Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Discovered at University of Michigan


A piece of anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in a bathroom at the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

According to the Michigan Daily, two Jewish students discovered a swastika emblazoned on a bathroom stall in permanent black marker in the Modern Languages Building. One of the students, Sammy Lawrence, reported the incident to the campus Division of Public Safety and Security.

Lawrence told the Daily he “felt particularly targeted by this Nazi symbol.”

“Giving a platform and validating anti-Semites or individuals who support causes that embrace anti-Semitism makes hateful speech towards Jews acceptable,” said Lawrence. “I call on the entire (U)niversity to condemn this anti-Semitic incident, reach out to a Jewish peer and check in with them, and reflect on how we can prevent this moving forward.”

The other student, Ryan Schedit, told the Daily he “was fearful” that the swastika was connected to Michigan’s student government calling for the university to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

“If it was drawn this morning after the vote, I hope it has nothing to do with divestment, but it would scare me if it did,” said Schedit.

A university spokesperson told the Algemeiner that don’t know when the swastika was drawn and they don’t have any current suspects.

On Wednesday morning before the swastika was discovered, Michigan’s student government approved the divestment resolution by a margin of 23 in favor, 17 against and five abstaining. While the university seems to be unwilling to divest from any company, those in the Jewish community on campus criticized the resolution for being divisive and targeting Israel.

The tactic of divestment has been popularized by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Police Investigate Defacing of Temple’s Bathroom


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL Steps Up Reporting on Anti-Semitic Incidents


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Larry David Cross a Line? …You Betcha!


By now I’m guessing much of the US Jewish population has a strong opinion about #LarryDavid’s opening monologue on SNL. I’m also guessing very few actually watched the skit. I did, and it made me squirm. Then I started reading the pushback from the community which I found to be just as offensive. “David’s a self-hating Jew”. “He’s an idiot”, “He should be boycotted” “Send him to a concentration camp” – which led me to watch his piece once again.

“It’s not just supposed to make you laugh,

good comedy challenges, makes you think”

This time I found his piece to be equally offensive, AND I had a new found respect for the power of comedy – it’s not just supposed to make you laugh, good comedy challenges, makes you think. And Larry David, has done just that. His joke wasn’t about the Holocaust; it was about objectifying women. His joke was not about Jews being evil, it was about Jews being human. “I don’t like when Jews are in the headlines for notorious reasons. I want ‘Einstein discovers the theory of relativity,’ ‘Salk cures polio.”

That’s not self-loathing, that’s raw honesty. How many Jews are talking about their Judaism on TV? Could he have been more nuanced? Maybe, or maybe Erma Bombeck said it best, “there’s a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt”.

Did Larry cross the line? It seems for many Jews, yes!  For this Jew, I’d rather he keep his right to push buttons and boundaries,  and I keep my right to laugh or dismiss him. And if you don’t agree with me, that too is ok.

That’s the power of the arts. That’s the beauty of America.

 

Screenshot from YouTube.

Teen Faces Indictment for Vandalizing Jewish Cemetery


A teenager has been indicted for vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in New York.

Eric Carbanoro, 18, is being indicted for allegedly being a part of a group that emblazoned anti-Semitic graffiti on Beth Shalom Cemetery in Warwick, NY, which included the words “Heil Hitler” and multiple swastikas, on Oct. 9, 2016.

The indictment also alleges that Carbanoro deleted incriminating images from phones belonging to other people, including a meme that stated “secretly spray paints Jewish cemetery and gets away with it.”

As a result, Carbanoro is being charged with conspiring to commit a hate crime and tampering with evidence.

District Attorney David Hoovler denounced the vandalism in a statement.

“There is no room for this type of hateful desecration of religious property here in Orange County,” said Hoovler. “These anti-Semitic symbols and messages do not reflect the values of the overwhelming majority of Orange County and Warwick residents.”

Carbonaro has yet to be arrested. It is believed that he conspired with two others to commit the hate crime, both of which have yet to be identified. The investigation is still ongoing.

There have been numerous instances of Jewish cemeteries being vandalized in 2017, including a Jewish cemetery in Boston in July and three in a span of 12 days in March.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

McGill University Jewish Student Kicked Off Student Government Board for ‘Conflicts of Interest’


A Jewish student at McGill University has been kicked off the student government board for having “conflicts of interest” due to his pro-Israel activism.

Third-year student Noah Lew was one of 12 board members up for general assembly ratification on Monday evening following his victory as vice-president finance of the Arts Undergraduate Society. The ratification vote is typically a mere formality, but Monday’s was different due to Democratize Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), an organization that was established to resist the university’s ban of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus.

Democratize SSMU was able to pass a motion that required each board member to be voted upon separately under the grounds that they weren’t a fan of the names. When it was Lew’s turn, he was voted down, 105 to 73 with 12 abstaining, with applause following the vote. Two other students who had criticized BDS, Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique, were also voted down.

Democratize SSMU had targeted Lew and the other two students on the board because they had connections to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and were involved in getting the BDS ban passed, which Democratize SSMU claimed were “conflicts of interests.”

Lew shared the experience on Facebook.

“I have no doubt from the information circulated about me and campaign run against me prior to this vote that this was about my Jewish identity, and nothing more,” wrote Lew. “I was blocked from being able to participate in my student government because I am Jewish, because I have been affiliated with Jewish organizations, and because I believe in the right to Jewish self-determination.”

Lew added that the experience shows the inherent anti-Semitism in the BDS movement.

“If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why did a BDS-led campaign name and shame me for my affiliation with a Jewish organization, and call on students to remove me from student government for this reason?” wrote Lew. “If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why was I barred from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity?”

SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva wrote on Facebook that Lew being voted down was “a blatant expression of anti-semitism.”

“To vote against the candidacy of a Director simply because he is Jewish and involved in his community is unacceptable,” wrote Tojiboeva. “No matter what your place of origin, your religious or political beliefs are, you should feel welcome to get involved in your own Student Society.”

McGill Principal and Vice Chancellor Suzanne Fortier sent out an email declaring that the university would be investigating the matter.

Democratize SSMU defended their actions on Facebook, claiming that the students were voted off the board for their role in passing the BDS ban.

“It is not surprising that students refused to ratify these Directors,” the organization wrote. In their voting, they were fulfilling their role of making a political decision about who will represent them. This is how democracy works.”

They added that they “apologize for any harm that has been done” in response to accusations of “being divisive and discriminatory.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Fliers Posted in Cornell


A myriad of anti-Semitic fliers were posted on Cornell University’s campus on Monday morning.

The fliers featured a slew of anti-Semitic tropes and symbols, as they blared “Just say no to Jewish lies!” around an image of a snake holding the globe in a vice grip and a Star of David. Below the image was a swastika and the line, “Join the white gang.” It also referenced something called the “Solar Cross Society,” which doesn’t seem to exist.

The fliers have been taken down and it is not known who posted them.

Cornell University President Martha Pollack issued a statement on Monday condemning the posters.

“Whoever is responsible for these fliers is hiding under the cover of anonymity, having posted them overnight,” said Pollack. “Whoever they are, they need to ask themselves why they chose our campus, because Cornell reviles their message of hatred; we revile it as an institution, and I know from many personal conversations that thousands of Cornellians deplore it individually.”

Pollack added that the posters were “abhorrent, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

“We will not allow this incident to deter us from our ongoing work to address hatred and bigotry on our campus,” said Pollack. “Instead, we will stand strong and stand together to ensure respect, dignity and safety for all our community members.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick also issued a statement denouncing the fliers.

“Anti-Semitism is a deplorable ideology that has lately received a national platform,” said Myrick. “It is not welcome in Ithaca, as this cowardly poster surely knew when they decided to hang this anonymously.”

Cornell isn’t the only campus this month to be subjected to an anti-Semitic attack. A sukkah at Kansas State University was vandalized on October 5. Such anti-Semitic incidents seem to be on the rise, as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found in April that anti-Semitic incidents have increased on college campuses by 86%.

Photo from Vimeo.

ZOA calls on California school officials to fight anti-Semitism


For years, Jewish college students across the country have been harassed and intimidated.  Frighteningly, this ugly problem is seeping into our high schools and even our middle and elementary schools.

In Alameda, California, middle and elementary schools have been defaced with swastikas and a Jewish elementary school student reportedly received a death threat.  Under pressure from the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the parents of Natasha Waldorf – who received multiple anti-Semitic threats at Alameda High School – Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) officials are finally admitting that anti-Semitism is a problem and that they’ve made mistakes in how they’ve responded to it.  But they are still not doing what’s needed.

The AUSD must implement a prevention, protection, and proscription plan.  Prevention means educating students and families about anti-Semitism and making it clear that harassing Jewish students won’t be tolerated.  Protection means adequately training staff to recognize, stop and report anti-Semitism.  Proscription means effectively responding to anti-Semitism, including by publicly condemning it, appropriately disciplining wrongdoers, and ensuring that targeted students are protected.

AUSD’s current protocols have failed.  School officials never asked Natasha to formally report any of the anti-Semitic threats she endured from classmates last year, even though California law requires districts to have a process to receive and investigate harassment complaints.

Staff aren’t adequately trained to recognize and respond to anti-Semitism.  In school hallways last year, Natasha heard students call each other “kike” and say, “Don’t be such a Jew” – as if being Jewish is something horrible.  Teachers were present when these comments were made.  Even though California law requires them to immediately intervene when they witness an act of discrimination, teachers didn’t even look up, let alone intercede, to stop this blatant anti-Semitism.

Staff minimize anti-Semitism that goes beyond name-calling.  When two students told Natasha and a Jewish classmate that “Hitler should have finished the job” – meaning that Natasha, her Jewish classmate, their families, and all Jews should have been murdered – Natasha and her Jewish classmate reported the incident to a teacher who failed to report it and refused their request to report it themselves.  When Natasha and her friend later told the Assistant Principal about the incident, he refused to acknowledge that they had been physically threatened as Jews.

AUSD officials have not disciplined anti-Semitic bullies in any serious way and have failed to protect the targeted Jewish students.  After Natasha was threatened, school officials never even required the bullies to apologize to her.  They gave no thought to Natasha’s physical and emotional well-being, and instead added to her trauma by leaving the bullies in her classes for the rest of the school year, where she had to face them day after day.  At a minimum, the bullies should have been moved to another class or even to another school, and Natasha should have been offered whatever support she needed.  At the start of this academic year, a school official summoned Natasha to ask who her bullies were, so that they would not be in her classes this year.  School officials would have had this information since last January, had there been an appropriate reporting and documenting system in place.

AUSD’s community outreach has been abysmal.  The Alameda High School principal admitted in a recent newsletter that he deliberately kept the many anti-Semitic incidents quiet, feebly explaining that he was trying to “prevent copycat behavior.”  Instead, he provided cover for the anti-Semites and sent the message that the AUSD would tolerate the harassment of its Jewish students.

For months, the ZOA and the Waldorf family have been recommending that the district implement a prevention, protection and proscription plan, consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s anti-bullying recommendations.  In September, Natasha addressed Alameda’s City Council, urging them to insist that the district take action.  Her courageous advocacy has, so far, been met with shameful silence.

Also in September, Natasha’s father addressed the Board of Education, imploring them to act.  If the AUSD were truly committed to finally addressing anti-Semitism, Board members would have expressed deep remorse over the AUSD’s response to Natasha’s suffering, as well as their specific plans to respond effectively to anti-Semitism.  Instead, in what appeared to be an orchestrated effort, two teachers – who do not teach at Alameda High School and thus lack personal knowledge of what Natasha endured – praised the Superintendent’s response to anti-Semitism and attacked the Waldorf family.  The teachers said they were speaking as district employees, and falsely suggested that the family was refusing to work with the district, falsely suggested that the family was lying about what they endured, and wrongly blamed the family for the AUSD’s failures.  Board members, the Superintendent, and AUSD’s counsel were present.  Not a single one intervened to challenge the teachers and make it clear that they were not authorized to speak on the district’s behalf and were wrong to do so.

AUSD’s shameful indifference to the safety and well-being of Jewish students is particularly disgraceful, because it has readily responded when other groups were perceived to be at risk.  The AUSD passed a resolution declaring itself a “safe haven” for all students, to ease the fears of immigrant students and their families.  It held workshops for immigrant families, and for Arabic-speaking and Muslim families.  It formed an LGBTQ Round Table.  The district’s mantra is “everyone belongs here,” but when comparatively little attention is paid to anti-Semitism, the district is not making it clear that “everyone” includes Jews.

Unless AUSD officials finally implement a plan to do everything they can to eliminate anti-Semitism, they should be replaced by individuals truly committed to protecting all, not just the non-Jewish students in their care.  Effective leadership is imperative before anti-Semitic threats lead to something more serious, including violence.


SUSAN B. TUCHMAN is the director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice.

DAVID KADOSH is the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America West Coast chapter.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Ohio legislators put forward bill condemning the BDS movement


A group of legislators in the Ohio House of Representatives are looking to pass a bill condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that undermines the nation of Israel.

The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 10, voices the House’s support for Israel as “the greatest friend and ally of the United States in the Middle East” and warns of anti-Semitism increasing around the globe. The bill also states that the goal of BDS is for Israel to cease to exist and that the movement has “increased animosity and intimidation against Jewish students” on college campuses.

“The members of the General Assembly condemn the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and its activities in Ohio for legitimizing anti-Semitism and for seeking to undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel,” the bill reads.

The bill also encourages college campuses to shield Jewish students from “anti-Semitic actions and intimidation” and to ensure that free speech is protected on campus.

Rep. Andrew Thompson (R-Marietta), a supporter of the bill, told reporters in front of the Ohio Statehouse that BDS focuses on “wiping Israel off the map.”

“If we don’t stand strongly and firmly against that, if we do not insist that our campuses protect the rights of Jewish students and allies of Israel, we could potentially face much darker outcomes,” said Thompson.

Back in December, Ohio became the 14th state in the country to prevent the state government from granting contracts to companies that boycott Israel. There was also an effort to get Ohio State University to divest from companies that do business with Israel, but that effort was shot down in March.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described BDS as engaging in “the demonization and delegitimization of Israel” and is inherently anti-Semitic.

“Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state,” the ADL states on its website. “Often time, BDS campaigns give rise to tensions in communities – particularly on college campuses – that can result in harassment or intimidation of Jews and Israel supporters, including overt anti-Semitic expression and acts.  This dynamic can create an environment in which anti-Semitism can be express more freely.”

A 2016 Brandeis University study found that the BDS movement was a key factor behind an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses that year. The amount of BDS activity on college campuses declined in 2017, but their campaigns have become “more sophisticated and aggressive,” according to Israel on Campus Coalition.

Police and rescue forces surround a BMW car with several bullet holes in it at the scene where the man suspected of ramming a car into a group of soldiers on Wednesday in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret was shot and arrested on the A16 motorway, near Marquise, France, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

10-year-old French girl hospitalized following classmates’ allegedly anti-Semitic assault


(JTA) — A 10-year-old girl was assaulted by her classmates and the home of a family was daubed with racist graffiti in two Paris-area incidents deemed anti-Semitic.

The alleged assault was reported to France’s ministry of education by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, the watchdog group wrote in a statement on its website Tuesday.  Separately, the same group reported that unidentified individuals on Wednesday wrote anti-Semitic slogans on the side of a home belonging to Jewish family in the eastern suburb of Noisy le Grand.

The mother of the girl who allegedly was assaulted, identified by BNVCA only as Ness, complained to police recently that a group of classmates of her daughter in the public school which she attends in Paris’ 18thdistrict beat her on multiple occasions, often occurring day after day, only because she is Jewish. After one beating, Ness was brought to the hospital with visible contusion to her stomach and ribcage, the report said, requiring 10 days of recovery.

The child will be transferred to a different school, BNVCA wrote.

According to Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF federation of Jewish communities of France, anti-Semitic harassment has made public schools unsafe for Jews, leading to a sharp drop in the number of Jews attending them. In the past, a third of Jewish parents enrolled their children to public schools but now “no one does it,” he told JTA last year.

In the incident involving anti-Semitic graffiti, BNVCA said it was part of a campaign of intimidation against the family that owns the building targeted.

This time, they wrote “screw the shitty Jews, death to Jews, long live Palestine.” In recent years, the same family found in their mailbox an envelope featuring the words “Allah hu akbar” – Arabic for Allah is the greatest — with 9-milimeter bullets inside. They later received another envelope with a bullet for an AK-47 assault rifle and the words: “The next one is for you.”

The family is afraid to live in their home, wrote BNVCA, which complained to police about the incidents committed against the family and called on authorities to apprehend the culprits.

BNVCA said the incidents were expressions of what scholars of anti-Semitism are calling “new anti-Semitism” — assaults in which culprits cite Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians to justify violence or hostility toward individual Jews.

The organization accused some politicians in France of encouraging this phenomenon, including by agreeing to host next week at the Elysee presidential palace activists devoted to helping Hassan Hamouri, a terrorist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group. Hamouri was arrested by Israel in 2005 and imprisoned following his conviction of planning to assassinate the late Israeli rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Hamouri, who is a French citizen, was released in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas abducted in 2006. But he was arrested again, allegedly for violating the terms of his release by continuing to plan terrorist activities. Activists fighting for his release are planning a fundraiser in France for him on Oct. 9, after their planned meeting with an official at the Elysee.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrim blows a shofar, near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, Sept. 21, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine arrests three alleged terrorists accused of targeting Jews in Uman


(JTA) — Ukrainian police arrested three men they said were terrorists who, in their efforts to pit ethnic groups against one another, also targeted Jews in the central city of Uman.

The men were arrested earlier this month at a border crossing while carrying explosives, according to the KP news site. Citing unnamed officials from the regional prosecutor’s office, the news site reported that the suspects were planning to blow up a monument for Hungarians in a bid to escalate tensions over legislation in Ukraine that outlaws the use of Hungarian at elementary schools.

The three suspects were also behind a string of anti-Semitic incidents, according to the report, including the hurling on Sept. 21 of a grenade at Jewish pilgrims in Uman, where 30,000 Jews convene each year on Rosh Hashanah to celebrate the Jewish holiday near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

They are also accused of dousing a synagogue in Uman with red paint in 2016 and leaving a pig’s head there – an incident that many people attributed to hatred of Jews and locals’ growing dissatisfaction with problems associated with the pilgrimage.

They are further accused of spraying the words “death to Jews” on the synagogue in Chernivtsi in November and trying to set fire to the synagogue in Lviv in July. The suspects denied these and other allegations.

Though prosecutors have not said this, the arrests prompted theories that the three suspects were working for Russia to exacerbate social tensions in Ukraine and give the country a bad image abroad.

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged allegations of sabotage after 2014, when a revolution led by nationalists in Ukraine toppled the rule of former president Viktor Yanukovych, whom some critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backs separatists in Ukraine’s east.

The two countries have also exchanged accusations of anti-Semitism in an apparent attempt to discredit each other in the West.

Demonstrators protest against the anti-immigration party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) after German general election (Bundestagswahl) in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 24. Photo by Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

The rise of Germany’s far right: The unwelcome result of Willkommenspolitik


There are many word combinations that justify a pause, and of these “Germany” and “rise of the far right” is at the top of the list. On Sept. 24, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won her fourth term as leader of the country. But her victory — according to most reports— was “dimmed by the entry of a far-right party into parliament for the first time in more than 60 years.”

What is the “far right”? For the left, the far right is often everything right of center. For the right, the far right is everything to the right of where I stand. In Europe, this means parties that support xenophobic policies, oppose immigration and use populist messages and blunt, often ugly language to gain the votes of citizens who feel that their country has been stolen away from them by forces beyond their control. In the specific case of Germany, this includes references to the second World War that should make anyone, especially the (mostly) Jewish readers of the Jewish Journal, cringe. It also includes the curious yet common phenomenon of far right, allegedly anti-Semitic European parties supportive of Israel.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will enter the Bundestag, the German parliament, as the third biggest party. It will be an opposition party that promises to make Merkel’s life as miserable as it can. In a parliamentary system such as Germany’s, the exclusion of a large party complicates the political landscape and essentially forces on Merkel a certain coalition. Namely, it makes the other smaller parties — the ones that Merkel must appease to have a functioning coalition — more powerful.

There is no mystery surrounding the AfD’s achievement. This is, as Cas Mudde writes in the Guardian, “an anti-Merkel vote, reflecting opposition to her controversial Willkommenspolitik [the welcome policy] toward refugees, which not only pushed some voters of mainstream parties to switch but also mobilized previous non-voters.” Merkel decided to pursue an open door refugee policy. A controversial policy. Personally, she proved strong enough to pursue it and keep her seat. But it will be a less comfortable seat, next to a less appealing political neighbor.

Condemning the AfD is easy, and possibly necessary. Condemning AfD voters is also easy, and to a certain point, also necessary. Society should let voters of such parties know that some political deeds are beyond the pale of tolerable political choices. Still, understanding the rise of the AfD and its implications is much more important than condemnation. It is the natural result, the unintended yet to be expected consequences, of Merkel’s immigration policies.

Oftentimes, as possible implications of policies are weighed, the political backlash is not taken into account. Had Merkel known that her immigration policies would bring about the success of the far right, would she have still pursued them with such vigor? Would she have moderated them to mitigate such possible impact? If you feel detached from this question, try a local version of it: Had Barack Obama known that his immigration policies would bring about the victory and four-year term of Donald Trump as President (and no comparison of Trump to the AfD is intended), would he have made the same choices?

Policies have direct consequences, and they often have indirect consequences that are much more important. Some Israeli experts believe that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the way it was done made the second Palestinian Intifada more likely. Of course, such a link is not easy to prove, but assuming it is proved, would it not completely alter our assessment of the decision to withdraw?

Back to Germany, the question of weighing the benefit of a policy and its possible unintended outcome is not an easy one to answer. Opening the doors to refugees is noble. The backlash, and we know this from history, can be dangerous. A leader is tasked with taking both these considerations into account. It ought not to burden his or her country with something that the country would not tolerate. It ought not to test his or her country with a policy whose result could be devastating.

Is it a devastating result to have AfD representatives sitting in the Bundestag? Much of it depends on whether this was a one-time show of protest or a beginning of a new trend. If it’s a one-time incident, Merkel could say that saving hundreds of thousands of refugees was worth the price. If this is the beginning of a new trend, Merkel could be remembered as the leader who recklessly pursued a policy that put Germany on a new unappealing path.

 

President Donald Trump speaking to Jewish leaders in a conference call at the White House as staffers look on on Sept. 15. Photo from White House Press Office

In call with Jewish groups, Trump does not take questions


The debate has gone on for weeks among rabbis and Jewish leaders: If President Donald Trump does not formally renounce white supremacists, is it still worth engaging in a conversation with him?

This has been on much of the Jewish community’s mind since Aug. 23, when the leaders of three religious streams — Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative — said they would not organize the annual pre-Rosh Hashanah call with the president, which the rabbinical groups had instituted at the start of President Barack Obama’s administration. That call, principally for clergy, was aimed at helping to shape the High Holy Days.

But last week, the White House said it would hold a call with Jewish leaders — one that would be in line with the calls and meetings that Jewish leaders have had with the sitting president since the Dwight Eisenhower era. It would be initiated by the White House, not the rabbis, and lay and religious leaders would be invited.

On Sept. 15, Trump delivered his holiday greetings in a conference call with Jewish leaders that lasted barely eight minutes. He condemned those who spread anti-Semitism. He expressed his love for Israel. And he hoped for progress in the peace process.

He took no questions. By contrast, calls and meetings with past presidents have included exchanges — sometimes tough — and generally lasted at least 45 minutes.

Some of the participants expressed disappointment after having done public battle with the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements over whether one should engage Trump in conversation in the wake of his equivocations over white supremacists.

“Everyone would look less stupid if he had just put it on YouTube,” one said, encapsulating the one-way direction of the conversation.

But others said it was important that they take part, out of respect for the office and as part of their duty to represent a diverse community.

Not invited to join the call were leaders of  the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. The Conservative movement did receive an invitation but Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the CEO of its Rabbinical Assembly, declined to participate.

All the participants who spoke to JTA asked not to be identified because the call was off the record, although the White House released a transcript the same day.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, a Charedi Orthodox group, had argued in a Forward op-ed Sept. 14 that the rabbis who had opted out of the call with the president were missing an opportunity to raise the painful issue of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched last month in Charlottesville, Va., which culminated in an attack by an alleged white supremacist that killed one counterprotester and injured at least 20 others.

“There is a difference between respectfully asking a president to clarify that he does not equate proponents of white supremacism with protesters against the same and, however one might feel about him, publicly and starkly insulting our nation’s duly elected national leader,” he said.

In the end, there were no surprises. Trump covered the standard range of issues in these calls and did not depart from the script.

Anti-Semitism and bias: “We forcefully condemn those who seek to incite anti-Semitism, or to spread any form of slander and hate — and I will ensure we protect Jewish communities, and all communities, that face threats to their safety,” he said.

Israel: “The United States will always support Israel not only because of the vital security partnership between our two nations, but because of the shared values between our two peoples,” he said.

Trump noted that his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was making a priority of keeping international bodies from singling out Israel for criticism.

“I can tell you on a personal basis, and I just left Israel recently, I love Israel,” he said.

Peace: “This next New Year also offers a new opportunity to seek peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I am very hopeful that we will see significant progress before the end of the year,” the president said. “Ambassador David Friedman, Jared [Kushner], Jason [Greenblatt] and the rest of my team are working very hard to achieve a peace agreement. I think it’s something that actually could happen.” Friedman is the ambassador to Israel, Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, and Greenblatt is the president’s top international negotiator.

Kushner, an observant Jew, opened the call by introducing the president, saying his father-in-law “takes great pride in having a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren.” Ivanka Trump, Jared’s wife, is also a top adviser to her father. Trump closed the call by saying he and his wife, Melania, are wishing all “a sweet, healthy and peaceful new year.”

The controversy surrounding the call began last month, when the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements cast their decision to cancel the call — an outcome of Trump’s equivocation after the Charlottesville violence, when he said “many sides” were to blame for the violence, and that there were “very fine people” among both the white supremacists and the counterprotesters.

“The president’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia,” the joint statement said.

The day before the call, Trump again insisted that there was blame on both sides.

Those who participated in the call said that even absent a question-and-answer period, it still was better to be on the call than not.

“These are rabbis whose foremost cause should be the Jewish people and Israel,” said Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America.

Klein, who was on the call, noted that he participated in similar calls and meetings with Obama, even though he rarely agreed with him.

“Why stupidly insult the president, who we need for those issues?” he asked.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in an email to JTA that because he was not on the call, he had no comment on what was said.

But, he wrote, “We stand by our decision to not host a High Holy Days call with the President this year. We are disappointed that the President continues to draw a false equivalency between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump, poll finds


American Jews overwhelmingly disapprove of President Donald Trump in just about every area, scoring him lower than his predecessor even on topics like Israel, where Jewish approval of Barack Obama was relatively low, according to an American Jewish Committee poll.

The survey also shows a sharp uptick in concerns about anti-Semitism in the United States, which may be a reflection of the increased influence of the “alt-right” since Trump’s election.

Of respondents in the poll posted Wednesday by the AJC, 77 percent said they viewed Trump’s job performance unfavorably and 21 percent said they viewed him favorably. Those are considerably worse numbers for the president than in the general population at around the same time, mid- to late August, when Gallup consistently showed Trump scoring favorable ratings in the high 30s and unfavorable marks in the high 50s.

Asked for specifics, respondents scored Trump negatively across the board: 73 to 27 unfavorable to favorable on national security; 69-30 on terrorism; 75-23 on U.S.-Russia relations; 71-25 on handling the relationship with NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance; 77-20 on race relations; 76-23 on immigration; and 68-26 on the Iran nuclear issue. He came out best on U.S.-Israel relations, though still unfavorable: 54-40.

That contrasted with Obama, who scored a dead heat on the U.S.-Israel relations the last time it was asked in this poll, two years ago: 49 percent disapproving and 48 approving, well within the margin of error of 4.7 percent. That survey was conducted after 18 months of tensions in the U.S.-Israel relationship, with the collapse of Israel-Palestinian talks in the spring of 2014. The month the poll was taken, in August 2015, Obama was pressing hard for the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel’s government and the centrist pro-Israel community vigorously opposed.

Trump has striven to make good relations with Israel a cornerstone of his foreign policy, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly prefers his presidency to that of Obama.

Jewish approval of the Iran deal in the 2015 poll was in a statistical dead heat, with 50 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. Trump wants to scrap the deal, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. He may do so as soon as next month, when according to law, he must recertify Iranian adherence to the deal.

Jews continue to identify more as liberal and as Democrat than not. Among respondents, 54 percent said they were liberal, 22 percent classified themselves as moderate, and 22 percent said they were conservative. Party wise, 54 percent said they were Democrats, 15 percent said they were Republicans and 20 percent Independent. Asked whether they voted in November for Trump or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, the numbers were statistically commensurate with how respondents in the AJC poll from a year ago — focusing almost exclusively on the election — said they would vote: 64 percent said they voted for Clinton and 18 percent for Trump. Last year the numbers were 61-19.

Republicans who believe a candidate more conventional than Trump could score better may take comfort in what this year’s poll reported regarding Vice President Mike Pence, who has a longstanding relationship with the organized pro-Israel community: His unfavorable-favorable rating, 62-30, was more in line with how Jews have voted in recent years than Trump’s negatives.

The poll shows a further erosion of U.S. Jewish approval of Netanyahu, who once polled consistently favorably among American Jews. In 2015, the last time the question was asked, U.S. Jews approved of Netanyahu’s handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, 57-42. This year, it’s a statistical dead heat, with respondents disapproving 47 percent to 45 percent approving. Netanyahu has come under fire in recent months from major U.S. Jewish groups for reneging on pledges to loosen restrictions on the practice in Israel of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

Asked as in years past how respondents perceive anti-Semitism in the United States, the numbers on the surface show consistency: 84 percent see it as a problem this year, while 16 percent do not. That jibes with 85 percent in 2015 who saw it as a problem, higher than the 73 percent scored last year.

There is a notable spike, however, on closer examination: The number who classified the anti-Semitism problem in the United States as “very serious” soared to 41 percent this year from the 21 percent of the past two polls. That may result from associations between Trump and the “alt-right,” a grouping of anti-establishment conservatives who include within their ranks anti-Semites, as well as Trump’s equivocation on condemning anti-Semitism and bigotry, most recently last month when a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in deadly violence.

The other notable increase was in which nation posed the “single greatest danger” to the United States. North Korea, which has intensified its nuclear testing as tensions ratchet up with the Trump administration, was by far the leader this year at 57 percent. Next was Russia at 22 percent — a result perhaps of intensified coverage of Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s election.

In 2015, the last time a similar question was asked, the highest scorer was the Islamic State, the terrorist group, at 51 percent. Also known as ISIS, it did not appear as an option this year. The order behind the Islamic State that year was China (13 percent), Russia (10 percent), Iran (9.5 percent) and North Korea (6 percent), the last of five listed.

The telephone poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted by SSRS, a research firm, from Aug. 10 to 28. It has a margin of error of 3.71 percent.

An armed French police officer at the Boulevard de Barbes in the north end of Paris, Jan. 7, 2016. Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

French Jewish family beaten in anti-Semitic home invasion


A French Jewish leader and his family were assaulted in their home near Paris in what representatives of French Jewry said was an anti-Semitic attack.

In the attack Thursday night, three men, two of whom were wearing masks, broke into the home of Roger Pinto, the president of Siona, a group that represents Sephardic Jews. The attackers beat Pinto’s son and wife in the home in the northeastern suburb of Livry Gargan, the Dreuz news website reported Sunday.

One of the attackers said: “You Jews have money,” according to the family members.

The family members told police that the attackers, who they said were black men in their 20s or 30s, took their credit cards and jewelry, interrogated them for hours about additional items them could steal and threatened to kill them. The men ran away after Roger Pinto managed to discretely call rescue services on a mobile phone.

The Pintos were taken to hospital for treatment. They suffered some minor injuries and were deeply traumatized, the report said.

The incident, one of several cases in France in recent years in which criminals apparently singled out Jews based on the belief that they have money, provoked passionate condemnations from the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Both groups said the incident was an anti-Semitic attack.

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French Jewish philosopher, agreed, writing on Twitter Sunday: “Shocked by the anti-Semitic attack Friday night [sic] in Livry-Gargan. Solidarity with Roger Pinto and his family, the victims.”

In an unusual move, the Israeli ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, also condemned the incident on Twitter and asserted it was an anti-Semitic attack.

In 2014, three men broke into the home of a Jewish family in Creteil near Paris. One of them raped a young woman there while another guarded her boyfriend, whom they took prisoner. A third took the couple’s credit card to extract cash from an ATM machine. They too allegedly said they targeted the couple because they are Jewish.

Occurring amid a major increase in anti-Semitic violence in France accompanying Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza that year, the Creteil incident echoed for many the traumatic murder and torture in 2006 of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish phone salesman who was abducted by a gang led by a career criminal with a history of targeting mostly Jewish victims.

Some French Jews regard Halimi’s murder as the turning point in the emergence of a wave of violence against Jews in France and Belgium, in which more than 12 people have died since 2012 in at least three jihadist attacks on Jewish targets.

Sharon Nazarian

Sharon Nazarian tapped to lead international affairs for ADL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish President Andrzej Duda at the NATO Multinational Corps Northeast headquarters in Szczecin, Poland, on Nov. 28, 2016. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

European Jewish Congress slams Poland’s ‘lack of concern’ over anti-Semitism


In an unusually harsh condemnation, the European Jewish Congress said the Polish government has a “staggering lack of concern” about anti-Semitism and a “transparent divide-and-rule tactic” vis-a-vis Jews.

The statement Thursday follows an open feud between leaders of Polish Jewry on whether Poland has seen an increase in anti-Semitic incidents or sentiment since the rise to power of the nationalist Law and Justice Party in 2015.

The EJC statement offers support for the organization’s Poland affiliates, the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland and the Jewish Community of Warsaw, in their fight with other Jewish organizations in Poland.

The fight erupted earlier this month when leaders of the affiliated groups blamed the government for allowing, if not encouraging, an alleged increase in anti-Semitism. Other Jewish leaders disputed the claim, saying it constitutes a partisan tactic against the ruling party by the EJC affiliates.

“The EJC notes the staggering lack of concern from the government of Poland to the growth and normalization of anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric in the country in recent times,” the statement read. “The transparent divide-and-rule tactic of senior leaders of the Law and Justice Party in seeking to choose its selected Jewish interlocutors over the heads of official and representative community organizations in Poland leaves us staggered and reminds us of much darker times in Europe when governments chose their Jews.”

The statement referenced a meeting earlier this month hosted by a founder of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, with two Chabad rabbis and Artur Hofman, president of the TSKZ cultural group, which is has offices in 15 cities and is Poland’s largest Jewish organization in terms of membership. An activist for Holocaust commemoration in Poland also attended the meeting.

The meeting, which participants described as friendly and earnest, followed the publication of a critical letter that two leaders of the EJC-affiliated groups sent last month to Kaczynski asserting that there was an increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and pleading with the government to intervene to curb it. The leader of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, Anna Chipczynska, told JTA that Polish Jews have reached a “low point” in their feeling of safety under Law and Justice.

But Hofman said the claims were part of a “political war” by some leaders of Polish Jewry on Law and Justice. Hofman, who was elected to his position by a majority in his group, said the EJC affiliates were exaggerating about a problem that did not really exist.

On Aug. 21, Sergiusz Kowalski, who had alerted the government about anti-Semitism as president of the Polish branch of the B’nai B’rith Jewish group, called the men who met with Kaczynski “court Jews.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, D.C., on May 3. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Rex Tillerson, heeding objections, says anti-Semitism envoy post to be filled


The State Department will fill the post of special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism following the urging of lawmakers and Jewish groups, but will do away with or combine dozens of other diplomatic positions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the announcement in a letter sent Monday to Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The special envoy post, which was mandated in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, has remained unfilled since Trump’s inauguration in late January, as have many other such posts. The envoy monitors acts of anti-Semitism abroad, documents the cases in State Department reports, and consults with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations.

The Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism has been unstaffed since July 1.

Congress members, Jewish groups and Jewish leaders have been urging Tillerson to keep the office open and name an envoy.

According to the Tillerson letter, the office will be returned to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with two positions and $130,000 in funding.

“I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose,” he wrote. “In some cases, the State Department would leave in place several positions and offices, while in other cases, positions and offices would be either consolidated or integrated with the most appropriate bureau. If an issue no longer requires a special envoy or representative, then an appropriate bureau will manage any legacy responsibilities.”

Other envoys that will be retained include the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. security coordinator; special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS; the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom; and the special envoy for Holocaust issues.

Of 66 current special envoys or representatives, 30 will remain. Nine positions will be eliminated, 21 will be integrated into other offices, five merged with other positions, and one transferred to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Anti-Defamation League, which ran a campaign to urge Tillerson to retain the position, including sending the secretary of state a petition signed by thousands of Americans,  praised the decision.

“We commend Secretary Tillerson for listening to the voices calling for the appointment of the special envoy to counter anti-Semitism,” National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “This position has been an essential diplomatic and political tool in fighting anti-Semitism around the globe.

“We urge the State Department to refrain from eliminating other special envoy roles which are vital to promoting American values of democracy, tolerance and religious freedom across the globe.”

The Brodsky Synagogue in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Israeli man shot dead near synagogue in Kiev


An Israeli man was found shot dead near a Kiev synagogue in what is believed to have been a robbery rather than an anti-Semitic incident.

The body of Sachroch Torsonov, 29, of Jerusalem, was found late Wednesday night near the Brodsky Synagogue in the center of the Ukrainian capital, Ynet reported.

A suspect has been arrested after being found in the victim’s car several hours after the killing. Police said the suspect tried to steal the victim’s car, making the motive criminal.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry told Ynet that the victim “is known to us and the incident is being handled by the Israeli Embassy in Kiev.”

President Donald Trump in Phoenix, Ariz., on Aug. 22. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump’s target: Immigrants like us


While reporting on the current generation of immigrants, I’ve been struck by how they resemble Jews who, like them, left the old country for a risky journey to the United States.

We forget family roots as the years pass. Only determined genealogists have the curiosity to trace families back to the towns of the Ashkenaz and Sefarad. 

But there is no better time than now to think about roots.

Who would think that the top news of the day would be American Nazis running wild, rampaging with their swastikas and anti-Semitic chants? They are evocative of the vicious young men who stormed through Russian cities and villages during pogroms, in Jewish quarters in the Middle East, in European cities when Hitler reigned.

Then, to make matters worse, President Donald Trump sank to the level of Hitler apologists when he said of the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., “You … had some very fine people on both sides.” 

The United States has been a welcoming land for Jews. But the Nazi sympathizers and Trump’s comments ought to remind us of a certain precariousness in our lives. Paranoid perhaps, but that gloomy thought is with me as I cover the immigration issue for the website Truthdig.

When Trump took office with his pledge to sharply limit immigration and to deport those here without documentation — numbering about 11 million — Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, son of an immigrant mother, said he thought immigration was one of the most important stories of our time and that we were in the middle of it in Southern California.  I thought so, too.

Take Boyle Heights, for example.

I began exploring Boyle Heights, Los Angeles’ traditional immigrant center, for the Los Angeles Times in 1970.

Much has changed since then. Brooklyn Avenue, the Boyle Heights’ main street of some of our readers’ youth, is now Cesar Chavez Avenue, and the Jews who made it their community long ago migrated westward. But some of the heritage of the old Boyle Heights — then a multiethnic, working-class neighborhood with a tradition of activist politics — remains.

That activism was apparent to me during a recent community workshop organized by Truthdig Managing Editor Eric Ortiz. The event was designed to show young people how to get news out in this era of internet journalism.

The concerns of these young journalists , who contribute to Boyle Heights Beat, a bilingual community newspaper and website, ranged from fighting the gentrification of Boyle Heights to reporting on the wave of fear in the Latino community over the rapidly increasing arrests of undocumented immigrants.

One story in a recent edition was about Los Angeles’ first all-solar-powered arts and music festival in Mariachi Plaza. Another was a moving account by a Boyle Heights Beat reporter about what happened when her father, here on a green card, was deported. What distinguishes the stories is that they give full pictures of life in Boyle Heights, rather than limiting themselves to the usual media accounts of undocumented immigrants being hauled away by authorities. 

My former Los Angeles Times colleague Hector Tobar wrote of these usual accounts in a New York Times op-ed, calling such stories “kind of immigration porn,” designed to titillate readers and viewers. “You are many times more likely to see a deportee on the TV news than a Latino doctor or teacher,” he wrote. “My objection is not to the coverage of deportations. … But the humiliated and hunted people you see in coverage of the deported are not the whole person. Tenacity and stubbornness are the defining qualities of undocumented America.”

These were the qualities of our Jewish immigrant forebears. They had the tenacity, stubbornness and courage to leave the old country for a faraway land whose language they frequently could not read or speak. They were impoverished before they left and often more so when they arrived. Grit and, often, family members pulled them up — sometimes way up.

These qualities are not recognized in the cruelly restrictive immigration measure proposed by Trump that would cut the number of immigrants to this country by half and, among other provisions, require English language skills. It would also eliminate some family sponsorship of immigrants, the route most immigrants follow to get into the United States. The provision would devastate Latino and Muslim families.

One of the provision’s authors was Trump aide Stephen Miller. As Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman wrote, Miller is the descendent of immigrants who benefited from American openness and generosity.

If you can, visit immigrant communities, go to meetings, explore the schools and watch people fight deportation in immigration court. Look carefully. You’ll see in their faces the faces of your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.

Today, Latinos and Muslims are under threat from the Trump administration. As inconceivable as it sounds, one day it could be us.


BILL BOYARSKY is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

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

ADL reports 1000% surge in online donations after Charlottesville rally


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

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

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

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

The Peter Stuyvesant statue in New York City stands in a Manhattan square named for him. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Should New York City remove statues of its anti-Semitic Dutch governor?


Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson … and Peter Stuyvesant?

One of these things is not like the others.

Amid the impassioned debate over whether, when and how to remove statues memorializing the Confederacy, an Israeli nonprofit is seeking a piece of the action. On Tuesday, Shurat HaDin, which represents terror victims in court, called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove all memorials to Stuyvesant, the last Dutch director-general of New Amsterdam (now New York), who was an anti-Semite.

“Peter Stuyvesant was an extreme racist who targeted Jews and other minorities including Catholics and energetically tried to prohibit them from settling in then New Amsterdam,” read a statement by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin’s president. “New York, of all American cities, which boasts such important Jewish history and claims such a present day vibrant Jewish community, should take the lead in denouncing Stuyvesant’s bigotry.”

The group’s complaint affects a range of locations and institutions around the city — from the elite Stuyvesant High School to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn neighborhood. The Dutchman also has a statue in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Square.

It’s true that Stuyvesant hated the Jews — to put it lightly. He didn’t want them to stay in his colony when they arrived in 1654 from the Netherlands via Brazil. When that didn’t work (because — awkward! — some of the colony’s owners were Jewish), Stuyvesant settled for prohibiting them from building a synagogue and serving in the militia. And he slapped them with a special tax.

He also called them “the deceitful race, such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ.” So, yeah, not a fan.

But does that put him on par with the leaders of the Confederacy? Not so much.

The statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson aren’t being taken down only because they were racist, though they certainly were. It’s because they led an armed rebellion against the United States so they could form a country built on the principle of enslaving an entire race.

If activists were calling for the removal of any monument to any racist (or anti-Semite), municipal workers would have their hands full taking down monuments to everyone from George Washington (he owned slaves) to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who interned Japanese Americans en masse) to Edith Wharton (who has been described as “vehemently anti-Semitic, even by the standards of her milieu and her era”). Despite the protestations of President Donald Trump, no one is demanding these actions.

And in the generations following the Civil War, Lee and crew became symbols not just of military honor but of institutionalized racism. Most of the Confederate memorials went up during the imposition of Jim Crow and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and there was another burst of defiant statues during the civil rights era. The statues celebrated segregation, and worse.

Stuyvesant is no such symbol. Though he institutionalized anti-Semitism for a brief period, his likeness isn’t viewed as a call to Jew-hatred. It’s likely most Jews in New York City don’t even know he was anti-Semitic (I didn’t before today).

Shurat HaDin is calling for all of Stuyvesant’s memorials to be renamed for Asser Levy, a prominent member of the first New York Jewish community who campaigned for equal rights. Levy already has two city parks and a school to his name — and he’s unlikely to get all of Stuyvesant’s real estate. Notably, Shearith Israel, the still-running congregation founded by the original New York Jews, has not joined Shurat HaDin’s campaign.

Plus, Bed-Levy just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The sun is obscured by the moon during a solar eclipse as seen from an Alaska Airlines commercial jet on Aug. 21. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Eclipse travelers greeted with anti-Semitic banners on Oregon highway overpasses


Signs with anti-Semitic messages were hung on highway overpasses in Oregon ahead of Monday’s eclipse.

The banners were hung on two northbound highways, which were heavily travelled by California tourists heading to the state to get a better view of Monday’s expected solar eclipse, according to local reports.

The banners read, “UNJEW HUMANITY,” “Eclipse Whitey,”  “Jewish Financing Available” and “Resist Racial Eclipse,” the Oregon Statesman Journal reported on Saturday. They were taken down later on Saturday.

Neo-Nazi Jimmy Marr of Springfield, Oregon, who goes by the Twitter handle @GenocideJimmy, appeared to take credit for the banners Sunday evening on social media, Oregonlive.com reported.

Beth Dershowitz of Sacramento told the Oregonian in an email that the banners upset her, her husband Michael, and their children during their family road trip on Saturday. She said her husband took photos of the banners to show state transportation officials.

“I cannot believe that we still have to face this vicious anti-Semitism in such a public place in 2017,” she wrote. “We want to expose this hatred so people stop pretending like it isn’t happening in our own backyards.”

In June, a sign blaming Jews for the Sept. 11 attacks was hung from a pedestrian bridge over an interstate highway in Portland, Oregon.

The Man and the Monster


Once there was a little boy who suspected that there was a monster in his closet.  Even after his parents assured him that there was not, he would hear strange sounds from behind his closet door.  His closet was dark and deep, and he could never see all the way to the farthest corner in the back.

One night, he awoke to the sounds and ran downstairs to grab a flashlight.  He reentered his room and slowly opened the door of his closet.  He pushed all of the clothes to the side and pointed the bright flashlight toward the deep darkness.  The strong beam of light revealed a scary monster huddled in the back corner.

“Why do you do this to me?”  The young boy asked.

Fangs clenched, the monster offered no comprehendible response.  The monster just loudly roared and tried to lash out.  Quickly, the boy slammed the door and rushed to wake up his parents.  Not believing his story at all, his parents placated him by pushing his dresser in front of the closet door.  The boy grew up without a closet, but never had to face the monster again.

Years later, the boy grew into a man and married and had children of his own.  He lived in his own big house.  Then, one night he woke up to familiar sounds coming from inside his closet.  He slowly approached the closet and carefully peeked inside.

There, crouched inside the darkness, sat the monster.  It was foaming from its clenched jaw.  The man hesitated to confront the monster as he had done as a boy.  He worried about the monster getting past him, and about the safety of his wife and children.  He had more reasons to be cautious than when he was a young boy.  He immediately slammed the door and insisted on moving.

He and his wife found a new home.  In the new house, he removed all of the closets from their master bedroom.

One night, his daughter came rushing into their room, complaining about scary sounds in her closet.  Immediately, he got out of bed, and he followed her into her room.  With his daughter trembling behind him, he opened the door and gazed into her closet at the familiar sight.  Sure enough, there sat the same monster, totally unchanged.  In that moment, he realized that the monster might never go away.

Now, it was his responsibility to confront the monster when needed and protect his family.  From that night on, he slept next to his daughter’s closet door, and his family slept peacefully knowing that he was always there to protect them.

 

In Tel Aviv, a lesson for Charlottesville


Whenever an ugly display of racism or bigotry occurs in America, it’s commonplace to hear politicians and leaders say things like, “This has no place in America.” Even President Donald Trump, in his infamous reaction to the Charlottesville, Va., clashes, said, “[T]his egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence … has no place in America.”

Really? No place for hatred and bigotry in a free and open society?

During my visit to Israel last week, I saw how this somewhat naïve and utopian view is so far from the Israeli approach.

On the free and open streets of nighttime Tel Aviv, the atmosphere was like Burning Man meets Greenwich Village meets the French Riviera. It was hard to imagine a more visceral celebration of life.

What really got me was the utter absence of fear. How could that be? Here we are in a country that is under the constant threat of terror, and everybody just wants to party.

Since Sept. 13, 2015, according to the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs website, Israel has suffered 184 stabbing attacks, 129 attempted stabbings, 161 shootings, 60 vehicular ramming attacks and one bus bombing, resulting in a total of 55 people killed and 812 injured. In terms of casualties, that’s the American equivalent of a few hundred Charlottesvilles.

And yet, Israelis are living it up. Are they that reckless?

Actually, I think they’re just hard-nosed realists who love life. I doubt you’ll ever hear an Israeli say, “There’s no place for hatred and bigotry in a free society.” They know the truth is quite the opposite — the price you pay for a free society is that there will always be space for the dark and ugly.

This sober realization was evident on the government website that listed the terror attacks: “The recent series of attacks is the direct result of incitement by radical Islamist and terrorist elements, calling on Palestinian youth to murder Jews.”

Yes, it seems there’s always space for some Jew-hatred, especially in Israel’s neighborhood.

In a global poll commissioned a few years ago by the Anti-Defamation League, 12 percent of Americans said “Jews had too much power over the global media.” In Gaza and the Palestinian territories, that number was 88 percent.

What really got me was the utter absence of fear. How could that be? Here we are in a country that is under the constant threat of terror, and everybody just wants to party.

Anti-Semitism of any kind is serious business, whether it comes from the left or the right. There’s no need to argue about which is worse: Neo-Nazis have a lineage that puts them on a whole other level of evil. On college campuses, Jew-hatred comes mostly from the left. In Israel, it comes mostly from Islamists. The point is: We need to fight it all, without politics, without hysterics and with smart policing.

Smart policing was missing in Charlottesville. There was a report on CNN.com that described the tragic police failure to prevent the violent clashes, even though local authorities had plenty of time to prepare. As I read the report, I couldn’t help wonder how Israeli police would have fared under the same conditions. Actually, I didn’t wonder. I knew the answer.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two countries. After all, since its birth, Israel has been obsessed with security. By now, it probably knows all the tricks. But if we’re not going to compare, let’s at least learn some lessons from Israelis on how to deal with the violence that comes out of hatred.

One lesson is not to let fear dominate our consciousness. That’s what the haters want. They want to take over our conversations. The neo-Nazis of Charlottesville must be delighted to see the near hysteria in the Jewish community since they so nakedly revealed their evil colors.

On the security front, it’s imperative to have policing that anticipates and prevents dramatic clashes, not just to save lives but to deprive the bigots of the media coverage they so crave.

This craving for attention is the craving of losers. The more hysterical and fearful we come across, the more we embolden those losers. Conversely, the more we can suffocate their striving for public attention, the more we’ll shrink their place in society.

By all means, let’s expose the haters and isolate them, but let’s not glorify them. Let’s fight them the Israeli way — with ice in our veins and fire in our hearts.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

President Donald Trump shown before making a statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 14. Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

11 former White House Jewish liaisons: Trump doesn’t understand anti-Semitism


As Jewish liaisons to four different presidents, we had the responsibility inside the White House to give voice to the perspectives and priorities of the American Jewish community. While our community may not be unified in matters of policy and politics, our spiritual practice, cultural traditions and history have instilled in American Jews a shared commitment to protecting those targeted by bigots, racists and others spewing hate and division.

The presidents we served repeatedly used their bully pulpit to condemn hatred and bigotry when it appeared, whether in America or overseas. A video of President Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1981 NAACP Convention following the lynching of an African-American man in Alabama has gone viral in recent days. President Bill Clinton led the nation’s mourning following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and we all vividly recall President George W. Bush’s eloquent remarks standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and President Barack Obama’s eulogy and rendition of “Amazing Grace” following the murder of nine African-American worshippers at a historically African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

President Donald Trump, in his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville and to other examples of anti-Semitism, shows that he neither understands his responsibilities nor the nature of the ancient hatred of anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. His equivocation and unwillingness to speak clearly, without restraint, against blatant examples of racism, anti-Semitism and related manifestations of hate, as well as his refusal to lay blame for violence, are anathema to the best traditions of his office and to the examples set by the presidents we served. And in his failure, he exposes not just Jews but all Americans to greater danger.

If we were working in the White House today, we hope we would have had the courage, honesty and integrity to call upon President Trump to demonstrate moral leadership – and to resign in response to a failure to do so.

If we had a successor in the current White House — there is no liaison to the Jewish community in the Trump White House — we hope he or she would have done so, too.

We need that leadership more than ever. The reason is not just because we have witnessed violence in our streets.

We need moral leadership to respond to the rise of hatred we are witnessing in the nation we love – hatred motivated by the things we cannot change such as the color of our skin, the faith we practice, the land of our birth, the language we spoke as toddlers.

We former Jewish liaisons know that the Jews in America feel hate and reject it, whether it’s directed at them or someone else. We are commanded by our faith to welcome the stranger, to comfort the oppressed, to reach out to the weak and dispossessed. We Jews have always been targeted and called out because of our differences from the majority. And even when we’re not called out and targeted, we know that those who use hate as a political tool will eventually turn their sights on us.

We hear today the chants against the Jews or the “Zios.” We hear in an American city the “alt-right” protesters chant “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi marching trope of “blood and soil.”

We see in some academic and media circles the casual lumping together of Jews as enemies of the state, incapable of loyalty to America.

We see the use of the language and the imagery of anti-Semitism – the hooked noses and the bloody hands — resurrected in modern digital media to deny to Jews our humanity, our individuality and our agency. We see the rough language of Brownshirts casually tweeted by young Americans – “toss them in the ovens,” “throw rocks at the yahood [Jews].” We see the resuscitation of the blood libel.

And we know, the experience of Jews in America may be different from our historical experience as a religious minority elsewhere in the world, but this anti-Semitism is not different. We’ve see this hatred before.

So we say to the president:

“Mr. President, this nation has a problem. People think they can say and do hateful things with impunity. You have a responsibility. Not to weigh hatred against hatred. Not to divide blame equally among ‘both sides.’ Not to excuse those among you who hate by pointing out others who hate worse.

“There are among your supporters and your appointees people who are anti-Semitic. Do not treat them as a cost of doing your political business. Cast them out – not only from your political tent, but from the conversation about America’s future. They don’t have a place in either.

“You must stand on this nation’s strongest moral foundations and principled aspirations and against the violence and hatred. And you must recognize that whenever the Jew is attacked, there is a deeper hatred at work. Anti-Semitism serves as a gateway to other forms of group-based bigotry and hatred.

“The language of anti-Semitism is the language of national suicide – it is, sadly, a mother tongue to discredited and extinct ideologies known throughout human history. If anti-Semitism takes root in America, it will be America’s ruin. Because whoever gives voice to the ancient and tired tropes of anti-Semitism, his mouth goes dry with ashes.

“Mr. President, you must call out and stand against any creeping normalization of anti-Semitism —without obfuscation, hesitation or equivocation – not only because anti-Semitism is odious, but also because it will invariably lead to other forms of hatred and bigotry that divide and destroy our nation.”

Matt Nosanchuk (Barack Obama)
Noam Neusner (George W. Bush)
Jarrod Bernstein (Barack Obama)
Adam Goldman (George W. Bush)
Jay S. Zeidman (George W. Bush)
Scott Arogeti (George W. Bush)
Deborah Mohile Goldberg (Bill Clinton)
Jay K. Footlik (Bill Clinton)
Jeanne Ellinport (Bill Clinton)
Amy Zisook (Bill Clinton)
Marshall J. Breger (Ronald Reagan)

(The authors each served in the White House as the president’s liaison to the American Jewish community in Democratic or Republican administrations.)

A smashed window at Temple Israel clearly shows children’s drawings of Stars of David, Aug. 17, 2017 Photo by Mel Waldorf/J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

Windows smashed at Northern California synagogue


Published by JTA via The Jewish News of Northern California.

Police  are investigating what appears to be vandalism at Temple Israel in the Bay Area city of Alameda.

At about 6 p.m. Thursday, congregational president Genevieve Pastor-Cohen sent an email to the congregation stating, “in the morning, it was discovered that two classroom windows had been smashed,” and noting that police and Harbor Bay Security had been notified.

“During our Weds. Aug 16th Board of Directors meeting, we discussed the possibility of our synagogue being a target in our small town of Alameda especially with the ongoing expression of bigotry and anti-Semitism,” the letter continued. “It breaks my heart and soul to be exposed to this type of mindless and senseless action especially aimed at the community I (we) love.”

Congregant Mel Waldorf went to the synagogue after he received the email, and told J. that one of the windows that had been smashed “was where kids had painted Stars of David.”

He also said that another window that noted this was “the new Temple Israel” had been smashed. Waldorf said that police took away a rock the assailants had used in an effort to smash in the front door.

“There’s no question that the attacker knew this was a Jewish institution,” he told J.

In her email to the congregation, Pastor-Cohen noted that a security plan had been developed this year by a synagogue task force, and added that the plan will be re-examined after this incident “to ensure our community is protected and safe from harm, especially with our High Holy Days coming upon us.”

Police told J. that a report had been filed, and the case was being investigated. No further details were available at press time.

Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City, March 14, 2012. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Black-Jewish Goldman Sachs VP sues firm for racial, religious discrimination


A black-Jewish woman has sued Goldman Sachs over alleged discrimination due to her racial and religious background.

Rebecca Allen, a vice president in the private wealth management division in New York, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday said the financial firm stopped her from landing an account, CNBC reported.

Allen claims in the suit that for three years she tried to bring in Brent Saunders, CEO of  the pharmaceutical giant Allergan, as a client, but “was abruptly removed from the Saunders relationship without explanation.”

The person who removed Allen from the Saunders bid — Christina Minnis, a partner in the investment banking division — implied to Allen’s supervisor that she made the decision because Allen is African-American and Jewish, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for Goldman Sachs denied the allegations.

“We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously contest it,” the representative said, according to CNBC. “Our success depends on our ability to maintain a diverse employee base and we are focused on recruiting, retaining and promoting diverse professionals at all levels.”

The lawsuit says Allen was faced with “discriminatory comments” due to “the fact that she is Jewish, including various inquiries clearly designed to determine ‘how Jewish’ Ms. Allen is, given that she is black.”

In addition, Allen alleges that she was given fewer and less valuable clients than her male counterparts, CNBC reported.
U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about his responses to the deaths and injuries at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville as he talks to the media with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) at his side in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

An assessment: Is Charlottesville a watershed moment for American Jews?


Moral clarity is an important part of political life. Thus, that the first few days after Charlottesville were dedicated to shock and indignation is understandable. Pragmatic assessment of a situation is also an important part of political life. Thus, it is time to examine Charlottesville and its consequences with clear eyes and search for its true practical meaning.

I will try doing this from a Jewish perspective.

What is the Jewish perspective?

There is a wider definition of a Jewish perspective in this case and a narrower one. The wider perspective is to argue that all elements of this crisis have something to do with a Jewish perspective. For example, according to this perspective the questions concerning the fate of Robert E. Lee statues across America – e.g., should they stay or be removed? – are Jewish questions. They are Jewish questions because Jews in America have something to say about them, and because many of these Jews will be using Jewish sources and their understanding of Jewish morals to formulate and justify their positions on this matter.

A narrower Jewish perspective is the one of Jewish survival. Of course, such an approach to Charlottesville is somewhat problematic, as Jews, rightfully, feel that they have a lot to say about the larger issues haunting America. But in other ways the narrow approach is useful. It is useful because it does not involve debatable notions about the meaning of Jewish values. It is useful because it is more focused and hence can allow a clearer analysis.

I will stick with the narrower approach.

The perspective of Jewish survival

The American Jewish community is one of the most impressive in Jewish history. It is vibrant and strong, confident and influential, self-sustaining and outward looking. It is truly a marvel, the jewel in the Jewish crown.

All Jews ought to want this community to keep thriving.

So the question about Charlottesville is as follows: was this an event that somehow threatens the continuous thriving of the American Jewish community?

To answer such questions, we need to examine the different scenarios that could potentially lead to Charlottesville becoming a watershed event in the life of the American Jewish community.

How many neo-Nazis?

Neo-Nazis are generally bad for Jewish survival. They make the lives of Jews less comfortable, they make Jewish institutions vulnerable, they impose on every Jew a dilemma: Is Judaism important enough for a Jew to take the risk of a clash with bigoted and violent people?

There were Jew haters in Charlottesville – that we know. Their numbers were not great – that we also know. According to many reports, “Hundreds of white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and others were involved, by some estimates, in what Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Workers Party, called the nation’s biggest such event in a decade or more.”

So, it was “hundreds.” And it was the “biggest such event in a decade.” If the biggest such event can only draw hundreds of racists, the threat to Jews does not seem significant, not if we count the sheer visible power of these groups of anti-Semites.

What is the public’s reaction?

The public has no inclination to support the type of racist rhetoric and views that we’ve seen in Charlottesville. Support for the Ku Klux Klan is 2 percent, according to a recent survey. Support for “white nationalists” is 4 percent. Only a quarter of Americans said in this poll that the response of President Trump to events in Charlottesville was “strong enough,” with a majority believing it was not strong enough – thus emphasizing that in their view condemnation of the racist demonstrators should have been stronger.

So the Jews are worried, and should worry, about a small number of neo-Nazis. But they currently have no immediate reason to worry that America is becoming less tolerant towards Jews or more supportive of racist groups. Is it likely that Charlottesville will be a watershed moment from which racist groups benefit? It is possible, but not likely.

What about the President?

The President clearly erred in his response to Charlottesville. His press conference was hardly his finest moment.

It was not his finest moment because, yet again, he proved to be deaf to the society over which he presides. There is also context to what a president must say at a certain time. Educating Americans on the importance of heritage and of statues, or on getting all the facts before making statements, or on the perils of using clubs on demonstrators – all this has a time and place. But in the context of Charlottesville, after a woman was murdered, after demonstrators chanted abhorrent slogans against other Americans, the president failed to grasp the moment. He failed to grasp that when he spoke in the same sentence or the same paragraph about “bad people” on “both sides.” What the good people hear is him putting all bad people on the “same moral plane.”

What does this tell us about Trump? It does not tell us that he is a racist or a bigot. It does not tell us that he supports racists or bigots. It does not tell us that he puts political priorities before morality (no sane person can see him politically benefiting from the occurrences of the last few days). It tells us what we already know – that he is an undisciplined, disorganized, contrarian, immature president. It tells us bad enough things about him, without us having to attribute to him what he did not intend to say.

So what about the President?

If you accept my understanding of the President’s actions and words – admittedly, a relatively benign understanding of it – worries about the president ought to also be benign. Yes, there is reason to worry, because a key element in keeping fringe groups isolated and small is to have them delegitimized by the political system, and the president was not clear enough in doing that.

Still, because I assume that Trump is not a secret admirer of white nationalist groups, I also assume (and hope) that he will find the time to make his position clearer, and that he will instruct his administration to keep these bad people subdued.

But many Americans would not accept my understanding of the President’s actions and words. These Americans believe that the president is a supporter of white nationalist groups and their ideology. These Americans believe that Trump’s intention is to aid and abet the rise of groups with ugly ideologies.

If they are correct, there are two reasons for worry. One, support from the president gives these movements credence and prestige that they never had, and thus could gradually draw more Americans to support them. Two, support from the president means a less vigilant effort by the administration to battle against these groups. For example, it could mean a less than vigilant effort to identify and arrest Americans who act violently against Jewish institutions.

What will Jews do?

The response of Jews to Charlottesville is also important as we ponder our question: was this an event that somehow threatens the continuous thriving of the American Jewish community?

Jewish response to anti-Semitism, or to the threat of anti-Semitism, varies. But it has two main versions. One – to unite and fight. Two – to lower the profile and hide.

In Europe, where anti-Semitism is a more present problem for Jews, many of them choose to lower their profiles. As my colleague Dr. Dov Maimon of JPPI (the Jewish People Policy Institute) once described it: “the largest portion of European Jews has chosen to adopt a discrete Jewish profile, putting aside their commitment toward Judaism, Israel and their fellow Jews and often also abandoning the traditional Jewish commitment to the underdog. In other words, and to use the same categorization, they choose the INDIVIDUALIST positioning, drifting progressively toward assimilation.”

America is different. It is different because American society is welcoming of Jews. It is different because American Jews, for a long time now, have become used to having a high profile. Indeed, what we have seen in the last couple of days is proof of American Jewry’s confidence in asserting its position, coupled with its instinctive and high sensitivity to racism. What we have seen in the last few days is an American Jewish community that is being reminded of how it has a shared stake in having a tolerant America.

Is the outcome unity? Not exactly, but this is surely a moment of less division. When Jews see a common enemy, they push aside their differences, even if just for a little while,.

This is the short-term outcome of Charlottesville, but there can also be a long term, less positive outcome because of two things:

1. If the American debate on racism becomes a constant central feature of political life, this can still make many Jews decide that it is more convenient for them to lower their profile and be less visible as Jews. If the confidence of racist groups rises, and Jewish institutions are threatened, many Jews could decide that their security justifies disengagement from the community – this is something we saw earlier this year when bomb threats targeted Jewish institutions.

2. The debate over the proper way of responding to racist America can become in itself a source of tension and inner-Jewish bickering – especially so because of its political undertones. We already see signs of that in the attacks hurled at Rabbi Marvin Hier, “Trump’s rabbi.”

Jews and politics and anti-Semitism

Three days ago, I made the case against Jews portraying Trump as a bigoted anti-Semite. “It is not wise for Jewish institutions, organizations and leaders to paint President Trump as an ally of anti-Semitism because it is very unlikely he is anti-Semitic and because such accusations, when repeatedly hurled at people, tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Jews have to be vigilant in fighting against bigotry and anti-Semitism. They also have to be wise about it, and being wise means keeping anti-anti-Semitism bipartisan. Portraying all political rivals as racists and bigots and anti-Semites is the lesser policy, as it shrinks the camp of Americans that can be allies in combating against anti-Semitism. Isolating the fringe groups of racists and bigots and anti-Semites and keeping all others as allies is the better policy.

Will the Jews be wise? There is a fine line separating disappointment and frustration because of Trump’s response to Charlottesville and turning this incident into a partisan political tool with which to hammer a political party or camp. Some Jews walk this fine line delicately, and many cross over it irresponsibly.

The bottom line

Clear and harsh response to racism is justified.

Expectations for a proper presidential response are justified.

Sober assessment of the need for heightened security measures is justified.

Politicizing the fight against anti-Semitism is unwise.

It is much too early to panic.

 

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