Russell Simmons calls for truce with ADL’s Foxman


Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has called for a truce with Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

In a statement sent to The Daily Beast on Sunday, Simmons said that comments he made in a speech last week in Israel in which he defended his friendship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan were misinterpreted. Simmons had said that just as Farrakhan had alienated Jews, Foxman had alienated African Americans. An outraged Foxman called the comments by Simmons “outrageous and ugly.”

“My statements at the Presidents Conference were not meant to compare Abe Foxman to Minister Farrakhan, as some in the press liked to note,” Simmons wrote. “They were meant to point out the kind of results you get from the public attacks of many African-American leaders by Abe over the years, namely that these attacks have alienated millions of blacks. Many black people around the country believe that when Abe attacks their leaders, it is an attack by the Jewish community on them as well. This type of behavior stings for a long time.”

Simmons, a co-founder with Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, said that he was proud to have worked to strengthen the relationship between the African-American and Jewish communities. He said his comments at the conference were undermining the work he has done on behalf of the Jewish community to build synagogues and promote tolerance.

“Rabbi Marc Schneier and I had a remarkable week in Israel where we met and convened with some of the most important religious leaders in the country, including the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Grand Mufti of the Palestinian people,” Simmons wrote. “We had difficult conversations that have not happened before, and we are determined to break through barriers that have been in existence for decades.”

Foxman has publicly praised Simmons for his outreach work between African Americans and Jews, but also has faulted him for his praise of Farrakhan, who has likened Judaism to a “gutter religion” and for years has peddled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

“What’s disappointing is that someone who has a history of having a blind spot to one of the most vociferous and ugly anti-Semites would be given a platform in Jerusalem,” Foxman said last week in a statement. “And what’s outrageous is how divisive and ugly his attack on us was.  And, finally, what’s shocking is that his colleague and partner, Rabbi Marc Schneier, stood by in silence.”

Non-Jewish ADL employee sues over promotion


An employee is suing the Anti-Defamation League for denying her a promotion because she is not Jewish.

Tonietta Moffet says the ADL will not promote her to assistant director because she is “African American and not Jewish,” the New York Post reported Monday. She filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan seeking damages for discrimination.

Moffett spent two years handling the duties of the assistant director in the organization’s National Regional Operations Department shortly after she was hired as an administrative worker, the newspaper reported, citing her filing in court.

Her promotion was denied due to her lack of “a deep understanding of Jewish culture.”

The ADL has not commented publicly on the lawsuit.

ADL lauds court for quashing N.C. commission’s prayer


The Anti-Defamation League praised a federal court decision banning sectarian prayers at a county commission’s meetings in North Carolina.

“This decision is a clear victory for religious freedom in North Carolina,” the ADL, which had filed a friend-of-the-court brief, said Tuesday of the 2-1 decision July 29 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Harvie Wilkinson, writing the majority opinion brought against Forsyth County, said “religious belief is so intimate and so central to our being, government advancement and effective endorsement of one faith carries a particular sting for citizens who hold devoutly to another.”

Two county residents, Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon, brought the suit against the county. Both are members of the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and they were represented by the national organization and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

The prayers offered prior to the county commission’s meetings have included Christ. The county welcomed clergy from all faiths, but the ADL said in practice that 80 percent came from Christian denominations.

ADL to Jerusalem-born Yanks: We Want You


The Anti-Defamation League is seeking Americans born in Jerusalem to back a Supreme Court challenge to the U.S. policy preventing such citizens from listing Israel as their country of birth.

“Americans born in Jerusalem, or American parents of minors born in Jerusalem, are invited to join the new ad hoc Association of Proud Americans Born in Jerusalem, Israel,” said an ADL statement issued Wednesday.  “As part of the effort, a web site has been created at www.borninjerusalem.org where U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem can register and learn more about the case, and supporters can take action to make their voices heard.”

The Supreme Court is hearing the case, Zivotofsky v. Clinton, during the next session, apparently in a bid to settle vexing questions of whether Congress or the executive branch have supremacy on some foreign policy issues.

Congress in 2002 passed a law that would allow Jerusalem-born Americans to list “Israel” as their birth country, but President George W. Bush and President Obama have refused to allow it, citing the sensitive and unsettled status of the city. Instead, such citizens are listed only as born in “Jerusalem”.

The ADL says it will soon file a friend of the court brief in the case.

Foxman: Be wary of anti-Muslim Israel lovers


Jews and Israel should be wary of anti-Muslim extremists who claim to embrace Israel and Zionism, Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman said.

Foxman e-mailed his comments to JTA in the wake of reports that Anders Behrin Breivik, the alleged gunman in last week’s massacre that killed 76 in Norway, counseled an anti-Muslim alliance between white Europeans and Israel.

“Jews, Israelis and supporters of Israel must beware, must be careful, and cannot ignore or embrace those bigots who so much hate Muslims and Islam that they pretend to support Israel, Zionism and even Jews,’ Foxman said.  “Likewise, those bigots and haters cannot immunize themselves by pretending to embrace Israel. We need to be very clear, as Jews and Israelis, that we separate ourselves from this kind of hatred, stereotyping and scapegoating. The Norway killer’s ramblings are a reminder that we must always be wary of those whose love for the Jewish people is born out of hatred of Muslims or Arabs.”

L.A. ghetto fantasy emerges from visit to Israel


My mother was worried sick that her son was about to visit Israel at a time when Hezbollah rockets were raining down indiscriminately. To me, the danger seemed comparatively negligible.

My mom lives in San Diego. She had no idea that in the two weeks prior to my trip abroad, gang shootings had claimed three lives on the street where I lived in West Los Angeles. I would probably be safer anywhere but in my own L.A. neighborhood, where a gang war could erupt at any time.

I embarked on the Anti-Defamation League’s Campus Editors Mission to Poland and Israel in August, very excited and willing to learn about anti-Semitism. Perhaps, the most powerful experience for me about trip was when we visited the death camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau. I’d watched many Holocaust movies and seen tons of photographs related to the Nazi atrocities, but to actually visit the site where millions of people were marched to their death was something entirely different.

It was just like comparing the effect of listening to a rap song about mothers crying over dead gang members that used to be their innocent children, to being 9 years old, hidden in a bathroom with your cousins, crying because a mob of angry men with guns are trying to bust in through your front door. The trip made the stories real.

I wished I could take a group of college newspaper editors on a trip to the kinds of places I grew up in.

I could just hear the guide:

“Welcome to Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles, otherwise known as the Slauson ghetto. This street is one of the strongholds of the Culver City Boyz, a gang of approximately 800 mostly Chicano males. The housing projects, which you can see to your left, were recently attacked by the Venice 13 gang, and two members of Culver City were shot and killed. A war has been declared between the two gangs.”

The tourists then take pictures of the large graffiti letters, “CE X CE,” on a wall, which marks the territory of the Culver City gang.

“Now, if you follow me and look to your right, you’ll see a picture of a young man and boy on the sidewalk surrounded by flowers, candles and wooden crosses. The man, age 18, was a Culver City gang member who was shot down last week. The boy, age 9, was caught in the crossfire while riding his bike.”

I’ll have the man’s younger sister talk to the group. She’ll tell them about how she held him in her arms for an hour while he bled to death, until the ambulance finally came and hauled his lifeless body away. The police investigation: gang-related murder; case closed.

After the tours, I’ll organize interactive plays about domestic abuse, about families in which the most responsible person is just an alcoholic, and, just for fun, I’ll enroll them in a school where the main lesson is that they are nothing but potential criminals whose brightest hope of a future is not being welfare recipients.

If some of the participants get testy and refuse to accept this, their classmates will be ordered to verbally abuse and ridicule them. I’ll limit the abuse to just that and inform them that in a real-life situation, the abuse could turn physical and even fatal.

My fantasy visit to experience the conditions of the ghettos of Los Angeles may never happen. But the trip I took to Eastern Europe and Israel was no fantasy. It gave us a taste of the Jewish experience of suffering in Poland and renewal in Israel.

After visiting the Yad Vashem museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, I was overcome with emotion. So many atrocities were committed against the Jewish people, and yet they have risen above it.

The tours they lead of their neighborhood tell a story of triumph over oppression, over poverty, over injustice. It is painful and confusing to compare them with my fantasy tour of my neighborhood.

How did the Jews overcome all their years of oppression? Was it their culture? Their religion?

I became desperate in Yad Vashem.

I wasn’t looking at history in there; I was looking for answers.

Argenis Villa is a student at Cal State Dominquez Hills, where he writes for the student newspaper. He recently returned from the Anti-Defamation League Campus Editors Mission to Poland and Israel.

Briefs


Christopher Reeve, ‘Superman’ Star and Hero in Israel, Dies

With his death Sunday night, actor Christopher Reeve of “Superman” fame ended his valiant fight against paralysis at the age of 52.

Reeve, who became a hero to Israelis during a visit last year, fell into a coma at his New York home after going into cardiac arrest Saturday night and never regained consciousness.

After starring in four “Superman” blockbuster movies in the 1970s and ’80s, Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down in a horse riding accident in 1995. Refusing to give in, Reeve became a powerful advocate and fundraiser for medical research to aid the disabled.

His courage found a special echo in Israel, when he undertook a five-day visit to Israeli hospitals and research centers in late July and early August last year.

Coming at a time when most American celebrities avoided trips to Israel, Reeve’s visit raised the spirit of the country, especially among thousands injured and paralyzed in terrorist attacks.

“Israel is one of the leading countries in the world that is most progressive and the most compassionate about people like us,” he told injured and paralyzed patients at Tel Hashomer hospital, The Jewish Journal’s Gaby Wenig reported from Israel at the time.

Reeve’s trip to Israel was in response to an invitation by Yuval Rotem, then Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, and was sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and private Hollywood donors. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Lawyer Battling ADL on Christian Quote at Courthouse

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is being sued by a Christian lawyer seeking to stop its efforts to cover up a Christian quote on a wall in a Riverside County Superior Court.

Temecula attorney Richard D. Ackerman’s Oct. 1 lawsuit against the ADL, Riverside County and Riverside County Presiding Judge Douglas Miller temporarily has stopped plans to cover over Theodore Roosevelt’s quote – “The true Christian is the true citizen” – with a mahogany panel while court is in session. The quote is engraved on a courtroom wall at the century-old landmark courthouse in Riverside.

“If it [the Roosevelt quote] was in the negative, I would agree [to cover it up],” said Ackerman, who attends an Assembly of God church and runs the conservative, Christian-oriented Pro-Family Law Center. “But this happens to be a presidential quote affirming his particular world view among other presidential views.”

In July, the ADL’s Pacific Southwest office in Los Angeles received a complaint about the quote. An Oct. 5 letter sent by the ADL to its members stated, “Because the quote is presented outside of the context in which the quotation was delivered and continues to appear on the wall of a public courthouse in 2004, we were concerned that it could be seen as an express endorsement by the government of Christianity.”

It is one of several presidential wall quotes, with Roosevelt’s words excerpted from a 1900 speech he made at a YMCA convention when he was New York’s governor. Ackerman said the quote has been on the courthouse wall for decades, “with little or no dispute,” and that the ADL has not criticized as exclusionary the smaller county courthouse in Temecula and its photo collage, including a photo of Orthodox Jews – “it doesn’t show Reform Jews” – or Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “The God who gave us liberty gave us life,” being in the same courtroom as the Roosevelt quote.

The ADL declined comment on the lawsuit. After a Sept. 1 meeting with ADL officials, Miller on Sept. 29 agreed to cover over the quote. Two days later, Ackerman’s lawsuit prompted county officials to suspend those plans until a resolution of the case, which last week was moved to a San Bernardino County courtroom in Rancho Cucamonga, because Miller recused all Riverside County judges from hearing the case. No court date has been set.

Ackerman filed the lawsuit in state court, because he believed any ADL lawsuit would be filed in federal court, and that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has a liberal reputation often at odds with conservative litigators. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Congress Passes Bill on Monitoring Anti-Semitism

Californians were instrumental in Congress’ passing a bill to create a State Department office to monitor international anti-Semitism.

The bill, known as the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (H.R. 4230), was introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) in response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East.

The act, which awaits President Bush’s approval, requires the State Department to create an office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and to file a report on anti-Semitic incidents around the world. The State Department also would be required to include information about anti-Semitic acts in its annual reports on human rights practices and international religious freedom.

Of the 108 signatories on a letter in support of the bill, were three prominent Southern Californians: professor Michael Berenbaum of the University of Judaism; Pierre Sauvage, president of the Chambon Foundation; and Dr. John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International in Westlake Village.

The State Department opposed the legislation, suggesting it would show favoritism toward the Jewish community in human rights reporting. – Staff Report

Two Conferences to Focus on Anti-Semitism Issues

Dueling conversations on anti-Semitism will take place at the University of Judaism in Bel Air and at Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary.

Fuller will host an Oct. 18 evening dialogue on anti-Semitism between Rabbi Elliot Dorff, University of Judaism rector, and Richard Mouw, Fuller president.

The Fuller event is scheduled one year after the Protestant seminary hosted an all-day, Palestinian-driven “Peacemaking in the Middle East” conference for about 200 mainline Protestants. The conference had Palestinian flags, buttons and literature but no Israeli-branded items.

Some Fuller students were concerned enough about the event’s heavy Palestinian emphasis to host a separate screening of a pro-Israel film that same day.

Mouw said Monday night’s event was arranged partly because “many of us have been critical of some of the policies of the present Israeli government, and this is legitimate. But it is also important that we distinguish between legitimate political critique and a hatred of Jews.”

At the University of Judaism, Holocaust scholar and museum consultant Michael Berenbaum will host “Anti-Semitism and the Contemporary Jewish Condition” running Sunday through Tuesday.

The gathering will feature about 20 speakers, including several staffers from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Auschwitz survivor and “Schindler’s List” producer Branko Lustig and Commentary magazine senior editor Gabriel Schoenfeld. Topics will include Hollywood’s Holocaust imagery and the question, “Is there a ‘New’ Anti-Semitism?”

For more information on the free events go to www.fuller.edu. For more information on the UJ conference,visit www.uj.edu. Organizers ask people to preregister for each event by calling (310) 440-1534 or e-mailing rsmall@uj.edu.