January 23, 2019

Alice Walker Praises Anti-Semitic Book in NYT Interview

Screenshot from Facebook.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker praised an anti-Semitic book in a New York Times interview that was published on Sunday, which has resulted in a firestorm of criticism toward Walker and the Times.

Walker was asked what books she has on her nightstand, one of her answers was David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free.

 “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about,” Walker said. “A curious person’s dream come true.”

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg noted that the aforementioned book is laced with anti-Semitism, highlighting how it praises the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous bible of anti-Semitism, as “authentic.” Icke also questions the veracity of the Holocaust while suggesting that Jews were behind the Holocaust, suggests that Jews were behind the slave trade and calls the Talmud one of “the most appallingly racist documents” that exists.

Rosenberg also pointed out that Walker has praised Icke several times in the past, which included sharing a YouTube video in 2015 of Icke being interviewed by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Additionally, Walker shared a poem on her blog titled “It Is Our (Frightful) Duty To Study The Talmud,” that features a passage that reads, “Are Goyim (us) meant to be slaves of Jews, and not only that, but to enjoy it?”

Rosenberg criticized The New York Times and “elite cultural critics” for failing to challenge Walker on her praise of Icke, positing that she’s likely celebrated over her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“Walker—like Icke—is a strident critic of Israel, her defenders—like Icke’s—have dismissed allegations of anti-Semitism by claiming they are merely an attempt to quash her criticism of the Jewish state,” Rosenberg wrote. “But it should not surprise anyone that the world’s only Jewish state, home to half its Jews, would attract the attention of anti-Semites, who would use the legitimate debate over its conduct to smuggle in their anti-Jewish bile. Anti-Zionism may not be anti-Semitism, but plenty of self-described anti-Zionists are anti-Semites.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tweeted that they are “deeply disappointed that @nytimes would print Alice Walker’s unqualified endorsement of a book by notorious anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist David Icke.”

“We have asked editors to update the review w/ information about this author’s #antiSemitism,” they added.

A New York Times spokesperson addressed the controversy in a statement that read, in part: “Our editors do not offer background or weigh in on the books named in the By the Book column, whether the subject issues a positive or negative judgment on those books. Many people recommend books Times editors dislike, disdain or even abhor in the column.”

Jewish Democratic Council of America Endorses Anti-BDS Congressional Bill

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) endorsed the Israel Anti-Boycott Act in a press release on Thursday as a means to fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Israel Anti-Boycott, which was sponsored Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), bars companies from engaging an international boycotts against Israel. Cardin is currently aiming to get the bill attached to a December spending package.

“The Jewish Democratic Council of America opposes efforts to delegitimize Israel through global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) efforts,” Halie Soifer, executive director of JDCA, said in a statement. “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is consistent with the 2016 Democratic Party Platform that states Democrats ‘oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement’ and is also aligned with JDCA’s platform of opposition to global BDS.

“We support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, as amended, and urge passage of this legislation during the 115th Congress,” the statement continued.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has also expressed support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, as their website states that the legislation is “designed to update and extend existing law to include boycotts by international governmental organizations.”

“It is not intended to limit the First Amendment rights of U.S. individuals and companies who want to criticize Israel or penalize those who want to refuse to do business with Israel based on their own personal convictions,” the ADL’s website adds. “Ask your Members to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”

J Street, on the other hand, is opposed to the bill.

The legislation draws no distinction between Israel and the West Bank, effectively extending U.S. legal protections to illegal settlements,” the organization said in a press release. “The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] has also flagged major free speech issues, noting cases where the bill would penalize individuals and companies for exercising their First Amendment right to participate in boycotts.”

“While J Street has always been clear about our opposition to the Global BDS Movement, this legislation is absolutely the wrong way to oppose BDS,” the statement added.

ADL Calls on U.S. Embassy to Denounce Anti-Semitism in Qatari Book Fair

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling on the United States embassy in Qatar to denounce the anti-Semitism in books that are being featured at a Qatari book fair.

In a letter to William Grant, the embassy’s top diplomat, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote that the Doha International Book Fair, which began on Nov. 30 and ends on Dec. 10, “continues to promote egregiously anti-Semitic books in its content.”

“Some obviously anti-Semitic sample book titles in the book fair’s online catalog this year include one titled Lies Spread by the Jews, another called Talmud of Secrets: Facts Exposing the Jewish Schemes to Control the World, and a third entitled The History of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the History of the Corruption of the Jews, and the Demise of their Entity,” Greenblatt wrote. “Other anti-Semitic titles promoted on the book fair’s website this year include an Arabic version of Ku Klux Klan alumnus David Duke’s anti-Semitic tract exaggerating and slandering Jewish influence in the United States as well as multiple editions of Henry Ford’s ‘The International Jew,’ which teaches as historical fact the seminal anti-Semitic hoax ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’”

Greenblatt also noted that the book fair has previously “provided a platform to noted anti-Semitic hate preachers,” such as a cleric who called for Israelis to be attacked with knives.

Because the U.S. embassy is participating in the book fair, as it has been for several years, Greenblatt urged Grant to use his position to expunge such content from the book fair.

“I ask that use your contacts with the book fair’s governmental organizers – and with the Qatari government more broadly – to ensure as soon as possible that this sort of hatred is no longer propagated at an event that boasts of the participation of the U.S. Embassy,” Greenblatt concluded.

The Qatari government has also reportedly provided financial support for terror groups like Hamas, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The embassy did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment at publication time.

ADL to Airbnb: ‘We Were Dismayed’ By Decision to Stop Providing Services to Israeli Settlements

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote a letter to Airbnb expressing their dismay at the organization’s decision to stop providing services to Israeli communities in the West Bank.

Greenblatt began the letter by denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.

Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination – along with many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns – are anti-Semitic,” Greenblatt wrote. “Many individuals involved in the starting and running of BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.”

Greenblatt added that this is why they “were dismayed to read about Airbnb’s recent announcement to not list rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

“With this decision, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters will be further emboldened and view it as a victory for their hateful campaign against Israel,” Greenblatt wrote.

Greenblatt noted that Airbnb still provides services to areas in which people have been displaced, such as Northern Cyprus and the Western Sahara, which suggests a “double standard” against Israel.

Greenblatt then asked if Airbnb if they would make similar decisions for other “disputed areas,” what experts they consulted on them matter, how providing services to Israeli communites contributes “to existing human suffering,” and if they would stop providing listings for East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The ADL CEO also took issue with Airbnb’s contention that the communities in the West Bank are the center of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“During the Oslo Peace Process, Israel offered the Palestinians significant land concessions in the West Bank, but the Palestinian team walked away from the deal,” Greenblatt wrote. “Instead of working to promote peace, there are voices in Palestinian society as well as others in the Arab world, who reject Israel’s legitimacy and call for a violent end to Israel itself. Unfortunately, the ‘core of the dispute’ is that too many do not want a Jewish state to exist.”

In a statement sent to the Journal via email, an Airbnb spokesperson said, “Israel is a special place and our over 22,000 hosts are special people who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to Israel. We understand that this is a hard and complicated issue, we appreciate everyone’s perspective and we hope to meet with the ADL as soon as possible to discuss this matter.”

The spokesperson added that their guidelines would in fact extend to areas such as the Western Sahara region and that they would still provide listings to Israeli homes in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

ADL: We Are ‘Deeply Concerned’ About SJP Conference

Screenshot from Facebook.

The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Los Angeles office released a statement on Monday saying they are “deeply concerned” about the upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference at UCLA.

The statement says, “ADL is deeply concerned about the potential impact the SJP conference might have on the campus climate at UCLA, and most particularly, on the safety and security of all students on campus.”

“We are also concerned that this event, like those held at other universities in the US, will lead to a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students, leading them to feel isolated and under attack,” the statement reads.

However, the ADL acknowledged that the challenges that universities face in respecting freedom of speech and events that create “alienation and hostility” like the NSJP; they also praised UCLA Chancellor Gene Block for condemning anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in his Los Angeles Time op-ed stating that the NSJP conference would not be canceled.

“We continue to call upon the UCLA administration to strongly condemn the divisive and hateful rhetoric and the aggressive tactics attributed to SJP and ensure that UCLA is a safe and inclusive space for those who are Jewish and/or pro-Israel,” the statement reads.

The ADL Los Angeles office added, “The UCLA administration needs to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that all UCLA communities are treated with respect, free from vilification and harassment, and to continue to denounce messages coming from SJP that are to the contrary.”

Block wrote in his op-ed that UCLA can’t cancel the NSJP because they have to abide by the First Amendment, even if SJP’s rhetoric is “personally hurtful.”

The conference will take place from Nov. 16-18.

How Good is America for the Jews?

Most of the commentary since the synagogue tragedy in Pittsburgh has focused on a rise in anti-Semitism in America. Because everything seems to be political at the moment, “It’s Trump’s fault” has been a popular meme on the left; while “Don’t forget Jew-haters on the left” has been the obligatory retort from the right.

Regardless of where it comes from, though, the central claim is that things are getting worse for the Jews.

Before Pittsburgh, graffiti of a swastika on a synagogue wall was a major story– a cause for serious alarm in the Jewish world. Then, suddenly, Pittsburgh happened. Instead of a spray can, the Jew-hater picked up an AR-15 and murdered 11 Jews.

From a swastika on a wall to the murder of 11 Shabbat worshippers is a communal earthquake.

To give you a sense of the magnitude, the last synagogue shooting in America happened in Detroit in 1966, and it was by a deranged congregant who shot the rabbi. There have been a few isolated shootings at Jewish places, but Pittsburgh is the first synagogue shooting by an anti-Semite in U.S. history – and by far the deadliest.

In the face of such horror, it’s hard to focus on how welcoming and amazing America has been to the Jews; how we have thrived in this oasis of freedom after feeling the sting of persecution for centuries.

Indeed, the golden age of American Jewry kicked off in the 1950s. In Jonathan Sarna’s “American Judaism: A History,” he quotes Anti-Defamation League director Benjamin R. Epstein, who described the two decades following World War II as a “period of tremendous progress” and a “golden age” for the Jews.

During those years, Epstein recalled, American Jews “achieved a greater degree of economic and political security, and a broader social acceptance than had ever been known by any Jewish community since the [ancient] Dispersion.”

It’d be foolish to say that anti-Semitism went away. It never did; it never will, in America or elsewhere. As Sarna writes: “Anti-Semitism by no means disappeared, of course, any more than nativism, anti-Catholicism, or racism did.”

But it’s fair to say that America did not make it easy or popular to be an anti-Semite.

Anti-Semites “found themselves placed on the defensive as Judaism’s status rose,” Sarna writes. “Forced to justify their anti-Jewish prejudice in the face of America’s increasingly tolerant norms, they beat a hasty retreat.”

This broad acceptance of the Jews is what most of us grew up with and got used to. Our contributions to American society have been so pervasive and substantial that some commentators speak of Judaism and Americanism in the same breath. We have embraced American freedom and opportunity with a full heart, and, in deep gratitude, have given back all we could.

It’s not a coincidence, then, that according to a 2017 Pew survey, more Americans — 67 percent— feel warmly toward Jews than toward any other faith group.

So, when we get spooked by a disaster such as Pittsburgh, it’s not just because we’re terrified but because we recognize its abnormality. Something about Pittsburgh felt so un-American, so foreign.

It’s easy to forget all this while our ears are ringing with alarming cries of a rise in anti-Semitism; and while our community argues over whether it’s worse from the left or the right.

Anti-Semitism will never go away; it’s the nature of the disease. The rise of the internet and proliferation of social media has further magnified swastika sightings and anti-Semitic incidents from the left and right, including on college campuses.

But as we stay vigilant against these troublesome signs, let’s not overlook the enormous outpouring of love and concern for the Jews that has come from across the nation. It’s hard to imagine a country, outside of Israel, where a mainstream newspaper would actually feature large Hebrew letters on its front page—as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did last week when it honored the victims of Tree of Life by putting the beginning of the Mourner’s Kaddish on its front page.

Those Hebrew letters, which have gone viral, are a quirky reminder of how fully integrated we have become in American society; and of how anti-Semites will never win popularity contests in this country.

For American Jewry, America has become like family. We give a lot and expect a lot. We’re no longer on foreign land. This is our country.

Pittsburgh has been a shock to our system not because America is bad for the Jews– but precisely because it has been so good.

Report: 72% of L.A. Religious Hate Crimes Targeted Jews In 2017

The latest report from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations shows that 72 percent of hate crimes against religion in the county were against Jews in 2017.

Following Jews on the list were Muslims, Catholics and Protestants:

The number of hate crimes targeting Jews increased by 4 percent from 2016, from 71 to 68 percent.

Among all targeted groups, Jews were third at 14 percent, behind the LGBT community (21 percent) and blacks (25 percent).

Some examples of hate crimes targeting Jews in the Los Angeles area includes graffiti on a wall in Van Nuys in May 2017 stating “Hitler did nothing wrong” and white supremacist symbols spray-painted on the garage in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) building in West Los Angeles, according to the ADL.

Screenshot from Twitter.

Hate crimes overall rose by 5 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the commission’s report.

“We feel particularly fortunate to have LA County as a partner in our work to reduce hate crimes and increase public awareness of the impact of these message crimes,” ADL Los Angeles Regional Director Amanda Susskind said in a statement. “The LA County Hate Crime Report is a reminder that the important work of ADL is still needed.”

Read the full report here.

ADL: Twitter Should Take Down Farrakhan Tweet Comparing Jews to ‘Termites’

Screenshot from YouTube.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is calling on Twitter to take down a tweet from Louis Farrakhan that compares Jews to “termites.”

In an Oct. 16 tweet, Farrakhan wrote, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” The tweet featured a video of Farrakhan speaking in front of a crowd on Oct. 14 marking the 23rd anniversary of his Million Man March.

“To the 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,” Farrakhan said in the speech. “I can go anywhere in the world and they’ve heard of Farrakhan.”

Farrakhan added, “I’m not mad at you, because you’re so stupid.”

The minister proceeded to allude to criticisms calling him an anti-Semite.

“Stop it,” Farrakhan said, “I’m anti-termite. I don’t know nothing about hating somebody just because of their religious preference.”

In a statement emailed to the Journal, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that Twitter should take down “Farrakhan’s hateful content.”

“Louis Farrakhan has a long history of vile, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. His latest remarks dehumanizing Jews by calling us termites are despicable,” Greenblatt said. “We call on Twitter to remove Farrakhan’s hateful content from the platform to prevent him from spreading and normalizing such hateful messages. This content is exactly the kind of thing the new Twitter policy the company outlined just a few weeks ago is meant to stop.”

Buzzfeed reporter Joe Bernstein tweeted that Twitter told him that Farrakhan’s tweet didn’t violate their policies:

Twitter could not be immediately reached for comment.

Several congressional Democrats, such as Reps. Keith Ellison (R-Minn.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), have reportedly been seen with or dined with Farrakhan. Women’s March leaders have also attended Farrakhan’s speeches and been involved with his Nation of Islam organization. A photo was recently taken of Farrakhan with former Attorney General Eric Holder at Aretha Franklin’s funeral.

This article has been updated.

ADL Unearths More Anti-Zionist Comments from Estrada: ‘Zionists Are the F*cking Worst’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Maria Estrada, who is running for the California state assembly in the 63rd District, has been under fire from Jewish organizations for her praise of anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and other Anti-Zionist comments. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has unearthed some other anti-Zionist comments from Estrada, including one that says “Zionists are the f*cking worst.”

In a July 13 blog post, the ADL compiled the following statements from Estrada from her Facebook account:

· Saying “Zionists are the f*cking worst” after calling on Jews to condemn Zionist “terrorism” against Palestinians in May.

· “Anyone who believes they [Israelis] are one of ‘God’s chosen people’ automatically feels superior and justified and all they do [sic]. Religious fanaticism is used to justify apartheid and crimes against Palestinians and no one should be ok with it.”

· “Zionists in America should have to immediately give up their land to whatever tribe it originally belonged to.”

“It’s impossible to ignore the undercurrent of anti-Semitism running through a number of Estrada’s comments about Zionism and Israel,” the ADL wrote. “Although criticism of Israel is entirely legitimate and is not inherently anti-Semitic, Estrada consistently ignores the difference between Israelis and Jews, and has argued that Israeli policies and Zionism more generally are inspired by a sense of Jewish supremacism and disregard for others.”

The ADL later added in their post, “Estrada’s repeated insinuations that support for Israel is a form of religious chauvinism is offensive and demeaning to the large number of American Jews for whom some form of Zionism is part of their cultural identity.”

The ADL also chided Estrada for her praise for Farrakhan, as they said that her claim that Farrakhan has plenty of valid points to make outside of his anti-Semitic comments “rings hollow” because of his frequent anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Estrada’s comments have begun to receive national attention, with her comments being highlighted by the likes of CNN’s Jake Tapper and ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

“Maria Estrada’s language about Israel and Jews is deeply disturbing,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “Her lauding of Louis Farrakhan is dangerous. We cannot afford such ugliness to be elevated, let alone ignored – anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny and other forms of intolerance affect all of us. We do not tolerate such prejudice and we call it out in the strongest possible terms.”

Similarly, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper and consultant Dr. Harold Brackman denounced Estrada in a Journal op-ed.

“Like Farrakhan and other anti-Semites before him, Estrada has taken a page from Farrakhan’s anti-Jewish playbook and invoked ‘God’s Chosen People’ to justify her vilification of Jews, not just Zionists,” Cooper and Brackman said. “She apparently took no notice that Farrakhan’s hateful dog whistle also transcends the racial chasm between Black Nationalists and White racist anti-Semites who marched in Charlottesville this past August. Alt-right Charlottesville guru Richard Spencer wants to meet with Farrakhan, to work together toward ‘the sort of self-determination we and the broader Alt-Right support.”

Jewish Community Leaders Respond to Supreme Court Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Following that announcement, the Journal asked local leaders to respond.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

The vacancy left by Justice Kennedy’s retirement is a critical one for the future of civil rights, civil liberties and our democracy. At a time where hard-fought progress in LGBT rights, voting rights and women’s rights are threatened, and immigrants and vulnerable communities in our country are under attack, the role of an independent Supreme Court — and one that protects the constitutional rights of all Americans — is more important than ever.

We are concerned that Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record does not reflect the demonstrated independence and commitment to fair treatment for all that is necessary to merit a seat on our nation’s highest court. Because he has written and spoken prolifically on many issues of deep concern, we believe his positions merit close scrutiny. These include his demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom and his past support for greatly expanded and unchecked executive power.

We cannot let Justice Kennedy’s retirement jeopardize hard-fought progress in securing our civil rights and civil liberties. Senators should probe Judge Kavanaugh carefully to ensure that he will respect basic principles of equality, independence, church-state separation and civil rights. As the [Senate Judiciary Committee] reviews the full record, unless they are completely satisfied that Judge Kavanaugh will in fact respect such basic principles as a justice on the Supreme Court, they should oppose his nomination.

Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler

Brett Kavanaugh is an affront to the values and priorities of a vast majority of the American Jewish community. From workers’ rights to civil rights, from reproductive rights to LGBTQ rights and immigrants’ rights, this nominee’s track record is hostile toward the issues our community has fought for over generations, and he has no business serving on the court.

The President and Senate Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell] lack the moral authority to radically shift the balance of our nation’s highest court. But the American people have a voice in this process through our elected senators, and we demand that the Senate reject this radical, dangerous nominee.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier

Judge Kavanaugh is respectful to the Constitution and understands the special responsibility that a Supreme Court judge has. He seems to be a wonderful family man and committed to community services, especially for those in need. He came across as a mainstream person and he did not strike me as an ideologue. He was impressive.

Workmen’s Circle Executive Director Ann Tobeck

President Trump is doubling down on his war against the working people of this country with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. In recent months and weeks, we have witnessed monumental setbacks for women, workers, unions, immigrants and disenfranchised groups in our country. We are profoundly concerned that the Supreme Court will continue down this path and scale back — or abolish — many of the hard-fought-for civil rights, liberties and worker protections that have been part of the bedrock of the United States. While the President’s selection of a conservative candidate is not a surprise, it exemplifies the direction of this administration to further divide, rather than unite, our county.

At the Workmen’s Circle, we are committed to resisting the attacks of this administration on the freedoms that have been a foundation of what makes our country truly great. We implore our elected representatives in Washington to meticulously scrutinize Mr. Kavanaugh’s record, to ask the tough questions and to ensure that our next Supreme Court justice will protect, and not cripple, the rights and freedoms that must remain intrinsic to our country’s democracy.

American Jewish Committee General Counsel Marc Stern

While there is little doubt that Judge Kavanaugh has the technical qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court, that by no means alone qualifies [him]. No less important is the nominee’s openness to arguments that challenge his own views and previously expressed beliefs, a robust commitment to protecting the liberties the Constitution guarantees, and assuring all citizens the equal protection of the laws. Moreover, the Senate should not confirm a nominee who comes to the bench with the intention of radically and systematically rewriting American constitutional law.

It is imperative that the Supreme Court remains truly an independent branch of our government and does not become merely an extension of partisan politics. Proper Senate evaluation of Judge Kavanaugh will be critical to assuring that the court steers clear of any ideological tilting, as the justices hear arguments and deliberate on cases affecting longstanding landmark decisions, such as Roe v. Wade.

AJC recognizes that the hard cases that come before the court do not necessarily have only one self-evident, correct answer. Neither liberals or conservatives have an exclusive on constitutional interpretation.

Ohr HaTorah Rabbi Mordechai Finley

Most Americans, including me, did not want Trump to be president. Now that he is, we have basically two choices: Oppose everything he does, or oppose his proposed actions on a case-by-case basis. I am a case-by-case person. I don’t think it adds to civil discourse to oppose Kavanaugh simply because No. 45 nominated him. My question is whether there is something about Kavanaugh that makes him unfit to be a justice. So far, I have not found anything, but the day is young.

I happen to be pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay marriage, in favor of liberalizing immigration policy dramatically, in favor of reducing carbon emissions, pro justice regarding marginalized communities, etc. From what I have gathered so far, I don’t see Kavanaugh doing anything radical in those areas. I predict that he will make decisions that I oppose, but not decisions that will fundamentally threaten the Constitution.

Young Israel of Orange County Rabbi Dov Fischer

Judge Kavanaugh’s 300-plus judicial opinions are solid and smart. His opinions reflect that he supports religious rights and liberties and core constitutional values.  On abortion, he rejected the left’s race to find a new constitutional right for under-age undocumented immigrants to have an immediate abortion. He seems steadfastly pro-Second Amendment. And he rejects efforts by federal agencies to regulate as an uncontrolled fourth arm of government when they fail to conduct administrative findings that would balance the economic and social costs of new proposed regulations.

He is a man of character: feeding the homeless, tutoring kids in the inner cities, coaching kids basketball.

Not only have many of Judge Kavanaugh’s majority opinions been upheld on appeals by the Supreme Court, but the court even has adopted some of his dissents on appeal, deeming them the better law than the majority opinions he countered. His 100 most-cited legal opinions have been cited by 210 other judges in their opinions. Thirty-nine of his own 48 judicial appellate clerks have gone on to clerk for United States Supreme Court justices; that means that justices across the ideological spectrum have deemed Judge Kavanaugh’s clerks especially well trained and suited for the highest of judicial work. He will make an extraordinary Supreme Court justice.

Jewish Republican Alliance Co-Founder Bruce Karasik

The Jewish Republican Alliance praises President Trump for an outstanding selection and enthusiastically endorses the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.  With credentials that are beyond reproach, Judge Kavanaugh has always been committed to equal justice under the law,  and to applying the Constitution as written in all of his decisions. The JRA is encouraging the Senate to now swiftly confirm Judge Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Justice.

Bill for Anti-Semitism Awareness Proposed

A bipartisan piece of Congressional legislation that lays out a clear definition of anti-Semitism as it relates to anti-Israel activity on college campuses was introduced on May 23.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), officially adopts the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism and allows the Department of Education to enforce that definition on college campuses under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” per the text of the bill.

The State Department’s website defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The website also includes examples of anti-Semitism couched as anti-Zionism, including comparing Israel to the Nazis, subjecting Israel or Israelis to classic anti-Semitic blood libels, applying double standards to Israel and denying Israel’s right to exist.

According to The Jewish Week, Congress’ adoption of this definition “would make it easier for the Department of Education to identify cases of anti-Semitic activity and for the Department of Justice to take legal action against the accused perpetrators.”

“The evidence is clear,” Deutch told The Jewish Week, “that the Department of Education does not recognize the existence of anti-Semitism on campus, even when it’s obvious.”

Supporters of the bill lauded it as an important step toward combating anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students on college campuses.

“While most incidents of anti-Semitism on campus are unrelated to anti-Israel activity, the Departments of Education and Justice should have the authority to investigate instances in which anti-Israel activity crosses the line to targeted, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment of Jewish students,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

“The Departments of Education and Justice should have the authority to investigate instances in which anti-Israel activity crosses the line.”  — ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

In a separate May 23 post on its website, the ADL cited an 89 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses from 2016 to 2017, and that 54 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes in the U.S. were perpetrated against Jews in 2016. As such, the ADL argued, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is necessary.

“Enactment of the legislation will help ensure that OCR [Office for Civil Rights] investigations of future complaints — as well as training and technical assistance for OCR Regional Office professionals — will be informed by a definition of anti-Semitism that includes all current manifestations.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda for the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) also issued a statement that read, in part, “The prevalence of anti-Semitism in the United States, particularly within academic institutions, has risen at an alarming rate. The successful passage of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act will give the Department of Education important clarity and guidance to redress anti-Semitic attacks on campus and send a clear message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable for their hate. With this clear definition available to authorities, an unequivocal message will be delivered that anti-Semitic incidents will not be tolerated.”

Opponents of the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argue that it infringes upon freedom of speech.

“The overbroad definition of anti-Semitism in this bill risks incorrectly equating constitutionally protected criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, making it likely that free speech will be chilled on campuses,” the ACLU wrote in a letter to Congress.

A bill similar to the current Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was passed by the Senate in 2016 but not by the House.

ADL Finds Over 4 Million Anti-Semitic Tweets Posted In A Year

Photo from PxHere.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report on May 7 concluding that 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were issued from January 2017-Janury 2018.

By searching key anti-Semitic buzzwords, the ADL was able to find that anti-Semitism on Twitter was broken down into the following categories:

• Harvey Weinstein
• Conspiracy theories involving the Rothschild family, false flags and George Soros
• Holocaust denialism
• Using “Zionism” as a bludgeon to attack Jews

Various anti-Semitic tweets attributed Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults to his Jewishness, as well as other figures like former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) who have been accused of sexual harassment.

When it comes to conspiracy theories, a number of anti-Semitic tweets that blame Jews for concocting false flag operations, such as the Las Vegas shooting and the attempted bombing of New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The Rothschild banking family has been the subject of many conspiracy theories, most notably that they control the weather; on Twitter they are routinely accused of financing chaos in the world in order to gain wealth, a common anti-Semitic trope.

Soros faces a lot of criticism for his funding of various left-wing causes; such criticisms “sometimes take on an anti-Semitic cast, especially when they associate Soros’ actions with his Jewish identity.”

As for Zionism, the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism can be distinguished by when the term “Zionism” is used as a substitute for the word “Jews.” For instance, one tweet highlighted in the report accused “Zionist parasites” of hijacking the federal government and the media. Another claimed Zionists are “committing genocide in Palestine” and another accused the media of being “Zionist Nazi.”

When looking at the numbers in aggregate, the ADL wasn’t able to determine a particular pattern for inflection points in the number of anti-Semitic tweets, other than the week that President Trump announced the Jerusalem move.

The report recommends that Twitter should combat such anti-Semitic tweets by providing “more access to the platform’s data,” properly enforce its terms of service and allow users to better filter out such vile tweets.

“This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of antisemitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said during the organization’s recent conference. “We hope this report will create a renewed sense of urgency among all social media providers that this problem is not going away and that they need to find innovative new ways to tamp down the spread of hatred online.”

The full report can be read here.

Joanna Mendelson: ADL’s White Supremacy Watchdog

Joanna Mendelson is the senior investigative researcher and director of special projects for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. In her 17th year with the ADL, she provides expertise, analysis and training that enable law enforcement, public officials and community leaders to identify and counter emerging extremist threats.

JJ: What is the likelihood that the fast-expanding white supremacist movement will be stemmed in the near term?

Joanna Mendelson: Parts of the white supremacist movement — notably the alt right—are rapidly expanding. We should take comfort in the fact other segments are not doing so well. Traditional white supremacists, such as Ku Klux Klan groups, have been declining for years. More recently, racist skinheads have been stagnant, perhaps starting to decline.

JJ: What has changed in America in the past 20 years to make these onetime outcasts visible and almost acceptable?

JM: Although it is difficult to measure secretive extremist movements, white supremacists, as in recent decades, have been nowhere near as numerous — or as accepted — as they were during the civil rights movement or before it. What has changed: Largely due to the internet, white supremacists are more connected to each other and more visible. Online propaganda can help radicalize individuals.

“White supremacists, as in recent decades, have been nowhere near as numerous — or as accepted — as they were during the civil rights movement or before it.” — Joanna Mendelson

JJ: When there is a mass killing, some authorities say don’t publicize the names. Would white supremacists retreat if their marches were not covered?

JM: No doubt white supremacists try to take advantage of any media sunshine that can magnify their cause and real-world actions. Many things extremists do are newsworthy. The community needs to be informed to respond appropriately. Coverage must be a delicate balance between arming us with information but not giving them a greater platform to preach hate.

JJ: What is the main cause of white supremacy?

JM: There is no one cause. There are a lot of paths to radicalization. We find common themes of perceived alienation, victimization and scapegoating of others for sundry woes. They perceive themselves as minorities, creating an “us vs. them” paradigm. Others want to belong to something. Some are brought into the movement by more dominant personalities.

JJ: Do they require funding?

JM: White supremacists have costs associated with purveying hate — equipment (official uniforms or accessories, including tattoos, clothing, paraphernalia and weaponry); event organization and travel; internet and print propaganda expenses; merchandise purchasing; legal defense; and even staff/labor costs.

JJ: Who are the people financially supporting them?

JM: The white supremacist movement is poorly funded. A general assumption, fueled by rumors, holds that white supremacists raise a substantial amount from the Russian government, conservative foundations or secretive benefactors. This rarely happens. White supremacists scrape together a small amount from people already in the movement.

One very rare current wealthy donor is William H. Regnery II, a member of the well-known conservative publishing family. He developed extreme right and white supremacist views by the 1990s.

JJ: What kind of women are drawn to the white supremacy movement?

JM: The “14 Words” is a reference to the most popular white supremacist slogan, signifying “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Women are a significant part of the equation in their role to help procure future generations of white people.

JJ: Would the white supremacists of the old days recognize latter-day supremacists?

JM: Prior to and during the civil rights movement, most white supremacists would say they stood for preserving the dominance of the white race in America. After losing the war to deny civil rights to minorities, their ideology has evolved. They claim they are fighting for the very survival of the white race, fighting against a “rising tide of color” controlled and manipulated by Jews.

More recently, white supremacists try to cloak ideology in terms more palatable to a modern audience, “culture” for “race,” “western civilization” for identity.

JJ: What drew you to this field?

JM: I was always drawn to social justice work. My family traditions were deeply steeped in values of social equity, healing and righteousness. My zayde, who passed away recently, epitomized a life of virtue and goodness. He believed in the decency of people. In this vein, I persevere, to shine a light on darkness.

Moving & Shaking: ADL, Chai Center Events; Beit T’Shuvah Marathoners

From left: Rich and Sam Wildman, Michael and Kami Stone, Cory Garson, Rabbi Becky Hoffman, Temple Kol Tikvah Rabbinic Intern Elana Nemitoff, Kol Tikvah Rabbi Jon Hanish and Kol Tikvah Cantor Noa Shaashua celebrate Kol Tikvah at the congregation’s gala event. Photo by Rebecca Schulman.

Temple Kol Tikvah held its annual “Magical Evening” gala honoring several of the Reform community’s members on Feb. 24 at its campus in Woodland Hills.

More than 250 guests attended the soldout event, which included dinner, cocktails, dancing and roaming magicians.

The evening’s honorees were Cory Garson, who received the Kehillah Community Award, and Simona and Rich Wildman, who received the L’dor V’dor Award. The Young Adult Leadership Award recipients were Kami and Michael Stone.

“Our honorees’ accomplishments and dedication continue to make a huge impact on Kol Tikvah and on the greater Jewish community,” said Kol Tikvah Senior Rabbi Jon Hanish. “The magic of their kindness inspires all of us.”

Kol Tikvah clergy in attendance included Rabbi Becky Hoffman and Cantor Noa Shaashua.

The event’s co-chairs were Bunny Getz, Melissa Shenkin Saunders and Rachel Rapport.

Garson has served several key roles at Kol Tikvah, including temple president and vice president of membership. She was on the board of trustees for several years.

The Stones became members in 2013 while searching

for a preschool for their daughter, Charli. Kami began volunteering in the preschool and has been a part of the education fundraiser committee every year. Michael worked with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to acquire a federal grant for Kol Tikvah to upgrade its security systems.

The Wildmans — who also recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary — became members in 1996 and consider their greatest joy to be their commitment to volunteering and the temple, according to the synagogue’s website.

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Anti-Defamation League Sherwood Prize honoree Marino Gonzalez, a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who was promoted from deputy sheriff since the award was announced, attend the annual ADL Sherwood Prize luncheon on March 13. Photo courtesy of Anti Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored law enforcement personnel for combatting extremism, bigotry and hatred at the Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate luncheon on March 13 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Recipients of the prize, which was founded in 1996 to recognize law enforcement personnel, units and programs, were Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Marino Gonzalez, Laguna Beach Police Department Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Section and the Palm Springs Police Department’s Investigations Bureau.

“This year’s honorees have made creative and effective contributions to the fight against hate,” said Amanda Susskind, director of the ADL’s Pacific Southwest region. “The common thread shared by all the honorees is their work with the many diverse groups that make up the population of Southern California.”

The ADL recognized Gonzalez for working toward restoring public trust in law enforcement in the mostly migrant community of Cudahy in southeastern L.A. County. In his acceptance speech, Gonzalez said that undocumented residents have “nothing to fear if they call [the] L.A. Sheriff’s Department.”

In a touching moment, Vasco Possley, a student who benefited from Ashton’s intervention after a hate crime, spoke about how Ashton made him “feel safe.”

David Sherwood, grandson of the couple who founded the award that bears their names, spoke on behalf of his grandfather, who turned 101 the day before the awards ceremony and was unable to attend. Addressing the assembled law enforcement personnel, including L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Sherwood said his family was grateful for “everything you do.” He closed by repeating the epitaph on a garage wall of a local police department: “Be smart, be safe, be fair and be back.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

From left: Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, Chai Center Honoree Youval Ziv and Esther Schwartz come together at the Chai Center’s 30th annual banquet. Photo by Joe Silva.

The Chai Center, a Jewish outreach organization, held its 30th annual fundraising banquet on March 8 at the El Rey Theatre in the Mid-Wilshire District.

Hosted by husband and wife Rabbi Mendel Schwartz and Esther Schwartz, the event featured Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa as master of ceremonies.

The event opened with an art exhibition, “Venezia Ghetto, 500 Years,” by artist Sarah Singer. This evening’s honoree, Youval Ziv, CEO and managing director for real estate investment company Pacific Holdings, brought 50 of his friends to the event.

The Chai Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community in the greater Los Angeles area and beyond with Shabbat dinners, singles parties, holiday celebrations, innovative High Holy Days services at the Writers Guild Theater, Passover seders, kabbalah classes and retreats. The Chai Center serves Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews from all backgrounds.

The Chai Center was co-founded by the late Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz — also known as “Schwartzie” — and his wife, Olivia Schwartz, the parents of Mendel Schwartz. Olivia serves as the organization’s co-director and Mendel Schwartz is its program and development vice president.

Suissa, in his remarks, described Schwartzie and dinner chairman and philanthropist Stanley Black as two people who never said no.

Black pledged an additional $25,000 toward Chai Center programing.

Beit T’Shuvah coaches Leslie Gold and Anna Johnson helped prepare Beit T’Shuvah residents and supporters for participating in this past Sunday’s L.A. Marathon. Photo by Justin Rosenberg.

Residents and supporters of Jewish rehabilitation organization Beit T’Shuvah, which serves community members suffering from substance abuse and other addictions, participated in the Los Angeles Marathon on March 18.

Every year, Beit T’Shuvah residents and supportive community members run the marathon as part of the Beit T’Shuvah program Running4Recovery, which raises funds for Beit T’Shuvah and serves a clinical function for residents of the center.

This year, 52 individuals — including residents, residents’ friends, Beit T’Shuvah staff and board members — participated and raised more than $100,000 for the organization.

“Running the marathon helps our residents on their road to recovery,” Beit T’Shuvah Director of Advancement Janet Rosenblum said in an email.

Among those running were Beit T’Shuvah Board of Directors Chairman Russell Kern, board members Samuel Delug and Susan Krevoy, and Rosenblum’s husband, Robert Rosenblum, who participated in a 26-week training program prior to the race.

Janet Rosenblum said Beit T’Shuvah developed Running4Recovery in 2009 as both a fundraiser and a clinical program. It has raised about $1 million over its nine years,

“We know that training for and completing a marathon helps residents on their road to recovery,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work to run or walk a marathon, and the program has been incredibly valuable to the residents who participate. It also brings out our board and other community members and becomes a shared experience for the entire Beit T’Shuvah community.”

From left: Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin; FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Zach Zalben; Amanda Mondre; Rebecca Sahim; Francesca Ruzin; Michael Spector; Chantly Geoulla; Jennie Arad and incoming FIDF Young Leadership of L.A. President Danielle Moses attend the FIDF Roaring 20s Old Hollywood gala at The MacArthur. Photo by Justin Kenderes.

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Young Leadership of Los Angeles (YL-LA) held its 10th annual L.A. Roaring ’20s Old Hollywood Gala on March 10 at The MacArthur special events venue in the Westlake neighborhood.

The event raised more than $500,000 in support of programs for the well-being and education of IDF soldiers and drew more than 1,100 young professionals from across greater Los Angeles.

The evening honored the legacy of Zev Karkomi, who was born in Ukraine and escaped the Holocaust before moving to Israel — then the British Mandate of Palestine — in 1941.  He fought for Israel’s independence as a member of the Haganah and later served as a captain of the IDF until 1958. He immigrated to Chicago in 1960, built a thriving business there and became a supporter of the FIDF, among other organizations.

Karkomi’s grandson, Ari Ryan, an FIDF national board member and Western Region vice president, co-founded FIDF YL-LA to continue his grandfather’s legacy.

“L.A.’s FIDF Young Leadership Division is more successful than ever,” Ryan, who chaired the gala for his 10th and final year, said in a statement. “Over the last decade, more than 6,000 young L.A. professionals have gotten involved through our events and helped us to raise much-needed funds to support Israel’s brave soldiers. I am so proud of what we have accomplished, and am humbled by the passion and desire to give back demonstrated by L.A.’s young professional community.”

Attendees included FIDF YL-LA President Zach Zalben; FIDF YL-LA board member and incoming president Jennie Arad; FIDF YL-LA executive board members Robert Roig and Michael Spektor; IDF soldiers, including a former Lone Soldier (one who serves in the Israeli military without immediate family in Israel); “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles” cast member Josh Flagg and his husband, Bobby Boyd, who were gala sponsors; and FIDF Western Region Executive Director Jenna Griffin.

Headquartered in New York City, FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to provide for the care of IDF soldiers and the families of fallen soldiers. The organization has 20 regional offices in the United States and Panama.

Swastika Found: Let’s Bicker

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last June, Holocaust denial posters were found at a strip mall and near a Jewish day school in Sunnyvale, Calif. How do I know this fun fact? Because earlier this week I read the whole list of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as proof that “We’ve never had a moment like this,” as the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt said.

2017, argued the ADL, was the worst year in many years for anti-Semitism in the U.S. This argument prompted an article in The New York Times by Jonathan Weisman, who claimed: “American Jewish leaders … have been remarkably quiet, focused instead, as they have been for decades, on Israel, not the brewing storm in our own country.”

Anti-Semitism was also the focus of a conference in Israel on May 12–14. In preparation for it, another ADL leader, Sharon Nazarian, wrote an article in which she complained that “too many Jews are giving racist far-right movements” a “free pass.” Why? Because these movements are “pro-Israel.”

Let’s review: This moment is unique in its severity. It is a moment to speak up — and Jews don’t. Jews don’t speak up because their focus is Israel.

More than anti-Semitism changed in the last three decades — it is we Jews who changed. It is our response to anti-Semitic incidents that changed.

Is any of this true? One wonders. By the ADL’s own account, 2017 was not the worst year of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. It was the second-worst since 1994. Now, scratch your head: Was Donald Trump president in 1994? Was it a year in which a focus on Israel prevented Jews from speaking out against anti-Semitism? Was Netanyahu in power at the time, allying Israel with anti-Semitic right-wingers?

No, it was Bill Clinton. And it was Yitzhak Rabin. And yes, there were incidents of Jews being attacked in the U.S. because of Middle East tensions and terrorism. And no, as far as I can remember — and some research seems to confirm my recollection — fewer Jews were using anti-Semitism as a political tool with which to hammer the office of the president, or the government of Israel, or Jewish leaders for “not doing enough.”

Looking back at 1994 and going through the long list of 2017 incidents (“Swastika found in restroom at high school – Lexington, Ky.”) helps one understand that more than anti-Semitism changed in the past three decades — it is we Jews who changed. It is our response to anti-Semitic incidents that changed.

Much more so than in the past, we point fingers at one another as we search for the mysterious factors that ignite anti-Semitism. We see anti-Semitism everywhere, we use anti-Semitism for thinly vailed political purposes, and we identify anti-Semitism among our ideological rivals while turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism within our own ideological camps. As Andrew Silow-Caroll aptly explained: Partisanship makes it “harder for Jews to agree on what constitutes the greatest anti-Semitic threat of the moment.”

Consider U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s response to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ calling him a “son of a dog”: “Anti-Semitism or political discourse? Not for me to judge. I will leave that up to you,” Friedman said in a speech at the Sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism on March 19.

Abbas deserves to be condemned for this ugly statement. But should we jump to the conclusion that “son of a dog” is anti-Semitic? Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak directed the term at Yasser Arafat in 1994, when Arafat refused to sign a document of the Oslo Accord in Cairo. “You kalb ibn kalb, you dog son of a dog, I am the host! What do you think you’re doing!” Mubarak yelled at him.

Is Abbas anti-Semitic? Surely, he has a questionable track-record of Holocaust denial. Was his comment against Friedman anti-Semitic or just ugly Middle East style? In today’s atmosphere, the answer of many Jews to this question will depend on ideology: Right-wing Jews will call it anti-Semitism, in their quest to delegitimize Abbas; left-wing Jews will call it a manifestation of frustration and anger, in their quest to delegitimize Friedman.

Maybe what we need is a Global Forum for Combating the Politicizing of Jewish Affairs.

Moving & Shaking: Yad Vashem and ADL Events, Plus Big Sunday

Photo by Adam Kleifield

The work involved in commemorating the Shoah has evolved from collecting documents about the victims to telling the stories of the people behind those documents, a director of Yad Vashem recently told a Los Angeles luncheon gathering.

Haim Gertner, director of the Archives Division at Yad Vashem, spoke on the subject of “Does the Holocaust Matter Anymore?” at the March 7 event in the Brentwood office of the American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV). The son of a Holocaust survivor, who holds a doctorate in modern Jewish history from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gertner discussed the museum’s efforts to identify, document and provide a name for every victim of the Holocaust.

“So today, instead of only having one piece of information about the death of someone, we are collecting all pieces of information,” he told the small gathering of ASYV staff members. “And by that, more and more, you have pieces that tell the life story of a person. It is a lively, ongoing project. Every month, we add tens of thousands of new entries of information.”

Gertner said that documenting the history of the Shoah in increasingly sophisticated ways — such as using innovative technology to sift through artifacts, data and photos to uncover names for the 1.5 million victims who remain unknown — becomes a greater part of the museum’s mission as the survivor generation dies off.

“In the post-survivor generation, we have to find ways to be relevant to younger people,” he said.

Two moral imperatives frame his work, he said: Collecting material from the Holocaust and sharing the findings with the world.

Attendees at the gathering included Michael Fisher, director of the American desk of the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem; Ron Meier, ASYV’s executive director; and Bill Bernstein, director of institutional advancement for the ASYV Western Region.

During a Q-and-A session following his presentation, Gertner was asked what can be done to address the uptick in Holocaust denial and the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

“This is one of the reasons why there is a necessity to use the historical case, this unique historical case of the Shoah, in order to be aware of the fact that things like that can happen,” he said.

Yad Vashem, based in Jerusalem, is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It draws more than 1 million visitors annually.  Working with partners, the museum has “collected and recorded the names and biographical details of millions of victims of systematic anti-Jewish persecution during the Holocaust,” its website says.

To date, the museum has collected documentation on more than 4.5 million victims, accessible on a database on the museum website.

“The names of nearly one-and-a-half million victims remain unknown,” the website says, “and time is running out.”

From left: Haim Gertner, director of the archives division at Yad Vashem; Michael Fisher, director of the American desk of the international relations division at Yad Vashem; Ron Meier, executive director at American Society for Yad Vashem (ASYV); and Bill Bernstein, director of institutional advancement of the ASYV western region, attended a March 7 luncheon at the West L.A. ASYV office. Photo by Adam Kleifield

IKAR’s “Stranger Purim” party and spiel, held on Feb. 28 at Busby’s East, a Mid-Wilshire sports bar, was one of dozens of local Purim celebrations to take place over the course of the holiday.

The theme of the party played off the hit sci-fi Netflix show “Stranger Things” while the gathering embodied the progressive, social justice-oriented spirit of the egalitarian spiritual community. During the spiel, attendees used boxes of dry macaroni as groggers, which were then to be donated to the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program operated by Jewish Family Service.

IKAR Director of Community Organizing Brooke Wirtschafter handed out 100 red tote bags filled with Band-Aids, snacks, toiletries, socks, a baseball cap and other items for attendees to distribute on their own time to homeless people. The homeless survival kits were ordered from Los Angeles attorney Albert Cohen, who has been overseeing distribution of the kits as part of a broad Jewish community effort, Wirtschafter said.

The event, which had “Stranger Things” paraphernalia decorating the walls, motivated IKAR clergy to fly their inner freak flags. Chazzan and Music Director Hillel Tigay impersonated Mick Jagger while dancing to the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” Associate Rabbi Ronit Tsadok performed a choreographed dance to the music of the Spice Girls and Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous dressed up as a zombie. The nonclergy got strange, too: Local environmentalist Steven Wynbrandt dressed up as Ali G, Noah Schechter came as Charlie Chaplin and Zack Lodmer wore a gorilla costume.

After the spiel, the event organizers cleared out the chairs and the party began as many hit the dance floor, drank and schmoozed. For those not into dancing, there was limbo, a miniature golf course and a photo booth. And there was plenty of pizza, potato skins and corn on the cob to eat.

Other Purim celebrations included a March 2 convening of Yavneh Hebrew Academy students with Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, and a March 1 Megillah reading with Rabbi Berel Yemini of the Chabad Israel Center at the Verizon campus in Playa Vista.

From left: Stephanie Wolfson, director of education at the David Labkovski Project (DLP); Leora Raikin, executive director at DLP; Legacy of Hope Award Recipient Josh Shane; keynote speaker Bernd Wollschlaeger; Legacy of Hope Award Recipient Gabby Vanderlaan and DLP board members Nadine Lavender and Connie Marco, attend the second annual DLP Scholars Luncheon. Photo courtesy of the David Labkovski Project.

The David Labkovski Project’s second annual Scholar’s Luncheon — held Feb. 25 at the Courtyard Marriot in Sherman Oaks — honored Arizona State University automotive systems engineering major Josh Shane and de Toledo High School senior Gabrielle Vanderlaan.

The two honorees received the Legacy of Hope Award in recognition of their “exemplary contributions to the David Labkovski Project,” said Leora Raikin, Labkovski’s great-niece and the Project’s executive director.

Bernd Wollschlaeger, who at the age of 14 discovered his father was a Nazi during World War II served as the keynote

According to its website, the David Labkovski Project advances knowledge of the Holocaust and Jewish history by introducing students to the artwork of Labkovski, who survived both the Gulag and Nazi persecution.

Some of the late artist’s paintings were put on display from Feb. 12–28 at an exhibition, “Documenting History Through Art,” sponsored by Hillel 818 at Cal-State Northridge.

From left: Big Sunday honoree Marta Kauffman; Rita Speck, representing honoree Kaiser Permanente and Big Sunday Founder and Executive Director David Levinson attend the third annual Big Sunday gala. Photo by Erlinda Olvera.

Big Sunday held its third annual gala on March 8 at Candela La Brea in the Mid-Wilshire district and honored Big Sunday participant Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the classic sitcom “Friends,” and health care provider Kaiser Permanente, a longtime supporter.

“I believe in exponential giving, where one gives to a certain organization, and that gift then goes on to a larger audience, touching an incredible amount of people, who then go on to touch the lives of even more people,” Kauffman said in a statement. “Big Sunday is that kind of organization, one that has grown exponentially and continues to positively impact more and more people.”

Kauffman became involved with Big Sunday — which connects people through volunteer opportunities — soon after the organization launched in 1999.

Today, Big Sunday is one of the largest volunteer-driven organizations in the country.  Its annual Big Sunday Weekend, which actually takes place over the course of a month, draws thousands of people to volunteer projects across Southern California. The organization, which started as a Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood and grew under the leadership of David Levinson, its founder and executive director, also offers year-round volunteer opportunities, including school beautifications, neighborhood cleanups and bingo games with seniors.

From left: ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; Deborah Feinerman of Paramount Pictures; Andrea Fluczynski of Sotheby’s Americas; Nichol Whitman, executive director of the L.A. Dodgers Foundation; Jihee Kim Huh, vice chairman at PAFCO and ADL Senior Vice President Sharon Nazarian attend the 23rd annual ADL Deborah Awards dinner. Photo by Michael Kovac.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) held its 23rd annual Deborah Awards dinner March 7 at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills.

The event raised $350,000 to help the ADL combat racism and bigotry, and honored four women who have exemplified ADL ideals and values in their respective professions and civic contributions, an ADL statement said.

The honorees were Deborah Feinerman, executive vice president of business affairs and legal at Paramount Pictures; Andrea Fluczynski, executive vice president and chairwoman at Sotheby’s Americas; Jihee Kim Huh, vice chairwoman at Pacific American Fish Company; and Nichol Whiteman, executive director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. All the honorees, who shared their personal stories, were either immigrants or children or grandchildren of immigrants.

The honoress were presented with their awards by Paramount Pictures General Counsel Rebecca Prentice; filmmaker, writer and actress Susan Nimoy; LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril; State Treasurer John Chiang; and ADL Senior Vice President Sharon Nazarian. Television personality AJ Gibson served as the emcee.

The Deborah Award, which the ADL gives out every year to extraordinary women in the professional and civic communities, is named for the biblical prophetess, Deborah, who was noted for her courage, wisdom and leadership.

ADL Tears Into Women’s March Leaders for Attending Louis Farrakhan Speech

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), ripped into leaders of the Women’s March for attending a Louis Farrakhan speech the prior weekend.

Greenblatt prefaced his Medium post by noting that Farrakhan’s speech during last weekend’s Nation of Islam convention was laced with anti-Semitism, which included statements about how “Jews are part of ‘the Synagogue of Satan;’ that the white people running Mexico are Mexican-Jews; that Jews control various countries including Ukraine, France, Poland and Germany where they take advantage of the money, the culture and the business; that Jesus called Jews ‘the children of the devil’; and ‘when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door.’” Farrakhan also promoted the anti-Semitic slander “that Jews control the government and the FBI and use marijuana to feminize black men.”

“The NOI uses its programs, institutions, publications, and social media to disseminate its message of hate,” Greenblatt wrote. “At last weekend’s convention they were heavily promoting, ‘The Secret History Between Blacks and Jews,’ a multivolume tract that blames Jews for orchestrating the transatlantic slave trade. It deserves a place on the shelf of every bigot alongside ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ another work of libelous fiction used to foment little more than intolerance.”

Greenblatt also pointed to Farrakhan’s bigoted statements toward whites and gays and then noted that too many public figures “have a blind spot” and specifically called out a couple of leaders of the Women’s March.

“Consider that in the audience at last weekend’s conference was Tamika Mallory, one of the leaders of the Women’s March, who got a special shout-out from Farrakhan and who regularly posts laudatory pictures of him on her Instagram account — as does Carmen Perez, another leader of the March,” Greenblatt wrote. “Linda Sarsour, another March organizer, spoke and participated at a Nation of Islam event in 2015. Her most notable response to his incendiary remarks this year was a glowing post on Perez’s Facebook page to praise Farrakhan’s youthful demeanor.”

Perez simply dismissed Farrakhan’s bigotry by stating that no one’s “perfect,” according to Greenblatt. Mallory touted a tweet from rapper called Mysonne to show that she isn’t anti-Semitic, although the Washington Free Beacon noted that Mysonne once tweeted that Jews were responsible for the oppression of blacks.

Zioness Movement President Amanda Berman called on the Women’s March leaders to condemn Farrakhan.

“It is hypocritical beyond words that they continue to align themselves with Louis Farrakhan, who is an unapologetic bigot that spews hate targeting the Jewish community, LGBTQ community and others,” Berman said in a statement. “There is no ambiguity on this issue. Either the Women’s March leaders endorse the vilification of the Jewish people or they don’t. It’s that simple.”

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) was also mentioned in Greenblatt’s post for recently praising Farrakhan, and when pressed on it Davis attempted to walk it back but has yet to publicly condemn Farrakhan.

CNN’s Jake Tapper launched a tweetstorm on Feb. 28 about Farrakhan’s speech:

The ADL has also recently criticized three Democrats, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), for attending a 2013 dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Farrakhan was also an attendee at the dinner.

In addition to his bigoted statements, Farrakhan’s record includes lavishing praise on the Iranian regime and deposed dictators Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi. Farrakhan also established a partnership between the NOI and the Church of Scientology and believes that an unidentified flying object (UFO) known as the “Mother Wheel” that “will rain destruction upon white America, but save those who embrace the Nation of Islam.”

ADL Reports Record Rise in Anti-Semitic Acts

The words, " Jews Kill Christians” were written into a car windshield in Los Angeles in January 2017. The Anti-Defamation League counted this among the 268 incidents of anti-Semitism in California in 2017, which was up from 211 in 2016. Photo courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League

Anti-Semitic incidents nationwide increased nearly 60 percent from 2016 to 2017, the “largest one-year jump in recent history,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

In 2017, 1,986 anti-Semitic instances of assault, harassment or vandalism were reported in the U.S., up from 1,267 cases in 2016.

The ADL reported its findings in its annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,” released on Feb. 27.

“Anti-Semitism is nonpartisan,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a conference call held in conjunction with the report’s release. “It can come from the extreme right or extreme left, whether it can arise out of events like Charlottesville, or the debate over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or from the likes of Louis Farrakhan. It has many manifestations and sources. We don’t know why this [increase] happened, but we try to monitor it. And we believe that in monitoring it, we can find new ways to fight back.”

The data for 2017 recorded “the second-highest number of incidents that the ADL has seen in any year since we started tracking this,” Greenblatt said. “Incidents peaked in 1994, the year of the Oslo Accords, the year that was characterized by violent anti-Semitism in New York and around the country.”

In California, 268 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2017, up from 211 in 2016 — an increase of 27 percent, the ADL said.

Amanda Susskind said the latest audit’s findings should be of concern to all communities, not only Jews.

The civil rights organization has conducted an audit every year since 1979 of criminal and noncriminal acts of anti-Semitism. The audit does not include online expressions of hate but reports exclusively on real-time physical incidents, including vandalism, assault and harassment.

ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind in Los Angeles, in a phone interview with the Journal, attributed the increase of incidents in part to the “failure of moral leadership in the highest levels [of government] in this country.”

High schools and colleges, in particular, experienced a sharp increase in reported acts of anti-Semitism from 2016 to 2017, according to the audit. A total of 204 anti-Semitic incidents were reported on college campuses in 2017, compared with 108 in 2016, the ADL said.

Susskind linked the increase of anti-Semitic acts at schools to the growing normalization of cyber hate.

“Very often, vitriolic stuff happening online seems to be setting a tone among the young population,” she said. “Maybe that is why it is so bad on high school and college campuses, where it seems to be acceptable to be using this kind of rhetoric.”

Anti-Semitic incidents in California increased, from 2016 to 2017, 27-percent. Courtesy of the ADL

In California, there were 108 anti-Semitic acts of vandalism in 2017, up from 77 in 2016, the ADL said. Among them was a December incident at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, in which a swastika was spray-painted on the guard booth at the synagogue’s entrance.

More than 150 harassment incidents occurred in California in 2017, up from 128 in 2016, including the mailing of an anti-Semitic letter to the Jewish owners of the Los Angeles Diamond Factory in October, the ADL said. The letter contained a swastika, racial and homophobic epithets and the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Nationwide, 1,015 incidents of harassment occurred in 2017, including 163 bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions. Authorities arrested an Israeli-American teenager in connection with many of the bomb threats, all of which turned out to be hoaxes. Nevertheless, Susskind said the ADL still considered the incidents to be anti-Semitic.

“We don’t count anti-Semites; we try to document cases where Jews are targeted for assault, vandalism or harassment,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the motivation of any specific perpetrator is — if the Jewish community is traumatized, as they were when the bomb threats came though, it counts for us.”

Susskind said the latest audit’s findings should be of concern to all communities, not only Jews.

“This is not going away, this is not a problem of history and something you only read about in school books,” she said. “This is a real-time problem. Anti-Semitism is often called the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ and is often a precursor or predictor of more pernicious or apparent hate and bigotry in society.

“We do think it is something we should be taking seriously.”

Nationwide, in 2017 there were more anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 than there have been since 1994. Courtesy of the ADL

ADL Criticizes Three Congressional Democrats for Dining with Iranian President and Louis Farrakhan

Photo from Flickr/Lorie Shaull

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement on Twitter denouncing three congressional Democrats for attending a dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 that Louis Farrakhan was at.

Greenblatt called it “extremely disturbing” that the three members, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Andre Carson (D-IN) dined with “hatemongers.”

“Yes, it may have been an ‘official’ event org by Iran govt,” Greenblatt tweeted. “However, this is one of the most repressive & aggressive regimes in world, a govt that specializes in state-sponsored #antisemitism, regularly commits #humanrights violations and actively engages in #terror.”

Greenblatt then lambasted Farrakhan for being “an unrepentant anti-Semite who has said Jews are Satanic & responsible for 9/11.”

“Some of those who attended have repudiated Farrakhan & his intolerance in the past. They should do so again,” Greenblatt wrote. “They owe it to their constituents + Jewish community to explain their rationale and remind the world that there is no statue [sic] of limitations on standing up to hate.”

A spokesperson for Ellison told National Journal editor Josh Kraushaar that Ellison and Farrakhan didn’t talk to each other at the event.

The reported 2013 dinner and 2016 visit with Farrakhan is the latest Farrakhan-related controversy for Ellison, who has been plagued with questions about his prior ties to Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam (NOI) ever since he first ran for Congress in 2006. Ellison has repudiated the organization on multiple occasions; his defense is that he was only involved with NOI for 18 months although there is evidence to suggest his involvement with NOI and ardent defense of Farrakhan lasted for 10 years.

“Which is the real Ellison: The one who drafts earnest letters of apology to Jewish groups? Or the one who, as recently as 2013, saw it fit to dine with Farrakhan under Iranian auspices?” Commentary’s Sohrab Ahmari wrote.

H/T: Daily Caller

Moving & Shaking: ‘Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!’ Dishes on Pop Culture; Art Show Supports ADL

From left: Psychologist and screenwriter Michael Berlin, Temple Beth Am Programming Director Lia Mandelbaum, Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wallenstein, “Conan” writer Rob Kutner, Jewish Journal contributing writer Esther D. Kustanowitz, Temple Beth Am Vice President of Programming and Engagement Jacqui Jacobs and TV editor Michelle Fellner organized and participated in “Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!” Photo by Lia Mandelbaum

A pop-culture roundtable at Temple Beth Am on Nov. 16, featuring five creative Jewish professionals, examined depictions of Jews in movies and television and what they say about American-Jewish life.

“Tonight, we want to talk about how the Jewish experience has changed over time,” psychologist and screenwriter Michael Berlin, the event moderator, said at the start of the evening, titled “Schmaltz, Schmendricks and Showbiz!”

During the event, comedy writer Rob Kutner (“Conan”) discussed what it was like being a pro-Israel writer at “The Daily Show” and having more pro-Israel views than then-host Jon Stewart. Kutner said he tried to bring more balance to the content of a “Daily Show” segment that portrayed pro-Israel Jews as being unwilling to listen to anything other than full-throated support for Israel.

“I didn’t want to argue too much with my boss, but I was trying to present a reasonable pro-Israel position,” Kutner said.

Michelle Fellner, a television editor whose credits include “Mad Men,” recalled how she bonded with show creator Matt Weiner over their shared Jewish heritage when she worked on the Emmy Award-winning drama.

Over the course of the evening, the panelists presented clips from films and television shows that depicted Jews in flattering and negative ways. Journal contributing writer Esther D. Kustanowitz discussed “JAP Battle,” a clip from the musical-comedy show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” featuring two Jewish American princesses trading rap verses skewering each other and Jewish stereotypes.

Kustanowitz said the evening was an opportunity “for Jews to emerge beyond the stereotype.”

During a Q-and-A toward the end of the night, Temple Beth Am Rabbi Ari Lucas asked the panelists how Judaism informed their approach to their work. Andrew Wallenstein, co-editor-in-chief of Variety, said he struggles with staying true to the Jewish law prohibiting lashon harah (Hebrew for “gossip”) because almost 90 percent of the content on his newspaper’s website is gossip. Still, he said, he hopes the articles shed some light on troubling realities in society.

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles President Scott Edelman (left) and Learned Hand Award recipient John Rogovin. Photo by Howard Pasamanick Photography

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles honored John Rogovin, executive vice president and general counsel at Warner Bros. Entertainment, with the AJC Learned Hand Award on Oct. 25 at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles.

“Who better exemplifies the spirit of liberty than the American Jewish Committee, which I admire so much for their work on behalf of all of us — Jews and non-Jews — safeguarding human rights,” Rogovin said in his acceptance speech.

Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, presented Rogovin with the award.

Attendees at the ceremony honoring Rogovin included John Emerson, former United States ambassador to Germany. Emerson delivered the evening’s keynote speech on the importance of U.S.-Germany ties and the role AJC plays in that relationship.

Norman Eisen, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, and Matthew Dontzin, founding partner at Dontzin, Nagy & Fleissig, served as the masters of ceremonies.

The dinner co-chairs were Jaye Rogovin, John Rogovin’s wife; former AJC National President Bruce Ramer; AJC Los Angeles President Scott Edelman; and Latham & Watkins partner Joseph Calabrese.

AJC Los Angeles Director Dan Schnur opened the program.

AJC, an advocacy group combating anti-Semitism, supporting Israel and more, established the Learned Hand Award, the highest honor the organization bestows to an individual in the legal profession, in memory of Judge Learned Hand, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

From left: Deanna Migdal, Esther Friedberg, Chellie Goldwater Wilensky, Gail Simpson, Susan Isaacs and Ivy Libeross attend the NA’AMAT USA luncheon. Photo courtesy of NA’AMAT USA

The San Fernando Valley Council of NA’AMAT USA held its annual Distinguished Community Leader Awards luncheon at American Jewish University on Oct. 29.

This year’s honorees were Dr. Fran Kaufman, a prominent figure in the treatment of pediatric diabetes; community activist Barbara Yaroslavsky, for her fight against poverty; and Gail and Myles Simpson, for their service to NA’AMAT and Conservative Judaism.

“I am very appreciative of this honor,” Gail Simpson said. “NA’AMAT has been a part of my life for the past 40 years. I’ve seen all of our accomplishments in Israel and how NA’AMAT has improved the lives of women and their families. Our programs are constantly evolving as the needs of women grow and change.”

NA’AMAT USA, a volunteer organization, partners with NA’AMAT Israel to provide educational and social services for families and individuals in need.

The luncheon included a video screening about NA’AMAT’s technological high schools for disadvantaged and at-risk teens in Israel, introduced by the organization’s national vice president of public relations and publicity, Susan Isaacs.

“It is an inspiration to recognize the achievements of our distinguished honorees,” NA’AMAT USA Executive Director Deanna Migdal said. “These leaders serve as models for us all as we work to fulfill our mission of enhancing the quality of life of women and children in Israel.”

Virginia Isaad, Contributing Writer

“Fauda” star Laetitia Eido poses on the red carpet at the Israel Film Festival. Photo by Alex Zamyatin

As part of the Israel Film Festival, 220 people attended a screening of a new episode from the Israeli TV hit “Mossad 101” at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills on Nov. 15. The screening was followed by a panel discussion about how to expand the impact of Israeli television. Adam Berkowitz, co-head of television at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), moderated the panel, titled “Israeli TV: An American Success Story.”

“Israeli TV is quite young — 27 years,” said Udi Segal, founding CEO of Sumayoko Films, which produced “Mossad 101.” “It can offer young and enthusiastic creators.”

Segal said Israeli creators tend to have lower budgets than their American counterparts, which is helpful for the creative process. “When you have a small box, you must think outside it,” he said.

“Israelis are innovators and entrepreneurs, and want to invent and push the envelope,” said Sharon Tal, head of drama and comedies at Amazon. “They never want to think safe. They always have something to say and they say it.” She added that Israeli writers are used to a “very honest and brutal approach,” that they’re not afraid of getting notes about their scripts, while American writers have to be “treated with kid gloves.”

“What makes a good TV show is to take reality and exaggerate it a little,” said writer David Shore (“House,” “The Good Doctor”). “That’s what Israel is — reality that’s a little more heightened and a little more focused.”

The panel also included Danna Stern, managing director of Yes Studios, and award-winning actor Tsahi Halevi. Halevi has been acting for about five years and now is enjoying recognition for his work in “Mossad 101” and “Fauda,” both of which were featured at the festival.

“The last year-and-a-half has changed the formats business,” said Michael Gordon, an agent at CAA. Gordon said Israel is particularly well positioned to export stories. It generates “organic stories, because the population isn’t homogenous,” he said.

Both “Fauda” and “Mossad 101” present diverse characters coming into conflict with one another over cultural or ideological differences.

The following night, Nov. 16, the festival hosted a red-carpet world premiere for the second season of “Fauda,” featuring two sold-out screenings and a Q-and-A panel discussion with the talent and creators of the show.

Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

From left: Sephardic Education Center (SEC) Director Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, “NCIS: Los Angeles” actress Daniela Ruah, Sephardic Film Festival honoree Joe Ouaknine and SEC President Neil Sheff. Photo courtesy of Sephardic Educational Center

The Sephardic Educational Center (SEC) kicked off its 14th annual Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival on Nov. 5 with a dinner under the stars at the Paramount Studios lot.

Every year, the Sephardic Film Festival showcases original stories by filmmakers around the world, while highlighting the heritage and culture of Sephardim.

This year’s opening film was actor and director Ze’ev Revach’s “Back to Casablanca.” The film follows Revach’s journey back to his homeland in search of a Moroccan actor to star alongside him in his next film, which he dreams he’ll be able to distribute around the Arab world.

SEC President Neil Sheff delivered remarks at the start of the evening.

Proceeds from the weeklong festival, which closed on Nov. 12, support SEC educational programs, including SEC Hamsa Israel, a trip to Israel for teenagers led by SEC Director Rabbi Daniel Bouskila.

The SEC presented Joe Ouaknine, co-founder of Titan Industries, a women’s fashion footwear company, with the Maimonides Leadership Award. Ouaknine was born in Morocco, immigrated to Canada, moved to Los Angeles in 1977 and is an active supporter of the Los Angeles Sephardic community, the SEC website says.

Actress Daniela Ruah (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) emceed the evening.

Ayala Or-El, Contributing Writer

LACMA Director Michael Govan poses at “ArtWorks ADL” with (from left) his wife, fashion and luxury brand consultant Katherine Ross; Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Regional Director Amanda Susskind; ADL executive committee member Nicole Mutchnik; and Sotheby’s Executive Vice President and Chairwoman Andrea Fiuczynski. Photo courtesy of Anti-Defamation League

“ArtWorks ADL: Justice, Advocacy And Art” drew more than 400 art aficionados, philanthropists and friends of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the Beverly Hills home of husband-and-wife entrepreneurs and philanthropists Lisa and Joshua Greer.

The Oct. 26 event, held in the Greers’ backyard on a balmy evening, showcased more than 40 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works donated by Los Angeles-based artists and galleries inspired by the ADL mission and representing the Jewish, Asian-American, Latino, African-American and LGBT communities.

Andrea Fiuczynski, executive vice president and chairwoman at Sotheby’s America, conducted a live auction. The event raised $420,000 to support ADL programs combating hate and bigotry.

Attendees included the evening’s co-chairs, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan and international art consultant Lauren Taschen.

Police Investigate Defacing of Temple’s Bathroom

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADL Steps Up Reporting on Anti-Semitic Incidents

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 JewishVegas.com 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.

White supremacist group launches campus recruitment effort, says ADL

Nathan Damigo, founder of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa speaking to media in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 14. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A group that took part in the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is embarking on a yearlong recruitment campaign on college campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Identity Evropa, a group founded last year that seeks to promote “white American culture,” is engaging in a campaign called “Project Siege,” which involves posting fliers and posters on campuses promoting its goals. The ADL, which  tracked a rise last school year in white supremacist activity on college campuses, has documented 12 campuses where the group has advertised in the new school year.

Identity Evropa led chants of  “You will not replace us” at the Charlottesville rally last month, which some rally-goers then paired with “Jews will not replace us.” Fear of “replacement” by immigrants is a major theme of European nativist movements. Identity Evropa supports a policy of “remigration” of immigrants out of the United States, and does not allow Jews as members.

In August, its members disrupted a pro-immigration forum at Miami-Dade College. During the 2016-2017 school year, the ADL reported 65 incidents of Identity Evropa materials on American college campuses.

“Identity Evropa is actively targeting campuses and their actions are extremely disruptive and unsettling to students,” said ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt. “The message is explicitly racist and anti-Semitic. They know they’re going to get a reaction when they show up on campus. Fortunately their message is near-universally rejected by students and faculty.

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

Jewish groups attack Trump’s DACA decision as immoral

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 5. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

An array of Jewish groups and lawmakers attacked as immoral President Donald Trump’s move to end an Obama-era program granting protections to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

The Trump administration said Sept. 5 that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. President Barack Obama had launched DACA in 2011 after multiple attempts failed in Congress to pass an immigration bill that would settle the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants. The program protected those who arrived as children from deportation and granted them limited legal status.

In statements, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the principal objection to Obama’s so-called Dreamers program was that it was unconstitutional because it was established by an executive order, and indicated that Trump was ready to sign any congressional legislation that would accommodate the “Dreamers.” It was unclear what would happen in the meantime or, should Congress not pass legislation, what would happen to the 800,000 people who have sought and received DACA’s protections.

Trump, in a statement, said his hand was forced by attorneys general from conservative states who plan to sue to kill DACA.

“The attorney general of the United States, the attorneys general of many states and virtually all other top legal experts have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court,” he said.

Republican leaders in Congress have expressed a willingness to pass the legislation necessary to protect the affected immigrants, but Jewish groups and lawmakers said ending the program presented immoral perils, given the failures of Congress in the past to agree on comprehensive immigration reform.

“DACA recognized these individuals for who they are: Americans in everything but paperwork,” Melanie Nezer, the vice president for public affairs of HIAS, a major Jewish immigrant advocacy group. “Their hopes and dreams are no different from kids who are born here, and there is no legitimate reason for inflicting this needless suffering on them and their families.”

The Reform movement called the action “morally misguided” and demanded that Congress act to redress the rescission.

“It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center. “We call on Congress to protect DACA recipients from deportation by immediately passing a clean bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 — and on the president to support it.”

Richard Foltin, the American Jewish Committee’s director of government affairs, called the decision “devastating,” and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it was one of “a long list of actions and policies by this administration that have deeply hurt immigrants and their families.” The ADL noted the pardoning last month of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who had been convicted of discriminatory practices against Latinos, and the threat to withdraw funding from cities offering sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Other Jewish organizations condemning the decision included Bend the Arc, J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the Shalom Center and the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. Bend the Arc listed rallies across the country it would join to oppose the decision.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy, said it “strongly opposed” the decision and called on Congress to act to protect the “Dreamers.”

“The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in the struggles of new immigrants and in development of our nation’s immigration policy,” it said. “We believe that Congress must enact a permanent solution and we call on lawmakers to act immediately to protect immigrant youth by passing the ‘Dream Act of 2017,’ bipartisan legislation that would replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection.”

Jewish Democrats also slammed the decision.

“Terminating #DACA now puts 800,000 talented young #DREAMers who love, contribute to, and live in America officially at risk of deportation,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Engel’s counterpart on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the decision was “clearly written with little thought of the human consequences.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the decision “cruel and arbitrary.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, in a long and anguished statement, said he supported Trump’s decision but added that he would work to pass legislation to protect the undocumented immigrants.

“I am very much willing to work with any of my colleagues on either side of the aisle on this issue and others to find common ground however possible,” he said. “Working together productively and substantively, I am hugely confident that long overdue progress can absolutely be achieved at least in part to move the needle more in the right direction.”

Dreamers and their supporters on the night of Sept. 4 held a candlelight vigil outside the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the daughter and son-in-law of the president. The couple, who both serve as advisers to the president, reportedly advocated for continuing DACA.

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.

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

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