March 20, 2019

30 Gravestones Vandalized at Massachusetts Jewish cemetery

Gravestones from a Jewish cemetery in Fall River, Mass. Photo from Twitter.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric and swastikas were drawn on at least 30 gravestones at the Hebrew Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts over the weekend. 

The vandalism occurred over the weekend, according to River Fall police.

The Providence Journal reported that police responded to a call that a suspicious vehicle had been parked at the cemetery for two days. When the police arrived March 17 the car was gone.

“Heil Hitler,” “Hitler was right,” and “Oy vey, this is MAGA Country” were written on the graves. MAGA refers to Make American Great Again, the slogan from President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Two gravestones had the words, “Day of the Rope,” written on them. The ADL says this is a reference to the novel, “The Turner Diaries,” which is about a white supremacist army that overturns the United States government.

The ADL told the Journal that “the desecration of The Hebrew Cemetery of Fall River is an inexcusable act of anti-semitic hatred in the place where we honor and remember the lives of our community members.”

Alongside the Police Department and Temple Beth El, ADL is offering a $1,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest in the case.

Police in Fall River are investigating the incident.

Poll: Nearly 9 in 10 French Jewish Students Say They’ve Experienced Anti-Semitism on Campus

Screenshot from Twitter.

A recent March poll from the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) found that nearly 9 in 10 Jewish college students in France have experienced anti-Semitism on campus.

According to the French magazine L’Express, 89 percent of the 405 French Jewish students surveyed in the poll said that they had experienced some form of anti-Semitism on campus, which included tropes, jokes about the Holocaust and Jewish stereotypes. Of those students, 85 percent said they had been subjected to an anti-Semitic trope, 75 percent said they had been on the receiving end on Jewish and Holocaust jokes and 19 percent said they had been subjected to anti-Semitic “aggression.”

Additionally, 19 percent of the surveyed Jewish students who were subjected to anti-Semitic acts said that they did nothing about them because they didn’t want face retaliation from those who perpetrated the anti-Semitic acts.

Forty-five percent of the 1,007 non-Jewish students surveyed said they had witnessed an anti-Semitic incident, an additional 63 percent said that Jews have been “unfairly” scapegoated. However, 18 percent said that Jews exploit the Holocaust to further their own gain and 17 percent said that Jews wield “too much power” and wealth.

According to French government statistics, anti-Semitic incidents increased by 74 percent and anti-Semitic assaults increased in the country by 270 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The full results of the poll can be seen here.

H/T: Jewish News

House GOP Members Introduce Resolution Condemning Rep. Omar

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves the U.S. Senate chamber and walks back to the House of Representatives side of the Capitol with colleagues after watching the failure of both competing Republican and Democratic proposals to end the partial government shutdown in back to back votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

A handful of House Republican members put forward a resolution on March 18 that condemned Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) “anti-Semitic comments.”

The resolution, authored by Reps. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), highlighted her 2012 “Israel has hypnotized the world” tweet, her February tweet suggesting that AIPAC buys off political influence and her Feb. 27 statement that Israel supporters “push for the allegiance to a foreign country” as examples of her anti-Semitic comments.

“Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel or to the Jewish community than to the United States constitutes anti-Semitism because it suggests that Jewish citizens cannot be patriotic Americans and trusted neighbors, when Jewish citizens have loyally served our nation every day since its founding, whether in public or community life or military service,” the resolution states.

The resolution also says that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) March 7 resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry was insufficient because it “failed to primarily and directly address Representative Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks in a resolution that should have been specifically about anti-Semitism so as to address the rising threat thereof.”

“Therefore, be it resolved that the House of Representative directly disapproves the anti-Semitic comments made by Representative Omar; rejects the perpetuation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in the United States and around the world, including the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States-Israel alliance; condemns anti-Semitic acts and statements as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States; and seeks to ensure that the United States will live up to the transcendent principles of tolerance, religious freedom, and equal protection as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution,” the resolution concludes.

Rep. Omar’s office did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.

The full resolution can be read here.

For Ilhan Omar, It’s Not About Israel, It’s About the Jews

Rep. Ilhan Omar Photo from Flickr.

The best and worst thing about a 24 hour news cycle is how quickly stories move in and out of our consciousness. The British Parliament struggles with Brexit, there’s a horrible plane crash in Ethiopia, then an embarrassing college admissions scandal in this country, and then worst of all, a ghastly terrorist attack in New Zealand. In the middle of all this conflict and this sorrow, it’s easy to forget how recently the headlines were about Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and the anti-Semitic slurs of which she has grown so fond.

But this also gives us the chance for some perspective that is often harder to achieve in the middle of the troubling debate such as the one that Omar has instigated. Even though not that much time has passed since she publicly revived the “dual loyalty” insult that American Jews have endured for most of our history, maybe we can look back at her charges from a greater emotional distance than might have been possible in the moment.

Among Omar’s allegations is the contention that U.S. Middle Eastern policy is the result of large sums of money spent by Israel’s supporters. In addition to her obliteration of the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, though, Omar also makes a broader point about the role of money in American politics.

“I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil-fuel industry,” she said, in a combination of self-righteousness and ideological selectivity. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

OK, so let’s address it.

Money spent by foreign governments on lobbying and other types of advocacy is legal (although foreign spending on our political campaigns, of course, is not.) So perhaps Omar thinks that is a problem. If so, the targets of her first complaints might be the nations of South Korea and Japan, who spend $57 million and $45 million since the beginning of 2017, both far more than Israel. (Keep an eye on those nefarious Bermudans too: their government spent $52 million lobbying our government over that same time.) Other countries that spend at approximately the same level as Israel are Ireland, the Bahamas, and the Marshall Islands.

If Omar’s motivation was the need for stricter campaign finance reform, we could assume that she would just as outraged by the money these other countries spend to lobby our country’s government. Yet only Israel’s advocacy has inspired her to such anger.

Where these numbers get even more interesting is when you break them down by per capita spending, by the amount of money spent per resident of the country in question. Israel spends $3.43 per resident on lobbying the U.S. government. The nation of Qatar, one of Iran’s most reliable allies in the region and one of the world’s most notorious supporters of terrorism, spends just over $5 for each of its 2.6 million residents. Not surprisingly, Omar is not on record criticizing Qatari’s considerable investment in lobbying American politicians. Maybe it’s not “all about the Benjamins” after all.

There are many strident critics of Israel’s government who don’t resort to personal vitriol and vindictiveness when mounting a policy-based attack. I obviously don’t agree with the goals of anti-Zionists, but I recognize that those who oppose the policies I believe will ensure the safety and security of the Jewish state are entitled to their opinions too.

But that’s not who Omar is. In her diatribes, she has only occasionally and belatedly bothered to mention settlements or the Iran nuclear agreement or any other aspect of Middle Eastern geo-politics.”

For Omar, it’s not about Israel. It’s about the Jews. It’s anti-Semitism, pure and simple, and it has no place in the halls of our Congress.

Omar frequently suggests that much of the anger directed toward her is a result of prejudice toward Muslims. But when Jewish religious and community leaders joined memorial services across the world to grieve the unspeakable tragedy in New Zealand, it didn’t matter that the victims were praying to Allah or that they lived in a city named after Jesus.

Just as Muslim leaders across the country stood with us after the heartbreak of Pittsburgh, we stand with them after the tragedy of Christchurch. That same shared commitment to our common humanity allows people of good will to disagree on matters of politics and geopolitics without resorting to bias and bigotry. This is our problem with Ilhan Omar, not a lack of respect for her religion but rather a recognition of her intolerance for ours.

This article was updated on March 17. 


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

 

What’s Happening: Dance, Deli and Discussion

Batsheva Dance Company

FRI MARCH 15

YJP Shabbat Dinner
Shabbat dinner with Young Jewish Professionals (YJP) draws career-minded women and men who are committed to Judaism. Network with ambitious 20- and 30-somethings while enjoying a four-course dinner and open bar. Ticket prices increase as the crowd size approaches capacity. 6:30 p.m., bar opens. $60-$90. Online purchases only. Pat’s Restaurant, 9233 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 692-4190.

Mensch Awards
Hungarian Holocaust survivor Bill Harvey; renowned musical conductor Zubin Mehta; the late Leon Bass, a black American soldier who encountered the survivors of Buchenwald as a soldier in a segregated unit; and the refugee-aid organization HIAS are honored by the Mensch Foundation. The Temple of the Arts program is dedicated to Hungarian Jewry and the memory of Elie Wiesel, who the Nazis deported from Hungary in 1944. A Hungarian Shabbat dinner is served and Mensch Foundation Founder Steven
Geiger discusses the state of Hungarian Jewry. Rabbi David Baron leads Shabbat services featuring the 40-voice Spirit of David Black Gospel Choir. 6 p.m., dinner. 8 p.m., Shabbat services. $75 donation requested for dinner. RSVP at menschfoundation@yahoo.com. Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theater, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

Batsheva Dance Company

“Venezuela”
The Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company returns to UCLA’s Royce Hall to perform “Venezuela,” a new work by Ohad Naharin, the group’s choreographer for 28 years. He created the two 40-minute sections in juxtaposition where dances explore the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents. 8 p.m. March 15, 8 p.m. March 16. $39-$99. UCLA Royce Hall, 10745 Dickson Court, Los Angeles. (310) 825-9646.

SAT MARCH 16

Adam Milstein

Discussing Anti-Semitism
While leaders in Washington debate anti-Semitism, Israeli-American community leader Adam Milstein discusses how anti-Semitism is anti-American during a Shabbat shiur at Valley Beth Shalom. Milstein, a Haifa, Israel, native, is a real estate investor and philanthropist who has been named among the world’s 50 most influential Jews. He is also the co-founder of the Israeli-American Council, which seeks to strengthen the State of Israel and serve as a bridge to the American-Jewish community. Noon-2 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000.

SUN MARCH 17

“A Taste of Heaven: The New Jewish Deli”
“The Jewish Deli,” an episode of the PBS food documentary “Migrant Kitchen,” screens at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The episode highlights Wexler’s Deli, which is putting a spin on traditional deli nosh. A Q-and-A session with Micah Wexler and Micah Kassar, the co-owners of Wexler’s, along with the documentary’s producers, Antonio Diaz and Lara Rabinovitch, follows the screening. Wexler and Kassar explain why they left the field of fine dining to enter the deli world. A Wexler’s Deli spread of its house-smoked, hand-sliced fish, bagels and nosh is served after the screening. 4 p.m. $18. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Westside Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401.

MON MAR 18 

“I Shall Not Be Silent”
Born into a Prussian family at the start of the 20th century, Joachim Prinz was one of the early Jewish models for civil rights activism for African-Americans, speaking before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. His life story of resistance is told in the documentary “I Shall Not Be Silent,” which screens tonight at Kehillat Ma’arav. A discussion follows the showing of the film. 7-9:30 p.m. $5, suggested donation. Kehillat Ma’arav, 1715 21st St., Santa Monica. (310) 829-0566.

WED MAR 20

“What Did American Faith Communities Stand For?”
A U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum panel examines the question “What Did American Faith Communities Stand For?” during the rise of Nazism. Jewish Journal columnist Dan Schnur moderates a discussion featuring Suzanne Brown-Fleming, director of International Academic Programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Stephen Haynes, a professor of religious studies at Rhodes College; and Jody Myers, a professor of religious studies and director of the Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program at Cal State Northridge. A reception follows. 7:30-10 p.m. Free. Registration required. Westwood United Methodist Church, 10497 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 556-3222.


Have an event coming up? Send your information two weeks prior to the event to ryant@jewishjournal.com for consideration. For groups staging an event that requires an RSVP, please submit details about the event the week before the RSVP deadline.

Swastika Flyers Found at Newport High School

Photo from Wikipedia.

Several flyers displaying swastikas were found at Newport Harbor High School, the same school whose students posted a photo of a swastika shaped out of cups.

According to the Los Angeles Times, school officials informed police about the flyers on March 10; there were around 10 flyers found around the school. No one has claimed responsibility for the flyers.

“We condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all their forms,” Principal Sean Boulton said in a March 13 statement. “We will continue to be vigilant with our stance, and the care of our students and staff.”

Students responded putting up messages preaching “kindness” around campus. Additionally, a task force was established at the March 12 Newport-Mesa Unified School District board meeting that will focus on creating a “positive culture” on campus, The New York Times reports.

The flyers come after a March 2 photo of several Newport Harbor students giving the Nazi salute, with a swastika formed out of cups underneath, circulated on social media. Two community town halls have been hosted since then on March 4 and March 6; the latter featured Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister. The campus Young Republicans Clubs is also spearheading an effort to remove “all hateful symbols” around campus, according to the Orange County Register.

Sanders Spokeswoman Apologizes for ‘Dual Loyalty’ Comment

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

A spokeswoman for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign apologized on March 12 for using the anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” trope on Facebook.

According to Politico, Belén Sisa, who was recently hired as Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, defended Rep. IlhanOmar’s  (D-Minn.) use of the “dual loyalty” comment in a March 10 Facebook thread, writing in response to a Facebook commenter: “This is a serious question: do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel? I’m asking not to rule out the history of this issue, but in the context in which this was said by Ilhan.”

Sisa apologized for her comment in a statement to Politico.

“In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,” Sisa said. “At a time when so many communities in our country feel under attack by the president and his allies, I absolutely recognize that we need to address these issues with greater care and sensitivity to their historical resonance, and I’m committed to doing that in the future.”

Sanders, who is Jewish, defended Omar after she questioned the allegiance of Israel supporters, stating that people shouldn’t “equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel” and that he was worried that the House of Representatives would be “stifling that debate” if they targeted her in a resolution.

British University Union Votes Against Using IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

Leeds University Union, part of the University of Leeds in England voted against moving forward in using the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on campus and its full examples. A meeting March 11, which discussed how they could strengthen the university experience, progressed into a debate about how to handle anti-Semitism on campus.

“Every student agreed anti-Semitism was unacceptable,” the statement written by the student union said. “However, there was debate both for and against adopting all of the examples listed with the IHRA definition.”

A panel of 15 students voted during the forum: 10 voted for and five against. 12 votes were required for the idea to pass or fail. The next step in the process is to take the idea to referendum, “should the proposer wish to.”

The statement on the British university’s website said in order for an idea to move forward, 75% of the student panel needs to vote yes.

Leeds Jewish Society attended the forum and was “incredibly disappointed that a motion on LUU combating anti-Semitism did not pass.”

“The motion is about marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, ensuring Sabbatical officers have the training on tackling anti-Semitism and adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism (used by the Jewish community and adopted by the government, NUS, Conservative and Labour parties and over 100 local councils),” the group said on Twitter.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism includes some examples of anti-Israel criticism but states that criticism of Israel that is comparable to the rhetoric of any other country does not constitute anti-Semitism.

“We will not cower. Jewish students have a right to feel safe on campus. And if you do not, please know both JSoc and UJS [Union of Jewish Students] are here to support you- feel free to drop us a message.”

The Journal has reached out to Leeds Jewish Society and Leeds University Union for comment.

When It Comes to Anti-Semitism, For the Left It’s Suddenly ‘All Lives Matter’

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (C) take selfies with other female members of the House of Representatives as Rep. Adam Schiff (R) looks on as they await the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

On June 23, 2015, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke at a historic African-American church in Missouri. She was met with a great deal of applause when she spoke about religion, racism and access to quality education. But three words got her in trouble: “All lives matter.”

Before using the phrase, Clinton was retelling an anecdote about the lessons she learned from her mother:

I asked her, ‘What kept you going?’ Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.”

Although Clinton’s campaign pointed out almost immediately that Clinton had previously said that “black lives matter,” this didn’t prevent a torrent of criticism and complaints on social media from Clinton’s use of that phrase.

And the reality is that much of this criticism was well deserved. Well before June 2015, African-American civil rights activists had explained why responding to African-American concerns about police violence directed disproportionately at African-Americans or the very real danger faced by young male African-Americans for simply being perceived as suspicious by law enforcement with the phrase “all lives matter” is insulting.

They had explained that while it is certainly true that “all lives matter,” saying that in this context — the context of the unique history of discrimination and bias faced by African-Americans in the United States — serves to remove focus from the specific grievances of African-Americans, their concerns and community experiences. It also serves to gloss over the particular issues and concerns of African-Americans and make them seem as if their concerns are faced equally by all people — when they plainly are not. As one African-American on Twitter aptly wrote:

Yet now, many of those same people who aggressively responded to any person who dared utter or repeat the phrase “all lives matter,” including when Clinton did so in her anecdote about her mother, are now in effect saying “all lives matter” when it comes to Jews and our unique and lived experiences with anti-Semitism.

Over the past few months, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has repeated one anti-Semitic slur after another. After lying during her campaign about her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that targets only one state on the planet — the Jewish one — Omar then came out in favor of BDS (all while she opposes sanctions on truly heinous regimes, like Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela).

Subsequently, Omar defended an earlier tweet of hers in which she asserted: “Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Only after numerous people, including Bari Weiss, in an excellent op-ed in The New York Times, noted how the conspiratorial myth of the Jewish powers of hypnosis for use in sinister and duplicitous plots has been used for literally thousands of years to incite and justify the persecution and murder of Jews, did Omar begrudgingly apologize for this tweet.

Shortly thereafter, clearly not fazed by the controversy, Omar tweeted that American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” When asked on Twitter by a writer for the left-leaning Jewish publication The Forward, who she thought was paying American politicians to support Israel, Omar responded: AIPAC!

Setting aside that the largest pro-Israel donor to political candidates in the most recent election cycle was the left-leaning JstreetAC (which gave only to Democrats); that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) was listed as the 147th highest-ranked entity in lobbying spending in 2018; and that pro-Israel lobbying expenditures in total at $5,022,028 ranked behind entities like Toyota ($7,150,453), the Recording Industry Association of America ($5,642,155), the Association of International CPAs: ($5,200,000) as well as tens of millions of dollars behind entities such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($94,800,000), the National Association of Realtors ($72,808,648), pro-South Korea lobbying groups ($70,500,000) and pro-Japan lobbying groups ($51,400,000); the notion that American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about” (meaning solely because of money) implicitly spent by Jews, is not a “dog whistle” to an age-old anti-Semitic slur about Jews pulling the levers of power with their “Jewish money,” it’s an outright scream.

It’s an age-old slur against Jews; one that led to the anti-Semitic text written by the czar of Russia’s secret police, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” purported to describe a secret conspiratorial Jewish plan to take over the world and achieve global domination, including by using nefarious and evil Jewish bankers to control politicians, world economies and ultimately destroy civilization. And like the screed or slur of Jews with hypnotic power, the slur of Jews and their money controlling politicians often has led to the persecution and murder of Jews, and it’s a slur often used by those murdering Jews today (be they Hamas terrorists or white supremacists).

Within 18 days of her making her vile all about the Benjamins tweet, Omar said — at an event held in a restaurant owned by a man who once claimed that the U.S. is getting its marching orders from Tel Aviv (echoing David Duke, another anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist) — I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.

After getting some (thankfully) serious pushback from some of her congressional colleagues for invoking yet another anti-Semitic slur, Omar decided to double-down on her anti-Semitism, tweeting three days later: I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”

To be clear, nobody has asked Omar or anyone else in Congress to “swear allegiance” to Israel or any other foreign country. Not for Japan, which the U.S. supports in numerous ways; not Kuwait, when the Congress backed sending hundreds of thousands of American troops to fight for Kuwait’s sovereignty; and not to Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, which last year received a combined $3 billion in foreign aid from the U.S.

And Omar knows this. But like her colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Omar can’t help but accuse Americans who support the only Jewish state of doing so for pernicious reasons; and of supporting policies or positions that favor Israel, not because, for example, that they genuinely believe it’s the right thing to do; that Israel is the sole democracy in a sea of brutal autocracies; that Israel’s environmental and medical innovations and inventions save lives; or that because Israel and the U.S. are critical military allies, sharing intelligence and important military innovations (such as Israel’s Iron Dome defense technology).

Omar also doesn’t even give American Jews the benefit that is afforded to millions of other Americans who are of Nigerian, Kenyan, Italian, Polish, Irish, Japanese, etc., descent, the right to be Americans first and foremost, but to also want to see their ancestral homeland — particularly ones that are strong U.S. allies — do well, too.

No. For Omar, people in Congress or in the U.S. who support Israel are different than those who support Japan, Kenya, Ireland, etc. Their support for Israel is based on a nefarious “pledge of allegiance” to Israel, something that every person becoming an American citizen is supposed to give only to the U.S. Well, there is a name for this anti-Semitic slur; and it is a pretty infamous one: the “dual loyalty” canard.

Like the other two slurs invoked by Omar, this one also can be traced back millennia and has been used for centuries, including in the past one by Hitler and Stalin, as a justification for persecuting, rounding up and murdering Jews. For more on the role that the mendacious and vile “dual loyalty” slur has played for thousands of years for Jews, as one of the most persecuted and oppressed groups in history, one should read Alex Zeldin’s excellent piece in The Forward on Omar’s all too familiar attack on Jewish “allegiances.”

Yet in the face of Omar repeatedly spewing anti-Semitic slur after anti-Semitic slur, and Jew-hate inspiring canards, which have literally plagued and caused the persecution and frequently the mass murder of Jews (and only Jews), what has been the reaction of much of the so-called progressive left?

All lives matter. Or worse.

Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour’s response to a proposed resolution in Congress that was to condemn the unique and pernicious hate of anti-Semitism, opened with a tirade against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) as a supposed tool of the “white patriarchy” — which Sarsour plainly thinks includes Jews (although David Duke, who called Omar the most important member of Congress, disagrees) and ended with a call for, at most, a generic resolution against all forms of bigotry (“You want a resolution? Condemn all forms of bigotry. All forms of bigotry are unacceptable. We won’t let them pin us up against each other. We stand with Representative Ilhan Omar.”)

Not to be outdone by Sarsour, the newly crowned queen of the “progressive left” and phone buddy with the king of the British political anti-Semites Jeremy Corbyn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known by the moniker AOC) jumped into the Twitter fray defending Omar, too.

AOC tweeted: One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” on the floor).” Notably, what AOC didn’t write was that this (silly) comment was in reference to certain House Democrats going on a boondoggle to Puerto Rico during the government shutdown, not race or ethnicity.

Knowing perhaps that this Puerto Rico comment was not going to cut it, AOC then tweeted: But incidents like these do beg the question: where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’

Plainly, for Sarsour and AOC, a member of the most powerful legislature in history, calling Jews disloyal Americans who require allegiance to a foreign power all while they spread around their “Jew money” to buy that allegiance for a country that has conspiratorial Jew-power to hypnotize people to ignore their evil, at best warrants a resolution that condemns “all forms of bigotry.” Because “all lives matter.”

The sad thing is not that Sarsour or AOC made these morally obtuse “all lives matters” comments to defend Omar. That was expected. In the bizarre world of regressive identity politics, Omar as a Muslim immigrant woman from Africa simply outranks Jews. Just as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan must be defended by the likes of Sarsour and Tamika Mallory (and even called the G.OA.T. by Mallory) no matter how many utterly vile things he says about Jews, Omar, too, must be defended.

The sad thing, the truly awful thing, is how quickly other Democrats folded on even the idea of a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism and also jumped to Omar’s defense.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the Democratic Whip and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, defended Omar by saying her experience was “more personal” than Jews whose parents survived the Holocaust. As an apparent defense of Omar’s repeated use of anti-Semitic slurs, Clyburn suggested that Omar’s personal experience of having fled war-torn Somalia as a child was more pertinent and relevant than the experiences of the descendants of Holocaust survivors. And that is relevant to her blatant anti-Semitism — how?

Imagine, this scenario: A Holocaust survivor comes to the U.S. and is elected to Congress. Instead of learning from his horrible experiences, this particular survivor is a vile racist who repeatedly references many slurs that are uniquely hurtful and even dangerous for African-Americans. Would Clyburn give this Holocaust survivor a pass on his racist comments because his experience as a Holocaust survivor was “more personal” to him the experiences of the descendants American slaves?

But even worse than Clyburn’s obscene defense (which also ignores the dozens of Jews who have been murdered and violently attacked in anti-Semitic hate crimes in just the past year in the United States and Europe), was the obsequious and disingenuous efforts of Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who defended Omar by deflecting from Omar’s comments and repeated use of the most vile and base anti-Semitic slurs, by claiming that the people deeply offended and concerned about Omar’s conduct were trying to stifle debate about America’s foreign policy toward Israel. Warren even went further to claim that those hurt by Omar’s comments were branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic,” which, she added, “has a chilling effect on our public discourse.”

“Criticism of Israel”? “Debate on foreign policy”? Really? Is that what Omar was doing when she claimed Israel (home to 50 percent of the world’s Jews and the only Jewish state) has the power to “hypnotize the world” to ignore its “evil”? Was Omar criticizing Israeli policy when she alleged American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” (Jewish money)? Was Omar encouraging a debate on foreign policy when she asserted to a cheering crowd that was shouting “all about the Benjamins,” when she alleged that Americans who support Israel have an allegiance to a foreign country?

Of course not. She was trafficking in the worst anti-Semitic slurs. She was using age-old anti-Semitic canards not to encourage debate, but to stifle it. To label all who oppose her views as “evil.” After all, if you believe Omar’s statements about Jews and others who support Israel are true, then what is there to debate? If support for Israel, an evil country with hypnotic powers, is only because of disloyal American Jews who bribe corrupt politicians to ignore Israel’s “evil,” then shouldn’t the debate be over?

Sanders, Harris and Warren should be ashamed of themselves. Unless their moral compasses are completely broken, they have to know that none of the slurs that people are objecting to by Omar had anything to do with legitimate criticism of Israel or debate on foreign policy. What they did was cave-in to the worst elements in their party out of fear of losing their “progressive” base. They failed to stand up to the worst anti-Semitism voiced by a member of Congress in modern American history. They capitulated to the “all lives mattering” by AOC and Sarsour. They have taken the Democratic Party a giant step closer to becoming as infamously anti-Semitic as today’s Labour Party in England. What they have told us is that while “all lives matter,” Jewish lives matter less.


Micha Danzig is a practicing attorney in San Diego and an advisory board member and local chairperson for StandWithUs.

Downtown L.A. Mural Triggers Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Photo courtesy of Artists4Israel

A mural in downtown Los Angeles depicting the Grim Reaper wrapped inside an American flag emblazoned with Jewish stars, gripping a baby, cradling a missile and surrounded by snakes, has been deemed anti-Semitic by several civic leaders and organizations, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. 

“This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism,” Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Garcetti, said in a statement. “Imagery like this should have no place in our city.”

The image, on the exterior wall of The Vortex, a performance and event space in an industrial downtown neighborhood, was first painted in 2011 by local artist Vyal Reyes as part of an art show titled, “LA vs. WAR.” In 2018, Reyes said on his Instagram page that the work was inspired by a trip he took “to Palestine some years back.” 

However, the controversy didn’t erupt until Feb. 25, when Zhenya Rozinskiy of boutique consulting firm Mirigos shared a photograph of the mural on his Facebook page and it went viral. 

Among those condemning the mural was Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party. The group posted a picture of the mural on its Facebook page and tagged the Vortex, stating: “Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It’s wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion. Signed, Some confused and concerned community members.”

“This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism. Imagery like this should have no place in our city.” 

— Alex Comisar

But in an email to the Journal, Reyes said he isn’t anti-Semitic and that he intended the mural to be “critical of the U.S. and its increasing focus on war.

“That particular neighborhood that the mural was painted in was in worse shape at the time and homeless people lived all around there,” Reyes said. “It seemed to me at the time that the U.S. was more into funding war than helping its homeless. Even at that time, the U.S. was funding massive amounts of money to Israel, as they still are. That’s not anti-Semitic; that’s just a fact.”

Jeff Norman, a representative of the Vortex, also defended Reyes. “The Vortex stands for free expression,” Norman said in an email to the Journal. “The artist whose mural includes the Star of David (created for the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago) did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it. We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

But on the night of Feb. 25 or the morning of Feb. 26, the words “No place for hate” were painted over the mural. While it’s unclear who was responsible for defacing the mural, the artists’ rights organization Artists 4 Israel sent a photograph of the defaced mural to their email list subscribers on Feb. 26. 

When asked if his group was responsible for painting over the mural, Artists 4 Israel CEO Craig Dershowitz told the Journal that he did not have any comment, although he conceded that he was troubled by the mural’s imagery.

As of press time, The Vortex had not made any effort to repair the mural or to notify the police about the defacement, Norman said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League has called for the mural’s removal.

“For a venue that purports to welcome the community, The Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs and killing babies,” the organization said in a statement.

A Ballad in the Key of ‘4G’

Ethel “Edyka” Black

This is deeply personal. But what I have experienced should resonate with the entire Jewish community — the one we know and the one to come. In the whirlwind that seizes me and all who are communally aware, I have reached a new and stunning personal location, wedged between the searing past and the uncertain future.

My story begins before I was born, when my grandmother Fanya seized her slender teenaged daughter — my future mother — Edyka, and pushed her out of a small vent at the top of a suffocating boxcar rumbling inexorably from Bialystok, Poland, toward the Treblinka death camp. Together, they made the split-second decision that at least one person should escape. My mother became a “jumper.” That day, she jumped into a hostile and dangerous Polish forest, was shot by local forces, and then buried in a hastily arranged mass grave in the snow. Buried, yet one nearly lifeless limb protruded. 

Teenage Herschel, an audacious forest fighter, came upon the area. Spying Edyka’s leg moving, he pulled her out of the grave. For two years, under cloak of night and by raw courage, they lived in the woods as brave partisans. They survived. After the war, believing millions of Jews had been killed, they decided to continue living as Jews precisely because so many tried to kill our people. After two years in a displaced persons camp, Herschel and Edyka immigrated to the U.S., settling in Chicago. Their courage and determination enabled me to be born.

While growing up, I eagerly inhaled my Jewish heritage and love of Israel. With imbued purpose, I devoted my life to unmasking and addressing the hidden players and hidden hands behind the darkest evils and injustices. I adopted the identity of a second-generation author long before the larger second-generation movement developed its national identity.

Among the disparate generation of unique survivors that immigrated to the U.S., many parsed themselves into two types. One group was determined to boldly keep the memory of Nazi crimes intensely illuminated as a warning beacon to all humanity — that was my family’s group. This group robustly fought for commemoration, investigation and compensation. Its members demanded unending X-rays and dissection of the international body politic that perpetrated, facilitated and tolerated the Holocaust. My eye was focused on corporate complicity by those too big to be exposed, such as IBM, Ford Motors, GM, the Carnegie Institution and Rockefeller Foundation.

“It will be the third and fourth generation’s challenge that we “Never Forget,” for ourselves and for the world.”

A second group of survivors preferred not to talk about the unspeakable experience except among themselves — the so-called “sha-sha” survivors. Perhaps, while some were proud to have survived, they also felt shamed by the degradation they had overcome. Some felt guilty that they lived while their loved ones had perished by gas, gunshot or other gruesome means. Each had deeply personal reasons for their reticence. But all were protective of their American-born children. Many wanted to shield their sons and daughters from their traumatic experiences as a further act of conquest over their anguish. Even so, by this century, many “sha-sha” survivors had found their voices, and sought rooftops to climb and vociferously proclaim their identity. But by now, a new generation had grown up with far fewer nightmares.

During those postwar decades, the “sha-sha” mindset among survivors was accompanied by the nonchalance of comfortable, non-refugee Jews who felt no threat to their safety in fortress America, the land of equality, freedom and personal protections. Too many saw the bond with Israel to be a cultural encumbrance to their assimilated American existence. Family traditions were replaced with internet communities.

Like many in the corridors of the communally aware, I repeatedly have been shocked by the eruption of open anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence in Europe, the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in the United States, and the eroded position of Israel within certain flanks of the Jewish community. Like many who worry about such matters, I had a bleak outlook.

Then two things happened to me. 

Last year, my operatically trained, rock-pop singer-songwriter and cantorial soloist daughter Rachel Black — without notifying me — wrote a haunting Holocaust ballad. 

I was astonished to learn that it was titled “Edyka,” named for my mother. In piercing rhythms and searing lyrics, “Edyka” retold the story of my grandmother in that ghastly boxcar, saving my mother, which made my existence and hence, my daughter’s existence, possible, thereby keeping the memory alive. When we live beyond our days, it is only because we live in memory. My mother is dead, but her inspiring struggle lives on.

I have repeatedly written about my parents, and now my daughter has ignited a new vector of remembrance in song.

Then, Rachel was invited to sing and deliver a keynote address at her state’s official Yom HaShoah commemoration in 2018. At the last minute, she received permission to sneak preview her song in a solo performance, evoking a rousing, emotional reception. 

Soon, Rachel performed “Edyka” elsewhere in Kansas, where she lives, now with accompanying musicians, attracting followers who connected with the message. Crowds teared up and stood in applause when she chanted the song’s pulsing injunction to survive. The Kansas City Star learned of the buzz and published an extended Mother’s Day feature about my daughter, her grandmother, her great-grandmother and the song linking them all. The newspaper also videoed a performance of the song for its website. Quickly, the Kansas City Star’s coverage was syndicated, and then picked up by the Associated Press. Within days, the feature had been published by several dozen American newspapers including The Washington Times and Miami Herald.

A few weeks later, Rachel and her group of accompanying musicians found themselves in a recording studio. Shortly after the CD was released, Amazon issued a big order, and it briskly sold as a single. Last October, Rachel flew to Washington, D.C., to perform her song at the National Press Club in front of a gathering at a Holocaust Legacy ceremony. A few weeks later, she rendered a house-chilling performance at a large commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, held at Temple Israel in Manhattan, sponsored by the Suzanna Cohen Legacy Foundation.

I said two things happened to me. One was my daughter writing a song about my mother and grandmother.

The second was learning that Rachel would be bringing into the world another descendant, made possible by my grandmother and mother, eternalized in song by my daughter, now giving birth to my granddaughter as the generation-to-generation, slow-motion staccato trumpet ceaselessly blasts. Second generation, third generation, now fourth generation.

The new “4G” arrival is baby Cora Edyka. Korach gave rise to the original cantors who sang at the Ark of the Covenant. Edyka was in the boxcar. Thus comes Cora Edyka, fit and fighting to take her place in the legacy of survival. I received a video of Cora Edyka’s first moments in the world as her mother gently sang to her in Hebrew — Hinei Mah Tov. “How good it is … to dwell together.”

Hence, the first sounds Cora Edyka heard weren’t “Sesame Street” cheeps or baby doll squeaks, but the very sounds the Nazis worked so hard to extinguish. 

Whether “sha-sha” or fiery activist, the generations of Holocaust survivors have been determined to fortify and protect the ones to follow. Quite soon, all the survivors will be gone. The second generation, including me, will also soon be gone. The third generation has the duty to ensure that the fourth generation will carry the torch.

Sha-sha is no more. It will be the third and fourth generations’ challenge that we “Never Forget,” for ourselves and for the world. This challenge will be immeasurably more difficult in the decades to come than it was for me over the past half century.

At issue is the question of whether the next generation of Jews will walk furtively looking over their shoulder, or boldly toward a gleaming horizon. I know Rachel and Cora will be among the bold. But they will need plenty of strength and help.


Edwin Black is The New York Times best-selling author of “IBM and the Holocaust” and many other books. His website is edwinblack.com. 

Rep. Engel: Rep. Omar Won’t Be Removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told CNN on Mar. 5 that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) will not be removed from the committee he chairs, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, anytime soon.

“First of all, it’s not up to me, this is done by the [House Democratic] leadership,” Engel told host Erin Burnett. “I don’t know that that would do anything except exacerbate the situation anymore. I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody.”

On Feb. 27, Omar said she wanted to discuss how pro-Israel politicians have “allegiance to a foreign country.” Engel said in a Mar. 1 statement that Omar’s remarks “were outrageous and deeply hurtful.”

“It’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Engel said.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on March 7; however, some argue that Omar should be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee altogether.

Just as Republicans stripped King of all his committee assignments, Democrats should keep Omar from serving on any House committee,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper wrote in a March 5 Fox News op-ed. “Stripping a representative of his or her committee assignments is a serious punishment. And it sends an unmistakable message to the American public that there still are red lines in our national discourse.”

Anti-Semitic Belgian Carnival Float Receives Widespread Condemnation

Screenshot from Twitter.

A float at Belgium’s Aalst carnival on March 3 has been denounced by several organizations for its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The float, featured two giant puppets representing Orthodox Jews and had them wearing side locks and shtreimels, hats favored by some Orthodox Jews, in pink suits. Gobs of money and gold coins were beneath them while one of the puppets had a rat on his shoulder.

According to the BBC, the group who created the float, De Vismooil’n, claimed that the float was meant in jest.

“We found it comical to have pink Jews in the procession with a safe to keep the money we saved,” the group told HLN (Het Laatste Nieuws), a Belgian media outlet. “You can have a laugh with other religions too.”

Christopher D’Haese, the mayor of Aalst, told HLN that De VIsmooil’n didn’t create the float out of malice and that it wasn’t his place as mayor to prevent it from being displayed at the carnival.

The European Commission condemned the float.

We Europeans do not have the luxury of taking this lightly… because we have the sad privilege of having experience how this ends,” Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told the BBC. “In the last century, we saw it once and we know how this film ends – and nobody wants to see this film replayed.”

Anti-Defamation League senior vice president for international affairs Sharon Nazarian tweeted that the “Jews-and-money trope is deadly, not for jest.”

The American Jewish Committee tweeted, “We are disgusted by this abhorrent use of anti-Semitic (sic) imagery in Belgium. It boggles the mind that anyone thinks this is acceptable in 2019.”

Rep. Zeldin: ‘We Need to Crush the BDS Movement’

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) expressed how the Jewish and pro-Israel community needs to destroy the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement during StandWithUs’ “Israel in Focus” International Conference at the Hyatt Regency at Los Angeles International Airport on March 3.

Zeldin was on a panel with Florida city Bal Habour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-Calif.) district director Scott Abrams and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who tuned into the panel via Skype.

Zeldin told the 500 attendees that Senate Bill S.1 “combats the BDS movement” and “supports our alliance with Jordan, and increases sanctions on those propping up the Assad regime.”

“We need to crush the BDS movement, we need to confront it head on on college campuses,” Zeldin said, adding that it’s necessary to protect “innocent Jewish students being targeted with anti-Semitism” on college campuses.

He argued that despite what the bill’s critics say, S. 1 “does not impede free speech.”
“It gives state and local contracts the ability to end contracts with businesses opposing Israel,” Zeldin said, adding that anti-Israel individuals would still be free to promulgate their views on Israel if the bill passes.

Zeldin also mentioned the bill “hasn’t even been sent to committee” in the House of Representatives after it passed the Senate on Feb. 5.

Abrams said that there needs to be “bipartisan” opposition to BDS and stressed the need for an official anti-Semitism bill to be passed by Congress. Zeldin agreed, stating it was necessary to educate people throughout the country on anti-Semitism.

Groisman touted the Bal Harbour Village Council’s unanimous passage of a 2017 ordinance defining anti-Semitism, in part, as “delegitimizing Israel by denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” He added that Florida’s state legislature is taking up a bill that would make the ordinance a statewide law.

“Police officers need to know the language of anti-Semitism that’s being used today” when investigating hate crimes, Groisman said.

Groisman stressed to attendees that the Jewish and pro-Israel community needs “leadership from everybody when it comes to the state of Israel, the Jewish people and fighting anti-Semitism.”

Schneider said in his video that conference attendees need to have “the confidence in your day-to-day conversations” that “we support Israel because Israel is our best ally in the world,” not because of “dual loyalty.”

“We share values, we share interests, we share threats,” Schneider said, adding that it only makes sense to have a “common bond” with Israel.

Zeldin concluded the panel by telling attendees that anti-Semites should be held accountable. He also challenged attendees to get involved with local campaigns or newspapers.

“Don’t let anyone speak for you whose hate is filling their heart,” Zeldin said.

House Resolution to Address Rep. Omar’s Israel Remarks

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves the U.S. Senate chamber and walks back to the House of Representatives side of the Capitol with colleagues after watching the failure of both competing Republican and Democratic proposals to end the partial government shutdown in back to back votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The House of Representatives intends to draft a  resolution to address Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent remarks about Israel, Politico reports.

In an email to the Journal, a senior Democratic aide said the resolution would be brought to the House floor on Wednesday.

The pending resolution comes after Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt sent a letter on March 4 to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to introduce a resolution after Omar said on Feb. 27 that she wanted to discuss “the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

On Mar. 2, Omar doubled down on the statement, tweeting, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”

Greenblatt wrote in his letter, “Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries. Sometimes referred to as the ‘dual loyalty’ charge, it alleges that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their co-religionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda.”

Greenblatt added that the “disturbing increase in anti-Semitism in our country and around the world” makes it important for Congress to vote on a resolution that rejects “her latest slur and make clear that no matter what may divide the 435 members of the House of Representatives, they are united in condemning anti-Semitism.”

The senior Democratic aide told the Journal that House Democratic staffers started working on the resolution over the weekend, before Greenblatt sent his letter.

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

UPDATE: 

How Do We Define Ourselves?

Identity is such a personal thing. It helps to define who we are, it gives us a place to stand in the world, it connects us to others, it can set an agenda for our purpose in the world, it can direct us to the kind of work we choose to do or validate our worthiness as a result of the work we have chosen. There are so many different aspects of who we are and how we express ourselves in the world. I am a wife of 46 years, a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a caregiver, a designer and Jewish fiber artist, a teacher, a mentor, a Reiki master, a cantor, and a rabbi. Each plays a role in the sum total of who I have become. And of course let us not forget I am a child of G-d as well, as is each one of us.

But lately I find myself responding and thinking of myself foremost as a child of Holocaust survivors. This was certainly the foundational seed, along with love and hope that began my growth and development. Surrounded by a community of survivors, in Stockholm Sweden, post Holocaust; it was the framework and the mirror that reflected and reminded me of that reality. Years and layers of experience, learning, experimentation, mistakes, growth, and expansion enhanced a fundamental core bequeathed by my parents, my ancestors, and HaShem. So today I am a sum total of it all. Yet in a world that now faces rising anti-Semitism, with both a non-verbal and verbal onslaught of attacks, it is this that I identify with the most. It taps into tribal identity, paranoia, and fear as well as a cellular level of trauma buried within my DNA.

Who am I? I know I am a Jewish woman who has been dedicated to sharing a loving partnership, to family, personal transformation, and work that supports others in their growth and journeys. Yet I can’t help but be reminded, in this toxic, dangerous, and rageful environment, that danger exists, not only in this country but intensely among our European neighbors. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency has spent years surveying the growing tide of harassment and attacks and have watched the numbers increase among a dozen European countries. In the past year it’s gone up 40% in Belgium and Germany, 30% in Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden, and approx. 25% in France, Denmark and Austria. With a vulnerable elderly Holocaust Survivor killed in her flat and a young boy attacked who was wearing a Kippah, France reflects the deep personal nature of Anti-Semitism and 95% of its French citizens see this as a major problem.

Photos courtesy by the author

With the expansive influence of the Internet, it reflects the largest expression of this hatred and probably equals that of Hitler’s Mein Kampf whose sold five million copies at the start of WWII, in 11 languages. Published in 1925 it took years to spread its poison; today it takes minutes to reach millions around the world. How different can it be in our own country when even our President doesn’t put a stop to the hateful rhetoric of, “Jews will not replace us,” in Charlottesville, shouted by angry and bigoted ‘human beings’ (a term I use loosely). I find myself sadly becoming aware it could happen all over again.

Photos courtesy by the author

Lamentations the powerful literature of one of the earliest experiences of a Holocaust in our tradition, where our community was dismantled and destroyed and our first Temple brought down, is a haunting reminder of the pain and suffering so early in our formation as a people and yet it ends with the words, “Bring us back to You, Hashem…renew our days as of old,” to a time when walking down the street in my home town of Toronto, Canada with Star of David or Kippah was not a calling card for danger.

It is a scary time; security is fragile, and division is palpable. Who am I now takes on new meaning.

French Rabbi: Anti-Semitism Caused Half My Members to Leave Grenoble

Screenshot from Twitter.

A French rabbi told a local radio station on Feb. 26 that half of his regular members have left his city due to anti-Semitism.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic agency, Rabbi Nissim Sultan, who lives in Grenoble, told the France Bleu Isère radio station, “It’s a troubling phenomenon that began about 15 years ago. The people who make up the core of our community have left, including young families with children and pensioners.”

Sultan added that France’s rising anti-Semitism has forced parents to “take measures.”

According to French government statistics, anti-Semitic incidents there have increased by 74 percent and anti-Semitic assaults have increased by 270 percent from 2017-2018. Around 20,000 Jews have left France since 2014.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Feb. 20 that the country is adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which states that criticism of Israel that demonizes and de-legitimizes the Jewish state constitutes as anti-Semitism.

The Many Faces of 21st-Century Anti-Semitism

Some of the 80 gravestones vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in the eastern French village of Quatzenheim, Feb. 19, 2019. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

The ancient Greeks imagined shape-shifting monsters of myriad faces. Today’s anti-Semitism is chimeric or kaleidoscopic. Choose from these up-to-date manifestations of age-old Jew hatred: 

  • Don ski masks and attack an aging rabbi in Buenos Aires in front of his terrified wife
  • Shame a French schoolgirl by ripping off jewelry identifying her as Jewish as she walks home from school
  • In the dead of night, use spray paint and black markers to deface New York public school playgrounds with anti-Semitic graffiti
  • Toss bricks through the window of a synagogue — then throw firebomb
  • Overturn tombstones in ancient Jewish cemeteries
  • As a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom, spout conspiracy theories that the Mossad is already plotting to steal the next national election
  • Parade missiles promising “Death to Israel” through the streets of Tehran
  • Pass a fetid stream of United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions ignoring real culprits while condemning Israel for imaginary crimes against human rights
  • If you are an American Democratic congresswoman who tweeted that evil Israel is “hypnotizing the world” — wait seven years to mumble an unconvincing apology
  • As a Latino muralist in Los Angeles, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the world, proudly paint a giant mural on a high-profile commercial space depicting Israelis as the devil incarnate murdering children. Then, after the company owning the space defends you against charges of anti-Semitism, explain how you visited Israel and saw the genocidal face of Jews murdering Palestinians
  • Write an op-ed in the prestigious New York Times implying that staunchly pro-Israel Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was instead the spiritual founder of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
  • Preach to African Americans that Jews that their traditional civil rights allies instead are members of “the Synagogue of Satan”
  • Turn Jewish summer camps into vehicles for anti-Israel indoctrination
  • As a college professor in Michigan, renege on a promise to write a letter of recommendation for a Jewish student who wants to study in Israel
  • Organize a whisper campaign to blackball students who visited Israel from running for campus office
  • Harass Jewish-American college students who voice support for Israel or wear yarmulkes on campus
  • Flood the internet with notorious anti-Semitic images dating from the Middle Ages that show hideous Jews as child murderers, shylocks and well poisoners
  • Falsify history by denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s 3,000-year link to Jerusalem and the Holy Land
  • Accuse Israel Defense Forces soldiers of murdering innocent Palestinians in order to sell their body parts on the international market
  • Deny Israel the rights to self-determination and self-defense while brushing off criticism with the lie that “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”

Welcome to the 21st-century’s horrible house of mirrors in which every reflection distorts the truth about the Jewish people and Israel. Our ultimate vindication against tormentors and traducers will be in the Lord. Until then, we will keep our powder dry.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rep. Omar: Israel Supporters ‘Push for Allegiance to a Foreign Country’

Photo from Flickr.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said she wanted to discuss “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” when it comes to supporting Israel.

Omar made her comment on Feb. 27 during a panel with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis,) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) at a progressive town hall at the Busboys and Poets bookstore cafe in Washington D.C. Omar said she was concerned “that a lot of our Jewish colleagues” view her and Tlaib’s criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.

“I’m sensitive when someone says, ‘The words you used Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance,’ and I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that,” Omar said. “But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement, our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled something. And that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.”

She added, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask, why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?”

Omar also said that she knew several members of Congress who advocated against apartheid in South Africa.

“Now that you have two Muslims who are saying ‘here is a group of people that we want to make sure that they have the dignity that you want everybody else to have,’ we get to be called names and we get to be labeled as hateful.”

In an email sent to the Journal, The Jewish Democratic Council of America said, “We reject the parallels Representative Omar has repeatedly drawn between Israel and apartheid South Africa. We also want to make clear to both Reps. Omar and Tlaib that our denunciation of their recent tweets was completely unrelated to their religion. We celebrate the diversity of Democrats in 116th Congress, but unequivocally oppose the use of anti-Semitic tropes. We would have condemned such tweets from any member of Congress, regardless of their party or background.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal that Omar’s remarks suggest she’s “taking the lead in calling American Jews the first people who are potentially guilty of dual loyalty, one of the greatest anti-Semitic canards of all. She’s never going to miss an opportunity to besmirch American Jews and the other Americans who have the audacity to support the alliance between the United States and Israel,” Cooper said. “She’ll never stop demonizing. She’ll use her access to the pulpit to continue to pursue that and she’ll cloak it in the language of human rights, standing up for the oppressed and, by the very definition of her statements, to always try to put distance between the American Jewish community and other Americans, and continue to falsely demonize Israel as an apartheid state.”

On Feb. 10, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in response to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) calling for the House Democratic leadership to take action against Omar over her statements about Israel. When Forward Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon asked Omar who she “thinks is paying American politics to be pro-Israel,” Omar responded, “AIPAC!” The next day, Omar “unequivocally” apologized in a statement.

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

UPDATE: The Anti-Defamation League tweeted:

Kingsborough Community College Embroiled in Anti-Semitic Allegations

Kingsborough Community College. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

An anti-Semitic harassment campaign appears to be being waged against identifiably Jewish and pro-Israel professors at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn – one of the storied City University of New York’s (CUNY) 25 colleges and graduate and professional schools, which educate some 275,000 students.

Despite tens of formal complaints filed with college and CUNY administrators over the past three years and the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2016, leaders there appear to have taken little action.

While there are many documented instances of anti-Semitic graffiti at other universities and student government efforts to adopt resolutions backing divestment from companies that do business in Israel, Kingsborough’s situation involves what Business Department Chair Jeffrey Lax, describes in his 2016 federal lawsuit against the CUNY system and a former Kingsborough provost, a “pervasively hostile work environment” for “outward Jews.”

In 2016, CUNY’s chancellor ordered an outside investigation into charges of anti-Semitism at several other colleges, though not, at the time, at Kingsborough.

The report detailed multiple allegations of sporadic, isolated anti-Semitic behavior over several years and concluded that there is “no unchecked anti-Semitism” at CUNY schools.

However, the Journal spoke with several CUNY faculty members who have been victims of anti-Semitic harassment. Michael Goldstein is a 20-year-veteran business communications teacher and administrator at Kingsborough. An indefatigable cheerleader for the community college, which sits perched on Brooklyn’s shoreline, a public high school on the campus is named for his father, Leon Goldstein, who served as Kingsborough’s president for 29 years.  

Michael Goldstein became a victim of anti-Semitic attacks last year.  In February 2018, he arrived at his office on the Kingsborough campus and discovered that a  photo of his father presiding over a college graduation, hung outside his office door, had been defaced with swastikas and epithets written in pen: “F*** Trump Goldstein, Kill the Zionist Entity.”

“The vandalism marked the start of a systematic and pernicious campaign in which I have been targeted and harassed because of who I am and what I believe… this is an orchestrated, aggressive movement to destroy me,” Goldstein wrote in a Feb. 13 op-ed for the New York Daily News.

Goldstein told The Jewish Journal that he considers himself Kingsborough’s ambassador and resident school historian, organizing and speaking at events on campus and off, at high schools and community gatherings. The recent attacks, he said, have dimmed his enthusiasm for such activities.

Last May, as students arrived for final exams at the college, 1,500 fliers were left in classrooms and offices with images grabbed from Goldstein’s Facebook page, including a photo of his 13-year-old daughter. Goldstein is as energetic a re-poster of memes and cartoons on Facebook as he is a Kingsborough booster. His posts are visibly pro-Israel and opposed to progressive politicians including 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. While he is liberal on social issues including gay marriage and immigration, and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, Goldstein said he was disappointed with Obama’s relationship with Israel and in 2016 voted for President Donald Trump because of his stance on Israel.

Goldstein said at least one faculty member was caught on college videotape distributing the fliers, but that Kingsborough leaders have refused to make that video available to attorneys working with Goldstein.

In addition, a Communist newspaper called “Challenge” published four separate articles between June and November of 2018 calling Goldstein racist, anti-Muslim and anti-gay. The paper was distributed widely just outside the campus gates, Goldstein said, adding that colleagues warned him that those campaigning to get him fired are “trying to get students to constantly harass me. I’m afraid one will take it too far by getting physical. I’m afraid of getting punched. I’ve never had a problem before this. I don’t want to be seen as racist or anti-Muslim. I like people for who they are.”

Now, among the academic left this anti-Israel attitude crosses into anti-Semitism all the time. I’m very pro-Zionist, so I’m automatically an oppressor — Michael Goldstein

Goldstein told the Journal fliers were put under his office door attacking him. They were also distributed widely around campus. In addition, he said, students banged on his office window, frightening him. Following these incidents, Goldstein requested campus security protection. He received it months later, but only after multiple requests and after a Christian administrator’s office was papered with crosses. Goldstein now has a campus safety officer escort him everywhere he walks on campus, and sit outside his office door whenever he’s inside.

“I can’t go to any community events anymore, even though I used to create and run them,” Goldstein said. “I used to be called ‘the mayor of Kingsborough.’ For many years I knew everyone, knew their families. Now I am isolated.”

He said he believes he’s being targeted because,  “now among the academic left this anti-Israel attitude crosses into anti-Semitism all the time. I’m very pro-Zionist, so I’m automatically an oppressor, and they think I hate Palestinians. I teach Palestinian students all the time. They’ve identified me as someone they can go after because I have no power. I’m low hanging fruit. They see me as a capitalist overlord and it’s funny. I make less than they do, probably.”

Last October, someone put nails in both Goldstein’s and Lax’s car tires while they were attending a faculty council meeting. They both filed complaints about the tire damage with campus security, but said nothing was done to track down those responsible.

This latest attack against Lax comes two-and-a-half years after Lax filed his federal lawsuit in February 2016, alleging his career has been damaged by Kingsborough administrators who, he claimed, have created a hostile work environment for those who are visibly Jewish.

Michael Goldstein

The lawsuit was filed with the assistance of The Lawfare Project. Lawfare Project founder and executive director Brooke Goldstein told the Journal, who also represents both Lax and Michael Goldstein told the Journal, “The lawsuit is a symptom of a much larger problem, which is a very dangerously hostile environment at CUNY for Jewish students and professors. Multiple violations of basic civil rights of Jewish professors and students are taking place on campus, and instead of dealing with the situation as it is legally obligated to, the administration is at best wilfully ignoring it, and at worst aiding and abetting it.”

The 2016 lawsuit names Stuart Suss, former interim president and provost at Kingsborough, claiming that Lax’s civil rights, along with state and city laws, were violated by religious discrimination and harassment in a pervasively hostile work environment. Lax, who teaches employment law, identifies as a feminist and has supported legal workplace protections for LGBTQ employees.

“Everyone in my classes seems to get along. If you don’t mention [Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], it won’t explode. Once the issues are raised, it can be combustible.” — Sharon Flatto 

Suss allegedly told another professor that “there are too many Jews” on Kingsborough’s faculty. While Suss himself is Jewish, Kingsborough professors said he is not religiously observant. When Lax filed a complaint at Kingsborough about earlier anti-Semitic harassment of other faculty members, he said that then Kingsborough president Farley Herzek told him to “let it go.”

The lawsuit alleges that Suss was orchestrating an effort to get rid of current religious Jewish faculty, and worked to not hire new ones.

Suss “ridiculed, intimidated, and insulted Jewish employees through systematically eliminating Jews from the faculty, excluding and minimizing the roles of the Jewish faculty members who survived elimination, subjecting Jewish faculty members to frequent verbal harassment and disparate treatment, and encouraging anti-Semitism on Kingsborough’s campus,” Lax’s lawsuit states. Suss “insisted upon scheduling the interviews of Jewish candidates for positions at Kingsborough on Jewish holidays. By mid-2015 the religious discrimination became so palpable that some department chairs encouraged Jewish candidates to remove all religious head coverings, and any other personal items symbolic of their religious beliefs, before meeting with Suss. Discriminatory hiring practices have reduced the number of Jewish faculty members at Kingsborough and contributed to the pervasively hostile work environment.”

Suss did not return multiple requests for interviews by the Journal.

After Lax filed his lawsuit in federal court in February 2016, Lax claimed in legal documents that the retaliation increased, stating, “CUNY significantly reduced [my] compensation and excluded [me] from a compensation increase that a majority of Kingsborough’s chairpersons received.”

Lax is seeking a jury trial and damages from Suss and CUNY. In September, CUNY filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Both sides are awaiting the judge’s response.

The Journal reached out to Kingsborough’s President Claudia Schrader, and to CUNY’s media relations head seeking an interview with Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz about anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

Kingsborough’s director of marketing and communications, John Aaron, responded with a statement: “The incidents to which you refer are under active investigation and, as such, we are not at liberty to comment beyond providing the following assurances: So long as the investigations are ongoing, and until the process is resolved in accordance with college and university procedures, we are taking all necessary measures to safeguard those who feel threatened, and to uphold the rights of those accused.”

However, in a Feb. 21 leaked email to CUNY trustees, Schrader wrote that recent positive developments at Kingsborough have “been overshadowed, to some extent, by the spate of negative news coverage that has recently appeared in the local press regarding allegations of anti- Semitism on our campus. The campus is also being besieged by a torrent of angry emails, expressing outrage on the part of individuals who are unknown and external to the college.”

“Last spring, the Progressive Faculty Caucus (PFC) held a meeting focused on discrimination. The group scheduled it for a Friday night, declining to change the date even after non-Jewish PFC members complained that those who kept Shabbat would be unable to attend.”

On Feb. 25, Schrader sent an internal memo to Kingsborough’s faculty decrying the fact that “our community continues to be embroiled in tension.” She wrote, “In times of heightened emotions, we must take lengths to resist ad hominem attacks and strive to maintain constructive, inclusive dialogue. I urge every member of this campus community to refrain right now from the temptation to point fingers and cast blame. Doing so is counterproductive to the kind of engagement we all need at this time…let us resolve to do the difficult work needed to reach a mutual, workable understanding and chart a unified course forward.”

Other observant Jews or pro-Israel faculty members also say they have been harassed, to lesser degrees.

Economics Professor Susan Aranoff has taught at Kingsborough for 35 years. She told the Journal the climate has changed markedly in recent years. She used to attach two small flags – an American flag and an Israeli flag – to her car. Two years ago the  Israeli flag was broken twice and at one point was stolen, while the American flag was left alone. After those incidents, she decided not to replace them. She filed complaints at the time with college authorities who, she said, dismissed it as “ordinary vandalism.”

Aranoff, Goldstein, and other faculty members the Journal interviewed said last spring the Progressive Faculty Caucus (PFC) held a meeting focused on discrimination. They scheduled it for a Friday night, declining to change the date even after non-Jewish PFC members complained that those who kept Shabbat would be unable to attend. Aranoff lives within walking distance of Kingsborough’s campus, and asked a PFC organizer where, exactly, the meeting would be held, so that she could attend. She said he refused to tell her.

The PFC is ostensibly open to any faculty member. Aranoff said she asked multiple times to be added to its email list. At the time, she said, she thought that the caucus’s purpose was to “enhance Kingsborough’s teaching environment.” However, after months passed and she wasn’t added to the distribution list, Aranoff said she eventually realized that the PFC is open to anyone but religious Jews.  

Aranoff and other faculty members said not long after the request to change that Spring 2018 Friday night meeting, the university administrators blocked their campus-based messaging system and the PFC took their message system off campus.

Currently, the PFC has no website, no listing available on Kingsborough’s website and no listed phone numbers. Though publicly invisible the PFC is powerful, Aranoff told the Journal. Its members lobby “for candidates for positions on college council or various committees, so [Jewish faculty members are] disadvantaged in not being part of that group,” she said.

Aranoff and another senior faculty member, who is an Orthodox Jew and asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, filed a complaint with Kingsborough’s diversity officer last spring. Aranoff said the officer, Victoria Ajibade, left the college about 10 days later. In March 2018, Aranoff and her colleague filed a complaint alleging discrimination by the PFC with the EEOC. Aranoff said she was told to call to make an appointment to give their statements at the EEOC office. She said she left multiple phone messages with the officer assigned to their case, but he never returned the calls and she eventually gave up.

Ajibade did not respond to the Journal’s multiple requests for comment.  

Those being harassed at Kingsborough all cited Kingsborough Associate Professor of English Anthony Alessandrini, Associate Professor of Sociology Katia Perea and Associate Professor of Chemistry Patrick Lloyd, as being their chief antagonists within the PFC, none of whom responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Goldstein told the Journal that Alessandrini “is the head of the PFC, the puppet master, quiet and well spoken, and was a founder of (the anti-Israel) SPJ  (Students for Justice in Palestine)” at New York University when he was a student there.

Alessandrini, an ardent advocate of the Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) effort. wrote a recent essay on the website Jadaliyya titled, “After the Elections: Solidarities Old and New.” In it, Alessandrini writes about the BDS movement and links Jewish “whiteness” to white supremacy. 

Appropriating a 1984 essay by black American writer James Baldwin, in the essay, Alessandrini calls white Jews white supremacists, writing, “the struggle against Israeli apartheid needs to be articulated more clearly as a struggle against white supremacy, on a global scale.”

The Journal also reached out to religious Jewish professors on other CUNY campuses to see if they had experiences similar to those at Kingsborough.

David Gerwin, a professor of Social Studies Education at Queens College and chair of the faculty union there, wears a yarmulke. He said that in his 21 years there he has not experienced or heard about any ongoing anti-Semitic harassment.  

Sharon Flatto, professor of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College and deputy director of its graduate program, is also an observant Jew. While there has been anti-Semitic behavior on her campus, as documented in the 2016 CUNY investigation, she said none of it has entered her classrooms, where she has many religious Muslim and Jewish students.

“It’s not so grim day-to-day,” Flatto said. “Everyone in my classes seems to get along. If you don’t mention it, it won’t explode,” she said, referring to Zionism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Once the issues are raised,” she acknowledged, “it can be combustible.”

Aranoff said administrators, faculty members and students at Kingsborough are expressing anti-Semitic attitudes more openly today than in years past. About a year ago she said a male, Muslim student first muttered and then audibly said something anti-Semitic. She asked him why, and he expressed resentment that ‘Jews have their own ambulances and schools.’ “I told him that Hatzalah (a privately funded Jewish community ambulance service) will pick anybody up when they call. The student said, ‘why should we pay for that?’ and I told him that there is no charge. A Christian student present pointed out that Catholics also have their own religious schools.

“I realized that there’s ignorance combined with pre-existing animosity and I never heard such things from students before,” Aranoff said. “There has also been a big drop in the number of Orthodox Jews on the faculty.”

Although she emphasized that she loves her students and teaching, Aranoff said, “Now I feel uncomfortable as a religious Jew. And I can’t put my finger on why.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that When Lax filed a complaint at Kingsborough about earlier anti-Semitic harassment of other faculty members, it was Stuart Suss who told him to “let it go.” 

Update: An earlier version of this article stated that Alessandrini had removed his essay comparing Jewish whiteness to white supremacy. He did not. The link to the essay is now in this story.

This article was updated on March 5 to include a statement from Brooke Goldstein of the Lawfare Project.


Debra Nussbaum Cohen is the Jewish giving maven at Inside Philanthropy and is a freelance journalist in New York City. She is the author of Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant.

Religious Zionism and the Specter of Racism

Photo by Pixabay

Words from a broken, loving, and hopeful heart.

The recent explosion in anti-Semitic expression including acts of anti-Semitic violence in numerous quarters around the world is not only frightening and alarming, it is eerie and perhaps even ominous. The inevitable and logically-necessary descent of rabid anti-Zionism into the exclusion and even hatred of Jewish people is in plentiful evidence, and rabid anti-Zionism continues to provide an obscene, self-righteous veneer to anti-Semitism. Which is not to say that the “left” is the only worrisome quarter, for plainly it is not. We are living in a time when we need to be vigilant, to be unflinching in calling out anti-Semitism, to be strengthening old friendships and actively cultivating new ones. It’s a serious time.

Human nature is such that when a particular group feels besieged and targeted, when it feels that the world has abandoned its ethical and civil codes in its behavior toward it, that this group then responds by loosening its own commitment to these very same ethical and civil codes. Not out of the belief that “two wrongs make a right” or that “you have to fight fire with fire.” Rather out of the belief that the rules just aren’t the rules anymore, that we have entered an amoral jungle, a time and space which simply exists outside our normal ethical commitments. This is a very human response. It is the way of human nature.

And this is precisely the reason that God gave us religion. Religion’s revolutionary and radical claim is that there is no such time and there is no such space, that there is no such thing as the amoral jungle, that human beings – even when engaged in a state of warfare – are always accountable to the norms of God-fearing, God-loving, God-revering behavior.

Last week’s appalling decision by Habayit HaYehudi, the political party representing Religious Zionism, to join electoral forces with Otzma Yehudit, the Kahanist political party whose platform is rooted in and founded upon racial hatred, is a precise manifestation of this awful tendency of human nature that religion was intended to correct. (Much has been written in recent days about Otzma Yehudit’s ideology and politics. I think that Yossi Klein Halevi‘s essay summarized it best. The defense that HaBayit HaYehudi is offering is that the State of Israel and Zionism itself are under siege from enemies both within and without the State, and electoral victory must be assured even at the cost of bringing the racists out from the political cold and into cabinet-level power. This represents of course, nothing less than the utter rejection of the mantle and responsibility of religion, rendering HaBayit HaYehudi’s claim to be the “Religious Zionist” party a mockery and a sham.

And frankly, it renders its claim to be a Zionist party at all to be a mockery and a sham, certainly in the sense that Israel’s Declaration of Independence which guarantees that the State “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture”, is considered a foundational Zionist document.

It is heartening that numerous important and influential thinkers within the Religious Zionist community have condemned this turn of events. Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein and Rabbi Benny Lau have been among the most public and courageous. And it is heartening that many American Jewish organizations, including AIPAC, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (through Malcolm Hoenlein, its executive vice chairman) have expressed their grave concern, in particular over the Prime Minister’s catalytic role in the political merger. (The National Council of Young Israel is one of the few organizations that has expressed its support for what has happened, and individual Young Israel synagogues must now express outrage at their leadership.) More voices of ethical and religious clarity are still needed. Absolutely including yours. Perhaps the worst outcome can still be averted.

There’s no underestimating the importance of this political moment in the history of our beloved Medinat Yisrael, and even in the history of Judaism as a great world religion. Yes, we must love and support Israel, and confront anti-Semitism, but לא כך – not this way. For the sake of all that we hold sacred, never this way.

Paying Tribute to Nuremberg’s Little-Known Hero

Ben Ferencz

Among the most high-profile cases in the Nuremberg Trials from 1945 to 1949 was the prosecution and conviction of 22 members of Heinrich Himmler’s Einsatzgruppen death squads. The prosecutor in the case was a 27-year-old Jewish lawyer named Ben Ferencz and, chances are, you’ve never heard of him. Writer-director-producer Barry Avrich has endeavored to correct that with his new documentary, “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz.”

“Ben should be as well known as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa,” Avrich told the Journal. “Part of my mission with the film was to make sure that people know who the 99-year-old Ferencz is, and will always remember him and his legacy.”

Avrich first learned about Ferencz in 2017 when he saw a “60 Minutes” segment about him. He contacted Ferencz the next day and got the go-ahead to make the film. “I’ve made close to 50 documentaries. This was the simplest green light I’ve ever received,” he said. “Two months later we were filming.”

The documentary chronicles Ferencz’s life and accomplishments through archival footage, contemporary footage Avrich shot in Nuremberg, and interviews with notables including Alan Dershowitz, Gen. Wesley Clark, and Ferencz himself, who lives in Delray Beach, Fla.

Avrich interviewed Ferencz for eight hours, after which the nonagenarian jumped into the pool — as he does daily — for the cameras. Avrich marveled at his subject’s vitality, optimism and acute awareness. “He reads newspapers. He goes online. He stays focused. He’s alert, cognizant, fit. As you get older, you have two choices: Let age swallow you up or fight it. He fights it.”

“Ben’s religion was irrelevant. He’s not a religious man. It’s not what drove him. He’s a crusader, and his mantra is law over war.” — Barry Avrich

As the film chronicles, Ferencz’s family fled anti-Semitism in what is now Hungary, arriving in New York in 1920 when he was 10 months old. Despite meager circumstances, he studied hard and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1943. 

After enlisting in the Army two years later, and serving under Gen. George Patton, Ferencz was transferred to Patton’s headquarters in England and tasked with collecting evidence of Nazi war crimes. Ferencz uncovered recorded evidence that convicted the 22 Einsatzgruppen defendants, 13 of whom were hanged. But his work didn’t end there. He was instrumental in helping Jews reclaim property taken by the Nazis and in getting Germany to agree to preserve hundreds of Jewish cemeteries in perpetuity. He argued human rights and civil liberties cases, wrote books on international criminal law and spearheaded the creation of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

“He considers his greatest contribution to be the work he did after World War II in helping to set up the restitution programs for Holocaust survivors, not only Jews but all those who had their lives ruined,” his son, Don Ferencz, said in a later interview. “He considers this most meaningful because the [Einsatzgruppen trial] did hopefully strengthen the concept of a stronger rule of law, but does little to assuage the pain of survivors.”

Avrich pointed out that in prosecuting at Nuremberg, “Ben’s religion was irrelevant. He’s not a religious man. It’s not what drove him. He’s a crusader and his mantra is law over war.” 

“I think he feels more culturally identified as part of a broader Jewish community than as a person of faith,” Don elaborated. “He doesn’t have a well-developed sense of spiritual identity. He’s here to do the best he can to help improve things here while he’s here.”

Don, who followed his father into the law, spoke of the valuable lessons Ferencz taught him and his sisters. “We were brought up to think for ourselves and not blindly accept old ways of solving new problems and have a healthy disrespect for bureaucratic authority. He’d say, ‘You’re a Ferencz. Nothing’s impossible for you. There’s no such thing as ‘can’t.’ He’d say, ‘Your integrity is your most valuable possession. Don’t ever do anything that you would be ashamed of.’ If we all followed that, I think we’d have a better world than we do now,” he said. “It’s a big job to try to influence the way the global society thinks, especially when it comes to the age-old glorification of war. But he set a good example and continues to set a good example.”

“He’s easily the most extraordinary living person on the planet,” Avrich said. When he showed Ferencz the film for the first time, “[Ferencz] wept and put his hand on my hand and said, ‘This is all I can ever ask for.’ I realized at that point if no one ever saw the film, it didn’t matter to me. Ben had been alive to see it and I was satiated.”

The Toronto-based filmmaker, also a director of live specials, award shows and concerts, and stage-to-screen adaptations of Shakespeare plays at Ontario’s Stratford Festival, grew up in a kosher home in Montreal. “I’m not a religious person today but I’m passionate about my Jewish faith and heritage,” he said. He has been to Israel several times and hopes to screen “Prosecuting Evil” there at Yad Vashem. He’s also working to get it shown in U.S. schools, particularly non-Jewish ones.  

Avrich, whose credits include films about Winston Churchill, Lew Wasserman and Harvey Weinstein, is currently working on documentaries about an art forgery case and producer-composer David Foster. 

“I have no interest in making money on [‘Prosecuting Evil’],” Avrich said. “I want to see it get to the widest audience possible.”


“Prosecuting Evil” opens March 1 at Laemmle’s Music Hall.

Don’t Give J Street a Free Pass on Anti-Semitism

Rep. Ilhan Omar Photo from Flickr.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has been widely condemned — including by the leaders of her own party — for her recent promotion of anti-Semitic tropes on Jewish control over finances and government.

It’s encouraging to see Democrats put politics aside for a moment and call out anti-Semitism within their ranks. It is time for the Jewish community to hold its fellow Jews accountable when they use the same rhetoric and tactics often deployed by anti-Semites.

You might ask: is it even possible for Jews to traffic in anti-Semitism? The answer can be found in the latest project of J Street, the self-identified “proIsrael, propeace” Jewish lobby group.

New evidence shows how the statements and activities of J Street U, the organization’s campus arm, were seemingly closely coordinated and virtually identical to those of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has long been recognized as a leading purveyor of campus anti-Semitism. (For years, we’ve already known that although J Street states that it opposes the anti-Israel BDS movement, J Street U co-sponsors campus events with pro-BDS organizations like SJP).

At the University of Vermont (UVM) this month and on the same day, J Street and SJP each issued statements criticizing UVM Hillel for accepting funding from the Maccabee Task Force (MTF). Both groups falsely accused MTF and Hillel of suppressing “Palestinian voices,” while alleging that MTF-Hillel partnerships create “an unsafe environment” (SJP) and “unnecessary divides” (J Street).

J Street took its attack even further, using anti-Semitic tropes in its attacks on MTF’s primary funder, Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson. J Street U’s national Twitter account described Adelson as MTF’s “bankroller.” On Instagram, J Street U’s UVM chapter replaced the word “truth” with “money” in MTF Executive Director David Brog’s quote, “The truth is on our side.”

The anti-Semitic trope voiced by J Street U’s social media posts is unmistakable. It’s the same canard that Omar promoted when she tweeted that support for Israel in Congress is “all about the Benjamins.” In J Street U’s worldview, support for Israel on campus is also all about the Benjamins — the Benjamins of a Jewish philanthropist, Adelson.

We must call out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever we see it and no matter who the speaker is. Groups like J Street U that claim to represent the interests of the Jewish community cannot get a free pass for crossing the line from legitimate criticism to slander and anti-Semitism.

Ultimately, the haters will hate, and we can’t censor them. But it all comes down to how we respond. In the U.K., eight Labour members recently quit the party over the culture of anti-Semitism perpetuated by its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. That’s what standing up to anti-Semitism looks like. It’s also what meaningful self-reflection looks like — understanding that a plague exists within your own ranks and that you have no other option but to completely dissociate yourself from it.  

Following the example of those eight Labour members, Democratic leaders in the U.S. should stand up to anti-Semitism by removing Omar from her position on the House Foreign Relations Committee.

When it comes to J Street’s anti-Semitic activity on social media, the absolute minimum standard we should expect from fellow Jewish communal organizations and activists (including progressive ones) is to disavow the lobby group once and for all.

Why does J Street feel the need to attack Adelson, a fellow Jewish activist whose philanthropy includes funding young people’s trips to Israel, cancer research and Israel’s first mission to the moon? Why is accepting donations from Adelson any different than the funding J Street receives from George Soros?

The same progressives, who absurdly came to the defense of Soros when he was criticized about his funding of the BDS movement, should likewise condemn the calling out of Adelson.  

It was already clear that J Street isn’t the “pro-Israel” organization that it claims to be. Now, by trafficking in tropes on Jews and financial control, J Street’s rhetoric has crossed the line from anti-Israel to anti-Semitic.

Let’s not give J Street a free pass for it.


Brooke Goldstein is the Executive Director of The Lawfare Project.

Elderly Jewish Man Assaulted in London

Photo from Flickr.

A 69-year-old Jewish man was assaulted on the afternoon Feb. 26 in the London Borough of Islington, according to the Islington Gazette.

The man, who has not been publicly identified, was reportedly standing at the Highbury Corner roundabout when the assailant asked him if he was Jewish. The assailant then repeatedly punched him.

Eyewitness Marian Kennedy told the Gazette, “The old man wasn’t aggressive. He was just taking the blows. He kept going: ‘Please stop.’ Blood was pouring from the old man’s mouth and his body must have taken a lot of blows. The attacker ran off very fast. He was manic.”

The victim’s injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

A 44-year-old man, who has not been publicly identified, was arrested on Feb. 27 in connection with the attack.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “#AntiSemitism overseas continues to rise & we cannot allow this to go on. We stand with the UK Jewish community & everyone fighting against this #hate.”

An organization called Stand Up to Racism is holding an anti-racist vigil and protest in London’s Highbury district on the evening of Feb. 27 in response to the attack.

Serious Semite: Brexit Blues

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leads his colleagues to the unveiling of the statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett on Parliament Square, in London, Britain, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) on March 29 and could enter its worst period of economic turmoil in decades. As an English Jew, I’m very concerned. The Conservative government might be forced into a general election if Brexit plans fail; the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, could win power; and Britain could have its first prime minister who is regularly and openly accused of anti-Semitism. Seven members of Parliament (MP) made the bold move of leaving the parliamentary Labour Party, and one of those departing, Jewish MP Luciana Berger, said Labour has become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

On March 29, Article 50 will be activated, allowing a member state to leave the EU. There will be severe implications if Britain fails to strike a deal and faces the “no -deal Brexit.” British voters, who approved the referendum to withdraw from the EU in June 2016, might have created the worst constitutional crisis in the U.K. for centuries.

Divorces are rarely easy. The EU has offered what it sees as the best terms, but some think that Europe is like a jilted lover, saying “Fine! You are leaving me. No, I won’t discuss who keeps the puppy, the vintage art we bought on vacation, or the Vitamix. Go on now, go! Walk out the door!”

Except we’re not discussing puppies, but borders, trade deals and workers.
What happens to the estimated 300,000 French people living in the U.K., or 153,000 Brits in France? How will Germany sell BMWs in Britain, or French winemakers get bottles to English markets? Today, I can get on a train from London to Paris on a visa-free U.K. passport, but what about tomorrow?

A no-deal Brexit would spark confusion. There would need to be some kind of customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, after 100 years of peace processes that removed walls between the two countries. Yet Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland is part of the EU, so if there is no border, then the EU has a back door entry to Britain. This threatens British sovereignty on its own land. 

If Britain stops Brexit or calls another referendum, it undermines the U.K. democratic process because the voters already approved Brexit. There is also the strange situation where the prime minister, who voted to remain in the EU, is now responsible for engineering Britain’s exit from the EU. 

“The EU has offered what it sees as the best terms, but some think that Europe is like a jilted lover.”

What if Scotland holds another referendum to leave Great Britain and rejoin the EU? Will Braveheart’s descendants build a wall?

Corbyn is the problem for British Jews.In the past, I was reluctant to call Corbyn a raging anti-Semite, reasoning that he is an old-school Marxist who dislikes Israel because it is a nation state, and Marxists don’t like nation states.

Corbyn is reminiscent of the “I am not anti-Semitic because some of my best friends are Jews” approach. He represents the new strain of anti-Semitism, typified by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that has spawned sickening “apartheid walls” on California college campuses.

There is a difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and disproportionate criticism. One is fair, the other is anti-Semitic. Why not talk more about Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Libya? I won’t play the “Jewish victim” card, but this is different. Enough is enough.

If May is ousted then Britain’s best new prime minister option might be Boris Johnson, a boisterous, says-what-he-thinks, womanizing politician with unkempt blond hair. Sound familiar? I look forward to the entertainment value of “The Trump and Johnson Variety Show.” Why not have a fun distraction while Rome burns?

It is possible that Anglo-Jewry will be safe from Corbyn. Brexit will take place a few weeks before Passover, and as Jews, we know that miracles can happen.


Marcus J Freed is a Los Angeles-based actor.

Intersectionality: The New Caste System

Photo from Pexels

Making sense of today’s oddities might be easier if one could put them in the context of 19th-century romantic novels, which depict that era’s social mores of class and caste, and the tragedies that befall those who take them all too seriously.

The rigid social classes of the 1800s have been replaced with an equally rigid system of “intersectionality,” whereby a person’s power and privilege are determined by the amount of melanin in their skin. Those on the lower rungs of the new caste system must adhere to intersectional ideology in order to compensate for being born with the “wrong” skin color. Strict adherence results in high-society acceptance and a scar-free reputation. A person with high melanin tones is encouraged to opine about any subject — unless their views fall outside accepted dogma.

Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor, is accused of taking these new rules too seriously by falsely reporting himself as the victim of a racially motivated attack. Apparently, no one told him there are still lines that can’t be crossed. And really, why would he think there would be? He only took intersectionality to its logical conclusion.

Meanwhile, this new era’s tragicomedies are hitting Jews who are desperate to fit in. Despite the melanin in our skin, we are constantly being told that we are white, white, WHITE! As such, we must take our place in the back of the room, at a separate table, in constant repentance. We are told we have no say in anything, even — especially! — if the subject is anti-Semitism. We are encouraged to malign one another as viciously as possible. Malign a fellow Jew, gain a status point. 

“The whole point of suddenly making Jews white, white, WHITE is that we are then incapable of being targets of racism.”

It’s not surprising that such attitudes have contributed to soaring increases in reports of anti-Semitism. Yes, it is illegal in the intersectional guidebook to make a connection between the new caste system and anti-Semitism. After all, the whole point of suddenly making Jews white, white, WHITE is that we are then incapable of being targets of racism.

I know I will be duly punished for this column, both by my fellow Jews (eager to score a week’s worth of status points) and non-Jews (eager to be, well, anti-Semites). But it’s hard to look at the anti-Semitic incidents in New York City alone — reaching almost 50 in less than two months — and not come to this conclusion. 

Perhaps the saddest part of this intersectional nightmare is how it threatens to take us back to a less-perfect time. My son and his friends are living Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. They gather at school or in Central Park, unaffected by one another’s skin color or ethnicity. The other day, as I watched them playing football with two boys from Mexico, I kept thinking of the film “The Perfect Game,” about a group of Mexican boys in the 1950s who struggled against racism when they came to the United States to play baseball. 

We have come so far since the ’50s, and yet intersectionalists are desperate to take us back. Why? I can only guess. But perhaps they need to revisit what real racism was so they can understand the horrific damage they’re doing right now.

Regardless, as Jews — because we’re Jews — we need to end this intersectional farce. As New York Times columnist Bari Weiss said during a recent speaking engagement at a Manhattan synagogue, Jews on the left no longer have the luxury of staying silent. Just as important, we need to regain pride in our heritage and our values that have brought so much light into the world. “We are used to being powerless,” Weiss said. “We now need to learn how to use our power — to create a Judaism of affirmation. This will light a fire in every Jewish soul.”

And if it doesn’t, Weiss warned with a reference to anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn, who has been gaining power as the leader of Britain’s Labor Party: “A slow, insidious Corbynism is coming to America.”


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

LA Mayor’s Office: Downtown Mural ‘Shameful Act of Anti-Semitism’

Screenshot from Facebook.

A mural in downtown Los Angeles is a “shameful act of anti-Semitism,” according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

The Journal’s Ryan Torok previously reported, that the mural on Vortex, the multi-use community center, depicts a grim reaper adorned in an American flag with Jewish Stars of David holding a dead baby and cradling a missile.

The image went viral on social media on Feb. 25.

Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It's wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion. Signed, Some confused and concerned community members

Posted by Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party on Monday, February 25, 2019

In a statement to the Journal, Alex Comisar, the press secretary for Garcetti’s office, said, “This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism. Imagery like this should have no place in our city.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Los Angeles chapter called for the mural to be taken down. “For a venue that purports to welcome the community, the Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs and killing babies,” ADL LA tweeted.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal the mural is “straight out of Der Sturmer,” (the anti-Semitic tabloid that published Nazi propaganda from the 1920s to the end of World War II).

“It depicts Israel as a devil taking in a vortex of babies, obviously meaning attacking innocents,” Cooper said.  “You think about what the message is, it’s real simple: if Zionists, Israel, are the devil, and they’re killing innocent babies and spreading war and terror, what do you against such people? You take them out.”

Cooper called for the mural to be taken down. “How dare [the Vortex] allow this kind of activity on a public street in the city that’s home to the second largest Jewish community in the world?” Cooper said. “It’s an absolute outrage.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, said in a statement, “There must be no place for imagery promoting blood libels and racist conspiracy theories about Jews or any other group for that matter.”

Jeff Norman, a representative for The Vortex, told Torok in an email that the mural was painted as part of the “the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago.” Norman added that the mural was an example of “free expression” and the artist “did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message.”

“We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it,” Norman said. “We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

Cooper said in a statement, “Spare us the artistic freedom mantra – Vortex would never allow the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) or Nazis access to their facility.”

A Los Angeles artist known as Vyal Reyes appeared to take credit for the mural on his Instagram account in January 2018, when he wrote, “Same as it ever was….. #tbt A piece influenced by my trip to Palestine some years back, still running … #tbt#whocontrolsamerica #peopleoverprofit”

Screenshot from Instagram.

He also set the mural as his Facebook profile picture in July 2014:

Screenshot from Facebook.

Reyes told the Journal in an email that he isn’t anti-Semitic and that he intended the mural to be “critical of the US and it’s increasing focus on war.”

“That particular neighborhood that the mural was painted in was in worse shape at the time and homeless people lived all around there,” Reyes said. “It seemed to me at the time that the US was more into funding war than helping its homeless…. yes even at that time the US was funding massive amounts of money to Israel as they still are. That’s not anti-Semitic that’s just a fact.”

Reyes added, “It’s unfortunate that I can’t see through everyone’s eyes and some were offended by the piece.”

UPDATE: City Councilman Paul Koretz said in a statement to the Journal, “I strongly condemn the despicable anti-Semitic mural located at The Vortex.  Its symbolism clearly promotes hate and could be intended to incite violence.  Such artwork promoting clear hate and racism belongs in the same category as hate speech and has no place in the City of Los Angeles. If there is any way to have this abomination removed, I will work to see that done as soon as possible.”

Downtown Mural Prompts Concern of Anti-Semitism

Mural at the Vortex in downtown L.A. Courtesy of Facebook

UPDATE: 3:54 p.m. on Feb. 26:

Jeff Norman, a representative of the Vortex, where a mural featuring Stars of David has caused consternation in the Jewish community, has defended the artist’s right to free expression and has invited anybody with a different message to paint a mural alongside the current one on the warehouse building in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Vortex stands for free expression,” Norman said in an email. “The artist whose mural includes the Star of David (created for the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago) did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it. We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

Reported earlier on Feb. 26:

The mural depicting anti-Semitic imagery appears to have been defaced since a photograph of it was shared on Feb. 25 on social media. Artists 4 Israel shared the following photograph of the mural, showing that someone spray-painted the words, “No Place for Hate,” over the mural:

Defaced mural. Courtesy of Artists 4 Israel

Asked who was responsible for defacing the mural, Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists for Israel, said he did not have any comment.

The mural appears to have been painted in 2011 for an art show called “vsWar.” The Journal obtained the following image through social media:

The painting of the mural in 2011. Courtesy of endlesscanvas.com

The downtown mural is causing concern among Los Angeles organizations and leaders for its depiction of a grim reaper wrapped inside an American flag emblazoned with Jewish stars. The figure appears to be dangling a dead baby from its grip. Other imagery includes a war rocket, snakes and what looks like a pile of money.

The Los Angeles artist Vyal painted the mural. He said on his Instagram page in 2018 that it was inspired by a trip he had taken “to Palestine some years back.”

The mural appears on the exterior wall of the Vortex, a performance space in an industrial neighborhood downtown.

Organizations that have expressed concern about the mural’s imagery include Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party, which shared a post on Facebook about it on Feb. 25.

“Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It’s wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion,” the organization said in the post, while tagging the Vortex’s Facebook page. “Signed, Some confused and concerned community members.”

Information about how long the mural has been up was not immediately available.

On Feb. 25, a Facebook user shared a photograph of the mural on his page. He said someone he knew had taken a photograph of the mural on Saturday, two days earlier.

The Vortex, meanwhile, describes itself as an independent community center that gives nonprofits access to an affordable performance space, according to its website.

This story is developing.

Former Nixon V.P. Asked Saudis for Financial Support to Fight ‘Zionists’

Photo from Flickr.

A new report from MSNBC discovered that former Vice President Spiro Agnew asked the Saudis for money to combat “Zionists” in America in 1980.

Agnew wrote in a telegram to then-Saudi Crown Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, “the Zionists have orchestrated a well-organized attack on me to use lawsuits to bleed me of my resources to continue my effort to inform the American people of their control of the media and other influential sectors of American society… I’ve taken every opportunity to speak out against the catastrophic U.S. Policies regarding Israel.”

“This has spurred my Zionists enemies on to greater efforts,” Agnew continued. “I need desperately your financial support so that I can continue to fight.”

Agnew also accused Zionists of knowing that he “would never agree to the continuance of the unfair and disastrous favoring of Israel and they had to get me out of office there so that I would not succeed [President Richard] Nixon.”

The former vice president reportedly received at least $100,000 from the Saudis.

Agnew, who died in 1996, resigned from his position as vice president in 1973 when the Department of Justice alleged that he had a history of political corruption, including accepting bribes. Agnew plead no contest to allegations of tax evasion.

Columnist William Safire wrote in a 1976 New York Times op-ed that Agnew was initially a supporter of Israel, but that changed when he became engulfed in the corruption scandal.

“Former Agnew staffers tell me his anti‐Semitic cracks first began when the Jewish businessmen he had known in Baltimore County sought immunity by turning state’s evidence against him,” Safire wrote. “He became embittered at a handful of Jews, which might well have turned him against Jews in general.”

He added later in his column, “Hating individual Jews does not make you a bigot. Being anti‐Israel does not make you a bigot. But undertaking a crusade to persuade the American people that they are being brainwashed and manipulated by a cabal of Jews who sit astride most of the channels of communication, and thereby encouraging an irrational hatred of Jews—that makes you a bigot.”

WATCH: SSI Debates Anti-Israel Students on West Coast College Campuses

Screenshot from YouTube.

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) released a video on Feb. 17 documenting various man-on-the-street style debates with students on West Coast college campuses.

SSI President Ilan Sinelnikov, Director and Strategic Partnerships Elan Chargo and founder of SSI Columbia Rudy Rochman went to UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State University, University of Washington, University of Oregon and Portland State University as part of their 2018 West Coast Van Campaign to seek a dialogue with students on Israel and Zionism.

One part of the video shows a student telling Rochman that the Israeli flag is offensive because it suggests “that you are pro-Israeli government.”

“No, you’re pro-Israeli people,” Rochman replied. “It’s an actual people.”

The student replied that others may see it differently, prompting Rochman to say, “It’s the wrong way to take it. The same way I would say to an Israeli that it’s wrong for you to see a Palestinian flag or to meet someone who’s a Palestinian and directly assume that they’re bad.”

Another student thought Zionism meant “endorsing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”; when Rochman explained that Zionism means that “the Jewish people have a right to exist,” the student said, “You’re gonna feel for those people [Palestinians] because they have less. They’re dying more, at least what it seems to look like from everything that the media shows.”

“There’s no future without Palestinians, and there’s no future about Israelis,” Rochman said.

On one campus, a man started yelling at Rochman for supporting “genocide” for wearing a T-shirt that had the word “Israel” on it. When Rochman asked the man if Palestinians have ever murdered Jews, the man denied it.

“They kill colonizers, that’s who they kill!” the man said.

At another campus, a student asks Rochman why SSI is featuring a sign associating Palestinians with “terrorist salaries.”

“The Palestinian Authority is actually paying people who are going and killing Jews,” Rochman replied. “We need to be able to condemn that.”

The student argued that “the Israel Authority is doing that, too,” prompting Rochman to say, “They’re not paying anybody to kill. If an Israeli citizens goes and kills a Palestinian, they are jailed and they are condemned by the entire society.”

Other students admitted that they didn’t know much about Israel or Zionism and that groups like SSI are needed to educate the student populace about it.

“There is an ideological warfare on Israel on campus,” Sinelnikov said at the end of the video. “The bias, the misinformation and the lies are outrageous. And for that reason, Students Supporting Israel engaged. We want you not just to support Israel from your home, but we want you to take your pride and support to Israel to campus.”