French rabbi receives threat to ‘punish’ Jews for complaining

The chief rabbi of Lyon,  Richard Wertenschlag, has received a letter threatening to “punish a Jew for every complaint the Jews make on TV.”

The threat came in a two-page letter delivered to Wertenschlag on Aug. 10. It contained two photos of a concentration camp, according to Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, CRIF.

Wertenschlag, who reported the letter to the authorities, opened the letter on Aug. 12, according to CRIF.

The authors of the “small, dense handwritten text” signed with the words “the righteous network.”

They added, “Every time you go on television to complain, a Jew – man, woman, child or family – will be punished.” Further down, the authors wrote: “See you soon at a synagogue, which has already been chosen.”

Wertenschlag called the letter “the expression of anti-Semitic rage and unimaginable hate.”

He said he had received an earlier hate letter in April, which was both “anti-Semitic and anti-Arab,” but decided not to go to police at the time.

Last month French police arrested two youths in Lyon for allegedly attacking a 17-year-old Jewish boy.

The boy is a student at Ozar Hatorah, a Jewish school in Toulouse where, on March 19, a Muslim extremist murdered three children and a rabbi.

Police look into anti-Semitic bullying incident in Northern Ireland

Police in Northern Ireland are investigating claims of anti-Semitic bullying of a boy with Asperger syndrome.

Matthew Lough, 14, told the BBC that he had been bullied at his County Antrim school since revealing during a class on the Holocaust that his great-grandmother was Jewish.

He said one boy was suspended after Lough was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Police told the BBC on Thursday that they are investigating a March 14 assault.

Others, Lough and his mother told the BBC, have attached swastikas to his school bags and have taunted him with anti-Semitic epithets.

His mother, Sharon Lough, credited the school, Carrickfergus College, with taking swift action, but was concerned at the persistence of the anti-Semitism.

“He has been very unsettled at night-time, having nightmares,” she told the broadcaster. “I would never, ever tell my children not to mention their heritage, because they are so proud of it. I would never deny my Jewish heritage, never.”

Former Phoenix principal sues over gas chamber exhibit

A black Jewish woman is suing the Phoenix school where she formerly served as principal for failing to respond to complaints about a fake gas chamber set up outside her office and then firing her.

Millicent McNeil, who was fired from the Mission Charter School last May 13, filed a $2 million lawsuit in Maricopa County Court claiming that she was underpaid because of her race and religion, and that the school ignored her complaints about the gas chamber, which was part of a Holocaust exhibit, Courthouse News reported.

She alleges that teachers at the K-8 school, saying they were setting up a Holocaust exhibit, made her hallway and office door into an entrance to a faux gas chamber. McNeil says they painted a swastika on the wall outside her door, painted her door black and placed a photo next to the door of a lever that would activate a gas chamber.

McNeil also claims that the teachers wrote “Majdanek Bad Und Desinfektion,” or “Majdanek Bath And Disinfection,” above the door—imitating the sign for gas chambers at the Majdanek concentration camp—and the German word for “women” directly over the door.

Contacted by JTA, a school official had no comment on the case.

Briefs: Professor criticised for ‘hate speech’ at CSULB; Purim is fun and sober for L.A. teens

Professor Scolded for ‘Hate Speech’ at CSULB

The Jewish Studies Program at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) last week reprimanded Kevin MacDonald, a professor at the university whose writings on race are popular with anti-Semites and white supremacists, for views that are “professionally irresponsible and morally untenable.”

“We wish to make it clear that in no way do we wish to impede Dr. MacDonald’s First Amendment rights or interfere with his academic freedom,” the letter stated. “But just as he has the freedom of speech to advance his white nationalist agenda, so too do we have the freedom of speech to deplore his prejudicial views of Jews and non-whites and state that Dr. MacDonald’s writings on white ethnocentrism, Jews, race, and immigration do not enjoy the respect of many of his colleagues.”

Signed by the programs co-directors, Arlene Lazarowitz and Jeffrey Blutinger, and history professor Donald Schartz, the letter urged CSULB administration to distance itself from MacDonald.

“In the 14 years that he has been writing this stuff, no institution on campus — no department, no program, no college or the university — has ever issued a statement about him. The only thing the university has ever done about Kevin MacDonald is they have given him a sabbatical. We feel that it is time the university stood up and said something,” Blutinger said. “We are leading by example.”

An evolutionary psychologist, MacDonald is best known for his claim that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” that allows its members to succeed by undermining other groups, such as white Europeans. This argument was published in a three-volume series named after the final book, “The Culture of Critique.”

“Not since Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ have anti-Semites had such a comprehensive reference guide to what’s wrong with ‘the Jews,'” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported last year.

In a lengthy response, MacDonald wrote that the Jewish program accurately characterized his belief in the need for a white “ethno-state” and failed to refute his argument.

“The claim that the best way to defend ethnic interests is to develop an ethnostate certainly reflects the reality of ethnic relations in the last century or so,” MacDonald wrote. “Jews of all people should understand the attraction of establishing an ethnostate.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Sober, but Joyous, Purim for L.A. Teens

More than 600 Los Angeles teens attended Purim parties this year thrown by an Orthodox youth group intent on showing the kids a festive holiday while keeping them sober and off the streets.

Because drinking alcohol is a ritual part of celebrating Purim, teens often find easy access to liquor and wine on the holiday, which in the past has led to some dangerous and illegal activities. This year, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) of the Orthodox Union sponsored Purim parties.

“Teens are out there looking for ways to celebrate Purim. We needed to create a responsible venue to compete against unsupervised and potentially harmful experiences,” said Rabbi Effie Goldberg, West Coast director of NCSY.

About 100 teens gathered for an NCSY bash, complete with live band, at Golan Restaurant in North Hollywood. At Congregation B’nai David-Judea on Pico Boulevard, about 500 teens celebrated with a costume contest, dancing, arcade games and a Wii competition. No alcohol was allowed in, and inebriated teens were turned away.

Aleinu Family Resource Center, a program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles that serves primarily the Orthodox community, launched an “Absolut Choice” campaign. The organization sent out 7,000 postcards offering parents pointers for talking to their teens about celebrating Purim responsibly and the dangers of binge drinking. At synagogues on Purim, Aleinu distributed 3,500 water bottles with an “Absolut Choice” label that included information on the dangers of rapid drinking and drinking and driving.

In addition, Hatzolah emergency first response service put up posters around synagogues and other venues warning of the dangers of binge drinking, and rabbis urged people not to serve minors drinks as they went door to door delivering Purim baskets or collecting money for charity.

“I believe Purim was a safer Purim in Los Angeles this year,” said Debbie Fox, Aleinu director. “When the community works together, we have a safer community.”

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Israel At 60 Bash to Raise Funds for Sderot

Shalhevet High School students are organizing a community festival on March 30 for Israel’s 60th birthday.

Fully student-run, the carnival will include a live performance from the Moshav Band, Israeli vendors, kosher food, a petting zoo and rides. Maxine Renzer, 11th grade student co-chairperson of the school’s Israel Action Committee, has planned the event over the past four months along with three other students. Last year the festival raised more than $3,000, and this year they hope to raise much more, Renzer said.

“The Jewish people at this time are going through a lot of hardships, and we need to help in any way we can, especially students,” she said. “If this is how we can help, it will be an amazing thing,” she said.

The event, co-sponsored by StandWithUs, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, Beth Jacob Congregation, NCSY, Bnei Akiva and The Jewish Journal, will have its funds matched by an anonymous donor, with proceeds going to Table to Table, an Israeli organization that helps feed the hungry in Sderot.

For more information, call Shalhevet High School at (323) 930-9333.

— Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer

Children, Adults Spice Up Summer Activities With Yachad

The Orthodox Union’s Yachad National Jewish Council for the Disabled is offering summer programs for developmentally disabled children and adults to participate in travel, sports, arts and drama. Yachad’s offerings include a two-week “Yachad Getaway” to New York for ages 18 and older. Campers will stay on a private estate and can choose from daily activities such as swimming, dancing, baking and creative arts projects.

Attendees can learn how to become coaches or counselors and are placed in positions suiting their specific abilities.

For Ilan, a Eulogy

This week marks the shloshim, the 30th day following the death of Ilan Halimi, murdered by French anti-Semites in a Paris suburb.

“Pour Ilan” — this is what the sign says, held by demonstrators in a quiet march, in Paris, in your memory. Pour Ilan, Ilan Halimi, my newly fallen son.

When I weep for you, I weep for my son Daniel, too — your brother in pain — two treasures crushed in the claws of history. When I weep for you, I weep with my burned face, with my hands tied behind my back, with my screaming mind — my sanity that was shattered when the doors of heavens slammed your life.

They rush to your memorial, the politicians, the dignitaries and Jewish leaders, too. They talk about joblessness, crime, jealousy and greed.

“They believe,” and I quote, “that ‘Jews have money'” said Interior Minister Sarkozy.

They always speak about “them” — the criminals, the barbarians — rarely about themselves. About the silence and tacit encouragement that have created this climate in France, where a gang of youngsters would choose to target Jews over other preys. A climate in which torturing a Jew is considered a lesser form of cruelty than the unimaginable.

“We tortured him because he was a Jew,” said one of the abductors last week.

How did this climate of inhumanity infiltrate a country that gave the world liberty, equality and brotherhood? Ilan did not ask his captors this question — he knew the answer.

He understood that empathy emanates from the dignity and respect that society extends to its members. And he knew firsthand that while some members of the French Jewish community have risen to prominence, Jews, as a collective, have not enjoyed standard dignity and respect — they have been villainized and dehumanized in all strata of French society as no other group has.

Of course, only Israelis are dehumanized today in the French media, not all Jews — France is a modern country, and it knows the rules of post-World War II discourse.

Likewise, French Jews are no longer accused of killing God’s son or Christian boys; they are now villainized for one and only one crime: loving and caring for that “shitty little country,” as French Ambassador Bernard called Israel, a country that, according to a 2005 survey, the majority of Europeans consider “the greatest threat to world peace.”

Ilan’s misfortune was that the gangsters of Bagneux were quick to discover what every child in Europe knew all along — who causes the troubles in the world and who can be bashed with impunity.

It is safe for us to talk about the gangsters of Bagneux, not so safe to talk about the French media. But, if the death of Ilan Halimi is to have a meaningful and permanent mark on our consciousness, it is vital that we examine all sacred pillars of society.

By licensing unrestrained assaults against Israel and Zionism, two cherished symbols of French Jewry, and denying the Jewish community a fair opportunity to make the case for Israel, the media has effectively turned French Jewry into social outcasts. This, coupled with classical anti-Semitic broadcasts pouring over from Middle East channels, offers some explanation for the barbaric and inexplicable inhumanity of Ilan’s abductors.

Indeed, how can the residents of Bagneux respect the life of Ilan, if he cherishes the Magen David — the most despised symbol in all of Europe, barring the Swastika. A symbol that, for more than a decade, French media refused to associate with any praiseworthy idea.

How could they remain deaf, for 20 long days, to his infinite screams, blended with his mother’s pleas over the phone? Unless they convinced themselves that this young man deserved subhuman treatment, either by virtue of belonging to the “despised,” or as a cousin to those “monstrous Israeli soldiers” they repeatedly saw on TV, intentionally killing Palestinian children.

Or, perhaps they were reminded of that video (now suspected of being forged) of the dying Palestinian child Muhammad Al Dura that the television station France 2 was so eager to air in September 2000. Not one time, but day after day, night after night, with stubbornness and perseverance that only bigotry can sustain. So eager in fact that it found its way to the hands of Daniel Pearl’s murderers in Pakistan and was used in their gruesome video to justify the murder — a grim reminder of the consequences of irresponsible journalism.

But let us dig a bit deeper. How can the good citizens of Bagneux muster the courage to tell their gangster neighbors: “Stop!” when they see around them a culture of capitulation, deceit and herd pressure? A culture where frightened teachers yield to students refusing Holocaust classes, where police do not see what the government does not approve, where politicians vie with each other to proclaim the Paris riots void of religious or cultural undercurrents and where the one writer who suggests otherwise is harshly rebuked by his peers as racist. A culture where the darling of European philosophers, Tariq Ramadan, defines sympathy for a beleaguered Israel as betrayal of universal values, and where that same philosopher proclaims the West “morally bankrupt” to the mesmerized admiration of his Western colleagues.

Oh, Ilan and Daniel, two beautiful sons of the West, intellectuals and barbarians have gathered again to challenge the vitality of your moral heritage. Remind them who you are. You, two principled disciples of Abraham, Socrates and Jeremiah; two proud emissaries of Aquinas, Rashi and Galileo; two burning torches of Rousseau and Jefferson, Hertzl and Einstein; tell them what they refuse to see on your charred bodies: That Western civilization ain’t ready to surrender, that youngsters like you attest its strength and vitality, that “bankruptcy” is not in your vocabulary. And, finally, that your legacy will witness the downfall of your murderers. It will!

Danny and Ilan, my two fallen sons, it was not the barbarians alone who killed you; some twisted intellectuals were there all along, spreading the fuel while watching the barbarians light the fuse. They killed you because you are the soul of Western civilization, a soul they chose to disown.

Let there be no silence on your grave, Ilan, no rest, nor learned discussion till the racist climate of your murder stands trial in the court of history. Until another Zola rises with a lauder “J’accuse”, and this culture of deceit goes down in infamy, as did the Dreyfus Affair and the Munich Treaty.

Yitgadal Ve’Yitkadash Shmai Rabah.

Judea Pearl is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (

Brothers Sentenced

Two brothers, both self-proclaimed anti-Semites and white supremacists, have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for the June 1999 firebombings of three synagogues near Sacramento.

Following their guilty pleas, Benjamin Matthew Williams, 33, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and James Tyler Williams, 31, to 21 years and 3 months. They were ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution to the three synagogues.

The sentencing came at the end of an emotional two-and-a-half-hour hearing Nov. 30 in a Sacramento federal courtroom.

The brothers will go on trial next April in the slaying of a homosexual couple two weeks after the torching of the synagogues and of an abortion clinic. State prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

Hardest hit by the arson attacks was Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform temple that sustained more than $1 million in damages. Last year, the temple celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Substantial damage also was suffered by Congregation Beth Shalom, also Reform, in suburban Carmichael, and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, an Orthodox synagogue.

At two of the synagogues, the perpetrators left leaflets proclaiming that the "International Jew World Order" and the "International Jewsmedia" started the war in Kosovo.

Rabbis and other Jewish leaders confronted the convicted arsonists before their sentencing.

After receiving permission from U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to address the defendants, Rabbi Brad Bloom of Congregation B’nai Israel told them, "Your hatred and anti-Semitism will never prevail. Ironically, it strengthened the determination of the entire community to make no room for bigotry." A unity rally of all faiths and races in Sacramento after the synagogue attacks drew 5,000 people and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the shuls.

Bloom said the Williams brothers represented "a continuum of anti-Semitic perpetrators" from Babylonian and Egyptian times through Russian pogroms and Nazi atrocities.

"Yes, we have known the Williams brothers for a long time," media reports quoted Bloom as saying.

Len Feldman, vice chairman of Sacramento’s Jewish Community Relations Council, said the firebombing "forced me to explain to my two children a world I had hoped had been left behind."

Rabbi Yosef Etzhasadeh of the Kenesset Israel Torah Center lamented the trial’s failure to explore all the evidence, which, he said, might have exposed the brothers’ accomplices.

The elder Williams smirked though part of the admonitions. Both he and his brother declined the judge’s invitation to talk about their crimes or express remorse.

While held in prison, the voluble elder Williams initiated a series of press interviews in which he declared his readiness to be executed as a "Christian martyr" whose death would spur increased attacks on Jews, homosexuals and various minority groups.

Matthew and Tyler Williams — they are known by their middle names — worked as landscapers in Northern California. In a search of their home, investigators found a hit list with 32 names, mostly of Sacramento Jewish leaders but including Marc Klein, editor and publisher of the San Francisco-based Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.

The Williams’ arson attacks were the opening shots in what has been termed a "summer of hate," which included a shooting spree that wounded five at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills.

Anti-SemitesPlead Guilty to Firebombing

Two brothers, both self-proclaimed anti-Semites and white supremacists, pleaded guilty Sept. 7 to firebombing three synagogues in the Sacramento area two years ago.

Benjamin Matthew Williams, 33, considered the instigator in the attacks, faces 30 years in federal prison. His brother, James Tyler Williams, 31, is to receive 18 to 21 years when sentence is pronounced in November.

The torching of the three synagogues in the pre-dawn hours of June 18 marked the opening of the 1999 “summer of hate,” which included an arson attack on a Sacramento abortion clinic, also admitted by the Williams brothers. Subsequent months saw a shooting spree that wounded five at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, and a white supremacist’s killing rampage in the Midwest.

Following their conviction in federal court on the firebombings, the Williams brothers will be tried in state court for the killing of a gay couple, two weeks after the Sacramento arsons. Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.

Hardest hit by the synagogue attacks was Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform temple, which last year celebrated its 150th anniversary, and which sustained more than $1 million in damages.

Substantial damage was also suffered by Congregation Beth Shalom, also Reform, in suburban Carmichael, and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, an Orthodox synagogue.

In a news conference following the guilty pleas, Louis Anapolsky, president of B’nai Israel at the time of the arson, said, “The wounds that were inflicted, which ran so deep, today are beginning to heal.”

At two of the synagogues, the perpetrators left leaflets proclaiming that the “International Jew World Order” and the “International Jewsmedia” started the war in Kosovo.

While he was held in prison, the voluble elder Williams initiated a series of press interviews in which he declared his readiness to be executed as a “Christian martyr,” whose death would spur increased attacks on Jews, homosexuals and various minority groups.

Following the synagogue attacks, a unity rally of all faiths and races in Sacramento drew 5,000 people and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the shuls repair their buildings.

By a coincidence in timing, Gov. Gray Davis appeared two days before the guilty pleas at Congregation B’nai Israel. He chose the venue to sign into law a bill prohibiting insurance companies from canceling, fail to renew, or raise premiums on policies of organizations filing claims based on hate crimes.

The bill was introduced after Congregation B’nai Israel was denied renewal of its property insurance after filing a claim for $1 million in damages sustained during the firebombing.

The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2002, and protects religious, educational and nonprofit institutions and organizations that have suffered losses due to hate crimes.

“The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents,” Tamar Galatzan, Western States associate counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, said. “When an insurance company blames the victim for being targeted — by cancelling or not renewing a policy — the perpetrator’s message of hate and exclusion is reinforced.”

‘Believer’ Is a Winner

In our Jan. 26 issue, veteran screenwriter Henry Bean told The Journal he wasn’t sure his provocative directorial debut, “The Believer,” inspired by the true story of a Jewish Nazi, would be well-received at Sundance. He’d heard that distributors were wary of the controversial subject matter. So he was shocked last week when his film won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize, the top award in the dramatic competition — prompting serious discussions with potential distributors. Now that “The Believer” seems poised to have an audience, at least with the art-house crowd, Bean has a particular group of viewers in mind. “There is no audience I’d rather show this to than one of anti-Semites and neo-Nazis,” he told The Journal. “I’d love to know what they think.”