The New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston was first vandalized on June 28, 2017. Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

Boston Holocaust memorial vandalized for second time this summer

A pane of glass was shattered Monday evening at the New England Holocaust Memorial, the second time in less than two months the Boston memorial was vandalized.

A 17-year-old male suspected of the vandalism is in custody, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department told JTA. Two passers-by tackled the  suspect and held him until police arrived, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that the police are investigating whether it was a hate crime.

A visitor to the memorial, which is located along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail, told the Globe he heard the sound of glass shattering as he was reading panels at the memorial and later saw police make an arrest.

“It’s a reminder that we as a community need to be united, both in our opposition to all forms of hate, but also in the important role that memorials play in our community,” Robert Trestan, the region’s director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Globe.

Trestan said it was a second blow to the community.

“It comes at a time when most of Boston is standing in solidarity [against] the hatred that we saw in Charlottesville over the weekend,” he said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston published a joint statement with Combined Jewish Philanthropies linking the vandalism to the deadly violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“We are appalled and saddened that the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized Monday night for the second time in just 6 weeks,” the statement said. “The images of Nazis marching in the streets of America over the weekend in Charlottesville and now shattered glass once again at this sacred space in Boston are an affront to our Jewish community and to all those who stand up against bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism.

“We thank the Boston Police and the Public Works Department for their rapid response and for their continuing support during this difficult time. We will remain resilient and will have a timeline for rebuilding the memorial once we have assessed the damage.”

In a post on Twitter, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city stands against hate.

“I’m saddened to see such a despicable action in this great city,” he said.

The 22-year-old memorial was recently repaired and rededicated following the earlier vandalism in which one pane of glass was shattered, the first time it was struck by vandalism, allegedly by a 21-year-old man with a history of mental illness.  The six-towered memorial, designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz, features 132 panels of glass etched with seven-digit numbers symbolizing the numbers tattooed on the arms of Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking at the July 11 rededication, Israel Arbeiter, a prominent 92-year-old Boston-area Holocaust survivor, said the public ceremony brought a sense of renewal.

“The horrible suffering that we, the survivors, endured in concentration camps cannot be forgotten. When we repeatedly say ‘remember,’ we turn first of all to the world around us,” Arbeiter said at the ceremony, which was attended by Walsh and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, as well as leaders of the Jewish community and other faith and civic groups.

US sales of ‘Mein Kampf’ will benefit Holocaust survivors in Boston

The U.S. publisher of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” says it will donate all revenues from the infamously anti-Semitic book to a Jewish organization that helps Holocaust survivors in the Boston area.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is based in Boston, had initially planned to donate proceeds from the Nazi leader’s tract to several non-Jewish cultural organizations, but changed plans after Jewish leaders criticized it, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

The publisher worked with Boston’s Jewish federation to determine “how best to provide aid directly to the victims of the horrific events of the Holocaust,” Andrew Russell, the publisher’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in a statement, according to the AP.

Proceeds will be directed to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston for “direct support of the health and human services needs of (Holocaust) survivors,” Russell said.

From 2000 until last year, proceeds from “Mein Kampf” had gone to various organizations that fight anti-Semitism. However, according to the AP, last year Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced plans to use the money for cultural organizations as well, prompting an outcry from Jewish critics.

“JF&CS will direct the grant money exclusively to support the needs of the Holocaust survivors we meet with every day,” the Jewish agency’s CEO, Rimma Zelfand, said in a statement. “As Holocaust survivors grow increasingly frail, many of our clients have a far greater need for care than is covered by our existing funding.”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt declined to say how much money “Mein Kampf” brings in each year.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has published a version of the book continuously since 1933, according to the AP. During World War II, proceeds went to the U.S. Justice Department. From 1979 until 2000, the publisher kept the proceeds for itself, and has since donated it.

The New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League applauded the decision to donate all the proceeds to JF&CS.

“It’s a reminder that efforts need to be put into combatting anti-Semitism, educating the next generation about the Holocaust and, of course, supporting the victims,” Trestan said.

“Mein Kampf” recently was re-published in Germany for the first time since World War II, and a new annotated edition sold out on the first day it was available in January.

Anti-Israel ads OK’d to run in Boston subways

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority approved the display of an anti-Israel ad it had previously rejected.

The poster, which features a large photograph of a child and the word “violence” in large, bold letters, accuses Israel’s military of using U.S. tax dollars to kill 2,000 Palestinian children since September 2000, and calls for the end of U.S. military aid to Israel.

It is one of three ads that was initially approved by the MBTA in June 2014, but later removed. At the time, the governing body of the state’s public transportation system said the ads violated its policy against language that demeans or disparages individuals or groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the rejection on behalf of the Palestinian rights organization, Palestine Advocacy Project. The group, formerly called Ads Against Apartheid, asserts that the poster is a form of protected First Amendment speech and should be allowed in a public space. The agency’s decision to approve came after the ACLU persuaded it that the ad does not violate the MBTA’s policy against demeaning ads, according to Sarah Wunsch, deputy legal director of the ACLU’s Massachusetts branch.

In a statement to JTA, a spokesman for the MBTA said these advertisements comply with its guidelines, that it described as “viewpoint neutral standards for all advertising displayed on MBTA property.”

“To reduce unnecessary litigation which can arise from issue-based ads of this nature, the MBTA is currently considering whether to amend its advertising guidelines and in the future will not accept ads concerning political issues or matters of public debate,” the statement continued.

Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston said in a statement provided to JTA: “We do not believe that the MBTA nor any other government authority should regularly be in the business of banning speech. However, spreading distortions and inaccuracies about a complex political situation will achieve no positive benefit in the search for a lasting end to the conflict in the region, a cause to which we and all reasonable people are committed.”

Harvard University says evacuates four buildings after bomb threat

Harvard University said on its website on Monday that it had received an “unconfirmed” bomb threat and was evacuating four buildings on its campus outside Boston.

Three classroom buildings – The Science Center, Sever and Emerson Halls – and one dormitory, Thayer Hall, were affected, the Ivy League school said on its website.

The threat comes three days after a coordinated attack by gunmen and suicide bombers killed 127 people in Paris.

Study: N.Y., Boston and Miami are America’s 3 most Jewish cities

New York, Boston and Miami are the three most Jewish cities per capita in the country, according to a new analysis of data gathered last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Eight percent of New York City residents are Jewish, followed by Boston at 6 percent and Miami at 5 percent, according to the data. Philadelphia and San Francisco each are 4 percent Jewish, and Chicago and Washington are 3 percent Jewish.

Nationally, 2 percent of all Americans are Jewish, according to the study. Los Angeles, which by raw numbers is believed to house the country’s second-largest urban Jewish population, is just 2 percent Jewish, the analysis found.

Ranked by state, New York and New Jersey tie as the most Jewish, with 6 percent of residents in both counted as Jews. Next are Massachusetts (5 percent) and Maryland (3 percent), followed by California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont each with 2 percent.

Ranked by region, the Northeast is 4 percent Jewish; the Midwest, South and West each are 1 percent Jewish.

The analysis is based on data collected in some 52,741 telephone interviews conducted in 2014 as part of the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas.

Overall, the largest urban religious group is Catholics, who are No. 1 or tied for the top spot in 15 of America’s top 30 metropolitan areas. Religiously unaffiliated make up the top “religious group” in 10 of those metro areas, and white evangelical Protestants are the plurality in six of the major metro areas. Atlanta is the only major metro area with a different group at the top: black Protestants.

Nationwide, Nashville, Tennessee, has the largest percentage of a single religious group, with 38 percent of all residents identifying as white evangelical Protestant.

The least religious city appears to be Portland, Oregon, where 42 percent of respondents identified as religiously unaffiliated. Two percent of the city’s residents are Jews.

Man in Boston terrorism probe faces charges, report alleges beheading plan

A Massachusetts man detained under a terrorism probe faces charges in federal court on Wednesday, federal prosecutors said, as local media reported the man and an associate who police shot dead on Tuesday had planned to try to behead a police officer.

Police arrested the man, named as David Wright by a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz, in Everett, outside Boston. He is due to face charges at 3:30 p.m., officials said.

Officers working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force earlier shot and killed Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, who had been under 24-hour surveillance, after police say he confronted them with a knife.

The pair had planned to try to behead a police officer on Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported, citing a law enforcement official briefed on the case. The report could not immediately be confirmed.

Police have offered little detail on why Rahim was being watched or what charges Wright would face.

Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterterrorism division, discussed the investigation at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday but offered few details.

“There's not a lot I can say on the intelligence side,” Steinbach said. “We know ISIL has put out a message to attack the West, specifically law enforcement, military,” referring to Islamic State militants.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, local FBI officials and prosecutors met on Wednesday with leaders of the Roslindale neighborhood where the shooting occurred to show them video of the incident.

“The individual was not shot in the back and the information that was reported by others that this was the case is inaccurate,” said Darnell Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, after the meeting. “We are going to have to wait until after the investigation is completed until there is a determination whether it was a justifiable shooting.”

Rahim had been under 24-hour surveillance by Tuesday, when new information learned by police led them to attempt to question him, Evans said.

“We never anticipated what his reaction would be,” Evans told reporters.

The video, which Evans said showed the officers backing up before opening fire, was not released publicly.

The apparently foiled attack came six months after two New York City police officers were shot dead in their patrol car in an attack intended as retribution for police killings of unarmed black men.

J Street delineates why it pulled out of Boston pro-Israel rally

J Street withdrew from a pro-Israel rally in Boston because it did not feel the rally would address all the group’s concerns.

The liberal Jewish Middle East lobbying group, a constituent of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, publicized its stance on the July 17 solidarity rally in a letter by Shaina Wasserman, its Boston director, to JCRC director Jeremy Burton posted Monday on the J Street website.

JCRC had agreed at first to co-sponsor the rally for Israel in its current conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The group said it withdrew the night before because its officials did not feel that issues they wanted addressed were sufficiently represented, including grieving for victims on all sides, an emphasis on a diplomatic solution and especially the role of the U.S. Jewish community in advancing such a solution.

“J Street is fully supportive of the rally’s call for our community to demonstrate solidarity with Israel and Israelis, to speak for Israel’s right to defend itself under very challenging circumstances,” Wasserman said in the letter to Burton. “What was missing for us in this rally, and what ultimately precluded our co-sponsorship, was that despite our efforts, there was no space made to raise the issues that follow from our commitment to Israel’s Jewish and democratic future.”

Burton told JTA that speakers at the rally did address suffering on both sides and noted that its immediate emphasis was on Israel’s right to defend itself and Hamas’ responsibility for the current violence.

In interviews, Burton and a J Street official agreed that another point of disagreement was the JCRC’s failure to include a speaker suggested by J Street, although the JCRC had solicited such suggestions.

J Street’s selections were not appropriate, Burton said, in part because the group did not recommend a non-Jewish speaker, which the JCRC was seeking to emphasize communitywide support for Israel.

“We asked people for suggestions of non-Jewish leaders who would stand up and support Israel’s right to defend itself, original voices, new voices, not typical voices,” he said. The J Street official, who spoke on background, confirmed that the group did not suggest a non-Jewish speaker.

Non-Jewish speakers at the rally included a prominent industrialist, an associate dean of Harvard’s divinity school, a local mayor and a Canadian diplomat.

J Street has co-sponsored other pro-Israel rallies across the United States during the current conflict.

With shul scandal and school closing, Conservative Jews reeling in Sharon, Mass.

It’s been a rough few weeks for Conservative Jews in the Boston suburbs known as the South Area.

First, Rabbi Barry Starr, the longtime spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Sharon, resigned amid allegations that he used synagogue discretionary funds to pay about $480,000 in hush money to an extortionist to hide a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male.

Then came the news that the area’s only Conservative Jewish day school, the Kehillah Schechter Academy of nearby Norwood, will be shutting down at the end of the school year. With the next-closest non-Orthodox day school more than 45 minutes away, it doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for South Area Conservative Jews — notably in Sharon, the single largest source of KSA’s students.

“It’s a double whammy for me personally because I’m a member of the shul,” said Gregg Rubenstein, KSA’s board president. “But the temple will survive. It’s not an institution-threatening incident. The school, on the other hand, is disappearing.”

Like Rubenstein, many KSA parents are also members of the scandal-plagued Temple Israel.

Now some community members are trying to salvage some good news with a campaign to create a new local pluralistic day school to replace KSA.

Dubbed Ner Tamid — Hebrew for eternal flame — the school is still in its embryonic stages. It doesn’t have a site, nor is it clear if there’s a viable business model. Plus, current KSA students — who represent the target population of the new school — already are in the process of enrolling at other schools for next year.

But Elana Margolis, a school parent whose husband also works at KSA, says she’s determined to give it a try.

“Just because the school has decided to close doesn’t mean there won’t be Jewish educational options in this area,” said Margolis, who is also the associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “We feel it’s important for our community to have something local. We think crisis breeds opportunity. This is time for a rebirth, a reboot.”

At Temple Israel, community members are still absorbing the shock of learning that Starr, the synagogue’s rabbi for 28 years, was having an extramarital affair with a teenage boy — and apparently had used money from the rabbi’s discretionary fund to keep his secret from getting out.

The man who allegedly was blackmailing Starr has been identified as Nicholas Zemeitus, 29. The allegations emerged from court papers amid an investigation by the Norfolk district attorney, but the facts remain unclear.

Congregants learned of the affair from an email the rabbi sent to community members several weeks ago explaining what he had done, expressing his deep regrets and announcing his resignation. Since then, the synagogue has held two congregation-wide meetings to discuss the situation: one led by the president in the immediate aftermath of the revelations and one a grief-counseling session led by a professional.

Sheldon Kriegel, a retired dentist who has been a Temple Israel member for about 15 years, said the feeling in the community is more shock and grief than anger.

“People don’t seem to be angry at all, they’re just upset. He was very loved,” Kriegel said. “There are people who said to me that if he wanted to come back, even after all this, they’d welcome him. People aren’t really blaming him for it, even though he takes responsibility for his actions.”

Starr had been a well-respected Conservative leader — a past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and a one-time member of the chancellor’s rabbinic cabinet at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Since Starr’s departure, the shul has been led by the cantor, a rabbi who previously had led overflow services on the High Holidays for the synagogue and Rabbi Ed Gelb, a Temple Israel congregant who also is director of Camp Ramah in New England. Starr had announced his intention to retire and move to Florida some time ago, so the synagogue already had started thinking about its next move. But the abrupt resignation caught practically everyone by surprise.

In contrast to the rabbi scandal, KSA’s demise was not a surprise. For the last few years, the K-8 school — part of the Solomon Schechter network of Conservative Jewish day schools — was struggling financially. After the 2008 recession dealt a severe blow to many school families, KSA responded by holding down tuition costs and increasing financial assistance — moves that helped preserve the student body but at a high cost to the school’s bottom line.

When it became clear over the last three years that the model was not sustainable, tuition rose, financial assistance dried up and staff was laid off. As a consequence, students began leaving in droves. The student body fell to 110 this year from 240 three years ago, with most of the departing students transferring to local public and non-Jewish private schools.

“It led to this downward cycle they couldn’t get out of,” said Gil Preuss, the executive vice president of Boston’s Jewish federation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which supported KSA. “They actually were able to maintain a very high-quality education throughout this time, but they couldn’t get on top of the finances — fundraising and tuition — to support it.”

KSA’s board made clear several weeks ago that 82 students needed to enroll by mid-May if the school were to stay open for next year; only 73 signed up.

The closure announcement came May 15. Now the school, which was founded in 1989 as the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School, is making a final fundraising push just to make its payroll through the summer. Combined Jewish Philanthropies is kicking in $50,000 to help the transition, including funding for the transportation of students to other Boston-area day schools.

KSA’s closure comes at a particularly high cost for Ariel Margolis, Elana Margolis’ husband. As a science teacher and parent of two KSA students, he’s losing both his job and his kids’ school.

Since the closure announcement, Margolis has been working double time trying to launch Ner Tamid. He hopes that between ex-KSA students, unaffiliated Jews and online students who would Skype in for select classes, the new school could have the critical mass it needs to survive. He also wants to keep tuition at $12,000 per year — about half the annual fee at KSA.

“I want every kid who wants a day school education to receive it,” Ariel Margolis said. “We fully believe that this is going to happen, that this is going to emerge.”

The odds are not in Ner Tamid’s favor, Preuss suggested.

“It’s a tough model. A lot of schools that are smaller than 125 or 100 students struggle financially,” he said. “Small schools need to be very lean in terms of overhead and facilities. They’re in a very tough situation in competing for families and providing a high-quality education.”

With barely 100 days left before the start of the new school term, Ariel Margolis figures he has two to eight weeks to figure out whether the plan is viable. The school is already scouting out possible sites at area synagogues — Temple Israel is one location being considered. Twelve families showed up to New Tamid’s first parlor meeting on Sunday, and another meeting is planned for Thursday.

“We’re very hopeful, but we’re being very honest when we talk to perspective families, telling them not to put all your eggs in one basket,” Ariel Margolis said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Al-Quds University president denounces extremist rally

This story originally appeared on

A Nov. 5 rally at the West Bank-based Al-Quds University that featured demonstrators from the Islamic Jihad flashing Nazi-like salutes resulted in Brandeis University recalling its faculty from a joint program. Divisions racked the Palestinian university’s student body and faculty following the demonstration and word that the Boston-based school was suspending its presence at Al-Quds.

International pressure mounted on Al-Quds University President Dr. Sari Nusseibeh to respond to Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence’s demand to condemn what was being called a “radical” behavior at the rally. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that, “We don’t believe in oppressing freedom of opinion, but respecting it. I said clearly about what happens in this rally that such manifestations are harmful to the university. The university will not allow the breaching of respect.”

As for the demand from Boston, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not answerable to Brandeis or anyone else for that matter.”

Fadi Shawahin, the head of the university’s student council, explained that such gestures are often used to signify an oath by members of political organizations and that was what was being seen on Nov. 5.

“One of the ways an oath is done is by putting the hand to the heart; others by raising one finger; and the Islamic Jihad’s oath is done by pointing the full hand to the sky,” Shawahin said. He claimed that some media outlets portrayed the gesture as if it were a Nazi salute and Nazi-style demonstration being permitted on the campus. “This is clear propaganda to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership,” he charged.

The lack of an immediate response from the university administration inflamed reactions from both Brandeis and the Jewish community.

In his statement to The Media Line, Nusseibeh said, “I’m not here as president of the university under occupation and I’m not required to offer a condemnation. I’m required to educate people. I stated very clearly that I am against fascism and Nazism.”

Shawahin said that the student council approved of a proposed activity by the Islamic Jihad student-bloc at the university that was presented as an event to welcome new students. As part of their presentation, “Fifteen members of the party participated in a play that ended with a march on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the late Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Al-Shiqaqi, and to welcome the university’s new students,” he explained. Shiqaqi was killed by Israel in 1995.

Participants dressed in military garb and carried fake assault rifles while performing the Nazi-style salute before a gathered crowd of about 200 people. Israeli flags were laid on the ground and walked on, while a large poster with photos of Palestinian suicide bombers was erected in the square. Some people were also reported to have dressed up as dead Israelis.

“I do not honor suicide bombers. I do not know for a fact that this was the case because I was not there,” Nusseibeh said. “What I did find unacceptable was the picture of the people of the arms extended upwards wearing military uniforms. This is not acceptable on a university campus. Any manifestation of this must be told in a clear way that it is unacceptable. I made this very clear to my students, all 3,000 of them, in Arabic — not in English or Japanese.”

In a statement released on Nov. 11, Brandeis University expressed concern about the event and demanded an investigation by Al-Quds. President Lawrence then reached out to his counterpart requesting that Nusseibeh condemn the rally in both Arabic and English.

“The response that we received was unsatisfactory,” said Ellen de Graffenreid, senior Vice President of Communications at Brandeis University, citing the lack of a condemnation as the primary reason for Brandeis’ decision to remove their faculty.

“I’m very sorry that these pressures made President Lawrence take the action that he did,” Nusseibeh said. “Our mission and his should be to fight extremism and to bring about a peaceful future. I’m happy anytime they decide to go back on the decision. I welcome it anytime.”

A statement issued by Al-Quds elaborated on the relationship with Brandeis, calling it “a partnership promoting peace and human values and is mutually beneficial by bringing minds together to think of the power of education and use it against the extremist influences that exist out there.”

Social media was awash with outrage on both sides of the conflict. A Jerusalem member of the movement that advocates anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) posted, “Brandeis University endorses academic boycott…of Palestinians. Do they have an issue w/ Israeli racism on campus?”  Pro-Israel NGO Monitor said that it was “glad to see @BrandeisU did the right thing in the face of appalling intolerance and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Al-Quds University has 18,000 students spread across three West Bank campuses. The collaboration with Brandeis began in 1998, but more recently budget issues reduced the program to only a faculty exchange between the two universities. Bard College in New York, which also operates an exchange program with Al-Quds University, did not enter the controversy.

“The majority of staff and students were disappointed by the disturbances of the rally and that they were against the event,” an Al-Quds professor who requested to remain anonymous told The Media Line. “Some people are extremists and are destroying everything, all the efforts we have put into the university investing in people to respect each other. The extremists help the extreme. We do not agree with honoring suicide bombers. We are in the middle.”

Islamic Jihad has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It has carried out dozens of attacks against Israeli citizens since its foundation in the 1970s.

Al-Quds University has set up an investigative committee to determine who participated in the event and in particular, whether the participants included members of the university’s faculty or student body. Dr. Nusseibeh told The Media Line that he is waiting for the report and will act as the case will warrant.

Diana Atallah contributed reporting from Ramallah.

Breslow’s bad night, and a save for a Cardinal with a Jew-y name

The St. Louis Cardinals tied up the World Series with Thursday night’s 4-2 win over Boston. The save went to Trevor Rosenthal.

Regrettably, unlike A.M., Lefty, Hannah and the NFL’s Mike Rosenthal, the Cardinals’ Rosenthal is not a Jew. But the reliever is sometimes mistaken for one, as ESPN reported earlier this year:

…he has to deal with the occasional mis-impression about his religious identification. Contrary to what numerous fans and bloggers might think, he is not Jewish.

“Every once in a while, someone will ask me about it,” Rosenthal says. “My dad is an attorney, and he gets invited to bar mitzvahs all the time.”

That means the tribe is left with Craig Breslow, the Yale-educated Red Sox relief pitcher (whom JTA profiled earlier this week). Alas, Breslow had a really rough night, with an unfortunate throwing error that gave the Cardinals the lead.

Watch the footage here.

Israeli hope for kidney disease

It’s been decades since Dr. Karl Skorecki did his medical training at what is now called Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Boston teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, but he still vividly recalls the patients with kidney disease he met there.

He remembers their names, their faces, their suffering. He also remembers the question he began asking, one that has guided his career ever since: Why are there so many young black men and women with kidney disease? 

“The answers I was given were often very general and not precise: lifestyle, socioeconomic issues, and partly that’s true. But it seemed to me there was more going on,” the son of Holocaust survivors said. 

Today, Skorecki has come a long way in answering that question. As the director of medical and research development and director emeritus of nephrology at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, he heads a team that has pinpointed a genetic variant predisposing many people of Sub-Saharan African descent to kidney disease. He said his department was one of two research teams in the world to first pinpoint the mutation.

African-Americans account for 32 percent of people with kidney failure in the United States, though they only make up about 13 percent of the population. They also are nearly four times as likely as Caucasians to develop kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Disease Education Program.

“That’s not a minor difference,” Skorecki said. “That’s a striking difference, and one that begs to be resolved.”

This devout Jewish doctor is on a mission to educate African-Americans about the genetic risk they face and much more. He also wants to raise millions to continue research as his team tries to discover what external factors — viral, toxins, etc. — might trigger the disease in people with the mutation. He’s also trying to understand the mechanism by which the mutation leaves the kidneys vulnerable and find a way to stem that vulnerability with medicine, perhaps leading to a vaccine or drug.

To this end, he traveled across the United States earlier this year, speaking with African-American physicians, civic leaders, pastors and celebrities. He also spoke at a musical fundraiser that took place Aug. 22-25 on Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard that featured artists Natalie Cole and Smokey Robinson.

When Skorecki visited Los Angeles in May, the chattering diners at the Post & Beam restaurant in Baldwin Hills grew silent. About 20 African-American clergymen turned to look at the tall, earnest-looking man who sat before them wearing a kippah, curious to hear the message this stranger had traveled halfway around the world to bring them. 

As Skorecki spoke, many heads in the audience began nodding. Yes, they quietly agreed, kidney disease has long plagued the black community.

“I think we’re on the verge of making a real difference. Something real and important on something that’s responsible for a lot of human suffering,” he told them.

The doctor outlined his experiences and how they ultimately led him and his team to the AP0L1 variant.

“I felt, all these years, driven to try to work with this problem,” Skorecki said. “Now, it’s time to turn scientific discovery into something that people will actually benefit from.”

The doctor said his reason for addressing the clergymen was so they could help spread the word about his research to their congregations. 

For Barry Greene, senior pastor and teacher at St. Matthew Tabernacle of Praise Church in Baldwin Hills, Skorecki’s message hit particularly close to home. Many people in his congregation have kidney disease, and a good friend of his recently died from it, he said. 

“So many people need information about their health and wellness,” Greene said. “You’re always praying for somebody who has some kind of physical ailment.”

The Rev. Marguerite Phillips of Holman United Methodist Church on West Adams Boulevard, who also knows many people affected by kidney disease, said Skorecki’s talk made her feel more optimistic for the future.

“It’s wonderful to know there are specialists working in this area,” she said. 

No one seemed to notice — or, at least, care — that Skorecki is a Canadian living in Israel focusing on an issue affecting African-Americans.

“We’re all made of the same material. It doesn’t matter what race, nationality, religion or creed,” said Robert Bolden, pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center. “We all have kidneys, and kidneys are only one color.”

Skorecki said he grew up with a keen awareness of the need to do good. His parents immigrated to Canada from Poland in the 1950s, and they spoke to him frequently about both the horrors they experienced and the acts of kindness that helped them survive the Holocaust.

“They saw how horrible humanity can be — my mother lost her entire family — but she would tell me about the occasions in which non-Jews risked their lives to hide her or to give her a piece of bread,” he recalled. “You have to do good even in the face of evil and suffering. And that’s something that resonates from my parents.”

The professor’s upbringing and religious convictions also influenced his decision to move from Toronto to Israel in 1995 with his wife, Linda, and five children. 

“Jewish people need a homeland, and the way to support that is to be there if you can,” he said.

Last of Boston Marathon bombing victims released from hospital

The last person hospitalized with injuries from the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings was discharged on Monday, still facing a long recovery from the loss of her left leg and severe injuries to her right leg.

Three people were killed and 264 injured, many losing legs, when two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the race.

Erika Brannock, 29, a preschool teacher from Baltimore, had traveled to the city with her sister and brother-in-law to support her mother, who was running her first marathon. They were standing near the finish line when the first bomb exploded.

Brannock, who spoke to reporters outside Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said she remembered her sister gently pushing her forward toward the front of the crowd before “everything went silent and I saw flashes of orange and yellow, and I fell backward slowly and then finally came to and could hear the screaming and the crying and the sirens.”

Shortly after the blast, a stranger who identified herself only as Joan from California called out and grabbed her hand, saying, “I'm not going to let you go,” Brannock said.

“She stayed with me through the whole experience of people taking care of me and everyone attending to my wounds until I got on the stretcher and was taken off to an ambulance,” she said, holding back tears.

“Wherever you are, you saved my life,” Brannock wrote in a separate statement.

Brannock sustained a traumatic amputation of her left leg above the knee and severe injuries to other leg, said Dr. Edward Rodriguez, an orthopedic surgeon. Doctors worked to save her right leg and performed multiple procedures to reconstruct bone and soft tissue.

“She will have a long course ahead” and may require further surgeries, the doctor said. “This is certainly not over.”

Brannock's sister, Nicole Gross, 31, also sustained severe leg injuries and was treated at another hospital for 33 days. Her brother-in-law, Michael Gross, suffered cuts, burns and bruises.

Their mother, Carol Downing, 57, of Monkton, Maryland, was less than a half mile from the finish line when the bombs exploded and was not injured. She said she plans to run the marathon again next year.

Though Brannock was the last of the bombing patients admitted on April 15 to be discharged from Boston area hospitals, one patient treated that day and discharged was recently readmitted, a Beth Israel spokesman said.

Brannock said she will be fitted with a prosthetic and expects to walk again. She plans to focus on rehabilitation and getting back to teaching, she said.

“I've had some very dark moments, but … I've had world-class care here with incredible compassion,” she said.

A suspect in the bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured in a dramatic police manhunt days after the bombing. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also identified as a suspect, was killed in a gunfight with police. Investigators suspect they had Islamic militant sympathies.

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Steve Orlofsky

Cleveland kidnappings: No one loves the stranger

I know what happened with those three women in Cleveland, how one man was able to imprison and torture them in the middle of a residential neighborhood for 10 years, even though he had grown children, brothers, cousins who visited the house for hours at a time. It’s not a pretty tale, but we’ve all heard it, although to a lesser degree, countless times before. 

Remember the command in the Hebrew Bible: “The Lord your God loves the stranger … and you shall also love the stranger, for you were a stranger yourself in the land of Egypt”? Well, that’s not true in L.A., and it apparently wasn’t true in Cleveland, either. 

For years after I had moved here from Iran, I drew suspicious smiles and “are-you-just-weird-or-do-you-have-a-hidden-agenda?” glares. A mother at my kids’ school would spend half an hour in the parking lot telling me about the husband who had just left her because she was ill, and now she was alone with toddlers and no one to care for them or her, and I would ask if I could help in any way. The neighbor across the hall from me would cry over lunch about her son who had been in a coma for 15 years and how she cared for him at home and could hardly get away, and I would offer to fill in for her from time to time. Or I’d see a colleague get mistreated at work, a child teased, an old lady yelled at by her caretaker at the grocery store for taking too long to decide which brand of milk to buy. If I rose to their defense, it wasn’t just the tormentor who resented me; often, the one I thought I was speaking for was distrustful to the point of being hostile. 

I don’t know why it took me so long to get it. I thought of every possibility but the most obvious one. 

Societies function through a set of entrenched boundaries. Some of these are spelled out and written into law; they are meant to create order and safeguard rights. The other boundaries, born of culture and custom, are often unspoken, even instinctive. Cross them and you’ll be sent into some form of emotional exile. 

In most traditional societies, these boundaries separate each tribe (the extended family, the members of an ethnic or religious minority) from all the others. Within, you suffer from a sometimes total lack of privacy but benefit from an equally formidable emotional support system. Their map looks like a jigsaw puzzle: Oddly shaped pieces fit together by some peculiar logic evident only in retrospect. 

In America, on the other hand, the map looks like a page from a grid notebook: Each individual or couple, while part of a larger whole, is ensconced safely, if alone, in a single little box. A person may expose herself, needs and vulnerabilities and all, to a near stranger, or on television and on the Web. She may do this merely to unburden herself, or to arouse the public’s sympathy or to become famous. But just about the only thing she doesn’t want is a display of pure empathy or an offer of guileless aid. 

Where I grew up, you did things for others because you were human and so were they. You relied less (or not at all) on government and institutions, taxpayer-funded organizations or troops of volunteers. The government was usually there to make you more, not less, miserable; rich people didn’t pay taxes, and the poor just paid to make others rich. You had only each other and your (and their) basic humanity. It wasn’t nearly as efficient as the Western model, but often it was more effective. Back there, if someone’s child disappeared, people remembered and remained vigilant long after the police had closed the case. They talked about it and asked questions and told the story to every newcomer for three generations. 

Back there, if you had a brother who had multiple locks on the basement door, you would know one way or another what he was guarding. If your father disappeared for an hour during a meal at his own house, or if your neighbor had naked women crawling around his yard, or an old man turned up at the park with a 6-year-old who resembled him, you would likely know enough about him to be able to connect the dots. 

There’s a difference between allowing people their space and privacy and making a conscious effort not to know because you don’t really care. 

There’s a difference between allowing people their space and privacy and making a conscious effort not to know because you don’t really care. Time and again here in L.A., I’ve seen one person look irritated and change the subject when another began to talk about a painful event or personal tragedy. An old friend of mine once sent out a mass e-mail to announce he did not want to hear about anything unhappy that went on in anyone’s life; bad news, he said, weakens one’s life force. 

So, yes, I may be completely wrong about Cleveland, there may be parts of this story that have yet to surface, but given what we know so far, I can tell you those women remained captive because the people on the outside didn’t care enough. The man’s family didn’t care enough about him or what he did to others to find out what lay behind the locked doors. The police didn’t think the girls mattered enough. And the neighbors? The neighbors were asleep in their little grids. That’s unfortunate, but it gets worse: The people on the outside didn’t care enough because they’ve been taught not to; because if they do, they’ll get punished for it in one way or another. 

Americans are a uniquely generous bunch. They’re splendid at organizing and effectuating aid, at answering a call to duty and committing acts of pure heroism. They rushed toward exploding bombs to save bleeding victims in Boston, drove across the country and inhaled poisonous debris for weeks at a time to sift through the rubble at the World Trade Center. They organize search parties for missing children and walk all night in mud and sleet, put their Ivy League educations to use in refugee camps and war zones. They’re good at donating and raising money for just about any cause. 

Then the battle is won, the search is over, and the once-formidable army of selfless and valiant givers breaks back up into a thousand lonely, self-sufficient cells. The lucky ones go home to a nuclear family — a spouse, a couple of kids who’ll leave home the minute they turn 18, maybe an aged parent. The rest have no one, or no home, to go back to. They might have saved 100 strangers from death or heartache, but they have no intention of saving themselves or each other from the neverland between intimate relationships and institutionalized charity. It’s the old pioneer spirit — break with the familiar, pack up your wife and children in a wagon, and do or die alone on the prairie. 

But the pioneer, make-it-on-your-own, build-a-new-world-or-kill-yourself-trying spirit, while hugely liberating and uniquely empowering, has its downside: Sit on the porch with a shotgun on your lap long enough and you’ll end up defending an empty, forgotten shell of a home separated by desert from other empty, forgotten shells. Or approach the lunatic on the porch and get shot at enough times and you’ll go home and put a dozen locks on your own door, live and let die. 

I still care about what happens to the “stranger,” but I know better than to step up and offer a hand. I find it at once sad and telling that the neighbor who responded to one of the women’s cries is being hailed as a hero. As if he did something most other normal beings wouldn’t do — aren’t expected to do. As if the normal course of duty is to hear a call for help and, because it comes from inside someone’s house, walk away. 

It would be easy for me to condemn such callousness except that I fear I’m increasingly guilty of it myself. I haven’t forgotten the awkward reactions or outright rejections I received from people when I believed we’re all bound together by our humanity. The woman crying about her husband in the parking lot never spoke to me again after I said, “I’d like to have you and your kids over for Shabbat dinner some time.” The neighbor with the son who was in a coma dialed the wrong number (mine), mistook me for someone else and said, “My neighbor called to ask if I need help; I wonder what she wants.” These days, I reserve my expression of empathy for close friends and family. I donate to charities and nonprofits knowing that this kind of aid, while important, is no substitute for a personal connection. Yes, it makes me less of a person. I believe this kind of detachment diminishes all of society, allows crimes large and small to go undetected. 

The only thing is, I’m still haunted by the anguish of the abandoned woman, the suffering and confusion of the old lady in the grocery store, the unjust firing of the colleague. I would much rather have had a part in helping heal the wound than spend years wondering what became of those people. I do see the distrustful neighbor from time to time, and though we only exchange polite greetings now, I can tell you that she seems no happier for all her well-guarded boundaries.

Gina Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC. Her latest novel is “Caspian Rain” (MacAdam Cage, 2007). Her column appears monthly in the Journal.

Boston bombing suspect’s family struggles to find burial site

The body of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev remained in limbo on Monday as his family searched for a cemetery that would accept him.

Several Massachusetts cemeteries have refused to bury Tsarnaev and protesters have staked out the Worcester funeral home holding the body. Despite a plea from the funeral home director, Governor Deval Patrick said on Monday he would not get involved.

Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gun battle with police on April 19, four days after bombs he is believed to have set with his younger brother killed three people and injured another 264 near the finish line of the world-famous marathon.

Relatives have said they want him buried nearby. Under Islamic law, the body cannot be cremated, a procedure used for criminals including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

“The whole situation is unprecedented,” said David Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. The state of Massachusetts does not own its own cemeteries, he said, and the federal government has only cemeteries for war veterans.

“The challenge here is that there's no way to demand a cemetery allow for a burial to take place,” Walkinshaw said.

Some Massachusetts residents want the body sent back to Tsarnaev's native Russia. William Breault of Worcester told reporters on Monday he had set up a bank account to raise funds to ship the remains.

“I not only don't want to see him buried in Worcester, Massachusetts. … I don't think he should be buried in the state,” Breault told CNN on Monday.

Gabriel Gomez, a Massachusetts Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, suggested disposing of Tsarnaev's body in the ocean as was done after U.S forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“Bureaucrats worried about where to bury Boston Marathon terrorist #1. To me, it's simple: he should be buried at sea with Bin Laden,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.

Tsarnaev's body was taken to Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester last week after spending more than a week at a medical examiner's office in Boston. Several cemeteries including the Gardens at Gethsemane in West Roxbury have said they would not accept Tsarnaev's body for burial.

Graham Putnam funeral home owner Peter Stefan, chairman of a board that oversees funeral services and embalming in Massachusetts, said he has an obligation to accept the remains.

Stefan has said he would seek help from state officials if he could not find a resting place soon.

Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said on Sunday that his nephew should be buried in Massachusetts, his home. Tsarnaev's parents, ethnic Chechens who returned to southern Russia several years ago, have suggested in various interviews and reports that their son should be buried in Cambridge, or returned to Russia.

The Massachusetts governor declined to get involved Monday.

“This is a family issue, with due respect to all of you, and the family needs to make some decisions. I understand they have some options. They need to exercise one soon,” Patrick told reporters on Monday.

But Cambridge officials urged the Tsarnaevs to look elsewhere.

“The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests and widespread media presence at such an interment,” said Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy in a statement Sunday.

“The families of loved ones interred in the Cambridge Cemetery also deserve to have their deceased family members rest in peace.”

Families of deceased criminals are usually left alone to bury their dead but the marathon bombing was in a different category, said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor.

“More typically in mass murder cases, people look and say 'it's pathology,'” he said. “Here, they look at it and say 'it's politics.'”

Reporting By Ross Kerber; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Doina Chiacu

A suit and a story from a Holocaust survivor

It had been a tough week. The more news I read about the Boston bombing, the less I understood. Who were these young men, full of grievance, using a fresh start in America to maim and kill innocents?

In the midst of the mess, I decided to finally buy myself a new suit. I have just one, which I bought 10 years ago from an elderly Jewish man downtown.

I had a vivid memory of him, but I didn’t know his name. So I called Roger Stuart Clothes on Los Angeles Street and asked if the elderly man with the accent still worked there.

“Max?” the man on the phone said. “No, I’m sorry.”

“I guess I waited too long,” I said. Charming little old men don’t live forever, I thought.

“Just come tomorrow,” the man went on. “Max only works Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”

Before the man hung up, I just had to ask him: How old was my salesman? Where was the accent from? What’s his story? 

“Max? He’s 94. A Holocaust survivor. From the camps.”

I told him I’d be in that week — for a suit and a story.

“Should we talk, or do you want to first look at suits?” Max Leigh was just like I remembered him: maybe 5-foot-4, sturdy, with a good head of graying hair, a crisp blue dress shirt, gray slacks and a flowered tie. His face was kindly, bespectacled — like a doctor who makes house calls. A Yiddish accent.

Max looked at me: “42 long. What color? Every man should have a navy blue, a black and a gray.”

He handed me a black suit; I tried it on. Perfect. I had him pick me out a shirt, a tie — and I was good for another 10 years. I paid, then Max took me to the back, to a couple of chairs near a dressing room.

I pulled out my notebook and digital recorder.

“Oh, my story,” Max sighed. “I told it to Steven Spielberg. Can you get it from him?”

He was talking, I assumed, about testimony he must have given to the USC Shoah Foundation, which the film director established. I couldn’t understand Max without listening to those testimonial tapes — which I later did — but the tapes, and their sad, brutal memories, only tell part of his story.

Max was born Max Leschgold in Dresden, Germany. When Max was a child, his parents moved with him and his two younger sisters back to their native Warsaw to be with relatives. 

Max was 19 when the Nazis came to Warsaw. He was taken to a series of camps, including Auschwitz. After the war, he learned that his parents had starved to death in the Warsaw Ghetto. One sister died fighting in the ghetto. Another was shot dead in the arms of her boyfriend after their hiding place was discovered.

Max’s Shoah testimony is a recitation of horrors — starvation, mock executions, beatings. On the tapes, he tells the story with distant matter-of-factness. The only time he chokes up is when the interviewer asks whether he ever had children.

“My wife had a child killed by the Nazis,” he finally said. “We have the picture in the other room.” 

With the help of Jewish organizations, Max came to Los Angeles after the war as a penniless refugee who spoke four languages, but not English.

They put him in a hotel in Boyle Heights. He didn’t want to be on welfare, so he took the first job he could, at a fishing line factory. His hopes of a professional education destroyed by the war, he became a machinist, working in the aerospace and computer industries. When he was downsized at the age of 52, he and a friend opened a suit store downtown. 

“I didn’t even know what size suit I wore,” he said. “But I went into business, and I started a company, and I was successful, and here I am.”

Max travelled around the world, including five visits to Israel. He said he has paid back in donations “a thousand times over” whatever money the Jewish organizations donated to help him get on his feet.

After he sold his company, he began working at Roger Stuart, in 1981 — that’s 32 years.

“I don’t need the money,” Max said. “If I wouldn’t like it, I wouldn’t work. I like people.”

Max was married to his first wife, Rosaline, for 54 years — they met just after the war, and she died not long after he made his video testimony in 1997. His second wife, Inna, is 66. Inna’s son and grandchildren are like his own, he said.

“I have family now, I didn’t have any before. I lost my whole family.”

I asked Max how he managed to deal with such terrible memories. Did faith help, I asked, a belief in God?

Max shook his head.

“I saw too much to believe in all that bulls—,” he said. “I had these discussions with rabbis, and they couldn’t give me an answer. You explain to me why 1 1/2 million children got killed without sins. I lost whatever faith I had, and I didn’t have much to start with.”

Yet, Max moved forward. He didn’t lash out. He didn’t stay bitter at having his family and his dreams destroyed. He was 19 when his life fell apart — the same age as one of those Boston bombers — and he rebuilt his life; he stitched it back together like a suit.

“Am I bitter?” Max said. “Yes, however, you can’t live that way all your life. If you’re going to live with it all your life, then you don’t have a life at all.”

There are a million stories in the naked city — and in the fully clothed city, too. 

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Medical examiner keeps private how Boston bombing suspect died

An autopsy on Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev determined precisely how he died after a bloody shootout with police but the results can't be made public until the body is claimed, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Medical Examiner said on Monday.

FBI agents also spent hours at Tsarnaev's widow's family home in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and came out carrying bags market DNA samples, a person familiar with the investigation said

Two law enforcement officials said both the FBI and local law enforcement agencies are now looking beyond the Boston area to try to identify associates or possible confederates of Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar. A federal official said that further searches by the FBI or other agencies for physical evidence were also possible.

Authorities and the public have been waiting to learn whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a hail of police bullets or when he was run over by Dzhokhar when the younger Tsarnaev fled in an SUV they had stolen.

“The Medical Examiner has determined the cause of death,” said Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, but added that these findings will not be made public until the body is claimed and a death certificate is filed.

Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, would be permitted to claim the body from the medical examiner but she has been in hiding at her family's home. She was seen leaving the house Monday afternoon with her lawyers and was later seen leaving her lawyer's offices in Providence, Rhode Island.

Police said the Tsarnaevs set off twin bombs on April 15 that ripped through the crowd near the marathon's finish line, killing three and injuring 264. The Tsarnaevs led police in a wild car chase through metropolitan Boston three days later, throwing grenades and exchanged gunfire as the officers closed in.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had stepped outside the SUV to shoot at police when he was hit by gunfire and was run over by his brother when the younger Tsarnaev escaped. He was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dzhokhar, 19, was captured on April 19 and has been recovering from bullet wounds at a prison medical center outside Boston.

Russell said through her lawyer last week that she was doing everything she could do assist officials with the investigation.

Her lawyers have not said anything else, but a person familiar with the matter said they have been negotiating how much access officials will have to their client.

Russell, 24, lived with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and their young daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Police have said they found bomb material in that apartment.

Her lawyers have said she didn't know much because she spent most of her time working as a health aide near Boston while her husband was at home watching the child.

The brothers' parents, now living in Russia, said on Sunday that they have abandoned initial plans to come to the United States to claim their older son's body and visit their younger son.

Additional reporting by Aaron Pressman in Providence, Rhode Island, and Mark Hosenball in Washingbton; Editing by Philip Barbara

My cousin Bruce: a Boston hero

When the first bomb went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Bruce Mendelsohn was partying in an office overlooking Boylston Street. The blast knocked him off of his seat. 

“Get everybody away from the window,” Bruce yelled to his brother, who had finished the marathon about an hour earlier. “There might be a secondary.” 

Then the second bomb went off. 

Bruce, 44, is my second cousin, and in the hours and days after the April 15 attack in Boston, he became the go-to guy for news outlets trying to make sense of the incident. He was both uninjured and articulate in describing the aftermath of the explosions. The fact that he’s a PR professional with an active Twitter account certainly helped reporters find him. 

But the most significant reason Bruce was key to stories in The New York Times and on CNN, ABC and other outlets around the world — doing what he calls “therapy-by-media” — is because he ran down the stairs and into the street, toward the smoke, toward the injured. 

Even before many first responders could arrive at the scene, Bruce had helped reunite a distraught — but unhurt — mother with her son, who also survived. He helped an EMT roll a seriously wounded woman from on top of another victim. And using a T-shirt, he tied a tourniquet around a college student’s leg, which, her doctors later told her, probably save her life. 

“I don’t know what my thought process was,” Bruce told me by phone a little more than a week after the attack, which left three dead and injured more than 260. 

Bruce told me he couldn’t really explain why he ran toward the carnage, which he described on Twitter that day as “like a scene from Tel Aviv or Pakistan or Baghdad, not Boston.” 

“I guess it had something to do with the way I was brought up,” he said. 

I’ve known Bruce all my life. At Passover seders and various family gatherings, Bruce and his two brothers always seemed to be laughing and having an even better time than anyone else. I usually try to find a seat on their side of the table. 

But Bruce has never been a particularly observant Jew. His day school career ended before I was born, cut short when his school asked him to leave. At my bar mitzvah, just a few months after he completed three years in the U.S. Army, Bruce sported a camouflage kippah that looked like it had seen only occasional use. And when I got married, his wife jokingly told my wife that our wedding was livelier than the WASPy ones she was used to. 

So I was somewhat surprised when Bruce confided that he had been thinking about the Jewish context of what he did during the 12 minutes he spent on Boylston Street that Monday before police told him and other unofficial responders to leave. 

“I didn’t do it as a Jew, but if I look back at it, I think there was something implicit in my faith that said to me, when people need help, you help them,” he said. 

When I reached him on his cell phone on April 23, Bruce had just left Tufts Medical Center, where he was visiting Victoria McGrath, the 20-year-old Northeastern University student whose wounded leg he treated. He’d come at the invitation of the “Today” show, which had reunited him and McGrath for the show — along with firefighter Jimmy Plourde, who carried McGrath to safety; Tyler Dodd, who helped calm her while she was being treated in a medical tent on the scene; and former Navy medic Alicia Shambo, who rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. 

“The doctor told me, if you hadn’t have done that, then I would have died,” McGrath told Bruce, as NBC’s cameras rolled. “You saved my life. Otherwise, I would have bled out, ’cause it hit the artery.”

If the marathon bombings changed McGrath’s life — she might walk again without a limp, according to the NBC report — they also changed Bruce’s. He says he now becomes emotional at unpredictable times, and he feels very angry when he thinks about the terrorists who carried out the attack. 

But also, in a strange way, Bruce said, the experience has also given him a deeper understanding of himself — as a person, as a human being and as a Jew. 

“As Jews, we talk a lot and we study a lot about pikuach nefesh,” Bruce told me, using the Hebrew term for the rabbinic imperative that permits a person to violate almost any Jewish law in order to save a person’s life. “I can hold my own in a conversation about Jewish liturgy, but I think there’s a difference between Judaism in theory and Judaism in action.” 

What is Judaism in action?

“The guys in Israel who go in after bombings and clean up the friggin’ messes” are one example, Bruce said. 

Bruce may continue to sometimes take a pass on synagogue services, as he has in the past. But as Rabbi Shai Held, co-founder, dean and chair in Jewish thought at New York educational institution Mechon Hadar, wrote in a post for Tablet the day after the attack, running down the stairs when most everyone is, quite rationally, heading the other way, represents the best of Jewish practice. 

“You want to serve God? Run towards the very people and places you most want to run away from,” Held wrote. “You want to be religious? Learn to be present for other people when they are in pain. All the rest is commentary.”

Suspected marathon bomber may never speak again, Israeli director of Boston hospital says

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may never speak again, the expatriate Israeli director of the Boston hospital where Tsarnaev is being treated told an Israeli news site.

Tsarnaev, 19, was wounded in his throat, Kevin Ilan Tabb of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told Ynet.

Tabb is a board member of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, where he studied medicine and completed his residency.

“Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience with these types of injuries after years of treating people injured in terror attacks in Israel,” Tabb, 49, told Ynet.

He added, “We have a few Israeli doctors in the emergency room, and the director of the ER is also Israeli. But most of the physicians at the hospital are not Israeli, and they functioned exceptionally well.”

Police have been unable to question Tsarnaev, a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who was captured following a 24-hour chase that left the Boston area in lockdown.

Tsarnaev was captured Friday night hiding in a winterized boat in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Mass., and was hospitalized in serious condition. He was wounded during an early Friday morning shootout with police that killed his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, who also had been a suspect in the April 15 marathon bombing.

During the chase through Boston-area suburbs, a campus officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was killed and a transit policeman was seriously wounded.

The two bombs allegedly planted by the Tsarnaevs at the marathon's finish line killed three people and wounded more than 180.

“I’m confident that we have the courage and the resilience and the spirit to overcome these challenges and to go forward,” President Obama said in a statement from the White House shortly after Tsarnaev was captured.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly became indoctrinated in radical Islam and influenced his younger brother. Both Tsarnaevs, originally from the Chechnya area of Russia, are naturalized U.S. citizens.

Rabbi leads interfaith service at Boston Marathon bombing site

About 100 people attended a rabbi-led interfaith service for the victims of the Boston Marathon attack at the site of the bombing.

Rabbi Howard Berman of the Central Reform Temple in Boston led the short service of prayer and songs for runners, marathon volunteers and first responders at the race's finish line on Boylston Street, WBUR radio in Boston reported.

“In whatever way we sing, in whatever way we pray, may we go forth in the spirit of shalom, of wholeness, of healing, and of peace,” Berman said.

Central Reform Temple and five area churches organized the service.

One suspect dead, another on the run in Boston bombings

Police killed one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing in a shootout and mounted house-to-house searches for a second man on Friday, with much of the city under virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions in the streets.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, and said the dead suspect was his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26.

The fugitive described himself on a social network site as a minority from southern Russia's Caucasus, which includes Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other predominately Muslim regions that have seen two decades of unrest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Boston came to a virtual standstill after authorities urged everyone to stay at home. Public transportation throughout the metropolitan area was suspended, and air space was restricted. Universities including Harvard and M.I.T. and public schools were closed.

In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police. Waves of officers descended upon the town, racing from one site to the next where they believed the suspect might be hiding. Officers periodically barked orders at reporters to move back.

The events stunned the leafy suburb, a wooded former mill town that has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to one suspect being shot dead.

Police destroyed what they believed to be live ordnance in a number of controlled explosions throughout the morning.

Police were searching for the younger Tsarnaev, previously known only as Suspect 2, who was shown wearing a white cap in surveillance pictures taken shortly before Monday's explosions and released by the FBI on Thursday.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

The older brother, previously known as Suspect 1, who was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in the FBI images, was pronounced dead.

The FBI on Thursday identified the men as suspects in the twin blasts believed caused by bombs in pressure cookers placed inside backpacks left near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blasts killed three people and wounded 176 in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the suicide hijacking attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in the Syrian civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.


About five hours after the FBI released the surveillance pictures showing the two men near the bombing site on Thursday, a university police officer was shot and killed on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Middlesex County District Attorney said in a statement.

A short time later, police received reports of a carjacking by two men who kept their victim inside the car for about half an hour before releasing him, the statement said.

Police pursued that car to Watertown, where explosives were thrown from the vehicle at police and shots were exchanged, the statement said.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody. A second suspect was able to flee from that car and there is an active search going on at this point in time,” said Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.

The wounded suspect was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he died with multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma that may have been caused by an explosion, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine.

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Storey and Doina Chiacu

Muslim Brotherhood-linked mosque’s imam replaced Boston Marathon service speaker

The imam of a mosque that is managed by the Muslim Brotherhood-founded Muslim American Society (MAS) was initially invited to speak at Thursday’s interfaith service in Boston to honor the Boston Marathon attack’s victims, but that invitation was later rescinded by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s office, has learned.

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center’s (ISBCC) Imam Suhaib Webb, according to a series of Twitter posts, was replaced as the representative of Boston’s Muslim community at the service—whose keynote speaker was President Barack Obama—in favor of Nasser Wedaddy, director of civil rights outreach for the American Islamic Congress and chair of the New England Interfaith Council.

Webb posted on his Twitter account Thursday, “Sorry, Muhammad Wedaddy from the American Islamic Congress will represent Boston Muslims.” Asked by another Twitter user who Wedaddy was, Webb wrote, “No idea. I was informed last night at 9pm that he was replacing me? lets focus on the service.” Webb later tweeted, “I was told the governor’s office made the call.”

According to the website of ISBCC, located in Roxbury Crossing, Mass., the mosque is “currently being managed administratively by MAS-Boston. As such, the board members of MAS-Boston are your board members!”

MAS, according to the research of watchdog organizations including the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), has an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel history that started with its founding by members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas.

Imam Suhaib Webb, who was replaced as the Muslim speaker at Thursday's interfaith service in Boston for the Boston Marathon attacks victims. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

IPT has noted that U.S. federal prosecutors identify MAS as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” Former MAS Secretary General Shaker El Sayed told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that “Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) members founded MAS, but MAS went way beyond that point of conception.”

The ADL states that MAS-affiliated Web sites “have featured articles advocating jihad and suicide martyrdom.” ADL also cites individuals involved with MAS including radical Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader and terrorism supporter Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is the chairman of Islamic American University, an MAS subsidiary in Michigan, and the Islamic Society of Boston’s founding president Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is “serving a 23-year prison sentence for illegal dealings with Libya and his involvement in a plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.”

In June 2009, Boston-based APT issued a press release expressing concern that Governor Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino accepted invitations to be honored guests at the ISBCC’s grand opening in Roxbury Crossing. APT noted that another Islamic Society of Boston mosque, in Cambridge, Mass., hosted a sermon by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a Holocaust denier who has “claimed that Jews want to destroy Muslims, and called all non-Muslims (including Jews and Christians) a ‘spiritually filthy substance’ whose lives and property hold no value and are forfeit to Muslims during Jihad.”

“Civic leaders and the media participating in the ISBCC opening ceremonies must confront these very troubling facts,” APT stated in 2009. “We call upon Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino to reject the extremist leadership of the center, while continuing to reach out to the moderate Muslim community in Boston.”

Patrick and Menino did not back out that appearance at ISBCC, but Patrick may have now changed his tune on the mosque based on his office’s apparent rescinding of Webb’s invitation to speak at Thursday’s interfaith service for the Boston Marathon victims, which also featured remarks by Obama and by Jewish and Christian leaders.

Both Patrick’s office and the ISBCC did not immediately return requests for comment from

Wedaddy, speaking on behalf of the Boston Muslim community, referenced both Islamic and Jewish scripture in his remarks at Thursday’s service, saying, “Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved all of mankind.”

The American Islamic Congress (AIC), which Wedaddy works for, is a “nonprofit, non-religious, civil society development organization serving Muslims and Non-Muslims by promoting civil and human rights through advocacy, engagement and education,” according to its website. The organizations runs a variety of advocacy, engagement, education, and student programs.

“Muslims have been profoundly influenced by our encounter with the United States,” AIC’s statement of principles says. “American Muslims are a minority group, largely comprised of African-Americans, converts, immigrants, and the children of immigrants that has prospered in America’s climate of religious tolerance and civil rights. Our community must carefully consider the lessons of our unprecedented experience of acceptance and success as members of American society.”

AIC states that American Muslims should “champion pluralism and condemn all forms of intolerance,” “be ambassadors to the Muslim world,” “recognize and celebrate our own diversity,” “champion the rights of minorities in the Muslim world,” and “participate in the democratic process and work towards civic engagement.”

Bombing suspects in dramatic shootout and manhunt [TIMELINE]

Police emptied the streets of suburban Watertown on Friday in a house-by-house search for a second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, the day after killing his brother in a shootout.

The night of shooting and explosions in the streets followed the authorities' release Thursday of video footage of the two suspects.

Here is a timeline of events:

Thursday, about 5:10 p.m.

The FBI announces law enforcement has identified two men suspected of planting the pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and injured 176 at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Video footage released by the FBI show a man known as suspect No. 1 wearing a dark baseball cap. He was later identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26.

Suspect No. 2, later identified as Tsarnaev's brother, Dzhokhar, 19, was wearing a white cap backwards in the images. The 30-second videos are played repeatedly on national television, and photographs of the suspects are posted online.

Thursday night at 9:04 p.m.

Russian language social networking site VK shows someone logged for the last time out of what appears to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's page. The site had been accessed via mobile device.

Thursday night around 10:20 p.m.

Shots are fired at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. At some point, two men rob a 7-Eleven store on campus.

10:30 p.m.

Police discover MIT campus police officer Sean Collier, 26, shot multiple times in his car in an apparent confrontation with the suspects. He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital and pronounced dead.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Police say the two brothers carjack a Mercedes SUV. The owner of the car is held hostage for about a half hour, but is then released. Police chase the SUV into the Boston suburb of Watertown. During the chase, the suspects throw explosives from the car and exchange gunfire with police.

A transit police officer is hurt in the shootout. Witnesses report hearing dozens of gunshots.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is hit during the shootout. He is taken into custody, transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and later pronounced dead.

Before 1 a.m. Friday

A huge manhunt is launched for the second suspect and hundreds of police officers and FBI agents descend on Watertown.

Between 3 and 4 a.m.

Massachusetts police announce they will conduct a door-to-door search in Watertown. Citizens are warned to stay indoors.

Around 5:30 a.m.

Train service in Boston is suspended.

8 a.m.

Massachusetts officials announce they have expanded the shelter-in-place recommendations for the entire city of Boston, effectively putting the city in lockdown as they search for Tsarnaev.

Compiled based on media reports, official statements from law enforcement and Reuters reporting.

Reporting by Sarah Lynch and Alina Selyukh in Washingtno, Tim McLaughlin, Svea Herbst Bayliss, Stephanie Simon in Boston; Editing by Alistair Bell and Doina Chiacu

Chechnya, Tsarnaev and terror

According to media accounts based on police reports, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings is a 19-year-old man named Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, a resident of Boston who lived in the former Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan and may or may not be Chechen in origin. He identifies himself as a Muslim.

Obviously no one knows, if in fact he is guilty, what his motivation was for helping his brother to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon on Monday. That said, a lot of people are unfamiliar with Kyrgyzstan so I thought I would set up a little bit of light on the subject since I have been there many times and have studied Central Asia, its politics and culture.

Generally speaking, Kyrgyzstan is divided between its secular Sovietized North, centered around the capital of Bishkek, and its conservative Muslim south, centered around the Fergana Valley city of Osh. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Kyrgyz Republic represented one of the great hopes for democratization in former Soviet Central Asia. It had a flawed but democratically elected president, one of the least corrupt police forces in the region, and was relatively peaceful. Largely it was free of Western influence because it did not have oil or natural gas reserves coveted by Russia or the United States. Therefore, it did not suffer from the famous oil curse.

In recent years the most important political development in Kyrgyzstan was the 2005 Tulip Revolution, which saw radical Islamist insurgents and financed by the American CIA and based around Osh topple the regime of Pres. Akayev, who fled into exile rather than order his security forces to fire upon his people. Nobody can be 100% certain why the United States decided to repeat the same mistakes that it made in Afghanistan during the 1980s, but it isn't a huge stretch to assume that the fact that Akayev was demanding increased rent on the US air base at Manas that was established after the 9/11 attacks may have had something to do with it.

Since 2005 the political situation in the Boston suspect's homeland has deteriorated. Some analysts consider it nearly a failed state. Certainly the central government has lost control of much of the South. For example, when I tried to cross from Tajikistan into southeastern Kyrygzstan at Sary Tash in 2008, border guards informed me that they had not heard from Bishkek in years. In fact, they no longer even had a passport stamp. It was very clear that local warlords were in charge of mining and other concerns there.

Radical Islamists, always active in the southern part of the country, have become emboldened since 2005. One insurgent group, the Islamic Movement of Turkestan, formerly known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has attracted self radicalized Muslims from all over the world, including a substantial faction from Chechnya. Chechnya, well-informed readers will recall, was destroyed by forces under the direction of Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin. While we in the West may have forgotten this episode, Chechens are well known as ferocious fighters who never forget a grudge. Jihad is alive and well for them.

Why did Mr. Tsarnaev blow up the marathon? Assuming, of course that he did?

It may well be that his trajectory as an ethnic Chechen brought him into contact with radical Muslims in Kyrgyzstan. Although it seems like a stretch for Americans, Muslims around the world often see America and Russia acting in concert. It would then be another logical leap to attack America here yes, including attacking innocent civilians, because after all, Russia attacks innocent civilians in Muslim countries and in places like Chechnya, and the United States does so in other places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Of course, all of this is conjecture.

Ted Rall's most recent book is “Wake Up, You're Liberal! How We Can Take America Back from the Right” (Soft Skull Press).

Israel at 65

I watched the video of the Boston Marathon bombings and thought, of course, of the bus bombings that wracked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv a decade ago. The mundane calm violently shattered. The screams giving way to sirens. The bodies sprawled on the ground. And the smoke — movies never show how much smoke explosions really cause, because there would be too much to see anything.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one making these associations.

Dr. Alasdair Conn is chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where at least 22 of the severely wounded victims were rushed.

“This is like a bomb explosion we hear about in Baghdad or Israel or other tragic points in the world,” Conn told The New York Times.

The way Dr. Conn put it jarred me. Sixty-five years after its founding, Israel is vibrant, creative, tough, embattled, intense, exhausting — but tragic? Nope.

It’s not because enemies, like the terrorist or terrorists who attacked Boston, haven’t tried for years to reduce Israel to a nation of blood and tears. Just since the Second Intifada, the terror death toll of Israeli Jews and Arabs has topped 1,000. In the latest attack, in July of last year, a Hezbollah bomb planted on a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria claimed six lives.

Numbers don’t begin to reveal the human agony behind each of these attacks. Beyond the casualties and their anguished loved ones, there are the wounded, who bear the scars for life. Israel has known tragedy, and how.

But Israel — as a nation, as a set of ideals, as a population within its (somewhat iffy) borders — continues to thrive. If any one word could describe Israel, it would not be tragic. It would be resilient.

Research now shows that people who fare best in life are ones who’ve undergone some adversity — not too much, and not too little.

“In our trauma-focused age,” psychologist Anthony Mancini writes,we sometimes lose sight of our innate capacity to endure. We seem to assume that ‘traumatic events’ must result in ‘trauma.’ And yet the research tells us the opposite. Most people cope with the worst things with only modest and transient disruptions in functioning.”

By that measure, Israel was forged in just the right degree of adversity.

The sites of some of the worst terror attacks in modern history bear no lasting signs. Israeli leaders made a decision early on to restore attack sites to normality as soon as possible. The message that sends is the same as what grass reminds each time you mow it — “we’ll be right back.” All that marks the place is a plaque or some kind of permanent memorial — because preserving memory of sacrifice is also a way of ensuring resilience.

Israel’s economy has a kind of unplanned resilience — not relying on any one commodity or industry, but constantly inventing new ones. So, too, its agriculture, which has moved from simply growing stuff to engineering the finest ways to breed, plant, irrigate, harvest, process and ship produce. Dozens of other countries can grow cheaper potatoes, but all over Europe you’ll pay six bucks a kilo for Israel’s Avshalom brand.

Part of this resilience is born of an innate restlessness. But it also comes from being not just a country, but a People. As Gidi Grinstein, founder of the Israeli think tank Re’ut has pointed out, Jewish longevity and success is in large part due precisely to worldwide networks of communities that could grow when others shrank, or disappeared, that could help when others were hurting.

“A secret of Jewish survival, security and prosperity over centuries of exile has been its geographic spread among nations, cultures and languages,” Grinstein writes.

Israel was supposed to herald the Ingathering of the Exiles, when the far-flung Jews, called, disdainfully, the galut, would all drop their briefcases and flock to Zion.

Thankfully, our innate sense of resilience kept us from doing exactly that. Israel grew strong and has prospered by drawing on the talents and resources and experiences of Jews, non-Jewish friends and, yes, former Israelis throughout the world.

The last Israeli election, which saw the ascendancy of parties informed by a more open — that is a more American-Jewish — approach to Judaism is a good indicator of how Israel’s future also depends on the strength and ideas of outside Jewish communities. It doesn’t just take a village, it takes a web — or, to be geeky about it, it takes an interconnected network.

What binds these networks together is a common story, a shared narrative of struggle, endurance, redemption. That story has enabled Israel, in the words of the late Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, to emerge “stronger than before from the test of fire and blood.” That story has been both a source of hope, and its fuel.

Because, really, what is resilience but a fancy word for hope — HaTikvah. And if we lost that — now that would be tragic.

Marathon bomb suspect eludes police, hunt shuts Boston down

Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb Friday in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.

The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and the dead suspect as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed Thursday night in the working class suburb of Watertown.

Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

A man who said he was their uncle said the brothers came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.

“I say what I think what's behind it – being losers,” Ruslan Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. “Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did.”

Tsarni said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009.

He said Monday's bombings on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 “put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.”

The bombing, described by President Barack Obama as “an act of terrorism,” was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.

The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

The manhunt has covered 60 percent to 70 percent of the search area, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said Friday afternoon. “We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street,” he said.

Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak said it was suspending train service between Boston and New York indefinitely and the Boston Red Sox postponed Friday night's baseball game at historic Fenway Park.

The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.

“They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. “Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain.”


The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

Video posted on showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.

“I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK,” she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey.

She said the older brother “was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away … “

She said of the younger brother, “He's a child.”


In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody,” Alben said.

The suspect died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff, Stephanie Simon, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Aaron Pressman, Daniel Lovering and Ben Berkowitz; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Editing by Doina Chiacu

Obama: ‘The entire country is behind the people of Boston’

President Barack Obama called Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Friday to offer ongoing federal help in the Boston bombing investigation, and to express condolences for a police officer killed in the search for suspects.

“The President said that the entire country is behind the people of Boston as well as Massachusetts, and that the full force of the federal government will continue to be made available until those responsible are brought to justice,” a White House official said.

Obama stayed out of the public eye on Friday after traveling to Boston on Thursday to speak at a service for the victims of Monday's bombing.

Top White House officials continue to watch the situation and brief Obama, the White House said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Eric Walsh

Obama in Boston vows U.S. will find perpetrators of bombings

“You will run again,” President Barack Obama told an interfaith service on Thursday for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, in a stirring speech aimed at bringing solace to the city and settling the nerves of a rattled nation.

At a Boston cathedral about a mile from the spot where two bombs on Monday ripped through the crowds at the marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring 176, Obama sought to convey strength by vowing “we will find you” to the person or people behind the attack.

Monday's bombing began a week of security scares that rattled the United States and evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks, ranging from false bomb reports to mail sent to the White House and other federal officials containing the deadly poison ricin.

Investigators in the Texas town of West were looking into the cause of an explosion on Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant that killed up to 15 people and destroyed dozens of homes.

Some of the victims of the Boston attack suffered gruesome injuries, and at least 10 lost limbs as a result of the blasts. Investigators believe the bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with shrapnel.

“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you,” Obama said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt. You will run again.”

Hundreds of people crowded outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End. Police were out in force, and some officers listened to Obama's speech over the radio while standing next to their squad cars.

Among them was Philip Beauregard of Boston, who said, “The president was fantastic. He made it clear that the country is behind the city of Boston.”

After his speech, Obama met with volunteers and Boston Marathon organizers, many of whom cared for the injured, and with victims at Massachusetts General Hospital.


While investigators have made no arrests yet, Obama said of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the attack, “We will find you and you will face justice.”

Investigators are combing through thousands of pieces of evidence, from cell phone pictures submitted by spectators to shards of shrapnel pulled from the legs of victims.

They have not identified any suspects but they want to talk to two men who they have identified in images taken before the blast, law enforcement and national security officials said on Thursday.

“There is some video that has raised the question of those that the FBI would like to speak with,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a hearing in Congress on Thursday. “I wouldn't characterize them as suspects under the technical term. But we do need the public's help in locating these individuals.”

Police had considered making an appeal to the public for more information at a news conference on Wednesday, a U.S. government source said, but the FBI canceled it after a number of delays. The FBI said on Thursday it will issue new information on the case at a 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) briefing.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Before his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, a move that makes federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Cardinal Sean O'Malley also spoke at the service. Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also attended.

“This is Boston, a city with courage, compassion and strength that knows no bounds,” said Menino, who was rolled to the podium in a wheelchair but stood for his remarks despite breaking a leg over the weekend. “We love the brave ones who felt the blast and still raced through the smoke with ringing in his ears … to answer cries of those in need.”

Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Daniel Lovering in Boston, Deborah Charles, Mark Hosenball and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Grant McCool

FBI identifies two suspects in Boston Marathon bombing [PHOTOS]

Investigators released pictures of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing on Thursday, seeking the public's help in identifying two backpack-toting men photographed on the crowded sidewalk on Monday before bombs exploded near the finish line.

The blasts that killed three people and wounded 176 began a week of security scares that rattled the United States and evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks.

“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” Richard DesLauriers, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge in Boston, told a news conference.

“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” he said.

DesLauriers warned the public that the men were considered armed and dangerous.

Both men carried backpacks that were believed to contain the bombs. The FBI identified suspect No. 1 as a man wearing a dark baseball cap and sunglasses. Suspect No. 2 wore a white cap baseball cap backwards and was seen setting down his backpack on the ground, DesLauriers said.

The FBI released a 30-second video of the two men, one walking behind the other, that edited together three different angles. The video appeared to have been taken from security cameras.

A picture of both men in the same frame was taken at 2:37 p.m., about 13 minutes before the two explosions tore through the crowd that had been cheering on finishers of the race.

Investigators believe the bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with shrapnel. Some of the wounded suffered gruesome injuries and at least 10 people lost limbs as a result of the blasts.

Investigators hoped the men would be identifiable within hours of the release of the pictures and video, a national security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were looking at the men for some period of time before deciding to make the videos public, and they had extensive video and still pictures to justify the FBI decision to label the two men as suspects, the official said.

At least one other person of interest who featured in crime scene pictures had been ruled out as a suspect. Also ruled out earlier in the week was a Saudi student who was injured in the attacks, the official said.


President Barack Obama sought to bring solace to Boston and the nation in an interfaith service at a cathedral about a mile (1.6 km) from the bomb site, declaring “You will run again” and vowing to catch whoever was responsible.

He promised resilience in a message directed toward Boston but also to a country that was on edge.

A man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of mailing the deadly poison ricin to Obama and a massive explosion at a fertilizer factory devastated a small Texas community, sending shockwaves at least 50 miles (80 km) away.

Obama said the country stood in solidarity with the victims of the Boston bombs on their road to recovery.

“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you,” Obama said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt. You will run again.”

After his speech, Obama met with volunteers and Boston Marathon organizers, many of whom cared for the injured, and with victims at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Before his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, making federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing. 

Suspects wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 are revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Photos of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings are seen during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2013. The FBI said on Thursday that it has identified two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing and is asking the public for help in identifying the two men. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

Israel Police chief to meet with FBI on Boston Marathon attack

Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino in U.S. meetings with FBI and law enforcement officials is expected to discuss the Boston Marathon attack, among other topics.

Danino and other senior Israel Police officers left Israel on Tuesday for 10 days of meetings in New York and Washington, according to the Israeli daily Maariv. The visit had been scheduled several weeks ago.

The officials will look at strengthening cooperation between Israeli police and police departments throughout the United States. The meetings with the FBI were to discuss cooperation in fighting terrorism and now reportedly will discuss Monday's attack in Boston.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders offered condolences to the United States and President Obama over the marathon bombings.

“Permit me to express our solidarity with the bereaved families in Boston,” President Shimon Peres said during his Independence Day reception for the foreign diplomatic corps. “Three people lost their lives, 140 were wounded and I want to send on behalf of all of us, our condolences to all the families and wish a speedy recovery to all the injured.

“When it comes to events like this, all of us are one family. We feel a part of the people who paid such a high price. God bless them. Today the real problem is terror and terror is not an extension of policy, their policy is terror, their policy is to threaten. Terrorists divide people, they kill innocent people.”

Also at the reception, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “A day of enjoyment in Boston was turned into a day of terror. We send our condolences to President Obama, the American people and the bereaved families. On this day and on any day, Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the American people. We are partners in freedom and in seeking a better future for all humanity.”

Egypt and Saudi Arabia also condemned the Boston attack and sent condolence messages to Obama, the Associated Press reported. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood also condemned the bombings and offered condolences, saying that Islamic law does not condone violence against civilians.

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