Thursday, October 17, 2019

From Ian:

Does American Jewry’s Future Include Officers Guarding Us In Riot Gear?
Passing on religious rituals was something I remember looking forward to before I became a mother. Little did I know that the Jewish High Holidays in 2019 would hardly resemble the holidays of my childhood.

Growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s, anyone could walk into my suburban New York synagogue for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Sure, adults were supposed to have tickets, but there was no bouncer by the door. We had two local police officers who stood out on the street directing traffic for those two holidays, but that was explained by my synagogue’s location atop a hill; drivers climbing that hill couldn’t see the larger-than-usual stream of pedestrians from afar.

After 9/11, the synagogue I attended in D.C. added year-round security. Whenever I arrived from work for Friday evening services, I faced a security guard and a bag check.

The level of security at synagogues, Jewish schools, and Jewish community centers has only increased since then. Some of these buildings have video camera buzzer systems, security guards, or police officers. This is all to protect American Jews while we pray, socialize, and educate our children. In the wake of attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, that trend is unlikely to reverse itself.
The Heroes in Halle
Since well before the Halle attack, the resounding call of Jewish leaders has been that the time for words against anti-Semitism has passed and that what is needed now in Germany is action.

The Halle synagogue used to have a visible police presence. But a year ago, rather than heed the warnings of Jewish community leaders who were witnessing the resurgence of German anti-Semitism, the authorities in Halle discontinued police protection. Max Privorozki, the head of the Jewish community in Halle, said he had asked in vain for police protection for Jewish holidays and complained about the complete lack of police patrols. Holger Stahlknecht, the state interior minister of Saxony-Anhalt, all but called him a liar and, despite what seemed like obvious failures, defended his police forces.

The German government provided no police protection, funding for security guards, or other means of physical defense for the Halle synagogue. According to the police chronology, the first police officers arrived eight minutes after they received the emergency call, which was four minutes after the terrorist had already left the synagogue.

In Halle the Jews were left to save themselves.

For this they relied on the synagogue’s security system, donated by the Jewish Agency for Israel, with funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust. Those security cameras made it possible for the Jews inside to make quick informed decisions to shelter in place and barricade the doors. The frustrated terrorist, unable to open the door, wondered aloud, “maybe they will come outside.” Thanks to the security system, there was no chance of that. Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog was not exaggerating when he said, “That donation saved lives.”
BBC Arabic describes Halle shooting as attack on kebab shop and does not mention attempted synagogue massacre
A report on the Halle synagogue attack on the BBC Arabic website fails to mention antisemitism or Jews, stating simply that “some German news outlets say it happened near a synagogue but this cannot be confirmed.”

This was despite the fact that the motivations of the attacker and the target — a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar — were entirely clear and indeed could in fact easily be confirmed from the livestream video that the attacker himself posted online.

The article reports that two people were killed in a gunfire incident and that the assailant fired in the direction of a kebab shop, noting that he “also threw a bomb on a cemetery”, rather than explaining that the cemetery was in the synagogue compound, which was the gunman’s primary target.

The perpetrator has since confirmed that he was motivated by antisemitism and indeed had published an antisemitic manifesto prior to the attack. The incident comes at a time of growing antisemitism in Germany.

Campaign Against Antisemitism is disgusted that the BBC could run such a misleading story on a sensitive topic, but this is also not wholly surprising in view of the history of strained relations between the Corporation and the Jewish community.

Jonathan S. Tobin: No separating anti-Zionist agitation from Jew-hatred
Ungar-Sargon had hoped to be able to discuss the way extremists target Jews without bringing Israel into the discussion. But that is impossible because anti-Zionism is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism. Those who want to attack Israel aren’t willing to exempt other Jews – even those who are critics of the Jewish state, like Ungar-Sargon – from the same efforts to strip them of their humanity and dignity.

The dismay at the events that took place at Bard should not be confused with seeking to suppress criticism of Israel. In fact, the efforts to silence a discussion of anti-Semitism made it plain that hatred of Israel can’t be separated from the anti-Semitism and racism, which are integral to the anti-Zionist movement. Its premise is the attempt to deny to Jews that which no one seeks to deny to other people and, as such, is an expression of prejudice.

Anti-Zionists like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) often pose as victims of right-wing hate or Islamophobia but their use of anti-Semitic rhetoric gives the lie to this masquerade. The same is true of those scholars at Bard who pretend to be advocates of free speech and free inquiry, except when it is a matter of Jews speaking about hatred of their fellow Jews.

This ought to be a wake-up call for those who still think that the war on Israel is about borders or settlements, and not anti-Semitism. As a recent study conducted by the Amcha initiative showed, anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students on American college campuses jumped by 70% in the last year. Those who persist in believing that this alarming trend can be dealt with without confronting the essentially anti-Semitic nature of the BDS movement or by efforts to conciliate or legitimize these anti-Zionists are simply out of touch with reality.

Sanders, Klobuchar, Castro, Bennet and Buttigieg Plan to Attend J Street Conference in DC
J Street has announced that Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Pete Buttigieg are scheduled to attend its annual conference in Washington, DC, later this month.

The 2020 candidates will sit with the hosts of the weekly podcast “Pod Save the World,” former White House National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor and former US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes to “discuss the future of the US-Israel relationship, their visions for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their plans to combat the growing threat of white supremacy and more,” according to an email from J Street ahead of the conference, which will take place from Oct. 26-29.

JNS has reached out to the candidates for comment about their participation in the conference.

Aside from Bennet, the aforementioned candidates have said, if elected, that they would re-enter the United States in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which J Street supports and that US President Donald Trump withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it along with enacting new financial penalties against the regime.

Of the group, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have said they would keep the US embassy in Jerusalem, despite objecting to its relocation from Tel Aviv in May 2018.

Additionally, Buttigieg has spoken out against Trump recognizing earlier this year Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, telling JNS in August it was “an intervention in Israeli domestic politics.”
Statement from Democratic Majority for Israel on some of Senator Sanders’s Surrogates and Endorsers
Today, Democratic Majority for Israel President and CEO Mark Mellman issued the following statement:

“It’s deeply disturbing to find a candidate who claims to be ‘100% pro-Israel,’ opposed to BDS and a fighter against antisemitism surrounding himself with a number of surrogates and endorsers who hate Israel, support BDS and have repeatedly made antisemitic statements. We privately communicated our concern about some of his choices directly to Senator Sanders, beginning with his naming of noted antisemite Linda Sarsour as an official surrogate. Unfortunately, the only responses we have received from the Senator are more hostile choices on his part.”

After 55 years, UK Jewish MP quits Labour, condemns Corbyn, over anti-Semitism
A veteran UK Labour Party Jewish lawmaker quit the party Wednesday, saying unacceptable anti-Semitism had been allowed to flourish under leader Jeremy Corbyn, who she denounced as being unfit to become prime minister.

Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman announced in a letter her resignation from the party she had been a member of for 55 years.

Ellman, 73, has been a prominent critic of the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations and of Corbyn.

“I believe that Jeremy Corbyn would be a danger to the country, a danger to the Jewish community as well, but a danger to the country too,” she told the Times newspaper.

In the resignation letter, Ellman wrote she is “deeply troubled” by the increase in anti-Semitism and that she could no longer support voting Labour when it risks Corbyn being becoming prime minister.

“I believe that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to serve as our prime minister,” wrote Ellman who has been member of parliament for the party since 1997.
Labour NEC’s youth representative blasts Dame Louise Ellman MP for quitting Labour over antisemitism
Lara McNeill, a member of Labour’s powerful National Executive Committee (NEC), has criticised Dame Louise Ellman MP for quitting the Labour Party over antisemitism after 55 years of membership.

Ms McNeill criticised Dame Louise for “choos[ing] to sit on the fence” and claimed that it was “demonstratively false” that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had not “spent decades…confronting antisemitism and Holocaust deniers”.

She went on to suggest that concerns over the implications of a Corbyn government for Britain’s Jews “simply whip[s] up panic amongst many”. While conceding that one should not “ignore antisemitism”, Ms. McNeill insisted that one should also not “ignore this Conservative government actively inciting racism and don’t ignore Labour’s – and Corbyn’s – record showing what a Labour government would actually mean for equality and anti-discrimination.”

A Momentum activist, Ms McNeill represents Young Labour on the NEC, and her original candidacy was backed by Momentum, several unions and Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Other factions, including the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Students and LGBT Labour reportedly supported her opponent.
Member of Scottish Parliament laments the casual Holocaust denial he encountered in hospital
A member of the Scottish Parliament has related how quickly conversation with his ward mates in hospital turned to the Holocaust – and Holocaust denial.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the MSP for Edinburgh Western, has written about his stay in a hospital in West Lothian for hand surgery over the summer, recounting that the man next to him in the ward “muttered something about Germany and gas chambers”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said that he did not hear the man properly and was about to take issue with the comment when the patient in the bed opposite chimed in: “No mate, there never were any gas ovens, it was all a hoax, I can give you a link to a YouTube video which explains it all.”

“Despite being pretty high on painkillers,” Mr Cole-Hamilton writes, “I challenged him, explaining his statement wasn’t just wrong but it was offensive. He responded by saying that he was as much entitled to his opinion as I was, to which I replied that my ‘opinion’ was empirically verifiable as historical fact.

“The whole exchange left me pretty shaken and the atmosphere on the ward was strained for the duration of my stay.”
Graffiti festival in Jaffa set to fight BDS and politicization of art
Some of the world's most prolific graffiti artists will land in Israel for Sukkot for the "Patron of the Arts: International Street Art Week," which begins on Thursday.

The three-day event runs from October 17 to 20 and will be held in the Jaffa harbor. It will include live wall drawing, with the expectation that the graffiti will remain on the walls for the next several years.

The project was initiated by Paris-based Olivia Fatal together with local Rachel Mailer. They said they have seen the influence of BDS on the art industry, including several artists who are hesitant to work with or even discuss Israel. The show is meant to demonstrate that politics has no place in the art industry, according to the event release.

The art should be unique. Among the artists is the duo "PichiAvo" from Spain, who usually make graffiti revolving around Greek mythology. "Insane51," who specializes in 3D art, will also be present.

Each of the creators has a large social media presence, so the planners are hoping the event will go viral. The pieces will be displayed on social media by the artists and also by the event.
U of Illinois head under fire for calling ‘Israeli terror’ address anti-Semitic
The chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign came under fire this week for saying that a presentation to residence-hall advisers on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was anti-Semitic.

The presentation, called “Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror,” prepared by a Palestinian-American student involved in the Students for Justice in Palestine organization, was critical of Israel but not anti-Semitic, supporters responded, according to local newspaper the News-Gazette. They urged the university to formulate a definition of anti-Semitism.

Chancellor Robert Jones had made the assertion in a campus-wide email last week, which also referenced the recent discovery of a swastika in the Foreign Languages Building. The presentation to about a dozen resident advisers and multicultural advocates was made late last month. Complaints were filed about both the presentation and the swastika, the Daily Illini student newspaper reported Monday.

“This exercise was part of a university program created to help students learn to share diverse ideas and perspectives that lead to new understanding. Instead of fostering dialogue, it incited division, distrust and anger,” Jones wrote. “The program allowed our students to enter an extremely challenging and potentially volatile situation without the preparation, training, education and professional oversight they needed to succeed. This is inexcusable and unacceptable. This is a failure to our students, and that is my responsibility.”

All housing staff and resident advisers will be required to undergo anti-Semitism training, Jones said.
Antisemitic Incidents Take Center Stage at University of Illinois Faculty Meeting
A recent presentation during a mandatory meeting for the residential living team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that was replete with antisemitic references has come under fire from the pro-Israel community, with the school’s chancellor denouncing the incident.

Titled “Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror,” the slideshow presentation included libelous statements with one of the slides headlined “Brief History of the Palestine-Israel ‘Conflict’ ” that stated that in 1917 the “British signed away Palestine to Zionist entity,” when the Balfour Declaration that year declared that the right of the Jews to have a state in their homeland from which they were exiled thousands of years earlier. It also labeled Israel’s independence in 1948 the nakba (a “catastrophe”), despite the 1947 partition plan that the Jews accepted and the Arabs rejected, and presented 2014 as an Israeli “assault on Gaza,” despite the fact that Hamas, which controls Gaza, started the violence by launching rockets from civilian centers into Israel.

In a campus email, Chancellor Robert Jones wrote: “This exercise was part of a university program created to help students learn to share diverse ideas and perspectives that lead to new understanding. Instead of fostering dialogue, it incited division, distrust and anger.”

“The program allowed our students to enter an extremely challenging and potentially volatile situation without the preparation, training, education and professional oversight they needed to succeed,” he continued. “This is inexcusable and unacceptable. This is a failure to our students, and that is my responsibility.”
Say NO to hate on campus
'Students for Justice in Palestine' is organizing an anti-Israel conference at the University of Minnesota. It's time to take action. Join the campaign to fight SJP hate on campus! Join thousands of people who have already written their letters. #NoHateOnCampus

BBC Complaints makes it up as it goes along
As we see the BBC not only cites the notoriously biased UN Human Rights Council and its highly controversial ‘special rapporteur’ but also the partisan political NGO ‘Peace Now’.

We also see that the BBC cites third party reports of on-paper-only building permits as ‘proof’ of an increase in building, rather than actual construction completes. As we have noted here in the past, that long existent practice denies audiences of accurate information essential for proper understanding of the topic.

Data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics last month concerning construction in Area C of Judea & Samaria clarifies that the BBC’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in…the West Bank” – even if one takes that to mean construction in existing communities – is questionable.

Notably the second response received from BBC Complaints did not address the issue of audiences being misled by Webb’s claim of “a recent increase in settlement building in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. One would of course expect the BBC (of all media outlets) to have sufficient command of the English language to prevent confusion between three different topics: the size of the ‘settler’ population, the rate of housing construction in existing communities and the number of new ‘settlements’ established.
How Germany might overcome its antisemitism problem
What is needed are bold creative ways to set a new path that will change attitudes.

Some initiatives that could be considered that reflect Germany’s unique position in Jewish history:
1-German schools must introduce compulsory introductory courses explaining Jewish history and culture with special reference of contributions to Germany.
2-Hebrew, a classical language, should join the two other classical languages, Latin and Greek offered at universities.
3-The basics of Jewish festivals should be explained. Some, like Tu Bishvat ( New Year of the Trees,) resonate strongly with the current concern for saving the environment.
4-Churches need to teach children and adults, that replacement theology in any form is not the Christian dogma of the present time. Churches must clarify without ambiguity that such theology has been the basis of pogroms, expulsions, conspiracy theories and discrimination and has no place in today’s Germany.
5-School children need to learn that Jesus was a practising Jew and the popular curse word “Jew” actually profanes Jesus, which is unchristian.
6-The history and development of Israel need to be taught with special reference to its legal, historical and moral foundations.
7-Community involvement including public participation at festivals such as Sukkot and Hannukah should be encouraged. Just days ago in Melbourne, I saw a police station with a big sign on the pavement: “L’Shanah Tova 5780 and well over the fast.” Walking past two policewomen, they smiled and wished me a Happy New Year. Why not in Germany?

Ex-Nazi concentration camp guard, 93, tells German court ‘sorry for what he did’
A former SS guard, 93, said he was sorry for his actions as he went on trial in Germany on Thursday for complicity in the murder of more than 5,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

In what could be one of the last such cases of surviving Nazi guards, Bruno Dey stands accused of abetting the murder of 5,230 people when he worked at the Stutthof camp near what was then Danzig, now Gdansk in Poland.

While he insisted that he did not join the deadly operation voluntarily, he voiced regret for his actions.

“That’s what he said in his interrogation: He felt sorry for what he did,” said his lawyer Stefan Waterkamp.

“It was also clear to him that (the inmates) were not in there because they were criminals, but for anti-Semitic, racist and other reasons. He had compassion for them. But he did not see himself in a position to free them.”

Seated in a wheelchair, Dey wore a hat and sunglasses and hid his face behind a red folder as he entered the courtroom.
After Germany Synagogue Attack, US Congress Members Seek Blacklisting of Foreign White Supremacist Extremist Groups
In a letter sent to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, 39 members of Congress — led by Democrat Max Rose of New York — asked why white supremacist extremist groups are not included on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

The letter came a week after a neo-Nazi gunman killed two people outside a German synagogue.

“Today, if an American citizen swears allegiance to the Islamic State (or another Foreign Terrorist Organization on the list) and spreads their message of terror, there are several resources available to the Federal government to counter the threat,” the letter said. “However, if that same American citizen swears allegiance to a violent white supremacist extremist group based overseas and spreads their message of terror, the Federal government does not have access to the same tools.”

“As you know,” the letter continued, “the State Department’s criteria for inclusion on the FTO list are simple: be a foreign organization, engage in or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorism, and threaten the security of US nationals or the national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests of the United States. There are numerous examples of foreign white nationalist groups that fit these conditions. The American people deserve an explanation as to why these groups are not included on the FTO list.”
Knife-wielding Muslim in Brussels asks passersby if they are Jewish
Belgian police arrested a Muslim man who asked passersby on a Brussels street if they were Jewish while holding a knife and shouting about Allah.

No one was hurt in the incident last week in Koekelberg, a northwestern neighborhood of the Belgian capital.

Police subdued the man in the neighboring district of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek following an hourlong search, the news site HLN reported Friday. His name was not disclosed.

The suspect is not considered a terrorist, a spokesman for the Brussels Prosecutor’s Office told HLN, though he is believed to have committed attempted murder “with connection to his religious or philosophical convictions.”
Jewish man hiding kippah under his hat assaulted in Paris
A Jewish man in Paris who wore a hat to conceal his kippah was assaulted on the street by five Arab men who recognized that he was Jewish anyway, he told police and a watchdog group on antisemitism.

The assault occurred on Oct. 10 at around midnight near City Hall, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism, or BNVCA, wrote in a statement Sunday.

The accuser told police and BNVCA that five men approached him demanding that he give them money. During the exchange the assailants ascertained that he was Jewish, tore his shirt, and beat him on his face, chest and legs. They then allegedly made the Jewish man lie on the ground and threatened to stab him with a large knife one of the perpetrators produced from his coat.

The victim was able to escape as passers-by began to near. He suffered contusions to the face and body but no serious injuries.
Jewish group planting 'trees of life' to honor synagogue shooting victims
The Jewish organization United With Israel is inviting people to sponsor the planting of more than 20 different fruit trees in Israel in memory of the 12 victims of the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.

“Join us in planting 12,000 trees of life! Make the land even more beautiful in their memory,” it said on the project’s event page.

“[This is] a great opportunity to help Israeli farmers while paying tribute to the 12 holy victims of synagogue shootings, may their memories be for a blessing,” continued the plea. “Show your love for Israel by joining in this wonderful mitzvah!”

A total of 11 Jewish worshippers were murdered on Oct. 27, 2018, when a lone gunman entered the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh during Shabbat-morning services.

Exactly six months later, on April 27, 2019, a similar shooting took place at Chabad of Poway in Southern California, where a 60-year-old Jewish woman was killed in the synagogue lobby and three others injured in the attack, also on Shabbat morning during services.
A historic visit took place under the radar
In late September, Sheikh Mehmet Adil al-Haqqani, leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order, paid a first, historic, visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The visit was intended to bolster ties with followers of the order and spiritual and religious ties between Islamic holy sites and Sufi Islam. In effect, the Higher Islamic Sufi Council in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Lands took advantage of the visit to challenge Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and shore of the PA's political and religious legitimacy in light of its struggle against Hamas.

Al-Haqqani, who was born in Damascus and currently lives in Istanbul, is considered one of the leading figures in Sufi Islam, the main school of Islamic mysticism. Since 2014, he has served as head of the Naqshbandi Haqqani order, a branch that his father established in Cyprus in the second half of the 20th century. The order can trace its roots back to the 14th century in the central Asian city of Bukhara. The order itself is a worldwide presence, stretching from India in the east to the US in the west, and even to Israel. It comprises a social network that crosses continents and includes some 60 million Sufi followers.

Al-Haqqani and over 100 of his followers came to Israel and visited some major religious sites, including the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron; the Great Mosque of Nablus; the grave of Rabaa Al-Adawiya, a well-known female Sufi leader from the eighth century; Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem; and other sites in Ramallah and Jericho. He was in Israel as part of a tour that started at the beginning of the year and included Britain and South Africa. In November, he is scheduled to visit Iran.

Although his visit to Israel was not outwardly political, the Higher Islamic Sufi Council wanted to infuse it with political significance. Saad Sharaf, a senior council member, emphasized that Al-Haqqani played an important role in promoting the Palestinian cause: "Every Sufi who enters Palestine [becomes] an ambassador for our problem the moment he returns to his native country to tell of the suffering of our people."
Netanyahu Congratulates Ethiopia’s Leader on Winning Nobel Peace Prize
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to congratulate him on winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu told the Ethiopian leader that “he was impressed by his visit to Israel [last month], and that he admires the developments that have taken place in Israel in recent years.”

Additionally, Ahmed invited Netanyahu to make an official visit to the country.

Prime Minister Ahmed, 43, was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation” after a peace deal with Eritrea ended a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war.

“The prize is also meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia, and in the East and Northeast African regions,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement.
Haifa hosts the Jewish nurse who spied on the Nazis
“I always keep my promises,” said Marthe Cohn, the 99-year-old nurse and author who spied for the French against the Nazis during World War II, and who is the subject of the documentary, Chichinette - How I Accidentally Became a Spy, which was screened at the Haifa International Film Festival.

Cohn, who now lives in Los Angeles, was referring to an injury she suffered recently – “I fell at home and fractured my elbow in two places” – which did not stop her from keeping promises she made to give speeches around the world.

She could just as easily have been speaking about the commitment she made to a French army officer in the last year of World War II. Cohn promised that she, a young Jewish nurse who had managed to keep herself and most of her family safe throughout the Nazi occupation, would cross into Germany (via Switzerland) to obtain key intelligence information.

“I tried 13 times to cross over. For various reasons, I had to turn back every time. But this officer said I had done it purposefully, that I had cold feet,” said Cohn, who is so tiny she makes Dr. Ruth look like a linebacker, and is full of energy and unfailingly polite.

So on her last try, she managed to cross the border and complete the mission that would end up guaranteeing her a place in French military history.
US Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore dies aged 68; founded program in Israel
United States Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said. He was 68.

A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a US House committee that investigated President Donald Trump, and was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his black-majority district, which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore as well as more well-to-do suburbs.

One program he founded in Baltimore is the Elijah Cummings Youth Leadership Program in Israel, which aims to bridge gaps between the Jewish and black communities in the district, and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Every year about a dozen teens participate in the program, which includes a trip to Israel.
‘Wonder’ author explains why today’s news made her write a Holocaust story
If your kids are of a certain age, they’ve probably read “Wonder,” the best-selling book about Auggie Pullman, a boy born with facial differences who, after being homeschooled his whole life, begins attending a school in fifth grade. It’s on our must-read list of books for kids and adults navigating disabilities and special needs — and it was made into a film in November 2017 starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay.

Since “Wonder” was published in 2012, the author, R. J. Palacio, has written a series of novels within the same universe, including “Auggie & Me,” a collection of three related stories. One of those stories centers on Julian, the school bully who is the antagonist in “Wonder.” In “Auggie & Me,” we learn about Grandmère, Julian’s grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor. But we don’t get her full story — until now.

“White Bird,” a graphic novel by Palacio, is a deep dive into what happened to Grandmère — Sara — during World War II, and how she survived as a young Jewish girl in France.

In an interview with Kveller, Palacio explained why she decided to publish this particular story in 2019.

“It’s really important for kids to have the historical context with which to [understand] what’s happening now, so that they can make the direct correlations,” she said.
On an ancient road to the Temple, archaeological innovation, mystery and dispute
We’re in a tunnel five meters (16 feet) under modern Jerusalem, facing a solid wall of earth and standing on paving stones that Jewish pilgrims used 2,000 years ago when ascending Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.

High up on the earthen wall is a continuous strip of white, which marks where people lived during the late Roman era, according to Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Ari Levy, our guide for the morning. Near the floor are some toppled building blocks, which stem from the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

To me, the earth wall is an unfathomable mystery, but to excavation director Levy, it’s a roadmap.

We’re walking a newly excavated two-millennia-old road that was once used by tens of thousands of Jews during the three annual pilgrimage festivals — Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot, the last of which is celebrated this week.

Today, an Arab neighborhood of 20,000 souls thrives five meters above these ancient paving stones. That’s one reason the excavations have drawn criticism from international governments and media, which condemn the City of David National Park, and its funder, the private right-wing Elad organization, for digging in an Arab neighborhood that only became part of modern Israeli Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War.

The City of David Park is a wildly popular tourist site, but also a hot spot where ancient and modern politics meet. Alongside its controversial location, however, it is the excavation’s science — its horizontal excavation methodology — that has some archaeologists up in arms.

To better understand the archaeological controversy, we toured the path and discussed its excavation with dig director Levy and several other unassociated archaeologists.

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