November 21, 2018

Defining the Root of Anti-Semitism

Editor’s note: The following is a transcription of Yossi Klein Halevi’s response to a student’s question at DePaul University on Nov. 14 in Chicago. According to an online post by Halevi, the student asked whether “humanizing” Zionists was comparable to asking African Americans to “humanize members of the KKK.” Halevi was on a speaking tour with Walid Issa, executive director of the American Palestinian Hope Project.

My understanding of anti-Semitism is the following: Anti-Semitism is not simply hating the other — the Jew as other. Anti-Semitism works a little bit differently. What anti-Semitism does is turn the Jews — “the Jew” — into the symbol of whatever it is that a given civilization defines as its most loathsome qualities. And so, under Christianity, — before the Holocaust and Vatican II — the Jew was the Christ-killer (“His blood be upon our heads and upon our children” [Matthew 27:25] ). That’s forever. Under Communism, the Jew was the capitalist. Under Nazism, the Jew was the race polluter, the ultimate race polluter.

Now we live in a different civilization, where the most loathsome qualities are racism, colonialism, apartheid. And lo and behold, the greatest offender in the world today, with all the beautiful countries of the world, is the Jewish state. The Jewish state is the symbol of the genocidal, racist, apartheid state. That’s Israel. That’s the Jewish state. An Israeli political philosopher named Yakov Talmon once put it this way: “The state of the Jews has become the Jew of the states.” What that means to me is, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel’s existence — denying Israel the right to exist, calling Israel the Zionist entity — that is anti-Semitism. That is a classical continuity of thousands of years of symbolizing the Jew. So, using that kind of language places you in very uncomfortable company. That kind of language can come today from the far left. It can come from white supremacists. It can come from Islamist extremists. It can come from many sources, but all of those groups converge on one idea: The Jew remains humanity’s great problem.

Yossi Klein Halevi is an American-born Israeli author and journalist. His most recent book is “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.”

‘You Don’t Understand’

“Some American Jews look at Israel with horror. Israel — and Israelis — don’t seem to understand a simple truth: President Donald Trump is “sowing hatred and divisiveness in this country that will allow the kind of people who supported Hitler to also take action,” as one such Jew, Henry Siegman, president emeritus of the U.S./Middle East Project, told Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs. 

Some Israeli Jews look at American Jews with horror. American Jews don’t seem to understand a simple truth: Donald Trump is “a true friend of the State of Israel and to the Jewish people,” as Bennett said. Israel, said Ambassador Ron Dermer, is “not aware of a single non-Israeli leader” other than Trump “that has made such a strong statement in condemning anti-Semitism.”

Jews in the United States have had political differences with Jews in Israel concerning many issues for a long time. In the past two years, Jews in both nations added Trump to the long list of disagreements; Israeli Jews appreciate his support, American Jews reject his manners and policies. But the massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh made these differences more acute, and the conversation about them more bitter. 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.

“You don’t understand” is the phrase Americans use. A few days ago, a respected scholar sent me an email. “Anyone who tries to separate the tragedy and its wake of bitter grief from ‘politics’ does not experience on a daily level the corrosive tragedy eroding America today,” she wrote. Indeed — most Israelis don’t experience such “corrosive tragedy.”

“You don’t understand” is a phrase Israelis also use, when American Jews attempt to lecture them on this or that. You don’t have to spend nights in shelters around Gaza; you won’t pay the price if a peace process blows up; you are too naïve and too distant to appreciate the dangers of a Middle East. You don’t understand.

The inability of Jews to understand the circumstances of other Jews is a given. When a Jew lives among gentiles, there are certain antennas he or she must develop to survive. When someone says, “George Soros, the Jewish billionaire,” these antennas interpret it as a signal, one to which Israelis are tone deaf (What’s the problem? Isn’t he Jewish? Isn’t he a billionaire? Isn’t he justifiably disliked?).

 “In the past two years, Jews in both nations added President Donald Trump to the long list of disagreements.”

The same is true for signals that Israeli antennas detect, and many Americans don’t. Consider former President Barack Obama. American Jews saw a president whose views reflect their own values and priorities. Israel’s antennas screamed that something was missing, that something wasn’t right.

Israelis and Americans often make a similar mistake. They believe that the other side — their Jewish kin — doesn’t much care about them. 

In recent days, many Jews in the U.S. (and some in Israel) blamed the Israeli government of grave sins of indifference. Israeli Jews aren’t immune to jump to similar conclusions when talking about American Jews. There is some truth to both arguments. Israel, naturally, is more focused on keeping Israel safe and thus less sensitive to anti-Semitic undertones of supportive political leaders. American Jews, naturally, are more sensitive to their own problems, and want Israel to forgo its realpolitik calculations whenever a Jew feels in danger. 

Still, there’s a better explanation for the differing interpretations of the situation — better than assuming neglect or apathy. Israelis are tone deaf to the sensitivities of American Jews, and thus cannot comprehend their position. American Jews are tone deaf to the sensitivities of Israeli Jews, and thus cannot comprehend Israel’s policies. There is no remedy for this situation, other than having faith. Israelis must believe that the American Jews — annoying complaints and useless advice aside — want Israel to thrive and survive. American Jews must believe that the Israeli Jews — annoying ignorance and insulting disregard aside — want the American Jewish community to thrive and survive. 

The tragedy of Pittsburgh could be a moment that separates Jews from one another. But it is not too late to hope that it can be a moment that instills in us the missing faith.

Read More from Rosner’s Domain: Oy, Wow, and Other Comments on the Midterms, the Jews and Israel

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.

How Good Is America for the Jews?

As I write this, I have no idea who won what in the midterms. But I do know that much of the commentary since the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh has focused on a rise in anti-Semitism in America. “It’s Trump’s fault” has been a popular meme on the left; while “Don’t forget Jew-haters on the left” has been the obligatory retort from the right.

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

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

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

To give you a sense of the magnitude, the last synagogue shooting in America happened in Detroit in 1966, and it was by a deranged congregant who shot the rabbi. In other words, Pittsburgh is the first synagogue shooting by an anti-Semite in U.S. history — and by far the deadliest.

“Let’s not overlook the enormous outpouring of love and concern for the Jews that has come from across the nation.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘When we get spooked by a disaster like Pittsburgh, it’s not just because we’re terrified but because we recognize its abnormality. Something about Pittsburgh felt so un-American, so foreign.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oy, Wow, and Other Comments on the Midterms, the Jews and Israel

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

1. A historical perspective might interfere with election hype, damaging the ratings. A historical perspective is the enemy of headline-hunters, champions of drama. Still, it is worth remembering that in the first midterm elections of Barack Obama, the Democratic Party lost 63 seats in the House. In the first midterm elections of Bill Clinton, 54. Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party lost 26. Carter 15. Ford 48. Nixon 12. Johnson 47. Eisenhower 18. Truman 54. Almost every party of every president loses seats in the midterm elections. Exceptions occur amid events such as 9/11, or a colossal economic meltdown, or the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The mid-term failures of Truman and Reagan did not prevent them from becoming two of the most important presidents in American history. Clinton and Obama survived the bitter midterm defeats, and were elected to a second term. Yes, Trump was on the ballot in this cycle. Yes, the public voted against him. In 1946 the public voted against Harry Truman in much greater numbers. It was hardly the final verdict on his presidency.

2. Winners and losers? You don’t need me for that. You see it, you feel it: A Democratic victory is not convincing enough to feel like real victory.

3. Twelve years ago, when a new record of Jewish congressional representation was set, I wrote an article under the headline: “First Thought on Most Jewish Congress Ever: Wow. Second Thought: Oy.” The argument was as follows: “Isn’t it too much? Just 2 percent of the population and 13 senators out of 100? Two percent of the population and 30 congressmen? Aren’t they going to draw the attention of all the anti-Semites, conspiracy theorists, Walt and Mersheimers of the world? Maybe a lower profile would have been preferable?”

Maybe what we need today is an article with the reverse headline: “First Thought on Most Jewish Congress Ever: Oy. Second Thought: Wow.”

4. I’ll explain, but first 2 needed caveats:

  1. There is no new record of representatives this time (this was expected).
  2. Generally speaking, more Democrats in Congress means more Jews in Congress. So we should not get overexcited about the increase in Jewish presence on Capitol Hill.

5. Now explanation.

We begin with an Oy, because of all the talk, some valid, some hysterical, about anti-Semitic undertones in these past election. Remember the days when Joe Lieberman was running for vice president, and everybody was talking about how much this is a non-issue? These days – Oy indeed! – are over. Whether because of non-Jews using anti-Semitic images to smear their opponents – or because of Jews making anti-Semitism a political tool with which to sway the voters in their direction.

In short, anti-Semitism is no longer a non-issue.

6. Still, my proposed reverse headline ends with a Wow. Because of a record number of Jewish candidates that were running this time. Democratic and Republican, female and male, highly engaged Jewishly, barely engaged Jewishly, radical and centrist, pleasers and provocateurs, gays and straight, businessman and Navy commanders, Jews and half Jews, and spouses of Jews who raise Jewish children.

As Ben Sales reports, five Jewish Democrats are “set to chair key House committees.””. Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Adam Schiff of California will head the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee.

How can we say Oy when Jews feel secured enough, liked enough, involved enough, to run and win in elections?

7. Israelis are as self centered as everybody else and hence consider only one question: Will the next Congress be supportive of Israel? will it be supportive of President  Trump’s support for Israel? And if such questions annoy most American Jews, well, that’s an old story. A story whose beginning can be traced as back as the story of the U.S.-Israel relations.

Asking the question this way essentially gives an answer to what Israel wanted. It wanted a Congress supportive of what it sees as Trump’s support for Israel. Only one party could guarantee such an outcome — and it’s not the Democratic Party. So yes, Israel lost tonight. But since the wave is not a big wave – Israel’s is not a big loss.

8. Israel also gained an opportunity to re-engage with the party whose voters – and some of its leaders – presents it with a complicated challenge. Simply put, it is this challenge: Can Israel have the support of both political camps in this era of partisanship?

To answer this question, consider all other issues on the American agenda: China, Climate Change, Immigration, Taxes, Health Care, Tariffs, Supreme Court, Media, Transgender Rights, Religion and State. Consider these, and all other issues and then repose the question: Can anyone or anything have the support of both political camps in this era of partisanship? And what are the needed steps to gain such unique and out-of-fashion status?

9. The Jewish vote: Nothing new (CNN Exit poll: 79% voted for House Democrats). So there is no need for over-interpretation (yes, if anyone had doubts, they do not vote for the House based on Netanyhau’s priorities).

GOP Congressional Candidate: No Peace in Middle East Until Jews, Muslims Convert to Christianity

Screenshot from Twitter.

Mark Harris, a Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, reportedly said in 2011 that there would never be peace in the Middle East unless Jews and Muslims converted to Christianity.

Harris, who was a pastor until his congressional run, reportedly said in a 2011 sermon after he visited Israel, “There will never be peace in Jerusalem until the day comes that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Harris added, “Jesus, when he went into Jerusalem, said, ‘I am the vine. I am the true vine,’ and until those that are called in Islam realize that and until those that are called in Judaism realize that, for that matter, until those that are caught in the religion of Christianity and are missing the personal relationship with Jesus Christ, realize that, there’ll never be peace in their soul or peace in their city.”

Harris’ campaign did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment at publication time.

Harris is running in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, which includes Charlotte, where President Trump is popular and the current representative for that area is Republican Robert Pittenger. However, myriad election forecasts have projected the race as a toss-up between Harris and his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready.

Pittsburgh Community Comes Together in the Wake of Synagogue Shooting

Pittsburgh Remembers the Victims

Pittsburgh Remembers the Victims

Posted by Jewish Journal on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Eitz chayim hi lamachazikim bahIt is a tree of life for those who cling to it.

On the night of Sunday, Oct. 28, less than 36 hours after a gunman rampaged through the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, mowing down 11 Jewish souls, close to 3,000 people braved driving rain, howling winds and 40-degree temperatures to take part in an interfaith vigil honoring the dead.

They converged en masse at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall — an imperious brick structure squatting high above the University of Pittsburgh in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. They packed the hall to its rafters, lined its hallways, and even stood outside in the darkness, huddled under umbrellas, listening to loudspeakers of the rousing speeches inside.

When Tree of Life’s Rabbi Jeffrey Myers stepped to the microphone, the crowd fell silent, clinging to his words.

You probably recognize Myers by now from his cable news appearances, your social media feeds, his powerful speech at the vigil, and the iconic photograph of him escaping from the synagogue on that Shabbat morning, wrapped in his tallit, accompanied by police.

Thirty minutes after the vigil, on the Memorial Hall’s cold, dark steps, when most attendees had left, Myers stood cloaked in his long, dark coat, his black kippah —bearing the gold letter ‘P’ of the Pittsburgh Pirates — clipped tightly to his shock of white hair. He stood seemingly strong and tall — a tree of life for those who cling to it. 

Here was a soft-spoken man — upon closer look with red-rimmed eyes — somehow upholding the Squirrel Hill community in the glare of international television crews; a man who had no time to grieve, to process, to mourn, to even begin to deal with the immense trauma he was suffering.

And yet, he remained gracious and thoughtful, his roots in the Squirrel Hill community giving strength to his words, his compassion, his resilience — in spite of the chilling knowledge that, according to the anti-Defamation League, he and his community had suffered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history. 

The beauty, strength and resilience of Pittsburgh is palpable in the leafy Squirrel Hill neighborhood, with its brick and wood two-story homes and their welcoming front porches set back along wide streets surrounded by verdant parkways. 

“The Squirrel Hill Jewish community is an unusual community in that it has been based here for a very long time. There are three day schools. The synagogues here range from Reform to Lubavitch, within walking distance, all within the eruv.” — Lynn Berman

You could see and feel it at the intersection of Wilkins and Murray avenues, down the hill from Tree of Life, where a perimeter was set up early Monday morning by police who expected the crime scene investigation to continue for at least a week. 

Realizing they could no longer drive up a hill to the synagogue entrance, where 11 makeshift Star of David memorial tributes stood, people quickly set up a second, makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and heartfelt prayers, including a sign in Hebrew that read “mitpalel” (praying). There was a bouquet of flowers with a rosary wrapped around it, a sign reading “Hate has no home here” in half a dozen languages, and expressions of love and support were written into the sidewalk, thanks to someone who thoughtfully left a box of chalk.

Jen and Mark Montinola, a young, Catholic couple, drove here from their home 30 minutes away to lay a delicately wrapped bouquet of red roses and read a prayer they had written themselves. 

“It was such a huge tragedy for our entire city,” Jen said. “That it could happen here gave us such a helpless feeling. We wanted to do something to show our support.” 

“We’re Catholic,” Mark added, “but we have friends of many different faiths and we wanted to come and say a prayer.” 

It was here where a woman in her 60s placed her own bouquet. She then turned, walked up to me, and without a word hugged me. Wrapped in her warm embrace against the buffeting winds, I whispered, “I don’t live here, I’m just a journalist here to write a story.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “We all need a hug right now.”

It was here that Nikki Malzi came with her 18-month-old Goldendoodle, Tucker, to pay her respects. She spoke of how she and her husband went to donate blood after a call went out on Saturday, but the centers were overwhelmed with donors. “We went back on Sunday to donate,” she said. “They told us that on Saturday, when they usually close at 2:30 p.m., they stayed till 9 p.m.” to accommodate everyone who had shown up.

It was here where Mandi Babkis, who grew up in Squirrel Hill and now lives just 10 minutes away, said, “Even though I didn’t personally know those who died, even though it wasn’t my synagogue, I just felt, intuitively, empathically, I needed to stop here today.” 

The ripples of community support widened as I trudged toward the synagogue’s entrance. The locals kindly offered directions. A compassionate police officer, stationed in his car to block passage up one of the side streets, took pity: “Sure,” he said, “you can take the shortcut. Stay on the right-hand side of the street and tell the police officer at the top that I let you pass.”

Dental assistant Lisa Jawula who works at a Jewish dentist’s office on Murray Avenue. She made the t-shirt herself over the weekend. Photo by Kelly Hartog

With willingness, grace and humility, Squirrel Hill’s residents let the mass of news media representatives into their lives, when nobody would blame them for wanting to shut us out. Nowhere was this willingness more palpable than on the long stretch of Murray Avenue lined with Jewish stores and restaurants. 

There, I ran into a woman smoking a cigarette, dressed in black scrubs and a black T-shirt emblazoned with “Pittsburgh Strong” in bold, white letters — and a white, hand-drawn Star of David. She said her name was Lisa Jawula, a dental assistant to a local Jewish dentist. On Sunday she went to a Michael’s craft store to buy the supplies to make the shirt. 

“I felt I wanted to do something,” she said, adding that she knew the two brothers who were killed, David and Cecil Rosenthal. “They were a part of the community. Our hearts are very heavy right now,” she said. “We’re trying to get through the day as usual, but it’s hard.”

Everyone here is traumatized. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone is standing tall and praising the beauty and love of their community – a community where everybody either knew one or more people who were killed or knew of them. 

“The Squirrel Hill Jewish community is an unusual community in that it has been based here for a very long time,” said Lynn Berman. “There are three day schools. The synagogues here range from Reform to Lubavitch, within walking distance, all within the eruv.”

“We all know each other,” she said. “I could walk into any synagogue on a Shabbat morning and I would know people. Even though there are three congregations in the [Tree of Life] building, it is literally my community. Close friends had a bat mitzvah there last week.”

The four-person team of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and EMTs flew to Pittsburgh from Israel on the same night of the shooting.

Suzi Neft lives in Swisshelm Park but grew up in Squirrel Hill. She said in a phone interview, “The Jewish community is so close. Rabbis from extreme Orthodox to Reconstructionist all get along and everybody pulls for everybody else. We care about each other and we welcome new people all the time.” 

Like many in the Orthodox community who are Sabbath observant, Berman wasn’t really aware of what was going on initially. “I live five blocks from the synagogue,” she said, “and the number of ambulances that went by our house was really quite terrifying. Then we saw the bomb squad and ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms personnel). My husband and I were speechless. This isn’t the kind of place where you expect this to happen.”

The Bermans only found out what was going on because they have a code with their children — if the phone rings twice in quick succession on Shabbat, they know it’s an emergency and they should pick up. Those two back-to-back calls came from the Bermans’ son who lives in Cleveland, who told them when they answered the phone that their daughter, who lives in Tel Aviv, had called him to let him know what had happened.

Jamie Beth Schindler and her family drove four hours from Lancaster, Pa., to attend the funerals of her distant cousins, the Rosenthal brothers. Schindler grew up in nearby Stanton Heights, but her grandmother was the assistant to the rabbi at Tree of Life until she retired in the 1980s. 

Schindler’s aunt, 68-year-old Jo Ellen Smith, still lives in Squirrel Hill and survived the 1970 Kent State shootings where four unarmed students were killed by the Ohio National Guard.

“Squirrel Hill is a very special place, but my sense is also that Squirrel Hill has become a very dangerous place,” Schindler said, adding, “I’m horrified but not surprised” by the shooting.

Smith described in a phone interview how stunned she was by the shooting. “I live two blocks from the synagogue. My mother was the secretary to the rabbi and my daughter went to religious school and had her bat mitzvah at Tree of Life.”

But for Smith, a psychologist, the helicopters overhead in the aftermath of the shooting were the hardest thing for her to bear, prompting reminders of her experiences at Kent State. She found comfort in turning on her police scanner on the computer as the attack was unfolding.

“There were some very difficult things to hear,” she said, “but it was also comforting to know how finely tuned and how highly trained and how dedicated these first responders are. They’re not just SWAT teams — there are medical SWAT people that go in with them. That made me feel even more safe.” 

Former Tree of Life Rabbi Chuck Diamond. Photo by Kelly Hartog,

Richard Greenberg, known to all as the Squirrel Hills Kilt Man (because, yes, he wears a kilt, sports Elton John glasses, walks with a cane and smokes a cigar), was outside Tree of Life on the Monday morning after the shooting, paying his respects. He sounded incredulous as he said, “I can’t believe this happened in my own town.” He spoke of the Rosenthals — Cecil, 59, and David, 54 — both developmentally disabled. Cecil greeted everyone. David took the Torah out of the ark every week. He pointed to a marker placed for another victim, Joyce Feinberg. “After we davened Shacharis, she’d put out the breakfast. She had a heart of gold.” He also fondly remembered Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, known for his colorful bow-ties and his work with people with HIV/AIDS in the early days of the epidemic. “I was just with him on Thursday for Shacharis,” he said, shaking his head. 

As the day wore on, gray, overcast and drizzling, the phalanx of media trucks continued to swell, FBI teams walked the synagogue’s perimeter, and people kept coming to place flowers and notes and pay their respects. Elderly men and women in walkers, a small child — one hand clutching a bouquet of flowers, the other holding firmly to a parent. Adults openly sobbed.

Weaving his way through it all while simultaneously juggling media interviews was former Tree of Life Rabbi Chuck Diamond. Tall, with a head of white curls poking out from his Pirates baseball cap, he walked up to every single person — even those he didn’t know — and thanked them for coming out. He hugged two women who were openly weeping.

“We just hope to be able to give everybody the ability to come out of this OK.” — Miriam Ballin, United Hatzalah Israel

Asked what would come next after the media have moved on to the next tragedy, Diamond sighed. “The next part is the funerals,” he said. “We’re involved in the mourning and the grieving and the comforting of the community over the shiva period.

“I think it becomes especially difficult for the families after the shiva period,” he continued. “How do we go on with our lives with this heaviness? All the [victims]were wonderful people, great souls who wouldn’t hurt a fly, who just wanted to come and pray and study.”

It’s that notion of how to grieve, for both the families and the entire community, that has brought United Hatzalah Israel to Squirrel Hill. 

Cari Immerman, regional director of United Hatzalah Israel, jumped into action to bring out the world’s first psycho-trauma unit. “We disperse people around the world to get on the scene and deal with psychological first aid and emotional wounds,” she said.

The four-person team of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and EMTs flew to Pittsburgh from Israel on the same night of the shooting. “Unfortunately, we know this drill too well in Israel, so we basically brought our expertise and said ‘use us,’” Immerman said.

Leading the team is Miriam Ballin. “We have a unique skill set that we developed in Israel based on psychological first-aid from the World Health Organization, as well as psychological first-aid developed in Israel as a result of the constant trauma that we experience. And we’ve brought those tools to the community here,” she said.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Ballin said, “The surprise factor here was something that definitely caught people off guard, and it’s making the traumatic experience even all the more difficult to deal with. We just hope to be able to give everybody the ability to come out of this OK.”

United Hatazlah’s Cari Immerman (left) and Miriam Ballin. Photo by Kelly Hartog

Also undertaking extraordinarily difficult work were the local Chevra Kadisha volunteers who sat with the bodies of the victims until the authorities allowed them to be released for burial. Once the FBI allowed the bodies out of the synagogue, they were taken to the medical examiner’s offices, where the volunteers stayed with the bodies.

One of those volunteers was Nina Butler. She has worked as a “shomeret” before, but said this was different because “the whole community is raw. Being a shomeret was something that filled my heart. I felt this was something constructive I could do.”

She also had nothing but praise for the police who “bent over backwards to accommodate our religious rights and customs.” 

It was easy to become traumatized just standing all day outside the Tree of Life synagogue, listening to people’s stories, so I headed back to Murray Avenue and made my way to the Milky Way, a kosher, vegetarian restaurant. However, I was  waylaid by Michael Milch, sitting outside the Murray Avenue Kosher supermarket drinking a cup of coffee and schmoozing with the locals. An Orthodox man, he said he only heard what was going on from what people were saying in the streets that Shabbat morning until he visited the house of a friend who had the television on.

Michael Milch outside Murray Avenue Kosher supermarket. He went to a non-Orthodox friend’s house to watch the tragedy unfold on TV. Photo by Kelly Hartog

He interrupted his own story to point out a man walking down the street. “That’s our city councilman, Corey O’Connor,” Milch said. “You should talk to him.” Milch then proceeded to introduce me and said, “[O’Connor’s] dad was the mayor and lived in Squirrel Hill, and I’m sure he’s looking down on us today because he loved the Jewish community.”

Flowers and a sign simply saying “praying” left at the makeshift memorial at Tree of Life synagogue. Photo by Kelly Hartog

O’Connor smiled and joked, “Michael’s my press secretary.”  He went on to say, “It’s been remarkable how many people have come out in support of their neighborhood and their loved ones that we lost. There has been overwhelming support for the community from all of Pittsburgh. Squirrel Hill is a close-knit community and we’re going to be there for everybody. If somebody needs a helping hand, they know who to call and that’s what we’re here for. That’s why I’ve been in the district the last two days just walking the streets.”

And there it was again. That term, “close-knit,” the talk of community pulling together, of Orthodox Jews heading to the houses of not-so-frum Jews to watch a collective tragedy unfold on TV.

Nowhere was this sense of all branches of the Jewish community coming together more visible than in the Milky Way restaurant. 

A middle-aged woman dressed in jeans and a pastel-striped sweater comes in to collect three heavy trays of food. Her face is taut, her skin pale. Suddenly, an Orthodox woman in a long, black skirt gets up from her lunch table, walks over to the woman and wraps her arms around her. The two of them just stand there, locked in an embrace that is so intimate, so deeply felt, I feel like an intruder as I watch. No words are spoken. When they finally pull apart, tears are in both their eyes.

Harry Ash, a 70-year-old psychologist who has lived in Squirrel Hill his whole life, is also eating his lunch of vegetarian chicken nuggets and fries at the Milky Way. He’s trying to find a way of balancing how “normal” life seems. “I went to the dentist this morning,” he said, “and here I am eating lunch. Life goes on. But [the shooting] was quite shocking. I’m still in shock.”

While Ash is Orthodox and attends Poale Zedek, where he said the rabbi informed them during services there was an active shooter at Tree of Life, he said, “I have driven by that synagogue countless times.”

Richard Greenberg, Squirrel Hills’ “Kilt Man” pays his respects. “I can’t believe this happened in my own town.” Photo by Kelly Hartog

Ash said the whole incident has made him think about possibly getting a gun. But after talking about how several police officers were still shot when they had guns and years of training, he said the idea, “is just in the thinking stages.”

He also spoke of what a “beautiful community” Squirrel Hill is and how the tragedy “pushes us to appreciate what’s important in life,” adding he was surprised that several of his current and former patients — who aren’t Jewish — called to check up on him after the shooting. “I was really touched by that,” he said.

While many residents said they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love of the Jewish community from around the country and the world, they also went out of their way to talk about the support being provided by people of so many different faiths.

One of the most powerful speeches at the Sunday night vigil at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall came from Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, where his community had already raised $70,000 to help pay funeral and medical expenses for the victims. A couple of days later, that amount had jumped to almost $150,000. 

Realizing they could no longer drive up a hill to the synagogue entrance, where 11 makeshift Star of David memorial tributes stood, people quickly set up a second, makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and heartfelt prayers.

Mohamed said the Muslim community would offer whatever help was needed and “if it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there.”

Modern Orthodox Jewish community member Barb Feige, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, has worked with the Muslim community and Mohamed. She posted a thank you to him on her Facebook page that went viral.

“It’s had over 20,000 shares,” she said in a phone interview. “The ACLU did a lot of work providing safeguards to the Muslim community post 9/11when the FBI was calling people in for interviews,” she said. “Once I saw [Mohamed] was going to be at the vigil, I knew it was going to be something heartfelt. The offers of protection struck me and everybody. [I thought], ‘Oh my God, 10 minutes ago you were the ones needing protecting.’ ”

Once again, her words spoke to the bonds in this community. “I think it goes to people wanting to see good and wanting to hear good,” Feige said. “And from two groups where the rest of the world thinks we’re at each other’s throats all the time, yet here we are together.”

Berman, who also attended the vigil, spoke of seeing “Sikhs, Muslims, people wearing crosses and Catholic collars. It felt warm and supportive.”

Feige concurred. “It was healing to be together. It was that sense of needing to hear some words that we were thinking but having somebody else saying them out loud. To know that other people were going through the same thing.” 

The vigil on that Sunday night, and another impromptu vigil held the night before, helped carve out a path to move the community forward. On the following Tuesday, the funerals began.

The Rosenthal brothers’ funerals were held at Rodef Shalom in Squirrel Hill, the only synagogue large enough to hold the almost 1,000 people who turned out — and even then it was standing-room only. There were audible sobs as members of the local fire department walked by the brothers’ side-by-side coffins to salute them.

One of David and Cecil’s sister’s, Diane Rosenthal, spoke of them being men but “as most people here in the audience know, we referred to them as ‘the boys’ — maybe because they were innocent, like boys.” 

She went on to say that “Even if you didn’t know them, you’ve heard stories about them on TV or in the newspapers, which” — she said to raucous laughter —  “as many of you know, Cecil would have loved.”

Indeed, Diane’s husband, Michael  Hirt, went to pains to talk about the differences between the two. David was the ladies man who would ask every woman if they were married, followed by “Wanna go to Hawaii?”

“If David hadn’t been handicapped, I think he would have been a movie star or a celebrity who maintained a fine balance between public and private life,” Hirt said.

He spoke of Cecil being a consummate politician, planner, organizer and socialite. He knew everyone in town and everyone’s business. “If you wanted local news gossip, Cecil was your source,” Hirt said. “If Cecil had not been handicapped, he would have been the mayor of Squirrel Hill.”

Rodef Shalom synagogue was filled to capacity at the funerals for Cecil and David Rosenthal. Photo by Kelly Hartog

Outside, as congregants poured into their cars to follow a police escort to the cemetery, Mayor Bill Peduto, who has been in the news speaking about not wishing to meet President Donald Trump who arrived in town on Tuesday, took time to talk to some of the mourners.

“We’ll get through this,” he said. “We’ll take care of the families and make sure that the pain that they have is minimized as much as it can be.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto talks to mourners following the Rosenthal funerals. Photo by Kelly Hartog

While politics has swirled around this latest tragedy, many in this community want to keep that discussion at bay — at least for now. The focus is on healing, and the community is a portrait in resilience.

Mohamed said the Muslim community would offer whatever help was needed and ‘if it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there.’

Rabbi Diamond said that while the loss of all 11 people would be felt, “when I speak of them, sometimes I smile because this is a celebration of their lives. We will be inspired by them as we move into the future, in how they would have reacted to something like this — being there for other people. We have to be there for each other, support each other and take it a step at a time.”

“Overall, we will remain united,” Berman said. “There is no place in our community for hate.”

Hate has no home here. Photo by Kelly Hartog

Feige said, “We don’t know yet what change this will bring. What happens with the Tree of Life building? How do you go back in there? Change will come but we don’t yet know how or what that is. 

“But whatever comes next,” she added, “in Squirrel Hill in particular, the Jewish community is very close-knit. We get along because we’re on top of each other and we’re on top of each other because we get along.” 

Hashiveinu adonai elecha v’nashuva, chadesh yamenu kekedem… Return us to you, God, so that we shall return, renew our days as of old.

READ MORE ON PITTSBURGH SHOOTING:  Community Reactions to Pittsburgh Shooting; Tree of Life Victims: Devout, Respected, Loved; 
Los Angeles Holds Vigil for Pittsburgh

My Name Is Jew, and I Want My Name Back

Mourners react during a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

My name is “Jew.” My name is smoothed by centuries of storms, polished by the rolling river of time. My name is a diamond, born of friction and pressure, thrust to the surface by fiery lava, precious, multi-faceted. My name is “Jew” and my name is the philosopher’s stone, turning base metals into gold, turning all that is mundane in this world and infusing it with meaning, turning it into the shining substance of the sacred.

My name is “Jew” and my name turns the animal of man, his brutality, his beastliness, into beauty and righteousness, elevating him above his dust and his dross.

“Jew” is the stamp on the greatest love-letter ever written, from Creator to created, the love-letter in which we are given the Ten Commandments, the ethical guideposts of civilizations, the love-letter that proclaimed that every person is made in the Image of God, b’Tzelem Elohim, that every living vessel, whether broken or whole, is infused worthiness, casting down cast systems, a love-letter that told the story of all humanity descending from one couple, that we are one family, no one superior to another, a love-letter that illustrated the redemption of a slave people into a nation of priests, a people whose babies had been drowned in the river, a people beaten and in rags, restored to dignity, a thread of royal blue tied to the corner of their garments, a reminder of each individual’s inherent nobility.

Dear humankind, Here is Shabbat, the world’s greatest religious gift, a day upon which the flower and the gardener stand as equals to one another, day of peace, of rest, of family, of vision of a future world. Enjoy. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, I have put My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between [God] and the world. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Love your neighbor as yourself. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Welcome the stranger in your midst. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Let my people go. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. Sincerely, Jews.

Dear humankind, Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof. Love, Jews.

I want my name back.

Jew means “championing what is arguably the single most revolutionary concept in human civilization, monotheism.” One God. A universal moral code of conduct.

Jew means having partnership with the Divine for the repair of our broken world. Tikkun Olam.

Jew means helping the other is my responsibility during my lifetime. Jew means confessing my shortcomings and striving to better myself.

I want my name back. My name is “Jew.”

Rabbi Zoë Klein Miles is the senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles.

Pittsburgh Massacre an Attack on Humanity

Words fail in the aftermath of the horrifying tragedy in Pittsburgh.

Eleven synagogue worshipers were brutally murdered while in the midst of their prayers. Six others, including police officers, were wounded. The FBI special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office, Bob Jones, said that it was the most “horrific crime scene” he’s witnessed in his 22 year career with the Bureau.

The shooter, Robert Bowers, shouted “all Jews must die” while he carried out his massacre. Commentators are already calling this the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

The name of the congregation in which the attack took place is “The Tree of Life”. But on this day it became identified with death.

What makes this all the more tragic is the event which was taking place at the time. The synagogue was in the midst of rejoicing with a family celebrating a brit milah and baby naming, affirming a child’s identification with the Jewish people.

A celebration of life turned into a bloodbath. And we can only ask, will it never end?

We mourn with broken hearts. But it would be a mistake if we merely perceived this as an attack on Jews, as but another in the lengthy list of anti-Semitic atrocities of history.

When Jews are murdered in a house of God it is an affront to every person who believes that all of humankind was created “in the image of God.” It represents the ultimate rejection of civilized society.

Sadly, what happened in Pittsburgh is not an isolated incident. It is an echo of a kind of evil which we have come to witness in recent times. And it is an evil which, either on a conscious or subconscious level, has a powerful motivation.

Terrorist attacks are heinous crimes no matter where they occur. Carried out in places of worship, their malevolence is not only magnified multiple times but their rationale also takes on a different meaning. That is unfortunately what we have seen with ever greater frequency.

In July 2008, Jim David Adkisson began his shooting spree at the Tennessee Valley Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee. He killed two people and wounded seven others. He justified his actions by citing the historically progressive policies of the Unitarian church. Four years later a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page, attacked a Sikh temple, or gurdwaras, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six people and wounding four more before committing suicide. In June 2015, Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who frequently posted publicly about his desire to kill nonwhites, murdered nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston South Carolina. And just last year 26 people were killed in the deadliest church shooting in American history at the First Baptist Church in Sutherlands Springs, Texas.

What explains this striking parallelism? Why have churches and synagogues and houses of worship become appealing targets of hatred?

It is almost certain that the perpetrators of these crimes know that they can commit the maximum emotional devastation when they strike at the very heart of the spiritual fabric of the community. Houses of God are sources of inspiration for good. They are the foundations of civility, of respect, of the dissemination of values which make possible human survival.

And that is what makes them such appealing places upon which to express their prejudices, their bigotry and – in the most profound psychological truth – their inner self-hatred.

Simon Wiesenthal warned us years ago that “the combination of hatred and technology is the greatest danger threatening mankind.” We have long been concentrating on the dangers of technology and its awful potential for human destruction. We need to put equal effort into combating the hatred which knows no limits and finds its most satisfying outlet against those very places which bring the world the beauty of God and of love.

This story was originally posted on

Cry, Don’t Politicize. 9 Comments on the Pittsburgh Massacre

People mourn the loss of life as they hold a vigil for the victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 27, 2018. REUTERS/John Altdorfer

I have nine comments on the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27:

It is heartbreaking. Full stop. Have a moment of silence, light a candle, remember that when Jews are killed for being Jews you bleed, all Jews bleed. Thus, treat this butchery of hate not as an opportunity to advance a political agenda. Make it personal. Make it about love. Mourn it.


Yes, it is the worst ever massacre of Jews in America. Don’t over interpret this fact – as it is mostly a coincidence. Some killers are less successful, some more. No one goes on a murderous rampage thinking oh, I will just kill three or five Jews. A butcher on a rampage kills as many Jews as possible. In this case, it was more than all previous such cases.


America did not change yesterday, not for Jews, nor for other Americans. In America mass killings of this type are a horrific recurrence. It can be a school or university, a gay club or a rock concert, it can be a synagogue. America is armed to its teeth, and has its fair share of radicals, lunatics and delusional haters. This is a deadly combination. From time to time, Jews will be the victims.

“Making Jews feel even more exposed, even more a target of hate, could be the result of wrong, politically driven policies.”


The question of security, of guards, of locked gates, is not very interesting. It is a technical question, one of risk assessment, of cost-benefit assessment. The leaders of institutions must consult with professionals and decide how best to secure the gathering places of Jews. President Trump, speaking yesterday about the attack, made a comment about the need for guards that some observers were quick to interpret as a “blame-the-victim” tactic. It was not. It was just Trump being Trump, and making a statement that was not well crafted. As for security: he may have a point. Or not. Let professionals decide.


Trump was also the target of many other observations following the massacre. Some went as far as blaming him for it. This is both unfair and foolish. Mass killings occurred before Trump. Hatred of Jews did not start at his watch. True – the US is tenser, more violent, more on edge in the Trump era. Is he the cause of it, or just the result? Probably both. And yet, there is no doubt that the President is not a Jew hater, does not encourage or condone hate of Jews, does not aim to hurt Jews.


Yes, and blaming him is a fool’s errand. Trump has many followers. Most of them bear no ill will against Jews. Yet if the Jews make the president their prime target of criticism – if they portray him and his supporters as anti-Semitic haters – alienation will follow, and anger.


The counter argument has power. The Jews are not tourists in America, they are not guests. If they see a wolf, they must cry. If they see injustice, they must wage a battle. Under such circumstances, restraint is the remedy. Wage a battle – wisely. Wage a battle – cautiously. Wage a battle – to win. Waging it to lose could be admirable, and very dangerous.


A few Israeli spectators also politicized the murder. On Israeli Radio a senior commentator made it about Conservative Judaism – the Pittsburgh synagogue is Conservative – not being recognized by the state. Again – unfair and unwise. And for similar reasons. No Jew wants other Jews to get killed – because of disagreements over theology. No Jew should be made to feel guilty about the murder, just because he or she do not agree with Conservative Judaism.


Jews tend to respond to such instances of violence in two ways: Those of them who feel a part of the community raise their level of involvement and awareness – those of them who have doubts lower their level of communal participation, to stay safe.

This is not an easy test for the Jewish community. And its implications are not immediately known. Making Jews feel safe as they identify Jewishly and engage Jewishly ought to be the main task ahead. Making Jews feel even more exposed, making Jews even more a target of hate, could be the result of wrong, politically driven, policies.

Conservative Rabbis Can Now Attend Interfaith Marriages

Conservative rabbis are now allowed to attend interfaith weddings according to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

Though many have found ways to celebrate interfaith simchas since the rule wasn’t strictly enforced, the new rule allows rabbis to attend ceremonies without facing penalties.

The decision was made last Friday, Oct. 19 in a vote of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on JLS, which determines Conservative Jewish legal rulings.

According to a statement provided by the Rabbinical Assembly, the committee’s ruling states “Attendance as a guest at a wedding where only one party is Jewish is not included in this Standard of Religious Practice.”

The decision reverses more than four decades of rumors that the movement’s rabbis would lose their position if they even attended an interfaith wedding.

According to a 2013 Pew Research poll, as of 2005-2013, 58 percent of Jewish marriages have been interfaith marriages. Before 1970 it was 18 percent.

“Reform Judaism continues to be the largest Jewish denominational movement in the United States,” according to the poll. “One-third (35%) of all U.S. Jews identify with the Reform movement, while 18% identify with Conservative Judaism.”

The decision to lift the ban shows American Jews that the Conservative movement is slowing changing the way they look at interfaith marriages in order to make the Jewish community more inclusive.

This important standard [officiating Jewish couples], however, does not preclude our welcoming and reaching out to intermarried couples and families, as we believe it is also important to create positive rabbinic relationships with both the Jewish and non-Jewish member of such a couple,” the RA said.

To read the full Conservative Movement code of conduct click here.  

Jews, Blinded by Trump

The midterms are coming, and I’m worried about the state of mind of American Jews. 

Not because most of them are going to vote for Democratic candidates, as a survey from last week revealed. That’s to be expected. 

Not because most will vote for Democrats even though Israelis would prefer Republicans to retain control of Congress. There is nothing new in this divide of preferences. 

It’s also not a surprise — and doesn’t much worry me — that most disapprove of President Donald Trump. 

And it’s not a surprise that although pro-Israel, many are critical of some (35 percent) or many (24 percent) of its policies. Join the club: Israelis, too, are critical of some of many of Israel’s policies, while still voting for the same government for quite some time (as to why, read David Suissa’s column “Why Are Israeli Voters So Stubborn?” (Oct. 5). 

No, I’m worried about one question in the survey that was published by the Mellman Group. It is a tricky question to analyze, as it refers to two separate issues: Trump is No. 1, Jerusalem is No. 2. 

“Large Majorities Disapprove of Trump’s Handling of Nearly Every Issue,” declares the summary of the findings. Indeed, the only issue that a majority of American Jews are satisfied with is the handling of U.S.-Israel relations. That’s important because it indicates at least some American Jews retain a grain of common sense even in these highly charged days of partisan politics. How many is “some”? A little more than a half approve of Trump’s handling of the relations: 51 percent. What does the other (almost) half want him to do? What must Trump do to satisfy the discontented half? 

“There is no shame in being honest about your preferences. Israel wants a supportive U.S. president; Trump, thus far, has provided it with one.”

Whatever the answer, the other question I have clearly shows that common sense is out of fashion. It’s the question about Trump’s handling of relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem. A clear majority of American Jews disapprove of this decision. Does the majority disapprove because it generally disapproves of everything Trump does (except by a scant majority, his handling of U.S.-Israel relations)? Does it disapprove of it because of how Trump made this move specifically? Had he made it in some other fashion, would the majority have approved? Does the majority disapprove of it because it has no desire to see an American Embassy in Jerusalem — or maybe only if and when the Palestinians would agree to such a move (which might be never)?

There are two basic possibilities: Either American Jews don’t understand the significance of the American Embassy’s move to Jerusalem or they are so disenchanted by Trump that even the embassy’s relocation wouldn’t make them squeeze out a compliment about him. Either way, I’m worried. It’s not good for the Jewish people if Jews no longer wish for the main empire of the era to have its embassy in the capital of the Jewish people. It’s also not good for the Jewish people if Jews can no longer see beyond partisan politics. 

In all seriousness, such a response to a simple question about a no-brainer issue is certain to puzzle a vast majority of Jewish Israelis. Among them, more than two-thirds supported the embassy’s move. All its political parties supported it, except for the Arab Party and the small party of the (small) left, Meretz. Their appreciation is shown by the polls proving that Israel is one of few countries to have a positive view of Trump.

Ha, you’d say: Israelis have a positive view of Trump. Shame on them. But no. There is no shame in being honest about your preferences. Israel wants a supportive U.S. president; Trump, thus far, has provided it with one. There is no shame in showing gratitude to a benefactor. 

There is a little shame in blind partisanship, and a little shame in blind disregard for positive action, and a little shame in opposing what Jews have dreamed of for so long. There is shame —  and thus, there’s worry.  

With Special-Needs Education, One Menu Doesn’t Fit All

Photo by CHLOE.

I recently saw an advertisement for The Lemon Tree Kids and Family Restaurant in Koreatown. Intrigued, I Googled it, to see if “family friendly” meant a play space, pizza and sugar, and indeed it didbut with a twist. The main menu consists of authentic Korean food; the pizzas and paninis are alternatives.

Ever the education-analogy-geek, I wondered about this as a model of inclusion. If you’re in Koreatown for Korean food and you have kids, and/or pizza loving friends, or if you’re looking for a place to have a quiet meal while your kids empty the contents of the ball pit, this is for you. People with differing taste buds can dine together, having their mozzarella or spicy noodles and eating them too.

This, the food court model of different classes for different needs, does not  – yet – exist in Jewish day schools in Los Angeles. Instead, we aspire to include students with needs in our mainstream set-up. Sure, they may be pulled out for resource, but there is no “special day class.”  Ideally, as Dr. Bruce Powell suggested in a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, we should include everyone, and not just accommodate, but “replace the word ‘accommodate’ with ‘embrace’:

‘If you’re coming to my home and you tell me you’re a vegetarian, I accommodate you,” he said by way of explanation. “You’re the other, [but] if I’m going to really embrace you, I’m going plan a meal that looks the same. And nobody [will know] which one is meat and which one is vegetarian.’”

“What if you have 20 students in a classroom and five of them need accommodations, or in Powell’s terms, embracings? Is it possible?”

Rather than be embarrassed with an obviously special meal, you can blend into the gathering. This may be manageable with guests in the home, but what if you have 20 students in a classroom and five of them need accommodations, or in Powell’s terms, embracings? Is it possible?

You might stay up all night adding secret ingredients to make a lesson palatable for Sam, Molly, Jacob and Annabelle, but you’ll be exhausted – maybe resentful – when it comes to serving it up. And believe me, the kids you’re struggling to embrace will pick up on your mood. Children with special needs sometimes have the cognitive and/ or sensory equivalent of allergies that give them rashes, or that exclude them from activities in which they long to participate. This can cause them to hide under tables, hit, scream, or run from the room. How can a teacher simultaneously embrace students with “big feelings” and students with their, or their parents’, big academic dreams?

When you’re at a restaurant in Los Angeles, you often hear customers ask for adaptations to a dish. Maybe you do it yourself. Sometimes it’s because you just have a preference for a mixture of two different dishes. That’s child-centered education. Sometimes it’s because you have a health condition that makes a dish with nuts or butter a no-no. That’s a series of meetings and carefully drafted goals for a child with special needs, otherwise known as an IEP (Individualized Education Program).

No matter how much you try to make your accommodations, or embracings, subtle and well-meaning, the mainstream is the mainstream, with its focus on language skills. We Jews prioritize language. Not just because of the way education is designed, but because of the very underpinnings of the Jewish tradition. We talk; we question; we opine. And it’s divine. After all, didn’t God create the world with words? Didn’t the commentators have at their fingertips every verse of Torah? What does that mean for a child with a language disorder?

The Lemon Tree is unusual. Usually, if you walk into an Italian restaurant wanting Korean food, you’ll be sent away. If you’re lucky, you’ll be pointed in the direction of a really good Korean place right around the corner.

Most of us wouldn’t think of going into a Korean restaurant and demanding fish and chips. If we own an Italian restaurant, we wouldn’t think twice about gently sending away a customer asking for spicy noodles. So why do we do this in education? Why do we seat, and keep seated, students we cannot feed, because even if we embrace them in our hearts we don’t have the resources to provide a dish that will nourish them? If they want a different menu and it’s elsewhere, let’s direct them with compassion to the appropriate establishment. And let’s become familiar with, and talk to, the establishments in our extended community, so that we know where to send the students we just cannot keep.

As Jewish institutions, we might worry that by denying our children kosher sustenance, we’re sending them into the abyss of an un-hechshered establishment. This is why the model to which we should aspire is perhaps a hechshered Lemon Tree. If you can handle the main menu, that’s great. If you want an alternative, something that’s familiar to you, it’s here— with chefs on staff who know how to prepare it. And when it comes to the jungle gym at the heart of the restaurant, we can all hang together.

Orley Garber is the founder of Builder Bees.

Why Trump Is Bad for Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump displays a presidential memorandum after announcing his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

There are few policy arenas in which President Donald Trump has been more successful in his misdirection of the nation’s attention than the Middle East. For many in the Jewish community — including many in its leadership — there is a reticence to speak up about the outrages of the Trump administration, in large measure because of the president’s perceived “support” for Israel.

After all, he recognized Jerusalem as the nation’s capital, he moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, he has been a staunch advocate for Israel in international bodies, and he embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while making virtually no demands on him. It looks so appealing.

But the reality is that much of what Trump has done vis-a-vis Israel is, in fact, a superficial performance — rhetorically, diplomatically and symbolically — that is at odds with the very policies that will help the Jewish state in the long term. In fact, his policies put the nation, and what exists of an international order striving for calm, in greater peril than it has been in many years.

Community Advocates, in partnership with Jews United for Democracy and Justice (“JUDJ”), four major synagogues (Valley Beth Shalom, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Stephen Wise Temple, Leo Baeck Temple), and the Jewish Center for Justice recently hosted an event at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino featuring Dennis Ross, former Middle East envoy and special adviser for Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia in several administrations.

Ross is among the most knowledgeable experts in the world on the diplomacy of the Middle East. He has served as the point man in negotiations between the Arab states, Israel and the United States in every administration since President George H.W. Bush (under Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama). He facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty; he brokered the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the 1997 Hebron accord, and intensively worked to bring together Israel and Syria in a peace deal. He is also the author of several authoritative books on the region and the peace process.

If one wants a thoughtful, fact-based, nonpartisan analysis of what is transpiring in the Middle East, what the future portends and what the real-world implications of policy decisions are, there is no one who knows more and has more experience in the region than Dennis Ross. He is the best of the Middle East mavens.

In describing Trump administration policies toward the region’s issues, Ross spoke of a “crisis of values” and “a real Russia problem.” Trump has made the situation far worse than it has been in decades.

“Trump’s world view — much like his domestic agenda — in its simplicity and absence of grounding in facts is dangerous to everyone involved. “

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced plans to provide Syria with S300 surface-to-air missiles as well as sophisticated electronic counter measures, which the Trump administration has not objected to. Those moves, combined with “malign Iranian activities,” has put Israel in a nearly impossible, precarious and potentially existentially dangerous position. Ross observed that until now, “the Russians have given the Israelis a free hand to carry out operations (in Syria) and they (the Israelis) have carried out more than 200 operations in Syria against Iranian and Shia militia targets. They no longer have a free hand and the Iranians have been given a free hand. … The Israelis won’t allow themselves to be put in a position where they are threatened in almost an existential way by what the Iranians are introducing into Lebanon and Syria. … so far, they have had to manage the Russians entirely on their own. Do you think it’s an accident that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made nine visits to Moscow to see Putin?” (emphasis added)

Ross made clear how the Trump response to Russia’s actions in Syria, to essentially absent himself from the conflict, differs from his predecessors and places Israel in peril. “Historically, there was a relationship that we had where we kind of said to the Israelis ‘OK, you are responsible for dealing with the threats in the region, we will provide the material support, but when it comes to the Soviets and others outside the region that might threaten or inhibit you, that’s on us.’ That was the historic posture of Republican and Democratic presidents alike — and I know that since I served in most of those administrations. That has not been the case now.” (emphasis added)

Ross laid out the steps that the administration should take to counter Russia, Iran and the Shia militias — none of which is happening. Rather, Trump has offered a vague pledge, “‘I’ll call Putin at some point.’” Ross sarcastically observed, “well, that’s reassuring.” The way to deal with Putin, Ross advised, is not to follow the Trump playbook. “He (Putin) is a transactionalist … you have to speak his language, you don’t tout him with incredible offers.”

Trump’s missteps aren’t just related to Russia and the Middle East:

We have walked away from a ‘rules-based international order. … [Trump sees] no value in multilateral institutions. … the essence of what Trump said to the U.N. is that national sovereignty trumps everything else. Well, we’ve seen what that means — that means that governments can do whatever they want to their own people and national sovereignty precludes anyone from the outside being able to intervene and do anything about it.

The whole import of ‘Never Again’ was that it wasn’t supposed to be a slogan, it was supposed to be a principle. But when the principle is national sovereignty, you can forget ‘Never Again.’ ”

Ross couldn’t have been clearer. He sees Trump as a huge threat to whatever equilibrium might exist in the Middle East by his inexplicable inaction vis-a-vis Russia. That failure of will increases the likelihood of escalation as the Israelis defend their interests against the Iranians, the Shia militias and the Syrians; all without the United States neutralizing the Russians.

In its simplicity and absence of grounding in facts, Trump’s world view — much like his domestic agenda — is dangerous to everyone involved. As Ross observed, “what we are contending with now is really an assault on our values; by the way, it’s not just an assault on our democratic values, it’s an assault on our Jewish values.”

Last week saw further confirmation of the Trump administration’s denigration of the values that are intrinsic to the survival of the Jewish state: American moral leadership.

In his dismissal of taking action against the Saudis in the Oct. 2 disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump betrayed a disdain for America’s leadership role in the world if it might exact a price on our economy — “they’re [the Saudis] are spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment … that doesn’t help us” — he responded when asked about Khashoggi.

A far cry from President Harry Truman recognizing Israel in 1948 despite threats of retaliation from the Arab states, or President Richard Nixon sending arms to Israel in 1973 notwithstanding the Saudis’ imposing a painful and costly oil embargo on us. 

President John Kennedy once urged Americans “to bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Trump is brazenly rewriting our 60-year-old American creed.

Symbolic gestures, such as moving the embassy to Jerusalem, might bring momentary satisfaction, but too much is at stake to think in such short-sighted terms. Looking at the big picture, as Ross so eloquently stated, leads to the inevitable conclusion that Trump’s failure of will with the Russians isn’t good for Israel, for the international order, or for the prospects for a moderately peaceful world.


David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates, Inc. Janice Kamenir-Reznik is a longtime community leader in Los Angeles.

‘Shark Tank’s’ Ken Fuchs on the Excitement of Content Creation

Photo courtesy of Impact24 PR and Ken Fuchs

For the past nine years, Ken Fuchs has directed every episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” winning Emmy Awards for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. He has directed 17 seasons of “Family Feud” as well as its “Celebrity Family Feud” spinoff; Fox’s dating show “Love Connection,” and ABC’s “The Bachelor,” which returns in January for its 23rd season. 

“They overlap a little but I’ve been really lucky, mostly it works out,” the in-demand Fuchs told the Journal. We pinned him down long enough to get the inside story on his life in reality TV.

Jewish Journal: You’re beginning your 10th season on “Shark Tank.” What’s more challenging: dealing with nervous entrepreneurs or the Sharks’ egos?

Ken Fuchs: The Sharks are really lovely people who love giving back and mentoring people. They have egos for sure, but to watch them interact with each other is inspiring. They’re tough on each other and sometimes a little mean but they really do get along off camera. They all share that self-made success story. They came from nothing and worked their tails off to get where they are. 

We prepare the contestants but sometimes the pitch doesn’t go the way they want and they can break down in tears. We’ve seen every kind of emotion out of them and that can be challenging but the best drama is totally unplanned for. You want that spontaneity. Every entrepreneur that comes through the door bares his soul and lays his dreams on the line. I’m moved every day seeing people bootstrap their companies, people who believe in themselves enough to risk everything, and to see it come to fruition is really rewarding.

JJ: Do you have a favorite Shark story?

KF: I remember being at a wrap party where there was a DJ and karaoke. Mark [Cuban] started belting out “If I Were a Rich Man.” It was a little ironic and a lot of fun.

JJ: Some successful products had a Jewish connection. 

KF: Every year we do a holiday show and we always include something for Hanukkah. The standout was Mensch on a Bench. Very successful, over a million dollars, I believe. It was a fun, cute gift idea that struck people’s imagination. We’ve had a few entrepreneurial rabbis come on, like Rabbi Moshe Weiss with the SoundBender, a device that amplified music on your iPad. There was the Hanukkah Tree Topper (a Star of David for a Christmas tree, for interfaith families). The [inventor] now works for Daymond John. He’s on the set every time we shoot with Daymond. 

JJ: What was your Jewish upbringing like?

KF: I grew up as a Reconstructionist Jew in Roslyn, Long Island. My synagogue was one of the first Reconstructionist synagogues. My sister is a rabbi. She teaches in Philadelphia at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. My father is 94 and every moment is a talmudic teaching. I feel a very strong connection to Judaism. I’m a long-standing member of Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills and very involved in raising my sons through the synagogue — the bar mitzvahs, synagogue softball and whatnot. More recently less so, but I’m looking to get back into it now that my career has provided me a little more time to be more involved in the temple and take part in activities and volunteer work.

JJ: Were you always interested in becoming a director?

KF: I always liked television and film, and the freelance lifestyle suited my energy. I fell into directing by accident but I love my job and my crew. I grew up playing sports, and managing a crew is a bit like being on a team. I love the collaborative aspects of it. My favorite kind of stuff to do is live TV and live-to-tape, with a studio audience, like what you see with “Family Feud.” “Shark Tank” is a reality show on a stage: a hybrid. “The Bachelor” is on the other end of the spectrum. We shoot a lot of footage and put the best together.

JJ: So how real is that type of reality show? Is it all manipulated for drama?

KF: That implies we’re creating something that isn’t there and that we never do. People always accuse us of that but the truth is we wouldn’t be on the air this long and people wouldn’t still be watching if it didn’t feel authentic. The reality shows that don’t do well — the ripoffs — feel manipulated. I think viewers are savvy enough to know the difference. Yes, it’s put together in editing and we decide what to use and not to use, but we don’t create false situations. These people say and do crazy things — we’re just there to capture it. 

JJ: Is there another show that you’d love to direct?

KF: “Saturday Night Live.” My dream show. I’d go back to New York for that in a second, though I don’t know how long I’d stay. I travel for work. I just did “Deal or No Deal” at Universal Studios Orlando. A lot of great shows are done in New York and I’d go back for the right opportunity. I also love “The Voice” [and] “World of Dance.” I love game shows, talk shows, music, comedy. With Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Facebook, there’s a lot of new stuff on the horizon and they all need directors. The business model has changed but it’s an exciting time to be in the content creation business.

The new season of  “Shark Tank” premieres at 10 p.m. on Oct. 5 on ABC.

Steven Mirkin is a freelance writer and a copy editor at the Jewish Journal. 

Seth Rogen’s in a Pickle in Dual Movie Role

Seth Rogen Photo by Brandon Hickman/Hulu

Seth Rogen will portray a Jewish immigrant pickle maker and his great-grandson in a new untitled comedy for Sony Pictures. The project casts Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, who comes to America in 1918 and finds work in a pickle factory. He falls into a vat of pickles and gets preserved in brine for a century. When he emerges in present day New York, he’s the same age as his lookalike great-grandson Ben, also played by Rogen. The actor will produce the movie, expected to begin shooting in October in Pittsburgh.

Rogen has several other films in the works or on the calendar. In the comedy “Flarsky,” he plays the title role, a journalist who becomes part of a presidential candidate’s (Charlize Theron) inner circle. Also starring Andy Serkis and Alexander Skarsgard, it will be released June 7. Due out the following month, Jon Favreau’s live action/CGI hybrid remake of “The Lion King” features Rogen as the voice of Pumbaa the warthog.

Awaiting release dates are “Zeroville,” a James Franco-directed Hollywood comedy-drama set in 1969, and “Newsflash,” in which Rogen plays newscaster Walter Cronkite in a story of the John F. Kennedy assassination seen from the point of view of the man who first reported it on live television.

Jewish Revisionist ‘Merchant of Venice’

Photo by Alex Miller

Regarded as one of William Shakespeare’s greatest plays, “The Merchant of Venice” has also been a painful thorn in Jewish sides, its antagonist Shylock epitomizing the stereotype of the miserly Jew and perpetuating anti-Semitism for more than 400 years. 

Sarah B. Mantell’s new play “Everything That Never Happened,” a world premiere production at the Boston Court Pasadena, seeks to right the wrongs Shakespeare wrought. 

Focusing on four “Merchant” characters: Shylock, his daughter Jessica, her lover Lorenzo and the servant Gobbo, the play “treats them as if they were real, three-dimensional human beings, not stereotypes,” director Jessica Kubzansky told the Journal during a break in rehearsal. “What I love about this play is that the characters [are] real people, with rich, complex desires.”

A self-described “Shakespeare freak,” Kubzansky loves the Bard and has often directed his plays. “I worked on ‘The Merchant of Venice’ a few times in a workshop, struggling how to make it make sense for me as a Jewish person, as a human, as a woman. There’s plenty of misogyny as well as anti-Semitism in the play,” she said. “Every time, I bumped up against things that I couldn’t reconcile, so I said no. But this play is richly beautiful and complex and full of love, and that’s redemption from the Shakespeare [that] was just about punishing and

Kubzansky compared the revisionist characters to those in the original. In “Merchant,” “Shylock is a vengeance-focused Jew with no human quality. In this play, he’s a beautifully human man with passion and pain and vulnerability,” she said.

Shakespeare’s Jessica “hates her father, she spends money profligately, she uncaringly climbs out the window and goes away with Lorenzo. She has no difficulty with the choices she made,” Kubzansky continued. “In this play, she loves her father and is very aware of the cost of leaving your religion and culture” to marry a Christian man. “It’s complicated and painful.”

This resonated with Kubzansky, because her sister married out of the Jewish faith, much to the dismay of their parents. “It was a big, hairy deal in my family. It’s all resolved but there was a time when it was very, very difficult,” she said.

“This play is richly beautiful and complex and full of love, and that’s redemption from the Shakespeare [that] was just about punishing and stereotypes.” — Jessica Kubzansky

Shylock is portrayed by Leo Marks, who has a Jewish father but wasn’t raised in the faith. He said he’s been thinking more about his Ashkenazi heritage as a result of doing the play. “I’ve been reading this great book called ‘Shakespeare and the Jews.’ ”

Marks said “The Merchant of Venice” “has a lot to answer for, and [“Everything That Never Happened”] takes it to task in a really smart, fierce but also funny, deeply human, thoughtful way,” he said. 

“This play imagines Shylock as a deeply loving father. He’s making his way in a world that’s not easy for him and he’s faced with really tough choices,” Marks said. “He’s not this otherworldly creature who wants revenge. He’s humanized. [Mantell] is saying, ‘Why do we accept these stories about Jews and let them define us? Why not tell our own stories?’ And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Kubzansky called the play “as poetic as Shakespeare in its own way. It’s really funny, until we punch you in the gut.” 

She imagines that if Shakespeare did a rewrite today, “he’d write it like this. He was a product of his time and he was writing to the stereotypes. This play completely reframes the story, and shows how beautiful, funny and painful it is to
be human.”

“Everything That Never Happened” runs through Nov. 4 at the Boston Court Pasadena.

Richard Greene: How One or Two Words Can Change Your Life

One of the world’s leading experts on public speaking, Richard Greene, explains why people fear public speaking more than death, and discusses the abuse of language in the era of Trump. Visit his website.

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Howard Rosenman: Award-Winning Producer Opens Up

What’s it like to be a gay Israel lover in Hollywood? To act with Sean Penn? To be on top of your game at 74? Hollywood wunderkind Howard Rosenman shares his life’s scoops.

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Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

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Jewish TV Stars and Creators Vie For Emmy Awards

Photo from Flickr.

Members of the Tribe are celebrating their nominations for the 70th Emmy Awards, which will take place in September. The list includes veterans, newcomers, and a shower of accolades for Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a Jewish woman who becomes a standup comic 1950s New York. The series scored 14 nominations, including best comedy series and nods for creator-director Amy Sherman-Palladino and supporting actress Alex Borstein, who also received a nomination for her voice-over work in “Family Guy.”

The return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to HBO resulted in the series eighth nod for outstanding comedy series, and Larry David’s sixth as lead actor in a comedy series.

Henry Winkler, who was nominated twice for playing Fonzie on “Happy Days” in the 1970s and in 2000 for a guest role on “The Practice,” is up for an Emmy this year for his role as an acting coach in the HBO comedy “Barry,” one of several awards for the show.

“On the one hand I’ve been here before and I know not to get too excited,” Winkler said in a statement. “On the other hand I’m filled with HAPPY and so thrilled for Bill [Hader], Alec [Berg] and the whole company,” he said.

Nonagenarian Carl Reiner, who has nine Emmys to his credit, may get one more for narrating the aging-well documentary in which he appears, “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast” (HBO).

“My nephew, George Shapiro, came up with the idea and called it “Vitality at 90.”  I just said, ‘If I’m not in the obit, I eat breakfast,’ and that became the title.  94.6% of the credit goes to George, but I’m happy to have lent my agile mind and aging body to such a worthy project,” Reiner said in a statement.

Liev Schreiber was also nominated in the narration category for “24/7,” but the “Ray Donovan” star was shut out of dramatic acting category this year, after three consecutive nominations for the Showtime series.

Judith Light, who has been Emmy-nominated three times, for “Transparent” and “Ugly Betty,” earned her fourth nod for her supporting performance as widow Marilyn Miglin in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”

“My deepest thanks to the Emmy voters and of course, the brilliant Ryan Murphy for the gift of being a part of this culture changing production,” Light said in a statement that gave props to the producers, writers, directors, and hair/makeup artists. “My gratitude to all of them and FX is beyond words or measure.”

Mandy Patinkin picked up his fifth nomination for his role as Saul Berenson in Showtime’s “Homeland” (he has one Emmy, for “Chicago Hope”), and both Evan Rachel Wood and Pamela Adlon received their second consecutive nominations for their lead actress work in HBO’S “Westworld” and FX’s “Better Things,” respectively.

“I am completely over the moon and so happy [for] this recognition from my peers for my life’s work and my show, ‘Better Things,’” Adlon said in a statement. “Filled with gratitude. Thank you.”

“Game of Thrones’” 22 nominations include a nod for writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, their seventh in the category for the HBO series. First time nominees include Michael Stuhlbarg for “The Looming Tower” and series “I Love You America with Sarah Silverman,” both on Hulu.

Bryan Fogel won an Oscar this year for his sports-doping documentary “Icarus,” and since Netflix acquired it, it will vie for an Emmy in the same category as two HBO docs, Susan Lacy’s biography “Spielberg” and Judd Apatow’s homage, “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.”

“I’m so glad that people have had such a strong reaction to our documentary and Garry’s life.  I’m somewhat sure he would be thrilled,” Apatow, who was also nominated for directing the film, said in a statement.  Other nominees for directing include Carrie Brownstein for IFC’s “Portlandia” and Barry Levinson for HBO’s “Paterno.”

The 70th Emmy Awards will telecast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. PT on NBC.

No Rabbi – It’s Not Jewish Love for Our ‘Historical, Religious Narrative’ That Prevents Peace

Photo from Pixabay.

On the 10th of Tammuz (in the Hebrew calendar) the last king of Israel, King Zedekiah, was captured by the Babylonians, who had conquered Jerusalem the day before. Zedekiah was captured after he fled Jerusalem through a subterranean tunnel to Jericho. Exactly 2,606 years later, an article was published in the Forward by American Rabbi Philip Graubart titled “‘Letters To My Palestinian Neighbor’ Is Not The Book We Need Right Now.

I have to admit, when I first saw the title, I thought the article would be about how even though most “moderate” elements of Palestinian leadership: (a) engage in blatant Holocaust denial; (b) promote vicious anti-Semitic canards, such as Jews poison water wells; and (c) deny any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel — all while promoting and rewarding the murder of Jews (such as through the Palestinian Authority’s “Pay to Slay” program), that this article would argue that we need to wait for a massive sea change in Palestinian Arab culture and leadership before Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” could make a credible difference and help advance the peace process.

Instead, this article took the opposite approach and actually accused Halevi of being too jingoistic, too stuck in the Jewish “narrative.”

Imagining a “Palestinian moderate,” who has never assumed leadership among the various Arab groups representing the Palestinians, Graubart posits that after reading Halevi’s book, this imaginary Palestinian Arab moderate might say to Halevi “why waste time with you? … we already agree on the basics.

Reading such a statement raises the question, what “basics” does Rabbi Graubart think Palestinian Arab “moderates” agree on with Halevi? As should be clear from Halevi’s scholarship, he believes Jews have a deep historical, religious and national connection to the land of Israel. As should be also clear to anyone paying attention, the “moderate leaders” among the Palestinians who run the Palestinian Authority (who are also sadly the least rabidly Jew-hating and extremist among the various Palestinian Arabs factions who have any chance of ruling any Palestinian state in the near future), do not believe the Jewish people are even a people, let alone a people who have a deep 3,300 year old love affair with the land of Israel.

As recently as January 15, 2018 Mahmoud Abbas, the “President for Life” of the Palestinian Authority, gave a speech where he said: Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews.” This same “moderate” leader not only wrote a thesis back in 1982 at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which denies and trivializes the Holocaust, and is a featured part of the current curriculum in Palestinian Authority schools; he also, on April 30, 2018, gave a speech where he once again trivialized the Holocaust and said that to the extent the Nazis murdered Jews, their murder was not caused by anti-Semitism, but by … “Jewish financial behavior.”

So again, what “basics” does Graubart think the “moderate Palestinian” and Halevi agree on?

Then apparently ignoring the last 100 years of history (at least), Graubart claims that the main problem with Halevi’s book is that it makes claims – mostly about Halevi’s “loving embrace of religious biblical narrative” – that “no Palestinian could accept” and that the “biblical impulse to build settlements in the West Bank [Judea and  Samaria] is precisely what’s sabotaged an agreement.”

So the “moderate” Palestinian Arab leadership turn down offers in 1937, 1948, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008 to have the first-ever independent Arab state west of the Jordan River, and it is the desire of Jews to establish and live in Jewish communities in their biblical homeland that “sabotaged” a peace agreement? It wasn’t Arafat’s rejection in 2000 of an offer to have an independent Palestinian Arab state in all of Gaza and over 90% of Judea & Samaria, and his decision to instead launch the Second Intifada, which led to the murder of more than 1,000 Jews? It wasn’t Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection – without a counteroffer – of an even better offer from Israel in 2008? It wasn’t the decision to turn land Israel fully relinquished (the Gaza strip in 2005) into a terror state run by a genocidal organization whose very Charter calls for the murder of every Jew on the planet, including Graubart?

No. According to Graubart, it isn’t Palestinian anti-Semitism, the Palestinian dismissal of any Jewish connection to the land of Israel or even the Palestinian rejection (in favor of violence) of offer after offer to have an independent Arab state in a land where there has never been one before in history that is to blame for the absence of a peace agreement. It is the Jews’ “biblical impulse” to live in Judea that is the problem.

Graubart even disparages the “impulse” of Jews to live in Hebron, one of the most holy and historically important cities for the Jewish people. Hebron, a city where Jews have lived for centuries and where our ancestors in 1929 were literally massacred, ethnically cleansed from and prevented from returning to (by the Jordanian Army after it illegally conquered and controlled all of Judea and & Samaria in 1949). Per Graubart, however, it is the “religious longing” of Jews to live in places like Hebron that is the obstacle to peace, all while 1.5 million Arabs can live among more than 6 million Jews in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv Yafo, etc. without their presence “sabotaging” peace.

There is so much that is problematic with this perspective it is difficult to know where to start. Perhaps the most obvious problem is that, just like most arguments of the “blame Israel” camp, Graubart’s open letter to Halevi implies the Palestinian Arabs have no agency or responsibility for their actions, and that peace (or the lack thereof) is solely a function of what we Jews choose to do (or not do). The other problem is that this article completely whitewashes nearly 100 years of Arab rejection of peace in favor of violence and more than 1,400 years of Arab persecution of Jews throughout the Middle East, as well as the widely held belief among far too many Arabs that Jews can only be second class (dhimmi) in Arab conquered land, never sovereign and independent.

What Graubart’s piece (albeit likely unwittingly) does a great job of capturing, is the growing divide between many secular Jews in the United States  and the overwhelming majority of Jews in Israel. Jews, like Yossi Klein Halevi, who are in Israel considered quite moderate or even left-leaning.

This divide is represented most strikingly in Graubart’s article where he writes the following illuminating and astonishing paragraph directed at Halevi:

“In fact, if your book taught me anything, it’s that we must begin the admittedly difficult process of privileging basic values over national, religious narratives. In discussing Arab rejectionism after the Six-Day War, you write, ‘What people, in our place, would have resisted reclaiming land it regarded as its own for thousands of years?’ But the answer to this question is obvious: a people who valued peace and democracy and human rights over historical/religious narrative. People who weren’t willing to sabotage future peace negotiations by giving in to religious longings, no matter how deeply felt. People who loved peace more than they loved the ancient stories of their people. In other words, people like you and me and many Jews, in Israel and out. But not, sadly, enough.”

Wow. I agree with Graubart on one thing for certain. This is “sad.” It is sad that it is becoming more and more evident that many Jews living in relative safety in the United States  have not internalized the lessons most Jews in Israel have learned from the history of the last 100 years. It also becoming more and more evident that many of today’s secular leaning Jews in America are not very different from the many Jews in America who before 1940 rejected the very idea of Jews seeking sovereignty and independence in our indigenous homeland.

After all, if we just “privileged basic values” (depending – of course – on whose “basic values” we are talking about) “over national, religious narratives,” then why drain swamps, irrigate deserts, establish fence and stockade kibbutzim all over the land of Israel (where you were certain to be plagued by malaria and were almost always immediately attacked by your Arab neighbors)? Why revive Hebrew from being not only our religious tongue but our national language? Why even fight for our freedom and independence against five Arab armies and nearly a half-dozen Arab militias sworn to snuff out our independence before it even happened?

After all, if we value “peace” above everything else, then we could all just give up on our indigenous faith, stop being “stiff-necked” Jews, and convert to either Christianity or Islam or perhaps to the new pseudo-religion of “secular-humanism.” If only, our forefathers had thought of this solution … Plainly, that would have made the Jew-haters much happier and much more “peaceful” toward us.

Thankfully, most of our forefathers didn’t think abdicating our religious values and our “religious longings” to live in Zion was the way to go, as not only would there be no modern state of Israel today, but Graubart would also have needed to find a very different job; as by now the world would have been Jew-free and Judaism would be like the ancient faiths of Minoanism, Mithraism, and Ashurism After all, if we valued “peace” above everything else, including the justice of Jews being able to live anywhere in the land of Israel, then is there anything worth fighting for?

Of course, by Graubart’s definition, the Maccabees would also be disparaged as people who were “willing to sabotage future peace negotiations by giving in to religious longings.” A people unwilling to “love peace more than they loved the ancient stories of their people.” After all, the Hellenists “just” wanted us to accept their “narrative” and to stop insisting on our sovereignty and freedom in our religious, historical and indigenous homeland; just like so many Hellenized or Islamized people do today.

Today, most Palestinian Arabs reject the idea that there were ever Maccabees who fought to liberate the land of Israel and Jerusalem from the yoke of the Hellenists. And this is where Graubart is the most mistaken in his rejection of Halevi’s book. Graubart assumes it is the Jewish respect and love of our “historical/religious narrative” that is somehow the obstacle to peace. The reality is that it is, and has always been, the Arab rejection of Jewish history and our deep connection to the land of Israel that is the obstacle to peace. The Arab rejection of the fact (not “narrative”) that 2,606 years before Graubart published his article that there was a Jewish king named Zedekiah fleeing the Babylonians and their destruction of the first Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

And that is the ultimate message of Halevi’s book. In order for there to be peace, the Palestinian Arabs are going to have to meet us halfway and stop asking us to accept that their relatively new Palestinian identity deserves two independent Arab states in the former British Mandate for Palestine (as Jordan is the first); all while they reject more than 3,000 years of Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the land of Israel.

As should be painfully apparent, there are many other things wrong with this open letter to Halevi, but the most glaring problem is the willingness to disparage the “historical, religious narrative” of our people, which is at the core for why we finally have an independent and sovereign state in our indigenous homeland after 2,000 years of recurring persecution, oppression and mass murder of Jews in the Diaspora.

Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including Stand With Us, T.E.A.M. and the FIDF. He is also a frequent guest on the One America News Network, including shows like The Tipping Point and The Daily Ledger where he is called on to discuss matters related to Israel and the Middle East.

Salvador Litvak: Can Talmud change your life?

Hollywood filmmaker and Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak recounts his journey of how one moment of learning Talmud led to a million followers on Facebook.

“What we learn from the students of Hillel is that you should be able to state the opinion of your opponent in a way your opponent will say, ‘yes, that is my opinion.’ When you do that, you are opening a door for him to say ‘I feel heard. Now I am willing to hear what you have to say.” -Salvador Litvak

Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak

From left: David Suissa and Salvador Litvak

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Jewish Choco-Travel Tips

Choco-dar first erupted on our multi-country circuit of Europe in a VW van. That adult onset, self-diagnosed radar for chocolate experiences led us serendipitously to many wonderful chocolate discoveries and surprises. In the process I learned some chocolate travel tips. Chocolate travel generated the book and the website that I came to call On the Chocolate Trail. It all started with travel. Chocolate is a migrant food and the first Jews in the business were refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Consider building your travels to places where there are particularly interesting Jewish chocolate stories, such as Bayonne (France), Israel, Liege (Belgium), and Courtelary, (Switzerland).

So here are a few delicious tips for fun chocolate exploration, I encourage you to exercise your own choco-dar as you forge your own chocolate trail.

Tip #1: Plan

Plan your adventures before departure. Check On the Chocolate Trail for a list of worldwide chocolate festivals, museums and tours. Do an online search for chocolate in the towns, countries, and regions where you will be traveling. If possible head to chocolate centers. We aimed for chocolate hubs such as Belgium, France, Mexico, Spain, and Switzerland.

Tip #2: Stock Up

Items for storing your chocolate purchases and samples may be packed ahead or picked up at your destination. Carry an insulated bag or two, especially in hot climates. Keep a supply of small plastic bags to protect each find separately and a marking pen to identify. Alternatively, take a photo to provide a visual record, with date/time/location stamp.

Tip #3: Practice Choco-dar

While on the road, stay alert to chocolate events, treats, information, and more as you wander and enjoy. It was choco-dar that led us to a local chocolate festival in Turin, Italy. Choco-dar raised my head from my reading just in time to notice the international headquarters of Valhrona Chocolate as we drove through the small town of Tain L’Hermitage, France. While crossing the Alps into Italy, my choco-dar found the factory store for Venchi Chocolate.

Tip #4: Inquire

Search out local specialties as you explore. Also, it is worth asking the chocolate shop staff for their favorites and whether samples are available. I learned about the mendiants and chocolate fish of France this way.

Tip #5: Buy Local

Check out local groceries in addition to specialty chocolate stores. Some chocolates will be less expensive in local markets.

Tip #6: Record

Keep a journal of what you have tasted, where, your experiences, and what you thought of it.

Tip #7: Collect

Collect pretty wrappers as souvenirs of your trip.

Most of all, enjoy!

When Jews Turn On Each Other

Screenshot from Facebook.

Arguing is part of the Jewish DNA, from the time that Korach stood against Moses. The Talmud devotes far more space to disputes than to agreement.  Sessions of Knesset never, ever can be misconstrued as the local chapter of the Oxford Debating Society. Jews are used to arguing with each other. They can’t be expected, however, to politely cede the mike to those working – intentionally or not – for our undoing.

Suddenly we’ve experienced some developments where Jews may be endangering our collective future. No,​ we speak not of lunatics like Neturei Karta, who kiss-up to Iranians working feverishly to nuke Israel.

But rather we are experiencing the drilling of holes under the collective ship of the Jewish future.

First example: A Jewish summer camp. Traditionally, camps have provided our kids with exposure to Jewish values – and many other things that inspired Jewish novelists and filmmakers. Many camps have strong ideological bents that differed entirely from the next one down the rural road. That was part of the “differences-within-the-family”. But no one – until recently – trained​ young Jews to work for the weakening and possible destruction of the Jewish State.

But it’s happening now. IfNotNow hosted counselors from around the country on May 27 to teach the occupation and Palestinian narratives. They tweeted: “Today counselors from 8 Jewish summer camps are coming together for a first-of-its-kind Camp Counselor Training on the Occupation. These courageous leaders are committed to teaching the Occupation and Palestinian narratives to other staff and their campers this summer. Following ongoing Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza, this education has never felt more urgent.”

Another example: When a Chabad outreach worker offered to put tefillin on a passerby at Ben-Gurion Airport recently, one person readily agreed. According to this man’s Facebook page, “a woman with a crazy look jumped up and began to abuse, harass and disturb!” The woman was Professor Penina Peri, who teaches at the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, and the American University in DC. She is an expert on multi-culturalism and authored, Education in Multi-Cultured Society: Pluralism and Congruence Among Cultural Divisions.  Her husband, who directs the Institute, is a former head of the New Israel Fund.

Apparently religious Jews didn’t make the cut in Peri’s universe of multi-culturalism. Should our young people be exposed to this especially in an Israel Studies department?

Third example: Hebrew Union College (HUC). Its leadership is anything but anti-Israel. Which is why it is impossible – not just difficult – to understand why it invited – (and then defended) – Michael Chabon to deliver the commencement speech to its graduates. Chabon is a well-known author and Israel basher. He shared his core beliefs with HUC and the Jewish world. He used the lectern to sermonize on the evils of Israel, mock the Bible, and advocate that Jews should preferably marry non-Jews. One graduate walked out, and wrote about the event in the Jewish Journal, “As I heard Chabon’s simplified takedown of my country, the room began to spin. I turned back to look at my brother, who served in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces. He looked sick to his stomach…I asked my mother if not seeing me graduate would disappoint her. She responded that she would feel ashamed to see me walk on that stage after what had been said. We stood up and left the sanctuary. Standing outside, I was nearly brought to tears as I heard the crowd of Jews give Chabon a thunderous applause.”

Perhaps the most shocking example was the recent gatherings of young Jews to say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists trying to topple the international border with the Jewish State. Hamas has made clear the goal of their riots are not about “occupied territories” but murdering Jews in Israel proper.

Today, these Jews abandon the world’s largest Jewish community, with the largest number of Shoah survivors and their families. They no longer share the destiny of the Jewish people.

Without realizing it, those who said Kaddish were not saying it for innocent, peaceful Gazan protesters. They were saying Kaddish for themselves – and the others like them, who have traded a proud legacy for the vagaries of self-loathing, and compromising the safety of their brothers and sisters as well as the Jewish State. We weep for their loss—and for ours.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is Interfaith Director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

ADL Decries Anti-Semitic Robocall

Republican Senate candidate Patrick Little, who is running for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) seat, has openly called himself a white nationalist and made anti-Semitic comments that include calling for an America “free from Jews.”

Now, his supporters have created an anti-Semitic robocall, which calls Feinstein, among other things, a “traitorous Jew.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) posted the audio and transcript of the robocall — which began on May 14 — on its website. It begins with a man stating that “Feinstein isn’t just a Jew, she’s an Israeli citizen.”

A woman then responds, “She’s a citizen of Israel but she gets to vote as a U.S. senator from California to send billions of our dollars every year to her real country, Israel?”

The man then replies that Jews made it legal to do that. The woman then laments that Feinstein “gets to vote America into Middle East wars based on lies so that Israel can eventually expand its borders like it always planned.”

The man proceeds to call for people to vote for Little, in order “to rid America of the traitorous Jews like Dianne Feinstein,” and that Little will “get rid of all the nation-wrecking Jews from our country starting with Israeli citizen, Dianne Feinstein.”

The robocall ends with the shouts of “Goodbye, Jews!” from the movie “Schindler’s List.”

ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind told the Journal in an email, “We have heard from a wide swath of the Jewish community including synagogues, day schools, pre-schools and community organizations all over the State. People are understandably disgusted and shocked that, in 2018, this level of unabashed and vile anti-Semitism is being communicated on behalf of a political candidate.”

“Auschwitz had ice cream, swimming pools, orchestras, plays, soccer fields, soccer teams. They even had a whorehouse!” — Patrick Little

Such anti-Semitism seems to be in line with Little’s expressed views. He told Newsweek on May 2 that he used to be a pro-Israel libertarian until he read Kevin MacDonald’s book, “Culture of Critique.”

MacDonald is an academic who claims that Jews are undermining the West. Little said he believes Adolf Hitler was “the second coming of Christ” and advocates for Jews to be deported to Israel.

In a May 10 interview with The Jewish News of Northern California, Little said Auschwitz “had ice cream, swimming pools, orchestras, plays, they had soccer fields, soccer teams. They even had a whorehouse! I mean, s––, I’d like to take a vacation at Auschwitz.”

When Little was asked by The Jewish News if he was fine being called “anti-Jewish,” he replied, “For the most part, yeah.”

Little has received heightened media attention since he placed second in an April SurveyUSA poll with 18 percent support. Feinstein placed first with 39 percent support. Under California’s primary system, the top-two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, will face off in the November Senate election.

However, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the SurveyUSA poll is “an outlier,” as the vast majority of polls have State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) as Feinstein’s likely general-election opponent. The Chronicle also reported that Little hasn’t raised or spent any money on the campaign.

UCLA political science professor Matt Barreto told Newsweek in April that he did not believe Little had any outreach.

Little appeared at the California Republican Party convention in San Diego on May 5 but was removed by party officials. According to the Chronicle,  California GOP Executive Director Cynthia Bryant told Little, “You’re not welcome here.” GOP consultant Luis Alvarado told the Chronicle that Little was “kicking and dragging an Israeli flag on the ground” as he was being escorted out of the convention.

Following the incident, Little posted a YouTube video claiming that the California GOP was being run by “Zionist stooges.” In the video, Little steps on an Israeli flag and spits on it.

Regarding the robocall, Little told the Chronicle in an email that he had nothing to do with it but he refused to condemn it.

“Show me the lie,” he told the Chronicle, “and I will consider renouncing it.”

Abbas Blames the Jews for the Holocaust

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during the Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to become unhinged as evident by the fact that he blamed the Jews for the Holocaust in an April 30 speech.

According to the Times of Israel, Abbas’ incoherently long-winded speech blamed the Jews’ “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters” for triggering the Holocaust. He also claimed that Adolf Hitler was responsible for sending Jews to Israel by allowing Jews who immigrated there to bring their assets into the area.

In other words, Abbas used a longtime anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews to blame them for the slaughter of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

When he wasn’t engaging in his Holocaust revisionism, Abbas rambled about other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including the claim that Ashkenazi Jews have no historical lineage to the original habitants of Israel and that Israel was “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.”

Abbas also reiterated his refusal to accept any deals from the United States after President Trump’s Jerusalem move and suggested that the PA could take “take tough steps in the near future in our relationship with our neighbors (Israel) and the Americans.”

Naturally, Abbas praised the Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border.

“Thank God, they (Hamas) finally agreed and this is effective,” Abbas said, implying that the riots have been peaceful although they have been anything but.

The anti-Semitic rhetoric in Abbas’ speech certainly fits his background, which includes him writing a book that engages in Holocaust denialism.

German Jews Warned to Avoid Wearing Yarmulkes Following Anti-Semitic Attack

Screenshot from YouTube.

Jews in Germany have been warned to avoid wearing yarmulkes after an anti-Semitic attack occurred on April 18.

A 19-year-old Palestinian from Syria who was seeking asylum in Israel whipped a teenager wearing a kippah with his belt while shouting “Yahudi,” which is Arabic for “Jew.” The victim wasn’t actually Jewish; he was wearing the kippah in an attempt to prove to his friend that Berlin was not as anti-Semitic as people made it out to be.

In response to the incident, Josef Schuster, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, advised the country’s Jews against wearing kippot.

“Defiantly showing your colors would in principle be the right way to go,” Schuster told German public radio. “Nevertheless, I would advise individual people against openly wearing a kippah in big German cities, and wear a baseball cap or something else to cover their head instead.”

Not everyone was happy with Schuster’s recommendation.

“He [Schuster] is mistaken in the cure for this serious problem,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who heads the European Jewish Association. “To not wear the kippah in fear of anti-Semitism actually fulfills the vision of anti-Semites in Europe.”

Avi Mayer, spokesperson for The Jewish Agency, tweeted that according to the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism (RIAS), “the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin is at its highest point since the organization started collecting data, with several incidents reported every day.”

Earlier in April, The Wall Street Journal reported that there were 1,453 anti-Semitic incident recorded by police in 2017, which was “more than in five of the previous seven years.” The report adds that the number is likely higher than that because most anti-Semitic incidents in Germany aren’t reported.

A couple such incidents highlighted in The Wall Street Journal’s report included a Jewish student being “mobbed by Arab and Polish classmates” and another student being tormented with chants “gas for the Jews!”

The report pointed to the influx of Muslim migrants as a key factor in the alarming return of anti-Semitism in Germany.

“It is wrong to generalize or to stigmatize Muslim communities,” Levi Salomon, who heads the Jewish Forum for Democracy Against Anti-Semitism, told the Wall Street Journal. “But to say there is no specific problem there is even worse. We need to devise urgent strategies to deal with this.”

Episode 86 – The Palestinian Refugee Who Became a Yeshiva Boy

Mark was born in Kuwait. His father was a Palestinian refugee, who was born in 1945 in Bet Shean (now a city in Israel). When his father was 3 years old, the family fled to Jordan, and eventually ended up in Kuwait. As a kid, Mark attended activities conducted by UNRWA, the U.N Relief and Works agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. What they taught him there about Israel, and about Jews, profoundly shaped his views.

But a decade later, when Mark moved to Canada to study at university, an unexpected encounter changed his life forever. This is the story of how Mark, became Mordechai.

Today we’re joined by Mordechai Yossef.

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Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values

Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

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