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Did group raise funds for Hamas on college campuses?

WASHINGTON – A U.S. congressman is the latest to call for a Justice Department investigation into whether a pro-Palestinian group has been raising money on college campuses for Hamas.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) urged a probe into Viva Palestina USA, a humanitarian aid convoy led by British lawmaker George Galloway that brought medical supplies to Gaza last July.

Both the Zionist Organization of America and Anti-Defamation League in recent months have urged Holder to investigate reports about the convoy’s links to Hamas.

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British Parliament member George Galloway, speaking at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London earlier this year, leads the humanitarian aid group Viva Palestina USA, which has been accused of supporting Hamas. Vince Millett/Creative Commons

The groups made their requests after Galloway and other Viva Palestina USA members appeared and reportedly raised funds at some college campuses in the spring and summer.

“Clearly, people and organizations in the United States cannot be allowed to solicit funds for foreign terrorist organizations,” Sherman wrote in his letter to Holder. “That such solicitation is occurring during the middle of the day at a public university is truly frightening,” he said, referring to the University of California, Irvine.

Sherman wrote similar letters expressing concern about the reports on Viva Palestina USA to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UC-Irvine chancellor Michael Drake, and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman.

Viva Palestina USA was launched after the Viva Palestina group that Galloway set up in Britain sent a convoy to Gaza in March. It did not respond to a request for comment.

At a meeting in Gaza with Hamas officials during the March trip, according to a report from terrorism expert Steve Emerson, Galloway held up a bag of cash and said, “This is not charity. This is politics” and “We are giving this money now to the government of Palestine. And, if I could, I would give them 10 times, 100 times more.”

When the Viva Palestina USA convoy arrived in Gaza months later, there was no similar public event with Hamas, although the group reportedly did meet with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Giving humanitarian aid to Gaza is legal under U.S. law, but providing it to Hamas officials or the Hamas government in Gaza would likely be considered illegal because Hamas is on the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The most controversial appearance by Viva Palestina USA and Galloway in the United States came May 21 at UC-Irvine, a campus that has experienced tensions between Jewish and Muslim students and where a civil rights complaint was filed earlier this decade claiming a hostile environment for Jewish students. (A federal investigation found that the university acted appropriately.)

UC-Irvine has referred information about the event, which was sponsored by the Muslim Student Union, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. ZOA leaders said they had obtained a video of the event and, at the bureau’s request, passed it on to law enforcement officials.

The university also says it is investigating whether the Muslim Student Union had violated university policy by raising money without the university’s authorization.

In a letter to the university’s campus counsel, the Muslim Student Union acknowledged that it may have “unknowingly breached university policy (as undoubtedly have every student organization on campus as well as university administrators).” But the student group rejected ZOA’s accusations that it may have raised money for Hamas as “nothing short of libel.”

“ZOA seeks to smear MSU’s reputation by maliciously accusing MSU of breaking U.S. laws without providing any real evidentiary backing,” the group said in its letter.

The ZOA praised the university’s decision to forward information on the Viva Palestina fund-raising.

“They’ve done the right thing,” said Susan Tuchman, director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice. “All groups should be held accountable.”

University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the campus police forwarded information on the Viva Palestina fund raising to the FBI because it felt “they were the best agency to handle it.” She said outside counsel is examining whether the Muslim Student Union violated campus procedures.

JTA

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British Parliament member George Galloway, speaking at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London earlier this year, leads the humanitarian aid group Viva Palestina USA, which has been accused of supporting Hamas. Vince Millett/Creative Commons
 
 

U.S. Jews join pluralism fight

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Conservative Jewish women wear prayer shawls and carry Torah scrollsat the Western Wall on Dec. 18. The right of women to pray aloud at the holy site is one of several issues exacerbating tensions between Israeli Orthodox authorities and non-Orthodox Jews in the diaspora. Yossi Zamir/Flash 90/JTA

WASHINGTON – A string of controversies has reignited the pluralism wars, prompting a loose alliance of American and Israeli Jews to wage a renewed campaign against Orthodox control in the Jewish state.

Among the litany of developments making headlines: The arrest of a woman for wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall; protests by fervently Orthodox, or haredim, against a parking lot open on the Sabbath and against the Intel branch in Jerusalem for working through the Sabbath; a battle over gender-segregated public buses; and the burial in Spain of a child converted to Judaism by a Conservative rabbi in a corner of a cemetery reserved for non-Jews.

In response, activists have organized protests in Israel and the United States against the perceived hegemony in Israel of haredi-aligned rabbis. Organizers say that their goal is to keep Jews caring about Judaism and Israel, despite what they describe as the increasingly alienating behavior of Israel’s Orthodox religious authorities and members of the country’s haredi population.

“People are saying enough is enough,” said Andrew Sacks, director of the Israel branch of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. “You have a segment of the American Jewish community that cares deeply enough to want to change it, but you have a second less desirable effect, among younger people especially, that says if that’s what Israel is all about, I don’t want any part of it.”

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, who directs the Women’s Rabbinic Network, helped organize a day of solidarity and support of Women of the Wall on Dec. 17 that encouraged Jewish women across the United States to hold meetings, read from the Torah, or pray in support of women who choose to pray at the Western Wall, including those who wear religious vestments. Separately, another group is organizing a similar protest in San Francisco on Jan. 10.

“My intent was to give people a way to support people in Israel, and to support Israel around an issue women and men feel strongly about,” Ellenson told JTA. “It is not ‘Love Israel, right or wrong,’ or ‘I can’t be connected,’” she said. “We need to look at the complexities of this country that we love, we can’t reject it, nor can we be silent when there are issues that require our involvement.”

Activists on both sides see the Western Wall as something of a battlefront. In recent years, the site’s government-funded Orthodox rabbinate has banned mixed groups from singing, an action that precludes Israeli and American Jewish youth groups from a tradition of bursting into Hatikvah to celebrate the wall’s return to Jewish control in 1967.

One protest against the Orthodox monopoly took place in Jerusalem on the evening of Nov. 28. Protesters marched from Paris Square to Zion Square in Jerusalem’s city center, carrying signs that read “Iran is here — we’re sick of haredi violence,” “Jerusalem will not fall,” and “We are sick of [religious] coercion.”

Nofrat Frenkel, whose arrest at the Western Wall a couple of weeks before helped spur the recent demonstration, delivered a message that explicitly addressed the threat of the alienation of diaspora Jews from Israel and religion.

“The crowd gathered here today proves to the Jewish people everywhere, in Israel and in the diaspora, that ‘offense against public sensitivity’ is not the sole province of the ultra-Orthodox,” the medical student and gay rights activist reportedly said. “We are also the public, the public who pays taxes and serve our country, in the IDF and National Service.”

Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, told an audience of Conservative movement leaders that Frenkel was “led away” from the Wall, not arrested, the Forward reported. He later issued a statement correcting the misimpression and confirming that Frenkel was, indeed, arrested. Oren said he has asked his government to investigate why he was misled. However it is resolved, the incident illustrates the sensitivity of Israeli officials explaining the practices of their country’s rabbis to American Jews.

Oren, who was in Israel, could not be reached for comment.

The flurry of controversies in Israel comes at a time when American Jewish pluralism has become more expansive than ever. Guests at the White House Chanukah party ranged from Chabad rabbis to Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who heads Beth Simchat Torah, a gay synagogue in New York. Some groups, particularly among the Orthodox, reject the activism as Americans imposing their mores on Israel.

Israel “is a country that has a functioned with a certain understanding among its religious and not-religious Jews,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesman for Agudath Israel of America. “If the activists don’t want to alienate Jews, they shouldn’t thumb their noses at the traditional Jews in Israel.”

Shafran also noted that the most vocal haredi protesters were minorities within their own communities. Much has been made of the continued protests outside Intel’s offices, but these were sharply reduced in number after a compromise last month that allowed non-Jewish workers to work through the Sabbath. But this has gone unnoticed, Shafran said. “The main haredi groups were in favor of the compromise, but there are always holdouts,” Shafran said.

Other American Orthodox leaders, however, fret about the possibility of alienation from Israel. They note that alienation could extend even to the modern Orthodox because of a recent crisis in conversion policy that has threatened to discredit the majority of Orthodox converts.Rabbi Avi Weiss, who heads the Amcha activism group and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Modern Orthodox seminary, called for dialogue. “The greatest threat facing us, more than external enemy, is a divisiveness within our people that is so dangerous, God forbid, it could lead to calamity,” he said.

Weiss noted that Orthodox authorities defend their actions by citing “humra” — the strict application of Jewish law. “In a world of humra, there’s got to be a stress on the humra of Ahavat Yisrael,” the love of the Jewish people, Weiss said.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Israel was suffering periodic social pangs that arise when there is relative peace, and suggested that these needed to be addressed indigenously, and not by U.S. Jewish pressure.

“Every time there’s a lull in daily threats of terrorist acts, normal life brings to the fore many of these unresolved social tensions,” he said. “Some of them impact on relations with diaspora Jews, but it’s more important for Israelis to deal with them because of their own need of religious tolerance, than because of the Americans’ need.”

The New Israel Fund, a group that has long advocated for a role for diaspora Jews in making the case for pluralism, welcomed the attention on the issues, said its spokeswoman, Naomi Paiss.

“The whole premise of the New Israel Fund is that you can love Israel and you can fix it,” she said. “The Israeli government has a special responsibility — what is made law in Israel signifies the closest we have to a religious ruling, even for those of us who don’t live in Israel. We American Jews do take this personally and we should.”

An example was the 13-year-old boy who died last month in Madrid. The order to bury him in a segregated corner of the Jewish cemetery came from Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi.

NIF is currently organizing a petition drive among Jews in Israel and the diaspora urging Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation minister, to ban publicly funded buses from segregating male and female passengers.

JTA

 
 

Benedict practices delicate dance

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Pope Benedict XVI, seen on a visit to Israel on May 11, 2009, is facing the challenge of repairing Catholic-Jewish ties following his decision to move the Holocaust-era pope closer to sainthood. Flash90/JTA

ROME – For at least the third time in his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI is doing the Jewish dance that takes him one step back, one step forward.

The step back came when Benedict made a move in mid-December to bring Holocaust-era Pope Pius XII a bit closer to sainthood. The step forward — the penitence, some might say — will come in mid-January, when Benedict visits Rome’s main synagogue.

The question is whether this bid to smooth over Catholic-Jewish relations will work.

“It is an important event, a milestone in the dialogue,” Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, told Vatican Radio about the planned synagogue visit. “We have great expectations for what it can mean in terms of the general climate.”

“If we stop at the things that divide us deeply, we won’t get anywhere,” he said. “The differences are important to move forward.”

Benedict’s visit — set to take place Jan. 17, the Catholic Church’s annual Day of Dialogue with Judaism — will come a month after he recognized the religiously defined “heroic virtues” of both John Paul II and Pius XII, putting them one step away from beatification.

The Polish-born John Paul made fostering Catholic-Jewish relations a hallmark of his papacy. But critics have long accused Pius of having turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The Vatican and other supporters say Pius acted behind the scenes to help Jews. Gary Krupp, a Jew and the head of Pave the Way, a nonsectarian foundation that promotes interfaith dialogue, wrote in a recent op-ed in The New York Post that criticism of Pius XII began in the 1960s as part of a Soviet smear campaign against the Catholic Church, which at the time was profoundly anti-Communist. The Anti-Defamation League responded with a call on the pope to disregard Krupp’s “flawed” evidence.

Scholars and Jewish organizations for years have called on the Vatican to fully open its secret archives in order to clarify the issue before Pius is moved any further toward sainthood. Benedict’s decision to green-light Pius’s advance drew widespread criticism from Jewish bodies. While many Jewish organizational leaders said it was up to the Vatican to decide whom to honor with sainthood, they renewed calls for the archives to be opened.

“As long as the archives of Pope Pius about the crucial period 1939 to 1945 remain closed, and until a consensus on his actions — or inaction — concerning the persecution of millions of Jews in the Holocaust is established, a beatification is inopportune and premature,” the World Jewish Congress’ president, Ronald Lauder, said in a statement.

The Vatican responded with a conciliatory statement saying Benedict’s move was in no way “a hostile act towards the Jewish people” and should not be considered “an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church.”

The uproar over Pius XII is not the first episode where the Vatican had to backpedal, clarify, or explain a Pope Benedict decision that angered Jews.

In 2008, Jewish protests over the reinstatement of a Good Friday Latin prayer that appeared to call for the conversion of the Jews led the Vatican to change some of the prayer’s wording. Still, Italian rabbis were so angry over the issue that they boycotted participation in last year’s Jan. 17 Day of Dialogue with Judaism.

One year ago, the pope’s lifting of a 1988 excommunication order against Richard Williamson, a renegade bishop who turned out to be a Holocaust denier, sparked outrage among political figures and mainstream Catholics as well as Jews. Williamson was one of four bishops rehabilitated as part of the pope’s effort to bring their ultra-conservative movement, the Society of St. Pius X, back within the mainstream Catholic fold.

The Vatican ordered Williamson to recant and admitted that the pope had not been aware of his views — despite a video of Williamson that was widely circulated on YouTube.

The pope himself issued a strong message of support to a visiting delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and announced to the group the plans for his May 2009 visit to Israel, his first to the Jewish state as pontiff.

Analysts said Benedict’s move on Pius is part of the pope’s effort to shore up conservative forces within the church.

“The pope apparently has chosen to balance his unquestionable commitment to the Catholic Church’s good relations with world Judaism with his commitment to recuperating the religious right wing of Catholicism,” said Lisa Palmieri Billig, the American Jewish Committee’s liaison to the Vatican. “Obviously his path is strewn with warring obstacles.”

Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, an expert in interfaith relations and the vice president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said, “The great struggle of this moment is shoring up the most traditional elements of his church as he fights the growing secularization and Islamification of the European stage, which is right before his eyes.”

Bretton-Granatoor said that the visit to the synagogue in Rome is “far more telling about the state of Catholic-Jewish relations” than the move to elevate Pius.

His visit will mark only the second time that a pope has crossed the Tiber River from the Vatican to visit the synagogue in Rome. As pope, Benedict has visited synagogues in his native Germany and in the United States, and he made the trip to Israel last May.

But the Rome synagogue has particular significance. Rome is said to have the oldest continuous Jewish community in the diaspora. The visit to the synagogue in 1986 by Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was the first time any pope had set foot in any shul since the time of St. Peter.

Bretton-Granatoor put some of the Benedict’s apparent gaffes down to differences in style and substance that set this pope apart from his predecessor. John Paul “was an actor and a pastor — he understood that every gesture had meaning,” Bretton-Granatoor said. Benedict, on the other hand, “was an academic and was never a pastor — he doesn’t seem to get it in the same way as his predecessor.”

He added, “This pope is vastly different from his predecessor. He is a German and, therefore, cannot speak about the Shoah in the way that (John Paul), a Pole, could.”

 
 

Jewish leaders grapple with the rough-and-tumble Internet

WASHINGTON – After the botched terror plot of the “Christmas underwear bomber,” David Harris took to the Huffington Post to argue that the United States had something to learn from Israel’s stellar record in airport security.

The argument seemed fairly innocuous as far as Israel-related matters go. But the vitriol unleashed suggested that Harris, the executive director of The American Jewish Committee, might write about the pleasant Israeli weather and still get hammered.

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American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris says, “To read some of the reactions to anything I write about Israel is sometimes to require a very strong stomach.” AJC

“israel is not on the front line of fighting Islamic radicalism it on the front line of creating Islamic radicalism,” said the second of hundreds of commenters, using the name “baffy.” “These crazy guys are trying to blow up Americans primarily because of our government’s support of israel’s illegal occupation of palestinian land as well as invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq etc.”

Off topic, like many of the comments, but not anti-Semitic.

Things became a little more questionable a few Web pages later in an entry by “jomamas”: “Jews need to get something straight: because somebody says ‘we shouldn’t be like Israel’, doesn’t mean that we want to be like Arabs or Iranians, nor does it make them anti-semitic nor Israel haters. I can’t understand how the relatively progressive and educated jewish population is so utterly and completely biased when it comes to the issue of Israel. I don’t like Israel. I am not anti-semitic. I don’t really like Iran or Syria either.”

As the response to Harris’ post demonstrates, defending Israel and Jewish interests in tweet time can be rough, anonymous, and dirty — and organizational leaders are grappling for strategies on dealing with the phenomenon of personal and anonymous attacks in the comments section.

“To read some of the reactions to anything I write about Israel is sometimes to require a very strong stomach — it can be nasty, over the top, vitriolic, and dripping,” Harris said.

Still, the AJC leader added, he enjoys access to readers unfiltered by letters-page editors.

“I welcome this new environment,” he said. “Everything I write, I write myself.”

And in the case of left-wing sites such as the Huffington Post, it is important to confront anti-Israel voices, Harris said, rejecting the view of a segment of the organized Jewish community that sees the fight for liberals as futile.

Harris, who also has a regular Jerusalem Post blog, raised some Jewish organizational eyebrows when he decided to reply with a second entry on the Huffington Post, this one commenting on his commenters.

“For some readers my last piece, posted December 31, provided a handy excuse to unleash their unbridled hostility toward Israel,” Harris wrote, and outlined his counter-arguments.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, was less sanguine in describing the comments responding to the material that he has posted on the Huffington Post.

“It’s a magnet for conspiracy theorists and for haters,” Foxman said of the comments section. “I look at it and sometimes wonder why am I bothering.”

The answer, he adds quickly, is the “silent majority” — those who don’t post replies but are searching the Internet to learn and acquire the tools to defend Israel in their own communities.

Nevertheless, Foxman has his doubts.

“It’s a vehicle for educating, but it’s a vehicle for all the kooks in the world who want a platform,” he said. “I’m not sure we have the antidote.”

A spokesman for the Huffington Post, Mario Ruiz, said the blog endeavored to screen offensive comments.

“All comments made on blog posts are currently monitored by paid moderators,” Ruiz said. “While every effort is made to eliminate offensive comments, they do occasionally slip through the cracks of a process that handles nearly 2 million comments a month. But from its inception, HuffPost has taken comment moderation very seriously, and devotes a lot of energy and resources to maintaining a civil conversation, free of name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and offensive language.”

Ruiz said it was “great” that Harris was taking on his commenters.

Faulting the Huffington Post for such comments would be unfair, considering their ubiquity on pro-Israel Websites, including The Jerusalem Post, said Eric Rozenman, the Washington director of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

“Look at the talkbacks at any place to any article that stirs a little controversy — the Post, Haaretz — it can be appalling and disconcerting, the kind of stuff you used to see on bathroom walls,” he said. “The technology has enabled the fringe to go mainstream, and no one knows what to do about it.”

While it’s difficult enough keeping the anti-Semitic genie in the bottle in the mainstream media, CAMERA’s most recent struggle has been with C-SPAN, the cable broadcaster dedicated to making government transparent through live broadcasts of the U.S. Congress and the executive branch.

For the last year and a half, CAMERA has tracked a cadre of diehard anti-Semites who have been abusing C-SPAN’s open-caller policy, injecting vitriol against Israel and Jews into just about any discussion, ranging from taxes to Middle East policy.

Until now, the reply from C-SPAN has been radio silence.

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who has claimed he lost work because of his anti-Israel views, was a guest Jan. 4 on the network’s “Washington Journal” program. A caller identifying himself as “John from Franklin, N.Y.” launched into an anti-Semitic tirade saying he was “sick and tired of all these Jews” who were “willing to spend the last drop of American blood and treasure to get their way in the world.”

Jews, the caller said, have “way too much power” and “jewed us into Iraq.”

In response, host Bill Scanlan turned to Scheuer and said, “Any comments?”

Scheuer appeared to approve of what John had to say.

“Yeah. I think that American foreign policy is ultimately up to the American people,” he said. “One of the big things we have not been able to discuss for the past 30 years is the Israelis.”

On Monday, in response to a JTA query, the broadcaster acknowledged that the host should have been more proactive in dealing with the caller.

“Program hosts, whose role is to facilitate the dialogue between callers and guests, are certainly permitted to step in when a caller makes ad hominem attacks or uses obscenity or obviously racist language,” C-SPAN said in a statement to JTA. “Given that this involves quick judgment during a live television production, it’s an imperfect process that didn’t work as well as it should have that day.”

Readers can judge whether the Huffington Post’s screening process worked in response to Harris’ piece on Israeli airport security.

One official at another Jewish organization who also blogs on Huffington Post wondered about Harris’ decision to engage with the commenting crowd.

“Jewish fascists and anti-Semites are the prominent animals” in the comments sections, said the official who spoke on background to avoid a contretemps with Harris. “It’s like watching pornography — who’s going to get the sickest thing in.”

The official said he enjoys Huffington Post as a platform to reach liberal cognoscenti and the current political leadership — not the commenters “banging away in their footsie pajamas in their mothers’ basements.”

“To go to the comments and take them seriously — they’re not representative, you should stay away from it,” he said.

Harris says knocking those guys off the page is the point.

Ultimately, he adds, his target is the “sophisticated consumer” who can tell the difference between the vicious and the civil — and he noted that he also earned civil critiques from those who criticize Israel.

“I rely to a large degree on the sophistication of the consumer,” Harris said, “and I think we underestimate that.”

JTA

 
 

Left and right join on religious expression statement

WASHINGTON – The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Baptist Convention may butt heads over where the line ultimately should be drawn on the separation of church and state, but representatives of both organizations say they agree on where the law now stands — and with more than two dozen other experts they have come together to help explain it to the rest of the country.

After nearly four years of work, the organizational representatives have issued a 32-page document titled “Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.”

Written in a question-and-answer format and including extensive notes, the document explains the state of the law on religious expression, answering queries such as “Are individuals and groups permitted to use government property for religious activities and events?”; “May employees express and exercise their faith within secular nongovernmental workplaces?”; and “Does the First Amendment place restrictions on the political activities of religious organizations?”

(The short answers: Yes with restrictions, sometimes, and no.)


Members of the 28-person drafting committee say they plan to distribute the document to state and local governments, civic and religious organizations, and other grass-roots groups. Having the document as a reference, the members say, can defuse many controversies over religious expression before they ever start.

“Frankly, a lot of the discussion of religion in public life in America when it hits the front pages or 24-hour cable shows is often presented in a hysterical mode that either a theocracy is being imposed” or that anyone expressing religious beliefs “is being run out of town on a rail,” said Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s director of public policy and a member of the drafting committee.

The significance of the document is “showing that there really is a lot of common ground and common understanding” on these issues, said Diament, whose organization favors a lowering of the church-state wall on certain issues. “It has the potential to bring more sanity and civility to this area of the law.”

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A politically and religiously diverse collection of groups issued this 32-page document explaining the law with regard to religious expression. Center for Religion and Public Affair

The document also has the backing of the Anti-Defamation League, which generally sides with those fighting to maintain a robust separation of church and state. It “shows that religious expression is very much a welcome part of public life, but there are also lines we draw and shouldn’t cross,” said the ADL’s director of legal affairs, Steven Freeman, another member of the committee.

The drafting committee included religious scholars; representatives of strict separationist organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way; and leaders of a number of religious groups, including Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian groups spanning the political spectrum — from the National Council of Churches on the left to the American Center for Law and Justice on the right. In addition to the ADL and the OU, the panel included representatives from the Reform movement, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress.


The drafters stressed that the document outlines the consensus on how the U.S. Supreme Court has defined current law, not the law as various groups would like to see it.

“There are things in the document that we’re not necessarily pleased by, but they’re current law,” Freeman said.


“Sometimes the state of the law is not what we would like it to be, but we agree on what the current state of the law is,” said drafter Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which favors a more prominent role for religion in American public life.

Land quipped that if the report dealt only with the areas on which the groups agreed what they would like the law to be, “it would be a much shorter document.”


Drafter Marc Stern, acting co-executive director of the American Jewish Congress, noted, for instance, a disagreement among committee members about whether the IRS restrictions on the political activities of nonprofit organizations is constitutional — but they can agree that those are the rules the Internal Revenue Service has laid out.

And while there was disagreement on how much a supervisor can say about religion in the workplace to his employees, the members could agree on general principles.


The wide breadth of drafters should give the document credibility with both the left and the right, participants said.


”The drafters are as important as the draft itself,” said Melissa Rogers, director of the Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs.

Rogers led the effort after suggesting the idea at a Freedom Forum conference on religious issues in late 2005.


The document was modeled after a similar effort to clarify permissible religious expression in the schools that some of the same experts worked on in the mid-1990s. It was distributed by the U.S. Department of Education.

The committee never met formally in the same room, but exchanged drafts via e-mail over the past four years in a process that members described as cooperative despite the differences in opinions on the issues.

The committee did not have the time to confront every controversial religious question — the hot topic of federal funding for religious groups is not included, and such heated controversies as same-sex marriage and abortion are not addressed. And some sections of the document may not be entirely clear because the Supreme Court has not been clear, such as its muddled decisions on public display of the Ten Commandments.


But, Stern said, having a resource available that offers an informed view on the issues should help to cool the slogans and epithets that often are part of the debate on religious issues.


”The impact is not necessarily in a visible way,” he said, but “in the fact that they show people what they’re fighting about may not be worth fighting about” and “a lot of times what seems like a controversy goes away.”

JTA

 
 

Hate speech ‘a perversion of Judaism’

 

Greece silent on anti-Semitism

Until recently, Greece had gone a long time without violent anti-Semitism.

The few manifestations of anti-Semitism here appeared mostly in the form of graffiti, racist screeds in marginal, neo-fascist publications, or the occasional verbal epithet leveled against a Greek Jew.

But then came the Gaza war a year ago, inflaming passions against Jews and setting off a series of anti-Semitic incidents.

News Analysis

The latest was the torching this month of the Etz Hayim synagogue on the Greek island of Crete. Thanks to two Albanians and a Palestinian immigrant that live across the street, the synagogue’s destruction was avoided.

Even more disturbing to Jews here than the attack itself was the lack of government condemnation. Not only the government but the press, political parties, and the Greek Orthodox Church were silent.

It took until last Friday, a week after a second arson attack on the synagogue and following a rebuke by the Anti-Defamation League, for the Greek government to respond.

“It is disappointing that the Greek government has so far failed to condemn the shocking arson attack targeting a synagogue on the island of Crete,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman wrote on Jan. 14. “The previous government remained silent when synagogues were attacked and Jewish cemeteries desecrated, sending a message of insecurity to the Jewish community and of impunity to those who perpetrated the attacks. We hope your government will change that policy and declare that anti-Semitism has no place in Greece.”

“The attack on the Etz Hayyim Synagogue not only constitutes an attack on one of the remaining Jewish monuments in the island of Crete, but also an attack against the history and the cultural heritage of our homeland, Greece,” Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou wrote to the ADL. “The Government, I personally, as well as the entire Greek nation condemn this abominable act in the strongest possible terms.”

It’s been an unsettling year for Greek Jews. Until the upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks beginning more than a year ago, 1982 marked the last time there was a violent attack against a Jewish establishment. That was during Israel’s war in Lebanon, when a crude bomb was placed at the entrance of a Jewish-owned travel agency. Police sappers dismantled the bomb.

At the time, any major incidents of anti-Semitism were condemned by the government and dealt with swiftly.

Greek Jews point to the 2008 trial of a well-known lawyer and anti-Semite, Kostas Plevris, as a sign that things had reached a turning point.

Plevris was sued by the Greek Chapter of the Helsinki Human Rights Monitor and the Anti Nazi Initiative, a Greek organization combating Nazism, for incitement to violence against the Jews with his 1,400-page book “Jews: The Whole Truth.”

After a year-and-a-half and two trials, Plevris was acquitted unanimously of any wrongdoing by a five-judge panel in a court of appeals. In one trial, the prosecutor called the anti-Semitic tome a “scientific work.”

Anti-Semitic incidents surged in 2009, with nine cities reporting attacks. The Jewish cemetery in the city of Ioannina was vandalized four times. Graves and a Holocaust memorial were destroyed, and bones and bodies were unearthed, including the remains of the mother of the current president of the city’s 50-person Jewish community, Moisis Elliasaf.

Greek Jews protested that authorities did little to find the perpetrators. Jewish outrage grew when a high-ranking police officer caught in the cemetery immediately after one of the incidents was not questioned by authorities. Neither the mayor, the governor nor the Metropolite Theoklitos — the highest-ranking priest in every Greek city — condemned the incident.

George Karatzaferis, the leader of the far-right political party LAOS, which has 15 seats in Parliament, wrote an article in his weekly newspaper A1 calling the Jews “Christ killers” and saying that the “blood of the Jews stinks.”

No one responded when the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece asked the speaker of parliament and political leaders to condemn the article. And with the exception of one highly respected Greek columnist, Pashos Mandraveli in the daily Kathimerini, the Greek media stayed silent, too.

Left-wing leaders who harshly condemned Israel for its actions in Gaza refused to condemn the anti-Semitic incidents or even join Greece’s commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in late January.

“There are no good Jews,” Jimmy Panousis, a well-known liberal radio personality and comedian, said on his radio show. “Jews are pigs and murderers, but fortunately their days are numbered.”

The newspaper Avriani, which blamed American Jews for causing the global economic crisis, warned that American Jews were plotting to set off World War III.

Piraeus Serafim of the Greek Orthodox Church warned of “Zionist monsters with sharp claws.” Salonica Anthimos, another church official known for his anti-Jewish statements, said Jews were being punished for killing Christ.

After the arson attacks in Crete, Greek Jews are increasingly anxious. While Jews in Western Europe have suffered worse in recent years, Greece stands virtually alone for its lack of condemnation of attacks against Jews.

JTA

 
 

ADL blasts ‘religious fraud’

Etzion Neuer, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey office, first heard about messianic Jew Sid Roth’s book, “They Thought for Themselves,” when he received a call from this newspaper.

“Josh Lipowsky called after hearing from a reader who received the book,” said Neuer. “Over the next several weeks, I began to get calls — like lights on a map going off from all different parts of the state.”

“In every case, people were [both] taken aback that they received it directly and offended by the material,” he said, describing “what appears to be a fairly wide campaign to target Jews for so-called messianic organizations.”

The book profiles 10 Jews — from Holocaust survivors to media executives — who, writes Roth on his Website, “defied the status quo and thought for themselves,” finding Jesus and “changing their lives for the better.” Video testimonials from these individuals appear on the Website as well.

With calls coming from “concerned members of the Jewish community, including rabbis … most of the concern has focused on the direct targeting of individuals,” said Neuer.

According to a March 11 article on the Website matsav.com, many residents in Lakewood — which has a large Orthodox community — “were astonished” to find the book, self-described as a “gift,” in their mailbox. While many disposed of it immediately, according to the article, “[s]everal Lakewood residents related to [the Website] that because the book appeared harmless, they did not immediately realize its content and aim and did not immediately dispose of it.”

Indeed, said Neuer, he is not as worried about those who call him as about those who do not realize that the book is a “fraud.”

“Most thinking people will be able to recognize the source of the book [and Roth’s] attempt to proselytize and to deceive Jews into thinking that this is an extension of Judaism,” said Neuer. “The people who call ADL already recognize the book for what it is. I’m more concerned about those who take it seriously.”

For the most part, said Neuer, people have been calling his office looking for guidance, questioning how their names came to appear on Roth’s list and if they can request that their names be removed. According to Roth’s Website, he acquired the names from “list brokers and supporters.”

The ADL is preparing a memo for rabbis and federations addressing the issue, said Neuer, noting that, technically, Roth’s methods do not constitute “legal fraud,” since selling mailing lists is a common policy in direct marketing. He added, however, that Roth’s activities constitute “religious fraud.”

Roth is a former account executive for Merrill Lynch who, by his own account, became disenchanted with Judaism in 1972. Raised in a traditional Jewish home, in 1977 he started a ministry called Messianic Vision as well as a nationally syndicated radio program with the same name. He also hosts a television program called “It’s Supernatural.”

“Roth says that he was inspired to write the book because of a dream,” said Neuer, adding that both “the book and the campaign are incredibly offensive. Generally speaking, the very premise of Roth’s religious underpinnings is that Jews and Judaism are incomplete, and this campaign to convert Jews away from their faith [is] an affront and disrespectful to Judaism’s teachings.”

Teaneck resident Eli Rosenfeld, chief executive officer of Joseph Jacobs advertising agency received the book at home about four weeks ago.

“It was before Purim,” said Rosenfeld. “It was in a plain white envelope and my wife brought it in.”

Rosenfeld, who notified The Jewish Standard, said, “I thumbed through it and realized that something was off. My wife asked if I had ordered it. I hadn’t.”

Noting that he is not angry but simply concerned, Rosenfeld said that “there are always people who will read it not knowing what it is.”

He pointed out that messianic Judaism is rejected both by Jews and Christians.

“It’s a dangerous idea, attempting to confuse people and not be forthright. It’s different from the problem of Christian groups proselytizing [directly] and asking Jews to convert. This is done in an underhanded manner [saying] you can remain Jewish and still believe in Jesus. That is why it is so troublesome.”

Rosenfeld said he was also troubled that someone was willing to spend the sum required to print and distribute so many copies of the book.

“When you see that type of resource, you get scared about their next step to target our community,” he said, recalling an incident, 10 years ago, when his company was “duped” into a media buy for a movie that turned out to be a messianic Jewish film.

Under the headline “Missionaries dupe Jewish newspapers across country,” a Jewish Telegraphic agency story at the time reported that 80 American Jewish newspapers ended up printing a “fairly innocuous” ad for a film called “The Rabbi,” showing a man in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall. What the ad — which ran in The Jewish Standard but not in its sister publication, the Jewish Community News — did not say was that the film was about “a self-described ‘Messianic Jew’ who gradually convinces his Orthodox family that he did not abandon Judaism when he took ‘Yeshua’ into his heart.”

While Roth calls his book “an offer of love, it is really a prescription for intolerance,” said the ADL’s Neuer. And while it is difficult to monitor the effects of such a book, he added, “at least in some cases it works” — especially among more vulnerable groups such as “the young, elderly, or spiritually vulnerable. It deliberately mixes religious symbols and distorts the essential meaning of [the two] religions.”

“It’s fraud,” said Neuer, “the deliberate blurring of lines between religions. He’s a snake oil salesman. The introductory video on his Website comes across as an infomercial — it treats religion like a hand blender.”

 
 

Anti-semitism:  the disease that won’t go away

‘Education, education, education’:

That’s the antidote, says Abe Foxman

Abraham H. Foxman, 69, director of the Anti-Defamation League since 1987, was a hidden child.

An only son, he was born in Poland. When his parents were ordered to enter a ghetto, they left him with his Polish Catholic nursemaid, Bronislawa Kurpi, in 1940. Foxman was baptized as a Roman Catholic under the name of Henryk Stanislas Kurpi and raised as a Catholic. While his parents did survive the Holocaust, he lost 14 family members. In 1946, at age 6, after several legal custody battles, he was returned to his parents.

The family immigrated to the United States in 1950. He graduated from Yeshiva of Flatbush and earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the City College of New York, with honors in history. He also has a degree from New York University School of Law. He did graduate work in Jewish studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary and in international economics at the New School.

The Anti-Defamation League was begun in 1913, and Foxman joined its law department in 1965. In 1987, he was the consensus choice of the ADL’s board to become its new national director, replacing Nathan Perlmutter.

In his 23 years as national director of the ADL, Foxman has proved to be consistently wise and resourceful in defending the Jewish people.

Jewish Standard: Is anti-Semitism increasing, and if so why?

Foxman: Anti-Semitism is increasing, and 2009 had probably the greatest incidence since World War II and since we began monitoring the inventory. It was global. There was no country, no continent, that did not experience it.

Why? You know, anti-Semitism ebbs and flows. Probably the most significant catalyst this time was the Gaza war. Now, every time there is violence in the Middle East, we see a fallout of anti-Semitism — but nothing like this time. The demonstrations and the attacks against Jewish institutions and Jewish individuals resulting from the Gaza campaign were unlike any that we’ve ever seen before.

If you pressed me and said, “Okay, why now?” I would say that a major ingredient is the Internet. The Internet today enables individuals to spread messages of hate, and they use it to reach, recruit, incite, and inflame. And partly as a result of the Internet and the sharing of information globally, we saw more demonstrations with the same themes — Jews were equated with Nazis, Gaza was compared to the Warsaw Ghetto, and so on. We saw it from Kuala Lumpur to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The same themes, the same messages, and the same recruitment through the Internet.

J.S. There are now anti-Semitism study departments at Yale and at Indiana University. Can they do any good?

Foxman: Today there are more centers for the study of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust than there have ever been. They certainly can and do have a positive impact. Their existence legitimizes the study of this ancient hatred and its modern permutations — which is not an exact science. To put an academic dimension to it gives the issue a greater seriousness and a greater weight. The fact that serious academic institutions are devoting time and money and energy and personnel to the study of anti-Semitism gives it greater significance.

You might also ask a question about the United States government mandating all our ambassadors around the world to monitor and respond to and combat anti-Semitism. There are a couple of countries in the world that are looking to follow this lead and are assigning ambassadors to the Jewish community, which in effect means dealing with issues of anti-Semitism. In Europe, some of them are also teaching and dealing with issues of restitution. You have it in Poland, you have it in France and in Spain. So this is a new phenomenon that takes the issue of anti-Semitism more seriously.

You also have more conferences on anti-Semitism today than we’ve ever had in the past, with meetings in Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Brussels, and Jerusalem bringing together foreign ministers, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, and others to work toward a common goal of countering anti-Semitism. What does that do? For one, it has helped to mitigate the denial. For many years, some leaders of European nations denied that anti-Semitism existed among their own people. France was among those at the top of that list. Indeed, many European countries denied that anti-Semitism existed, and wouldn’t do anything about it. The moment that these conferences happened, it was the end of denial and the beginning of addressing the issue forthrightly.

In the same way, when academic institutions begin to focus on anti-Semitism, it sends a message to the rest of academia that this is a serious issue and it needs attention, focus, and close scrutiny.

Will all of this new activity and interest eradicate anti-Semitism? Not by itself. But students at Yale and Indiana University will not be denying that anti-Semitism exists.

J.S. Are there any mysteries, any questions, that these study centers can help solve?

Foxman: The mystery is the same old mystery, which is: Why, why, why? Probably the most creative answer was given by Mark Twain in his 1898 essay “Concerning the Jews,” when he traveled the world and wherever he was he found anti-Semitism, but he found different reasons. Some anti-Semites were ignorant, some intelligent, some religious, some atheistic, some old, some young. His conclusion was that anti-Semitism was the result of jealousy — jealousy of Jews’ achievements, their success.

The mystery continues to be: Why?

What we’ve found is that Jews have been a very convenient scapegoat throughout history — used by religious leaders and by nonreligious despots. We are on the top of the conspiracy food chain.

We see it now in the wake of the global financial crisis. Our polling has shown that nearly one out of five Americans blames the Jewish community for the recent economic crisis. In Europe, it’s one out of three.

So, the mystery is: If an anti-Semite is not born with hatred and bigotry, if it’s acquired, then why is this hatred so pervasive? It’s been acquired for 2,000 years — regardless of whether the country is Christian or Islamic, whether it’s a poor country or rich, whether there are Jews there or not. It continues to remain a mystery.

J.S. What can be done to lessen anti-Semitism?

Foxman: There’s only one answer. Until we find an antidote, a vaccine, or something in the DNA that causes people to hate, the answer is education, education, education.

Now, look, today the greatest threat to our safety and security, the greatest catalyst for Jew-hatred, is radical Islam. If radical Islam is the legitimizer, the transmitter, the manufacturer of anti-Semitism, what is the antidote?

The antidote is to return Islam to legitimate moderate leadership — take it away from the fundamentalist extremists.

But who’s going to do this?

Another answer is to defeat Islamic extremism. The United States is fighting two wars against extremist Islam, in Iraq and Afghanistan; Israel is fighting Hamas and Hezbollah. So, part of the answer is to stand up and fight.

Still, the best answer is education, education, education. If the Arab-Muslim world would permit open education, for tolerance, for respect toward other faiths and other traditions, of democracy, we would have a lessening of anti-Semitism.

J.S. Are most people who are fervently anti-Israel really anti-Semites? Or are some of them dupes?

Foxman: Yes, there are all types. You can disagree with Israel. But you have to ask yourself, is this person who’s anti-Israel, is he anti any other country?

I’m not talking about people who criticize Israel’s policies. There’s more criticism of Israel per square kilometer in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Israel is a democracy and you can criticize it. But once somebody is anti-Israel, chances are that he’s motivated not by politics but by something else, which is usually anti-Semitism.

Can you be critical of Israel and not be an anti-Semite? Absolutely. But can you be anti-Zionist and not be an anti-Semite? My answer there is, probably not — unless you are opposed to nationalism. You can be opposed to Zionism if you’re also opposed to Palestinian nationalism, French nationalism, American nationalism. But if the only nationalism that you find offensive or racist is Jewish nationalism, that’s anti-Semitism.

All nationalisms are exclusive. They reserve citizenship only for themselves, and they make the regulations, borders, songs, or whatever. If you find an individual who detests nationalisms, he’s entitled to be anti-Zionist. But most of them only don’t like Zionism, and that’s a cover for anti-Semitism.

In Europe, there are students, churches, and others who want to project their advocacy of human rights. And one of the ways they express their views is through boycotts. “We’ll boycott companies that violate human rights,” they say. Fine, okay. They’re entitled.

But if you want to do that, I’ll give you a list of 20 countries that violate human rights. You can start with China, go to Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Sudan — a whole list of countries. If you include Israel in that list, I will argue that Israel, as a democracy, is respectful of other views. If you want to include Israel on a list of countries that you believe violate human rights, fine. But if the only country that you single out to boycott is the state of Israel, that’s anti-Semitism. Where is Iran on your list, where is Saudi Arabia? Most of the time, being anti-Israel is a disguise for anti-Semitism.

Natan Sharansky established a short formula. If you criticize Israel, victimize Israel, delegitimize Israel, demean Israel, and you use a double standard, chances are that you’re an anti-Semite.

As for journalists who criticize Israel, if in 10 or 20 years there was nothing positive that they found in the Israeli experience, not one thing that they found to commend – and all you find is criticism, criticism, criticism – that, too, leads me to say, that is not legitimate, that is anti-Semitism.

J.S. Are there studies indicating what anti-Semites have in common — personality, demographics, geography?

Foxman: The lower the level of education, the higher the level of bigotry or anti-Semitism. Younger people are more susceptible — it’s a question of ignorance and lack of education. The higher the level of education, the lower the level of anti-Semitism.

But we also find in certain instances that the higher the level of academic degree, the greater the anti-Israel bias. That’s because most of the institutional centers on Middle East studies were and are Arab-funded, and most of the scholars are former ambassadors to the 22 Arab nations. That has an impact.

Also we’re finding something strange: The older and the younger are more anti-Semitic. The reason that older people tend to be more anti-Semitic is that at a certain age you don’t care — you’re not involved in political correctness. When you mature and go into business or whatever, you know there are certain things you don’t say and you don’t express. But at a certain age you don’t care anymore.

As for geography, it depends on the country and the continent. There are very few variances of anti-Semitism in the United States, for example. In other parts of the world there are greater regional disparities. The most anti-Semitic country by virtue of various measures is Spain — then Poland, then the United Kingdom.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the weather, with culture, or the food. But in the United States, we also have economic strata — and the lower in the economic strata, the more bigotry, but that’s also a function of education. One follows the other.

Ethnicity does have an impact — among the African-American population, for instance, over the last 40 years we have seen a level of anti-Semitism of 30 percent to 40 percent. The reason is that there has been no real leadership on this issue. Martin Luther King Jr. was the last national African-American leader to stand up and forcefully condemn anti-Semitism. Today you have a leadership that is focused on other issues, and some African-Americans even deny there’s a problem. Then there are the likes of Louis Farrakhan, who uses his pulpit to spew anti-Semitism and racism and still enjoys a surprisingly strong following.

The Hispanic-Latino community also has a high level of anti-Semitism. Here, there’s good news and bad. The bad news is that foreign-born Hispanics are much more prone to being anti-Semitic — more than 40 percent among those surveyed in our polls. That’s again the result of lack of education, and perhaps a reflection of what is still being taught in the church. The Vatican teachings on tolerance have not filtered down into the pews in many Hispanic countries.

The good news is that only 20 percent of American-born Hispanics, or nearly half of the country’s Hispanic population, hold strongly anti-Semitic beliefs. The other good news is that the Hispanic leadership doesn’t deny that it exists — and is working with us to inoculate Hispanics against anti-Semitism.

J.S. Why are certain Jews against the State of Israel? Are they desperately trying to call attention to themselves?

Foxman: I’m not a psychoanalyst. I don’t pretend to know why some Jews have the need to be critical of their own people. The fact that there are Jews opposed to Israel hurts and troubles us. I don’t know what their reasons are. But often their actions are even more distressing than their reasoning.

Take, for example, Neturei Karta — we know their followers don’t recognize Israel. But their marching with Palestinian terrorists, or consorting with Holocaust deniers, or meeting with an Iranian leadership that has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” is unconscionable and deeply distressing. Once they see that they are being used by enemies of the Jewish people, I don’t know why they do not at that point desist.

J.S. Have you yourself ever been a victim of anti-Semitism?

Foxman: Yes. Certainly in the e-mails I receive, which are very, very creative anti-Semitism.

Listen, I grew up during the Holocaust. I know what anti-Semitism is. I came in crying to my Polish-Catholic nanny at the age of 5 that “They called me a dirty name, tell me I’m not a Jew.” Even growing up in Brooklyn and yeshiva, it was latent. Most anti-Semitism is latent.

Our surveys show that 12 percent of the American people are infected with strongly held anti-Semitic beliefs. Yet they don’t get up in the morning and say, “How am I going to hurt the Jews?” What is troubling is that we don’t know what the flashpoint is. Is it when they lose their jobs and have to blame somebody — like Jewish bankers? Or is it because something bad happened in their lives, and very frequently they decide that we are to blame?

So, we need to understand that it’s out there, it’s latent, and we don’t know what the flashpoint, that moment of personal crisis, will be. Sometimes it’s the economy, sometimes it’s illness, sometimes it’s a disappointment. The Arab man who attacked the Jewish Federation in Seattle, something set him off — maybe the 2006 Lebanon War. His views were latent, and he went out to get Jews. The shooter who went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., to kill Jews, however, his views were more than latent, since he was a known white supremacist who maintained a Website filled with anti-Semitic invective.

So, we need to understand that most anti-Semitism is latent, and we don’t know exactly what triggers it.

The United States is different from the rest of the world. We’re not immune from bigotry or anti-Semitism, but in this country, unlike others, bigotry has consequences. Our Constitution guarantees someone the right to be a bigot — including an anti-Semite — but here there are consequences. If you’re in politics, you most likely won’t get re-elected. Our system rejects public bigoted behavior. If you’re in commerce, chances are you will not succeed. Mel Gibson — before he made his film “The Passion of the Christ,” before he was exposed as an anti-Semite — he was a hero in Hollywood. He was the most popular actor and the People’s Choice until he revealed himself as an anti-Semite. And then the American people basically rejected him. And that’s part of the consequences. In this country, it’s not politically expedient to be an anti-Semite. In many places in Europe, it is; in Latin America it is; and certainly it’s true in the Middle East. That’s a major, major difference between these countries and the United States. Not that we’re immune. But our whole dynamic system is against it.

My third book is called “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype.” The reasons for anti-Semitism, I’ve always felt, consist of three interrelated pillars.

The first pillar is deicide; the Jews were accused of killing Jesus — the mother of all anti-Semitism. The second pillar, a corollary, is that the Jews are greedy. It comes from the deicide — Judas sold out Jesus not for theology but for money, for 30 pieces of silver. The link between Jews and money has almost become part of the subculture of Western civilization. It’s all over the place. Kids throw pennies in the schoolyard, to see who’s Jewish.

The third pillar is that they don’t trust us. They think we’re not loyal citizens. Even in this country, 30 percent of Americans believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States. That’s part of the old stereotype that you can’t trust Jews, they only care for themselves.

But you asked, What we can do to combat anti-Semitism? The answer is that our leaders should speak out, and make it un-American, un-Christian, and immoral — and condemn it and punish it — as with hate-crime legislation.

J.S. Thank you for an excellent interview.

 
 

Police still investigating graffiti at Wayne school

The discovery of swastikas spray-painted on an elementary public school in Wayne Saturday night, the eve of Yom HaShoah, drew swift condemnation from the township’s Jewish community but its leaders remained unconcerned about a spike in anti-Semitism.

The graffiti — which included the message “I love Hitler,” swastikas, and several sexual messages — were found on playground equipment and a wall at Randall Carter Elementary School. They were cleaned up by the end of the day Sunday. No other incidents were reported across the state during the weekend, according to Etzion Neuer, director of New Jersey’s office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Police were continuing their investigation on Wednesday. Because the swastikas were accompanied by graffiti of a sexual nature, police believe the perpetrator or perpetrators were juveniles, said Det. Sgt. Charles Ahearn. Police do not suspect a larger trend within Wayne.

“As of right now it’s an isolated incident,” Ahearn said. “We’re treating it as that. We are taking it extremely seriously, however.”

Youths, Neuer said, continue to be the No. 1 perpetrators of bias crimes in New Jersey, but he warned against assuming that the perpetrators are connected with the school.

Police routinely patrol the township’s schools, and that led to the discovery of the graffiti. Holocaust education can be a powerful tool but “is no automatic inoculation against bias incidents,” Neuer said. “Incidents like this point to the need for increased attention to youth. With the distance of the Shoah, we worry about the solemnity of [Yom HaShoah] and the cheapening of the meaningfulness of the Holocaust.”

Ahearn said investigators are taking Yom HaShoah into account but added that there is no indication yet of a link between the commemoration and the graffiti. Though the timing may be a coincidence, it is still troubling, according to Neuer.

“For many people, the Holocaust is a distant event and exists only in crumbling yellow newspapers,” he said. “For survivors, memories are vivid. Imagine the pain when they opened the newspaper on Monday morning and saw ‘Hitler’ spray-painted on a school wall.”

Such incidents elicit strong emotional responses from the community, Jews and non-Jews alike, said Rabbi Stephen Wylen of Temple Beth Tikvah. Of greater concern, however, the rabbi said, is subtler demonization of Jews, such as misrepresentations in school textbooks and in anti-Israel letters to area newspapers.

“It’s the subtler but more consistent forms of demonization against the Jews that does us more damage,” he said. “I’m concerned the Jewish community is less reactive toward those things.”

Rabbi Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah intends to raise the vandalism issue with the Wayne Clergy Fellowship. Mark, who is president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis, does not plan to raise the issue with the board. The incident, he said, can be an opportunity for education. He praised the Wayne schools for past responses to past anti-Semitic incidents after which they brought in the ADL for tolerance curricula.

“Every time something negative happens it’s an opportunity to do something positive with it,” he said.

The Wayne police have asked those who have any information regarding this incident to call them at (973) 633-3549.

 
 
 
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