July 19, 2019

Jewish Groups Slam Sarsour for Saying Jesus Was a Palestinian

Activist Linda Sarsour speaks during a Women For Syria gathering at Union Square in New York City on April 13. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Myriad Jewish groups slammed Women’s March, Inc. co-leader Linda Sarsour on Twitter for saying that Jesus Christ was a Palestinian.

The controversy began with Sarsour tweeting on July 5, “Jesus was Palestinian of Nazareth and is described in the Quran as being brown copper skinned with wooly hair.”

Sarsour doubled down on Twitter in response to backlash:

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted in response to Sarsour that Judea is mentioned 48 times in the New Testament, while Palestine isn’t mentioned anywhere because “because the name “Palestine” was only applied to the region by the Romans in 135 CE.” 

They added, “Try cracking a history book, Linda. It’ll blow your mind.”

AJC CEO David Harris similarly tweeted, “Jesus was a Jew born in Bethlehem (in Hebrew, Bet Lehem) in Judea, then a Roman province. Next up for her cultural appropriation? Maybe King David, born in Bethlehem 1000 [years] earlier & another ‘Palestinian’?”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted, “#Sarsour‘s hatred for the #Jewish State blinds her to inconvenient historic truths. Yes, @lsarsour invents her own ‘facts’ to bolster her bigotry.”

StandWithUs similarly tweeted in response to Sarsour, “1. Jesus was born in Judea. The name “Palestine” did not even exist at that time. 2. Jesus was born Jewish. Why does Linda keep trying to revise the history of Jews living in their indigenous homeland, Judea (=Israel) for her own politicized aims?”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) came under a similar controversy in April when she re-tweeted a tweet stating that Jesus was a Palestinian. Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal at the time that it is a “grotesque insult” to say that Jesus was a Palestinian, saying that “Palestine was a name made up by Romans after they crucified thousands, destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the People of Israel from their homeland.”

WATCH: Disturbed Sings ‘Hatikvah’ During First Israel Concert

Photo from Flickr.

David Draiman, lead singer of the heavy metal band Disturbed, sang the Israeli national anthem during the band’s first concert in Israel on July 2.

The below video shows Draiman leading the more than 10,000 people in singing the anthem in unity, before transitioning to the song “Inside the Fire.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Draiman spoke Hebrew at various points throughout the concert, which lasted more than two hours. He also wore a shirt honoring the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). During the show, Disturbed performed the song “Never Again” for the first time since 2011, a song discussing the horrors of the Holocaust.

Draiman, who is the descendant of Holocaust survivors and has family in Israel, slammed former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters in an interview with the Met Al Metal radio show before the concert.

“The man is a very sick man,” Draiman said, recalling how Waters claimed to have been booed during a concert in Israel calling for peace, even though video evidence showed otherwise.

“I don’t know what he did, drug-wise, during his life, but whatever he did fried a bunch of brain cells,” Draiman said. “The guy is not operating on all cylinders anymore.”

Draiman has criticized Waters in the past for his vehement support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The very notion that Waters and the rest of his Nazi comrades decide that this is the way to go ahead and foster change is absolute lunacy and idiocy,” Draiman said in a May 30 interview with a Disturbed Facebook fan page. “It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s only based on hatred of a culture and of a people in a society that has been demonized unjustifiably since the beginning of time.”

Draiman also said that the BDS movement singles out Israel because “there’s a special hatred that exists for the Jewish people in this world and it unfortunately can’t be explained. It’s something that has lasted and has been deep-seated for centuries and that’s part of our burden as a people, unfortunately.”

Jewish Groups Condemn British Society for Middle East Studies’ BDS Endorsement

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Myriad Jewish groups condemned the British Society for Middle East Studies’ (BRISMES) June 26 resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in statements to the Journal.

BRISMES’ website describes the organization as urging people to study and get involved in Middle Eastern history. The resolution, which passed with nearly 80 percent in favor at BRISMES’ yearly general meeting in Leeds, calls for Israeli academic institutions to be boycotted until they “publicly end their support and complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.”

“Israeli universities are playing a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s illegal military occupation and are maintaining a close and supportive relationship with the Israeli military, including involvement in developing weapon systems, providing justification for military actions and extra-judicial killings, rewarding students serving in the occupation forces, designing and delivering special programs for soldiers and officers, building on occupied land, and systematically discriminating against non-Jewish students,” the resolution states.

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Here is the true face of BRISMES: They release as letter in January of 2019 denouncing the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of anti-Semitism, because it allegedly would limit the free speech to condemn Zionism and the Jewish State. However, their concerns for free speech disappear like invisible ink when it comes to Israel academic institutions of higher learning with a smug 80% of the members voting for an academic boycott of Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, etc.”

He proceeded to call member of BRISMES “smug, hypocritical ‘academics’ committed to demonize and delegitimize the lone democracy in the Middle East- the Jewish state and people of Israel.”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs Saba Soomekh similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Academic boycotts are the antithesis of what universities stand for. Universities should be the place where students hear explanations of why people believe their narratives are valid; where professors help students understand the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Soomekh added that the BRISMES resolution was “one-sided” and didn’t put any blame on Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

StandWithUs UK Executive Director Raphael Wein also said in a statement to the Journal that “BRISMES is choosing to stand on the wrong side of history and progress,” arguing that the resolution will negatively impact “Middle Eastern Studies students across the UK and BRISMES itself, not Israel.”

Jewish Groups Defend Birthright After NYT Article

Photo from Pixabay.

Several Jewish groups are defending the Birthright program after a June 11 New York Times article highlighted protests against the program.

The article described Birthright as a free 10-day trip for Jewish young adults to become more connected with their Jewish identity as well as with Israeli culture, adding that IfNotNow — a progressive Jewish organization calling for an end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank — is demanding Birthright to be boycotted, arguing that the program doesn’t provide attendees with the opportunity to meet with Palestinians in the West Bank. In July 2018, at IfNotNow’s urging, eight Birthright attendees engaged in a walkout.

The Times also reported that J Street U, the student arm of J Street, has been urging Birthright to feature Palestinian speakers discussing the occupation. J Street U has also begun offering its own trip to Israel to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Journal it “would be one of the tragic mistakes of the Jewish community” to boycott Birthright.

“Birthright inspires young Jews to be fascinated and to connect with the greatest historic accomplishment of the Jewish people in 2,000 years: the creation of the state of Israel,” Hier said. “It is not a political organization. It doesn’t tell you which political party to support. It imbues in the students a love of Israel.”

He added that it would be terrible to deny American Jews the opportunity to connect with the state of Israel, and that groups like IfNotNow are trying “to undermine and criticize the state of Israel.”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Assistant Director Siamak Kordestani said in a statement that Birthright is “an opportunity for young Jews of diverse backgrounds to explore their cultural, spiritual and historical connection to the land of Israel. Unfortunately, a very small but noisy group is intent on sullying that experience for others in order to advance their own narrow political agenda.”

StandWithUs Co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said, “Birthright is an inspiring educational opportunity for Jewish students, which is why anti-Israel activists are trying so hard to taint it. We are confident that students will continue traveling to the region with Birthright and independently, exploring a variety of perspectives, and making up their own minds. We are also confident that Birthright will continue to grow.”

Maccabee Task Force Executive Director David Brog said, “Birthright is clear about its mission: to connect young Jews to the Jewish state, the Jewish people and their own Jewish identity.  If they wish to study the geo-politics of the region and meet Palestinians, I’d encourage them to do so.  But they should find ways to do this that don’t involve subverting one of the most effective tools for Jewish continuity we have today.”

Birthright defended itself in a statement to the Times saying it encourages “our tens of thousands of participants each year to challenge themselves by asking difficult questions [but] IfNotNow promotes a specific and highly partisan political viewpoint, which does not correspond with Birthright Israel’s nonpartisan commitment to open dialogue that allows participants to develop their own points of view.”

IfNotNow Los Angeles leader Shay Roman told the Journal, “The American Jewish establishment can and should support our generation to authentically engage in our Jewish identity, but instead they are dirtying our moral Jewish tradition by implicating us in a political agenda that supports a brutal military occupation over millions of Palestinians. It is a tragedy that so-called leaders of our community would rather tout their right-wing political agenda, and ostracize our generation, than invest in a diverse and inclusive Jewish future.”

J Street U did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

StandWithUs Files Brief Supporting Arkansas Anti-BDS Law

Photo from Flickr.

The StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, along with Agudath Israel of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, filed an amicus brief on June 6 to the 8th Circuit of Court Appeals in support of the Arkansas law cracking down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The brief, which was obtained by the Journal, begins with the argument that freedom of speech and association protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution is not absolute. The state can override First Amendment protections when there is a “compelling interest” to do so, such as in instances of discriminations, and the BDS movement perpetuates anti-Semitism, the brief argued.

“Boycotts against Jews and Jewish-owned businesses are embedded in this history,” the brief states. “In 1922, Arab leaders in the Palestine Mandate launched a boycott against Jews. In 1933, the Nazi regime in Germany boycotted Jewish-owned stores and businesses in an attempt to isolate and exclude Jews from all civic life. In 1945, before the creation of the Jewish state, the Arab League Council called for a boycott of all Jewish and Zionist products. In 1947 and 1948, Jews (not just Zionists) in Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Yemen were persecuted, subjected to government-instigated anti-Jewish riots, and deprived of their belongings.”

Today, BDS continues the anti-Semitic tradition of boycotts against the Jewish people through boycotting the Jewish State of Israel. But what makes BDS particularly insidious is its goal to destroy Israel, the brief argued.

“BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has been explicit about this goal, stating

that BDS ‘oppose[s] a Jewish State in any part of Palestine,’” the brief states. “In this context, Palestine refers to the entire area that is now Israel, not specific disputed regions such as the West Bank and Gaza. Other BDS leaders have likewise confirmed that BDS’s goal is to eliminate the State of Israel, urging that ‘to bring down the state of Israel . . . should be stated as an unambiguous goal’ of the BDS movement.” The brief also noted that organizations like Students for Justice Palestine (SJP) routinely call for Israel’s destruction through chants like, “From the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, Palestine will be free.”

The BDS movement also espouses anti-Semitic rhetoric in its criticism of Israel, such as “dehumanizing cartoons portraying Israelis as malicious octopuses and apply age-old anti-Semitic slurs about Jewish greed to Israelis” as well as “modern-day forms of the medieval blood libel that accused Jews of poisoning wells and using the blood of Christian children to bake matzah.” BDS’ anti-Semitism has resulted in increased violence against the Jewish community, the brief argued, particularly on college campuses.

“In the wake of BDS campaigns, Jewish students have been harassed with anti-Semitic slurs and discrimination,” the brief states. “For example, at the University of California, Davis, a Jewish fraternity house was vandalized with a swastika after a BDS resolution passed in the student senate. During a BDS campaign at San Diego State University, numerous racist posts appeared on social media platforms targeting Jewish students. At UCLA, after a successful BDS resolution passed the student government, pro-BDS senators tried to deny a Jewish student her position on the student government judicial board on the grounds of her Jewish identity.”

The brief highlighted the BDS movement’s double-standard against Israel, noting that the movement singles out the Jewish state while being “notably silent” about human rights abuses occurring in countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“Viewed against the background of historical and current anti-Semitism, and in light of the openly anti-Semitic views espoused by BDS movement leaders, the most plausible explanation for the BDS movement’s obsessive application of a double standard toward Israel is anti-Jewish animus,” the brief argued.

The brief concluded that the state of Arkansas has a compelling interest in fighting anti-Semitism, thus making their anti-BDS law constitutional.

“The State’s compelling interest in combatting that invidious discrimination overcomes any incidental effect that Act may have on boycotters’ rights of expression and free association,” the brief states. “The Act is in harmony with the ideal of a government ‘which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance . . . .’ The judgment should be affirmed.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) filed a similar brief on June 7, arguing that the state law protected a “legitimate interest in ensuring that it has full and unimpeded access to all goods and services available on the market, including those of Israeli origin, in the fulfillment of government contracts.” The AJC brief added that individuals and companies are allowed to voice their opposition to Israel; it is only the commercial boycotts that are not protected speech.

The Arkansas law, passed in 2017, bars state contractors from engaging in boycotts of Israel. The brief was filed in response to a 2018 lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of The Arkansas Times. The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, an advertiser for the Times had asked the Times to sign a pledge against boycotting Israel under the law; the Times refused, prompting the college revoke its business from the Times. The Times argued that the law was unconstitutional, as the publication has never taken a stance on BDS. United States District Judge Brian Miller dismissed the lawsuit in January, arguing that commercials boycotts are not protected under the First Amendment. The ACLU is appealing the decision.

Palestinian Uber Driver Refuses Ride to Jewish Women

A Palestinian Uber driver kicked two Jewish women out of his car on May 19 after he learned they were leaving the Israeli-American Council (IAC)’s Celebrate Israel Festival at nearby Rancho Park. 

In a phone interview with the Journal, Dayna, (who requested only her first name be used for fear of retaliation), 33, and Rachel (a pseudonym; she requested that no part of her name be used for fear of retaliation) said they were in the back seat of the driver’s car across the street from Rancho Park at Fox Studios when he asked them, “What event were you coming from?” The women responded, “Just an event.” After the driver — who according to his Uber profile is named Mustafa — asked them again where they had come from, and after noticing that the car had not yet moved, Dayna said, “An Israeli Independence Day event.”

The driver then told them to get out of his car. 

“He started laughing and he looked us dead in the eye and he said, ‘You need to get out of my car. I’m Palestinian,’ ” Dayna said. “The only reason I can think of that he would ask us which event we were coming from is he clearly wanted to make a statement. It was clear by the families crossing the street and the security that it was an Israel Independence event.”

“I could see his eyes in the wing mirror and he just spun around … his eyes were wild … raged … and that’s what frightened me,” Rachel added.

The women got out of the Uber. “We were pretty freaked,” Dayna said. 

“His rage was so great that he couldn’t handle anyone associated with Israel, and that’s a hate crime, that’s prejudice,” Rachel said. “As females, it’s very intimidating to be in a situation with a male driver. He overpowered us.”

“We definitely felt threatened,” Dayna said. “I take Ubers twice a day to and from work and I’ve never been told to get out of someone’s car because I’m Jewish.” 

As soon as Dayna arrived home, she emailed Uber and received an automatic reply saying, “Sorry you had that experience. You won’t be charged for the ride.” 

“No human reached out — no options, no recourse,” she said. “Uber should fire that person. Uber should have called me and expressed a sincere apology.”

A similar incident occurred on May 4, 2018, when an Uber driver demanded that an Israeli diplomat get out of his car in the middle of Chicago traffic because he answered a phone call in Hebrew. Immediately after Uber received the complaint, they banned the driver from the app.

“He started laughing and he looked us dead in the eye and he said, ‘You need to get out of my car. I’m Palestinian.’ ” — Dayna

In a statement to the Journal, StandWithUS CEO Roz Rothstein said, “Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head in far too many venues, including, regrettably, from Uber drivers. It’s sad that an Uber driver (or a person in any vocation) would be so out of control and risk their livelihood and reputation because of their intolerance and bigotry. We commend Uber for taking immediate disciplinary action against other drivers in the past who were unable to control their racism, by suspending and/or firing them, and we trust they will do the same in this case.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were 1,879 recorded attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the United States in 2018, “the third-highest year on record since ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s,” according to the ADL’s 2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. In addition, there has been a 27% overall increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2017 to 2018 in California, according to the audit. 

In an email to the Journal, ADL Senior Associate Regional Director Natan Pakman said until the women file an incident report, the ADL cannot take any action. “We would rather speak to the victim(s) before weighing in, so we will hold off on a statement at this point.” 

Rachel told the Journal she planned to file an incident report after the Memorial Day weekend. 

IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet said in a statement, “This is yet another red flag demonstrating the growing hate directed toward Jews and supporters of the Jewish State, and it is a direct result of ongoing incitement. The IAC was proud to host a celebration that radiated pride and unity for all Israel and U.S. lovers. We will continue to stand up to anti-Semitism as we celebrate Israel from coast-to-coast.”

The Journal reached out to Uber’s communications department a week after the incident and a company representative said he would look into the complaint and respond by the end of the day. Several hours later, a spokesperson sent an email stating, “Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination. What’s been described is horrible and the driver no longer has access to the app.” 

The spokesperson also directed the Journal to “additional background” from Uber, noting that rider and driver safety is a top priority for the company, which investigates any reported incidents and has a clear non-discrimination policy. 

Following Uber’s response, the Journal spoke again with the two women who were denied a ride. Rachel said while she was glad that Mustafa had been banned from Uber, “I want to make sure [he] is banned from Lyft, too.”

Dayna said, “Hearing that the guy was banned is huge. The only issue is that they only handled it when a newspaper reached out. There’s really no recourse for a user in this situation, other than a generic dropdown menu and a complaint of a driver acting unprofessionally.”

She added, “I think it is very important that we document and speak out about even small acts of anti-Semitism because if we don’t, then it will only get worse. My bubbe, who passed recently, was an avid reader of the Jewish Journal and instilled its importance in me to this day, which is why I reached out. She would be very happy to know that it was the Jewish Journal that came through for me. Thank you for supporting the Jewish American community like you do. You are so invaluable to so many families.”

Melissa Simon is a senior studying journalism at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Jewish Journal summer intern. 

StandWithUs Calls on UCLA to Address Anti-Semitism on Campus

Photo from Flickr.

StandWithUs called on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang to take action against the “disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA” in a May 24 letter.

The letter, which was written by StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein, Saidoff Legal Department Director Yael Lerman and Center for Combating Anti-Semitism Director and Counsel for Legal Strategy Carly Gammill, recounted San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s May 14 guest lecture in a UCLA anthropology class where she called Zionists white supremacists.

These statements were not merely anti-Israel, but antisemitic in that they allegedly characterized all Zionists as white supremacists desiring a wholly Jewish world and willing to engage in ethnic cleansing in order to attain that goal,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote in a joint statement.

When student Shayna Lavi tearfully told Abdulhadi that she was offended by her characterization of Zionists, “Abdulhadi silenced her, then repeatedly singled her out for scolding and belittling in front of the entire class for the remainder of the lecture.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill noted that anthropology professor Kyeyoung Park “apparently turned away and refused to make eye contact with” Lavi, and Park reportedly asks “called out only this student by name for the next two classes – with over 100 students present – and then complained that Park is now part of an investigation because of this student’s interaction with Abdulhadi.”

They called this incident “part of a disturbing trend of anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA,” citing several incidents that have occurred at UCLA since 2012, including when “UCLA student Rachel Beyda faced anti-Semitic questioning about her Jewish background during a routine student government judicial confirmation hearing” in February 2015 and when pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted a Students Supporting Israel in May 2018.

This pattern of anti-Semitic activity at UCLA, combined with your administration’s indifference to taking substantive action to deter further misconduct, violates UCLA’s nondiscrimination policy and satisfies UCLA’s definition of harassment,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill wrote, which is defined as “[C]onduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.”

They also argued that Park violated UC Faculty Code of Conduct requiring that professors “avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.”

“By inviting Abdulhadi to speak and permitting an anti-Semitic diatribe, blatantly ignoring Abdulhadi’s harassment of one of her Jewish students, and continuing to harass the student about the incident—in front of the entire class, no less—Park has violated the faculty code of conduct with respect to harassment and discrimination,” Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill argued.

They urged Block and Kang to condemn the Abdulhadi incident in a statement and “to investigate this matter fully” and “take all necessary steps to protect [the university] against legal liability that could result from ignoring this pattern of discrimination on your campus and the detrimental impact it is having on the Jewish members of the campus community. Further, we are resolved to take all appropriate legal action if any student or faculty member suffers from related discriminatory and/or harassing behavior.”

Rothstein, Lerman and Gammill gave Block and Gammill a June 7 deadline. The university has not responded to the Journal’s requests for comment.

UPDATE: UCLA’s Executive Communications Office replied to StandWithUs May 28 by stating that “allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office, which investigates reports of discrimination or harassment based on race, ancestry, national origin, religion, and other legally protected categories by any member of our community.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement, “StandWithUs awaits the findings of UCLA’s investigation into this latest instance of blatant antisemitism, as reportedly being conducted by the UCLA Discrimination Prevention Office. We trust that the administration understands the urgent need for swift and decisive action here and will act accordingly. We will continue to monitor the situation at UCLA and are prepared to take further action as necessary to help ensure a safe educational environment, including for Jewish members of the campus community.”

NYU President ‘Shocked’ At Grad Speaker’s Anti-Semitic Tweets

Photo from Flickr/Lars Kiesow.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton told the Journal that he was “shocked at NYU Doctoral Graduate and soon-to-be Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher’s recently unearthed anti-Semitic tweets and that Thrasher shouldn’t have spoken at the May 20 Graduate School of Art and Sciences (GSAS) convocation ceremony.

Thrasher endorsed the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement and called Israel “an apartheid state” during his speech at the ceremony. Aussie Dave of the Israellycool blog unearthed a series of anti-Semitic tweets from Thrasher, including a May 2018 tweet that states, “As the Nazis did on Jews, Africans & the disabled… as the enslavers did to Africans… and as U.S. police departments have on Black urban neighborhoods, US backed Israel is testing the limits of what it can get away with in controlling humans in Gaza. Will the world care?”

Aussie Dave also highlighted a Thrasher tweet from September 2016 that stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not a happy camper. Is ‘camper’ ever a good word to use for Israeli Jews?” as well as a June 2018 tweet that reads, “Peak white cultural New York liberalism is when a musical from Israel wins a Tony [award] & no one mentions the genocide of Israel-occupied Palestine & a play nominally about AIDS wins & no one mentions the ongoing genocide of HIV/AIDS.”

Additional Thrasher tweets include him accusing Israel in May 2018 of testing “weapons of war on colonial subjects” and asking in August 2015, “What is this obsession with Iran and ISIS (who non [sic] one) but scant mention of white supremacy & police killing endless Americans?”

NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement to the Journal, “We were shocked when we were made aware of these undoubtedly vile and anti-Semitic tweets. Steven Thrasher should never have been a speaker for the doctoral convocation.”

GSAS Dean Phillip Harper told the Journal in an email that he hadn’t seen the aforementioned tweets until the Journal brought them to his attention. He called the tweets “breathtakingly wrongheaded. Had we known of these posts earlier, Steven Thrasher would not have been a speaker at our Convocation ceremony.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “How convenient for Dr. Thrasher to tie his vicious anti-Semitism into a neat package by connecting the non-existent dots of so-called intersectionality. This NYU graduate glibly libels our people by comparing Jews to genocidal Nazis and immoral slave traders. In Gaza, instead of denouncing terrorist Hamas for using Palestinian civilians as human shields and cannon fodder at Israel’s international border, Thrasher attacks [the] Jewish [state] for defending herself from violent assaults. In a final flight of fancy, he compares Israel to US police departments operating in Black neighborhoods. Next stop for Thrasher’s fact-free alternative reality: Northwestern University.”

Adela Cojab, who graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “SJP shouldn’t have gotten a President’s Service Award after promoting physical aggression and continuous harassment against their peers, and Thrasher should not have been chosen for the GSAS convocation, given his misuse of a public platform and his now-news-worthy twitter history. The administration cannot continue to [issue] reflective statements after public outrage. Gross oversight is not remedied by counterfactual concession.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus renounced his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award in April, said in a statement to the Journal, “Psychologists have written volumes on mental, social and environmental pressures that may drive seemingly educated folks toward racist ideologies such as Nazism, KKK [Ku Klux Klan] or ISIS. Thrasher demonstrates that, when soil conditions are right, poisonous weeds can grow in our best universities, on our own very watch. I dread the thought that a racist deformity of such toxicity will be given a podium and clone students at Northwestern University. The public trusts us, educators, with the soil conditions; are we worthy of the trust?”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU should have fully vetted this speaker, who has a clear record of spreading hate on social media. We urge them to change their procedures to ensure such extremism is not rewarded again in the future.”

Thrasher and Northwestern University did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

NYU Dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ‘Disappointed’ in Grad Speaker’s Remarks

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New York University (NYU) Dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Phillip Harper told NYU Doctoral Graduate and soon-to-be Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher he was “disappointed” in Thrasher’s May 20 remarks.

Thrasher expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, praised NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace and called Israel “an apartheid state.” Harper told Thrasher in a May 23 letter obtained by the Journal that his only “request to you beforehand was that you stick to the comments as presented to me, which gave no indication that you would make pronouncements of the sort that you did. While I of course clearly stated that I had no desire to censor you, I had hoped that you would proceed in a way that reflected respect for me; for your dissertation director, Professor Julie Livingston; for the Graduate School, which is granting your degree; and, most important, for the myriad graduates and guests in attendance at the ceremony. It is highly unfortunate that you decided against that course of action.”

Harper added that the graduation ceremony “is an inappropriate forum for the ad hoc expression of support for specific political causes. Knowing as I do your capacity for nuanced scholarly reflection (which, indeed, is one of the reasons you were selected to speak at the Convocation), I must especially denounce your failure to bring that capacity to bear in your improvised remarks at the ceremony. Your words in this instance fell far short of the expectations we have for someone who is a graduate of one of our doctoral programs, who should conceive the university as a site of open dialogue.” He went on to state that Thrasher’s comments cause audience members to feel “unwelcome” and “disrespected.”

“You no doubt expected that this would be the outcome, and for that reason omitted the remarks in question from the speech you submitted for prior review,” Harper wrote. “Your behavior in this event was eminently regrettable, and fell far short of what GSAS expects of those it prepares for membership in a learned profession. I sincerely hope that your future actions will be productively informed by your careful reflection on this current matter.”

Additionally, in a May 24 email to graduate students who attended the ceremony, Harper explained that GSAS faculty, staff and students select convocation speakers and that his staff suggested Thrasher in March.

“As a member of Thrasher’s dissertation committee, I was heartened that he had been independently nominated to serve in this capacity and happy to approve his selection, though precisely *because* he had been a student of mine, I never would have suggested it myself,” Harper wrote. “Given this connection–and my prior request to him–you can imagine my chagrin and outrage upon hearing the off-script comments that Thrasher made on Monday, which of course reflect his own opinions and not the position of GSAS.”

Harper then expressed “my deep apology for the fact that our ceremony and its audience were disrespected in this way.  The Graduate School’s commitment to fostering a strong ethos of community and collegiality remains as firm as ever, and we will work strenuously on this front in the months and years to come.”

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway said in a May 24 statement that Thrasher will still be joining Northwestern’s Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications June 1.

“Many were understandably offended by some of the comments made by Dr. Thrasher during his commencement speech at New York University earlier this week,” Schapiro and Holloway wrote. “We do not share all of his views, nor do we feel commencement was the appropriate venue to express them. However, academic freedom assures his right to hold them.”

Schapiro and Holloway added that the university “unequivocally rejects BDS.”

Adela Cojab, who graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “About a month ago I filed my complaint with the Office of Civil Rights against NYU for their failure to act against escalating anti-Semitism. Since then, one of their departments has pledged to boycott Tel Aviv and a commencement speaker inappropriately expressed his support of SCA’s boycott and SJP’s aggressions. This is a pivotal moment— the administration can choose to make empty statements or finally take action. NYU, all eyes are on you.”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU should have fully vetted this speaker, who has a clear record of spreading hate on social media. We urge them to change their procedures to ensure such extremism is not rewarded again in the future.”

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

UCLA Student Council Passes Resolution Saying SJP Isn’t Anti-Semitic

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

The UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) passed a resolution May 21 condemning those calling Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) anti-Semitic.

The resolution denounced faux newspapers from the David Horowitz Freedom Center that compared “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activism with Nazism and terrorism were discovered on the UCLA campus on April 30.” The resolution went on to “administrative figures including Chancellor Gene Block and local politicians have promoted the same accusations found within both Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center propaganda, equating support for the National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference held at UCLA in 2018 with anti-Semitism either directly or by implication, thereby compounding the atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and political repression that the aforementioned vigilante initiatives and organizations seek to stoke.”

Block’s November Los Angeles Times Op-ed called SJP’s support for BDS as “actions that stigmatize that nation [Israel] and label it a pariah state” and that the SJP conference that month would “be infused with anti-Semitic rhetoric.” The resolution called these comments “marginalizing” and “stigmatizing.”

“We call on administration at the highest levels to issue statements condemning the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Canary Mission website for the unjust intimidation tactics they truly are and affirming that such defamatory initiatives must have no bearing on the occupational prospects of all affected members of the campus community,” the resolution states, adding the statement should “also include language affirming the right of students to discuss and advocate for Palestinian human rights without outside misinformation and intimidation from organizations such as Canary Mission and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.”

According to the UCLA Jewish news outlet Ha’Am, the USAC voted by a margin of 8-1 in favor of the resolution; the lone dissenting vote was from Tara Steinmetz, the only Jewish representative on the council.

“Just last week, we had a Jewish student berated by a professor who declared Zionism is white supremacy, and the student was left in tears,” Steinmetz said before the vote. “To ignore how anti-Zionism can cross into antisemitism is problematic.”

UCLA’s Students Supporting Israel President Justin Feldman told the Journal in a text message, “The repeated effort to immunize anti-Zionist perpetrators of anti-Semitism on our campus from accountability serves to show that the Undergraduate Students Association Council has a continuously ingrained issue with validating Jewish safety concerns and Jewish denunciations of hatred. The nature of how this resolution passed is an uncomfortable reminder that keeping quiet about the double standards that Jews collectively face on campus is not an option.”

Feldman added, “Marking just over a year since the violent disruption of one of our cultural events, by SJP, in which we were absurdly castigated as ‘white supremacists and terrorists,’ as ongoing victims of white supremacy and terrorism, we must continue to empower more Jewish students to speak up for themselves and demand that our campus eliminate conditional inclusion of our pro-Israel and Jewish identities.”

David Horowitz Freedom Center Founder and President David Horowitz said in a statement to the Journal, “UCLA’s Students for Justice in Palestine is a political arm of the terrorist organization Hamas, whose goal is the genocide of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish state. Not a single sentence or phrase in the UCLA resolution addresses the evidence we have published and sourced that SJP is funded by Hamas through it front organization American Muslims for Palestine. AMP is headed by the notorious anti-Semite and jihad supporter, Hatem Bazian, the co-founder of SJP. AMP’s board, as Jonathan Schanzer has shown in congressional testimony, is run by former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation which was successfully prosecuted by the US government for funding Hamas. SJP is the chief campus sponsor of BDS – a Hamas orchestrated campaign to strangle the Jewish state. Everything SJP does is designed to spread the Hamas lies that Israel is an apartheid state which illegally occupies so-called Palestinian land. The UCLA resolution is a disgraceful collection of smears designed to provide a smokescreen which will deflect attention away from these undeniable facts, which obviously SJP and its political supporters can’t begin to refute.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper called the resolution an “insult to the Jewish community” in a statement to the Journal,  posing the hypothetical on what the public reaction would be “if eight white students at UCLA passed a resolution defining ‘racism’ without input from African American or Latino students.”

“[The] UCLA Administration will likely continue to hide behind phalanx of rules that guarantee intimidation-free environment for  bigots and zero protection for Jews who dare embrace 3,000+ years of love of Israel,” Cooper said.

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Non-Jewish student government members have no right to declare what is or is not anti-Semitic. Given that Jewish students provided ample evidence of SJP’s hateful rhetoric, the student government should apologize and rescind any language shielding them from criticism. While it’s understandable that it is unpleasant to be labeled anti-Semitic, groups can be accountable and work to change their image. SJP can do so by stating their case without attacking others or using destructive tactics, and by engaging civilly with the many Jewish students and others who support Israel’s existence, rather than trying to demonize and isolate them.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, also said in a statement to the Journal, “The USAC resolution strengthens our belief in alternative universes and the most inverted of all Orwell’s dreams. SJP, a student organization that prides itself on crushing meetings of other student organizations has now been given the victimhood stage and is crying out to us: ‘Gewalt! Misinformation!, Islamophobia! We are only racist against Israelis and most American Jews, not against Jews that behave themselves! What a terrible misinformation!’ It re-raises a decade-old question: When will UCLA administrators understand who they are dealing with?”

Executive director of UCLA Hillel Rabbi Aaron Lerner said in a May 22 letter to Hillel community members that the resolution’s passage was another instance “of targeting Jews and Israel in ways that our university community would never allow against other minority communities.” He argued that “there is plenty of evidence linking SJP to hate, including their inflammatory use of a kite in the conference logo. Dressing a wolf in sheep’s clothing doesn’t change its predatory nature.”

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

UPDATE: Canary Mission sent a statement to the Journal via email that read, “Canary Mission aggregates the tweets, posts and actions of individuals and compiles them into profiles for the public to view. Any accusations of anti-Semitism based on Canary Mission’s reporting are derived from factual evidence gathered from public sources. Canarymission.org contains thousands of examples of anti-Semitism from SJP members, so we find this resolution laughable.”

Williams College Recognizes Pro-Israel Group

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Williams College, the private liberal arts college in Williamstown, MA, officially recognized the pro-Israel group Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) as a student group on campus May 14.

On April 23, the Williams College Council voted against designating WIFI as a Registered Student Organization (RSO), meaning that the group wouldn’t receive full access to the college’s funds and resources. Williams President Maud Mandel said in a statement May 3 that she was “disappointed” at the council’s “political” decision.

Williams College Director of Media Relations Greg Shook told the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in a statement via email that on May 14, a committee “of administrators and CC [College Council] reps” voted to recognize WIFI as a RSO. This committee was an alternate way to recognize a student group as a RSO, and Williams was legally obliged to provide it at WIFI’s request.

“This experience has pointed to the value of a discussion with Williams students about student governance,” Shook wrote. “As we move forward, we will continue to support students in thinking about the kind of governance they want and deserve. In addition, we will be working alongside the current Council to identify best practices relative to bylaw creation and support, managing meetings effectively, and any other structural issues that will be helpful for good student governance.”

WIFI said in a statement to the Algemeiner, “WIFI looks forward to contributing its perspective to campus dialogue and critically engaging with the campus community about Israel.”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein told Jewish News Syndicate, “While it is good that WIFI has finally been registered as a student group, it is outrageous that they were denied their rights in the first place. The administration must unequivocally condemn the original decision and ensure that a similar incident never happens again.”

UCLA Guest Lecturer Calls Zionists White Supremacists

Photo from Flickr.

During a guest lecture to a UCLA anthropology class on May 14, San Francisco State University Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Professor Rabab Abdulhadi called Zionists white supremacists.

Abdulhadi spoke to around 100 students in the Fowler lecture hall during a mandatory lecture for the Anthropology M144P: Constructing Race class, taught by Associate Professor Kyeyoung Park.

A Jewish student in the class, Shayna Lavi, told the Journal that Abdulhadi discussed Islamophobia at the beginning of the lecture then veered into a “rant” against Israel, which Lavi said included “a claim that those who support Israel want to ethnically cleanse the Middle East and those affiliated with Israel and pro-Israel organizations are white supremacists.”

Lavi added that Abdulhadi also said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “was attacked by AIPAC and all these pro-Israel organization because [Omar’s] Muslim,” and that the United States and Israel have “shared values” of “killing people, colonialism and white supremacy.”

Noting that there had never been any prior readings about the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the class, Lavi said, “It really threw me a loop because… most of these kids don’t know anything about the [Israel-Palestinian] conflict.”

Lavi said she raised her hand during the question-and-answer session and challenged Abdulhadi, saying she was “personally offended” that Abdulhadi “categorized pro-Israel students, Zionists and Jewish students as white supremacists.”

Abdulhadi then responded: “Thank you. That’s your opinion but you’re wrong. I stand with Jews who do not support Israel and I hope that Jews will disalign themselves with white supremacy.”

Lavi said she was crying, but Park dismissed her and told Lavi to come to her office hours after the lecture without offering a formal apology.

Another student, Viktorya Saroyan, told the Journal she was angry that Abdulhadi brought Lavi to tears, so Saroyan sent an email to Vice Chancellor for Equity, Inclusion and Law Jerry Kang about the matter, which was then forwarded to the Discrimination Prevention Office.

“This was hate speech, there is no other way of classifying it. Watching an educator belittle a student to tears with such blatant ignorance leaves me to question the values UCLA wishes to uphold.” — Viktorya Saroyan

“I am someone who is not a part of the Jewish community; regardless I wish to speak up,” Saroyan wrote in the May 14 email. “This was hate speech, there is no other way of classifying it. Watching an educator belittle a student to tears with such blatant ignorance leaves me to question the values UCLA wishes to uphold.”

Lavi also filed a complaint with the Discrimination Prevention Office on May 16. Both Lavi and Saroyan said Park apologized on May 16 for Abdulhadi’s lecture.

“[Abdulhadi] can say whatever she wants, but she shouldn’t be in the classroom,” Lavi said. “The keynote speaker for SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) shouldn’t be a mandatory speaker for all students.”

Abdulhadi was the keynote speaker at National SJP’s conference at UCLA in November as well as at the 2017 National SJP conference.

Ricardo Vazquez, associate director of Media Relations at UCLA, told the Journal in an email that “several students” were concerned that Abdulhadi’s lecture “went beyond legitimate criticism of the State of Israel [and] into anti-Semitism. The University is committed to academic freedom as well as building an inclusive learning environment without discrimination and harassment. Senior leadership are aware of the concerns and are working together to learn more and to find a satisfying resolution. In accordance with university procedure, allegations of discrimination or harassment have been conveyed to the Discrimination Prevention Office.”

Anti-Defamation League Los Angeles Regional Director Amanda Susskind said in a statement to the Journal: “Students should be exposed to a wide range of ideas but if the guest lecturer equated Zionism with white supremacist ideology, as is alleged, that is not just an offensive point of view.  It is indefensible, ignorant and revisionist.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper similarly said in a statement to the Journal that Abdulhadi’s lecture was “another example of propaganda thinly disguised as academic/intellectual discourse,” as Abdulhadi “had no interest in engaging a student who dared to respectfully challenge her rabid anti-Semitism.”

StandWithUs Executive Director of Research and Strategy Max Samarov said in a statement to the Journal: “This professor is notorious for spreading hate about Israel and the Jewish people, and for whitewashing anti-Semitic rhetoric as merely ‘criticism of Israel’ or ‘anti-Zionism.’ We are proud of the students who had the courage to speak out and support their efforts to educate the class about anti-Semitism.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member and Daniel Pearl Foundation president, called on the UCLA’s Department of Anthropology to issue an apology “for slander made by one of its invited speakers who vilified the collective identity of many faculty and students at UCLA, associating Zionism and the State of Israel with ‘colonialism’ and ‘white supremacy.’ I find it hard to believe that an accredited UCLA department could overlook the long racist history of this invited speaker. Rabab Abdulhadi was the person who stood behind the exclusion of Zionist students from campus activities at California State University San Francisco, which has resulted in a lawsuit and an embarrassing legal settlement for her University.”

On Feb. 23, 2018, Abdulhadi wrote in a Facebook post that she was “ashamed” that SFSU President Leslie Wong said that Zionists were welcome on campus.

Park and Abdulhadi did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Israeli Culture, Food and Music at Celebrate Israel Festival

Ben Al Tavori, from Israeli pop duo Static and Ben El, performs at the 2018 Celebrate Israel Festival. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal

Although Israel’s 71st anniversary officially was May 9, you can still celebrate all things Israel this Sunday, May 19, at the Israeli-American Council’s (IAC) annual Celebrate Israel Festival at the Cheviot Hills Park and Recreation Center in Rancho Park on the Westside.

The festival, now in its eighth year under the IAC, will feature a concert headlined by Sephardic Israeli musician Lior Narkis; selfie stations where festivalgoers can flaunt Instagram-worthy photos in front of massive backdrops of some of Israel’s most popular tourist sites; a maze called “Heroes: Jewish Trailblazers Experience,” recognizing Jewish contributions to the arts, technology, sports and politics; children’s music; hands-on art activities and more.

In short, people young and old, hip and square, will have plenty to keep them busy from the time the gates open at noon until the festival’s closing at 7 p.m.

“We were incredibly lucky to grow up in a place like Israel — surrounded by our history, our heritage and a rich and diverse culture,” festival chair Naty Saidoff said in a statement. “Now that we live here, we want our fellow Americans who have embraced us so warmly to share in the experience of all the beauty that is the modern-day miracle called Israel. This one-day festival is the closest you can come to truly being there.”

The theme of this year’s gathering is “The Israeli Spirit,” recognizing the unique, positive attitude Israelis exhibit every day, festival producer Adee Drory told the Journal. 

“We wanted to bring the Israeli spirit to the festival,” she said. “That is the direction we went with this year.”

Actor Mike Burstyn is slated to appear as is Mayor Eric Garcetti, along with elected officials and community leaders. The Tiger Squadron, a precision formation flying and aircraft display team, will open the official ceremony featuring Garcetti, Burstyn and other local dignitaries at 4 p.m. 

“Now that we live here, we want our fellow Americans who have embraced us so warmly to share in the experience of all the beauty that is the modern-day miracle called Israel.” — Naty Saidoff

Garcetti’s appearance comes on the heels of a weeklong trip to Israel for U.S. mayors supported by Saidoff’s wife, Debbie, through the American Jewish Committee program Project Interchange.

The annual Israel Solidarity Walk, organized by pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, will gather at 10:30 a.m. at the entrance to the festival. The mile-long walk to the nearby Simon Wiesenthal Center and back will begin at 11 a.m. 

“It’s a beautiful gathering and an easy walk for people of all ages who want to express their Zionism,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said in an email. “It helps instill a love for Israel and creates joyous memories for participants and is a perfect way to kick off the day.”

Early risers can join the Israeli Cycling Academy for an 8 a.m. ride to Malibu from the park, which will return in time for the solidarity march. Saidoff, an amateur cyclist who has competed in the Maccabiah Games, told the Journal he is looking forward to cycling with the Israeli team and then walking in the march.

“We also are going to be joined by the Israeli motorcycle team,” Saidoff said of the march. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be really a special event this year.”

Inside the festival, there will be a variety of kosher food, and shoppers can browse a large market selling art, jewelry, Judaica, home goods and gifts. Five-foot hamsas made of wood will decorate the grounds, designed in participation with nearly 40 area schools. 

With the community on higher security alert after the recent Poway shooting, IAC co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet said the festival organizers have taken extra measures to ensure the safety of festival attendees.

“The Israeli-American Council has always taken security extremely seriously at our Celebrate Israel festivals in Los Angeles and throughout the country,” Nicolet said. “We will continue to do so by investing heavily in a wide range of security measures and working closely with law enforcement. We are committed to ensuring that everyone who joins us to support and celebrate Israel can do so freely and without concerns about their safety.”

The Saidoffs are the largest contributors to the festival, underwriting much of its more than $750,000 organizing costs in order to keep ticket prices affordable. Advance ticket purchases work on a sliding scale, costing $10 to $20 depending on when they are purchased. Tickets at the door are $30.

Of their financial contribution to the festival, Saidoff said, “It is our gift to the community and we’re doing it out of a sense of responsibility toward Israel and our country of residence, the U.S.” 

A Q&A with Naty Saidoff discussing the festival and other topics can be found on page 62. 

The Celebrate Israel Festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Rancho Park, 2551 Motor Ave. For tickets, parking instructions and additional information, click here. 

StandWithUs Counters Breaking the Silence with Pro-Israel Billboard

Photo from "Billboard Wars" Photo Courtesy of StandWithUs

To counteract a recent anti-occupation billboard made by Breaking the Silence (BTS), a non-profit organization made up of IDF veterans who “expose reality of everyday life in the occupied territories”, StandWithUs (SWU) will run its own billboard above Israel’s Ayalon Freeway for a week beginning on May 15.

The billboard will promote tours to Israel and reads: “Dare to Dream of Peace, Security and Coexistence – Join our Tours – See the Full Picture” —in response to BTS posting their billboard, May 12, the Sunday prior to the Eurovision Song Contest. Tours are offered to Nazareth, Gush Etzion, Haifa, the Gaza periphery and Jaffa.

It contrasts BTS’ billboard, displayed on the road from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv, which shows Tel Aviv beaches side-by-side against an anti-terror Security Barrier titled “Dare to Dream of Freedom.” BTS offers tours to Hebron.

“It’s a shame that something that is positive and exciting like Eurovision is now going to be used as a political tool to create ill will against Israel,” Stand With Us CEO Roz Rothstein told the Journal. “[BTS] are looking at it as a way for negativity and we are looking at it as a positive. Let them see Haifa, let them see the Gaza border and let’s show them the cooperation, let’s show them coexistence. Things aren’t perfect but let’s show them Palestinians and Israelis working together. We thought that the tour idea was actually a good one. We want to educate [tourists].”

“Breaking the Silence is making a desperate and cynical attempt to divert from the positive celebration of Eurovision being hosted in Israel in order to defame the Jewish State,” StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson said in a statement. “The truth is that there is no silence to break. While they may seek to present a one-sided, politicized viewpoint, we will show a forward-facing, open and honest view of how the future could look with peace and security for all. I am confident that tourists will enjoy themselves in Israel and get a chance to see our open society and how Israel is a beacon of light to the world.”

Eurovision kicks off May 14 and runs through Saturday, May 18.

Aish Gala, Sheba Benefit, Film Fest Honors Director

Hollywood legend Peter Bogdanovich and L.A. Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Hilary Helstein. Photo courtesy of L.A. Jewish Film Festival

The 14th annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival’s (LAJFF) opening night gala was held on May 2 at the Ahrya Fine Arts theater in Beverly Hills.

The premiere of the documentary “Carl Laemmle,” a film about one of the key founders of the movie industry and an unsung hero who rescued over 300 families from Nazi Germany, kicked off the weeklong annual showcase of Jewish heritage through film. Laemmle, a German Jew, came to the United States with almost nothing and went on to found Universal Studios.

LAJFF Executive Director Hilary Helstein was in attendance at the festivities, which honored Hollywood legend Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?”) with the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award. 

The celebratory gathering began at 7:15 p.m. with a red carpet outside the theater. Among those who turned out were Israeli actor Asaf Goldstien, star of the festival film “Back to Maracana”; Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who appears in “Carl Laemmle”; and young star August Maturo, whose film “Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog” also is part of the festival.

The program began at 8 p.m. and included the presenting of the award to Bogdanovich.

“I am very honored to be getting this tribute,” Bogdanovich said in accepting the award. “I am very touched by this.”

Speaking about the magic of the movies, Bogdanovich said, “You’re giving people little pieces of time that they never forget.”

The screening of “Carl Laemmle” — which features interviews with Bogdanovich, Hier, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin and Ron Meyer of NBCUniversal, among others — followed.

A post-screening Q&A featured “Carl Laemmle” writer-director James Freedman and other special guests.

The LAJFF, a program of the Jewish Journal, screens documentaries, comedies, dramatic features, shorts and more. This year’s festival ran through May 9. 

Click here to watch a video of the festival’s opening night.

From left: Aish L.A. Banquet Chair Richard Sandler, Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa, satirist Ami Horowitz and Aish L.A. Executive Director Rabbi Aryeh Markman celebrated at the Aish L.A. annual gala. Photo by Jonah Light, Jonah Light Photography

Aish Los Angeles held its annual gala at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood on April 14 as a sellout crowd celebrated Jewish unity and connection.

Richard Sandler, executive vice president, secretary and trustee of the Milken Family Foundation and a member of the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, chaired the event.

Filmmaker, journalist and political satirist Ami Horowitz participated in the event and screened video footage showing the current state of anti-Semitism in the world. Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa delivered the keynote address, and 15-year-old violin virtuoso Kiev Morales performed the Israeli national anthem.

Aish L.A. honored Eddie Kahen, founder and CEO of Aggregate Real Estate Solutions, with the Young Leadership Award for his “passionate, take-charge attitude,” Aish L.A. said. 

Aish L.A. Executive Director Rabbi Aryeh Markman challenged the crowd to complete a million-dollar capital campaign to buy Aish L.A.’s Morry’s Fireplace educational lounge in Pico-Robertson. The effort, according to Aish L.A., has been anchored by a lead gift from Dr. Ezra and Lauren Kest. 

Aish L.A. COO Rabbi Azriel Aharon ran the proceedings, which included food and drink that was enjoyed in a spirit of unity.

Banquet attendees included Jaime and Marilyn Sohacheski, Chavi Hertz, Aish L.A. founders Dick and Beverly Horowitz, Leonard and Joyce Wilstein, and Philip and Janice Kaufler. 

Aish L.A. said it was honored to have the namesake of the Boxenbaum Family Aish Outreach Center, Kharlene Boxenbaum, in attendance. 

Others at the event included Sharon Janks, a Federation board member, and her husband, Leon, and StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein and her husband, Jerry, COO of StandWithUs.

“Let us all keep the theme of Jewish unity and connection in mind,” an Aish L.A. statement said. “It so very important for all of us.”

Musical outfit Wilson Phillips arrive at the annual Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

The Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai held its 60th anniversary gala on May 2 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The evening honored Jane and Marc Nathanson with the Humanitarian Award, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introducing the couple. The event also marked the launch of the Neurology Transformation Project, which will support research and education for the understanding and treatment of complex neurological disorders.

Comedian Kevin Nealon served as the host and vocal group Wilson Phillips provided the entertainment.

Attendees included Women’s Guild President Shelley Cooper and gala chairs Wendy Goldberg, Lorette Gross and Lauren Segal.

The nonprofit Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai helps advance the clinical and research priorities of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Since 1957, Women’s Guild members have raised close to $50 million in support of Cedars-Sinai, the organization says. “We listen and learn,” the group says on its website, “then roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The Sheba 2.0 young leadership group boxed together to raise funds for the Israel-based Sheba Medical Center. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center

More than 30 young professionals from Sheba 2.0, the young leadership group of Friends of Sheba Medical Center, came together for a workout class at BoxUnion Robertson and raised funds for Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer. 

Sheba 2.0 committee members Dr. Nelia Barkhordar, Dr. Nicole Barkhordar and Sorelle Cohen chaired the April 30 event, during which participants enjoyed a high-energy 45-minute boxing class and then cooled down with post-workout refreshments from Recover 180 and Juice Crafters. 

The $1,800 raised at the event will support Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, recently named by Newsweek as one of the top 10 hospitals in the world. The magazine called Sheba “a leader in medical science and biotechnical innovation, both in the Middle East and worldwide. The center’s collaborations with international parties have advanced innovative medical practices, hospital systems and biotechnology.”

Sheba, which is affiliated with Tel Aviv University, is the largest and most comprehensive research and medical center in the Middle East, serving over 1.5 million patients each year. Friends of Sheba Medical Center raises funds and awareness for the hospital.

Wanna be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas.
Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

StandWithUs Calls on Williams College to Formally Recognize Pro-Israel Group

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein and Legal Department Director Yael Lerman sent a letter to Williams College May 5 arguing that the college needs to formally recognize Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) as a student group on campus.

On April 23, the Williams College Council rejected WIFI’s request for recognition as a Registered Student Organization; clubs that are not recognized as RSOs are not allowed to have access to campus funding and resources and they cannot use the college’s name. President Maud Mandel said in a statement May 3 that the council denied recognition to WIFI on “political grounds,” and in doing so the council violated their bylaws.

We’ve always expected the Council to follow its own processes and bylaws,” Mandel said. “I’m disappointed that that didn’t happen in this instance. College leaders have communicated to the organizers of Williams Initiative for Israel that the club can continue to exist and operate without being a CC-approved RSO.”

Rothstein and Lerman wrote in their letter, which was obtained by the Journal, that WIFI needs to have official RSO status.

WIFI complied with all procedures required to form an RSO and therefore should receive such status, as well as all, not most, services available to Williams RSOs,” they wrote. “Denial of any benefit granted to RSOs is a form of de facto discrimination and should be rejected outright by your administration.”

Rothstein and Lerman argued that WIFI’s denial of recognition was the result of anti-Semitism, not “political grounds.”

“Zionism is the movement supporting Jewish rights to self-determination, and the Council’s rejection of WIFI as an RSO seeks to denigrate this vital aspect of mainstream Jewish identity for many Williams students,” Rothstein and Lerman wrote. “Williams’ student newspaper reported that this is the first time in over ten years that a group applying for RSO formation, and which complied with all applicable regulations, has been denied RSO recognition. Much of the debate for granting RSO status centered around WIFI’s refusal to take a stance on highly controversial issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in language that couched anti-Semitic slurs in the form of anti-Zionist rhetoric. This matter is clearly beyond the scope of Council protocol, violates viewpoint neutrality and ultimately stifles students from participating in an important component of campus life due to bias and discrimination.”

Therefore, they argued, the council’s actions violate the college’s code of conduct and non-discrimination statement.

“it is imperative that your administration take all necessary steps to reject and reverse the Council’s discriminatory decision,” Rothstein and Lerman wrote. “We understand that President Mandel is trying to empower Williams’ students to right their own wrong. However, if this outcome had occurred against any other minority group, we strongly question whether her tone would remain as conciliatory toward the students who made that choice. While we recognize and appreciate the right to student governance autonomy and shared government, so too do we see the tremendous need for oversight to prevent abuse of that autonomy. The Council has patently abused its authority by discriminating against WIFI and denying it RSO recognition. We urge the administration to exercise its own authority within the College’s system of shared governance to correct this misstep.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

Williams College Pro-Israel Group Denied Recognition

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A pro-Israel student group at Williams College, the private liberal arts college in Williamstown, MA, will not be recognized as a student club on campus.

In an April 23 meeting, the Williams College Council voted 13-8 with one abstention against the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), denying the group the required Registered Student Organization (RSO).

According to the college’s website, student groups are “not allowed to meet under the College name or receive/use College funding or resources” until they receive RSO status.

Molly Berenbaum, one of WIFI’s leaders, said during the meeting that the group is apolitical and focuses on celebrating Israel’s existence. Other students at the meeting criticized the club for not taking a stance on “the occupation or human rights abuses against Palestinians.”

Students Joseph Moore and Jesus Payan, wrote in an Op-ed on Thursday in the student newspaper the Williams Record, that while they “fully support a Jewish home in the region,” they can’t support “the currently existing Israeli state. Given that the Israeli state is engaging in ongoing violent practices and is built on stolen Palestinian land, one cannot ‘support’ the existence of an Israeli state as an abstract concept without ignoring and indirectly endorsing the state’s violent practices,” Moore and Payan wrote.

Members of WIFI argued that the Israeli government is not engaging in genocide against the Palestinians and that Israeli settlements don’t constitute “settler colonialism.”

Moore and Payan wrote that “Williams ought not to provide a platform to groups that, when provided with first-hand testimony from Palestinian students about the violence of the occupation, attempt to redefine terms like genocide and colonialism to suit their own ends.”

They also stated that a pro-Israel group wasn’t necessary on campus because “the pro-Israel lobby in the United States is both extremely well funded and politically influential. Thus, both practically and discursively, the state of Israel does not need a student group defending its ‘right to exist’ on this campus any more than we need to ‘defend’ the rights of wealthy, straight white men.”

WIFI members Berenbaum, Gavin Small and Maxwell Plonsker wrote in a separate Williams Record op-ed Thursday that WIFI only aims “to bring an additional perspective into the ongoing campus discourse on [the Israel-Palestinian] issue for students who support or who want to learn more about Israel. To be clear, we celebrate the fact that groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine have been granted RSO status, and that students who believe in that group’s mission have been given a platform to support their cause. WIFI is requesting only that students with a different perspective be given that same platform and opportunity to be heard.”

They added that WIFI meets the council’s criteria for recognition, yet the council did not explain why WIFI was denied recognition and contended that the council’s decision to deny WIFI recognition was “purely political.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Global Action Agenda, said in a statement to the Journal that the council’s decision was “anti-Semitism on full display at Williams College. Apparently [there’s] no room for lovers of Zion and Israel among the bigots who control the vote. Where are the adults in the room?”

Yael Lerman, director of StandWithUs’ Saidoff Legal Department said in a statement, “Provided that the reports are accurate, this seems like a blatant attempt to silence students because of their political position and their Jewish and/or Israeli identities. It is also unclear whether Williams College followed its own policies and protocols for granting RSO status, considering that WIFI fulfilled all the requirements properly. We urge the administration to investigate exactly how this happened, promptly reverse the decision, and take steps to ensure something like this never happens again.”

Williams College President Maud Mandel said in a statement Friday she was “disappointed” that the council refused to recognize WIFI on “political grounds. In doing so, Council departed from its own process for reviewing student groups, which at no point identifies a proposed group’s politics as a criterion for review.”

Mandel added that WIFI could “exist and operate” on campus despite the council’s decision.

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

NYU Department Passes Resolution Against Tel Aviv Study Abroad Program

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New York University’s (NYU) Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA) announced Thursday it had passed a resolution to boycott the university’s study abroad program in Tel Aviv.

The SCA stated on its website it passed the resolution because of Israel’s “longstanding practice of barring entry to persons of Palestinian descent” as well as the Israeli government’s policy barring boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement  supporters from entering the country.

According to  SCA’s statement, “Many members of the NYU community (including members of the department) are affected by these policies and are effectively unable to access NYU’s program in Tel Aviv. The resolution seeks to protect the department from complicity with these forms of racial, religious, and political profiling.”

The SCA’s statement also disputes university spokesman John Beckman’s October statement that Israel hasn’t barred any NYU students from entering the country, noting: “The administration fails to take into account the Palestinian members of the NYU community from the West Bank and [the Gaza Strip] who are unable to enter Israel, in addition to those with American citizenship who have been banned based on their Palestinian heritage and political activity. Participating in the program while members of our own department are barred entry to their homeland and sites of research serves to reproduce the racial inequalities of Israel’s policies in our own workplace.”

In its statement, the SCA acknowledged it can’t prevent NYU students and faculty from taking part in the program, but it encourages “faculty and student members to act in the spirit of noncooperation.”

Adela Cojab, the NYU student who has filed a legal complaint against the university after it gave an award to NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “The fact that SCA pledged non-compliance with Tel Aviv when no student or faculty has ever been denied entry, while continuing partnership with NYU-Abu Dhabi after two professors have already been turned away because of their Shiite heritage is hypocritical as it is absurd. SCA does not care about equal opportunity or ethical conduct, they only care about demonizing the Jewish state.”

Cojab added that the resolution’s passage on Yom HaShoah “makes its effect all the more painful.”

Realize Israel, an NYU pro-Israel student group, wrote in a Facebook post, “We, and many Jewish students, feel not only baffled, but affronted by this decision. NYU students should be free to experience other countries and cultures firsthand to form their own opinions without the close-minded prejudices of some members of the NYU faculty. We believe this to be the foundation of higher education learning and growth.”

The statement continued: “It is deeply disappointing that NYU continues to foster an environment that singles out and targets Jewish students based on their support for the State of Israel. Today is Yom HaShoah, a day when Jewish communities around the world remember the lives lost in the Holocaust and say, ‘never again.’ Never again will the Jewish community remain silent in the face of discrimination.”

Rena Nasar, StandWithUs’ Tri-State campus director and managing director of Campus Affairs, condemned the resolution in a statement to the Journal as “hypocritical and discriminatory. The resolution misrepresents Israeli law, as evidenced by the Israeli High Court’s decision in the case of Lara Alqasem,” Nasar said. “Furthermore, it conveniently ignores NYU’s program in the United Arab Emirates, where Israelis are prohibited from entering solely based on their national origin. We call on NYU to condemn this hateful resolution and demand that the department reverse it.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Simon Wiesenthal Center associate dean and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Global Action Agenda, said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU President Andrew Hamilton has called academic boycotts of Israel “contrary to our core principles of academic freedom, antithetical to the free exchange of ideas, and at odds with NYU’s position. Really? Now is the time for him and NYU to put up or shut up as [the SCA] ends all ties with Israel.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer science at UCLA and Daniel Pearl Foundation president who asked NYU to rescind his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award, told the Journal in an email, “This is perfect time for president Hamilton to defend the study abroad program on moral grounds and expose the hypocrisy of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis by saying: ‘A country whose existence is under daily threats  cannot be expected to allow in people who openly seek its destruction. I [Hamilton] challenge any member of the SCA department to stand up and recognize Israel’s right to exist before criticizing her protective laws or policies.’”

Beckman told the Journal in an email, “The university’s position on the issue of academic boycotts of Israel is clear: they are at odds with university policy, and they are at odds with the tenets of academic freedom. With respect to this departmental vote: it’s a little puzzling as to what form it would take, as our Tel Aviv campus does not draw on the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for its academic program,” Beckman wrote. He also reiterated that “NYU has not had a student denied entry to Israel to study at our Tel Aviv campus.”

NYU Social and Cultural Analysis Professor Andrew Ross, who is also director of American Studies at the university, told the Journal in an email, “University policy on ethical conduct prohibits discrimination of all kinds and promotes equal opportunity. It should be clear that the resolution appeals directly to that policy.”

Ross also wrote that the resolution vote took place on Yom HaShoah because it was “the last department meeting of the academic year. There are many Jewish students in our department who introduced this initiative and supported it.”

UPDATE: Stephanie Merkrebs, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York and New Jersey director of Campus Affairs, said in a statement to the Journal, “We are concerned to see this kind of resolution pass within a New York University academic department. Discouraging students and faculty from studying in Israel and engaging with Israeli colleagues creates barriers to the free exchange of research and ideas, and to experiencing the complexities first hand. It also contradicts NYU’s statements against BDS. “

Columbia SJP Calls for Boycotting Pro-Israel Groups on Campus

Screenshot from Facebook.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) published a statement on April 28 advocating for the boycott of all pro-Israel organizations on campus.

SJP issued the statement after Columbia’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) invited SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict. SSI also sent the invitation to the Columbia College Student Council.

Columbia SJP said they rejected the invitation because of SSI’s “racist, belligerent, and downright bizarre anti-Palestinian activities on campus.” SJP said those events included SSI’s campus event earlier this month that it hosted with Act.IL (a joint project of the Israeli American Council [IAC]), the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) and the Maccabee Task Force that combats anti-Semitism online) and The Lawfare Project, (which fights the boycott, divestment and sanctions and protects Jewish students through legal means.) They also cited SSI chapters’ nationwide partnership with pro-Israel groups including StandWithUs, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and the Hasbara Fellowships.

Columbia SJP also stated that in 2017 Columbia SSI filed harassment claims against SJP members; the university threw out those claims in 2018.

SJP’s statement downplayed SSI’s claim that the university isn’t doing enough to protect Zionist students on campus.

“We believe that racist ethno-supremacism should, in fact, be challenged on campus,” the statement read. “We also believe that social ostracization is a powerful tool that the student body can use to voice their rejection of Zionism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other oppressive ideologies. The claim that such a challenge would entail actual, physical or psychological violence against individual Zionist students reflects a racist—but all-too-common—strategy that depicts pro-Palestinian advocacy as inherently prone to violence, escalation, and ‘terrorism.’”

The statement also denounced SSI Columbia’s mission statement that SSI is part of “an indigenous rights movement,” calling Zionist claims of being indigenous to Israel “laughably false” as part of “racist co-optation of genuine anti-colonial struggles and organizing.”

“We believe organizations like SSI, given their racist rhetoric and their recorded history of harassment, must be effectively de-platformed,” Columbia SJP said in the statement. “Changing people’s ideas is an important part of any movement for social justice. However, groups that have explicitly demonstrated their anti-Palestinian racism, despite all attempts to hide this fact behind a veil of civility, cannot be treated as “normal” conversation partners. Engaging in dialogue only makes violent ideas and practices seem acceptable within political discourse on campus. We refuse to put the humanity of Palestinians up for debate.”

The statement continued that the boycott should be extended to “all pro-Israel advocacy groups and clubs.”

SSI Columbia responded on its Facebook page, stating, “SSI’s invitation to host a joint event came as a result of SJP claiming that they want to promote dialogue on this issue on campus. After reasserting their anti-normalization policies and miserably attempting to present skewed facts about SSI’s activities in past years, they have asked all other Columbia clubs and organizations for the direct boycott of all pro-Israel advocacy groups on campus. This is downright preposterous, frustrating and reprehensible.”

The statement continued: “We hope that SJP members come to their senses and instead of making aggressive public Facebook posts targeting other student groups on campus, work with us towards a better future for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Despite their vicious and false rhetoric, we, SSI Columbia, are holding the higher moral ground and we insist that the invitation to hold a joint event is still open.”

Avi Gordon, executive director for Alums for Campus Fairnness said in a statement to the Journal, “The statement issued by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine is meant to isolate Jewish and Zionist students on campus and demonize Israel. We speak as one alumni voice to make it clear that this bigotry will not be tolerated. Universities should be pillars of truth, academic freedom, and open discourse. SJP’s rhetoric directly threatens these values. We call on the University administration to condemn SJP’s clear discrimination against students who support Israel.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said in a statement to the Journal, “SJP’s call to boycott Zionist organizations and isolate other members of their campus community is bigoted and discriminatory. Their slander against The Lawfare Project and other organizations is yet another attempt to marginalize the Jewish community and stifle free speech.”

Goldstein added, “The Lawfare Project will continue to defend the rights of Jewish students and encourage equitable campus discourse.  We call on Columbia University to suspend campus-sponsored organizations engaging in discrimination like SJP.”

Max Samarov, executive director of Research and Strategy at StandWithUs said in a statement to the Journal, “If SJP wants to boycott those who spread hate on campus, they should start by boycotting themselves.”

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

Jewish Community Grief-Stricken by Poway Synagogue Shooting

A makeshift memorial was placed by a light pole a block away from a shooting incident where one person was killed at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California, U.S. April 27, 2019. REUTERS/John Gastaldo

The April 27 shooting at Chabad of Poway in San Diego County has left the Jewish community saddened and outraged.

Sixty-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed in the attack. Chabad Senior Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, lost his right index finger in the shooting, and 8-year-old Noya Dahan and her 34-year-old uncle, Almog Peretz, sustained shrapnel wounds. All were treated at a nearby hospital and later discharged.

Authorities arrested the alleged shooter — a 19-year-old white male — and are treating the shooting as a hate crime.

Jewish National Fund President Dr. Sol Lizerbram said in a statement that Gilbert-Kaye was “a pillar of our community and the Jewish people,” and lauded the fact she and her husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, frequently bought trees to be planted in Israel.

“My wife, Lauren, and I are taking the first step to ensure that Lori’s name and spirit live on in perpetuity as we plant a forest in Israel in her loving memory, and we ask our friends across the nation to join us,” Lizerbram said.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “It’s truly heartbreaking to see yet another tragedy on Shabbat but also on a day when we celebrate the end of the Passover festival. Jewish people and those of all faiths should not have to live in fear of going to their house of worship. From Charleston to Pittsburgh to Oak Creek, and from Christchurch to Sri Lanka, and now Poway, we need to say ‘enough is enough.’ ”

“After Pittsburgh, I was sad. Everyday anti-Semitism became violent. We had vigils. We mourned. We cried. And now, after Poway, I’m pissed. After eight days of prayer and ‘crying out from the depths,’ I find another white supremacist, another gunman, another AR15, another dead Jew.” — Rabbi Noah Farkas

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement, “This tragic attack, on the last day of Passover, is a horrific reminder that the flames of hatred still burn strong among some. An attack, on any house of worship, from churches in Sri Lanka and France to synagogues in Jerusalem or Pittsburgh to mosques in Christchurch, are an assault on human dignity and our rights as people of faith to pray to G-d.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) tweeted, “Our hearts and prayers are with the victims in Poway, California. Pleased to hear that synagogues in Los Angeles are receiving additional protection now.”

The Israeli-American Council (IAC) said in a statement that the shooting is “the product of age-old hate that continues to infect millions around the world. In recent years, anti-Semitic tropes once confined to the fringes of our culture have been increasingly expressed openly and unabashedly, including in mainstream American media.”

The Lawfare Project said in a statement, “We cry out today. We cry out for the dead. We cry out for the injured. We cry out for the Chabad community of San Diego and for our global Jewish community. We cry out for a world where these acts of violence against innocent worshipers have become all too common.”

Rabbi Zach Shapiro of Temple Akiba in Culver City wrote, “In these times when hate crimes attempt to paralyze our community, we reach inward for strength, to one another for support, and to God for healing. And we remember: Hate toward any one group is hate toward all groups.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said in a statement, “When will this open-hunting season on Jews end? Once again, American Jews are compelled to ask what more can be done to protect houses of worship, indeed all Jewish institutions, even as we extend our deep condolences to the family and friends of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, and full recovery of those wounded, including a child, in this heinous attack during a Shabbat service on the last day of Passover.”

Temple Emanuel clergy said in a statement posted on Rabbi Sarah Bassin’s Facebook page, “Here we just experienced a taste of freedom and redemption on Passover — where we remembered a moment in our history where we broke off the shackles of supremacist ideology. But gunshots shook us from our longing for redemption … and stole away life from our people … again.”

Valley Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Noah Farkas posted to his Facebook page, “After Charlottesville, I was shocked. Tiki torch Nazis marching through the streets shouting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ Something was stirring and no one seems to know how to slow it down. After Pittsburgh, I was sad. Everyday anti-Semitism became violent. We had vigils. We mourned. We cried. And now after Poway, I’m pissed. After eight days of prayer and ‘crying out from the depths,’ I find another white supremacist, another gunman, another AR15, another dead Jew.”

IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, Rabbi David Kasher, Rabbi Keilah Lebell and CEO Melissa Balaban said in a statement, “These synagogue attacks also come amidst a series of attacks on churches, mosques and temples in this country and around the world. No person should fear violence when entering a house of worship to open their hearts to the Holy One. We pray for an end to this violence and the hatred that fuels it.”

Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe wrote on his Facebook page: “When a Nazi-like cartoon appears in the newspaper of record, when the alt-right has been emboldened and empowered, when anti-Semitic statements come from Congress, when synagogues are continually upping security — we as a society have to be self-critical, vigilant and aware … . We need, as a society, to have greater security in all houses of worship, greater vigilance in monitoring who has access to weapons, greater awareness of mental health issues and less tolerance for any expressions of hatred, with anti-Semitism, quite frankly, heading the list. Screaming about how bad the other guy is will not — I repeat will not — make headway or solve problems. Let’s not make a craven attack at a synagogue the cause for more division among people who want a society of goodness and peace.” 

AMIT Event, Friends of Sheba Honors, SSI Visitors

From left: AIGYA Founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb, Calev Knopf of Valley Torah High School and Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, dean of Valley Torah High School. Photo courtesy of AIGYA

The recipients of the American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) inaugural Rosina Korda Gap Year Scholarship were revealed in surprise ceremonies for each of the three winners this month.

The winners are Leora Lalezari, a student at YULA Girls High School, Calev Knopf of Valley Torah High School and Rory Meyerson of Yeshiva High School of Arizona.

“The joy, fellowship and surprise among the teachers and classmates was apparent during the announcements when AIGYA and Korda family representatives announced the winners,” an AIGYA press release said.

“This scholarship reflects Mrs. Korda’s deep love of Judaism and connection to Israel,” AIGYA founder and Executive Director Phyllis Folb said in the release.

AIGYA, a Los Angeles-based organization that produces the largest Israel gap year fair on the West Coast and the only cross-denominational fair in the country, made the scholarship available to all 2018 fair attendees.

Two winners will take part in in-depth Torah learning and the third will pursue a career and a language-focused Israel gap year program, AIGYA said.

A $5,000 tuition voucher, donated collectively by the extended Korda family, will go toward each of the respective programs the winning students chose to attend.

“As we say at the Passover seder, if AIGYA had only helped us to select a program for my son, it would have been enough for us,” said Charles Meyerson, who traveled with his son, Rory, to the Los Angeles fair from Arizona. “As it turns out, God repaid our efforts in traveling from Arizona many times over with Rory’s win.”

The 2019 AIGYA Israel Gap Year Fair will be held on Nov. 21.

From left: Michael Roklen, Jessica Abo, Dafna Landau, Briana Benaron and Leslie Schapira attended a young professionals event organized by AMIT L.A. NewGen. Photo courtesy of AMIT L.A.NewGen

Young professionals came together on March 5 to support the Israel education network AMIT L.A. NewGen and to spend an evening with journalist and social entrepreneur Jessica Abo.

Nearly 50 people turned out at the Beverly Hills home of Phyllis and Jay Schapira and discussed ways to navigate social media while staying true to one’s self and finding happiness.

 Abo’s new book, “Unfiltered: How To Be as Happy as You Look on Social Media,” highlights the importance of reaching one’s fullest potential through self-empowerment, a key goal of AMIT Children’s work in ensuring the success
of its students across Israel, the organization said.

From left: Thando Mlauzi, Isaac Dayan, Mmamalema Molepo, Jessica Khalili, Justin Feldman and Klaas Mokgomole participated in a pro-Israel speaking tour at UCLA and Santa Monica College.
Photo courtesy StandWithUs

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at UCLA and Santa Monica College hosted two South African student leaders on April 16 and 18.

Klaas Mokgomole from the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg and Mmamalema Molepo from the University of Cape Town believed that Israel was an apartheid state until they traveled to Israel and the West Bank and saw the reality, according to pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs. Both activists now contend that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is lying about Israel.

They appeared in Los Angeles as part of the “Reclaim Your Story” tour, a partnership between Africans for Peace, a collective of independent students, scholars and activists who bring an African lens to the global debate on peace and stability in Africa and beyond, and StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization that believes education is the road to peace. Mokgomole and Molepo interacted with students interested in learning more about their change in attitude to Israel and later spoke to the campus communities.

According to StandWithUs, Justin Feldman, president of SSI at UCLA, and Yitz Shafa, president of SSI at Santa Monica College, agree that Mokgomole and Molepo enlightened the students on what apartheid truly was in South Africa and how Israel is the antithesis of it. They also said the activists’ views, formed through their own personal experiences, are much needed to dispel the misinformation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being circulated on campuses, especially during April’s “Israeli Apartheid Week.”

From left: Friends of Sheba Medical Center’s 2019 Women of Achievement Luncheon Committee members Melody Pakravan, Carrie Sherman, Sorelle Cohen,
Jennifer Cohen, Marianne Berman, Parvin Djavaheri, Aviva Harari, Ruth Steinberger, Lynn Ziman and DeeDee Sussman. Photo courtesy of Friends of Sheba Medical Center

Friends of Sheba Medical Center held its annual Women of Achievement Luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills on April 4. 

The luncheon brought together members of the community in support of Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer and benefited the medical center’s new pediatric laser treatment center.

More than 360 guests attended the sold-out event, which opened with a reception and silent auction. CBS 2 and KCAL 9 reporter Brittney Hopper emceed.

The luncheon featured a keynote presentation by professor Josef Haik, director of the National Burn Center at Sheba Medical Center. He spoke about Sheba’s vision for the pediatric laser treatment center — a state-of-the-art facility that will use advanced laser technology to treat severe burn scars that cause physical and emotional pain in children. Advanced research and pediatric laser application also will be taught to all dermatologists and plastic surgeons throughout Sheba Medical Center. The unique combination of

research, treatment and teaching makes the pediatric laser treatment center at Israel’s National Burn Center the first of its kind in the world. 

The luncheon honored two community leaders, Rosalie Zalis and Yafa Hakim. Zalis was presented with the 2019 Women of Achievement Award for leadership in her remarkable career and philanthropic endeavors. Hakim was honored with the 2019 Marjorie Pressman Legacy Award for her longstanding service and dedication to Israel’s hospitals, including Sheba Medical Center.

“It was an honor to hear from professor Haik, who flew in from Israel to speak about Sheba’s incredibly innovative pediatric laser burn treatment center, which has the power to save the lives of children suffering from severe, painful and disfiguring burn scars,” luncheon co-chair Lynn Ziman said. “Thanks to our hardworking luncheon committee and the support of our community, Friends of Sheba is making a significant impact in the lives of thousands of children, not only from Israel but around the world.”

Additional organizers were luncheon co-chair Judy Shapiro, décor chair Beverly Cohen and honorary chair Carrie Sherman. 

“The 2019 Women of Achievement Luncheon highlighted the need for our community’s next generation of leaders to support Israel and Israel’s flagship institutions, such as Sheba Medical Center,” Friends of Sheba Medical Center Executive Director Molly Soboroff said. “As Rosalie Zalis declared, now is the time for future leaders to show up, support Israel and invest in the future of global medicine with Sheba Medical Center.”

Want to be in Movers & Shakers? Send us your highlights, events, honors and simchas.
Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

University of Maryland Student Government to Hold BDS Vote During Passover

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Maryland’s Student Government Association (SGA) will be holding a vote on a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution on April 24, in the middle of Passover.

As first reported by Algemeiner, Maryland Hillel capital campaign director Elan Burman informed Hillel community members about the upcoming vote in an April 17 email, stating, “The timing of this resolution is particularly insensitive given that many Jewish students will be away from campus this weekend for Passover, and will be celebrating the intermediary days of the holiday when the vote takes place.”

Divest UMD announced the upcoming vote in an April 18 Facebook post:

Leah Barteldes, the communications director for the university’s SGA, confirmed to the Journal in an email that the vote on the resolution will take place on April 24 and that “moving the bill to another date would not be possible as the current date it will be heard on is a result of our robust scheduling system we have in place and our permanent weekly meeting time.”

“We are doing our best to ensure as many perspectives on the bill are heard as possible,” Barteldes wrote. “Today, we opened up an online student concern form where any and all current undergraduate members can reach out to their respective legislators with their thoughts on the bill up until next Wednesday. While this is in no ways a perfect solution, we hope it will help us hear more perspectives for those who cannot attend on Wednesday.”

American Jewish Committee Director of Campus Affairs Zev Hurwitz said in a statement to the Journal, “BDS resolutions are incredibly divisive in general, and the timing of the University of Maryland vote further isolates the Jewish community on that campus.”

“Introducing an anti-Israel bill during a time when many Jewish students are off campus, celebrating a Jewish festival with their families, demonstrates a shocking disregard for Jewish student voices,” Hurwitz said. “Hopefully, the Student Government Association will recognize the inequity of the timing, not to mention the misguided content of a BDS resolution, and vote this divisive measure down.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Since the anti-Semitic BDS campaigns always impact on Jewish students, government leaders should have scheduled their vote a week later.”

Rena Nasar, the Tri-State Campus Director and Managing Director of Campus Affairs at StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “Unfortunately, this vote over Passover is just the latest example of anti-Israel activists on campus introducing resolutions at a time when many Jewish students are away and unable to be part of this discussion. The legislation at UMD is part of a larger campaign of hate against Israel and anyone who supports it, so it is no surprise to see this type of insensitivity and ignorance.”

The resolution calls for the university to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel. Terps for Israel, a pro-Israel student group on the university’s campus, is circulating a petition calling for the defeat of the resolution.

“This legislation comes at a time when hateful rhetoric is directed toward minorities of many different identities on campus,” the petition states. “Among those targeted and vilified for their beliefs are Jewish students. In the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most recent hate-crime statistics report, 58.1% of religiously motivated hate-crimes were cited as anti-Semitic. Crimes against Jews skyrocketed 37% in just one year, and since then, many more have been reported.”

The petition added that “BDS campaigns can create a hostile campus atmosphere that singles out Jewish and pro-Israel students, and subjects them to intimidation and bullying” and “de-legitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

“The broader BDS movement fails to distinguish Israel from Palestinian territories, which ultimately diminishes the chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the petition states. “#DivestUMD urges the University to divest from companies under the guise of supporting Palestinian human rights, but the legislation ignores the historical context of conflict in the region.”

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

Former Special Prosecutor Explains History of Nazi Cases at StandWithUs Legal Dinner

(left to right): Yael Lerman, Director, StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department; Esther Renzer, SWU International President; keynote speaker Joel Greenberg, Esq.; honoree and Board member Marty Jannol,Esq; board member Susan Jannol; Roz Rothstein, CEO and Jerry Rothstein COO. Photo by Jc Olivera Photography, courtesy of StandWithUs.

Attorney Joel Greenberg discussed some of the notable prosecutions of Nazi war criminals that have occurred in the United States at the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department dinner at the Mark on April 4.

Greenberg, who prosecuted Nazis during his tenure at the Office of Special Investigations, told the audience after the war had ended, around 10,000 Nazis came to the United States posing as refugees; the Nazis that entered mostly lived “quiet” lives, with Holocaust survivors every and now then recognizing a Nazi.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the United States government realized that there were thousands of Nazi war criminals in the country.

“The issue for the United States in the late ‘70s is what are we going to do with these Nazis since they didn’t commit a crime on U.S. soil,” Greenberg said, pointing out that the Nazis would have to be extradited to Europe.

To address this, then-Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.) passed legislation in 1978 that became known as the Holtzman Amendment and established the OSI in the Department of Justice to hunt the Nazis. The law also stated that it was a crime for an immigrant to have “ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the [Nazi] persecution of any person because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion.”

One of the Nazis that OSI hunted down was Feodor Fedorenko, who was a guard at the Treblinka death camp. Fedorenko’s legal defense was “I never harmed any prisoners” and “I was drafted” to serve in Treblinka, Greenberg said.

“We could only bring the case on the status that he was a concentration camp guard,” Greenberg said, pointing out that OSI didn’t have any “direct evidence that he committed any brutality.”

In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of OSI in Fedorenko v. United States by a margin of 7-2; the court argued that based on the text of the Holtzman Amendment, “the mere fact that you assisted in other people based on their national origin… was enough,” according to Greenberg.

Fedorenko later argued in front of immigration judge that if he were sent back to his home country, the Soviet Union, he would stand on trial for his life. The immigration judge ruled that he should be extradited to the Soviet Union, where Fedorenko was executed in 1987.

“I believe they made the right decision,” Greenberg said.

The second OSI case that Greenberg discussed was the case of Arthur Rudolph, who was the director of the Nazi camp that developed the V-2 rocket during World War II, Greenberg said. Rudolph was also the developer of the United States Saturn-5 rocket that went to the moon in 1969. Rudolph “argued that he should stay in the United States because “the CIA recruited me” and he “helped defend this country and put a man on the moon.”

“The case became a huge issue,” Greenberg said. “The CIA did not want the case to go public.”

Rudolph was allowed to go back to Germany in 1984, where he lived until his death in 1996 off a pension from NASA and Social Security payments.

The final case Greenberg discussed was of John Demjanjuk, who was identified by a dozen Holocaust survivors as “Ivan the Terrible,” the “horrible, sadistic person” who ran Treblinka’s gas chambers, Greenberg said. Ivan the Terrible was known to “sever the ears of children before they went to the chamber, would rape women before they went to the chamber,” according to Greenberg.

“Just a horrible, horrible person,” Greenberg said.

Demjanjuk’s defense was that he was “a refugee on the run,” but his story was “not believable” because, according to Greenberg, OSI had an identity card proving that Demjanjuk was a Nazi guard in Treblinka. Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986, making him “the second [Nazi] to stand trial in Israel, the first being [Adolf] Eichmann,” Greenberg said. However, Demjanjuk was acquitted by the Israeli Supreme Court when evidence emerged that he might not have been Ivan the Terrible. Demjanjuk was sent back to Cleveland in 1988, where he had lived prior to be extradited to Israel, but he was eventually deported to Germany in 2009.

“Germany would put you on trial even if there wasn’t specific evidence you hurt someone” at a Nazi death camp, Greenberg said.

Demjanjuk was found guilty by a German court in 2011 for being a guard at Nazi death camps; Demjanjuk died of a heart attack a year later while on appeal.

“[It was a] great example of justice delayed being justice denied,” Greenberg said.

He added that OSI does still exist and there are still some Nazi cases that they’re working on.

“To me it’s very important because it shows that if you participate as a perpetrator in the crimes against humanity… you should not be able to sleep easily given the number of people that died in the Shoah,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg concluded his speech by stating that the “new form of anti-Semitism is that as long as you have Israel in your criticism… you can say all kinds of outrageous things,” specifically pointing to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) recent remarks. He condemned Congress for not adequately denouncing Omar.

“We all have to stand against that,” Greenberg said.

Additionally, StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothsten, COO Jerry Rothstein and President Esther Renzer recognized honoree and board member Marty Jannol at the event for his longtime pro bono work at SWU since the organization was founded in 2001.  SWU Saidoff Legal Department Director Yael Lerman and assistant director Jonathan Bell also introduced the 2018-19 JD Fellowship class, a program that teaches law school students how to fight for Israel with the law.

NYU SJP Says They’re Receiving Award for ‘Exemplary Contributions to the NYU Community’

Screenshot from Facebook.

New York University’s (NYU) Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter announced in an April 4 Facebook post that they are receiving an award from the university later in the month for their “exemplary contributions to the NYU community.”

The post features a screenshot from an apparent email to NYU SJP stating, “The President’s Service Awards recognize outstanding NYU students who have made significant contributions to the university community in the areas of learning, leadership, and quality of student life.” The email added that NYU SJP has “positively impacted the culture of this institution and the members of our community.”

“We are thrilled to announce that we have been selected to receive a presidential service award at NYU,” NYU SJP wrote in their Facebook post. “Despite the pushback we have received from our institution, we agree that we have made ‘significant contributions to the university community in the areas of learning, leadership, and quality of student life.’ Anyway, New York University, divest from Israeli apartheid.”

We are thrilled to announce that we have been selected to receive a presidential service award at NYU. Despite the…

Posted by NYU Students for Justice in Palestine on Thursday, April 4, 2019

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “It was less than a year ago that SJP members harassed and assaulted Jewish students at NYU simply for showing pride in Israel and their identity. The last thing SJP deserves is an award, and if it is true that they received one we urge the NYU administration to rescind it immediately.”

The university did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment. The ceremony for the awards is scheduled to take place on April 17.

NYU SJP was among the groups that spearheaded support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution that passed the student senate in December. In 2018, two students were arrested and subsequently released at an NYU SJP counterprotest to Realize Israel’s rave celebrating Israel. Realize Israel is pro-Israel student group on NYU’s campus.

Mock Palestinian Eviction Notices Found at Emory University Dorm

Screenshot from Twitter.

Several mock eviction notices were found outside the doors of student dorm rooms at Emory University on the morning of April 2.

The notices state, “We regret to inform you that your suite is scheduled for demolition in three days.” It proceeds to state that “eviction notices are routinely given to Palestinian families living under Israeli occupation for no other reason than their ethnicity” and then it’s “part of the state of Israel’s outgoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region.”

Emory student Anthony Wong wrote in an op-ed for The Emory Wheel, a student-run newspaper, that Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP) were behind the notices as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. Wong praised ESJP “for starting the discussion” about Palestinian home demolitions.

However, Rabbi Russ Shukles, who heads the Hillel of Georgia, told WSB-TV Atlanta that he thought the notices were “racist, anti-Semitic and absolutely offensive.”

“From anger to fear to security issues, how could Emory allow this to take place?” Shukles said.

Emory Hillel director Dave Cohn told the Algemeiner that there wasn’t any evidence indicating that Jewish students were specifically targeted by the notices. However, Cohn told the Hillel community in an email that they are “defending the safety of our students from this intrusion on their privacy and security.”

The university told Algemeiner that the flyers were taken down because they violated the university’s posting guidelines. The university also told WSB that permission was not given for the flyers to be posted on the doors of student dorm rooms and they are determining the next course of action.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a statement via email, “Such insidious intimidation against Jewish students occur with such impunity when university officials fail to take decisive action against perpetrators. Jews deserve same protection given to other minorities when hateful threats are launched against them.”

Max Samarov, StandWithUs’s executive director of Research and Strategy, similarly told the Journal in a statement via email, “No student deserves to find something like this on their door.”

“SJP is not only spreading misleading and dehumanizing claims about Israelis, they are also violating school policies and creating emotional distress for their peers,” Samarov said. “We fully support the efforts of Emory students and faculty to hold SJP accountable.”

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

The mock eviction notices on college campuses have been used in the past; according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were eight different campuses during the 2013-14 academic year where the notices were found.

“On several campuses, students have reported that the mock eviction tactic left them feeling intimidated,” the ADL noted. “University administrations were typically responsive to these issues, while protecting First Amendment freedoms.”

Defining Israel in Black and White

A Jewish Yemenite family in transit to Israel in 1949. Photo from the National Photo Collection of Israel

About seven years ago, as Israel’s newly arrived consul for media affairs in New York City, I had a memorable moment during a speaking engagement at a prominent congregation. After I finished addressing the audience, and right after Kiddush, an elderly man tapped me on the shoulder. “Young man,” he said, “it is wonderful to see Arabs who speak so favorably and beautifully about Israel.”

I was surprised, maybe even taken aback, but almost instinctively smiled and thanked him — in Arabic: “Shukran, sir. Israel is very dear to me.”

This was a teachable moment for me. This man — no doubt a loving Jew and one so supportive of Israel — could not associate the color of my skin with my Jewish roots. As if Jews came in white and white alone. It was then and there I realized that the problem of ignorance about Israel — which today feeds the animosity toward the Jewish state and makes room for false accusations to be heard and accepted — was not rooted solely in the malaise of the general public or non-affiliated Jews. It was a problem of the organized Jewish community in the United States, those who go to shul and temple and attend Jewish schools, yet who remain oblivious to the expansive history of half of the State of Israel’s people: the Jews from Arab and Muslim lands — Mizrahi Jews.

The Jewish organizational world is not homogenous, nor is it devoid of any mention of Mizrahi Jews. Various organizations have come into being over the years to share their incredible and largely untold story, from JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) to the Iranian American Jewish Federation, the younger group 30 Years After, and many others.

Within the non-Sephardic sphere, StandWithUs (my professional home from 2015-2018), as part of its curriculum taught in high schools and on college campuses, produced educational materials about the fate of Jews from Arab lands, their history and arrival in Israel. I am proud of our ability, during that time, to shine light on the history of the ancient Yemenite Jewish community. (It was a story that hit close to home. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents were Yemenite Jews, and their full story escaped even me, a direct beneficiary.) StandWithUs shared the incredible story of the Yemenite Jews’ arrival in Israel through Operation Wings of Eagles in 1948-1949, when Alaska Airlines planes with their courageous crew members brought them home after thousands of years in exile. But the story of that community does not only touch upon their plight at that time, when they were attacked and harassed by their Arab neighbors. Indeed, almost half of the Yemenite Jewish community made its way to Israel at the end of the 19th century out of sheer Zionism, following their dreams and yearning for their ancestral homeland.

Also, in Iraq, there was the Farhud, the June 1941 pogrom against the magnificent Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad, during which hundreds of innocent Jews were killed, thousands were injured, and numerous Jewish homes were looted and destroyed. Authors such as Edwin Black made it their mission to remind the world of the Farhud, year in and year out, to Jews and non-Jews alike. Black wrote of his experience at a memorial event for the Farhud, held at the United Nations in June 2015:

While I was speaking to the packed room, a woman I did not know, sitting in the front row, slowly shook her tear-stained head in disbelief and muttered softly … barely audible … “I never thought I would hear these words in this building.” The woman, it turns out, was of Iraqi Jewish ancestry. The building was the iconic United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan. … Farhud in an Arabic dialect means violent dispossession. … The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, leader of the Arab community in Mandatory Palestine, organized a blood-curdling massacre by Nazi-allied Arabs against Baghdad’s peaceful Jewish community on June 1-2, 1941. The ensuing mass rape, beheading, murder, burning, and looting spree was the first step in a process that throughout the Arab world effectively ended 2,600 years of Jewish existence in those lands. Ultimately, some 850,000 to 900,000 Jews were systemically pauperized and made stateless in a coordinated forced exodus from the Arab world. Many Sephardic Jews consider the 1941 Farhud, which murdered and maimed hundreds, to be their Kristallnacht. 

“Israel is an incredibly diverse place and includes so much more than just one ethnic “color,” as opposed to the scenario its adversaries attempt to portray.”

Not until 2014 did the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, designate Nov. 30 as the official day to commemorate the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands, as 850,000 Jews fled their ancient homes in the Arab and Muslim world to find refuge in the nascent Jewish state. Tired and weary, many of them came carrying very little, if any, of their belongings. And there in Israel, alongside their brothers and sisters, they built a life. Refugees they were but are no more. Indeed, it was a unique achievement worthy of much praise and celebration on a global scale.

Israeli writer and author Adi Schwartz, in a May 2011 article, shed an interesting light on Israeli society as it struggled to acknowledge its own history as a refuge for those who needed it. “Zionism,” he wrote, “preferred to describe its vision in terms of resurrection and homecoming. The desire to instill pride into this national enterprise resulted in downplaying the clearest of historical justifications for the reestablishment of the State of Israel — the persecution of the Jewish People for generations. Acknowledging such a justification was perceived as an admission of inferiority.”

This struggle was evident in the discussions that took place from time to time dealing with the plight of Jews from Arab lands and the Middle East. As Schwartz wrote:

“Some of those immigrants, and their descendants, acknowledged their rights and defined themselves as past refugees, yet others fiercely objected to that definition. When member of the eighth Knesset, Mordechai Ben-Porat, presented a resolution concerning ‘the legitimate rights of Jews who had to abandon Arab lands,’ his speech was interrupted by a member of his own party, Knesset member Habib Shimoni, a native of Iraq himself as well, and proclaimed: “Jews are not refugees. They chose to arrive of their own volition.” In the course of a similar debate on the issue in the Knesset in 1987 around the definition of a refugee, an insinuated accusation surfaced, according to which Ashkenazi Jews attach this dubious title to Sephardic Jews only, whereas they define themselves only as Zionist pioneers. In the pursuing debate, Ran Cohen, a Knesset member of Iraqi descent, wondered out loud: “Are we refugees? I don’t feel like one. Can anyone say that we, Jews from Arab lands, arrived here only to seek refuge from harm, whereas the power of Zionism, the attraction of this land and the notion of redemption played no part at all?!”     

Indeed, Israeli society has had to come to terms with its past as a shelter for refugees, whether those refugees escaped from pogroms in Baghdad or Kishinev, Russia.

The issue of Mizrahi Jews became more central in the past decade as it was framed in the context of the political process between the State of Israel and the Arab world. This pertained to a specific topic that arose in the negotiations, relating to the property left behind by Jews who fled Middle Eastern countries and the rights of those Jews and their descendants to be compensated for their losses. Or, rather, the issue came about to equate those losses with those of Palestinian refugees, and thus create a zero-sum game that potentially could neutralize a key Palestinian claim — that of the rights of Palestinian refugees — and thus overcome a major hurdle and help propel the political process toward a desired solution.

As the Economist magazine reported in February 2014, “Much as Palestinian refugees and their offspring remember the orange groves and cinemas they lost in Jaffa when Israel was born in 1948, Jews who once lived in Iraq recite the qasidas — lyrical Arabic poetry — and recall the time when most of Iraq’s banks and transport companies were run by Jews. ‘Iraq has gone downhill since they forced us out,’ sighs a professor at a gathering of academics of Iraqi origin at Or Yehuda, a Tel Aviv suburb, slipping into Arabic: ‘Mubki, lamentable.’ ”

However, the narrative of Mizrahi Jews does not and should not exist only as a counterreaction to that of Palestinian refugees. It is much more than a bargaining chip on the table. It is a story very much worth telling. As mentioned above, Zionism drove many members of the ancient Yemenite Jewish community to arrive in Israel in 1881. Those early pioneers, who were lucky enough to survive the journey, faced difficulties upon arrival in the Land of Israel. They were rejected by some of their Ashkenazi brothers and sisters, who doubted their Judaism.

The ignorance did not end there. While Mizrahi Jews were many and present in Israel’s culture and everyday life, the country’s educational system for too long taught Western Jewish history to the letter while only slightly touching on the history of Mizrahi Jews, if at all. This lack of knowledge contributed to the marginalization of this important community in the overall Israeli narrative.

In response, the Israeli government has taken important steps in recent years to narrow the gap. Israel’s Ministry for Social Equality in 2016 allocated about $2.5 million in U.S. dollars for a special project to document the stories, heritage and history of Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands. The goal is to collect personal testimonials from Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews — their lives before they made aliyah, their situation when they left or were expelled from their homes, and the story of their absorption into modern Israel. Upon announcing this national project, Minister Gila Gamliel stated: “This is not a uniquely Mizrahi interest but a national, Jewish and Zionist interest. From now on, the Jewish story will be more complete, and Israeli citizens young and old will get to hear, study and become familiar with both the Eastern and Western sides of the glorious heritage of the Jewish people.”

In addition, Israel’s Education Ministry set up a special committee on this matter — the Biton Committee, which recommended changes to school and university curricula to include more content about Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews. This was followed by the Education Ministry’s announcement that it was creating a database of speakers who would come to schools to tell their personal stories to “perpetuate the heritage of the Jews of the East and Spain.”

However, Mizrahi Jews are not the only black Jews, as evidenced by The International Israelite Board of Rabbis, which describes itself as an organization “founded in 1919 that represents thousands of peace-loving black Jews who prefer the term Israelite because of its scriptural significance.”

In January, the American Sephardi Federation and the Morocco-based Association Mimouna hosted the Jewish-Africa Conference in New York. The conference not only claimed to strengthen ties between the mainstream Jewish community and Jews in Africa, but between white and black Jews, as well. Rabbi Capers Funnye, chief rabbi of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis and leader of the Chicago-based Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, participated at the conference. Funnye has undergone a conversion by Conservative rabbis and is bent on building bridges with the mainstream Jewish community. “It means a great deal to the African American Jewish community [and] the Jewish community of West Africa, because we’ve been a long time in saying we’re here,” Funnye told the Times of Israel.

Indeed, the dangers of ignoring non-white Jews flow far beyond the bounds of the Jewish state. The vocal anti-Israel camp claims that Israel is nothing but a colonial entity, a strange and malignant growth on the body of the Middle East. “White Jews, go home!” they shout. “You don’t belong here and you never did.” It was the infamous anti-Semitic White House reporter Helen Thomas who urged Jews to go back home to Germany and Poland (while ludicrously and insanely claiming that “Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street are owned by Zionists”). But we didn’t only come from Germany, Poland or Europe. We came from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algiers, Libya, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. While there, the Jewish community built glorious institutions, created beautiful customs, curated a wealth of Jewish wisdom, wrote books and composed delightful poetry. The literary marvels of Mizrahi Jews remain some of the most luminous gems in the Jewish book cabinet to this day.

The very idea that Jews hail only from Europe is a laughable notion, especially as the more recent waves of immigration to Israel have included our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. Various operations in the course of the last few decades brought Jews from Ethiopia to Israel — black Jews who speak Amharic, a language that was, for the most part, new to Israel. Ethiopian Jews were welcomed to Israel with open arms, yet due to the special nature of that community and the cultural gap between them and modern Israel, absorption has not been easy and tensions are still felt to this day. While many younger Ethiopians are doing much better (not devoid of difficulties, of course, but a success overall), older immigrants sometimes complain of being isolated and left behind. And though mistakes have been made, not only in the case of Ethiopian Jews but also in the absorption process of others in the earlier days of the state, Israel’s future has always depended on the newcomers’ ability to integrate into a changing and dynamic society.

As so many already know (although not enough), Israel is an incredibly diverse place and includes so much more than just one ethnic “color,” as opposed to the scenario its adversaries attempt to portray. Take a walk in central Tel Aviv and a multitude of languages swarm your ears: Arabic, Russian, Yiddish, Amharic and, of course, Hebrew. Culinary treasures from Morocco, Libya and Russia fill the markets, where beautiful and fragrant spices from the Middle East appear before you like an ethnic rainbow.

“The issue of Mizrahi Jews became more central in the past decade as it was framed in the context of the political process between the State of Israel and the Arab world.”

The narrative of black Jews must not only serve as a talking point against the claims of the anti-Israel forces, it is crucial that we in the U.S. get to know it as part of Jewish history in its entirety so we can sustain the bond between the world’s two largest Jewish communities — in America and Israel. Getting to know each other is vital, and estrangement is a sure path to destruction and failure.

Author Daniel Gordis addressed this tension in a 2017 essay in Mosaic magazine:

Eurocentric though much of the Zionist narrative has been, at least half of Israel’s Jews hail from regions in which the European Enlightenment did not take root, where Western theological tropes never became the currency of religious discourse, and where Jews never openly rebelled against their tradition. One paradoxical result is that, for these Jews, religion is for the most part a more relaxed and “natural” part of life. Many Mizrahim comfortably call themselves Orthodox, attend Shabbat services in the synagogue, and then drive to the beach — behavior that can strike observant Ashkenazi Jews as utterly inconsistent or blatantly sacrilegious.

The sad truth is that the organized Jewish community as a whole, as well as the prominent Jewish organizations, are yet to seriously deal with and teach the history of half of the Jewish people in a profound and significant way. It’s definitely not enough to assign professional fundraisers to solicit support within those communities in Brooklyn, Great Neck or elsewhere. And make no mistake about it: If we do not take this challenge head on, others will.

In April 2017, an organization called Jews for Racial and Economic Justice held an event titled “Israeli Black Panthers, Mizrahi Jews and Palestinian Solidarity.” Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions group, tries to do the same — spin history in their direction and “own” the Mizrahi Jewish narrative for their own nefarious purposes. Recently JIMENA, together with other Sephardic organizations, harshly criticized those attempts, stating that Jewish Voice for Peace  “tokenizes, appropriates, revises and explicitly lies about Mizrahi and Sephardic history and experiences in order to promote a hostile, anti-Israel agenda.”

The struggle to allow Mizrahi Jewish identity to emerge and shine means diving into the inspirational history of its communities. It›s about teaching their stories in schools, the same way other parts of Jewish history are taught. The more we fiddle, the more we fail. It’s time to change the texture of our fabric so that it fits the body wearing it.

Shahar Azani is a former Israeli diplomat, an author, public speaker and strategic consultant. 

StandWithUs Student Conference Primes Pro-Israel Activists

Student conference attendees gathered outside the Hyatt Regency near LAX. Photo by Jc Olivera Photography

Last fall, during the public comments portion of a meeting held by the University of California Board of Regents in Westwood, UCLA student Justin Feldman, 21, voiced his displeasure with an upcoming National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference billed as a “human rights conference” that was scheduled to take place on his campus. 

“Every year, SJP invites speakers with proven connections to terrorist organizations, such as Hamas. Some are even convicted terrorists themselves,” Feldman said. “These are SJP’s role models. Does this sound like a human rights conference to you?”

Feldman and his friend Naomi Kisel, 21, who isn’t Jewish but actively recruits her fellow Christian students on campus to join pro-Israel advocacy causes, waged an education campaign to counter the November conference. They held an Israel Celebration Day, distributed reading materials on Zionism and even hosted elected officials, including Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz. 

Both Feldman and Kisel, who run pro-Israel clubs on campus and are in the midst of dual degrees at UCLA, lead busy campus lives. On March 2-4, they joined over 200 other college students from across the country at the fourth annual Israel In Focus international conference organized by StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit international pro-Israel education organization founded in 2001. 

“I’m here to inspire and be inspired,” Feldman told the Journal. Kisel added, “Being able to speak with other students who have experienced similar things on their campuses and making those lasting connections will give us people to call and share best practices with when we return to our campus.” 

In addition to the college students at the conference, held at the Hyatt Regency near Los Angeles International Airport, there were 120 high school students, 150 SWU staff and lay leaders from Jewish communities around the world and representatives from at least 33 partner organizations. 

The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation sponsored the event with a clear focus on students and equipping the next generation of pro-Israel advocates. Along with a multitude of speakers, presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions, there were Shabbat and interfaith services. Students also took advantage of ample reading material laid out on tables — pamphlets including “Israel 101,” “Israel Pocket Facts” and “Examining the BDS movement” — and an abundance of SWU-branded swag, everything from wristbands and sunglasses to chapstick. 

“Every year, this conference is filled with brand-new students who want to sharpen their skills to be able to have richer conversations about Israel,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein told the Journal. 

Rothstein and others started SWU out of her living room and now oversee 18 offices around the world. With a sizable social media presence and departments focused on middle schools, high schools, college campuses and communities, SWU seeks to empower a global network of activists and educators for Israel.

 “A conference like this bolsters my network so I know I won’t be alone in this. I’m not scared. I’m just excited for what my future Israel advocacy will look like.”
— Danielle York

A panel called “A Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim and a Hindu Walk Into a Pro-Israel Conference” was exactly that. The panel talked about the origins of their pro-Israel advocacy involvement and offered advice on how Jewish students can form partnerships with other campus groups. 

“Start with hummus,” Moussa Kone, 21, said. Kone, a Muslim student from Mali who attends Portland State University, said, “But know that more people than you realize are willing to listen. Be inclusive. Use discretion.”

Chelsea Andrews, director of special projects at Passages, affectionately known as the “Christian Birthright” organization, offers Christian college students trips to Israel. Andrews recruits Christian participants for these trips at colleges across the country and is no stranger to pro-Israel campus spaces. 

“Acknowledge the effort it takes for Christian students to learn about Israel and educate themselves on what’s going,” she said. “It takes a lot and Christian students on so many campuses are making the effort. Don’t assume they don’t know anything because oftentimes they do. Ask. Don’t assume.” 

Students also participated in panel discussions on fighting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation on campuses and mobilizing to condemn professors promoting anti-Israel agendas in classrooms. 

A few years ago, Alma Hernandez, 25, was an active pro-Israel advocate on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. Last year, Hernandez, a Mexican-American Jewish Democrat, became the first Hispanic Jewish woman to hold elected office in Arizona, winning a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. After taking part in a panel discussion on “Feminism, Zionism and Anti-Semitism,” she told the Journal that despite a hectic schedule in her state legislature, it was important for her to be in Los Angeles for the conference. 

“I wanted to come connect with young students and share my story and encourage them to continue doing what they’re doing,” Hernandez said. 

One of the conference’s most buzzed about speakers was 29-year-old Hussein Aboubakr, an Egyptian-born Muslim who talked about growing up in a climate of anti-Semitic indoctrination. Aboubakr, who now works full time as a Hebrew teacher in Monterey, advocates for Israel through public speaking engagements.

“There’s no switch,” Aboubakr told the hotel ballroom filled with over 500 people. “It’s residual. There’s hope in all those Syrians, all those children getting treatment in Israel. There is hope for change. It requires a lot of work and a lot of education. The hardest thing to do is change people. I believe that’s what we’re doing, by being here.” 

Danielle York, 18, a Palisades Charter High School senior, goes to school just a few miles from UCLA students Feldman and Kisel. With studying at a four-year university likely in her near future, York came to the conference, in part, to learn about the climate of Israel advocacy on campuses. 

“I’ve never really faced much anti-Israel or anti-Semitic propaganda and as
strange as it may sound, I’m actually excited to combat it for the first time,” York said. “Everything comes with experience and having that experience of combating BDS, overt anti-Semitism or whatever the case may be is something I’m looking forward to. And a conference like this bolsters my network so I know I won’t be alone in this. I’m not scared. I’m just excited for what my future Israel advocacy will look like.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Roz Rothstein started SWU by herself out of a Santa Monica storefront. 

Community Responds to Nazi-Saluting Orange County Teens

Screenshot from Twitter.

On the evening of March 2, a group of Newport Beach high school students at a party posted a photo online of themselves giving the Nazi salute over a series of red-solo cups formed into the shape of a swastika. 

One partygoer wrote “ultimate rage” in one photo while another was captioned “German rage cage,” perhaps in reference to a drinking game, before posting it on Snapchat.

Orange County’s Temple Bat Yahm’s Senior Rabbi Gersh Zylberman told the Journal that it was “unnerving” that anti-Semitism is on the rise. “Did they learn it from peers or pick it up from home?” Zylberman asked. “Or social media? We don’t know.” 

The Los Angeles Times reported March 4 that some of the partygoers in the images are believed to be current students or recent graduates of Newport Harbor High School.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District President Charlene Metoyer told the Orange County Register she was “devastated” by the photo. “As a school board, we’re not only concerned by the underage drinking, but also the mental health of the students who participated in this horrendous act and all their fellow students who will be affected by it,” Metoyer said. “This is appalling to not just our Jewish student community, but to all of us who care about human rights.”

In a statement she provided to the Journal, she wrote: “At this time we are focused on investigating the situation, listening to our community, and working with community partners and determining next courses of action. We are taking action!”

On March 4, Newport Mesa School District held a town hall meeting attended by more than 500 people. 

“We all, collectively, bear responsibility for the hijacking of these symbols of human misery and destruction for casual entertainment.” — Paul S. Nussbaum

Arlene Miller, CEO and President of Orange County Jewish Federation and Family Services, who attended the event, told the Journal she was impressed by the number of elected officials, members of the community, Jewish officials, students and Holocaust survivors who attended the town hall. 

Miller said Orange County’s Jewish community is vibrant, with 30 congregations of all denominations, three Jewish day schools and 300 Holocaust survivors. “The fact that  [Holocaust survivors] live within our midst, it was upsetting to them to hear that there are swastikas scratched into the desks at schools,” Miller said.

Miller said the next step is to understand how the district teaches the Holocaust and how the Jewish community can help. “That is our focus,” she said. “How do we listen to the schools and understand the gaps and let them know of the resources and access to programs regionally and nationally, and how do we create a roadmap moving forward?” 

“I’ve been impressed with the swift action by the schools and how they handled it,” Zylberman said. “I don’t know the students personally but I know they’ve expressed regret and claimed they didn’t understand the significance of those symbols. That may be the case but I hope their apologies are sincere and I hope those lessons become a teachable moment that they will keep in mind for the rest of their lives.”

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust President Paul S. Nussbaum also wrote in a statement, “We all, collectively, bear responsibility for the hijacking of these symbols of human misery and destruction for casual entertainment. Parents, teachers, educators and our elected leaders need to emphatically condemn these incidents and pledge to enlighten and educate our youth.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO of the nonprofit Israel advocacy group StandWithUs said in a statement to the Journal, “As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, I know that swastikas and Nazi salutes are not a joke or something to be taken lightly. To make light of the industrial-scale genocide committed against Jews and others during World War II is to dance on the graves of millions of people. That said, despite the insensitivity and ignorance this incident represents, I believe it also creates an opportunity for a powerful teachable moment.”

The next town hall will be at 6 p.m. March 7 at Corona del Mar High School.

Additional reporting by Staff Writer Aaron Bandler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SWU Conference Session: How to Defend Israel

Israel supporters should always make it clear that they support a two-state solution.

This, according to Dr. Michael Harris, co-founder of San Francisco Voice for Israel. Harris made his remarks to attendees at StandWithUs’ (SWU) “Israel in Focus” International Conference this past weekend at the Hyatt Regency at Los Angeles International Airport.

Stating support for a two-state solution is the way to debate those who are anti-Israel, Harris said. Anti-Israel extremists, he said, can’t bring themselves to support a solution that would provide legitimacy to a Jewish state.

Harris suggested confronting those who are anti-Israel with the question, “I support peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, what about you?” to see if they try to “weasel” out of it with a statement along the lines of, “I support equal rights for everyone.” Then, he said, you can corner them on that statement.

Harris advocated following what he calls the ARM method:  Answer, Reframe, Message. As an example, he pointed to the claim that Israel kills  children on the Gaza border. He said, Israel advocates should respond with, “This is a tragedy,” but then re-frame it by asking, “Why is Hamas bringing children to a site where they’re violently attempting to invade Israel? Why are they using them as human shields? Hamas has turned Gaza into an armed terrorist camp,” Harris said. “They are the ones who bear a moral responsibility for this.”

He added that playing on people’s emotions is important. He noted that the anti-Israel crowd typically does this by naming Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces. But Israel advocates can play the same game, Harris said, whether it’s raising awareness about people who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists or highlighting specific individuals whom Israel has helped with its humanitarian work.

Harris listed five commandments that Israel advocates should abide by when debating: tell the truth, avoid ad hominem attacks, don’t generalize with overly broad statements, don’t use extreme rhetoric and focus on the desire for peace. For instance, Israel advocates shouldn’t make statements such as all Palestinians support terrorism or that all supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement like Hamas.

On the issue of BDS, Harris said that the movement’s call for a “right of return” for all Palestinian refugees is essentially calling for the destruction of the Jewish state, as doing so would result in Arabs outnumbering Jews, 9.5 million to 6.6 million, respectively.

Harris said there is inherent anti-Semitism in the BDS movement,citing as examples pro-Palestinian students at UC Davis chanting “Allahu Akbar” at Jewish students during a 2015 BDS resolution vote and BDS supporters calling for American Jewish musician Matisyahu to be removed from the 2015 Rototum Sunsplash festival in Spain for not endorsing Palestinian statehood.

“This is what all of us are fighting back against,” Harris said. “If the Jewish community doesn’t stand up for this, who will?”