,000 to help cover costs and offer financial aid,” Larcara said in an email.

The JCC Maccabi Games, held each summer in North America, also had competitions in Birmingham, Ala., from July 30 to Aug. 4, and Miami, from Aug. 6-11.


Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker, were among several people from Los Angeles who made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. Photo courtesy of Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum

 

Several people from Los Angeles made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) organization.

Founded in 2001, NBN works with numerous agencies — including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund-USA — to facilitate emigration from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the organization surpassed bringing its 50,000th oleh (immigrant) to Israel.

Los Angeles-area residents who made aliyah in August included Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker; Carey Fried, Sara Chana Morrow, Rivka Grob, Yehuda Frischman and Robin Silver-Zwiren.

Nisenbaum, 66, a retired special education teacher, said the recent death of his mother, Faye Franks Nisenbaum Gelb, led him to decide it was the right time to fulfill a longtime dream of immigrating to Israel.

“We have been to Israel many times, over decades,” he said in an email. “I have been waiting to make aliyah for decades.”


Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios and an advisory board member of Creative Community for Peace Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios, has joined the advisory board of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the organization announced on Aug. 21.

CCFP is composed of prominent members of the entertainment industry who promote the arts as a means to achieve peace, support artistic freedom and counter the cultural boycott of Israel. In August, the organization supported British rock band Radiohead’s decision to perform in Israel, despite the protests of some musicians, including former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who called on Radiohead to cancel its performance.

Adelstein’s career spans 25 years as an agent, manager and feature film and television producer. Other entertainment industry professionals involved in CCFP include Adam Berkowitz, co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency; Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group; and Rick Krim, West Coast president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

“[Their] success and wide-ranging relationships will help us in our mission to promote the arts as a means to peace, defend artistic freedom, and counter the attempted cultural boycott of Israel,” CCFP said in a statement.

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

Screenshot from YouTube

Hateful rhetoric unleashed against Santa Monica community group


A Santa Monica community group focused on addressing racial inequality has been targeted in recent months by increasing numbers of individuals espousing racist and anti-Semetic rhetoric.

The issues began in July, when a workshop titled “White Privilege and What We Can Do About It,” organized by the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice, at the Virginia Avenue Park community center was interrupted by five people. Video shows those five — three of whom kept their faces covered with bandanas — making hate-filled comments during the meeting.

A month later, there were about 50 such people, committee organizers said. Video footage compiled by local blogger Clay Claiborne, who attended the event, shows the outsiders arguing with and taunting meeting-goers outside of the community center. Later, they are shown trying to force their way into the meeting and being blocked, first by the attendees and then by police.

“It was scary,” said Claiborne, who said the attendees had to leave the community center through the back door at the end of the event because they felt threatened. “When have I ever left a meeting in Santa Monica and worried about, ‘Is somebody going to tail me?’ or ‘Is somebody going to assault me on the way to the car?’ In Santa Monica!”

The committee’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 10. It will focus on raising racially conscious children.

The Committee for Racial Justice formed six years ago. The Rev. Janet McKeithen, a member of the steering committee, said the group was created by members of the Church in Ocean Park, an interfaith congregation in Santa Monica. Since then, it’s expanded to include community members from outside the church who come from a variety of backgrounds and faiths, she said.

Today, the committee holds monthly workshops at the Virginia Avenue Park community center. Workshops, which typically draw about 50 people, focus on educating the community about racism and devising ways to address it in the education and criminal justice systems, she said.

The city of Santa Monica allows the committee to use the community center free of charge but does not provide any funding. Workshops are open to the public, McKeithen said.

McKeithen said she was shocked when she heard about the recent hate-related incident at the July meeting, which she did not attend. She said the committee has been holding workshops peacefully since it formed and had not faced similar incidents. McKeithen did go to the August meeting, where she said individuals were hurling racist and anti-Jewish slurs and pushing into people to try to aggravate them.

In a recording of a meeting, one person, whose face is covered with a bandana, holds up a sign saying, “DA GOYIM KNO,” which, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is a phrase used among white supremacists imagining the supposed reaction of Jews when non-Jewish people realize Jews rule the world.

“They were very, very anti-Semitic and very, very racist,” McKeithen said. “They’re trying to provoke, they’re trying to incite, and they all have a video camera connected to their arm. … They edit the videos to make us look like we’re completely crazy.”

According to reports by the Santa Monica Mirror, those attending the meeting included people working for the Red Elephants, which operates an online news site and bills itself as “an organization of like-minded conservatives that have come together to spread awareness and truth.”

According to Joanna Mendelson, senior investigative researcher with the ADL, Red Elephants co-founder Vincent James is a known alt-right sympathizer who has interviewed and given a platform to white nationalists such as Jason Kessler, organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. James offered commentary regarding a Committee for Racial Justice meeting in a video of the events posted on the Red Elephants’ website. In the commentary, James echoes remarks by individuals at the meeting that Jewish people are not really white and claims the committee workshops are organized by “a bunch of rich Jewish people from Brentwood.”

 

Members of another group called the Beach Goys tried to enter the meeting in August, according to the Santa Monica Mirror. Mendelson said this group, and others who attended the meeting, all are loosely affiliated and espouse the same rhetoric.

They “paint themselves as victims of an anti-white narrative of which they place blame of perpetuating these beliefs on Jews,” she said.

Responding to an email inquiry to the Red Elephants from the Journal, a person identified as Vincent Foxx tried to distance the group from the protesters shown in the videos.

“We are media. Like Rebel Media or Infowars. We have reporters across country that report on different things. We have broken many stories. We have nothing to do with protesters that show up,” he wrote. “ We film and cover wherever there is controversial occurrences. … We are not objective journalists by any means. We are considered advocacy journalists.” 

A group on Twitter called the SoCal Beach Goys, which describes itself on the social media platform as “SoCal’s largest and most active alt-right, WN [white nationalist] fraternity,” did not respond immediately to a request for information.

McKeithen said the steering committee has spoken with the Santa Monica police department and city officials to prepare for the group’s upcoming meeting, and brought in experts to provide “nonviolent de-escalation” trainings. McKeithen said many meeting attendees have been deeply affected by the recent incidents.

“It’s traumatizing for many people,” she said. ‘Its hard to see that kind of hate. …When it’s right there in your face and you try to stop it and it doesn’t stop, it’s really difficult.”

Robbie Jones, who also is on the steering committee, said she wants city officials to do more to stand up against racism and assure community members they are safe.

“It’s a threat. It’s like terrorism,” she said. “They’re coming and trying to tear the city apart.” n

Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) in Venice Beach. Photo from Wikipedia

ADL gives Jewish organizations security tips for High Holy Days


Anti-Defamation League (ADL) officials say they are not aware of any specific threats targeting Los Angeles Jewish communities in advance of the High Holy Days. Nevertheless, they are helping synagogues and Jewish institutions create safe, secure and welcoming environments so that congregants can pray with peace of mind.

The ADL regional office in Century City, as it does every year, held a security briefing on Aug. 22 at which ADL and FBI experts discussed how to respond to bomb threats and make risk assessments. The briefing, attended by representatives of about 50 local Jewish organizations, was closed to the press.

One person who attended the briefing, Lisabeth Lobenthal, executive director at University Synagogue, a Reform community in Brentwood, said in a phone interview that her community faces security issues not only on each of the High Holy Days, which draw 1,000 people, but throughout the year.

In June, Lobenthal said, she called the police when her synagogue received a threatening email. At the time, bomb threats had been called into the Westside Jewish Community Center and other Jewish centers in Southern California, so University Synagogue was not taking any chances.

“We knew it wasn’t real, but given the specific language, which was pretty horrific, we took it seriously,” she told the Journal. Her response followed U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommendations, which were also outlined in materials the ADL made available to attendees of the security briefing.

“Bomb threats are serious until proven otherwise,” the ADL says in an advisory on its website.

The ADL said Jewish community centers and other organizations in 38 states and three Canadian provinces were threatened 167 times from January to March of this year.

The annual High Holy Days briefing draws representatives from synagogues, social service organizations and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which operates the Community Security Initiative outreach program.

The ADL said its speakers emphasize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to security, but they share steps that all organizations can take to be better prepared for anything that might happen.

Joanne Feldman, executive director of the Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) in Venice Beach, said the advice is especially critical for congregations like hers, which is also known as Shul on the Beach. PJC, a Modern Orthodox shul expecting about 100 people on each of the holidays, is located on the Venice Beach boardwalk. People of all backgrounds pass by it every day.

It’s like “having a synagogue in the middle of Times Square,” Feldman said, “with all that heavy traffic going by nonstop, with wonderful people and crazy people.”

She recalled an anti-hate demonstration on the boardwalk, organized on a Saturday after the recent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. The PJC community was attending Shabbat services and feared that something could happen at the shul.

“We secured the doors to the shul, locked the doors to the shul and the door to the women’s section until they passed by, just to be preventative,” Feldman said.

Elise Jarvis, the ADL’s associate director for law enforcement outreach and community security, said additional vigilance in this post-Charlottesville period would serve communities well during the High Holy Days.

“We want to take security into consideration in our everyday operations and be thinking about security 24/7 and have a culture of security all the time,” Jarvis said. “This year in particular, now after what we saw happening in Charlottesville and the fact that we see white supremacists feeling emboldened, all those security measures are all the more important.”

One practical step Jewish institutions can take is maintaining a close relationship with local law enforcement.

“It’s very important to know who to go to if we are targeted or threatened, so [law enforcement] can respond as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Jarvis said.

The ADL often helps connect Jewish organizations without law enforcement contacts to police officials. It also provides security resources on its website, including guides titled “Protecting Your Jewish Institution: Security Strategies for Today’s Dangerous World” and “Security Recommendations for the High Holidays.” The materials focus on how to create both a secure environment and a welcoming place for people to observe the holiest days of the year, two goals that are not necessarily in conflict, Jarvis said.

“A secure environment — a safe environment — is a welcoming environment,” she said.  n

Jay-Z at Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles, July 13, 2017. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

Jay-Z defends lyric called anti-Semitic: ‘Context is everything’


Jay-Z defended his decision to include a lyric in a song on his latest album that has been called anti-Semitic, saying he exaggerated images of black people in the same song.

The rapper was discussing his song “The Story of O.J,” which appears on his “4:44” album, during an interview with the Rap Radar podcast last week.

The song lyric says: “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This is how they did it.”

Following the release of the album, the Anti-Defamation League expressed concern about the lyric, but emphasized it did not believe Jay-Z intended to promote anti-Semitism. The ADL said that “we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism.”

In his podcast interview with hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian “B. Dot” Miller, the rapper said of the accusations: “It’s hard for me to take that serious because I’ve exaggerated every black image in the world.” He added, referencing the song’s music video, “If even you, as the Jewish community, if you don’t have a problem with the exaggerations of the guy eating watermelon and all the things that was happening, if you don’t have a problem with that, and that’s the only line you pick out, then you are being a hypocrite.

“Of course I know Jewish people don’t own all the property in America. I mean, I own things! So I know that they don’t own all of the property in America. It was an exaggeration.”

He added that “context is everything,” explaining further, “I pretty much said, ‘If you want to be good at property and things like that, follow this pattern.’ It’s almost like saying, ‘Kobe Bryant shot a lot of shots. If you want to be good at basketball, practice your thousand shots and do what he did.’ And then Kobe Bryant comes out and says, ‘Whatchu trying to say, all black people play basketball?’ That’s how ridiculous it is. … C’mon, you know I didn’t say that. Context is everything.”

The ADL said in its statement released last month, “The idea that Jews ‘own all the property’ in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish ‘control’ of the banks and finance.”

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us


Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Gabriella Karin holds up a visual aid while fellow Holocaust survivor Robert Geminder speaks at the Last Bookstore on Aug. 19. Photo by Eitan Arom

Survivors speak at The Last Bookstore, despite online harassment


Despite online harassment by an alt-right provocateur, two Holocaust survivors told their stories of triumph over evil, as planned, to a standing-room-only crowd at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 19.

The appearance by Robert Geminder and Gabriella Karin came 11 days after a person who writes under the name “Johnny Benitez” posted a Facebook link for the event with the tagline: “Who wants to bet money this is another white guilt push. Lesson 1: white people are bad and it’s good they’re an ever increasing minority.”

After the event’s organizer, Jennifer Brack, told Benitez he was not welcome, Benitez — whose real name is Juan Cadavid, according to a report by the OC Weekly — posted a video encouraging his followers to attend the event.

At the advice of the Anti-Defamation League, Brack hired a pair of armed guards and proceeded with the event, the third in a series called “Lessons of the Past,” survivor speaker engagements organized by Brack with the help of the American Society for Yad Vashem.

The audience of about 300 people, who sat on folding chairs and the floor, was attentive, respectful and engaged. And after Geminder and Karin spoke, a long line formed with well-wishers who praised their eloquence and courage.

“People more than ever these days want to hear survivors,” Karin told the Journal before she spoke. “They want reassurance that people will go out and speak in spite of the threats.”

Karin, 86, and Geminder, 82, are a couple. They began dating in 2015 after both had lost their spouses to illness years before. They briefly wondered how they should proceed with the speaking event after they learned about the harassment, but they never gave a second thought to pulling out.

“I’m not afraid,” Karin said. “Maybe because of what we went through, nothing makes me afraid.”

Even so, she and Geminder were perturbed with the harassment, which came a week after white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Va. — one of the largest such demonstrations in a decade, according to the ADL.

“When we see a Nazi flag like we saw over the weekend in Charlottesville, it just tears us apart,” Geminder said.

Both survivors tell their stories around the world, and neither has experienced any kind of harassment, online or otherwise, before the posts from Benitez.

At the event, as they have done hundreds of times before, the two carefully told the stories of their experiences and shared the lessons they have drawn from them.

Geminder was born in Wroclaw, Poland, in 1935. He saw as many as 14,000 Jews massacred at the cemetery in Stanislawow but managed to survive, he said, by pure luck. He and his brother, mother and stepfather were in Warsaw when the Warsaw Uprising was quelled. The Nazis put them in a cattle car on a train headed to the Auschwitz concentration camp, but the family was able to escape through an opening in the roof of the car within a hundred yards of the camp.

Karin was born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, in 1930, and spent the Holocaust in hiding, successfully sheltered by her mother’s underground contacts and the help of a righteous gentile named Karol Blanar.

Neither survivor mentioned Benitez’s harassment at the bookstore event.

“I don’t want to make anyone else aware of the negatives,” Geminder said. “I want to focus on the positives.”

Meanwhile, as Geminder and Karin were speaking, Benitez was at a Laguna Beach event he organized called “America First! Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees,” according to his posts on Facebook.

Benitez, whose recent web exploits included posting a manipulated photo that made it appear the Jewish mayor of Laguna Beach was wearing a Nazi uniform, has long been on the radar of Joanna Mendelson, senior investigative researcher at the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

Benitez does not have a history of violence, but some groups who show up to his rallies, including skinheads and antigovernment extremists, do, she said.

In the video Benitez posted about the survivors’ event, a framed photograph of various guns is visible in the background as he talks about how the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center is involved in a Jewish conspiracy to use the Holocaust to antagonize white people.

“Why is it so concurrent that the anti-white narrative and the anti-Trump narrative is so closely tied to these events that push the Holocaust and white privilege and white guilt?” he says in the video, which he streamed live simultaneously on Facebook and the social media site Periscope.

Mendelson, who has followed Benitez’s rising profile within the alt-right, said he has a “fixation with Jews” that borders on Holocaust denial. After he posted the video, in which he holds up an iPad with Brack’s Facebook profile on it, the ADL encouraged her to take basic precautions such as contacting law enforcement.

“Although no direct threats of violence were made against the organizer, we still wanted to make sure that law enforcement were in the loop and to help safeguard this gathering,” Mendelson said. “It is a sad state of affairs when individuals who have been traumatized by the Holocaust are in some ways revictimized by anti-Semitic and hateful racist thought leaders.”

Contacted via Facebook Messenger, Benitez told the Journal he wanted his followers to “observe and report the narrative” from the bookstore event. He said he first learned about the event through a Facebook ad.

Asked if he denied the Holocaust or questioned its magnitude, Benitez was evasive.

“I don’t address the holocaust. I view any attempt to lure people into discussions about it to be Red Herrings,” he wrote, not acknowledging the fact that he brought the Holocaust history event to the attention of his nearly 2,000 Facebook friends and followers.

At The Last Bookstore, during the question-and-answer period, audience members wanted to know how Geminder and Karin felt about the recent events in Charlottesville, where swastikas were abundant and men yelling “Sieg Heil” marched in front of a synagogue.

“It was a nightmare for us,” Geminder said. “I can imagine how every one of you must have felt. Imagine a hundredfold how survivors felt during this. When we came to America, we never expected to see that again. Never, never, never.”

Even with the recent news events, both Geminder, a retired electrical engineer and part-time math teacher, and Karin, an artist and former fashion designer, said they are avowed optimists.

Karin recounted for the audience the moment after World War II when she decided she would move on from the trauma of the Holocaust to have a full and active life. She was standing on the platform of a train station in her native Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia, as emaciated Jewish refugees streamed into the city.

“I decided to myself, ‘Hitler did not get my body; he will not get my soul. I will smile. I will be happy,’ ” she told the audience. “And I am.”

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share

ADL reports 1000% surge in online donations after Charlottesville rally


The Anti-Defamation League received 10 times as much money as usual from online donations in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The group, which combats anti-Semitism and bigotry, reported a 1000 percent increase in online donations during the week beginning Aug. 13, one day after the Charlottesville rally. The ADL said it received six times as many individual donations as during an average week this year, mostly from first-time donors, though it did not provide a total amount of money raised.

In the aftermath of the rally, the ADL has seen its profile skyrocket. It received $1 million donations from Apple and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, and announced a partnership with Bumble, a dating app, to block bigoted profiles. JP Morgan Chase also announced this week that it would donate $500,000 to the group. JP Morgan and Apple also pledged to match donations to the ADL and other nonprofits from employees.

On Friday, the ADL announced a partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to combat hate and bigotry.

Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Bumble

Bumble dating app joins forces with ADL to ‘ban all forms of hate’


The popular dating app Bumble will work with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Technology and Society for “guidance on identifying all hate symbols.”

The app, which as of February had over 12 million users, announced the partnership Thursday on its website. In a statement, the company called on users to report others who displayed “hate symbols” in their profiles.

Bumble will use the ADL’s “research and terminology” to identify and categorize hate symbols.

Its statement also said the company was harassed last week by messages and phone calls from a group of neo-Nazis angry about Bumble’s “stance towards promoting women’s empowerment.”

Tinder co-founder Tiffany Wolfe started Bumble in December 2014. On Bumble, after a heterosexual match is made between users, only the female user can initiate a conversation.

Also Thursday, the dating app OkCupid said it banned a user who was identified as a “white supremacist.”

James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, speaking at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 19. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic

Daily Kickoff: James Murdoch pledges $1M to ADL | J.K. Rowling on Trump: ‘He actually did bring Mideast together’ | Meet the Miami Marlins’ new owners


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THE TRUMP EFFECT: “James Murdoch Pledges $1 Million to Anti-Defamation League as Trump Protest” by Maggie Haberman: “James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va… In an email on Thursday… Mr. Murdoch said that he and his wife, Kathryn, plan to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, urging others to follow suit. “We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too. Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already — now is a great time to give more,” he wrote.” [NYTimes

“It is all the more notable, however, because of Murdoch’s father’s relationship with the president. Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, speaks with the president several times a week… 21st Century Fox is also the parent company of Fox News, which has been aggressively pro-Trump on its most-watched shows. The younger Murdoch begins his letter by saying he was writing “in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father,” but he went on to highlight how his business had tried to contribute to a diverse and tolerant society.” [CNNMoney]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner face pressure to speak out on anti-Semitism” by David Smith: “The couple are practising Modern Orthodox Jews and have been able to separate expressions of their faith from their White House roles as advisers to the president. So far. “That’s the question swirling around the Jewish community since November 9,” said Rabbi Shira Stutman of the Sixth & I Historic synagogue in Washington. “It’s also the Jewish school they go to, it’s also the Jewish preschool they go to. The community has taken the tack of letting them be. Who knows if this is what will set people over the edge?”

“Since moving from New York, Ivanka and Jared have attended the TheSHUL of the Nation’s Capital… Rabbi Levi Shemtov gave a speech before Ivanka and Jared first arrived, urging congregants to avoid political confrontations, and there have been no incidents… Shemtov himself declined to comment on Thursday. “Once someone steps over the threshold of our synagogue, I’d prefer to respect their privacy,” he said. Arnold Resnicoff, a rabbi and military veteran due to give a prayer at the opening of the pro-forma session of the House of Representatives on Friday, said he thought confrontations at the TheSHUL of the Nation’s Capital were unlikely… “I think they would respect Jared and Ivanka and not put the sins of the father on them.” [TheGuardian]

“Billionaire Ally of Putin Socialized With Kushner, Ivanka Trump” by Stephanie Baker, Irina Reznik and  Katya Kazakina: “In 2014, the Kushners spent four days in Russia at the invitation of [Roman] Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. The couples sat at the same table along with a few other people during a high-powered fundraising dinner for Moscow’s Jewish Museum. Kushner also was invested in an online art business of which Zhukova is a founding partner. Ivanka Trump, Kushner and his brother, Joshua, have accompanied Zhukova to sporting events in the New York area… Kushner and Abramovich have never met one-on-one or alone with their wives, according to the person familiar with the situation… The dinner they attended with the Kushners attracted powerful Russian billionaires and leading businessmen. A spokesman for Abramovich said the billionaire hasn’t interacted with Kushner since then… This month, Abramovich and Zhukova announced they’re separating after 10 years.” [Bloomberg]

“PLO: ‘It’s now or never’ for Trump’s Mideast peace push” by Josh Rogin: “Jared Kushner’s trip to the Middle East next week will be a do-or-die moment in the Trump administration’s nascent Middle East peace process initiative, according to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s representative in Washington… “It’s now or never,” [Husam] Zomlot said. “This is the time and this is the opportunity … we are hanging on this opportunity … we want it to succeed.” … Ahead of the meetings, the PLO is laying out a public position for what it wants: specifically, that the Trump administration clearly and unequivocally endorse the two-state solution. He communicated that directly to [Jason] Greenblatt in a meeting at the White House earlier this week… Congress is moving forward with [the Taylor Force Act]… But that funding program is “nonnegotiable,” said Zomlot. “We are not going to get past it.””

“The White House is keeping expectations low ahead of Kushner’s trip… Kushner and his team are not likely to make any big announcements next week or give the Palestinians the clarity they are seeking on the way forward… On the greater question of whether a peace deal is even possible under the current conditions, Zomlot said all eyes are on Trump. “[Trump] thinks it is possible,” he said. “Even if it’s not, it’s good he thinks so.””[WashPost]

SCENE YESTERDAY: A senior Israeli security delegation led by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with the U.S. National Security team led by NSA H. R. McMaster at the White House. Other participants included Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, Dina Powell, Victoria Coates, Thomas Bossert, and Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer [Pic] McMaster and his wife Katie also hosted the U.S. and Israeli delegations at their home for dinner [Pic]

“J.K. Rowling Just Pointed Out One Surprising Result of Trump’s Remarks” by Raisa Bruner: “On Thursday, the Harry Potter author and prolific Twitter user shared a screen grab of a TV channel broadcast in which the chyron is nothing short of surprising: “Iran and Israel condemn Trump’s comments,” it reads. “Unbelievable. He actually did bring the Middle East together,” Rowling dryly commented on the image in her tweet… For the two nations to agree on something — in this case, Trump’s comments on the violent events in Charlottesville — is noteworthy.” [TIME]

DRIVING THE CONVO: “Republican Sen. Bob Corker: Trump has not shown ‘competence’ needed to lead ” by Michael Collins: “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful — and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat,” the Tennessee Republican said at a Rotary Club meeting in Chattanooga. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he fears the nation will be in peril unless Trump makes radical changes at the White House… Corker, who often advises Trump on foreign policy, has at times been both supportive and critical of Trump.” [USAToday]

— Read Aaron Magid’s profile of Corker from earlier this week — Inside Senator Bob Corker’s Realist Doctrine: “Jared Kushner… told Jewish Insider in an emailed statement, “Senator Corker is a leading voice on some of the most serious issues facing our country and provides valuable guidance, advice and input both when he agrees and disagrees with us.”” [JewishInsider]

HEARD THIS MORNING — Rep Lee Zeldin on CNN’s New Day: “Speaking for myself for sure — I’m Jewish — I have zero tolerance whatsoever for any individual who associates themselves with KKK and Nazism… The President made statements that you can say are raw, rough around the edges, politically incorrect… There are parts of what the president said that you can say are factually inaccurate. There are other parts that are hard truths. But as far as the factually inaccurate piece, I don’t know of anyone who would be there, who would associate themselves with that particular protest, who are good people.”

Trump’s relationship with the RJC becomes more complicated — by Matthew Nussbaum: “Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, would not say whether members plan any further steps to warn the president… Brooks also would not disclose any conversations with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who sits on the RJC’s board but has not personally weighed in. Still, some Republican strategists are nervous about turning off a group that regularly votes, raises money and donates to candidates. “Getting this right is life and death for the Republican Party,” said Rick Tyler, a Trump critic and former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, who aggressively courted Republican Jews in his own 2016 presidential bid. “The Republican Jewish community provides a lot of support for the Republican Party, particularly financial support.”

“Fred Zeidman, a member of the RJC board of directors and a former George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, praised his group’s leadership for taking a stand… “We know the issues that evolve from remaining silent, and we can’t remain silent,” he told Politico on Thursday. “We know what happens when we remain silent.”” [Politico

— “World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, who has been one of Trump’s most prominent defenders, declined to comment through a spokesman.” [AP]

A Lauder spokesman tells us… “Mr. Lauder believes that President Trump should and will continue to condemn all racist and bigoted groups.”

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “Steve Bannon Detonates His Trump Survival Plan, Worrying Allies” by Adrian Carrasquillo: “Bannon, an ally said, was very angry that Cohn was telling the press about how uncomfortable he was with Trump’s Tuesday comments. “Bannon felt it was the opposite, he thought it was great,” the source relayed… Bannon’s lack of powerful allies was evident after a public feud with Jared Kushner in the spring. The former Breitbart mogul… told people behind Kushner’s back that “hopefully Jared will go down in things pertaining to Russia,” or real estate holdings… Were Bannon to go, with Kushner, Cohn, and McMaster ascendant, the first Bannon ally put it more simply. “Would we even be a movement anymore?”” [BuzzFeed

POLLING: “American voters say 59 – 32 percent that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump should not continue to work in the White House. Republicans say 62 – 26 percent the First Family should remain, but every other group says no.” [Quinnipiac]

An Open Letter to Steve Mnuchin From Members of the Yale College Class of 1985: “We can be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and a number of other things and still be friends, classmates, and patriots, but we cannot be Nazis and white supremacists… We call upon you, as our friend, our classmate, and as a fellow American, to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy.” [Letter]

EXODUS DAY 3: “Trump Abandons Plan for Council on Infrastructure” by Mark Niquette: “President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure… Trump had tapped New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, whom he described as friends, to lead the infrastructure panel, which he established by an executive order on July 19. But he had not announced any formal appointments to it.” [Bloomberg] • Members of White House presidential arts commission resign to protest Trump’s comments [WashPost]

“Three fundraising giants cancel plans for galas at Mar-a-Lago” by Drew Harwell and David Fahrenthold: “The American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises money for Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, also said it would not hold its 2018 gala at the club ‘after considerable deliberation,’ though it did not give a reason. The charity had one of Mar-a-Lago’s biggest events last season, with about 600 people in attendance.” [WashPostAP]

“Ernst & Young Chairman on Advising Trump: A Balancing Act” by Michael Rapoport: “In an internal memo sent to EY employees late Wednesday, Chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger said that “as much as I believe in engagement and dialogue,” it was “appropriate” for him and other CEOs to disband the Strategic and Policy Forum on which they had served… He added that “I was also disappointed by President Trump’s reaction to these events. I believe leaders should unite rather than divide people.”” [WSJ]

THE OTHER SIDE: “The Left’s Blind Spot: Anti-Semitism” by Phoebe Maltz Bovy: “And yet, despite this preponderance of evidence, there was a certain silence surrounding anti-Semitism over the weekend. “In addition to the horror of watching those hateful humans march in broad daylight without fearing any consequences,” Lily Herman wrote at Refinery29, “I found it disturbing that many people, including liberals and progressives, didn’t acknowledge the hateful anti-Semitic comments made by these Nazis. In some cases, they tried to argue that they didn’t happen.” She pointed out that Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted about the “provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism” without mentioning anti-Semitism. “This strange in-between of calling out Nazis without directly acknowledging their hate towards Jews made me heave a very, very long sigh.”” [NewRepublic

“Trump Isn’t The Only One Lying About What Happened In Charlottesville” by Ben Shapiro: “The lack of honesty on both sides will only deepen our polarization. If the Left insists on siding with Antifa over Trump, they’ll drive more conservatives into the arms of the alt-right; if the right insists on siding with the alt-right over the non-Antifa counter-protesters, they’ll drive more Leftists into the arms of Antifa.” [Forward

STATE-SIDE: “The only Republican in California’s Jewish Caucus quits over Trump criticism” by Eitan Arom: “The only Republican in the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has resigned after it released a statement strongly condemning President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. State Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County said in an Aug. 17 statement that the group “has clearly become a vehicle for a Legislative Caucus that receives state resources to merely criticize our duly elected President.” … Stone said, “When I was invited to join the Jewish Caucus, I was expressly told that it was a nonpartisan Caucus, and the issues we were going to be involved with would focus on promoting the interests of the Jewish people in California and around the world. Since the election of President Trump, it seems that there has been a divergence from the Caucus’ original mission.”” [JewishJournal

** A sponsored message from the Schusterman Foundation, OneTable and Repair the World: Come #TogetherAtTheTable this weekend for a celebration of unity and diversity in the face of fear and division. Pledge to host or attend a grassroots Shabbat dinner in your city now. Download discussion guides. Share with your networks. More than 60 partner organizations have joined and are spreading the #TogetherAtTheTable movement. [OneTable] **

COMING SOON: United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) will host its second annual Iran Summit, on September 19 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. The event will coincide with President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches on the opening day of the UN General Assembly. Speakers include General (Ret) David Petraeus, David Petraeus, HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, Joe Lieberman, John Bolton, Dennis Ross, former Governors Jeb Bush and Bill Richardson; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Congressman Steve Israel, and former Senator Mark Kirk.

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEF: IDT Corporation: Revisiting The Sum-Of-The-Parts Ahead Of The Upcoming Spin-Off [SeekingAlpha] • As Buy Calls Mount, Tel Aviv-based Wix Poised to Leave Dog Days Behind [Bloomberg] • A defense company put a machine gun on a drone and is currently in testing with the Israeli army [TechCrunch] • Houston Mayor Turner pushing for direct flights to Israel [Chron]

“The Wall Street bigwigs joining Jeter in buying the Marlins” by Richard Johnson: “Lead investor Bruce Sherman co-founded money management firm Private Capital Management, which he sold to Legg Mason for $1.3 billion. The list includes Doug Kimmelman and Peter Labbat of Energy Capital Partners, Viking Global co-founder David Ott… Others are more entrepreneurial. Chris Mettler is the founder of CompareCards, which rates credit cards, and Ari Ackerman founded Bunk1, a provider of parent-engagement software for summer camps. Ackerman sold Bunk1 to Togetherwork, which is backed by Aquiline Capital Partners LLC, in April for undisclosed terms. The price was high enough to make Ackerman a part-owner in the Marlins.” [PageSix

“Silicon Valley billionaire Stewart Butterfield voices support for universal basic income” by Ben Chapman: “Now Slack chief executive Stewart Butterfield has thrown his weight behind the basic income movement, joining such illustrious company as Bill Gates, Tesla boss Elon Musk, and Y Combinator president Sam Altman… He went on to suggest that the billions spent on university education around the world each year would be put to better use if given directly to individuals as an unconditional payment.” [Independent

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Following months of criticism, Eva Moskowitz distances herself from Trump” by Eliza Shapiro: “Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz distanced herself from President Donald Trump on Thursday, following ten months of relentless criticism from staff, board members and colleagues… “In retrospect, I should have been more outspoken so that no one would possibly think that either Success Academy or I was tacitly supporting President Trump’s policies, which are contrary to the values of respect, caring, and concern that are central to our mission,” Moskowitz wrote in Thursday’s letter… “I am deeply distressed both by the hateful violence in Charlottesville and by President Trump’s refusal to clearly denounce it,” she said.” [Politico]

FIRST DAY: Aryeh Lightstone formally started his job yesterday as a senior advisor to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Friedman tweeted: “First day of work for my Senior Advisor Aryeh Lightstone. First Meeting, the legendary Natan Sharansky – What a Start!” [Pic]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: As usual, the Barcelona terror attack was widely and quickly denounced by everyone in the Israeli political system. But the Prime Minister appeared to be putting in an extra effort to be part of the story. An hour after the attack occurred, Netanyahu arrived at the Foreign Ministry for a special video conference and consultation with the Israeli ambassador in Spain and his diplomatic team. Barcelona is a popular tourist destination and there are thousands of Israelis there this August weekend. This provides Israel with a special reason for concern, but there was also a PR cloud over Netanyahu’s unusual media blitz over the event. The Prime Minister’s Office issued numerous updates and statements and even a video of the PM’s special meeting. Given the criminal cloud surrounding him these days, Netanyahu is thirsty for any diplomatic security agenda he can get. It enables him to project “business as usual” in the wake of all of his legal affairs. Bibi’s diplomatic efforts emphasize his strong sense of statesmanship, which is unmatched by any of his political rivals. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner recovering from cancer” by Barry Svrluga: “Regardless of where the Washington Nationals sit in the standings… there has long been a night-to-night constant at Nationals Park: Mark Lerner, one of the club’s principal owners and the only son of family patriarch Ted, sitting in the first row, Nationals hat on his head, monitoring the action from the on-deck circle to the outfield seats… But over the past several months… Lerner’s front-row perch has sat empty, conspicuously vacant… Thursday night, in a letter to The Washington Post, Lerner revealed the reason for his absence: Lerner had cancer in his left leg, and though he is now cancer-free, complications following surgery and radiation treatment left doctors with little choice but to amputate the leg last week.” [WashPost]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Tzora Vineyards: Judean Hills Blanc 2016 — by Yitz Applbaum: There are only a few wineries in Israel that have managed to foster a consistent theme across all of their wines. For Tzora Vineyards the consistent theme that I have observed across all of their offerings is that the drinker notices the strong relationship between the grape in a given wine and the taste of that wine. The wine producers are true to the grape, all the while managing to bring a friendliness to the wine. The correlation the winemakers created between the grape and the flavor creates a unique fruit experience. Each bottle is memorable.

The 2016 Judean Hills Blanc is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. While the Chardonnay is dominant the Sauvignon Blanc is still noticeable. There is a dryness on the front of the palate which rings of apricots and seaweed. The mid palate experience is all Chardonnay with great melon overtones. The finish is where one notices the Sauvignon Blanc with a citrus bite and some acidity. This wine goes perfectly well with blue cheese and sharp aged cheddar. This wine will last for some time. As is the case with most Tzora Vineyard wines, they sell out quickly, so stock up on this wine. [TzoraVineyards

BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: President of Baltimore’s Seabark Insurance Agency, Jerome Seaman turns 84…  Former two-term mayor of San Diego (the first Jewish mayor of San Diego), now CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation in San Diego, Susan G. Golding turns 72… President at C O Benefit Connections, Raphael Schwartz turns 62… Labor law attorney representing employers, he is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, Stuart Douglas Tochner turns 58… CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, a DC-based think tank and advocacy group focused on issues of data privacy, he was previously a member of the New York State Assembly (1994-1997), Jules Polonetsky turns 52… Economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, previously chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, Jason Furman turns 47… Sarah Bronson turns 45… Partner in the DC-based law firm of Covington & Burling, he was previously general counsel and deputy staff director of the US House Armed Services Committee, Roger Zakheim turns 40… Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, he made aliyah in 2008, he is now a fellow at the The Jewish People Policy Institute, Noah Slepkov turns 36…

SATURDAY: 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton turns 71… One of the first venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, he was an early investor in Intel, Apple Computer, Scientific Data Systems and Teledyne, Arthur Rock turns 91… Member of the South Dakota House of Representatives (2001-2005) and then a member of the South Dakota Senate (2005-2007 and 2009-2013), Stanford “Stan” M. Adelstein turns 86… President of Ono Academic College in Israel, she was the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (2008-2010), Gabriela Shalev turns 76… Co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Marc J. Rowan turns 55… Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (2009-2013), he was a law clerk for Justices William J. Brennan Jr. and David H. Souter, now a Managing Director at the Carlyle Group, Julius Genachowski turns 55… Managing editor of The New York Times, prior to joining the Times in 1998, he was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News, Joseph Kahn turns 53… Partner and talent agent in the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, he is very active in the contemporary art world as a collector, Dan Aloni turns 53… Former member of Knesset (2003-2006), he is the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Omri Sharon turns 53… Actress and producer, best known for her starring role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT crime drama “The Closer,” Kyra Sedgwick turns 52… Borough President of Queens since 2014, she was previously a member of the New York State Assembly (1994-1999) and the New York City Council (2002-2009), Melinda R. Katz turns 52… Founder and CEO of The Friedlander Group, Ezra Friedlander turns 49… Businessman and investor, he and a partner successfully managed a hedge fund for his father Carl Icahn, Brett Icahn turns 38… Managing partner of Handmade Capital and founder of Liveset, a digital platform for streaming live concerts, Ross Hinkle turns 38… Private equity investor, Jewish communal leader Yehuda L. Neuberger… Program Associate at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Cassandra Federbusz… Jerry Epstein

SUNDAY: Secretary of Labor for the State of Kansas, she was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives (2001-2012), Lana Goodman Gordon turns 67… Senior director at NYC-based investment bank Maxim Group, he is also president of American Friends of Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim and a board member of ZOA, Jay Knopf turns 61… Member of Congress (D-IL-10) who first won his seat in 2012, lost it in 2014 and won the seat back in 2016, Brad Schneider turns 56… US Trade Representative (2013-2017) and other high ranking postings in Democratic administrations, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, a friend and classmate of President Obama at Harvard, Michael Froman turns 55… Moroccan-born billionaire, he is the founder and controlling shareholder of the Altice Group (one of the world’s largest telecoms firms including NY-based Cablevision), Patrick Drahi turns 54… British Ambassador to Israel (2010-2015), the first Jewish UK ambassador to be posted to Tel Aviv, he is now director of cyber security and information assurance in the British Cabinet Office, Matthew Gould turns 46… VP of communications at DC-based First Focus (a nonpartisan advocacy organization for children and families), he was previously at Project On Government Oversight, Ari Goldberg turns 44… Deputy director and one of the founders of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, a summer music festival that showcases Jerusalem, Karen Brunwasser turns 41… VP managing the Iowa office of Cornerstone Government Affairs and President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, David Ryan Adelman turns 36… Real estate agent, author and television personality as an original cast member on the show Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles on the Bravo television network, Joshua Daniel “Josh” Flagg turns 32… Phoebe Bryan

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, speaking at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 19. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic

Fox CEO James Murdoch rebukes Trump’s response to racism, pledges $1 million to ADL


James Murdoch, chief executive of the 21st Century Fox media corporation, pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League in an apparent rebuke of President Donald Trump’s statements on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In an email Thursday, the Fox scion gave a statement against the racist and neo-Nazi sentiment that swept through Virginia last weekend, The New York Times reported. It was also the most outspoken that a member of the Murdoch family has been in response to the week’s events.

“What we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people,” James Murdoch wrote.

“These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals.

On Saturday, a suspected white supremacist killed a counterprotester in Charlottesville, where hundreds of far-right activists had gathered for a march. Trump that day condemned violence on “many sides.” Amid calls for him to denounce neo-Nazis and other racists specifically, he spoke out against the “Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists” on Monday.

The following day, however, the president reiterated that he believed that the protesters and counterprotesters shared the blame for the violence, and said there were “very fine people” on both sides. Jewish and other human rights organizations, Republican lawmakers and top military brass issued statements saying racism and anti-Semitism need to be called out in more specific terms.

James Murdoch’s father, Rupert, is a conservative media mogul who has become an informal adviser to Trump, recently dining with the president at the White House, according to the Times. The younger Murdoch has been less outspoken about his political views than his father.

With a subject line reading, “Subject: Personal note from James Murdoch re: ADL,” Mr. Murdoch addressed the note to “friends.”

“The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob,” he wrote. “I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”

Murdoch said that he and his wife, Kathryn, plan to donate $1 million to the ADL, urging others to follow suit.

“We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too. Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already — now is a great time to give more,” he wrote.

Since early in the Trump campaign, the ADL has urged him to refrain from rhetoric and actions that seemed to encourage white supremacists and other members of the far right. The group also called on Trump to forcefully denounce them or disavow their support.

On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged that his company will donate $1 million each to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center in the wake of the rally in Charlottesville.

On Friday, the ADL and the U.S. Conference of Mayors will hold a news conference call to issue a bipartisan announcement in response to the events in Charlottesville. Mayors across the country have condemned the bigotry and violence seen there.

Critics on Twitter noted that the Fox News Channel has been a strong defender of the president and his policies.

“Can the Murdochs expiate their guilt for helping to enable Trump’s election with only $1 million? What’s democracy worth?” asked Rabbi Iris Richman, an activist in New York.

Bumble has over 12 million users. Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Bumble.

Bumble dating app joins forces with ADL to ‘ban all forms of hate’


The popular dating app Bumble will work with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Technology and Society for “guidance on identifying all hate symbols.”

The app, which as of February had over 12 million users, announced the partnership Thursday on its website. In a statement, the company called on users to report others who displayed “hate symbols” in their profiles.

Bumble will use the ADL’s “research and terminology” to identify and categorize hate symbols.

Its statement also said the company was harassed last week by messages and phone calls from a group of neo-Nazis angry about Bumble’s “stance towards promoting women’s empowerment.”

Tinder co-founder Tiffany Wolfe started Bumble in December 2014. On Bumble, after a heterosexual match is made between users, only the female user can initiate a conversation.

Also Thursday, the dating app OkCupid said it banned a user who was identified as a “white supremacist.”

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking at the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center, June 5, 2017. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will donate $1 million to the ADL


Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pledged that his company will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League and $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center in the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville.

Apple will also match employee donations to these and other groups two-for-one through September, according to a memo Cook wroteWednesday night obtained by Buzzfeed News.

Cook said he strongly disagrees with President Trump’s comparison between the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters and those who opposed their rally in Charlottesville.

“Hate is a cancer,” Cook wrote. “This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.”

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 14, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS.

Trump names KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis in condemnation


Two days after the death of a 32-year-old woman during a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., and amidst a furor over his delay in condemning the rally in specific terms, President Donald Trump condemned the “racist violence” and declared that “racism is evil.”

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and other hate groups who are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said Monday in a statement he delivered at the White House.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred and violence. It has no place in America,” Trump said. He also said the Department of Justice had opened up a civil rights investigation into the attack, and honored by name Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday after a car driven by a 20-year-old who has espoused neo-Nazi views plowed into counterprotesters.

Trump had been under pressure since Saturday to forcefully condemn the white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. His initial statement, condemning “hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides, on many sides” angered Democrats and Republicans alike for seeming to draw a moral  equivalence between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. In a subsequent tweet he had expressed condolences to “the family of the young woman killed today” but did not name Heyer.

Jewish leaders also noted the widespread expressions of anti-Semitism of the rally, which included demonstrators carrying signs reading “Jews are Satan’s children,” Nazi flags and chants of “Jews will not replace us.”

In a statement Saturday, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”

On Sunday the White House put out a statement, attributed to an unnamed  spokesperson, saying, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K., neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

That statement still failed to satisfy many critics who noted that some white supremacist groups who were encouraged that  Trump had not himself singled them out. On Monday, David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, called on Trump to “make clear that our nation does not countenance the warped views of bigots, as was on display in Charlottesville.” He also urged the president “to send a strong message to these extremist groups that their endorsement is not welcome.”

The Temple Mount, California edition: Anti-Semitic sermons test Muslim-Jewish bonds


Sermons infused with anti-Semitic language delivered by imams in two California mosques on the same day have reignited tensions in Jewish-Muslim relations after leaders of the two religious groups around the state have worked aggressively to ease lingering conflicts.

The July 21 remarks by Imam Mahmoud Harmoush of the Islamic Center of Riverside and Imam Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis drew strong condemnation from Muslim and Jewish leaders, fearful that such incendiary language could erode relations.

The effect was like picking at a scab on a slow-healing wound. Since the terror attacks of 9/11, American Jewish and Muslim groups have made a concerted effort to forge bonds of understanding and cooperation. Those have been nursed along despite the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention the enduring friction between Israelis and Palestinians. More recently, efforts to stigmatize Muslims generally have encouraged Jews and Muslims to push for closer relations.

The angry sermons from the pulpits in Davis and Riverside tested the strength of those developing bonds.

“It is critical to understand the mosque, a sanctuary for worship and spiritual growth, has no place for divisiveness or hate. Paranoia as a result of political unrest does not justify making these allegations against an entire religious group,” the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing understanding of Muslims, said in condemning the two sermons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the American Jewish Committee, among others, expressed outrage over the sermons, with the ADL calling them “anti-Semitic and dangerous.” The Zionist Organization of America called for Shahin’s firing, and the Wiesenthal Center has urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the Davis Muslim leader.

In an Aug. 1 statement, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said Harmoush’s sermon was “dangerous, offensive, and entirely inconsistent with the tolerant and respectful views routinely expressed by local Muslim leaders.” That same day, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Jewish Democrat who serves the San Fernando Valley, said Harmoush’s words were “nothing short of hate speech.”

Both sermons referred to last month’s conflict at the Temple Mount, where a shooting of two Druze Israeli police officers led the Israeli government to install metal detectors for entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is part of the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. After two weeks of internal and international outrage from Muslims, the metal detectors were removed.

In his sermon, Shahin said, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.”

Quoting a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that is distinct from the text of the Quran, he said, “Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last.”

Harmoush used similar language when he said in his sermon, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and occupiers. Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for you.” 

Further, he condemned “the occupying forces of the Israeli army [that] have intervened and indeed took over the holy place and shut it down.”

“These statements are anti-Semitic and dangerous,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said referring to the two sermons. “We reject attempts to cast the conflict in Jerusalem as a religious war between Jews and Muslims. At this time of heightened tension, it is more important than ever for the Jewish and Muslim communities to come together to condemn the use of stereotypes and conspiracy theories, and to rebuild trust so that people of all faiths can coexist with mutual respect in the Holy Land and around the world.”

Imam Ammar Shahin

 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC, called on Muslim leaders to denounce the two sermons as a more effective way to blunt anti-Semitic speech than criticism from the outside.

“Whatever changes need to take place, they cannot be forced from Christian leaders or Jewish leaders,” he said. “That change has to come from within and it has to be brought about by leaders within the Muslim community.”

If the language of the Riverside and Davis imams stood out as particularly inflammatory, the sentiments were not unique.

While his July 28 sermon at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City in English and Arabic did not explicitly promote violence, Sheikh Ahson Syed retained a distinct negative bias toward non-Muslims and repeatedly referred to Israeli soldiers, in English, as “Zionist terrorist soldiers.”

The sermon was recorded and posted to YouTube by the mosque, and the Journal commissioned a translation of the Arabic portion.

In Arabic, he said, “O God help our brothers in Palestine to get victory and get rid of the enemies who occupy their land. O God reinforce Islam and the Muslims, take down the shirk and the mushriks and kill enemies; enemies of Islam.”

In Islamic religious thought, a shirk is an idolator and mushrik refers to Christians and Jews, those who worship someone other than Allah.

Unlike leaders of some other religions, imams are appointed to lead prayers and are not required to have had formal seminary or theological training. Nor does Islam have any central authority that specifies what imams can say or not say in their sermons.

As a consequence, it is difficult to quantify how often fiery rhetoric is part of sermons delivered in mosques in California or elsewhere. Mahomed Akbar Khan, director of interfaith and outreach for King Fahad Mosque, said mosques entrust their imams and speakers to deliver sermons however they want.

“It’s generally free rein,” he said. “The questions we ask [when choosing speakers] is, ‘Is this person qualified and is this person respected in the community?’ If there are any inappropriate comments, we make it clear that it is not the stance of the mosque. But every mosque is different.”

Despite the language of the Riverside and Davis sermons and in mosques elsewhere, hate speeches in American mosques are “few and far between” and for the most part, haven’t been proven to lead to violence, said Kenneth Lasson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, who wrote a 2005 paper on hate speech and incitements in mosques.

“It’s rare a congregation would go out to commit violence after hearing a sermon,” he said, adding that while he would prefer civility in places of worship, hate speech is protected as free speech if no violence happens as a result of it.

“That connection must be proven,” Lasson said. “In the cases in California, there appears that there have been no consequences other than hard feelings.”

Nonetheless, Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround, an organization that works to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, said the sermons reveal deep-seated differences between the communities.

“I think it blows the lid off that this is real,” Hasan told the Journal. “There are feelings between these two communities and this is how it has manifested.”

One member of NewGround, Jewish activist Tuli Skaist, reached out to Shahin to challenge his use of “such hateful rhetoric,” as he said in an op-ed posted at jewishjournal.com.

“In these turbulent times, with so much hate in the world, it seems to me that faith leaders ought to be in the firefighting business,” Skaist wrote. “We must fight the inflammatory flames of hate with the sweet waters of love. We must fight intolerance in the world by urging our people to be more kind and more tolerant.”

In his response to Skaist, Shahin accused the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization that translates speeches in Arabic into English, bringing them to a wider audience, of taking his remarks out of context.

But he apologized for his sermon, writing, “Thank you for your comments and concerns, I will keep them in mind. As you know, when we speak with emotion, words might not be put in the right places or understood correctly.

“My apology to all your community for any harm that my misinterpreted words might have caused.”

In a subsequent press conference, Shahin appeared with Davis Mayor Robb Davis and Rabbi Seth Castleman, chairman of the Sacramento Area Council of Rabbis, and apologized, acknowledging that he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.

“I understand that speech like this can encourage others to do hateful and violent acts, for this I truly apologize,” Shahin said. “Words matter and have consequences.”

In his online op-ed for the Journal, Skaist wrote, “Let me be clear: The imam was wrong; his words were dangerous and inexcusable. Such words should not be tolerated by his community or any other. At the same time, here is a man that is not full of hate, but who simply got carried away with passion, used words that he shouldn’t have, and had them distributed to the world in a two-minute ‘got you’ sound bite.”

MEMRI denied that Shahin’s remarks were edited or mistranslated and called him “one of a group of extremist preachers who have been exposed by MEMRI to be delivering incitement to hatred and violence.” The organization said accusations of misrepresenting Shahin reflects an effort by the Islamic Center of Davis “to deflect responsibility from themselves by issuing all kinds of mendacious and libelous statements against the entity that exposed them.”

In addition to his position at the Davis mosque, Shahin is an instructor at the Zidni Islamic Institute in Brentwood. Egyptian-born, he graduated from the Institute for Preparation of Preachers with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies and earned an associate degree from Al-Forqan Institute, according to the Zidni Institute.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Center of Riverside (ICR) said it conducted an internal inquiry, reviewing Harmoush’s remarks and finding that his critics had misinterpreted his words.

Imam Harmoush was careful to focus his remarks on the actions of the Israeli government in and around Jerusalem,” the center said in a statement. “In fact, those parts of the sermon which have been cited as objectionable were routinely mistranslated and/or taken out of context. Nonetheless, Imam Harmoush unequivocally stated in the sermon that Islam does not call for aggression against any peaceful people.

“ICR believes that the Imam’s remarks were neither anti-Semitic nor discriminatory, but rather intended to address the unfortunate closure of the Mosque in Jerusalem to Muslim worshippers,” the statement said.

In a brief interview with the Journal, Harmoush did not disavow any part of his sermon but conceded that his words might have an unsettling effect on others.

“Oh, I learned that sometimes you have to not only have a sixth sense, but maybe a seventh sense,” he said. “Some people are very sensitive but maybe they cannot handle the truth or information, and unfortunately, we are living in a very sensitive society. Sensitive in a way we have to be careful, so we don’t need to hurt anybody’s feelings. Sometimes I talk to adults, children, male or female, and we have to be careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Imam Mahmoud Harmoush

 

According to MEMRI, Harmoush was born in Syria and has been living in the United States since the 1980s.

According to the ICR statement, Harmoush regards himself as an interfaith leader, and on July 31, 10 days after delivering his sermon, he met with Rabbi Suzanne Singer of the Riverside congregation Temple Beth El to discuss the controversy over his sermon.

Having organized an interfaith event at her synagogue this spring in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States, Singer said she was eager to talk to Harmoush, despite her discomfort over his sermon. Ibrahim Massoud, chairman of the mosque, also participated in the meeting.

In an interview, Singer said the meeting confirmed what she had suspected after watching Harmoush’s sermon online, that she and Harmoush have strongly different ideas about the founding of the State of Israel and Jewish intentions in the Middle East. Although they did not agree on many things, she said, they agreed to meet again to try to bridge this divide.

“I said it may be a good idea for us to talk about our different narratives around Israel,” Singer said.

As to what the future holds, Singer said she would not allow the two sermons to stop her from building interfaith relationships with willing Muslim partners.

“Obviously, I’m quite distressed about this,” Singer said. “I don’t think it represents the Muslim community [in Riverside].”

Reuven Firestone, a professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said the views expressed by Harmoush, Shahin and others are popular in the Muslim world, no matter how they are interpreted by others.

“These kinds of views have been encouraged by governments for decades in attempts to deflect criticism away from them,” Firestone said. “And there are plenty of harsh statements about Jews in Muslim religious sources that can be harvested when there is an interest in finding scapegoats.”

The challenge now for those who have worked hard to repair and improve relationships, said NewGround’s Hasan, is for religious leaders to hold one another accountable for hateful comments made by their communities but not to let them derail interfaith work.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to have those hard conversations and not sweep things under the rug,” she said.

Is Jay-Z’s new song anti-Semitic?


Is Jay-Z’s new song anti-Semitic? Does it perpetuate negative stereotypes about Jewish property ownership?

That’s what some are saying online after the June 30 release of Jay-Z’s new album, “4:44,” which features the song, “The Story of O.J.” The song contains the lyric, “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This is how they did it.”

“Wasn’t really expecting Jay-Z to go anti-Semitic when I started the new 4:44 album this morning,” a Twitter user said in response, as BuzzFeed reported.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), however, said the song is not anti-Semitic.

“We do not believe it was Jay-Z’s intent to promote anti-Semitism. On the contrary, we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism,” the ADL said in a statement. “The lyric does seem to play into deep-seated anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. The idea that Jews “own all the property” in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish “control” of the banks and finance.”

In 2006, Jay-Z appeared with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in a public service announcement denouncing anti-Semitism.

 

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), the self-described “national address for Black-Jewish relations,” sponsored the 2006 pubic service announcement. Simmons chairs FFEU, which also promotes Muslim-Jewish relations. 

In the wake of criticisms that the new track is anti-Semitic, Simmons defended Jay-Z.

“I am the Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and my job for the past 20 years or so is to point out the ‘sameness of different religions and races.’ First, let me state that mischief-makers would like to take Jay’s statements about the culture and practices that exist within some parts of the Jewish community (notice I say some),” Simmons tweeted July 4. “The fact is this culture that promotes good business and financial well being is and has been a guiding light to the black and specifically the hip-hop community.”

On Instagram, Israeli-American talent manager Guy Oseary said the lyric, if anything, compliments the Jewish community.

“Jewish people do NOT ‘own all the property in America.’ Jay knows this. But he’s attempting to use the Jewish people in an exaggerated way to showcase a community of people that are thought to have made wise business decisions…In my opinion, Jay is giving the Jewish community a compliment,” Oseary said.

Jay-Z has previously rapped about Jews in a controversial way. On his 2007 soundtrack album, “American Gangster,” Jay-Z raps, “Had to get some challah bread so you can holla back and holla that/My Jewish lawyer too enjoyed the fruit of letting my cash stack.”

Alon Day sitting next to his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ 4th Annual Mid-Ohio Challenge in Lexington on Aug. 12, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

NASCAR’s first Israeli driver is an unlikely success story


Israeli race car driver Alon Day’s rise to the highest ranks of NASCAR has been an unexpected one for a variety of reasons.

Here’s one of them: The 25-year-old has done the bulk of his training on computer-screen simulators. That’s because Israel didn’t have a motor sport race track until this year.

On Sunday, he will become the first Israeli to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — the sport’s highest league of competition — when he races the No. 23 car for the BK Racing team at the Sonoma Raceway in Southern California.

And here’s another anomaly: While NASCAR has made efforts to diversify its pool of athletes, the sport’s fans and drivers remain mostly white and Christian — at times to a controversial extent.

Day, by contrast, wears his Israeli and Jewish identities proudly. His car for Sunday’s race will sport a few Israeli flag stickers, and he’ll also have Stars of David on the left arm of his racing suit and on his belt. He has previously driven a car featuring an Anti-Defamation League sticker (even if the ADL was not an official sponsor of the vehicle).

It’s pretty remarkable, given that it is unknown if a Jewish driver has ever made it to the top tier of the racing circuit.

Day, speaking to JTA from a taxi following his flight to California on Thursday, is well aware of the unlikeliness of his story — one that involves Israeli go-karts, plenty of computer games and a Florida attorney eager to get a Jewish driver into the NASCAR mainstream.

“I’m going to make history for myself and for my country, Israel,” the Tel Aviv resident said.

Day grew up in Ashdod, where he learned about NASCAR from playing video games such as Grand Prix Legends. Motor sports have never been popular in Israel, in part because an old British Mandate law (dating to the days when the British ruled Palestine) that banned any cars that could be used for more than commuting was only recently scrapped.

In his early teens, Day became champion of the country’s only semi-professional motor sport league: go-karting. His father, realizing his son’s potential, sent him to compete in Europe. He began racing in Formula Three and was on a trajectory toward Formula One, among the top racing leagues in the world.

But a couple of years ago, Day decided to switch gears (pun intended). He shifted from driving the Formula One open cockpit style of car to stock cars, the ordinary cars that have been modified to be raced in NASCAR.

It was mostly a business decision — the world of motor racing is driven by sponsorships. Since Israel’s business ties with the U.S. are much stronger than those with Europe, Day recognized he had a greater likelihood of being sponsored to drive for NASCAR.

“It’s definitely much easier for me to get sponsorship here in the states than in Europe,” he said.

Based on his strong start in Europe and the U.S.  — he raced a full season in a sub-league of the Indy 500, the U.S. version of Formula One — Day was selected early last year to be a part of the 2016-17 NASCAR Next program, which highlights young, up-and-coming racers.

That happened to be right around the time that Phil Robertson, the controversial member of the “Duck Dynasty” clan, delivered an eyebrow-raising speech before a NASCAR race in Forth Worth, Texas.

“All right Texas, we got here via Bibles and guns, I’m fixin’ to pray to the one who made that possible,” Robertson said. “I pray Father that we put a Jesus-man in the White House.”

Robertson’s pre-race prayer didn’t sit well with David Levin, a Jewish lawyer from Florida and longtime NASCAR fan. Levin had just waded into the world of NASCAR sponsoring, and the reality star’s rhetoric gave him extra motivation to do something he had long wished for: He would find and help promote a Jewish driver into NASCAR’s top circuit.

Day called it perfect timing.

“It’s just kind of karma,” he said.

Since then, Levin has raised significant sums of money to support Day — he’s even enlisted a former NFL player as a backer. Drivers need sponsors to cover the costs of fuel, a pit crew and its tools, as well as salaries for the driver and his or her manager. In return, sponsors get stickers of their brand logo on their drivers’ car. Over the course of a full season, one sticker can cost over $1 million.

“I don’t really know how he does it, he makes magic,” Day said. “And somehow I’m driving in the car.”

Depending on the results of the Sonoma race — and if Levin can continue to work his “magic” — Day said his goal is to race in the next Cup Series race at Watkins Glen in western New York in August.

Meanwhile, Day is gaining recognition in Israel, where he was named Athlete of the Year in 2016 by the Sports and Culture Ministry. He points to the newly opened race track in Arad and an article about him in Yediot Acharanot, one of Israel’s biggest newspapers, as signs that motor sports are on the rise in the Jewish state.

Day himself is contributing to car racing’s increased visibility in Israel. Alongside his fledgling celebrity, he opened a racing “gym” in Tel Aviv with an old go-karting buddy. The gym houses several driving simulators, which are basically higher-tech versions of arcade games. The building has turned into an all-ages school where Day teaches pupils about racing, as well as about difficult situations a driver encounters on normal roads.

When he’s not abroad racing, Day typically spends three to four hours a day practicing on the race track simulations.

“I’m 25 now, but I still use simulators like I’m 10 years old,” he said with a laugh.

Day says he celebrates Jewish holidays, recites the Kiddush blessing over the wine on Friday nights and is proud to talk about his service in the Israeli army. Although he is an anomaly in the white Christian world of NASCAR, he points out that many stock car racing fans — some of whom are evangelical Christians — are big supporters of Israel, which has helped make him feel comfortable in the United States.

“I think they like seeing someone without that Southern accent, does not have the American flag [on a car] … does not believes in Jesus,” he said. “I’ve gotten tons of media because I’m different.”

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, Va. Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Police Dept./Reuters

ADL urges hate crime probe in Virginia killing of Muslim girl


The Anti-Defamation League called on authorities to probe the slaying of a Muslim girl in suburban Virginia as a hate crime.

“We urge the Fairfax County Police Department to investigate the murder as a possible bias crime,” Doron Ezickson, the ADL’s Washington, D.C., director, said in a statement Monday. “ADL has communicated that to law enforcement and we have reached out to ADAMS to offer any assistance.”

ADAMS is the acronym for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, the mosque that Nabra Hassanen had worshipped at in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs in the pre-dawn hours Sunday before heading to a restaurant with friends for breakfast. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan.

A motorist confronted the friends and assaulted the victim as they were walking back to the mosque, according to reports. All but Hassanen fled to the mosque, where worshippers alerted authorities. Hassanen’s body was found later in a pond.

Police arrested Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, and he was charged with murder, but told the Washington Post they were not investigating the killing as a hate crime. They did not explain why.

The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education recognized Valley Torah Girls High School students Adina Ziv (third from left), Meital Shafgi (fourth from left) and Aviya Gaviel (fifth from left) on May 18. Photo courtesy of the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education

Moving and Shaking: HUC benefit gala, Schoenberg and IKAR come of age


The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) fourth annual benefit gala, held at the Skirball Cultural Center on May 16, honored Peachy Levy, Rhea Coskey, Rochelle Ginsburg and other women leaders of the Western region.

Levy sits on the board of overseers of the HUC-JIR Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Coskey became involved with HUC-JIR when her daughter, Laurie, entered rabbinical school, and she went on to mentor students and chair the school’s advisory board. Ginsburg is the chair of the HUC-JIR’s national school of education advisory council.

Sally Priesand, an HUC-JIR ordinee who in 1972 became the first woman rabbi to be ordained in America, was featured in the ceremonies.

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion honored (from left) Peachy Levy, Rhea Coskey and Rochelle Ginsburg at its fourth annual benefit gala. Photo by Edo Tsoar

The more than 430 attendees included Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills Rabbi Laura Geller; Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Ken Chasen; Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger; Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin and his husband, Temple Akiba Rabbi Zachary Shapiro; Stephen Wise Temple Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback; and Shana Penn, executive director of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

“It was our biggest turnout ever,” HUC-JIR Public Affairs Associate Joanne Tolkoff told the Journal.

Proceeds from the event benefit HUC-JIR students and faculty.

Founded in 1875, HUC-JIR is a Reform seminary focused on academic, spiritual and professional leadership development, with campuses in Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati and Jerusalem.


“From Generation to Generation,” a community celebration concert, was held May 25 at Sinai Temple on the occasion of Joseph Schoenberg becoming a bar mitzvah. Approximately 1,200 people attended.

His parents, Pamela and Randol Schoenberg, sponsored the event, which was held in memory of Joseph’s great-grandfathers, composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl.

Participants in the musical program included conductor Nick Strimple, associate professor of choral and sacred music at the USC Thornton School of Music and an expert on the works of composers persecuted by the Nazis. Strimple led the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale. Additional participants were Los Angeles Voices, the BodyTraffic dance company, and London-based pianist and organist Iain Farrington.

BodyTraffic, which included new addition Natalie Leibert, performed to liturgical works for chorus and organ by Schoenberg and Zeisl, and a newly commissioned work for chorus and organ by composer Samuel Adler.

Randol Schoenberg is an honorary director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. He is an attorney who has worked to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis during World War II, as was depicted in the film “Woman in Gold.”

Joseph, whose bar mitzvah was May 27, volunteered with Food Forward, which saves local produce that otherwise would go to waste, leading up to his bar mitzvah. He donated produce from his bar mitzvah weekend to hunger-relief agencies and, through the website reusablecenterpieces.org, had environmentally friendly centerpieces at his luncheon. 


celebration and fundraiser held in honor of the 13 years since the founding of the egalitarian spiritual community IKAR was held May 21 at Playa Studios in Culver City.

The “bat mitzvah” event raised about $370,000 and drew a crowd of more than 375 founders, members and supporters, including Richard and Ellen Sandler, Marvin and Sandy Schotland, and actress Lisa Edelstein.

The party had a 1980s theme, with music from that decade playing throughout the event. Attendees viewed a video retrospective on IKAR’s place in the community and were treated to a classic b’nai mitzvah-style candlelighting ceremony.

Attendees dressed in costumes that featured neon tights, blue eye shadow and other staples of ’80s fashion, with some guests invoking Ferris Bueller, Madonna and Michael Jackson. Mini Rubik’s Cubes, slap bracelets and centerpieces featuring jellybeans, malted milk balls, Reese’s Pieces and Good & Plenty candy adorned the tables. IKAR members Shelley and Steph Altman, who own Playa Studios, donated use of the venue, and Diana Kramer designed the interior theme, which featured full-size video game machines and other era-appropriate décor.

The Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, director of clergy organizing with PICO National Network, the largest grass-roots, faith-based organizing network in the United States, offered words of welcome. “History is past, present and future all at the same time. We are all one people,” he said.

“It took a lot for us to get this thing off the ground, none of it with any assurance of success,” IKAR founding Rabbi Sharon Brous said. “Thank you for casting your lot with us. This is about fighting for civil society.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer


The Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) West Region held community events on May 16 and 18 at the Westside Jewish Community Center.

On May 16, the CIJE Co-Ed Engineering Conference featured SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub as its keynote speaker. Addressing approximately 150 teenagers, Winetraub discussed how his organization is aiming to make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon. Additional speakers included Sari Katz, Western Region director for Rambam hospital in Israel. Katz announced a partnership between Rambam and CIJE that would provide a scholarship to students who develop an outstanding biomedical device in 2018.

Students from day schools in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Seattle and Dallas attended.

“Nobody knows precisely what jobs will be around when you all graduate from college within the next eight to 10 years,” CIJE President Jason Cury told the students. “Which is why it’s so important to develop the skills which will be required, and to be prepared for whatever challenges and opportunities that present themselves.”

From Tarbut V’Torah in Irvine, students Mika Ben-Ezer, Zeke Levi and Julian Wiese received the Award for Innovation for their “Sonic Jacket,” which serves the visually impaired. Harkham-GAON Academy in Los Angeles students Aliza Leichter, Oze Botach and Shani Kassell won the Award of Social Value for designing a car seat that detects when a child is alone in the vehicle. And the Award for Best Visual Display went to Mendy Sacks, Aryeh Rosenbaum and Daniel Jackson from YULA Boys High School for a digital portable piano teacher known as “Teachapii.”

CIJE Vice President Jane Willoughby gave the closing remarks.

The May 18 Girls Engineering Conference drew students from YULA Girls High School and Valley Torah Girls High School.

In the keynote address, engineer Yvette Edidin discussed how “the different fields of engineering need and would benefit from more women,” a CIJE press release said.

Valley Torah’s Adina Ziv, Meital Shafgi and Aviya Gaviel were awarded Project of the Year for their sensor that detects when automobile drivers are getting sleepy and alerts them using a vibrating device.


At the 2017 ADL Entertainment Industry dinner, “Big Bang Theory” co-creator and ADL honoree Bill Prady (second from left) joins (from left) award presenter Wil Wheaton, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind and event emcee Joshua Malina. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Bill Prady, co-creator and executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” at the 2017 ADL Entertainment Industry dinner on May 24 at the Beverly Hilton.

Actor Joshua Malina (“Scandal”) served as master of ceremonies and actor Wil Wheaton, a recurring guest star on “The Big Bang Theory,” presented the award to Prady.

“While preparing my remarks for this evening, I emailed Bill and asked him if it will be honest and accurate to tell you that Bill is an outspoken voice for the most vulnerable among us,” Wheaton said. “And Bill said, ‘There is no sentence that begins with, Bill has been vocal about — that is not true.’ ”

Prady, in his speech, talked about his childhood in Detroit.

“Anti-Semitism was a pretty abstract idea. I knew what it meant only from a distance,” he said. “I knew it from the punchline from a Woody Allen movie. Growing up in my Jewish Detroit suburb, I didn’t know anti-Semitism. And it’s not only that. For me, racism was something in social studies class. And hatred of immigrants? I never heard of such a thing. My world was filled with immigrants, so many that I thought that when you grow up, you have an accent. But I know all these things now. We hear it on the news, from our politicians, online.”

Prady explained why he is a supporter of the ADL, which was established in 1913 to combat hate and bigotry.

“After the election, I made a decision to change my personal focus from politics to the front line. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) was battling the attack on freedom, and Planned Parenthood was fighting for women reproducing rights, but who was fighting to dig out the weed of hate that had taken root in modern technology? It was the Anti-Defamation League,” Prady said. “So I called them up and I asked what I can do to help. And they said to do this, and I said, ‘It’s going to be a pretty boring night.’ So, I called the Barenaked Ladies.”

The Canadian band, which wrote and recorded “The Big Bang Theory” theme song, provided the evening’s entertainment.

Additional speakers included An Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and an ADL National Youth Leadership delegate.

— Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer


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

Juan M Thompson on a panel for BRIC TV in Brooklyn on Jun. 24, 2015. Screenshot from You Tube/BRIC TV

St. Louis man accused of 8 JCC bomb threats to plead guilty


A St. Louis man accused of making eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions will plead guilty to cyberstalking charges.

Juan Thompson, 32, originally denied the charges in New York City federal court in April. Prosecutors said in a letter filed on Tuesday with the court that Thompson will enter a guilty plea when he appears in court on June 12, Reuters reported.

The cyberstalking charges are for eight threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League, which federal prosecutors say were “copycat” crimes during a wave of nearly 150 bomb threats to Jewish institutions during the first three months of this year. Nearly three weeks later after Thompson’s arrest, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel for allegedly making the bulk of the threats.

Thompson, who previously worked as a journalist for The Intercept news website, had denied the charges, saying said that he had no anti-Semitic beliefs and that he was being framed as a black man. Prosecutors allege that the JCC bomb threats were part of a larger plot to take revenge on an ex-girlfriend.

He was arrested March 3 for the threats, which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Bail had been denied at the time of his arrest.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish community centers in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City.

Republican strategist Ana Navarro

Wine in hand, Ana Navarro’s freewheeling ADL speech


Republican strategist and political commentator Ana Navarro, sipping from a glass of wine, veered on and off script as she addressed the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on Monday night.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

Navarro, who is known for her fierce opposition to Donald Trump in her capacity as a political contributor on CNN, recounted the controversial moments of the 2016 presidential campaign, concluding that the Jewish community cannot rely on President Trump to stand up against bigotry and anti-Semitism. “Donald Trump has not made America great again,” she said, “Donald Trump has made American hate again. Today, we have a President who is either a bigot or has complacently allowed it because it served his political purposes. And it did – he won. But that was the wrong thing to do.”

In between those remarks, Navarro — either for the purpose of entertaining or under the influence of wine — took no prisoners while discussing the Trump Administration.

From her intro: “Did you guys hear how Barbra Streisand is blaming her weight gain on Trump? Stop laughing! I am too. It’s like I am pregnant with this baby, Rosemary’s baby. I do not know what to do about this. I cannot stop eating and drinking since this man got elected… By the way, are there any Trump supporters in the room? Go ahead, this is a room full of great tolerance. We can accept you. You might be in the wrong room, though. If there are any Trump supporters here, you’re welcome. Put your knives down. I will find something nice to say about him: He’s been good for Israel. Okay, I am done. I should also tell you… I am Ashkenazi Jewish — and Sephardic. And I am also the descendant of slaves, and Hispanic. So basically, Donald Trump has offended all of me, every single part of me. I ended up having an unbroken DNA thread with Amy Schumer, which means I am also a distant cousin of Chuck Schumer. Oy!”

Viewer discretion advised: “I know you all stand against defamation, but I am going to ask for a little bit dispensation today. Can I? Look, there is no way I can talk about the state of our government, about the state of politics today without attacking a couple of people. But if it’s warranted, accurate and true, it’s not defamation. It’s justice.”

The one good thing about Trump: “Like I said, I am going to say one good thing about Donald Trump today: I think he has been supportive of Israel’s right to exist. I am not sure he can find Israel on the map. I am not sure he doesn’t think it’s a deli in the Bronx. But nevertheless, he’s been supportive and for that one little thing, I am grateful… Other than liking matzah — in the same way he likes taco bowls — Donald Trump does understand that Israel has the right to exist, and that is – in my eyes – one of his few saving graces.”

On Jared’s Middle East portfolio: “I am not sure how much Jared understands [about the Middle East], but, you know, he’s got a lot on his plate. Keeping Ivanka happy can’t be easy. Getting his family out of financial straits can’t be easy either.”

On Steve Bannon: “What do you do with Steve Bannon? I don’t know what to tell you. Look — oy! They keep saying that Jared and Ivanka are Jewish, so, you know, Trump is good because his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. Well, go to them. I mean, surely you’ve got friends who know these people. Um. Hell, even I have friends who know these people. That’s why I am not deported yet – yet.”

FBI Director James Comey. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

Comey on Holocaust: ‘Good people helped murder millions’


FBI Director James Comey discussed those who participated in the Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual conference on Monday afternoon. “Although the slaughter of the Holocaust was led by sick and evil people, those sick and evil leaders were joined by and followed by people who loved their families, took soup to sick neighbors, who went to church, who gave to charity,” Comey told the ADL gathering. “Good people helped murder millions.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

The top law enforcement officer added that in order to better understand humanity’s perils, the FBI requires officers and analysts to tour Washington’s Holocaust Museum in addition to studying about Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement.

“I believe the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history. How could such a thing happen? How is that consistent in any way with the concept of a loving God?” Comey asked. “The answer for me is I don’t know.”

During the first several months of the administration, the issue of the Holocaust has consistently dogged Trump’s presidency. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad committed acts worse than Hitler while also referring to “Holocaust centers.” (Spicer later apologized). In a statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day, the White House declined to include Jews, a strange omission, but furthered when they refused to admit any mistake.

The FBI director also noted that on his desk he keeps a 1963 memo from Director J. Edgar Hoover to Attorney General Robert Kennedy asking permission to wiretap Martin Luther King Jr. due to “communist influences.” Comey asserted that this letter was critical to remembering the dangers of unchecked law enforcement powers.

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

ADL head urges creation of hate crime task force in testimony to Senate committee


The national director of the Anti-Defamation League urged the establishing of a federal task force to coordinate hate crimes responses across the executive branch in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jonathan Greenblatt set forth a series of policy recommendations during a Tuesday hearing on an increase in religious hate crimes, according to an ADL statement.

“All of us are deeply concerned about the ongoing harassment of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who are being targeted because of their religion,” Greenblatt told committee members. “The federal government has an essential leadership role to play in confronting hate crimes and in alleviating intolerance. And we need to make sure that we call out bigotry whenever it happens.”

Greenblatt recommended creating a task force that would help law enforcement agencies improve hate crimes data collection and training, enacting laws to combat hate crimes, exploring approaches to cyberhate and calling out bigotry.

On Monday, the American Jewish Committee praised members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for sending a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him “to undertake effective action to address the increasing number of religious hate crimes in the U.S.”

“Effectively combating hate crimes demands a concerted federal government response,” said Richard Foltin, the AJC’s director of national and legislative affairs. “It is imperative that federal authorities help state and local authorities in carrying out their responsibility to monitor and prosecute hate crimes, and bring cases under federal hate crimes laws, where necessary.”

Nearly 150 JCCs and other Jewish institutions have received bomb threats and three Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized this year. In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on April 20. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Jewish organizations welcome Trump Yom HaShoah remarks


Jewish organizations representing a variety of viewpoints on Tuesday praised President Donald Trump for his Holocaust Remembrance Day remarks.

“We welcome President Trump’s clear pledge today to confront anti-Semitism and we look forward to working with the president and his administration to put his pledge into action,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said in a statement, a departure from many recent ADL statements that have criticized the president for his failure to denounce the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in the United States.

“We deeply appreciate President Trump’s heartfelt remarks today commemorating the Holocaust and honoring the memory of the six million Jewish people mercilessly killed by the Nazi regime,” Orthodox Union (OU) President Mark Bane said in a statement.

“After several gross missteps related to Holocaust remembrance in the first 100 days of his administration, President Trump finally struck the right note in his speech at the Capitol today at a ceremony in honor of victims of the Shoah,” left-leaning pro-Israel group JStreet said in a statement.

JStreet added the president should fire Steve Bannon, chief strategist in the Trump administration and Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, in order to demonstrate his words are more than empty promises.

“If he wants his words to carry conviction, the president should fire both men immediately,” the JStreet statement said.

Appearing at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, Trump emphasized support for Israel, mourned the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and said he would not tolerate acts of anti-Semitism.

“The state of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people,” Trump said on Tuesday, hours after the conclusion of Yom HaShoah, which began Sunday evening, ended Monday evening and commemorates the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust between 1933-1945.

Trump’s words followed his omission of the word, “Jews,” from remarks in January commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yom HaShoah was established by the Israeli government. International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz and was established by the United Nations General Assembly.

Here are the president’s Yom HaShoah remarks in full:

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Friends, members of Congress, ambassadors, veterans, and, most especially, to the survivors here with us today, it’s an honor to join you on this very, very solemn occasion.  I am deeply moved to stand before those who survived history’s darkest hour.  Your cherished presence transforms this place into a sacred gathering.

Thank you, Tom Bernstein, Alan Holt, Sara Bloomfield, and everyone at the Holocaust Memorial Council and Museum for your vital work and tireless contributions.

We are privileged to be joined by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, friend of mine — he’s done a great job and said some wonderful words — Ron Dermer.  The State of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people.  The fervent dream that burned in the hearts of the oppressed is now filled with the breath of life, and the Star of David waves atop a great nation arisen from the desert.

To those in the audience who have served America in uniform, our country eternally thanks you.  We are proud and grateful to be joined today by veterans of the Second World War who liberated survivors from the camps.  Your sacrifice helped save freedom for the world — for the entire world.  (Applause.)

Sadly, this year marks the first Day of Remembrance since the passing of Elie Wiesel, a great person, a great man.  His absence leaves an empty space in our hearts, but his spirit fills this room.  It is the kind of gentle spirit of an angel who lived through hell, and whose courage still lights the path from darkness.  Though Elie’s story is well known by so many people, it’s always worth repeating.  He suffered the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust.  His mother and sister perished in Auschwitz.  He watched his father slowly dying before his own young eyes in Buchenwald.  He lived through an endless nightmare of murder and death, and he inscribed on our collective conscience the duty we have to remember that long, dark night so as never to again repeat it.

The survivors in this hall, through their testimony, fulfill the righteous duty to never forget, and engrave into the world’s memory the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.  You witnessed evil, and what you saw is beyond description, beyond any description.  Many of you lost your entire family, everything and everyone you loved, gone.  You saw mothers and children led to mass slaughter.  You saw the starvation and the torture.  You saw the organized attempt at the extermination of an entire people — and great people, I must add.  You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps.  And you persevered to tell your stories.  You tell of these living nightmares because, despite your great pain, you believe in Elie’s famous plea, that “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

That is why we are here today — to remember and to bear witness.  To make sure that humanity never, ever forgets.
The Nazis massacred 6 million Jews.  Two out of every three Jews in Europe were murdered in the genocide.  Millions more innocent people were imprisoned and executed by the Nazis without mercy, without even a sign of mercy.

Yet, even today, there are those who want to forget the past.  Worse still, there are even those filled with such hate, total hate, that they want to erase the Holocaust from history.  Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil.  And we’ll never be silent — we just won’t — we will never, ever be silent in the face of evil again.  (Applause.)

Denying the Holocaust is only one of many forms of dangerous anti-Semitism that continues all around the world.  We’ve seen anti-Semitism on university campuses, in the public square, and in threats against Jewish citizens.  Even worse, it’s been on display in the most sinister manner when terrorists attack Jewish communities, or when aggressors threaten Israel with total and complete destruction.

This is my pledge to you:  We will confront anti-Semitism (Applause.)  We will stamp out prejudice.  We will condemn hatred.  We will bear witness.  And we will act.  As President of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people — and I will always stand with our great friend and partner, the State of Israel.

So today, we remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children whose lives and dreams were stolen from this Earth.
We remember the millions of other innocent victims the Nazis so brutally targeted and so brutally killed.  We remember the survivors who bore more than we can imagine.  We remember the hatred and evil that sought to extinguish human life, dignity, and freedom.

But we also remember the light that shone through the darkness.  We remember sisters and brothers who gave everything to those they loved — survivors like Steven Springfield, who, in the long death march, carried his brother on his back.  As he said, “I just couldn’t give in.”

We remember the brave souls who banded together to save the lives of their neighbors — even at the risk of their own life.  And we remember those first hopeful moments of liberation, when at long last the American soldiers arrived in camps and cities throughout occupied Europe, waving the same beautiful flags before us today, speaking those three glorious words:  “You are free.”

It is this love of freedom, this embrace of human dignity, this call to courage in the face of evil that the survivors here today have helped to write onto our hearts.  The Jewish people have endured oppression, persecution, and those who have sought and planned their destruction.  Yet, through the suffering, they have persevered.  They have thrived.  And they have enlightened the world.  We stand in awe of the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.

I want to close with a story enshrined in the Museum that captures the moment of liberation in the final days of the war.  
It is the story of Gerda Klein, a young Jewish woman from Poland. Some of you know her.  Gerda’s family was murdered by the Nazis. She spent three years imprisoned in labor camps, and the last four months of the war on a terrible death march.  She assumed it was over.  At the end, on the eve of her 21st birthday, her hair had lost all of its color, and she weighed a mere 68 pounds.  Yet she had the will to live another day.  It was tough.

Gerda later recalled the moment she realized that her long-awaited deliverance had arrived.  She saw a car coming towards her.  Many cars had driven up before, but this one was different.  On its hood, in place of that wretched swastika, was a bright, beautiful, gleaming white star.  Two American soldiers got out. One walked up to her.  The first thing Gerda said was what she had been trained to say:  “We are Jewish, you know.”  “We are Jewish.”  And then he said, “So am I.”  It was a beautiful moment after so much darkness, after so much evil.

As Gerda took this solider to see the other prisoners, the American did something she had long forgotten to even expect — he opened the door for her.  In Gerda’s words, “that was the moment of restoration of humanity, of humanness, of dignity, and of freedom.”

But the story does not end there.  Because, as some of you know, that young American soldier who liberated her and who showed her such decency would soon become her husband.  A year later, they were married.  In her words, “He opened not only the door for me, but the door to my life and to my future.”

Gerda has since spent her life telling the world of what she witnessed.  She, like those survivors who are among us today, has dedicated her life to shining a light of hope through the dark of night.

Your courage strengthens us.  Your voices inspire us.  And your stories remind us that we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time.  Evil is always seeking to wage war against the innocent and to destroy all that is good and beautiful about our common humanity.  But evil can only thrive in darkness.  And what you have brought us today is so much more powerful than evil.  You have brought us hope — hope that love will conquer hatred, that right will defeat wrong, and that peace will rise from the ashes of war.

Each survivor here today is a beacon of light, and it only takes one light to illuminate even the darkest space.  Just like it takes only one truth to crush a thousand lies and one hero to change the course of history.  We know that in the end, good will triumph over evil, and that as long as we refuse to close our eyes or to silence our voices, we know that justice will ultimately prevail.

So today we mourn.  We remember.  We pray.  And we pledge:  Never again.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

 

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