Friday, April 23, 2021

From Ian:

Meir Y. Soloveichik: The Nation of the Dry Bones
In April 1945, the BBC’s Patrick Walker described to the world one of the most remarkable Jewish prayer services in the history of Judaism. It took place on a Friday afternoon, on the eve of the Sabbath in Bergen-Belsen, only days after the concentration camp had been liberated. The worshippers, survivors all, had not participated in a minyan in years. The prayers concluded with words Walker assumed were standard Sabbath liturgy but were actually the words of “Hatikvah,” the anthem of the Zionist movement, and later of the State of Israel. As their voices faded, one of the chaplains leading the service declaimed three Hebrew words, a clarion call that can still be heard on the recording of the broadcast: Am Yisrael chai, the people of Israel liveth!

Walker was witness to what would become the perfect embodiment of the current period of the Jewish calendar, when Israel and world Jewry mark, one week apart, the worst and then the most miraculous moments in Jewish Diaspora history: first Yom Ha’shoah, the commemoration of the Holocaust, and then Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

In order to understand why this is so, we can begin with the Jewish chaplain whose final words defined the service, and whose later recollections and obituaries allow us to see the moment through his eyes. Leslie Hardman, staffed to Britain’s second army, had not been with the troops when the camp was liberated but was told two days later, “Keep a stiff upper lip. We’ve just been into Belsen concentration camp and it’s horrible; but you have got to go there—you’ll find a lot of your people.” He first encountered a Jewish woman whose decrepit appearance was so horrifying that he instinctively backed away, provoking her to cry out in Yiddish, “Farloz mir nit!! Geh nit avek fun mir!” Do not leave me! Do not go away from me!

Hardman walked with her and then saw the others: “Towards me came what seemed to be the remnants of a holocaust—a staggering mass of blackened skin and bones, held together somehow with filthy rags,” he recalled. “‘My God, the dead walk,’ I cried aloud, but I did not recognize my voice.”
Melanie Phillips: The delirium of Jew-hatred
The reason for this indifference is obvious. The murder of Sarah Halimi and the attacks on other French Jews over the past few years tread heavily on some neuralgic left-wing toes.

To acknowledge that people in France are being repeatedly attacked and murdered simply because they are Jews destroys the all-important fiction that attacks on Jews are motivated principally by hostility to Israel.

To recognise the motivation for these French attacks means acknowledging something that the left refuses to say and punishes others for saying: that antisemitism is rooted in Islamic religion and culture.

One further aspect of the court’s ruling has a baleful significance well beyond French society. The court held that cannabis-induced delirium precludes an antisemitic motive because delirium wipes out an individual’s “discernment or control.”

But antisemitism is itself a form of delirium. Those in its grip are innately and inescapably delusional. They believe that the Jews possess diabolical and cosmic powers, that they are a secret conspiracy to control global affairs in their own malign interests, that they are responsible for all the ills in the world.

Does anyone seriously suggest that this is not a form of lunacy? Those in its grip cannot discern the reality of Jewish existence and as a result are sometimes unable to control their aggressive behaviour towards Jews. Antisemites are fundamentally irrational.

And yet, whether dealing with the Iranian regime’s genocidal clerics who declare almost daily their hatred of the Jews or with the Nazi-worshipping Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the west treats such delusional individuals as if they are rational actors. It refuses to acknowledge that antisemitism is itself the infallible marker of a deranged personality.

What the French courts have done is not merely to thwart the delivery of justice for a terrible murder. By stating in effect that antisemitism requires the “discernment and control” negated by delirium, they have also reinforced a far more widespread failure to understand the crucial point about antisemitism and so have also reinforced the resulting failure by the west to stem its terrifying rise.
Halimi Family Lawyers Announce Bid to Extradite Antisemitic Killer of French Jewish Woman for Trial in Israel
Lawyers representing relatives of Sarah Halimi — the French Jewish woman brutally murdered in her Paris apartment by an antisemitic intruder in April 2017 — say they are launching an effort to have her accused murderer extradited to Israel to face trial, following the decision of France’s highest appeal court on April 14 to excuse him from legal proceedings on the alleged grounds that his consumption of marijuana had rendered him temporarily insane.

The decision meant that Halimi’s killer — Kobili Traore, a 31-year-old petty criminal who frequented an Islamist mosque near the Paris housing project where he and Halimi both lived — would never have to face trial in France, causing a furious reaction among French Jews.

Speaking to the newspaper Le Monde on Thursday, Halimi family lawyer Francis Szpiner argued that the legal foundations were in place to try Traore in an Israeli court.

“Israeli criminal law provides that when the victim is Jewish and the crime is of an antisemitic nature, Israeli justice has jurisdiction, regardless of the country where the events took place,” said Szpiner, who represents Esther Lekover, the sister of Sarah Halimi and an Israeli citizen.

Israel’s Penal Law of 1977 contains a provision to extend Israeli criminal justice, under certain circumstances, to offenses committed abroad. This includes antisemitic attacks against “the life, body, health, freedom or property of a Jew, as a Jew, or the property of a Jewish institution, because it is such.”
French Jews Plan Mass Rally in Paris to Demand Justice for Sarah Halimi
The Jewish community in France is planning a mass rally in Paris on Sunday afternoon to demand justice for Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old French Jew who was murdered in her home by a Muslim neighbor in 2017.

France’s high court ruled last week that Halimi’s killer, who shouted “Allahu akbar” and threw her from her apartment window, could not be prosecuted because he had taken marijuana before the assault and was therefore not in control of his actions. The ruling was met with derision from many corners and has led French President Emanuel Macron to call for changes to his country’s laws.

For the Jewish community in France, it was the latest blow in their fight against antisemitism. According to a report released earlier this month by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, 95 percent of Jews in France said antisemitism is a big problem, and that the true numbers of such attacks may not be known because people are hesitant to report them, in part because they don’t believe that police will act effectively.

In addition to the rally in Paris, a simultaneous one will be held in London in front of the French embassy there. Due to coronavirus restrictions in the United Kingdom, all participants must pre-register and attendance will be limited.

Those who can’t attend the rally are being urged to show their support via social media using the hashtags #JusticeForSarahHalimi and #JeSuisSarahHalimi.

Antisemitism and four travesties of justice
The unavoidable meaning of the Norwegian decision: Jews, wherever they might live and whatever they might think, are to be viewed as surrogates for the State of Israel.

Scarcely different from the Wuppertal decision that a synagogue can be regarded as an extension of the State of Israel.

Four examples — Paris, Wuppertal, Saint-Nicolas, and Oslo — where the legal process failed Jews, failed justice, and failed common sense.

Four examples of the inability, or unwillingness, to grasp and confront crystal-clear manifestations of contemporary antisemitism.

Four examples that, when it comes to Jew-hatred, relentless efforts will be made by some to find extenuating circumstances or simply to deny the obvious.

Four examples that the words “Never again,” repeated so often because of the genocide against the Jewish people on European soil from 1933 to 1945, only have meaning if commensurate actions accompany those words.

Otherwise, they’re just hollow rhetoric at best, a cruel deception at worst.
The stats of US anti-Semitism: A new survey has some clear and dismal data
Is anti-Semitism more of a problem on the left or the right?

Should Jews concentrate their energy on combating the far right? Or should they focus on fighting anti-Israel bias on campus? How do questions of race relations in the United States play into anti-Jewish bigotry?

As anti-Semitism has risen in the United States in recent years, these questions have preoccupied and divided Jewish leaders, activists and journalists, along with ordinary American Jews struggling to understand a country that may feel less safe than it once was.

Now survey of American adults , published this week, hopes to answer those questions with data. And the results, according to the two academics who authored it, are clear: Conservatives are more likely to hold anti-Semitic attitudes than liberals, with young conservatives being the most likely to believe stereotypes about Jews.

The survey of more than 3,000 American adults, most of them aged 30 and under, also found that Black and Latino respondents were more likely than white respondents to hold anti-Semitic attitudes. And it found that young people on the far left were more likely to hold Jews responsible for Israel’s actions than those in the center or right.

“While we find evidence consistent with theories of both left-wing and right-wing anti-Semitism, the results convey an unambiguous message that anti-Semitic attitudes are far more prevalent on the right,” the survey said. “In addition, our evidence suggests significantly higher rates of anti-Semitic attitudes among racial minorities relative to whites across the ideological spectrum.”
Jonathan Tobin: J Street is closer to power, but still marginalizes itself
The fact that many American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel isn't so much a matter of left-wing politics as it is demography and an increasingly assimilated population that has little sense of Jewish peoplehood. J Street's approach isn't necessarily attractive to Jews who view even the most left-wing version of Jewish nationalism as alien to their universalist sensibilities. So it comes as little surprise that openly anti-Zionist groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and IfNotNow have been stealing J Street's thunder on the left in recent years. These groups oppose Israel's existence and cross over into actions that are anti-Semitic, such as JVP's "deadly exchange" blood libel that attempts to blame Israel and American Jews for the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. On college campuses across the country, J Street chapters make common cause with these groups.

Indeed, the intellectual journey of writer Peter Beinart, one of the J Street conference's featured speakers this year, illustrates this problem.

Beinart used to claim to be a voice for liberal Zionism like J Street. But his anger at Israelis for ignoring his foolish advice led him last year to renounce support for the Jewish state and embrace anti-Zionism. Yet just like Abbas – an anti-democratic dictator, funder of terrorism, Holocaust denier and guilty of anti-Semitic incitement, as well as someone who has repeatedly rejected a two-state solution – Beinart was welcome at the J Street conference.

The conference also featured the group's support for legislation seeking to restrict aid to Israel to prevent it from "violating the human rights of Palestinian children." The premise of the bill about Israel abusing Palestinian kids is a libel. And it is sponsored by the usual suspects of anti-Israel agitation, including Reps. Betsy McCollum (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), coupled with Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are not only open supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement but also have trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes.

J Street's support for this legislation, as well as its opposition to enforcement of the Taylor Force Act, which would deny funding to the PA so long as it pays salaries and pensions to terrorists, gives the lie to their "pro-Israel" claims and must be understood as part of the group's maneuvers to compete with anti-Zionist groups for support.

Though its supporters may be encouraged by the Biden administration's gestures towards the Palestinians and willingness to re-engage with Iran, both President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have signaled that they have little appetite for reviving peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. As was the case under Obama, J Street will cheer the president, though it's unlikely to have much influence on an administration that may not wish to be sabotaged by Palestinian intransigence the way Obama's was.

While J Street will remain popular with media outlets that are hostile to Israel, it's still irrelevant to Israeli reality and won't make many inroads among those liberal Jews, let alone centrists, who still care about the Jewish state. It will also continue to lose ground to more radical groups that can offer their hostility to Zionism straight up, undiluted by any disingenuous rhetoric about also being "pro-Israel."
Can J Street stoop any lower in backing anti-Israel views? - opinion
At this week’s 2021 virtual J Street national conference, J Street announced its support for a new House bill (introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum and some 20 other Democrats including “the Squad” – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar) specifying various actions Israel may not finance with US taxpayer funding, while also calling for additional oversight of how aid is distributed.

J Street’s endorsement and inclusion of the bill in its advocacy work gives the legislation backing that McCollum’s previous attacks on Israel lacked. Haaretz celebrated this moment, calling it a “victory lap” for J Street, and “a notable moment for drawing criticism of Israeli policy out of the fringes and into mainstream conversation.”

A sign of where J Street may yet stoop in its radical opposition to Israel was the conference session on “creative paths toward a two-state solution” which focused on Israeli-Palestinian “confederation.” You can argue that “confederation” is just a twist on the two-state concept. But I view this as an insidious slide away from support for the sovereign Jewish state of Israel towards the nihilistic one-state “solution” now advocated by Beinart and other post-Zionist propagandists.

The most inflammatory talk at the conference was given by Warren, who reiterated her call to condition US aid to Israel, and then implored Israel’s opposition parties to unite and oust Netanyahu so that the US could facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. (Talk about blatant foreign interference in Israeli politics!)

Warren then repeated the blood libel about supposed Israeli “apartheid” in denying or blocking coronavirus vaccinations to Palestinians. “Jewish settlers in the West Bank are receiving vaccinations, while few Palestinians have any access to life-saving shots,” she fumed.

No J Street leaders reproached Warren for such defamation of Israel. The slander slid smoothly down J Street throats and spread widely across J Street frequencies. It probably would have been met with roaring applause had J Street-yites been physically present in the room with Warren.
UK Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer Pulls Out of Ramadan Event After CEO of Sponsoring Group Revealed as Supporting Israel Boycotts
The leader of the UK Labour party pulled out of a Ramadan event after the controversial anti-Israel views of the CEO of the sponsoring organization emerged in the media.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that Sir Keir Starmer was set to attend a virtual Iftar event marking the meal breaking the Ramadan fast, held by a group called the Ramadan Tent Project.

The Project is a self-described outreach group that, it says, works to bring “communities together to better understand each other.”

But Starmer withdrew from the event after he was informed about previous actions by the Project’s CEO Omar Salha. In one case, Salha had endorsed boycotting Israeli products, tweeting, “This #Ramadan, Don’t Eat into #Palestine.”

The Labour party does not endorse boycotts of Israel, and has been working for several years to repair its relationship with the Jewish community, which collapsed while the party was led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Salha was also found to have supported a Twitter group called Cage, which engaged in support for terrorism, such as praising an ISIS terrorist as a “beautiful young man.”
US Congressman Urges Universities to Cancel Planned Webinar With Terrorist Leila Khaled
US Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has urged the heads of UC Merced and San Francisco State University to cancel a webinar planned for April 23 featuring Leila Khaled — a member of the US-designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – as a speaker.

“I am amazed that UC Merced is joining San Francisco State University’s continued attempts to host the terrorist Leila Khaled for a seminar. I am deeply concerned with the relationship that SFSU has with radicals and even terrorists. This antisemitic terrorist has no place speaking in America. The university officials who continue to give platforms to this hate are participating in this evil. I remain committed to limiting the spread of terrorist propaganda,” Lamborn stated.

According to a letter seen by The Algemeiner sent on Wednesday, and addressed to UC Merced President Michael Drake and Chancellor Juan Sanchez Munoz, Congressman Lamborn said that he finds it “deeply disturbing” that the university agreed to co-host the event calling it a “travesty to any academic inquiry” and deeming it as being “illegal.”

“The First Amendment protects freedom to express ideas. It does not, however, protect providing services and equipment to terrorist organizations,” Lamborn wrote in the letter arguing that UC Merced hosting the event is in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B.

“This is not a matter of silencing views that one finds repugnant; it is a matter of not allowing a criminal terrorist organization to utilize a legitimate university for its own purposes,” he wrote in the letter which was also sent to SFSU President Lynn Mahoney and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, amongst others.

Lamborn explained that his concern was also connected to his role as a Congressman to “potentially provide federal funding for higher education.”

Jewish Lawmaker in Oregon Targeted by ‘Hateful Antisemitic Attack’
An Oregon legislator who has been pushing for stronger gun safety measures was targeted by a neo-Nazi flyer campaign on Wednesday, in what she described as a “hateful antisemitic attack.”

Rep. Rachel Prusak (D), who represents the West Linn district in the Oregon House of Representatives, disclosed that several flyers containing antisemitic stereotypes and Holocaust imagery were posted in Clackamas County. These were used as part of an attack on Prusak’s efforts to pass gun safety legislation.

In a statement condemning the flyers, Prusak commented that the “hate symbols displayed were used to attack my identity while also attacking my commitment to pass gun safety legislation that will save the lives of Oregonians throughout the state.”

She continued: “We know Oregon’s history is steeped in white supremacy and other forms of bigotry and these acts show this history is still relevant and alive in the present. While I was the specific target of these antisemitic attacks, these types of acts affect not just me, but the entire Jewish community in our state. This past year alone, we’ve seen several incidents of Neo-Nazi hate, even within Oregon’s Capitol.”

Among those offering support to Prusak was Oregon’s Attorney-General, Ellen Rosenblum.

“Hate has no place in Oregon. Ever,” Rosenblum tweeted on Wednesday evening. “I am so sorry this happened to you, Rachel Prusak. Thank you for being such a tireless advocate for equity in our state — we all stand behind you!”
Antisemitism at Temple University
On Tuesday, the Stockton University Holocaust and Genocide Studies program, Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, and Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia hosted a webinar on the weaponization of antisemitism.

The event quickly transformed into a forum for the propagation of antisemitic tropes and myths.

In recent years, Jews have faced intensifying hate on college campuses, including physical intimidation and assaults, public shaming, death threats, sexual harassment on social media, and the vandalizing of dorms, fraternities, and Hillels. In response, they have begun lobbying their student governments to adopt the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which recognizes that harassment and discrimination against Zionist Jews can be a form of antisemitism.

However, the two panelists at the Tuesday event — General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, Joyce Ajlouny, and Director of the Bard Center for Study of Hate, Ken Stern — framed these efforts as an attack on Palestinian rights activists.

Ajlouny is also the former director of the Ramallah Friends School; that school’s summer programs introduced American youth to members of the terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Brunel University adopts International Definition of Antisemitism
Brunel University has adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism.

In a statement the University said: “Brunel University London supports initiatives that seek to tackle prejudice and discrimination. It recognises the International Definition as supporting the University’s existing policies on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, reinforcing the message that antisemitism will not be tolerated and will have due regard to the Definition when considering any allegation raised. Council upholds Brunel’s commitment to freedom of speech.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by universities.

Campaign Against Antisemitism has consistently backed efforts by the Government to encourage widespread adoption of the Definition by local authorities, universities and public bodies. The UK was the first country in the world to adopt the International Definition, something for which Campaign Against Antisemitism, Lord Eric Pickles and others worked hard over many meetings with officials at Downing Street.
Fox News Anchor Fails to Challenge Conspiracy Theorist’s Antisemitic Trope
Author and known conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf claimed during an April 19 interview on “Fox News Primetime“ that Dr. Anthony Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, “Doesn’t work for us … He got a million dollars from the State of Israel for a humanitarian gift.”

This classical antisemitic trope — that some Jews somehow control US domestic and foreign policy — went unchallenged by anchor Ben Domenech, who instead ended the segment by saying that Wolf’s criticisms of COVID-19-related restrictions would be “vindicated.”

Wolf may have been booked to appear on the program because of her strong opinions about the US government’s response to the pandemic, but her history of inflammatory remarks about Israel — which in this case crossed the line into antisemitism — should have given Fox News cause to reconsider allowing Wolf to potentially influence the network’s massive audience.

Naomi Wolf: Jerusalem Controls Washington

First, a short selection of some of Wolf’s previous problematic comments about the Jewish state.

In a 2015 interview, she said there is a pro-Israel lobby in Washington that ensures that Jerusalem gets preferred treatment from the US by:
Funding seed money to candidates so by the time people are elected, they really can’t deviate from support of Israel or whatever Israel is up to, or they won’t have money to get re-elected.
NYPD new hate-crime review panel includes Jewish activist
The New York Police Department announced on Monday the establishment of a Hate Crime Review Panel that will be led by a diverse group of community leaders to help officers combat hate-motivated violence.

Five civilian leaders have also joined the panel, including Devorah Halberstam, co-founder and director of external affairs at the Jewish Children's Museum in Brooklyn. Halberstam's 16-year-old son, Ari, was shot and killed in a 1994 anti-Semitic attack on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The other community leaders on the panel are Fred Teng, president of the America China Public Affairs Institute; Pia Raymond, author, professor and social worker; Ed Powell, president of Brooklyn's 70th Precinct Community Council; and David Warren, a member of Manhattan Community Board 4, a board member of the pedestrian safety coalition ChekPeds and an active member of OutCycling, a non-profit LGBTQ cycling network.

The NYPD said in a statement that "collectively, our panelists represent decades of deep knowledge and vital experience. They will assess circumstances that present challenges in establishing whether a victim's actual or perceived race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation were motivating factors in possible hate crime. Their contribution will enhance the department's work and improve service to all New Yorkers."
Holocaust Revisionist Confirmed as New Head of State-Sponsored ‘Genocide Center’ in Lithuania
A revisionist historian whose work on World War II has been harshly criticized by Jewish experts on the Holocaust in Lithuania has been confirmed as head of the country’s state-sponsored Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center (LGGRTC).

Dr. Arūnas Bubnys, currently the head of the LGGRTC’s research department, was approved as its new director by a vote of the Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, on Thursday. A total of 76 parliamentarians voted in favor of Bubnys’ appointment, while 34 voted against.

Bubnys will replace his predecessor, Adas Jakubauskas, who was fired as the center’s director at the beginning of April amid allegations of internal bullying alongside deeper concerns about the center’s academic credibility. One parliamentarian in the Seimas debate that resulted in Jakubauskas being fired remarked that “universities and the Lithuanian Institute of History refuse to cooperate with the center’s current management, because its activities do not meet scientific standards.”

For his part, Bubnys has pledged to restore what he called the center’s “recently damaged prestige,” but outside observers remained skeptical that the LGGRTC will pull back from its mission to recast Lithuania’s wartime anti-Soviet resistance as national heroes — despite the documented participation of the pro-German regime in the extermination of nearly 200,000 Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust.
Germany won’t prosecute ex-concentration camp guard, 95, deported from US
German prosecutors said they had insufficient evidence to prosecute a 95-year-old man who was deported from the United States on suspicion of involvement in Nazi war crimes.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Celle, in northern Germany, dropped all charges last month against Friedrich Karl Berger, who was deported in February, Der Spiegel reported.

A US Immigration judge last year found that Berger had served at a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp system near Hamburg, where Jews and others had been held in “atrocious” conditions, as the court said.

Berger had entered the United States from Canada in 1959 and lived for many years in Tennessee, receiving a pension throughout from Germany for his military service.

He was deported under a 1978 law, known as the Holtzman Amendment, that bars anyone who participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution from entering or living in the United States. An appeals board upheld the decision in November.

Berger admitted to “guarding prisoners in a concentration camp which was not used for the systematic killing of the prisoners,” the prosecutors said in their decision to close the case. This “is not sufficient as such to prove the crime.”
Antisemitism in German sports: 'It's reality'
Noam Petry plays football for Makkabi Frankfurt, the city's Jewish sports club.

Petry says he's been experiencing antisemitism as a Makkabi player since he was 10 years old. Hearing insults such as "you lousy Jew" or "you should've been gassed" has become normality for the now 17-year-old.

"I'd say it happens in about seven or eight games out of the 20 we play in a season," he tells DW.

Referees often take no action. In one case, Petry recalls, a match official even warned his Makkabi teammate that he would send him off for replying to an antisemitic insult by calling his abuser a Nazi.

"You feel helpless and humiliated, sometimes you're even scared for your safety," Petry says. Worrying statistics

Now, a survey of 309 Makkabi Germany athletes reveals Petry's experiences are far from isolated cases.

According to the study, 39% of the Makkabi sportspeople have experienced at least one or more antisemitic incidents, with the number rising to 68% in their football department.

Among the footballers, 78% surveyed said they witnessed at least one or more antisemitic incidents involving another Makkabi sportsperson or club member. 19% said the last time they experienced an antisemitic incident in the past six months.
Dutch museum will pay $240K to owners of Nazi-looted painting it won’t return
A Dutch museum will compensate the rightful owners of a Nazi-looted painting the government said it could keep because displaying it would benefit the public interest.

Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle has agreed to give $240,000 to the descendants of Jewish Holocaust victims who under duress sold the 1635 painting “Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” by Bernardo Strozzi, the Noordhollands Dagblad reported Monday. It has not been assessed, thus its value is unknown.

The painting, which was sold by Richard Semmel of Berlin, is one of several artworks that the Dutch government’s Restitutions Committee has acknowledged as looted art. The committee holds, however, that the museums should be allowed to keep and display the paintings because the public’s right to have access to the culturally significant works outweighs the interests of the rightful owners.

This approach, which is unique among countries that say they are interested in resolving ownership issues among Nazi-looted art, has exposed the Netherlands to international scrutiny and criticism.

It risks “turning the Netherlands from a leader in art restitution to a pariah,” restitution expert Anne Webber and Wesley Fisher, the director of research for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, wrote last year in an op-ed.
Gal Gadot using star power to spotlight women’s stories in new docuseries
Gal Gadot is using her Hollywood starpower to spotlight remarkable women from around the world.

The “Wonder Woman” actor is host and executive producer of a new documentary series that follows six women who made a positive impact on their communities despite dealing with poverty, violence, discrimination and natural disasters.

The 35-year-old says “National Geographic Presents IMPACT with Gal Gadot” grew from her quest to “do something good with my fame and my social media” after the success of 2017′s “Wonder Woman.”

She and her husband Yaron Varsano, who is also an executive producer on the series, watched a short documentary from music video director Ryan Pallotta about a dancer from the favelas in Brazil.

“We completely fell in love with the story, and we decided that we’re going to build a concept around the story,” Gadot said.
Gal Gadot ‘Super Proud’ of Israel’s Handing of COVID-19 Pandemic, She Tells ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’
Israeli actress Gal Gadot expressed her views on Israel’s success in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic during her virtual guest appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Thursday night.

Kimmel said the Jewish state has “done a great job” handing the coronavirus and taking charge of the situation “almost immediately.” He then asked the “Wonder Woman” star and mother-of-two, who is pregnant with her third daughter, “Why do you think they figured it out and it took us so long to figure it out?”

Gadot replied by saying that COVID-19 is “much more manageable” in Israel because the country’s population is only 9 million, which is small in comparison to that of the United States.

“But also I think they’ve done a really good job as far as explaining how good the [coronavirus] vaccination is,” she added. “So people went [to get the vaccine] and felt like they were getting holy water injected into their arms, which is partially true, and now they’ve having the time of their lives. I’m super proud of them and jealous. It was [Israeli] Independence Day last week and they were all partying and sending us videos. It’s like 2019 again, like COVID never happened.”

Not wanting to jinx her home country, she knocked on wood before saying, “I’m happy for them and it’s great. I just want to be with them and have fun with them as well.”

Gadot also talked about being pregnant, cutting off the tip of her finger during the pandemic and her new documentary series “Impact.”
New project seeks to restore lost Jewish surnames from Arab countries
At the end of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire set out to recruit new soldiers to join its army, including thousands of young Jewish men who lived in Baghdad.

Instead of sending their men to join the imperial forces, the Jewish community paid authorities to get them exempt. Prominent leader at the time, Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Ḥutzin, documented the names of everyone who received an exemption.

In the decades to follow, many of those names morphed or disappeared as the Jews living there dispersed across the world. But Hutzin's documents survived and are now stored and are available to the public in The National Library of Israel.

Foreign Ministry diplomat Jacob Rosen-Koenigsbuch has taken it upon himself to read and translate all 3,500 names on the list.

He has dedicated years of his life to researching Middle Eastern Jewish surnames that have been lost over the generations. Rosen-Koenigsbuch has published lists of family names from Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Alexandria. The four lists have been combined into this searchable database.

Rosen-Koenigsbuch, who used to be an Israeli ambassador to Jordan between 2006 and 2009, began researching Jewish surnames common to the 19th-century Middle East after exploring his family history in Poland.

"My parents were Holocaust survivors," he said. "And they didn't speak. My father was completely silent."

He began lecturing on what he learned from researching his heritage, and audience members kept approaching him to find out about their own family history.
Rare ‘fortress synagogue’ in Ukraine to return to Jewish ownership
A municipality in Ukraine pledged to return to Jewish ownership what’s left of a 17th-century synagogue that the Nazis partially destroyed and the Soviets turned into a sports school.

The building that contains parts of the former Great Synagogue of Lutsk will be gifted to the Jewish Community of Lutsk, a nonprofit that represents Jews there, a city official told the news site Suspilne last week.

The former synagogue is in poor condition, requiring millions of dollars to be renovated. Hanna Matusowska, a local Jewish community leader, said the community will raise funds to renovate the building and reopen it as a synagogue that also functions as a museum.

Robust and reminiscent of a medieval castle, the synagogue is one of a few Jewish houses of worship built to also serve as a fortress, according to the London-based Foundation for Jewish Heritage.

In 1942, German occupation forces destroyed parts of the synagogue, which was built in 1626.

The Soviets rebuilt the building to serve as a sports facility. Since 1981, it has housed the Dynamo sports school, where some 177 students are taught, Suspilne reported. An alternative facility will be made available to them, according to the Lutsk official, Pavlo Rudetsky.
Doing what no human eye can, AI reveals secrets of Dead Sea Scroll’s creation
New research has revealed tantalizing evidence in the mystery of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, identifying that two scribes were apparently behind one of the most famous of the manuscripts, and not just a single workman as had been largely assumed.

Harnessing the keen attention to detail of computer-assisted pattern recognition boosted by artificial intelligence, biblical and computer researchers from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands analyzed the Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the first of a trove of ancient scrolls discovered in the caves in the Qumran region near the Dead Sea in 1947.

The study focused on examining minute differences in the way letters were written. It uncovered evidence that there are two distinct halves to the scroll, with the break at columns 27-29, written by two scribes who were apparently trying to match their styles.

That there were two scribes “sheds new light on the production of biblical manuscripts in ancient Judea,” the authors of the study wrote.

The results of the study by Mladen Popovic, a professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism, Lambert Schomaker, professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, and PhD candidate in Artificial Intelligence Maruf Dhali, all from Groningen, was published Wednesday in the PLOS ONE archaeological journal.

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