November 21, 2018

Three Swastikas Found on Cornell in Nine Days

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A total of three swastikas have been found on Cornell University’s campus in a span of nine days, according to the Cornell Daily Sun.

The first swastika was found on a whiteboard at Court-Kay-Bauer Hall on Nov. 10; the second was found at Clara Dickson Hall on Nov. 14.

On Monday, the third swastika was found in the snow in front of Mews Hall, close to Appel Commons.

Avi Simon, a Jewish student who first noticed the swastika in the snow, told the Sun, “These are the symbols they [the alt-right] use in my experience, and it means a target toward all people of color, towards Jews, toward members of the LGBTQ community.”

Ryan Lombardi, the vice president for student and campus life at Cornell, expressed “revulsion” at the swastikas in a Tuesday statement.

“I vehemently denounce such acts, which are clearly intended to intimidate members of our community,” Lombardi said. “The swastika has historically been – and continues to be – used as a symbol of intolerance, terror and repression against vulnerable communities.”

Lombardi added that a “support gathering” would be held after Thanksgiving for community members to address the issue.

“I specifically want to acknowledge and affirm our support for the Jewish members of our community who have faced the impact of anti-Semitism nationally and, unfortunately, now locally as well,” Lombardi said. “It is our shared responsibility to denounce such cowardly acts.”

However, the university has been criticized over its response to the swastikas. The Sun argued in a Tuesday editorial that the university’s response to the swastika was too slow, prompting “an increase in confusion and worry among students.”

“While we appreciate the sentiment in VP Ryan Lombardi’s statement that was eventually emailed to students shortly before noon today, Cornell must understand that in this fast-paced world, it must move more quickly and assertively,” the editorial read. “It took five days and a third swastika for a statement to be released. Were the first two swastikas not worthy enough of recognition?”

The editorial added that Lombardi’s statement “said next to nothing about finding those responsible and holding them to account.”

“There was not even a sentence asking anyone with relevant information to come forward to help in the investigation,” the editorial concluded. “Denouncements are fine and good, but unless they are followed by action, they are not worth the digital ink in which they are printed.”

When asked by the Journal about the editorial, a university spokesperson simply pointed to Lombardi’s statement from earlier in the day.

Women’s March Founder Calls on Sarsour, Others to Step Down Over Anti-Semitism

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Teresa Shook, the founder of the Women’s March, called on Linda Sarsour and other Women’s March leaders to step down for allowing anti-Semitism to infect the movement.

Shook wrote in a Monday Facebook post that “Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course” of being an inclusive movement.

“They have allowed anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs,” Shook wrote. “I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent.”

Shook added that she will be working “to support grassroots, decentralized leadership promoting a safe, worldwide community devoid of hate speech, bigotry and racism” back to the Women’s March.

The Women’s March responded on their Facebook page by thanking Shook for starting the Women’s March and then criticizing her post as irresponsible.

“We are imperfect,” the post read. “We don’t know everything and we have caused harm. At times we have responded with hurt. But we are committed to learning. We will continue to work through the good and the bad, the impact and the harm – of building an intersectional movement that our daughters, and our daughters’ daughters, can be proud of.”

The post concluded, “We are grateful to people who HAVE been with us for the past two years, wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of what we are trying to build. Our ongoing work speaks for itself. That’s our focus, not armchair critiques from those who want take credit from our labor.”

Siamak Kordestani, assistant director of the American Jewish Committee – Los Angeles, said in a statement to the Journal, “AJC commends Teresa Shook for bringing much-needed national attention to some of the Women’s March co-chairs’ embrace of hateful leaders and ideas.”

“It is unconscionable that Tamika Mallory praises Louis Farrakhan, who spews anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT rhetoric,” Kordestani said. “It is deplorable that Linda Sarsour uses anti-Semitic tropes to malign progressives who oppose BDS. All Americans should unite against this hate.”

The Zioness Movement also praised Shook’s Facebook post in a statement.

“Through their action and inaction, these leaders have demonized and marginalized members of the Jewish community, LBGTQIA community, and other groups,” the statement read. “Their exclusionary behavior is not only harmful to those of us who have been feeling alienated––it is harmful to all the marginalized communities we want to fight for. Anyone who cares about the advancement of social, racial, economic and gender justice should welcome all committed activists to the fight, not just some.”

Similarly, Susan George, founding member of the Progressive Zionists of California Democratic Party, said in a statement sent to the Journal, “Sadly, the Women’s March organizers continue to betray progressive ideals by not decisively repudiating anti-Semitism and homophobia. It’s amazing to see the rising avalanche of support for Jews and the LBGTQ community. We are so encouraged by the activism of local, community, and state marches to reject bigotry and really embrace intersectional ideals.”

The Women’s March leaders have been criticized over their ties to notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan; Sarsour has been criticized for accusing pro-Israel progressive of dual loyalty to Israel and reportedly saying that Israelis shouldn’t be humanized.

Airbnb to Stop Providing Services to Judea, Samaria

Airbnb announced on Nov. 19 that they will no longer put up listings from Judea and Samaria on their website.

In a statement, the organization wrote that they had previously been operating in the area “as allowed by law.”

After talking to various legal experts, Airbnb decided to “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“This is a controversial issue,” the statement read. “There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Airbnb has deep respect for those views. Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”

Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, told Reuters, “When they [Airbnb] make such a decision, they get involved with politics, which … is going to defeat the actual purpose of the enterprise itself,” pointing out that the company lauds itself for bringing people together.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper called Airbnb’s decision an act of “double standard anti-Semitism.”

“We take note that Airbnb has no problem doing business in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, which names schools and shopping centers in honor of mass murderers who have killed innocent civilians and have a ‘pay to slay’ policy when it comes to killing Jews,” Hier and Cooper said in a statement. “We don’t expect Airbnb to be geo-political experts, but today’s draconian and unjust move, which only empowers extremists and terrorists, merits only one response—taking our community’s business elsewhere.”

What Is SJP Hiding?

Photo from Wikipedia.

Among the criticisms of the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference this weekend at UCLA has been their policy of selective exclusion.

Apparently, this policy extends to certain journalists, as I was repeatedly rejected by SJP from covering their conference.

I contacted them on Sept. 26 on the possibility of covering the conference; on Oct. 12 they sent me a link to apply for the conference. Those that get a reply within a couple of days after sending in the application are allowed in; no replies mean that you didn’t.

I never got a reply. I have since followed up with them twice: once last Friday, and again on Wednesday this past week. Still no response. A prominent Jewish leader on campus told me the conference is “hermetically sealed.”

My question: Why is SJP being so secretive about a conference they have proudly promoted with such colorful materials? What are they hiding?

They have been accused by numerous groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and the Anti Defamation League, of promoting anti-Semitism and maligning the Jewish state. If these accusations are not accurate or overblown, why not allow people to come see for themselves?

From my end, I would have abided by the policies of the conference and not taken any pictures or recordings. If SJP is afraid of a disruption, isn’t that what security is for? Wouldn’t a disruption at their conference actually garner sympathy for them, especially after they’ve been accused of the May disruption at a Students Supporting Israel event?

My concern is that such secrecy only fuels the criticism that SJP is indeed anti-Semitic and harbors sympathy toward terror groups like Hamas.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that even the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on UCLA to cancel the conference.

In any event, for all those who were refused entry, there will be two counter-events on Sunday at UCLA: Yad Yamin’s at 10 a.m., and then Bruins for Israel’s celebration of Israel from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. I will be at both, and you should be there, too.

Sarsour Accuses Anti-BDS Progressives of Having ‘Allegiance to Israel’

Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour accused progressives who were critical of newly elected congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement of having “allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.”

As the Journal has previously reported, Omar’s campaign announced her support for the BDS movement on Monday after stating earlier in the campaign that she was opposed to it. Sarsour expressed her support for Omar in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“She’s being attacked for saying that she supports BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) and the right for people to engage in constitutionally protected freedoms,” Sarsour wrote. “This is not only coming from the right-wing but folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.”

Sarsour added, “You don’t have to support BDS and have every right not to but we cannot stand by idly while a brave Black Muslim American woman is targeted for saying she will uphold the constitution of the United States of America as a member of the US Congress.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted that Sarsour used “one of the oldest and most pernicious anti-Semitic tropes” in her Facebook post:

Similarly, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg tweeted:

Sarsour also reportedly said in September that Israelis shouldn’t be humanized.

Actresses Debra Messing and Alyssa Milano are among the notable names who have said that they will not participate in the Women’s March due to Sarsour and other Women’s March leaders’ ties to noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.

Kentucky Becomes 26th State to Adopt Anti-BDS Policy

Kentucky became the 26th state to prevent their state government from entering into contracts with companies that engage in boycotts of Israel.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed the executive order barring the Israel boycotts on Thursday; the executive order states that “Israel is a critical and invaluable ally” that is singled out by “a boycott that threatens its sovereignty and security.”

The executive order also calls the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement discriminatory that “serves to inflame conflict” and lauds the nearly $85 million in goods and services that trade with Israel provides the state of Kentucky.

“The Commonwealth of Kentucky should take action to protect its trade relationships, and thereby the welfare of its citizens and economy, and to renounce restrictive trade practices based upon discrimination, such as the BDS movement,” the executive order states.

Bevin said in a statement, “We will not allow state resources to benefit entities that intentionally engage in discriminatory practices to harm the sovereignty and economic prosperity of any ally nation.”

“Today’s executive order makes it clear that Kentucky condemns the BDS movement and that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friend, Israel,” Bevin added.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in front of the state capitol that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement because it treats “the Jewish people by a different standard than you treat other people around the world.”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement sent to the Journal via email, “The fact that over half the states have adopted anti-BDS legislation is a blow to the bigoted BDS campaign. States and the American people are sending a clear message: doing business with companies which engage in discriminatory conduct against the only Jewish state in the world which is also an American ally and trading partner is not in our best interests, not in Israel’s interests and certainly not in the interest of peace.”

“We welcome the Bluegrass state’s partnership with Israel, the Blue Star state,” Rothstein added.

Women’s March Denver Condemns National Women’s March Leadership Over Farrakhan Ties

The Women’s March Denver chapter issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the national Women’s March leadership over their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The Denver chapter, which goes by the name Womxn’s March to show solidarity with “cis, transgender and non-binary individuals,” wrote that they condemn “anti-Semitism and the National Women’s March leadership team’s failure to clearly disassociate from anti-Semitic public figures. “

“Womxn’s March Denver is an independent VOLUNTEER grassroots team of local Colorado women,” they continued. “We are not affiliated with the national Women’s March organization. We oppose all forms of oppression and operate from an intersectional lens. We stand in solidarity with all marginalized communities and ask that those communities stand together with us against oppression in all its forms.”

Amanda Berman, co-founder of the Zioness Movement, told the Journal in an emailed statement, “Zioness applauds the Women’s March in Denver for unequivocally denouncing Women’s March leaders for their hateful rhetoric and their continued association with bigots and anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan. We are grateful for their principled commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, including within the national Women’s March organization, even when that stance puts them at odd with some self-appointed organizers of the movement.”

“Zioness knows that we, as committed progressives and unabashed Zionists, do not have to check any part of our identity at the door in order to show up to fight for women’s issues in America––and we’re thrilled that Denver leaders know it too,” Berman added. “Zioness will be organizing a significant presence at the next Women’s March in Denver and from coast-to-coast, engaging our more than 18 chapters and thousands of participants. As part of this work, Zioness will be hosting a series of pre-march ‘teach-ins” that bring light to the issues facing Jewish women in a time of skyrocketing anti-Semitism.’”

Actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing have both said that they will not participate in the Women’s March because their leaders have been unwilling to condemn Farrakhan.

The national Women’s March issued the following statement regarding Farrakhan on Nov. 8:

Rethinking Jews’ Place in America

Photo from Twitter.

Unlike any other anti-Semitic incident, the Tree of Life Congregation tragedy has destroyed American Jews’ assumptions about our place in American society. We believed that deadly acts of anti-Semitism had been relegated to another era, only to see the rebirth of violent hate in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and beyond. Now, caught up in a suddenly tense and hostile political climate, America’s Jewish community is struggling to find its political voice. 

As a community, we hold to a series of core beliefs. We envision our Judaism and our Americanism to be in consort with each other. We believe each generation builds upon the last. And we see the pursuit of these value propositions advancing the perfectibility of humankind. 

Following World War II, globalism would redefine America’s place in the world. As a central player in promoting regional models of collective action, the United States would form military alliances and economic trade arrangements designed to connect this nation with the world. The genius of the Marshall Plan and the success of NATO had symbolized the post-war American model of global engagement. Many of us also became globalists. We asserted our role in advocating for human rights on the world stage, beginning with Soviet Jewry and extending to endangered communities well beyond the Jewish world.

Because of our economic and social standing, and the individual and collective achievements of Jews, we have taken pride that Jewish Americans disproportionately contribute to this nation’s cultural messaging, imprinting its social behaviors and helping to frame its political conversations.

The Trump presidency has brought about a fundamentally disruptive moment in this nation’s political culture. Not only are we experiencing strikingly different policy options and directions, but the current cultural artifacts of politics — namely how this president operates — dramatically challenge the existing norms of political behavior and action. As our society is shifting from a period of American liberalism to political populism, deep fissures are dividing Americans in general and Jews in particular. Jewish political differences may never have been more pronounced than they are today, as Jews debate and disagree over how to define their vision for America and their own self-interests.

Amid this fundamental political sea change that appears to be underway, with new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst. After decades of being seen as political outsiders, Jews in recent times have become defined as part of the United States’ power class — or, within some circles, the “oppressor class.” On the left, political forces embrace the “intersectionality” movement and interject their anti-Zionist convictions as they dismiss Jews as privileged white political actors. By embracing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the political left has targeted Israel as a strategic gateway to its war on the Jews. On the political right, we see patterns of both blatant and subtle anti-Semitism. The liberal Jewish establishment is blamed for promoting “anti-white policies” such as immigration and diversity. The alt-right and others see egalitarianism, globalism and multiculturalism as Jewish-inspired, liberal initiatives that run counter to American nationalist norms and values. 

“With new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst.”

A debate has arisen within the Jewish community over which of these political assaults, from the right or the left, should be considered more potentially damaging to America’s Jews and our interests. In arguing such questions, advocates seek to minimize the impact of one side over the other, suggesting that there are degrees to the new politics of hate, as if anti-Jewish behavior is somehow less threatening or damaging from one political extreme than another.

Are the political climate and social fabric of this society coming undone, and in the process are Jews finding themselves increasingly disconnected from the changing mores and values that define the changing American character? What are the contributing ingredients to this new condition?

Pittsburgh may have awakened us to this new and uncomfortable reality. The loss of historic memory and a devaluing of the past give credence to our opponents. The radicalization of our nation’s politics and the invention of political myths are contributing to this new political order. In an age when the rhetoric of hate has taken center stage, this must be seen as problematic to the Jewish condition. 

Today, there is a growing political uncertainty among some of us. The impact of the Pittsburgh attack represented more than an assault on individual Jews. It brought to light the question of our collective well-being. Many Jewish voters entered their voting booths on Nov. 6 still dealing with the aftermath of the most deadly anti-Semitic shooting in American history.

We need to remind ourselves that, historically, Jews have not fared well in political regimes built around extreme nationalism and hate rhetoric. Identity politics, which has become the mantra for some, may produce some short-term victories; but ultimately it must be seen as highly problematic for the Jewish community. 

The biggest potential story of 2018 may still be unfolding. In the aftermath of Trump’s remake of the Republican Party, where will prominent conservative thought leaders and writers such as Bret Stephens and Max Boot find a political home? Unhappy with their party’s white nationalistic rhetoric and anti-immigrant focus, what political pathways are ahead for Jewish Republicans who differ with the president? 

One needs to ask a similar question to Jewish Democrats who, in some cases, are increasingly concerned about the progressive wing of their party and, more pointedly, its anti-Israel, pro-BDS sentiments.

 Over time, are we likely to see a fundamental, political realignment involving disillusioned Jewish Republicans and Democrats? Where do American Jewish activists find a new political base in this uncertain climate?

In both real and symbolic ways, has Pittsburgh distorted and destroyed our assumptions about ourselves and our beliefs about America? We had understood this nation to represent a different proposition: here, anti-Semitism would have no space and we envisioned our Judaism in consort with our Americanism.

At this moment, we are a people in search of our political identity.

There is a heightened awareness among Jews of the growth of extremist expressions challenging not only the existing democratic norms of the nation but also how minority communities, including Jewish Americans, are being categorized and threatened. As we have seen, the fallout from this type of politics has also invaded today’s Jewish public space, where Jews are battling against one another.

Who today can speak to the collective priorities of American Jewry? A new and dangerous divide seems to have replaced the once robust voices of an energized polity. As this American Jewish journey unfolds, how we manage this moment represents a critical test about our character and credibility and our future roles as Americans.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. 

Pro-Israel Students File Complaint to Department of Education About SJP Vigil at Berkeley

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Pro-Israel students have filed a complaint to the Department of Education (DOE) regarding UC Berkeley’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter’s upcoming vigil equating the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

As the Journal has previously reported, Berkeley’s SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) are hosting a vigil on Nov. 22 that commemorates the 11 dead at the Pittsburgh shooting and three Gaza children who died in an Israeli strike. Attorney Joel Siegal, who is representing the pro-Israel students, wrote in a letter to the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that the vigil creates “a false moral equivalency.”

“The death of civilians in Gaza, an area in the world where there is military conflict and where civilian death is unfortunate but at times collateral to military operations, is a false equivalency,” Siegal wrote to OCR Civil Rights Attorney Alexis Turzan. “It is anti-Semitic.”

Siegal added that the vigil portrays “Israel as a barbarian and racist nation,” which falls under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism that was recently adopted by the DOE.

“This is clearly the purpose of the false moral equivalence created here on the UC Berkeley campus,” Siegal wrote. “It is anti-Semitic and creates a pervasive hostile environment for Jewish students on Campus.”

Siegal noted at the end of the letter that he will be meeting with Turzan on Nov. 16.

UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof told the Journal that the vigil currently doesn’t have a set location, meaning that if it takes place off campus, then the university is not responsible for it.

Siegal, however, told the Journal in a phone interview that it is irrelevant whether the vigil takes place on or off campus, citing the “Compton Cookout” incident in 2010 involving members of a UC San Diego fraternity off-campus that resulted in a 2012 settlement between the university and the Departments of Justice and Education as precedent.

The SJP vigil complaint is an amendment to an Oct. 22 complaint from students from the pro-Israel UC Berkeley group Tikvah, represented by Siegal and Neal Sher, calling on the DOE to investigate flyers that permeated campus blaming Jews for the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The complaint called for the DOE to determine if students were involved in the distribution of those flyers and to see how thoroughly the university investigated the manner.

Sher, the former head of the Office of Special Investigations in the Department of Justice, told the Journal in a phone interview that by equating the Pittsburgh shooting to Gaza, SJP is calling Israelis “mass murderers.”

“I think it requires a very strong response from the administration, and by that I mean they should be expelled,” Sher said. “It’s very simple: they expel fraternities in universities all over the country for hazing, for different violations of student codes, and inciting blatant anti-Semitism cannot be condoned.”

Sher added, “If there was a group on campus that was perpetuating all the disgusting tropes about the African-Americans or the homosexuals, how long do you think they would last on campus?”

This article has been updated.

UCLA Chancellor: SJP Conference Won’t Be Canceled

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced in a Nov. 12 Los Angeles Times op-ed that the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference on Nov. 16-18 will not be canceled despite sharp criticism from many in the community.

Block explained that even though there are concerns about anti-Semitic statements issued by members of SJP, they are bound by the First Amendment to allow all forms of speech to be spoken on campus.

“Preserving the right to speak about such issues does not validate the content of that speech,” Block wrote. “All too often affording a group their constitutional rights is falsely perceived as an institutional endorsement of their message.”

Block acknowledged that he disagrees with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that SJP supports, saying that anti-Israel rhetoric can turn “into hostility against the Jewish people.”

“Much of what will be said at that conference may be deeply objectionable — even personally hurtful — to those who believe that a complex conflict is being reduced to a one-sided caricature, or see a double standard that demonizes the world’s only Jewish state while other countries receive less condemnation for dreadful behavior,” Block wrote.

However, Block argued that SJP still has a legal right to host its conference at UCLA, even if they espouse anti-Semitic rhetoric.

On Nov. 6, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on UCLA to cancel the conference. City Councilman Paul Koretz told Block in a letter that he was “shocked and disappointed” that UCLA is allowing the conference to occur.

“Although UCLA has a responsibility to allow freedom of speech, our campuses should never become an environment where students of any origin are harassed, bullied, or prohibited from learning,” Koretz said.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal that Block “makes the compelling case for why Students for Justice in Palestine should not be allowed to run their national conference at UCLA” but then conflates the First Amendment with the gift of legitimacy from a major American institution.

“SJP students regularly and stridently mouth off against the Jewish State and their supporters on many campuses across America including UCLA. No one has attempted to block their right to be heard on the quad or in the halls of the University,” Cooper said. “But Chancellor Block, by green-lighting their national conference at a UC school, violates the spirit of the UC principles even outlined in the op/ed. What’s next? Antifa and Neo-Nazi conferences?”

Cooper added, “Make no mistake that SJP promotes and endorses violence against the largest Jewish community it the world.  There is no compelling reason why UCLA has to provide the space for their national gathering.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, said in an email to the Journal, “This is ‘viewpoint neutrality’ UCLA style.”

Pearl added: “When xenophobic Milos Yiannopolous requested to speak at UCLA, Chancellor Block wrote (paraphrased): I can’t stop you legally but be aware, you are not exactly welcome on this campus, you are in fact disgusting, your values clash with ours.

“When anti-Semitic-Zionophobic NSJP requested to speak at UCLA, Chancellor Block wrote (paraphrased): I can’t stop you legally, but I won’t stop you even if I could, here’s why, here’s why, here’s why.”

UCLA Hillel Executive Director Aaron Lerner told the Journal in an email that UCLA Hillel “appreciates the Chancellor’s concern.”

“When we first heard about the conference, Hillel immediately sought legal advice,” Lerner said. “Even our attorneys felt that UCLA would have no choice given SJP’s registered student group status. Going forward, however, universities need to clarify whether student groups aligned with hate groups such as Hamas have a legal right to be on campus. They might, but the matter requires further investigation.”

Lerner added, “In the meantime, the Chancellor has made his voice heard, and confirmed his opposition to BDS. That’s a win.”

UCLA Hillel Director: NSJP Turned UCLA Bruin Into ‘A Symbol of Anti-Semitism’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Aaron Lerner, the executive director of UCLA Hillel, wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Bruin that National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP)’s conference logo turned the UCLA Bruin into “a symbol of anti-Semitism.”

NSJP’s logo shows a bear playing with a Palestinian kite; the left half of the kite is shaped like Israel and is colored in red. NSJP has said that the bear is supposed to be a general California grizzly bear; others interpret the bear as the UCLA mascot, Joe Bruin.

Lerner argued that the kite “resembles actual petrol kite-bombs, which Hamas, a terrorist organization, launches into Israel to start fires and terrorize the population.”

“NSJP is openly broadcasting its solidarity with Hamas terrorists by co-opting UCLA’s cherished mascot in this fashion,” Lerner wrote. “Standing for Palestinian human rights is one thing; advocating for violence is another. This use of the university’s trademark should offend all Bruins, regardless of their political sympathies.”

Lerner added that several SJP leaders have uttered violent anti-Semitic statements such as “Kill all Jews.”

“The group now mocks our cherished symbol,” Lerner wrote. “Sure, a bear flying a Palestinian kite might not be perceived as a hateful message at face value. But the political context of the imagery – and the history it reminds us of – cannot be ignored.”

Lerner acknowledged that not all SJP members are anti-Semites and genuinely care about achieving peace in the region, but he encourages them to start a group that is independent of SJP.

“A hate group can’t advocate for human rights,” Lerner wrote. “But people who really care about Palestinians, Jews and the future of humanity in the region can still do important work without demonizing and attacking others.”

UCLA issued a cease-and-desist letter to NSJP regarding the logo; NSJP agreed to remove the UCLA name from the logo, although the logo remains intact in otherwise. The university seems to be fine with this modification.

The conference is set to take place on Nov. 16-18.

Ambassador Grenell Commemorates Kristallnacht Memorial on 80th Anniversary

United States Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell paid his respects at a memorial for Kristallnacht victims on Friday.

Grenell can be seen walking down Track 17, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported from Berlin to the Nazi concentration camps:

Grenell also tweeted out a video of a tribute to the Kristallnacht victims from the Central Council of Jews:

Friday marked the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass. The Nazis used the assassination of a member of the German embassy in Paris to incite mobs into attacking Jews and ransacking their businesses.

“At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned (and possibly as many as 2,000), almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps,” Jewish Virtual Library states.

Jews, Is Trump Responsible for Thousand Oaks Too?

Demonstrators at Chicago’s O’Hare airport protesting Donald Trump’s executive order on Jan. 29. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

(Looking at the outcome of a JStreet survey of Jewish voters)

 

I am not much impressed by the fact that J Street – the leftist Jewish lobby – endorsed so many candidates who made it into Congress. Supporting “128 winning candidates” is not that difficult when one knows well in advance that a Democratic victory is to be expected. However, I am impressed by something else: that so many Democratic candidates embrace the support of J Street. Ten years ago, some of them would hesitate, fearing to be tagged as not-pro-Israel-enough. That they no longer hesitate means that A. J Street succeeded in legitimizing its politics and B. that the Democratic Party is indeed changing its tune on Israel (in my view, not for the better).

Following the midterm election, J Street released its midterm survey of Jewish voters, a commendable exercise conducted after every election. This is a useful tool for understanding Jewish sentiments and political tendencies. Crosstabs are also available for everybody to look at.

The two main headlines produced by this survey were essentially:

Most Jews voted Democratic. No big deal.

Most Jews partially blame Trump for Pittsburgh. A very big deal.

 

A.

 

The wording of the question sets a premise: “How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place at the synagogue in Pittsburgh?” So – the question hints that there is responsibility that needs to be measured. Still, respondents could choose “not at all responsible” – and only 16% of them did. They could choose “not really responsible” and only 12% of them did. 72% picked “somewhat” (33%) or “very” (39%) responsible.

The implications of such assessments are profound. Most Jews in America believe that their president is partially responsible for the massacre of Jews in a synagogue. In my weekly print-edition article I explain what this means for Israel-Diaspora relations:

“American Jews feel that Israel is willing to throw them under the bus of anti-Semitism in exchange for the temporary political support of a bigoted president. Israeli Jews feel that American Jews are utilizing a tragedy for political purposes and thus alienating Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.”

With 72% of US Jews thinking Trump has responsibility for Pittsburgh – with a majority of Israelis considering Trump a true friend – no wonder that we look at each other with horror.

 

B.

 

I wonder what would happen had we asked Jews a similar question about this week’s shooting:

“How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place at the bar in Thousand Oaks?”

And then let’s try this one:

“How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place in a San Bernardino Christmas Party?”

Oh, he was not yet president at the time of San Bernardino? Sorry, erase that question.

 

C.

 

Amid the recurrent talk about a present danger of distancing, it is worth looking at the J Street question about emotional attachment to Israel for Jewish voters. So as not to stay in the dark, I decided to compare J Street 2018 to the Pew survey of Jews from 2013. The question is the same, the answer is, well, almost the same. And just to make sure you understand what we see here: there is no sign of significant decline in the emotional attachment of US Jews to Israel.

 

 

Want more of this good news? J Street inserted the following question to the survey: “Compared to 5-10 years ago, do you feel more positive, more negative, or about the same toward Israel?” The answer, all in all, is encouraging. There are more Jews who feel more positive about Israel, than Jews who feel more negative about Israel. And this is not me saying. It is J Street, for which the argument of distancing is a frequently used tool.

 


D.

 

The survey has many questions about the two-state solution – J Street’s raison-d’etre. The bottom line: US Jews support this solution. So why do I choose not to elaborate on these many questions? Two reasons. One, because there is nothing new, or counterintuitive to report. Two, because the proposed “solution” is currently unavailable and hence it does not much matter if US Jews do or do not support it.

Take just this one example. In the J Street survey, the premise for future agreement is that “the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and Israel recognizes the Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people”. Is there a Palestinian leader that’s willing to recognize Israel “as the nation-state of the Jewish people?” The answer is no. Not one with which Israel can negotiate. So, the premise is false, and hence the result insignificant (23% strongly support, 54% somewhat support).

E.

 

US Jews also support the nuclear deal with Iran (71% in this survey). They oppose settlements. They oppose Israel’s Orthodox domination. We know all of this.

But apropos Orthodox domination: It is quite striking to see that appreciation of US Jews for PM Netanyahu – the man who cancelled the Western Wall deal – is almost identical among Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews (53% and 48%). Appreciation of the Israeli PM has to do much more with political affiliation (Clinton voters vs. Trump voters) than with religious affiliation (Reform vs. Orthodox). The only religiously-defined group that stands out in its unappreciation of Netanyahu is the unaffiliated.

 

F.

 

The unaffiliated are also the least attached to Israel. So disliking Netanyahu goes hand in hand with not feeling much towards Israel, which goes hand in hand with not having connection with Jewish life.

Still, a notable difference in strong attachment to Israel (very attached) can be found when we look at Reform vs. Orthodox Jews (33%-52%) and synagogue attendance or lack of it (59%-20%).

In the next J Street survey, it’d be interesting to analyze how J Street supporters fall into these categories.

 

G.

Health care and gun violence were the top issues for Jews as they headed to the polls. The Jews voted as they usually do, only a little more so. In a GOP wave in 2010, less Jews voted Democratic, in a Democratic wave in 2018, more Jews voted Democratic.

 

 

And if you want to know why Jews were more Democratic this time, don’t look to the most progressive group. They voted Democratic when the country turned rightward and voted Democratic again this time. It is the more conservative Jews – Conservatives and Orthodox – who changed their vote this time and moved to the left.

 

 

H.

 

My understanding of the Orthodox vote in this election? In presidential elections, Israel is more at the forefront – and Trump will benefit due to his favorable-to-Israel policies. In midterm elections, domestic issues (and maybe the echo of Pittsburgh) take precedent, and hence more Orthodox voters decided to go with the Democratic Party.

 

Milano Won’t Participate in Women’s March Because Leaders Won’t Denounce Farrakhan

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Actress Alyssa Milano, a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement, said on Wednesday that she would not participate in the Women’s March because its leaders won’t denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Milano told The Advocate that she was “disappointed” in the Women’s March leaders for their warmth toward Farrakhan. When asked if she would appear at the Women’s March and speak, Milano responded, “I would say no at this point.”

“Unfortunate that none of them have come forward against him [Farrakhan] at this point,” Milano said, “or even given a really good reason why to support them.”

Milano had spoken at the Women’s March in January 2018.

Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory had appeared at a Nation of Islam event in March, where Farrakhan referred to Jews as part of the “Synagogue of Satan”; Mallory and other Women’s March leaders Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez have all posted “laudatory” things on social media about Farrakhan, according to Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

The Women’s March has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.

The Kippah Deal

Within two weeks of the Oct. 27 Pittsburgh massacre, the following incidents were reported in New York City:

• Six teens hurled a pole through a Brooklyn synagogue window during evening prayers.

• A 26-year-old progressive activist was arrested on charges that he scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti in another Brooklyn synagogue and set fires at seven Williamsburg synagogues and yeshivas.

• Swastikas appeared on homes in Brooklyn Heights and on the Upper West Side.

• Three teens threatened to stab a Jewish man and “kill all Jews” in Crown Heights.

 • A rabbi was verbally harassed on the subway by supporters of Louis Farrakhan. 

And before Pittsburgh, on the Upper East Side where I live, “Free Gaza” was recently spray-painted all over a Chabad sukkah.

There have been more such incidents than usual, to be sure. But New Yorkers have come to expect stuff like this in recent years, as well as the fact that none of the perpetrators appears to have been a white supremacist.

Even The New York Times had to admit: “During the past 22 months, not one person caught or identified as the aggressor in an anti-Semitic hate crime has been associated with a far right-wing group.”

This is not to say that white supremacists don’t exist in the area. In fact, the first time I realized that my 9-year-old son, Alexander, was growing up in a very different era was four years ago when a boy — who looked as though he could pass Hitler’s Aryan test just fine — said to him matter-of-factly: “I don’t like Jews.” 

I told Alexander about the Pittsburgh massacre and the incidents that followed. If our synagogue didn’t have top-notch security, I may have been more hesitant. But he knows he’s safe. I make sure he thanks the NYPD officers who have stood outside of our synagogue since 9/11.

Still, what was scrawled on the Brooklyn synagogue — “Die Jew rats we are here” — made him especially angry.

It’s a fine line — we need to make our kids aware but not scare them. At the same time, I wanted him to commemorate Pittsburgh somehow. 

An idea came to me when he forgot to take off his kippah after Hebrew school the Monday after the massacre. That day, I had already decided that I needed to address his increasing addiction to video games. Like most parents today, I have wanted to throw his iPad into the East River about a dozen times. 

To keep it, Alexander has made all sorts of deals. That Monday, I offered up a new one: He would get to keep his iPad if he wore his kippah for an hour in the apartment. He said “Deal!” so fast I was sorry I hadn’t required more.

Alexander woke me up extra early the next morning to show me that he was wearing his kippah. I immediately forgave the former for the beauty of the latter. As he went back to his room, I said, “Remember, this is also about commemorating the victims of Pittsburgh.” “I know,” came a voice already lost to a video game.

That week turned out to be a difficult one for him in dealing with some of his friends. A couple of days he came home despondent. I placed the kippah on his head. “You know,” I said, “wearing a kippah is like wearing a blessing; it’s like wearing love.” He didn’t respond but I know he heard me.

The next day his despair had turned to anger. He had been asked to overlook another boy’s flaws — to be the bigger person. I placed the kippah on his head. He shot me a look of “Whatever you’re going to say, I’m not buying it,” so I didn’t say anything. Later, though, I talked with him about how hard it is to be the bigger person. 

“You’re growing up in a time, though, that in some ways makes these types of problems easier,” I said. “You and your Jewish friends may be facing far bigger issues, possibly in high school, most certainly in college. You guys are going to need the tight bond you already have. All of this competitive energy will need to be harnessed. You will learn when to be brave and when to walk away.”

He didn’t say anything, but he touched his kippah.

He will learn how to gain Maccabean strength from Judaism. I write these words praying he won’t have to.


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

It’s Not Just About the Ice Cream

Last week, I was stunned with an announcement from Ben & Jerry’s about a new flavor “celebrating activists who are continuing to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.” Financial grants were provided to four organizations that Ben and Jerry’s felt represented social activism. I was horrified to learn that one of the organization’s receiving the grant was the Women’s March, primarily founded by Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, both vocal and virulent anti-Semites.

Sarsour presents herself as a “proud anti-Israel activist” who champions boycotting Israel. At the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention this past September in Houston, Texas, Sarsour called “for the dehumanization of Israelis.” Her co-chair, Mallory, is also a vocal supporter of Louis Farrakhan, a long time virulently anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader. On Instagram last year, Mallory posted herself alongside Farrakhan calling him the “GOAT,” which means “Greatest of All Time.” More recently, Farrakhan has referred to Jews as “termites” (the same words the Nazi’s used) and Satanic. This week, Farrakhan has traveled to Iran and called for the destruction of America and of the State of Israel.

In the wake of the largest anti-Semitic attack in the history of our country just over a week ago in Pittsburgh, I was shocked that three days later, Ben & Jerry’s, founded by two individuals who identify as Jewish (and sold to Unilever in 2000), would personally make an announcement of providing grants to various groups who best represent “Resistance.” The news was all over the Internet and news outlets.

So, with little options on my end, I threw out the Ben & Jerry’s in my freezer and emailed the ice cream supplier that services the eight stores that we own in the greater Los Angeles area. I asked them to remove all Ben & Jerry’s products. I also copied a contact at Ben & Jerry’s that I found on the Internet and told them what I was doing with a decision to no longer carry Ben & Jerry ice creams. I posted my opinions and concerns on my personal Facebook page.

I was surprised how quickly I received an email from the Ben & Jerry’s organization with a press release about the grants from the company. The email also requested that they speak with me the next business day.

According to Ben & Jerry’s press release, it stated about the grants that “The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through training, outreach programs and events. The Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”

I eagerly looked forward to my call to enlighten Ben & Jerry’s about leaders Sarsour and  Mallory and that the Women’s March was anything but what they described. I wanted to share with them that Sarsour has repeatedly told the world that you can’t be a feminist and a Zionist. Sarsour has stated, “that nothing was creepier than a Zionist” and that she suggested cutting the genitalia of women she didn’t like. I wanted to share with the Ben & Jerry’s organization that this past July Sarsour publicly wished a “Happy Birthday to Assata Shakur” (AKA Joanne Chesimard) who remains on FBI’s most wanted list.

I wanted to share with the Ben &  Jerry’s organization that Mallory has also publicly praised Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba. It was during his regimen that he rounded up (arrested) gay people and put them in Cuban concentration camps.

After a brief exchange of emails, a call was scheduled for me with Ben & Jerry’s senior marketing executive Christopher Miller and two other staff members at the company. The power of my comments on my Facebook post seemed unbelievable to me.

But what happened during “our” call today was shocking and deeply disturbing.  Miller was absolute and committed to Ben & Jerry’s support of both Sarsour & Mallory and the Women’s March itself. They informed me that they were supporting organizations  that were consistent in their concept of progressive change, core American values and democracy. I told them that these women did not represent core American values and democracy and their words were hateful and damaging. I added that if these are spokespeople for America, we all need to be concerned!

I was then told by Miller that Unilever was the real victim because they sold products to Israel in the face of BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanction) threats and retaliations against American companies. They actually stated that they still sold products in the “occupied territories” and that Ben & Jerry’s operates in a unique manner in Israel with a licensee that allows them to appear to Israel focused. All proceeds from the license are not shared with Unilever, but are donated to causes as not to appear to truly support Israel.

I shared with the Ben & Jerry’s representatives my work on fighting anti-Semitism, racism and hatred in the United States. I shared with them that my husband & I were honored by the ADL three years ago as Humanitarians of the Year. I also shared our ongoing work to support police and first responders.

I discussed inclusiveness, especially in Israel. I told them that I currently was working with the Jewish National Fund to build the finest culinary academy in the world in the northern region of Israel. I shared our vision to utilize education and food to drive prosperity and bring people together. I continued to inform them that we were also building medical centers in the north of Israel that would improve the lives of so many people across religions. I told them about the many organizations that I am involved with and how we work to support children of all backgrounds in Israel giving them programs, clothing, meals and hope for the future. And love…

I ended my call with the Ben & Jerry’s representatives more disappointed than before it began. I realized a sad fact that this is the new anti-Semitism.  I realized that I am too protected in my bubble living in my pocket of Los Angeles & Beverly Hills. I had not faced aAnti-Semitism in almost two decades. And now, corporate representatives from a product that I sold and served in my own home were informing me about their struggles and sacrifices specific to a relationship to Israel.

I am proud that the State of California and  the City of Beverly Hills have Memorandums of Understandings with the State of Israel (MOU’s). I am proud that my city celebrates Jewish Heritage Month at the Los Angeles City Hall and  Israel’s 70th in the City of Beverly Hills. I am proud that the state of California has outlawed BDS.

There is a new anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in the United States  and elsewhere. There are standards and kindness for other people and there is another one for Jews. There is also an increase in white nationalist supremacists brazenly speaking against Jews and  other minorities. I am asking people to wake up and and not accept these acts against Jews and Israel. I am asking that we fight the scourge of anti-Semitism and other acts of racism and indifference to others. We need to share our voices and say that providing grants to individuals who openly refer to Jews and Israel in horrific words and terms is not acceptable in 2018. We can not and will not accept anti-Semitism in any manner. That we expect decency and inclusiveness for all no matter where they live.

And sadly, when the call was over, I had to acknowledge that it’s not just about the ice cream…


Gina Raphael co-owns Mickey Fine Pharmacy & Grill in eight locations across Southern California

Anti-Semitism Protest to Be Held at UCLA on Tuesday

A protest against anti-Semitism is going to be held at UCLA’s Faculty Center at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

The protest, which is being organized by Yad Yamin, will call for UCLA to cancel National Students for Justice in Palestine’s (NSJP) upcoming conference on Nov. 16-18:

SJP Uncovered has said that Alhato was disinvited from the conference over his posts.

A member of Yad Yamin told the Journal in a phone interview that a nonpartisan coalition will be calling on UCLA to actively take a stand against “incitement and anti-Semitism” on campus, as they don’t think the administration is currently doing enough against it.

For instance, the member argued that UCLA’s cease-and-desist letter against NSJP for using the UCLA Bruin Bear in their conference logo failed to acknowledge the inherent anti-Semitism in the logo.

“They concentrated on the licensing and unpermitted use of the bear… but what about the obvious in-your-face anti-Semitism of it?” the member said, pointing out that half of the kite that the bear was playing with is shaped like Israel and covered in red.

The cease-and-desist letter noted that the kite in the logo could be interpreted “as an intention to endorse violence against Israel.”

The Yad Yamin member also pointed out that NSJP’s website specifically called for the destruction of Zionism, which would fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but the event is still being allowed to occur on campus.

The coalition will be calling for the UCLA administration to not only cancel the NSJP conference, but also to sanction and investigate SJP, as well as train university staff to better identify anti-Semitism on campus.

“We’re fed up with the administration’s refusal to address the growing anti-Semitism on campus,” the member said.

On Bari Weiss, Franklin Foer and the Values that Sustain Our People

Photo from YouTube

Are Jews who like President Trump’s policies on Israel making a deal with the devil?

Last Friday on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” New York Times op-ed editor and writer Bari Weiss made this comment in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh tragedy:

“I hope this week that American Jews have woken up to the price of that bargain,” she said. “They have traded policies that they like for the values that have sustained the Jewish people – and frankly, this country –  forever: Welcoming the stranger; dignity for all human beings; equality under the law; respect for dissent; love of truth. 

“These are the things we are losing under this president – and no policy is worth that price.”

“For Jews who are appalled by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric but who still appreciate his policies on Israel, what should they do? Tell the president not to bother trying to ‘woo’ us with Israel?”

In other words, American Jews are paying too high a price for President Trump’s unbridled support of Israel, which includes moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, scuttling the Iran deal, defending Israel at the UN and enforcing consequences for Palestinian support of terror.

So, for Jews who are appalled by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric but who still appreciate his policies on Israel, what should they do? Tell the president not to bother trying to “woo” us with Israel? That he so violates Jewish values that his favorable actions on Israel just aren’t worth it? That after Pittsburgh, we’re no longer willing to pay the price of that bargain?

And how would that work exactly? Weiss didn’t specify, but Franklin Foer, writing in the Atlantic, did have a suggestion to enhance Jewish security after Pittsburgh: 

“Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.” 

Never mind that after Pittsburgh, the President said: “Anti-Semitism represents one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history. Anti-Semitism must be condemned anywhere and everywhere. There must be no tolerance for it.”

According to Foer, however, any Jew who still supports the president must be ostracized and shunned.

I wonder if Foer would be willing to stand outside a synagogue on Saturday morning with a sign repeating his message: “If you support Trump, your presence is not welcome. You have placed your community in danger.”

“Weiss could have said: ‘We can appreciate the president’s support for Israel AND ALSO speak out against his incendiary and divisive rhetoric. One doesn’t preclude the other.'”

I don’t mean to be snarky or cynical, but I’m just chastened by this Jewish instinct to blame other Jews under any circumstances, even when a Nazi comes to murder us. 

Weiss could have said: “We can appreciate the president’s support for Israel AND ALSO speak out against his incendiary and divisive rhetoric. One doesn’t preclude the other.” Foer could have said: “If you have friends or community members who support Trump, make your case vigorously, but there’s no need to go as far as cutting them out.”

Both of those options would have been consistent with the values that have sustained the Jewish people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Former Intern of One-Time N.Y. City Council Speaker Arrested for Brooklyn Shul Vandalism

Screenshot from Twitter.

James Polite, a 26-year-old former intern for Christine Quinn, former Speaker of the New York City Council, was arrested on Friday for vandalizing a synagogue in Brooklyn.

Law enforcement officials believe that not only did Polite write anti-Semitic statements in black marker in the synagogue like “Kill All Jews,” he is allegedly responsible for committing arson at seven yeshivas and shuls in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn.

According to a 2017 New York Times profile, Polite met Quinn at a 2008 gay pride rally supporting then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Polite went on to intern for Quinn for “several years” as well as work on her 2009 re-election campaign and her failed 2013 mayoral campaign.

Quinn later wrote a letter of recommendation for Polite to study at Brandeis University; Polite did attend the university but took a leave absence in 2015 to enter rehabilitation for a weed addiction, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Quinn said in a statement on Saturday that she was heartbroken over Polite’s alleged actions:

Polite is currently being held for a psychiatric evaluation.

According to The Daily Caller, Polite’s Facebook page included statements such as “Jew n****r pigs” and railed against the supposed “Zionist economic order.”

Meet the Israelis Who Expose Our Country’s True Face

Courtesy of StandWithUs

This is the 11th year of one of my personal favorite projects to battle bigotry and modern-day anti-Semitism – the “Israeli Soldiers Tour. ”This project is one of the most significant counter-attacks of the notorious “Israeli Apartheid Week,” where false information about Israel is being spread by haters across North America college campuses.

In this tour, organized by the pro-Israeli nonprofit organization, StandWithUs, 14 reserve duty Israeli soldier-students travel the United States and speak on campuses, high schools, synagogues, churches, etc. They recount their personal experiences of serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) upholding its strict moral code while fighting an enemy that hides behind its civilians.

They also present their backgrounds, life in Israel and answer questions. “Israeli Soldiers Tour,” puts a human face to the IDF uniform, and by doing so, trying to combat the demonization of Israel and Israelis led by anti-Israeli movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.)  Their in-front-of-the-lines-and-behind-the-headlines stories, which have never been heard before, try to depict the more accurate, more balanced, reality in Israel.

Two of the participants of this year’s tour, Chen and Omri, agreed to let us in this emotional, exciting, life-changing experience, and answer some questions:

Chen, 24, was born and raised in Jerusalem to a family of longtime Jerusalemites.  Her family fled anti-Semitism, one side in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition, and the other from Yemen.

After high school, Chen participated in a pre-military program where she volunteered with at-risk youth in Sderot, a city along the Gaza border. During Operation Pillar of Defense, Chen decided to stay under the threat of rocket fire to help the youth both mentally and physically.  She served as a Navigation Instructor in the IDF, responsible for teaching soldiers to read maps and navigate in the field. Today, Chen studies Political Science and Israel Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Omri is 28 years old. His mother is of Eastern European descent and his father’s family is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Omri grew up in central Israel in the town of Rishon LeZion. He now lives in Beer Sheva and studies Computer Engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

At 18, Omri began a 6-year stint in the Israeli Air Force as a pilot cadet, and he later transferred to “Yahalom” a special combat engineering unit, as a bomb technician. While in the IDF he participated and commanded missions in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and on the northern border, defusing missiles, explosive belts, and booby traps.

Following his military service he enrolled at the Ein-Prat Beit Midrash, an intensive Jewish learning programs for secular and religious Israelis in their twenties. After completing his studies Omri traveled around Central and South America.

Q:  What is Israel to you, and how do you pass this message to students abroad?

Chen: Despite of all its inner conflicts, at the end of the day, it’s the most united place for me.  Israel is the only place in the world that I can truly call home.

I grew up in a house with Israel deeply embedded in our roots because my family lived here for many generations before the country was even established.

It was important to me that audiences understand that deep connection, and the relations among the people and what brings us all together as a nation.

Omri: Israel is the most normal-crazy place on earth.

On the one hand, we live our daily lives just like the American people: studying, working and focusing on having fun.   On the other, we put our life on hold for 3 years after high school in order to protect our borders by enlisting in the army.

I think I’m passing this message by just being me. I’m trying to show that Israel is not just a headline you see in the media.  It’s a real place with real people and real stories. When students see that I dress like them, watch Netflix like them, but I served in the army and dealt with bombs and some dangerous stuff. they get the message.

Q:  Walk us through the Israeli Soldiers Tour – how do you prepare? What does the tour look like?

Omri: The SWU (StandWithUs) Israel crew helped us develop our speeches, explained how to respond to friendly and hostile questions and how to properly approach Americans – they’re a bit different from Israelis, you know.

Our daily routine was 2-3 events a day in different locations. We told our stories about Israel and IDF to whoever wants to listen – Jews, Christians, Muslims, high schools, colleges, universities, local communities, synagogues and churches.  In our spare time we get acquainted with American culture. We travel the cities, eat American junk food and watch football.

I was very excited about the tour. The opportunity to meet a lot of new people and influence them seemed magical to me.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

I was happy to visit USA for the first time and explore a lot of new cities and culture that till now I’ve only saw at the movies.

My expectations from the tour partly matched the tour itself. In the good scenario, I thought we are going to talk to people who never heard about Israel and in the bad case, heard  lies about it.

I was surprised to see that we have a lot of events with only a Jewish crowd. After several conversations, I understood the relevance of those events. Jews who aren’t living in Israel experience life way differently than we do – it’s much harder to keep your Jewish identity abroad.

When we tell them about Israel, they sometime envy us and really start thinking about “Aliya” – it always comes up.

Israelis tend to take things for granted. The support of the Jewish people around the world, and the USA in particular, must not take for granted. The support we get from American Jews is vital for Israel thriving, from all aspects. There are also a lot of amazing programs in Israel that are being funded by our friends abroad.

To sum up, I understood the importance of that connection and I was glad that I could make it stronger.

Q: Share one of the most memorable moments from your recent tour.

Chen: We were protested at Oregon State University (OSU) by members of the BDS campaign. They entered the classroom with signs saying things such as, ‘End the Occupation’ and ‘Israel is committing genocide.’  They stood in front of the screen, blocking our PowerPoint presentations.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

At first, we tried to talk to them, but they refused to move; eventually we decided to continue anyway.  They heard our stories, and at the end, asked us all their questions. We really created a dialogue. The amazing thing was that it felt like they were actually listening, and although they objected to some of our answers, there were some things they were truly surprised to hear.

We could tell that they began to realize that there may be more to this than they believe and some things they didn’t know.  It was really a memorable moment because it felt like we really made a difference, that we tried and succeeded in creating a dialogue and breaking many of the misconceptions they held.

Also, the rest of the audience thanked us for that dialogue and said they learned a lot.  Jewish students relayed that after hearing us, they feel better equipped on how to deal with these campus groups.

Stanford University’s Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) protesters weren’t there to listen.  They completely disrespected us and were only there to call us liars and murderers. They laughed at us and kept interfering when we tried to answer their questions.

I think that everyone has the right to have their own opinion, but these people don’t know the first thing about the Israeli reality. As someone who grew up around Jerusalem and the West Bank, and lived next to the Gaza border for a year under threat of rockets, it’s absurd when JVP members try to tell me what my reality is.

They have no idea what Israel sometimes has to deal with, and the terrible terror that sometimes affects our life…and, they don’t even care.  They see only one side and completely disregard the other, and that’s wrong.

 

Omri: Shabbat dinner. Friday night. Beit Chabad. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Maya and I just told our experience in the army in a very intimate event – about 10 Jewish students from the local university.

We share about the Israeli-Palestine conflict from a personal point of view. We end by wishing for peace between the two people.

Right after we conclude, the Rabbi started singing…quietly…alone..

עוד יבוא שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא  שלום עלינו, עוד יבוא שלום עלינו ועל כולם…

(One day, peace will come to us and to everyone)

Then, he raised his voice a bit, and the whole group joined in while banging on the table.

סאלאם, עלינו ועל כל העולם, סאלאם, סאלאם..

(Salam (peace in Arabic) upon us and for all of the world.)

The rhythm of that classic song shook my soul, it felt more relevant now than ever. Our message for peace was successfully delivered.

Q: Who are you aiming for? Who is the target audience you want to reach?

Omri: As I mentioned, I am aiming for anyone who wants to listen.  I am aiming for people who want to challenge their thoughts – those who aren’t rigid in their ideas and want to hear a different opinions and different point of views.

Chen: It’s about reaching anyone who will listen.  It doesn’t matter if they are Jews or not, if they are pro-or-anti-Israel, in between or just didn’t care that much.

It is important that they know that the media doesn’t necessarily provide all the information, or sometimes not even the truth, and that there is so much more to Israel than they may know.

Courtesy of StandWithUs

Q:  What are people still missing when looking at Israel from the outside?

Chen: One of the most important things is that Israel is more than just what they see or read regarding the conflict.  It has such great culture, people, views, economy and so much more.  Sometimes, people forget to look at it as any other modern country such as their own.  Sadly, sometimes Israel must deal with a difficult reality – but that’s only part of what it is.

At the end of the day, I think that most people don’t necessarily know Israel’s reality in the conflict – they look at it from only one angle without realizing that there are always two sides to a story.  Also, people tend to regard things as “black or white,” and the Israeli story has so many different layers.  It’s much more complex than people sometimes think – one story or one fact can never really encapsulate everything.

Omri: They’re probably missing the whole picture.

It’s easy to choose a side and stick to it, especially when the press reporting from the borders twists the reality and fake news fill the social media like a swirling, out-of-control hurricane.

An outsider viewing Israel likely thinks that it is a war zone.  But, they’re missing the fun parts – our beautiful beaches, amazing ancient cities and history, delicious food and incredible people!

Q: How can we contribute to the battle against modern antisemitism and Israel’s delegitimization?

Chen: We can battle against delegitimization through education.  Once individuals have more knowledge, society will be better.  Knowledge is power.  Once people explore different sources of information than just what they see in the news, they will begin to see the other side and the complexity of the issues.

Omri: The first thing that you already did is to read this blog! Half way to go!

The most important thing is to be actively involved. Stand up and defend Israel, don’t let issues pass right you by.

Personally, I believe in education. Spread the truth about Israel, show the good and bad – we’re not perfect, but nor is anyone else. Deliver our realty as it is without any propaganda.  When people know more and are less misinformed, they will fight antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel on their own.

And, you can always ask the StandWithUs team for programs and activities in the USA, Israel, Canada, the UK and Latin America. There’s a lot of good people there that deal with these issues on a daily base.

Q: How can you tell a tour was successful? What are your indicators?

Chen: Having so many people from different places and different ages – teens, collage students or community members – asking questions and being involved and interested in Israel. At the conclusions part of our talks, hearing their reactions and their thoughts about Israel, made me feel as if we really managed to reach them and that our stories touched them.

Omri: My main indicator is the people. After each event, we’re being approached by many people who want to thank us and ask us many personal questions. You can really feel the you’ve affected someone and that’s a wonderful feeling.

Q: This is now the 11th tour. Looking at the past 10 years, do you think the attempts to delegitimize Israel and the wave of modern-day antisemitism is decreasing? 

Omri: This is my first tour, and my first encounter with the American people in America. So it’s hard for me to feel the difference.

That being said, I can feel the wind of change after each and every talk. I can feel the young students, that might never have spoken to an Israeli or even a Jewish person, enlightened  by our meeting.

In my opinion, the roots of modern-day antisemitism is ignorance. There is no place for that in the 21th century.  It’s a process, it might take time, but in the end, knowledge will overcome it.


Michael Dickson, Executive Director StandWithUs- Israel:

“There is no silver bullet for Antisemitism – we expect it to continue. What is important is that we are constantly aware of how the threat metamorphoses. The attempts to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish country remain and they morph into anti-Semitism. 

The ‘Israeli Soldiers Tour’ was created years ago by students in our Fellowship program incensed by the lies being told about the IDF and asked us to confront it.  It continues to grow and the impact the multitude of speaking engagements and interactions these Israeli young adults have – in addition to their online following – is at its peak.  One of the best antidotes to BDS is for people to interact with Israelis – in many cases it is the first time they ever met one – and realize they are just like them.”

Petition Calls on UCLA to Cancel NSJP Conference

Photo from Flickr.

A recent petition started by Stop Anti-Semitism website is calling on UCLA to cancel the upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) on Nov. 16-18 and already has tens of thousands of signatures.

The petition, titled “Help prevent the next Pittsburgh – tell UCLA to cancel SJP’s annual hate conference!”, notes that SJP founder Hatem Bazian has uttered “horrific anti-Semitic and violence-inciting statements,” such as calling for an “intifada” in the United States and that “there are large number of Zionists who were engaged with Nazi Germany.”

The petition also highlighted various anti-Semitic statements from SJP members:

Additionally, the petition points out that SJP has heaped praise upon convicted terrorists Rasmea Odeh and Leila Khaled and has ties to terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

“Because of SJP’s closed-door policy of not allowing any non-SJP students to attend the Conference, UCLA is essentially allowing SJP to continue spewing their messages of violence, Anti-Semitism, and support of known terrorists,” the petition states.

The petition proceeds to call on UCLA to cancel the conference.

“If not canceled, we call to hold UCLA accountable by investigating it for violation of anti-discrimination laws, its own policies against discrimination as were adopted by the UC Regents, and violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin (including Anti-Semitism) for federally assisted programs and activities!” the petition concludes.

As of publication time, there were more than 16,000 signatures to the petition.

UCLA issued a cease-and-desist letter to NSJP on Wednesday evening to stop using the UCLA Bruin Bear in their logo by Monday, or else the university could shut down the conference.

Facebook Removes Rabbi’s Post Detailing Harassment From Farrakhan Supporters

Photo from Flickr.

New York Rabbi Avram Mlotek, who claimed in a Facebook post that he was harassed by supporters of Louis Farrakhan on his commute home Thursday evening, is now saying that Facebook has removed his post.

Mlotek wrote in a subsequent Facebook post on Friday that Facebook told him they had taken down the post because it “violates community standards.”

“I’ve asked for their decision to be reviewed but for the time being the post does not appear when you search for it on my wall,” Mlotek wrote. “Hopefully this will be sorted and it will be returned shortly but let’s just say there’s something wrong with the algorithm, Mark Zuckerberg, if Facebook can’t differentiate between hate speech and reporting hate speech.”

As of publication time, the post does not appear on Mlotek’s feed.

Here is a screenshot of the post:

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

UPDATE 1: A spokesperson for Facebook told the Journal in an email, “We mistakenly removed the post and have restored it.” The post still does not appear on Mlotek’s Facebook page.

UPDATE 2: The Facebook spokesperson told the Journal in a follow-up email that she could confirm that the post has been restored but it likely can’t be seen by the Journal due to privacy settings.

“Our team processes millions of reports each week, and sometimes we get things wrong,” the spokesperson said. “The post was mistakenly removed by a member of our review team after we received reports that content on the page violated our Community Standards. As soon as we were notified of the problem, we investigated and restored the post upon determining that they did not violate our Standards.”

UPDATE 3: Mlotek’s original post is now back to being visible on Facebook.

Rosner’s Torah Talk: Parshat Chayei Sarah with Rabbi Ari Hart

Ari Hart is the rabbi of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob, an orthodox synagogue in Skokie Illinois.  As a thought leader, he has contributed to leading secular and religious publications, including the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The Hill, Patheos, NY Daily News, The Jewish Daily Forward,and more. Rav Ari was selected by The Jewish Week as one of the 36 “forward-thinking young people who are helping to remake the Jewish community.” He is also a founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice and co-founder of the Jewish Muslim Volunteer Alliance. Rabbi Hart received smicha (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City in 2012.

This week’s Torah portion — Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) — features the death of Sarah, Isaac’s marriage to Rivka, and the death and burial of Abraham. Our talk focuses on Lavan – and other enemies of the Jewish People.

 

 

Previous Talks on Chayei Sarah:

Rabbi James Gibson

Rabbi Ranon Teller

Rabbi Alan Henkin

Rabbi Wendi Geffen

Rabbi Deborah Bravo

 

New York Rabbi Harassed by Farrakhan Supporters

A rabbi in New York shared in a Facebook post that he was harassed by a couple of supporters of Louis Farrakhan, who is known for his anti-Semitic views, during his evening commute.

Rabbi Avram Mlotek of Base MNHTN said that while he was on the subway, a man asked if he was “a real Jew.” When he said that he tries to be, the man replied by calling him an “impostor.”

This man told me repeatedly that Israel was not mine, that I was a fraud, and that Jews are responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today in the city of New York and all over the world,” Mlotek wrote.

The man then showed him a picture of Farrakhan and asked him who he was. Mlotek said that Farrakhan is an anti-Semite, the man replied, “No, that’s a real Jew. You’re a f***king fake.” The post continued:

At this point another man on the subway said, “He ain’t gonna take your bait.” The first man then said, “Yeah, brother. Black power.” The second man about me, “He a photo-copy” and lifted up his fist in the Black power symbol. The first man went on: “And a bunch of them are gays. Fu*king faggots. You gonna get off this subway stop, man?” “I’m going to go home to my wife and kids,” I said. “Yeah, you a c******r,” he said. “Have a blessed night,” I said as I got off the train. On a crowded subway home, no one besides a second man who seemingly held similar ideologies said anything.

Farrakhan recently compared Jews to “termites” in a video.

After Pittsburgh, What Now for Jews?

Hate is not welcome here. Photo by Kelly Hartog

Anti-Semitism has been growing in the United States for years, and we have seen numerous signs of it, including the physical abuse and harassment of Jews wearing religious clothing, Jewish women accosted and insulted in their car and our youth endlessly discriminated against, intimidated and silenced on campuses all over the nation. There have been thousands of incidents, for years, and now a big explosion. We are not even sure if this is not the beginning of many more. As an Israeli French friend visiting recently said, now it is like in France and Europe. I have been expecting these developments with much concern and looking at our reactions.

I saw us being on high alert and unable of escaping the triggers of our Holocaust trauma. I have seen when we have overreacted, accusing the wrong people (such as the 400 hoax threats against Jewish Community Centers) and politicizing every incident. I have worried that each overreaction just inflamed the feelings against our community. I believe it will be crucially important that we do not react with our usual fears and patterns to every tragedy that hits us.

For political reasons, we have separated ourselves from parts of our people, from each other. We have unwittingly added to the polarization of our country as much as anyone else, and to the hostility in political discourse. We have demonized other Jews, the country’s political leaders and half of the population. We are unaware and self-righteous in our absolute certainty that we hold the moral ground and “the other” is either stupid or evil, or both.

At this historically tragic time, I invite each one of us who is absolutely convinced that only our side has access to the absolute truth on any particular issue, and that only we hold the moral compass better than anyone else, to just wake up and realize how we are unwittingly contributing to this extreme atmosphere of misunderstanding, distrust, hatred, and enmity that has taken over the country. Polarization is at its extreme, and it could not be if one side does not contribute to it.

We have lived in a topsy-turvy, upside down world for many years now, where words have lost their common meaning and where it has become unsafe just to speak. I have heard the voices of those who feel incredibly infuriated to be under the onslaught of blame and accusation, where any incivility goes and there is no more retinue from anyone, anywhere, and all is excused because “the other side is so evil”. When we adopt this kind of speech, are we not all contributing to this atmosphere of mistrust, hatred and condemnation?  We have to become aware of the consequences of our own actions. We cannot add fuel to the fire and then accuse someone else of arson.

It is time to stop all accusations and demonization of any one community, party and/or leader. We must understand that:

  • We are ALL responsible for the tone of the political discourse.
  • We must stop immediately.   Every word of ours that is blaming, accusatory, and attributing evil intentions, thoughts, and agendas to the other side (Jewish and non-Jewish) just poisons the discourse.
  • We must reach out to all communities, make peace with the existing leadership, even if we do not agree with them.  We must talk about unity and connection, and reassurance and safety for all, not just those with whom we most resonate.  
  • We must engage in a bipartisan way to resolve the issues dear to us, and stop with the generalizations, the immediate and distorted-by-hatred accusations, that further polarize, confuse and anger people.

We can only do that if we recognize the pattern and learn to release our feelings of fear and anger.

If we are able, right now, immediately, moved by this terrible tragedy fueled by a hatred that does not discriminate between different parties, politics, values among Jews, etc. to come together as Jews from the Right and the Left, from the secular and from the religious, from the Reform and from the Orthodox, from the United States and from Israel, we can fulfill the promise of our Torah destiny and be a light in the world.

If, for example, we chose two or three issues close to our heart and approached them Torah-like, simultaneously from gevurah (judgment and law) and chesed (all- encompassing compassion), looking at all the aspects, integrating the needs and issues that arise from all sides, without demonizing any, in a flash we would accomplish the most tikkun olam possible and achieve a balanced point-of-view for the most important issues of our times. We would demonstrate a process that could pull our people and the rest of the country out of the emotional and moral marasm we have allowed ourselves to dive into.

We would fulfill our full destiny. The world needs our unity and our wisdom. We must heal our traumas.


Gina Ross, MFCT, is founder/president of the International Trauma-Healing Institute in the United States (ITI-US) and its Israeli branch (ITI-Israel). She is the author of a series of books “Beyond the Trauma Vortex Into the Healing Vortex,” targeting 10 social sectors implicated in amplifying or healing trauma.  

UCLA Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to NSJP Over Conference Logo

Photo from Flickr.

UCLA has sent a cease-and-desist letter to National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) over their logo for the upcoming NSJP conference on Nov. 16-18.

As the Journal reported on Wednesday, the logo features the UCLA Bruin Bear playing with a Palestinian kite. The Journal has obtained a copy of UCLA’s cease-and-desist letter to NSJP, which was signed by Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck and dated Oct. 31.

The letter begins by noting that the logo has “the unauthorized use” of UCLA’s name and Bruin icon.

“Taken as a whole, these uses claim, suggest, or imply an affiliation with or an endorsement by UCLA of NSJP and/or its annual conference, which is simply incorrect,” Beck wrote.

Beck then demanded that NSJP re-work the UCLA name in the logo to make it clear that UCLA is simply the location for the conference and not in any way an affiliate or endorser of the conference. He also demanded that the UCLA name and Bruin Bear be removed from artwork “associated with a Palestinian kite which some may interpret as an intention to endorse violence against Israel.”

“UCLA did not grant permission for this use nor would it permit use of its name in a manner that could imply endorsement of violence,” Beck added.

Beck told NSJP that they had until Nov. 5 to submit in writing that they have complied with the demands of the letter.

“The University hereby reserves its right to pursue whatever additional remedies or claims it may have, including cancellation of the event, if NSJP fails to fully comply with the terms of this directive,” Beck concluded.

Among the criticism of the logo included the following statement from Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, to the Journal:

I have served on the faculty of UCLA for 49 years and I have never thought I would see the day when the symbol of my university would turn into a Hamas recruitment poster. The NSJP Conference reminds us that hate did not stop at Pittsburgh. U.S. campuses, emboldened by our blindness and inaction are now offering racist groups a fertile ground to spawn their venom, test out intimidating tactics, and gain academic legitimacy. The stench of hatred and sounds of incitement to hostilities that will emerge from the NSJP Conference will damage UCLA’s reputation irreparably.

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

The full letter can be seen below:

Current Politics Reflected in New Film ‘The Waldheim Waltz’

“The Waldheim Waltz” choreographs the agile steps of one of the more strange actors in recent world history, a man whose career nevertheless still holds warning signs for current political swings in Europe and the United States.

Kurt Waldheim was an Austrian, raised in a pious Catholic family, who served as a Nazi soldier and intelligence officer. He was elected to the United Nations’ secretary-general — twice — before becoming the president of Austria in 1986.

Waldheim managed to land these high-profile positions largely by massaging his biography to convince the world that he had just been a soldier following orders in World War II.  

He argued that Austria was the first victim of Nazi aggression when Adolf Hitler annexed the country in 1938. A popular joke at the time praised the skill of Austrian diplomacy in convincing the public that Hitler was a native German and Beethoven was an Austrian even though the opposite was true.

In the early 1980s, between Waldheim’s terms as U.N. secretary-general and his Austrian presidency, the World Jewish Congress and Eli Rosenbaum, director of the U.S. Office of Special Investigations, began examining his background.

Waldheim’s wartime record revealed that after his service on the Russian front, he became an intelligence officer with the German army staff in the Balkans, where he played a key role in the brutal reprisals against the civilian populations in Yugoslavia and Greece, and, in particular, in the deportation of most of the large Jewish population in Salonika to Nazi death camps.

The charges and denials by the Waldheim camp became a focus of the heated Austrian presidential campaign in 1986. Protesters hoisted slogans including, “No to anti-Semitism, No to Waldheim,” while his supporters countered with, “We Austrians elect who we want” and “Waldheim, an Austrian who the world trusts.”

Among the protesters was Ruth Beckermann, a young Jewish Viennese woman and budding filmmaker, who photographed large segments of the demonstrations and counter-rallies. Twenty-seven years later, Beckermann, a successful documentary filmmaker, decided to take another look at the earlier footage. Adding material from archival and current news reports in “The Waldheim Waltz,” Beckermann draws a historical line between the events of the 1980s and current political developments, particularly in Europe but also in the United States.

“Adding material from archival and current news reports, filmmaker Ruth Beckermann draws a historical line between the events of the 1980s and current political developments, particularly in Europe but also in the United States.”

Describing herself in a phone interview as “half demonstrator, half documentarian” (as well as director, producer, scriptwriter and narrator), Beckermann said she discerned in the 1986 Austrian election the emergence of a new political force. She noted that Waldheim’s election as president represented one of the first victories of the “black-and-blue” coalition between traditional conservative ideologies and the populist, nativist appeal of vigorous right-wing activists.

She sees this new political force emerging today. Beckermann cited the current rise of populist anti-immigrant leaders in Austria, Poland and Hungary, the Brexit movement in Great Britain, reinforced right-wing constituencies in Israel and France, as well as the election of President Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, Beckermann said she detects a glimmer of hope “that the good people will rally — though I don’t know just when — and that mankind will survive.”


“The Waldheim Waltz,” opens Nov. 16 at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles and the Town Center in Encino.

Hebrew Mentors Put Shootings Into Context for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Hebrew Helpers

Todd Shotz was sitting at home on Oct. 27 when he heard about the synagogue shooting that had just happened in Pittsburgh. As the founder of the bar/bat mitzvah prep company Hebrew Helpers, he realized that over the next week he and his team of 30-plus mentors across the United States were going to be seeing 180 students with different levels of Jewish knowledge, ages and affiliations. 

“I’ve been teaching 23 years, and never had to deal with this,” Shotz said. “It’s uncharted territory to talk to students this young about this kind of thing.” 

Shotz organized two conference calls for mentors to discuss the events and how — or even if, in some cases — to address them. On the calls, mentors said it was important to talk with students about the history of anti-Semitism while realizing the conversations might be difficult. 

“What is our responsibility as Jewish educators in each household? The work we do is so customized and every parent has their own way they handle scary world news,” Shotz said. “Students are going to hear about it in school. It’s hard to explain to anyone — that people would be in a safe space like a synagogue and be attacked in this way. But maybe we can offer some bit of context.” 

Hebrew Helpers mentors connected with parents via phone, text or email to find out what their children had already learned about the shooting. Then, instead of retelling the events to the students, mentors asked the students what they had heard, so they could help the students process that information. 

“We could hear what they latched onto, what was most scary or confusing to them and fill in gaps that they could handle,” Shotz said. “Then we could take it to a place of learning, history and context. We’re trying to do that with every student so we can go on with our week and our lives, paying tribute to the memory of these people [and discussing] how we can work toward building bridges with other people and against hate.”

One family asked its mentor not to mention Pittsburgh with their child. Another 11-year-old student asked a mentor, “Why do they hate us?” 

“It’s uncharted territory to talk to students this young about this kind of thing.”
 — Todd Shotz

“We can’t say ‘they’ because that’s generalizing too much,” Shotz said. “It’s these specific people using hatred and looking to blame their lot in life on an easy target. We’re small in number; it’s easy to blame us. A lot of those people act from ignorance. They don’t even know any Jewish people.” 

Depending on the student, mentors might teach a bit about the history of anti-Semitism. “But ‘they hate us’ is too overwhelming,” Shotz said. “We try to give students a sense of reality and context without scaring the living daylights out of them.”

Founded in 2005, Hebrew Helpers works with individual students to identify what kind of bar/bat mitzvah ritual will be meaningful. Mentors create personalized learning plans, incorporating students’ passions and interests but covering key rituals, prayers, texts, holidays and history.

Like many of their fellow Jews following the shooting, the mentors needed to do some processing of their own — especially before developing their teaching strategy with their students, Shotz said. He received several text messages expressing appreciation for the conference call they shared.

 “As educators, they care so much about the students and want to be that [support] person for them,” Shotz said. “But they needed to know we were here and could support them as a community of mentors.” 

National SJP to Use UCLA Bruin Playing With Palestinian Kite As Conference Logo

Screenshot from Twitter.

National Students for Justice Palestine (NSJP) unveiled their logo on Oct. 27 for their upcoming conference at UCLA: the UCLA Bruin playing with a Palestinian kite.

Below is the logo, which can be seen on NSJP’s website:

 

 

 

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that the logo is “poking their finger at the eye of the UCLA administration and the UCLA community” by “co-opting the UCLA Bruin icon.”

“What does the Palestinian kite stand for today?” Cooper said. “It’s not going out with peace kites from Japan. It’s setting aloft arson terrorist kites to burn down crops and forests as they’ve done in southern Israel.”

Cooper added that Palestinian terrorists have been using explosives disguised as children’s toys in order to lure Israeli children into touching it and having it blow up in their faces.

“If this doesn’t wake up the UCLA administration to cancel the event at UCLA, then they’re going to have to deal with the consequences that the UCLA Bruin has now been hijacked by people who want to destroy Israel and are pro-terrorist,” Cooper said.

The university and NSJP have not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

The conference is scheduled to take place on Nov. 16-18.