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HolocaustFaceMasks.com stops selling the masks and plans to shut down

Tue, 2020-08-11 19:58

(JTA) — A website dedicated to selling face masks featuring images of the Holocaust has stopped selling the masks and said it would shut down on Aug. 11.

HolocaustFaceMasks.com, which had sold fewer than 10 masks as of July 29, had marketed masks emblazoned with famous pictures of the Holocaust. One showed a child with his hands raised at gunpoint and an image of crematoria at a concentration camp.

The site stopped selling the items apparently because of the backlash it received.

“We have removed items with the most complaints, and our other items will remain available until we close the website August 11,” its homepage said.

The message defends the intention behind the site and appears to implicitly criticize Jews who objected to it. The site’s founder told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in July that he believes requiring face masks could lead to something like the Holocaust “or even more sinister.”

Anti-Semitism watchdogs have called such comparisons an unacceptable trivialization of the Holocaust.

“Unfortunately and understandably, many had emotional reactions to the original designs and the concept behind them was not considered,” the message on the site reads. “The reaction to demand that people should not be able to express their opinion that tyranny is afoot, is troublesome. This reaction is especially troublesome when it is made by those who claim to have the strongest associations with one of the most tyrannical events in human history.”

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This Holocaust survivor turned architect designed a memorial honoring Albanians who saved Jews

Tue, 2020-08-11 19:47

(JTA) — In the world of New York architecture, Stephen Jacobs is known for his multimillion-dollar creations, such as the Hotel Gansevoort, a swanky boutique hotel with a rooftop bar that was the first luxury hotel in the city’s trendy Meatpacking District.

But Jacobs recently finished a much different project — and charged nothing.

For several years he worked to design a Holocaust memorial for Albania’s capital. Unveiled last month at the entrance to the Grand Park of Tirana, the simple memorial features three stone plaques — in Albanian, English and Hebrew — that highlight the stories of Albanians who saved Jews during World War II.

Jacobs, 81, agreed to work on the memorial after learning that Albania was the only country in Europe that had more Jews after World War II than it did before. In addition to not handing over any Jews to the Nazis, hundreds of Jews fleeing other countries were offered shelter in the Muslim-majority country.

“I thought this was a very important story that needed to be told,” he said.

Jacobs’ latest memorial honors Albanians who saved Jews during World War II. (Courtesy of Jacobs)

His motivation goes beyond wanting to highlight the bravery of Albanians during the war. Jacobs himself is a Holocaust survivor who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp as a child.

“For me this is not simply about designing. This is sort of a personal experience,” he said.

Born Stefan Jakubowicz in the Polish city of Lodz, Jacobs and his secular family would move to Piotrków — a city that became home to the Nazis’ first ghetto. The ghetto, which housed 25,000 people, was liquidated in 1942.

Jacobs and his family — his parents, older brother, grandfather and three aunts — eventually were sent to concentration camps. The males went to Buchenwald, the females to Ravensbruck. He was only 5 years old at the time.

At Buchenwald, Jacobs managed to survive both through luck and the assistance of an underground resistance that worked to save children. He spent his days at the shoemaker’s shop, which allowed him to get out of the daily roll call, where guards likely would have killed him because of his youth. Later he hid in the tuberculosis ward of the camp hospital, where his father was working as an orderly.

“I have fleeting memories,” Jacobs said. “I have memories that are not chronological, particularly the last few weeks because that was a very traumatic and dangerous time because they were trying to liquidate the camp.”

Miraculously, all of Jacobs’ immediate family survived the war, though his grandmother died shortly after the camps were liberated. The family left for Switzerland, where they lived for three years. In 1948 they moved to the United States, settling in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

Jacobs would go on to become a prominent New York architect, founding his own firm and teaming with his interior designer wife, Andi Pepper.

His career ended up bringing him back to Buchenwald. He was commissioned to create a memorial for the “little camp,” a quarantine zone where new prisoners, including Jacobs, stayed in brutal conditions.

Jacobs agreed, with two terms: He would not take a payment because he did not want to be paid by the former camp, and “these are things you don’t do for a living.” The memorial was inaugurated in 2002, on the 57th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

The Tirana memorial was far less emotionally draining, he said.

“Albania of course was more remote because I wasn’t there. I didn’t know much about Albania before. I certainly didn’t know the story,” Jacobs said. “Buchenwald was entirely different, so emotionally initially it’s difficult.”

Jacobs is seen with his father at the Buchenwald concentration camp. (Courtesy of Jacobs)

In designing memorials, Jacobs’ priority is ensuring that visitors leave with a greater understanding of the Holocaust. Like the Tirana memorial, the one at Buchenwald is relatively straightforward and features plaques with information about the camp and the places from where inmates were deported.

“Holocaust memorials tend to be one of two extremes,” he said. “They tend to be either the heroic Soviet-style memorial, the heroic resistance to fascism, or so totally abstract that the laymen viewer needs an explanation as to what it is he’s looking at, as an example [Peter] Eisenman’s memorial in Berlin.

“And I felt that neither of these directions was appropriate. The most meaningful thing about a Holocaust memorial, particularly since we’re doing this for future generations, is to tell people exactly what happened here.”

In recent years, Jacobs has been in the media not only for his architectural work but also for his harsh criticism of President Donald Trump. In a 2018 interview with Newsweek that received wide media coverage, he drew comparisons between the rise of the far right under Trump and prewar Germany.

“I think this is probably the most important election, certainly of my lifetime,” he said, going on to add that the outcome “will determine the future of this country.”

“Four more years of Trump and this country will not be recognizable,” said Jacobs, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and said he will be voting for Joe Biden in November.

Jacobs, who splits his time between New York’s Upper West Side and the town of Lyme in Connecticut, still works as an architect. The coronavirus pandemic prevented him from attending the Tirana inauguration.

He said being able to design Holocaust memorials is cathartic for him — but that doesn’t mean he has forgiven Germany for its past. In fact, Jacobs recalls a German official saying at the inauguration of the Buchenwald memorial that his presence was a “symbol of forgiveness,” and being asked by a reporter about the comment.

“This is not about forgiveness,” he recalled responding. “For me, this is about closure. Everything has to come to an end, and that’s why this is such an important thing for me to do on a personal level.”

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Nazis who killed children ran German children’s homes after the war, report finds

Tue, 2020-08-11 19:15

(JTA) — One was a former SS officer who helped murder 220 Lithuanian Jews. Another was a doctor who sent at least seven children to their deaths on Nazi orders.

After World War II, both Werner Scheu and Albert Viethen were among a group of former Nazi officials who ran children’s homes in West Germany where torture, abuse and malnourishment were commonplace, according to an investigative report broadcast this week on the German TV network ARD. Public heath insurance funded the homes.

According to an organization founded by survivors of the homes, from the 1950s to the 1980s, some 8 million to 12 million children were sent to the homes for spa treatment based on the advice of doctors, schools or welfare officials, according to the magazine Deutsche Welle. The survivors’ organization has more than 3,000 members.

At the homes, children would be beaten, put in solitary confinement, separated from their siblings, force-fed and subjected to other forms of mistreatment, according to the ARD report. The system of children’s homes was created in the 1930s.

“The children came back sicker than when they left, they were malnourished, had to be hospitalized,” said Anja Röhl, who founded the survivors’ organization. “Sometimes they were so disturbed they didn’t recognize their parents.”

Manfred Lucha, the chairman of Germany’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Ministers — an association of German state officials responsible for labor and social policy — told ARD that the group is “looking into some depths, some dark holes” and will address the misconduct detailed in the report.

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Dozens of Jewish headstones discovered under Polish town’s market square

Tue, 2020-08-11 18:29

(JTA) — Dozens of Jewish headstones were discovered under the asphalt of a local market in Poland.

The headstones had been placed in the heart of Le?ajsk, a town located about 120 miles south of Warsaw, at least 80 years ago, according to a report Friday in the Gazeta Wyborca daily.

The headstones, which were uncovered during construction work that began in June, have been removed and stored by the municipality, which will consult Jewish community officials on what to do with the find.

Between 1918 and 1939, Le?ajsk’s population of about 5,000 was 90% Jewish, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum. Many of them were saved thanks to the town’s proximity to the partition line that separated the German and Soviet occupation zones in Poland following the invasion of those armies into Poland in 1939.

The Germans sent many Le?ajsk Jews to the Soviet occupation zone, where some were exiled into the heartland of Russia — a turn of events that meant they were safe from the Nazis when they opened the eastern front with the former Soviet Union in 1941. But the Jews of Le?ajsk never re-established a community there after the Holocaust, ending a centuries-old Jewish presence in the town.

Both the Nazi occupation forces and communist regimes used Jewish headstones as building material throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

About 90% of Poland’s Jewish minority of 3.3 million people perished in the Holocaust.

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‘Services, but not shul’: How Orthodox communities are preparing for a pandemic High Holiday season

Tue, 2020-08-11 16:47

(JTA) – Less than two miles away from the Center for Disease Control’s campus in Atlanta, where doctors and researchers prepare guidance for the nation’s coronavirus response, an Orthodox rabbi is preparing a different set of plans.

Rabbi Adam Starr’s task: how to accommodate hundreds of people for in-person services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur during a pandemic.

To keep congregants safe, he’s dramatically shortening the services, which can run for most of the day under normal circumstances, to limit the duration of potential virus exposure that any worshipper might encounter.

“First thing to go is my sermon,” Starr said.

Starr is not alone in making that kind of trade-off.

Across the country, Orthodox communities are preparing to come together for live services during the High Holidays, even as most non-Orthodox synagogues have committed to holding services online. That’s because Orthodox Jews do not use electronics on Shabbat or holidays, leaving livestreamed options off the table.

Holding in-person services amid a pandemic means adjusting the pacing, spacing and other practices to maximize safety, and accepting the likelihood that many people will choose not to attend services at all. Even those who are optimistic about being able to safely hold services are reckoning with the fact that the most powerful days of the Jewish year will bear little resemblance to how they have been observed in the past.

“This is services, but this is not shul,” said Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman of Ohev Sholom, an Orthodox synagogue in Washington, D.C., using the Yiddish word for synagogue. “Shul means everyone is together in the space, davening together, and this is not that.”

In a normal year, Friedman’s synagogue would host 700 to 800 worshippers for High Holiday services. This year, she said, about 100 members expressed interest in attending an outdoor service. 

Those who plan to stay away, she said, include parents of young children struggling without child care and older people who face the biggest risk from the coronavirus.

“The folks who can’t come are the people who already are experiencing this pandemic the hardest,” Friedman said. “It just adds insult to injury to have shul start without you.”

Other synagogues also anticipate greatly reduced attendance. At the Jewish Center on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, approximately one-third of the congregation is older than 60. Rabbi Yosie Levine expects many of those members to stay home.

“I suspect we’re going to have a pretty significant drop-off in attendance,” he said.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing as social distancing requirements mean the synagogue can accommodate less than half its regular capacity. In a normal year, the Modern Orthodox synagogue would have between 700 and 800 people praying in the building on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This year, approximately 300 people will be able to participate in services spread across multiple rooms and time slots.

Levine is hoping to find an outdoor space to rent to accommodate those who would feel safer outdoors. After failing to find a school playground or park space that would work, he is looking into having a block closed off for services in the street.

In some Hasidic communities, like the Borough Park and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn, synagogues are expected to hold in-person services as they have for months. Some synagogues have operated with few, if any, restrictions.

But most Orthodox communities, mindful of risk and, in some cases, traumatized by their own experiences — the disease spread in New York’s Orthodox communities early on — are making substantial changes. In some synagogues, the cantors will wear masks. Others will install Plexiglas barriers to keep them and any virus-laden particles they might expel through singing safely separated.

At suburban synagogues, where the space is less cramped, leaders are engaged in the complicated logistics of planning multiple services. At the Cleveland-area’s Green Road Synagogue, Rabbi Binyamin Blau said he expects to have as many as four services, some indoors and some under open tents outside. An engineer who is a synagogue member is helping Blau arrange the setup, which for the indoor services includes seating charts designed to ensure at least 6 feet of space between congregants. 

A socially distanced outdoor service at the Green Road Synagogue in suburban Cleveland, June 2020. (Courtesy of Rabbi Binyamin Blau)

In Atlanta, Starr has already ordered a large tent for outdoor services. He’s expecting to have six to eight minyans at his synagogue, with options for an indoor or outdoor service. The timing of the services is designed to allow parents to take turns attending and staying home with their children, as child care will not be offered as it normally would be.

The compromises all feel worth it coming off a period when the very foundations of Orthodox life, which includes thrice-daily prayer often conducted communally, were demolished with little to replace them.

“Unfortunately for three months, we had no shul at all,” said Rabbi Yaakov Robinson, who works at Beis Medrash Mikor Hachaim, an Orthodox synagogue in Chicago, where services resumed in late May. “After the difficult year we’ve had over the last four months, people want a very meaningful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

Robinson is not planning to cut down the service for at least a couple of reasons: He believes his congregants want the feeling of normalcy provided by the full length and he doesn’t see a health benefit. 

“You’re already exposed to each other for four hours, I’m not sure 4 1/2 hours makes a difference,” he said.

Other rabbis and congregations are shortening services after being advised to limit the amount of time that people are gathering to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus. While a typical Shabbat morning service in an Orthodox synagogue can take between two and 2 1/2 hours, morning services on Rosh Hashanah can last as long as five or six hours. That has led to some difficult choices.

Several synagogues said they would begin with shacharit rather than pesukei d’zimrah, which cuts out at least 20 minutes and does not need to be recited with a minyan. 

Blau said he would not have members open and close the ark or carry the Torah around the entire sanctuary for people to kiss, both practices he’s done away with at Shabbat services since reopening. (He doesn’t mind cutting out the carrying of the Torah, which he said “takes 15 minutes and breaks up the decorum.”)

But some elements of the service would remain untouched, he said, even though they are not required for the worshippers to fulfill religious requirements.

“Unetaneh tokef is in,” Blau said, referring to the prayer that asks who will live and who will die. The prayer specifically mentions the specter of plague. “We’re not cutting that out.”

Other centerpieces of the High Holidays services are also getting a pandemic makeover.

For Yizkor, a memorial service on Yom Kippur, Starr is considering organizing a Zoom service before the holiday or offering a 30-minute service outdoors for those who prefer not to join for the full service but want to recite Yizkor.

For those who would rather not come to synagogue for services, many still want to hear the shofar blowing, which is considered one of the most important obligations on Rosh Hashanah. (This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on Shabbat, when Orthodox synagogues do not blow the shofar, but the shofar will be sounded on the second day and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.)

Some synagogues are planning to offer shofar opportunities in multiple locations to reach people closer to home. Starr said the five Orthodox synagogues in the Toco Hills neighborhood of Atlanta are coordinating shofar blowing for their members together, possibly in multiple locations.

The multiple soundings of the shofar and prayer services have created a need for more prayer leaders and shofar blowers.

“Thank God, I am blessed with a shul with a lot of people who know how to daven,” said Starr, using the Yiddish word for pray. But when it comes to shofar blowers, he said, “I would be happier if we had a couple more.”

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization of Orthodox synagogues, is offering a training program to teach people who have never led a High Holiday service how to do so.

“A lot of it is focused on confidence-building,” said Yehuda Friedman, director of synagogue services for the Orthodox Union. “Because it is not easy for people to get up in front of a crowd.”

That training also could be useful for Jews who observe the High Holidays at home. And with weeks to go before the High Holidays begin and COVID-19 cases continuing to proliferate in large parts of the country, even the most carefully laid plans for live services are subject to revision.

“We didn’t know where we’re going to be two months ago, so it felt premature to plan,” Starr said. “The whole world could change.”

But with memories of a solitary Passover still fresh, many Orthodox Jews say they will be happy with whatever kind of communal services they are able to safely hold.

“Even if it’s a fast davening and we’re all sitting far apart, it still feels nice seeing members of the shul I haven’t seen,” Blau said. “Once I figure out who they are because of their mask.”

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Holocaust museum in New York plans to reopen in September

Tue, 2020-08-11 16:13

NEW YORK (JTA) — New York’s Holocaust museum is planning to reopen in September.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust said Tuesday that pending approval from the city and state, it would open with limited capacity. The museum will be open three rather than five days a week with only a quarter of its previous visitor capacity and additional cleaning protocols.

New York’s museums have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic and have still not been given the green light to reopen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The museum also said it would be extending its popular exhibit about Auschwitz through May 2021. The world’s largest-ever traveling exhibition about the Nazi death camp has more than 700 original items from Auschwitz and 400 photographs.

“First and foremost is the safety of our visitors and our employees,” the museum’s president and CEO, Jack Kliger, said in a statement. “As people venture out again seeking educational experiences in safe public places, museums such as ours are uniquely qualified to welcome them back.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art said last month that it was planning to reopen at the end of August following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control, New York state and New York City.

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Why Ilhan Omar’s primary became the Jewish community’s most watched pre-November vote

Tue, 2020-08-11 15:57

(JTA) — No matter what happens in Ilhan Omar’s primary today, one thing is clear: Some Jewish voters in Minnesota and across the country will be deeply disappointed.

Omar has the support of some local and progressive Jews who are excited about supporting a member of “The Squad,” a quartet of prominent progressive freshmen congresswomen that also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

But Omar — who represents Minnesota’s 5th District, which includes Minneapolis — has repeatedly angered other Jewish voters with critical comments about Israel. Her challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, describes himself as a pro-Israel progressive and has made Omar’s comments on Israel a key part of his campaign. He has drawn major support from national donors in recent months as a spate of high-profile congressional primary upsets have emboldened those who would like to see Omar serve only one term.

Polls have shown Omar with a commanding lead. An upset would demonstrate how damaging and divisive Omar’s Israel narrative has become — but an Omar victory would add another signal that supporting boycotts of Israel is not disqualifying for American politicians. She and Tlaib are the only members of Congress who openly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In multiple primaries this year, Israel advocates have poured resources into the campaigns of longtime Israel allies who ultimately lost. They included New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Lacy Clay, a Missouri congressman whose challenger, Cori Bush, had expressed support for the BDS movement.

The dynamics of the Minnesota primary are different in that the challenger, not the incumbent, is seen as friendlier to Israel. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Omar, meaning that anyone providing resources to her opponent would be working against the Democratic leadership, a potentially costly move.

Some Democratic and nonpartisan Israel advocacy groups have stayed quiet during the race. But Melton-Meaux’s campaign has attracted big-time backing in recent months: After raising approximately $400,000 between December and April — a respectable amount for a challenger taking on an incumbent in a House race — he raised $3.2 million between April and July, the Star Tribune reported. Omar raised slightly over $1 million in each of those periods.

Melton-Meaux donors included NORPAC and Pro-Israel America, two political action committees that tend to lean right on Israel policy. Those groups have been critical of Omar because of her comments about Israel. 

In 2012, before joining Congress, she tweeted that Israel “hypnotized the world.” As a new member of Congress, with the tweet under renewed scrutiny, she apologized.

But in February 2019, Omar responded to a tweet from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who had called for action to be taken over Omar’s past statements suggesting that Israel policy in Congress was driven by money. 

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote in a tweet that raised eyebrows.

Asked to clarify what she meant, Omar responded “AIPAC!”

AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Critics said that Omar was invoking two anti-Semitic tropes: again that Israel exerts too much political pressure on U.S. government, and that money was inherently involved in that pull. Many took her words to mean that Omar believed AIPAC pays American politicians to be pro-Israel.

The comments earned her national rebuke, including from many of her Democratic colleagues.

In a subsequent op-ed for The Washington Post, Omar defended her critiques of Israel as calling for a more “balanced” policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but she also called Israel the “historical homeland” of Jews.

But when she and Tlaib tried to visit Israel on a congressional trip, they were denied entry. A 2017 Israeli law entitles the state to deny entry to boycott Israel activists. It was the first time that the Jewish state refused to allow in members of Congress. 

Several people in Omar’s district have since said that the congresswoman began a dialogue with the Jewish community in the wake of the controversy but failed to see it through. Local Jews told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they were not assured by a meeting she held with them about her 2012 tweet, before her AIPAC comments.

“She didn’t apologize for the tweet, she didn’t say she would take it down and she tried to put in in the context of the Gaza dispute, but it was unsatisfactory from our standpoint, from my standpoint, that she didn’t seem to recognize the seriousness of the trope,” State Sen. Ron Latz said.

Rhona Shwaid, a Minneapolis attorney and Melton-Meaux supporter who met with Omar and a group of local Jews following the AIPAC comments, echoed that sentiment.

“She was nice in the meeting and commented that ‘this is the beginning of a conversation,’” Shwaid told Jewish Insider. “But we never heard back from her, and after that she made additional comments that were questionable and some of her votes have been questionable.”

Avi Olitzky, a local rabbi who has met with Omar but is supporting Melton-Meaux, wrote in a JTA op-ed last month, “While I’ve been grateful for those conversations, it’s not enough. We need a representative in Congress who both hears and listens to us — someone who is willing to absorb our concerns and advocate for us in Congress.” 

Olitzky said later that he was “beyond dismayed” by an Omar mailer that called out three Jewish donors to Melton-Meaux’s campaign — and no one else.

Melton-Meaux, a mediation lawyer, has caught the eye of the Jewish community in other ways. Following law school, he earned a master’s degree in theology, Hebrew and preaching at the Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Insider reported. He also worked at a senior living center, The New Jewish Home in New York City, and delivered a d’var Torah at a 2012 Jewish Community Relations Council meeting in St. Paul.

Omar, who is Muslim, is the first Somali American in Congress and the first Black woman to represent Minnesota in the House. She has local liberal Jewish support, including that of the activist group Jewish Community Action.

“I value the close relationship I have with leaders throughout the 5th District, including members of the Jewish community,” Omar told JTA in 2019. “I look forward to continuing a relationship based on open dialogue, mutual respect, and combating hatred and intolerance towards all persecuted communities.”

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Pub patron in England tells Jewish student: ‘We should have f***ing gassed the lot of you’

Tue, 2020-08-11 15:35

(JTA) — An argument at a British pub over social distancing sparked an altercation in which one patron told a Jewish student that “we should have f ***ing gassed the lot of you.”

Danielle Greyman, a 21-year-old sociology student, filmed the incident Thursday at the Hedley Verity pub in Leeds, in northern England. The patron self-identified to her that he was German.

Greyman, who was at the pub to meet friends for a drink, said “there were two strangers at our table not socially distancing and refusing to move,” she told MailOnline. After the argument, Greyman said the man asked if she was Jewish, at which point she started filming the exchange.

Greyman asked the man whether she looked Jewish, to which he replied in the affirmative.

Another man at the bar threatened to hit Greyman, she said.

The man who spoke about gassing Jews left with the other “stranger,” a woman, at the staff’s request. Yorkshire Police said they were looking into the incident but had not received a formal complaint about it.

Separately, a patient at a London-area hospital complained to management that a caretaker there had assaulted an elderly patient after learning the man was Jewish.

Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow is investigating and notified police, a spokesperson for the hospital told The Jewish Chronicle, according to an article published Monday by the newspaper.

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Shortened census period means Brooklyn’s Orthodox communities will likely be undercounted

Tue, 2020-08-11 15:04

(JTA) – Before the coronavirus pandemic hit New York City, Rabbi Avi Greenstein knew he needed to make a big push to have people in his neighborhood fill out the census. 

In Borough Park, where Greenstein serves as executive director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, only 49.2% of residents filled out the census in 2010, the last year it was conducted, compared to 61.9% across New York City. Thus the neighborhood, where many Orthodox Jews live, lost out on federal funding that is allocated based on population.

A researcher at George Washington University estimated that for every person who was not counted in the 2010 census, the state where they live lost $1,091 in federal funding in 2015 for some of the federal programs whose funding is determined by the census.

Greenstein wanted to help Borough Park do better this time. But then the pandemic hit, making in-person outreach all but impossible. And last week, the Census Bureau cut the census period to 10 weeks from 14. 

Now the count will end a month earlier than originally scheduled, on Sept. 30, right in the middle of the Jewish holiday season, and Greenstein and other community leaders worry that the Orthodox community could be severely undercounted.

“It’s something that’s very concerning to us as a community,” said Greenstein, whose organization helps coordinate social services for Jewish residents of Borough Park. “When we have something that’s so simple to do and there’s so much on the line for it, it’s quite frustrating when the numbers are low.”

The census was originally supposed to be completed by July, but was extended to Oct. 31 due to the pandemic. But in a statement last week, the Census Bureau announced it would end the count on Sept. 30. Democrats have argued the move is an attempt to favor Republicans in the next reapportionment of House seats by ensuring that hard-to-count groups, who primarily live in majority Democrat states, are not counted.

While the shortened deadline for the census will make it harder to achieve increased participation across the country, it may have particularly dire consequences for the Hasidic community.

In Orthodox neighborhoods, participation in the census has never been high. Minority communities in general tend to be undercounted in the census and Hasidic Jews, who in some areas primarily speak Yiddish, are no exception.

New York City’s government had dedicated $40 million toward census outreach this year to avoid a severe undercount.

The city dedicated $3 million to placing ads in the ethnic media, including some for Yiddish-language advertisements. But a large chunk of the money went toward ads that Hasidic Jews might never see: Many were run on television and through digital advertising, but most Hasidic Orthodox Jews do not own TVs or use computers at home.

While much of Borough Park has returned to the regular routines of daily life, making some face-to-face outreach possible, the summer season also means a large portion of the Hasidic community is not home. Many Hasidic families in Brooklyn spend the summer in bungalow colonies in upstate New York, returning to Brooklyn in September for the start of school and the fall holidays.

The Brooklyn Public Library, one of the city public libraries to receive a grant from the New York City census campaign to do outreach among its patrons, had been planning to have the outreach workers stationed at branches to help people fill out the census on library computers. When the pandemic ruled that out, Danielle Deluty, one of the library’s census navigators, began making phone calls through the Met Council, a social service organization that is the largest distributor of kosher food to poor New Yorkers, to connect them directly to a census worker.

Deluty said she’s reaching a few dozen people in each of her weekly phone banking sessions — but it’s clear that many people are not available to respond.

“Not only is there the digital divide and the language barrier, but also are people even going to be home? A lot of them will not be,” she said.

Alex Rapaport, a community activist who runs Masbia, a soup kitchen whose main branch is located in Borough Park, said there may be even less interest in participating this year because of frustration over the way the coronavirus pandemic has been handled by local and state officials.

In April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called out “the Jewish community” in a widely criticized tweet after a rabbi’s funeral drew thousands of Hasidic Jews into the streets during the city’s lockdown. The incident damaged what had long been a close relationship.

This summer, Orthodox residents of Borough Park protested the mayor’s closures of city playgrounds and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s shutdown of overnight summer camps, sometimes with local Orthodox lawmakers leading the protests.

“There’s a very deep contempt for the current system, even if they don’t know which one is city, which one is state, which one is federal,” Rapaport said. “People feel the opposite of taxation without representation — forcing me to fill out another document feels like another tax.”

Greenstein agreed, noting that people often conflated problems that stemmed from local government with the federal government and vice versa.

“They’re cutting off their nose to spite their face, but they don’t realize, he said.”

Greenstein’s Boro Park JCC had been hoping to spend September and October, when most of the community returns to Brooklyn and can be reached through synagogues or schools, getting out the message. Rabbis would be encouraged to speak about the importance of the census at their synagogues over the High Holidays, and schools would be encouraged to teach children about the census in a bid to encourage parents to participate.

With a shortened census period, however, Greenstein isn’t sure how he will reach everyone he needs to reach in time to meet the Sept. 30 deadline.

“Now that a month has been taken away,” he said, “we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do with this new reality.”

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It’s been 3 years since Charlottesville. We’re suing to break the cycle of terror that followed.

Tue, 2020-08-11 14:29

NEW YORK (JTA) — Three years ago today, the country watched in horror as neo-Nazis and white supremacists attacked Charlottesville, Virginia. Three years later, as far-right extremists continue to spread disinformation, hate and violence, it’s clear that “Unite the Right” was a harbinger of what would follow — and that we still have much to learn from that weekend.

My organization, Integrity First for America, is supporting a coalition of Charlottesville residents in a federal lawsuit against the individuals and groups that orchestrated the violence. The trial is scheduled for October. 

These extremists didn’t come to Charlottesville to peacefully protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as they claimed. Rather, for months in advance, in private social media chats, they methodically planned a weekend of violence. “Next stop: Charlottesville. Final stop: Auschwitz,” they wrote amid discussions of which weapons to carry and whether they could claim self-defense if they hit counterprotesters with cars.

And that’s exactly what happened. First, the violent tiki torch march, meant to evoke the KKK and Nazis, with chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Then, the next day, the attack on downtown Charlottesville, culminating in James Fields driving his car into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters — exactly as planned in those chats — and killing one, Heather Heyer. 

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Charlottesville — and the many incidences of white supremacist violence that followed — were not accidents. They are part of a cycle in which each attack is used to inspire the next one, nearly always online: the white supremacist who killed 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh communicated with the Charlottesville leaders on the far-right site Gab before his attack; the Christchurch shooter painted on his gun a white power symbol popularized by one of our Charlottesville defendants; the livestreamed Christchurch attack in turn inspired massacres in Poway, El Paso and elsewhere.

In all cases, the attackers were motivated by anti-Semitic and racist conspiracies, like the idea that the white race is being systematically replaced by Black and brown people — with Jews as the puppet masters. 

Now, even during a global pandemic and a national reckoning on racism, the cycle continues. Far-right extremists have tried to bomb hospitals and turn the coronavirus into a bioweapon against Jews and other minorities. Others, like the white supremacist group Identity Evropa (a defendant in our Charlottesville suit), have spread disinformation — posing as “antifa” on Twitter to urge violence in white neighborhoods. Meanwhile, vehicle attacks have skyrocketed, with dozens reported since May, like the KKK leader who plowed his car into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Richmond, Virginia.

So how do we break this cycle? To begin, we must understand how these extremist leaders and groups operate. 

We must acknowledge the central role of social media in allowing these white supremacists to find one another, connect and plan and promote violence. White supremacists are no longer meeting in the woods wearing white hoods. Rather they’re connecting online — turning social media into a place where extremists conspire before their car attack memes and other violent hate become real world action. 

While there are some in power who seek to legitimize white nationalism — and the anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and other forms of hate that fuel it — social media companies have no obligation to allow it on their platforms. For the sites that have built business models on platforming extremism, domain registration and web hosting services can act. 

Second, we need to understand how these white supremacists use disinformation and deception to pit communities against one another.

The fake antifa tweet was intended to fuel racial tensions, pitting white neighborhoods against Black Lives Matter protesters in an effort to undermine the critical message of the protesters. This is the same tactic we saw when white supremacists posed as Jews online to spread anti-Black hate and sow tensions between our communities.

From the antifa boogeyman to the fake accounts, to the age-old canard that George Soros is paying the racial justice protesters, it’s all part of a larger effort to distract and deflect – a tactic used frequently by the Unite the Right leaders.

Finally, we must treat the crisis of violent extremism with the urgency it deserves.

Anti-Semitic and other forms of extremism tend to fall out of the news and off people’s radar until the next attack.

This is compounded by a federal government that won’t treat far-right extremism with the urgency it requires. Instead, it also deflects by blaming antifa and offers dog whistles and, increasingly, explicit support to the far right — while disinvesting in counterextremism and dramatically cutting civil rights investigations.

In the absence of federal leadership, it makes brave private plaintiffs like ours especially vital. With this Charlottesville lawsuit, we are taking on the leaders and groups at the center of this movement, holding them accountable in court for the violence they orchestrated, with the potential to bankrupt and dismantle them through large civil judgments. 

Three years after Unite the Right, history continues to repeat itself. When the leaders of this violent movement are put on trial this fall, our plaintiffs will take a critical step toward breaking this cycle of violence. But this country will fail them, and the Charlottesville community, if we don’t finally take the lessons of that horrific weekend to heart.

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Jewish man called ‘dirty Jew’ and beaten unconscious in Paris elevator

Tue, 2020-08-11 13:55

(JTA) — A Jewish man told police he was beaten by two men in the elevator of a Paris building where his parents live and called a “dirty Jew.”

The alleged victim, 29, said two Black men followed him into the elevator on Thursday, according to his police complaint and the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, the nongovernmental watchdog group wrote in a statement Tuesday.

BNVCA identified the alleged victim only as David S.

David sustained minor injuries to the face and throat.

The assault happened at a residential building in the 19th arrondissement, or district, of Paris, where many Jews live.

At around the 18th floor, one of the men told David, “Dirty Jew, dirty Jewish son of a whore, you’re a dead man, dirty Jew,” according to the alleged victim’s testimony. They fled when the elevator stopped on the floor where David’s parents live. David said he was rendered unconscious for several minutes because of the force of the blows.

Medical staff prescribed eight days of rest for David. In France, the number of rest days prescribed to assault victims may affect the sentence passed on offenders in case of a conviction.

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NJ man pleads guilty to threatening Orthodox Jews during pandemic’s early days

Tue, 2020-08-11 13:47

(JTA) — A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty to threatening the Jewish community of Lakewood over violations of the state’s lockdown rules that took place there in March.

Anthony Lodespoto, 43, pleaded guilty to charges of “bias intimidation” on Friday, New Jersey Advance Media reported Monday. Prosecutors are seeking a six-month jail term for Lodespoto, who has been jailed since his arrest.

He used Facebook’s direct messaging feature to threaten the Jewish community of Lakewood, a township with a large Orthodox population that at the time had reported a higher number of coronavirus cases than surrounding areas. In his messages, which he sent to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy among others, Lodespoto said he would attack Jews there with a baseball bat.

Lodespoto reportedly was angry about parties in Lakewood, including multiple Jewish weddings, that did not comply with the state’s social distancing rules. Criticism of Lakewood’s Jews was rampant on social media at the time, prompting Murphy to condemn hate speech inspired by the pandemic.

“Scapegoating, bullying, or vilification of any community is completely unacceptable – today or ever,” Murphy wrote on Twitter in late March. “There is a special place in hell for the small minority that do this during this crisis.”

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All 3 Democrats vying for House Foreign Affairs Committee chair support restricting Israel aid over annexation

Tue, 2020-08-11 13:43

(JTA) — All three of the Democrats seeking to become the next head of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee have said they do not want U.S. money to aid Israel’s potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Reps. Brad Sherman of California, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Gregory Meeks of New York are vying for the role with the defeat of the current head, longtime pro-Israel voice Eliot Engel, in his New York primary in June.

“I oppose any use of American taxpayer dollars to implement the Annexation Plan or to build any permanent Israeli installation in the West Bank or Gaza,” Sherman said in a statement.

Sherman and Meeks are longtime allies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby.

“Not a penny of US taxpayer money should subsidize or enable any unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank,” Castro said. “Under a two-state approach, America has a responsibility to be an arbiter of peace, which means we need trust and credibility with both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Meeks suggested that aid to Israel could be used as leverage to influence its policy.

“Annexation is anathema to a two-state solution, and America cannot be used by its proponents to justify a pro-annexation position or policy,” he said. “On the contrary, the United States must be explicit in our opposition by applying pressure against Netanyahu should he annex territory, including leveraging US aid.”

Whether or not to withhold U.S. funds to Israel has become a common question posed to politicians since Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont brought it up prominently in the Democratic presidential campaign.

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Right-wing NC congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn deletes pictures from his vacation to Hitler’s retreat

Tue, 2020-08-11 13:38

(JTA) — A right-wing Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina has taken down pictures he posted to Instagram from a 2017 vacation to the Eagle’s Nest, the Nazi retreat in Germany that Hitler visited more than a dozen times.

Madison Cawthorn’s pictures were removed Monday, the same day that a report in Jezebel made the case that he is “following the playbook of other, more successful far-right Republicans in recent years, attempting to rebrand his extreme views … as squarely in the mainstream of the Republican Party.”

In addition to calling Hitler “Führer,” a term of reverence, Cawthorn also named his real estate company SPQR, a term popular among white nationalists, and displays in his home an early American flag that the Anti-Defamation League says has been appropriated by far-right extremists, according to the Jezebel report.

Cawthorn defeated a Republican who had been endorsed by President Donald Trump in June’s primary. Since the primary, however, the 25-year-old candidate has worked to convey his support for Trump, according to a report by AVL Watchdog, a nonprofit news organization covering the portion of North Carolina that Cawthorn is seeking to represent in the House of Representatives.

The AVL Watchdog report published over the weekend includes many of the same details as the Jezebel report, as it spells out the far-right vision that Cawthorn, who would be one of the youngest-ever congressmen if elected, is offering local voters. But it did not include the Eagle’s Nest vacation photos, in which Cawthorn said a trip to Hitler’s retreat had been on his “bucket list.”

After the Jezebel report was published, the pictures began circulating on social media before they were deleted. Among those who shared the photos on Twitter was Moe Davis, the Democrat opposing Cawthorn in North Carolina’s 11th District, a traditional Republican district in the western part of the state.

The two men are competing to fill the spot in Congress vacated by Mark Meadows after he became the Trump White House chief of staff earlier this year. Davis is a retired Air Force colonel who resigned as Guantanamo Bay’s chief prosecutor to protest a policy allowing evidence obtained through torture to be used in trials. While he is considered a long shot to win in November, population shifts mean the district may not be as safely Republican as it once was.

“Hitler’s vacation retreat is not on my bucket list,” Davis tweeted Monday.

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Orthodox music star performs song celebrating Donald Trump at Jewish summer camp

Tue, 2020-08-11 11:45

(JTA) – The original song is about the repeated oppression of the Jewish people throughout history. The rewritten song is a prayer for Donald Trump to win re-election.

Orthodox Jewish pop star Yaakov Shwekey sang an ode to Donald Trump at an Orthodox overnight camp based on his hit song “We Are a Miracle.” In videos of the performance shared online Monday night, Shwekey sings a rewritten version of the song with lyrics supporting Trump’s re-election. No one in the video appears to be wearing a mask.

“May God hear our prayers, four more years, cause we are America,” Shwekey sang.

“Every day you fight a battle. On the news they try to hide all your victories, your accomplishments, the way you lead with pride,” the song continues. “But truth is always stronger, so join us as we sing our song.”

Yeshiva World News reported that the performance was at Camp Teumim Mesivta in Pennsylvania.

The performance comes less than three months before an election in which the majority of American Jews are expected to vote for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president. But within the Orthodox community, Trump commands significant support.

Last month, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, a member of the rabbinical council of Agudath Israel, an organization representing haredi Orthodox Jews, endorsed Donald Trump in an interview with Mishpacha magazine. The lyrics to the song were written by Yisroel Besser, an editor for Mishpacha, for a Trump campaign fundraiser Sunday in Long Branch, New Jersey, home to a large Syrian Jewish community. The fundraiser was held at the home of Stanley Chera, a longtime supporter of the president who died in April of the coronavirus.

In the video, Shwekey’s performance ends with chants of “USA, USA!”

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After Charlottesville, Trump violated George Washington’s promise to American Jews

Mon, 2020-08-10 21:46

(JTA) — Three years ago this week, Donald Trump broke a fundamental promise to the American Jewish community from our nation’s founders.  

Neo-Nazis and Klansmen marched on Charlottesville chanting “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” But instead of using the power of his office to marginalize this bigotry, President Trump egged on these white supremacists, equating them with those protesting their racism by insisting there were “very fine people on both sides.” 

Vice President Joe Biden’s entire presidential campaign was ignited by Trump’s dereliction of duty that day. Biden believes we are in a battle for the soul of our nation, which Jewish Americans understand all too well.

Shortly after George Washington became America’s first president, he undertook to reassure the young nation’s religious minorities, including its Jewish citizens, that their rights would be safeguarded under this new republic. In his famous 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, he specifically pledged that the U.S. government “gives to bigotry no sanction” and, borrowing from the prophet Micah, swore that every citizen must enjoy genuine safety “under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

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But isn’t giving sanction to frightening bigotry exactly what Trump did before, during and after Charlottesville? It is why white supremacists gathered in Washington, D.C., in November 2016 to celebrate his election, railing against Jews and giving Nazi salutes. It is why white supremacists felt encouraged to converge on Charlottesville for their 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, where Heather Heyer was murdered when a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators.

Worshippers at Charlottesville’s Congregation Beth Israel that day were terrified to discover men in combat fatigues with semi-automatic rifles loitering menacingly outside their synagogue. As synagogue president Alan Zimmerman wrote later, “several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, there’s the synagogue!’ followed by chants of ‘Sieg Heil.’”

Trump tried to backpedal two days later, reading off a teleprompter that “racism is evil” and white supremacists are “repugnant.” However, as Bob Woodward wrote in his 2018 expose of the Trump presidency, “Fear,” Trump believes this apology was the “worst speech I’ve ever given” and “the biggest f***ing mistake I’ve made.” 

Asked again by reporters only a year ago about his declaration that there were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville, Trump insisted that he “answered perfectly.

Meanwhile, the harm caused by Trump’s alarming rhetoric has been all too real, as Jews and many other communities who have felt the sting of the bigotry Trump sanctions can attest.

For example, just a week before Charlottesville, supporters of his call to exclude many Muslims from America attacked an Islamic community center near Minneapolis with a pipe bomb. 

Barely one year after Charlottesville, a shooter animated by Trump’s conspiracy theory about an immigrant invasion, and thought Jews were to blame, murdered 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack targeting Jews in America’s history. That same week, a white gunman allegedly radicalized watching Trump’s presidential campaign also murdered two African-American shoppers at a grocery store in Kentucky after trying to force his way into a predominantly African-American church. Then, six months to the day after Pittsburgh, that attack inspired another deadly synagogue attack in Poway, California.

Sadly, we are also marking the one-year anniversary this month of the rampage in El Paso, the deadliest attack targeting the Latino community in America’s history. The perpetrator of that attack said he killed those 23 innocent people and injured 23 others as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” and that he was specifically hoping to target Mexicans.  

We all know that Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 based on the claim that Mexico is sending droves of immigrants into America, bringing “drugs,” “crime” and “rapists.” More recently, in the wake of the historic, largely peaceful protests against systemic racism, Trump has jumped to the defense of Confederate generals and branded the Black Lives Matter slogan “a symbol of hate.”

Last year, researchers with the Huffington Post documented over 800 hate incidents since Trump launched his campaign where the perpetrators hurled some version of the phrase “go back” or “get out” at their victims (absurdly, over 20 of these xenophobic incidents even targeted Native Americans). And in over 150 of these cases, the perpetrators even invoked Trump’s name or one of his slogans. 

This year, hate crimes have skyrocketed against Asian Americans, exacerbated by Trump blaming the public health crisis on what he calls “the Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu.”  Instead of uniting Americans around responsible public health precautions, the president failed the test of office yet again, defending heavily armed anti-government extremists who stormed the Michigan State Capitol as “very good people.” That rally also included swastikas and other imagery trivializing Hitler’s crimes.

When demagogues look for someone to scapegoat, no one is safe. The moral contrast with Joe Biden, who denounces every form of hate and prejudice without hesitation, could not be clearer. Jewish Americans will overwhelmingly support Biden, an empathic, trustworthy and eminently qualified public servant who is determined to stand up to bigotry, to truly give it no sanction.

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Kazakhstan adds Chabad leader’s grave to its list of national heritage sites

Mon, 2020-08-10 21:04

(JTA) — The government of Kazakhstan added the gravesite of Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, a leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, to its list of national heritage sites, a U.S. diplomat said.

Paul Packer, chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, announced the move during a visit to the gravesite in Almaty, where Schneerson was buried in 1944.

Schneerson, the father and predecessor of the movement’s last spiritual leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, “fearlessly served as the chief rabbi of what is today the city of Dnepro in Ukraine” until he was arrested, tortured, jailed and sent into exile in 1939 by the repressive regime of Joseph Stalin, then the leader of the former Soviet Union, Packer said in a video posted Monday on Twitter.

The elder Schneerson died the 20th day in the Jewish calendar month of Av, which this year fell on Aug. 10. Thousands of pilgrims travel each year to his gravesite in Almaty, the largest city in the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.

Levi Yitzchak Schneerson expected his exile in Kazakhstan to be a “period of darkness,” but was “warmly welcomed and quickly became leader of its Jewish community,” Packer said. His teaching and those of his son “continue to transform the lives of Jews around the world.”

Packer thanked President Kassym-Jomart Kemeluly Tokayev and other officials for “adding the holy rabbi’s grave to the national heritage list of Kazakhstan.”

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‘Stumbling stone’ memorials in Germany remember the family of Israeli ambassador’s wife

Mon, 2020-08-10 20:05

(JTA) – Rosa and Abraham Hacker refused to leave their beloved city of Dortmund even when life for Jews in Germany was starting to become dangerous in the 1930s.

Now “stumbling stone” Holocaust memorials have been installed in the city remembering the couple – the maternal great-grandparents of Laura Kam, the wife of Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff.

The two small brass blocks, called “stolpersteine,” were installed Monday in ceremonies led by Dortmund Mayor Ullrich Sierau and a local rabbi under tight security. Kam and Issacharoff attended with their daughter, Ella.

The Hackers died in the Holocaust, but their five children managed to flee.

Kam decided to commission the memorial following years of research into her family history filled with obstacles. Once her husband was posted to Germany in 2017, however, “the gates to archives opened and I am literally looking at 1,000 pages,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a telephone interview.

There are nearly 80,000 such memorials in Germany and elsewhere in Europe; the brass blocks are etched with dates of birth and death.

The Cologne-based artist Guenther Demnig launched the memorials project in 1992. He paused installations for a couple of months due to measures designed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but resumed in June.

Kam’s great-grandparents, natives of Poland, had moved from Poland to Dortmund in the early 20th century, where they established a successful brush-making factory. The Hackers were deported to their native land along with other Polish-born Jews in 1938, but managed to return to Dortmund, where they found that their property had been plundered.

Rosa died in 1941 in the Dortmund Ghetto, and her husband was murdered in 1943 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia.

Kam, whose mother, Sonia, was born in Dortmund, decided to apply for the memorial after encountering stumbling blocks in Berlin. Pandemic concerns prevented Sonia Kam, who lives in the New York metropolitan area, from attending the ceremony.

Kam told that JTA she is “extremely concerned” about increasing anti-Semitism in Germany, but also heartened that local governments, such as that in Dortmund, “are fighting extremism so valiantly.”

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Helped by coronavirus crisis, Wix becomes Israel’s second-highest valued company

Mon, 2020-08-10 15:41

(JTA) — The coronavirus crisis has helped make Wix, the popular website creator platform, the second-highest valued Israeli company.

Its share price has increased by 260 percent since March, Haaretz reported Monday, trading as high as about $319 on the Nasdaq exchange  last week before dropping to about 283 on Monday morning.

Wix allows users to easily create websites with templates and drag and drop tools in a way similar to competitors such as WordPress and Squarespace.

“We’ve made a leap from being a consumer product for a particular group to a necessity for many more people,” said Nir Zohar, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “It’s the way many people today are making a living, by selling online.”

Wix’s market cap was around $4 billion in 2018 — it is now close to $16 billion, according to Haaretz. That puts the nearly 15-year-old company close behind the cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies, which at $17.3 billion is Israel’s most valuable business.

Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami and Giora Kaplan founded Wix in Tel Aviv in 2006.

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Former Major League player Cody Decker says anti-Semitism is ‘rampant’ in pro baseball

Mon, 2020-08-10 14:06

(JTA) – Former pro baseball player Cody Decker said that anti-Semitism is “rampant throughout baseball” and that an Oakland Athletics coach should be suspended for making a Nazi salute after a game.

Decker, who played briefly for the San Diego Padres and for Israel’s national team in the World Baseball Classic, spoke candidly on the topic with TMZ Sports on Saturday. He detailed several instances over the course of his career in which he was singled out for being Jewish and called Jewish slurs by fans and teammates.

Decker said that while playing a minor league game against the Frisco Rough Riders in Texas, several members of the opposing team called him and fellow Jewish teammate Nate Freiman “kikes.” He also said he was fired from a team the day after being called into a coach’s office to “explain my Judaism to him because he was born again Christian.”

And in 2012, Decker said he was at a bar with teammates when a group of girls asked him to leave the table when they found out he was Jewish.

The talk was spurred by a recent incident involving Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson, who was widely criticized for making a Nazi salute — he claims “unintentionally” — after a recent game against the Texas Rangers.

“In the world today of Covid, I adapted our elbow bump, which we do after wins, to create some distance with the players,” Christenson said in a statement last week. “My gesture unintentionally resulted in a racist and horrible salute that I do not believe in. What I did is unacceptable and I deeply apologize.”

Decker said he accepted Christenson’s apology but that he should be educated on the issue and suspended nonetheless.

“Actions have consequences. That’s not cancel culture, that’s life,” Decker said.

Decker took issue with the A’s response for saying it “looked like a Nazi salute.”

“No, he did a Nazi salute. He did a Nazi salute twice,” Decker said. “Let’s not sugarcoat around it … I really, really despise their response. I hate every half-measure response Major League Baseball always makes.”

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