President Donald Trump speaking in the Capitol rotunda on April 25. Photo by Ron Kampeas/JTA

Trump vows to combat Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism


President Donald Trump pledged to combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denialism, and to defend Israel in a speech marking the national days of Holocaust remembrance.

“Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil,” he said Tuesday at the annual ceremony organized by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the Capitol rotunda. “And we’ll never be silent — we just won’t. We will never, ever be silent in the face of evil again.”

Trump described 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.”

He pledged to “stamp out prejudice.”

“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,” he said.

The speech and a series of statements Trump has issued in recent days differ considerably from his first week in office, when a Jan. 27 statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day neglected to mention Jews. Trump’s spokesmen subsequently said they were aiming at an “inclusive” statement to cover Jews and non-Jews murdered in the Holocaust, although the term is applied by historians solely to the Jewish genocide.

Ronald S. Lauder

Daily Kickoff: The surprising Trump Whisperer for the Palestinians | Adelson ‘waiting patiently’ on Embassy | Snap buys patent from Israeli Mobli


Have our people email your people. Share this sign up link with your friends

THE TRUMP WHISPERERS — NYTimes Names 20 Key Outside Advisors:“Trump Reaches Beyond West Wing for Counsel” by Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush: “The media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Mr. Trump when he’s low and arguing that he focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues… Murdoch even called the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, to buck him up after Mr. Spicer was savaged for a remark about Adolf Hitler.”

“The Clubgoers: Ike Perlmutter, the chief executive of Marvel Comics, who is so reclusive that there are few public photographs of him, has been informally advising Mr. Trump on veterans issues. The two men are old friends, and Mr. Perlmutter has been a presence at Mar-a-Lago. Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots is a Democrat, but his loyalty to Mr. Trump, Mr. Kraft once said, dates partly to the president’s thoughtfulness when Mr. Kraft’s father died.”

“Childhood Friend: Richard LeFrak. Their fathers were developers together in New York, and the two men have been friends for decades. Mr. LeFrak is a Mar-a-Lago member, and he agreed to be part of an infrastructure effort that Mr. Trump hopes to put forward. Mr. Trump has turned to him to vent frustrations about the slow pace of bureaucracy.” [NYTimes]

–The NYTimes credits Trump’s thoughtfulness when Bob Kraft’s father died but it was really when Kraft’s wife passed away: “When [Kraft’s wife] Myra died [in 2011], Melania [Trump] and Donald came up to the funeral in our synagogue, then they came for memorial week to visit with me,” Kraft told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out. He called me every week to see how I was doing, invited me to things, tried to lift my spirits. He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.” [CBSSports]

LEFT OFF THE LIST — Ronald S. Lauder, the man who we’re told currently has Trump’s ear on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. According to multiple sources, Lauder is the one who has convinced Trump that ‘the ultimate deal’ between Israelis and Palestinians is achievable, a deal that has eluded each of Trump’s immediate predecessors. Lauder is said to have told the President that the Palestinians are ‘desperate’ for a deal and that ‘Israel is the problem.’ One prominent JI reader in the know even went so far as to characterize Lauder as “the Palestinian’s man in D.C.” According to the folks who think Lauder may be in over his head, there’s the belief that no matter what deal is presented to the Palestinians, it will be rejected. “They could put the ’08 Olmert deal before Abbas right now and he’d reject it,” another insider told us.

We reached out to Lauder’s representatives for comment and we’re still waiting for a response.  

Our guess: Look for some other Trump whisperers, including those on the Times list and officials in the administration, to share their skepticism over ‘the ultimate deal’ in the coming weeks with Trump himself.

FLASHBACK to ’99: “New York cosmetics tycoon Ronald Lauder played a dramatic backstage role trying to broker a peace pact between Israel and Syria, but failed to seal a deal over the Golan Heights. Israeli and Syrian officials said Lauder, a former diplomat and mayoral candidate, frequently shuttled between Damascus and Jerusalem in the past year taking sensitive messages between Syrian President Hafez Assad and then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” [NYPost]

BACKSTORY: Ron Lauder’s relationship with Trump goes back decades to when the young real estate developer from Queens crossed the East River seeking to gain acceptance into Manhattan society. While not everyone accepted the brash developer, Ron’s mother Estée Lauder did. In 2004, Trump even partnered with Estée Lauder, the company, to launch ‘Donald Trump, The Fragrance.’

When the Trump administration was widely condemned by Jewish groups, including the Republican Jewish Coalition and the ZOA, for omitting any mention of Jews from their official White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Ron Lauder was the sole Jewish leader who defended Trump. “It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” Lauder wrote.

During the transition, Lauder met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach [Pic]

Last night, in a video message to the World Jewish Congress, Trump told delegates that “I want to thank Ronald Lauder, not only for his many years of friendship – and he truly has been my good friend, he even predicted early that I was going to win the presidency – but also for his leadership of this organization. He has done a fantastic job.”

Trump on Holocaust, anti-Semitism: “On Yom HaShoah, we look back at the darkest chapter of human history. We mourn, we remember, we pray, and we pledge: Never again. I say it, never again. The mind cannot fathom the pain, the horror, and the loss. Six million Jews, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe, murdered by the Nazi genocide… Today, only decades removed from the Holocaust, we see a great nation risen from the desert and we see a proud Star of David waving above the State of Israel. That star is a symbol of Jewish perseverance. It’s a monument to unyielding strength… We must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found. We must defeat terrorism, and we must not ignore the threats of a regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction. We cannot let that ever even be thought of.” [WJC

HAPPENING TODAY — The World Jewish Congress will celebrate 80 years of activities at a gala on Ellis Island. Speakers include WJC’s Rabbi Joel Meyers and Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, among others. Panels during the day at the Midtown Hilton include a discussion on what it means to be a Jewish legislator today by Reps. Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel and Lee Zeldin, and Israeli successes in Hollywood moderated by Israel’s Consul General in LA Sam Grundwerg with the participation of actress Moran Atias, film and TV producer Howard Rosenman, and Adam Berkowitz, Co-Head of the TV dept. at Creative Artists Agency.

March of the Living — Today on Yom Hashoah, the March of the Living is commencing in Poland with over 10,000 participants from 30 countries. Over 250,000 students, survivors, and educators have participated in March of the Living to Poland and Israel since its inception in 1988. This year’s international march from Auschwitz to Birkenau is being dedicated to the memory of Joseph Wilf who passed away this past summer. Joe was the founding North American President of the March and, we’re told, always had a great pride in being part of its creation and watching its tremendous growth over the years. [MOTL

POTUS SCHEDULE — President Trump will have a working lunch today with Ambassadors from countries that are on the U.N. Security Council, and at 2:30 pm, he will sign a proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance in the Oval Office. On Tuesday, the President will speak at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Day of Remembrance.

YESTERDAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE — Jason Greenblatt: “Torah study in the Indian Treaty room at the EEOB/White House. Thank you Benjamin B!” [Pic]  

Will Trump visit Israel this summer? — Report by Ariel Kahana: “The U.S Administration and the Israeli government have begun to coordinate a possible presidential visit to Israel. Senior administration officials told their Israeli counterparts that President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley intend to visit Israel in the coming months, as none of them have ever been to Israel. No date has been set yet and at the moment the trip is only at the initial planning stages.” [NRG] • Worth noting: NRG is an Adelson-owned publication

ADELSON ‘WAITING PATIENTLY’ — “Republicans sound alarm on Trump’s troubles ahead of 2018” by Alex Isenstadt: “Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul, has privately complained about Trump’s failure to fulfill his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, three people close to the billionaire said. Adelson is also rankled that some people he recommended for administration posts haven’t yet been tapped. More fundamentally, Adelson is dismayed by what he sees as a state of chaos in the new administration, these people said… An Adelson spokesman, Andy Abboud, said the billionaire is “overall not angry or unhappy” with the president and is pleased with his decisiveness on certain issues. Adelson, he said, is waiting patiently for action on the embassy.” [Politico]

IRAN DEAL: In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump said “it is possible” that the U.S. will pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal over Iran’s activity in the Middle East region — AP: [Do] you believe that they are complying with the agreement? Trump: “No, I don’t say that. I say that I believe they have broken the spirit of the agreement. There is a spirit to agreements, and they have broken it.” AP: In terms of what they are doing elsewhere in the Middle East? Trump: “In terms of what they are doing of all over.” AP: When you talk to European leaders… what do they say about the nuclear deal? Do they want you to stay in that deal? Trump: “I don’t talk to them about it… I mention it, but it’s very personal when I talk to them, you know, it’s confidential. No, they have their own opinions. I don’t say that they are different than my opinions, but I’d rather have you ask them that question.” AP: At this point, do you believe that you will stay in the nuclear deal? Trump: “It’s possible that we won’t.” [AP] • Resistance group alleges Iran grossly violating nuclear deal [FoxNews]

DEEP DIVE: “Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway” by Josh Meyer: “Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas… And as far back as the fall of 2014, Obama administration officials began slow-walking some significant investigations and prosecutions of Iranian procurement networks operating in the U.S.” [Politico]

“State Dept. official reassigned amid conservative media attacks”’ by Nahal Toosi: “Some State Department officials believe the individual, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, was shifted because of the media attacks… Nowrouzzadeh, a Civil Service officer who helped shape the controversial Iran nuclear deal, had been detailed since last July to the secretary of state’s policy planning team, where she handled ongoing issues related to Iran and Gulf Arab countries… The State Department said in a statement that Nowrouzzadeh has returned to the Office of Iranian Affairs… Nowrouzzadeh is “very smart, deeply knowledgeable about Iran,” said Philip Gordon, who served as a top Middle East adviser to Obama… “If Donald Trump hasn’t torn up the Iran nuclear deal, it may be because he realized that would be a bad idea. And it’s not because one of his policy planning staffers has a family of Iranian origin.”’ [Politico]

OVER THE WEEKEND — Bibi was interviewed by Sean Hannity: “Netanyahu theorized to Sean Hannity about what the outcome would be in a confrontation where an “Islamist terror state” has nuclear weapons. He warned of irreparable damage and said “we cannot allow that to happen.” … Netanyahu told Hannity that his problem with Iran is not merely that it will violate the deal. He said if Iran does not violate the deal, in 12 years, it will “walks into unimpeded enrichment of uranium.”” [FoxNews]

KAFE KNESSET — ‘The strong survive’ — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Israel came to a standstill at 10:00 this morning for the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) siren, as it does every year. Last night, at the opening ceremony at Yad Vashem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the lesson he learned from the Holocaust, which he said he keeps in mind when he shapes strategy for Israel: “The simple truth is that in our world, the existence of the weak is in doubt. When facing murderous countries and organizations, their chances of survival are not great. The strong survive; the weak are erased… The lesson is that we must be able to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against all threats and all enemies. Those who plan to annihilate us are placing themselves in danger of annihilation.” Despite that message, Netanyahu managed to surprise observers by only mentioning Iran once, far less frequently than in previous years.

President Reuven Rivlin also gave a powerful speech, in which he denounced those who see the Holocaust as just another example of mass murder and racism. Rivlin also said that Israel does not just exist to prevent another Holocaust and argued against those who think Jewish identity is just about escaping attempted genocide. “The Jewish People were not born in Auschwitz,” Rivlin pointed out. Read today’s Kafe Knesset here[JewishInsider]

FRENCH ELECTION — “French Jews Fear What’s Next After Marine Le Pen Makes It To The Second Round” by Annabelle Azadé: “Although most pundits predict that Macron will defeat Le Pen, Rabbi Moché Lewi was less relaxed. “In the next two weeks, everything could change. Who knows who the Mélenchon and Fillon supporters are going to vote for … They could vote for Le Pen,” he said… Bernard Abouaf, co-organiser and Director of Radio Shalom, said that he had been discussing the French elections with a friend, who told him a Jew who voted for Le Pen on the eve of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — “is a Jew that has lost his soul.”” [BuzzFeed French Jews Relieved by Macron’s Success, but Remain Conscious of Le Pen [Haaretz]

Putin’s Rabbi? “Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar warns French Jews: ‘If Marine Le Pen is elected President of France, you should leave the country'” [EJPress]

PROFILE: “How the Financial Collapse Steeled Gary Cohn for the White House” by William D. Cohan: “What Cohn has, that Trump wants, is a record of notching wins in adversarial circumstances, and that’s something that Bannon has not achieved in the early days of the administration. The dyslexic grandson of Jewish immigrants from a suburb of Cleveland, Cohn attended four different schools by the time he got to sixth grade. In high school, he worked part-time in the warehouse of the family’s electrical supply business. When he graduated from American University in 1982, during the peak of the Reagan Recession, he had no job or job prospects.” [Politico

–Connie Bruck’s latest: “How Hollywood Remembers Steve Bannon: He says that, before he became a senior adviser to the President, he was a successful player in the film industry. But what did he actually do?” [NewYorker]

“Former Trump aide: Trump fired me many times and sued me. I still think he was a great boss” by Allison Michaels: “One thing about Donald Trump, I don’t know if I’m ever going to have another boss like this,” Sam Nunberg told White House bureau chief Philip Rucker. “He’s able to make you excel and push yourself. Part of it is because you want to please him.” [WashPost]

“Ivanka Trump adds a chief of staff” by Annie Karni: “Julie Radford — who like her boss is a mother of three young children — was chosen to work for the first daughter after being recruited in February by [Dina] Powell.” [Politico]

2018 WATCH: “Menendez raises $20K from Kushner family” by Herb Jackson: “The $20,000 contributions — $5,000 each from Lee, Marc, Jonathan and Aryeh Kushner — all came from the same address in Livingston, and were made on the same day in January. Lee Kushner is the wife of Murray Kushner, who has a long-running and well-publicized feud with his brother, Charles, who is Jared’s father. Marc and Jonathan are the sons of Lee and Murray Kushner… Marc and Murray Kushner also gave $15,600 in 2013 to the campaign of Sen. Cory Booker.” [NorthJersey]  

** Good Monday 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 BRIEFS: Sheryl Sandberg’s Accidental Revolution: How Sandberg’s grief became the catalyst for a new, emotionally honest management style at Facebook and beyond [Backchannel] • Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital is eyeing CIM’s James Hotel in Los Angeles for close to $975,000 a key, bringing the total prospective sale price to nearly $280 million [RealDeal] • Teddy Sagi Takes London’s Camden Market Owner Private [CND] • An Israeli startup armed with $45 million is taking on Google and Apple in the race to sell your personal data [BusinessInsider]

SPOTLIGHT: “Snap acquires the crucial geofilter patent from Mobli for a record $7.7M” by Mike Butcher: “According to sources, serial entrepreneur and investor Moshe Hogeg, who co-founded Mobli, sold Mobli’s Geofilters patent to Snap this month for $7.7 million. This is believed to be the highest amount paid for a patent from the Israeli tech industry. The news was confirmed in an email to Mobli’s 100 shareholders.” [TC]

“Video Shows Palantir CEO Ridiculing Trump And Slamming His Immigration Rhetoric” by William Alden: “In a Palantir staff meeting in August 2015, the video shows, [Alex] Karp derided Trump’s “fictitious wealth,” called him a bully, and condemned his campaign rhetoric on deporting immigrants. He also said he had given Trump a brush-off… “Like, you could almost make up someone that I find — it would be hard to make up someone I find less appealing,” Karp said of Trump.” [BuzzFeed]

Mike Bloomberg talks 2016 election on 60 Minutes — “If I thought we could win, or had a reasonable chance, I would have done it.” But, “It would be totally unlikely, very unlikely that an independent could win,” Bloomberg added… He told “60 Minutes” that he called to congratulate his fellow New Yorker after he won the election. “We joked about my speech in Philadelphia. And before he finished the conversation, he gave me his personal phone number, his cellphone. I haven’t called him, so I don’t know if — whether he’d answer it now. But … I hope he does a good job,” Bloomberg added.” [TheHill; CBSNews] • Bloomberg gave 60 Minutes a helicopter tour of New York City [CBSNews]

THE AXE FILES — David Axelrod interviewed former Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on his podcast: Highlights — When describing his time in Israel during the Yom Kippur war as a child, Shapiro recalled: “I remember going to the bomb shelters, blacking out the apartment, and the confusion that my parents were dealing with of just trying to understand what was going on. They immediately got pressure from their parents, bring the grandchildren home. What are you doing there? Get out of Israel. But, they decided to stay and help volunteer anywhere they could where people had gone to fight so my father was on a Moshav in a chicken coop. He was in a school teaching. That is what began the sense of identification. This was more than a semester abroad. It turned into something much more meaningful. I can remember playing tag in the bomb shelters with the other kids in the apartment building.”

Shapiro on his Jewish identity: “I grew up in a Reform Jewish household, nowadays I consider myself a Conservative Jew. All those years of religious studies, Jewish summer camps definitely imbued in me a feeling that I as a Jew had a special connection with this country far away. I felt a connection to that history and to the story of return to that story of people who had been exiled from their homeland and finally found their way back home. That spoke to me very personally.”

Regarding the controversial Obama administration decision to abstain from the December UN Security Council resolution 2334, Shaprio emphasized, “I can defend it. It was actually not my preference. Had we been able to shape a resolution to be more like a Quartet report that had been issued over the summer that applied the responsibilities to all the different parties a bit more evenly, that could have been more constructive product.”

While critiquing much of Trump’s foreign policy, the former US Ambassador praised the new administration’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian file.Shapiro explained that Jason Greenblatt “has made an impressive debut. He didn’t only meet with Netanyahu and Abbas. He met everybody: Israelis of all political stripes, Palestinians of many political stripes: refugees, students, settlers, businessmen.” Listen to the full episode here [CNN]

“Justice Dept. charges man in threat hoaxes to Jewish Community Centers” by Tom Winter and Phil Helsel: “Michael Ron David Kadar, 18, who was arrested by Israeli police in March, is charged in Florida and Georgia with making threatening interstate communications, making interstate threats related to explosives, conveying false information and perpetuating a hoax, and cyberstalking… “Today’s charges into these violent threats to Jewish Community Centers and others represent this Department’s commitment to fighting all forms of violent crime,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.” [NBCNews] • Israel refuses to extradite teen JCC bomb hoaxer to US [ToI]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Jerusalem hotels: Unlikely hotbeds of furtive, meticulous romance” by Tracy Frydberg: “It’s the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Central Jerusalem and these young men and women are engaged in “shidduch dating,” a system of matchmaking used by religious Jews, from the liberal Modern Orthodox to the ultra-Orthodox Haredim. Tourists sharing the lobby stare openly at the daters… Daters in Jerusalem typically start simple and build up their repertoire of hotels as the relationship progresses; the Prima Kings, Leonardo or King Solomon are considered respectable-yet-modest choices for a first date. If things go well, perhaps the Inbal will come next. When things get serious, the nascent couple will move on to the Waldorf or King David, where the patio is really nice during the summer.” [ToI]

DESSERT: “Can You Keep Kosher or Halal in Space?” by Sarah Lewin:“According to Vickie Kloeris, manager of NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory, purely kosher meals (food prepared according to Jewish law) or halal (food prepared according to Islamic law) aren’t currently possible for the space station fliers. “We have a single packaging room on the U.S. side. All of the food that’s part of our standard menu that we provide — from what I understand, in order for them to be kosher and halal, they have to be done in separate, unique facilities. Therefore, everything we package would not meet that requirement.” Kloeris noted that it’s possible to travel with a limited allotment of kosher or halal foods, in order to honor an astronaut’s heritage.” [Space.Com]

BIRTHDAYS: Film director, Richard Donner (born Richard Donald Schwartzberg) turns 87… Yeshiva of Brooklyn student who went on to become an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony and Peabody Award winning singer and actress, Barbra Streisand turns 75… Board chairman of financial publisher TheStreet, also on the board of directors of Gannett and MDC Partners, previously president and publisher of USA Today, Larry Kramer turns 67… Israeli architect and artist, Ron Arad turns 66… President of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards of the NBA since 2003, himself an NBA player (1977-1986), Ernest “Ernie” Grunfeld turns 62… Award winning author and journalist and the former national editor for Politico, Michael Hirsh turns 60… President of Kirtzman Strategies in NYC, previously a journalist, political reporter and television news anchor (2002-2008), author of books about Bernie Madoff and Rudy Giuliani, Andrew Kirtzman turns 56… Television writer, producer and film screenwriter, known as the co-creator and showrunner of the television series “Lost” (2004-2010), Damon Lindelofturns 44… Director of public relations at the Jacksonville office of the Dalton Agency,Brandon Hersh turns 34… President of Cincinnati-based Standard Textile since 1986, VP of JINSA and the Israel Policy Forum, Gary Heiman… Delray Beach, FL resident, Phyllis Dupret… Jeffrey Wohlberg… Mark Waldman… Elaine Berke

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]

Anti-Semitic, racist fliers found on Princeton campus


Fliers with anti-Semitic, racist and anti-immigrant messages were posted on the campus of Princeton University.

The fliers were discovered in at least four areas of the campus on Thursday, the Daily Princetonian student newspaper reported, including on the door to the main entrance of the campus Center for Jewish Life.

The person posting the fliers was wearing dark clothing and a ski mask, the Daily Princetonian reported.

The fliers were from a white nationalist organization called Vanguard America, which bills itself as a group for “White Nationalist American youth working to secure the existence of their people.”

Among the charges made on the flier: “Jews are 10% of Princeton’s students, an overrepresentation of 500%,” and 80 percent of the first Soviet government was Jewish.”

The flier also was posted on the group’s Twitter feed on Thursday, the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

The fliers were removed after a complaint was called in to the university.

The campus Public Safety is investigating the fliers as a bias incident.

In an email to the campus community, Michele Minter, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity, said: “Princeton is committed to protecting and promoting free expression, but it regards actions that are threatening  or harassing based on identity as serious offenses. These flyers were contrary to the values of the university, which seeks to create and maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment.”

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

ADL audit notes spike in anti-Semitism since 2016


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

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

Graphic courtesy of ADL.

Graphic courtesy of ADL.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poll finds majority of Americans concerned about Anti-Semitism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewish leaders owe an apology to Trump and America


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December:

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

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

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

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

In December, Greenblatt told NPR:

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

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

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

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

Greenblatt also wrote in that Washington Post column:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Federations exist to serve Jewish community, not play partisan politics


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Adolf Hitler and German President Paul von Hindenburg, Potsdam 1933

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


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

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

***

Dear Professor Hayes,

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

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

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

Yours,

Shmuel

***

Dear Shmuel,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the bomb threats, stupid!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

It appears the groups were wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Reuters

Jewish groups urge Congress to preserve anti-Semitism monitor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

That crazy turn of events changes everything and nothing.

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

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

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

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

That makes no sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing Together Against Anti-Semitism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Holocaust is fake history’ scrawled on Seattle synagogue


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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SXSW 2017: 5 don’t-miss Jewish events


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aggrieved, aghast, agape


cartoon-Agape-cmyk

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Carolina state capitol in Columbia. Photo from Wikipedia.

South Carolina House adopts State Department definition of anti-Semitism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

Calendar: March 10-16, 2017


SAT | MARCH 11

AUTHOR NOAH ISENBERG

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

SUN | MARCH 12

SHALOM HANOCH & MOSHE LEVI: THE EXIT CONCERT

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

TUES | MARCH 14

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

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

WED | MARCH 15

IS “ZIONIST” NOW A BAD WORD?

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

“CATHOLIC AND JEWISH CONCEPTS OF FORGIVENESS”

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

BEING JEWISH ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS

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

SECURITY RESPONSE TOWN HALL

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

THURS | MARCH 16

“MEMORY & CONTINUITY OF THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN JEWISH LEGACY”

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

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

Local cemeteries refrain from security changes, despite heightened concern


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop celebrating Muslim decency


Being congratulated for basic civility is no compliment

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

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

Imagine these headlines:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

The paradox of today’s anti-Semitism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Except that’s complete nonsense.

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

Read the full column on timesofisrael.com.


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

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

4 more bomb threats emailed to JCCs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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