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The Zionist Underpinnings of Israel’s Violent Crackdown on Haredi Jews – Mintpress News

Posted By on April 10, 2020

In a conversation I had with Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro for an upcoming episode of the Miko Peled Podcast, Rabbi Shapiro referred to Jewish Zionists as idol worshipers.

They did not get these values, of loving their guns and stealing Palestinian land, from Judaism, he said. He explained that Jewish people throughout history have kept to themselves, avoided violence and war, and, in fact, are prohibited by heavenly decree from sovereignty over the Holy Land. Establishing sovereignty in the Holy Land, from which we were expelled by the Almighty, he explained, is a terrible sin.

There are, however, Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews, that live in the Holy Land and reject Zionism and the State of Israel altogether. I am with them, said Rabbi Shapiro.

In the United States, one does not usually hear much about the Ultra-Orthodox community that lives in Israel.Historically, there has always been a small observant Jewish community in Palestine. It was mostly a poor community of people who came to study the Torah and bask in the holiness of the land. There were small communities in Hebron, Tabaria and Safad and, of course, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In the nineteenth century, some of the Jews in Jerusalem moved out of the Old City into neighborhoods that were built for them by wealthy Jewish donors from Europe. When Zionism emerged in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the entire Ultra-Orthodox Jewish world opposed it in the strongest possible terms. Throughout the twentieth century, all the way up to the very moment when Israel was established, representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Palestine had asked not to be part of the state of Israel.

From the moment it was established, and even to this day, the state of Israel invests enormous efforts and resources to get the Ultra-Orthodox Jews to accept Zionism. Israel also does its very best to secularize this community. These efforts resulted in the creation of a National Religious group which the Haredi see as heretics. It also brought about a group of Haredi Jews who do not accept the legitimacy of the state but opted for practical reasons to work with it and within it. Both of these groups have representatives in the Israeli Knesset.

The price that the Israeli government pays to get the Haredi groups to agree to work with it amounts to many millions of dollars to Haredi education institutions. It is like a fisherman with a worm on a hook, Rabbi Shapiro explains, and the Haredi community, like a smart fish, is trying to get the worm without biting into the hook. The worm is funding, the hook is Zionism, the draft, and modifications to their religious education.

Throughout the twentieth century, as Israeliness was being defined as a secular testosterone-filled identity, a deep resentment towards the Haredi community was cultivated. They represented the old Jews in exile who went like sheep to the slaughter. I can attest to the fact that growing up as an Israeli one learns very early on that there are two groups of people one is supposed to hate: The Arabs and the Haredi Jews.

In his book Real Jews, Secular vs. Ultra-Orthodox and the Struggle for Jewish Identity in Israel, Noah Efron describes in great detail just how deeply secular Israelis hate Ultra-Orthodox Jews. However, one would do well to remember that the Haredi community preceded Israel.

For Haredi Jews living in Israel, a visit from the authorities means bad news. State institutions have been chasing them and attempting to secularize them in every way imaginable. By far the most intrusive element into their life is the compulsory draft that is mandated by Israeli law and means that every man and woman over the age of 18 must serve in the military. The young Haredi men and women would rather be arrested, and even die, rather than be drafted.

One cannot imagine a less religious, less pious, less observant and more promiscuous environment than the army. Haredi Jews have always rejected the draft and this is cause for police raids and arrests of these young people which of course brings about anger and frustration in the community. The community rejection of the army is a result of many things, not the least of which is that their lifestyle is uncompromisingly religious, they are prohibited from carrying arms and they fundamentally reject the state.

A recent reportfrom NPR touched on the conditions within the Haredi community amid the spread of the Coronavirus. The members of the Haredi community live in crowded and very humble conditions in towns and neighborhoods in which only they reside. Many in the community do not speak Hebrew, which they consider a sacred language to be used only in prayer and service, and instead, they use Yiddish, which is the language that Jewish people spoke in Europe. Yet even though the Haredi community in Israel makes up over ten percent of the population, Israel offers no official information in Yiddish.

With very few exceptions, Haredi Jews do not own televisions, do not listen to the radio and do not own computers or smartphones. What one finds displayed on television and online violates the strict laws of modesty that Haredi Jews espouse, and therefore they choose to live without them. This means that they do not have access to information that other people do, and other than what they receive from their own Rabbis and community organizations, they know very little about the outside world.

There has been a great deal of blame thrown at the Haredi community by the Israeli public and the press, claiming that they did not act swiftly enough to stop the spread of the virus. There are claims that their backwardness got in the way of effective action. However, as a Haredi friend from Jerusalem wrote to me, in New York, the infection rate among Charedim [Haredi] in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the same as that as other crowded non-Jewish communities like East New York. Its the poverty and crowdedness, not Jewish religious practice or Haredi misbehavior that they have in common.

My friend continues, why are Haredi people poor and packed together? Largely because of Zionism, because the draft exemptions ban all work, such that young men cant work even if they want to. The draft law allows Haredi men to defer the draft as long as they remain in the yeshiva to study full time and do not go out to work. This restriction places a financial strain on the families and the community as a whole.

My friend, who asked to remain anonymous so I will call him Moishe, confirmed that the Israeli government relies on the internet and texting to educate citizens and that most Haredim, particularly in Bene Brak and Meah Shearim, have neither. The former is a city that is all Haredi and the latter a Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. I see almost nothing in my neighborhood in the way of education, Moishe says. Nobody is walking around talking to us. There are no handouts in our doors. Nothing.

Also according to Moishe, Most people around here have been very careful. Masks, gloves, prayer in the house, standing far apart and still the police confronted a bunch of ladies who were in line outside the grocery store because they were standing too close. As usual, the police were aggressive, shouting, shining flashlights in peoples eyes. There were kids there. It was ugly, Moishe concludes.

In another incident that Moishe mentioned, this Shabbos the Gestapo Israeli police cracked open the head of a man who was praying outside. The man didnt want to break in the middle of prayers and you know what happens when you dont obey the Gestapo perfectly. He was taken to the hospital and needed an operation. By contrast, police in NYC broke up a funeral by flashing their car sirens. No head breaking like in Israel.

It is not uncommon to hear Haredi Jews refer to the Israel police and military as Nazis or Gestapo. While this is sort of language is harsh, when one considers the history of the relations between this community and state institutions, particularly the Israeli police, it is not totally surprising that such harsh language is used. Few people on the outside have witnessed the violence with which the Israeli police treat this community. The police use enormous riot-breaking horses that intentionally trample all over people, there are cases of horrific beatings, fire hoses are used as well as stun grenades and violent arrests.

In pre-Zionist Palestine, the Haredi community had excellent relations with its Palestinian neighbors. They shared similar values and lived modestly, side by side. This was ruined once Zionism took over Palestine and placed Jews against Arabs. However, from time to time there are still signs that this natural historic alliance may still be alive.

Israel Frei, a Haredi journalist who writes in Hebrew, recently wroteabout cases where Palestinians had reached out to support Haredi communities. He ends his piece with a quote from Abdel Karim Azzam, who is a member of the Islamic Movement Emergency Council, It is inconceivable to think that Corona will not break down the walls between people.

Indeed one would like to think so.

Feature photo | Israeli police arrest an Ultra-Orthodox Jew protesting on the Haredi community during the coronavirus outbreak in the neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, March 30, 2020. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of The Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

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The Zionist Underpinnings of Israel's Violent Crackdown on Haredi Jews - Mintpress News

Walter Benjamin, the Jewish Question and Theses on the Philosophy of History – CounterPunch

Posted By on April 10, 2020

Reading Hannah Arendts Introduction to Benjamins Illuminations

German-Jewish intellectuals, the alienated hommes de lettres of early twentieth century German-speaking Central Europe, constituted a class within that complex and multi-layered Jewish society against which a few of them rebelled, a rebellion which however could not prevent the dark disaster awaiting them in the German madness of the 1930s and 40s. Walter Benjamin was one of those rebels.

Hannah Arendts 51-page introduction to Benjamins world is a powerfully interpretive book in itself, which by no means is separate from the book that she introduces and also edits: she is part and parcel of Illuminations, as is its author, Walter Benjamin, part and parcel of the introduction. As in any story of an intellectual figure like Benjamin, there are numerous variants and interpretations of his message.

I am not a Benjamin specialist. So in these few pages I am reporting what I have found stimulating and central to this man, who did not become widely known until some twenty years after his death in 1940. Today he is a cult figure.

The subject(s) Arendt deals with are humbling to the reader striving to grasp the moment of a century ago, a moment that she warns was washed away, as it were, by the catastrophe of European Jewry and is justly (largely) forgotten. Yet, the reader recognizes the immediacy of many of the issues raised in her work about Benjamin and their applicability to today, if only to confirm your own aversion to Zionism and/or the Jewish State of Israel. Considerations that most German-Jewish intellectuals of the early 1900s faced, though indecisively, as Arendt goes on to show.

Walter Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual. He was one of a handful of hommes de lettres as Arendt defines him: people who lived in the world of books but were not obliged to write them for a living, thus alienated from both state and society of those times. He lived in Berlin and Paris, and killed himself in the mountains between France and Spain trying to escape the Nazis and get to America.

You might also think of Benjamin in relation to chance. He had an up and down relationship with both good and bad chance. Mostly the latter. And it killed him. Killed him because he was also a self-defined bungler. He lived in Germany but apparently seldom felt at home there; his most beloved place was Paris whose streets gave birth to the figure of Benjamins flaneur, the stroller-idler-bohemian which became a key figure in his writings.

Although Benjamin called himself a literary critic, he was concerned with the truth content of a literary work and left its subject matter for the commentators. But, true to his nature, he was much more than a literary critic. He wrote studious works but was not a scholar. He was a Marxist but never joined the Communist Party. For some twenty years he considered emigration to Palestine but never did. He was not a translator but did magnificent translations into German of Baudelaire and Proust. He was not a poet but he wrote poetically. BUT, being a bungler made him a pushover for the god Chance whose fickleness in his regard made him an even greater bungler. Calamities happened to him time and again. Bad luck often visited him, as Arendt recalls, personified in German fairytales as a little hunchback. Like when a publisher finally accepted one of his major books, the publishing house promptly folded. The little hunchback had intervened. Again, Benjamin escaped Nazi Germany and settled in his beloved Paris. Then when the Nazis were about to bomb Paris he fled to Meaux, East of Paristoward the Germans he was escaping from. For his safety, he thought. Then the Germans didnt bomb Paris after all but bombed Meaux, a troop center. Pfusch! Bungled again. The little hunchback had visited him. His whole life went like that. Then he bungled right up to the end and he paid the god Bad Chance with his life. Benjamin had obtained an emergency U.S. visa from a consulate in unoccupied France, had a Spanish transit visa for Portugal and had secured ship passage to the USA. But he didnt have a French exit visa which the Vichy government refused him as a German Jew. This was not a great problem since you could easily walk over a mountain path from France to Port Bou in Spain and then travel on to Lisbon. But on that one daynot the day before or the day afterSpain rejected his transit visa. In desperation because of a heart condition, again bungling and with the god Bad Chance and the little hunchback against him, he decided to end it all then and there. He didnt take the rest of the walk. His death prompted his friend, the poet Bertold Brecht, also in exile, in Denmark, to remark that this was the first real loss Hitler had caused to German literature.

At the beginning of her introduction, Hannah Arendt notes that posthumous fame seems to be the lot of unclassifiable writers, which Benjamin clearly was. Everything he wrote, she says, was sui generis, in the same way that Kafka was unique. Neither fit into the existing order, nor did they introduce a new genre for future writers. For example, Hugo von Hofmannsthal wrote that Benjamins long essay on Goethe was literally absolutely incomparable. It would be just as misleading to classify Benjamin as a literary critic (as he called himself) and essayist as to label Kafka simply a short-story writer and novelist. Benjamins unclassifiable status must have contributed in a major way to his isolation and aloneness, within which he saw beauty and paradox, for him always phenomena.

The Jewish Problem in the German-Speaking World

The Jewish problem was twofold according to Moritz GoldsteinBenjamins life-long friendin an article German-Jewish Mt. Parnassus published in 1912 in the prestigious journal, Der Kunstwart: on the one hand, the non-Jewish environment which hated and rejected Jews and, on the other, assimilated Jews who wanted to remain Jews but did not want to admit their Jewishness either. Goldstein believed the problem insoluble. Yet, his aim was to force them to admit their Jewishness or be baptized, even though he and other Jewish intellectuals realized that would solve nothing. For German hate was genuine. So our relationship to Germany is one of unrequited love, he wrote, which we should tear out of our hearts, but cannot.

Benjamin and Kafka fought against the attitude of official middle class Jewry with whom intellectuals like themselves hardly had contact: their lying denial of the very existence of widespread anti-Semitism. Benjamin called such writing a major part of the vulgar anti-Semitic as well as Zionist ideology. Arendt quotes Kafka on the same subject of the insolubility of the Jewish problem for German-Jewish writers like himself: they lived among three impossibilities: the impossibility of not writing; the impossibility of writing in German (he considered their German language as stolen and someone elses possession); and the impossibility of writing differently since no other language was available. And, he added as a fourth, the impossibility of writing, for this (their) despair could not be mitigated through writing.

Arendt wrote in 1968 that it is hard to take these problems seriously today since it is easy to misinterpret them as mere reaction to the anti-Semitic environment of that era. But not for intellectuals of the stature of Benjamin and Kafka. They were not criticizing anti-Semitism as such, but that Jewish middle class for their denial of the existence of anti-Semitism, as well as their (the middle class Jews) isolation deriving from their loss of reality which was backed up by the wealth of those same classes. And then their blaming of the Ostjuden (Jews from Eastern Europe) for any anti-Semitism. Benjamin and Kafka fought against the rich Jewish middle class because it would not permit them to live the world as it happened to be, without illusions. Important was that very few German-Jewish writers saw the problem as did Benjamin and Kafka because most of them belonged to that same middle class. Kafka labeled such German-Jewish middle class writers the hell of German-Jewish letters.

Hannah Arendt writes: For the Jews of that generation the available forms of rebellion were Zionism and Communism, and it is noteworthy that their fathers often condemned the Zionist rebellion more bitterly than the Communist. Both were escape routes from illusion into reality, from mendacity and self-deception to an honest existence. But this is only how it appears in retrospect, she notes. At the time Benjamin tried a half-hearted Zionism and then a no less half-hearted Communism, the two ideologies faced each other with the greatest hostility: the Communists were defaming Zionists as Jewish Fascists and the Zionists were calling the young Jewish Communists red assimilationists. Gruesome pogroms during the Russian Civil War resulted in waves of Jewish emigration to Israel and accelerated the acquisition of Palestinian lands by legal Jewish emigrants, the subject of a Spanish novel by Julia Navarro, Dispara, yo ya estoy Muerto, in English, Shoot Me, Im Already Dead. In the novelists presentation many of the early Jewish settlers who bought their lands near Jerusalem legally were Socialists/Communists and their small farms and orchards were organized as communist collectives. Todays Israel has changed. For example, there are roughly only 270 kibbutzim left, with about two percent of the population.

For those German-Jewish rebels it was as if the solution to their problem was to be found in either Moscow or Jerusalem; however, Benjaminlike Kafkaknew all the time that his productive life was in Europe. At the same time, neither of them wanted to return to the ranks of the Jewish people or to Judaism, not because they were too assimilated (in the German language area) and too alienated from their Jewish heritage, but because all traditions and cultures as well as all belonging had become equally questionable to them. And this was also why they couldnt return to the Jewish fold as proposed by the Zionists. (Arendt) Still, that rare person that was Benjamin translated his personal conflicts into a more radical problem and questioned the Western tradition in toto. Therefore Marxism and the Communist revolutionary movement attracted him because it opposed the totality of political and spiritual traditions.

But the bulk of those European Jews of East and West followed the Zionist pied-pipers to Palestine, founded a state of their own on stolen property and became a quasi-European, right-wing state on land stolen and someone elses possession (as Kafka had referred to the German Jews and the German language) and named it Israel, the Jewish People, the Hebrew Nation. One is left to wonder if they had really resolved the insoluble Jewish problem of last century before the tragedy: in any case, they retain their Jewish identity within their own nation-state, Israel, artificial as it may be.

In a sense then Benjamin decided not to decide. However, his point of departure always seemed to be the utter destructive basis of Fascism. His search in Zionism (finally discarded before he entered its labyrinth) and in Communism which he never adopted, perhaps because of the growing bureaucracy he saw in Communist Russia when he went to Moscow in 1926 and which might have reminded him of the official Jewry he was escaping from. His search for alternatives shines through in his memorable Theses on the Philosophy of History.

Theses on the Philosophy of History

Walter Benjamin completed this remarkable eleven-page writing in the spring of 1940, the last year of his life. It was first published in Neue Rundschau in Berlin, a quarterly magazine founded in 1890 and which has existed well over one hundred years, publishing the best of European writing, essays and fiction, by authors such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. Hannah Arendt writes that shortly before his death Benjamin gave her a copy of the manuscript which contains, however, many variants written in his difficult to decipher handwriting. Her version of his eighteen Roman numbered paragraphs is included in the book Illuminations.

Benjamin thinking is complex thinking. His work is not material for a tea party reading. He loves allusions and even resorts to the supernatural. His hobby after that of book collectorhe collected books not to be read but to be possessedhe became a collector of quotes, and aspired to construct a book made up of only quotes. And he himself left many of his own quotes for posterity and for writers after him.

In his Theses, Benjamin devotes major attention to the defects of social democracy, to historical materialism and the state of emergency, which in his view is not the exception but the rule. For purposes of simplification I have extracted chiefly his views on the disaster of Social Democracy. Therefore, as he affirms in paragraph VIII, the necessity of attaining a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm.

In general I have selected quotes that literally jump off Benjamins pages, quotes which I simply list under their respective number, without an attempt at comment. To some they will perhaps read like a listing of quotes. However, subjectively I do think his real subject in his Theses was the failure of Germanys Social Democracy which paved the way for German Fascism. For me the Theses were far from impromptu or conceived in that last year; they seem to sum up matters he was writing about already in Berlin in his twenties. They sum up his life. The Benjamin legacy.


The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist. They have retroactive force and will constantly call in question every victory, past and present, of the rulers.


Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger . That of becoming a tool of the ruling classes.


And all rulers are heirs of those who conquered before them. Hence, empathy with the victor invariably benefits the rulers. Historical materialists know what that means. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate.


At the moment when the politicians in whom the opponents of Fascism had placed their hopes are prostrate and confirm their defeat (Social Democrats) by betraying their own cause, these observations are intended to disentangle the political worldlings from the snares in which the traitors have entrapped them.


The conformism which has been part and parcel of Social Democracy from the beginning attaches not only to its political tactics but to its economic views as well. It is one reason for its later breakdown. Nothing has corrupted the German working class so much as the notion that it was moving with the was but a step to the illusion that the factory work which was supposed to tend toward technological progress constituted a political (work, he means) already displays the technocratic features later encountered in Fascism..


Not man or men but the struggling, oppressed class itself is the depository of historical knowledge.This conviction has always been objectionable to Social Democrats.


Social Democratic theory, and even more its practice, have been formed by a conception of progress which did not adhere to reality but made dogmatic claims. first of all, the progress of mankind itself. Secondly, it was something boundless, in keeping with the infinite perfectibility of mankind. Thirdly, progress was regarded as irresistible, something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course.


History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now. (Jetztzeit) (Or now time) Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of the now which he blasted out of the continuum of history. A tigers leap into the past. This jump, however, takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands.


The awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the revolutionary classes at the moment of their action. The great revolution introduced a new calendar. The initial day of a calendar is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance. Thus the calendars do not measure time as clocks do; they are monuments of a historical consciousness.


A historical materialist cannot do without the notion of a present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still. Historicism gives the eternal image of the past; historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past man enough to blast open the continuum of history.


Historicism rightly culminates in universal history. Materialistic historiography differs from it as to method. Universal history has no theoretical armature. Its method is additive; it musters a mass of data to fill the homogeneous, empty time. Materialistic historiography, on the other hand, is based on a constructive principle.

I have substituted here Benjamins XVIII with his number IX as a conclusion:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. The storm is what we call progress.

Walter Benjamin, the Jewish Question and Theses on the Philosophy of History - CounterPunch

Hate message spray-painted on side of Aroma near Bathurst and College – blogTO

Posted By on April 10, 2020

As Toronto comes together in unity to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems some are still determined to spread hate in the city by vandalizing a downtown buildingwith an offensive message.

"Zionists are not welcome," reads the message plastered on the side wall of the Aroma cafe at540 College St.

For those who don't know, the word "Zionist"refers to anyone who supports the right of Israel to exist as a nation, and Aroma was likely chosen as the target for this vandalism due to the fact that it's an Israeli company.

Footage of the message was captured by a passerby earlier today, and it appears as though it's been there for more than one day as oneunnamed resident of the building hadtime to write and put up a message of their own condemning the act.

"This movement is uneducated, disgusting, and malicious," the anonymous messageposted directly next to the vandalism states.

The letter goes on to compare the act of hate to what happened to many of the Jewish storefronts in Germany when they were vandalized during WWII, and it acknowledges that the message is offensive regardless of one's political affiliations.

"I know about all of the arguments that say anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. What I also know is that many young people today are not well versed and will conflate the two. Many of the families of my friends and colleagues, and indeed my grandparents, suffered through the events of the Holocaust," the message reads.

"Unfortunately, we can no longer have intelligent nuanced political debates. Cancel culture and threats are fashionable, but only serve to undermine the very values they claim to uphold. I am not a fan of extremism on any end of the political spectrum and I certainly do not appreciate threats like this," it continues.

"Friends be vigilant and safe," reads the end of the letter along with a photo of a vandalized Jewish storefront in Germany from 1938.

So while there's no question that everyone is entitled to their political beliefs, it's safe to say thatnow, more than ever, is a time to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

Hate message spray-painted on side of Aroma near Bathurst and College - blogTO

The Jewish Chronicle must be saved –

Posted By on April 10, 2020

The Jewish Chronicle must be saved. Take that as our starting point and there is all the more chance of success. The oldest continuously-published Jewish newspaper in the world issued this statement yesterday, on the eve of Passover:

The papers financial troubles predate Covid-19. It had announced plans to merge with the Jewish News and, last June, had to secure additional funding from its owner, the charitable Kessler Foundation. At that time, JC chairman Alan Jacobs said the paper would continue to serve our community for many years to come. Service to the community is at the heart of what the JC does. Since 1841, it has charted Jewish life in Britain and beyond, from Emancipation to Zionism, through world wars and mass unemployment, the rise of Oswald Mosley and the Nazis, the Shoah and Israel, the colourful leadership of Immanuel Jakobovits and the growth of the Haredi sector and the clashes with secular authority. The paper itself became a part of history with its famed 1914 headline: England has been all she could be to Jews, Jews will be all they can be to England.

Under the current editor Stephen Pollard, the JCswillingness to tackle uncomfortable matters like Islamism and left-wing antisemitism, has made the paper a canary in the coal mine. Those who chided Pollard for focusing on divisive issues proved to be hopelessly short-sighted, though few had the good grace to admit it. Yet, even under friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire, Pollard has maintained an admirably open-minded and ideologically diverse publication. The JC gives a platform to every shade of Jewish and Zionist opinion, from Limmud to Likud.

The past five years in particular have been among the JCsfinest. No publication had kept a closer eye on Jeremy Corbyns career and the cranks he had associated with for decades. The JC knew what Corbyn was and was the first to warn about him. It understood what his elevation to the top of British politics would mean for British Jews and the country at large. A tiny Jewish newspaper with none of the resources of the major dailies was first on the scene and for a long time did most of the running on what turned out to be the biggest political story in decades: the descent of the Labour Party into institutional antisemitism.

Without wishing to encourage Labour antisemites in their paranoid conspiracism, its an open question whether Corbyn might be prime minister today without the fearless journalism of the Jewish Chronicle. Had the paper not been in circulation, or had it been edited by someone of lesser nerve than Stephen Pollard, much of what we know about Corbyn and his supporters might never have come to light, or might only have done so once he was in Number 10. There were a lot of rocks to look under and the JCsreporters did much of the heavy-lifting.

That commitment to the truth and to its pursuit without fear or favour is why the Jewish Chronicle cannot be allowed to die. Generous benefactors from the community have stepped in before and with any luck they will do so again, but the JCs future matters to those of us outside the community too. The paper has been an essential link between Jews and Gentiles, bringing the kind of insight and understanding that breaks down barriers.

A chronicle of Jewish life in this country is vital because Jewish life has been vital to Britains intellectual, scientific, political, creative and commercial development. The Jewish Chronicle is vital, too, given our present circumstances. A pandemic is killing Jews in disproportionate numbers (Jews make up 0.5 per cent of the UK population but more than 2 per cent of Covid-19 deaths), as is another pandemic: the global outbreak of antisemitism that has seen Jews attacked on the streets of London, Paris and New York. There is a need for a newspaper that asks the questions others dont realise they ought to be asking.

The Jewish Chronicle is a Jewish institution but it is also a British institution. If saving our country from the clutches of extremists was its last hurrah, what a number to go out on. But the JC is too important for this to be the end and Jews and Gentiles alike have a stake in preventing its disappearance.

More here:
The Jewish Chronicle must be saved -

Huntsville synagogue vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs, swastikas as Passover begins –

Posted By on April 10, 2020

As Jewish people around the world began celebrating Passover on Wednesday, a Huntsville synagogue was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Swastikas and racial slurs were spray-painted on the building of Etz Chayim, the Conservative synagogue on Bailey Cove Road.

This is like a smack in the face as we try to celebrate our freedom, said Laura King, a member of the synagogue and local leader in the Jewish community.

King said she believes the vandalism was carried out during the sacred Passover holiday to maximize the hurt felt by the congregation.

Passover is an annual commemoration of the story of Exodus. Jewish families gather in homes and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Passover is a time where we gather together to celebrate our freedom from bondage, yet this year, we had to do it in isolation" because of the coronavirus pandemic, said the Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama in a statement. To think anyone would take advantage of such a time to commit such heinous acts is the lowest of the low.

The vicious and repugnant images found on the walls of Etz Chayim are a powerful reminder that anti-Semitism is still here and we, as a community, must come together and work tirelessly to end it," the statement says.

King said the language of the graffiti indicates those responsible were sophisticated.

The graffiti included slurs that refer to Jewish people and Holohoax, a term used by Holocaust deniers.

This is something they thought about, King said.

Lt. Michael Johnson, a Huntsville police spokesman, said the department is investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 256-722-7100.

In a statement, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the city condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms.

We seek to find those who perpetrated this crime, and I urge anyone with information about the vandalism to report it to police, Battle said. As a City, and as an inclusive community, we stand side by side with our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all faiths. Any offense against one is an offense against all.

Rabbi Eric M. Berk, of Huntsvilles largest Jewish temple, Bnai Sholom, said he was shocked the vandalism happened in the city and disgusted it was carried out on the first night of Passover.

All signs point to it not being a coincidence, he said. Its as if a church was vandalized on Easter Sunday.

King said she was numb and shocked after hearing the news.

This is an abomination, she said. But I am sure it does not reflect on the community in Huntsville. It only reflects on the people who did this.

King said many local churches have offered their prayers and support to the synagogue. We have tremendous support from the community, she said.

Berk echoed that sentiment. Were seeing that with folks who arent Jewish who are out there right now helping to clean up the synagogue, he said Thursday afternoon.

Pastor Rusty Nelson, of The Rock Family Worship Center, and his wife were among the volunteers who showed up at the synagogue Thursday morning to clean and remove the graffiti.

Were very connected with the Jewish community and are just here to stand in solidarity, Nelson said. Stuff like this just ticks me off.

In a statement, the executive board of Temple Bnai Sholom and Rabbi Berk expressed love and support for the members of the synagogue.

We may be different congregations, but we are all part of the greater Jewish Community of Huntsville, Alabama, the statement says. We stand together united against all forms of antisemitism and hate speech. We are still one people.

This story was last updated at 3:38 p.m. with statements from Mayor Tommy Battle and the Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama.

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Huntsville synagogue vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs, swastikas as Passover begins -

Don’t Gather With Family Or At Church, Synagogue To Celebrate Easter And Passover, Officials Plea – Block Club Chicago

Posted By on April 10, 2020

CHICAGO Officials are begging Chicagoans to practice social distancing as they celebrate Easter and Passover, major holidays for people who are Christian and Jewish.

Easter falls on Sunday, while Passover started Wednesday and is celebrated until April 16. The holidays normally bring together families for things like egg hunts, holiday meals and church or synagogue services. But officials have repeatedly asked people to forgo family celebrations and religious services amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Such gatherings could lead to the virus spreading further, Gov. JB Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, have warned.

Im a woman of faith. I miss being at church, Bible study, prayer groups, laying-on of hands. This is not the time. We dont want to hurt the people were intending to commune with, Ezike said Wednesday. Congregations, church meetings [are] ill-advised at this time. Find a way to do the services electronically.

Last week, Ezike said there have been reports of people still holding religious services despite the states stay at home order. She asked that religious organizations stop doing that and instead hold virtual services online or over the phone.

Officials noted that visits with family members even if those relatives have also been practicing social distancing from others pose risk of spreading the virus and are ill-advised.

Pritzker specifically asked people not to travel for religious services or to see family members for the holidays. He also suggested people use online technology, like video calls, to visit their family members amid the holidays.

This is an important holy time of year. I want very much for people to experience the spirituality that they normally would. We live in a very difficult time, Pritzker said. And I would suggest that, unfortunately, we all should start to think about how were gonna use technology in order for us to gather, in order to hear our pastor or our rabbi or our imam or whoever we worship with, to listen to them and to worship online, perhaps by video or by phone. And to connect with family in the same way.

This is a time when you gotta look for another way to do that. It is very important that you do not gather in a place of worship or in somebodys home. Weve got to protect each other. This is one Easter, one Passover [where] youre gonna have to do something unusual in the way you worship.

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Don't Gather With Family Or At Church, Synagogue To Celebrate Easter And Passover, Officials Plea - Block Club Chicago

The Hampton Synagogue invites Jews to enjoy Passover Jewish music – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on April 10, 2020

The Hampton Synagogue invites the general public to enjoy a pre-recorded performance of Passover music for the holiday at a time of COVID-19 and social distancing.Performed by the Hampton Synagogue Choir and the Jerusalem Symphony, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Cantor Netanel Hershtik nd Maestro Izchak Haimov welcome all to enjoy a Seder service and holiday songs.

The shows will be aired on April 8 at 5-6pm, 8-9pm and 11pm-12am.

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The Hampton Synagogue invites Jews to enjoy Passover Jewish music - The Jerusalem Post

Synagogues, families adjust to hold Passover Seders – The Ledger

Posted By on April 10, 2020

Before Jewish women kindle the First Seder candles at sundown Wednesday, an overwhelming perception soaks the atmosphere that this Passover season will be different because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to at

WINTER HAVEN Traditionally, four questions are asked at a Passover Seder pertaining to how different this particular night is from all others.

But this year, even before Jewish women kindle the First Seder candles at sundown Wednesday, an overwhelming perception soaks the atmosphere that this entire season is different because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It is different this year, said Rabbi David Goldstein, 66, from Temple Emanuel, an 88-year-old synagogue in Lakeland. We are being reminded that freedom is something we must always strive for, and a lot of the freedoms we have taken for granted in previous years are not there this year, like the freedom to congregate.

This Passover, congregations throughout the world and locally were forced to cancel their community Seders, leaving families restricted to holding small gatherings around their tables at home.

We are obviously not in as bad a situation as others over the centuries, said Goldstein, who will hold two virtual Seders on Wednesday and Thursday. We are able to celebrate Passover in the relevant comfort of our own homes, unlike during the Holocaust. But at the same time, it is not the same as what we have grown accustomed to.

The Seder table will be smaller, and the groups around the table will be more immediate family than extended family and friends. I think if nothing else, COVID-19 has reminded us that we are more vulnerable than we think.

Rabbi Yossi Laster, 63, from Etz Chayim Messianic Synagogue in Lakeland, said there are similarities between the original Passover meal that took place 3,500 years ago in Goshen and this year.

I think today is similar because we are going through a plague like 3,500 years ago. That plague kept everyone in their homes back then, and this plague is keeping everyone in their homes now, he said.

In the Biblical account, enslaved Hebrews were merely hours away from a mass exodus to freedom while protected from the final and greatest of the 10 Plagues of Egypt which was death of the first born. The Hebrews were instructed to put lamb's blood above and on their doorposts and remain in their dwellings during the night.

I believe this year could actually be more impactful than the past home Seders because we are actually going through something that reminds us of our ancestors, said Laster, who will conduct a Seder on Facebook Live, open to the public on Saturday evening.

We are supposed to celebrate it to have continuity and union with our ancestors, and I think more than ever we are seeing that take place. As Messianic Jews, we have the blood of the Lamb on our doorposts so that no plague will enter our homes.

Etz Chayim canceled its annual community Seder, which dates to 2004 and is usually attended by more than 150 people. It will be replaced with the live stream. The congregation is handing out Messianic Passover Haggadahs at select locations and also instructions on how to hold a Seder at home. A Haggadah is an instructional step-by-step guide for holding a Seder.

The Chabad Jewish Center in Lakeland also canceled its annual community Seder this year but has been delivering Passover matzah, wine and grapefruit juice along with Haggadahs to quarantined homes in Polk County. Chabad also has run instructional videos on Zoom.

With Passover, there are so many families that have a synagogue that does everything for them, and they just go. As a result, a lot of people have never done it before. So this year a lot of people are staying at home and doing it for the first time. This year, they will learn hands-on how to run a Seder, said Rabbi Moshe Lazaros, 33, from Chabad.

Lazaros explained the term Mitzrayim, which is Hebrew for Egypt, can also mean limitations or boundaries, and Passover can be an excellent time to re-evaluate our own restrictions.

It's kind of interesting because, even before coronavirus, in some ways we all feel limited, even with our own feelings of inadequacy that are self-imposed limitations. The lesson from Passover is kind of to break out of those, he said.

Seders customarily end with singing and declaring, Lashanah Haba'ah, which means Next year in Jerusalem. This year, the declaration could also have special meaning.

It's hard to determine the state of the world for next year, but I am believing and anticipating that it will be one of the biggest Passover celebrations we've ever had, Laster said. We are going to see communities come together and families come together. I think it will be greater and more powerful than ever. It will be a time to be really thankful for what God has brought us through.

Bill Kemp can be reached at; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports.

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Synagogues, families adjust to hold Passover Seders - The Ledger

Synagogues bring congregations together online – Newsday

Posted By on April 10, 2020

Newsday is opening this story to all readers so Long Islanders have access to important information about the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at

Across Long Island, synagogues trying to find ways to keep their congregations connected amid the COVID-19 outbreak have found that technology has allowed them to give messages of hope to their congregation and keep them together at a time where they must remain physically apart.

Debbie Giordano, president of Temple Beth Emeth of Mount Sinai, said her congregation, which has roughly 82 families, had switched to using Zoom livestream services three weeks ago before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issuing "stay-at-home"orders statewide.

Last week, we had about 20 to 25 sign-ins, which is a little bit more than what we have in our congregation show up on a Friday night. In the times we are in, people are certainly looking more towards prayer and connection, Giordano said.

At their Friday night Shabbat services online, members logging in typed the names of people they were praying for, including loved ones, people diagnosed with the virus and the entire world.

At B'nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, Rabbi Jessica Rosenthalsaid her congregation had been very receptive to online services the temple had been using, with former members who moved out of state able to return for virtual prayer services.

Rosenthal said she planned on talking to her congregation on the importance of keeping their spiritual fires lit.

Well be talking about what that means, how do we find that extra energy in this environment, and how we care and nurture ourselves so we can help others. Because if our fires dwindle too low, then it makes it difficult to shine brightly for others in our community, Rosenthal said.

Rabbi Jaimee Shalhevetof North Shore Synagogue in Syosset said several people in her congregation had tested positive for the virus and one had died.

Shalhevet said her congregation had been livestreaming Hebrew school and Friday and Saturday prayer services for four weeks, with more people participating online than the synagogue would see during normal times.

With the Passover holiday approaching, Shalhevet said the spiritual message she had been sharing with her congregation is that they would make it through the outbreak together, not only as Jewish people, but also as Americans.

Passover can be so meaningful this year because its about plagues and its about freedom. We feel tied up in our homes and we feel bound by this disease, so were praying for a redemption. Passover is real. Were just not at the redemption part yet, Shalhevet said.

Jean-Paul Salamanca covers the East End. He focuses on Riverhead, Southold and Greenport on the North Fork, as well as Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Flanders, Riverside and Quogue on the South Fork.

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Synagogues bring congregations together online - Newsday

How the British Jewish community is keeping tradition alive in the time of coronavirus lockdown – Haaretz

Posted By on April 10, 2020

Englands oldest synagogue, the 350-year-old Bevis Marks, which has held continuous services for longer than any other synagogue in Europe and famously stayed open throughout the Blitz, closed last month, and remains shuttered. This hasnt stoppedRabbi Shalom Morris from being in touch with his flock. Hes busy posting daily YouTube sessionsfrom within the empty building, sharing anecdotes about its history and showing off the holy objects.

And he is far from alone: The orthodox synagogue St. Johns Wood is offering live Q&A sessions on koshering for Passover via the video-conferencing app Zoom; Chabad Belgravia is hosting virtual Thank God Its Friday family sing-alongs; and the JW3, Londons popular Jewish Community Center, is streaming everything from comedian Ashley Blaker doing stand-up to former chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack discussing morality.

Similarly to whats going on elsewhere around the globe, Londons diverse Jewish communities have been coming up with creative solutions to both staying connected, and to keeping Jewish tradition and religion alive and kicking in these unprecedented times of the coronavirus.

We all realize that this is going to be the new normal for some time and we have to adjust to being a virtual community for now, says Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of The Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the U.K., an umbrella organization made up of several member and affiliate synagogues, including Bevis Marks.

He and the S&Ps other rabbis have almost never been busier, he admits: fielding calls from long time congregants as well as others who might have not been to services for years, but who are now reaching out for support: be it spiritual, psychological or financial. People are feeling isolated. They are confused and they are worried. And that is where we can come in, he says.

Dweck and the other communitys rabbis divide up the work among them: One is taking on the Zoom morning minyan, another the Kabbalat Shabbat Zoom. A third is chanting Zoom prayers for the sick.

Meanwhile, over at JW3, chief executive Raymond Simonson and his team realized that while many are indeed feeling isolated during this period there are just as many others feeling overwhelmed by the sudden shift to virtual life, and the cascade of nudges and prompts coming at them from Facebook, WhatsApp, email, Twitter, and e-newsletters to join one online Jewish event or another.

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We are getting hammered with content. My phone is pinging so much I dont know where to look, admitted Simonson, who, besides having insight into Jewish community issues, happens to be married to a senior mental health nurse with the National Health Service.

The JW3, which typically had 4,000 to 4,500 visitors of all stripes coming through its Finchley Road doors every week before it locked up last month, moved fast to reinvent itself as a different kind of communal one stop hub an online one. Now on their newly set up, free site one can find, and tap into, the various events this virtual season: talks, culture, movies, prayers, family events and more, being offered across the U.K. Jewish community, as well as some beyond, in the wider Jewish world.

The message was stay at home! but people were not staying at home. We wanted to make that easier, and to play our role in keeping people safely apart, at home while at the same time together. Users can start the day with an Orthodox Shacharit at Southgate United, and then go join a tea with [Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism Rabbi Laura] Janner-Klausner after, says Simonson.

Hand sanitizers and kashrut

Over in Belgravia, Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson one of the Chabad Lubavitchs 120 emissaries spread around the U.K. has recently been focusing much of his attention on getting the Chabad Seder to Go boxes containing everything from maror (bitter herbs), matzo, and a toy frog to a Seder plate that doubles as a placemat out to those who need them.

Every shaliach (emissary) gets in touch with their congregants to see who needs what, Kalmenson explains. You would be surprised. There are many people, even those you might not expect, who are struggling: from young professionals who have lost jobs and feel strained for money, to others who want to celebrate Passover but have no idea how to organize a Seder without their parents and grandparents around.

In total, Chabad Lubavitch U.K. has, over the last three weeks, produced 4,000 of these Seder to Go boxes which will be distributed around the country, says Bentzy Sudak, chief executive of Chabad in the U.K. Usually on any given year we have between 3,000 and 3,500 people joining Chabad communal Seders around the country, he says. But about a month ago, we realized that this was not going to happen and we started figuring out how to bring Seder to them.

>>After N.Y.C. outbreak, fearful British ultra-Orthodox fight to stave off coronavirus

Chabad proceeded to procure boxes from one factory, containers for the different Passover items from another, labels from a third. Wine came from here, charoset from there, and so on. Then, the boxes were assembled in an empty 3,000-square-foot synagogue hall, where small groups of volunteers, all in wearing gloves and masks and maintaining social distancing, toiled away.

Those boxes are now being ferried out to the needy, but they can also be ordered by anyone in the U.K. or Ireland, and brought right to their doorstep, after Chabad partnered with Deliveroo, the leading food delivery app company, for the occasion.

In other making-Passover-a-little-easier news, the kashrut division of the London Beth Din announced a series of relaxations from its strict Passover kashrut rules this year, to help those in self-isolation relying on delivery or just unable to get supervised products.

For example, quinoa from all sources got a green light, as did regular milk, pure butter (though not kinds with lactic culture) and pure fruit juices (without added anti-oxidants) even without special Passover supervision. Raw kosher meat (not pickled) and unprocessed raw chicken were also approved this coronavirus year, again without the need for a Kosher for Pesach certification. Non-certified soft drinks, pickled cucumbers, olives, jams and tinned potatoes remain verboten.

All hand sanitizers, announced the Beit Din, are to be considered kosher for the holiday.

Burials without mourners

But for all the newfound welcome flexibility, impressive cooperation between denominations and inspiring efforts to help the weak, entertain the homebound and reach out to one another for many Jews in Britain, the sense of confusion and the sadness cannot be so easily dissipated by a Zoom halakha class or a home delivery of shmura matzo.

First and foremost, there is sickness and there is death. To lessen the pressure on the overwhelmed burial societies, most London communities have decided that, they would allow burials to take place on the second day of Passover this year instead of, as is usual, waiting until the interim days of the holiday.

Among the prominent members of the U.K. Jewish community who have died from coronavirus in recent weeks are Rabbi Osher YaakovWestheim, one of Manchesters most senior rabbis and a world-respected authority on the laws of kashrut; Dayan Rabbi Yehuda Yaakov Refson, the most senior rabbi in Leeds; and Rabbi Neil Kraft, who died only a few weeks before he was due to retire from his role at Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue.

Making these deaths even more painful is the fact that, no matter who they are whether they get long obituaries in the Jewish Chronical or no mention at all all of them, like anyone else dying of this disease, are unaccompanied on their final journey. In these extreme times, burials are taking place without mourners; shivas without guests.

At Rabbis Krafts funeral last week, only his colleague Rabbi Emily Reitsma-Jurman, who conducted the funeral, was allowed at the graveside. His wife of 28 years, Susannah Kraft Levene, watched the funeral, along with more than 1,000 other mourners, on her computer screen.

Finally, of concern is that, in the initial phase of the U.K. pandemic, the numbers of Jews dying out of the general public was disproportionately high, with Jews making up six percent of the total U.K. death toll, vastly in excess of the roughly 0.05 percent which is the accepted percentage of Jews in the country. Since then, the numbers have been evening out. The most recent figures correct as of April 5, according to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, show there were 85 Jewish funerals tied to the coronavirus out of a total U.K. death count of 4,934. This means Jewish deaths are now closer to 2.3 percent of the total: lower, but still high.

Professor David Katz, executive chairman of the Jewish Medical Association and emeritus professor of immunopathology at University College London, suggests some of the possible reasons for this: from the community having an older than average population, to its being concentrated in London, the diseases epicenter in Britain, to the coincidence that Purim, with all its attendant communal gatherings, took place right as the outbreak really took off in Europe.

Jewish life, in general, is very communal and intergenerational, he says, which could also be a factor, as could be the fact that, like elsewhere around the globe, ultra-Orthodox families tend to be bigger, which can amplify the spread of the virus.

Still, Katz warns against putting too much emphasis on these early statistics, which have already changed and, he believes will change again as time goes on and the virus continues its spread outside of the capital.

It bears noting that there are no similar comparisons being calculated for other minority faith and ethnic communities be they Irish Catholic, Muslim or Hindu.

On Passover eve, the British Jewish community was rocked by news, first reported in the Guardian newspaper, that coronavirus has pushed its two main Jewish newspapers into liquidation.

The Jewish Chronicle,which began publishing in 1841, and is world's oldest Jewish newspaper, quickly put out a brief announcement: "Despite the heroic efforts of the editorial and production team at the newspaper, it has become clear that the Jewish Chronicle will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form.

The Chronicles rival paper, the Jewish News, founded in 1997, which only recently announced that it was planning to merge with the JC, instead alsoannouncedits closure.

Between them, the two papers have a combined weekly print run of more than 40,000 copies and more than 500,000 online page views. Their readership is estimated to cover more than half of the U.K.s Jewish community of nearly 300,000 people.

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How the British Jewish community is keeping tradition alive in the time of coronavirus lockdown - Haaretz

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