Eric Greitens speaking at the Robin Hood Veterans Summit at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, May 7, 2012. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images.

Jewish governor of Missouri, Muslim activists pitching in to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery

The Jewish governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, said he will volunteer to help repair a St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery where at least 170 gravestones were toppled over the weekend.

Meanwhile, two Muslim activists have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for repairs. The launchgood drive started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi had brought more than $45,000 as of Tuesday evening.

They said any remaining funds after the cemetery is restored will go to fixes for other vandalized Jewish centers.

“Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” the activists wrote. “We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event”

Greitens in a news release Tuesday cited the concept of “tikkun olam,” or repair of the world, and asked helpers to bring rakes, garbage bags, wash rags and more cleaning supplies.

“My team and I will be there tomorrow, and I’d invite you to join us,” he said.

The governor had previously condemned the vandalism on the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City and called on people to “fight acts of intolerance and hate.”

“Disgusted to hear about the senseless act of desecration at the cemetery in University City. We must fight acts of intolerance and hate,” Greitens wrote in a tweet Monday evening after the vandalism was discovered.

The attack on the cemetery took place sometime between Friday night and Monday morning, when the damage was discovered.

Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery Executive Director Anita Feigenbaum told The New York Times that between 170 and 200 headstones were toppled, with some being broken and damaged.

The headstones are in the cemetery’s oldest section, dating from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, she told the Times.

“I just am quite shocked — it affects so many people, so many families, so many generations,” Feigenbaum told the newspaper. “This cemetery was opened in 1893.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Lt. Fredrick Lemons of the University City Police Department declined to classify the vandalism as a hate crime.

“Right now, everything is under investigation,” Lemons said. “We’re looking into all possible leads.” The police are reviewing cemetery surveillance cameras, according to the report.

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL whose military awards include the Bronze Star, was elected the first Jewish governor of Missouri in November.

In a post on Facebook he called the vandalism a “despicable act of what appears to be anti-Semitic vandalism.”

“We do not yet know who is responsible, but we do know this: this vandalism was a cowardly act. And we also know that, together, we can meet cowardice with courage,” he wrote. “Anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination. From their pitiful act of ugliness, we can emerge even more powerful in our faith.”

Immediately following the announcement of the vandalism, the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, which owns the cemetery, posted a message on Facebook informing families with relatives buried there that it is  “assessing the locations and damage and will post names that are affected as soon as we are able. Many monuments are facing down and we won’t be able to read the names and see if there is any damage until we lift the stones.”

In an update Tuesday afternoon, the society said a local monument company had begun to replace the monuments on their bases. It said it would try to have a comprehensive list of the toppled monuments posted by Wednesday.

A local church, the All Nations Church, launched an appeal to help repair the damage caused by the vandals. The church said on its website that it would match up to $500 in donations to the cemetery.

“Destruction of Jewish headstones is a painful act of anti-Semitism,” said Nancy Lisker, director of the American Jewish Congress in  St. Louis. “We feel the pain of the families whose grave sites of loved ones were desecrated and look to the authorities to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act.”

Jewish platform raises political dough for Cruz

UPDATED 11:54 a.m.

A group of Orthodox Jews supporting Ted Cruz for president have launched a 24-hour campaign to raise $1 million for Cruz's campaign on the day of crucial primary contests in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

The campaign “Million For Ted” was posted on the popular fundraising website, a non-partisan corporation that serves as a crowdfunding platform for non-profit charitable campaigns. The goal is to raise at least $250,000 from members of the Orthodox Jewish community sympathetic to the conservative policies of the Texas Senator, which will then be matched 75 percent by the Wilks family. “It’s all or nothing, if we don’t reach one million, all donations will be returned,” a message posted on the site read.

The organization hosting the campaign is called Reigniting the Promise, a super PAC in support of Cruz. 

The fundraising platform appears to be a for-profit business that takes a 2.9% cut of funds raised, which is legal under campaign finance laws, according to Paul S. Ryan Paul, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. Hecht told Jewish Insider that no service fee will be charged if the goal is not met by midnight (CT)

“Charidy is a bipartisan website. We are not officially endorsing. We are hosting this campaign,” Moshe Hecht, a chief fundraising specialist at Charidy, told Jewish Insider. “There are some Jewish people behind the scenes who want to promote this to the Orthodox community because they feel the community should support Ted Cruz.”

Hecht said that while certain people in the company may have contributed to Cruz's campaign, this campaign is not an endorsement, adding that this is the first political campaign out of 600 campaigns that the site has hosted so far.

The campaign raised $15,000 in the first half hour (1:30 p.m. ET).

White supremacist surprised his victims were not Jewish

Prosecutors in Kansas rested their case on Thursday in the murder trial of a white supremacist after playing a recorded call in which he expressed surprise the three people fatally shot outside two Jewish centers last year were not Jewish.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 74, a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan who is representing himself, could be sentenced to death if convicted of murdering the three people in April 2014 in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. He also is charged with the attempted murder of three others. Cross has pleaded not guilty to all the charges but has said several times in court that he is the killer.

Before resting their case, prosecutors played a recording of jail telephone call in October 2014 in which Cross can be heard saying he took a swig of whiskey in his car in celebration moments after the shootings.

“I've never felt such exhilaration and overpowering joy,” Cross said on the recorded call.

Cross told jurors he made the call. While it is not clear who Cross was calling, he said in court on Thursday that he knew and wanted the call to be recorded and to be made public.

He says on the recording he was surprised non-Jews would be at the two centers but did not regret the killings.

“It makes them accomplices of the Jews,” Cross says on the recording. “They are against us.”

Cross is charged with fatally shooting Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather William Corporon, 69, outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, as well as Terri LaManno, 53, outside a Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas.

Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, is expected to begin presenting his defense on Friday, including testifying himself. Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan on Thursday told Cross he would not be allowed to present as evidence videos, books and articles that support his anti-Semitic views.

“You are depriving me my right to give my state of mind,” Cross told the judge.

Over three-plus days, prosecutors presented witnesses, video and forensic evidence they have said connects Cross to the killings.

Cross has asked few questions of the prosecution's witnesses and has been admonished repeatedly by Ryan for expressing his views instead of asking questions.

Missouri gubernatorial candidate with Jewish roots found dead

Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor of Missouri, apparently killed himself shortly after telling journalists that a fellow party member was leading a whisper campaign saying he was Jewish.

Schweich, the state auditor, who attended an Episcopal church, was pronounced dead at a hospital from a single gunshot after paramedics responded Thursday to an emergency call made from  Schweich’s home in a suburb of St. Louis, the Associated Press reported.

Schweich’s death appears to have been a suicide, police chief Kevin R. Murphy told The New York Times.

Schweich that morning had invited a local journalist and an Associated Press reporter to his home.

“To me, this is more of a religion story than a politics story, but it’s your choice on who the reporter is,” Schweich said on a voice mail he left the local journalist, Tony Messenger of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, seven minutes before the police call, The New York Times reported.

In recent days, Schewich had said that John Hancock, the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, was spreading rumors that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich told Messenger that Hancock was trying to hurt his chances in the primary with evangelical Christian voters.

“I don’t have a specific recollection of having said that,” Hancock told The Associated Press on Thursday, “but it’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish, because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion.”

Messenger in a column said Schweich was proud of his Jewish roots. Schweich’s Jewish grandfather “taught him to never give an inch where anti-Semitism was concerned, Schweich told me,” he wrote.

The Post-Dispatch reported that Schweich had contacted the Anti-Defamation League about his allegations.

Justice Department said ready to clear Darren Wilson

The Justice Department is about to close the investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Miss., and clear the white police officer involved of any civil rights charges, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The paper quoted law enforcement officials as saying federal prosecutors had begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson, after an FBI investigation found no evidence to support the charges against him.

It would close the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose death in August led to months of nationwide protests and sparked a debate on police use of force.

Tributes, protests mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Tributes to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. were held nationwide on Monday as protests over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement rolled on across the country.

Observers of Martin Luther King Jr. Day have this year linked the federal holiday to a rallying cry in recent months during demonstrations over police brutality: “Black lives matter.”

King's 1960s dream of racial equality was being viewed through a lens focused on the recent deaths of unarmed black men after confrontations with police, including Eric Garner, who died in July after being put in a chokehold in New York City, and Michael Brown, shot in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

More than 1,800 people pressed into a King commemoration service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King once preached, some holding signs with his famous quote “I am a man,” others with placards reading “I can't breathe” in Garner's memory and “Hands up! Don't shoot!” to honor Brown.

“We look at the yellow crime scene tape that's wrapped around America now and we know that we have a lot of work still to do,” Gwendoyln Boyd, president of Alabama State University, told the crowd that responded with an earsplitting “Amen!”


About 400 protesters blocked traffic in New York City as they walked about 60 blocks from Harlem to near the United Nations, chanting “Black lives matter!” as King's speeches blared from loudspeakers.

“This march is about reclaiming Martin Luther King. He was a radical organizer – he's been arrested, he believed in non-violence, but he was also disruptive,” said Linda Sarsour, spokeswoman for the Justice League NYC, which organized the #Dream4Justice March.

Hours before an evening vigil on the Staten Island street where Garner died, his family placed wreaths on the Brooklyn street where two uniformed officers were ambushed in December by a gunman claiming to avenge the deaths of Garner and Brown.

“This holiday should also represent that we are unequivocally against the shedding of innocent blood,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who accompanied Garner's widow, mother and children as they laid down the arrangements of blue hyacinths and white roses.

Protests in other U.S. cities included a pre-dawn rally in Oakland, California on Monday, about 40 demonstrators converged on the home of Mayor Libby Schaaf, calling for harsher punishment of police who use violence against civilians.

They chalked outlines of bodies on the tree-lined street, played recordings of King's speeches and projected an image of the slain civil rights leader with the words “Black lives matter,” on the mayor's garage door.

President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, took a more traditional approach to honoring King on Monday, spending the day working with his family and other children on a literacy project at a Washington charity.

Obama has shied away from race-related activism, but after a grand jury failed to indict a white officer in Brown's death, he spoke out against what he called the “deep distrust” between law enforcement and black Americans, vowing to use his last two years in office to improve community policing and trust between the groups.

Missouri governor orders more troops to Ferguson after riots

Aiming to head off more looting and rioting, Missouri's governor on Tuesday ordered National Guard reinforcements into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson following overnight violence ignited by the clearing of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Attorneys for the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot to death by officer Darren Wilson in August, condemned the grand jury process that led to Monday's decision not to bring criminal charges against the officer.

About a dozen buildings in Ferguson burned overnight and 61 people, mostly from the St. Louis area, were arrested for crimes including burglary, illegal weapons possession and unlawful assembly, police said on Tuesday. Shops were looted during the unrest.

The case underscores the sometimes tense nature of race relations in the United States. The St. Louis County grand jury's decision also led to protests in other major U.S. cities. The people who took to the streets in Ferguson seemed to disregard calls for restraint issued by President Barack Obama and others.

Police fired tear gas and flash-bang canisters at protesters on Monday night. Police said protesters fired guns at them, lit patrol cars on fire and hurled bricks into their lines.

Brown family lawyers Benjamin Crump and Anthony Gray said in a news conference the process had been unfair because the prosecutor in the case had a conflict of interest and Wilson was not properly cross-examined. They said a special prosecutor should have been appointed.

“This process is broken. The process should be indicted,” Crump said.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said he was meeting with law enforcement and bolstering the National Guard deployment to ensure that people and property are protected in the days ahead.

“Violence like we saw last night cannot be repeated,” Nixon said on his Twitter feed. His office said “the Guard is providing security at the Ferguson Police Department, which will allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public.”

While news channels aired Obama's live remarks calling for restraint from the White House on one side of the screen, they showed violent scenes from Ferguson on the other.

“This is going to happen again,” said Ferguson area resident James Hall, 56, as he walked past a building smoldering from a blaze set during the street protests in the city that is predominately black and the police force is mostly white.

“If they had charged him with something, this would not have happened to Ferguson,” he said.

Although no serious injuries were reported, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the rioting on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was “much worse” than the disturbances that erupted in the immediate aftermath of the August shooting.

The smell of smoke hung in the air along a stretch of West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. The street was closed by police but heaps of broken glass and piles of rubble accumulated in front of the few buildings that had not been boarded up ahead of time.

“We see that Michael Brown's death has been spit upon by the criminal justice system here,” said the Reverend Michael McBride, an activist from California.

“Now is the opportunity for the president to really be my brother's keeper,” said McBride.


In the city of St. Louis, where windows were broken and traffic was briefly stopped on a major highway overnight, Police Chief Sam Dotson vowed a stronger response on Tuesday night.

Schools in Ferguson and its surrounding cities said they planned not to open on Tuesday and city offices in Ferguson were also closed.

Officials disclosed the grand jury's ruling well after sunset and hours after saying it was coming, a set of circumstances that led to protesters taking to the streets well after dark.

Wilson could have faced charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. Brown's family said through their lawyers that they were “profoundly disappointed” by the grand jury's finding.

Wilson offered thanks to his supporters, saying “your dedication is amazing,” in a letter attributed to him posted on Tuesday on a Facebook page for those who have rallied to his side.

Attorneys for Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave and has avoided the spotlight since the shooting, said he was following his training and the law when he shot Brown.

Wilson told the grand jury that Brown had tried to grab his gun and he felt his life was in danger when he fired, according to documents released by prosecutors.

“I said, 'Get back or I'm going to shoot you,'” Wilson said, according to the documents. “He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.'”

Missouri grand jury has made decision in fatal shooting of Michael Brown

A Missouri grand jury has made a decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, a killing that sparked angry protests in the St. Louis suburb, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office was due to make an announcement on the grand jury, the Post and CNN reported, citing sources.

A spokesman for McCulloch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activist groups have pledged fresh street protests if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, while the state has been planning a massive police presence to quell violence.

President Barack Obama urged protesters to remain peaceful following the grand jury announcement, a White House spokesman said. Brown's parents, ministers and community leaders have urged sympathizers to remain peaceful, whatever the outcome.

Ferguson, a predominantly black town with a white-dominated power structure, has been on edge for weeks as residents await the grand jury's decision. Shop owners in the city, which faced weeks of sometimes violent protests following Brown's death, have boarded up their windows, and students in one area school district began an extended early Thanksgiving break on Monday.

Protesters have said they plan to demonstrate at the Ferguson Police Department and at the county courthouse in Clayton, about 8 miles (13 km) to the south, following the grand jury's decision.

Police in Clayton have placed large barricades around the courthouse and placed locks on mailboxes to prevent them being opened ahead of the announcement.

Lawyers for Brown's family say the teen was trying to surrender when he was shot, while Wilson's supporters say he feared for his life and opened fire in self-defense.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the ruling and called in the National Guard, a move that some activists called unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Nixon was en route to St. Louis on Monday afternoon, a spokesman confirmed. The spokesman declined to comment on the reasons for Nixon's trip.


The August shooting touched off a national debate about race relations and ignited nightly street demonstrations where police in riot gear, flanked by armored vehicles, fired rubber bullets and deployed tear gas to break up crowds.

Obama in the aftermath of the shooting dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson to investigate and try to restore calm in the community, where much of the population is black and the police force is mostly white.

Local and state authorities scrambled to keep a lid on the protests in the face of criticism their heavy-handed tactics were only making the situation worse.

McCulloch declined to file charges directly and instead had a grand jury hear evidence over recent months, which kept tensions simmering. In a move aimed at transparency, the prosecutor's office has pledged to release publicly evidence heard by the grand jury, where proceedings are usually kept secret.

Three autopsies were performed on Brown, who was shot at least six times. A private autopsy indicates Brown was trying to surrender, lawyers for Brown's family said. The St. Louis County autopsy indicated a gunshot wound at close range to Brown's hand.

The Justice Department has yet to release the findings of its autopsy.

Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam in Kansas City and Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jim Loney

FBI arrests 2 suspected Ferguson bomb suspects; later charged with federal firearms offenses

Two men suspected of buying explosives they planned to detonate during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, once a grand jury decides the Michael Brown case, were arrested on Friday and charged with federal firearms offenses, a law enforcement official told Reuters.

Word of the arrests, reported by a number of media outlets Friday, came ahead of the grand jury's widely anticipated decision on whether the white police officer who fatally shot Brown, an unarmed black teenager, should be indicted on criminal charges.

The Aug. 9 slaying of 18-year-old Brown under disputed circumstances became a flashpoint for U.S. racial tensions, triggering weeks of sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb by demonstrators calling for officer Darren Wilson's arrest.

He was instead placed on administrative leave, and Ferguson has been bracing for a new wave of protests, especially if the grand jury chooses not to indict Wilson. An announcement was believed to be imminent.

Against this backdrop of heightened tensions, according to a law enforcement source, two men described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party, were arrested in the St. Louis area in an FBI sting operation.

As initially reported by CBS News, the men were suspected of acquiring explosives for pipe bombs that they planned to set off during protests in Ferguson, according to the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

The official said the two men are the same pair named in a newly unsealed federal indictment returned on Nov. 19 charging Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis with purchasing two pistols from a firearms dealer under false pretenses.

Both men were arraigned on Friday in federal court, the law enforcement source said.

The FBI and other federal agencies were reported to have stepped up their presence in the St. Louis area in recent days in anticipation of renewed protests after the grand jury's decision in the Brown case is made known.

An FBI official in St. Louis declined to comment except to say that the two men named in the indictment had been arrested. Officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office for eastern Missouri were not immediately available for comment.

Why it’s not about Ferguson

The Jewish community should be engaged and enraged over what’s happening in Ferguson, Mo., and the long-standing racial discrimination in America that Ferguson has thrust into the spotlight. But the current news cycle will inevitably end, and we will either be an allied force for systemic change or we will fall back into our normative patterns of silent acquiescence. 

While Jews must not be painted with a single-colored brush — our own racial diversity strengthens us — on the whole, many of us enjoy the privileges of a society that favors white skin, overtly and inadvertently. It is an undeniable reality that race permeates all aspects of American life, especially the justice system and its collateral consequences. 

Nationally, we Jews live two realities at the same time: minority and majority. As a minority, we are vulnerable to religious bigotry and hate crimes, especially now as anti-Semitism is resurgent throughout the world. We know the experience of persecution. Simultaneously, many of us belong to the majority in a society where race plays a disproportionate role in educational and economic opportunity. We often greatly benefit from what is essentially an accident of birth.

Our challenge is to openly acknowledge the complexities and discomfort of this dual reality.

When confronted with struggle or difficulty, we turn to our tradition, and more specifically to the foundational narrative of our people, the Exodus.

Our story is intimately familiar to us: We were brutally persecuted, enslaved, then redeemed. It’s part of our religious DNA, the emotional and psychological reverberations eternally implanted in our souls. And it rightly animates many of the core values informing our fight for justice throughout the world.

But right now our history of enslavement may not be the primary biblical impetus for American Jews to actively engage in the fight against discrimination. There’s another aspect of the Exodus story we’re less eager or likely to confront. Our story contains an evil Pharaoh, and he’s more than just the brutal oppressor. He is a paradigm for a darkness within all humanity. 

Time after time, Pharaoh is presented with the opportunity to release his slaves, to hearken to the anguish of his own heart after each plague sent by God. And in each instance, precisely when the pain is most palpable, Pharaoh briefly shifts in his decision-making. He considers letting the Israelites go free. But as the open wounds close, so does his willingness to side with dignity and freedom. So does his chance to live in and with the vulnerability of not knowing what will come after the current normal ends.  

So Pharaoh is not only the perpetrator of injustice, but is also, paradoxically, the potential that can enable redemption. 

This defining pharaonic trait allows our heart’s defensive walls to become too high, too thick.

As rays of light get in, they are swiftly swallowed up in the darkness of apathy, control and neglect. Although God may have planned and set the wheels in motion for the narrative to play out as it did, Pharaoh’s behavior contributed to and exacerbated the damage as well. His blindness to the emotions within his heart also allowed for a heinous status quo to persist, all under a delusional misconception of law and order. We are all susceptible to the weaknesses of Pharaoh, to allowing our protective layers to obstruct our ability to connect even with our own hearts.    

It is for this reason that God, despite creating us with the capacity for a stiff, hard heart, commands us to de-layer it: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

It is for this reason that God promises: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). 

Objectively, our hearts are born no different from the heart of Pharaoh’s and the silent Egyptians who allowed for the culture of slavery to exist. They are at once tender and primed for compassion, and ready for walls that permit cruelty. We all experience both. We try to commit to the former because we know to bend toward the elevation of life and dignity. But it takes hard work to live up to that sacred goal. 

The Torah includes the inner workings of Pharaoh’s heart so that we will take them seriously. Let us use this textual mirror to identify the walls we’ve permitted to accumulate around our hearts. And then it is time to tear them down. Because all too often, when the in-your-face images fade away, we quickly fall back into our normal patterns, and the cracks in our hearts are plugged with apathy. 

If 20 children murdered at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., wasn’t enough to move our Congress to make sweeping changes in favor of public safety for all of our children — to open an actual national dialogue about our gun violence epidemic — then we shouldn’t be surprised when Ferguson drifts away without the establishment addressing the root causes of systemic racism. We can’t let this fade away again in hopes that it will eventually work itself out. 

As our brothers and sisters cry out for justice, we must be more open than ever to their pain, which is ours, too. When our heart aches, as it should, from yet another story of a young black or brown man or woman killed or wrongfully incarcerated, we can assess the magnitude and complexity of the issue at hand, turn off the news and hope someone fixes these problems soon, or we can remain awake, enter the pain empathically, and be a source for healing that goes beyond the surface.

Start now. Read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and discuss it with two or three friends. If moved, connect with others who are trying to understand what to contribute to this centuries-long struggle and how to create systems, encourage behaviors and develop communities that treat all of God’s children with the dignity, benefit of the doubt and compassion they deserve, and which we all hope to receive from others. 

The Jewish community is uniquely positioned to be a critical force in this country for moving beyond the idea of a melting pot toward the creation of a sacred tapestry of race, ethnicity and faith that doesn’t melt away our differences, but rather weaves together our distinct gifts with the gifts of all our neighbors.

America deserves more. Our children deserve more. Our Jewish voices must reflect our post-redemption experiences, our commitment to diminishing the apathetic tendencies in each of us, and our recognition that equality of opportunity is an essential, divine value.

Rabbi Aaron Alexander is associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. Rabbi Ronit Tsadok is assistant rabbi at IKAR.

Police come under gunfire, 31 arrested in Missouri racial unrest

Police came under “heavy gunfire” and 31 people were arrested, authorities said on Tuesday, during racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman 10 days ago.

“Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack (on Monday night),” State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a news conference.

“Our officers came under heavy gunfire,” in one area, he said, and riot police had confiscated two guns from protesters and what looked like a petrol bomb (molotov cocktail).

Demonstrations, mostly peaceful but with spasms of violence by smaller groups, have flared since Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead during an incident with a policeman in a patrol car while walking down a residential street in Ferguson on Aug. 9.

An overnight curfew has been imposed and the National Guard, the U.S. state militia, has been deployed in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people to stop looting and burning that have punctuated the protests and stirred questions about U.S. race relations.

Missouri state police with an African-American in charge, Johnson, have taken over security efforts from mostly white local police, widely accused of using excessive force against blacks, and President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders have appealed for calm while a federal investigation proceeds.

Brown was shot by policeman Darren Wilson, 28, who is now on paid leave, in hiding and under criminal investigation.

The clashes between riot police and protesters on Monday night occurred after hours of demonstrations that were mostly peaceful, Reuters witnesses said.

Police had closed a roadway to traffic to provide a path for marches but said a smaller group within the larger crowd hurled bottles, rocks and petrol bombs at officers standing near armored vehicles. Police responded by firing gas-filled canisters and a noise cannon to try to disperse the throng.

Johnson, commanding state police now overseeing efforts to reinstate order, told CNN that two people were shot within the crowd, but not by police, and were taken to hospital.

Some demonstrators, including a church minister using a blow horn, urged crowds to calm down.

Protestors drag a portable toilet onto the roadway during protests near Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Local broadcast media said on Twitter that one person was shot in the hand and taken to an area hospital and that another man rushed to a police line holding his side saying he had been shot. Reuters could not confirm the reports.

“This has to stop. I don't want anybody to get hurt. We have to find a way to stop this,” Johnson said.

There have been peaceful protests over Brown's killing elsewhere in the United States including in St. Louis, New York, Seattle and Oakland. Johnson said some of the arrested protesters had come from California and New York.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. He also mobilised the National Guard to back up state police.

Obama said he told the governor the use of the National Guard should be limited and called for conciliation in communities hit by the unrest. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson on Wednesday, Obama said.

“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” Obama told a news conference. “It undermines, rather than advancing, justice.”

Holder said over 40 FBI agents were canvassing Ferguson neighborhoods in their investigation and an additional medical examination was being performed on Brown. Results of autopsies done by federal and St. Louis County authorities were pending.


An autopsy conducted on behalf of Brown's family showed he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The path of one bullet indicates Brown may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot struck, according to Brown family attorney Daryl Parks.

“His head was in a downward position,” Parks told reporters. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested,” Parks said. There were no signs of struggle with the officer and no gunshot residue on the body.

Ferguson police quoted Wilson, the 28-year-old officer who shot Brown, as saying he had asked Brown and a friend to move off the street where they were walking onto the sidewalk. Wilson reported that Brown reached into his patrol car and struggled for his gun when the officer fired the initial shot.

St. Louis County prosecutors' spokesman Edward Magee said the case could be presented this week to an investigating grand jury which would decide whether Wilson will be indicted.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000 population are black, while out of a police force of 53, three officers are black.

Many Ferguson residents say Brown's killing was emblematic of police excesses against blacks, a charge authorities deny.

A protestor raises his hands in front of a fog of tear gas hovering over West Florissant during protests near Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 18. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, 22, said Wilson had reached out his car window to grab Brown and the teenager tried to get away. Johnson said Brown held up his hands to surrender but Wilson got out of his car and shot him several times.

The National Bar Association, containing the largest network of black attorneys and judges, filed a lawsuit on Monday against Ferguson and its police department, demanding it protect evidence of the shooting and arrests made during protests.

Looting has left a number of Ferguson stores in shambles.

In July 2013, there were angry albeit peaceful protests in cities across the United States over the acquittal in a Florida second-degree murder and manslaughter trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, who shot shot dead an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in the street during a scuffle in February 2012.

Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson in Ferguson, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo., Eric Beech in Washington, Curtis Skinner in New York; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Never an excuse for shooting unarmed suspects, former police chief says

I was the police chief in Kansas City, Missouri, when an unarmed African-American teenager was shot by a cop for a non-violent issue. The result was a peaceful and constructive public dialogue – the opposite of what is happening now in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

I was then the youngest big-city police chief in America, having just arrived from New York City, where I had been a deputy inspector in the New York Police Department during a high-crime period. But I had no real honeymoon in Missouri.

Just a few days after I took charge, on a crystal clear day in 1973, a uniformed officer responded to a daylight break-in of a home. The officer raised his shotgun and fired at a youth running away. He killed Rory Lark, age 15, unarmed and slight, at 115 pounds.

The Kansas City Star filled its entire front page with an image of Lark, an angelic school photo of the youngster who looked to be a skinny 10-year-old. If you had a heart, you had to be touched.

If Lark had received any punishment, it would likely have been a week in juvenile hall. As a gesture of sympathy to the black community, I attended his funeral in civilian clothes. The officer was reprimanded and transferred.

Reasonable people, black and white, didn't want to hear how the law was complicated, or how a new chief was not responsible for the boy's death. So we waited through the night to see if the city would burn. It didn't. The next day, however, pickets appeared in front of police headquarters demanding, in none-too-polite language, that I should go back to New York.

Kansas City's black community wanted to know, Why had this boy died for a nonviolent crime? My police department responded quickly: He should not have been fired upon.

I reminded the media that I had announced in my first news conference as chief that I didn't believe officers should use their firearms unless there was imminent danger to human life. I planned to rewrite the firearms policy, I had declared, so that officers were officially ordered not to fire except under those circumstances.

As soon as possible, we announced the official new policy. It prohibited police officers from firing at unarmed suspects. We cut back on all police use of military gear. We invited local community leaders to help shape police responses.

In the wake of the new policy, police shootings fell dramatically, and crime declined as local leadership joined with police in speaking out against crime.

The Kansas City shooting, remarkably similar to Ferguson today, offers lessons we can learn.

First, except for highly unusual circumstances, police have no excuse for killing unarmed people.

Second, it is in Americans' national DNA that we be policed by civil, not military, institutions. So television and social media pictures of heavily armed police in military gear and armored vehicles are no way to gather public support. In Ferguson and across the nation, police need to recalibrate the use of deadly force – and return to traditional strategies of professional police forces working with the public to win support against criminals.

Body cameras, better training and discipline, new police leadership and other strategies are crucial. But it is clear that U.S. police must recalibrate current militarization policies, in which officer safety is paramount.

The fundamental police duty is protection of life. Officer safety should never supersede democratic policing, where police officers adhere to their role as public servants willing to take reasonable risks to protect and serve.

As Kansas City chief, I was responsible for maintaining order within my city, releasing to the public all legally permissible information through the media, the mayor and state and local officials.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, a self-appointed spokesman for an investigation of which he was not part, held frequent press conferences that only created more confusion. For example, when Jackson released the name of the officer involved in the shooting, he also released security camera stills of a convenience store robbery that he said are of Brown. Even though the Justice Department had asked the Ferguson Police Department not to do this.

Jackson also did not coordinate with Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whom Governor Jay Nixon had put in charge to help defuse the situation.

Jackson seems to have foolishly tried to walk through a legal minefield, possibly releasing information that could hinder the prosecution of involved officers. This may also lead to charges of a police cover-up.

Yet, all the remedial steps now being debated focus on actions to take after a tragic death – not the deep-rooted causes that must be part of real reform.

Yes, the heat is now on Ferguson police. The real challenge, however, is to all U.S. policing. Police nationwide have drifted into the militarization of attitude and equipment as a strategy for controlling street demonstrations such as Occupy Wall Street, youth violence, heavy crime zones and drug searches.

This sort of militarization was intended for extremely rare hostage situations. The arrest of journalists and the use of tear gas in Ferguson is zany.

The major issue, though, is still the unanswered question: What justification do the police have for killing an unarmed suspect?

The answer is always: None.

Joseph D. McNamara

Egypt urges U.S. restraint over Missouri unrest

Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.

U.S. foes Iran and Syria also lambasted the United States, but while they are frequent critics of Washington, it is unusual for Egypt to criticize such a major donor. It was not immediately clear why Egypt would issue such a statement.

Ties between Washington and Cairo were strained after Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the army's ousting of freely elected President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry's statement on the unrest in Ferguson read similarly to one issued by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration in July 2013, when the White House “urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and caution” in dealing with demonstrations by Mursi supporters.

The ministry added it was “closely following the escalation of protests” in Ferguson, unleashed by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman on Aug. 9.

Human Rights Watch said in a report last week Egyptian security forces systematically used excessive force against Islamist protesters after Mursi was ousted. Egypt said the report was “characterized by negativity and bias”.

In a second day of Twitter messages about the disturbances in Ferguson, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the United States as “egotistical and unreliable”.

He also sought to link the unrest to Washington's support of Israel, sworn foe of Tehran.

“Brutal treatment of black people isn’t indeed the only anti-human rights act by U.S. govt; look at US’s green light to #Israel’s crimes,” he wrote on Monday, adding Washington was the world's “biggest violator” of human rights.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Takht Ravanchi on Monday accused Washington of “racist behavior and oppression”, the Fars News Agency said.

In Syria, another U.S. adversary, a bulletin from state news agency SANA accused police in Ferguson of “racist and oppressive practices”.

Pro-government media in Turkey, where the authorities came under U.S. criticism for a heavy-handed clampdown on weeks of protests around Istanbul's Gezi Park last year, also took a swipe.

“You were sounding off when Gezi was happening … You crook with double standards,” wrote Ahmet Sagirli, a columnist in the Turkiye newspaper.

Reporting by Maggie Fick in Cairo, Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Michelle Moghtader in Dubai, Selin Bucak in Istanbul; Editing by Alison Williams

Autopsy shows Ferguson police shot Michael Brown 6 times

An unarmed black teenager whose killing by a white police officer has set off a week of protests and rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, was struck by at least six bullets, a lawyer for the deceased's family said on Monday.

The path of one bullet indicates 18-year-old Michael Brown may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot hit, said Daryl Parks, the family's lawyer.

Many details surrounding the shooting remain unclear, and federal and local officials have yet to release their own autopsy report.

Parks said the autopsy results clearly showed that the police officer who killed Brown should be arrested. He presented the results at a press conference showing that one bullet hit Brown in the “very top of his head” and another that struck his head exited near his eye.

“His head was in a downward position,” Parks said. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested.”

The Brown family and protesters from around the United States have called for the officer's arrest for days. But police have said only that 28-year-old Officer Darren Wilson was put on paid administrative leave after the Aug. 9 shooting.

St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman did not respond to a query about why the officer had not been arrested. The department is running a parallel investigation to one by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is evaluating the shooting for civil rights violations.

The lack of an arrest, and the Ferguson police department's reluctance to release details of the shooting have brought thousands of protesters to the streets of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, whose population of about 21,000 is largely black.

Some rioting and looting has accompanied the protests. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon deployed National Guard troops to Ferguson on Monday to try to restore calm.

On Saturday Nixon declared a state of emergency there and set a curfew calling for the streets to be cleared from midnight until 5 a.m. (0500 to 1000 GMT).

Schools in the area were ordered closed on Monday because of the chaos in and around the town.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday afternoon to discuss the Ferguson situation, his office said.

The Brown family has called for peaceful demonstrations and an end to violence, and the police forces on the ground have been widely criticized for using excessive force on protesters.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, spoke out Monday in a televised interview with ABC's “Good Morning America” program. She said peace could be restored “with justice… arresting this man and making him accountable for his action.”


The private autopsy provides some answers, but not all, the family's lawyers said. They said Brown's body did not show any signs that he had struggled with the officer and that there was no gunshot residue on the body, indicating Brown was probably at least a few feet away from the gun when he was shot.

The lawyers said they did not yet have access to clothing that might show gunshot residue, X-rays taken when the county did the first autopsy on Brown's body, or toxicology results, which the county has thus far not released.

Police have given few details of the police officer's version of events. The officer remains in hiding, and police say he has been threatened.

What police have said so far is that Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of a road that runs between a handful of apartment buildings shortly after noon when Wilson asked the two to move off the narrow road and onto a sidewalk. Police said Wilson reported that Brown reached into his patrol car and struggled for his service gun when Wilson fired the initial shot.

Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, 22, said Wilson had reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and that the teenager was trying to get away when he was shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender, but Wilson got out of his patrol car and shot him several more times, they said.

Another witness, Piaget Crenshaw, told CNN that she also had seen the officer acting as though he was trying to pull Brown into the car through the window. Brown broke free and started running, she said.

“He got away,” Crenshaw said. “It just seemed to have upset the officer. He got out and just started chasing the boy.”

Brown at one point turned around to face the officer, and “when he turned toward the cop is when he… let off the most shots,” she said.

Crenshaw's cellphone and video of the aftermath of the shooting were taken by police as evidence, she told Reuters.

An online petition is calling for the firing of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, who refused to identify Wilson as the officer involved until five days after the incident.

Jackson also raised the ire of the Brown family and its supporters for releasing police reports showing that the teen was a suspect in the theft of cigars from a neighborhood convenience mart. The family called this a “smear” campaign.

Jackson later said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he shot Brown and that the incident was tied only to Wilson's request that he move out of the street.

Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Lisa Von Ahn

Missouri governor lifts Ferguson curfew as National Guard called in

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and looting spurred by the fatal shooting of a black unarmed teenager by a white policeman.

Nixon, who had declared a state of emergency for the town on Saturday and ordered that the streets be cleared for a curfew that ran from midnight to 5 a.m., said the National Guard would fall under the supervision of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The deployment of the National Guard is the latest in a series of steps taken by authorities to end the looting and burning of stores that have punctuated protests since the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, more than a week ago.

But retired local business owner Marshall Tucker said: “It ain't getting no better with the National Guard coming in. That'll be worse,” he said. “Tonight it's going to get really sticky.”

President Barack Obama said he told the governor that use of the National Guard should be limited and urged healing instead of violence. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday, Obama added.

“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice,” Obama told a news conference.

The president met with Holder earlier on Monday to discuss the Ferguson unrest. The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County Police are investigating the shooting.

An autopsy conducted on behalf of the family of Brown showed he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The path of one bullet indicates the 18-year-old may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot hit, according to Brown family attorney Daryl Parks.

Results of official autopsies by federal authorities and the county are pending.

Smoke trails tear gas canisters fired into the air during protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 17. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Parks told a news conference that the family's autopsy showed one bullet hit Brown in the “very top of his head” and another shattered his right eye.

“His head was in a downward position,” Parks said. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested,” Parks said.

There were no signs of struggle with the officer and no gunshot residue on the body. But the lawyers said they had no access yet to clothing, X-rays taken when the county did the first autopsy on Brown's body, or toxicology results, which the county has so far not released.

According to police, the officer involved in the shooting said he fired initially after Brown reached into his police car.


Darren Wilson, 28, the officer who shot Brown as the teenager was walking through a Ferguson residential neighborhood on Aug. 9 with a friend, was put on paid administrative leave and is in hiding. Police say he has been threatened and an online petition is calling for his firing.

Edward Magee, a spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office, said the case could be presented this week to a grand jury, which will decide whether Wilson will be indicted.

The shooting set off protests in Ferguson, whose population of about 21,000 is mostly black. Thousands of demonstrators, angry that the police officer was not arrested, have filled the streets.

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 15. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The protests have been marred by rioting and looting, leaving some stores badly damaged, as well as attacks against police with Molotov cocktails, officials said

But law enforcement officials have been widely criticized for using excessive force. Amnesty International USA sent a 13-member human rights delegation to seek meetings with officials in the area and to train local activists in methods of non-violent protest.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged U.S. authorities to protect protesters' rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

According to accounts by local police, Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of the road when Wilson asked them to move onto the sidewalk. Wilson reported that Brown reached into his patrol car and struggled for his service gun when the officer fired the initial shot.

Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, 22, said Wilson had reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and that the teenager was trying to get away when he was shot. Johnson said Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but that Wilson got out of his patrol car and shot him several more times.

Police Chief Tom Jackson raised the ire of the Brown family and its supporters for releasing police reports showing that the teen was a suspect in the theft of cigars from a neighborhood convenience mart. The family called that a smear campaign.

Jackson said later the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he shot Brown and that the incident was tied only to Wilson's request that he move out of the street.

A woman looks into the camera during a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 15. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Peter Cooney

Missouri shooting victim Michael Brown’s father calls for peace after riots

The father of an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by police over the weekend in a St. Louis suburb made another plea on Tuesday for an end to the violence that has followed the incident, while activists demanded authorities release the name of the officer involved.

Standing with supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, the father of 18-year-old Michael Brown said he wanted justice for his son but wanted it “the right way.”

“I need all of us to come together and do this right, the right way,” said Michael Brown Sr., who wore a T-shirt showing his son's baby picture. “No violence.”

Activists speaking to reporters in downtown St. Louis also called for federal authorities to take over the investigation.

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, had initially said they would release the officer's name on Tuesday, but changed the plan, citing fears of retaliation, according to media reports.

Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights leader, also called for peaceful protest in the wake of looting and more than 50 arrests since the shooting. Sharpton's National Action Network will pay for Brown's funeral.

“To become violent in Michael Brown's name is to betray the gentle giant that he was,” Sharpton said of the 6-foot, 4-inch (198-cm) Brown, who had planned to start college this week. A demonstration is planned at a Ferguson-area church on Tuesday evening.

Brown was shot to death in the back of a police car on Saturday, police said. The race of the officer, a six-year veteran who is now on administrative leave, has not been revealed.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the racially charged case and St. Louis County also is investigating.

Police said Brown was shot in a struggle with a gun in the police car but have not said why Brown was in the car. At least one shot was fired during the struggle and then the officer fired more shots before leaving the car, police said.

But a witness to the shooting interviewed on local media has said that Brown had been putting his hands up to surrender when he was killed.

“There were many, many witnesses who have talked to family members and they paint a very different picture than police witnesses,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Brown family. Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.

The “hands up” gesture has been frequently seen at protests over the shooting. More than 100 protesters in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse in nearby Clayton on Tuesday morning chanted “hands up, don't shoot.”

Residents in the low-income, mostly black neighborhood where Brown was killed say they are often harassed by police. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said the neighborhood had a lot of crime but there were no race problems.

A QuikTrip convenience store burns during a night of rioting in Ferguson, Miss., on Aug. 10. Photo by Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Demonstrations on Sunday night turned violent, with looting and property damage. Violence broke out again on Monday night as police officers in riot gear, armed with rifles and accompanied by dogs tried to secure the area.

The area has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000-strong population are black, while out of a police force of 53, three officers are black.

The race of officers should not matter as long as their work is fair and professional, said Dave Klinger, a former police officer and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“If the officer behaved inappropriately, we've got to sanction the officer and figure out what it is that led him to do what he did,” Klinger said. “Was he poorly trained? Was there a pattern in this agency?”

Klinger said the investigation must be as “transparent as possible.”

Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Writing by Eric M. Johnson and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Susan Heavey, Bill Trott and Eric Walsh

White supremacist executed for 1977 synagogue killing

A white supremacist was executed in Missouri for killing a man at a St. Louis-area synagogue in 1977.

Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, was executed early Wednesday morning for the sniper shooting of Gerald Gordon, who was killed outside of the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue in October 1977 as he left a bar mitzvah. Franklin also was convicted of seven other murders throughout the United States and claimed credit for 20 deaths between the years of 1977 and 1980.

The Missouri conviction is the only one that carried a death sentence, according to The Associated Press.

The execution had been stayed Tuesday evening by two district court judges due to concerns over the drug used for the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court early Wednesday morning upheld the death sentence and the use of the drug, leading to the execution.

Franklin also bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977.

Mo. candidate says no Jews died in 9/11 WTC bombing

A candidate for state office in Missouri said that no Jews died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and alleged that Jews were involved in the deadly attack.

MD Rabbi Alam, who is running for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state in Missouri, in a story that appeared Tuesday on the Washington Free Beacon website stood by conspiracy theories that he had espoused in early 2009.

Alam in an interview stated his belief in the “fact” that no Jews were killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and that the commercial airliners could not have been solely responsible for the collapse of the buildings.

The Free Beacon reported that Alam, a Muslim who was born in Bangladesh, has “trafficked in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

U.S. State Department officials told the Free Beacon that between 200 and 400 Jews died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001; five Israeli citizens also were killed.

[Related: Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about 9/11 persist]

Later Tuesday, the Vos Iz Neias (VIN) website wrote that Rabbi Yair Hoffman, reporting for the website, contacted Alam and presented him with information that showed Jews were killed in the attack. Hoffman also put him in touch with people who personally knew Jewish 9/11 victims.

Alam “offered his apologies and explained that he had been convinced by the material he had read on the Internet regarding the issue,” VIN reported.

But, VIN added, later in the interview Alam “still expressed some conspiracy thinking about the World Trade Center bombings.”

Alam has claimed to have ties to the 2008 Obama campaign, but they could not be substantiated.

Jewish community accounted for in Joplin tornado

Two Jewish brothers who were reported missing in the wake of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., are safe.

All the members of the small Jewish community in Joplin have now been accounted for, but many lost their homes and possessions in the tornado and are in need of basic supplies, according to reports.

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis said that at least four Jewish families have lost everything and are living in shelters.

The federation is collecting online donations to help assist the victims, and the city’s Jewish Community Relations Council is gathering supplies including blankets, new underwear, T-shirts, water, baby supplies and toiletry items to drive into Joplin.

Approximately 50 Jews live in Joplin, according to the federation, in a population of some 50,000.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s board of directors voted Tuesday to allocate $5,000 in emergency funds to the relief efforts in Joplin.

Rabbi Yehuda Weg, the Tulsa-based director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oklahoma, told Tuesday that several Jewish-owned homes were “totally flattened.” He had driven to Joplin the previous night with a list of Jewish community members in need and a car full of supplies, joining volunteers from the American Red Cross and local disaster agencies, according to

Weg travels to Joplin twice a month to supervise kosher production lines at several food manufacturers and to meet with 15 to 20 Jews affiliated with Chabad living there.

The United Hebrew Congregation of Joplin, a Reform synagogue, was not damaged, according to the federation. The synagogue reportedly has existed in the city since at least 1919.

A reported 122 people are confirmed dead and hundreds are missing following what is being called the second-deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The tornado cut through Joplin Sunday evening, one of several tornadoes that hit the Midwest over the weekend due to a system of severe thunderstorms that also have caused massive flooding.

The Circuit

Designing Women

Haute couture was en vogue at the Women’s International Zionist Organization Los Angeles annual membership luncheon, held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Hanna Rubinstein chaired the event. Following a fashion show by Beverly Hills boutique Votre Nam, keynote speaker and “Sunday’s Silence” author Gina Nahai shared memories of growing up Jewish in Iran.

Birthday at the UJ

Israel Cancer Research Fund celebrated the 90th birthday of “Haven” author Ruth Gruber at the opening of “Haven: The Musical” at the University of Judaism’s Gindi Theatre.

Rabbi Cum Doctor

Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills was awarded a doctor of divinity degree by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for 25 years of service at the commencement exercises of the 126th academic year of the institution.

For Posterity’s Sake

Dr. Tuvia Friling, director of the Ben-Gurion Research Center, has been appointed Israel’s state archivist. Since 1993, Friling has served as director of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev-affiliated Ben-Gurion Research Center and the state-sponsored Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute, both located on the Sede Boqer Campus.

Million Dollar Boost

The Teichman Family Foundation has donated $1 million toward Emek Hebrew Academy’s $6 million expansion. Sol and Ruth Teichman are active supporters of Emek, where their children attended school, and Sol has been serving as chairman of the board for 30 years. Emek, the oldest day school in the San Fernando Valley, opened in 1959.

Afghani Stand Hear Me Now! A Special Donation

Second-year rabbinic student Masha Savitz has donated a Torah cover to the University of Judaism (UJ) in memory of her brother, Jeremy Savitz, who died at the age of 25 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Savitz attends the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the UJ. The cover was created by Savitz’s mother, Renee Savitz of West Caldwell, N.J. “He had an incredible sense of kavanah [devotion],” said Savitz of her sibling.

Missouri State of Mind

Women’s Alliance For Israel held a reception at The Regency Club in Westwood for Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.).

Fashion Plate

Ilse Metchek, executive director of the California Fashion Association, was honored by Cedars-Sinai Fashion Industries Guild at a banquet at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. More than 600 guests attended the event, which raised money for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and other children’s programs at the medical complex.