September 21, 2019

ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt Talks Tachlis on Anti-Semitism

Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe (left) and Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Photo by Ryan Torok.

While there has been a decrease in anti-Semitic sentiment in the United States, anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise.

So said Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a discussion with Sinai Temple Senior Rabbi David Wolpe on Sept. 11.

Speaking to a crowd of approximately 100 people, Greenblatt said, “Sentiments are actually pretty good in this country and better than they’ve ever been since we’ve been in business, but … acts of harassment and acts of violence increased [in 2018]; acts of assault and whatnot increased 105%, punctuated by the murder in Pittsburgh [at the Tree of Life synagogue] where 11 people were literally shot in cold blood in the pews where they worshipped on a Saturday morning.”

Greenblatt, who has helmed the ADL since 2015, also said he believes anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and that it is possible to criticize Israel and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement without being anti-Semitic.

He also dismissed the perception among political conservatives that the ADL is exclusively focused on condemning anti-Semitism on the right — particularly statements from President Donald Trump — while ignoring anti-Semitism on the left from the likes of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Much of that criticism comes, Greenblatt believes, because of his previous position as a special assistant to President Barack Obama.

Greenblatt also spoke about anti-Semitic forces in Europe, stating that Central European nations, including Hungary, Poland and Austria, and Scandinavian countries, including Norway and Sweden, are experiencing a rise in right-wing extremist political parties. He said these countries are taking their cues from an earlier, more anti-Semitic time in Europe, whereas Western European countries, such as Spain and the United Kingdom, “have radical left-wing movements afoot.” 

He added that Jews in Europe face a “triple threat” from the “radical left, the extreme right and Islamic jihadism, all of which are threatening to their Jewish communities.”

Asked by Wolpe how much of the anti-Semitism in Europe is attributed to Islam, Greenblatt spoke of the radicalization of impressionable Muslim youth in France and Germany. He said this was due to imams getting their talking points from leaders in Iran and Turkey who are committed to “fomenting extraordinary anti-Semitism. ”

Greenblatt also took to task Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying Erdogan was responsible for purchasing property in East Jerusalem to, among other things, spreading Turkish influence in the region. 

“That’s not very encouraging,” Wolpe said. 

“Nope,” Greenblatt replied. “It’s not.”

During the question-and-answer period, Chloe Levian, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow at Santa Monica City College, asked Greenblatt if there were ways she could fight anti-Israel attitudes on her campus.

Greenblatt said one way the ADL has been helping is by partnering with campus Hillel groups and working with Jewish members of universities’ board of trustees. 

The evening concluded with a tribute to those who died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Taking their cues from Wolpe and Greenblatt, audience members stood and bowed their heads in silence.

Dear Persian Jews: Tradition Is Not Enough

Like many children in the U.S., I once begged my mother to let me attend a Friday night sleepover.

“It’s Shabbat night,” she declared in Persian. “You don’t go out on Shabbat night.”

“Why?” I prodded. “I want to go to this sleepover and eat something called ‘Chinese food.’”

“But we’ve always ‘done’ Shabbat.” she cried. “It’s a time for family and ‘Full House.’”

I should note that I grew up in the 1990s, when ABC aired “TGIF” television programs like, yes, “Full House.”

I didn’t accept my mother’s response because there was no soul in it. 

There’s something about this story that’s uniquely Persian, and at the risk of excommunication, I’ve been waiting 20 years to declare the following:

Given our misguided belief that tradition alone is enough to ensure Jewish continuity, many Iranian American Jews likely will not have Jewish descendants in the coming decades.

It’s our fault. We applied an old formula to a new country.

In Iran, we didn’t worry much about assimilation. First, social anti-Semitism made marriage between Jews and non-Jews very difficult. In the U.S., anti-Semitism doesn’t break up relationships. For Persian Jews, the job of promoting Jewish marriage often belongs to parents, and if those parents die without having imprinted the need and beauty of Jewish continuity, intermarriage will be the result. 

“If your kids find little meaning in synagogue services, find another synagogue.”

Second, we felt less need in Iran to go beyond tradition (toward more learning and Jewish practice), particularly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, because we were merely trying to survive. No one worries about whether their children will retain their Jewish identity in a country that constantly keeps them in their place as Jews. That’s not an issue in the U.S.

Third, there was an unspoken distance between Muslim and Jewish children in Iran. Often, they learned and played together (at non-Jewish schools), but the level of interaction that Jewish children who attend public schools in the U.S. today have with non-Jewish friends is much greater.

In Tehran, I didn’t partake in non-Jewish traditions with non-Jewish children; in the U.S., I couldn’t wait to help my Christian friends hang ornaments on their Christmas trees, and I viewed them — with their “free” Friday nights — as truly liberated.

There are many Persian Jews who actively are staying connected to Judaism but they now seem a minority. 

The High Holy Days are a good time to observe my assumption in practice. If you’re a parent, ask yourself if your children — whether 12 or 25 — are exhibiting true joy, or at least, curiosity, about the holidays, or are they simply going through the motions? Are you basically forcing them to attend synagogue services? There’s no joy in that.

Do they ask even one meaningful question at the Rosh Hashanah table, or do they view the meal as a mandatory experience to which they must “pay their dues” before returning to their beloved phones?

Are you using this extraordinary time of year to guide your children, or are your children watching as you roll your eyes in synagogue because you’re bored out of your mind, too?

I’m Persian, and I don’t get Persians.

Beautifully but maddeningly traditional, we actually throw ourselves at sefer Torahs when they’re brought down to the pews, but in our homes, we outsource our children’s hearts and souls to their friends and phones.

My mother used to practically shove other women out of the way to steal a kiss on the Torah, but she never managed to invade my heart with an intoxicating love of being Jewish, because her mother had raised her only with tradition, too.

But my mother grew up in Iran. In the U.S., my Judaism was competing with public school and Friday night sleepovers.

If your kids find little meaning in synagogue services, find another synagogue. If they associate Shabbat only with food (however comforting) and idle chatter, start telling stories. Above all, if they don’t exhibit passion about being Jewish, you must start modeling this for them by practicing Jewish customs with joy — right before their eyes. 

Soulful joy makes for a full house.

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker. 

The Process to Replace Leadership of Women’s March Was a Sham

People gather for the Women's March in Washington. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The announcement in today’s Washington Post that Women’s March co-chairs Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland will no longer serve on the board is only part of the story. The other part is that the process to replace them has been a sham.

Before highly-controversial Sarsour, Mallory and Bland even began the process to find their replacements, they already had overstayed their official term, violating their organization’s bylaws. What followed was an undemocratic, opaque process, with some local Women’s March organizers thinking the previous co-chairs would handpick the new board.

“I’m sure it’s going to be all internal, and they will put in their own people or reelect themselves,” Angie Beem, president of the Washington state chapter, told The Jewish Journal after the announcement.

 In fact, one of the new board members, Zahara Billoo, who runs the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco office, has compared Israeli soldiers to ISIS terrorists, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and has written that being pro-Israel is being “pro-terror, pro-violence, pro-land theft, and pro-apartheid.”

Sarsour first announced to Women’s March organizers that it was time to step down six months ago. The Post reports the trio officially stepped down on July 15, although they did not announce it publicly nor update the website.

The original Women’s March, Inc. bylaws, which were written when the first board was solidified in 2017, stipulate leaders must step down and be reelected every two years. However, it was weeks after the co-chairs’ term had ended when the organization began its search for new board members.

As you may know, Women’s March board has two-year terms, and we are now approaching the end of this first board term,” wrote Sarsour in an email to Women’s March state and local level chapter leaders, co-signed by Chief Operating Officer Rachel Carmona. The letter, entitled “Women’s March Board Transition Update” was sent March 21, 2019, by a source connected to Women’s March, Inc. and was reviewed by The Jewish Journal.

“We have officially opened the process for the 2019-2021 board to shape the next phase of our work,” wrote Sarsour and Carmona, attaching a Women’s March board application. “This open process will include a formal application and review by a board nomination and selection committee, comprised primarily of members of the 2019 March Steering Committee who volunteered to be part of this process.”

“Founders have one rotating seat & Carmen is in it,” Sarsour tweeted after the announcement of the new board, referencing how Carmen Perez will stay on the board of the organization. However, nowhere in the bylaws of Women’s March, Inc. is a rotating seat for founders mentioned. “This AMAZING group of women stepped up, most of whom I worked w/ YEARS before WM,” Sarsour wrote.

Sarsour, Perez, Bland and Mallory were not elected into leadership

“The initial directors shall be those persons whose names and addresses are set forth in the Certificate of Incorporation and they shall serve until the next meeting of members at which directors are elected and until the election and qualification of their successors,” specifies Article I of Women’s March, Inc. bylaws.

Scandals have plagued leadership under Sarsour, Mallory, Bland and Perez, including support of those espousing anti-Semitic stances. More than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding they step down from Women’s March, Inc. Teresa Shook, the founder of the movement, has called for them to resign over their missteps with Jewish and LGBTQ women.

The controversy began when Mallory faced criticism for sitting on stage with Louis Farrakhan as he declared “the powerful Jews are my enemy.” Perez, who will remain on the board, has posed holding hands with Louis Farrakhan on Instagram. Sarsour also is associated with Farrkhan; she delivered a speech at a 2015 rally organized by him in his celebration.

In 2019, 100,000 attended the official Washington D.C. Women’s March – 400,000 less than who showed up into 2017. Since its founding in 2017, the organization has lost the majority of its partners; over 287 organizations have pulled support from Women’s March Inc. including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Emily’s List, the Human Rights Campaign and the Democratic Party.

Currently, only 10 chapters remain officially affiliated with Women’s March, Inc.

Three weeks after the email regarding a shift in leadership, Women’s March, Inc. sent out affiliate agreements to other march groups. It promised “Women’s March, Inc. will ensure that there is at least a minimum of two board seats reserved for Women’s March Chapter representation,” which “individual WM Chapter organizers can self-nominate and WM Chapters will then vote based upon their geographic area for the desired WM Chapter board rep.”

However, this directly contradicts the letter Sarsour and Carmona sent, who wrote the new leaders will be selected by the Steering Committee, which was handpicked by the board, not local organizers. There was no mention of a democratic process.

These agreements seemingly offered local marches a voice in leadership, and operated more like a cease-and-desist letter rather than an opportunity to have a voice in the upcoming elections.

Miranda Marquit, lead organizer of Women’s March of Idaho Falls, told The Jewish Journal that up to this point, all it took to be affiliated with Women’s March, Inc. was to list your march on its website. She confirmed that although it is listed on the website, Idaho is no longer affiliated with Women’s March, Inc.

“While the controversy surrounding this year’s march has some influence, the biggest thing is that we’re considering changing the format to do something more locally focused,” Marquit explained. She noted all Women’s March, Inc. provided its affiliates was an eight-page “Sister March Guide” and an invitation to an occasional conference call.

When asked how often she gets email invitations to the Women’s March calls, Marquit says, “I honestly just delete them without opening them.”

The agreement, sent out March 25, stated that if local marches do not affiliate, they must cease all use of the WM emblems within five days and immediately remove the name “Women’s March” from the chapter’s assumed name, domain names and social media accounts. It also asserts that non-affiliated marches must cease selling “Women’s March” merchandise, which funds grassroots activism.

Women’s March, Inc. also requires its affiliates do not “challenge the validity or ownership of any of the WM emblems,” which includes the term “Women’s March.” 

This is unusual, given that the Women’s March already gave up its legal claim to trademark the term “Women’s March,” which 14 other organizations disputed they owned in court.

Even odder was that Women’s March, Inc. not only sent out the draft affiliate agreements to groups with whom they wanted to solidify their partnership, but also to sporadic activist groups with the name “Women’s March” − even those that had no ties with it.

A leader of a large Women’s March group in California confirmed to The Jewish Journal that it had received the affiliate agreement, even though the chapter has openly divorced itself from Women’s March, Inc. and is affiliated with Los Angeles-based Women’s March Foundation.

In exchange for affiliation, Women’s March, Inc. offers online training, public relations support, amplification of local actions on its social media pages, web support and access to “network-wide communications platforms like Slack.” 

The organization did not offer to distribute any of its funding to grassroots organizers who sign on with it. In contrast, March On, a competing women’s march organization, has given 19 percent of its total funding directly to affiliates, investing approximately $250,000 in local groups, March On told The Jewish Journal.

In July, Samia Assed, who runs the New Mexico Women’s March told The Jewish Journal she has not received any funding or organizing resources from the parent organization, but Carmen Perez once came and spoke at a meeting.

Assed said she would sign the agreement because “I won’t splinter the movement. I won’t weaken it.” However, she had problems with the leadership. “Do I believe Linda and Tamika are anti-Semitic? No. Do I think they acted stupidly? Yes.”

In September it was announced she had joined the Women’s March Inc. board.

For many local chapters, not having a say in major decisions is a deal breaker.

“I don’t see how there will be an election when we have no say in anything they do. I don’t know how they would do the vote,” Beem said of the new board’s selection process. “If we had that kind of power, we could have voted them out. But it takes the board members to vote out a board member, and you know none of them are going to go against each other. I don’t see how an election can happen in this vacuum.”

Women’s March Announces That Sarsour, Mallory, Bland Resigned

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland have stepped down as co-chairs of Women’s March, Inc. on July 15, according to a statement released on Sept. 16.

The Women’s March said in a statement on their website that Sarsour, Mallory and Bland “will transition off the Women’s March Board and onto other projects focused on advocacy within their respective organizations.” Bland, who served as co-president of the Women’s March along with Mallory, told The Washington Post that the leadership was in the works for some time. 

Sarsour, who is a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, told the Post, “I am grateful to the women who stepped up to shepherd the Women’s March. This is what women supporting women looks like.”

Co-chair Carmen Perez is staying with the Women’s March.

The statement went onto list the names of 16 new board members for the organization.

The Women’s March has been plagued with accusations of anti-Semitism, stemming from Sarsour, Mallory and Perez expressing warmth toward Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and a December report from Tablet alleging that Mallory and Perez accused Jews of being behind the American slave trade, among other allegations of anti-Semitism. 

Some of the reactions from the Jewish world include:

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal that he’s “grateful” that the Women’s March is “taking back control from extremists who hijacked this vital American campaign for social justice, creating an anti-Semitic litmus test for social activism that denounces Zionism and demonizes Zionists.”

Two Former Labour MPs Criticize Corbyn’s ‘Institutional Anti-Semitism’

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, gives an election campaign speech in Basildon, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

Two members of parliament (MPs) who left the UK Labour Party criticized the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for institutionalizing “anti-Semitism” in the party during Sept. 10 speeches at the House of Commons.

MP Ivan Lewis, who donned a yarmulke during his speech, accused Corbyn’s leadership of turning Labour into “the party of institutionalized anti-Semitism. So much so Mr. Speaker that a majority of Jews feel they would not be safe in the event of [Corbyn] becoming prime minister.” Lewis, who was accused of sexual harassment in 2017, left Labour in December.

MP Ian Austin explained in his speech that he bolted from Labour in February “to shine a spotlight on the disgrace it’s become under [Corbyn’s] leadership,” adding that “extremists” who sometimes work with and defend “terrorists and anti-Semites” have taken over the party.

At least nine MPs have resigned from the Labour party in 2019, with many stating that the party has become plagued with anti-Semitism under Corbyn. More recently, Labour MP John Mann resigned from parliament on Sept. 7, telling the Jewish Chronicle (JC) that Corbyn has become “an enabler” of anti-Semitism.

A JC poll in Sept. 2018 found that more than 85 percent of British Jews view Corbyn as anti-Semitic.

“The poll was conducted after the Labour leader was at the centre of further rows,” the JC wrote at the time. “In July, photos of Mr Corbyn surfaced from a 2014 event in Tunis, where he laid a wreath commemorating the terrorists behind the Munich massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972. In August, a video emerged of him speaking at a 2013 event, during which he said of British ‘Zionists.’”

Corbyn has denied that anti-Semitism is a serious issue in his party.

Baba Sale Congregation Vandalized with ‘Free Palestine’ Graffiti

Photo courtesy of Zev Opos.

Baba Sale Congregation in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles was defaced with “Free Palestine” graffiti on the morning of Sept. 11.

Zev Opos, who is on the board of directors for the congregation, told the Journal that three female witnesses saw three men in hoodies drawing on the synagogue. One of the witnesses said described one of the suspects as “a tall African-American man,” Opos said.

“Once they finished tagging and saw the women, they ran to their car, which was waiting for them on Oakwood [Avenue], and they drove away,” Opos said.

The Journal has obtained video footage from the congregation showing a hooded man spray-painting the synagogue, before driving off in a vehicle.

Photo courtesy of Baba Sale Congregation.

Photo courtesy of Baba Sale Congregation.

Opos said that while there have been “small graffiti incidents in the past” at Baba Sale, there has never been large anti-Semitic graffiti until now.

“We’re a Jewish house of worship that’s located 7500 miles from the Middle East where this conflict is taking place, and we came under attack solely for being Jewish,” Opos said, “because we as a congregation, we don’t take any political positions and we’ve never made any political statements.”

He added that Baba Sale is a Moroccan shul, so the graffiti opens old wounds given the history of Arab nations expelling Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

“It shows that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are really rooted in the same place, and that’s [a place] of hate,” Opos said, adding the congregation will now undertake additional security measures, including requiring attendees to punch in a code before entering the synagogue, or having someone inside let them in.

“The security companies that are employed by us, they are being updated that they need to be on higher alert as a result of this incident,” Opos said.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Los Angeles tweeted it is “working with law enforcement on this shocking act of vandalism on a synagogue. As our annual audit reflects, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in California.”

In a follow-up tweet, ADL Los Angeles said:  “Vandalism is never ok, and blaming all Jews as a way of criticizing Israel is clear anti-Semitism.”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Director Richard S. Hirschhaut said in a statement, “When I see the Moroccan Jewish synagogue in my neighborhood grotesquely vandalized with ‘Free Palestine,’ it’s a harsh reminder that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have the same roots. This is part of a disturbing and unacceptable trend of anti-Semitic crimes in Los Angeles that we must confront.”

"When I see the Moroccan Jewish synagogue in my neighborhood grotesquely vandalized with 'Free Palestine,' it's a harsh…

Posted by AJC Los Angeles on Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Opos wrote in a Sept. 11 Facebook post: “‘Free Palestine’ is a dog whistle which means replacing Israel with Palestine. ‘From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea Palestine shall be free.’ The targeting of a Jewish house of worship nowhere near Israel shows that this is about Jews. Raw anti-Semitism.”

He added that he wanted to “send a clear message that we are not afraid, we will not be intimidated, and we have no fear.”

This vandalism took place, on 9/11 of all days, at my beloved Baba Sale synagogue in LA’s Fairfax District only minutes…

Posted by Zev Opos on Wednesday, September 11, 2019

UPDATE: Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said in a statement to the Journal, “Acts of intolerance and hate have no place in the City of Los Angeles. We will not allow for the peace and tranquility of our communities to be disturbed by those who propagate fear.  We stand with the congregants of Baba Sale. My Director of Public Safety has been briefed by the Area Commanding Officer of the Los Angeles Police Department and all resources will be brought to bear to apprehend the suspect(s).”

A Different Kind of Arms Race for Our Community

There’s a man who sits near me at minyan who davens with his phone on the table in front of him. The screen stays on, split into four camera angles of the street outside, and he keeps an eye on it.

Sometimes, after I finish the Amidah, my eyes wander over to the live feed. People shuffle by, heads buried in their devices, and I imagine who they might be or where they could be going. Perhaps they’re hustling to a later service, or heading home from a faster one. I don’t think anyone with evil intentions will appear. But the thought of it does invariably enter my mind. Here to make time with the Great Surveillance Camera In The Sky, instead I catch myself looking over my shoulder. 

It seems like only yesterday that we were living and praying in a bubble of sweet naiveté. Times have changed. White supremacy is in bloom and is drawing oxygen from a toxic national discourse and a vacuum of moral leadership. The last year saw two of our holy spaces come under violent attack. Tree of Life is now the name of a massacre.

It has now been 20 years and a few weeks since a man carrying an automatic rifle walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center and opened fire, hitting five people before fleeing the scene. If you live here, you’ve heard the backstory: The gunman, bent on killing Jews, cased three other institutions first but found them well secured. He settled on the first soft target he could find. 

The attack has informed security policy at Los Angeles Jewish institutions ever since. The logic: Fortify yourself as well as, if not better than, your neighbor. What else explains the arms race now quietly unfolding between synagogues in my neighborhood? My shul installed security cameras only once the shul up the street had them. When one shul arms its guard, or adds a second, the others follow suit. The newest big shul on Pico Boulevard, with 8-foot cinder block walls, could pass for a fallout compound. How far off are metal detectors?

“We will not defeat anti-Semitism with taller fences and more video cameras. We can’t just raise the drawbridge. We need offensive tactics, too.”

Even as our concerns become embedded in our architecture, things inside shul almost always feel the same. The cholent tastes the same, the niguns are the same, I avoid the same people and arrive during the same part of Musaf. To be clear, I’m glad we have someone at minyan with an eye on the door. I wouldn’t suggest that the threat against our places of worship does not warrant more rigorous security — of course it does. Feeling safe is essential to the work of connecting with God and with one another, even if our prayers themselves betray a growing fear.

Consider, however, the implications of a strategy whose ethos is not outrunning the lion, so to speak, but outrunning the other human. Each new layer of security further isolates our communities from one another, weakening the exchange of knowledge, tradition and good will between us. I suspect I’m not the only Jew feeling less inclined to shul-hop these days.

What’s more, by insulating ourselves from danger, we wall ourselves off from the society that we live in and remain responsible to. As Jewish culture is assailed and disinformation about us abounds, retreating from the public sphere runs contrary to our interests. We should be making ourselves more accessible, more inclusive, more involved in causes that are not our own. We will not defeat anti-Semitism with taller fences and more video cameras. We can’t just raise the drawbridge. We need offensive tactics, too, a corresponding arms race, a friendlier competition between our beloved institutions, to fortify the values that make our community worth protecting.

So, maybe Judaism has to circle the wagons. But why not make one giant circle instead of a thousand smaller ones? Orthodox shuls should partner with other Orthodox shuls, of course, but they also should be organizing charity events with Reform congregations and symposia with Conservative temples. We must insist on finding religious and cultural common ground because it’s not that hard, first of all, and second, because we need one another more than we realize.

This is the moment to emphasize, not dial back, interfaith and cross-cultural outreach. These engagements are particularly fruitful: They humanize the stranger, strengthen alliances and remind us that we’re not going it alone. We can’t just ask other groups to show up for us — we have to show up for them, too.

It’s a way to train some surveillance cameras on ourselves. When we build a wall between ourselves and society, we might become less vulnerable to the symptoms of hate — an armed guard deters a would-be attacker — but we become more susceptible to contracting the disease ourselves. No culture, religion, political identity or level of observance makes one safe from developing xenophobia, racism or apathy. That means all of us have to be not only vigilant in rooting out those strains of thought, but proactive in warding them off, too.

Louis Keene is a writer based in Los Angeles.

Uniting Around a Big Judaism

When you feel under attack, you’re not inclined to think big. You’re more consumed with immediate threats.

The Jewish world these days is feeling under attack. Whether it’s the rise of anti-Semitism from all sides, the continued assault of BDS or an intersectionality movement that isolates Jews, the bad news keeps coming and throwing us off balance.

This is in addition to the ongoing challenge of maintaining our Jewish identity in a fast-changing and secularized culture.

The nasty business of politics, of course, has made everything worse. Many Jews process current events, including attacks on Jews, through a strictly partisan lens: How will this help my side and hurt the other side? All too many of us have become foot soldiers in a political fight to the death.

The net effect is a community deeply divided at the worst possible time. In this vulnerable state, is it any wonder that our responses to the whirlwind of threats have been so scattered and ineffective?

So, it’s worth asking: What would be a more effective response? How can we fight anti-Semitism in a way where the Jewish community comes out ahead? 

At a time of rising attacks on the Jewish people, how can we come together around a tradition that has nourished us for 3,300 years?

I’d like to suggest an approach I call Big Judaism.

As much as anything, Big Judaism represents an attitude. It encourages us to think big. Most importantly, it asks us to look at what unites us rather than what divides us. It doesn’t expect us to agree with one another or change our views — that’s not the point. 

The point of Big Judaism is to take a step back and look at the big picture: At a time of rising attacks on the Jewish people, how can we come together around a tradition that has nourished us for 3,300 years?

Big Judaism is about projecting strength rather than weakness. Bullies and haters feast on weakness. We must meet them with this unified message: If you hate Jews and Judaism, we will double down on both.

Big Judaism is about coming together to share our big ideas with humanity, from the serene beauty of Shabbat to the Jewish imperative to repair the world.

America is an ideal place to go big on Judaism. I know it’s popular to look at the rising anti-Semitism and pretend we’re back in pre-Holocaust days. This hyper-alarmism may be good for media ratings, but it dishonors a country that embraces our ideals and defends our rights.

For Jews right now, the axiom that “the best defense is a good offense” has never been more applicable.

A good offense means not settling for the rhythm of the victim — they hate, we call out; they attack, we call out; they spray graffiti, we call out.

A good offense means projecting pride in our Judaism whether we are attacked or not.

And when we are attacked, we must do more than “call out” or call the police. If a synagogue finds a swastika on its walls, it ought to organize a Torah rally and strengthen its Jewish programming. If Jewish students find anti-Semitic pamphlets, they ought to throw a Jewish pop-up party on campus.

Because anti-Zionism is often a cover for anti-Semitism, it must be addressed the same way — by doubling down on Judaism. The best way to defend the Jewish state is to stand up for Jewish pride.

Anti-semitism is indeed a threat, but a broken and splintered Jewish community is an even bigger one.

Each denomination, each community, each Jewish group can contribute in its own way. Every Jewish holiday is an opportunity to make the values and rituals of Judaism more visible and prominent. We can’t allow armed guards in front of synagogues to become the emblem of modern-day Judaism. This shows fear and darkness at a time when we need to show strength, unity and light.

Big Judaism doesn’t mean we stop criticizing our own and holding ourselves accountable. It does mean, however, that we recognize we’re also accountable to our community to unite as a “big family” against common threats. At moments like these, it is the duty of Jewish leaders everywhere to bring us together for a higher cause.

Many of us have become so consumed with politics that it’s hard to see any higher cause. The Jew-haters are hoping we will stay this way, tearing one another apart while they continue to tear us down. Anti-semitism is indeed a threat, but a broken and splintered Jewish community is an even bigger one.

As we’ve learned throughout our history, Jew-haters don’t care whether we’re Democrats, Republicans, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, atheists, Zionists or what have you. For the haters, “Jew” is enough to treat us as one.

If “Jew” is enough for them, why is it not enough for us? With the High Holy Days around the corner, it’s time to think big. It’s time to fight back against our common threats by uniting around a Big Judaism — one that respects our differences but honors our shared heritage and destiny as a Jewish family.

Then we win no matter what.

Israeli Assaulted in Germany While Speaking Hebrew

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

An Israeli tourist was assaulted in Berlin on Sept. 9 as he was speaking to three other men in Hebrew, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The tourist was conversing with the three men outside of a nightclub when the assailant punched the tourist in the face and then fled. The tourist told police that the assailant was “Arab-looking,” according to the Post. The Post also noted that the police report on the matter described the assault as having an “anti-Semitic background.”

Israeli diplomat Dan Poraz tweeted out a link to the story, writing that “its 2019 not 1939.” He added in a follow-up tweet, “To almost every trip abroad, to almost any destination – Jews will usually be cautious/uncomfortable about speaking Hebrew. In fact, there’s only one place in the world in which Jews speak Hebrew freely.”

A German intelligence agency released a report in June stating that there was a 71.4 percent increase in anti-Semitic violence from 2017 to 2018 and 20 percent in anti-Semitic hate crimes overall in the same timeframe. In May, German Commissioner Felix Klein warned Jews against publicly wearing kippahs in the country, a statement he later backed down from after facing criticism over it.

“Germany’s domestic intelligence agency notes #antiSemitism is a core element of both right & left-wing extremism, and also essential to Islamist extremist ideology,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted in June. “We must tackle this rise in anti-Semitism and extremism, no matter the source.”

Swastikas Found on Several Homes in San Pedro

Photo from Wikipedia.

A slew of swastikas were found on around a dozen homes and buildings in San Pedro on Sept. 2.

Siamak Kordestani, American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Office Assistant Director, tweeted out photos of some of the swastikas:

Police Office Paul Winter told the Daily Breeze newspaper that the vandalism spanned from “Grand Avenue to Pacific Avenue, and from 12th Street to 19th Street.” He also said that the police are looking for a 6’2” white male as a suspect and that they are investigating the matter as a hate crime.

Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council President Doug Epperhart told the Daily Breeze that he had never seen such graffiti before in his 27 years living in San Pedro, pointing out that most graffiti in the area is “gang-related.” 

Temple Beth El Rabbi Cassi Kail told the Daily Breeze, “The man who did this chose to invoke something, provoking fear and from a place of hatred. Even if it wasn’t specifically against the Jewish community, it’s against all people who value diversity and respect for another.”

Community activist Lion Lyons told Spectrum News that he is going to organize a community meeting to address the matter.

This community, as you can tell, we’re very diverse and we don’t have time for that,” Lyons told CBS Los Angeles. “First off, we want to educate our youth and seeing that this doesn’t happen and at the same time, let them know that everyone’s welcoming here.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Sickening display of #antiSemitism in California where swastikas were found painted onto over a dozen houses. Glad to see the community has already come together to take action and seek justice. @LA_ADL is working with law enforcement to assist in any way.”

StandWithUs Urges FIFA to Make Sure Israeli Fans Can Attend Qatar’s World Cup

Photo courtesy of StandWithUs.

StandWithUs called on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to allow Israeli fans to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in a Sept. 3 petition.

The petition states that “Qatar does not recognize Israel and bans Israelis from entering” the country, pointing out that Israel isn’t on Qatar’s list of nationalities and territories that can obtain a visa. The petition also notes that FIFA’s policies explicitly bans discriminatory against those based on ethnicity and country of origin.

“We call upon FIFA not to score an own goal and to uphold their Code of Ethics, which is premised on protecting international football from ‘illegal, immoral or unethical’ practices,” StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement. “If Qatar is allowed to ban fans on the basis of national origin, this would be a clear violation of FIFA’s guidelines.”

She added, “If Qatar is allowed to ban Israeli fans from entering this will reflect negatively on FIFA, which has made inclusion a primary hallmark of their ethos.”

The Jerusalem Post notes that Hassan al-Thawdi, who heads Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee said in 2017, “Everyone is welcome to Qatar. What we ask is that when people come, just to respect – we’re a relatively conservative nation… all we ask is that every fan who comes in, and every fan is welcome, all we ask that people respect that.”

FIFA did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

In March, the Sunday Times reported that Qatar allegedly bribed FIFA with $880 million to host the 2022 World Cup; FIFA said at the time that they would cooperate with the investigation into the matter.

There have been prior instances of countries banning Israelis from participating in athletic tournaments, such as Malaysia. 

Qatar has funneled money to Islamic terror groups like Hamas and promulgates anti-Semitic propaganda through myriad books.

NY County Chair Says Video Warning of Chasidic ‘Takeover’ Will Return

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The head of the local Republican Party in Rockland County, N.Y. said that their video warning of a Chasidic “takeover” in the county will eventually be back.

The video, titled “A Storm Is Coming”, accuses Rockland County legislator Aron Wieder, a Chasidic Jew, and the “Ramapo Machine” – referencing the town of Ramapo, which has a large population Chasidic and Charedi Jews – of “overdevelopment” in Rockland County. The video claims that Wieder is attempting to sell land to 75 Yeshiva camps and that he and the “Ramapo Machine” of attempting to redistrict the county to increase their “power to take over Rockland.”

Rockland County GOP Chair Lawrence Garvey told the New York Post that they had taken down the video from their site on Aug. 29, but said this was because it “accomplished its goal of highlighting the issues that face our county. And second, [we] took it down because the controversy stopped adding to number one above.”

Garvey then said that “the video will be back, because this conversation is important to Rockland.”

New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger tweeted, “This is not a partisan issue. The @NewYorkGOP Chair can and must take action against the Rockland County Chair’s antisemitic divide-and-conquer campaign.”

Former Democratic New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind tweeted, “Anti-Semitism in broad daylight, why?! Because there are no consequences for these haters. If the @GOP is ok with local representatives tarnishing their party with such anti-Semitism they will pay for it at the ballot-box nationwide.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition and Anti-Defamation League New York and New Jersey have previously condemned the video as anti-Semitic.

DOL Official Reinstated After Resigning for ‘Sarcastic’ Remarks Bloomberg Called ‘Anti-Semitic’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Department of Labor (DOL) official Leif Olson was reinstated on Sept. 4 to his position in the department after he initially resigned due to a Sept. 3 Bloomberg report calling his comments on Facebook “anti-Semitic.”

The DOL said in a statement posted to their website, “On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the Department accepted. Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the Department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division.”

The comments in question are from Aug. 2016, when Olson posted a status mocking white nationalist Paul Nehlen for a 70-point defeat in his attempt to primary then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). A commenter called Ryan a “neo-con,” prompting Olson to reply that “neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.” The commenter then said Ryan is a Jew, and Olson replied that “it must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”

Bloomberg reporter Benjamin Penn called the aforementioned remarks “anti-Semitic” in a Sept. 3 piece reporting that Olson had resigned from the DOL; Olson told Bloomberg that his Facebook comments were “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions.” Anti-Defamation League spokesman Jake Hyman told Bloomberg that the posts were anti-Semitic; later in the day he told The Washington Post, “We appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts and accept his explanation of the content in question.”

Olson tweeted, “I’m grateful to be heading back to work. Thank you, Acting Secretary @PatPizzellaDOL and @WHD_DOL Administrator Cheryl Stanton for the opportunity to continue to serve.”

Bloomberg and Penn have stood by their reporting prior to the DOL’s Sept. 4 announcement, saying that Penn simply sent the department a screenshot and they responded that Olson had resigned. Neither have responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Sharon Osbourne Calls Corbyn ‘Arrogant’ and ‘Repulsive’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

‘The Talk’ co-host Sharon Osbourne, wife of musician Ozzy Osbourne, called UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn “arrogant” and “repulsive” in an interview with The Sun published on Sept. 4. 

Osbourne said, “I hate him so much!” when The Sun asked her about Corbyn.

I want to hurt him. I want to physically hurt this man,” Osbourne said. “He is the most arrogant, ugly f—. I want to hurt him. Oh my God, he is revolting, so ugly, inside and out. This ugliness oozes from him, he’s repulsive.”

Osbourne, who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, went on to describe her concern about the growing anti-Semitism in the Labour Party 

“It’s always been around and it will always be around and that’s what terrifies me because of all the ugly groups that are coming up all over the world,” Osbourne said. “It’s always the Jews or the blacks or the Muslims — everybody hates somebody.”

Osbourne also discussed about the various instances her late father, Don Arden, faced anti-Semitism while serving in the British Army during World War II, including his fellow soldiers forcing him to “dig a hole” in the pouring rain because he’s “a f—— Jew and this war is over you.”

The Labour Party has faced myriad allegations of anti-Semitism under Corbyn’s stewardship and the Labour Party leader has been criticized for abetting the rise of it; more than a dozen Labour Party members have resigned from the party over the anti-Semitism allegations. 

On Sept. 4, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson challenged Corbyn to join his efforts to call snap elections after the House of Commons blocked his attempt to get a no-deal Brexit bill passed. Corbyn rebuffed Johnson.

Jewish Bluegrass Duo’s Single ‘Homesick’ Written to Combat Anti-Semitism

Gabriela Rose and Nick Cameron of Mama Danger; Photo by Dan Johnson

“We want people of all minorities to feel heard. We want non-Jewish people to understand the experience of what it’s like being Jewish and being a minority in this country and not feeling like it’s our home.”

So says Gabriela Rose, 24, one half of the multi-instrumental bluegrass duo Mama Danger. Together with Nick Cameron, 25, their latest single, “Homesick,” draws upon the anti-Semitism and other injustices they have experienced in their southern community of Asheville, N.C.

“I felt this melancholy in the community about identity and living in the South and being Jewish,” Rose told the Journal. “I wanted to speak to that … because Judaism isn’t really talked about in the South and often having a Southern identity has a negative connotation. I want to be proud of being Southern but also be proud of being Jewish. And there is a conflict between those identities.” 

“Homesick” was written toward the end of 2018, not long after the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh. “We wrote it as a single because it was such a specific emotion regarding the whirlwind of the media,” Rose said. 

‘Homesick’s’ lyrics include: “Branches bloom in my lungs. Stealing songs left

Said Rose, “I’ve always been fascinated by the imagery of trees and branches and how they mirror what our anatomy looks like on the inside. There is also that feeling like you don’t have a voice and what you are saying doesn’t have an impact.”

She added the duo is “very covert with our Judaism [in “Homesick”], because we want to bring people in to listen to the song and then fully understand it.” 

There is a line in the chorus that says: “To ignite this ever-burning flame.”

“Our theme within the song is to ignite this [flame], which is a symbol of the Jewish people prevailing through adversity,” Rose explained. “So often, the story of Judaism is that Jews have been misplaced and pushed around so there is this longing for a home that doesn’t necessarily exist and that is starting to feel that way in America.”

Born and raised in Raleigh, N.C., Rose said, “My mother is a piano teacher, my brother is a drummer, my other brother is a bassist and my father plays guitar. So we would do the whole family band thing. I always grew up around music and especially folk music.” 

Rose’s father is Israeli so a large majority of her family lives in Israel. “I grew up going to Israel, riding camels in the Negev desert and playing in the streets of Tel Aviv,” she said. “Judaism is a very core part of my life.” 

“I felt this melancholy in the community about identity and living in the South and being Jewish. Often having a Southern identity has a negative connotation.” 

— Gabriela Rose

However, growing up in the Raleigh area, Rose said, “I have been bullied for
being Jewish. I’ve been tokenized and made to feel different in a predominantly white community.”

Cameron hails from Maryland. His mother is Jewish and his father is Christian but it was important to them they celebrate the different holidays of both religions. He grew up doing theater and that turned into musical theater, which turned into just music. It wasn’t until 2014 when he moved to Asheville that his Jewish identity came into play. 

“Because the area of Maryland I grew up in had a pretty large Jewish population, I had lots of friends who were really more knowledgeable about Judaism than I was,” Cameron said. “So I never really thought about it until I came to Asheville and I became a lot of people’s one Jewish friend. I was the token Jew as it were, and it was eye opening.”

Rose moved to Asheville in 2013, to study psychology at UNC Asheville. It was in 2016 that she found her way to the music department, where she met Cameron. They were part of the university’s ambassador choir, and during a trip to perform for President Barack Obama’s final Christmas at the White House, a close friendship was forged between them. “On that trip Nick and I became friends and I felt comfortable to share with him the songs that I had been writing over the course of my life,” Rose said.

In seeking out a band name, the duo tried to create an anagram from both their names but came up short. Then they put the word “anagrammed” into an anagram generator and it came up with Mama Danger.  “It had a bluegrassy ring so we went with it,” Cameron said. 

However they do not consider themselves merely a bluegrass band. “We are pretty influenced by a band called Punch Brothers,” Cameron said “They look like a bluegrass band but when you look into their music, it is kind of like all over the map. You can hear jazz and classical and pop. So we are inspired by their disregarding of genres.” 

Aside from Mama Danger, both work at the Asheville Jewish Community Center, where Rose is a preschool teacher and Cameron works in the after-school program twice a week. 

“Living in the South and being Jewish is a core part of a lot of the Jewish population’s identity,” Rose said. “In Asheville, the community is very small (3,500 Jews in all of western North Carolina). “Our Asheville JCC has faced some anti-Semitism and in the past couple of years, we were one of the many JCC’s that had a bomb threat called in. We have had people vandalize the Jewish cemetery and post anti-Semitic flyers around town. And oftentimes, the JCC has to go on high alert. It is scary and I have to teach 4-year-olds what to do when a bad guy comes.”

Moving forward, the duo hope to be a voice for marginalized people. Said Rose, “The future for us is to continue to grow within the western N.C. community and spread our message and the acceptance of a Jewish identity through our music
and playing at Jewish events and non-Jewish events.”

‘Homesick’ is available on Spotify.

Questions for Omar After She Tweeted My Article

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference to discuss legislation creating "a federal grant program to help local governments invest in waste reduction initiatives", at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert/File Photo

I was notified last week that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had tweeted an article of mine, which credited the freshman congresswoman for my newfound comfort in covering my hair with a headscarf rather than a wig, to her million-plus followers. 

The reactions I encountered from friends and family were twofold. The first, overall incredulousness for the publicity of it all (thousands of comments and retweets!). The second was sorrow and shame. One family member likened the article to complimenting Hitler for having a backbone. A rabbi cautioned that I should consider doing teshuvah (repentance) for writing the piece, which portrayed a positive aspect of Omar, whose statements and tweets have been anti-Semitic. Only my mother, a complex amalgam of PETA-supporting, bleeding-heart Republican, called it tikkun olam, and noted that in the midst of the hateful rhetoric going back and forth, I had said something friendly and human and true.

As for my personal reaction, I felt that I had been used. In her tweet, Omar sliced my sentence, cutting the portion that declared my discomfort with her views and exhibiting instead the part that showcased her coolness. In addition, my title had been changed, whether to become more readable or clickable I’m not sure, but I definitely wouldn’t have credited her with being an “inspiration.”

It’s not hard to admire Omar for her boldness, whether with regard to headgear or to forging forward despite death threats and controversy. It’s harder to draw inspiration from her, though, when her support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement seems more about “banishing those damn Semites” than caringly and constructively finding solutions that meet both Israeli and Palestinian needs.

As an organizer for Better Angels, a political depolarization group, I’ve learned to enter fraught conversations only after setting firm ground rules: respectful language, using “I” statements, and an agreement to stay curious and connecting, instead of attacking and condemning. Were I to have the opportunity to converse with Omar in person, I would add one more ground rule: Can you sign on to the statement that I have a right to safety and security just as much as you have a right to safety and security? Because without that commitment, any conversation, and any potential inspiration I can draw from you, becomes a nonstarter.

“Rep. Omar, I’m not yet convinced we’re on the same page.”

And my ability to feel safe is drawn up with the safety of Israel. I have too much family there, too strong an emotional and spiritual connection, and too much familiarity with Jewish persecution across the globe to feel at ease if Israel is threatened. And checkpoints and settlements, which Omar has denounced and publicly hoped to visit during her aborted trip to Israel, are all safety measures to avoid terror attacks and losing wars of elimination. They emerged out of bloody necessity, not out of colonization or a power grab, as she has claimed.

Omar’s statements about Jews and Israel have many in the Orthodox Jewish community panicking, partly for their content, but more so for the ease with which she appears able to utter them, given her platform as a member of Congress. My original article title, “Silver Lining to Omar in Congress,” was meant to cheekily reference that sentiment.

But while Omar has backpedaled on several of her statements, citing ignorance or saying they were taken out of context, she’s still a supporter of the BDS movement, which promotes, among other things, the rights for 5 million descendants of Palestinian refugees to return to homes and residences in Israel. That essentially would mean a Palestinian majority in the State of Israel, planting Hamas eerily in control and, voila, curtains for Israel and all the Jews in it.

So that’s why, Rep. Omar, I’m not yet convinced we’re on the same page. I first need to know if we can agree to this basic foundation: I want you and your family to live and thrive safely, as long as you want me and my family to live and thrive safely. Are you with me? If so, then let’s talk.

Rachel Wizenfeld is a Los Angeles-based writer, a school psychology graduate student and an organizer for Better Angels, a national political depolarization group.

WATCH: AJC Video on Rising Anti-Semitism in NY

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a video on Sept. 3 highlighting the rising anti-Semitic violence in New York City.

The video begins with the question, “What would you say if you learned there were over 100 anti-Semitic assaults in a European city? If Jews were being ambushed, attacked, stabbed, kicked, choked, bludgeoned?”

The video then states that such things are occurring with rising frequency in New York City, pointing out that hate crimes have risen 81 percent in 2019 from the year prior in the city, but “few people are aware of this increasingly dangerous situation.”

The Americans Against Anti-Semitism coalition tweeted on Aug. 31 that over the past week there have been two instances of Jews being bludgeoned with stones in New York City and one instance of a Jewish man being hit with a belt buckle while the assailants shouted “F***ing Jew!”

The Anti-Defamation League highlighted the fact that a beach club in Queens was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, tweeting, “From vicious #antiSemitic attacks & harassment in Brooklyn, to now #antiSemitic graffiti in Queens, New York has a serious issue with #antiSemitism currently. More action needs to be taken from public leaders and authorities to curb this #hate.”

New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch told Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that the recent rise of anti-Semitism in the city is “very concerning and very disturbing to me. It’s irrelevant if it’s been happening in the past. The main impact of this is what’s happening in the present.” He also praised the fact that the city is opening a hate crimes prevention center and that he was able to obtain funding to put cameras throughout his district in Brooklyn.

However, one New York City resident, Alexander Rapaport, told JTA that he was unsure how the city could take proper action against anti-Semitism when “hate is something in your mind. How do you counter that?”

Dept. of Labor Official Resigns Over ‘Sarcastic’ Posts Bloomberg Called ‘Anti-Semitic’

Screenshot from Facebook.

A Department of Labor (DOL) official resigned on Aug. 30 after Bloomberg reported that the official had some “anti-Semitic” Facebook posts from 2016; the official says his posts were making fun of the alt-right.

The official, Leif Olson, posted a Facebook status in Aug. 2016 regarding then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defeating white nationalist Paul Nehlen in a congressional primary in an “emasculating 70-point victory.” A commenter then claimed that Ryan was a “neo-con,” prompting Olson to respond, “No he’s not. Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don’t golf on Saturday if you know what I mean.”

The commenter then said Ryan’s “a Jew. Everyone knows that.” Olson responded, “It must be true because I’ve never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own.”

When Bloomberg provided a screenshot to the DOL for comment, the DOL replied that they “accepted the resignation of Leif Olson effective immediately.”

Olson told Bloomberg that his comments were “sarcastic criticism of the alt-right’s conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic positions.” Olson also wrote on his Facebook page, “I never thought I’d see the day when making fun of alt-right anti-Semites led to being branded an anti-Semite, but here we are.”

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg argued that Olson’s comments were “brutally sarcastic from start to finish,” pointing out that “Breitbart had hyped a Nehlen victory and a repudiation of Ryan; instead, Ryan won by nearly 70 percent.”

Additionally, Rosenberg noted that the Bloomberg report left out a commenter on the post saying, “I’m trying to find the correct response to epic sarcasm. I guess I’ll give you my son’s favorite compliment: you speak sarcasm like it’s your first language.” Another commenter later said it was “not Breitbart’s best day” and Olsen responded, “not breitbart-dot-com’s best series of months, you mean.”

The Anti-Defamation League initially told Bloomberg that Olson’s comments were “clearly anti-Semitic,” but later told Rosenberg that they “appreciate Mr. Olson’s clarification that he intended to be sarcastic with his posts, and accept his explanation of the content in question.”

Bloomberg is defending their reporter.

“We stand behind our reporting,” a Bloomberg spokesperson told The Washington Post. “We contacted the White House and the Department of Labor asking for comment on Mr. Olson’s Facebook posts. Within four hours, the Department of Labor responded that Olson had resigned.”

Rosenberg theorized that the DOL’s response was due to the Trump administration “trying to demonstrate zero-tolerance on anti-Semitism, in a way here that shows how they don’t really get anti-Semitism.”

Ted Frank, a friend of Olson’s tweeted, “Tell me, what honest report calls this sarcastic criticism of anti-Semites anti-Semitic? Leif is a friend, and I’d trust him with my Jewish life. I’m appalled at Bloomberg’s hit piece disrupting his life for no reason.”

ADL, Jewish Groups Criticize Fresno Event for Featuring Speaker with ‘Anti-Semitic’ History

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Central Pacific and other Jewish groups are criticizing an event taking place at Clovis Community College (CCC) on Sept. 18 featuring Alison Weir, a speaker that ADL Central Pacific says uses “anti-Semitic tropes.”

The event, titled “Uncovered: Israel’s Occupation of Palestine,” is hosted by the Fresno-based news outlet GV Wire, which covers issues in the Central Valley. Weir has claimed that Israel harvests Palestinians organs, been featured on a white supremacist radio show and in white supremacist publications and blamed Jews for anti-Semitism, according to Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg. Both Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation have disassociated themselves from Weir over the aforementioned issues.

CCC President Dr. Lori Bennett said in an Aug. 30 statement that the CCC is not sponsoring the event and it is not in any way affiliated with the college or any student groups on campus.

While external organizations pay to rent facilities at Clovis Community College, it does not mean an endorsement of the speaker and/or organization. Clovis Community College is committed to maintaining a safe campus of inclusion and equity for all,” Bennett said. “Clovis Community College does not endorse hate speech or anti-Semitic remarks.”

ADL Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk said in an Aug. 30 statement that they respect Weir’s right to express her views, but that “the leadership of Clovis Community College and other community leaders” should condemn her.

Under the pretense of political activism, Weir routinely employs classic anti-Semitic tropes: Weir blames Jews for anti-Semitism, labeling Jews a ‘race’ that is ‘an object of hatred of all the peoples among whom it has established itself’; promotes versions of the anti-Jewish blood libel (the accusation that Jews prey on gentiles for their blood); and likens Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, a comparison explicitly cited in the respected International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism,” Brysk said. 

Other Jewish groups criticized GV Wire for hosting Weir.

We are shocked that GV Wire would organize a talk with someone who seeks airtime on white supremacist shows and has promoted the medieval blood libel that Jews ritually murdered Christian children,” American Jewish Committee Los Angeles said in a statement. “A robust debate on Israel and the Palestinians is important and welcome.  But in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh and Poway killings, and countless other attacks on Jews throughout the country, it is disturbing that someone with a blatantly anti-Semitic history would be given a platform by this media organization.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that the event is “an advocacy event” and questioned why GV Wire didn’t also provide a speaker with an opposing viewpoint to Weir to provide more balance on the issue.

“She hates Israel, slanders Israel, devoted her life to doing this in word and in writing,” Cooper said. “She is even too much for people who still feel there’s still spaces for dialogue on the issue. She’s not a dialogue lady, she’s a propagandist.”

StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement that Weir is “notorious for spreading vicious hate and wild conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel.” She added that GV Wire and other organizations supporting the event are not legally obligated to carry on with the event.

“If they do not withdraw support from the event, they will be complicit in promoting anti-Semitism – an increasingly deadly form of racism,” Rothstein said.

The Progressive Zionists of California also said in a statement to the Journal, “As a group whose members have experienced her vitriolic attacks first hand, we are shocked that anyone would platform her and her reprehensible views. In 2019, as hate crimes against Jews in California continue to skyrocket, it is irresponsible to endorse such hate.”

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

UPDATE 1: Weir said in a statement to the Journal she was “shocked” that the ADL and AJC “are going to such trouble to try to impede my talk at a small college in Clovis, California. As I write here, I think the purpose is to prevent people from learning the facts about Israel-Palestine. The ADL has tried to bully the college, intimidate me, and scare off Fresno/Clovis citizens. But the college hasn’t canceled the event, I’m going to be speaking there, and, I hope, people who live in the Fresno-Clovis area will come to hear me for themselves and make their own decisions.”

She added, “I have written a multitude of articles on Israel-Palestine (some of them are here). Two of them were detailed, thoroughly cited articles about Israel’s connection to organ trafficking. A number of my sources were Israeli news media. You can read them here and here. Both were published by respected, progressive news organizations… I have been interviewed on a multitude of news media, most often liberal or left-wing ones. In my appearances, I provide facts about Israel-Palestine and speak out against all racism, bigotry, and violence.  I feel all Americans, regardless of their race, religion, or political perspective have the responsibility and need to be fully informed about Israel-Palestine, since all of our tax money is going to the over $10 million per day that American politicians give to Israel. You can see our mission statement and principles here.”

Weir also pointed to her response to JVP as well as one of her essays titled, “Anti-Semitism Is Wrong.”

UPDATE 2: GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi said in a Sept. 4 statement to the Journal, “The mission of GV Wire is to explore, explain and expose. We are bringing Ms. Alison Weir to Clovis Community College as part of our ongoing speaker series. Our hope is that audience members will listen and weigh what she has to say about Israeli and Palestinian relations and decide for themselves the best path to peace.”

He added, “We do not take a position on the speaker’s information. Our goal is to provide different perspectives than those customarily provided by the mainstream media on issues of global concern. Continuing our efforts to examine important topics from all sides, we are reaching out to Jewish organizations to schedule a speaker who will provide a countering viewpoint to Weir’s analysis at a future date in our speaker series.”

Second Chasidic Man Attacked with a Rock in NY

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A second Chasidic man was attacked with a rock in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the span of less than a week on Aug. 29, reports.

The victim, who has not been identified, was in his truck waiting for the traffic light to change on Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights when a rock was tossed into the driver’s side of the truck, which had the window down. The rock struck the victim in the eye, causing a laceration on his head. He is not currently hospitalized, according to the local New York news station 1010 WINS.

An official from the New York Police Department told that the alleged attack is being investigated as a possible hate crime. ABC 7 New York Editor Morena Basteiro similarly tweeted:

Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, spokesperson for the NYPD Deputy Commissioner Public Information’s office, told the Journal in an email that they’re looking for a male suspect at this time.

Anti-Defamation League New York and New Jersey Regional Director Evan Bernstein tweeted, “.@ADL_NYNJ is aware of this alleged #antisemitic incident in #Brooklyn and is is talking with #NYPD to learn more information.”

On Aug. 27, Chasidic Rabbi Avraham Gopin, 63, was assaulted in Lincoln Terrace Park; the assailant struck him in the face with a brick and began punching several times until Gopin fought back. Gopin’s injuries included a broken nose and knocked out teeth from the attack.

It was hate,” Gopin told CBS New York. “He said, ‘Jew, Jew.’ He said something in that direction… he was for certain looking to kill. No doubt about [that].”

It is not yet known if the two attacks are connected.

Egyptian Judoka Refuses to Shake Israeli’s Hand After Loss

Judo - World Judo Championships - Men's Under 81kg - Gold Medal Contest - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - August 28, 2019 Israel's Sagi Muki celebrates winning gold against Belgium's Matthias Casse REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

An Egyptian judoka refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after losing in the Aug. 28 World Judo Championship semifinals in Tokyo.

The Israeli, Sagi Muki, barely defeated his Egyptian opponent Mohamed Abdelaal. Muki can be seen offering to shake Abdelaal’s hand, but Abdelaal rebuffed Muki’s offer and walked away.

Muki, who received the gold medal after defeating Belgian judoka Matthias Casse in the championship round later in the day, said afterward that he was “sorry” that Abdelaal didn’t shake his hand. He added that he is “pleased that I was able to show the beautiful face of Israel.”

Muki can be seen singing along to Israel’s national anthem “Hatikvah” after winning the gold.

Twitter weighed in Abdelaal rejecting Muki’s handshake:

Abdelaal is not the first Egyptian judoka to rebuff an Israeli judoka’s handshake offer. In 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby also rejected a handshake from his Israeli opponent Ori Sasson in the Rio Olympics; Sasson went onto win the bronze medal that year.

Additionally, in Oct. 2017, the United Arab Emirates wouldn’t play Hatikvah after Israeli judo Tal Flicker won the gold medal in the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam Competition, prompting the Flicker to sing Hatikvah to himself during the award ceremony.

Why ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Doesn’t Address Anti-Semitism

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is the most Jewish series on television. If you’ve seen it, you know that the show is a romp about a Jewish comedienne in the 1950s. You also know that the titular character never faces anti-Semitism.

As Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) tries to make it in stand-up, she encounters blatant sexism and acknowledges Jim Crow racism. But as a show that depicts a 1950s Ashkenazi family, hatred of Jews is missing from the landscape.

This realization is almost as irksome as the scene in the pilot in which someone orders pork chops at a kosher butcher. Was Mrs. Maisel’s era actually the haven from hatred showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino depicts? In some ways, yes.

Fresh off the complete devastation of the Holocaust, the next decade became the one when Judaism began to be accepted as an American faith.

The 1955 bestselling book “Protestant-Catholic-Jew” by Will Herberg normalized Judaism as a part of America’s religious heritage. Depicting the United States  as a “triple melting pot” comprising three major faiths, the groundbreaking book encouraged the public to include Jewish immigrants as a part of America’s proud history of offering refuge from religious persecution. Jews were like the Pilgrims, with brisket instead of turkey.

Some of the most virulently anti-Semitic folks have never met a Jew. Their hate is a symptom of ignorance. In the 1950s, through pop culture, scores of Americans met Jews for the first time.

As Mrs. Maisel would have gained celebrity, so did other Jewish figures, normalizing Judaism and making anti-Semitism less common. Before and after Bess Myerson became the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, Hank Greenberg rocked the baseball world. Joshua L. Liebman, a Reform rabbi, wrote “Peace of Mind” in 1946, which stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. 

It didn’t hurt that in the ’50s, the ultimate pop-culture villain had come to rise: the Nazis. Today, it seems Hitler’s regime is the go-to figure of evil in movies and political debate. After World War II, no one wanted to be compared with America’s sworn enemy. 

Because anti-Semitism was so characteristic of the Third Reich, it drew a new stigma. Discriminating against Jews became un-American. According to the 1950 “American Jewish Year Book,” “Organized anti-Semitic activity, which began to decline after the war, continued at a low ebb during the year under review.”

“Mrs. Maisel doesn’t mention anti-Semitism because the subject was not much discussed in polite company.” — Jonathan Sarna

But that didn’t mean anti-Semitism vanished.

“In the 1950s, there were still clubs and hotels that excluded Jews, and professions that Jews had trouble entering,” Jonathan Sarna, Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, said. “Quotas limited Jews’ choices when they applied to college. That was why the American Jewish community established a new university named Brandeis in 1948.” 

In 1958, the Liberty Lobby arose, which was a deeply anti-Semitic political advocacy group created by Holocaust denier Willis Carto.

 “It was the Jews and their lies that blinded the West as to what Germany was doing. Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe and America,” wrote Carto in one of his letters, which were presented as evidence in a federal civil lawsuit. The Anti-Defamation League credits the group with keeping anti-Semitism alive so it could be absorbed into the new incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s.

Back in the day, Liberty Lobby had a daily radio show that at its conclusion, offered listeners a copy of its “America First” pamphlet. President Donald Trump’s administration gave fresh life to that slogan. “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land; from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first,” Trump said in his 2017 inaugural address.

After a slew of neo-Nazi marches, synagogue shootings and anti-Jewish vandalism, one could wonder if the resuscitation of this ethnocentric slogan comes along with its hateful anti-Semitic heritage.

However, when Mrs. Maisel worked makeup counters by day and comedy clubs by night, these ideologies were fringe, not in the Oval Office. Considering that landscape, it may seem less mystifying that a show about Judaism in the 1950s could be realistic and not prominently feature anti-Semitism.

In truth, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fails to fully portray the challenges faced by 1950s Jews. 

“Even in the bubbles of the Upper West Side, the Catskills and the hipster night clubs that define Mrs. Maisel’s life, she would keep running into reminders that she and her family were, ahem, different,” historian Gil Troy, who teaches at McGill University in Canada, said. “Certainly, at the makeup counter, she would have to endure some Upper East Side WASPy-snootiness.”

The opulent lifestyle Midge enjoys, filled with countless hats, elaborate breakfast feasts and a diligent maid, is historically accurate. Many of the show’s details properly portray the lives of Jews in the 1950s.

“It was not just in terms of their security and social acceptance that contemporaries viewed the postwar era as a golden age for American Jews; prosperity characterized the period as well,” Sarna wrote of 1950s Jewry on the My Jewish Learning website. “Jews had become fundamentally middle class, their proportion in non-manual occupations exceeding that of the general population.”

In the 1950s, there was an uptick in Jewish journalists, authors, engineers, architects and college teachers. In “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the comedienne’s father, Abe Weissman, works as a mathematics professor at Columbia University. This represents the era well. 

But anti-Semitism remained the way for gentiles to assert their power over Jews, regardless of how wealthy and educated they became.

“At any given moment, a cabbie, a store clerk, a waiter, even in the insular bubbles, could push back and try to take down a Jew — especially an obviously outspoken, wealthy Jewish woman,” Troy said. On the show, male comedians and promoters constantly are trying to cut down Midge for being a woman. In reality, the people who wait on her hand and foot also had the power to bring her down to size for being a Jew. “In a bizarre way, it was an equalizer that transcended class, but it was clearly a power play,” Troy said.

But it’s also likely the subject of mistreating Jews is taboo on the show because in that era, discussions about anti-Semitism were.

“Mrs. Maisel doesn’t mention anti-Semitism because the subject was not much discussed in polite company,” Sarna said. “Most of all, Jews in the 1950s worried that they would be labeled as communists and stigmatized because of the [Julius and Ethel] Rosenberg trial. That is why so many Jews, even ex-communists, prudently joined synagogues and temples, and made sure to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds.”

In 1959, being accused of “dual loyalty” was a legitimate fear in Jewish society. Jewish Americans addressed it by actively trying to prove their love for the United States — not complaining about how gentiles treated them.

Ariel Sobel is a screenwriter, filmmaker and activist, and won the 2019 Bluecat Screenplay Competition. 

CA Bill Requiring Ethnic Studies in High School Delayed for Another Year

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A bill in the California state legislature making the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) a requirement to graduate high school has been delayed for at least another year, the Jewish News of Northern California (J.) reports.

Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), who is part of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus but isn’t Jewish, said in a statement on his website that his bill, AB 331, will become “a two-year bill,” meaning that he “will continue to advocate for this bill over the course of the next year,” according to his website.

“The curriculum development and feedback process has shown how much consensus there is in support of Ethnic Studies,” Medina said. “It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive enough. This underscores the importance of taking the time necessary to ensure we get the curriculum right.”

Medina’s statement comes amidst criticism of the current ESMC draft for its favorable portrayal of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and failure to highlight the issue of anti-Semitism.

Medina had similar criticisms in an interview with the J., saying, “There were many things about it that seemed to be anti-Semitic. I think the omission of the Jewish experience in the United States is glaring. I don’t really think BDS should be included. And I also have an issue with the fact that anti-Semitism is not addressed.”

AB 331 passed the Assembly in May as well as the Senate Education Committee in June, according to the J.

On August 12, the State Board of Education announced that the current ESMC will “be substantially redesigned” before its approval; State Superintendent Tony Thurmond has similarly called for the ESMC to be revised to include Jews and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has vowed that the current ESMC draft “will never see the light of day.”

The Beverly Hills City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ESMC in its current form and called for the SBE to investigate the “anti-Jewish bias” within the government body.

For [the Instructional Quality Commission] to come up with this sort of divisive, racist propaganda and promote this as curriculum in the state is beyond disgusting,” City Councilmember Julian Gold said during the meeting. “It’s malpractice. It’s malfeasance. They deserve to go, all of them. And if the governor doesn’t do it, then he deserves to go too.”

NY Chasidic Man Assaulted with a Brick

Photo from Flickr.

A 63-year-old Chasidic Jewish man was assaulted with a brick in the Crown Heights area of New York City on Aug. 27.

The man, identified as Avraham Gopin, was walking through Lincoln Terrace Park when an unidentified man started yelling at him and then threw a brick at Gopin’s head. Gopin punched back and a struggle ensued; the assailant eventually fled.

According to Gopin’s son-in-law, Chasidic vocalist Benny Friedman, Gopin had his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken, as well as myriad lacerations throughout his body. 

Rabbi Getzy Markowitz, who is also Gopin’s son-in-law, told COLLive that if Gopin “had not fought off the attacker, there would possibly have been, G-d forbid, a different outcome. The attacker was clearly trying to kill him – just an innocent man walking in the park.”

Markowitz added that Gopin “is a visibly Chasidic Jew. He is a known person in the community, and well-liked by all. He gets along with all his neighbors – both Jews and non-Jews – who are all very fond of him.”

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is currently investigating the matter has video footage of the incident, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is offering an award of up to $5,000 for information on the assailant.

We are alarmed and deeply concerned by this violent assault on an elderly Jewish man,” ADL New York and New Jersey Regional Director Evan R. Bernstein said in a statement. “The sheer brutally of this attack is beyond shocking and profoundly upsetting. At a time when violent assaults against Jews increased by 55% last year, we must not become complacent. All New Yorkers should be outraged by these incidents and come together to end this disturbing trend once and for all. We are grateful for the NYPD Hate Crime Unit for investigating.” 

CA Dem Party Criticizes Israeli Treatment of Palestinian Children, Condemns Anti-Zionism

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

The California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsed Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-Minn.) bill over the weekend that called for withholding funding to Israel over their detainment of Palestinian children, and also adopted a resolution condemning anti-Zionism as “anti-Semitic hate speech.”

McCollum’s website states that the bill, H.R. 2407, is aimed at curbing Israeli’s detention of “an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children” who “are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture.”

Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) Co-Founder Susan George told the Journal in a phone interview it was “very problematic” that the CDP’s Legislative Committee voted in favor of the bill 75 to 25 during the party’s executive board meetings in San Jose, Calif. from Aug. 24-25.

“We should be talking about children everywhere and how they’re treated,” George said. “and yet, what this is doing is saying that Israel is uniquely evil in its treatment [of children].”

Democrats for Israel Los Angeles President Andrew Lachman, who is also a member of the CDP’s Resolutions Committee, told the Journal in a phone interview that H.R. 2407 would require Israel to apply Israeli law to the West Bank when it comes to the treatment of children, which would violate Article 66 of the Geneva Convention.

“You can’t impose another country’s law in a conflict state,” Lachman said, adding that such a move would pave the way toward Israeli annexation of the West Bank. He also pointed out that the bill would only apply 0.055 percent of West Bank children.

“While I think we can all agree that making sure children are not mistreated in any law enforcement setting is important, the statistics and the solution… does not support the desired outcome the proponents are advocating for,” Lachman said.

The CDP had previously endorsed McCollum’s bill in 2017, so the CDP’s recent action was a reaffirmation, according to George and Lachman.

George said it was PZC’s understanding that the committee wasn’t going to address the McCollum bill, leading her to believe that the few people who want to make the issue of Israel “front and center” in the CDP kept pushing for the matter to be addressed at the convention, and they succeeded.

“We always have to assume that will still come up,” George said.

Additionally, the CDP passed a resolution that stated, “Everyone agrees that criticism of Israel, including its leadership, policies and actions, is not anti-Semitic, but asserting that the Jewish state be targeted as an illegitimate, uniquely evil, and racist entity that deserves to be dissolved— based on criteria applied to no other country—goes well beyond the boundary of critique and qualifies as anti-Semitic hate speech.” The resolution goes on to denounce “hate speech in all its forms against all ethnic and religious groups including all forms of anti-Semitic hate speech, including anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.”

George said that the passage of the aforementioned resolution, which was authored by PZC founding member Andrea Beth Damsky, was “groundbreaking” because it was the first resolution condemning “anti-Zionist hate speech” in the Democratic Party.

“The intention of it was to focus within our own backyard, similar to what happens on college campuses,” George said. “It isn’t a majority of people that is using that language, but it’s enough where it alienates people, makes people feel unsafe, it’s harmful, it’s divisive, and we wanted to make a very strong statement about that to bring awareness to it.”

The CDP also adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, condemned the Trump administration’s “hate speech” and denounced the criminalization of homosexuality in countries like Iran and Brunei. They also rejected an effort to support Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) resolution supporting the right to boycott. 

Lachman said that as a whole, the CDP did some “amazing things” for the pro-Israel community.

“We managed to get through almost everything we thought,” Lachman said.

A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement to the Journal, “ADL welcomes the California Democratic Party’s resolution condemning anti-Semitism. It’s critical for all leaders to call out this hatred wherever they see it–whether inside or outside their own political party. Importantly, this resolution clearly denounces instances when anti-Zionism crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” At this time, the ADL has not yet weighed in on the McCollum bill.

NY Israel Consul General Calls Al Jazeera Host ‘Bigot’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Consul General to Israel in New York, Dani Dayan, called Al Jazeera host Mehdi Hasan a “bigot” in an Aug. 22 Twitter exchange between the two on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

It all started with Hasan saying on CNN earlier in the day that “lots of anti-Semites support Israel and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.

CNN contributor Peter Beinart defended Hasan’s remarks in a tweet that stating that Hasan “has a long and courageous record of calling [anti-Semitism] out even within his own community.”

Dayan then responded to Beinart’s tweet, stating, “I know @mehdirhasan personally. I have no doubt he doesn’t hate Jews per se. He – a self-described Anti-Zionist – ‘only’ denies Jews the right of self-determination in any part of their homeland. A ‘small’ thing. Call it what you like but that’s blatant bigotry.”

Hasan said his claims on anti-Zionism were “false” and tweeted that it was “rich” for Dayan to accuse him of bigotry when he was “the former chair of the West Bank settlers council – settlers being among the biggest bunch of racists around.”

Dayan shared a photo of one of Hasan’s prior tweets that read, “I consider myself an anti-Zionist and critic of the Israeli settler state and its ongoing ethnic cleansing project” but urges people to be careful with criticizing Zionism given the rise of anti-Semitism.

Hasan then clarified he meant that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism; Dayan doubled down on calling Hasan a “bigot” and argued that Hasan never denied “my claim that you deny the Jewish People the right of self-determination in ANY part of its homeland” and to “enjoy the ‘likes’ from the anti-Semitic crowd.”

David Reaboi, vice president of the Security Studies Group think tank, wrote in a May Jewish Journal cover story that Al Jazeera, Hasan’s employer, “pushes a stream of vile, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and attempts to rile up religious and extremist Muslims against attempts at positive, human rights reforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states” in their Arabic channel. But in their English AJ+ network, they masquerade as “progressive and left-wing” in order “to obscure the Islamist-run network and to appeal to younger people in the West.”

Rep. Nadler Calls Out Trump Over Disloyalty Remarks, Omar and Tlaib Over ‘Vile’ Cartoon

FILE PHOTO: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) holds a news conference to discuss the Committee's oversight agenda following the Mueller Hearing in Washington, U.S. July 26, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) condemned President Donald Trump’s “disloyalty” remarks as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for sharing a “vile” cartoon.

The Aug. 22 tweet reads, “The growing anti-Semitism in our political dialogue is repugnant. @realdonaldtrump’s comments about disloyalty are a vicious and dangerous anti-Semitic trope. And the Carlos Latuff cartoon forwarded by @RepRashida and @Ilhan can surely be read for its vile underlying message.”

Nadler received praise from both sides of the political aisle:

Trump accused Jews who vote for the Democratic Party of being “disloyal” to Israel on Aug. 20 and 21; Tlaib and Omar both shared a cartoon on their Aug. 16 Instagram stories showing Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu putting their hands over Omar and Tlaib’s mouths, respectively. The author of the cartoon, Carlos Latuff, placed in second in Iran’s 2006 International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. Both have received condemnation from myriad Jewish groups.

NYT Editor Deletes, Apologizes for ‘Offensive’ Tweets, Including ‘Crappy Jew Year’

Photo from Pixabay.

New York Times Senior Editor Tom Wright-Piersanti apologized for his “offensive” tweets from his past on Aug. 22. He deleted many of them, including tweets about Jews.

Among Wright-Piersanti’s tweets include a Jan. 2010 tweet that stated, “I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So… HAPPY Jew Year! You Jews.”

Wright-Piersanti also tweeted about the Holocaust that same year. In one Jan. 2010 tweet, he wrote, “Hahahahaha the Jesus Camp kids just did a special on the Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible and my dad ended it with ‘Praise Hitler.’” 

He also tweeted to Joe Jonas later in the year, “What’s your favorite Sleighbells the band lyrics? Mine is ‘Flip that Holocaust, hang it on the colored cross.’”

Additionally, in 2009, Wright-Piersanti shared a photo of a vehicle carrying a menorah and asked, “Who called the Jew police?”

“I have deleted tweets from a decade ago that are offensive,” he wrote Aug. 22. “I am deeply sorry.”

Wright-Piersanti’s Twitter account is currently protected due to his privacy settings.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), the sole Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, called for the Times to fire Wright-Piersanti in an Aug. 22 tweet.

“.@nytimes has a political editor @tomwp who literally describes himself on Twitter as anti-Semitic & has slammed Jews, Native American Indians & others,” Zeldin wrote. “This isn’t an intern. It’s an editor. Someone should walkover to his desk, tell him to pack up & escort him out.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview, “What would or did The New York Times do to someone in a position of responsibility who made expressions of anti-African, anti-Latino, or anti-LGBTQ? Whatever they did in responding to them, they should be applied to him.”

He proceeded to call for the Times to undergo a “top-to-bottom review” from the outside about their “views regarding the Jewish people” and make “structural changes.” 

Cooper said that he and Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier had met with three members of the Times editorial board during the ensuing aftermath of the controversy in May regarding a cartoon showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu guiding a blind President Donald Trump. Cooper said “It’s clear that the Times has a problem and they may have a cultural problem that they’re going to have to deal with in house.” 

Earlier in the month, Times Deputy Washington Editor Jonathan Weisman, who wrote a book in March 2018 about anti-Semitism, was demoted over racial tweets the Times viewed as “serious lapses in judgment.” Weisman apologized for the tweets.

Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoads told the Washington Examiner, “We are aware of these tweets, which are a clear violation of our standards. We are reviewing next steps.”

Swedish Member of Parliament Challenges Iranian Foreign Minister on Human Rights

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq January 13, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily/File Photo

A Swedish member of parliament confronted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during an Aug. 21 press conference about Iran’s human rights record, particularly when it comes to the regime’s treatment of members of the LGBTQ community.

The MP, who could not be clearly identified in video of the conference, told Zarif that members of the LGBTQ community are being “hanged in murder by the [Iranian] government” as are others who exercise “freedom of expression.” 

He then asked, “How can you speak of peace, security and freedom of protecting fundamental rights inside and out of Iran, when the government that you represent cannot give this to its own people?”

Zarif argued in response that the Iranian regime’s ability to hold onto power without the help of outside forces suggests that the regime isn’t a serial abuser of human rights, adding that 73 percent of Iranian can vote in elections.

“Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, just like how wine is illegal in Iran,” Zarif said, drawing the analogy that those who get drunk inside their home aren’t arrested but if they’re inebriated outside the house, they are. He then defended Iran’s codified Islamic law, saying the regime respects Jewish and Christian canon law.

“We have the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel,” Zarif said. “They apply their own canon law. They can even buy and sell between themselves, even though it’s illegal in the country.”

Journalist Annika Rothstein tweeted in response to Zarif her 2016 Mosaic Magazine piece on Jews in Iran. Rothstein explains in the piece that she visited Jewish communities in Iran, saying that many have developed “Stockholm Syndrome” with the Iranian regime after learning to live with “low-grade fear” that their rights could be taken away at any time.

What I find most disturbing are Jews’ outbursts of loyalty toward the regime, their constant assurances about their own wellbeing, and their repeated insistence on the difference between Jewishness (tolerated) and Zionism (emphatically not),” Rothstein wrote at the time. “As at my Sabbath-eve dinner, all speak highly of their special bond with Muslim neighbors. I’m quite familiar with this type of forced alienation, complete with routine denunciations of and dissociations from the state of Israel: after all, I’m a Jew from Sweden.”

She also recalled an instance during her visit to Iran when “an elderly man” in the synagogue she attended during Shabbat approached her and said, “Please pray for our safety and our lives. If they are telling you everything is ok, they are lying.”

Former Forward Editor Larry Cohler-Esses wrote in an April 2018 Jewish Telegraphic Agency piece that after the ayatollahs assumed control of Iran in 1979, the Jewish population in the country has declined from nearly 100,000 at the time to 9,000 currently.

OC High School Students Sing Nazi Song and Issue Nazi Salute

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A video obtained by The Daily Beast on Aug. 19 showed a group of Orange County students singing a Nazi marching song and giving the Nazi salute.

The video, recorded back in November 2018, consisted of 10 members of the Pacifica High School water polo team engaging in the aforementioned actions during an off-campus awards banquet. The song being sung was Nazi member Herms Niel’s composition that served “to inspire Nazi troops,” according to The Daily Beast. One of the members had uploaded the video to his Instagram page temporarily and wrote the lyrics from the song in his Instagram bio.

The school and Garden Grove Unified School District condemned the video in an Aug. 19 press release and said that they “took immediate action” against the students when they learned of the video’s existence in March.

“In response to this unfortunate incident, district and school administrators have reached out to community organizations to provide support that will continue to ensure an anti-bias learning environment and address issues of hate, bias, and exclusion with all staff and students,” the statement said. “Pacifica High School, along with our other district schools, will be working with students, staff, and parents to continue to address these issues in the fall in collaboration with agencies dedicated to anti-bias education.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Orange County chapter tweeted, “Unfortunately, we’ve seen this too many times: High school students parodying Nazi salutes. This has no place in our schools and reminds us of the need for education on #antiSemitism and the Holocaust. ADL has reached out to the district with resources.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that the organization is in contact with the school on the matter.

“In the world we live in today, everything goes viral if there’s video, and this is another example that anti-Semitism and hate is in the mainstream of our society and on the front porch of Southern California Jews,” Cooper said. “That’s the reality. It’s uncomfortable, but we have the tools to fight back with and of course we can only deal with these situations if you have allies on the inside to make sure that the anti-Semitism is dealt with and we try to educate young people in a different direction.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said in a statement to the Journal, “”This is yet another disturbing example of rising antisemitism across the U.S., including in high schools. It is unfortunate that the school did not immediately use the incident as a teachable moment, but it is never too late to do so. We strongly urge Pacifica High School to do more education about the Jewish community, antisemitism, and the Holocaust to ensure their students do not repeat such hatred or ignorance in the future.”

In March, a group of students at a Newport Beach high school were photographed doing Nazi salutes behind a table of cups aligned into a swastika. Also in March, members of the Los Angeles Junior Kings hockey team – which has no affiliation with the Los Angeles Kings – were saying “f*** the Jews” in a video while one team member did a Nazi salute.