September 26, 2018

Remembering September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, 2,819 people were murdered during the attacks on America. These are the names of the people who died on that horrible day.  Remember. Pray. Keep the faith.

Gordon M. Aamoth Jr. 
Edelmiro Abad 
Maria Rose Abad 
Andrew Anthony Abate
 Vincent Abate 
Laurence Christopher Abel
 William F. Abrahamson
 Richard Anthony Aceto
 Jesus Acevedo Rescand 
Heinrich Bernhard Ackermann 
Paul Acquaviva 
Donald LaRoy Adams
Patrick Adams
 Shannon Lewis Adams
 Stephen George Adams
Ignatius Udo Adanga
Christy A. Addamo
 Terence E. Adderley, Jr.
 Sophia Buruwad Addo 
Lee Allan Adler 
Daniel Thomas Afflitto
 Emmanuel Akwasi Afuakwah 
Alok Agarwal
Mukul Kumar Agarwala
Joseph Agnello
David Scott Agnes
Brian G. Ahearn
Jeremiah Joseph Ahern
Joanne Marie Ahladiotis
Shabbir Ahmed
Terrance Andre Aiken
Godwin Ajala
Gertrude M. Alagero
Andrew Alameno 
Margaret Ann Alario
Gary M. Albero
Jon Leslie Albert
Peter Alderman
Jacquelyn Delaine Aldridge
David D. Alger
Sarah Ali-Escarcega
Ernest Alikakos
Edward L. Allegretto
Eric Allen
Joseph Ryan Allen
Richard Dennis Allen
Richard Lanard Allen
Christopher E. Allingham
Janet M. Alonso
Arturo Alva-Moreno
Anthony Alvarado
Antonio Javier Alvarez
Victoria Alvarez-Brito
Telmo E. Alvear
Cesar Amoranto Alviar
Tariq Amanullah
Angelo Amaranto
James M. Amato Joseph Amatuccio
Christopher Charles Amoroso
Kazuhiro Anai
Calixto Anaya, Jr.
Joseph Anchundia
Kermit Charles Anderson
Yvette Constance Anderson
John Andreacchio
Michael Rourke Andrews
Jean Ann Andrucki
Siew-Nya Ang
Joseph Angelini, Jr.
Joseph Angelini, Sr.
Laura Angilletta
Doreen J. Angrisani
Lorraine Antigua
Peter Paul Apollo
Faustino Apostol, Jr.
Frank Thomas Aquilino
Patrick Michael Aranyos
David Arce
Michael George Arczynski 
Louis Arena
Adam P. Arias
Michael Armstrong
Jack Charles Aron
Joshua Aron
Richard Avery Aronow
Japhet Jesse Aryee
Patrick Asante
Carl Asaro
Michael Asciak
Michael Edward Asher
Janice Marie Ashley
Thomas J. Ashton
Manuel O. Asitimbay
Gregg Arthur Atlas
Gerald T. Atwood
James Audiffred
Louis Frank Aversano, Jr.
Ezra Aviles
Sandy Ayala
Arlene T. Babakitis
Eustace P. Bacchus
John J. Badagliacca
Jane Ellen Baeszler
Robert J. Baierwalter
Andrew J. Bailey
Brett T. Bailey
Tatyana Bakalinskaya
Michael S. Baksh
Sharon M. Balkcom
Michael Andrew Bane
Katherine Bantis
Gerard Baptiste
Walter Baran
Gerard A. Barbara
Paul Vincent Barbaro
James William Barbella
Ivan Kyrillos F. Barbosa
Victor Daniel Barbosa
Colleen Ann Barkow
David Michael Barkway
Matthew Barnes
Sheila Patricia Barnes
Evan J. Baron
Renee Barrett-Arjune
Nathaly Barrios La Cruz
Arthur Thaddeus Barry
Diane G. Barry
Maurice Vincent Barry
Scott D. Bart
Carlton W. Bartels
Guy Barzvi
Inna B. Basina
Alysia Basmajian 
Kenneth William Basnicki
Steven Bates
Paul James Battaglia
Walter David Bauer, Jr.
Marlyn Capito Bautista
Jasper Baxter
Michele Beale
Paul Frederick Beatini
Jane S. Beatty
Lawrence Ira Beck
Manette Marie Beckles
Carl John Bedigian
Michael Earnest Beekman
Maria A. Behr
Yelena Belilovsky 
Nina Patrice Bell
Debbie Bellows
Stephen Elliot Belson
Paul M. Benedetti
Denise Lenore Benedetto 
Maria Bengochea
Bryan Craig Bennett
Eric L. Bennett
Oliver Duncan Bennett
Margaret L. Benson
Dominick J. Berardi
James Patrick Berger
Steven Howard Berger
John P. Bergin
Alvin Bergsohn
Daniel Bergstein
Michael J. Berkeley Chic Burlingame 
Donna M. Bernaerts
David W. Bernard
William Bernstein
David M. Berray
David S. Berry
Joseph J. Berry
William Reed Bethke
Timothy Betterly
Edward Frank Beyea
Paul Beyer
Anil Tahilram Bharvaney
Bella J. Bhukhan
Shimmy D. Biegeleisen
Peter Alexander Bielfeld
William G. Biggart
Brian Bilcher
Carl Vincent Bini
Gary Eugene Bird
Joshua David Birnbaum
George John Bishop
Jeffrey Donald Bittner
Albert Balewa Blackman, Jr.
Christopher Joseph Blackwell
Susan Leigh Blair
Harry Blanding, Jr.
Janice Lee Blaney
Craig Michael Blass
Rita Blau
Richard Middleton Blood, Jr.
Michael Andrew Boccardi 
John P. Bocchi
Michael Leopoldo Bocchino
Susan M. Bochino
Bruce D. Boehm
Mary Catherine Boffa
Nicholas Andrew Bogdan
Darren Christopher Bohan
Lawrence Francis Boisseau
Vincent M. Boland, Jr.
Alan Bondarenko 
Andre Bonheur, Jr.
Colin Arthur Bonnett
Frank Bonomo
Yvonne Lucia Bonomo
Genieve Bonsignore, 3 
Seaon Booker
Sherry Ann Bordeaux
Krystine Bordenabe
Martin Boryczewski
Richard Edward Bosco
John H. Boulton
Francisco Eligio Bourdier
Thomas Harold Bowden, Jr.
Kimberly S. Bowers
Veronique Nicole Bowers
Larry Bowman
Shawn Edward Bowman, Jr.
Kevin L. Bowser
Gary R. Box
Gennady Boyarsky
Pamela Boyce
Michael Boyle
Alfred Braca
Kevin Bracken
David Brian Brady
Alexander Braginsky
Nicholas W. Brandemarti
Michelle Renee Bratton
Patrice Braut
Lydia E. Bravo
Ronald Michael Breitweiser
Edward A. Brennan III
Francis Henry Brennan
Michael E. Brennan
Peter Brennan
Thomas M. Brennan
Daniel J. Brethel
Gary Lee Bright
Jonathan Briley
Mark A. Brisman
Paul Gary Bristow
Mark Francis Broderick
Herman Charles Broghammer
Keith A. Broomfield
Ethel Brown Janice 
Juloise Brown
Lloyd Stanford Brown
Patrick J. Brown
Bettina Browne
Mark Bruce
Richard George Bruehert
Andrew Brunn
Vincent Brunton
Ronald Paul Bucca
Brandon J. Buchanan
Gregory Joseph Buck
Dennis Buckley
Nancy Clare Bueche
Patrick Joseph Buhse
John Edwards Bulaga, Jr.
Stephen Bunin
Matthew J. Burke 
Thomas Daniel Burke
William Francis Burke, Jr.
Donald J. Burns
Kathleen Anne Burns
Keith James Burns
John Patrick Burnside
Irina Buslo
Milton G. Bustillo
Thomas M. Butler
Patrick Byrne
Timothy G. Byrne 
Jesus Neptali Cabezas
Lillian Caceres
Brian Joseph Cachia
Steven Dennis Cafiero, Jr.
Richard M. Caggiano
Cecile Marella Caguicla
Michael John Cahill
Scott Walter Cahill
Thomas Joseph Cahill
George Cain
Salvatore B. Calabro
Joseph Calandrillo
Philip V. Calcagno
Edward Calderon
Kenneth Marcus Caldwell
Dominick Enrico Calia
Felix Calixte
Frank Callahan
Liam Callahan
Luigi Calvi
Roko Camaj
Michael F. Cammarata
David Otey Campbell
Geoffrey Thomas Campbell
Jill Marie Campbell
Robert Arthur Campbell
Sandra Patricia Campbell 
Sean Thomas Canavan
John A. Candela
Vincent Cangelosi
Stephen J. Cangialosi
Lisa Bella Cannava
Brian Cannizzaro 
Michael Canty
Louis Anthony Caporicci
Jonathan Neff Cappello
James Christopher Cappers
Richard Michael Caproni
Jose Manuel Cardona
Dennis M. Carey
Steve Carey
Edward Carlino
Michael Scott Carlo
David G. Carlone 
Rosemarie C. Carlson
Mark Stephen Carney
Joyce Ann Carpeneto
Ivhan Luis Carpio Bautista 
Jeremy M. Carrington
Michael Carroll
Peter Carroll
James Joseph Carson, Jr.
Marcia Cecil Carter
James Marcel Cartier
Vivian Casalduc
John Francis Casazza
Paul R. Cascio
Margarito Casillas
Thomas Anthony Casoria
William Otto Caspar
Alejandro Castano
Arcelia Castillo
Germaan Castillo Garcia
Leonard M. Castrianno
Jose Ramon Castro
Richard G. Catarelli
Christopher Sean Caton
Robert John Caufield
Mary Teresa Caulfield
Judson Cavalier
Michael Joseph Cawley
Jason David Cayne
Juan Armando Ceballos
Jason Michael Cefalu
Thomas Joseph Celic
Ana Mercedes Centeno
Joni Cesta
Jeffrey Marc Chairnoff
Swarna Chalasani 
William Chalcoff
Eli Chalouh
Charles Lawrence Chan
Mandy Chang
Mark Lawrence Charette
Gregorio Manuel Chavez
Delrose E. Cheatham
Pedro Francisco Checo
Douglas MacMillan Cherry
Stephen Patrick Cherry
Vernon Paul Cherry
Nester Julio Chevalier
Swede Chevalier 
Alexander H. Chiang
Dorothy J. Chiarchiaro
Luis Alfonso Chimbo
Robert Chin
Wing Wai Ching
Nicholas Paul Chiofalo
John Chipura
Peter A. Chirchirillo
Catherine Chirls
Kyung Hee Cho
Abul K. Chowdhury
Mohammad Salahuddin Chowdhury
Kirsten L. Christophe
Pamela Chu
Steven Chucknick
Wai Chung
Christopher Ciafardini
Alex F. Ciccone
Frances Ann Cilente
Elaine Cillo
Edna Cintron
Nestor Andre Cintron III
Robert Dominick Cirri
Juan Pablo Cisneros-Alvarez
Benjamin Keefe Clark
Eugene Clark
Gregory Alan Clark
Mannie Leroy Clark
Thomas R. Clark
Christopher Robert Clarke
Donna Marie Clarke
Michael J. Clarke 
Suria Rachel Emma Clarke
Kevin Francis Cleary
James D. Cleere 
Geoffrey W. Cloud
Susan Marie Clyne
Steven Coakley
Jeffrey Alan Coale
Patricia A. Cody
Daniel Michael Coffey
Jason M. Coffey
Florence G. Cohen
Kevin Sanford Cohen
Anthony Joseph Coladonato
Mark Joseph Colaio
Stephen Colaio
Christopher M. Colasanti
Kevin Nathaniel Colbert
Michel P. Colbert 
Keith E. Coleman
Scott Thomas Coleman
Tarel Coleman
Liam Joseph Colhoun
Robert D. Colin
Robert J. Coll
Jean Collin
John Michael Collins
Michael L. Collins
Thomas J. Collins
Joseph Collison
Patricia Malia Colodner
Linda M. Colon
Sol E. Colon
Ronald Edward Comer
Sandra Jolane Conaty Brace
Jaime Concepcion
Albert Conde
Denease Conley
Susan P. Conlon
Margaret Mary Conner
Cynthia Marie Lise Connolly
John E. Connolly, Jr.
James Lee Connor
Jonathan M. Connors
Kevin Patrick Connors
Kevin F. Conroy
Jose Manuel Contreras-Fernandez 
Brenda E. Conway
Dennis Michael Cook
Helen D. Cook
John A. Cooper
Joseph John Coppo, Jr.
Gerard J. Coppola
Joseph Albert Corbett
Alejandro Cordero
Robert Cordice
Ruben D. Correa 
Danny A. Correa-Gutierrez
James J. Corrigan
Carlos Cortes
Kevin Cosgrove
Dolores Marie Costa
Digna Alexandra Costanza
Charles Gregory Costello, Jr.
Michael S. Costello
Conrod K. Cottoy 
Martin John Coughlan
John Gerard Coughlin
Timothy J. Coughlin
James E. Cove
Andre Cox
Frederick John Cox
James Raymond Coyle
Michele Coyle-Eulau
Anne Marie Cramer
Christopher S. Cramer
Denise Elizabeth Crant
James Leslie Crawford, Jr.
Robert James Crawford
Joanne Mary Cregan
Lucy Crifasi
John A. Crisci
Daniel Hal Crisman
Dennis Cross
Kevin Raymond Crotty
Thomas G. Crotty
John Crowe
Welles Remy Crowther
Robert L. Cruikshank
John Robert Cruz 
Grace Yu Cua
Kenneth John Cubas
Francisco Cruz Cubero
Richard J. Cudina
Neil James Cudmore
Thomas Patrick Cullen lll
Joyce Cummings 
Brian Thomas Cummins
Michael Cunningham
Robert Curatolo
Laurence Damian Curia
Paul Dario Curioli
Beverly Curry
Michael S. Curtin 
Gavin Cushny
John D’Allara
Vincent Gerard D’Amadeo
Jack D’Ambrosi
Mary D’Antonio
Edward A. D’Atri
Michael D. D’Auria
Michael Jude D’Esposito
Manuel John Da Mota
Caleb Arron Dack
Carlos S. DaCosta
Joao Alberto DaFonseca Aguiar, Jr.
Thomas A. Damaskinos
Jeannine Marie Damiani-Jones
Patrick W. Danahy
Nana Danso
Vincent Danz
Dwight Donald Darcy
Elizabeth Ann Darling
Annette Andrea Dataram
Lawrence Davidson
Michael Allen Davidson
Scott Matthew Davidson
Titus Davidson
Niurka Davila
Clinton Davis
Wayne Terrial Davis
Anthony Richard Dawson
Calvin Dawson
Edward James Day
Jayceryll de Chavez
Jennifer De Jesus
Monique E. De Jesus
Nereida De Jesus
Emerita De La Pena
Azucena Maria de la Torre
David Paul De Rubbio
Jemal Legesse De Santis 
Christian Louis De Simone
Melanie Louise De Vere
William Thomas Dean
Robert J. DeAngelis, Jr.
Thomas Patrick DeAngelis
Tara E. Debek
Anna Marjia DeBin
James V. Deblase
Paul DeCola
Simon Marash Dedvukaj
Jason Defazio
David A. DeFeo
Manuel Del Valle, Jr.
Donald Arthur Delapenha
Vito Joseph DeLeo
Danielle Anne Delie
Joseph A. Della Pietra
Andrea DellaBella
Palmina DelliGatti
Colleen Ann Deloughery
Francis Albert DeMartini
Anthony Demas
Martin N. DeMeo 
Francis Deming
Carol K. Demitz
Kevin Dennis
Thomas F. Dennis
Jean DePalma
Jose Depena
Robert John Deraney
Michael DeRienzo
Edward DeSimone III
Andrew Desperito
Cindy Ann Deuel
Jerry DeVito
Robert P. Devitt, Jr.
Dennis Lawrence Devlin
Gerard Dewan
Sulemanali Kassamali Dhanani
Patricia Florence Di Chiaro
Debra Ann Di Martino
Michael Louis Diagostino
Matthew Diaz
Nancy Diaz
Rafael Arturo Diaz
Michael A. Diaz-Piedra III
Judith Berquis Diaz-Sierra
Joseph Dermot Dickey, Jr.
Lawrence Patrick Dickinson
Michael D. Diehl
John Difato
Vincent Difazio
Carl Anthony DiFranco
Donald Difranco
Stephen Patrick Dimino
William John Dimmling
Marisa DiNardo Schorpp
Christopher M. Dincuff
Jeffrey Mark Dingle
Anthony Dionisio 
George DiPasquale
Joseph Dipilato
Douglas Frank DiStefano
Ramzi A. Doany
John Joseph Doherty
Melissa C. Doi
Brendan Dolan
Neil Matthew Dollard
James Joseph Domanico 
Benilda Pascua Domingo 
Carlos Dominguez
Jerome Mark Patrick Dominguez
Kevin W. Donnelly
Jacqueline Donovan
Stephen Scott Dorf
Thomas Dowd
Kevin Dowdell
Mary Yolanda Dowling
Raymond Mathew Downey
Frank Joseph Doyle
Joseph Michael Doyle
Stephen Patrick Driscoll
Mirna A. Duarte
Michelle Beale Duberry 
Luke A. Dudek
Christopher Michael Duffy 
Gerard Duffy
Michael Joseph Duffy
Thomas W. Duffy 
Antoinette Duger 
Sareve Dukat
Christopher Joseph Dunne
Richard Anthony Dunstan
Patrick Thomas Dwyer
Joseph Anthony Eacobacci
John Bruce Eagleson
Robert Douglas Eaton
Dean Phillip Eberling
Margaret Ruth Echtermann
Paul Robert Eckna
Constantine Economos
Dennis Michael Edwards
Michael Hardy Edwards
Christine Egan
Lisa Egan
Martin J. Egan, Jr.
Michael Egan
Samantha Martin Egan
Carole Eggert
Lisa Caren Ehrlich
John Ernst Eichler
Eric Adam Eisenberg
Daphne Ferlinda Elder
Michael J. Elferis 
Mark Joseph Ellis
Valerie Silver Ellis
Albert Alfy William Elmarry
Edgar Hendricks Emery, Jr.
Doris Suk-Yuen Eng
Christopher Epps
Ulf Ramm Ericson
Erwin L. Erker
William John Erwin
Jose Espinal
Fanny Espinoza
Bridget Ann Esposito
Francis Esposito 
Michael Esposito 
William Esposito 
Ruben Esquilin, Jr.
Sadie Ette
Barbara G. Etzold
Eric Brian Evans
Robert Evans
Meredith Emily June Ewart
Catherine K. Fagan
Patricia Mary Fagan
Keith George Fairben
Sandra Fajardo-Smith
William F. Fallon
William Lawrence Fallon, Jr.
Anthony J. Fallone, Jr.
Dolores Brigitte Fanelli
John Joseph Fanning
Kathleen Anne Faragher
Thomas Farino
Nancy Carole Farley
Elizabeth Ann Farmer
Douglas Jon Farnum
John G. Farrell
John W. Farrell
Terrence Patrick Farrell
Joseph D. Farrelly
Thomas Patrick Farrelly
Syed Abdul Fatha
Christopher Edward Faughnan
Wendy R. Faulkner
Shannon Marie Fava
Bernard D. Favuzza
Robert Fazio, Jr.
Ronald Carl Fazio
William Feehan
Francis Jude Feely
Garth Erin Feeney
Sean B. Fegan
Lee S. Fehling
Peter Adam Feidelberg
Alan D. Feinberg 
Rosa Maria Feliciano
Edward Thomas Fergus, Jr.
George Ferguson
Henry Fernandez 
Judy Hazel Fernandez
Julio Fernandez
Elisa Giselle Ferraina
Anne Marie Sallerin Ferreira
Robert John Ferris
David Francis Ferrugio
Louis V. Fersini
Michael David Ferugio
Bradley James Fetchet
Jennifer Louise Fialko
Kristen Nicole Fiedel
Samuel Fields
Michael Bradley Finnegan Timothy J. Finnerty
Michael Curtis Fiore
Stephen S R Fiorelli, Sr.
Paul M. Fiori
John B. Fiorito
John R. Fischer
Andrew Fisher
Bennett Lawson Fisher
John Roger Fisher
Thomas J. Fisher 
Lucy A. Fishman
Ryan D. Fitzgerald
Thomas James Fitzpatrick
Richard P. Fitzsimons
Salvatore Fiumefreddo
Christina Donovan Flannery
Eileen Flecha
Andre G. Fletcher
Carl M. Flickinger 
John Joseph Florio
Joseph Walken Flounders 
David Fodor
Michael N. Fodor 
Stephen Mark Fogel
Thomas Foley
David J. Fontana 
Chih Min Foo
Godwin Forde
Donald A. Foreman
Christopher Hugh Forsythe
Claudia Alicia Foster
Noel John Foster 
Ana Fosteris
Robert Joseph Foti
Jeffrey Fox
Virginia Fox
Pauline Francis
Virgin Francis
Gary Jay Frank
Morton H. Frank
Peter Christopher Frank
Richard K. Fraser
Kevin J. Frawley
Clyde Frazier, Jr. 
Lillian Inez Frederick
Andrew Fredricks
Tamitha Freeman
Brett Owen Freiman
Peter L. Freund
Arlene Eva Fried 
Alan Wayne Friedlander
Andrew Keith Friedman
Gregg J. Froehner
Peter Christian Fry
Clement Lisa Frost A. Fumando
Steven Elliot Furman
Paul Furmato
Fredric Neal Gabler
Richard Samuel Federick Gabrielle
James Andrew Gadiel
Pamela Lee Gaff 
Ervin Vincent Gailliard
Deanna Lynn Galante
Grace Catherine Galante
Anthony Edward Gallagher
Daniel James Gallagher
John Patrick Gallagher
Lourdes Galletti
Cono E. Gallo
Vincenzo Gallucci
Thomas E. Galvin
Giovanna Galletta Gambale
Thomas Gambino, Jr.
Giann Franco Gamboa
Peter Ganci
Ladkat K. Ganesh
Claude Michael Gann
Osseni Garba
Charles William Garbarini 
Ceasar Garcia
David Garcia
Juan Garcia
Marlyn Del Carmen Garcia
Christopher S. Gardner
Douglas Benjamin Gardner
Harvey J. Gardner III
Jeffrey Brian Gardner
Thomas Gardner 
William Arthur Gardner
Francesco Garfi
Rocco Nino Gargano
James M. Gartenberg
Matthew David Garvey
Bruce Gary
Boyd Alan Gatton
Donald Richard Gavagan, Jr.
Terence D. Gazzani
Gary Geidel
Paul Hamilton Geier
Julie M. Geis
Peter G. Gelinas
Steven Paul Geller
Howard G. Gelling
Peter Victor Genco, Jr.
Steven Gregory Genovese
Alayne Gentul
Edward F. Geraghty
Suzanne Geraty
Ralph Gerhardt
Robert Gerlich
Denis P. Germain
Marina Romanovna Gertsberg
Susan M. Getzendanner
James G. Geyer
Joseph M. Giaccone
Vincent Francis Giammona
Debra Lynn Gibbon
James Andrew Giberson
Craig Neil Gibson
Ronnie E. Gies
Laura A. Giglio
Andrew Clive Gilbert
Timothy Paul Gilbert
Paul Stuart Gilbey
Paul John Gill
Mark Y. Gilles
Evan Gillette
Ronald Lawrence Gilligan
Rodney C. Gillis
Laura Gilly
John F. Ginley
Donna Marie Giordano
Jeffrey John Giordano
John Giordano
Steven A. Giorgetti
Martin Giovinazzo
Kum-Kum Girolamo
Salvatore Gitto
Cynthia Giugliano
Mon Gjonbalaj
Dianne Gladstone
Keith Glascoe
Thomas Irwin Glasser
 Edmund Glazer Harry Glenn
Barry H. Glick
Steven Glick
John T. Gnazzo
William Robert Godshalk
Michael Gogliormella
Brian Fredric Goldberg
Jeffrey Grant Goldflam
Michelle Goldstein
Monica Goldstein
Steven Goldstein 
Andrew H. Golkin 
Dennis James Gomes
Enrique Antonio Gomez
Jose Bienvenido Gomez
Manuel Gomez, Jr.
Wilder Alfredo Gomez
Jenine Nicole Gonzalez
Mauricio Gonzalez
Rosa Gonzalez
Calvin J. Gooding
Harry Goody
Kiran Reddy Gopu
Catherine C. Gorayeb
Kerene Gordon
Sebastian Gorki
Kieran Joseph Gorman
Thomas Edward Gorman
Michael Edward Gould
Yuji Goya
Jon Richard Grabowski
Christopher Michael Grady
Edwin J. Graf III
David Martin Graifman
Gilbert Franco Granados
Elvira Granitto
Winston Arthur Grant
Christopher S. Gray
James Michael Gray
Tara McCloud Gray
Linda Catherine Grayling
John M. Grazioso
Timothy George Grazioso 
Derrick Auther Green
Wade B. Green
Elaine Myra Greenberg
Gayle R. Greene
James Arthur Greenleaf, Jr.
Eileen Marsha Greenstein 
Elizabeth Martin Gregg
Denise Gregory
Donald H. Gregory
Florence Moran Gregory
Pedro Grehan 
John Michael Griffin
Tawanna Sherry Griffin
Joan Donna Griffith
Warren Grifka
Ramon Grijalvo
Joseph F. Grillo
David Joseph Grimner
Kenneth George Grouzalis
Joseph Grzelak
Matthew James Grzymalski
Robert Joseph Gschaar
Liming Gu
Jose Guadalupe
Cindy Yan Zhu Guan
Joel Guevara Gonzalez
Geoffrey E. Guja
Joseph Gullickson
Babita Girjamatie Guman
Douglas Brian Gurian
Janet Ruth Gustafson
Philip T. Guza
Barbara Guzzardo
Peter M. Gyulavary
Gary Robert Haag
Andrea Lyn Haberman
Barbara Mary Habib
Philip Haentzler
Nezam A. Hafiz
Karen Elizabeth Hagerty
Steven Michael Hagis
Mary Lou Hague
David Halderman
Maile Rachel Hale 
Richard B. Hall
Vaswald George Hall
Robert J. Halligan
Vincent Gerard Halloran
James Douglas Halvorson
Mohammad Salman Hamdani
Felicia Hamilton
Robert Hamilton
Frederic K. Han
Christopher J. Hanley
Sean S. Hanley
Valerie Joan Hanna
Thomas Hannafin
Kevin James Hannaford
Michael Lawrence Hannan
Dana R Hannon
Vassilios G. Haramis
James A. Haran
Jeffrey Pike Hardy
Timothy John Hargrave
Daniel Edward Harlin
Frances Haros
Harvey Harrell
Stephen G. Harrell
Melissa Marie Harrington
Aisha Anne Harris
Stewart Dennis Harris
John Patrick Hart 
John Clinton Hartz
Emeric Harvey
Thomas Theodore Haskell, Jr.
Timothy Haskell
Joseph John Hasson III
Leonard W. Hatton
Terence S. Hatton
Michael Haub
Timothy Aaron Haviland
Donald G. Havlish, Jr.
Anthony Hawkins 
Nobuhiro Hayatsu
Philip Hayes
William Ward Haynes
Scott Jordan Hazelcorn
Michael K. Healey
Roberta B. Heber
Charles Francis Xavier Heeran
John F. Heffernan
H. Joseph Heller, Jr.
Michele Heidenberger Joann L. Heltibridle
Mark F. Hemschoot
Ronnie Lee Henderson
Brian Hennessey 
Michelle Marie Henrique
Joseph Henry
William Henry
John Christopher Henwood
Robert Allan Hepburn
Mary Herencia
Lindsay C. Herkness III
Harvey Robert Hermer
Claribel Hernandez
Eduardo Hernandez
Nuberto Hernandez
Raul Hernandez
Gary Herold
Jeffrey A. Hersch 
Thomas Hetzel
Brian Hickey
Ysidro Hidalgo
Timothy Higgins
Robert D. W. Higley II
Todd Russell Hill
Clara Victorine Hinds
Neal O. Hinds
Mark D. Hindy
Katsuyuki Hirai
Heather Malia Ho
Tara Yvette Hobbs
Thomas Anderson Hobbs
James J. Hobin
Robert Wayne Hobson
DaJuan Hodges
Ronald George Hoerner
Patrick A. Hoey
Marcia Hoffman
Stephen G. Hoffman
Frederick Joseph Hoffmann
Michele L. Hoffmann
Judith Florence Hofmiller
Thomas Warren Hohlweck, Jr.
Jonathan R. Hohmann
John Holland
Joseph F. Holland
Elizabeth Holmes
Thomas Holohan 
Bradley Hoorn
James P. Hopper
Montgomery McCullough Hord
Michael Horn
Matthew Douglas Horning 
Robert L. Horohoe, Jr.
Aaron Horwitz
Charles Houston
Uhuru G. Houston
George Howard
Michael C. Howell
Steven Leon Howell
Jennifer L. Howley
Milagros Hromada
Marian R. Hrycak 
Stephen Huczko, Jr.
Kris Robert Hughes
Paul Rexford Hughes
Robert Thomas Hughes
Thomas Hughes
Timothy Robert Hughes
Susan Huie
Lamar Hulse
William Christopher Hunt
Kathleen Anne Hunt-Casey
Joseph Hunter
Robert R. Hussa
Abid Hussain
Thomas Edward Hynes
Walter G. Hynes
Joseph Anthony Ianelli
Zuhtu Ibis
Jonathan Lee Ielpi
Michael Iken
Daniel Ilkanayev
Frederick Ill, Jr.
Abraham Nethanel Ilowitz
Anthony P. Infante, Jr.
Louis S. Inghilterra, Jr.
Christopher Noble Ingrassia
Paul Innella
Stephanie Veronica Irby
Douglas Irgang
Kristin A. Irvine Ryan
Todd Antione Isaac
Erik Isbrandtsen
Taizo Ishikawa
Aram Iskenderian, Jr.
John F. Iskyan
Kazushige Ito
Aleksandr Valeryevich Ivantsov
Virginia May Jablonski
Brooke Alexandra Jackman
Aaron Jeremy Jacobs
Ariel Louis Jacobs
Jason Kyle Jacobs
Michael Grady Jacobs
Steven A. Jacobson
Ricknauth Jaggernauth
Jake Denis Jagoda
Yudh Vir Singh Jain
Maria Jakubiak
Ernest James
Gricelda E. James
Priscilla James
Mark Steven Jardim
Muhammadou Jawara
Francois Jean-Pierre
Maxima Jean-Pierre
Paul Edward Jeffers
Alva Cynthia Jeffries Sanchez
Joseph Jenkins, Jr.
Alan Keith Jensen
Prem N. Jerath
Farah Jeudy
Hweidar Jian
Eliezer Jimenez, Jr.
Luis Jimenez, Jr.
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US court orders Iran to pay $10.5 billion for alleged 9/11 role

A U.S. judge ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to families of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to a group of insurers.

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in New York issued a default judgment Wednesday against Iran for $7.5 billion to the estates and families of people who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It includes $2 million to each estate for the victims’ pain and suffering plus $6.88 million in punitive damages, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

Daniels also awarded $3 billion to insurers including Chubb Ltd. that paid property damage, business interruption and other claims.

Earlier in the case, Daniels found that Iran had failed to defend itself from claims that it aided the Sept. 11 hijackers and was therefore liable for damages tied to the attacks. Daniels’ ruling Wednesday adopts damages findings by a U.S. magistrate judge in December. While it is difficult to collect damages from an unwilling foreign nation, the plaintiffs may try to collect part of the judgments using a law that permits parties to tap terrorists’ assets frozen by the government.

“For over a decade, we’ve wanted to hold accountable those who assisted the September 11 terrorists in their attack on the United States. That day has finally arrived,” said Fiona Havlish whose husband, Donald, perished on the 101st Floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Iran has consistently denied any involvement in the 2001 attack, which Western intelligence agencies said was the work of the Sunni terrorists from the Al-Qaeda group.

 

Victims’ relatives gather 14 years after Sept. 11 attacks

Relatives assembled under overcast skies on Friday to commemorate nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and outside Washington 14 years ago, when airliners hijacked by al Qaeda militants brought death, mayhem and destruction.

In New York, families of the victims read their names in a solemn and poignantly familiar pattern, watched over by service members in their dress uniforms.

Emblematic of the generations affected, children who were not old enough to remember their late relatives or had yet to meet them participated in the roll call.

“We are so blessed to have you as an angel and we are empty without you, we love you very much,” said Daniel Pagan, who lost his cousin Melissa Candida Doi in the attack.

Families hugged each other close, some carrying photographs or wearing t-shirts depicting lost loved ones, or bearing placards with the words 'we will never forget.'

First responders were thanked numerous times by the family members for their work on what became known as 'the pile.'

Many of those who were first on the scene and those who worked for weeks afterwards searching through the rubble are still suffering from various illnesses brought on by the toxic air.

Mourners stood at the empty footprint of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, toppled by two hijacked airliners on that clear, sunny morning in 2001.

“It doesn't get any easier,” said Malcolm Dean, a first responder and paramedic with the New York Fire Department on 9/11. He lost his younger brother William and colleagues.

“Fourteen years later it's not any easier standing here than it was the first year and the second year.”

Music and the soothing sounds of the waterfalls emptying into reflecting pools at the at 9/11 Memorial and Museum formed a backdrop as families placed flowers against their loved ones' names engraved in the bronze panels.

A veteran's trumpet salute closed the ceremony after nearly four hours, with the emptying plaza hushed and subdued.

“We come here every year. We live in New Jersey. The crowds keep getting less, but my wife and I, as long as we're breathing, we'll be here,” said Tom Acquaviva, who with his wife Josephine, lost their son Paul when the towers fell.

“No remains were ever found, so basically this is his cemetery,” he said, adding: “Couldn't ask for a better son.”

Hijackers crashed two other commercial jets into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The New York ceremony, where politicians past and present mixed with families but gave no speeches, was punctuated by moments of silence and bell ringing to mark the moments when each of the four planes crashed and when the towers fell.

In Washington, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, joined by staff, bowed their heads for a brief moment of silence on the south lawn of the White House to mark the anniversary.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter led a remembrance ceremony for relatives of those killed at the Pentagon.

Relatives of the 40 passengers and crew members who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 gathered at the newly dedicated Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.

The passengers fought back against the hijackers, who crashed the plane upside down at nearly 600 mph (965 kph).

In New York, the buzz of increased commerce from new residential and business towers has returned a large degree of normalcy to the area, known after the attacks as Ground Zero.

The day also honors those who were killed in 1993, when a car bomb tore through one of the parking garage of one of the towers.

Next to the 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site where the Twin Towers stood is the newly opened 1 World Trade Center, the tallest skyscraper in the Western hemisphere.

The first plane slammed into the North tower at 8:46 a.m., followed by a second plane hitting the South tower at 9:03 a.m. Within two hours, both towers had collapsed, engulfing lower Manhattan in acrid dust and smoke and debris that burned for days.

Obama leads U.S. in remembrance of Sept. 11 victims

Led by President Barack Obama, Americans commemorated the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Thursday by observing moments of silence for the thousands killed that day at New York City's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

In what has become an annual ritual, relatives began slowly reciting the nearly 3,000 names of the victims at a ceremony in lower Manhattan, from Gordon Aamoth Jr. to Igor Zukelman.

Readers would occasionally pause as a silver bell was rung to mark the exact times when each of the four planes hijacked by al Qaeda militants crashed at the three sites and when each of the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed. With each bell, a moment of silence was observed.

Obama spoke at the Pentagon during a private ceremony for relatives of the 184 people killed in the attack on the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, several miles from the White House.

He laid a wreath of white lilies and chrysanthemums, and kept his hand on his heart as “Taps” played.

“Thirteen years after small, hateful minds conspired to break us, America stands tall and America stands proud,” Obama said.

In New York, the voice of Tom Monahan, a 54-year-old man with salt-and-pepper hair and broad shoulders, cracked when he talked about the brother and cousin he lost in the attack.

“Everything is fine until you get here,” he said before waving his hands as if to signal he could not talk anymore. He emerged from the security checkpoints an hour later and showed a reporter a message he had sent on his cell phone to his sister. “9-12 couldn't come soon enough,” it said.


The Tribute in Light is illuminated on the skyline of lower Manhattan on Sept. 10. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Beyond the checkpoints, an invitation-only crowd stood beneath an overcast sky in the memorial plaza at the heart of the new World Trade Center, which is nearing completion in lower Manhattan. Some of those in attendance were dressed in military uniform, others wore T-shirts and sneakers.

Many people held up posters with smiling photographs of their dead relatives. Red roses and American flags poked up from the bronze plates bearing victims' names that ring the two waterfalls that now trace the footprints of the fallen towers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and two former mayors, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, were among the mourners.

The high fences blocking off public access to most of the World Trade Center site finally came down in May.

While lower Manhattan may look different this year, the threat to the United States represented by the Sept. 11 attacks remains. Washington and its allies see Islamic State, a group that began as an offshoot of al Qaeda, as an increasing danger.

On Wednesday, Obama said he had ordered an aerial bombing campaign targeting the group, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and released videos of beheadings of two American journalists.

“It definitely drives home the fact that there are certain things that haven't changed since September 11th,” Brendan Chellis, who was working on the 30th floor of one of the twin towers at the time of the attack, said outside the New York ceremony.

The only ceremony open to the general public was at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the four hijacked airliners crashed after a struggle between passengers and the hijackers.

George Meyers, a 43-year-old paralegal, was living in Shanksville 13 years ago.

“I felt the ground shake the day it happened,” he said during a visit to the memorial, set amid bucolic rolling fields. “It's hard to come outside and see grieving families but it's nice to see them smile at the memorial that's been built.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, Roberta Rampton in Washington and Elizabeth Daley in Shanksville, Penn.; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Doina Chiacu

The legacy of 9/11 hero Danny Lewin

At the center of the 9/11 attacks against the United States by Islamofascist terror, an unlikely hero played a largely unknown role. He sacrificed his life in an attempt to stop the hijacking of one of the planes that later crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He was an Israeli-American and his role has remained largely ignored and unacknowledged.

Danny Lewin was an American-Israeli, a world-class Internet entrepreneur, and the very first person to be murdered by the al-Qaeda barbarians on Sept. 11, 2001. He was aboard the American Airlines Flight 11 plane out of Boston headed for Los Angeles when it was hijacked by the terrorists. A veteran of the special forces in the Israeli army, Lewin quickly understood what was going down. He spoke fluent Arabic and knew what the terrorists were saying. He single-handedly attempted to attack and subdue the terrorists. He was stabbed to death on the plane by terrorist Satam al-Suqami, a Saudi law student. Lewin was 31 years old when he was murdered.

A new biography of the hero of 9/11, written by Molly Knight Raskin, is now in book stores; it is titled “No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet.” 

Lewin grew up in Denver and immigrated to Israel with his family in 1984, three years after I did the same. His parents were devoted Zionists and passionate about their Jewishness. While exempt from military service in Israel on grounds that he had recently immigrated, Danny insisted on serving anyhow, and in the country’s most challenging military unit at that. He served in the ultra-elite special forces combat unit called Sayeret Matkal. 

Lewin attended the Technion in Haifa, where in 1995 he was named the year’s Outstanding Student in Computer Engineering. He then worked for IBM in developing high-tech products, later doing graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There he became the protégé of the legendary MIT professor F. Thomson Leighton. According to Raskin, “The more Lewin got to know Leighton, the more professionally enamored he became, routinely telling friends he’d met the ‘smartest man in the world.’ ” The two developed mathematical algorithms for optimizing Internet traffic. These became the basis for Akamai Technologies, which the two founded in 1998. Lewin served as the company’s chief technology officer and a board member. The company went public in 1999 and its stock market valuation rose rapidly to $345 billion. Lewin was posthumously named one of the most influential high-tech figures in the world. Much of Raskin’s book details his career in advanced high technology. He was not only the first victim of the 9/11 terror — he was also its wealthiest and most successful victim. Raskin writes:

“An executive summary mistakenly leaked by the Federal Aviation Administration to the press stated that terrorist Satam al-Suqami shot and killed Lewin with a single bullet around 9:20 a.m. (obviously a typo, as the plane crashed at 8:46 a.m.). But almost as soon as the memo was leaked, FAA officials claimed it was written in error, and that Lewin was more than likely stabbed, not shot. The 9/11 Commission concurred, offering a more detailed summary: based on dozens of interviews with those who spoke with flight attendants Madeline Sweeney and Betty Ong, the commission determined that al-Suqami most likely killed Lewin by slashing him in the throat from behind as he attempted to stop the hijacking. The time of his death was reported to be somewhere between 8:15 and 8:20 a.m., which — if fact — would make Lewin the first victim of the 9/11 attacks.”

After his death, the intersection of Main and Vassar streets in Cambridge, Mass., was renamed Danny Lewin Square in his honor. He left behind a widow and two sons.

Lewin’s life captures everything positive about the American-Israeli collaboration in education, high technology and military strategy. He also epitomizes the world struggle against barbarism.

This column first appeared in FrontPage Magazine and is reprinted with the permission of Steven Plaut.


Steven Plaut is a native Philadelphian who teaches business finance and economics at the University of Haifa in Israel. He holds a doctorate in economics from Princeton. He is author of the David Horowitz Freedom Center booklets about Hamas and “Jewish Enablers of the War Against Israel.”

Daniel Pearl Fellows: Reshaping hate

On the evening of Aug. 22, I had a public conversation with three Muslim journalists, two from Pakistan and one from Bangladesh, at the Los Angeles Press Club. All three were in the United States as Daniel Pearl Journalism Fellows, a program to introduce Muslim journalists to American practices, sponsored by the Daniel Pearl Foundation and Alfred Friendly Press Partners. Here are the three most chilling things they said:

1. The majority of Pakistanis hate America.

2. The vast majority of Pakistanis believe the United States and Israel, not al-Qaeda, were behind the 9/11 attacks. Their “proof”: 3,000 Jews who work in the World Trade Center didn’t show up for work that day.

3. Most Pakistanis agree that the chaos in Syria and Egypt is the result of manipulation by Jews, Israel and/or the United States.

And keep in mind, Pakistan is officially our ally.

Not only have our two countries cooperated to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the United States has given Pakistan more than $21 billion in foreign aid since 2002.

Still, they seem to hate us.  

“We have a saying in our country,” said Khalid Khattak, a staff reporter for the News International in Lahore. “India is the bastard child of Israel, and Israel is the bastard child of the United States.”

Why the hate? A few reasons.

The aid we give is, in fact, part of the problem. 

“There is a lot of corruption,” Khattak said. “It is meant to be spent to help people, but, unfortunately, a lot of it goes into the pockets of those who take it from the United States.” 

“The billions of dollars of aid are being wasted,” said Emran Hossain, a staff reporter at Bangladesh’s first online newspaper, bdnews24.com, in Dhaka. “It is being spent on the military and police, or on education that makes people more religious.”

A good part of the blame for the failure of U.S. aid lies with corrupt and inefficient Pakistani bureaucracy charged with spending it — but we are the ones who write the checks. And that just makes many Pakistanis angrier.

Another reason for the anger: drones.

Since 2006, America has launched a carte blanche drone war against targets in parts of Pakistan. While terrorists have been decimated, many innocents have also been killed in collateral damage, and America answers to no one.

“You start the drone strikes now, but the reaction will continue in the years to come,” Khattak said. “There is a saying in the Pashtun language that if a Pashtun takes revenge after 100 years, it’s not too late.”

Vaqaz Banoori, an editor at the Independent Press Network in Islamabad, put it even more bluntly. “If you continue the drone strikes,” Banoori told us, “you are losing the moderates and the liberals. You are giving Pakistanis the message, ‘You are no one.’ ”

The final reason for the antipathy: ignorance. Pakistan has a de facto illiteracy rate of 30 percent, and only 19 percent of its population has access to the Internet. Journalists are freer than in years past to report on corrupt politicians, but intelligence and defense matters remain off limits, as are affronts to the country’s many religious extremist groups. 

“They blame mainly America, and mainly Jews,” Banoori said of his fellow Pakistanis. There are, of course, no Jews in Pakistan. But whether the issue is Kashmir or Palestine, 9/11 or drones, Jews, America and Israel are the go-to scapegoats — just as they are in Syria and Egypt.

I asked Banoori why literate Pakistanis couldn’t just read Wikipedia to get their facts more or less correct. 

“They would say Wikipedia is just run by Jews,” he said.

This would all be deeply depressing were it not for this additional fact: As much as the Pakistanis despise America, they deeply want to come to America.

“There are so many Pakistanis trying to get visas to the United States every day,” Banoori said. “These people want to have a good life, educational opportunities, economic opportunities.”

The negative ideas about America — from our wasted aid, our drone strikes, extremist claptrap — compete with the images everyone sees in popular movies and on TV shows. “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” are their favorites. They don’t get “Seinfeld.”

In fact, Pakistanis will pay $10,000 for a $160 visa, just to come to the Great Satan.

As I spoke to the journalists, I noticed a tall, thin gray-haired man in the front row of the audience, looking positively unhappy; turned out it was Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. 

What the journalists said was painful to hear, but largely true, Munter confirmed. Since leaving the foreign service, he has gone on record calling for replacing official U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan with people-to-people initiatives, from academic and business exchanges to the kind of initiatives that brought the journalists to us last week.

I think he is onto something. 

It stands to reason that we should be doing less of what’s not working and more of what is. Pakistan is ours to lose, but only if we really want to. And the biggest mistake we can make is to outsource the job of winning Pakistani hearts and minds to the government of the United States of America, which has completely bollixed it up.


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

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.

Kenneth Feinberg: The 9/11 mediator who listens

When massive tragedy strikes in the United States, when half a dozen or a score or thousands of people are killed in a single incident, when disaster hits a region, Kenneth Feinberg often gets a call.

The Washington attorney is perhaps best known for his work as the administrator of the fund that paid restitution to the families of 9/11 victims and the one that compensated individuals and businesses harmed by the BP Oil spill in 2010, but his phone rings on all sorts of unhappy occasions, most recently in the wake of the shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple in August.

They call Feinberg because he has made a career in mediation, dealing with particularly complicated situations involving death, environmental disaster and financial upheaval. They call him because he’s been called “Solomonic” on more than a few occasions — a label that Feinberg rejects — and because he has demonstrated an ability to exercise and implement good, fair judgments.

But as Jews around the world, Feinberg included, prepare for another season of holidays centered on the theme of judgment, it’s notable that a major element of Feinberg’s process is something deceptively simple: He listens.

“When you have face-to-face meetings, you give victims an opportunity to vent, and they welcome that opportunity to vent,” Feinberg said, speaking to the Journal by phone from his Washington, D.C., office in August. “I find that these one-on-one meetings are very important in convincing claimants in grief about the bona fides of the program that you’re trying to run.”

Feinberg was referring to the more than 900 meetings he had in the aftermath of 9/11 with families of victims, a process he repeated in administering a much smaller fund compensating the victims injured and families of victims killed in the 2007 shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. In both cases, Feinberg remembered that most of the people who chose to meet with him did not talk about dollars and cents, but came to tell stories, sometimes with photo albums and mementos in hand, “in order to validate — on the record, in writing, face-to-face — the memory, the good works of a lost loved one.”

In compensating individuals in the wake of tragedy, Feinberg has found the meetings to be essential, because they show that somebody is listening.

“There is an individual — not a bureaucratic device, but there is an actual human being listening to what I have to say about my dead wife or husband or brother or sister, son or daughter,” he said.

Individual meetings aren’t always possible, particularly when dealing with large numbers of claimants who have all suffered different kinds of damages, as Feinberg did when he administered the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which paid out more than $6.14 billion from BP to more than 500,000 claimants from all 50 states and 38 foreign countries.

But in many instances, direct listening in face-to-face meetings can have a strategic purpose, as well. In his role as the U.S. Treasury Department’s “pay czar,” tasked with setting the compensation of 175 high-ranking executives at the largest of the financial firms bailed out by the American taxpayers in 2009, Feinberg heard petitions from CEOs, CFOs and their lawyers.

That role was a distinct reversal for Feinberg. “There I was fixing the compensation of alleged, not victims, but perpetrators, who had caused the 2009 financial meltdown,” Feinberg said.

Which is why, as he wrote in his book “Who Gets What: Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Financial Upheaval,” published by Public Affairs earlier this year, one of the ground rules Feinberg set for the meetings with the executives of bailed-out companies was that they had to take place in Washington, D.C.

The Tribute in Light is illuminated marking the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, on Sept. 10. Photo by REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

“As an experienced mediator, I knew the importance of conducting meetings in the most effective venue,” Feinberg wrote. The “lavish and imposing” Treasury Building fit his aim perfectly, making immediately clear to the corporate officials “that they were up against a formidable negotiating partner — the federal government.”

In their own ways, the meetings Feinberg had with the companies’ officials didn’t focus on money — or at least not the immediate exchange value of money.

As the “special master” of an office in the Treasury Department overseeing executive compensation, Feinberg and his staff were dictating to these seven companies the exact amount they could pay their top employees. The goal was to balance the interests of the executives and the firms, who wanted to be able to compete on hiring with other corporations, against those of the taxpayers and congress, who had loaned these companies billions of dollars and wanted that money repaid as quickly as possible and in full but who also wouldn’t tolerate excessively lavish compensation.

In the meetings with executives, Feinberg said that the conversations were never about money or material gain — “I need money to buy another summer home, I need money to send my kinds to private school” — but instead were about compensation as a “litmus test of self-worth or integrity or contribution to society.”

“ ‘Look, Mr. Feinberg,’ ” Feinberg said, recalling the executives’ emotional pleas, “ ‘what you’re paying me demeans my value to society, it demeans my value to the community, to my family. You are getting very personal; you are reducing my compensation, thereby diminishing my overall self worth.’ ”

Feinberg’s ultimate decisions were, in his words, “very cold and calculating.”

“I looked at statistics governing compensation — what is a CFO worth, or a CEO worth — studied the competitive pay scale of others similarly situated, looked at what incentives should be incorporated into a compensation package, and calculated the actual awards,” he said.

In administering the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund — which Feinberg said is still the most challenging assignment he’s ever faced — Feinberg’s meetings were very different. They took place all over the country, often in the offices of law firms. And while the meetings were essential to convincing some of the families of victims (particularly those of the wealthier victims) to join the fund and not litigate their claims in court, it’s clear that the emotional tenor made them difficult for Feinberg.

“Unless you have a heart of stone, you can’t remain dispassionate,” he said. “You try and … limit the impact of that emotion, but you cannot help but be affected by the death and tragedy involved.”

And, Feinberg learned, people react differently — unpredictably, even — to tragedy. The group meetings he held for victims’ families in California, Feinberg said, were “very touchy-feely,” particularly in contrast to the meetings he’d held in New York and Virginia.

“Everybody wanted to hold hands and pray collectively and to reinforce each other,” Feinberg recalled.

And if half of the families of 9/11 victims decided that the tragedy had “ended, once and for all, any belief they may have had in God or religion or an afterlife,” the other half, Feinberg said, told him that “the tragedies reinforced their religion and their beliefs.”

“Do not attempt to predict human nature,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg doesn’t keep in touch with the families of victims, nor does he have a particular way of commemorating the anniversary of 9/11. This year, on the 11th anniversary of the attacks, Feinberg was scheduled to speak at a conference organized by an insurance group in Canada.

On Rosh Hashanah, Feinberg said, he would be thinking about the future, not the past.

“I think about the year to come, in hopes that I and my family can enjoy health and happiness,” Feinberg said. “And on Yom Kippur, I sort of muse and reflect on the year gone by and what I could’ve done differently, or better.”

Feinberg described himself as “a believer,” so it seemed fair to ask him whether he feels that there is a listener to his prayers.

“I don’t put it in those terms, is someone listening,” Feinberg replied. “I’m hoping that — by raising the level of thought to a conscious level, so that I’m actually reflecting on the past and the future — I’m listening. And I think that’s what’s important.”

Dennis Prager interviews New York’s ‘Ground Zero’ imam

On July 20, Jewish Journal columnist Dennis Prager conducted a lengthy interview on his radio show with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of “What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America,” who is best known for his plans to build an Islamic community center, including a mosque, near the World Trade Center in New York. What follows is the transcribed text of that interview.

Dennis Prager: Imam Rauf, welcome to the Dennis Prager show.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: Thank you very much, Dennis. It’s my pleasure to be with you.

DP: Nothing interests me more than the question of what will be Islam’s future. Anybody, whatever their position, has to be almost preoccupied with the question. . . .

Let me begin by asking you for a governing definition of an “Islamist.” Mine is: A Muslim who wishes Sharia to be the law of a land. What is yours?

IR: The Sharia is nothing more than the principles of the ten commandments, the principles that Jesus said, the two major commandments: To love the Lord, thy God, with all of your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. . . . Sharia law, in terms of its positive law, Dennis, is the protection and furtherance of six basic human rights: The right to life, the right to honor and dignity, the right to freedom of religion, the right to pursue your intellectual pursuits, to have a family, and to practice the faith of your choice, and to pursue property.

DP: Let me give you an example of Sharia law, and tell me where this falls under one of those six headings. During the month of Ramadan, on a street in Morocco, I was smoking my pipe and a man came over and said, “This is Ramadan. You can’t smoke.” Another example is the Somali cab drivers in Minneapolis who refuse to take passengers who have a bottle of beer in their car because of the ban on alcohol.

IR: This is a misapplication of Sharia. God’s law involves giving human beings the freedom to sin, the freedom to make mistakes, and part of the law of the land has to be to give people these freedoms. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misapplication of Islamic law in many countries.

DP: But is it not a basic yearning of, as you call yourself, orthodox Muslims, to want to see an Islamic state?

IR: Well, you see, there is a lot of basic misunderstanding around that. The action of the cab driver is no different than the action of a devout, fundamentalist Christian who kills a doctor who provides abortion services because he believes it is wrong. Taking the law into your own hands is wrong. Even under Islamic law, no human being is allowed to take the law into their own hands.

DP: But is it not the dream of every faithful Muslim to have an Islamic society, meaning that the state is Muslim and enforces Muslim law?

IR: That is not really completely true. In fact, in many countries, like in Pakistan, the Islamic political parties have never gained more than 25% of the vote. This is the problem: what has happened in the Muslim world in the last fifty, sixty years is that we have adopted the bad systems of what happened in Europe centuries ago when the state established a particular religion. This is the scourge which has become quite prominent in many Muslim countries, or sectors of Muslim-majority countries, and this is the battle that we have to wage today internally within Islam.

DP: So you think that all of these bad things that we see today in the Islamic world are all aberrations. Let me cite Ibn Khaldun, considered by both non-Muslims and Muslims be the greatest Muslim thinker ever, outside of Muhammad. He wrote that Jihad, for example, means waging war to convert people to Islam; and that Islam is a greater religion than Judaism or Christianity, because those two religions do not believe in Jihad, whereas Muslims do. Now, is he an aberration?

IR: Look, he is a sociologist. That statement is disproven by the vast majority of Islamic history from the very earliest times, when the followers of the prophets conquered other countries. Their system of rule until the ottomans a century ago, developed systems where people of every religion other than Islam were protected. And that is the system that we need to reintroduce to the Muslim world today. The aberrations we have today are just like the aberrations in Christianity centuries ago, when you had the inquisition.

DP: My study of Islamic history does not have such a rosy picture. The most dramatic example is Hindus in India, where Hindu historians estimate that many tens of millions of Hindus, because they were not monotheists—Jews and Christians were generally treated differently—were just slaughtered by the Islamic invasions of India. So yours is not my understanding of the Muslim past.

IR: I beg to differ with you, Dennis. In fact, almost 80% of India was ruled by Muslims, and they ruled over Muslims and non-Muslims. If that were true, in the lands where Muslims ruled, there would be nothing but Muslims like you see traditionally in Europe where any religion other, or any interpretation other than that particular opinion of Christianity—you don’t find other churches existing in those countries until right recently in European history.

You find under Ottoman rule and Muslim rule, all kinds of other religions. It’s only in the last century or even half a century that this triumphalist Islam has become dominant. This is the problem that exists in the Muslim world today. It only began about a century ago when the nation-state concept began and we created a religious nationalism. When India was split into Pakistan and India back in 1947-48, that’s when these problems really began and have become increasingly strong over the last fifty years and this is what we need to push against. This is why I say that the battlefront is not between Islam and the West, or Islam or Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Jews, although that is certainly a factor. The real battlefront is between all good, peace-loving, moderate people of all faith, traditions, against extremists of all faith, traditions, and that’s the battlefront we need to wage and to wage it together if we are going to win this battle for peace.

DP: Tell me what group represents extremist Christians today. There are one to two billion Christians. Who are the extremists that we have to battle against?

IR: Well, I mean, it is less of a problem in Christianity than it is among Muslims but those who have said negative things about Islam who, you know, the attitude of the doctors who kill abortion doctors for example.

DP: But they represent nobody. Let’s be honest, nobody fears being blown up by Christians. People don’t fear being blown up by Hindus or Jews or Buddhists. You could say the Tamils, but that was restricted to Sri Lanka. The reason that I take my shoes off at the airport is fear of Muslim extremists, not Jewish or Christian or Buddhist.

IR: And we accept that. We acknowledge that fact that the Muslim extremists today are the problem. We acknowledge that. I acknowledge that and Muslims acknowledge that.

DP: Well CAIR doesn’t. I’ve debated CAIR on national television and they say that there is more terror in the world by non-Muslims than by Muslims. That’s their basic line. You’re not a representative of CAIR, but please don’t say this is what all Muslims acknowledge.

IR: I’m not saying all Muslims acknowledge but the vast majority of Muslims acknowledge that.

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.

ADL supports World Trade Center cross

The Anti-Defamation League said it supports the inclusion of the World Trade Center cross in the permanent memorial to 9/11 victims at Ground Zero.

The American Atheists organization, which advocates an “absolute separation” of government and religion, filed a lawsuit last month against including the cross-shaped steel beams in the permanent memorial to the victims of 9/11 in lower Manhattan.

The lawsuit claims the cross is unconstitutional and is a “mingling of church and state.”

The cross-shaped beams were found in the rubble at the site of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks and were moved last month to a permanent location in the eight-square-acre memorial.

“Allowing this cross to be included in the memorial along with other artifacts found at the site does not constitute government endorsement of a religious message,” the ADL said in a statement. “Rather, it is an acknowledgement that these beams — part of the infrastructure of one of the towers — acquired historical significance by giving comfort to many who lost loved ones in the attacks, as well as those who spent days and weeks sifting through the ash and debris.

Memorializing Sept. 11

As we reach the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is a fundamental problem in the task of its memorialization and remembrance.

On Sept. 11, 2011, a decade after the attacks, there is no closure. The legacy of 9/11 remains unclear.

Permit me to explain why: There is a difference between tragedy and atrocity. In tragedy, what is learned roughly or even remotely balances the price that is paid for such knowledge. Atrocity offers no such possibility, and thus no inner space to bury the event. At most, it leaves those of us left behind searching amid the rubble to find some meaning to an event of such magnitude that it violates our very sense of meaning.

The bombing of the World Trade Center was not a tragedy; it was an atrocity. The reason that Americans could find only incomplete closure to their suffering after the execution of Osama bin Laden is because of the imbalance between the magnitude of the crime and the limited justice that could be achieved.

Why is the legacy unclear? We are still at war in two countries as a result of the attacks — if not technically in Iraq, at least psychologically. The war in Iraq was completely unrelated to 9/11, and it was started for reasons now proven to be invalid. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein was in many ways awful, but he was not involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The struggle against terrorism is ongoing and not yet won; at best, some progress has been made. So the legacy cannot be described in terms of attack and response, defeat and victory. Al-Qaeda has now morphed, and in the post-bin Laden era will continue to take diverse shapes and forms in different countries.

New York, and the nation with it, will have to deal with the paradoxical legacy of absence: the absence of presence and the presence of absence.

New York is in the process of rebuilding from the ashes. A moving memorial has been erected on the actual footprint of the Twin Towers, creating pools of water with the names of all who were killed, whether in the bombing of the building or in the rescue efforts. The one surviving tree, now rehabilitated and renewed, will bear witness, truly a remnant plucked from the fire.

The pool demarcates the void where once there had been massive buildings. New York’s skyline is marked by the absence of presence, and when one visits the site, one is haunted by the presence of absence; the buildings that were once there are absent, but their absence is ever present, at least for those of us who know the site, who remember the skyline, who are haunted by the flames, the ashes and the collapse.

The families of those who were lost during the attack of 9/11, the workers and visitors to the Twin Towers and their would-be rescuers who became its victims are also haunted by the presence of absence. At first, it was the father whose place at the table is suddenly empty, or the wife who no longer ruffles one side of the bed. Over time, one must get used to that absence and move on, but on important occasions,  an orphan’s graduation or the wedding of a child, the birth of a first grandchild, a second or a third, one senses that absence. Its presence is haunting, making even the most wonderful moment bittersweet, every joy incomplete.

New York has decided to build not only a memorial, which stands mute, and to which the visitors can impart meaning, but a museum to tell the story of what happened. It, too, will have to deal with the unformed nature of the legacy of 9/11. It will tell the story of the perpetrators and their victims. It will memorialize the dead by giving them a name, a face, a voice and a story. It will speak of the courage of the rescuers who struggled to save them and paid for their gallant efforts with their lives. It will exhibit the remnants that also remained from the flames. I had the chance to see these haunting and shattering artifacts when they were still in an old Tower Airline Terminal at JFK. It will offer solace by telling the story of a city that was united, a country that was joined together as one, by speaking of rescue, courage and dignity in the face of atrocity. But it will also have to tell the story of the unity that then fractured, the opportunities that were lost, of the sacrifices that went unrequited.

When I first contemplated the loss a decade ago, I wrote:

“The survivors of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Bombings will not be defined by the lives they have led until now, but the lives that they will lead from now on. For the experience of near death to have ultimate meaning, it must take shape in how one rebuilds from the ashes. Such for the individual; so too, for the nation.”

The question remains, how have we rebuilt from the ashes?

9/11, 10 years later

When I was in New York last week, I prowled Ground Zero. I couldn’t actually touch it — the entire site is now a massive construction zone, a concatenation of Shanghais, encircled in chain link, surrounded by uniformed officers of the New York City Police Department.

I crossed Church Street from the subway station to get a better view of the memorial pools, and an officer quickly barked at me to move along. 

A self-styled tour guide, an elderly black man with no indoor voice, had appointed himself the unofficial one-man welcome wagon for the throngs of visitors. He waved souvenirs and shouted at us.

“How many buildings were at Ground Zero?!” he called out. No one answered. “It was two! You need to know how many buildings were at the site of Ground Zero on the day of the attack!”

Perhaps he had been a little unbalanced before, or maybe he was like Scarlett O’Hara’s father, turned batty by the shock of loss.

One of the cops posed with a couple of English tourists.  A friend took their picture, then they switched places for the next set.  The officer handled it all with matter-of-fact hospitality.  “Yes, ma’am.  Yes, sir.”

The “tour guide” and the cop were reminders that 9/11 had turned America both crazy and sober.  We indulged in folly and fantasy, and we have faced hard truths that have required all of our intelligence and resolve.  We both overreacted, and we reacted judiciously.  We were impetuous and impatient, and deliberate and relentless.  Tragedy, they say, doesn’t change you as much as it brings out your essence.  For a country of multitudes, 9/11 unleashed all our best and worst attributes, and reflected our complexity.

One of our worst attributes is our desire for simple answers. Do you remember, starting about 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, how the media started asking: “Why?”

And instead of taking time to investigate the facts and come up with the answer,  the left — generally speaking — presented a ready-made one: “They hate us because of what we’ve done.”  And the right, generally speaking, countered with, “They hate us because of who they are.”

The European and Arab press especially promoted the former view, pointing to all the things America had done to “deserve” the attacks — especially our support for Israel and our various interventions in the Middle East, whether for oil or democracy. The implication was that if we would just knock these things off, the terrorists would lay down their arms, send us a Teleflora bouquet and go home.

From the opposite extreme came the idea that hate and violence are built into Islam.   It seems like every day for the past decade, I’ve been forwarded e-mails “proving” how the Quran demands every Muslim destroy the West. That anti-Islam hysteria reached a fever pitch during the controversy over whether to build an Islamic center several blocks from Ground Zero, when activists and politicians managed to equate religious tolerance with weakness.

Ten years later, it’s worthwhile to look at how those dominant “answers” fared: not well. The pundits of the left and right, with their simple certainties and gullible constituencies, were wrong.

Story continues after the jump

Late last week, I called Brian Michael Jenkins, the Rand Corp. terrorism expert, whose new book, “The Long Shadow of 9/11,” is a collection of heavily researched, thoughtful essays on the attack’s aftermath.  I had heard Jenkins speak just after 9/11, and back then he was one of the unflappable, sober-minded voices cautioning against hysteria and rash action — a voice crying in the wilderness.  How, I wondered, did he think the go-to explanations held up?

“If the U.S. were to suddenly withdraw forces from the Middle East and suspend support for Israel,” Jenkins told me, “al-Qaeda would not put up a banner saying ‘Mission Accomplished’ and quit. They see themselves in endless conflict, until Judgment Day.”

As for the second line of reasoning, Jenkins said al-Qaeda represents not Islam, but, “an interpretation of the religion by a small group of people.”

The real cause of the ongoing terrorism threat — which Jenkins takes pains to point out does not threaten us as individuals in any statistically significant way — is a small tribal warrior subculture with access to modern weapons and technology.

“Al-Qaeda has become an organization for individuals to prove their manhood, do ‘good’ for God and reap the rewards of the hereafter,” Jenkins said. “Discontents and anyone whose soul is running on empty can join al-Qaeda and find resonance.”

That’s right, we are fighting testosterone, nihilism, boredom, opportunism, archaic notions of tribalism — the stuff that gangs around the world are made of.

Why, 10 years later, does it still matter that we all understand the “why” of 9/11?

The “why” matters because we don’t have the luxury of either withstanding numerous attacks, or the ability to engage in many more wrong-headed reactions to attacks.

The consensus of the intelligence community, Jenkins said, is that the Iraq War was one of those blunders, a tragic “huge diversion” of resources that actually “gave al-Qaeda a lift” in the Arab world.

“9/11 cost us $3.8 trillion,” Jenkins said.  “We can’t spend $3.8 trillion in the next decade, so we’re going to have to get smarter about how we do this.”

If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that we can and should get angry, but we should never let ourselves go mad.

Lee Baca: Talk to people — Then arrest the right ones

For many, the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. For Lee Baca, who had been elected Los Angeles County Sheriff three years earlier, his job changed, too.

“It had to change radically,” Baca said.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it was Baca’s job to tamp down tensions between Jews and Muslims locally. What he gained from that experience led him to establish an Interfaith Advisory Council of clerical leaders to foster better communication between faith communities and his department.

Baca also has focused particular attention on engaging with Los Angeles’ Muslim community. In response to the London bombings in 2005, he established the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress in an effort to uncover “homegrown violent extremism.” His department also has a Muslim Community Affairs Unit, staffed by Arabic-speaking Muslim deputies, in support of this effort.

Baca also established a Sheriff’s Department office of Homeland Security — and as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the department is increasing its presence across the Los Angeles public transit system.

“Transit systems are the highest targets,” Baca told The Jewish Journal, “even more than airports.”

But Baca’s job is hardly limited to counterterrorism. The sheriff’s department staffs the county’s jails and has 24 sheriff’s stations across the sprawling county. In July, to the surprise of many, Baca made an unsuccessful bid for his department to take charge of the county’s parolees, which would have added a new area of responsibility for the department.

But it is Baca’s counterterrorism strategy — particularly in establishing meaningful ties with local Muslim leaders and communities — that has brought Los Angeles County’s top cop both national and international renown.

Baca plans to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a speech to the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya. In an interview at sheriff’s headquarters last month, he offered a preview of what he plans to say in Israel.

“You have to engage Muslim support as best as possible,” the 69-year-old sheriff said. The goal, Baca said, is “to have common-sense relations that are based on mutual interests of national security.”

Baca has spoken at the Herzliya conference once before and has been to Israel on multiple occasions. He was in Sderot during the Gaza war in January 2009, where he had to take cover in a bunker during a Qassam rocket attack. The sheriff acknowledged that Israeli law enforcement officials probably understand as well as anyone the importance of engaging local Muslims.

“I knew the prior police chief in Tel Aviv,” Baca said. “All the police chiefs in Tel Aviv have a great rapport with the [mostly Muslim] citizens of Jaffa.” Baca travels widely, and he receives at least as many international visitors as he visits. Among the items in his fourth-floor office at the department’s headquarters in Monterey Park are law enforcement officers’ hats from around the world. One came from a Beijing police chief who visited Los Angeles in 2007 to see how the city handled the Olympics in 1984.

The hats fill up about half of the sheriff’s bookshelf. The other half is filled with the books given to Baca over the years. Baca, who calls himself “a weak Catholic” and “a God-fearing man,” has collected a handful of scriptural books, including two copies of the Torah and four different translations of the Quran.

“The Quran — and this is a big part that needs to be said constantly — the Quran refers to Moses and the Bible and Judaism, and refers to Mary the mother of Jesus,” Baca said. “And to be a true, practicing Muslim, you must honor Judaism and Christianity as well as the prophet Muhammad. All three are part of the teachings of the prophet. Not many people know that.”

In just the last few years, Baca has become a vocal defender of Islam against attacks on the religion and its practitioners — and for this, he has drawn intense criticism from a cadre of anti-Islamic activists and writers.

Baca doesn’t use a computer — “a public official that is a computer junkie is determined to get toppled,” he said — so he presumably hasn’t read the posts by blogger Pamela Geller referring to him as “Hamas-Linked CAIR ‘International’ Sheriff Lee Baca.”

But Baca has heard the criticisms of his engagement with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) directly. Twice in the last two years, Baca has vociferously defended his attendance at CAIR fundraisers on Capitol Hill.

“CAIR is not a terrorist-supporting organization,” Baca said to Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) in his feisty testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security in March 2010. “That is my experience. That is my interaction. And if you want to promote that, you’re on your own.”

When Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) announced his hearings into “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response,” the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, was entitled to call one witness for every three called by King. He invited Baca to the first hearing in March, which was widely covered.

At that hearing, Baca was again asked about his connections with CAIR. “We don’t play around with criminals in my world,” the sheriff said. “If CAIR is an organization that is a criminal organization, bring them to court, charge them.”

The sheriff knows who the anti-Islamic writers are — there are two copies of Robert Spencer’s “Stealth Jihad” on the sheriff’s bookshelf alongside copies of “They Must Be Stopped” by ACT! for America founder Brigitte Gabriel and “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The books were gifts, Baca said, and he hasn’t read them.

“They perpetrate fear by what their messages are,” Baca said. “They’re on the shelf because you should know what people are doing.”

And Baca said he pretty much knows what’s in those books.

Baca paraphrased: “You cannot trust Muslims, no matter who they are. That you must stamp them out because they are determined to take over the world, and they have extreme views.

“And so,” Baca continued, “a vulnerable person will believe those things as though they’re truth — and then they’ll go over the edge, over the top, and they’ll plan a violent, extreme act.”

The sheriff was referring specifically to Anders Behring Breivik, the self-described “anti-jihadist” who admitted to killing 77 people in Norway in July. In his lengthy manifesto, Breivik quoted Geller, Spencer and others who see Islam as an irredeemably malevolent force that must be defeated.

Those writers, Baca said, are offering interpretations of Islam — while simultaneously walling themselves off from Muslims. What Baca does, instead, is to talk to people — all people.

“You have to be with people to know who they are,” Baca said. “You can’t be distancing yourself and using interpreters. And I see those books as interpretation books, as opposed to books based on relational knowledge.”

In his pursuit of that kind of knowledge, Baca has traveled to mosques around the county as well as to Muslim countries around the world.

“I know what the Muslim society is essentially challenged by — and it’s not by their religion,” Baca said. “It’s by the common political realities that all governments are challenged by: feeding their people, jobs, health, education — that’s what most of the focus is in all societies.”

Which isn’t to say that Baca has all the answers when it comes to the challenging law enforcement situation facing those societies — especially now that the events of the Arab spring have upended a number of longstanding, powerful leaders.

In October 2010, just a few months before Egyptian protesters filled Tahrir Square, Baca visited the country’s chief of police,who is now being tried for ordering attacks on anti-government protesters, but before the 2011 protests, he was, Baca said, “very instrumental in calming the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sinai region in the early 1990s.”

Baca said he understood the need for “accountability for police activities that are violent,” but at the same time he believes that the methods employed in fighting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sinai might be worth emulating.

“They did not do random sweeps of suspects,” Baca said. “They took the patient approach and were building the trust of the public in order to acquire a rapport that would be valuable for the future.”

“The people got fed up with the murderous ways of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Baca said — which is when the police acted.

“The police were arresting suspects that were precisely the right suspects,” Baca said. “And that’s what you have to do. If you arrest the wrong people and charge them with crimes they didn’t commit, it’s not a good counterterrorism strategy. You have to get the right suspects.”

Afghanistan’s turning point

It was a decade ago that a number of terrorists conducted the most horrifying attack on the United States. They hit two big planes into the World Trade Center, targeted the Pentagon with a third, and, in a failed attempt, crashed a fourth in Pennsylvania, all together killing thousands of innocent people.

Although the tragedy shocked Americans in the United States in the extreme, it also proved to be a historical turning point thousands of miles away for another nation — the people of Afghanistan — in the heart of Asia.

Afghans who had long ago been taken hostage, choked like a rabbit fed to a snake, crippled, frozen and unable to react, needed a miracle.

And the miracle had happened.

The news of attacks on America spread all over our country through a few international radio stations, such as the BBC, and Voice of America, the morning after Sept. 11, 2001.

I remember how reactions to the terrifying attacks in New York were mixed among Afghans, ranging from congratulations and happiness to pity for the U.S. people and fear of retaliation.

The fear of reprisal heightened when the news came out that America would bomb Afghanistan into the stone age. People were horrified.

And when the bombing started, the people, already worn to shreds by wars and miseries, were shocked.

“Not again, not another invasion, not another war that will bring more deaths and destruction,” almost every man said to another on the streets of Kabul.

The ruling Taliban regime repeatedly called on people through their only radio station, telling them to be ready for a holy war. People were ordered to turn off all their lights at night. 

It seemed that the U.S. military knew very little about the kind of enemy they were facing on the ground, when they started with B-52 bombers and would drop bombs on some Taliban targets on the outskirt of Kabul from an altitude of thousands of miles.

Even most Afghans knew very little about the inner circle of the Taliban leadership, which rose out of religious schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1994,  seized the capital of Kabul two years later, and then ruled the country until they were ousted by a U.S. invasion in 2001.

No one had seen the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, or his guest Osama bin Laden. 

As the bombing continued for days, many people watched anxiously from their rooftops as the U.S. planes attacked Taliban targets on the outskirts of Kabul. They knew the Taliban were tough, too.

Anti-aircraft gunshots would light the dark skies of Kabul at night and looked like fireworks. People had no idea what would happen next; were those who were bombing their towns and villages doing so to free Afghans from Taliban? Or were they invaders who needed to be fought off again?

One nice, sunny morning, I woke up early as usual and went outside, wanting to see the columns of smoke around Kabul airport as a result of overnight U.S. bombing. On this day, though, the city looked strange; it looked unusually quiet to me.

I was ready to head off to work when I saw a friend riding on a bicycle. He was in a hurry. I stopped him and asked where he was going. He said the Taliban were gone, and he was going to Shahre-Naw Park,  in the center of Kabul, to see the last few Arabs and Pakistanis who were still resisting.

“Really? Are you sure?”  I was shocked. I told him it could be dangerous for us if the news was not true and they were still there. After he insisted, I hopped onto his bike, and we together rode to the center of Kabul.

I was amazed:  My friend was right — the Taliban were gone. Along our way, the Taliban checkpoints were abandoned; the Taliban had disappeared overnight. Only a couple of them remained, surrounded by people in the central park. After a while, one was killed by a guard, and the other blew himself up before anybody could reach him. That was the first time I’d seen a suicide bomber; later, I got to see hundreds.

On the streets of Kabul people were both happy and cautious.  For almost a week, people could not believe the news that the Taliban were gone and that they were free. Many didn’t really remember what the word “freedom” means.

It was a new beginning. Life after the Taliban was moving fast; millions of refugees returned home. People would call the international community’s involvement a “golden opportunity” for Afghanistan.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, elections for president and parliament, a new currency, a sudden boom in the economy, cell phones and Internet. Everything seemed to be moving on the right track.

Girls started going to school; it looked like flowers slowly blooming in spring.

Every good thing must come to an end.

It was unfortunate that Afghanistan was introduced to the world through 9/11, but now, after almost 10 years, during which the country has dominated the news headlines,  whenever media mentions this country, it is either about Taliban and terrorism or burqas and beards. To the world, Afghanistan looks like an “untamable” nation.

On the other hand, Afghans don’t know a lot about America and the world beyond the news headlines and the foreign military they see on the streets every day, either. 

It’s been a decade now, and yet the two nations never tried to truly understand each other better. And this ignorance gave the Taliban a chance to come back.

Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, Afghanistan is still besieged by terrorism in the form of suicide attacks, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, home invasions, kidnappings and outright attacks on public establishments. This is causing a lot of jittery nerves and sleepless nights for our people.

While successful measures have been put in place against terrorists within the United States and other countries, thus preventing another 9/11, the fire is still kept burning in Afghanistan.

And why still in Afghanistan? It is a question that every Afghan asks. Al-Qaeda lost its base in Afghanistan when the Taliban regime that gave them sanctuary was ousted from power. Al-Qaeda’s leader was found and killed in Pakistan. Many other smaller terrorist attacks in the world have been linked to terrorist groups that emerge from the ruins of older ones in other countries.

What we need in Afghanistan is not constant military campaigns that result in tremendous mayhem and loss of life. We need campaigns to win the hearts and the minds of the people. The campaign that talks to the would-be suicide bomber and tries to dissuade him.

Instead of bombing the towns and villages, the real war must aim at capturing the hearts and the minds of people and the combatants’ supply and support network. When properly delivered, words can be more lethal than bullets.

No one has successfully addressed the would-be suicide bomber or the terrorist. No one has told him that though he might have good intentions, this isn’t the way to salvation. No one has even mentioned to him suicide isn’t sacrifice, it is haram (forbidden) and that the killing of innocent people takes the murderer to places he doesn’t want to be in. We haven’t pointed out to him that those who love God show their love by serving his creation, mankind, not by killing.

Mass media and advertisement can be the most powerful tools of persuasion invented by man, to reach out the people.  Money is the other one.

Unfortunately, much of the billions of dollars that gets poured into Afghanistan simply ends up in the wrong hands. It doesn’t reach the people. And that is why people who make up the Taliban army are those who never get an education, they have no job, no house,  nothing to lose.

A decade after 9/11, as many countries continue to find ways to make themselves less vulnerable to terrorism, it only makes them more vulnerable if the grievances are not addressed properly.

The Afghan writer of this essay is using a pseudonym for security reasons.

One woman’s political awakening

Sept. 11 is partly responsible for my choice of career. In 2001, I was an architecture student, even if a disillusioned one, completely uninterested in politics and affairs of the world.

9/11 changed that.

Sept. 11, 2001, was just another lazy evening for me in Lahore. I had my cup of tea and was chatting about something totally mundane with a family friend. That is when my aunt — who got a call from her daughter in New York — told us, “Turn on CNN. A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”

That “crash” turned out to be much more than an accidental collision. I think I realized that along with the rest of the world — when the second plane hit the South Tower.

I did not move from in front of the TV all night.

Back then, Pakistan did not have the voracious private media that it does now. I was among the lucky ones who had satellite TV at home, and so we relied on CNN, with the occasional flip to the BBC, for information.

I refused to believe CNN when they said the towers would collapse. But they did. For some bizarre reason, I remember the shade of lipstick worn by a woman who had just run to safety. Maybe it is not that strange: In all the ugliness, that lipstick shade was the only beautiful thing.

From what I remember, the first reaction among my circle of friends and family was very similar to that of the rest of the world. I remember we were stunned by what happened. We cried when we heard the phone calls people had placed to their families when they knew they were about to die. We gasped with horror when we saw people choosing to jump to their deaths.

Why would they choose to do that? Maybe it was a less painful death. Perhaps it was that in those minutes of absolute chaos and helplessness, making that decision gave them a sense of still being in control of their life. Or maybe for some it was a way of defying the terrorists:  “You don’t decide how we go. We do.” Someone might have jumped believing, or hoping, for a miracle.

I think the whole world stood together in experiencing the initial shock and disbelief. Wanting to make sense of what had happened, how and why was also a shared experience. It was when we got to the actual “making sense” that the narratives became different. And from that moment on, it was, “Either you are with us or against us.”

I don’t remember anyone in Pakistan celebrating the attacks. There was the occasional, “It was bound to happen sometime because of the U.S. policies.” There were conspiracy theories, like, “The United States carried out the attacks itself,” or, “All the Jews who worked in the towers had taken the day off,” but that came a few days later. Then we heard that President Bush was ready to invade Iraq. That fueled the theory that 9/11 had been staged, that not only was the invasion of Iraq personal, but also it was driven by America’s wish to secure control over oil.

When Gen. Pervez Musharraf decided to take a U-turn on our years-old policy toward the Taliban, we became involved in America’s war. But 10 years later, with the highest number of civilian and military casualties and daily terrorist attacks, it has become our war. To me, anyone who doesn’t see that lives in denial.

During the time that I have been in the United States, I have been asked who’s wrong and who’s right. I wish there were a simple answer, but there isn’t. Neither country bears the entire blame. Both of us have been guilty of playing hide-and-seek.

“Do you think we are so naïve as to believe that you did not know where Osama bin Laden was?” I didn’t say that. My government did. I don’t expect you to believe that, because I don’t either. Someone had to know. I’ve also been asked, “What can we do to improve the perception of Americans?” Better P.R. Own up to the good that you do. And avoid any more episodes like that of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, I suppose.

But the Pakistani government also needs to share that burden. It needs to be upfront with its people and stop denying that the United States does not have its blessings for carrying out drone strikes. We also need to give the U.S. credit where it’s due for various civilian projects.

Any solution that is reached for the region — whether it’s a deal with the Taliban or something else — needs to take into consideration both Afghanistan and Pakistan, too, and not just America’s self-interest. Pakistan, for its part, needs to realize that if and when America leaves the region, it needs to work together with Afghanistan.

Ignoring the intricacies and reducing the complexities to a black-and-white approach is the worst mistake that either of us can make, and yet it is the most common one that both of us do make.

I was in the United States when Osama bin Laden was killed. I saw the people celebrating outside the White House and in Times Square, but I also met and spoke with people who thought that there was nothing to “celebrate.” I know that many who were celebrating were not rejoicing in his death, but in the sense of justice and closure. There were others who believed that he should have been captured and tried, not killed. Which images and opinion do you think made it into the Pakistani media?

But then again, after bin Laden was killed, people in Pakistan weren’t exactly heartbroken. Yes, they were upset about the violation of their airspace and, hence, sovereignty. But what did the U.S. media decide to focus on? One crazy group, the leader of which broke down while offering bin Laden’s funeral prayers in absentia. I have heard as many Americans as Pakistanis question whether bin Laden was really killed this summer, and as many Pakistanis as Americans wanting to see photos as proof.

Regardless of what we might have been led to believe, we aren’t that different, you and I. Because of what happened 10 years ago, your country will never be the same. Neither will mine. Your life changed. So did mine.

We have a choice now: We can take the easy way out. Believe that we are right and the other is wrong. “We” being defined by ourselves as good, and the other personifying evil. Or we can refuse to believe that and challenge it, through dialogue and trying to reach out. If you do not know any other Pakistanis, reach out to me. E-mail me and I will try to answer your questions.

One of my favorite quotes is from Michelle Obama, who said that all of us have a responsibility to strive for a world the way it should be. I think I owe it to myself, my country, you and the memory of Daniel Pearl — the man because of whom I was given this opportunity. Do you?

Aatekah A. Mir-Khan is a Daniel Pearl Fellow from Pakistan who worked with The Wall Street Journal in New York for five months. Back home she works for an English-language newspaper and can be contacted at {encode=”aatekahm@gmail.com” title=”aatekahm@gmail.com”}.

10 years after 9/11, what has changed?

Even before the 110-story cloud of smoke cleared 10 years ago, America, and American Jews, grappled with a new desire to seek out the enemy — on the one hand to thwart him, and on the other to find out who he is, why he hates us so much and what we can do about it.

That desire has shaped a dichotomous response over the last decade — one of war, pumped-up security and more limited freedoms on the one hand, and of dialogue and a desire to open oneself up to help repair the world on the other.

Both the American government and watchdog institutions, particularly Jewish ones, increased their vigilance of Muslim extremism, and at the same time Jews challenged themselves to reach out to Muslims and to build personal and political relationships.

Often, the divergent goals of vigilance and building bridges played out within the same organization.

“Engaging people with hearts wide open, but also with eyes and ears wide open, was one of the main lessons for us and a key component for moving forward from 9/11,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

After 9/11, the Wiesenthal Center continued its vigilance of

anti-Semitism both among white supremacist and Muslim radicals, but it also created a new position, director of interfaith affairs, and founded a Web site called “Ask Musa,” which teaches basic Judaism to Muslims. The center forged relationships with Pakistani diplomats, and after the al-Qaeda bombing in Bali in 2002, it hosted a multifaith conference against terrorism there, with the Indonesian president as a featured speaker. It also held a multifaith solidarity remembrance in Mumbai to commemorate the 2008 attacks there.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a similar two-pronged approach.

After 9/11, ADL created a center on extremism that monitors Muslim radicals. At the same time, it puts out curricula and runs programs on tolerance, including a special curriculum in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. ADL has also worked closely with Muslim leadership to combat anti-Muslim bigotry and to monitor instances where local communities object to mosques being built.

Amanda Susskind, director of the Pacific Southwest Region, said this dual approach is what attracted her to the ADL, after 9/11 prompted her to leave practicing law and enter public service. She believes monitoring hatred while building bridges and tolerance is not contradictory.

“The Muslim community groups and leaders that we work with and that we support in their fight against bigotry also speak out against Muslim extremism. These are not overlapping groups,” Susskind said.

The ADL also works closely with law enforcement, offering training and serving as a resource for information on hate crime trends. Locally, the ADL created a regular meeting between national, state and local law enforcement so they can share information with each other and get information from ADL on hate crimes.

While ADL held occasional security briefings for Jewish organizations before 9/11, in the last decade the annual pre-High Holy Days security briefing has become a must-attend event among synagogue leadership.

Certainly, security is one of the most visible changes 9/11 brought to the Jewish community.

Jewish institutions had some security before 9/11 — and most reassessed after the North Valley JCC shooting in 1999 — but the new, very real threat of al-Qaeda pushed all institutions to new levels.

After 9/11, Sinai Temple in Westwood revamped its security on the 377,000-square-foot facility that serves 1,950 member families and nearly 1,000 kids in its day school, religious school and preschool.

The temple has armed guards and 90 security cameras, and only one entrance to the building, according to executive director Howard Lesner. People entering the facility during the week have to have an appointment or someone to vouch for them. On Shabbat, everyone is wanded, and all bags are examined.

Security accounts for 5 percent of the budget, and each member and student is assessed to help cover it.

Often, security concerns run counter to the Jewish impulse of creating a welcoming atmosphere. Lesner said security has been woven into the general operations — most of the guards have been in the building for years and are familiar faces, who wish guests Shabbat Shalom or Shanah Tovah.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about 9/11 persist

Osama bin Laden is dead. A new skyscraper is rising at the site of the old World Trade Center. U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten years later, the physical legacies of 9/11 attacks are fading into history. Yet the conspiracy theories about who “really” was behind the attacks seem to be growing.

Like a drug-resistant virus, these fantasies have persisted — despite efforts to combat them — by mutating over time, taking new forms and finding new modes of transmission. Jews and Israel often are their targets, and they evoke centuries-old myths about Jewish power, allegiances and manipulation of social institutions.

The conspiracy theories began almost as soon as the towers fell. Four days after the attack, the Syrian newspaper Al-Thawra reported that 4,000 Jews failed to show up for work at the World Trade Center on 9/11 after being warned by Israeli intelligence, according to a 2007 U.S. State Department document debunking the myth. Another held that five Israeli students were secret Mossad agents who knew about the attacks and allowed them to happen. That myth eventually morphed into the conspiracy theory that the Israelis directed the attacks remotely.

Other myths have followed, spreading around the world and taking root even in the United States. Of 36,000 conspiracy videos recently found on the Internet, 16,000 implicated Jews or Israelis, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) titled “Decade of Deceit: Anti-Semitic 9/11 Conspiracy Theories 10 Years Later.”

“What we’ve seen in the last 10 years is the proliferation of a real propaganda industry surrounding Sept. 11,” said Deborah Lauter, director of the ADL’s civil rights division. “Prominent among those theories are those making anti-Semitism front and center.”

The theories have amounted to more than just pernicious talk.

On June 10, 2009, one alleged 9/11 conspiracy theorist opened fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, killing a security guard. The perpetrator, James von Brunn, then 88, died before the case could come to trial.

Experts say 9/11 myths that blame the Jews are spreading freely from neo-Nazis and other white supremacists into new areas whose acolytes are not necessarily anti-Semitic but are unknowingly adopting the tropes of classical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories: anti-government radicals, young anti-war activists, New Age ideologues, and propagandists and journalists in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

“What’s changed is the proliferation of coded rhetoric to refer to Jews internationally and in the U.S,” said Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a liberal think tank based in Somerville, Mass. “They’re unprepared to recognize it even when they see it.”

Michael Barkun, a professor of political science at Syracuse University who has studied extremists and their ideologies, said, “They aren’t people who are terribly different from the population at large,” except that “they are more likely to be attracted to conspiracy theories.”

Alan Sabrosky, a columnist for Veterans Today, an anti-Semitic Web site, is one of the most widely cited sources for anti-Semitic 9/11 myths, according to the ADL. Sabrosky has declared his mission to “contain” Israel’s ambition by exposing Israel’s alleged role in 9/11 and maintains that Washington and New York are the centers of “Zionist power.”

Citations of Sabrosky’s work pop up not just on extreme-right Web sites but also on pro-Palestinian Web sites such as Mondoweiss, Arab media sites and the Internet newsletter Dissent Voice, which describes itself as “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.”

“This is a strange world where the right and the left mix, with anti-Semitism shot through,” said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report. “On the left, it is shot through with anti-Zionism; on the right, the fear of the international Jew.”

A 2008 poll of 17 representative nations by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland found that only nine of the countries surveyed had majorities who believed al-Qaeda orchestrated the attacks. Most of those who believed otherwise did not implicate Israel, however. Instead, they said they did not know who was behind the attacks or blamed the United States. In Russia, Israel-related conspiracy theories were at 2 percent of those polled. In

Kenya, 3 percent believed in Israel-related myths. In Indonesia, the number was 5 percent.

In the Middle East, however, the numbers were much different. In Egypt, 43 percent of respondents blamed Israel for 9/11. In Jordan, 31 percent blamed Israel. In the West Bank and Gaza, the numbers were slightly lower. In Turkey, however, only 3 percent believed Israel was behind the attacks.

Conservative columnist Daniel Pipes, who has written two books on conspiracy theories, says such theories about Jews are a fringe element in the West, but are par for the course in the Middle East, where he said “they are spread by the mainstream media, leading intellectuals and politicians.” Pipes considers 9/11 conspiracy theories a relatively benign false belief akin to theories about the Kennedy assassination — widespread, but not leading to damaging consequences.

The impact of the many 9/11 conspiracy theories is still not entirely clear.

“We’re in a period where the boundaries between the mainstream and the fringe have become quite blurred,” Barkun said. “Once they were more distinct. Once most people were not exposed to them, or if they were, it was to have them debunked. Now they move quite readily into the mainstream.”

Barkun added, “This shift in which these ideas have entered the mainstream is so recent that I don’t think we are in a position to know what the social effects are.”

Berlet said he worries that 9/11 conspiracy theories are fueling the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric in major public forums.

“It is horrifying. It creates a hunt for an enemy and undermines the very concept of democratic society,” he said. “You would think that decent people would stand up and say enough. It’s spreading, and our leaders lack the backbone to confront it.”

Ten years later, terrorists still using immigration loopholes

Terrorism and U.S. immigration policies are closely linked. We have made some progress since terrorists killed 3,000 innocent people in New York and Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, but clearly not enough.

All 19 of the 9/11 hijackers entered the country with valid visas. All had backgrounds that should have excluded them from getting visas. Yet 10 years later, the United States still does not conduct extensive screening in many countries with terrorist activities. The United States also still gives random visas through a lottery system rife with fraud.

Congress needs to change these policies. Terrorists have taken advantage of our lax immigration system several times since 9/11.

Currently, the United States only operates the Visa Security Program in 19 high-risk consular posts. The Secure Visas Act, of which I am an original cosponsor, would expand the Visa Security Program to provide more extensive screening in high-risk countries.

According to the Government Accountability Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not implemented its five-year expansion plan or even covered all high-risk posts. The Secure Visas Act would require Visa Security Units to be maintained at the 19 consular posts that already have them and expand these units to the posts that ICE has designated as “highest-risk.”

Some of these “highest-risk” countries include Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon, and Algeria. VSUs are critical for national security: At VSU-staffed consular posts, 100 percent of applicants receive additional screening; at non-VSU posts, fewer than 2 percent of the applicants get extra screening.

The Secure Visas Act also would make it easier to revoke a visa.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 and kill over 200 innocent people on December 25, 2009, refocused attention on the responsibilities of the Departments of State and Homeland Security with respect to visa revocation.

Abdulmutallab was traveling on a valid visa issued to him in June 2008. The State Department acknowledged that his father came into the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, on November 19, 2009, and told State Department and CIA officials that his son had vanished and expressed concern that he had “fallen under the influence of religious extremists in Yemen.” According to news reports, the father’s visit with the U.S. authorities was arranged by Nigerian intelligence officials, who his father had contacted after receiving a call from his son that made him fear that his son might be planning a suicide mission in Yemen.

Despite the father’s visit and the warning he conveyed, the State Department made no effort to revoke the visa.

The case of Abdulmutallab demonstrates that clearly, we need a way to quickly revoke a visa.

I am also an original cosponsor of the SAFE for America Act, which would eliminate the visa lottery program, under which 50,000 individuals a year are chosen completely at random to receive immigrant visas.

The visa lottery, first implemented in Fiscal Year 1995, has long been a subject of concern for those of us who believe it important to have a credible immigration system. The program is riddled with fraud. The State Department’s Inspector General said so in 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Government Accountability Office said so in 2007. During a congressional hearing I chaired in April, we learned that it continues today.

Fraud is a concern because terrorists have already used the visa lottery as a means of entering this country. In fact, the Egyptian terrorist who murdered two Americans at LAX in 2002 was a diversity visa recipient after his wife was selected for the lottery.

In addition, a Pakistani national who received a diversity visa when his parents were selected for the lottery, pleaded guilty in 2002 to conspiring to wage jihad by plotting to destroy electrical power stations, the Israeli consulate, and other South Florida targets. He had reportedly told his friends that he wanted to wage war against the United States.

U.S. immigration policy should be based on something more than just luck of the draw.

We will never forget Sept. 11, 2001, or the people who perished in that wanton act of terrorism. We need to strengthen our immigration procedures so it makes it harder for terrorists to attack us again on American soil.

Rep. Elton Gallegly represents Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in Congress and is chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement and Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dept. of Remembrance: Watching over the 9/11 dead with shmira

It was an ominous hum.

A dozen refrigerated trucks loaded with the body parts of victims of the 9/11 attacks filled a cavernous tent across the street from the Office of the City Medical Examiner, their low-pitched buzz an eerie soundtrack to the solemn work being carried out at the morgue about 3 miles north of Ground Zero.

While rescue workers downtown searched through the wreckage of the World Trade Center for human remains, forensic experts at the medical examiner’s office carefully analyzed and catalogued their finds, preserving every piece of flesh and bone in an effort to identify them and eventually return them to victims’ families.

Occasionally an ambulance would pull up to the cordoned-off street and the bustle would come to a halt while rescue workers unloaded a flag-draped box filled with newly discovered remains.

For more than seven months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this somber place in downtown New York filled with firefighters, police officers, construction workers and clergymen had another fixture: Jewish volunteers who came one by one to take part in a round-the-clock prayer vigil at the morgue, where they spent four-hour shifts reciting Psalms.

The vigil was part of the Jewish ritual of shmira, escorting the dead from the time of passing until burial—a period that normally lasts no longer than 24 to 48 hours. In the case of the victims of the Trade Center attacks, a quick burial clearly was not possible, so the prolonged shmira watch was born. It ran without pause 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from Sept. 20, 2001 until April 30, 2002.

The body parts in the trucks weren’t exclusively those of Jews, but because Jewish remains were assumed to be among them, shmira was necessary.

Volunteers mostly spent their time sitting in a trailer filled with a few stray prayerbooks, lukewarm coffee and folding chairs for relief workers who cycled in and out during brief breaks from 12- and 16-hour shifts at Ground Zero. Some recited Psalms for the dead inside the tent with the refrigerated remains, taking the admonition to escort the dead to the grave as literally as possible.

The tent was filled with the smell of antiseptic and death. Each of the plain white trucks was draped with an American flag. Bouquets of plastic red, white and blue flowers would be added later to the foot of each truck, alongside photographs of some of the victims and a few votive candles. A huge American flag hung from the tent’s roof.

Outside, two expansive plywood walls had been turned into a makeshift memorial. They were covered with appreciative messages and weather-stained photographs of victims and their families sent in from all over America.

One rain-soaked night in the relief trailer where the Psalters were kept, a man wearing scrubs struggled to choke back tears.

“Look at what they’ve done to our people,” he said, his voice shaking. “I know you’re men of faith, but I want vengeance.”

Even in the pouring rain at 4 in the morning, the site where the dead where kept bustled with activity. Police officers and state troopers stood guard while police, firefighters, FBI agents and other officials made their way in and out of the cordoned-off area. Volunteers coming for the shmira watch would pick up clergy tags from the previous volunteer before entering.

Armin Osgood, a soft-spoken, portly, bearded man from an Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Ohab Zedek, coordinated the shmira watch, and many of the volunteers came from his congregation.

But on Shabbat, when the volunteers—who came from as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania—couldn’t take trains or taxis to reach the site, students from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, which was within walking distance of the morgue at 30th Street and First Avenue, managed the vigil. Their effort was written up in The New York Times.

The Rev. Betsee Parker, an Episcopalian chaplain who was a constant presence at the morgue site, later wrote about the shmira watch in a chapter in the book “Holy Tears: Weeping in the Religious Imagination.” The chapter was titled “‘Send Thou Me’: God’s Weeping and the Sanctification of Ground Zero.”

A year to the day after the Hebrew anniversary of the attacks—on the victims’ first yahrzeit—many of the people who had participated in the shmira gathered again at the morgue. This time they came together for the first night of recitation of Selichot, the annual Jewish ritual of reciting special late-night penitential prayers in the days leading up to the High Holidays. The night had happened to fall on 9/11’s first Hebrew anniversary.

“It was one of the most meaningful Selichot services I’ve ever attended,” Osgood said after the service. “I was never so moved by just being there. I had been in that tented area before, where the trucks were parked. Even with the refrigeration and whatever attempts they’ve made to preserve the bodies, there’s an aroma there. I felt the presence of the neshamas there”—the departed souls. “I felt everything.”

After the service, the participants lingered to recite the entire Book of Psalms, divvying up the chapters so the entire book could be read in just a few minutes.

Parker, who is known as Rev. Betsee, had come for the Orthodox service, and she too read some of the Tehillim, or Psalms.

“If God could accept the recitations in poor Hebrew of a goy, we managed to get through the whole book of Tehillim with one rusty goy,” she said. “It was a very elegant mitzvah for God. I knew that Adonai was delighted with what we had done there. I could feel that in my soul.”

Another shmira veteran who had come for the Selichot service, Ely Razin, spoke in a hushed tone after the service was over.

“It’s funny,” Razin said. “People forget about what happened, and then you come down here and it’s like a different world. It’s like it just happened yesterday.”

Solving a grim Jewish quandary after the attacks: Avoiding agunah problems for 9/11 widows

When unthinkable disaster struck a decade ago and close to 3,000 people were murdered at the World Trade Center, the scale of destruction created a unique challenge for victims’ families: identification of the dead.

With only fragmented human remains and degraded DNA left in the wake of 9/11, that task became, in the words of the National Institute of Justice, “the greatest forensic challenge ever undertaken in this country.”

For the families of Jewish victims, this problem was particularly thorny. According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry unless she has definitive proof of her husband’s death, lest she inadvertently enter into an adulterous relationship. Jewish law dictates that death can be proven in three ways: physical evidence, eyewitness testimony of the death and certain confirmation that the person had been in a situation in which survival was essentially impossible.

Absent such proof, this would leave Jewish wives of those killed at the World Trade Center in the position of classic agunot – “chained” women, left in a legal marriage with one who most likely was dead.

For decades, such cases had been few and far between.  In centuries past, however, this Jewish law was a reference point for the wives of sailors who had disappeared, soldiers who had failed to return home from battle and traveling merchants who had vanished along the way.

The consequences of being unable to identify the dead do not represent a uniquely Jewish problem.  Declaring individuals dead simply because they are likely to be dead can cause terrible complications.  For example, during World War II, President Jimmy Carter’s uncle, Tom Gordy, was declared dead by U.S. officials after being taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, and his wife remarried during the war. But when the war ended, Gordy returned home as a liberated POW to discover, tragically, that his wife was married to another. Under Jewish law, Gordy would most likely not have been declared dead, and his wife would not have remarried.  The disappearance of a person and the passage of time alone are not generally deemed enough, under Jewish law, to declare the person dead.

However, the circumstances of someone’s disappearance, in some situations, can support a presumption of death. Two illustrations commonly discussed in Jewish literature are the man who falls into a deep furnace and the man who drowns in a body of water that has visible boundaries, such as a lake or a pond. Of the first scenario, Jewish sages wrote that a man who is seen falling into a deep furnace may be presumed dead because he had no means of escape and is sure to have perished. Of the second, they wrote that a man who is seen drowning in a body of water with visible boundaries may be presumed to be dead because he surely would have been seen or found on shore had he survived.

It was this line of reasoning that allowed the Beth Din of America, a rabbinical court involved in many aspects of commercial and family law in the United States, to pronounce many 9/11 victims dead in the absence of conclusive physical evidence.

When the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York concluded its investigation, more than 1,100 victims of 9/11 remained unidentified. Even with respect to the nearly 1,600 victims who were identified, the identifications could not automatically be presumed to meet the standards set by Jewish law.

In its quest to confirm the fate of the victims, the Beth Din had to determine whether and which modern methods of identification would comply with Jewish evidentiary standards. What would satisfy the physical evidence requirement—DNA evidence? What about dental records?  What about the recognition of clothes or limbs?  The Beth Din also posed an additional question: In the event a determination required reliance upon eyewitness testimony, what person could provide such testimony?

In searching for answers, we studied the literature of prior tragedies, finding Jewish legal discussions of husbands who disappeared in the sinking of the Titanic, in the collapse of bridges in Rome, in avalanches in the Alps, in artillery bombardments in World War I, and in the sinking of the Israeli submarine Dakar. We also looked at the cases of Israeli soldiers who had disappeared during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and, of course, at agunah cases related to the Holocaust.

After 9/11, in some cases, the only evidence for placing someone in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack was circumstantial—phone calls made or emails sent from within an office, swipe cards indicating entry but no exit, and so on.  In certain cases, investigators identified remains through the modern technology of DNA analysis.

After a rigorous analysis of Jewish legal precedents, the Beth Din determined that DNA evidence could be marshaled for identification purposes, certainly when coupled with other circumstantial evidence of an individual’s death. In the few cases where investigators had found no direct physical evidence, the Beth Din relied on the third standard of proof: placing a husband, with certainty, in a situation in which no one could realistically be expected to survive.

More than 90 percent of the casualties of 9/11 were located at or above the point where the planes hit the towers, particularly in the North Tower. With no escape and facing almost certain death, those people were akin to the man who falls into a furnace.  Often, phone calls or emails were enough to place the missing person in his office at a certain time, after which escape would have been impossible. Together with other evidence, the Beth Din could rely on time stamps and statistics in order to pronounce the missing person dead.

For such a pronouncement to be made, it was not automatically sufficient to know that a person worked at the World Trade Center or attended a meeting there if no additional evidence proved he was there on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Why withhold judgment under circumstances in which an individual’s disappearance so clearly indicates death?  One unfortunate reason is because some people use tragedy as an opportunity for fraud and manipulation, or perhaps as a way to make a fresh start. The chaos of 9/11 opened the floodgates to a number of fraudulent insurance claims and other crimes.  Another sad reality is that sometimes, in the throes of despair, mistakes are made.  In the decades after the Holocaust, people long thought to be dead were discovered to be alive and well and raising new families in other parts of the world, in cases similar to the story of President Carter’s uncle.

With time, the Beth Din of America found sufficient evidence to make a declaration of death in each of the cases before it. In making those determinations, the Beth Din released each agunah according to the principles of Jewish law and enabled the victims’ loved ones to mourn for those lost and to begin to rebuild their shattered lives.  Ultimately, the halachic process provided a time-honored framework for honoring the dignity of those who had died, while creating a sense of direction for the spouses who had loved them.

(Michael J. Broyde is a professor of law at Emory University. Yona Reiss is the dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. Both are members of the Beth Din of America. This piece was adapted from their contributions to “Contending with Catastrophe: Jewish Perspectives on September 11th,” released in August by the Beth Din of America Press and K’hal Publishing.)

For Daniel Agami, 9/11 attack was a call to service—and to tragic destiny

Daniel Agami was working as a disc jockey in South Florida when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 changed the trajectory of his life.

Suddenly it didn’t feel like performing at events and parties for well-known entertainers was all Agami, then 22, could be doing with his talents. For nearly a year, Agami wrestled with his emotions over the attacks, often talking to his parents and siblings about his anger.

After about a year he enlisted in the U.S. Army, knowing full well he’d be sent to Iraq. It would not be Agami’s first time in the Middle East: As the son of an Israeli army veteran and part of a strongly identified Jewish family, Agami grew up going to Israel every year. But this would be his first time putting on a uniform.

The fateful decision to enlist eventually would earn Agami a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and an Army commendation medal. It also would also exact the ultimate price: On June 21, 2007, an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad, killing Agami and four other soldiers.

Service ran in Agami’s blood. His grandfather, Leonard Becker, had served in the Korean War. His father, Itzhak, had fought in the Israeli army. So when he told his family that he had signed up to serve, they weren’t surprised.

“I believe had a calling,” said his mother, Beth Agami.

Even as a teenager, Agami’s brother said, Daniel would sport dog tags and wear military-style gear.

“He chose to join the Army to become more accomplished,” Ilan Agami told JTA. “He wanted to prove himself.”

Agami wasn’t known for taking things lightly. Growing up in Broward County, Fla., Judaism played “an extreme role in Daniel’s life,” his mother said. Agami attended a Jewish day school, kept kosher and as an adult regularly went to Shabbat services with his family at the local Chabad.

After 9/11, Agami said the Army would give him a chance to do something good for his country, and he was excited about the challenges ahead, his family members said. It was all he would talk about in the months leading up to his deployment.

Agami’s first stop was Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training. Maintaining his religious identity in the Army wasn’t easy, particularly in boot camp. The meals were not kosher, and Agami was confronted once by his sergeant for not eating. When he explained his dietary restrictions, the commander went to prepare a plate of fruit and vegetables for him to eat, his mother recalled.

Agami encountered his first derogatory remark about Judaism in Schweinfurt, Germany, where he stopped en route to Iraq. Agami didn’t take it sitting down, in the process earning the respect of fellow soldiers, his mother said. They often came to him with questions about his kosher diet; for many, Agami was the only Jew they knew.

“Daniel stood up to people for our religion,” his brother told JTA.

In Iraq, Agami’s infantry unit saw frequent combat.

“I go on daily or nightly missions raiding Iraqi homes to find weapons and bombs,” Agami told a Newsweek interviewer in 2007. “I lost six of my closest friends.”

When an insurgent threatened to blow up his tank, Agami jumped off the turret, cornered the insurgent and, armed with just a pistol and wearing night vision goggles, killed him. The action would earn Agami a Bronze Star, the army’s fourth-highest combat award, given for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service.

Some time after Agami was killed, his mother received a phone call from a non-Jewish chaplain who said that her son had expressed an interest in becoming a religious leader in the military. He had wanted to dedicate himself to America by combining his patriotism and faith, she said.

“This was something he would be amazing at had he had the opportunity,” Beth Agami said. “He re-enlisted for four more years and planned on making the military his career.”

Solving a grim Jewish quandary after the attacks: Avoiding agunah problems for 9/11 widows

When unthinkable disaster struck a decade ago and close to 3,000 people were murdered at the World Trade Center, the scale of destruction created a unique challenge for victims’ families: identification of the dead.

With only fragmented human remains and degraded DNA left in the wake of 9/11, that task became, in the words of the National Institute of Justice, “the greatest forensic challenge ever undertaken in this country.”

For the families of Jewish victims, this problem was particularly thorny. According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry unless she has definitive proof of her husband’s death, lest she inadvertently enter into an adulterous relationship. Jewish law dictates that death can be proven in three ways: physical evidence, eyewitness testimony of the death and certain confirmation that the person had been in a situation in which survival was essentially impossible.

Absent such proof, this would leave Jewish wives of those killed at the World Trade Center in the position of classic agunot – “chained” women, left in a legal marriage with one who most likely was dead.

For decades, such cases had been few and far between.  In centuries past, however, this Jewish law was a reference point for the wives of sailors who had disappeared, soldiers who had failed to return home from battle and traveling merchants who had vanished along the way.

The consequences of being unable to identify the dead do not represent a uniquely Jewish problem.  Declaring individuals dead simply because they are likely to be dead can cause terrible complications.  For example, during World War II, President Jimmy Carter’s uncle, Tom Gordy, was declared dead by U.S. officials after being taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, and his wife remarried during the war. But when the war ended, Gordy returned home as a liberated POW to discover, tragically, that his wife was married to another. Under Jewish law, Gordy would most likely not have been declared dead, and his wife would not have remarried.  The disappearance of a person and the passage of time alone are not generally deemed enough, under Jewish law, to declare the person dead.

However, the circumstances of someone’s disappearance, in some situations, can support a presumption of death. Two illustrations commonly discussed in Jewish literature are the man who falls into a deep furnace and the man who drowns in a body of water that has visible boundaries, such as a lake or a pond. Of the first scenario, Jewish sages wrote that a man who is seen falling into a deep furnace may be presumed dead because he had no means of escape and is sure to have perished. Of the second, they wrote that a man who is seen drowning in a body of water with visible boundaries may be presumed to be dead because he surely would have been seen or found on shore had he survived.

It was this line of reasoning that allowed the Beth Din of America, a rabbinical court involved in many aspects of commercial and family law in the United States, to pronounce many 9/11 victims dead in the absence of conclusive physical evidence.

When the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York concluded its investigation, more than 1,100 victims of 9/11 remained unidentified. Even with respect to the nearly 1,600 victims who were identified, the identifications could not automatically be presumed to meet the standards set by Jewish law.

In its quest to confirm the fate of the victims, the Beth Din had to determine whether and which modern methods of identification would comply with Jewish evidentiary standards. What would satisfy the physical evidence requirement—DNA evidence? What about dental records?  What about the recognition of clothes or limbs?  The Beth Din also posed an additional question: In the event a determination required reliance upon eyewitness testimony, what person could provide such testimony?

In searching for answers, we studied the literature of prior tragedies, finding Jewish legal discussions of husbands who disappeared in the sinking of the Titanic, in the collapse of bridges in Rome, in avalanches in the Alps, in artillery bombardments in World War I, and in the sinking of the Israeli submarine Dakar. We also looked at the cases of Israeli soldiers who had disappeared during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and, of course, at agunah cases related to the Holocaust.

After 9/11, in some cases, the only evidence for placing someone in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack was circumstantial—phone calls made or emails sent from within an office, swipe cards indicating entry but no exit, and so on.  In certain cases, investigators identified remains through the modern technology of DNA analysis.

After a rigorous analysis of Jewish legal precedents, the Beth Din determined that DNA evidence could be marshaled for identification purposes, certainly when coupled with other circumstantial evidence of an individual’s death. In the few cases where investigators had found no direct physical evidence, the Beth Din relied on the third standard of proof: placing a husband, with certainty, in a situation in which no one could realistically be expected to survive.

More than 90 percent of the casualties of 9/11 were located at or above the point where the planes hit the towers, particularly in the North Tower. With no escape and facing almost certain death, those people were akin to the man who falls into a furnace.  Often, phone calls or emails were enough to place the missing person in his office at a certain time, after which escape would have been impossible. Together with other evidence, the Beth Din could rely on time stamps and statistics in order to pronounce the missing person dead.

For such a pronouncement to be made, it was not automatically sufficient to know that a person worked at the World Trade Center or attended a meeting there if no additional evidence proved he was there on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Why withhold judgment under circumstances in which an individual’s disappearance so clearly indicates death?  One unfortunate reason is because some people use tragedy as an opportunity for fraud and manipulation, or perhaps as a way to make a fresh start. The chaos of 9/11 opened the floodgates to a number of fraudulent insurance claims and other crimes.  Another sad reality is that sometimes, in the throes of despair, mistakes are made.  In the decades after the Holocaust, people long thought to be dead were discovered to be alive and well and raising new families in other parts of the world, in cases similar to the story of President Carter’s uncle.

With time, the Beth Din of America found sufficient evidence to make a declaration of death in each of the cases before it. In making those determinations, the Beth Din released each agunah according to the principles of Jewish law and enabled the victims’ loved ones to mourn for those lost and to begin to rebuild their shattered lives.  Ultimately, the halachic process provided a time-honored framework for honoring the dignity of those who had died, while creating a sense of direction for the spouses who had loved them.

Michael J. Broyde is a professor of law at Emory University. Yona Reiss is the dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. Both are members of the Beth Din of America. This piece was adapted from their contributions to “Contending with Catastrophe: Jewish Perspectives on September 11th,” released in August by the Beth Din of America Press and K’hal Publishing.

New footage of 9/11 shows bird’s-eye-view of towers collapsing [VIDEO]

New footage documenting the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York were released on Monday, featuring a 17-minute video filmed by an NYPD officer circling the collapsing towers in a helicopter.

According to the American blog The Gothamist, the footage was sent anonymously to the website Cryptome, after it was held up by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The video shows the first tower imploding upon itself as the NYPD officers shouted “it’s gone, the whole tower, its gone! Holy crap!”, followed by the second tower tumbling into an enormous black cloud of smoke and ash over the city.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Saving by remembering, first impression

Saving by Remembering

A little more than a month ago, Rabbi Levi Meier, died after a yearlong battle with brain cancer (“Rabbi Levi Meier, Whose Pulpit Was Hospital Rooms, Dies at 62,”). He was a man who cut a broad swath through the Los Angeles Jewish community, as captured by David Suissa’s eloquent obituary in The Journal on July 16.

Levi was a gentle man. He suffered with his cancer and with his treatment and was not reticent about saying so. He wondered aloud to me not just why this was happening to him and, more than once, whether or not he was going to make it — meaning not whether or not he was going to beat the disease but survive the chemotherapy, the radiation and the operations. That was also Levi — a man who had comforted thousands at their most vulnerable, unafraid of being vulnerable before a friend.

Post-diagnosis, the first thing Levi said to me upon my first visit was to ask my forgiveness for any slight he may have ever dealt me. There was, of course, nothing to forgive, and instead, I urged him to fight. Fighting — for I reasoned one must fight — gave one a better chance at survival, and I wanted desperately for him to win and survive.

I first got to know Levi in our Avi Chai Torah class, a unique monthly event for nearly eight years. In class, Levi had a way of bringing out the best in all of us. We became something of a family, bonding through the emotional camaraderie of study.

Later, because I worked nearby, I also sat in a weekly class in the Cedars-Sinai chapel, where we would sit in pews and study. I would often just stop in to see him. One day he might say, “Take a walk with me,” and we’d wander the hospital complex, more often than not to visit a patient, which, of course, was such a vital part of his daily work.

Perhaps as well known as any line of Gemara is the one that says saving the life of one Jew is like saving the entire Jewish people. But what does “save” have to mean? Must it mean rescue or preserve from harm or death, or can it mean, as well, to keep and preserve for the future.

And if we can save one person that way, is there a limit as to how many people we can save? Can we not then save the entire people? Do we save someone when we keep him or her alive in our hearts and our thoughts?

I think we do. I think we must. And that’s how I think of Rabbi Levi Meier.

Mitch Paradise
via e-mail

First Impressions

Rob Eshman asked [Umar] Cheema, the journalist from Pakistan: “Who is more popular in your country, George Bush or Osama bin Laden?” (“First Impressions,” Aug. 22.)

Cheema answered after a long silence: It’s not that Bin Laden is popular, just that Bush is so unpopular. “People only like Osama in reaction,” he said.

Then Eshman went on: “It’s a question I’ve been asking for five years, and the response is always the same, always sobering. It leads me to wonder — putting all blame aside — how far the image of this country has fallen in the world’s eyes, and if we can regain the ground we’ve lost.”

I wonder if Eshman had asked Muslim journalists before five years ago what was their impression of America? The World Trade Center has been attacked more than once. Was America more popular in the eyes of the Muslim world before Sept. 11?

I think it can be safely said that Israel is perceived as an extension of America in the Middle East by the Muslim world. I recall Abba Eban, that great statesman, of blessed memory, from Israel who represented Israel in the United Nations saying not too long after the Six-Day War: “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13, with 26 abstentions.”

I wonder if Eshman were to ask Daniel Pearl Fellows who is more popular in your country Bin Laden or Jews? Are Jews, in their eyes, self- interested, unilateral, bullying? Is all this a post-Sept. 11 phenomenon?

If any aspect of George Bush’s policies are perceived by the Muslim world enabling Israel, as the lone democracy in a dangerous neighborhood, to survive, perhaps, the real reason for Bush’s unpopularity in the Muslim world has more to do with the Jews and Israel than with America.

Gershon Weissman
Agoura Hills

Anti-Semitism on Campus

“Thank you for Brad Greenberg’s informative article on anti-Semitism on college campuses (“Quiet War on Campus,” Aug. 22).

Here in Pasadena, away from the mainstream Jewish community, we know firsthand the pressures that face our young adults as they head off to their college careers.

Anita Brenner, Peter Brier, Ahuva Einstein, Marty Levine, Edie Taylor
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
Israel Committee

Brad Greenberg is right.

Anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism remain a serious problem on American and international campuses. Some Jewish leaders have been lulled by the decreasing volatility of anti-Israel demonstrations, but like Greenberg, we have found that the problem is even more insidious today, with anti-Israel misinformation spread by mainstream figures like Jimmy Carter and professors whose students are captive — and often intimidated — audiences.

For example, UCLA professor Gabriel Pieterberg refused our offer to bring a mainstream speaker to his classes, which are obliged to listen to the anti-Zionist ideologues he typically invites, such as Ilan Pappe. Such practices are irresponsible, anti-intellectual and a method of indoctrination.

Unfortunately the message of the many professors like Pieterberg is further amplified by the hundreds of well-funded anti-Israel speakers and groups who annually tour campuses. We need to empower students with information so they can confidently challenge the one-sided views that denigrate Israel.

We are pleased that we have helped empower so many students, and Greenberg’s article underscores how much more we all need to do.

Roz Rothstein
International Director
Roberta Seid
Education Director
StandWithUs

As a 24-year-old graduate of UCLA, I could attest to the very anti-Israel attitude that lurks around the campus atmosphere. However, I can also attest that there is an even greater danger, which is the loss of our fellow college-age Jews to non-Jewish boyfriends/girlfriends and Jews-for-Jesus movements.

These problems will continue to grow as we send our kids to public schools, thus ensuring the great ignorance of many in our community to the Jewish religion.

Another player at fault is the religious community here in Los Angeles, which seems more concerned that their slurpees are indeed kosher than the fact that their secular Jewish neighbors don’t know how to recite the Shema.

We Jews should be more responsible for each other. Let’s invite more of the nonreligious to our homes and help spread our wonderful Jewish values. And please, if your child will be attending college this year, please be less concerned that they will be exposed to anti-Semitism and more concerned that they will be further separated from the Jewish way of life.

Dina Michaels
Beverly Hills

I want to thank you for your well-researched article regarding campus anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that is prevalent on college campuses. This troubling scenario has gone on for over eight years, with no let up in sight.

Due to the large amount of monies funding the Muslim Student Association by Saudi Arabia, it is a hard act to follow in these hard financial times.
One thing, however, troubled me. It was the lack of attention given to StandWithUs. As a local organization that has been on the ground floor dealing with the issues of anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, it has been in the forefront of the campus since the beginning of the Second Intifada.

As a former member of the organization, I witnessed, along with Roz Rothstein and Gary Ratner of the American Jewish Congress, the beginning of the tidal wave. And seeing how StandWithUs has taken the initiative and lead, it was disappointing not to see more credit given to an organization that is not only in your own backyard but has been the inspiration for other organizations on other coasts to follow the model of StandWithUs.

The amazing amount of materials and workshops have inspired not only students to become vocal and proud of standing for Israel, it has also brought parents, teachers and others into becoming active. StandWithUs deserves more recognition for being on the front lines.

Unfortunately, the need for such amazing organizations has not diminished due to the tensions in the Middle East and undue focus on Israel. StandWithUs has continued to rise to the occasion and be there for the students and faculty 24/7. This is something The Jewish Journal must acknowledge.

Allyson Rowen Taylor
Valley Glen

Hard Times

In the July 25 cover story, “Hard Times,” writer Brad Greenberg overlooked a politically incorrect factor in the banking crisis: illegal immigration.

Before you accuse me of immigrant bashing, the Los Angeles Times chronicled the aggressive efforts of mortgage lenders to reach out to the immigrant community in a front-page story headlined, “Mortgage Lenders Help Illegal Immigrants Become Homeowners” (Aug. 9, 2005).

Are illegal immigrants solely to blame for the current crisis? No. But why would any mortgage broker write a loan for a prospective homeowner with little or no credit, unreported income or, worse, a fraudulent Social Security number?

Well, ask your friends in the mortgage business how an unscrupulous lender can transform a low-paid gardener into a horticultural specialist with a six-figure income — and do it with the stroke of a pen.

Les Hammer
Pasadena

Strange Love

In his column, “Strange Love” (Aug. 22), David Suissa notes the behavior of a Christian missionary who approached him while in Boulder, Colo. While I certainly have no problem with the natural and inherent tug and pull that inevitably occurs from such encounters, what concerns me is the visceral reaction David had as a result of the missionary’s style and tactics and misconception of the message the missionary was trying to deliver that resulted from his reaction.

Clearly there was a communication gap. On the one hand, the missionary failed to communicate his message through his overwhelming and impassioned style, while we can see that David clearly missed the message from how he chooses to close his piece:

“No, indeed, they don’t want your money, I thought to myself. They want something more valuable.

“They want your soul — because they love you.”

The truth is that they don’t want your soul, what they want is to help you draw closer to God and in so doing, enjoy a fuller and more complete life now and in eternity.

The lesson here: to be extremely careful when encountering impassioned zealots, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and not to confuse the message being delivered with the delivery of the message itself.

Jeff Kramer
Woodland Hills

VIDEO: Architecture as experience – Daniel Libeskind

Celebrated architect Daniel Libeskind discusses his views of architecture as a spiritual and aesthetic experience, citing the examples of two sites he designed: the rebuilding of New York City’s World Trade Center, and San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum.

 

 

‘World Trade Center’ Writer Views Film as Catharsis

“I wanted the movie to be a catharsis,” says Andrea Berloff, the screenwriter of “World Trade Center,” the Oliver Stone-directed docudrama that opens Aug. 9. “I’ve felt that way from the beginning.”

The film is a surprising coup for the young writer, a soft-spoken graduate of Cornell’s Drama School, who has never before had a script produced. The famously headstrong director of “Platoon,” “JFK” and, most recently, “Alexander,” told Berloff he would shoot the film faithfully to her script – an almost unheard-of tribute in an industry where multiple rewrites are customary.

If having her script produced is a coup for Berloff, the completed film is likely to be greeted with hailstorms of discourse, not least because it seems the current spate of 9/11 movies is a reminder that films have become a primary way for Americans to digest difficult and painful events.

For many, particularly New Yorkers, the wounds of Sept. 11 have scarcely closed. Will the film be received as an homage to the dead, the survivors and their rescuers, as Berloff says she intended or as a flag-waving disaster flick?
Even more problematic are the politics of interpretation surrounding the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Sept. 11 has been appropriated, in part, by the Bush administration as rationale for pre-emptive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, some left-leaning observers like Noam Chomsky have named the attacks as the inevitable comeuppance for what they describe as America’s bad behavior in foreign places.

Given the politically polarizing nature of her material, “the fact that the studio made this movie at all is remarkable,” Berloff says, adding, “It is rare that you can do something with this kind of meaning” in the world of commercial film.

For her part, Berloff does not look like a person braced for controversy and criticism. An attractive woman with pale eyes and auburn hair falling nearly to her shoulders, she is quiet, focused and poised. But is she prepared for flak from both the left and right?

She seems to shrug off the question.

“Actually, most of the responses I have gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive,” she says, neither defensive nor arrogant.

I suggest that the character of Dave Karnes, a real-life former marine who assisted in the rescue of several trapped policemen, seems to personify the militaristic mood that followed the attacks.

Karnes (played by Michael Shannon) says at various points, “You may not realize it yet, but we’re at war,” later mentioning that the attacks need to be “avenged.”

Berloff replies calmly that Karnes, ideological or not, is a real person who played a pivotal role in the real-life rescue of Port Authority Policemen John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena). At the same time, “people find that character very polarizing,” she acknowledges, without saying more.

If Berloff seems reluctant to jump into the politics of 9/11, it may be because she views the film as essentially nonpolitical.

“If there is any political issue that all Americans can get behind, it is idea that Sept. 11 brought out the goodness in people,” she says. “That’s what impressed me most at the time.”

The story Berloff wants to tell, she says, is of ordinary people and their families caught in extraordinary circumstances, both as victims and rescuers. The response to crisis is human goodness, generosity and, in some cases, heroism, she continues. Berloff undertook thorough research, interviewing many survivors.

At the same time, Berloff allowed herself certain poetic insertions. She gives Karnes one of the most striking lines in the movie, delivered as he arrives at the smoldering site of ground zero: “Maybe the smoke is hiding something we’re not ready to see.”

Although the film has its share of crowd scenes and mayhem, Berloff’s approach to the script was not to write about mass emotions but to focus on two characters trapped in the rubble of the collapsed towers.

“Once I decided just to focus on those two characters and their families, that’s when I knew I had found the way to tell the story,” she explains.

Berloff’s respect for research led her to make contact with several World Trade Center survivors and their families. Striving for the greatest possible accuracy in the portrayal of events, she transcribed more than 1,000 pages of notes from her interviews with former officers Jimeno and McLoughlin.

“I met the guys and their wives, who were so kind and who had had such a tough run in their lives,” she says. “I felt this enormous responsibility to do right by them.”

The responsibility she felt was so great, in fact, that she found it “paralyzing” for several months in the course of writing.

One part of the script she found personally challenging deals with religion and prayer. At one point, believing himself at the point of death, McLoughlin says the “Lord’s Prayer,” very much the way a pious Jew would say “Shema.” In another scene, Jimeno sees an image of Jesus beckoning him to heaven.

The characters’ beliefs are “so uncynical, and their love for their fellow man is really genuine,” she says, “it made me feel open-minded and open-hearted.” At the same time, she says, “To think of this Jewish girl writing this ‘Christian’ movie is really funny.”

Berloff’s biography is the trajectory of a young actress into a writer. Raised in Framingham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, she majored in drama in college, subsequently moving to New York to pursue an acting career.

After getting some roles in New York, she and her husband later moved to Hollywood. Berloff says she grew disenchanted with acting, however.

“If it’s all about who’s the most skinny and who’s the most cute, I don’t want to do it, because I’m never going to be that,” she says in a tone of disgust.

She responds warmly to a suggestion that “World Trade Center” is ultimately about family. Married, with a 7-month-old child, perhaps she has been thinking about family recently. Or perhaps, family is her chosen theme, as it has been for many writers.

“The family is central to everyone,” she says. “There is no more complicated relationship in life than that with your family,” she adds. “It’s your primary experience in life.”

She is currently working on a different kind of family drama concerning the mutual backstabbing of the Gucci fashion family of Italy for director Ridley Scott.

“It’s the high drama of a family whose members destroy one another,” she says.
Despite working on a script about mutual betrayal, Berloff herself retains the idealistic tone of “World Trade Center.”

“As horrible as it was, it was a day of love when we took care of each other,” she says. “To include that goodness as part of the oral history of Sept. 11 is important,” she adds.

“It might be idealistic,” she reflects, “but I would like to live in that world.”

Drawing on Sept. 11

 

As he outran the toxic cloud of the dying World Trade Center, Art Spiegelman heard the voice of his father, the Holocaust survivor: “The world is treacherous. Keep your bags packed.”

“My initial response was ‘grab the family and flee,'” the famed cartoonist said of Sept. 11. “It was, ‘The world is ending and you’ve got maybe a half hour to get everyone to like, Paris, before it’s too late.'”

Yet as Spiegelman trekked back to his SoHo home that day, he felt pangs of affection for his vulnerable city.

“The first coherent sentence I uttered was, ‘Now I finally understand why some Jews didn’t leave Berlin right after Kristallnacht,'” he said. “The idea that I could safely sit in a cafe in Paris and go, ‘Look at the Herald Tribune, it seems Manhattan has been reduced to rubble,’ was intolerable to me.”

Instead, the Pulitzer Prize-winner churned out his first graphic novel since “Maus,” his account of his parents’ wartime experience, which depicted Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. If the two-volume “Maus” broke ground by presenting the Holocaust in comics, “In the Shadow of No Towers” (Pantheon, $19.95) defies expectations by blending cartoons with Spiegelman’s Sept. 11 misadventures (the author will present slides of his work next week in Los Angeles). The artist and his wife morph into Maggie and Jiggs as Arab Americans blame Jews on CNN; the Katzenjammer Kids lament that Uncle Sam has squashed the “wrong bug” (Saddam Hussein drawn as an “Iraknid”); Krazy Kat and Little Nemo appear with George Bush and Osama bin Laden. The oversized board book consists of 10 panels by Spiegelman and an additional seven pages he calls the “second tower,” historical funnies that influenced his work.

The author has made a name for himself by turning unfunny subjects into funnies.

“He’s radically changed the way people look at comics,” said Alan Rosen, a professor specializing in Holocaust literature at the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s pushed forth a new genre, using this ‘lowbrow’ medium to deal with traumatic events.”

“Spiegelman has, especially for American readers, given legitimacy to sequential graphic narrative as something appropriate for grownups,” said Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State University.

Observers trace Spiegelman’s serious take on comics, in part, to his heritage. “He’s a child of survivors whose Holocaust legacy and his personality and his politics and his aesthetic sensibilities all shape how he describes the world,” said J.J. Goldberg, editor of The Forward, which ran serialized strips of “Maus” and “Towers.” “In many ways, he created the genre of second-generation angst, and I think that radiates in almost every image of his new book.”

In an interview two days after Sept. 11, 2004, Spiegelman, 56, said he still fears the world is ending, albeit slower than he thought three years ago. Professing to be chain-smoking Camel Lights, he called to mind a “Towers” strip in which his alter ego laments, “I’m not even sure I’ll live long enough for cigarettes to kill me. Cof! Cof!”

His rapid-fire conversation radiated caustic wit, an obsession with current events and a measure of post-Sept. 11 stress — although that didn’t curb his stream of sardonic stories. One apparent favorite was how, at 13, he renounced organized religion after Yom Kippur services at his Rego Park, N.Y., synagogue.

“My father insisted that I go with him to this boring day of prayer where I was just trying to figure out when to stand up and dunk my knees at the appropriate beat even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” he said. “So instead of dunking my knees I ducked out and had a sausage pizza slice, and when I wasn’t struck down immediately, I knew that was it for me.”

His parents’ Holocaust experience apparently made a more lasting impression. Several years after his mother’s 1968 suicide and his own short stay in a mental hospital, Spiegelman drew the first pages of what would ultimately become “Maus,” published in two volumes in 1986 and 1991. The Pulitzer-winning work depicts his parents’ betrayal into Nazi hands by smugglers, the horrors of the camps and Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his prickly father, Vladek, years later.

His cartoon approach to the Holocaust initially raised eyebrows — and hackles.

“It’s one of two times in my life that I’ve taken a book and with all my strength, thrown it against the wall,” Rosen recalled of the first time he picked up “Maus.” But when he finally read the book, his outrage turned to admiration.

“Although Spiegelman used what was considered a frivolous medium, he pursued the topic seriously,” Rosen said. “His take allowed us fresh eyes with which to view the subject of the [Shoah].”

Spiegelman brings that fresh take to Sept. 11 in “Towers,” albeit with a Holocaust hangover. As he writes in his introduction, the events “left me reeling on that fault line where world history and personal history collide — the intersection my parents, Auschwitz survivors, had warned me about.”

The morning of Sept. 11, Spiegelman and his wife, New Yorker art director Francoise Mouly, were out walking when the first airplane struck the World Trade Center. In a panic, they ran to retrieve their then-14-year-old daughter, Nadja, at Stuyvesant High School three blocks from Ground Zero. They emerged back on the street in time to see an image that, Spiegelman said, is still tattooed in his brain: “It was the glowing skeleton of the north tower hovering just before it disintegrated,” he said, his voice radiating awe. ” I can’t tell you if those incandescent bones were before my eyes for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, but time stopped and I thought, this is it, The End of Days.”

Afterward, he suffered nightmares and insomnia; on automatic pilot, he created the now-famous New Yorker cover that depicted the Towers as black-on-black silhouettes, evoking what Spiegelman calls his “phantom limb syndrome.”

“I had to keep turning around to make sure the towers still were not there,” he said.

To exorcise his demons, he began drawing urgent diary entries about Sept. 11 and his growing terror at the government’s “hijacking of America based on the hijacking of the planes.”

He depicted himself as a pinwheel-eyed basket case and as an “impotent girlie-man” equally traumatized by Bush and Bin Laden.

“My ‘leaders’ are reading the Book of Revelations…. I’m reading the paranoid science fiction of Philip K. Dick,” he says in one panel.

But when Spiegelman sought publishers for these “Towers” strips, most United States publications declined — ostensibly because the work was perceived as incendiary, he said. Eventually, the work ran in European papers and in one American Jewish periodical, The Forward, in 2002 and 2003.

“I felt like they offered me the right of return,” Spiegelman said of The Forward. “I told the editors, ‘These strips aren’t Jewish per se,’ and they said, ‘That’s OK, you’re Jewish.'”

Spiegelman is chagrined, however, with those who believe he sees Sept. 11 primarily through the lens of Auschwitz. “This work is not a continuation of ‘Maus,'” he said. Even so, “Towers” draws certain parallels between his experience and Vladek’s, without diminishing the evil of the Shoah. In a number of panels, he depicts himself as his rodent character from “Maus”: “I remember my father trying to describe what the smoke in Auschwitz smelled like,” the character says. “The closest he got was telling me it was … indescribable. That’s exactly what the air in Lower Manhattan smelled like after Sept. 11.”

In other panels, a homeless woman screams anti-Semitic epithets at Spiegelman and an Arab American on CNN blames Jews for the attack, which annoyed the artist in real life. In fact, Spiegelman was so “PO’ed” by the canard that he ripped up a New Yorker cover he’d drawn urging tolerance toward American Muslims. “I went, f— ‘im! Let him get his own cartoonist,” he said.

If the events fueled his second-generation anxiety, he took solace in the kind of late 19th- and early 20th-century comic strips that decorate his Lower Manhattan studio. One panel from Sept. 11, 1901, describes the assassination of President McKinley; other strips reflect the carnage of World War I.

“The world was ending, as it does every day, but somehow life was being lived with lots of expressive feelings,” Spiegelman said. “These strips have a resonant majesty that allowed me to feel a kind of optimism even in the face of cowboy boots raining down over [the nation].”

Does the artist still feel the need to keep his proverbial bags packed? Not so much, he said. Rather, he’s like the “Towers” characters who have returned to lounging complacently in front of the TV, albeit with their hair standing on end.

“Of course, most Americans have discovered hair gel,” he said. “Mine is still standing on end.”

Art Spiegelman will give a slide lecture on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Central Library, 630 W. Fifth Street (at the corner of Flower Street), Los Angeles. Standby-only available (arrive one hour before the event). For more information, visit www.lapl.org/events or call (213) 228-7025.

 

Israelis Sue Over Sept. 11 Arrests

Paul Kurzberg, an Israeli from Pardess Hanna, was in the office of his New Jersey moving company on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Like many Israeli movers in the New York area, Kurzberg, who was in his late 20s, was not legally authorized to work in the United States. But on Sept. 11, that thought was distant from his mind as he and his friends piled into a company van after the second plane hit the World Trade Center to find a better vantage point to photograph the historic terrorist attack.

It proved to be a critical mistake.

Caught in a traffic jam near the George Washington Bridge, which connects northern New Jersey to Manhattan, the Israelis hailed a police officer to ask directions to Brooklyn. Police pulled the five Israelis from the vehicle, drew their guns and ordered the men to lie on the ground, according to the Israelis’ account.

It was the beginning of a nearly two-month ordeal, the Israelis said, that landed them first in a local jail and then in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn prison, subjected them to physical and verbal abuse and ended in their deportation to Israel.

Now, four of the Israelis are suing, demanding justice and compensation in a lawsuit filed Monday against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and a host of wardens, police officers and corrections officers involved in their arrest and imprisonment.

"The infamous arrest of these young Israelis on Sept. 11 has been used by anti-Semites worldwide as ‘proof’ of Israel’s involvement in the World Trade Center attack," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the Israeli lawyer representing the four Israeli plaintiffs.

"Our clients are seeking compensation for the harm they suffered in the Metropolitan Detention Center by prison officials," she said. "In addition, the lawsuit will serve as an important public forum to debunk the lie that Israel or the Mossad was behind the Sept. 11 attacks."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, alleges that the Israelis were arrested without probable cause, subjected to harsh and unreasonable conditions, penalized for trying to observe Jewish traditions, denied the opportunity to post bond, despite the fact that they posed no danger or threat of flight, and were held far longer than necessary.

Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment, saying, "Our response would be filed in court." A Bureau of Prisons spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment.

"I was in the hole for a month or so," Kurzberg, 30, said in an telephone interview from Israel. "To be in solitary for one month, you start thinking about lots of things, especially because you know you didn’t do nothing and why did they put you here."

Kurzberg’s comrades, including his brother, Silvan, Yaron Shmuel and Omer Gavriel Marmari, also are part of the suit.

The fifth Israeli imprisoned has expressed interest in the lawsuit but, as of its filing, hadn’t yet joined it, Darshan-Leitner said.

The group’s American lawyer, Robert Tolchin, a New York litigator, said the four waited to sue until now, shortly before the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations, because the political environment in the United States only recently began to support such lawsuits. Until now, he said, "the climate for litigation was not conducive."

The plaintiffs are not seeking a specific sum in damages.

Among their allegations, the Israelis claim they were denied use of prayer books for Yom Kippur, were harassed by guards who blamed them for the World Trade Center attack and were not given kosher food.

One says he had his eyeglasses taken away and could not see properly for two months. Another said he was thrown into a cell with an Algerian Muslim. The plaintiffs also spent more than a month in solitary confinement.

The way they were treated is not what America stands for," Tolchin said. "These people were arrested for things that people don’t generally get arrested for. Their only violation was that they were working with improper immigration status.

Tolchin said the case likely could take years to make its way through the courts. In a similar case filed in 2002 by a group of Muslims, a judge has yet to rule on a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. Only if the judge doesn’t throw out the suit can the Muslim plaintiffs begin to make their case.

Sept. 11 Report: Israel Was a Target

Long before the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda was planning terrorist attacks against Israeli and American Jewish sites.

That, at least, is one conclusion of the 9/11 Commission Report, which was released Thursday.

The report shows that American intelligence agencies received signals that Al Qaeda was looking to attack Israel or U.S. Jewish sites in the months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

It also shows that several of the hijackers, as well as Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, were motivated in part by hatred of Israel and anger over the support it receives from the United States.

While much of the information already had been released through public testimony and media stories, the report emphasizes the ties between the terrorist attacks in the United States and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

It also paints a chilling portrait of what might have been, by detailing Al Qaeda proposals to attack Israeli and U.S. Jewish sites that the group either rejected or postponed.

The report shows that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was motivated by his "violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel," according to his own admission after being captured in March 2003. Mohammed was interested in attacking Jewish sites in New York City, and sent an Al Qaeda operative to New York early in 2001 to scout possible locations.

He also brought a plan to bin Laden to attack the Israeli city of Eilat by recruiting a Saudi air force pilot who would commandeer a Saudi jet.

Bin Laden supported the proposals, but they were put on hold while the group concentrated on the Sept. 11 plan.

American intelligence officials believed throughout the spring and summer of 2001 that Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian member of Al Qaeda, planned to attack Israel.

The terrorist leaders also considered playing off developments in the Middle East. Mohammed told investigators that bin Laden had wanted to expedite attacks after Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in September 2000, and later when Sharon, who by then had become Israel’s prime minister, met with President Bush at the White House.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said the report doesn’t provide information that is new to Israeli intelligence officials.

"There’s very good intelligence cooperation between the two countries," Regev said, noting that counter-terrorism communication is particularly good.

He said that while Israel is used to facing terrorism, it has been spared the type of "mega-terrorist attack" the United States suffered on Sept. 11.

The report is being viewed in the American Jewish community as confirmation of what they’ve been hearing privately for years.

"We didn’t need this report to tell us that Jews were and are a target," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Throughout the years there were evidence and alerts and knowledge of specific times and threats."

The report comes as some Jewish leaders are working to secure federal dollars to make security improvements for Jewish sites. Charles Konigsberg, the United Jewish Communities’ vice president for public policy, said the report will "absolutely help us to make the case" for federal funding.

Other Jewish groups and some lawmakers fear that giving federal aid to houses of worship at risk of terror attacks would violate the separation of church and state.

The report reaffirms what many who follow the issue have believed, that anti-Semitic views were a key motivation for the Sept. 11 plotters.

"In his interactions with other students," the leader of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, "voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world," the report says.

In original plans for the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was to hijack a plane himself, land it, kill all the male passengers and then deliver a speech that would include criticism of U.S. support for Israel, the report says. However, that plan was scaled down, and Mohammed did not participate in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

In their report, commission members say U.S. support for Israel, as well as the war in Iraq, has fed anti-American sentiment among Muslims. While not critiquing U.S. policy, the report suggests the United States must do more to justify its actions and communicate with the Arab world.

"Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger," the report says.

The report recommends changing the U.S. relationship with Arab states with the goal of improving America’s image. While acknowledging that those who become terrorists likely are impervious to persuasion, bettering America’s image among the general Arab public could minimize support for terrorists.

It also recommends a closer examination of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Commission members suggest political and economic reform must be stressed, as well as greater tolerance and cultural respect.

"Among Saudis, the United States is seen as aligned with Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, with whom Saudis ardently sympathize," the report said. "Although Saudi Arabia’s cooperation against terrorism improved to some extent after the Sept. 11 attacks, significant problems remained."

JTA intern Alana B. Elias Kornfeld contributed to this report from New York.