Tuesday, March 23, 2021

From Ian:

How The Equality Act Would Legalize Religious Bigotry
The Founding Fathers recognized freedom of expression and religious liberty as core elements of diversity and tolerance. Now, nearly 250 years later, Congress is acting to stamp them out, ushering in a new era of government-sanctioned anti-religious bigotry.

While no one could argue this is motivated by anti-Jewish bias in particular, the disproportionate repression of Jewish religious practice — by a law unironically billed as an “Equality Act,” no less — is far too significant to ignore.

On Jan. 1, 2020, almost three months before COVID-19 limits on gatherings, more than 100,000 observant American Jews filled MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and other locations across the country for a unique gala honoring religious education. Called simply “The Siyum,” meaning “the completion,” it honored the tens of thousands of religiously motivated men — and significant number of women — who completed a seven-and-a-half-year cycle studying the Oral Torah.

The Siyum celebrates not only education, but Jewish resilience in the face of persecution. The 2,711-day cycle was first set in motion in Poland in 1923, where the first Siyum ensued in 1931. In 1945, the main venues of the third Siyum were in Israel, but, incredibly, one was also held by Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Since 1990, the largest celebrations have taken place in the United States, each exponentially larger than the one before it.

But now the Land of Liberty might never allow another. With the Equality Act, Congress is waging a legislative effort to prohibit the next Siyum, scheduled to take place in June 2027, and other such “discriminatory” violations of human rights. Under the Act, observant Jews will no longer be legally permitted to gather to celebrate religious education, or any other occasion, in accordance with their beliefs.

The reason is simple: not only prayer services, but family lifecycle events of all kinds — from circumcisions to bar mitzvahs to weddings to funerals — are commonly divided by biological sex in traditional Orthodox Judaism. This is true whether or not ceremonies are held in synagogues.

Whether in restaurants, catering halls, funeral homes, or elsewhere, all of these gatherings are often observed in what the law describes as “public accommodations.” Every major Siyum event over the past century has observed this same strict separation of the sexes. The Equality Act would ban them all.
For Election Day: The famous 1961 debate over the claim that the 'Jews are a fossil race'
Recently, Melanie Phillips wrote in an article posted on Arutz 7 "...The controversy started with a tweet by the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, congratulating the new head of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar, on his appointment. Rayner described Sarwar, who is of Pakistani descent, as “the first-ever ethnic minority leader of a political party anywhere in the U.K.”

Sarwar is certainly the first Muslim or Asian leader of a political party. But there have been four Jewish party leaders in the United Kingdom—from Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th century to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in the last decade.

...This erupted on the BBC’s daily show, “Politics Live,” which chose to respond to protests from British Jews over Rayner’s remark by hosting a discussion with a title card: “Should Jews count as an ethnic minority?”

To many Jews, even to ask this question was demonstrably absurd. How could they not be counted as such? And why were non-Jews suddenly presuming to tell Jews what they were or were not?

Back to the 1961 debate
The claims that Jews are not an ethnic minority are not new, I would like to describe a debate that happened in 1961 at Montreal's McGill University and became world famous - what we today would call viral - with recordings still existing. It was between the famous historian Dr. Arnold Toynbee, professor at the London School of Economics, and Israeli Ambassador to Canada Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Herzog. Herzog's brother, Chaim Herzog, would later become the sixth president of Israel. He was also the son of the second Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Herzog.

The debate probed among other topics whether Jews today are a vibrant continuation of a people rooted in antiquity. Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau describes the debate in which Toynbee described the Jews as a fossil race.

"Dr. Toynbee insisted that Israel is not truly a nation, and does not deserve a state. The Jews, he claimed, are a religious sect with a mission to guide mankind in monotheism, morals and ethics in the Diaspora, but are not a nation. Permit me to use an imaginary voyage to develop a point made by Dr. Herzog."
Swastikas in Damascus
A new death notice appeared in a Lebanese village north of Beirut last September, glued to a public wall. As residents of the village went about their days, some of them probably stopped, out of habit, to read the name of the man who had recently died. It would have been a scene repeated every day in Syrian and Lebanese villages: Those who didn’t know the deceased proceeded to peruse the names of his surviving family members to find out whether condolences were in order.

There was more to this particular death notice, however, than the news of the death itself. People took pictures of it and posted it to social media, where it immediately went viral. Incredulous, people read the name of the deceased man, written in big, bold font in the center of the poster: Hitler Zakhia Bassil.

Not much was shared about Mr. Bassil himself. But the names of his sons, Adolf and Addie, hinted at something of a family tradition. I was aghast when a photo of the poster reached me via WhatsApp, from a friend looking for a laugh.

I spent my life between Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut before moving to Paris a year ago. I’ve encountered countless such anecdotes, which seem to be the haphazard leftovers of some combination of enduring government propaganda and a lack of actual World War II and Holocaust education.

Despite the rejection of the ideology by the vast majority of the population in Syria and Lebanon, symbols associated with Nazism were there, out in the open, and having a swastika tattoo or waving a Nazi flag did not land a person in jail or lead to a financial penalty. The first time I remember seeing a swastika was at the all-boys Presbyterian school I attended for 12 years in Aleppo. Al-Saleeb al-Ma’qouf, the Hooked Cross, was one of many symbols that boys would mindlessly carve into their desks, scribble on the walls of the bathroom, or sketch in textbooks. Most of them, I would learn, didn’t even know what the symbol meant. Those who did, didn’t know much.

School management didn’t rush to remove those symbols, or try to ban them, more than they did any other symbol or writing on the wall.

Arabic for Beginners the Most Popular Course at Tel Aviv University
Arabic for Beginners has been offered by the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Tel Aviv University for many years, with several dozen students interested in the Arabic language and Islamic culture enrolling each year.

But after an online version of the course had been developed last year, University President Prof. Ariel Porat decided to open it up, free of charge, to every employee and student at the University. His decision reflected a conviction that every citizen in Israel should have a basic command of the Arabic language. It also recognizes the special status of Arabic on campus.

According to Prof. Uriya Shavit, Head of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the initiator of the course, from the moment the registration opened up (and to everyone’s surprise), 907 people enrolled within two and a half hours, and hundreds more asked to enter the waiting lists. 20% of enrollees are members of the Administrative Staff, 20% are members of the Academic Faculty, and 60% are students.

The breakdown of enrollees indicates that they belong to all disciplines on campus, including Chemistry, Medicine, Theater, Computer Science, Literature, Biology, etc. Due to the huge demand, both University Management and the Humanities Faculty Management decided to expand the project and open up additional groups.
The National Council of Jewish Women's Apologists for Anti-Semites
In 2017, Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NJCW), signed on to a letter defending Linda Sarsour against charges of antisemitism, that blared, “We will not stand by as Sarsour is falsely maligned, harassed and smeared”.

The Sarsour letter was organized by the Soros group, Bend the Arc, and the other signatories came from a range of anti-Israel hate groups, including J Street, If Not Now, and, T’ruah.

Those are some of the same anti-Israel hate groups with which NCJW joined in the so-called Hatikvah slate endorsed by Peter Beinart who has backed BDS and wrote a New York Timeseditorial declaring, “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State”.

Now Sheila Katz, the current CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, popped up to defend Kristen Clarke against charges of antisemitism. Clarke, Biden’s racist pick to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, has an ugly history of hate dating back to the time when she took part in an event with Tony Martin: the author of The Jewish Onslaught.

The Black Students Association headed by Clarke had invited Martin despite an antisemitic history which began when he was promoting The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and ]ews: the Nation of Islam's version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In The Jewish Onslaught, Martin wrote that, "Minister Farrakhan is one of African America's most popular and respected leaders" and that "he has been the butt of every vile epithet that the Jewish spokespeople could conjure up." Martin ranted about the "continuing Jewish onslaught against the entire Black nation", the "last three decades of Jewish assaults on Black progress", and reprinted a letter which claimed that the "Jews passing themselves off as descendants of the biblical Hebrews as one of the biggest frauds in history."

Beyond the antisemitism, Martin followed the black supremacist line, talking up Marcus Garvey, an admirer of Hitler, and denouncing the NAACP as "assimilationists".

PreOccupiedTerritory: Houthis Continue Atrocities, Knowing Western Progressives Will Still Stan Them (satire)
A group of Iran-backed rebels in this impoverished country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula announced today that they will maintain their policy of torturing, executing, oppressing, and otherwise harming anyone and everyone, especially civilians, secure in the knowledge that Leftists in the West will, as they have for some time, ignore, minimize, or even defend those actions and thus make any effective international measures to counter or prevent them unlikely.

Houthi leaders voiced confidence this week that leading influential progressive voices in Europe and the US will continue to argue against redesignation of their group as a terrorist entity, following the Biden administration’s removal of the Houthis from the list of designated terrorist organizations last month, because those voices are more interested in appeasing the Iranian regime than in the human rights they purport to promote, and despite Houthi use of child soldiers and perpetration of atrocities.

“The reasons these ‘progressives’ cite, or are ashamed to cite, vary,” acknowledged Houthi spokesman Mustafa Massikr. “Mostly, their arguments amount to it being none of the West’s business and it’s probably the West’s fault to begin with, as if we brown people have no morality and no volition of our own, which is hella racist, but we don’t care, because that allows us to further our political, ideological, and territorial ambitions. Some of them also admit an economic motive behind the stanning, that they want good trade relations with Iran.”
NY Times Defends Holocaust-Inversion
The historian Deborah Lipstadt described Holocaust inversion — the act of described Jews in Israel as the new Nazis — as a form of "soft-core denial." This style of Holocaust denial is part of an equation that, when looked at from one direction, amounts to hateful anti-Israelism, and from the other, as no less than historical revisionism about the Nazis. In Lipstadt's words, Holocaust inversion is "a false comparison which elevates by a factor of a zillion any wrongdoings Israel might have done, and lessens by a factor of a zillion what the Germans did."

It seems that Mike Isaac, a tech writer for the the New York Times, would prefer his readers think of the phenomenon as innocent commentary—certainly not something that a social-media site should regard as hateful speech.

Isaac's March 19 piece in the paper's Technology section speaks of how Facebook's algorithms, and even its human moderators, sometimes fail to recognize satire and so wrongly flag as hate-speech political cartoons that are in fact meant to mock and highlight hate-speech. Or as the story's headline and subhead put it, "For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn’t Recognize Irony; As Facebook has become more active at moderating political speech, it has had trouble dealing with satire."

As an example, the piece points to a cartoon mocking violent inclinations of the far-right "Proud Boys," which Facebook removed from its site because it wrongly interpreted the cartoon as "advocating violence.”

Later in the piece, the author turned to what he cast as another example of Facebook screwing things up:
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2019 that he would bar two congresswomen — critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — from visiting the country, Mr. Hall drew a cartoon showing a sign affixed to barbed wire that read, in German, “Jews are not welcome here.” He added a line of text addressing Mr. Netanyahu: “Hey Bibi, did you forget something?”

Mr. Hall said his intent was to draw an analogy between how Mr. Netanyahu was treating the U.S. representatives and Nazi Germany. Facebook took the cartoon down shortly after it was posted, saying it violated its standards on hate speech.

Here's the cartoon in question:

‘A total JAP’: NJ newspaper sorry for using anti-Semitic epithet
A New Jersey newspaper left a photo caption with the term “JAP,” a pejorative for “Jewish American princess,” on its website for over 14 hours.

The caption in the Gannett-owned Asbury Park Press, which went with a photo of a female Orthodox nurse, read: “A f***ing hot nurse, a total JAP, loads a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.” It went with a story about vaccine discrepancies for people of color on the Jersey shore.

Executive Editor Paul D’Ambrosio apologized on Monday, noting that the photo was taken in Lakewood, a large town in central New Jersey with a large Haredi Orthodox population.

“As executive editor of the Asbury Park Press, I apologize deeply to women, the Lakewood Jewish community, the Asian American community and all our readers,” D’Ambrosio said. The slang word “Jap,” when not capitalized, can be used as a slur against Japanese people as well.

Along with a string of other prominent local lawmakers, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sharply condemned the caption.

“It’s unfathomable that someone could have written that, even privately, never mind that it was published,” Murphy said in Monday’s press conference about coronavirus updates.

The “JAP” term originated in the middle part of the 20th century and has been used to slur Jewish women as overly materialistic.
Extremist groups thrive on Facebook despite bans, report finds
A new outside report found that Facebook has allowed groups — many tied to QAnon, boogaloo and militia movements — to glorify violence during the 2020 election and in the weeks leading up to the deadly riots on the US Capitol in January.

Avaaz, a nonprofit advocacy group that says it seeks to protect democracies from misinformation, identified 267 pages and groups on Facebook that it says spread violence-glorifying material in the heat of the 2020 election to a combined following of 32 million users.

More than two-thirds of the groups and pages had names that aligned with several domestic extremist movements, the report found. The first, boogaloo, promotes a second US civil war and the breakdown of modern society. The second is the QAnon conspiracy, which claims that Donald Trump is waging a secret battle against the “deep state” and a sect of powerful Satan-worshipping pedophiles who dominate Hollywood, big business, the media and government. The rest are various anti-government militias. All have been largely banned from Facebook since 2020.

But despite what Avaaz called “clear violations” of Facebook’s policies, it found that 119 of these pages and groups were still active on the platform as of March 18 and had just under 27 million followers.

Facebook acknowledged that its policy enforcement “isn’t perfect,” but said the report distorts its work against violent extremism and misinformation.

The company said in a statement that it has done more than any other internet company to stanch the flow of harmful material, citing its bans of “nearly 900 militarized social movements” and the removal of tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups, and accounts. It added that it is always improving its efforts against misinformation.
British Anti-Racism Group Issues Report Detailing Spread of Antisemitic COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories
A new report by a leading British anti-racism organization showed a troubling rise in antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, which have blamed Jews for causing, spreading, falsifying, or benefiting from the disease, and have compared measures to contain it to the Holocaust.

The group Hope Not Hate issued its “State of Hate 2021” report on Monday, giving a broad overview of racism and bigotry in the UK and beyond in the shadow of the coronavirus.

Among its findings, the report notes the enormous spread of conspiracy theories surrounding the pandemic, especially among far-right groups. Advocates of these conspiracy theories, said the report, are often openly antisemitic, providing a gateway for others into antisemitic ideology.

Noting that antisemites have often blamed Jews for various disasters such as plagues and economic crises, the report found that several prominent coronavirus and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and far-right figures have engaged in pandemic-related antisemitism.

These include the eccentric David Icke, a bestselling author and speaker who claims that blood-drinking Jewish reptilian humanoids secretly control the world. Icke has claimed that Israel is exploiting the pandemic to “test its technology.”

Icke was recently banned from Facebook and Twitter over his conspiracy theories, and has previously recommended the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to his followers, claimed that “Rothschild Zionists” were leaders of the reptilian conspiracy, blamed Jews for the 9/11 attacks, and endorsed Holocaust denial.

Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been a prominent anti-lockdown and coronavirus conspiracy theorist as well. He was arrested in Feb. 2021 for distributing literature comparing COVID-19 vaccines to Auschwitz, and has also attended events with Holocaust deniers.
Brazilian Jews file complaint over politician who said Jews sacrifice children
Jewish groups have filed a criminal complaint against the head of a major Brazilian party for putting the age-old anti-Semitic blood libel trope in a social media post.

“Baal, Satanic deity, Canaanites and Jews sacrificed children to receive their sympathy. Today, history repeats itself,” Roberto Jefferson posted on Instagram on Friday.

Jefferson, a fervently Christian politician, has led the Labor Party, or PTB as it is known in Brazil, since 2003. Once a left-leaning worker’s party, PTB is now a strong supporter of right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro. It holds 12 seats out of 513 in Brazil’s lower parliamentary Chamber of Deputies.

The Brazilian Israelite Confederation called Jefferson’s post “one of the vilest ways” to attack Jews.

“This features crime of racism with an increased penalty for having been committed through a social network,” the Confederation wrote in a statement on Saturday. “Screenshots and comments of followers, which can also be characterized as a crime, have been preserved for criminal investigation.”

Instagram has removed Jefferson’s post. On Twitter, he called the Jewish organization’s note “clowning.”

“There are some assholes who make a point of generating tensions. The confederation’s leadership wants sensationalism. Morons,” Jefferson said.

The Curitiba Holocaust Museum dedicated several educational tweets to the case.

“The charge of ritual crime against Jews came during the medieval period. Known as a blood libel, it is one of the most terrible expressions of cruelty and blind faith in the entire history of mankind. The myth was used as a motivation for the murder of thousands of Jews,” the museum tweeted Saturday.
Man arrested following ‘disgusting attack’ on pregnant woman in Stamford Hill
A man has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm after a pregnant woman was attacked in Stamford Hill last week.

The suspect, in his late 50s, was tracked down in Haringey on Monday and is now in custody at an east London police station.

The 20-year-old victim told police she was approached from behind by the suspect, who threw a pillow case over her head before launching an assault on her.

The woman was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville has condemned the attack as “utterly deplorable”.

Police say they do not believe it is linked to any other offences but are still trying to establish a motive.

The attack occurred at around 6.30pm on Thursday 18 March on Manor Road, and anyone who can help with the investigation is asked to call 101, quoting the reference ‘Cad 6517/18Mar’.

Footage of the incident was posted on social media by voluntary neighbourhood patrol group the Shomrim, but it has since been taken down.
Vicious assault on pregnant woman was antisemitic attack, says brother
The brother of a pregnant Jewish woman who was the victim of an vicious assault in Stamford Hill has told the JC that he believes the assault was antisemitic.

Solomo Reis, 18, said last night: “It was because she was Jewish. She was wearing a Jewish headscarf at the time.

“She felt someone was following her. Then he put a bag of some kind over her face and punched her a few times.

“She lives with her husband, and was visiting her father when it happened.”

Mr Reis confirmed that his sister did not know her attacker, suggesting that she had been targeted because of her Orthodox clothing.

She had travelled by bus from her home in Tottenham to Stamford Hill to visit her father on the day of the attack, he said.

He confirmed the baby had been unharmed and the mother-to-be, who received hospital treatment for minor injuries, had made a full recovery. She is now in Israel on what is believed to be a planned trip.

It comes as a 55-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm at an address in Haringey in connection with the attack.

The victim, who was 27-weeks pregnant, was visiting her father, a local teacher, at the Latitude Apartment development on Manor Road at 6:30pm on Thursday, the JC understands.

She had been shadowed for almost 20 minutes as she walked through the streets. Footage captured on security cameras showed the attacker lurking in the area of Amhurst Park with a trolley before starting to follow the woman after she stepped off the bus.
Comedian apologises after making ‘offensive’ Valentine’s poem joke about a Jew
A comedian has apologised for making a “highly offensive” joke about a Jewish person during an online comedy event on Sunday.

Lovdev Barpaga said after participating in Sunday’s UK Pun Off Show that he was “genuinely remorseful” for the joke.

The JC could not obtain clips of the moment the joke was told, but local outlet BirminghamLive reported Mr Barpaga had made a “shocking comment about a Jew” while riffing on the ubiquitous Valentine’s day poem, “Roses are red.”

Organisers said on Facebook that they were “really sorry for the highly offensive line in tonight's episode” and extended their “heartfelt apologies.”

The comedian tweeted: “Last night I did a highly offensive, inappropriate line on the UK Pun Off show, without even thinking about what I said on air. Looking back at it now I'm an absolute idiot, those who know me, know that I'm nothing like that in person.

“It was a cheap line that didn't deserve anything or to be said on air. I apologise for the upset this whole matter has caused and I'm genuinely remorseful. I'm deeply and truly sorry to everyone who was offended by it.”
Israel, Bahrain enter their first medical cooperation initiative
Israel and Bahrain will be entering their first medical cooperation initiative, Sheba Medical Center and Salmaniya Medical Complex announced on Monday.

After a formal meeting was held Monday between Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, Director-General of Sheba Medical Center, and Dr. Ahmed Al Ansari, Director of Salmaniya Medical Complex, the representatives agreed to a series of exchange programs and collaborations in the fields of medical training, innovation and research.

To facilitate and formally sign the agreement, Dr. Absari will be visiting Israel and Sheba in the near future.

Sheba Medical Center was chosen by Bahrain's Supreme Health Council to lead cooperation between Israel and the Gulf state. Its counterpart Salmaniya are the largest medical centers in their respective countries.

The agreement, brought about by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and its Chargé d'Affairs in Bahrain, Itai Tagner, comes in the wake of the ground-breaking Abraham Accords signed between Israel and Bahrain.
Google to set up chip team in Israel led by former Intel exec
US tech giant Google on Monday said it was “doubling down” on designing and building custom chips as a way to boost the performance of its computing systems, and has appointed a former Intel official to lead a team based in Israel.

The company said it has hired Uri Frank as Google’s new VP of engineering for server chip design to lead the team. Frank, an Israeli, left Intel earlier this year, and brings to the effort nearly 25 years of custom CPU design and delivery, Google said.

Frank “will help us build a world-class team in Israel,” Amin Vahdat, a Google Fellow and vice president of Systems Infrastructure, wrote in a blog post.

“We’ve long looked to Israel for novel technologies including Waze, Call Screen, flood forecasting, high-impact features in Search, and Velostrata’s cloud migration tools, and we look forward to growing our presence in this global innovation hub,” Vahdat wrote, citing acquisitions made in Israel and technologies developed locally.

The hire is part of Google’s effort “to meet computing demands from around the world,” and computing at Google is at an “important inflection point,” he wrote. Whereas once the motherboard was the system in use to integrate computer processing units (CPUs), networking, storage devices and memory from different vendors, this is no longer sufficient, as higher performance and less power usage is needed.
ESPN Host/Basketball Star Rosalyn Gold-Onwude Describes Israel’s Impact on Her Career
When Rosalyn Gold-Onwude was a college student at Stanford University, she participated on Birthright Israel. Several years later, she went on her second trip—this time, as a staff member on her younger sister’s Birthright experience. While participating in the program is not so unusual—more than 600,000 Jewish young people have gone on the free, 10-day trips since the program’s founding in 1999—Gold-Onwude’s story is a bit different. She is the only Birthright participant to play on the Nigerian women’s national basketball team and to be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Northern California.

Gold-Onwude, 33, is perhaps best known for her current work as an NBA broadcaster for ESPN; she has also hosted “FirstTake” on ESPN. Her impeccable media credentials include NBA and college basketball coverage. Since 2012, she has covered March Madness, the NCAA tournament and Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s college basketball as both an analyst and reporter. She has also worked with the Golden State Warriors, WNBA’s New York Liberty and NBA TV.

The 5-foot-10 former point guard and shooting guard for the Stanford Cardinals from 2005 to 2010 managed to reach the Final Four three times. As a senior, she was Pac-12 “Defensive Player of the Year.”

“My mother [Pat Gold] is Russian Jewish from Queens, NY,” she described; her mother’s grandmother came from Riga, Latvia, escaping the Nazis. “My father [Austin Onwude] was born in Nigeria and lives in Nigeria. His side was the more dominant side!”

While she was at Stanford, several of her cousins had celebrated b’nai mitzvahs and visited Israel. She began considering a trip there as well to learn more about her Jewish heritage. “A friend in college who is also half-Jewish said, ‘I’m going to apply [to Birthright]. You should, too.’ We both got in.”
Historian turns obsessive 78s collector to preserve North African Jewish music
The package from Estonia arrived the other day. More precious items, from Malta and Tel Aviv, are still in transit. As he waits for them in his apartment in Montreal, Chris Silver is stalking certain sellers on eBay or plotting a return to his favorite Parisian flea markets and Casablanca emporiums.

In this way, Silver has amassed a collection of rare phonograph records from the era of Jewish musical stardom in North Africa, a period roughly corresponding with the first half of the twentieth century.

A professor at McGill University, Silver now possesses about 500 albums recorded by Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian Jewish vocalists and instrumentalists. It’s the first archive of its kind.

But Silver estimates that the genre encompasses thousands of more titles — which are all in peril. That’s because the standard medium for the period was not vinyl, but shellac, a brittle material. Drop a shellac disc on the floor and it will break into pieces.

“Whenever I find one, no matter its condition, I always think it is a miracle because just by the nature of the material, it wasn’t supposed to survive,” Silver said.

The records in his collection represent a bygone musical world but they are vestiges of the great Jewish communities that were once ubiquitous across the Maghreb, an Arab name for Northwest Africa. The hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in the region emigrated in the aftermath of Israel’s founding and as France dismantled its colonial regimes.
Albert Einstein letter from 1939 on Jewish refugees goes on auction block
A letter written by Albert Einstein months before the outbreak of World War II has been put up for auction, the auction house selling the note announced Monday.

The letter, dated June 10, 1939, was written on Eisenstein’s personal letterhead from Princeton, where the physicist became a scholar after the Nazis rose to power in Germany

It was addressed to William Morris, a fellow Jewish-German immigrant to the United States who owned the eponymous Hollywood talent agency, praising him for his “splendid work” assisting refugees.

“The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years has been based to a large extent on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test. May we stand this test as well as did our fathers before us,” Einstein wrote.

He added: “We have no other means of self-defense than our solidarity and our knowledge that the cause for which we are suffering is a momentous and sacred cause.”

Einstein also hailed Morris for “making so important a contribution toward rescuing our persecuted fellow-Jews from their calamitous peril and leading them toward a better future,” before signing off.

Nate D. Sanders Auctions said bidding for the letter, which opened at $10,000, will end Thursday.


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