November 18, 2018

A Message to My Compatriots in the American Left From Across the Pond

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, visits the Alexander Dennis Bus Factory in Falkirk, Scotland, Britain August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

The Pittsburgh tragedy made real the worst nightmare of American Jewry. Our community is now examining how we got to this frightening place, with anti-Semitism more pronounced on both the right and the left than it has been in decades. We now dread: Is this just the beginning? Are things only going to get worse? We only have to look across the pond see the writing on the wall.  

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as UK Labour Party leader in 2015, the party has become a hotbed of the kind of anti-Semitic worldview previously confined to the political fringe. Corbyn’s links to Holocaust deniers, friendship with terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and paid role for the Iranian regime broadcaster, Press TV, were long-established. This summer, the allegations continued to pile up: Corbyn was pictured holding a wreath by the gravesides of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre masterminds. Then a video from 2013 emerged in which he questioned whether British “Zionists” understood English irony.

The UK’s internationally renowned former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, condemned Corbyn’s rhetoric as “the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism,” only to be denounced by Corbyn’s online fanbase. Like those of President Trump, Corbyn’s supporters respond to every piece of evidence exposing the bigotry of their man—no matter how damning—with cries of “fake news.”

The impact on Britain’s Jewish community has been pronounced. As the party of civil rights, equality and liberal values, Labour was once the natural home for British Jews. But recent polls have revealed not just that Jews are abandoning the party—now, 40 percent of Britain’s Jews say they will seriously consider leaving the UK if Corbyn becomes prime minister. 

Labour’s march to the radical left is not only worrying for the Jews: the phenomenon has decimated the credibility of Britain’s most important progressive force. For American progressives, this should be a cautionary tale. If our own extreme left and its abettors go unchallenged, then what is happening in the UK could happen here. The American right has shown how aggressive populism can hijack the mainstream. Corbyn provides a warning for those of us on the left.

In Britain, those who warned of the far-left threat to progressive movements were, for a decade, ignored or dismissed—until it was too late. Now, Labour has a leader with a lifetime of support for radically anti-Israel movements, inevitably aligning himself with virulent anti-Semites. His communications director is a terror apologist who believes East Germany was preferable to West Germany. His advisers include a recent Communist Party member who previously expressed support for North Korea, and has been unable to gain security clearance to work in Parliament. A few years ago, such people were dismissed as cranks. Now they aspire to govern, and are rising through the ranks alongside Corbyn. No wonder British Jews are uneasy.

On our side of the pond, some warning signs have already been here for a while. Last year, two Jewish lesbians who had been attending the Chicago Dyke March for a decade were thrown out of the major LBGTQ+ event for bringing a rainbow flag with a Jewish star on it. “Zio tears replenish us,” they were told. Later that year, the Chicago SlutWalk trod the same anti-Semitic path, banning “Zionist symbols.”

American Jews and their allies were horrified to learn that the co-founders of one of the most groundbreaking and ostensibly empowering movements in American political history share Corbyn’s brand of contemptible, inexcusable bigotry. Women’s March Co-Founder Tamika Mallory attends rallies of the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. Earlier this year Mallory tweeted a conspiratorial slur against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the United States. In a modern-day blood libel, Mallory said the ADL caused U.S. police brutality because it had sponsored joint counter-terrorism training between US and Israeli law enforcement. That’s absurd and anti-Semitic—and, equally important from a progressive lens, it undermines and exploits the fight against police brutality in the United States, injecting the flimsy thinking of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory into a vital campaign for justice and human dignity.

Mallory’s March co-founder, Linda Sarsour, has publicly shamed fellow Muslims for “humanizing Israelis,”, supported a terrorist convicted of a bomb plot that murdered two university students in Jerusalem and also praises Farrakhan. The types of positions and associations these women hold went unchallenged on the British left for years. Even those who wrote off the alarm bells now see clearly where these ideologies lead.

As a Jew, a Zionist and, not least, a progressive, I am determined to challenge assaults on the values that should define our movements for social, racial, economic and gender justice. Progressive movements in which Jews are isolated, defamed or forced to pass anti-Israel litmus tests are not worthy of the name. That’s why we established Zioness – a movement to give proud, progressive Jewish women a platform to fight for the causes of our time, without having to sell out their Jewish identities for credibility or acceptance. 

When anti-Israel obsession and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories take hold on the political left, most Jews are made politically homeless. The result is disastrous, not just for the Jews but for the movements themselves. This is what we’re witnessing in the UK. Zioness, and our thousands of activists and allies, will not stand by and watch it happen here.

UK Labour has become a safer space for anti-Semites than for Jews. A female Jewish Member of Parliament needed police protection at the Labour Party conference. A third of the British public thinks Corbyn is an anti-Semite. With a Conservative government bitterly divided over Brexit negotiations, a credible progressive party would be soaring in the polls—resulting in the advancement of the issues we stand proudly to fight for. Instead, Labour is struggling to build a lead. 

In the United States, now more than ever, progressives should be on the front foot. Trump’s 38 percent approval rating is a record low. We face massive challenges—for women’s equality, universal healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights and for our PoC communities to live free from fear. Those struggles will be more effectively fought by movements that welcome rather than alienate Jews and Zionists, who have always been on the forefront of social justice activism of every kind.

The 19th century German socialist, August Bebel, called anti-Semitism “the socialism of fools.” The British left might have been seduced by it. But at this pivotal moment for our country, we can’t afford to be—or it will make fools of us all.

Amanda Berman is the co-Founder and President of Zioness.

Alison Mayersohn Retires From ADL

Alison Mayersohn with her grandchildren Orly and Avi. Photo courtesy of Alison Mayersohn.

If you’re a Los Angeles Jewish community professional or you work in any major media organization that writes about issues of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, chances are you not only have heard of, but also have worked with, Alison Rudolph Mayersohn — the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Los Angeles deputy regional director. 

Born in Westwood, Mayersohn has spent the past 15 years working at the ADL, but the 65-year-old officially hung up her hat on Oct. 19, after giving four months’ notice to her boss, Regional Director Amanda Susskind. 

“That’s just like [Mayersohn],” Susskind told the Journal via telephone. “She said, when she gave her notice in July, ‘I’ll stay through your wedding.’ ” (Susskind married earlier this month.)

Susskind called Mayersohn, “The ‘A’ Team. I’ll miss her sunny disposition, her sense of humor. She often breaks into song in the office — not particularly in tune, but we love her for it.”

On a more serious note, Susskind said Mayersohn “runs the office better than I do when I’m not there. She can keep a lot of balls in the air.” 

Asked to highlight one incident that summed up Mayersohn’s 15-year tenure, Susskind paused before stating, “The ADL’s Sherwood Prize for law enforcement officers who go above and beyond the call of duty to combat hate. [Mayersohn] is personally responsible for taking that to a great level of media awareness.”

In a separate interview with the Journal, Mayersohn also noted this as a highlight of her career. 

Mayersohn receiving Senn Award at ADL Los Angeles Gala, Beverly Hilton Hotel, 2010. Photo Courtesy ADL

Jewish Journal: How did you make the decision to retire? 

Alison Mayersohn: I’d been thinking about it and full disclosure, I’m almost 66. I knew at some point I would retire and I kind of waited until it felt right. 

I felt I had had a really good run both in the totality of my career and in my 15 years at ADL. I was ready to spend more time away from work. I hadn’t been ready when I turned 65. I really do want to spend more time exercising and what I would call body maintenance, and I hope that the last phase of my life is as healthy as possible. And I want to travel more. We have a total of six grandchildren around the country. I’d like to spend more time with them as they grow up. 

JJ: What drew you to work at the ADL? 

AM: I was at the Jewish Federation of Orange County for nine years, the last eight as director of marketing. I wanted to come back to Los Angeles. I wanted to use all of my media experience, because that’s definitely a skill set. I had done a lot of community organizing and [the ADL position] included that and I was particularly interested in issues relating to anti-Semitism and Israel.

JJ: Where did that interest come from?

AM: I grew up in a secular home and I became interested as a teenager in Judaism and then I went and minored in Jewish studies at UCLA, and a lot of my career was in the Jewish communal field. I had sought out involvement in the Jewish community for that feeling of community and sort of found a home in being a Jewish communal professional. It made me feel even more part of the community and I felt I was doing something valuable. 

JJ: Were there any experiences in your ADL tenure that you found pleasantly surprising and conversely, anything that was shocking or overwhelming?

AM: When I [first] came here one of my colleagues said, “Many of us who come to work here are used to being the smartest person in the room. You will never be the smartest person in the room.” That was really, really good advice and it was true. You’re working with incredibly smart people who are working on the cutting edge issues of the day. 

On the other side, I had an understanding about anti-Semitism when I got the job. I had experienced it a little as a young person. Certainly from working at various Jewish federations, I understood it. As a history major at UCLA I certainly understood the history of anti-Semitism, but when you are in a position that day after day you’re seeing photos and images and hearing stories from people, I think that there’s nothing that anyone can do to prepare for what that’s like to do for 15 years.

JJ: How do you deal with that and not become overwhelmed?

AM: You try not to get jaded. You want to still be reactive and get upset but at the same time you can’t spend 24 hours a day getting upset. You hope that what you’re doing is helping in some large and small ways. 

In a large way you’re hoping to reduce anti-Semitism, although we’ve certainly seen an increase in anti-Semitism in the last couple of years. But on the other hand, you can help the individual. They come to you and they’ve never heard the epithet “dirty Jew” and as someone with a lot of experience talking to a lot of people I hope that I’m able to help calm them and help them put it in perspective. 

“I don’t feel in terms of anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment or diversity — any of those things that [the ADL] stands for and worked so hard for — that the current climate is better now.”
— Alison Mayersohn

JJ: What are some of the changes you’ve seen at the ADL during your tenure?

AM: Campus issues have become more and more of an issue. Also, we have gotten calls from the time I started here to this year where people call and are astonished that somebody left them a voicemail saying, “I think you should go back to the ovens,” or some other horrible thing like that. Those things happened when I came here in 2003 and they’re still happening in 2018.  It’s horrible.

And since 2016, there’s been less and less civility and people are more willing to say these things. And people are also more willing to call us and tell us about them. I think the whole issue of lack of civility in the public square has been way more front and center in the last couple of years.

The other thing I have seen, especially before Charlottesville, [Va.], people would say, “You work at the ADL. That must be interesting but how much anti-Semitism is there really here?” Now, nobody says that to me. What they say is, “Oh my God, you must really have your work cut out for you.”

JJ: What are you most proud of at your time with the ADL? 

AM: I think it would have to be the really, really good press coverage that I have gotten for the unsung heroes of law enforcement who have won the ADL Sherwood Prize. That’s been extremely gratifying to me. And also I think being able to mentor the next generation of Jewish community professionals has been very gratifying. 

JJ: In 2010 you won the ADL’s Senn/Greenberg Award for professional excellence. What was that experience like? 

AM: It was a great honor and presented to me at our annual gala. It was very nice to be recognized like that.

JJ: Is there something you wish you could have done in your 15 years but didn’t get to do?

AM: I didn’t get to eradicate anti-Semitism. I think it’s tough to feel that 15 years later things are worse than they were when I started. I don’t feel in terms of anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment or diversity — any of those things that we stand for and worked so hard for — that the current climate is better now.

Facebook Takes Down Farrakhan Video Comparing Jews to ‘Termites’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Facebook has taken down Louis Farrakhan’s video in which he compares Jew to “termites,” The Wrap reports.

The video, which was posted to Facebook with the caption, “To members of the Jewish Community that don’t like me. Thank you very much for putting my name all over the planet. Because of your fear of what we represent, I can go anywhere in the world and they’ve heard of Farrakhan. Thank you very much.”

The clip is of a recent Farrakhan speech, where he states that he isn’t anti-Semitic because he’s “anti-termite.”

Facebook told The Wrap that the video “violates our hate speech policies,” amounting to “Tier 1 hate speech” that falls under the category of “dehumanizing” language.

Farrakhan’s video is still up on Twitter, as Twitter has stated that it doesn’t violate their policies since they haven’t established policies on dehumanizing rhetoric. The Anti-Defamation League has called on Twitter to take down the video.

Some Twitter accounts have accused Twitter of bias since they haven’t down the Farrakhan video yet they have suspended a couple of popular right-wing accounts without providing much of an explanation for doing so.

Twitter has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Second U Mich Instructor Refuses to Write Letter for Student to Study in Israel

Photo from Flickr.

A second instructor at the University of Michigan has denied writing a letter of recommendation for a student to study abroad in Israel, according to The Washington Post.

On Oct. 1, junior Jake Secker, an economics major and entrepreneurial minor, asked teaching assistant Lucy Peterson to write him a letter of recommendation. Peterson at first committed to writing the letter, only to decline when she learned that Secker wanted to study in Israel.

“Along with numerous other academics in the US and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine,” Peterson wrote. “Please know that this decision is not about you as a student or a person, and I would be happy to write a recommendation for you if you end up applying to other programs.”

Secker met with LSA Associate Social Sciences Dean Rosario Caballo on Oct. 5, where she offered to write him the letter of recommendation and pledged that “some sort of change” would come.

Similarly, on Sept. 5, professor John Cheney-Lippold told junior Abigail Ingber, a Literature, Science and Arts major, that he couldn’t write her the letter because “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel.”

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement that the university needs to take action because such academic boycotts “have a chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.”

“We are strong supporters of academic freedom. Certainly everyone, including professors, has a right to openly express their views of the policies of the elected Israeli government,” Greenblatt said. “But this should not be at the expense of students seeking to broaden their academic experiences.”

Greenblatt added, “These professors indicated they had no problem writing recommendations for students who might study in any other country in the world.  Singling out Israel alone among all the nations of the world as worthy of boycott, according to the State Department working definition, potentially crosses the line from criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism.”

The university has previously said that they are staunchly opposed to an academic boycott of any kind; Rick Fitzgerald, the assistant vice president for public affairs at the University of Michigan told the Post that he couldn’t comment on the matter of Secker without his permission.

Sarsour Calls ADL ‘Purveyor of Islamophobia,’ Report Says

Screenshot from Twitter.


The ADL responded to Linda Sarsour in a statement sent to the Journal:

ADL fights hate in all its forms including anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia. We do this through tracking extremists and white supremacists, through our anti-bias programs and through enacting federal and state hate crimes laws across the country. We advocate at the local, state and federal level on a range of issues related to ending racial bias and discrimination in policing and the criminal justice system.

Linda Sarsour has completely mischaracterized and distorted what our law enforcement programs actually do. We are proud to work with law enforcement in the U.S. in an effort to counter terrorism, domestic extremism, hate crimes and implicit bias. Our annual law enforcement mission to Israel provides a few dozen senior law enforcement officials with an opportunity to learn first-hand how police in Israel respond to terror attacks. The curriculum includes trips to Yad Vashem and meeting with a diverse group of members of Israeli civil society. 


Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour criticized the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as a “purveyor of Islamophobia” earlier in the month, according to a new report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

Sarsour uttered the aforementioned statement about the ADL during a panel at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s 2018 convention and criticized the ADL for bringing police officers to Israel for training.

“If you are part of a criminal justice reform movement, if you believe in the idea of ending police brutality and the misconduct of law enforcement officers across the country, then you do not support an organization that takes police officers from America, funds their trips, takes them to Israel so they can be trained by the Israeli police and military, and then they come back here and do what?” Sarsour said. “Stop and frisk, killing unarmed black people across the country.”

Chris McIlvain, the assistant police chief in Austin, Texas, told IPT that he attended the 2015 training that Sarsour was referencing and that what she described was not accurate:

There was no tactical training and no discussion of forceful or coercive techniques, he said. Police departments must maintain “a state of readiness” for all kinds of threats, from mass shootings to terrorist attacks. Israel has experience with these challenges that can be helpful to police departments here.

“The ADL is a good partner of law enforcement combating hate crimes of all types,” McIlvain said. “The idea is not to divert hate from one group to another, it’s to eliminate it.”

Sarsour called the ADL “an anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian organization that peddles Islamophobia and attacks America’s prominent Muslim orgs and activists” in an April Facebook post when it was announced that the ADL was going to take part in Starbucks’ anti-bias training.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, told the Times of Israel, “The ADL has always understood that fighting anti-Semitism is inherently tied to fighting racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has criticized Sarsour and other Women’s March leaders for their connection to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.

The ADL has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Report: Far-Right Blogger Who Disputed Holocaust Death Number Attended GOP Fundraiser

Screenshot from Twitter.

Charles C. Johnson, a far-right blogger who once wrote that he didn’t think 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust, attended a July fundraiser for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), according to a report from the leftist news site Mother Jones.

The report states that Johnson was on a yacht with Gaetz and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). It is not clear who invited him, as Rohrabacher’s campaign financer told Mother Jones he didn’t remember who invited him; Gaetz’s campaign refused to comment to both Mother Jones and the Pensacola News Journal about the event.

In a 2017 Ask Me Anything session on Reddit, Johnson said in response to a question about the Holocaust, “I do not and never have believed the 6 million figure. I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the campus from typhus are more realistic.” He also wrote that he didn’t think Auschwitz and the gas chambers were real but he is a supporter of Israel.

Johnson later wrote on his GotNews blog that those comments were part of “a project studying the various tech companies and their commitments to free speech against fake hate speech” and denied being a Holocaust denier.

This isn’t Johnson’s only connection to Gaetz and Rohrabacher; in January, Gaetz invited Johnson to attend Trump’s State of the Union address. Rohrabacher reportedly brought Johnson to a meeting with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to talk about Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement to Mother Jones they were “extremely troubled” that Johnson reportedly attended Gaetz’s fundraiser.

“ADL previously called on Gaetz to discontinue his associations with Johnson and to publicly repudiate his views after it was revealed Johnson was Gaetz’ guest at President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address,” the spokesperson said. “We renew those calls in light of this new report, as it is completely inappropriate for a sitting U.S. member of Congress to continue to knowingly associate with an anti-Semite and bigot like Charles Johnson.”

Jennifer Zimmerman, Gaetz’s opponent in the upcoming November election, said in a statement to the Pensacola News Journal, “I find it inconceivable that Gaetz feels entitled to skip candidate forums in his district in favor of fraternizing with Holocaust deniers. The people of Northwest Florida deserve better.”

Jonathan Greenblatt: Why Is Anti-Semitism On the Rise?

ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt on the various threats to Jews today, why humor helps, and how his #Resistance is hatred of all kinds.


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Check out this episode!

Tufts University to Offer Course Taught by Pro-BDS Professor

Photo from Wikipedia.

Tufts University is going to be offering a course this fall called “Colonizing Palestine” that will be taught by a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) professor and teaches that Israel “illegally occupies Palestine.”

Under Tufts’ Colonial Studies program, the course description for “Colonizing Palestine” states that the class “will explore the history and culture of modern Palestine and the centrality of colonialism in the making of this contested and symbolically potent territory” and will familiarize themselves with the likes of the late professor Edward Said, who once referred to Yasser Arafat as “a much misunderstood and maligned political personality” and poet Suheir Hammad, who wrote in a poem following the 9/11 terror attacks, “if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.”

“Students will address crucial questions relating to this embattled nation, the Israeli state which illegally occupies Palestine, and the broader global forces that impinge on Palestinians and Israelis,” the course description states. “Themes covered include notions of nationalism and national identity, settler-colonialism, gender and sexuality, refugee politics, cultural hybridity, class politics, violence, and memory.”

The professor teaching the course, Thomas Abowd, is an avid supporter of the BDS movement and has accused Israel of implementing “apartheid-like” policies against Palestinians and that Israel supporters use the Old Testament as a “real estate guide.”

Additionally, in a 2015 thread on Tufts’ Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Facebook page, Abowd wrote, “I missed all the ‘so much anti-Semitic hate here’ – sounds quite delusional to me.” The thread he commented on featured comments that accused Israel being “a state built by White Jewish men for White Jewish men” and that Israel engages in “ethno-religious oppression.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the course in a statement sent to the Journal.

“We support academic freedom but Tufts University must ensure that classes examining the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not one-sided platforms for propaganda that demonize Israel and empower anti-Israel activists,” Greenblatt said. “Political bias is best left out of the classroom.”

In a phone interview with the Journal, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the course “indoctrination” said the fact that “a leading American university” is offering such a course is “shocking” and “deeply disturbing.”

“If this is the trend of where this school is going, I wouldn’t give them five cents,” Cooper said.

Tufts Hillel called the “Colonizing Palestine” course “prejudicial and unnecessarily provocative” in a statement sent to the Journal.

“We continue to work actively with university leaders and colleagues across Tufts to create a setting where opposing views on contentious issues can be shared in dignified and constructive dialogue,” Tufts Hillel said.

Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of public relations, said in a statement to The College Fix, “As an institution of higher education, Tufts is committed to the free exchange of ideas. The university’s courses represent a broad spectrum of ideas and topics that enable students to become familiar with a variety of perspectives on important and complex issues facing our global society.”

Collins also pointed to a class called “Negotiation and Mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Past Lessons and Future Opportunities” as an example of a differing perspective of the Israel-Palestinian conflict provided by the university.

When the Fix confronted Abowd on if he would ensure that his class wouldn’t turn into “a one-sided, anti-Israel screed,” Abowd replied, “Do not contact me again or I will call the police.”

Other instances of hostility to Israel on Tufts includes a September 2017 “disorientation” guide created by students that called Israel a “white supremacy state”; in April 2017 the university’s student senate passed a resolution on the day before Passover calling for Tufts to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel.

H/T: Campus Reform

Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) Condemns Upcoming Neo-Nazi Rally

REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

UPDATE: When asked for comment, Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Digital Director Neil Strauss referred the Journal to the RJC’s statement on Charlottesville in 2017, which read, “We mourn the loss of life at Charlottesville this weekend, and will continue to pray for all those impacted. Anti-Semitism and all forms of hate are anti-American, anti-Jewish, and antithetical to any sense of decency. We regret that we continue to be faced with these issues, but the RJC will never shy away from our role of standing up to racists, fascists, and Nazis.”

Strauss also told the Journal, “I would also reiterate that we don’t believe racism and anti-Semitism have any place in our political system or civilized society.”


Some Jewish groups are denouncing the upcoming “Unite the Right 2” white supremacist rally, which is happening a year after the infamous Charlottesville rally.

The Unite the Right 2 rally is taking place on August 12, where neo-Nazis and white supremacists will be marching from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Square in front of the White House, where alt-right figures, such as known anti-Semite Paul Nehlen, will be speaking. Organizers of the rally have stated that swastika flags are not allowed, but American and Confederate flags are.

Jewish Democratic Council for America (JDCA) condemned the upcoming protest.

“The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the Unite the Right rally in our nation’s capital this weekend,” the JDCA said in a statement. “This protest, marking one year since the horrific events in Charlottesville, promises to be another display of the racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry that has grown in our country during the Trump administration. We implore protestors to demonstrate peacefully, and applaud the Metropolitan Police Department for taking every measure to prevent the rally from devolving into violence.”

The JDCA also denounced the various white supremacist and neo-Nazis running as Republicans in the November election.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling on people to “reject white supremacists’ message of hate.”

“Since Charlottesville, white supremacist violence has impacted communities across the country,” the ADL’s action page states. “But the backlash of everyday Americans against their hateful ideology has proven a strong deterrent. Together, America is stronger than hate and our values are stronger than bigotry.”

Report: White Supremacist Activity Up 77% On College Campuses

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has issued a new report stating that white supremacist activity has increased on college campuses by 77% over the past year.

According to the report, the ADL determined that there were 292 instances of white supremacist activity on universities in the 2017-18 academic year; there were 165 such instances in the prior academic year.

The white supremacist activity largely involved fliers on campus from various alt-right, neo-Nazi groups like Identity Evropa and National Socialist Legion (NSL) spreading white supremacist propaganda that includes “veiled white supremacist language to explicitly racist images and words, often includes a recruitment element, and frequently attacks minority groups including Jews, Blacks, Muslims, non-white immigrants and the LGBT community.”

Some recent examples of white supremacist activity on campus highlighted in the report included three attendees from a 2017 University of Florida speaking event for neo-Nazi Richard Spencer yelling “Heil Hitler!” as they drove by a bus stop; one of them proceeded to fire a gun in an ensuing altercation. Two of the attendees are now facing charges over the incident.

Another example included eight people posting white supremacist fliers on Texas State University’s campus; the people involved were not students and are facing trespassing charges.

“College campuses and their communities should be places for learning, growing and the future, not close-minded racism and hate-filled rhetoric from the past,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We’re concerned to see that white supremacists are accelerating their efforts to target schools with propaganda in hopes of recruiting young people to support their bigoted worldview.”

Greenblatt added, “It’s always important for university administrators to respect and protect free speech, but it’s equally vital that they take the necessary steps to counter the hateful messages of these group. These steps can include educating faculty and students on the parameters of their First Amendment rights, and also improving training for campus officials charged with responding to bias incidents and hate crimes.”

Read the full report here.

Starbucks Excludes ADL from Racial Training

Protesters marching down Market Street are seen reflected in a Starbucks storefront in Philadelphia, a week after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks coffee shop, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Starbucks has officially dropped the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) from formulating their racial training program after facing pressure from leaders in the Women’s March.

The decision to nix Starbucks from the program came after Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory criticized the ADL’s initial involvement.

“The ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people,” Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory tweeted. “This is a sign that they are tone deaf and not committed to addressing the concerns of black folk.”

Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Riley told Politico in an email that the decision to drop the ADL was due to the company’s “multi-phase approach to addressing bias.” The ADL would however be featured in an advisory role.

ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick told Politico, “When Starbucks asked for assistance, we agreed to help. As to whether Starbucks may or may not now want to utilize our expertise, you should ask them.”

In a press release, the Zioness Movement criticized Starbucks for their decision.

“What a painful irony that, in their attempt to combat racial stereotyping, Starbucks has given in to purveyors of other hatreds,” the movement stated. “Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour have no authority lecturing anyone – especially one of America’s largest and most influential corporations – on bigotry.”

The movement proceeded to slam Mallory and Sarsour for their prior associations with the “unabashed anti-Semite” Louis Farrakhan and defended the ADL.

“The ADL has been on the front lines of civil rights advocacy and anti-bias work for more than a hundred years and is uniquely qualified to provide trainings on white supremacy, implicit bias and divisive stereotyping, helping to build stronger, more open and welcoming communities,” the Zioness Movement said. “We call on Starbucks to stand up to hatred and bigotry, and reinstate the ADL as a leading partner in this necessary conversation.”

Starbucks’ racial training program is being organized in response to an incident in which two black men were arrested for refusing to leave a Starbucks after they were denied from using the bathroom since they didn’t purchase anything. The program is scheduled for May 29.

Moving & Shaking: Shul Merger, ADL Entertainment Dinner

From left: ETTA president Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA co-chairman Jaime Sohacheski, ETTA Executive Director Michael Held, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, and Irina Schaeffer and George Schaeffer celebrate the opening of ETTA’s headquarters in North Hollywood. Photo by Steve Cohn Photography.

More than 200 supporters of ETTA, a provider of social services in Los Angeles for Jewish adults with special needs, gathered for the April 15 grand opening of ETTA’s new headquarters in North Hollywood, at 13034 Saticoy St.

While still retaining a presence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood with its community-based adult day programs, which help clients feel more confident and independent in their communities, ETTA has consolidated its office operations in the North Hollywood location to better serve its clients and the greater community, said ETTA spokesman Harvey Farr.

The celebratory event, which coincided with ETTA’s 25th anniversary, paid tribute to husband-and-wife George and Irina Schaeffer, longtime ETTA supporters whose financial support made the new headquarters a reality.

Attendees included state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, ETTA President Kambiz Babaoff, ETTA Co-Chairman Jaime Sohacheski and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held.

Founded in 1993, ETTA serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by providing residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and training.

The organization is an affiliate of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.

From left: Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen appeared at the Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir installation ceremony. Courtesy of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir.

San Fernando Valley congregations Temple B’nai Hayim and Congregation Beth Meir have made their merger official, signaling a new chapter for the two congregations that have struggled financially and experienced declining memberships over the past several years.

The merger, effective Aug. 29, followed the nearly $1 million sale of the Beth Meir campus in Studio City in February 2017. On April 15, the merged temples celebrated the installation of Rabbi Richard Flom and Rabbi/Hazzan Jason Van Leeuwen. The ceremony drew 75 people to the community’s new home, Temple B’nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks.

“We’re off to a great start, with wonderful High Holiday services and continued Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday morning, well-attended,” Lenny Adelson, chair of the transitional board of Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir, said in an email.

“It was hard to move out of our building in Studio City,” said Martin Lee, a longtime Beth Meir member who has been serving on the transitional board during the merger. “The building is iconic and its dome was built to resemble Rachel’s Tomb. It was established in 1957 and we had concerns about who was going to purchase it and what would be done with the place. In the end, once we put the building up for sale, our neighbor, who had a good relationship with our rabbi, offered to purchase it over the asking price because he wanted to extend his shopping mall. So it all worked out well.”

Adelson, originally of Temple B’nai Hayim, said the merger has proven beneficial for both congregations.

“We had known for years that we would need to merge with another temple,” he said. “I think that everyone in both congregations was satisfied. It was clear that neither congregation had the capital to sustain payments and go on. It was either merge or close the doors, and it worked out beautifully.”

With the combined membership, Temple B’nai Hayim in association with Congregation Beth Meir has about 100 members.

—  Ayala Or-El, contributing writer

From left: American Friends of Hebrew University honorees Gayle and Edward Roski, Patricia Glaser, Hebrew University President Asher Cohen and Richard Ziman attend the AFHU Scopus Award gala. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography.

The American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU) Scopus Award gala, which honored wife-and-husband Gayle and Edward Roski Jr., was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 19.

During the event, Roski, chairman and president of Majestic Realty Co., called Hebrew University a “shining example of the world’s best minds and research.”

With Gayle at his side, the real estate developer and philanthropist described the moving experience he had ascending Masada in Israel. Meanwhile, he expressed his support for the Jewish state.

“With all the changes happening around the world, it is more important than ever to support Israel,” Roski said.

He called the recent decision by President Donald Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a “powerful form of recognition.”

The event drew 425 attendees and raised more than $1.6 million for AFHU, a national nonprofit that raises funds and awareness for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We exist to connect the passions of Americans to the talent at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the world’s most distinguished academic and research institutions,” the AFHU website says.

The Scopus Award, named for Mount Scopus, where Hebrew University’s first cornerstones were laid in 1918, is the highest honor AFHU bestows — “awarded to individuals who demonstrate humanitarian concerns throughout their careers.”

Speakers included emcee Jonathan Anschell; attorney Patricia Glaser, vice chair of AFHU’s Western region; Richard Ziman, chairman of AFHU’s Western region; Mark Genender, president of AFHU’s Western region; and Hebrew University President Asher Cohen.

The Rev. Gregory Goethals delivered the benediction, and Rabbi Naomi Levy led the invocation.

A marching band from USC — Roski’s alma mater — kicked off the event by performing instrumental versions of songs including  “Uptown Funk.”

At the evening’s conclusion, Grammy winner Michael Bolton performed.

From left: Political scientist Fred Balitzer; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman; and Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper participate in a dialogue at the Museum of Tolerance. Photo by Bart Bartholomew/Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has honored Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with its International Leadership Award, which it said marked the first time the Indian spiritual leader has been honored by a Jewish organization.

The SWC recognized Shankhar, founder of The Art of Living Foundation, an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering stress-free minds and violence-free societies, on April 16 at the Museum of Tolerance.

Shankar has partnered with SWC’s mission throughout Asia, including bringing “Courage to Remember,” the SWC traveling Holocaust exhibit, to cities including Delhi and Bangalore, India.

“Despite the obvious cultural and religious difference, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s global agenda is closely aligned to the goals the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance pursue every day,” said SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. “We are honored to have worked with the founder of Art of the Living in Israel, Indonesia, India and the U.S.”

Following the award presentation, Shankar, Cooper, political scientist Fred Balitzer and Holocaust survivor Sol Teichman participated in a discussion about the nexus between religion, terrorism and tolerance.

From left: ADL Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Jill Ratner; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; actor Rob Morrow; ADL honoree Nancy Dubuc; Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; and Entertainment Industry Dinner Co-Chair Michael Garfinkel attend the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner. Photo by Michael Kovac.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Nancy Dubuc, chief executive officer of Vice Media, at the ADL 2018 Entertainment Industry Dinner on April 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Upon accepting her award, Dubuc, who previously was president of A+E Networks and whose hiring at Vice was announced in March, spoke of the importance of entertainment industry leaders using their pulpit to influence positive change.

“Entertainment is an incredibly powerful platform in our country’s culture,” she said, before asking her industry colleagues to use storytelling to “keep educating and elevating our understanding of one another.”

The event raised more than $500,000 for ADL efforts to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds.

Event emcee, actor Rob Morrow, said the ADL’s work was more important than ever at a time when anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred are increasing in the United States.

“Never before in my life has truth been under such assault,” Morrow said. “Never before has the venom of defamation had so many means to spread.”

Additional speakers included entertainment committee co-chairs Jill Ratner and Michael Garfinkel; Kern Oduro, assistant superintendent at the Chaffey Joint Union High School District in San Bernardino County; ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; entertainment industry attorney and ADL Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman; entertainment executive and ADL’s National Entertainment Advisory Council Chair Ben Silverman, and actress and director Shiri Appleby, who presented the honoree with her award.

“Nancy has used the power of media to advocate for some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time,” Appleby said. “She has used her influence, power and platform to bring out the best in us.”

Moving & Shaking: ETTA Celebrates; Federation Honors Bruce Powell

From left: ETTA Board of Advisors member Davis Factor, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, ETTA Executive Director Michael Held, former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Ben Allen and ETTA board member Sam Yebri attend ETTA’s 24th annual gala. Photo courtesy of ETTA

ETTA, an organization that provides programs and services that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independent lives, held its 24th annual gala on Nov. 29 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event honored Jonathan and Miriam Istrin and Susie and Fred Toczek, who together announced a scholarship program — Summer@ETTA — for the ETTA summer camp. The program serves teens and adults with developmental disorders, including autism and Down syndrome.

Also feted were longtime ETTA staff members Leah Schachter, director of volunteer services and special events, and Josh Taff, director of the Isak Boruchin Adult Day Program, who received the inaugural “Etty” award for outstanding professional achievement. Eight ETTA youth board members received the Youth Leadership Award. The Pujols Family Foundation, a nonprofit that supports families living with Down syndrome, received the Community Philanthropy Award. And the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, which recently donated a van to the organization, received the Builders of Tomorrow award.

The 700 attendees included Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who turned out with his older brother, Champ, who has Down syndrome. Pederson accepted the award on behalf of the Pujols Family Foundation, which is named for Los Angeles Angels player Albert Pujols.

Dan Freeberg and James Geary accepted the award on behalf of the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation. Actor Bradley Whitford (“The Post”) emceed. Actor Gary Cole (“Veep”) also attended.

Civic, political and community leaders in attendance included former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Ben Allen, L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, attorney and ETTA board member Sam Yebri, ETTA Board of Advisors member Davis Factor and ETTA Executive Director Michael Held.

Temple Beth Ami Cantor Kenny Ellis (far right) hosts a Christmas Eve screening of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts theater in Beverly Hills. Photo by Tish Laemmle

More than 1,500 people turned out for screenings of “Fiddler on the Roof” at Laemmle Theatres outlets across Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, marking the 10th consecutive year that the theater chain has shown Norman Jewison’s 1971 musical film about the shtetl of Anatevka on the night before Christmas.

“We totally rocked the shtetl at six venues with seven packed auditoriums,” said Laemmle Theatres spokesman Marc Horwitz.

As they have done every year, folks who turned out at Laemmle theaters in Beverly Hills, Encino, Pasadena, Santa Monica and elsewhere sang along with favorites “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “If I Were a Rich Man.” The screenings also feature a host who leads the crowd in “Fiddler” trivia before the start of the film.

The hosts were Temple Beth Ami Cantor Kenny Ellis, a comic and entertainer who recently appeared as a rabbi in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; klezmer bandleader Gustavo Bulgach; actress Susan Edwards Martin; Jason Moss of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys; Steve Sass, president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California; Cantor Phil Baron of Valley Beth Shalom; and Temple Beth Israel Cantor Paul Buch.

From left: ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind, ADL Regional Board Chair Ivy Kagan Bierman, ADL honoree Leah Weil, Bet Tzedek CEO Jessie Kornberg, retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Sarah and Joe Kiani attend the annual Anti-Defamation League gala. Photo courtesy of the ADLFoundation

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its 2017 annual gala celebration on Dec. 6 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

The event honored Leah Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel at Sony Pictures, with the Jurisprudence Award. Weil, the child of Holocaust survivors, said she has always been focused on pushing back against anti-Semitism, in part, because of her family history.

Additional honorees were husband and wife Joe and Sarah Kiani, who were presented with the Humanitarian Award by retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Joe Kiani is CEO and chairman of Masimo Corp., a medical technology company, and Sarah Kiani is a board member of the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare.

According to a press release, Sarah Kiani described the ADL as “our nation’s David, slinging rocks against the Goliath of prejudice and hate, and standing up for those who are voiceless.”

The event raised nearly $1.1 million to support ADL efforts combating racism and bigotry.

Attendees and participants included Los Angeles Assistant Supervising Deputy City Attorney Anh Truong; ADL National Youth Leadership Mission participant Haley Pak; comedian and actor Wayne Federman, who emceed; and songwriter Alan Bergman.

Stephen Jensen, Anthony Vinciquerra and Karen and Alan Weil co-chaired.

Howard Kaplan, incoming general manager at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries. Photo courtesy of Mount Sinai

On Feb. 1, Howard Kaplan will join Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries as its new general manager. For the past 13 years, Kaplan served as executive director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where he was instrumental in reviving its summer camp programs and spearheaded the 2011-15 renovation and expansion of its Erica J. Glazer Family Campus. Kaplan previously held key positions at Temple Aliyah and the Brandeis Bardin Institute.

Since its inception in 1964, the Mount Sinai general manager position has been held by only three people. Kaplan will succeed Leonard (Len) Lawrence, who is stepping down after 15 years to pursue new business opportunities. The mortuary praised Lawrence for promoting the importance of Jewish funeral traditions and for increasing the popularity of Mount Sinai’s park in Simi Valley.

“We are excited to have Howard Kaplan join this group of esteemed professionals who have led Mount Sinai for nearly 60 years and look forward to his continued leadership,” said Eric J. Diamond, chairman of Sinai Temple’s Cemetery Management Committee. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries is the largest exclusively Jewish mortuary and cemetery organization in California.

From left: YICC Leadership Award recipients Sabrina and Aric Zamel, YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Arthur Kranzler Keter Shem Tov Award honoree Rabbi Yisroel Baruch Sufrin, Tribute Award recipient Gil Goldschein, Ruhama Muskin and Tribute Award recipient Ilana Goldschein at the YICC Tribute Award Dinner. Photo by Steve Cohn Photography

Young Israel of Century City (YICC) synagogue celebrated its annual Tribute Award dinner on Dec. 17 at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

About 400 guests joined in celebrating the completion of YICC’s new facility at 9315 W. Pico Blvd., which opened on Dec. 1 after 18 months of construction.

YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin paid tribute to all those who devoted their time and talent to making the new building possible.

The synagogue presented Rabbi Yisroel Boruch Sufrin, head of school at the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, with the YICC Arthur Kranzler Keter Shem Tov Award in appreciation of his allowing the synagogue to use the school’s facilities during YICC’s construction project.

The synagogue’s treasurer, Aric Zamel, and his wife, Sabrina, were honored with the Leadership Award for serving on the building committee and for their many years of commitment to the synagogue.

Synagogue President Gil Goldschein and his wife, Ilana, received the Tribute Award for their dedication in leading the congregation during the new building’s construction.

Bruce Powell (center), the outgoing head of school at deToledo High School, appears with deToledo High School faculty at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Global Teen Twinning Program 20th anniversary event. Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Global Teen Twinning Program on Dec. 10 at Stephen Wise Temple.

The event acknowledged the impact the program has had on thousands of students and their families, and recognized Bruce Powell, the outgoing head of school at deToledo High School, for 20 years of leadership and support of twinning.

The Federation program connects 20 schools in Los Angeles with 20 schools in Tel Aviv and one in Vilnius, Lithuania, through jointly prepared curricula, teacher training and exchanges lasting 10 days or more.

The initiative has supported more than 60,000 middle and high school students, parents and faculty, some of whom attended the event.

Jewish groups in aftermath of Las Vegas attack call for tougher gun control laws

Las Vegas Metro Police and medical workers stage in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1. Photo by Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Jewish groups responded to the mass shooting in Las Vegas by condemning the violence and calling for gun control legislation.

At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 wounded in the attack at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Strip late Sunday night. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Reform movement were among the groups that called for tougher gun control laws in the attack’s aftermath.

“While we are still learning details and do not know the impetus for the killings, one thing is clear: the threat of mass violence against innocent civilians in America has not abated. This threat must be taken seriously,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. He called for the enactment of “tough, effective gun violence prevention measures.”

Greenblatt said its Center on Extremism is investigating the background and activity of shooter Stephen Paddock and whether he may have ties to extremists or was motivated by any extremist ideology.

B’nai B’rith International said it is “well past time for meaningful, bipartisan gun violence legislation in this country.” It also said: “Though information about the shooter and his arsenal is still being uncovered, we have long held there is no acceptable, reasonable need for civilians to have access to large rounds of ammunition.”

“B’nai B’rith stands in solidarity with the Las Vegas community and with all those impacted by gun violence around the nation,” the statement also said.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman in a statement called for Congress to act to “stem the tide of this senseless violence before yesterday’s tragedy becomes just another record to be broken.”

“Federal lawmakers must act now to restrict access to automatic weapons, reject the current bill before Congress that would make it easier to buy silencers, and instead focus on how to make our communities and our country safer. NCJW expects nothing less from our elected officials,” the statement also said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said the mass shooting cannot be termed a random act of violence.

“Even before all the facts are known we know this: rather than revere gun rights our country must finally revere human life,” he said.

“We mourn those callously slaughtered in Las Vegas and pray for the wounded. But our prayers must be followed by action, long overdue limits to the easy access to fire arms.”

The Jewish Federations of North America in its statement called on people wherever they are to donate blood.

“These attacks are just the latest instances of senseless violence that terrorizes innocent people everywhere and must come to an end,” the group said.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, also called the attack “senseless.”

“On behalf of world Jewry, I condemn this horrific criminal act,” he said in a statement.

David Bernstein, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that while authorities have not determined whether the shooting was an act of terror, “there is no question that it has terrorized and traumatized hundreds of innocent people.”

Cheryl Fishbein, the JCPA’s chair, added: “It is imperative that we come together to address the underlying causes in the days ahead.”

There are over 70,000 Jews and at least 19 synagogues in Las Vegas, according to the website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump is heartless and cruel

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

A narcissist is a person concerned only about himself. He sees the world through a lens reflecting just his image. Everything is a function of his ego. He is hypersensitive to slights. He bristles at criticism. If it serves his interests, he attacks, maligns, humiliates, and obliterates those he perceives as a threat.

When a narcissist is President of the United States, his actions, words, and policies can be cruel, and cruelty is the only word that adequately describes Trump’s action against 800,000 children of undocumented people who have committed no crime.

Trump’s cancellation of DACA instituted six years ago by the Executive Order by President Obama, despite the urging of Trump’s advisors and many fellow Republicans not to do so, is without question the ugliest action he has taken since becoming President. In my memory, this is the ugliest action taken by any president in my lifetime.

Countless Jewish organizations have condemned Trump’s decision including the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the American Jewish Committee, the ADL, Bend the Arc, J Street, Amenu, the National Council of Jewish Women, Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Shalom Center, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Why did Trump do it? The writer John Binder in Breitbart News tried to justify Trump’s action:

“Ending DACA could be a major stimulus for the 4.4 percent of unemployed Americans who will see more than 700,000 new job openings across the United States.”

Rob Eshman, the publisher of the LA Jewish Journal, put it exactly right when he wrote this week

“… ludicrous. It assumes none of the Dreamers are self-employed, that their roles can easily be filled by the ranks of the remaining unemployed – many of whom are far less well-educated, less well-trained, less motivated, far older or not even living in areas where the Dreamers work. Some 250 work for Apple – in what fantasy world are those jobs just ripe for the picking? But Breitbart knows that.”

And so, what’s this all about?

It seems to me that Trump was motivated by two things:

First, he hates Obama never missing an opportunity to trash policies of the Obama administration. It doesn’t matter what good Obama did for the country and for millions of people. If the policy was Obama’s, Trump has sought to reverse it.

Second, Trump recognizes that his shrinking power-base has to be fed continually. His base of nativist, xenophobic, white supremacist, and anti-immigrant bigots will stay close if he speaks and acts to their dark impulses. According to polls, Trump is now losing everyone else at the rate of one percentage point each week.

Thankfully, for the sake of these 800,000 children of undocumented immigrants, there is a potential silver lining. Not only has the nation reacted negatively across political lines to Trump’s decision, Republicans are working in a bi-partisan effort with Democrats in Congress to legislate a compassionate and humane solution for the dreamers.

As more and more Republicans lose faith in Trump and see him for who he really is, many Republicans in Congress will be guided not by partisan politics but by a true moral compass. That will be good not only for the DACA people, but for the country.

Sharon Nazarian tapped to lead international affairs for ADL

Sharon Nazarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving & Shaking: ‘Judd Apatow and Friends’ support the ADL, Honeymoon Israel receives grant and more

From left: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind, film director Judd Apatow and comedians Natasha Leggero, Wayne Federman and Neal Brennan appeared Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in support of the ADL. Apatow organized the event, titled “Judd Apatow and Friends.” Photo by Tyler Ross

Hollywood writer, producer and director Judd Apatow organized an evening of comedy called “Judd Apatow and Friends” in support of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Aug. 24 at Largo at the Coronet in Beverly Grove.

Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) was joined by comedians Natasha Leggero (“Chelsea Lately”), Wayne Federman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Neal Brennan (“Chappelle’s Show”) and Jerrod Carmichael (“The Carmichael Show”).

Apatow said he was inspired to organize the performance in response to the Aug. 11-12 white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., that included anti-Semitic chants, acts of intimidation against local Jews, neo-Nazi demonstrations and the death of woman who was a counterprotester.

Apatow, who is Jewish, publicized the event on Twitter, where he has been active in criticizing the administration of President Donald Trump.

During the event, Apatow “touched on several ADL areas of concern, including anti-Semitism, women’s rights, racism and immigration reform,” the ADL said in a statement.

ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind also spoke at the event and discussed “ADL’s role in monitoring and exposing extremist and hate groups, and protecting civil rights in America,” the ADL said.

The sold-out event raised $8,700 in support of the ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in the United States.

In addition, in a current online campaign, Apatow has pledged to match contributions of up to $10,000 to the ADL’s national office.

Whitney Kirk and Lindsey Arnold were participants on the September 2016 Honeymoon Israel Los Angeles trip. Photo courtesy of Honeymoon Israel


Honeymoon Israel, a national Jewish organization that subsidizes newly married couples with at least one Jewish partner to take part in group trips to Israel, recently received a $1.5 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. Some of the grant money will help pay for Honeymoon Israel’s overall operations, while part will go toward the $600,000 invested in its local branch, said Michael D. Wise, co-CEO of Honeymoon Israel.

The 2-year-old organization works to help new couples build connections to local Jewish communities and encourages them to experience a deeper sense of Judaism by visiting Israel with other local couples.

“Seeing, touching and feeling Israel together as a newly married interfaith couple was a profound experience,” Diana and Karen Lovati, a couple from Los Angeles, said in a statement.

Whitney Kirk and her wife, Lindsey Arnold, of Playa del Rey, took Honeymoon Israel’s third trip, which left from Los Angeles in September 2016.

“Honeymoon Israel allowed my wife and me the opportunity to visit and experience the wonders of Israel as a couple, without the fear of being judged as a married, interfaith, lesbian couple,” Kirk said. “Before Honeymoon Israel, we were looking for a local Jewish community, and a year later, not only do we still stay in touch and spend time with the couples and staff we met on the trip, but our community continues to grow through couple-hosted events.”

In a statement, Barry Finestone, president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation, said the future looks bright for Honeymoon Israel, which continues to grow and expand to more cities.

“The foundation is excited,” Finestone said, “to engage even more couples from a range of backgrounds in this powerful experience.”

— Julie Bien, Contributing Writer

The Valley Jewish Community Center boys 16-and-under soccer team won the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games. Photo courtesy of Lori Larcara


The Valley Jewish Community Center’s boys soccer team for players age 16 and under took the gold medal at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games in Albany, N.Y., which were held Aug. 6-11.

The team dedicated its victory to the memory of Dr. David Fett, whose son played on the team eight years ago. Fett, an ophthalmologist who also was a supporter of the Valley JCC, died a few days before the tournament began.

Lori Larcara, mother of Jake Larcara, one of the Valley JCC players, said the team was proud to be playing in Fett’s honor.

“They never lost sight of their goal and the task at hand,” she said. “More importantly, they never forgot that this tournament was for them and Dr. Fett.”

The other team members were Amit Bitton, Ori Bitton, Tal Bitton, Yoav Cohen, Evan Davila, Edan Klier, Mikey Levy, David Luner, Dor Moskowitz, Benjamin Newman and Harel Spivak. The team was coached by Oren Diamant.

Larcara credited the support that all of the Valley JCC’s soccer teams have received from Shay Diamant, Philip Benditson and Kobi Koren, who has been coaching local JCC Maccabi teams for 25 years.

“These gentlemen volunteer their time, compassion and commitment and bring in donations of approximately $20,000 to help cover costs and offer financial aid,” Larcara said in an email.

The JCC Maccabi Games, held each summer in North America, also had competitions in Birmingham, Ala., from July 30 to Aug. 4, and Miami, from Aug. 6-11.

Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker, were among several people from Los Angeles who made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. Photo courtesy of Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum


Several people from Los Angeles made aliyah to Israel in August thanks to the nonprofit Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) organization.

Founded in 2001, NBN works with numerous agencies — including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund-USA — to facilitate emigration from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the organization surpassed bringing its 50,000th oleh (immigrant) to Israel.

Los Angeles-area residents who made aliyah in August included Pesach (Paul) Nisenbaum and his wife, Lida Baker; Carey Fried, Sara Chana Morrow, Rivka Grob, Yehuda Frischman and Robin Silver-Zwiren.

Nisenbaum, 66, a retired special education teacher, said the recent death of his mother, Faye Franks Nisenbaum Gelb, led him to decide it was the right time to fulfill a longtime dream of immigrating to Israel.

“We have been to Israel many times, over decades,” he said in an email. “I have been waiting to make aliyah for decades.”

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios and an advisory board member of Creative Community for Peace Photo courtesy of Creative Community for Peace

Marty Adelstein, CEO of Tomorrow Studios, has joined the advisory board of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), the organization announced on Aug. 21.

CCFP is composed of prominent members of the entertainment industry who promote the arts as a means to achieve peace, support artistic freedom and counter the cultural boycott of Israel. In August, the organization supported British rock band Radiohead’s decision to perform in Israel, despite the protests of some musicians, including former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who called on Radiohead to cancel its performance.

Adelstein’s career spans 25 years as an agent, manager and feature film and television producer. Other entertainment industry professionals involved in CCFP include Adam Berkowitz, co-head of the television department at Creative Artists Agency; Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group; and Rick Krim, West Coast president of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

“[Their] success and wide-ranging relationships will help us in our mission to promote the arts as a means to peace, defend artistic freedom, and counter the attempted cultural boycott of Israel,” CCFP said in a statement.

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Hateful rhetoric unleashed against Santa Monica community group

Screenshot from YouTube

A Santa Monica community group focused on addressing racial inequality has been targeted in recent months by increasing numbers of individuals espousing racist and anti-Semetic rhetoric.

The issues began in July, when a workshop titled “White Privilege and What We Can Do About It,” organized by the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice, at the Virginia Avenue Park community center was interrupted by five people. Video shows those five — three of whom kept their faces covered with bandanas — making hate-filled comments during the meeting.

A month later, there were about 50 such people, committee organizers said. Video footage compiled by local blogger Clay Claiborne, who attended the event, shows the outsiders arguing with and taunting meeting-goers outside of the community center. Later, they are shown trying to force their way into the meeting and being blocked, first by the attendees and then by police.

“It was scary,” said Claiborne, who said the attendees had to leave the community center through the back door at the end of the event because they felt threatened. “When have I ever left a meeting in Santa Monica and worried about, ‘Is somebody going to tail me?’ or ‘Is somebody going to assault me on the way to the car?’ In Santa Monica!”

The committee’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 10. It will focus on raising racially conscious children.

The Committee for Racial Justice formed six years ago. The Rev. Janet McKeithen, a member of the steering committee, said the group was created by members of the Church in Ocean Park, an interfaith congregation in Santa Monica. Since then, it’s expanded to include community members from outside the church who come from a variety of backgrounds and faiths, she said.

Today, the committee holds monthly workshops at the Virginia Avenue Park community center. Workshops, which typically draw about 50 people, focus on educating the community about racism and devising ways to address it in the education and criminal justice systems, she said.

The city of Santa Monica allows the committee to use the community center free of charge but does not provide any funding. Workshops are open to the public, McKeithen said.

McKeithen said she was shocked when she heard about the recent hate-related incident at the July meeting, which she did not attend. She said the committee has been holding workshops peacefully since it formed and had not faced similar incidents. McKeithen did go to the August meeting, where she said individuals were hurling racist and anti-Jewish slurs and pushing into people to try to aggravate them.

In a recording of a meeting, one person, whose face is covered with a bandana, holds up a sign saying, “DA GOYIM KNO,” which, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), is a phrase used among white supremacists imagining the supposed reaction of Jews when non-Jewish people realize Jews rule the world.

“They were very, very anti-Semitic and very, very racist,” McKeithen said. “They’re trying to provoke, they’re trying to incite, and they all have a video camera connected to their arm. … They edit the videos to make us look like we’re completely crazy.”

According to reports by the Santa Monica Mirror, those attending the meeting included people working for the Red Elephants, which operates an online news site and bills itself as “an organization of like-minded conservatives that have come together to spread awareness and truth.”

According to Joanna Mendelson, senior investigative researcher with the ADL, Red Elephants co-founder Vincent James is a known alt-right sympathizer who has interviewed and given a platform to white nationalists such as Jason Kessler, organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. James offered commentary regarding a Committee for Racial Justice meeting in a video of the events posted on the Red Elephants’ website. In the commentary, James echoes remarks by individuals at the meeting that Jewish people are not really white and claims the committee workshops are organized by “a bunch of rich Jewish people from Brentwood.”


Members of another group called the Beach Goys tried to enter the meeting in August, according to the Santa Monica Mirror. Mendelson said this group, and others who attended the meeting, all are loosely affiliated and espouse the same rhetoric.

They “paint themselves as victims of an anti-white narrative of which they place blame of perpetuating these beliefs on Jews,” she said.

Responding to an email inquiry to the Red Elephants from the Journal, a person identified as Vincent Foxx tried to distance the group from the protesters shown in the videos.

“We are media. Like Rebel Media or Infowars. We have reporters across country that report on different things. We have broken many stories. We have nothing to do with protesters that show up,” he wrote. “ We film and cover wherever there is controversial occurrences. … We are not objective journalists by any means. We are considered advocacy journalists.” 

A group on Twitter called the SoCal Beach Goys, which describes itself on the social media platform as “SoCal’s largest and most active alt-right, WN [white nationalist] fraternity,” did not respond immediately to a request for information.

McKeithen said the steering committee has spoken with the Santa Monica police department and city officials to prepare for the group’s upcoming meeting, and brought in experts to provide “nonviolent de-escalation” trainings. McKeithen said many meeting attendees have been deeply affected by the recent incidents.

“It’s traumatizing for many people,” she said. ‘Its hard to see that kind of hate. …When it’s right there in your face and you try to stop it and it doesn’t stop, it’s really difficult.”

Robbie Jones, who also is on the steering committee, said she wants city officials to do more to stand up against racism and assure community members they are safe.

“It’s a threat. It’s like terrorism,” she said. “They’re coming and trying to tear the city apart.” n

ADL gives Jewish organizations security tips for High Holy Days

Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) in Venice Beach. Photo from Wikipedia

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) officials say they are not aware of any specific threats targeting Los Angeles Jewish communities in advance of the High Holy Days. Nevertheless, they are helping synagogues and Jewish institutions create safe, secure and welcoming environments so that congregants can pray with peace of mind.

The ADL regional office in Century City, as it does every year, held a security briefing on Aug. 22 at which ADL and FBI experts discussed how to respond to bomb threats and make risk assessments. The briefing, attended by representatives of about 50 local Jewish organizations, was closed to the press.

One person who attended the briefing, Lisabeth Lobenthal, executive director at University Synagogue, a Reform community in Brentwood, said in a phone interview that her community faces security issues not only on each of the High Holy Days, which draw 1,000 people, but throughout the year.

In June, Lobenthal said, she called the police when her synagogue received a threatening email. At the time, bomb threats had been called into the Westside Jewish Community Center and other Jewish centers in Southern California, so University Synagogue was not taking any chances.

“We knew it wasn’t real, but given the specific language, which was pretty horrific, we took it seriously,” she told the Journal. Her response followed U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommendations, which were also outlined in materials the ADL made available to attendees of the security briefing.

“Bomb threats are serious until proven otherwise,” the ADL says in an advisory on its website.

The ADL said Jewish community centers and other organizations in 38 states and three Canadian provinces were threatened 167 times from January to March of this year.

The annual High Holy Days briefing draws representatives from synagogues, social service organizations and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which operates the Community Security Initiative outreach program.

The ADL said its speakers emphasize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to security, but they share steps that all organizations can take to be better prepared for anything that might happen.

Joanne Feldman, executive director of the Pacific Jewish Center (PJC) in Venice Beach, said the advice is especially critical for congregations like hers, which is also known as Shul on the Beach. PJC, a Modern Orthodox shul expecting about 100 people on each of the holidays, is located on the Venice Beach boardwalk. People of all backgrounds pass by it every day.

It’s like “having a synagogue in the middle of Times Square,” Feldman said, “with all that heavy traffic going by nonstop, with wonderful people and crazy people.”

She recalled an anti-hate demonstration on the boardwalk, organized on a Saturday after the recent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. The PJC community was attending Shabbat services and feared that something could happen at the shul.

“We secured the doors to the shul, locked the doors to the shul and the door to the women’s section until they passed by, just to be preventative,” Feldman said.

Elise Jarvis, the ADL’s associate director for law enforcement outreach and community security, said additional vigilance in this post-Charlottesville period would serve communities well during the High Holy Days.

“We want to take security into consideration in our everyday operations and be thinking about security 24/7 and have a culture of security all the time,” Jarvis said. “This year in particular, now after what we saw happening in Charlottesville and the fact that we see white supremacists feeling emboldened, all those security measures are all the more important.”

One practical step Jewish institutions can take is maintaining a close relationship with local law enforcement.

“It’s very important to know who to go to if we are targeted or threatened, so [law enforcement] can respond as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Jarvis said.

The ADL often helps connect Jewish organizations without law enforcement contacts to police officials. It also provides security resources on its website, including guides titled “Protecting Your Jewish Institution: Security Strategies for Today’s Dangerous World” and “Security Recommendations for the High Holidays.” The materials focus on how to create both a secure environment and a welcoming place for people to observe the holiest days of the year, two goals that are not necessarily in conflict, Jarvis said.

“A secure environment — a safe environment — is a welcoming environment,” she said.  n

Jay-Z defends lyric called anti-Semitic: ‘Context is everything’

Jay-Z at Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles, July 13, 2017. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

Jay-Z defended his decision to include a lyric in a song on his latest album that has been called anti-Semitic, saying he exaggerated images of black people in the same song.

The rapper was discussing his song “The Story of O.J,” which appears on his “4:44” album, during an interview with the Rap Radar podcast last week.

The song lyric says: “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This is how they did it.”

Following the release of the album, the Anti-Defamation League expressed concern about the lyric, but emphasized it did not believe Jay-Z intended to promote anti-Semitism. The ADL said that “we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism.”

In his podcast interview with hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian “B. Dot” Miller, the rapper said of the accusations: “It’s hard for me to take that serious because I’ve exaggerated every black image in the world.” He added, referencing the song’s music video, “If even you, as the Jewish community, if you don’t have a problem with the exaggerations of the guy eating watermelon and all the things that was happening, if you don’t have a problem with that, and that’s the only line you pick out, then you are being a hypocrite.

“Of course I know Jewish people don’t own all the property in America. I mean, I own things! So I know that they don’t own all of the property in America. It was an exaggeration.”

He added that “context is everything,” explaining further, “I pretty much said, ‘If you want to be good at property and things like that, follow this pattern.’ It’s almost like saying, ‘Kobe Bryant shot a lot of shots. If you want to be good at basketball, practice your thousand shots and do what he did.’ And then Kobe Bryant comes out and says, ‘Whatchu trying to say, all black people play basketball?’ That’s how ridiculous it is. … C’mon, you know I didn’t say that. Context is everything.”

The ADL said in its statement released last month, “The idea that Jews ‘own all the property’ in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish ‘control’ of the banks and finance.”

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.

BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

ADL reports 1000% surge in online donations after Charlottesville rally

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Kickoff: James Murdoch pledges $1M to ADL | J.K. Rowling on Trump: ‘He actually did bring Mideast together’ | Meet the Miami Marlins’ new owners

James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, speaking at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 19. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic

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THE TRUMP EFFECT: “James Murdoch Pledges $1 Million to Anti-Defamation League as Trump Protest” by Maggie Haberman: “James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va… In an email on Thursday… Mr. Murdoch said that he and his wife, Kathryn, plan to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, urging others to follow suit. “We hardly ever talk about our charitable giving, but in this case I wanted to tell you and encourage you to be generous too. Many of you are supporters of the Anti-Defamation League already — now is a great time to give more,” he wrote.” [NYTimes

“It is all the more notable, however, because of Murdoch’s father’s relationship with the president. Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, speaks with the president several times a week… 21st Century Fox is also the parent company of Fox News, which has been aggressively pro-Trump on its most-watched shows. The younger Murdoch begins his letter by saying he was writing “in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father,” but he went on to highlight how his business had tried to contribute to a diverse and tolerant society.” [CNNMoney]

THE DAILY KUSHNER: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner face pressure to speak out on anti-Semitism” by David Smith: “The couple are practising Modern Orthodox Jews and have been able to separate expressions of their faith from their White House roles as advisers to the president. So far. “That’s the question swirling around the Jewish community since November 9,” said Rabbi Shira Stutman of the Sixth & I Historic synagogue in Washington. “It’s also the Jewish school they go to, it’s also the Jewish preschool they go to. The community has taken the tack of letting them be. Who knows if this is what will set people over the edge?”

“Since moving from New York, Ivanka and Jared have attended the TheSHUL of the Nation’s Capital… Rabbi Levi Shemtov gave a speech before Ivanka and Jared first arrived, urging congregants to avoid political confrontations, and there have been no incidents… Shemtov himself declined to comment on Thursday. “Once someone steps over the threshold of our synagogue, I’d prefer to respect their privacy,” he said. Arnold Resnicoff, a rabbi and military veteran due to give a prayer at the opening of the pro-forma session of the House of Representatives on Friday, said he thought confrontations at the TheSHUL of the Nation’s Capital were unlikely… “I think they would respect Jared and Ivanka and not put the sins of the father on them.” [TheGuardian]

“Billionaire Ally of Putin Socialized With Kushner, Ivanka Trump” by Stephanie Baker, Irina Reznik and  Katya Kazakina: “In 2014, the Kushners spent four days in Russia at the invitation of [Roman] Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. The couples sat at the same table along with a few other people during a high-powered fundraising dinner for Moscow’s Jewish Museum. Kushner also was invested in an online art business of which Zhukova is a founding partner. Ivanka Trump, Kushner and his brother, Joshua, have accompanied Zhukova to sporting events in the New York area… Kushner and Abramovich have never met one-on-one or alone with their wives, according to the person familiar with the situation… The dinner they attended with the Kushners attracted powerful Russian billionaires and leading businessmen. A spokesman for Abramovich said the billionaire hasn’t interacted with Kushner since then… This month, Abramovich and Zhukova announced they’re separating after 10 years.” [Bloomberg]

“PLO: ‘It’s now or never’ for Trump’s Mideast peace push” by Josh Rogin: “Jared Kushner’s trip to the Middle East next week will be a do-or-die moment in the Trump administration’s nascent Middle East peace process initiative, according to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s representative in Washington… “It’s now or never,” [Husam] Zomlot said. “This is the time and this is the opportunity … we are hanging on this opportunity … we want it to succeed.” … Ahead of the meetings, the PLO is laying out a public position for what it wants: specifically, that the Trump administration clearly and unequivocally endorse the two-state solution. He communicated that directly to [Jason] Greenblatt in a meeting at the White House earlier this week… Congress is moving forward with [the Taylor Force Act]… But that funding program is “nonnegotiable,” said Zomlot. “We are not going to get past it.””

“The White House is keeping expectations low ahead of Kushner’s trip… Kushner and his team are not likely to make any big announcements next week or give the Palestinians the clarity they are seeking on the way forward… On the greater question of whether a peace deal is even possible under the current conditions, Zomlot said all eyes are on Trump. “[Trump] thinks it is possible,” he said. “Even if it’s not, it’s good he thinks so.””[WashPost]

SCENE YESTERDAY: A senior Israeli security delegation led by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with the U.S. National Security team led by NSA H. R. McMaster at the White House. Other participants included Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, Dina Powell, Victoria Coates, Thomas Bossert, and Israeli Amb. Ron Dermer [Pic] McMaster and his wife Katie also hosted the U.S. and Israeli delegations at their home for dinner [Pic]

“J.K. Rowling Just Pointed Out One Surprising Result of Trump’s Remarks” by Raisa Bruner: “On Thursday, the Harry Potter author and prolific Twitter user shared a screen grab of a TV channel broadcast in which the chyron is nothing short of surprising: “Iran and Israel condemn Trump’s comments,” it reads. “Unbelievable. He actually did bring the Middle East together,” Rowling dryly commented on the image in her tweet… For the two nations to agree on something — in this case, Trump’s comments on the violent events in Charlottesville — is noteworthy.” [TIME]

DRIVING THE CONVO: “Republican Sen. Bob Corker: Trump has not shown ‘competence’ needed to lead ” by Michael Collins: “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful — and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat,” the Tennessee Republican said at a Rotary Club meeting in Chattanooga. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he fears the nation will be in peril unless Trump makes radical changes at the White House… Corker, who often advises Trump on foreign policy, has at times been both supportive and critical of Trump.” [USAToday]

— Read Aaron Magid’s profile of Corker from earlier this week — Inside Senator Bob Corker’s Realist Doctrine: “Jared Kushner… told Jewish Insider in an emailed statement, “Senator Corker is a leading voice on some of the most serious issues facing our country and provides valuable guidance, advice and input both when he agrees and disagrees with us.”” [JewishInsider]

HEARD THIS MORNING — Rep Lee Zeldin on CNN’s New Day: “Speaking for myself for sure — I’m Jewish — I have zero tolerance whatsoever for any individual who associates themselves with KKK and Nazism… The President made statements that you can say are raw, rough around the edges, politically incorrect… There are parts of what the president said that you can say are factually inaccurate. There are other parts that are hard truths. But as far as the factually inaccurate piece, I don’t know of anyone who would be there, who would associate themselves with that particular protest, who are good people.”

Trump’s relationship with the RJC becomes more complicated — by Matthew Nussbaum: “Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, would not say whether members plan any further steps to warn the president… Brooks also would not disclose any conversations with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who sits on the RJC’s board but has not personally weighed in. Still, some Republican strategists are nervous about turning off a group that regularly votes, raises money and donates to candidates. “Getting this right is life and death for the Republican Party,” said Rick Tyler, a Trump critic and former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz, who aggressively courted Republican Jews in his own 2016 presidential bid. “The Republican Jewish community provides a lot of support for the Republican Party, particularly financial support.”

“Fred Zeidman, a member of the RJC board of directors and a former George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, praised his group’s leadership for taking a stand… “We know the issues that evolve from remaining silent, and we can’t remain silent,” he told Politico on Thursday. “We know what happens when we remain silent.”” [Politico

— “World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, who has been one of Trump’s most prominent defenders, declined to comment through a spokesman.” [AP]

A Lauder spokesman tells us… “Mr. Lauder believes that President Trump should and will continue to condemn all racist and bigoted groups.”

INSIDE THE ADMIN: “Steve Bannon Detonates His Trump Survival Plan, Worrying Allies” by Adrian Carrasquillo: “Bannon, an ally said, was very angry that Cohn was telling the press about how uncomfortable he was with Trump’s Tuesday comments. “Bannon felt it was the opposite, he thought it was great,” the source relayed… Bannon’s lack of powerful allies was evident after a public feud with Jared Kushner in the spring. The former Breitbart mogul… told people behind Kushner’s back that “hopefully Jared will go down in things pertaining to Russia,” or real estate holdings… Were Bannon to go, with Kushner, Cohn, and McMaster ascendant, the first Bannon ally put it more simply. “Would we even be a movement anymore?”” [BuzzFeed

POLLING: “American voters say 59 – 32 percent that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump should not continue to work in the White House. Republicans say 62 – 26 percent the First Family should remain, but every other group says no.” [Quinnipiac]

An Open Letter to Steve Mnuchin From Members of the Yale College Class of 1985: “We can be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and a number of other things and still be friends, classmates, and patriots, but we cannot be Nazis and white supremacists… We call upon you, as our friend, our classmate, and as a fellow American, to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy.” [Letter]

EXODUS DAY 3: “Trump Abandons Plan for Council on Infrastructure” by Mark Niquette: “President Donald Trump will not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on Infrastructure… Trump had tapped New York developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, whom he described as friends, to lead the infrastructure panel, which he established by an executive order on July 19. But he had not announced any formal appointments to it.” [Bloomberg] • Members of White House presidential arts commission resign to protest Trump’s comments [WashPost]

“Three fundraising giants cancel plans for galas at Mar-a-Lago” by Drew Harwell and David Fahrenthold: “The American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises money for Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, also said it would not hold its 2018 gala at the club ‘after considerable deliberation,’ though it did not give a reason. The charity had one of Mar-a-Lago’s biggest events last season, with about 600 people in attendance.” [WashPostAP]

“Ernst & Young Chairman on Advising Trump: A Balancing Act” by Michael Rapoport: “In an internal memo sent to EY employees late Wednesday, Chairman and CEO Mark Weinberger said that “as much as I believe in engagement and dialogue,” it was “appropriate” for him and other CEOs to disband the Strategic and Policy Forum on which they had served… He added that “I was also disappointed by President Trump’s reaction to these events. I believe leaders should unite rather than divide people.”” [WSJ]

THE OTHER SIDE: “The Left’s Blind Spot: Anti-Semitism” by Phoebe Maltz Bovy: “And yet, despite this preponderance of evidence, there was a certain silence surrounding anti-Semitism over the weekend. “In addition to the horror of watching those hateful humans march in broad daylight without fearing any consequences,” Lily Herman wrote at Refinery29, “I found it disturbing that many people, including liberals and progressives, didn’t acknowledge the hateful anti-Semitic comments made by these Nazis. In some cases, they tried to argue that they didn’t happen.” She pointed out that Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted about the “provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism” without mentioning anti-Semitism. “This strange in-between of calling out Nazis without directly acknowledging their hate towards Jews made me heave a very, very long sigh.”” [NewRepublic

“Trump Isn’t The Only One Lying About What Happened In Charlottesville” by Ben Shapiro: “The lack of honesty on both sides will only deepen our polarization. If the Left insists on siding with Antifa over Trump, they’ll drive more conservatives into the arms of the alt-right; if the right insists on siding with the alt-right over the non-Antifa counter-protesters, they’ll drive more Leftists into the arms of Antifa.” [Forward

STATE-SIDE: “The only Republican in California’s Jewish Caucus quits over Trump criticism” by Eitan Arom: “The only Republican in the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has resigned after it released a statement strongly condemning President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. State Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County said in an Aug. 17 statement that the group “has clearly become a vehicle for a Legislative Caucus that receives state resources to merely criticize our duly elected President.” … Stone said, “When I was invited to join the Jewish Caucus, I was expressly told that it was a nonpartisan Caucus, and the issues we were going to be involved with would focus on promoting the interests of the Jewish people in California and around the world. Since the election of President Trump, it seems that there has been a divergence from the Caucus’ original mission.”” [JewishJournal

** A sponsored message from the Schusterman Foundation, OneTable and Repair the World: Come #TogetherAtTheTable this weekend for a celebration of unity and diversity in the face of fear and division. Pledge to host or attend a grassroots Shabbat dinner in your city now. Download discussion guides. Share with your networks. More than 60 partner organizations have joined and are spreading the #TogetherAtTheTable movement. [OneTable] **

COMING SOON: United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) will host its second annual Iran Summit, on September 19 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. The event will coincide with President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches on the opening day of the UN General Assembly. Speakers include General (Ret) David Petraeus, David Petraeus, HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, Joe Lieberman, John Bolton, Dennis Ross, former Governors Jeb Bush and Bill Richardson; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Congressman Steve Israel, and former Senator Mark Kirk.

** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BUSINESS BRIEF: IDT Corporation: Revisiting The Sum-Of-The-Parts Ahead Of The Upcoming Spin-Off [SeekingAlpha] • As Buy Calls Mount, Tel Aviv-based Wix Poised to Leave Dog Days Behind [Bloomberg] • A defense company put a machine gun on a drone and is currently in testing with the Israeli army [TechCrunch] • Houston Mayor Turner pushing for direct flights to Israel [Chron]

“The Wall Street bigwigs joining Jeter in buying the Marlins” by Richard Johnson: “Lead investor Bruce Sherman co-founded money management firm Private Capital Management, which he sold to Legg Mason for $1.3 billion. The list includes Doug Kimmelman and Peter Labbat of Energy Capital Partners, Viking Global co-founder David Ott… Others are more entrepreneurial. Chris Mettler is the founder of CompareCards, which rates credit cards, and Ari Ackerman founded Bunk1, a provider of parent-engagement software for summer camps. Ackerman sold Bunk1 to Togetherwork, which is backed by Aquiline Capital Partners LLC, in April for undisclosed terms. The price was high enough to make Ackerman a part-owner in the Marlins.” [PageSix

“Silicon Valley billionaire Stewart Butterfield voices support for universal basic income” by Ben Chapman: “Now Slack chief executive Stewart Butterfield has thrown his weight behind the basic income movement, joining such illustrious company as Bill Gates, Tesla boss Elon Musk, and Y Combinator president Sam Altman… He went on to suggest that the billions spent on university education around the world each year would be put to better use if given directly to individuals as an unconditional payment.” [Independent

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Following months of criticism, Eva Moskowitz distances herself from Trump” by Eliza Shapiro: “Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz distanced herself from President Donald Trump on Thursday, following ten months of relentless criticism from staff, board members and colleagues… “In retrospect, I should have been more outspoken so that no one would possibly think that either Success Academy or I was tacitly supporting President Trump’s policies, which are contrary to the values of respect, caring, and concern that are central to our mission,” Moskowitz wrote in Thursday’s letter… “I am deeply distressed both by the hateful violence in Charlottesville and by President Trump’s refusal to clearly denounce it,” she said.” [Politico]

FIRST DAY: Aryeh Lightstone formally started his job yesterday as a senior advisor to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Friedman tweeted: “First day of work for my Senior Advisor Aryeh Lightstone. First Meeting, the legendary Natan Sharansky – What a Start!” [Pic]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: As usual, the Barcelona terror attack was widely and quickly denounced by everyone in the Israeli political system. But the Prime Minister appeared to be putting in an extra effort to be part of the story. An hour after the attack occurred, Netanyahu arrived at the Foreign Ministry for a special video conference and consultation with the Israeli ambassador in Spain and his diplomatic team. Barcelona is a popular tourist destination and there are thousands of Israelis there this August weekend. This provides Israel with a special reason for concern, but there was also a PR cloud over Netanyahu’s unusual media blitz over the event. The Prime Minister’s Office issued numerous updates and statements and even a video of the PM’s special meeting. Given the criminal cloud surrounding him these days, Netanyahu is thirsty for any diplomatic security agenda he can get. It enables him to project “business as usual” in the wake of all of his legal affairs. Bibi’s diplomatic efforts emphasize his strong sense of statesmanship, which is unmatched by any of his political rivals. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner recovering from cancer” by Barry Svrluga: “Regardless of where the Washington Nationals sit in the standings… there has long been a night-to-night constant at Nationals Park: Mark Lerner, one of the club’s principal owners and the only son of family patriarch Ted, sitting in the first row, Nationals hat on his head, monitoring the action from the on-deck circle to the outfield seats… But over the past several months… Lerner’s front-row perch has sat empty, conspicuously vacant… Thursday night, in a letter to The Washington Post, Lerner revealed the reason for his absence: Lerner had cancer in his left leg, and though he is now cancer-free, complications following surgery and radiation treatment left doctors with little choice but to amputate the leg last week.” [WashPost]

WINE OF THE WEEK — Tzora Vineyards: Judean Hills Blanc 2016 — by Yitz Applbaum: There are only a few wineries in Israel that have managed to foster a consistent theme across all of their wines. For Tzora Vineyards the consistent theme that I have observed across all of their offerings is that the drinker notices the strong relationship between the grape in a given wine and the taste of that wine. The wine producers are true to the grape, all the while managing to bring a friendliness to the wine. The correlation the winemakers created between the grape and the flavor creates a unique fruit experience. Each bottle is memorable.

The 2016 Judean Hills Blanc is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. While the Chardonnay is dominant the Sauvignon Blanc is still noticeable. There is a dryness on the front of the palate which rings of apricots and seaweed. The mid palate experience is all Chardonnay with great melon overtones. The finish is where one notices the Sauvignon Blanc with a citrus bite and some acidity. This wine goes perfectly well with blue cheese and sharp aged cheddar. This wine will last for some time. As is the case with most Tzora Vineyard wines, they sell out quickly, so stock up on this wine. [TzoraVineyards

BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: President of Baltimore’s Seabark Insurance Agency, Jerome Seaman turns 84…  Former two-term mayor of San Diego (the first Jewish mayor of San Diego), now CEO of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation in San Diego, Susan G. Golding turns 72… President at C O Benefit Connections, Raphael Schwartz turns 62… Labor law attorney representing employers, he is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, Stuart Douglas Tochner turns 58… CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, a DC-based think tank and advocacy group focused on issues of data privacy, he was previously a member of the New York State Assembly (1994-1997), Jules Polonetsky turns 52… Economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, previously chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, Jason Furman turns 47… Sarah Bronson turns 45… Partner in the DC-based law firm of Covington & Burling, he was previously general counsel and deputy staff director of the US House Armed Services Committee, Roger Zakheim turns 40… Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, he made aliyah in 2008, he is now a fellow at the The Jewish People Policy Institute, Noah Slepkov turns 36…

SATURDAY: 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton turns 71… One of the first venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, he was an early investor in Intel, Apple Computer, Scientific Data Systems and Teledyne, Arthur Rock turns 91… Member of the South Dakota House of Representatives (2001-2005) and then a member of the South Dakota Senate (2005-2007 and 2009-2013), Stanford “Stan” M. Adelstein turns 86… President of Ono Academic College in Israel, she was the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (2008-2010), Gabriela Shalev turns 76… Co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Marc J. Rowan turns 55… Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (2009-2013), he was a law clerk for Justices William J. Brennan Jr. and David H. Souter, now a Managing Director at the Carlyle Group, Julius Genachowski turns 55… Managing editor of The New York Times, prior to joining the Times in 1998, he was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News, Joseph Kahn turns 53… Partner and talent agent in the motion picture department at William Morris Endeavor, he is very active in the contemporary art world as a collector, Dan Aloni turns 53… Former member of Knesset (2003-2006), he is the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Omri Sharon turns 53… Actress and producer, best known for her starring role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT crime drama “The Closer,” Kyra Sedgwick turns 52… Borough President of Queens since 2014, she was previously a member of the New York State Assembly (1994-1999) and the New York City Council (2002-2009), Melinda R. Katz turns 52… Founder and CEO of The Friedlander Group, Ezra Friedlander turns 49… Businessman and investor, he and a partner successfully managed a hedge fund for his father Carl Icahn, Brett Icahn turns 38… Managing partner of Handmade Capital and founder of Liveset, a digital platform for streaming live concerts, Ross Hinkle turns 38… Private equity investor, Jewish communal leader Yehuda L. Neuberger… Program Associate at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Cassandra Federbusz… Jerry Epstein

SUNDAY: Secretary of Labor for the State of Kansas, she was a member of the Kansas House of Representatives (2001-2012), Lana Goodman Gordon turns 67… Senior director at NYC-based investment bank Maxim Group, he is also president of American Friends of Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim and a board member of ZOA, Jay Knopf turns 61… Member of Congress (D-IL-10) who first won his seat in 2012, lost it in 2014 and won the seat back in 2016, Brad Schneider turns 56… US Trade Representative (2013-2017) and other high ranking postings in Democratic administrations, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, a friend and classmate of President Obama at Harvard, Michael Froman turns 55… Moroccan-born billionaire, he is the founder and controlling shareholder of the Altice Group (one of the world’s largest telecoms firms including NY-based Cablevision), Patrick Drahi turns 54… British Ambassador to Israel (2010-2015), the first Jewish UK ambassador to be posted to Tel Aviv, he is now director of cyber security and information assurance in the British Cabinet Office, Matthew Gould turns 46… VP of communications at DC-based First Focus (a nonpartisan advocacy organization for children and families), he was previously at Project On Government Oversight, Ari Goldberg turns 44… Deputy director and one of the founders of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, a summer music festival that showcases Jerusalem, Karen Brunwasser turns 41… VP managing the Iowa office of Cornerstone Government Affairs and President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, David Ryan Adelman turns 36… Real estate agent, author and television personality as an original cast member on the show Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles on the Bravo television network, Joshua Daniel “Josh” Flagg turns 32… Phoebe Bryan

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

Bumble dating app joins forces with ADL to ‘ban all forms of hate’

Bumble has over 12 million users. Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Bumble.

The popular dating app Bumble will work with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Technology and Society for “guidance on identifying all hate symbols.”

The app, which as of February had over 12 million users, announced the partnership Thursday on its website. In a statement, the company called on users to report others who displayed “hate symbols” in their profiles.

Bumble will use the ADL’s “research and terminology” to identify and categorize hate symbols.

Its statement also said the company was harassed last week by messages and phone calls from a group of neo-Nazis angry about Bumble’s “stance towards promoting women’s empowerment.”

Tinder co-founder Tiffany Wolfe started Bumble in December 2014. On Bumble, after a heterosexual match is made between users, only the female user can initiate a conversation.

Also Thursday, the dating app OkCupid said it banned a user who was identified as a “white supremacist.”


Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will donate $1 million to the ADL

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking at the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center, June 5, 2017. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pledged that his company will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League and $1 million to the Southern Poverty Law Center in the wake of the violent protests in Charlottesville.

Apple will also match employee donations to these and other groups two-for-one through September, according to a memo Cook wroteWednesday night obtained by Buzzfeed News.

Cook said he strongly disagrees with President Trump’s comparison between the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters and those who opposed their rally in Charlottesville.

“Hate is a cancer,” Cook wrote. “This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.”

A guide to the far-right groups that protested in Charlottesville

A white supremacist grabs a counter protesters' sign during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS.

They believe the “white race” is in danger. They believe the United States was built by and for white people and must now embrace fascism. They believe minorities are taking over the country. And they believe an international Jewish conspiracy is behind the threat.

These are the people who were rallying in Charlottesville.

The “Unite the Right” rally Saturday saw hundreds of people on America’s racist fringe converge in defense of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and brawl with counterprotesters. The rally ended after a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally.

The rally was the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but it wasn’t the work of one extremist group or coalition. Spearheaded by a local far-right activist named Jason Kessler, the rally saw several racist, anti-Semitic and fascist groups, new and old, come together.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the rally included “a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups – from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members.”

Many of the attendees, says the ADL’s Oren Segal, were young men who became radicalized on the internet and were not affiliated with any particular group. While some protesters belonged to the “alt-right,” a loose movement of racists, anti-Semites and nativists, others were part of older white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

At the rally, protesters were seen carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as signs with racist and anti-Semitic slogans. They chanted “Sieg heil,” gave Nazi salutes and shouted the N-word at passers-by.

“They really believe they have to save the white race, and to do that, they have to achieve some sort of white ethno-state,” Segal said. “They tend to be young, more frenetic in terms of their use of social media, while older more traditional groups like the Klan are in decline. Regardless of differences, it’s all the same hate.”

Here’s a guide to a few of the most prominent hate groups who showed up in Charlottesville.

Vanguard America

James Fields joined this relatively new fascist white supremacist group at the rally. On the homepage of its website, Vanguard America declares that “Our people are subjugated while an endless tide of incompatible foreigners floods this nation.”

The group trumpets the concept of “blood and soil,” an idea championed by the Nazis claiming that the inherent features of a people are the land it lives on and its “blood,” or race. In addition to opposing multiculturalism and feminism, Vanguard America’s manifesto calls for a country “free from the influence of international corporations, led by a rootless group of international Jews, which place profit beyond the interests of our people, or any people.”

According to the ADL, the group has posted dozens of fliers on campuses in at least 10 states. Its posters bear slogans like “Beware the International Jew” and “Fascism: The next step for America.” This year, the group defaced a New Jersey Holocaust memorial with a banner reading “(((Heebs will not divide us))).” Its signs at Saturday’s rally bore the fasces, a traditional fascist symbol depicting a bundle of sticks with a protruding axe blade.

Ku Klux Klan

One of the country’s oldest and most infamous hate groups, the Klan has primarily targeted black people, along with Jews, Catholics and other minorities. The KKK throughout its history has been responsible for lynchings, bombings, beatings and other racist acts of murder and abuse.

Group members have historically worn white hoods, to hide their identities and to mimic ghosts. Its leaders, including white supremacist activist David Duke, take on bizarre titles such as grand wizard and exalted cyclops.

The KKK was founded by Confederate veterans following the Civil War to harass black people, and at its height in the 1920s it had some 4 million members, according to the SPLC. An ADL report this year said the Klan has shrunk to about 3,000 total members spread across 40 groups in 33 states, mostly in the South and East.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said in a video at the rally Saturday. “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back, and that’s what we got to do.”

Identity Evropa

A new group that affiliates with the alt-right, Identity Evropa seeks to promote “white American culture,” and also has posted fliers on college campuses. The group, which works with white supremacist pseudo-intellectual Richard Spencer, claims there are inherent differences among races and that white people are more intelligent than others. Identity Evropa sees itself as “identitarian,” a far-right European ideology seeking to reassert white identity.

The group supports a policy of “remigration” of immigrants out of the United States. Some of its posters bear the slogan “You will not replace us,” a chant that Charlottesville protesters paired with “Jews will not replace us.” Identity Evropa does not allow Jews as members.

League of the South

If the rally’s proximate goal was to preserve the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, the most obvious participants were the League of the South, a neo-Confederate group. The organization supports southern secession from the United States and “believes that Southern culture is distinct from, and in opposition to, the corrupt mainstream American culture.”

The group envisions a Christian theocratic government that enforces strict gender norms. It opposes immigration as well as Islam. League of the South defines the “Southern people” as being of “European descent,” calls itself “pro-white” and states that it “has neither been the will of God Almighty nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal.” Duke gave the keynote address at one of the organization’s gatherings this year.

According to the SPLC, the group founded a paramilitary unit in 2014.

National Socialist Movement

This one is pretty self-explanatory — America’s version of the Nazi Party. It is a white supremacist organization that would either deport “non-whites” — including Jews — or strip them of citizenship and subject them to a discriminatory regime (the group’s manifesto proposes both). The group is also anti-feminist and homophobic.

The National Socialist Movement idolizes Adolf Hitler, whom it says “loved and cared deeply for the average person.” Until about a decade ago, the group would protest in full Nazi regalia, which it has swapped out for black uniforms. Its crest features a swastika superimposed on an altered version of the Stars and Stripes.

Jewish leaders condemn Charlottesville violence and Trump’s reaction

A white supremacist trying to strike a counterprotestor with a white nationalist flag during clashes at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017. Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Jewish groups and Jewish leaders condemned the violence at a white supremacist event in Charlottesville, Virginia, and criticized President Donald Trump for saying that the hatred and violence came from “many sides.”

“The vile presence and rhetoric of the neo-Nazis who marched this weekend in Charlottesville is a reminder of the ever-present need for people of good will to stand strong, to speak loudly against hate, and act both to delegitimize those who spread such messages and to mitigate the harm done to the commonweal of our nation and to those that are the targets of hate messages,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in statement issued on Saturday evening, adding that “once again, hate has killed.

Three people were killed as a result of the weekend neo-Nazi event. One woman was killed and 19 injured, some seriously, after a car driven by an Ohio man slammed into a crowd of counterprotesters. The driver, identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was taken into police custody and the incident is under investigation.

Two Virginia state troopers were killed when their police helicopter crashed and caught on fire while responding to clashes between white supremacist protestors and counterprotesters.

“We commend the opening of President Trump’s statement condemning the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” but are deeply troubled by the moral equivalence evident in President Trump’s statement today. White supremacists wielding Nazi flags and spewing racist vitriol need to be specifically condemned, not only violence and hate ‘on many sides.’ If our leaders can’t call out this virulent strand of hate we will surely fail to stop it,” Jacobs also said in his statement.

Trump held a news conference from his summer vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey after posting tweets criticizing the violence in Charlottesville, including one which read: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

“What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society,” he also tweeted.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, condemned the “inconceivable violence” on display in Charlottesville.

““It is utterly distressing and repugnant that such hatred and bigotry still run rampant in parts of this country. There is no place in our democratic society for such violence and intolerance. We must be vigilant and united in our opposition to such abhorrence,” he said in a statement.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the violence in Charlottesville in a tweet posted Saturday afternoon. “Mayhem in #charlottesville. We pray for victims of #violence & condemn those who marched thru streets chanting #hate,” he tweeted.

He also praised Trump for condemning the violence but criticized him for not specifically condemning the white supremacist movement. “Glad @POTUS blasted violence but long overdue for moral ldrshp that condemns the agents of #hate: #WhiteSupremacists, #NeoNazis, #AltRight,” he tweeted.


In a statement later issued by ADL, Greenberg said: “This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”

“We call on the White House to terminate all staff with any ties to these extremists. There is no rationale for employing people who excuse hateful rhetoric and ugly incitement. They do not serve the values embodied in our Constitution nor the interests of the American people,” he also said.

The American Jewish Committee tweeted: “Appalled by white supremacists & neo-Nazis in #Charlottesville preaching #racism, spewing #antiSemitism & #homophobia & glorifying violence.”

The organization also called on Trump to find “moral clarity.”

“@POTUS Time for moral clarity. Condemning ‘hatred, bigotry & violence on many sides’ blurs truth & gives pass to neo-Nazi perpetrators,” AJC tweeted.

Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, and Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett, who is head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, condemned the rally and called on U.S. leaders to denounce the anti-Semitism connected to it.

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the U.S. is not only offensive towards the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the U.S. and entire world from the Nazis,” he said in a statement, adding: “The leaders of the U.S. must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who was a former candidate for president, in a tweet slammed Trump for his handling of Charlottesville. “No, Mr. President. This is a provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and create violence. Call it out for what it is.”

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who ran for and lost his bid for a Senate seat in Louisiana, and was an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s presidential run, tweeted in response to Trump’s call for all Americans to unite against hate.

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” Duke tweeted.

The Temple Mount, California edition: Anti-Semitic sermons test Muslim-Jewish bonds

Sermons infused with anti-Semitic language delivered by imams in two California mosques on the same day have reignited tensions in Jewish-Muslim relations after leaders of the two religious groups around the state have worked aggressively to ease lingering conflicts.

The July 21 remarks by Imam Mahmoud Harmoush of the Islamic Center of Riverside and Imam Ammar Shahin of the Islamic Center of Davis drew strong condemnation from Muslim and Jewish leaders, fearful that such incendiary language could erode relations.

The effect was like picking at a scab on a slow-healing wound. Since the terror attacks of 9/11, American Jewish and Muslim groups have made a concerted effort to forge bonds of understanding and cooperation. Those have been nursed along despite the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, not to mention the enduring friction between Israelis and Palestinians. More recently, efforts to stigmatize Muslims generally have encouraged Jews and Muslims to push for closer relations.

The angry sermons from the pulpits in Davis and Riverside tested the strength of those developing bonds.

“It is critical to understand the mosque, a sanctuary for worship and spiritual growth, has no place for divisiveness or hate. Paranoia as a result of political unrest does not justify making these allegations against an entire religious group,” the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing understanding of Muslims, said in condemning the two sermons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the American Jewish Committee, among others, expressed outrage over the sermons, with the ADL calling them “anti-Semitic and dangerous.” The Zionist Organization of America called for Shahin’s firing, and the Wiesenthal Center has urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the Davis Muslim leader.

In an Aug. 1 statement, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said Harmoush’s sermon was “dangerous, offensive, and entirely inconsistent with the tolerant and respectful views routinely expressed by local Muslim leaders.” That same day, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Jewish Democrat who serves the San Fernando Valley, said Harmoush’s words were “nothing short of hate speech.”

Both sermons referred to last month’s conflict at the Temple Mount, where a shooting of two Druze Israeli police officers led the Israeli government to install metal detectors for entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is part of the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. After two weeks of internal and international outrage from Muslims, the metal detectors were removed.

In his sermon, Shahin said, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.”

Quoting a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that is distinct from the text of the Quran, he said, “Oh Allah, count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last.”

Harmoush used similar language when he said in his sermon, “Oh Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim lands from the unjust tyrants and occupiers. Oh Allah, destroy them, they are no match for you.” 

Further, he condemned “the occupying forces of the Israeli army [that] have intervened and indeed took over the holy place and shut it down.”

“These statements are anti-Semitic and dangerous,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said referring to the two sermons. “We reject attempts to cast the conflict in Jerusalem as a religious war between Jews and Muslims. At this time of heightened tension, it is more important than ever for the Jewish and Muslim communities to come together to condemn the use of stereotypes and conspiracy theories, and to rebuild trust so that people of all faiths can coexist with mutual respect in the Holy Land and around the world.”

Imam Ammar Shahin


Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the SWC, called on Muslim leaders to denounce the two sermons as a more effective way to blunt anti-Semitic speech than criticism from the outside.

“Whatever changes need to take place, they cannot be forced from Christian leaders or Jewish leaders,” he said. “That change has to come from within and it has to be brought about by leaders within the Muslim community.”

If the language of the Riverside and Davis imams stood out as particularly inflammatory, the sentiments were not unique.

While his July 28 sermon at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City in English and Arabic did not explicitly promote violence, Sheikh Ahson Syed retained a distinct negative bias toward non-Muslims and repeatedly referred to Israeli soldiers, in English, as “Zionist terrorist soldiers.”

The sermon was recorded and posted to YouTube by the mosque, and the Journal commissioned a translation of the Arabic portion.

In Arabic, he said, “O God help our brothers in Palestine to get victory and get rid of the enemies who occupy their land. O God reinforce Islam and the Muslims, take down the shirk and the mushriks and kill enemies; enemies of Islam.”

In Islamic religious thought, a shirk is an idolator and mushrik refers to Christians and Jews, those who worship someone other than Allah.

Unlike leaders of some other religions, imams are appointed to lead prayers and are not required to have had formal seminary or theological training. Nor does Islam have any central authority that specifies what imams can say or not say in their sermons.

As a consequence, it is difficult to quantify how often fiery rhetoric is part of sermons delivered in mosques in California or elsewhere. Mahomed Akbar Khan, director of interfaith and outreach for King Fahad Mosque, said mosques entrust their imams and speakers to deliver sermons however they want.

“It’s generally free rein,” he said. “The questions we ask [when choosing speakers] is, ‘Is this person qualified and is this person respected in the community?’ If there are any inappropriate comments, we make it clear that it is not the stance of the mosque. But every mosque is different.”

Despite the language of the Riverside and Davis sermons and in mosques elsewhere, hate speeches in American mosques are “few and far between” and for the most part, haven’t been proven to lead to violence, said Kenneth Lasson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, who wrote a 2005 paper on hate speech and incitements in mosques.

“It’s rare a congregation would go out to commit violence after hearing a sermon,” he said, adding that while he would prefer civility in places of worship, hate speech is protected as free speech if no violence happens as a result of it.

“That connection must be proven,” Lasson said. “In the cases in California, there appears that there have been no consequences other than hard feelings.”

Nonetheless, Aziza Hasan, executive director of NewGround, an organization that works to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, said the sermons reveal deep-seated differences between the communities.

“I think it blows the lid off that this is real,” Hasan told the Journal. “There are feelings between these two communities and this is how it has manifested.”

One member of NewGround, Jewish activist Tuli Skaist, reached out to Shahin to challenge his use of “such hateful rhetoric,” as he said in an op-ed posted at

“In these turbulent times, with so much hate in the world, it seems to me that faith leaders ought to be in the firefighting business,” Skaist wrote. “We must fight the inflammatory flames of hate with the sweet waters of love. We must fight intolerance in the world by urging our people to be more kind and more tolerant.”

In his response to Skaist, Shahin accused the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an organization that translates speeches in Arabic into English, bringing them to a wider audience, of taking his remarks out of context.

But he apologized for his sermon, writing, “Thank you for your comments and concerns, I will keep them in mind. As you know, when we speak with emotion, words might not be put in the right places or understood correctly.

“My apology to all your community for any harm that my misinterpreted words might have caused.”

In a subsequent press conference, Shahin appeared with Davis Mayor Robb Davis and Rabbi Seth Castleman, chairman of the Sacramento Area Council of Rabbis, and apologized, acknowledging that he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.

“I understand that speech like this can encourage others to do hateful and violent acts, for this I truly apologize,” Shahin said. “Words matter and have consequences.”

In his online op-ed for the Journal, Skaist wrote, “Let me be clear: The imam was wrong; his words were dangerous and inexcusable. Such words should not be tolerated by his community or any other. At the same time, here is a man that is not full of hate, but who simply got carried away with passion, used words that he shouldn’t have, and had them distributed to the world in a two-minute ‘got you’ sound bite.”

MEMRI denied that Shahin’s remarks were edited or mistranslated and called him “one of a group of extremist preachers who have been exposed by MEMRI to be delivering incitement to hatred and violence.” The organization said accusations of misrepresenting Shahin reflects an effort by the Islamic Center of Davis “to deflect responsibility from themselves by issuing all kinds of mendacious and libelous statements against the entity that exposed them.”

In addition to his position at the Davis mosque, Shahin is an instructor at the Zidni Islamic Institute in Brentwood. Egyptian-born, he graduated from the Institute for Preparation of Preachers with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies and earned an associate degree from Al-Forqan Institute, according to the Zidni Institute.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Center of Riverside (ICR) said it conducted an internal inquiry, reviewing Harmoush’s remarks and finding that his critics had misinterpreted his words.

Imam Harmoush was careful to focus his remarks on the actions of the Israeli government in and around Jerusalem,” the center said in a statement. “In fact, those parts of the sermon which have been cited as objectionable were routinely mistranslated and/or taken out of context. Nonetheless, Imam Harmoush unequivocally stated in the sermon that Islam does not call for aggression against any peaceful people.

“ICR believes that the Imam’s remarks were neither anti-Semitic nor discriminatory, but rather intended to address the unfortunate closure of the Mosque in Jerusalem to Muslim worshippers,” the statement said.

In a brief interview with the Journal, Harmoush did not disavow any part of his sermon but conceded that his words might have an unsettling effect on others.

“Oh, I learned that sometimes you have to not only have a sixth sense, but maybe a seventh sense,” he said. “Some people are very sensitive but maybe they cannot handle the truth or information, and unfortunately, we are living in a very sensitive society. Sensitive in a way we have to be careful, so we don’t need to hurt anybody’s feelings. Sometimes I talk to adults, children, male or female, and we have to be careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Imam Mahmoud Harmoush


According to MEMRI, Harmoush was born in Syria and has been living in the United States since the 1980s.

According to the ICR statement, Harmoush regards himself as an interfaith leader, and on July 31, 10 days after delivering his sermon, he met with Rabbi Suzanne Singer of the Riverside congregation Temple Beth El to discuss the controversy over his sermon.

Having organized an interfaith event at her synagogue this spring in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States, Singer said she was eager to talk to Harmoush, despite her discomfort over his sermon. Ibrahim Massoud, chairman of the mosque, also participated in the meeting.

In an interview, Singer said the meeting confirmed what she had suspected after watching Harmoush’s sermon online, that she and Harmoush have strongly different ideas about the founding of the State of Israel and Jewish intentions in the Middle East. Although they did not agree on many things, she said, they agreed to meet again to try to bridge this divide.

“I said it may be a good idea for us to talk about our different narratives around Israel,” Singer said.

As to what the future holds, Singer said she would not allow the two sermons to stop her from building interfaith relationships with willing Muslim partners.

“Obviously, I’m quite distressed about this,” Singer said. “I don’t think it represents the Muslim community [in Riverside].”

Reuven Firestone, a professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, said the views expressed by Harmoush, Shahin and others are popular in the Muslim world, no matter how they are interpreted by others.

“These kinds of views have been encouraged by governments for decades in attempts to deflect criticism away from them,” Firestone said. “And there are plenty of harsh statements about Jews in Muslim religious sources that can be harvested when there is an interest in finding scapegoats.”

The challenge now for those who have worked hard to repair and improve relationships, said NewGround’s Hasan, is for religious leaders to hold one another accountable for hateful comments made by their communities but not to let them derail interfaith work.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to have those hard conversations and not sweep things under the rug,” she said.

Congressman’s impeachment resolution spurs Valley rallies, pro and con

About 40 people rallied outside Rep. Brad Sherman’s office July 13, calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Photo by Gabriella Kamran

day after Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) became the first member of Congress to file formal articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, around 40 demonstrators gathered in support on the sidewalk outside his Sherman Oaks office.

The July 13 rally was the fifth in a series of pro-impeachment demonstrations at Sherman’s office organized by Rachel Rosen, a health educator and San Fernando Valley resident who is the daughter of the local Anti-Defamation League’s senior associate director Alison Mayersohn.

Participants blasted rock music, waved handmade signs with slogans such as “Nyet Normal” and chanted, “He lies, he cheats, Donald Trump must be impeached!” One demonstrator dressed as the Statue of Liberty, and another wore a Russian general’s costume and mimicked Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation is suspected of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Several police officers stood on the sidelines, while a group of about 20 Trump supporters gathered for a counterprotest across the street.

Sherman is the first member of Congress to file formal articles of impeachment against the president. He and co-sponsor Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced the measure, HR 438, on the House floor July 12. It points to the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, suggesting it was an attempt to influence investigations into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential campaign.

“There are often demonstrations outside my office, but one thing’s unusual here — rarely are they ‘Thank You, Brad’ demonstrations,” Sherman said in a statement about the rally. “Usually there’s ‘Blank You, Brad” demonstrations. It’s nice to know that people are turning out.”

Sherman encouraged the rally’s participants to contribute their energy and passion to a voter drive currently underway in the 25th congressional district in northern Los Angeles.

“I need the support of more Democratic colleagues — especially pro-Israel ones,” said Sherman, who is Jewish.

Rosen said the goal of the protests is to express gratitude for Sherman’s efforts and to pressure members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to join his call for impeachment.

The working mother of two said she got involved in activism after Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. She attended the Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles and the protests of Trump’s travel ban at Los Angeles International Airport but was looking for demonstrations closer to home.

“There are a lot of [anti-Trump] resistance groups in the Valley,” Rosen said. “I thought, ‘Why are we driving all the way to downtown L.A.?’ ”

Rosen said she chose Sherman’s district office as the location for her rallies after Sherman announced at a June 7 press conference his intention to draft articles of impeachment. She said about 20 people showed up to the first rally on June 15, which she promoted primarily through the Facebook pages of local resistance groups such as West Valley Resistance and Indivisible.

Rosen also spoke at the July 2 Impeachment March in downtown L.A. about the power of grass-roots activists to make a difference.

Alison Davies, a West Hills resident who donned the Lady Liberty costume, said she focuses on positive reinforcement for California legislators because, like Sherman, many of them are progressive and already are doing what she hopes elected officials would do.

“There is a vocal few out there who are giving Brad Sherman a lot of hate,” Davies said. “We want to show that the majority of us support what he’s doing.”

Arianna Villavicencio, an 11-year-old participant in the rally, said she thinks protesting is important because it helps people realize something must change.

“My dad didn’t make me come here. I chose to be here,” Villavicencio said. “Even though I’m only 11, I believe I should stand up for my rights.”

Across the street, Torrance resident Arthur Schaper brought a megaphone and a Make America Great Again cap to the counterprotest. He said Sherman is a disgrace to the district and called HR 438 a treasonous attempt to undermine the president.

“How can [Sherman] represent people when he spends most of his time pushing ridiculous resolutions?” Schaper said.

In a letter to fellow congressmembers circulated in early June, Sherman said the national interest requires Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment and asked for his colleagues’ “counsel, input and support,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Articles of Impeachment will not pass the House in the near future,” Sherman said in a recent statement to the Times. “But given the risk posed to the Republic, we should move things forward as quickly as possible.”

Rosen said she is unfazed by the long road ahead for Sherman’s impeachment attempt, adding that people once thought civil rights or women’s suffrage were impossible goals.

“I think [calling for impeachment] is the right thing to do,” Rosen said. “If other people don’t want to do the right thing — which is the majority of Congress — then they’ll be on the wrong side of history. I’m going to be on the side that did something about it.”