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Touro Synagogue History

Posted By on September 22, 2017


First Jews in Newport. The small but growing colony of Newport, Rhode Island received its first Jewish residents in the 17th century, possibly as early as 1658. The earliest known Jewish settlers arrived from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then to islands in the Caribbean. In Newport they formed a congregation called Nephuse Israel (Scattered of Israel), the second oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. By 1677, the community realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery. Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Pacheco purchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose.

In the 1680s, Mordechai Campanal, Moses Pacheco and fellow Jewish settlers, Abraham Burgos and Simon and Rachel Mendes tested the British Navigation laws which prohibited aliens from engaging in mercantile trades. In 1684 the General Assembly of Rhode Island resolved that the group was able to conduct business, and that they were entitled to the full protection of the law as “resident strangers.”

Through the early and middle 1700s, Newport rose in prominence and importance, taking a leading role in the shipping and mercantile trades of the American Colonies. By 1758, the Jewish population had grown sufficiently that there was a need for a house of worship. The Congregation now known as Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Salvation of Israel) engaged Newport resident Peter Harrison to design the synagogue. Harrison, a British American merchant and sea captain, was self-tutored in architecture, studying mostly from books and drawings. He had already completed the building of Newports Redwood Library and Kings Chapel in Boston. Construction began on the Jews Synagogue in 1759. At the same time, Harrison was also building Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Brick Market in Newport.

A number of theories have been put forth as to how Harrison, having no direct experience of the needs and requirements of a Jewish house of worship, could execute the elegant design of New Englands first synagogue. He had a limited choice of earlier models to draw on in the Western Hemisphere. He might have seen the Mikv Israel Synagogue on the island of Curaao. Their first building was constructed in 1703 and their second building had been dedicated in 1732. Congregation Shearith Israel in New York had also already built their first Mill Street Synagogue (dedicated in 1730). Jewish communities throughout Americas mid-Atlantic region and in the Caribbean were closely tied to Newports Jewish citizens through family and business interests. Generous financial support also came for the new building in Rhode Island from both of these congregations and from the Jewish communities in London, Jamaica, and Surinam.

For the buildings exterior Harrison drew on his knowledge of and enthusiasm for Palladian architecture. He is credited with being one of the first to bring this popular European architectural style to the American colonies. For the interior, his best references came directly from the members of the congregation, notably, the Hazzan [prayer leader], Isaac Touro, who had only recently arrived from Amsterdam. The Newport building was completed in 1763 and was dedicated during the Chanukah festival celebrations on December 2nd of that year. The dedication ceremony was a regional celebration attended not only by the congregation, but also by clergy and other dignitaries from around the colony including Congregationalist Minister Ezra Stiles who later became the president of Yale University. His diaries have proven a treasure trove of information on Newport, the Rhode Island colony, and the Jewish community of the mid-eighteenth century.

At the onset of the American Revolution, the British occupied Newport and many of the Jewish residents of the city fled, removing their families and businesses to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Remaining behind was Isaac Touro, who kept watch over the synagogue as it became a hospital for the British military and a public assembly hall. During the occupation, the British troops, desperate for wood during the long, cold winters tore down and burned a number of local residences and buildings. The synagogues usefulness as a hospital ward and meeting house kept it from the same fate. In October 1779 the Kings troops evacuated Newport and within a year or two many of the Jewish families returned to town and took up their businesses again.

In August 1790, three months after Rhode Island had joined the United States by ratifying the Constitution, George Washington chose to visit Newport for a public appearance to rally support for the new Bill of Rights. As part of the welcoming ceremonies for the President of the United States, Moses Mendes Seixas, then president of Congregation Yeshuat Israel , was one of the community leaders given the honor of addressing Washington. In his letter of welcome, Seixas chose to raise the issues of religious liberties and the separation of church and state. Washingtons response, quoting Seixas thoughts, has come down to us as a key policy statement of the new government in support of First Amendment rights.

Following the Revolutionary War, Newport never regained its stature as a leading seaport. The Jewish community, long active in commerce, dispersed. By the early 19th century, the synagogue was closed for regular services, but opened as needed for funerals, high holidays services and special occasions. Stephen Gould, a member of a local Quaker family and good friends to many of the former Jewish residents of Newport, was engaged as caretaker.

Through the first half of the nineteenth century, even as the Jews of Newport dispersed, they did not relinquish their sense of responsibility to their synagogue or to their burial ground. As members died, their bodies were returned to Yeshuat Israel for interment. Newport natives Abraham and Judah Touro, sons of Isaac Touro, both provided bequests to see to the perpetual care and maintenance of the Congregations properties.

In 1820, Abraham Touro had a brick wall built around the cemetery, and when he died in 1822 he bequeathed $10,000 to the State of Rhode Island for the support and maintenance of the Old Jewish Synagogue in Newport. He made an additional bequest of $5,000 for the maintenance of the street which runs from the cemetery down the hill to the synagogue building. As a result of his generosity, the street was named Touro Street. When the state legislature accepted Abrahams gift, they were the first to publicly refer to the synagogue as Touro (or Touros) Synagogue.

Abrahams brother, Judah Touro died in 1854. Prior to his death he had seen to the replacement of the wall his brother Abraham had built thirty years prior, which was in disrepair. The brick wall was replaced with a granite and wrought iron enclosure. When Judah died, his will, which was published in several languages around the world, left bequests to both Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations in the United States and abroad. To Newport he gave $10,000 towards the ministry and maintenance of the synagogue, $3,000 towards building repairs and book purchases for the Redwood Library, and $10,000 for the Old Stone Mill, with the property to become a public park. Both brothers, Abraham and Judah Touro, are hailed as amongst the first great American philanthropists.

The end of the nineteenth century ushered in new life for the Touro Synagogue with the arrival of the eastern European Jews to the United States. In 1881, the new Jewish community of Newport petitioned Congregation Shearith Israel to reopen the towns synagogue for services and to appoint a permanent rabbi. Abraham Pereira Mendes of London was called to Newport, arriving in 1883 and served as the Rabbi to Congregation Yeshuat Israel for ten years. During and following this period, Congregation Shearith Israel in New York retained rights to the building but an independent Congregation Jeshuat Israel [sic] was re-established.

Then in 1946, Touro Synagogue, as it is now known, was designated a National Historic Site. The Friends of Touro Synagogue (now the Touro Synagogue Foundation) was established two years later to aid in the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and grounds as well as to raise funds for and to publicize the history of the Touro Synagogue. Each year, Touro Synagogue holds a public reading of the George Washington letter as a celebration and pronouncement of religious freedom. The synagogue remains an active house of worship and is also toured by thousands of visitors every year.

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Touro Synagogue History

Live Streaming : Central Synagogue

Posted By on September 22, 2017

Watch On-Demand

Any Shabbat or holiday service that is live streamed will now be available “on-demand” for one week after its conclusion. Simply click on the menu icon (the three lines) in the upper-right hand corner of the stream player above, select “View Archives,” then press the play button on the service you’d like to watch.

Please Note: Private family life-cycle events (i.e. wedding, bris, baby naming, or funeral) will not be made available to watch “on-demand.”

Welcome to Central Synagogue’s Live Streaming Page. We are thrilled you have decided to join us for worship. If you are not yet a member of a congregation,we encourage you to explore your local Jewish community.

Rabbi Buchdahl on Reform Judaism

Why join a Reform congregation

Find a congregation near you

World Union for Progressive Judaism*

*For Jews outside North America

Learn more about Reform Judaism

Email during services for technical support. Click here for more troubleshooting tips.

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Live Streaming : Central Synagogue

Exeter Synagogue

Posted By on September 21, 2017


We welcome anyone who is Jewish to become a member of the Congregation. We are also welcoming to those who are not Jewish who wish to be associated with us. For more information on how to join us please click here

We hold services nearly every Shabbat and for most festivals. Exeter is not affiliated to any of the movements and we hold a variety of service styles. For some services, men and women may sit together, and the service is conducted mostly in English. For others, we may ask men and women to sit separately, and the service may be more traditional in style. We try to make all services accessible to everyone regardless of previous preferences. Visiting rabbis and service leaders are welcomed from a variety of denominations.

For further details of the proposed services for the coming weeks please click here.

Articles from our newsletter going back over ten years, giving you a good idea about us as people, as a congregation, and what we do and believe. Click here

Visits to the synagogue by educational groups are always welcome. Please contact the synagogue to make arrangements. Visits by individuals are also possible, but please try to give us notice, as we are all volunteers, with other commitments, such as jobs and families. Details

Dreidl Dribblers meet on the first Saturday afternoon of each month – All parents, grandparents and children under school age are welcome. For more information please click here.

Nitzanim meet every Sunday – All parents and children are welcome. For more information please click here.

A Basic Biblical Hebrew class meets on the University campus on Friday afternoons. For more information please click here.

For those of you who want to discover more about Judaism, Jewish Life and Israel, here are some good links to help you get there quickly.

We have agreed a Health and Safety Policy.It should be read by anyone with business in the synagogue and followed at all times.

It is available for download here

There is a great deal more about the history of the community here. Our archives have been deposited with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.

In particular, there is a link to an extensive section devoted to information about Rabbi Dr Bernard Susser z”l, now available through the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.

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Exeter Synagogue

15th Annual Russian Heritage Month –

Posted By on September 20, 2017

The Annual Russian Heritage Month celebrates and honors the rich diversity of cultural traditions brought to the U.S. from the many countries of the former Soviet Union. The Russian-speaking community plays an indispensable role in the culture, economic and social life of New York, the US and the world. The Annual Russian Heritage Month honors their contributions and affords the opportunity to showcase their talents. The Annual Russian Heritage Month has become a unifying force of our community by allowing its members, who hail from across the former Soviet Union, to preserve their heritage, culture, and language while also expressing their cultural identity.

The annual celebration of arts and culture takes place throughout the month of June in New York City. The Annual Russian Heritage Month is the only event of its kind in the U.S. and every year attracts a large diverse audience to enjoy diverse cultural events, such as contemporary and folk music, dance performances, art exhibitions, public festivals, health and sports fairs, business expos, and more.

The Annual Russian Heritage Month was established by the Russian American Foundation in collaboration with The City of New York, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and the Daily News in 2003. The festival began as a week-long series of events, celebrating cultural andeconomic contributions of the Russian-speaking community of New York. Over the years, the international Russian-speaking communityhas become a vital part of the celebration by participating in events and attending as special guests from the art, fashion, Foreign Service and business worlds.RAF is greatly honored to partner with the New York Post in presenting the Annual Russian Heritage Month for the last five years.

Over the past 14 years the Annual Russian Heritage Month has grown into an internationally recognized month-long celebration dedicated to promoting cross-community awareness, as well as a valuable local, national and international dialogue between peoples and cultures. The Annual Russian Heritage Month traditionally opens with a reception at the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art attended by the Mayor of New York City and culminates with Together in New York Annual Community Festival and Health and Sport Fair in Brooklyn, NY.

Presented as part of theAnnual Russian Heritage Month, the Russian Heritage Festival continues the exciting tradition of celebrating the legacy and achievements of the First, Second and Third Waves of the Russian-speakingmigrs from former Soviet Republics to the United States through a variety of open to public cultural events concerts, exhibitions, literature events and film screenings.While finding new home overseas, those generations of Russian-Americans kept deep ties with their home country and put forth tireless efforts to preserve their heritage and cultural identity.

In the United States we are Americans first but take equal pride in our individual and community heritage. And groups that tie those of common heritage together will inevitably strengthen our society at large. Shai Baitel, Proud Community, Proud Americans, Huffington Post, 11/22/2014

To read more News about the Annual Russian Heritage Month, please click here.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.

15th Annual Russian Heritage Month –

A widowed Hasidic father faces a custody battle in the New …

Posted By on September 20, 2017

Photo: Federica Valabrega/A24


Joshua Z. Weinstein

Menashe Lustig, Ruben Niborski, Yoel Weisshaus

In limited release July 28

Before making the film Menashe, documentarian Joshua Weinstein donned a yarmulke and explored Brooklyns Borough Park, getting to know the stories and personalities of New Yorks Hasidic Jews. That was the easy part of the process. It was trickier when Weinstein returned to the neighborhood with a camera crew to work with the locals hed hired for his cast. In this insular societywhich for the most part has kept itself purposefully cut off from popular culturethe whole Menashe project seemed morally suspect. Weinstein reportedly lost locations and actors as the shoot went on, and left some peoples names out of the credits so that they wouldnt bring shame to their families.

Throughout, the movies key collaborator remained steadfast. And thank goodness he did. Menashe Lustig brings warmth and a lumpen charisma to Menashes lead role, giving life to a film based in part on his own experiences. Lustig too is a widowed father from a deeply religious community, where everyone minds everyone elses business. In the fictionalized version of his life (written by the non-Yiddish-speaking Weinstein with help from Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed), he finds himself fighting for custody of his son Rieven (Ruben Niborski), who lives part time with Menashes brother-in-law Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus). While the dad works as a clerk in a grocery store, his late wifes brother is a well-to-do real estate broker, who agrees with their rabbis judgment that Menasce needs to remarry and give Rieven a mother before the boy can come home to stay.

Weinstein has said he was drawn to Lustig in part because of his story, and in part because the amateur actor had already shown a willingness to skirt the customs of his culture, by posting comic videos on YouTube. Much of Menashes tension springs from how the title character genuinely desires to be devout, while also wishing he lived somewhere where he was allowed to loosen up a little. Menashe is playful by nature, which serves him well at times. Hes helpful to customers in the grocery and is the kind of father whod rather go get ice cream with his son than nag him to do his homework. He also clearly loves a lot about his faith, like the sense of fellowship and the sincere efforts to understand and explain the deeper meaning of life.

But when hes too nice on the job, his manager complains that hes putting the customers ahead of profits. When he has fun with Rieven, Eizik complains that hes irresponsible. When he attends religious functions, he hears gripes from his fellow Hasidim that he drinks too much wine, dances too freely, and offers laymens interpretations of the Torah that are well-meaning but unscholarly. Everyone can see he has a big heart, but hes a bit too unorthodox for the Orthodox.

It wouldve been easy for Weinstein to make Menashe into a melodrama about heroes and villains: the misunderstood free spirit versus the stodgy pillars of the community. Instead, the model here is more the classics of docu-realism, like Little Fugitive, or anything by the Dardenne brothers. The focus is largely on the fascinating and strikingly filmed visual contrasts of an old-fashioned people against a modern city. And aside from the custody issue, the storys stakes are relatively low.

The slim plot mainly involves Menashes attempt to impress his brother-in-law and their rabbi by hosting a successful memorial dinner for his late wife, the preparations for which detour into a brief subplot about a pricey shipment of gefilte fish. Weinstein focuses primarily on his protagonists smallest challengeslike whether or not he can prepare an edible dish of kugel for his guestsand is generous enough with every character that the audience can understand why Eizik and others would find Menashe exasperating.

The director also pours as much of his research as he can into every sceneperhaps to an excessive degree. Anyone who knows nothing about Hasidism will come away understanding quite a bit about some of the rules and beliefs that govern Menashes life, from the ritual hand washing to the certainty that strict order is superior to the gentiles broken society. Weinstein includes small details, like the 24-hour candles and portraits of famous rabbis intended to make a memorial dinner more proper, and he explores wrinkles that are far more significant, like Menashes insistence that he doesnt really need a second wife because Talmudic law would prohibit her from ever touching Rieven anyway. Sometimes the dialogue sounds like it was written by that staple of old Broadway mystery plays: Moishe The Explainer.

What keeps Menashe from just being outside-in ethnography is how much nuance Weinstein and Lustig bring to the main character. In one of the few scenes in the film in English, Menashe is drinking malt liquor on the grocerys dock alongside a couple of his Latino co-workers, and he admits that while he desperately loves his son, he never liked his late wife that much. The moment is presented not as miserablismor as some kind of critique of arranged marriagesbut as a matter-of-fact declaration by a guy who leads two lives. Menashe is open enough to respect both of this mans identities: the child of God, and the ordinary New York schmo.

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A widowed Hasidic father faces a custody battle in the New …

What is Zionism and Who Are the Zionists | Zionism | Israel

Posted By on September 20, 2017

What is Zionism and who are the Zionists?

The concept of Zionism holds a vital place in the Israel-Palestineconict. Often characterized as Nationalist Zionism, Religious Zionism and Political Zionism this is an ideolog! that supports the demand of “e#s to return to their $historical homeland% called Zion #hich is de&ned as the ‘and of Israel. (ccording to the prominent “e#ish &gures, Zionism is a movement, )oth religious and political, #here)! a socialistic model state for “e#sis to )e esta)lished on the land of Palestine.The religious roots if Zionism can )e found in “udaism #hile it #as developed in a political movement )! *oses +ess, a mentor of arl *ar in socialism. In his )oo, Rome and “erusalem, pu)lished in /012, he laid do#n the foundations for Zionism. +o#ever, Theodor +ertzl is considered the o3cial founder of this socialist ideolog! #ho gave an even more practical plan for the colonization of Palestine in his )oo,

The Jewish State

pu)lished in /041. +e stated +ess5s )oo as a source for ever!thing one needs to no# a)out Zionism. (ccording to him $race, people and nation all merge in Zionism to create socialism.%( crucial role in colonization #as pla!ed )! 6astern 6uropean *arist “e#s #ho #ere led )! Israel5s founding father, 7en 8urion. The socialist i))utzim stated that onl! “e#s could )ecome the mem)ers and so it led to the Na)a catacl!sm, paving #a! to the theft of the land and ethnicall! cleansing of around 9:;,;;; Palestinians o, Zionism )ecame a ma?or force afterthe si-da! #ar mainl! through their inuence on the media and &lm industr!, as #ell as )aning and the academic sphere.

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What is Zionism and Who Are the Zionists | Zionism | Israel

Anti-Defamation League Goes After JAY-Z for Allegedly Anti …

Posted By on September 20, 2017

The Story of O.J., the black capitalism anthem onJAY-Zs 4:44,has faced a fair amount a blowback for the following lyrics, which have been perceived by some as anti-semitic: You wanna know whats more important than throwin away money at a strip club? Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it. The Anti-Defamation League caught wind of the lines and issued a statement to Rolling Stonerebuking Hov for the aside.

We do not believe it was Jay-Zs intent to promote anti-Semitism, a rep told the publication. On the contrary, we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism.

The lyric does seem to play into deep-seated anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. The idea that Jews own all the property in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish control of the banks and finance.

Fans and supporters have come to JAY-Zs defense in the face of the blowback, including fellow black entrepreneur Russell Simmons. JAY-Z hasnt directly responded to the anti-semitism allegations, but his companion video shortFootnotes for The Story of O.J. argues that the songs concept is rooted in pro-blackness.Another video from4:44 is due tonight.

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Anti-Israel Extremists Target ADL in New Online Campaign Equating Zionism With Racism – Algemeiner

Posted By on August 25, 2017

Email a copy of “Anti-Israel Extremists Target ADL in New Online Campaign Equating Zionism With Racism” to a friend

White supremacist Richard Spencer speaking on Israels Channel 2 after the far-rights violent demonstrationin Charlottesville earlier this month. Photo: Screenshot.

The Anti-Defamation Leagues current counter-offensive against the US far-right is facing a coordinated campaign of online trolling from BDS activists pushing the message that Zionism is akin to white nationalism, an ADL official told The Algemeiner on Friday.

The campaign began on August 17 five days after a violent show of force by ultra right-wing groups in Charlottesville, Virginia when a staff member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an extremist organizationwhose goal is the dismantlementof the State of Israel,penned a veiled endorsement of white nationalist Richard Spencer in The Forward newspaper.

Spencer is one of the leading figures of the so-called alt-right, whose viewsblend discredited theories about race with white pride identity politics. But after describing Spencer as possibly the worst person in America, the JVP staffer, Naomi Dann, hailed him for being being right about Israel.

Noting that Spencer who has a talent for catchphrases had referred to himself as a white Zionist in an interview with Israeli TV following the Charlottesville violence, Dann enthusiastically echoedthis view, going on to describe Israel as a racially-based state built upon Jewish colonial privilege, and therefore one that Spencer would identify with.

August 25, 2017 12:47 pm

An ADL official told The Algemeinerthat Danns article had provoked outrage at the organization. We felt we had to speak out, the official said. Here was a JVP member actually agreeing with, and getting into bed with, an antisemite and white supremacist.

The JVP-led trolling campaign began after ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote a response to Dann in the same newspaper, in which he excoriated her group for having no hesitation to piggy-back on Spencer, and try to link his base, hate-filled and exclusionary ideology with the proactive, affirming and empowering of Jewish nationhood.

As expected, JVP has doubled down on a messaging campaign attempting to link Zionism and Israel with white supremacist ideology, through a series of tweets and videos that used the ADL as a vehicle to equateZionism with racism. Joined by other BDS activists from groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the campaign has recycled Soviet Union-era propaganda themes about the allegedidentification of Zionism with Nazism and racial supremacy.

Typical of the tweets was one from Yousef Munayyer, the head ofthe US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, who chargedthat treating Israels Arab citizens exclusively as a demographic threat was central to the Jewish states ethos.

Financed in the main through a rolling grant currently totaling $280,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, JVP has over the last year increasingly focused its ire on American Jews. A campaign launched by the group in July charged that US Jewish groups were promotingracism and police violence through a so-called Deadly Exchange involving Israeli law enforcement.

In June, JVP activistsphysically threatenedmembers of a LGBTQ contingent taking part in the annual Celebrate Israel parade in New York City.

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Anti-Israel Extremists Target ADL in New Online Campaign Equating Zionism With Racism – Algemeiner

Zionism Cannot Be Compared To Nazism Even If Richard Spencer And JVP Say So – Forward

Posted By on August 25, 2017

It was offensive enough when, in the aftermath of the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, the white supremacist leader Richard Spencer called himself a white Zionist, comparing his form of Nazism to the belief in a homeland for the Jews.

It was even more distressing to read on these pages a supportive rendering of that assertion by Naomi Dann of the radical group Jewish Voice for Peace.

We work hard to reflect a range of American Jewish opinion, which is why the piece and reaction to it was published. The free flow of ideas is to be cherished. But when a Jew even hints at comparing Israel to Nazis, it must be denounced.

The argument that Zionism is akin to Nazism is not new, and its never been correct. Its related equation that Zionism is racism was codified by the United Nations when it passed Resolution 3379 in 1975. Though hardly Israels best friend, the international body later came to its senses and overwhelmingly rescinded the resolution in 1991.

But, like the anti-Semitism at its core, this ugly syllogism will not die, resurging at times of anxiety and anger, and fueled by a willful disregard for what Zionism and Nazism actually represent.

This wasnt the first time that Spencer and his ilk have sought to create some sort of common ground between their extreme white nationalism and Zionism, but the supposed affinity is based instead on quicksand.

The version of Nazism that Spencer espouses, even if its dressed up as a kind of perverted affirmative action for white people, is by its nature exclusionary and racist. It is propelled by grievance and hate. It views ethno-nationalism as a zero-sum game, where one groups power automatically diminishes another groups status.

The American ideal has always aspired to the opposite a notion of nationalism that expands to include rather than restricts to reject. Of course, this country has fallen short of the ideal from the start, but that doesnt obviate the progress thats been made and the need for us to keep trying for more.

Zionism, too, is an expansive aspiration, asserting that Jews, like all other peoples on earth, deserve the right to govern themselves in their ancestral homeland.

There is an undeniable tension between privileging Jews in the State of Israel and the rights of other religious and ethnic groups. That tension is inherent in any nationalist enterprise.

Its why so many countries erect high barriers to acquiring citizenship in Austria it can take up to 30 years and others informally enforce social and cultural norms to maintain the hegemony of the dominant class.

Its also why other nations have strict religious tests for citizenship and leadership, to privilege one group over another. Every citizen in Saudi Arabia, for example, is considered a Muslim, and conversion to Christianity is punishable by death. In 30 countries, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa, the head of state by law must have a particular religion.

Is that racist, too?

Its unlikely that a non-Jew will become head of state in Israel anytime soon, given the countrys overwhelming Jewish majority, but Arab citizens serve in the legislature, on the high court, and in many other positions of civic responsibility. This has not prevented the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu from following policies that discriminate against non-Jews, or from perpetuating the occupation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian sovereignty.

That such policies are done in the name of Zionism is painful, a perversion of the Zionist ideal. It is something that all Jews must reckon with. But the imperfections of reality do not negate the underlying fact that Zionism is not inherently racist and can and, in fact, does exist side-by-side with democracy.

Nazism cannot.

For Dann to write that Spencer is holding a mirror up to Zionism and the reflection isnt pretty is especially perilous in the current political climate. The intimidating display of Nazi slogans and symbols in Charlottesville, Virginia, legitimized by the shocking statements of President Trump, are a chilling reminder that even in America, Jews are at risk simply because we are Jews.

It ought to strengthen our sense of solidarity. It ought to persuade us to recognize our shared vulnerability, even in the face of our considerable, and continuing, internal differences.

For a Jew to compare Israeli policy that she finds offensive to Richard Spencers ideology is more than troubling. Its also not true. And truth is too precious a commodity these days to ever be squandered.

Contact Jane Eisner at or on Twitter, @Jane_Eisner.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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Zionism Cannot Be Compared To Nazism Even If Richard Spencer And JVP Say So – Forward

When Nazi violence came to Cohoes – Albany Times Union

Posted By on August 25, 2017


Fifty years ago this weekend, a former American Nazi Party member killed a 59-year-old Jewish man in Cohoes.

Francis Mainville laid in wait for Harry Pearlberg, a door-to-door salesman from Troy, before gunning him down on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1967. Police arrived to find Pearlberg lying in a pool of blood and Mainville standing at the top of the stairs with a unregistered .32 caliber revolver.

“Here I am, officer,” police recalled the 29-year-old saying as his gun was snatched away. “If you’d been black, I’d have shot you, too.”

He wore a Nazi armband and a silver SS pin.

Harry Pearlberg, who was shot by avowed Nazi Francis Mainville in Cohoes in August 1967. (Provided photo)

Harry Pearlberg, who was shot by avowed Nazi Francis Mainville in Cohoes in August 1967. (Provided photo)

Francis Mainville points to an arm insignia while in the custody of Police Aug. 29, 1967. He was charged with murder for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville points to an arm insignia while in the custody of Police Aug. 29, 1967. He was charged with murder for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville is escorted by police during his arraignment on murder charges Sept. 1, 1967, for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. He is bandaged after an attempted suicide. (Times Union archive)

Francis Mainville is escorted by police during his arraignment on murder charges Sept. 1, 1967, for shooting Harry Pearlberg in Cohoes. He is bandaged after an attempted suicide. (Times Union archive)

Rabbi Israel Rubin of the Maimonides Hebrew Day School speaks to summer camp students about the Charlottesville, Va. protests on Friday Aug. 18, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

Rabbi Israel Rubin of the Maimonides Hebrew Day School speaks to summer camp students about the Charlottesville, Va. protests on Friday Aug. 18, 2017, in Albany, N.Y. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

When Nazi violence came to Cohoes

The slaying came a day after the assassination of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, by another party member in Arlington, Va. Doctors who assessed Mainville’s mental state later testified at trial that he had killed Pearlberg as a twisted form of retaliation.

“Hitler was like God to me and Rockwell was next,” Mainville told a psychiatrist after his arrest. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison after a jury rejected an insanity plea. He later died in prison.

A husband, father and grandfather, Pearlberg had fled Poland during World War II and settled in Troy, where he was a respected member of B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Community Center. At his funeral, Rabbi Herman Horowitz said, “The hour of the extreme right is still with us.”

Those fears echo in the nation’s current conversation on racial intolerance.

A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned violent Aug. 12 when a car mowed down counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 more. The night before, men with torches and Nazi flags chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” as they protested the City Council’s decision to remove a Confederate statue from a public park.

Fifty years ago, Pearlberg’s murder sparked public outcry for stricter gun control laws, better psychiatric care and harsher punishment for hate crimes. Today, lawmakers and advocates are asking for many of the same measures.

“I don’t think anything has gotten better,” Pearlberg’s son said in an interview last week.

Edward Pearlberg was cautious, though, to cast his father’s killing as political. “I just want him to be remembered as my father, not as a martyr of the Jewish community,” he said. “I remember him as having a tremendous sense of humor. He was a scholar in his own right, as far as Judaism was concerned, and devout. He liked people and people liked him.”

The murder

Mainville knew Pearlberg, who had been selling dry goods to his family and the bakery where Mainville worked for four years. The morning of the shooting, the two men had coffee at the same counter and discussed Pearlberg stopping by to pick up a payment, Edward Pearlberg recalled.

Later that day, Mainville sat alone in his Ontario Street apartment, watching television with a loaded pistol in his hand, “waiting for this Jewish guy,” he said in a signed statement to police. A paperboy and grocery delivery boy had already stopped by unharmed.

When Pearlberg rang the doorbell, Mainville called out, “Who’s there?”

“It’s only Harry,” the salesman said.

Gunfire smashed through the door. One bullet grazed Pearlberg’s abdomen, another struck him beneath the left arm and ripped into his heart. He bled to death before reaching the hospital, without seeing his son or wife, Rose.

“That was probably the last day of her real life,” Edward Pearlberg said about his mother, who fell ill shortly after her husband’s death.

Mainville, on the other hand, was a “calm, cool, collected suspect who showed absolutely no remorse,” Cohoes Police Chief John Klieb told reporters. The killer told officers he was “a Nazi stormtrooper” and wrote in a signed statement, “Jew, I hope you die.”

Mainville registered as a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party five years before the killing but kept up his membership for just six months, the organization told the Times Union in 1967. After his arraignment on a first-degree murder charge, Mainville posed for a photograph pointing to an SS armband and giving a Nazi-style salute to the gathered crowd.

Mainville had a history of threats and violence. Ten years before the killing, Mainville told an Albany County judge, probation officer, sheriff’s deputy and his father, “I will get you,” after he was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. The 19-year-old later escaped but was caught two days later.

In 1963, Mainville attacked his pregnant wife just a month after they had married, nearly killing her. He brandished a machete and knife before strangling her, later telling police he’d decided to “kill my wife with my bare hands.” The attack left her hospitalized. Mainville was convicted of assault but received probation.

And a year before shooting Pearlberg, Mainville went to an Army-Navy Store on Remsen Street planning to kill the proprietor also Jewish but turned around when he noticed children inside the shop, he told police after his 1967 arrest.

The trial

Two days after the killing, Mainville set fire to his clothing and mattress in an apparent suicide attempt inside Albany County jail. He was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital with second-degree burns and kept under psychiatric observation. Days later, he appeared in court bandaged and silent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge sent Mainville to Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie for further psychiatric evaluation.

Mainville remained in state psychiatric care for eight years before doctors ruled in May 1975 that he was competent to participate in his own defense. The trial began that September.

Mainville’s family and neighbors testified about his obsessive fear that black and Jewish people would take over the United States, while doctors hired by the defense argued his bigotry was the result of paranoid schizophrenia a theory the jury rejected.

“Is fanatical hatred by itself sufficient to classify one as mentally ill?” the prosecutor said, asking the defense’s medical expert if he considered “80 million German people fanatics and psychotics.” The doctor demurred.

After his arrest, Mainville told a psychiatrist that he’d heard about Rockwell’s death on the radio and “decided to kill the first Jew I saw. I didn’t have anything against that little guy.”

“When I shot the guy, I was not sick,” Mainville told another doctor. “This is my belief. I am a Nazi.” His statements are eerily similar to those made by Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old white man who massacred nine black parishioners during a June 2015 Bible study in Charleston, S.C.

When asked to explain the fatal shooting, Roof told jurors, “There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically.” As at Mainville’s trial, family and friends said they knew about Roof’s fanatical hatred and his violent intentions before the attack. Roof was sentenced to death in January.

Mainville was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison after a three-day trial in Albany County Court. He died by suicide in 1979.

Edward Pearlberg, now 80, said it wasn’t until then that his family stopped looking over their shoulders in fear of Mainville’s release.

The lesson

Edward Pearlberg thinks his father was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he’s not surprised that the story of the murder has resurfaced in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots.

Earlier this month, rabbis Israel Rubin and Leible Morrison gathered about 20 elementary school-aged day campers inside the Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany to explain how they saw the connection.

“There is a difference between not liking someone and hating someone,” Rubin told the children. “God made all of us in different ways. … We have to learn how to accept each other, even if we can’t love everybody.”

Rubin’s family was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. When he asked his students if they’d heard anything about Charlottesville, roughly half raised their hands.

“It’s important for you to know this,” he said before explaining how neo-Nazis targeted a historic synagogue in the Virginia city during the protests.

Three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semiautomatic rifles reportedly stood across the street from Congregation Beth Israel on the morning of Aug. 12, as neo-Nazis marched past and shouted, “Sieg Heil!” The temple’s rabbi stood in the doorway with a security guard hired to keep the congregation safe.

“They didn’t shoot anybody but it was really nasty,” Rubin told the children, who at the mention of guns momentarily stopped fidgeting. “There was real hate. And the Jews inside were very, very worried. They had to go out the back, hiding.”

Morrison said people raised without compassion or a sense of the need to care for others grow up to hate.

It’s not an easy conversation to have with kids, but Morrison believes it’s a necessary one.

“We always have to remember: There’s hate, there’s not liking and there’s loving. So we have to do a lot more mitzvahs so that the love and caring takes away the hate,” he says, using the Hebrew word for good deeds.

Morrison pointed to Harry Pearlberg as an example.

“Neighborhoods wouldn’t matter to him. He was a grassroots kind of guy, and that’s how most peddlers were,” Morrison said, adding that it was common practice for Jewish salesmen to sell goods to hard-up neighbors with the simple promise of later payment.

“They were very trusting and compassionate,” Morrison told the kids. “And that’s the example we want to follow: They brought out the goodness in people.” 518-454-5467 @emilysmasters

When Nazi violence came to Cohoes – Albany Times Union

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