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Broward man admits synagogue bomb plot, expected to serve 25 years and get treatment – Sun Sentinel

Posted By on August 16, 2017

A Broward man admitted Wednesday that he planned to bomb an Aventura synagogue during Passover last year.

But James Gonzalo Medina, 41, of Hollywood, has been diagnosed with a spider-like brain cyst that may have affected his conduct, according to the defense.

Under an uncommon agreement between the prosecution and defense, Medina is expected to be locked up for 25 years and will spend at least the first portion of that in a prison medical ward where he can get treatment for the cyst and his mental health. If or when he is deemed fully recovered, he would be transferred to the general population section of a prison.

The final decision lies with U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. when he sentences Medina on Nov. 17. Prosecutor Marc Anton said the government will recommend a 25-year sentence and will not contest the defenses request that Medina should be placed in a prison hospital ward setting, at least initially, for medical and mental health treatment.

Medina was arrested in April 2016 after an undercover sting, which was launched by the FBI after someone reported Medina was threatening an attack.

On Wednesday, Medina pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to damage religious property, which is a hate crime, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, a fake bomb.

Medina admitted he plotted with an undercover informant to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. The complex includes a synagogue, classrooms and meeting halls.

He told the judge in court that he felt he had been manipulated in the undercover sting but said that he had committed the crimes.

I’m guilty, Medina said.

His defense team said they did not believe there was sufficient evidence to have persuaded a judge and jury that he was entrapped or coerced. If convicted after a trial, he would have faced life in prison.

Medina has been jailed without bond since he was arrested on April 29, 2016 as he walked from a car to the synagogue with a fake bomb that he said he thought was real.

Paula McMahon and Tonya Alanez

His case was stalled for several months while experts evaluated his mental health. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the arachnoid brain cyst but both sides recently agreed that he is legally competent to proceed with the case.

Assistant Federal Public Defenders Hector Dopico and Eric Cohen told the judge they presented a lot of mitigating evidence to prosecutors to help persuade them that this plea agreement was an appropriate outcome. They said they had also considered whether there was enough evidence to mount an insanity defense but concluded that was not likely to succeed.

When Medina seemed like he might be wavering about going forward with the plea agreement in court, the judge told him not to plead guilty if he was innocent.

I didnt become a judge to send innocent people to prison, Scola told him.

The judge explained the legal details required to prove entrapment or coercion and Medina, after speaking again with his lawyers, acknowledged he was actually guilty of the offenses.

The FBI began an undercover investigation of Medina in March 2016 after receiving a tip that he was planning to shoot people in the synagogue. Agents launched a sting, which involved an undercover witness and an undercover FBI agent. During the sting, investigators said Medina changed his plans and decided he would bomb the synagogue during a religious holiday.

Medina is a U.S. citizen who was raised Pentecostal Christian but converted to Islam after a difficult divorce some years ago. Family members said he had a long history of mental health problems.

Agents said he confessed and told them he believed the Jews are the cause of the present state of the world and all the wars that are taking place.

Medina was secretly recorded saying that he wanted to commit a terrorist attack that would inflict maximum casualties and did not care if women and children were murdered: All these people gonna die.

During a period of several weeks, he shifted his plan from committing a mass shooting to bombing the religious buildings. During the sting, he said he wanted to give credit to radical Islamic State terrorists and hoped to inspire other terrorists to commit similar crimes.

Medina admitted he conducted a significant amount of planning, which included doing surveillance of the synagogue and writing a note, with an ISIS flag, to leave at the scene.

Before he went to carry out would be a fatal bombing, he also recorded three videos on a cellphone.

I am a Muslim and I dont like what is going on in this world. Im going to handle business here in America, Medina said on one of the recordings. Aventura, watch your back. ISIS is in the house., 954-356-4533 or Twitter @SentinelPaula

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Broward man admits synagogue bomb plot, expected to serve 25 years and get treatment – Sun Sentinel

The Secret Jewish History Of Rum – Forward

Posted By on August 16, 2017


a rum and Cola Cuba Libre cocktail.

Today is National Rum Day. Little-known fact: Rum has some very Jewish origins.

Sure, its not the syrupy, cloyingly sweet atrocity known as Manischewitz. But rum, which is derived from the molasses of sugarcane, was perfected by Jews escaping another atrocity: the Inquisition.

In the year 1500, Brazil was claimed by the Portuguese and many Sephardic Jews emigrated seeking refuge from growing intolerance. However, the Inquisition soon followed them overseas, when it expanded the scope of its operations to include Portugals colonial conquests. It wasnt until 1630, when the Dutch seized control of northeast Brazil, that Sephardic Jews were able to settle there once again.

The Dutch were not known for cultivating and developing sugar plantations; they were satisfied with the import/export business, bringing in goods produced by others. But when they conquered the northeast corridor of Brazil, they continued to work the sugar fields near Pernanbuco and took ownership of the slaves left behind by the Portuguese. The Dutch, with the aid of Sephardic Jews, some of whom owned their own sugar plantations, developed and perfected the process of making rum.

Meanwhile, 2,000 miles from Dutch-owned Brazil, the English had staked a claim to the Island of Barbados. Barbados was discovered in 1609 by Sir John Summer when a hurricane that nearly capsized his ship drove him and his crew there. According to Ian Williams in his book, Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, Sir John Summer and his crew turned to alcohol and the making of alcohol for comfort:

And there we have the equation in a small tot thirsty settlers who knew how to make spirits, and sugarcane, the most potent source of fermenting alcohol for the still. Barbados had the year-round heat, the water, and the flat lands that sugarcane needs for growing.

But it was only through working with their Dutch neighbors that the English were able to make Barbados the (almost) undisputed home of rum.

Around the year 1640, Colonel James Drax purchased a triple-roller sugar mill and a set of copper cauldrons from Dutch Brazil for Barbados. These rollers were invented in Sicily, and came to Brazil through the Canary Islands. But it was the Dutch and their Sephardic Jewish collaborators who developed the roller technology further, perfecting the extraction technique. With the introduction of these rollers, Colonel Drax set in motion the switch to a Barbados sugar monoculture, which set the tone of overall Caribbean agricultural production for the next three centuries.

In 1645, the Dutch and, by extension, Sephardic Jews were finally expelled from Brazil when the Portuguese reconquered northeastern Brazil.

Many expelled Jews headed for Barbados. But while under Dutch rule they were allowed to own slaves and sugar plantations, under English law a Jew could only own one slave each. A major sugar plantation required hundreds of slaves to operate, and so the Jews who arrived in Barbados made money the old-fashioned way: as merchants and traders.

Years laters, in 1706, the restriction against Jews owning hundreds of slaves was lifted, and some Jews did end up owning their own sugar plantations. But, for the most part, the Jews had left the sugar-making, and, by extension, rum-making business behind once they were expelled from Brazil.

Michelle Honig is a writer at the Forward. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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The Secret Jewish History Of Rum – Forward

Who owns America’s oldest synagogue? It’s a 350-year-old argument – jewishpresspinellas

Posted By on August 16, 2017

By Ben Sales JTA news service

Touro Synagogue, nestled in historic Newport, R.I., is the oldest synagogue still in existence in the United States. John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images NEW YORK The story of Americas oldest synagogue, as told by retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter, is the story of American Jewish history.

Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, Souter wrote, was built in the 1700s by Sephardic merchants whose community then declined. In the late 1800s, Eastern European Jews arrived in the area, occupied the building and have used it to this day.

Since then, heirs of the older Sephardic community have tried to maintain a foothold in the historic synagogue that they consider theirs.

On Wednesday, Aug. 2, Souter awarded a victory to the Sephardim.

Writing an appeals court ruling on a lawsuit over who owns Touro Synagogue, Souter who has regularly sat on the court following his 2009 retirement wrote that the building and its centuries-old ritual objects all belong to Congregation Shearith Israel, a historic Sephardic congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The decision reversed an earlier district court decision that gave ownership of the building and the multimillion-dollar artifacts to the group that worships there: the Ashkenazi Congregation Jeshuat Israel.

Its an odd and oddly enduring dispute being played out in an American courtroom. Souters ruling is a primer on nearly 400 years of American Jewish history, and a dispute that touches on historical tensions between Sephardic Jews with roots in Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East, and Ashkenazi Jews with roots in Eastern Europe.

Touro, built in 1763, has loomed large in American Jewish history. Along with its claim to being the first Jewish building in the country, it also received George Washingtons 1790 letter guaranteeing that the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.

Shearith Israel, hundreds of miles away, has held title to Touro since the early 1800s, when the shrinking Newport community asked the New York City shul to steward the building and its ritual objects.

Its a fitting relationship: Shearith Israel also known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue has a sense of its history as well. Founded in 1654, it bills itself as Americas First Jewish Congregation. (Its current building is its fifth home.) Oldtime members still wear top hats, and it still worships in the distinctive Sephardic style passed down from its founders, complete with a cantor in robes and choir. Some Shearith Israel members are descended from the original families that started the congregation four centuries ago.

Jeshuat Israel, founded in 1881 as Ashkenazi immigrants began flooding America from Eastern Europe, has worshipped at Touro for more than a century. For a time, according to Souters ruling, its members occupied the synagogue illegally, praying there even as Shearith Israel sought to keep it closed.

Only in 1903, following a court battle, did the two groups sign a contract establishing Shearith Israel as the owner and giving Jeshuat Israel a lease on the building. According to the terms of the contract, Jeshuat Israel must pray in the Sephardic style its own identity be damned.

Seeking to form an endowment, Jeshuat Israel arranged in 2011 to sell a pair of handcrafted, 18th-century silver bulbs, which are used to adorn Torah scrolls, to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where they were on loan. But Shearith Israel objected to the $7 million sale, both because Shearith Israel said it owned the ornaments and claimed the sale violated Jewish law. Jeshuat Israel then sued Shearith Israel, and Shearith Israel countersued both of them seeking legal ownership of the bulbs.

Because the bulbs are meant to rest upon a Torah scroll, Shearith Israel asserted, selling them to a secular institution constitutes an unacceptable decline in holiness.

The district court had ruled in Jeshuat Israels favor on the grounds that it occupies the building and that Shearith Israel had failed in its trustee obligations. But Souter reversed the ruling, partially based on the 1903 contract, writing that Shearith Israel is fee owner of the Touro Synagogue building, appurtenances, fixtures, and associated land.

Now, says Gary Naftalis, Jeshuat Israels lawyer, the congregation is reviewing our legal options going forward. Jeshuat Israel could ask the appeals courts full panel of judges to review the ruling, and may petition to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Late last week, Jeshuat asked for a rehearing.

Shearith Israel President Louis Solomon said in a statement that the congregation is gratified by the courts decision and, as a result, has been restored to the position it has held for centuries.

The statement added that the congregation hopes to move forward from the court ruling, which enables two great Jewish congregations to regain the harmony that existed between them before this unfortunate episode began five years ago.

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Who owns America’s oldest synagogue? It’s a 350-year-old argument – jewishpresspinellas

The Summer Of Our Public Jewishness – HuffPost

Posted By on August 16, 2017

For my new California drivers license photo, I wore my rainbow Star of David necklace. Ive acquired considerable symbolic bling over the yearsmainly because a lifetime of well-meaning folks assuring me I dont look Jewish or look gay frayed my last nerve. Those remarks, those conversations led me to buy a lot of jewelry and shirt slogans asserting guess what, I AM one of those people,and from my late teens onward I seized many an opportunity to bust some stereotypes. Unlike most of my black and/or butch friends, I had a choice to out myself, to select times and places for my narrative about assimilation vs. tribal identity. Over the years, being bizarrely complimented/challenged for passing taught me about others anxiety concerning privilege, rank, coloring and survival… all the anxiety about white power that has led us to this week.

This week, those stark poster graphics calling on white supremacists to rally in Virginia did so by depicting a big, white man smashing a Jewish star with a sledgehammer. If thats their call to arms, then I am their target. As is my mom.

Well, this has been a summer like no other. Most progressive Jews I know are ping-ponging between our own necessary, ongoing study of white privilege and the shock of hearing new Nazi voices telling the media Jews arent white. Its a unique summer of left-wing AND right-wing contempt for that six-pointed Jewish star.

During Pride month, well-intentioned but troubling comments from some Chicago activists disparaged the star of David as too symbolic of Israeli state policy, too triggering as a symbol of Zionisms flag. Someone defined Zionism as white racism, which is a significantly different phrasing from the more familiar Zionism is racism chant. It requires the antiracist to see all Israelis (and most Jews) as white, a total erasure of Jews of color; it disappears, for political expediency, Jews from Ethiopia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, Turkey and so on. Interestingly, its a denial that Jews were ever indigenous to the Middle East. Thus, we continue to hear from different quarters that all Jews are white, that no Jew is white, that Jews embody the worst elements of white power and minority tribalism. The overlap of this Venn diagram is that Jews in America are always wrong. Again, it is the obsession with white power, who has it, who should have it, which drives so many heated arguments in America.

At 56, Ive lived though many decades of political attacks on Jews that took different forms from todays alt-right Nazism. In my childhood, Jews were called Christ-killers; then in my college years, Arab killers; and, throughout my years of pro-choice activism, baby-killers. There were often shrill anti-Semites blocking abortion services who chanted, Stop evil Jewish doctors from killing babies.

What all these waves shared in common was their usage of posters with blood and gore splattered on a star of David. Almost any cause could adapt this image of Jewish faith/heritage/identity as a monster that must be smashed. As recently as 2007, while wearing my star of David in Ireland, I was told that I must feel pretty guilty for killing Christ; others recommended the very gory Mel Gibson film as a beautiful depiction of Christs martyrdom by Jews.

For all these reasons, it can be difficult for peace and justice activists like myself to rally behind posters that throw blood on a Jewish star as a way to call out Israel. The blood libel, which began with medieval accusations that Jews cooked Christian babies in Passover matzo, has a long history in service to deadly pogroms; and a pogrom against Jews looks exactly like what just happened in Charlottesvillearmed villagers carrying torches, eager to assert superiority.

As I watch the endless news debates about the new Nazism in America, Im examining how it feels to be named both target and oppressor, white privileged and race mongrel, each contradictory title forcing a public self consciousness in the face of fluctuating rhetoric. The recent smashing of Bostons glass-walled Holocaust memorial by a teenager calls up associations with Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass in 1930s Germany, which some of my familys own friends escaped. We have arrived at a new moment of overload in piling bad imagery onto the Jewish star, with no one in our national leadership equipped to address this history.

These are the feelings of many, like me, in the defensive middle space of wanting to assert Jewish pride without derailing the peace movement OR being run over/torched by alt-right Nazis.Waiting in line, today, to have my new state identity card made, I simply hoped that my choice to be out as a Jew on my drivers license would initiate many crucial conversations in the weeks and years to come. Theres much, much more to talk about, I know.

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The Summer Of Our Public Jewishness – HuffPost

Why you see swastikas in America but not Germany – Vox

Posted By on August 16, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed horror at the racist marches that roiled Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. It is racist, far-right violence, and clear, forceful action must be taken against it, regardless of where in the world it happens, she said on German television Monday.

She might have added that such a thing wouldnt have happened in todays Germany because its illegal.

While America protects the right of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups to hold public rallies and express their views openly, Germany has strict laws banning Nazi symbols and whats called Volksverhetzung incitement of the people, or hate speech. Like more than a dozen European countries, Germany also has a law criminalizing Holocaust denial.

And while Confederate statues can be found in many American cities south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there are no statues of Adolph Hitler or Joseph Goebbels gracing public squares in Berlin, let alone Nazi flags or other Nazi art. Public Nazi imagery was long ago destroyed, and swastikas were long since knocked off the walls of Nazi-era buildings. The only Nazi imagery youll find is in exhibits devoted to understanding the horror of the period.

The former Gestapo headquarters complex was destroyed in the 1950s. The land it once stood on now houses the Topography of Terror, a memorial and museum made of glass and steel filled with panels that narrate the brutal history of the Nazi regime. And on streets across the country, there are small brass cobblestones called stolpersteine (literally stumbling blocks), which tell passersby brief biographical details of each man, woman, or child who was deported from that spot, that house, or that block.

The Civil War may have ended more than 150 years ago, but America is still dealing with how to reconcile, and memorialize, that dark period of its history. And while freedom of speech even vile, racist speech is an inviolate part of the US Constitutions First Amendment, Germanys commitment to facing its own dark past led that country to believe a mix of education and limiting free speech was the only way to ensure the past would remain past.

In 1945, the conquering Allied powers took control of Germany and banned the swastika, the Nazi party, and the publication of Mein Kampf, Hitlers famously anti-Semitic text, historian Jean-Marc Dreyfus explained to me.

There was a thorough effort to get rid of Nazi stragglers and Lost Cause supporters, adds historian Gavriel Rosenfeld.

In 1949, the new West German government legally codified the banning of Nazi symbols and language, as well as propaganda. As Middlebury College professor Erik Bleich explained in a 2011 article for the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies on the development of hate speech and hate crimes laws, even the Heil Hitler! salute was officially banned.

But that didnt mean it all disappeared overnight. After all, millions of German who had been part of the Nazi party still lived in the country. SS veterans who had fought under an ideology that was now outlawed would meet to drink and reminisce. There was always the risk, it seemed, of backsliding, even as a new menace communism rose in the east.

It wasnt until the generation that came of age in the 1960s the baby boomers who became known in Europe as 68ers that a full reckoning of the war and a culture of Holocaust education began to take hold. Students rose up against the suppression of memory, demanding answers to what their parents had done just 25 years earlier.

A generation of criminals was ruling society after the war and no one talked about what they had done, journalist Gnter Wallraff told Deutsche Welle in 2008. Discussing their crimes was not even a part of our school lessons.

Today its mandatory in schools.

The law was also evolving. After a series of synagogues and cemeteries were vandalized, Bleich explains, the West German parliament voted unanimously in 1960 to make it illegal to incite hatred, to provoke violence, or to insult, ridicule or defame parts of the population in a manner apt to breach the peace. Over time it was broadened to include racist writing.

Gradually, this evolved into a concept called defensive democracy. The idea is that democracies might need a boost from some illiberal policies such as limits on free speech and the display of imagery, in this case, connected to the Holocaust and the Second World War in order to keep everyone free. In 2009 the law was strengthened again, when the German Constitutional Court officially ruled that a march to celebrate Nazi Rudolf Hess was illegal under Article 130 of the Penal Code, which bans anything that “approves of, glorifies or justifies the violent and despotic rule of the National Socialists.”

Our German law centers on the strong belief that you should hinder this kind of speech in a society committed to principles of democratic coexistence and peace, Matthias Jahn, a law professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, told the Washington Post this week.

Germany still struggles with neo-Nazis and the far right. But even the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the far-right German party, ran into trouble earlier this year when one of its leaders seemed to minimize the Holocaust and bashed Germanys culture of remembrance. The party voted to remove him.

By contrast, in one of our countrys most notable free speech cases, neo-Nazis were famously allowed to march in Skokie, Illinois, in 1978. This was despite the fact that the choice was made to clearly hurt the large population of Holocaust survivors, and Jews, who lived there.

What Germany does is what Germany does, says University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone. They learned different lessons from history. The lesson we learned is not to trust the government to decide what speech is okay and what speech is not okay.

The First Amendment does not permit the government to forbid speech because ideas are thought to be offensive or odious. That’s a message we have learned over our history: that we don’t trust the government to make that decision.

If we had, he says, it likely would have been used against civil rights, womens rights, and LGBTQ rights.

Earlier this year, Condoleezza Rice who was the first woman African-American secretary of state in US history was asked on Fox News if she wanted the South to erase the past by taking down the monuments to Confederate leaders.

I am a firm believer in ‘keep your history before you, she told the hosts. So I don’t actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners. I want us to have to look at those names, and realize what they did, and be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to have a sense of their own history.

But unlike in Germany, where memorials to the victims of the Holocaust are erected on the ruins of Nazi buildings as a way to teach future generations about the sins and horrors of the past, most Confederate statues were designed to glorify the sins and horrors of the past.

Professor Kirt von Daacke, co-chair of the University of Virginia President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, explains that the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville was erected in 1924 as part of the apex of white supremacist rule in Virginia and the US. It was explicitly part of a project designed to claim public space for whites only and remind African Americans that they were the dominated whose lives were worthless.

Both the statue of Robert E. Lee and a nearby statue of Stonewall Jackson, he continues, were installed just after the KKK marched directly into the heart of the African-American community.

These statues, he says, were the final act in a 30-plus-year project in Virginia … eliminating African Americans from citizenship and the public sphere and erasing the history of the Civil War. He sees both of them as part of a Lost Cause mythology that itself was a whitewashing of history.

To call these statues historical is to be willfully ignorant of history, he adds. The statues are monuments to white supremacy, not to Lee, not to Jackson.

That said, not everyone agrees that the obvious answer is immediate removal.

Alfred Brophy, a law professor at the University of Alabama, wrote me he believes its generally not the right idea to remove a statue because we should not allow our country to forget that there was once a time when the people in power celebrated the Confederacy and its support of slavery.

Whitewashing took place, he explains, when the history of the South was rewritten to be about states rights rather than slavery. I think there’s a ton of validity to the argument that removal of statues facilitates forgetting, he said. Once the public space is cleared of Confederate statues, it’s easy to forget that Confederate statues once blanketed the countryside. They serve as stark reminders of the bad old days.

He worries, though, that there is a good argument for removing them after Charlottesville. When a monument serves as a contemporary rallying point, then we need to remove them, I suspect.

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Why you see swastikas in America but not Germany – Vox

Censor white supremacy – The Week Magazine

Posted By on August 16, 2017

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One of the most welcome political developments of my lifetime is the growing suspicion with which attempts to cloak even the most detestable utterances under the mantle of “free speech” is regarded.

From the misogynistic obscurantism of #GamerGate (years later I still can’t find anyone who can tell me what the “-gate” was) and the painfully unfunny parody of stand-up comedy performed on college campuses by the expatriate employer of ghostwriters known as Milo Yiannopoulos to the latter-day phrenology of the so-called alt-right and the unabashed Holocaust denial of Stormfront, there are expressions that most of us consider on their face unacceptable and undeserving of a platform. The difference is that now increasingly it looks as if people have concluded that it is our duty to make sure they are denied one. Thank God for SJWs!

This was not always the case. There is a long history in this country of making grandiose blanket defenses of freedom of speech that extend to bigots, frauds, pornographers, genocidal enthusiasts, propagators of terrorism and sedition, and kooks emotionally invested in nonsense and villainy of every conceivable variety. People who make arguments defending, say, the rights of pseudo-historians to argue that the Nazis did not murder millions of European Jews or the ancient liberty of perverts to create simulations of child pornography call themselves “free speech absolutists.” Their position has never been tenable, but it has long enjoyed a mainstream currency in the United States, in classrooms, and in the pages of newspapers and magazines and even on the bench of the Supreme Court.

This is because freedom of speech in the way that is usually discussed in this country is a cartoonish fantasy. There has never been a community in which certain ideas have not been considered open for discussion or debate. As Stanley Fish argued in his famous essay “There is no such thing as free speech, and it’s a good thing, too,” the liberal concept of freedom of speech is not some kind of immutable principle woven into the fabric of reality; it is an idea and a very new, albeit frequently misunderstood one.

As Fish points out, the ur-text for what we think of as freedom of expression, quoted on a monument familiar to those who visited the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library, is John Milton’s 1642 treatise Aeropagitica. There the Puritan poet and pamphleteer makes many arguments that will sound familiar to Americans in the 21st century: Allowing the largest possible number of viewpoints to be expressed publicly means that we have access to more good ideas; the task of sifting through a wide range of opinions sharpens our intellects and forces us to refine our own arguments; moreover, actively proscribing certain expressions may lend them a certain kind of romantic credibility, whereas simply ignoring them will result in their being mostly ignored.

What almost no one acknowledges, except in the act of attempting to explain it away, is the following qualification, which was absolutely crucial for Milton:

I mean not tolerated Popery, and open superstition, which as it extirpats all religions and civill supremacies, so it self should be extirpat, provided first that all charitable and compassionat means be us’d to win and regain the weak and the misled: that also which is impious or evil absolutely either against faith or maners no law can possibly permit, that intends not to unlaw it self. [Aeropagitica]

In other words, Milton argues, all free speech is acceptable except any speech that promotes the teachings of the Catholic Church or paganism or atheism. Brushing this off as mere prejudice or oversight would be a gross anachronism. Milton makes this qualification precisely because Catholicism and atheism are incompatible with the kind of society for which he is arguing. Giving Catholics or atheists a hearing would be an act of violence tearing away at the foundations of the Christian commonwealth he hoped to establish.

Very few Americans today are interested in setting up a community based on 17th-century Protestant notions of biblical morality. But Milton’s pamphlet remains relevant. All societies have certain organizing principles. Freedom of speech is not a first-order good; it exists only to facilitate the flourishing of the society along the lines established by those principles. In America today one of those principles is that discrimination based on race is immoral; people who disagree with this have only one goal creating a society in which it is not one of those principles. If we do not want to allow this to happen, we should not permit anyone to argue in favor of it.

To pretend otherwise and posture on behalf of the abstract rights of racist crank is not, as “absolutists” pretend, to defend speech but to demean it, to diminish it to the level of undifferentiated random noise. This is because every act of expression takes place against the invisible backdrop of all the expressions not taking place; an argument in the pages of The Washington Post about a murder assumes that murder is a crime, and it would not occur to the reporter that, when seeking comment from the police department and the suspect’s attorney, he should also solicit the opinions of a hypothetical man in Arkansas who thinks that murder should not be a crime. To fail to see how any given act of speech only makes sense in the absence of other possible but absolutely inadmissible expressions is childish. Assuming that a new scholarly biography of Hitler and Holocaust-denying memes traded by basement dwellers on the internet are both “speech,” expressions of potentially equal value whose worth is ultimate determined by what readers decide to make of them, is not an exercise in tolerance; it is nihilism.

Which brings us to the recent decisions by Go Daddy and Google to deny the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi publication, a home on their web hosting platforms. I have yet to see anyone find fault with this decision even though realistically speaking it amounts to censorship. This is in itself a good thing, though few people have acknowledged it as such. At present it is easy to ignore the elephant in the room by saying that these are private companies free to make their own decisions about what viewpoints can be expressed on web servers that they own and control. But there are only so many web hosting services. Suppose no one was willing to offer these Hitler fanboys room to air their grievances with African-Americans and Jews on the internet suppose that they could find no publisher willing to reproduce their pamphlets and no one willing to sell them a Xerox machine and paper to distribute them on their own?

Would it still be okay? Why is it reasonable to pretend that an action that is licit and even commendable when taken by a corporation that will soon be worth $1 trillion would be unjust if an ill-defined entity called “the state” undertook it? The world in which the government enjoys a monopoly on coercion and corporations are not state entities whose actions would not be possible without a vast infrastructure and legal apparatus in which they operate is a fantasy. The procedural question of who is responsible for the censorship is beside the point. The only relevant one is whether it is laudable.

I for one am happy that the Daily Stormer is gone. People who agree with me need to ask themselves why they would have found it upsetting if the Department of Justice had shut it down.

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Censor white supremacy – The Week Magazine

New York Hasidic village seeks to secede from town after years of power struggles – Fox News

Posted By on August 16, 2017

CENTRAL VALLEY, N.Y. A growing rift between the tight-knit Hasidic communities of New York state and their Gentile neighbors, who increasingly feel threatened by the expansion of the Orthodox Jewish groups, is on full display this week at a pair of town hall meetings to explore what would amount to a municipal divorce.

The occasion for the hearings is a proposal to turn a predominantly Hasidic village in the town of Monroe, N.Y., into its own town provided Monroe officials donate 56 acres to what is now the village of Kiryas Joel.

Leaders of Kiryas Joel have said they’re all for the proposal and have already come up with a new name for their community, Palm Tree. But other residents of Monroe are divided. Some say a separation is the only way to save Monroes suburban character from the encroaching political and economic dominance of the Hasids. Other Monroe residents worry that the price donating land to Kiryas Joel is too high or that negotiations between Monroe and Kiryas Joel officials have been too secretive.

There was lots of emotion among the Gentiles who testified.

Its gotten worse and worse, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said Tuesday at the nearly three-hour hearing in the auditorium of the Central Valley Elementary School, located about 40 miles north of New York City.

The power struggle with Hasidic residents, Neuhaus said, was creating a political Chernobyl thats spilling over into other towns.

Residents of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel at a hearing in Orange County, New York about a plan to let them annex land from the town of Monroe and form their own town (Photo by Elizabeth Llorente)

Neuhaus urged the 21-member Orange County legislative committee to allow a voter referendum on a plan negotiated between a citizen group called United Monroe and Kiryas Joel calling for Kiryas Joel to get 56 acres in addition to 164 acres it annexed in 2015.

The town of Palm Tree would include Kiryas Joel, a 1.1-square-mile village of 22,000 people who live in high-rises and whose population grows about 6 percent every year.

Only about a dozen Kiryas Joel residents attended the hearing; another was planned for Wednesday in their village. The residents, all men, sat or stood in the back of the auditorium. None of them went up to the microphone to address the county legislators.

But in interviews with Fox News, they said they wanted to secede from Monroe and have their own town and elected leaders.

This is 90 percent garbage, said Alin Schwartz, when asked his thoughts about the assertion that his community wanted to control Monroe and push special interests.

The Jewish community has been hearing this for hundreds of years, he said.

Just losers, he added, referring to speakers at the front of the auditorium who were accusing Kiryas Joel of hoodwinking officials and flouting zoning regulations.

United Monroe founder John Egan said separation of Monroe, New York from the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel is the only solution to years of pitched power stuggles. (Photo by Elizabeth Llorente)

Separation is the best solution for everyone and for peace, Schwartz said. The Jewish community is working hard for peace. I work with non-Jews. I love them and they love me.

Schwartz praised United Monroe for reaching out to Kiryas Joel for a peaceful solution.

Some residents of Monroe and other neighboring towns said they wanted to know more details of the plan, and said the negotiations seemed to them too secretive. But whether they were for or against having the plan go to a referendum on Nov. 7, virtually all the speakers expressed resentment over the growing clout of Kiryas Joel in many aspects of life in Monroe.

If we do not separate now, the citizens of Monroe outside of Kiryas Joel will not be able to elect our town board members when KJ votes as a bloc, said a handout United Monroe gave to those entering the auditorium. This is because the voters of Kiryas Joel cannot be overcome today and are growing rapidly. Not separating now means giving Kiryas Joel the ability to control our town board, our zoning, our planning, and will mean high-density housing throughout Monroe.

United Monroe founders said several times that they were not waging a battle against a religion, though many Hasidic Jews following the arguments felt they were.

They want an urban lifestyle, high-rises, high usage of water and other services, said John Egan, a United Monroe founder and key figure in the negotiations with Kiryas Joel. We want the opposite. Separation was really the only solution.

Michael Sussman, a civil rights lawyer, warned the legislators that the plan was unconstitutional. He said it violated the concept of separation of church and state by creating jurisdictional boundaries based on religion.

This factionalism is what our founders railed against, Sussman said.

Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for, and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.

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New York Hasidic village seeks to secede from town after years of power struggles – Fox News

‘Menashe’ gives us rare insight into Brooklyn’s Hasidic culture –

Posted By on August 16, 2017

The mix of fiction and documentary that takes us inside a Hasidic community in Brooklyn in Menashe turns out to be something of a double-edged sword.

Director Joshua Z. Weinstein (a documentarian making his first drama) has said some of the footage was shot secretly, which raises issues of cultural appropriation the movie never really addresses, even as it moves us closer to the culture in question (the movie is almost entirely in Yiddish, with subtitles).

It stars Menashe Lustig, a Hasidic comedian and widower who no longer has custody of his son because the law and custom forbid children to be raised in a home without a mother a situation that forms the spine of the story here.

Menashe loves his son (Ruben Niborski) and wants to raise him, but his refusal to seriously pursue a new wife and his failures as a breadwinner put that at risk. Menashe is a likable blunderer, but a blunderer nonetheless he can barely hold down the cashier delivery job at the local convenience store, a job he owes to his brother-in-law.

His rabbi gives him two weeks to shape up, find a wife, or lose supervision of the boy.Decision day is to occur on the anniversary of his wifes death, when Menashe is to host a ceremony in her honor.

The burly Lustig has a melancholy quality he plays himself as a fellow with a good heart, but one whos become a little too comfortable with failure. He is devoted to his son but lacks the discipline to make the choices that will allow him to be a better father.

For every loving gesture (using his last savings to buy his son a baby chick), there is a screw-up leaving the back door open on his delivery truck, for instance, sending the days delivery out into the streets. Our hopes that Menashe will ace the memorial ceremony (and the bachelor-proof kugel recipe) are not high.

The movie was (apparently) shot guerrilla style by director Weinstein, though the filmmakers have been coy as to which scenes were captured stealthily and which are dramatized. This leads to questions about tact and voyeurism that go unanswered and frankly made me a little queasy.

And while the approach gives us rare insight into a closed-off community, it also appears to have limited Weinsteins visual choices. If hes not using a hidden camera, hes imitating one, and the movies shaky/sneaky peering eye grows stale, even at 82 minutes.

This leads to an emotional distance as well for all its insight into Hasidic life (the more you know, the more youll get out of the rituals and practices on view), it was the movies one non-Yiddish scene that hits home: Menashe in the storeroom at work, drinking 40-ounce beers with his Latino pals, a situation that somehow extracts from him a candor missing from his guarded interaction with Hasidic friends and relatives.

Thats part of Weinsteins point. Menashe wants to be a good father and a devout man, but the world he values wont let him be both.

Directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein. With Menashe Lustig, Ruben Niborski, andYoel Weisshaus. Distributed by A24 Films.

Published: August 16, 2017 3:01 AM EDT | Updated: August 16, 2017 2:20 PM EDT

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‘Menashe’ gives us rare insight into Brooklyn’s Hasidic culture –

A Living Symbol of Israel’s Return to Jerusalem, Hurva Synagogue Stands Proud in Old City – Breaking Israel News

Posted By on August 16, 2017

Raise a shout together, O ruins of Yerushalayim! For Hashem will comfort His people, Will redeem Yerushalayim. Isaiah 52:9 (The Israel Bible)

The Hurva Synagogue in the Old Citys Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem. Inset: After its destruction in 1967. (Shutterstock/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Aliza Abrahamovitz

In the center of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem stands a magnificent and breathtaking building. The tallest building in the area, its domed roof, stained glass windows and high balcony leave a powerful impression on passersby, but the story of the Hurva Synagogue, with a message for the Jewish people, is even more inspiring than the structure itself.

In 1700, Yehudah Ha-Hasid immigrated to Israel with a group of 500 European Ashkenazi Jews. After only a few days in the holy city of Jerusalem, the groups leader died, leaving his followers despondent.

The group began to build a life for themselves in Jerusalem with some homes and a small synagogue. Eventually, they started construction on a more magnificent house of worship, but the venture proved to be too expensive to continue. They could not repay the loans necessary, and in 1720 the Arab lenders set the synagogue on fire.

The Jewish leaders were imprisoned and the immigrants were expelled from Jerusalem. The pile of rubble that was once the communitys synagogue became known as the Ruin (Hurva) of Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Hasid.

In the 1800s, a second group of Ashkenazi Jews, disciples of the Gaon of Vilna, came to build a new synagogue in the destroyed Ashkenazi courtyard. With financial backing, mainly from the Rothschild family and Sir Moses Montefiore, 1864 saw the inauguration of a magnificent Ashkenazi synagogue in the Old City. Nothing of such grandeur had been built by the Jews of Jerusalem since the Second Temple. Its domed roof towered high above the surrounding buildings, and its interior was intricately decorated. Visiting rabbis and dignitaries would make a point to stop and worship there.

In May of 1948, Jordanian forces entered the Old City of Jerusalem. They detonated a barrel filled with explosives against the exterior wall of the Hurva Synagogue, creating a gaping hole to allow them to enter. The Jordanians succeed in flying their flag from the roof of the synagogue and announced victory over the Old City. Then they blew up the magnificent structure, reducing it once again to a pile of rubble.

For the next 19 years, the Old City was inaccessible to Jewish visitors. Even prayers at Judaisms holiest sites, such as the Western Wall, were prohibited to Jews. But in June of 1967, during the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War, Israel regained sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including the Old City. For the first time in 2,000 years, Jews were in control of the holy city.

There was immediately disagreement as to what to rebuild at the site of the destroyed Hurva synagogue. Some wanted a new synagogue built in a contemporary style, while others felt it would be meaningful to rebuild the synagogue in its original form, paying homage to the once grand building. Some groups wanted the new building to become a museum telling the history of the Jewish struggle for the Old City, but most felt it was only right for the new building to serve once again as a house of worship and study hall.

While no decision was made, a commemorative arch, a recreation of one of the original supportive arches of the synagogue, was built in 1977 as a statement that the synagogue would be rebuilt. But it was not until the year 2000, 33 years after the Old City was reclaimed and 62 years after the buildings destruction, that government officials decided to rebuild the synagogue in its original Ottoman style. In March of 2010, the official opening of the Hurva Synagogue took place.

Today, the synagogue is an active house of worship, hosting daily prayers, bar mitzvah and circumcision ceremonies. It is also a must-see landmark site in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Visitors can take a tour of this grand structure, highlighted by a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Old City from the balcony surrounding the synagogues great dome.

It stands as a living symbol of the Jewish struggle to rebuild its land, a place where Jewish life is celebrated where once it was destroyed.

The story of the Hurva Synagogue appears in Then & Now: 16-Month Jewish Calendar and Holiday Guide 2017/2018 by Israel365. Click here to learn more and purchase.

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A Living Symbol of Israel’s Return to Jerusalem, Hurva Synagogue Stands Proud in Old City – Breaking Israel News

Why do white supremacists hate Jews? Because we Jews can fight them. – Washington Post

Posted By on August 16, 2017

By Danya Ruttenberg By Danya Ruttenberg August 16 at 6:00 AM

White nationalists staged a torchlit march on the campus of the University of Virginia on Aug.11, ahead of a planned far-right rally. (Instagram/anonymous via Storyful)

Anti-Semitism is again back in the news.

Some of the posters atthe Charlottesville white supremacist demonstrations this weekend featured a man taking a hammer to a Star of David the biggest threat, the thing that needs to be destroyed. Marchers chanted Jews will not replace us and Blood and soil!, a direct translation of the Nazi slogan blut und boden, which plays on the notion of Jews as powerful, dangerous interlopers.

This comes toward the end of a summer that included the Chicago Dyke Marchejectingparticipants with a Star of David on a gay pride flag on the misguided-at-best grounds that it went against the marchs anti-racist core values and heated debates about whether Gal Gadot, an Ashkenazi Israeli, isa person of color. Particularly in recent years, there has rightfully beenincreased talk about the ways in which many Ashkenazi Jews in America do have white privilege.

So are we oppressed? Or what? The reasons that question may feel complicated go back around a thousand years. Since the dawn of modern anti-Semitism, hatred toward Jews has been deeply intertwined with the idea of Jews having unique sorts of advantages.

[Why Jews have a special obligation to resist Trump]

In the Middle Ages, Jews were barred from many trades and professions, and it was sometimes illegal for Jews to own land. It was convenient forlocal authorities to permit Jews to work in trades that were repugnant to Christians most notably moneylending, which was associated in the Christian world with depravity and sin.

From a Jewish perspective, moneylending was a useful line of work for two reasons. First, it was somewhat portable, and when times were lucky it enabled our ancestors to have liquid assets both of which were practical during an era when expulsions of Jews from villages and even whole countries were not uncommon. It was also profitable. Most late medieval and early modern European polities taxed Jews at jaw-droppingly high rates, so loaning out money was essential for communities survival. A very small subset of Jews began handling money because it was a viable option and a practical necessity. And then they were resented for it and identified with the work in a way that Christian bankers never were. Evenas early as 1233, anti-Semitic drawings depicted the usuriousJew, using many of the same themes one might find in a quick Google search.

Most Jews throughout history lived a fairly precarious existence, economically and otherwise. Many times in history we have been tolerated, and even embraced, by the rulers and locals of our host country. But we have also been subject to expulsions, pogroms, Inquisitions and genocide many times over often, indeed, fueled by the trope of the greedy, crooked Jew serving as the scapegoat for other stresses and complexities in society. Often, the shift from living in peace to the bottom dropping out happened very quickly.

So heres the paradox: Anti-Semitism and Jewish privilege are, and have long been, two sides of the same coin. Even now, I feel it keenly.

On the one hand, Jews as a category are thus far shielded from the state violence that a lot of other groups are experiencing. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not seeking us out as a group; we are not being barred from the military or being singled out in a travel ban. Although of course there are Jews of all levels of economic security in this country, American Jews as a collective do have a lot more social and cultural capital than many other groups, and we are not as vulnerable as other communities under attack. The reasons are various; a big one, though, is that many American Jews families have been established here for a century or more and, over that time, Ashkenazi Jews were able to assimilate into the broader culture and become white.

[Jews struggled for decades to become white. Now we must give up white privilege to fight racism.]

Yet at the same time, anti-Semitism is functioning as it has for centuries. Trumps attacks on Soros globalists, White House adviser Stephen Millers claim that a reporter had cosmopolitan bias (a phrase that has longtime anti-Semitic connotations despite Millers own Jewish origins), the Star of David superimposed on money in the infamous Trump tweet last year, the dog whistles in the Trumps final campaign ad and the posters and chants in Charlottesville all depend on a centuries-old, manufactured narrative of Jews as wealthy, powerful and in control. As this rhetoric gets louder, were seeing more targeted hate: Jewish graveyards have been vandalized at least five times this year, and the Holocaust Memorial in Boston was smashed for the second time this summer on Monday.

That shift from relative peace to something else can happen so quickly in the blink of an eye. Some members of the Jewish community are feeling our centuries-deep intergenerational trauma keenly, experiencing this era as nothing short of terrifying, with memories of pogrom torches and swastika flags looming large.

But this isnt the time to hunker down. Its the time to stand up. I, for one, have advantages that my ancestors in Europe never dreamed of, and this includes the social capital to fight bigotry with full force and power. We as a community have an obligation to stand up for those who are more vulnerable to both institutional and random attacks, as well as to embody the full bad-assery of an elderly woman photographed on Sunday in New York holding a sign that said, I escaped the Nazis once. You will not defeat me now.

Our work right now is to fight every kind of bigotry and hate head on.

Read more:

Trumps conspiracy theories sound anti-Semitic. Does he even realize it?

Im a rabbi who was arrested protesting Trumps travel ban. It was a holy act.

Donald Trump is wicked. As a rabbi, I had to protest his AIPAC speech.

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Why do white supremacists hate Jews? Because we Jews can fight them. – Washington Post

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