Monday, September 19, 2022

From Ian:

Meir Y. Soloveichik: The Bones of the Blood Libel
This reminds us of a dialectic in the story of England and the Jews. One aspect was documented by the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb in her book The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, from Cromwell to Churchill. As she illustrated, a remarkable admiration for Jews made itself manifest at various moments in the country’s history- from Oliver Cromwell’s charitable treatment of Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, to the Christian proto-Zionism of the Earl of Shaftesbury, to the success of novels such as Tancred, Ivanhoe, and Daniel Deronda. But from England also emerged the blood libel as well as one of the most perniciously influential images in literature, the character of Shylock, which then lived on in Fagin and other figures in English literature.

The libels born with the death of William of Norwich, and propagated by The Merchant of Venice, survive to this day around the world, and the confirmation of the Jewishness of the bones of Norwich should inspire us to ponder the haunting lessons they offer. One of the scientists involved in the genetic analysis of the skeletons reflected that “Ralph de Diceto’s account of the 1190 a.d. attacks is evocative, but a deep well containing the bodies of Jewish men, women, and especially children forces us to confront the real horror of what happened.” This is admirable, and true, but it does not capture the true horror of what originated in Norwich. The readiness of all today to denounce the massacres of medieval Jewish communities often highlights how, as the writer Dara Horn put it, “people love dead Jews.” The blood libel is not a thing of the past. It is ongoing. The world is all too prepared to bemoan the injustice against Jews in the past and yet all too ready to overlook those who purvey blood libels today.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the successful career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Seth Mandel has noted in these pages, the congresswoman has taken rhetorical dishonesty about Israel to entirely new level, linking—like the libelists of old—purported Jewish activity to grievances around the world. Commenting on the situation at the Mexican-American border, she accused, without offering any evidence, Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages. During one debate, standing on the floor of the House next to an image of a dead Palestinian child, she linked Israel’s airstrikes to the Naval base in Vieques, Puerto Rico. “When I saw those [Israeli] airstrikes that are supported with U.S. funds,” she said, “I could not help but wonder if our communities were practice for this.” As Mandel put it, Ocasio-Cortez’s career reminds us that “There are blood libels and then there are blood libels on steroids. Her presence in Congress is an embarrassment and her incitement goes almost totally unremarked on.” The sad fact is that from Thomas of Monmouth to today, purveyors of libels against the Jews have all too often enhanced their own celebrity.

The bones of murdered Jews may have been exhumed from the soil of the site where the blood libel was born, but what has yet to be exhumed from the present is the blood libel itself. And it is only if we do all we can to identify, and call out, the liars and the libelists that we can honestly hope that the murdered Jews of Norwich will rest in peace.
Can Countries with Grave Human-Rights Records Help Fight Anti-Semitism?
For several decades, Deborah Lipstadt has been known as one of the most prominent and prolific writers on the dark history of anti-Semitism. In 2000, she won a judgment after being sued in a British court by the Holocaust denier David Irving, a case which was later made into a film starring Rachel Weisz. Since then, Lipstadt has published a book on the Eichmann trial and an investigation into anti-Semitism, among others. She is a professor of Jewish history at Emory, but is currently on leave because she was tapped by President Biden as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. In her new role, she has been travelling around the Middle East—she recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.

Lipstadt and I spoke several years ago; we talked again by phone last week. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the compromises involved in transitioning from scholar to diplomat, how Israel’s relationship with its neighbors impacts her job, and whether the Saudi government is interested in improving its human-rights record.

What made you want to take this job?

Initially, I wasn’t really interested, even though there were a lot of people who were pressing me to put my name in the hopper, including people from the Administration. Then someone said to me, “You can make a difference.” At this stage of my career, I feel I’ve accomplished a lot. I feel very lucky and blessed in what I’ve been able to do, but the chance to make a difference was something that really intrigued me.

At first, I thought of the job as mainly putting out fires: there’s a tragedy in Paris, there’s a tragedy wherever, and you have to make it clear to the government that America takes this very seriously. Then I thought about the Abraham Accords—here was a chance possibly to do something positive to change the nature of Muslim-Jewish relations, certainly as they’ve emanated from the Gulf. That intrigued me a lot.

You mentioned the Abraham Accords, signed during the Trump Administration, which sought to normalize relations between neighboring Arab states and Israel. I’m curious to what degree you view the fight against anti-Semitism and the fight for the recognition of Israel as part of the same battle.

They’re related. You can’t completely bifurcate them. That would be wrong. I think to make one dependent on the other is also wrong. When I was in Saudi Arabia, someone said to me, “Oh, if Israel would just solve the Israel-Palestine issue, there’d be no anti-Semitism.” I said that there was a millennia of anti-Semitic behavior and attitudes before there ever was a state of Israel or a Palestine issue. What I found in Saudi Arabia—particularly among younger people that I met, and I met quite a few under forty—is a willingness to separate the very crucial, important, significant geopolitical issue of Israel and Palestine from attitudes toward Jews. If you go back and you think about it, in the seventies, eighties, nineties, even a little bit into the aughts, Saudi Arabia, among other Gulf countries, was one of the leading countries in dispersing anti-Semitic material. I’m not suggesting that the Saudis sent imams out and said, “Go preach anti-Semitism in Europe or the United States or wherever,” but that’s what imams did. The Saudis were funding the dissemination of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

That’s changing, and I wanted to encourage that kind of change. I will talk to anyone who is serious about addressing the issue of anti-Semitism, which is one of the reasons why I chose to make Saudi Arabia the first stop on my travels. If it can lessen anti-Semitism, that’s a good thing all around. It’s certainly good for Jews who might be impacted by it, but it’s also good in terms of easing tensions. If you can get a government or an entity to stop othering one group of people, it’s possible that that will spill over to other groups or segments of the society.
A powerful new account of how Washington abandoned Hitler’s victims
On Jan. 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of Germany. Over the next 100 days, American newspapers published more than 3,000 stories about the eruption of antisemitic attacks whipped up by the new regime.

“Bands of Nazis throughout Germany carried out wholesale raids calculated to intimidate the opposition, particularly the Jews,” reported Edmond Taylor of the Chicago Tribune. “Men and women were insulted, slapped, punched in the face, hit over the head with blackjacks, dragged from their homes in night clothes. Never have I seen law-abiding citizens living in such terror.”

Taylor’s story is quoted early in “The US and the Holocaust,” a six-hour documentary by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein that premieres tonight on PBS and will air in three parts this week. The story is cited to make the point that for Americans who cared to know what was happening to the Jews under the new German government, the information was readily available. News accounts like Taylor’s fueled widespread protests. On March 27, more than 20,000 New Yorkers packed Madison Square Garden, with 35,000 more outside, to condemn the Nazis’ wave of terror. Similar rallies were held in scores of cities across the country.

Pressure to suppress both the news coverage and the protests was not long in coming. Some of that pressure came from Germany, where Nazi officials denied that they were targeting Jews and claimed that the negative stories were “Jewish lies.” But efforts to downplay the truth, the new documentary makes clear, also came from the US government.

“The American embassy in Berlin cabled Secretary of State Cordell Hull that it was the Nazis who were lying and that the Jewish situation was rapidly taking a turn for the worse,” the film’s narrator says. “But Hull insisted that the mistreatment was coming to an end and that things would revert to normal — if the protests in America would stop.”

There are a number of interlocking themes in “The US and the Holocaust.” Among them: the entrenched antisemitism of prewar America, the stiff anti-immigration laws that excluded most refugees from the United States, and the way Jim Crow segregation in the American South provided a model for the Nazis’ infamous Nuremberg laws stripping German Jews of their rights. In his trademark fashion, Burns interweaves gripping human stories, some recounted by survivors who managed to avoid the fate that befell 6 million of Europe’s Jews, and others told about those who struggled in vain for permission to enter America but ended up as corpses in the Nazi ghettos, execution pits, and death camps.

Through it all, the US government, with some rare and heroic exceptions, not only refused to help Europe’s Jews escape the Nazi genocide but went to extremes to suppress or downplay reports of the horror that was underway. Hull’s grotesque contention in the spring of 1933 that putting a lid on anti-Nazi criticism in America was the best way to ease anti-Jewish attacks in Germany was no aberration. Again and again, the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and especially the State Department, where FDR’s close friend and financial backer Breckinridge Long was a powerful assistant secretary of state, worked assiduously to thwart refugees from reaching safe haven in the United States.

PBS Holocaust documentary perpetuates well-worn myths to glorify FDR, says historian
You were one of the historians consulted on a new Jerusalem memorial to James G. McDonald, the first ambassador of the US to Israel. As the key adviser to President Roosevelt on refugee issues, McDonald resigned his position in 1935 out of frustration for being unable to convince FDR and other leaders to take action. Why would Burns omit McDonald from a film focused on refugees?

More than a decade ago, the US Holocaust Museum published McDonald’s diaries. Subsequent research by the Wyman Institute revealed that McDonald had been much more critical of Roosevelt’s refugee policy than the editors of the diaries had acknowledged. So when the museum decided to start creating exhibits and programs promoting the notion that FDR tried to rescue the Jews, McDonald’s story became a problem — it contradicted the museum’s new narrative. McDonald was completely omitted from the museum’s 2018 exhibit on “Americans and the Holocaust” — despite the museum director’s explicit written promise to the McDonald family that he would be included.

Ken Burns has said his film is based on that exhibit, and the museum’s staff members were his consultants, so it appears that Burns’s omission of McDonald is consistent with the museum’s approach.

It’s tragic that the exhibit and the film would exclude this noble American statesman, whose efforts to help the Jews deserved to be highlighted, not ignored.

A lot of people say that adopting a few “well-worn myths” is a small price to pay for an extraordinary documentary about antisemitism and other forms of bigotry in the US. Why do you think these issues — the “well-worn myths” — should be pointed out? Is it dangerous to keep repeating and validating the myths?

Misrepresenting the historical record is never justified. Burns could have told the truth about FDR’s policy toward Jewish refugees, and the failure to bomb Auschwitz, and still made a valuable film about the problems of antisemitism and racism in America in the 1930s — which is exactly what filmmaker Martin Ostrow did when he made his film “America and the Holocaust,” for PBS back in 1994.

Presidents should be held accountable for their policies. Burns is wrong to blame “public opinion” for FDR’s choices. The public didn’t force Roosevelt to keep the St. Louis passengers out of the Virgin Islands. The public didn’t compel him to leave 190,000 quota places unfilled.

Will some future filmmaker try to blame “public opinion” for the Clinton administration ignoring the Rwanda genocide, or for the Bush and Obama administrations doing so little to stop the Darfur genocide? I hope not.

Documentarians have an obligation to present the facts of history, even if those facts reflect badly on their favorite president.
The uncomfortable truths in new documentary by Ken Burns, ‘The US and the Holocaust’
What struck me was coming to terms with the following realization: If you look at the initial Nazi goal — killing the world’s Jews — while possibly a dream, was certainly so vast of a chore it seemed ridiculous. They just wanted them out of their lands. The paradox came when they kept expanding, particularly to the East, where so many Jews lived, and found that no one else would take them. Fine, the Nazis said, as they gathered at the Wannsee Conference. If no one else will take them, I guess we’ll just have to kill them.

I’m painting in broad strokes here, but what makes “The U.S. and the Holocaust” such a success for me is that this basic equation about our tragedy is something I’ve known for years, but its plain absurdity never fully hit me until now.

The important works about the Holocaust do that; Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah” and subsequent films, books like Jean-François Steiner’s “Treblinka,” even fiction like “Schindler’s List” can take something you already know, but present it with new shading that feels revelatory. For Americans, this new film is that important. For Americans who don’t know about the Riegner Telegram or the Karski Report, even more so.

As with any examination of the Holocaust, we in the present can look at Europeans turning their backs on their Jewish neighbors and say, “Oh, that would never be me.” Keep fooling yourself. Stanley Milgram debunked that little fairy tale in the early 1960s. The timeliness of this all, and why it is “good” the series is out right now, is that violent prejudice against Jews, post-Charlottesville, post-Tree of Life, is not merely academic in America.

This isn’t just me pontificating, this is the message Burns and his co-directors hammer home in the final episode, along with an examination of paradoxes in the human psyche. The worst elements of the MAGA and QAnon movements are riddled with antisemites as bad as any from history, yet they support a politician whose most trusted advisor and son-in-law is Jewish. This makes absolutely no sense but, as Deborah Lipstadt points out, neither does antisemitism. As she frames it, they think Jews are all greedy capitalists, but they are also all instigating communists. How can it be both?

It’s ridiculous, of course, but that’s less important than addressing the fact that, somehow, the accusations stick and antisemitism grows. It is critical that artists and historians like Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein use their skills to rouse people to recognition before it is too late. There is a lot of “content” pumped out into the world each week, but Burns still draws a big crowd. “The U.S. and the Holocaust” is essential viewing.

Jordan Peterson, controversial right-wing lecturer, to visit Israel
Jordan Peterson, the controversial Canadian right-wing media personality and author of 12 Rules for Life, will be coming to Israel on October 6th for a one-time lecture at Jerusalem's International Convention Center. This will be Peterson's first time in the Jewish state.

In addition to his work as a media personality and author, Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. According to the March 5, 2018 edition of The New Yorker, Peterson rose to fame in 2016 during the debate of the Canadian bill known as C-16, which expands human rights law by adding "gender identity and gender expression" to the list of grounds upon which a person could potentially experience discrimination.

Peterson posted a series of lectures online arguing that such a bill would infringe on the free speech of those who do not care to use a transgender person's desired pronouns for any reason.

Peterson is particularly vocal about his views on the "crisis of masculinity" and is very outspoken against political correctness. He also claims there is no scientific basis for climate change.

Ben Shapiro coming back to Israel
Peterson recently joined DailyWire, a conservative news outlet owned by right-wing Jewish American pundit Ben Shapiro.

Shapiro will be interviewing Peterson at the event hosted by the Tikva Fund and the Shibolet Library, a subscription service designed to distribute "the very best of contemporary English-language conservative thought to Hebrew," according to the Tikva Fund website. Both Peterson and Shapiro are published in the Shibolet Library.

"We see our subscribers as the spearhead of an ideological movement that is changing the Israeli conversation, and it is important to us that they have the opportunity to have a meaningful meeting with the authors of the publishing house as well as with each other," says Rotem M. Sela, co-publisher at the Shibolet Library and CEO of Meir Sela Publishing. "The fact that Peterson and Shapiro are coming to the event in Israel, and the great interest that this meeting arouses, testify to the intellectual awakening of the Israeli public that is thirsty for new ideas."
Ben & Jerry’s founders say Unilever ‘usurped’ authority with Israel spin off
The founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said Sunday that parent company Unilever violated their original social justice-focused merger agreement by allowing the sale of the company’s products in West Bank settlements.

Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods conglomerates, acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 under a unique merger agreement that gave the ice cream maker’s board the authority to protect the company’s “social mission,” which it sees as key to its financial success.

Using that authority, the Ben & Jerry’s board announced a boycott of West Bank settlements last year, without coordinating with Unilever. The boycott triggered massive financial blowback for Unilever, and Ben & Jerry’s Israel sued the UK-based international over the move.

The two sides reached a settlement earlier this year that gave Ben & Jerry’s Israel the independence to continue sales in Israel and the West Bank under Hebrew and Arabic branding. Ben & Jerry’s is now suing Unilever over the decision to spin off its Israel branch.

“The independent board has authority over the social mission of the company and the essential integrity of the brand,” Jerry Greenfield said. “The company uses its power to address social and environmental problems around the world and that social mission is part and parcel to the success of the company.”

“Unilever has usurped their authority and reversed the decision that was made and we can’t allow that to happen,” Ben Cohen told MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan, a harsh critic of Israel. “We can’t sit idly by while that happens because that’s essentially saying the independent board doesn’t matter and they want regarding the social mission but Unilever is going to just overturn it.”

Has Marvel Surrendered to Anti-Israel Pressure After Introducing Israeli Superhero?
A few days after both Israeli and entertainment news sites picked up the story, mainstream media outlets around the world also started focusing on the addition of Sabra to the MCU.

Rather than focusing on the diversity that both Sabra and Shira Haas will bring to Marvel, both CNN and The Independent concentrated on the negative reaction from some anti-Israel commentators.

In both pieces, the writers focus on the claim that the inclusion of Sabra (who fights for Israel’s existence against external enemies) might lead to negative stereotyping of Arabs and Palestinians.

In addition, CNN cited an analyst who claimed that the addition of Sabra is “disgraceful,” while The Independent called it “a provocative move.”

The Independent even went so far as to write that, “If Marvel wanted to be truly politically balanced, they would tell the story of a Palestinian superhero protecting Arab children from Israeli rockets hitting a Palestinian school or hospital alongside the heroic narratives of Sabra. Of course, the idea seems far-fetched. Away from fiction, any Palestinians trying to defend themselves, even non-violently, are often labeled terrorists.” While it is still unclear what Sabra’s role will be in the next Captain America film, which is not set to hit theaters until 2024, or whether she will appear in other Marvel movies, it is encouraging to see such a large movie franchise welcome the first Israel-born superhero — along with an Israeli actress — into their ranks.

Hopefully, Marvel’s “new approach” to Sabra will embrace this character diversity and will not drastically transform the character in order to appease the loud voices of anti-Israeli pundits and keyboard warriors.
" to Warn Against Staying in Judea, Samaria"
The Dutch online travel reservation giant plans to warn its clients against staying at Israeli properties in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Channel 13 show “HaTzinor” reported Monday.

“Certain areas affected by conflict may pose a greater risk to travelers, so we provide our customers with information that helps them make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the decision-making process,” told Ynet.

A text appearing next to certain accommodations — aimed at those who plan to stay at Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria — is to be published this Thursday.

“A visit to this area may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety, human rights and other risks to guests and the local community,” the text will say.

Unlike a similar move several years ago by the Airbnb vacation rentals company, the warning will appear “in other conflict zones in the world” as well, told Ynet.

A similar anti-Israeli boycott was carried out in November 2018 by the Airbnb vacation rentals company. The group delisted homes in Judea and Samaria, saying it had adopted a “disputed regions” policy. But that policy, however, applied only to Israeli properties; those in disputed regions elsewhere around the planet were inexplicably spared such a boycott.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Quick, Find A New Alarmist Buzzword To Call Israel – ‘Apartheid’ Isn’t Working by Linda Sarsour (satire)
I just returned from a solidarity visit to our Palestinian brethren under occupation, and I have both good news and bad news. The good news: our brothers and sisters facing the brutal colonialist policies of Zionism expressed as much resolve as ever when it comes to demanding historical justice. The bad news: few important-enough people and entities seem to care, and the ever-evolving list of charged epithets we throw at the Zionists seems to be losing whatever power it once had, including what many of us considered a carefully-crafted ace-in-the-hole, using a single word to paint the Jewish State as just another incarnation of white-minority-ruled South Africa. But even that rhetorical trick has produced disappointing results, and we desperately need new epithets to play on gullible Western emotions, ignorance, and knee-jerk antisemitism if we are to keep Palestine on the front page and in the trending topics.

Simpleminded activists might feel tempted to attribute the fizzling of the “Apartheid!” label to sinister (((Zionist))) manipulation or media, or suppression of the accusations. But an honest look at media reveals no shortage of mainstream outlets willing to legitimize the term as referring to Israel, especially since Amnesty International worked so hard to develop a redefinition of the term to apply only to Israel. All that hard work amounting to… not much, in terms of policy outcomes, will prompt some to imagine dark forces at play, but we mustn’t rush into that mentality when more mundane factors explain the failure.

Chief among them: rhetorical fatigue. The fact that we’ve been yelling ourselves hoarse over so many spurious “massacres” by Israel might, just might, have eroded our credibility. Our tendency to call everything associated with Jewish sovereignty and security “Nazism” has diluted the impact of our work.
Will the BBC continue to ignore incitement regarding Temple Mount
BBC audiences have to date seen no mention of this latest incitement or related police preparations.

In contrast to previous reporting over the years, it would clearly be beneficial to BBC audiences to be informed of such incitement in order to enhance understanding in the event of any violent incidents at Temple Mount in the near future.

It would also be prudent for the BBC to remind its journalists that the use of partisan and politically motivated terminology such as “settlers” (to describe Jews visiting Temple Mount) and “storming” (to describe walking tours) is not consistent with the BBC’s claim to impartiality.

Additionally, it is of course high time that the BBC returned to its own style guide’s dictates concerning the description of that site rather than using the politically motivated – and confusing – titles such as “Al Aqsa Mosque” or “Al Aqsa Mosque compound” which it has embraced since 2014.

CBC Ombud Acknowledges Shortcomings Of “Our Montreal” Report Which Failed to Include Important Context About Anti-Israel Activist
HonestReporting Canada is pleased to share that, subsequent to a complaint we lodged with CBC last year regarding a CBC program called Our Montreal, the broadcaster’s Ombudsman acknowledged our criticisms and recognized that important information was left out of the final report.

On September 15, 2022, CBC’s Ombudsman Jack Nagler responded to a complaint from an HonestReporting Canada subscriber, as well as HonestReporting Canada itself, regarding the CBC program, which was broadcast on December 4, 2021, which covered a new exhibit at Montreal’s Musée d’art contemporain (Museum of Contemporary Art) documenting Pegasus, a surveillance software, and NSO Group, an Israeli cyber weapons manufacturer.

As acknowledged by HonestReporting Canada at the time, there is no ethical issue in reporting on such an exhibit, but the CBC broadcast failed to disclose a number of important facts germane to the story.

The exhibit in Montreal was organized by a London, England-based organization, Forensic Architecture, which describes itself as a “research agency…investigating human rights violations.” What Our Montreal’s report did not disclose is how the group appears to have an inordinate laser focus on Israel, with 14 of its 66 investigations – nearly a quarter – focusing on the alleged actions of Israeli soldiers or the relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the Our Montreal broadcast, Forensic Architecture’s founder and director, Eyal Weizman, was prominently interviewed. In the report, Weizman claimed that Israel uses its “occupation” of Palestinians as a “laboratory” to test and develop new weapon systems which it subsequently uses to export to other countries around the world for profit.

In our complaint, we pointed out that the Montreal exhibit was far from the first time Weizman had been involved in causes harshly critical of Israel. In fact, he had even been declared a security threat and banned from entering the United States. But these facts – which would have undoubtedly helped viewers gain a deeper understanding and context of Weizman’s statements – were conspicuously absent.

In his report, CBC’s Ombudsman concedes the multiple shortcomings in the broadcast from Our Montreal.

‘Terrible f—ing Jew’: Berlin cops probe pair of attacks on Jewish train passengers
Authorities in Berlin are investigating two attacks on Jewish train riders reported on the same day last week, amid a rise in the number of reported incidents of antisemitism in the city.

In one incident that took place September 13, Ariel Kirzon, an Orthodox rabbi who leads the community of Potsdam, a Berlin suburb, said he was speaking Hebrew on a cellphone outside a commuter rail station when a man pushed him and insulted him with anti-Jewish slurs, calling him a “schrecklicher Scheissjude” (terrible f—ing Jew).

Kirzon said his 13-year-old son, who was with him at the time, is now fearful about living in Germany and the family is considering sending him to the United States to live. “I have traveled the United States very often, been to all the big cities,” the rabbi, who is affiliated with the Chabad movement, told the BZ tabloid. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me there.”

Later the same day, a 33-year-old man was verbally attacked and beaten in the S-bahn commuter train, Berlin police announced. The attacker reportedly used anti-Jewish slurs, and proceeded — together with another man — to beat the victim around the head and upper body. Another passenger tried to protect the victim, who then got off the train, while the perpetrator remained on board. The victim’s physical injuries were not serious enough to warrant treatment, police said.

Both cases are under investigation by the State Security Service, and the victims have filed charges. In at least Kirzon’s case, investigators said they have secured surveillance video of the station, but the perpetrators remain at large.
‘Reverse Birthright’ program sends IDF officers to US Jewish communities
Nine young, outstanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat officers completed a special visit to American Jewish communities last week, as part of Birthright Israel’s program Reverse Mifgash – IDF Officers Mission. This was the third delegation sent to the US since the program began in 2019.

The goal of this mission, called mifgash (Hebrew for encounter) is to give promising officers a taste of American Jewish life, while creating Jewish-engagement opportunities.

The program brings them into the relationship between Israeli and North American Jews, and provides insight into how Jewish and non-Jewish Americans perceive the Jewish state.

The mission also reveals to participants the complexities of Diaspora Jewish identities and opens a dialogue on the differences between Israeli-Jewish and Diaspora-Jewish ones.

The delegation members spent ten intensive days across the US.

They also visited the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, where they paid respects at the grave of Col. David “Mickey” Marcus, an American officer during World War II who played a key role in establishing the IDF.

They also visited several synagogues, a Hebrew-language charter school, the US Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and a navy base in Virginia Beach.
First-ever certificate of Jewish ancestry connects descendants of forced converts to stolen past
Millions of descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, whose ancestors were forcibly converted from the 14th Century onwards, can now apply for a Certificate of Sephardic Ancestry, it was announced Monday.

The initiative was launched by the American Sephardic Federation’s Institute of Jewish Experience, Reconectar, which helps descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities reconnect with the Jewish people, and Genie Milgrom, an author, researcher and genealogist.

“The Certificate of Sephardic Ancestry is historic for so many around the world and especially in Latin and North America who yearn to connect with their past and up to now have had no way to accomplish this,” said Milgrom, who was able to document her unbroken Jewish maternal lineage back 22 generations to 1405.

Help in applying for the certification, along with Milgrom’s genealogy tools designed for people with Crypto-Jewish and Sephardic lineages, is available on the institute’s website.

Recent research shows that as many as 200 million people, mainly in Latin and North America and Europe, have “significant Jewish ancestry” dating back to the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal.

The certification process involves filling out a questionnaire that covers background, customs, family trees, and items with a Jewish connection that provide hints about a person’s Jewish heritage.
"Jewish Year of 5782 Sets 2 Decade Record in Aliyah to Israel"
Israel’s Ministry of Immigration and Absorption recorded nearly 60,000 Olim (new immigrants) who made Aliyah to Israel in the passing Jewish year of 5782, setting a two-decade record.

In the last decade, Israel has received about 323,000 new immigrants from around the world.

According to the assessment of the Ministry of Immigration, by the end of 2022, there may be a record number of two decades in the number of immigrants when Israel absorbs over 64,000 new immigrants.

The ministry stated Monday that in the past year it has “worked hard to take in tens of thousands of immigrants who came from Ukraine and its surroundings,” totaling about 40,000.

In addition, Operation Tzur Israel for those waiting in Ethiopia to come to Israel brought about 3,500 immigrants, and by the end of 2022, the number of immigrants will increase to 5,000.

Future trends in immigration to Israel pose a great challenge to the State of Israel, as the rate of immigration will continue and even increase due to geopolitical developments in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the continuation of the war in Ukraine, the Ministry estimates.
10,000 Israeli pilgrims expected in Uman for Rosh Hashanah
More than 2,000 Israelis have already arrived at the Ukrainian city of Uman for New Year’s prayers at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and thousands more are expected.

Approximately 10,000 Israelis are expected to gather in the Ukrainian city, despite multiple warnings to stay away due to dangers posed by the Russian war in Ukraine, Israeli officials said.

They have warned that it would be very difficult to provide assistance to citizens in Ukraine in an emergency situation, despite a heightened state of alert by Foreign Ministry personnel and by Israeli embassy staff and Israel Police representatives in Kyiv.

In recent days, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, said he was concerned that Moscow might fire missiles at Uman during Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Sunday evening, in order to cause global shockwaves.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Ukrainian government have called on Jewish pilgrims not to go to Uman this year due to the war.
209 Ethiopian ‘Olim’ and Jewish Federation Leaders Land in Israel
Dozens of community leaders from Jewish federations across the United States and Canada, as well as senior Jewish Agency for Israel officials, spent three days in Ethiopia meeting with families awaiting immigration to Israel and learning about aliyah and absorption needs.

The tour concluded on Wednesday morning with an emotional flight for 209 olim accompanied by the delegation, followed by a joyous celebration at the airport attended by Minister of Aliyah and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata.

The delegation will also visit Jewish Agency for Israel housing and educational programs funded by federations to assist new immigrants in assimilating into Israeli society.

President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog also took part in the mission and flight.

“The true heroes of the Ethiopian aliyah are the olim themselves who have waited so long for this moment, yet never lost ‘Hatikvah’—the hope—that they would one day reach the Land of Israel,” said Fingerhut. “It is a tremendous privilege to know that for decades our federation system has played an instrumental role in the aliyah journey of these men, women and children, as well as in supporting their first steps in Israel.”

“This return to Ethiopia, together with our dedicated partners from Jewish Federations across North America, has been an overwhelming experience that highlights the strength of the unity of the Jewish people and the need for us to work together to reunite Ethiopian families in Israel,” said Almog.
IDF Chief of Staff Denounces Iranian President Raisi’s Holocaust Denial During Visit to Auschwitz
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Monday took aim at Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s remarks in a US television interview calling into question the veracity of the Holocaust.

“You don’t need to be a historian or a researcher to understand the horrors of the Holocaust – you need to be a human being,” said Kohavi at a ceremony during a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. “We now toured the gas chambers, we saw the crematoria, even the building stones scream out the Jewish genocide.”

Kohavi’s comments come after Iran’s president — in keeping with the Islamic Republic’s long-standing promotion of Holocaust denial — questioned whether the Holocaust occurred and labeled Israel a “false regime.” In an interview with CBS’s “6o Minutes,” Raisi stated: “Historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians. There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”

Kohavi countered that “anyone who lies and denies this painful and substantial historical truth is a liar and will surely be a liar in the future.”

“This is yet another reminder that we cannot allow people who express these sentiments to retain any kind of power to develop weapons of mass destruction,” Kohavi urged.

Other Israeli senior officials also responded to Raisi’s remarks. Israel’s President Isaac Herzog posted a picture of a Holocaust survivor with a prisoner number tattooed on her arm addressed directly to Iran’s president: “Mr Raisi, on my desk in Jerusalem there is one photograph. The numbers speak for themselves.”

Israel Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said Raisi’s comments were “shocking” and called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “deny that denier a world stage to spread antisemitism and hatred.”

“The UN will reach a new low if they give the Butcher of Tehran a platform,” Erdan declared.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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