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Family links built deep commitment to the United Synagogue – Jewish News

Posted By on July 11, 2020

Given the involvement of both sides of her family in their respective congregations, its not surprising that Claire Lemergrew up firmly ensconced as a child of the United Synagogue.

Her father has been on the board of her home shul, Hampstead Garden Suburb, and is now, she thinks, in his 40th year of running its childrens service.

So Dr Lemer, a consultant paediatrician, has United Synagogue in her veins. In 2014 she became a trustee of the US a big responsibility to take on, considering her day job.

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But she says, when she speaks to young doctors at her hospital, Guys and Thomas, she often tells them of the importance of having a hinterland on which to draw, unconnected with work, but which she believes has the capacity to make them better at their job.

Her commitment to the US has grown over the years. She says: Like many young people, growing up, [synagogue] was part of my routine, whether it was Hebrew classes or bat chayil, or attending Shabbat or festival services. When I went to university, for the first time I had to think about the choices I wanted to make. I was lucky enough to go to a small city (Cambridge) where the student Jewish society was very active, but also very connected with the local synagogue.

Claire Lemer

Accordingly she began to become involved in Cambridge Jewish life, and understood the nature of the behind-the-scenes work that had to take place in order for people to benefit.

Back in London, finishing her clinical training, it was head down, with synagogue in the background, part of the rhythm of the week. But what she calls various life events, including a serious road traffic accident, brought Dr Lemer back to communal activity.

At first she took part in a US programme for young leaders. Then people in my local synagogue, knowing I had done this programme and seeing the skills I was developing, asked me if I would become involved in the strategy work that was being written for our community. And then I was asked if I would serve on the board, and I did that for a while. And the combination of all of that was to get involved in the rejuvenation of United Synagogue Women, led by Elaine Sacks [wife of the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks].

That took her, Dr Lemer says, from the detail of the synagogue to the detail of the bigger picture, again, what was going on behind the scenes. Around that time (2014) there were discussions about how to get more women involved by having them stand as trustees, and so she agreed to run for election.

Looking back across the decades to the group of people who began the US 150 years ago, Dr Lemer describes them as really revolutionary in their initiative. But no institution reaches 150 years without changing and without listening to potential constituents.

The most immediate change, Dr Lemer believes, is in the geographical location of US communities, and the support the umbrella body can give to new congregations, both in London and in the regions. Last year the US gained more than 1,000 new members, and that, she feels, is because they are trying to offer more than just the life cycle of services and simchas and burials. We are trying to support Jewish schools in a number of different ways, and have begun the Jewish Community Academy Trust to provide the best Jewish and secular education available.

The US has established two asylum seeker drop-in centres, in Hendon and Woodford Forest, which it hopes will bring in younger people interested in helping the wider community. And, supported by the National Lottery, we are creating a Heritage Centre at Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

The US, says Dr Lemer, is an incredibly important organisation which touches many peoples lives we can offer a place where people can feel safe and connect with like-minded people.

She is aware of criticisms of the US in the past, but believes it is becoming more agile in its responses to what people want and need from their community. It is doing its best to provide a place for younger people who want to invest and grow in their Judaism.

But in order to take what the US has to offer, Dr Lemer says, there need to be people giving. Despite a busy schedule in her paediatric work, and the problems of Covid-19, she says the US has given her more challenging opportunities to learn and think and she hopes that more people will take up the baton to begin the next 150 years.

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Family links built deep commitment to the United Synagogue - Jewish News

Religion events in-person and online in the San Fernando Valley, July 11-18 – LA Daily News

Posted By on July 11, 2020

Most churches, synagogues and temples are still holding services and classes/lectures online due to coronavirus concerns until they have plans in place for social distancing and other requirements before they open their buildings.

However, a few are taking reservations or limiting their indoor prayer services, like many Islamic centers, and other religious communities have taken services outdoors while maintaining distancing and required mask wearing.

Here is a sampling of upcoming services.

Islamic Center of Reseda: Open for maximum 100 people per prayer times. Check website for parking and rules for social distancing. 18206 Victory Blvd. 818-996-9116.

St. Innocent Orthodox Church: The Rev. Yousuf Rassam leads the Great Vespers service, 5:30 p.m. July 11 (watch on Facebook The Divine Liturgy is outdoors and open to the public, 9:30 a.m. July 12 (and all other Sundays). 5657 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. 818-881-1123. Church website:

Shepherd Church: Worship services, 6 p.m. July 11 and 9 and 11 a.m. July 12 ( The church is in Porter Ranch. Email:

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Daily Masses in English are live streamed from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, 8 a.m. (also, limited seating with required mask wearing, social distancing and other rules). Sunday Mass in English, 10 a.m., and in Spanish, 12:30 p.m., are live streamed: For parishes that live stream Mass: For more information:

First Presbyterian Church of Granada Hills: Live stream Sunday service, 9 a.m. July 12 (;

The Church on the Way: The Revs. Deborah and Tim Clark lead the online Sunday services, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. July 12. The church is in Van Nuys. 818-779-8000. Email:;

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church: Live stream Sunday service, 9:30 a.m. July 12 ( Check the website for updates on possible in-person services. 8520 Winnetka Ave., Winnetka. 818-341-3460.

Sunday with St. Luke Lutheran Church: The Rev. Janet Hansted leads the service, 9:30 a.m. July 12. Click on the Zoom link from the church website. The church is in Woodland Hills. 818-346-3070.

Sunday service with the Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles: The Rev. Gregory Frost leads the service, 10 a.m. July 12. The church is in Granada Hills. 818-366-7541. Email:

Sunday and Communion service with Knollwood United Methodist Church: The Rev. Kalesita Tuifua leads the streaming service, 10 a.m. July 12. The church is in Granada Hills. 818-360-8111. Email:;

When Is Good for You?: The Rev. Joseph Choi explains the message, based on Acts 24:22-27, 10 a.m. (in English) and 11:30 a.m. (in Korean) on July 12. Watch here: Northridge United Methodist Church, 9650 Reseda Blvd. 818-886-1555.

Reseda Church of Christ: Live stream Sunday service, 10 a.m. July 12.;

LGBTQ Victory: The Rev. Bill Freeman discusses the topic with transgender minister the Rev. Megan More, 10 a.m. July 12. Find the Zoom link on the website. 616-796-5598. Email:

Sunday service with Sherman Oaks United Methodist Church: The Rev. Garth C. Gilliam delivers the message, 10 a.m. July 12. Watch the service from the website or listen by phone, 669-900-6833 and use ID: 92413458020. Church, 818-789-0351. Email:;

Woodland Hills Community Church (United Church of Christ): The Rev. Craig Peterson leads the 10 a.m. July 12 service on Zoom: Or, by phone: 669-900-6833 and use ID: 330952170 and press #. Piano prelude, 9:45 a.m.;

And Justice for All: Guest speaker Mathew P. Taylor discusses the topic at the online Sunday service with worship associate Todd Covert and tech assistant David Early, 10:30 a.m. July 12. Check website for link to join the online service. For upcoming services and church information contact Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park. 818-887-6101.

Sunday service with Center for Spiritual Living-Granada Hills: The Rev. Michael McMorrow delivers an inspirational sermon, 10:30 a.m. July 12. Also, McMorrow gives mid-day re-set talks on the centers Facebook. 818-363-8136.;

Tale of Two Brothers: The Rev. Steve Peralta at North Hollywood First United Methodist Church delivers the message, based on Genesis 25:19-34, part of a sermon series on Wrestling With God, 10:30 a.m. July 12. Watch the service online from the website link. 818-763-8231. Email: More information on Facebook

Sunday service with Congregational Church of the Chimes: The Revs. Beth Bingham and Curtis Peek lead the live stream service, 10:30 a.m. July 12. Click on the link from the website to join the service. The church is in Sherman Oaks. 818-789-7124. Email:

Give It to Keep It: The Rev. Stephen Rambo reflects on Letting go, I enhance the experience of heaven-on-earth by sharing my good with all Spirits creations as he delivers the online message, 10:30 a.m. July 12. Center for Spiritual Living-Simi Valley. 805-527-0870.;

A Life of Joy: The Rev. Rob Denton delivers the message, part two of a five-part sermon series Live Life Beyond, based on the book A Life Beyond Amazing by David Jeremiah, 10:45 a.m. July 12. Readings: Luke 15, John 15:11 and Nehemiah 8:10. West Valley Christian Church is in West Hills. 818-884-6480.;

The Power of Play: Matt Toronto discusses his thoughts on the centers July theme, 11 a.m. July 12 ( Unity Burbank Center for Spiritual Awareness.;

Adat Ari El: The Conservative Jewish congregation in Valley Village offers two Shabbat services: beginning at 6 p.m. July 17 and a morning service, 9:30 a.m. July 18 (Torah portion is Mattot/Masei from Numbers). 818-766-9426. Click on the link for the Facebook live stream,;

Temple Beth Hillel online: Shabbat service, join at 6 p.m. July 17 (watch online or call 669-900-6833and use password shalom; The Reform Jewish congregation is in Valley Village. 818-763-9148.;

Shomrei Torah Synagogue: Kabbalat Shabbat, 6 p.m. July 17 and a Shabbat morning, 10 a.m. July 18. Click on the link to download the prayer book and to watch the Shabbat services and other programming, The synagogue is in West Hills. 818-854-7650.

Temple Ahavat Shalom: Rabbi Becky Hoffman leads the 6:30 p.m. July 17 (contact the temple in advance for a link to the Zoom service). The temple is in Northridge. 818-360-2258. Email:;

Temple Judea: Shabbat live stream service, 6:15 p.m. July 17. More online programming, see this page: The Reform Jewish congregation is in Tarzana. 818-758-3800. Email:

Temple Aliyah: Shabbat and other services and educational programs from the Conservative Jewish congregation in Woodland Hills. Check website for Shabbat services, 7 p.m. July 17 and a morning service, 10:30 a.m. July 18.;

Valley Beth Shalom: For Shabbat services, prerecorded lectures and classes, check the schedule here: The Conservative Jewish congregation is in Encino. 818-788-6000.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Darkness Tisha BAv: Shomrei Torah Synagogue and Temple Aliyah present a program and small group discussions, 7:30 p.m., followed by evening minyan and Eicha (Book of Lamentations) reading, 8:15 p.m. July 29. Zoom meeting: (meeting ID: 82920679124 and password: tisha). By phone, 669-900-6833. To register call Shomrei Torah Synagogue, 818-854-7650, or send an email through their website: More information on the program:

Send information at least two weeks ahead. 818-713-3708.

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Religion events in-person and online in the San Fernando Valley, July 11-18 - LA Daily News

Flora Goldenberg will show you the Jewish Paris you never knew – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 11, 2020

As the world reopens post-pandemic, the question arises: Can we travel to a familiar place and still find something new? Everyone loves Paris, the city of lights. For Jews, Paris is a romantic destination as well as a repository of Jewish history going back centuries. So as you think about getting away to Paris, you also want to think about Jewish Paris. And if the question is Jewish Paris, the answer is Flora Goldenberg. Goldenberg, whose grandfather owned a famous restaurant in the Marais district of Paris, has been offering tours of Jewish Paris for the past seven years. She is knowledgeable, well-spoken, good-natured and fun. She helps visitors understand the connections between multiple layers of French Jewish history, from Roman times through the Medieval era, from the building of the Louvre to the time of Napoleon, and from the Holocaust to the present day.When Goldenberg was growing up in the Marais, it wasnt the impossibly chic destination neighborhood that it has become in recent years. Today, the Marais is gentrified beyond all recognition and a favored Paris weekend hangout not unlike Soho in Manhattan or, for that matter, Soho in London. In between the high-end boutiques and top restaurants, however, can be found all manner of Jewish history.On a recent February morning, Goldenberg gave a private family tour that began in the nearby Place des Vosges, adjacent to the Marais neighborhood, and the beginning of where modern Jewish Paris really began. The Place des Vosges is best known for the magnificent home of French literary legend Victor Hugo, but who knew that it also contains two Jewish synagogues, one of which has existed for almost two centuries? Paris is slow to reveal its hidden beauty, and Goldenberg is a pro at identifying the mansions, gardens and other delights that are never obvious to the average pedestrian or tourist. On our Marais tour, she took us inside the private gardens attached to centuries-old mansions or hotels particuliers where aristocrats once roamed. She took us inside a synagogue built in 1914, when the Jews began to feel secure about themselves in France, and showed how collaborators bombed the front of the synagogue in 1941 as World War II began. A few blocks away, she pointed out one of the hidden synagogues on the second floor of a normal-looking apartment building, in continuous use since Napoleons time, and where the Lubavitcher Rebbe prayed while he lived in Paris in the late 1930s. The Marais contains many Holocaust memories as well, as thousands of its inhabitants, including hundreds of children, were arrested and deported as the Holocaust wore on. Goldenberg also pointed out the location of her familys restaurant, which was attacked by Arab terrorists in 1982, killing six and wounding almost two dozen more. You can still see a bullet hole in one of the windows above the former site of the restaurant.As is often the case, reports of anti-Jewish violence in the streets of Paris, especially in the Marais, are greatly exaggerated. As we toured the district, we saw plenty of men wearing kippot or hats indicating their religious identities.Despite what you read in the news, Goldenberg says, here, life is normal for Jews. The world as a whole is more violent, but Jews do not have any more problems than usual. Goldenberg refers to the Marais of her childhood as the center of much more Jewish life than today. As the neighborhood gentrified, commercial and apartment rents skyrocketed, pushing out most of the little Jewish shops and causing most Jewish residents to decamp to the suburbs.Despite that, Goldenberg points out that there are still plenty of synagogues and fantastic kosher options in the neighborhood, ranging from a macaron store to bakeries, a pizza place, and falafel and shwarma hangouts. You can always come to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Mona Lisa, but if youre Jewish, the smart play is to reach out to Flora Goldenberg and discover the hidden Jewish Paris that the average tourist would never see. The writer is a New York Times bestselling author and Shark Tank contestant. He runs the Michael Levin Writing Company, a company that creates ghostwritten business books and memoirs.

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Flora Goldenberg will show you the Jewish Paris you never knew - The Jerusalem Post

Meet the man seeking to build a grassroots effort to secure Jewish communities – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on July 11, 2020

If you had told a young Evan Bernstein that he would be a leader in Jewish communal affairs, he probably would have laughed and said, There is no way. But life, as everyone well knows, doesnt go as planned. And in Bernsteins case, it certainly didnt.

I grew up in East Lyme, Conn., in a very non-Jewish environment, he said, noting that he attended the local public school and didnt even go to Hebrew school. Our shul, Temple Beth Shalom, was a 30-minute drive, and we only really went on holidays. There were a handful of Jews in my town, and all of my closest friends were not Jewish.

Today, the 45-year-old is firmly enmeshed in the Jewish community, particularly when it comes to issues of anti-Semitism and security. He recently left a job at the Anti-Defamation League to serve as the new chief executive officer at the Community Security Service, which trains Jewish volunteers to ensure the safety and security of Jewish organizations. Founded in 2007, CSS has trained 4,700 volunteers nationwide and is operating in 100 synagogues; those are numbers that Bernstein, who lives in the New York area, plans to grow.

We as a community need to take security more seriously, and we need to involve Jews as part of the solution as they have for 50 years in communities around the globe, said Bernstein. In Europe, in South Africa, in Australia, they have led the way with security of their own with organizations like Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom. They dont rely first on the police or private security groups. Its only in America, where since the Holocaust we have relied on the police to protect us.

Evan Bernstein.

The need for increased security is acute right now. According to the annual ADL audit of anti-Semitic attacks, 2019 was a recording-setting year for all the wrong reasons. Among the 2,100 reported incidents were three deadly attacks: a shooting at the Chabad of Poway, Calif., in April; a shooting in December at a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J.; and a machete attack at the end of that same monthon the last night of Hanukkah, of all timesat a synagogue in Monsey, N.Y.

And while the headlines may not reflect it, the threat against Jews continues to grow, even and maybe especially during the global coronavirus pandemic.

I dont think corona cured anti-Semitism, said Bernstein, and I dont think it cured what we saw over the last four yearsthe growth in anti-Semitism and the record number of incidents. People are naive to think that it disappeared.

That image is seared into my brain

In fact, he has firsthand experience: Five years ago, while working at the ADL, he got his first serious death threat.

That person is in jail, but it was a seminal moment for me before the [recent] rise of anti-Semitism, he said, adding that he had to have security cameras installed in his home and arrange for the local police to drive-by regularly. The hardest thing, though, was explaining it to his wife and young children.

But it isnt just about personal threats. Its the communal ones as well that worry him, especially the deadly attacks in Jersey City and Monsey.

Those incidents, he said, shook him to the core.

My life was altered after being on the ground for the active shooter in Jersey City and being there, he said, with law enforcement and with parents from the Catholic school across the street and the yeshivah adjacent to the kosher grocery.

The next morning, he attended prayers at the synagogue that shares a wall with the market. Also, there were Israeli Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. As they recited the Mourners Kaddish, recalled Bernstein, I looked down and saw shell casings and bullet holes. There was a mop in front of me, and it had a bullet hole in it. That image is seared into my brain.

Days later, he described, I was in Monsey after the stabbing. I was there before the FBI was even on the scene. Being there for two of the four attacks in real-timethe 2018 murder of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life*Or LSimcha synagogue in Pittsburgh is included in that count, changed me as a person. So when I got the call that CSS was interested in me being involved with the group, I was very interested because I saw how important our security is.

What sets CSS apart from other Jewish organizations, said Bernstein, is that it relies primarily on volunteers who take its in-class security and safety training, and then use what they have learned to help their own communities.

We train our volunteers at a very high level, he said. Im going through the training right now through social distancing. Its been incrediblethe training, the theories and the best practices in security. Its been inspiring to talk to our volunteers, who are just amazing. We have regional leaders across the country, and this is like a part-time job for them, even though they are volunteers.

My world revolves around the Jewish community

His goal, however, is to encourage more people to step up.

To that end, he and his very small staffCSS has only a handful of employeesare working to create an entry point for people who arent ready to tackle full training, but would benefit from security training. He also wants to have recertification requirements as they scale the training and professionalism in the coming years. Additionally, Bernstein plans to increase outreach to more synagogues and communities and get them involvedwhether its a congregation that meets several times a day or one that has services only on holidays.

One other step hed like to pursue is encouraging more young people, particularly those on college campuses, to join up. Bernstein hopes that if they start training and volunteering while they are in school, they will continue to do so when they are older and raising a family.

While his new focus at CSS will be reaching people and communities on a micro-level, the macro is still vitally important. He said it is important to strengthen CSSs relationships with other Jewish communal security agencies, including the national Secure Community Network and the New York-based Community Security Initiative.

Reflecting back on the roads hes taken, said Bernstein, life will take you in many direction that you can never predict. Now I am observant and my kids are in yeshivah, and my world revolves around the Jewish community.

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Meet the man seeking to build a grassroots effort to secure Jewish communities - Cleveland Jewish News

Letters: Let the choirs sing or the whole tradition will crumble –

Posted By on July 11, 2020

SIR The emergency funding for the arts announced by Oliver Dowden is hugely welcome. However, the work of church and synagogue musicians across the country is still under serious threat, with some professional choirs already facing permanent disbandment. We need clear steps towards the reinstatement of musicians work in religious services.

Many of us already work in a way that is very socially distanced singing from balconies and organ lofts. Yet, the Government has made an un-nuanced statement regarding singing in places of worship: if possible, dont do it.

It has even suggested that churches should replace musicians with recordings. If this happens, will live music-making in places of worship ever return?

Since March, singers and directors of music have been waiting for clarification on when (or if) we are likely to be reinstated. We want, and need, to get back to work keeping the great choral tradition in this country alive. Please allow us to do so.

Stephen AlderWestminster Cathedral

Sapphire ArmitageAssociated with St Brides, Fleet Street, andSt Pancras New Church

Emily ArmourSt Bartholomew the Great

Andrew ArthurDirector of Music, Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Helen AshbySt Margarets Church, Westminster

Kate AshbyAssociated with All Saints, Margaret Street, andRoyal Hospital, Chelsea

Jenny BaconThe Guards Chapel

Robin BaileyMarylebone Parish Church

Leilani BarrattAssociated with HM Tower of London

Caspar BarrieHM Tower of London

Ana Beard Fernandez Carmelite Priory, Kensington

Peter BeavanDirector of Music, Royal Memorial Chapel, Sandhurst

Nicola BeckleySt Michael, Cornhill

Nicolaas BeemsterLincoln Cathedral

Cathy BellLincolns Inn Chapel

Olivia BellSt Gabriels, Pimlico

Benjamin Beurklian-CarterThe Grosvenor Chapel

Simon BiazeckThe Choir of the London Oratory

James BirchallAssociated with Westminster Abbey andSt Pauls Cathedral

Christina Birchall-SamsonLiberal Jewish Synagogue andSt Johns Wood Church

Matthew BlaidenDirector of Music,St Stephens, Rochester Row

Sebastian BosleyAssociated with Guildford Cathedral andWinchester Cathedral

Frances BourneFarm Street Church

Vanessa BowersThe Choir of the London Oratory

Morag BoyleAssociated with St Brides, Fleet Street, and Marylebone Parish Church

Emma Brain-GabbottAssociated with St Clement Danes and St Margaret Lothbury

Verity BramsonAssociated with Sidney Sussex College,Cambridge, andSt Johns, Hyde Park

Eleanor BrayAssociated with St Georges, Hanover Square

Alastair BrookshawAssociated with Westminster Abbey

Zoe BrookshawHM Tower of London

Timothy BrownDirector of Music Emeritus, Clare College Choir

Bob BryanSt Brides, Fleet Street

Jeremy BuddAssociated with StMargaretLothbury andSt Brides, Fleet Street

Sebastian BudnerSt Georges Cathedral, Southwark

Tara BungardAssociated with Westminster Abbey andSt Pauls Cathedral

Heather CaddickSt Peter & St Paul, Nutfield

Jessica CaleThe Choir of the London Oratory

Colin CampbellSt Lawrence Jewry andSt Jamess,Piccadilly

Hilary CampbellComposer andchoral director

Henry Capper-AllenAssociated with St Pauls Cathedral andSt MargaretLothbury

Edward ChaddockSt MichaelCornhill, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate andSt Columbas, Church of Scotland

Rachel ChapmanSt Brides, Fleet Street

Bob ChilcottComposer

Jillian ChristieAssociated with Eton College Lower Chapel

Eleanor ClarkeHM Tower of London

Rosie CliffordRoyal Hospital, Chelsea

Aidan CoburnHampstead Parish Church

Claire ColemanSt Jamess, Sussex Gardens

Dan Collins All Saints, Margaret Street

Matthew CollinsDirector of Music, Howden Minster

David CondryAssociated with St Pauls Cathedral andWestminster Abbey

Frances CookeAssociated with HM Tower of London

Helena CookeAssociated with HM Tower of London andRoyal Hospital, Chelsea

Tristram CookeWestminster Abbey

Ben CooperWinchester Cathedral

Katy CooperThe Grosvenor Chapel andAll Saints, Margaret Street

Nicola CorbishleyAssociated with the Guards Chapel andSt Marylebone Parish Church

Sam CorkinAssociated with Canterbury Cathedral andChapel Royal,Hampton Court

Carole Court St Albans,Holborn

Hilary CroninSt Bartholomew the Great

Hugh CrossCarmelite Priory, Kensington

Cara CurranSt Mary Abbots, Kensington

Sarah DaceyThe Grosvenor Chapel

Alison DanielsEly Cathedral

Robin DattaLiverpool Cathedral

Helen DanielsSt Pancras New Church

Andrew DaviesLincolns Inn Chapel

Will Davies

Director of Music, St Magnus-the-Martyr

Peter DavorenSt Brides, Fleet Street

Leonora Dawson-Bowling

Associated with St Pauls Cathedral and St James's, Spanish Place

Julian Charles DebreuilSt Jamess, Spanish Place

Peter Di-ToroAssociated with St Mary Abbots, Kensington, and St Jamess, Sussex Gardens

Mimi DoultonAssociated with St Brides, Fleet Street, and St Pauls Cathedral

Stephen DouseSt Margarets, Westminster, andWest London Synagogue

George DyesmithSt Magnus-the-Martyr

Christiana EastwoodSt Stephens, Gloucester Road

Graham EcclesAssociated with Bangor Cathedral and St Asaph Cathedral

Yvonne EddySt Marys, Bourne Street

Joey EdwardsAssociated with St Georges Cathedral, Southwark

Louise EekelaarDirector of Music, Holy Trinity, Brook Green

Jon EnglishSt Pauls Cathedral

John EvansonAssociated with St Pauls Cathedral andTemple Church

Rowan FennerSt Georges, Hanover Square

Martin Ford Director of Music, the Guards Chapel

April FredrickAssociated with St Brides, Fleet Street, andSt Peters, Eaton Square

Andrew FriedhoffAssociated with the Guards Chapel andSt Johns Wood Church

Kate FunStAlbans, Holborn, andBelsize Square Synagogue

Rosemary GaltonThe Choir of the London Oratory

Robert GarlandThe Guards Chapel

James GeidtAssociated with Temple Church

Oliver GerrishSt Johns Wood Church

Izzy GibberAssociated with St Peters,Eaton Square

Anna GouldSt Michael Cornhill

Jack Granby Chapel Royal,Hampton Court Palace

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Letters: Let the choirs sing or the whole tradition will crumble -

Churches across the nation begin holding in-person services | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Posted By on July 11, 2020

The inability to attend church each week has been one of the most affecting consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing guidelines, its been nearly impossible for congregations around the country to gather in ways they were accustomed to prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As states begin to reopen, however, so are religious activities. Kevin Seager, the senior pastor for the Norwalk Alliance Church in Norwalk, Ohio, said earlier this week that his church began a particular re-opening of in-person services in early June. Yet even with that in mind, he acknowledged how hard its been to get things up and running again as Ohio transitions into its latest re-opening phase.

This phase is actually the trickiest because we knew how to handle (being) completely shut down, he said, but this is kind of at the in-between, where you can hear a different thing every week. Eventually, this will go by, and we can get back to doing things as weve done it, but for the moment, out of love for our neighbor, were going to forego some of the things that have been one of the best ways that we like to do church for example, singing a whole bunch of songs.

Were having to do things differently, he concluded, and thats a challenge.

Our reporters spoke with churches in 11 different states to see where they are with their re-opening plans and what comes next as they hope to begin the process of regularly gathering to worship together.


Some parts of Pennsylvania have gone back to places of worship, while others have not. In Altoona, the Agudath Achim Congregation has not yet returned to the synagogue, but are meeting via Zoom.

All services are being handled at my dining room table, said Cantor Benjamin Matis, the spiritual leader of the congregation, which has about 100 families.

Matis said they havent reopened yet, as theyre being extremely careful when it comes to being cautious during the pandemic. He said there are those among his congregation who would love to get back into the building, and those that dont feel its safe to do that just yet.

The leadership within the congregation are discussing when to open, he said, especially with major Jewish holidays approaching in the fall.

Everythings still very up in the air, Matis said. Yes, wed love to reopen the synagogue its a pain in the neck using Zoom. If were going to do anything, were going to do it as safely as possible.

Matis referenced a Jewish law called Pikuach nefesh, which means that the preservation of life and health takes precedence over all other legal concerns, he said.

In Canonsburg, the congregation of the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church was very happy to get back to in-person services at 50 percent capacity.

People even had tears and were crying coming back to church, said the assistant priest Father George Athanasiou. Its a family. Its a second home for some people.

They are part of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh, which includes congregations in Ohio and West Virginia, and have been following guidelines from the metropolis. They had been doing virtual services with only a few church leaders in the building, according to Athanasiou.

Were not used to that TV or broadcast-based service, he said. We all became televangelists overnight.

Like everywhere else, theyve had to incorporate sanitizing stations, six feet of social distancing and face masks during services. They recently had a service with 80 people there, and they were wearing masks, Athanasiou said.

Its not just our own safety, but for the safety of others, he said. You want to be safe, especially for our older parishioners. We want people to feel comfortable coming back to church.


After initial COVID-19-related shutdowns across the state, many churches closed their doors to the public. Since June, some churches have returned to hosting services with restrictions while others are waiting to welcome back members.

Eric L. Bodenstab, the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sandusky, said the church previously hosted a Saturday evening service and two Sunday services before the pandemic. Now, theyre not worshipping at all in the building.

In the 1970s, the church started broadcasting services over a local radio station, something they have continued to do for church members without Internet access. Services are also pre-recorded, edited and posted to the churchs YouTube channel.

For the missing Saturday service, Bodenstab has been making reflection videos that are posted to YouTube at the same time the in-person service would have been.

Its like 10 to 15 minutes at most, but its just a little reflection to stay in connection with folks who might have liked that service to give them something to see and do at that time, he said. Our faith formation folks got together and theyve taken on doing something for children a Sunday school time after the service.

He said the church also has its own app which has helped the church stay in contact with members. Sermons are also posted as a podcast. For church members without internet access, the church has been mailing out bulletins, announcements and devotionals.

We have just in this past week opened up the building for

appointment visits because we have what we need to do the cleaning inside the office, Bodenstab said. But we dont have what we need yet to do the cleaning inside the building, so we are not yet meeting in the worship space, because we dont have the hand sanitizer dispensers. Theyre on order, but were waiting for them.

Bodenstab said the council, representatives elected by the congregation, is still planning how they will conduct in-person worship services but have maintained contact with their members.

Our council has taken it upon themselves with some other members to call the members of our congregation every week and we have about 490 households, he said. They dont always get to everybody, but they give it a shot, just to stay in contact with everybody, every week.

A few weeks ago, Bodenstabs church began providing a drive-thru communion service.

We take those elements and distribute them to folks as they drive underneath our covered entryway, he said. The first and third Sundays, were going to be doing that and I think thats going to be our plan for the foreseeable future.

Reverend Monte J. Hoyles, pastor of the Catholic parishes of Sandusky, said between March and the end of May, there were no public masses.

Beginning on May 25, we started to offer our regularly scheduled masses, Hoyles said. The faithful were asked to reserve a pew online or to call the parish office to reserve a pew. Beginning June 27, we began to use every other pew, which is what most parishes in our area have been doing.

The Sign of Peace and distribution of communion has been suspended and hymnals have been temporarily removed from pews.

We have live-streamed Mass once each week, and originally added a number of online daily devotions, Hoyles said. One of our parish priests and several of our deacons have been telephoning our homebound parishioners to see how they are doing.

We have also offered a number of online evening chats where people can comment, ask questions and feel like they are part of the event, Hoyles added. One of these was a Facebook cooking show with the priests of the parish.

The Norwalk Alliance Church has also started welcoming back church members after becoming an online church since March.

Kevin Seager, senior pastor, said that during the first Sunday of June, they started a partial reopening of in-person services while continuing to live-stream the sermon.

The in-person had a lot of restrictions, he said. We greatly reduced our seating capacity so that all chairs would be a minimum of six feet apart in groups of five or six years so families could sit together. We actually shorten the duration of our service from about an hour and 15 minutes to about 45 minutes just to reduce overall exposure.

Seager said the church has made the difficult decision to suspend congregationally singing because doing so is a prime way to be breathing hard over everybody around you.

He said while following guidelines set by the state for COVID-19, they are also following another guideline: love for your neighbor.

More than thinking about what your personal freedoms are, think about whats good, not only for the people who want to come to church but even our greater community, Seager said. We dont want to be creating more danger.


After two months of offering services completely online, Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Walkersville welcomed parishioners back on June 7. A week earlier, they went through a dry run where we had only ministry workers come in, just to get used to the new protocols, Senior Pastor Tim Allen said.

Those steps included registering attendees, making sure they were wearing masks and guiding them to their seats. The auditoriums removable seats were rearranged into socially distant blocks where families coul sit together while maintaining at least six feet between themselves and other groups. The church building is large enough that they have plenty of room for those attending, even with an occupancy limit of 50 percent of capacity, Allen said.

Allen said worshipping together is important, encouraged in the Book of Hebrews. But Allen also acknowledged Christians can be connected spiritually if they worship through electronic means because they are at greater risk of contracting the virus or dont yet feel comfortable venturing out.

We want to love our neighbors, we dont want to put our neighbors at risk, Allen said.

Even when they could not worship in the same building, members were checking on one another. More recently, they met in small groups in outdoor spaces like parks, Allen said.

The Frederick area is home to about 1,500 Muslims, said Dr. Syed Haque, chairman of the outreach committee for the Islamic Society of Frederick. Many of them gather for Friday prayers, comparable to a Sunday service at a Christian church, and a variety of other activities at the ISF Masjid in Frederick.

But those gatherings were put on hold from March 23 to the first weekend in June, Haque said. Eid Day, the May 24 gathering to mark the end of Ramadan that usually draws 3,000 people, was not held because of the pandemic, he said.

For eight Fridays, we could not go, he said.

Being able to return was such a pleasure, such a release.

Under the leadership of ISF Board of Directors President Khalil Elshazly, the masjid is following state guidelines, including requiring masks and social distancing, Haque said. People age 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions, individuals with symptoms and those who are simply uncomfortable going out were encouraged to stay home, he said.

Throughout the closure, the American Muslim institutions has said it is all right to pray at home instead of engaging in some traditional activities, Haque said.

Your intentions are seen by God, he said.


By the time Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in early June that houses of worship could resume in-person services, Tupper Lake Christian Center Church had already welcomed some members back into the sanctuary.

Pastor David Boyea said the decision was based on the low amount of COVID-19 cases in the area, as well as President Donald Trump saying in May that churches are essential and should be allowed to reopen.

At the time we opened, we had zero known cases, Boyea said. Were a town of probably a little under 4,000.

Tupper Lake is in Franklin County, which registered 31 positive cases through June 30. Boyea said a very small number of those were in Tupper Lake.

The state allowed religious facilities to have up to 25 percent occupancy in Phase 2 of the New York Forward Reopening plan, and that was set to rise to 33 percent in Phase 4. However, a lawsuit over the original cap on indoor religious gatherings when other activities are allowed 50 percent occupancy led a federal judge issuing an injunction on the limit last week.

Boyea said he recommends that people attending services wear masks, but some just cant tolerate wearing a mask; they just cant breathe.

Those individuals were invited to sit in the front row, although some have started to occupy the third and fourth rows as well. Boyea said he wont police masks.

If it was different in Tupper Lake, I would, he said.

Maintaining six feet of social distance during a service is quite impossible, Boyea said, but people are avoiding standing face to face, using fist bumps instead of hand shakes and utilizing hand sanitizer and other precautions.

If something were to change in Tupper Lake, we would change things, he said.

About 20 miles away, in Saranac Lake, St. Bernards Roman Catholic Church resumed in-person masses two weeks ago, with social distancing and masks required.

I havent heard any complaints about the rules we had to put in place, said the Rev. Martin Cline, pastor at St. Bernards. After every Mass, all the pews, anything the public would have touched like handrails, light switches, door handles is sanitized.

Cline noted the requirement to attend Mass in person has been waived during the pandemic and he understands some people may not feel safe returning to church right now.

If he was a parishioner instead of a priest, I would be a little uncertain myself, he said.

But the online services the church has offered over the last couple months just arent the same as worshipping in person together, Cline said.

When youre saying Mass and youre looking up and youre seeing cameras instead of faces, there is definitely something missing, he said.

The Rev. Eric Olsen pastors both First United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Saranac Lake. They did not resume services in-person services until Sunday.

We wanted that extra time just to see how things were going and follow the trends, Olsen said.

For July and August, they decided to conduct worship outdoors. One of the requirements for staying inside is that there be no singing. But outside, Olsen said, they can increase their social distance space to 12 feet and continue to lift their voices in praise.


Outbreaks at churches have contributed to rising COVID-19 numbers in West Virginia.

That hasnt happened at the Ash Avenue Church of God in Moundsville, but they are prepared, Pastor C.J. Plogger said. If a member tests positive, people will be notified via automated phone call and online.

Weve said if we had three cases, we would go back to streaming online, Plogger said.

In-person services halted the last two Sundays in March and resumed May 24. Every other row was sectioned off to promote social distancing, and gloves and masks are provided, Plogger said. Boxes have been set up to receive offerings so no ushers are passing collection plates, and communion is served using individually wrapped wafers and cups.

Weve not had any greeters yet because we dont want multiple contacts, Plogger said.

Plogger believes community is one of the most important aspects of the Christian faith.

We all have challenges; we all have lessons to learn, so we can come together and lift each other up, he said.

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Beware of A Wolf in Sheep’s ClothingMohamed Hadid’s Polemic on His Palestine – The Times of Israel

Posted By on July 11, 2020

Details Details

Say there was a shocking Instagram post by a man whom you dont really know other than he is a tremendously rich celebrity, but the content of the post is so disturbing that its been discussed in many different news outlets. You know the one Im talking about, it showed a caricature of an IDF soldier pressing against a Palestinian mans neck while embracing an American cop whos choking a black man with his knee.

That image was the impetus for learning more about the man behind the post, perhaps to understand his motivation for publishing the type of material that does nothing to promote peace and dialogue but instead, it fixates on historical revisionism that ascribes to Israel the worlds afflictions and fuels the nakba (catastrophe) narrative. It portrays Israel as a colonialist entity, an apartheid state, and Israelis into persona non-grata worldwide. The story of the Palestinian refugees and their right of return has a unique way of enlisting the most ardent of activists who embrace an all-or-nothing approach, and their hostility is especially selective their main focus is castigating Israel and with the help of academics, students, and celebrities the lines are blurred between mainstream and extreme opinions. What is going on here? Is it really all about moral outrage over Israels existence?

Who Is He and Who Cares

Mohamed Hadid is an L.A. based celebrity real estate tycoon, known for developing a string of Ritz-Carlton hotels, as well as impressive buildings across the Middle East, including high-end residential homes, and the largest infinity pool in the world! Hes also the father of two famous models, Gigi and Bella Hadid. He likes to vilify Israel just as much as he enjoys building grotesquely opulent mansions for the rich and famous. He may even like the former a little more than the latter. Also, he has a lot of followers, around one million, so do his children who are often featured in his posts. Gigi Hadid has 54.8 million followers and together, this family has a vast influence on social media. Hadids identity politics is conflated with unrelated grievances and weaponized with intersectionality dogma currently, an attempt to intersect the Palestinian struggle with the Blacks Lives Matter cause. The implication of that caricature was to instill the idea that Israelis teach Americans how to kill Black people through their exchange training programs, which they have named deadly exchanges. Just like that, Israel/Jews were dragged into Black Lives Matter as part of the problem that stands before the Black community in America.

Later, Hadid deleted the post and issued an apology, but that apology was soon deleted too. Regardless, the damage was done and he knew it because the internet is far-reaching. His posts and interviews are loaded with inconsistencies, which easily adapt themselves to the context of his grievances against Israel and imply the destruction of Palestinian identity. Hes a master of anti-Israel propaganda the last sentence in most of his posts declares his wish for peace and harmony between Palestinians and Jews, while the content of his posts nurtures conflict. Oh, hes good. Hes a wolf in sheeps clothing Baaaa baaaa baaaa.

For the purpose of writing this article, I had to contextualize each one of his claims in order to present my readers with a broader approach to historical events and allow them to decide the veracity of his allegations. There was a lot of material to cover, the reason I have divided this essay into two parts. Part Two will be available to read next week.

A recent post by Hadid on Instagram featured an illustration of an Arab-Palestinian girl on a cigarette card, dating back to the early days of the British Mandate in Palestine around the 1920s. Palestine is printed under the girls image and on the back of the card theres a description of Palestine; it says there are 700,000 inhabitants, only 80k are Jews and the rest are Mohammedans. A couple more cards featured other illustrations of men that Hadid would like you to believe are Arabs (but Jewish attire looked very similar), and an explanation of how they greeted each other with a convivial keif halakak salutation. It doesnt matter whether the men on the card are Jews or Arabs; the truth is that there were Arabic-speaking Jews in Palestine as well. Within the same post he added other photos showing a collection of stamps with, what else but, Palestine printed on top. Ahah, okay, very nice and? Whats the point?

A Love for Israel and Its History?

Um, nope not even close. Because once I read the accompanying comment, I understood that it was another one of his fantastical depictions of His beloved, lost/stolen idyllic Palestine. He emphasized that even the British had recognized that Palestine indeed existed. But the real message for his followers: since Arabs were illustrated on the cards, we have more proof that Arabs not Jews had inhabited Palestine.

Evidence to the Contrary

Unfortunately, there were also plenty of homegrown Jewish-Palestinian cigarette companies that produced tobacco at the time, but for the purpose of debunking Hadid they have been very useful. What do you know Palestine was also printed on Hebrew ads that promoted tobacco or cigarettes for public consumption. Let there be no mistake before 1914 there were perhaps half a million inhabitants in the region. Palestine was an underdeveloped backwater part of the Ottoman Empire and the Arabs had no autonomous political or administrative status. Among the diverse population of the land, there were also Jews, descendants of an old Jewish community that had survived there for centuries. Jews of Safed, in particular, had an almost undisturbed presence since the time of the Maccabees. But Safed had reached its zenith during the 15th century when many Jews, including illustrious scholars, had arrived after the Spanish Inquisition. Generally, their lives were miserable; they were dhimmis, second class subjects, and over the years their numbers had dwindled due to expulsions, murderous riots, and systemic oppression that kept them destitute for centuries. When Napoleon Bonaparte was in Palestine, in 1799, he noticed the disparaging treatment of Jews. He published a proclamation that also appeared in the French Moniteur newspaper whereby he recognized the Jews unique position of being ousted from their own country, and for thousands of years they were subjected to foreign rule that deprived them of their land. But their name and national identity remained intact. There were many similar accounts from travelers across Palestine:

On the way to prayer at the Western Wall of Herods Temple, Jews drew the spite and malice of the resident Arabs, who deliberately scattered broken glass along their path. The Wall itself (the most sacred spot of Judaism) was fouled up with urine and feces, a dumping ground for garbage and sewage (Robert S. Wistrich, A Lethal Obsession Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, p. 690).

Historian David Landes said the following about the Jews of Palestine:

Their condition in pre-Zionist Holy Land (and in Islamic lands in general) was comparable to that of Blacks in the post-Reconstruction American South (Robert S. Wistrich, A Lethal Obsession Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad, p. 690).

Palestinians blame Zionism for the deteriorating relations between Arabs and Jews in the region. But Arabs and Jews have always had a patchy history; you go as far back to Maimonides Epistle to Yemen (written in 1172) and find this:

Remember, my coreligionists . . . the Arabs, who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us . . . Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they (Hillel Hallkin, Yehudah Halevi, P. 295).

A model of ancient Jerusalem, Israel Museum (photo credit Levinsky).

Some Days Were Easier Than Others

Similar to the Jews experience in the diaspora, in Palestine, there were periods of tolerance and reasonable calm that enabled the Jewish community to thrive, they also repopulated the cities of Safed, Jerusalem, Hevron, and Tiberias the four holy cities. Under Ottoman rule (1516-1917), many local Arabs became pashas, rulers who enabled the Turks to better control their empire. One such appointment was Sheik Daher al-Omar; he was one of the good guys, and he ruled the Galilee for a stretch of time between the years 1740-1775. During that time he encouraged Jewish settlement in areas under his control, namely Safed, Haifa, and Acre. So Jews were there, all the time, and despite their status of dhimmis, and the hardship that this status entailed, they also managed to gain a few key positions in government by serving their Muslim governors. Chaim Parchi was an advisor to Ahmad al-Jazzer, a Turkish governor, but no need to applaud Ahmads more liberal approach towards Jews, for he also persecuted Parchi, gouged his eye and sliced the tip of his nose off. More appointments were made in 1838 when Europe began showing a renewed interest in the region and the first British Council opened its doors in Palestine they appointed Chaim Amzaleg as the deputy British consul of Jaffa, and Mordechai Segal was vice-consul in Safed.

Hadid is careful to circumnavigate the charge of denying Jewish history by noting Sheik Omar as a benefactor of Jews he mainly likes to emphasize his familial connection to the sheik for more prestige, no doubt, but also to help strengthen his unique rendering of historical facts. He refers to the sheik as his great-great-grandfather, though Hadid may need to recalculate since the sheik lived between the years 1690-1775. According to Hadid, on the one hand, there were Jews in Palestine, but then again by the strength of these cigarette cards, maps, and various documents, there were no Jews at all until the advent of Zionism. And if you happen to harp on the idea that Jews were there too, look around, evidence of our life in Israel is not a matter of debate, its everywhere you step, sit, stand, breathe, well, Hadids posts allude to the fact that Jews were never perceived as the true inhabitants of Palestine, not even by the British. And what do you know, this serves to strengthen his ideological agenda of promoting his claim of a displaced person and assailing Israel for infringing the rights of 5 million Palestinian refugees.

Evidence of our past in an archeological tour of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a Judean city overlooking the Elah Valley (photo credit Levinsky).

If Hadid Were To Adopt a Broader View of History

He could show images of Hebrew-language newspapers that circulated in Palestine at the time, such as Havazeleth, Halebanon, Hazvi, and Hashkafa. I wouldnt expect this of Hadid but its only fair to mention the names of Jews who were involved in the development of Palestine such as Rabbi Chaim Abulafia who built the Etz Chaim synagogue and the Mashmia Yeshua yeshiva in Tiberius. His involvement in the development of Tiberias had led to the renewal of Jewish settlement, and Jews became the majority in Safed until the turn of the twentieth century. Hadid mentions Abulafia but only to emphasize Sheik Omars goodwill towards the rabbi, and credits the sheik with building the synagogue himself. No doubt that without the sheiks help the rabbi may not have been able to encourage as many Jews to settle in Tiberias.

How about Moses Montefiore? He visited Palestine in 1838 and was appalled by the destitute state of the Jews. His lifes work involved the promotion of economic growth in Palestine; he financed the first printing press, textile factories, agricultural colonies, and built Mishkenot Shaananim, the first Jewish settlement outside the walls of the Old City. There were many Jews who took part in the development of Palestine by erecting hospitals, clinics, factories, and schools years before the British government issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that publicized their support for the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. And Arabs were privy to all of these developments and benefited from more jobs, schools, better healthcare, and transportation. Some of these enterprises were also the result of Jewish-Arab collaboration. This new infrastructure led to more Arabs immigrating to Palestine, and many choosing to live in cities like Haifa where their population had increased by eighty percent at that time period.

I have the same map hanging in my home too (photo credit Levinsky).

In another post, he showed an old map of Palestine and wrote: Lets start. With history 101 geography 101 world map 101 reading 101 (Instagram, July 1, 2020, accessed July 8, 2020.

I dont think any of us are denying that the country existed and still does! But like an addict who knows that its best to quit, stay away/refrain because the next time you may really get hurt, I ignored the warning signs and dove right in for another look. In the following post (Instagram, June 29, 2020, accessed June 29, 2020,, Hadid featured a photo of a book titled Pressed Flowers From The Holy Land. Interesting choice for a book when trying to push for that predictive narrative that Palestine had existed forever as an Arab-Palestinian country only.

You can Take our land and force us out with your mighty army with the help of many mightiest of armies. you can take away our villages and destroy and cut our olive trees and send us to refugee camps but you can never ever take our history culture food and Heritage and take our Palestine off the maps stamps cigarette labels and books that are written by American with the American Consulate in Jerusalem Palastine. Before the occupation of Britain on our land Palestine. what is the name was used on all the stamps and the cigarettes oranges and olive oil came from the holy land Palastine. Annexation of More land and the Devastation of more Palestinians is not the way to peace and harmony and coexistence . . .

Ripples of laughter from Jaffa to Tel Aviv (photo credit Levinsky).

Why do I get the feeling that its Hadid who is trying to wipe Israel off the map, and implant the notion that it was born in sin? Apart from Israels landscape, where every corner is saturated with Jewish history the themes of our literature, prose, and scriptures are ingrained with images of Jerusalem, the Holy Temple, and our sages. But war, defeat, and expulsions have also pervaded our history altogether, these details have created a compelling story of Jewish life that has become the basis from which two more religions had developed their beliefs: Christianity and Islam. The evidence of our presence in Israel is overwhelming, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the Cairo geniza, the largest archival finds in history made up of sacred texts and prayers and the works of Jewish philosophers, poets, rabbinical responses, community records, legal briefings, contracts, and letters that were discovered in the 1000-year-old Ezra synagogue in Cairo (Hillel Halkin, Yehudah Halevi, p. 72). These sources have helped us thread our history into a cohesive narrative that affirms a continued Jewish presence in the Holy Land/Palestine/Israel.

Hadid is not interested in evidence of Jewish life in Palestine. In the following post (Instagram, March 30, 2020, accessed July 8, 2020,, he showed a photo of the Dome of the Rock with a caption that says that its revered as the beating heart of Palestine:

We are loosing our country day by day. Month by month year by year. Loosing our own food day by day naming the streets different names. Replacing Palestinian Houmous with Israeli Houmous. My heart is broken but they will never break our rights to our olive trees and our land. The world will open its eyes and see the right from wrong they cant kill us all we are in a different world .. you cant keep your eyes closed for these atrocities. The world will wake up one day. But at the same time we live In the largest open prison in the world Gaza The blood seeps below the 30 feet cement wall. #gaza will stand tall.

A snippet of Jewish life in Safed, Israel (photo credit Levinsky).

Hold on Habibi, Wait a Sec

Such a load of bubkes, burekas, blinches, whichever one easily rolls off your tongue. My mom and her siblings also have Palestine written as their place of birth in their birth certificates, and such is the case with every single person who was born there prior to May 14, 1948. Their banknotes and coins had Palestine printed and engraved, everything did. In the early days, Arabs in Palestine were not referred to as Palestinians, they were Arabs. Only when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) rose to power in the mid-60s, the Arabs adopted Palestinian as their nationality. This included Arabs living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But there was never a Palestinian-Arab nation per se because we already know that Jews had always lived in Palestine. Its bizarre to have to explain this so many times, but Jews had resided in Palestine before the rise of Islam and during the rule of Islam. Before their national consciousness took root, Arabs of Palestine always regarded themselves as part of Greater Syria. Their precise stance towards Palestine was documented during the 1919 First Congress of Muslim-Christians Association that had met in Jerusalem in order to choose their representatives for a Paris Peace Conference. They stated that they did not differ from Syria in terms of their national or religious, linguistic, natural economic and geographical bonds.

Hadid repeatedly pushes for the idea that Israel has wiped Palestine off the map, and to prove his point he commented on a correspondence between his father and the Department of Education in Jerusalem (Instagram post dated April 14, 2020, accessed July 6, 2020,

These are documents from 1945 and 1946 regarding my Father, Anwar Mohamed Taleb Hadid. These documents should serve as more proof that both the state of Palestine and Palestinians existed prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Our history has been erased and our existence is in dire straits . . . Dont take our culture food and dignity. And yes. I am unapologetically proud Palestinian Muslim Arab American.

Al-Bahar mosque, Jaffa, Israel, (photo credit Levinsky).

Let Me Wipe My Glasses Clean

Didnt make a difference. He did write those words even though Palestinians have been the ones to wipe Israel out of their consciousness while Israels skyline is dotted with mosques, and their call to prayer, with the aid of megaphones, blasts all across Israel. If youre the type who needs a daily siesta, double-pane windows are strongly recommended. Palestinian students learn that Israel has no right to exist and that all Jews must be expelled. In fact, many Palestinian educational programs and institutions are named after martyrs as well as Nazi collaborators. In their revised textbooks, the Jews are only mentioned up to the Roman period after which they do not exist, but most books just dont include our history at all. Forget about Jerusalem, in their textbooks, a city built by Jews for Jews has nothing to do with Jews. How shocking that Palestinian academics also hold the belief that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a true account of history. Academics believe this perversion of history! And these are the types of academics who are then invited into university campuses all over the world to lecture about the Palestinian struggle. They also assert that the Holocaust is a malicious fabrication; we have Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who questioned the number of victims in the Holocaust in his 1982 doctoral dissertation. He said that in order to achieve greater gains after the War, Zionists had inflated the number of Holocaust victims.

An Arab boy walking his horse, Acre, Israel, (photo credit Levinsky).

Hadids words mimic the same widespread hostility towards Israel, albeit he employs a more diplomatic way to promote his ideas. He does not share an Islamist worldview in support of violence, but he lacks self-criticism and misinforms his public. All one has to do is read the comments he receives from Instagram followers to see the destructive outcome of his posts. Often he is pressured to delete an inflammatory statement like the one where he compared Israelis to Nazis, after which he issued his standard apology. But too late, damage done baaaa baaaa baaaa.

Hadid is in Great Company

Mahmoud Darwish was a modern Palestinian poet who dressed his vitriol against Israel in prose:

get out of our land and out of our sea/Out of our wheat and out of our salt/Out of our wound out of everything/And get out of the terms of memory/Oh passers in passing words ( Muna Abu Eid, Mahmoud Darwish: Literature and the Politics of Palestinian Identity, p. 140).

Similar to Darwish, Hadid would like you to believe that Palestine has always been the beating heart of the Arab world, even though a review of Arab history will show otherwise. When Jerusalem fell under Jordanian control in 1948, the city remained neglected for almost 20 years; Jews were expelled from the Jewish quarter and no Jew could pray at the Western Wall, yet just like in prior occupations not one single Arab leader regarded Jerusalem as their capital! When they pray, Muslims face the Kaaba a scared cubic monument in Mecca. Why not face Jerusalem? During the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, about 58 synagogues were destroyed, some dating back hundreds of years. Their precious religious artifacts looted, and Jewish graves that rested atop Mount Olives for over 2500 years were desecrated. By the time the Jordanians had annexed this territory, Christians were also targeted; they restricted the number of Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and imposed mandatory teaching of the Quran in Christian schools. Jordan proclaimed Islam as the official religion in Jerusalem.

Hadid presents his people as innocent bystanders, but nothing could be further from the truth. They launched an aggressive war against the Jews while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of the constantly expanding infrastructure that improved their everyday lives dramatically. They were also invited to take part in joint Jewish-Arab projects; those included the integration of both Arab and Jewish students, the development of the port of Jaffa, nurturing the association of Jaffa orange-growers, and drainage of the marshlands just to name a few successful collaborations. But there were plenty more. Sadly, the negative forces outweighed any good that presided between Arabs and Jews. Haj Amin al- Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and a prominent political figure in the Arab-Palestinian landscape, was known for his obsessive hatred of Jews. He played an instrumental role in instigating the Arab public and silencing anyone who opposed his goals for a pan-Arabist empire. The Arabs sustained an atmosphere of terror with the aid of irregular Arab forces from neighboring countries while the Arab Higher Committee organized strikes, mobs, and riots that destroyed commercial centers, instilled fear, disrupted Jewish life all over the country and caused much bloodshed.

We can delve deeper into history, but that doesnt change a thing. This tug-of-war spanned many centuries; the Jews were tossed to the sidelines most of the time and lived at the behest of Muslims who took full control of every single structure around the Western Wall. Despite these hardships, Jerusalem remained at the center of Jewish hearts. Nothing could sever their bond with the Holy Land without which Judaism has no basis. So they persevered even though they were subjugated to Arabs and Islam from the time the Arabs had conquered the Levnat, but Hadid and his ilk will have you believe that Israelis are an evil imperialistic lot who are engaged in theft of their land, homes, culture, and food, and that Zionism has been an ongoing threat to their religious and national status quo. Hadid will never mention that when Jordan annexed the West Bank and Egypt controlled Gaza, Arab-Palestinians were not offered the right for self-determination. In fact, Egypt never offered citizenship to the residents of Gaza and kept them under oppressive military rule.

David Roberts lithograph, Jerusalem, The Golden Gate, 1839 (Levinsky collection).

Palestine before Islam

Hadid is relentless; he has revised Arab and Jewish history to such an extent that its impossible to know where to begin in terms of debunking his fables. He repeats the idea that by virtue of the name Palestine, theirs, is the original, true connection to the land. The facts are such that the ancient Philistines, from which the name Palestine was derived, were a seafaring nation that existed thousands of years before Palestinian nationhood evolved. They were Israels enemies at the time it was the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, and the coastal plains which they controlled were known as Philistia. The name stuck even when Assyrians then Babylonians took over the region consecutively. Under Roman control, the area included Syria and they called that territory Syria Palestina. When the Arabs conquered the land, the Roman appellation was adopted by them as well.

Hadid would like you to believe that Palestinians were there from biblical times, but their presence in Palestine has another explanation. Between the years 1775-1804, Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, the Bosnian refugee who rose to power under Ottoman rule, encouraged immigration to the Galilee; he invited Syrians and Lebanese to join him in Palestine. In 1820, Mohamed Ali, the pasha and viceroy of Egypt between the years 1805-1848, temporarily occupied Palestine. He brought with him tens of thousands of soldiers and falachim (peasants/farm workers). Todays Gazans are probably the descendants of Alis soldiers and farmers, so are the Arabs of Jaffa. But Palestinians are also the descendants of different nations that had occupied Palestine over the years, people who migrated from North Africa, and the Golan. Hadid knows this very well, he just banks on the ignorance of others; its a matter of cognitive anchoring, you repeat something enough times and it becomes the truth.

Im a Jew from Timbuctoo, Im a Jew from Timbuctoo, Im a Jew from Timbuctoo. Wait really? Am I?

Jewish history weaves through narrow alleyways, Safed, Israel, (photo credit Levinsky).

Just when you think that you have figured out Hadids background, you read another post or find another interview with a new rendering of his past. A very interesting facet of the Palestinian plight is that rarely does anyone dispute their particular claims, and when they are caught lying it doesnt even matter. Such was the case with Dr. Edward W. Said an esteemed scholar and literary critic at Columbia University, and a leading advocate of the Palestinian cause. Commentary magazine published an article about Said and the story that he promoted for decades of his tragic displacement by Israel, this became the core of his identity in America. But he lied about all of it. His family had immigrated to Cairo, Egypt, in 1935. He lied to his students, colleagues, and the rest of the intelligentsia that fawned at his feet. (Justus Reid Weiner, My Beautiful Old House and other Fabrications by Edward Said, September 1999). PLO chairman and president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also lied about his familys refugee status.

Do you think anyone has batted an eyelid over these false claims? No. Nothing more than a dismissive hand gesture, because the details dont matter as long as they reinforce their narrative against Israel. Is it any wonder that so many other Palestinians have done the same?

Another Instagram post (June 7, 2020, accessed, July 8, 2020, showed Hadid sitting outside a building in Safed, Israel, with the following details:

My Familys Home in Safad .. when we lived in Tunisia .. I asked my Father,, But why father you took a Jewish family from a boat full of refugees from Poland in Haifa, Into our Home in SAFAD Palestine? . .. I would never forget what he said .. He reminded me that Jewish people and their destiny mattered to Him.. did that mean. Jewish life Mattered to my father then in 1946 .. and his friends that took other families into there homes as guest. But we became refugees in 1948. 1949 to Syria to labanon to Tunisia To The USA. Jewish life mattered to us then .. hope one day will see the light to Have Palestinian life matters .. the day will come for coexistence In peace, respect .. Love you Babba Anwar Hadid ..

From one of his followers:

Wait, So are you saying that your father willingly became a refugee just to give up his home to Jews? (Aphrodisiac218).

no not willingly.. they locked us out of our house. We couldnt enter. We we not even allowed in to get our most private articles and or clothing (mohamedhadid).

This post will be analyzed in-depth in Part two of this essay, but for now, keep Safed in mind as you read a quotation from N Lifestyle magazine (Emma Day, Mohamed Hadid says his children know theyre Palestinians in Harvard Speech April 8, 2019):

Im just a simple man from Nazareth, and Ill always be a simple man from Palestine, and he also said this about visiting his childhood home in Nazareth: I went to the same bed I was born in, my mother was born in that bed also. Hopefully I can take the kids there one day.

The Talmud mentions that in Safed a fire was lit to announce the arrival of a new Jewish month (photo credit Levinsky).

In Regardiestheres a lengthy expose about the rise of Hadid from refugee to real estate mogul.Nazareth was mentioned as his birthplace, and at the time his father taught English at the University of Jerusalem. Two months after his birth his mom left for Damascus where they stayed with her mother, Hadids grandmother. While there, Israel declared its independence, and upon their return a few months later they found an empty house because his father was expelled from the country.

My mother loaded our possessions on a donkey and walked to Damascus, says Hadid. She thought my father was dead (Harry Jaffe, Unmasking the Mysterious Mohamed Hadid, March 1998).

But did he not tell one of his followers that they were not allowed in their home, and could not retrieve their possessions? In one post his family home is in Safed, and in another, hes from Nazareth. In the next version of his past (Instagram, accessed July 8, 2020,, he places himself in the middle of a massacre:

Yes I was in these Trucks and donkeys and the tents. I was just few months old. We had to flee after our Polish Europeans guest locked us out out of our home .. while ( the Safad massacre (google it ) my sister was just less than two years old ..happened just outside the Hadid moslem arabs quarters .. Al sabagh family Arab Christian ..Al khoury family Arab Christian. We all got locked out ..of our homes .

A Little Bit Confused?

And for those of you who say big whoop, who cares if hes off by a month here, a month there, or whether hes that little baby carried out of Safed, or whether he lived in Safed, or Nazareth, or kicked out of his home by Jewish refugees that his family had saved from the Haifa shore I say that it matters. It matters because the truth is that not all Palestinians were expelled from Israel, and even though I believe that both sides deserve to live in peace, and there needs to be an immediate solution to the Palestinians hardships, this does not give them a license to fabricate their history. The number of Palestinians who left by virtue of fright and flight, or were driven out by Arab leadership, or expelled by Israel ranged between 300,000-700,000 people, depending on the sources that you read. But one thing is clear, there was never a masterplan or policy to expel the Arab population from Palestine, and that can be verified by looking at archives that belonged to the Haganah, IDF, and Israeli cabinet deliberations, which are all open for review.

On November 29, 1947, the UN voted on a partition plan that divided Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. The Arabs rejected it and the Jews accepted it even though this new arrangement meant they would only receive 12% of the land that was originally promised to them. Today, 5 million Palestinians demand the right of return. Its complicated, and I dont know of the creation of any other country in the world where innocent people had not been hurt in the process. One wrong does not excuse the other, but give Israel a friggin break already. Do you think that Jews who were expelled or fled from Eastern Europe or Arab lands have the right of return? Their numbers were in the millions back then one million alone from Arab countries. And if we were to attribute to them the same mathematical equation that has numbered Palestinian refugees at 5 million, ours would be a much larger number that would include all of Israel and most other Jews in the diaspora. For years, Israel has explained that allowing these refugees the right of return would threaten the states existence.

Historian Flavius Josephus wrote about the Jewish soldiers in Sepph (Safed) during the war against the Romans (photo credit Levinsky).

Its Not That Im Persnickety

Autobiographical assertions of the past can indeed get hazy, but you decide whether Hadid employs a little bit of amnesia and hyperbole to better serve the bigger metaphor of displacement and injustices suffered by Palestinians. Words have consequences as weve seen in the long history of hate towards Jews; Jewishness was perceived as a hostile idea in the past and continues to be the prism in which Israels critics see the world. Hadid seduces his readers with impassioned iterations of personal loss and demonizes Israel at every opportunity this resonates with a wide swath of society that sees Israel as a warmongering rogue state and an agent of Western imperialism. When Hadid invokes his familial association to Sheik Daher al-Omar, he accrues a great deal of moral authority to further help his rendering of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and bolster his crusade of redress for all Palestinian refugees. For me though, his grasp of historical events tends to obfuscate his message of a long-lasting peace between Jews and Arabs. In EniGma magazine (Yasmine Shihata, Mohamed Hadid The Palestinian Patriarch & Pioneer) Hadid had this to say:

My great grandfather descended from prophet Mohamed, and just lately they sent us a document that shows our lineage. Its very important to understand that Palestine was there forever; they tried to take it away and they probably will succeed. Most of Palestine is now Israel and I dont think they will ever allow a two-state solution .

Levinsky Street has an intimate market setting that features a melting pot of cuisines (photo credit Levinsky).

You know what, Im a direct descendant of King David, so I know the frustration involved in being treated like a plebe when there is royal blood running through your veins. To date, there is even a Levinsky street, Levinsky Spice Market, and the Levinsky Teachers Seminary that carries my family name!

Beware of the wolf in sheeps clothing baaaa baaaa baaaa

*Next week, I will publish Part Two of this essay and take an in-depth look at Hadids portrayal of historical events in Israel, and analyze the lives of Jews and Arabs in Safed in the years leading up to the War of Independence.

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Beware of A Wolf in Sheep's ClothingMohamed Hadid's Polemic on His Palestine - The Times of Israel

Denial of the Srebrenica Genocide Must Be Exposed and Condemned – Just Security

Posted By on July 11, 2020

(Editors Note: To mark todays 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia, Just Security is publishing two articles. In addition to this piece by Menachem Z. Rosensaft on denial of the Srebrenica Genocide, Margaret deGuzman considers whether racist police brutality in the United States could be characterized as an international atrocity crime.)

Imagine the international outrage if murals of Adolf Hitler were to be prominently displayed throughout Germany, or if a Berlin student dormitory were to be named after Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the systematic annihilation of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Imagine further the across-the-board condemnation of any German government delusional enough to claim as a matter of policy that the Holocaust was not a genocide, and that the Jews brought their mass slaughter upon themselves.

Precisely this type of scenario has been playing itself out with regard to the genocide perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs 25 years ago against Bosniaks Bosnian Muslims in and around the town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia.

During the brutally fought 1992-95 Bosnian War, the paramilitary forces of the Bosnian Serb breakaway proto-state known as Republika Srpska, with the support of the neighboring Serbian government, engaged in a savage campaign to expel non-Serbs from the predominantly ethnic Serb part of Bosnia. In 1993, the United Nations Security Council designated Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or other hostile act. This safe area, where thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge, was under U.N. protection.

Over the course of several days beginning on July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladi murdered approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys between the ages of 12 and 77 from the Srebrenica enclave, in what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan later called a terrible crime the worst on European soil since the Second World War. Bosnian Serb troops also forcibly expelled around 25,000 Bosniak women, children, and elderly men from Srebrenica.

The 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention provides that killing members of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, that group as such constitutes the crime of genocide under international law.

To date, six Bosnian Serbs, including Mladi and the erstwhile Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadi, have been convicted of genocide by the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in connection with the Srebrenica killings. In 2007, the International Court of Justice held that the acts committed at Srebrenica were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide.

Some Do Not Wish To Know

Sadly, however, as Dunja Mijatovi, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, has pointed out, Many people in Europe and the world do not know about the genocide and some do not wish to know. Some even deny it.

Indeed, Bosnian Serbs and their acolytes have spent the past quarter of a century desperately trying to persuade the world that what happened at Srebrenica was not a genocide. The Srebrenica-Potoari Memorial Center recently issued a report on Srebrenica genocide denial that documents the revisionist initiatives by politicians and pseudo-academics to distort history. The efforts range from attempts to dispute the death toll to blaming the victims for the slaughter by claiming that it was a reaction to Bosniak provocations.

In the course of 2019, Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, called the Srebrenica genocide a fabricated myth, and said that Bosnian Muslims did not have a myth, so they decided to construct one around Srebrenica. Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin declared that, the Serbian people survived genocide rather than committed it. And eljka Cvijanovi, the president of Republika Srpska, which emerged as one of the constituent entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the November 1995 Dayton Accords, has pointedly suggested that the killing of Bosniaks by Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica was retaliation for prior anti-Serb war crimes against Serbs purportedly committed by Bosnian Muslim forces.

These Srebrenica genocide deniers are far from alone. Five years ago, on July 8, 2015, Russia vetoed a British-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Srebrenica massacre as a crime of genocide. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Russias permanent representative to the U.N., disparaged the proposed resolution as not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated.

In June 2015, Ephraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centers Israel office, lent invaluable support to the Serb and Russian positions when he told the Belgrade-based newspaper Politika that he did not believe that what happened at Srebrenica fit the description or definition of genocide and I think that the decision to call this genocide was adopted for political reasons.

In a separate interview on Russian-sponsored Sputnik Serbia radio, Zuroff said, It is necessary tobe very careful while using the concept of genocide. I do not deny that the Serbian forces killed Muslims inSrebrenica, this should not have happened, and those responsible must be brought tojustice. But there was no genocide inSrebrenica sincethe Serbs initially released women and children. And then the process ofpoliticization ofthe tragedy began.

A Legal Fact

Churkin, Zuroff, and all the other Srebrenica genocide deniers are wrong as a matter of law. As Ambassador Peter Wilson, the United Kingdoms permanent representative at the U.N., declared following Churkins 2015 veto, that genocide occurred at Srebrenica is a legal fact, not a political judgment.

Such historical rejectionism flies in the face of a succession of judicial holdings that set forth in detail that the killing of the Bosniak men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave, coupled with the forced deportation of Bosniak women, children and elderly men, evidenced the requisite intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslim presence in eastern Bosnia so as to constitute genocide. In its judgment convicting Karadi of genocide, the ICTY Trial Chamber wrote that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the killing of the Bosniak men and boys of Srebrenica is that members of the Bosnian Serb Forces orchestrating this operation intended to destroy the Bosnian Muslims as such.

It gets worse. The perpetrators of the Srebrenica genocide are lionized in present-day Republika Srpska. Enormous murals of Mladi have become shrines for Bosnian Serbs, and a student dormitory was named with great fanfare after Karadi. Consider the contrast now to the United States, where Confederate statues are coming down in recognition of the hatred they represent.

Speaking at the site of the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald in Germany, President Barack Obama called denial of the Holocaust baseless, ignorant and hateful. It is beyond question, Pope Benedict XVI declared, that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable.

Denial of the Srebrenica genocide is equally baseless, ignorant and hateful. Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Mijatovi has called for July 11 to be declared an official Remembrance Day of the Srebrenica genocide. The U.N., the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and other international bodies should follow suit and mark July 11 with the same reverence accorded to Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Like Holocaust denial, denial of the Srebrenica genocide cannot be allowed to be portrayed as a legitimate intellectual position. Numerous countries, Germany foremost among them, have criminalized Holocaust denial. At the very least, those who deny the Srebrenica genocide and glorify its perpetrators need to be exposed, publicly condemned, and ostracized. The victims of Srebrenica and their families deserve no less.

As a moral imperative, the international community must once and for all denounce Srebrenica genocide denial, in Pope Benedicts words, as intolerable and altogether unacceptable.

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Denial of the Srebrenica Genocide Must Be Exposed and Condemned - Just Security

Impunity Is the Story of Our Times – The American Prospect

Posted By on July 11, 2020

Joshua Oppenheimer is an award-winning filmmaker, best known for his Oscar-nominated films The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014). The films reckon with the mass murder of more than one million Indonesians largely by paramilitary gangs in 1965-1966, and the lasting impunity of the perpetrators who remain in power. Vanity Fair called The Act of Killing a bravura exploration, and IndieWire ranked the two films No. 4 on their Best of the Decade list. Oppenheimer is a 2014 recipient of the MacArthur genius award.

Oppenheimer is now working on a new film about the apocalypse. I reached him by Skype in Denmark, and talked to him about how his investigation of impunity in Indonesia relates to America today, and why his new work-in-progress about the apocalypse is a musical.

Karen Nussbaum: Your films take up big questionsglobalization and genocide, impunity and culpability. What drew you to this work? Its pretty dark.

Joshua Oppenheimer: I grew up in a family that was shadowed by the Holocaust. My fathers family and my stepmothers family were from Germany and Austria. Pretty much everyone in my stepmothers family was killed in the Holocaust. More people survived in my fathers family, but still, people were killed and people were scattered. So I was aware of genocide from a very young age, and aware of the imperative that this should never happen again. My mother is a union activist and labor lawyer, with the sense that an injustice against anyone is an injury to all of us.

It was a shock to me to understand that American hegemony was built on bloodshed. As part of the spread of American-style capitalism around the world through colonialism and its modern variations, mass violence was always in attendance.

KN: Your first film in Indonesia, The Globalisation Tapes (2003), focuses on that.

JO: This was at the height of the movement for a socially just and responsible form of globalization. The union [the International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers, based in Geneva] wanted to teach rank-and-file food and agricultural workers around the world about what globalization meant to their supply chains and their industries. My collaborator Christine Cynn and I proposed we find a location where workers had faced the violent edge of globalization.

I visited a plantation in Indonesia. It was a moment where you are dropped into the worst of what you have read about and you see that its all true. This bracing, awful moment where you hope against hope that it couldnt be as bad as you think, and then its worse. But of course its like this. Its only because we look away, that the stories we tell divert our attention, that we feel surprised when we encounter the reality.

These palm oil plantation workers worked for a very aptly named Belgian company, Financial Society. The women workers on this plantation were dying of liver failure in their forties. They had the supposedly easy job of spraying the pesticides and the herbicides, as opposed to harvesting the heavy, spiky palm fruits high up in the trees. But they were given no protective clothing. Some of the chemicals they were spraying were totally banned for use in the European Union. They would eat lunch in the fields; they were ingesting it. It was dissolving the fabric of their livers and killing them.

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They decided their first demand as a union would be that they shouldnt have to spray these chemicals. The company responded by hiring a paramilitary group, the Pancasila Youth, to threaten and attack the workers. The workers dropped their demands immediately. I remember saying, How do you have that choice? Its terrifying Im sure, but and thats when they told me about the genocide.

They said all of their parents and grandparents who had been in the union were killed or imprisoned. They are afraid this could happen again because this paramilitary group did the bulk of the killing for the army in this region and they are more powerful than ever. I realized that whats killing these women is not just poison but also fear. When the film was done, they said please come back and make a film about why after all these years were still so afraid.

I was 27 and I just couldnt look away. I started meeting survivors who came at night, secretly, to tell me their stories. But within days, the army was tracking and threatening them. And we [the filmmakers] started being arrested. I thought it couldnt work [and prepared to tell the workers]. But when I arrived at a midnight meeting, I found 40 people, families from 30 miles around who had come on the backs of each others motorbikes on dirt tracks on the plantations. They said, You cant quit. You have to do this somehow.

KN: In The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, you interview the killers, many of whom are leaders in the communitya newspaper publisher, businessmen, parliamentarians. These pillars of society still embrace the paramilitary organizations as extrajudicial enforcers. This looks so brazen. Is Indonesia an outlier or a parable?

JO: I was drawn to the story of the genocide in Indonesia and spent so many years on it because there was the ethical commitment I felt to the familiesbut I also saw this as a metaphor for impunity everywhere. I think impunity is the story of our times.

I filmed Indonesian elections where thugs were in charge. It was a charade. I was shocked by the brazenness. My Colombian cinematographer, Carlos Arango, said to me, You do realize this is how the whole world is organized. I finished releasing The Look of Silence in 2016. Then Trump was elected. It doesnt look so brazen to me anymore.

In the face of this impunity, there is a sacred role for the storyteller. We can tell stories which invite people to confront painful truths. To combat the lies of impunity, you are doing the task of the child in The Emperors New Clothes. Youre pointing at something uncomfortable that everyone already knows but is too afraid to acknowledge. Even if its not fear of being persecuted, maybe its fear of being ostracized, fear of finding your society intolerable, and then discovering you dont have the courage to rise to the call of justice thats required of you once you realize conditions are intolerable.

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The other thing that storytelling does is open the imagination and the heart to people we normally comfortably overlook. And which the stories of the powerful invariably lull us into overlooking. Thats whats so powerful about the moment were living through in the United States. The numbers of Americans of color killed by police arent new. The story is not new. But activists change the way stories are being told.

KN: Many of the people you interview talk about who writes history. One of the killers in The Act of Killing says war crimes are defined by the winner. And hes worried that your film will reverse the story. As you say, the anti-racist protests today are also tackling the issue of who determines the narrative. When people live under an oppressive narrative for generations, what happens to consciousness? Where do people go in their own heads or in their own communities when the narrative is stacked against them?

JO: For the people I met in Indonesia, it went to prayer, it went to incantation, it went to hope for justice in the afterlife. The power of a social movement is that it provides a new channel in this life, the opportunity for people to take their long-harbored sense of grievance and act on it in public. In the United States, optimistically, were in a watershed moment. It could go either way.

The other thing I see in Indonesia is how corruption and systemic disempowerment of the citizen leads to cynicism and a disengagement from the political process. It gives free rein to the powerful to continue being corrupt and beating people into silence. Corruption is so dangerous because it doesnt just corrupt the officials, it corrupts the entire political system, whatever the constitution.

We have legalized corruption in the U.S. A lot of the corruption that would be nominally illegal in Indonesia is legal in America. The lobbying system, the campaign finance system, this would be illegal but overlooked in Indonesiabut is legal in the U.S.

KN: The historian Anne Applebaum recently wrote: Sometimes the point isnt to make people believe a lieits to make people fear the liar. How important are lies in establishing fear?

JO: When leaders lie to us brazenly and with impunity, its a performance of power. I am immune from any efforts to hold me accountable. Many communities in the United States live with systemic fear. Not just communities of color, immigrant communities, LGBT communities, but everyone in the middle class and below who are living in fear of economic catastrophe all the time.

And its only human to be ashamed of being afraid, especially in a society which lies to us and says, Its all down to individual effort. Anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When youre told that lie, youre made ashamed of your own problems, even though in reality they are systemic problems. Youre made ashamed of the oppression you suffer. When we are ashamed, we deny, we look away. We stop looking at problems. That breaks solidarity.

Everyone knows they are being lied to. They are afraid of the repercussions of stating it, but they are also ashamed of that fear, ashamed of having to live their life pretending to believe in a lie.

The moment it becomes, undeniably, a lie is when there arises the possibility for things to change quickly. These two films made it impossible for average people in Indonesia, who were not directly connected to the perpetrators, to continue to pretend that the perpetrators were defending the country. Suddenly, the way the country talked about its past changed, especially among a younger generation, a generation that was not directly complicit nor terrified.

KN: In The Look of Silence, Adi, whose brother was murdered in the genocide, meets with one of the killers from that time who is now ailing, and his daughter. The daughter says she is proud he killed communists but is appalled when he describes some of the atrocities.

JO: Heres a woman of the next generation who is bound to her father, has to live with him, take care of him, help him to the toilet, feed him, and knows thats her responsibility in life. [In the interview in the film] her father talks in terms so graphic and vivid that she will forever after have to see this man whom she loves and has to look after as a murderer, as someone whos done unspeakable things. And despite that connection to him, she took this incredible leap of moral courage and spoke honestly from her heart and said to Adi, This is awful, this is wrong, and Im sorry. That goes to a deeper point about complicity.

We are all complicit, in trivial ways and profound ways. All we can do in a society that is based on exploitation and suffering is to organize, to speak up and to be honest with ourselves. Pick up a $5 T-shirt that youre wearing and think about the conditions in the sweatshop where it was produced. Look at the iPhone you have and think about the women who threw themselves off the balconies to their deaths in despair at the Foxconn factory in China. Think about the minerals that make this Skype call possiblewhere they come from and the warlords who hack off the limbs of people [whom they employ as miners] who fight for the tiniest amount of self-determination. Just be aware of our own complicity and act on that. When you dont, youre not looking in the mirror and a part of you dies. You go through life with blinders on, distorting, twisting, hollowing out. Everything becomes a no-go area: I dont want to think about that, I dont want to think about that. And society says, Good, dont think about anything. Just think about yourself, your family, and your money.

KN: Lets talk about the new film you are working on, The End. What triggered your interest in doomsday and the apocalypse? Whats the line from the Indonesia films to The End?

JO: Ive been interested in the apocalypse for a long time. Maybe it comes from being named Oppenheimer and growing up in New Mexico in view of Los Alamos, and people assumed I was related to J. Robert Oppenheimer.

I had a longing to make a film on wealth forged in mass violence, the third part of a trilogy of the Indonesian films. But I couldnt return to Indonesia to do that. (Oppenheimers life is in danger in Indonesia.) I was researching other very wealthy families, and one of them was buying a doomsday bunker that was more of a palace than a bunker. I decided to make a film about a family in a bunker 20 years after the world has endedand to make it a musical.

This family has enriched itself through fossil fuels. Its now 20 years after the world has ended and they have a son who was born in the bunker. Its a study in impunity. They tell themselves that this vast tomb is now the pinnacle of civilization, because they are the last family, a Noahs Ark for a flood that will never subside. The themes grow out of what I explored in The Act of Killingguilt and denial, the imposition of a narrative by the powerful, the performance of impunity. And remember: Impunity is always performed. Its not something you can take for granted. You have to assert it with shows of force, which African American communities have seen all over the country forever.

The End is also an exploration of whether we as human beings can come to a place where our guilt is too much to recover from. We are our pasts. And were all perpetrators in one way or another.

KN: At first, I thought that making a musical was a big departure. But theres pageantry and song and dance in The Act of Killing, which is how the killers wanted to tell their story. Why did you choose to use this artistic form to deliver your message?

JO: Musicals are a uniquely American form that embodies a uniquely American cultural phenomenon of radical, groundless optimism. This family, in denial about helping to bring about the end of the world, is trying to celebrate their future when there is no future. Thats just ripe for music and song and being explored in the tradition of the great American musical.

The 1950s was the pinnacle of the white American empire based on greed and radical, baseless optimism. The Golden Age musicals were a singing travel guide into the empire at its height. The End is just the last stop on the tourthe bunker is all thats left of America.

The other thing about musicals is this idea from Milan Kundera about sentimentality and denial. Kundera has this beautiful quote which Ill paraphrase: You cry the first tear because something is singularly sad and demands something from you ethically. And you cry a second tear in rapid succession in the awareness that the whole world is crying with you. The second tear is the beginning of sentimentality. That second tear is always escapist.

If you look at both The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, I try to bring the audience to a place where they cry a third tear, where you are weeping for the tragic consequences of lying, the tragic consequences of sentimentality itself. The tragic consequences of escapism.

The musical is a form that is more honest than any other about its own sentimentality. So its the right form for bringing the audience to that third tear.

KN: The pandemic is increasing sales in doomsday bunkers. How does the pandemic frame the new project?

JO: The pandemic certainly makes it more timely. Its interesting to weather the pandemic here in Denmark, where social distancing was something society took on not as a way to protect oneself, but to protect the most vulnerable among us. Thats a response to disaster and collective challenge based on empathy and moral imagination and love and care.

Theres a very different response in parts of the U.S.a response based on protecting yourself, a response based on fear. And greed is a kind of fear. Its a fear of death, its a fear of not having enough. So to tackle our challenges not from a place of fear but from a place of empathy is a challenge that The End poses, and it couldnt be more timely.

Read more:

Impunity Is the Story of Our Times - The American Prospect

Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews are acting like they have herd immunity. Could they be right? – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on July 11, 2020

(JTA) The front page of the June 26 issue of Der Yid, one of the most widely circulated Yiddish newspapers among New Yorks Hasidic Orthodox communities, made the point loud and clear.

And so it was after the plague.

Those words, lifted from a verse in the Torah and printed alongside photos of large gatherings of unmasked Hasidic men, had a clear implication: After months of funerals and fear, the modern-day pandemic had passed and the time had come to gather again.

That sentiment appears to be guiding life in Brooklyns Hasidic communities, where nearly four months after the virus first arrived, synagogues and camps are open, yeshivas resumed classes before closing for summer break and wedding halls are packed again, sometimes in violation of city and state rules designed to slow the spread of disease.

Continued gatherings of Hasidic Jews drew criticism from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others in the city this spring who said the communities were not doing their part to stop the spread of the virus. But inside the communities, the overwhelming perception is that most people have had the virus and may now be immune.

Thats the feeling, that theyve had it, everybody they know has had it, and the people they know who havent had it have some kind of immunity that we just dont understand yet, one Williamsburg health administrator said.

If community members assumptions are correct and thats a big if, as much is not yet known about whether and how COVID-19 infections provide later immunity Brooklyns Orthodox neighborhoods would stand alone. Even in the few places such as Sweden that have explicitly pursued a strategy of trying to reach herd immunity, antibody tests show that most of the population there has not yet been infected.

The June 26 cover of Der Yid, a popular Yiddish newspaper, implied that the threat of the pandemic had passed. (Screenshot from Der Yid)

But a confluence of bad timing, large families in cramped apartments and a highly social way of life that cant be replaced virtually gave residents of Brooklyns Orthodox neighborhoods little opportunity to try to prevent a major outbreak. Now local health care providers and administrators say surveys and tests suggest that as many as 70% of the community has had COVID-19 and recovered, and that new cases have slowed or stopped entirely in their neighborhoods, despite a near total return to normal behavior, including large gatherings.

As case numbers skyrocket in many parts of the United States, the grim experiment that unfolded in Brooklyns Hasidic communities offers a compelling case study for those trying to understand this virus and the costs that come with experiencing its proliferation.

I have a sad feeling that we can go out and about because we were lax, said Yosef Rapaport, a 65-year-old media consultant in Borough Park whose brother and a brother-in-law were among the hundreds of community members to die this spring.

After being extremely cautious for months, even Rapaport admits that the lack of new cases has put him somewhat more at ease. But the way the community got there is something he wouldnt repeat if given the chance.

Its not something that makes me happy, he said. To benefit from the bad is something that makes me sad. But I cant have complaints that people live in the reality that exists.

Yes, people are going to die, but they dont have better options.

The window to flatten the curve, as public health officials exhorted the public to do in the pandemics early days, in the tight-knit Orthodox communities of Brooklyn may have been over long before government officials began advising New York City residents to begin social distancing and wearing masks.

Thats because a majority of the cases in the Orthodox community, many believe, came in the days leading up to and on the Jewish holiday of Purim on March 9 and 10. While the mayor and governor were still days away from shutting down schools and businesses, parties and prayer services on Purim seeded the epidemic in Crown Heights, Borough Park and other neighborhoods with large Orthodox communities.

Purim came at a really bad time in the outbreak, Eili Klein, a professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in April. The virus was just starting to spread in the community, and congregations of people in close proximity might have allowed the small number of infected people to spread it more widely than they might have otherwise.

Hasidic men pray outside at a socially distanced service in Borough Park, March 30, 2020. (Avi Kaye)

A week later there were just over 800 confirmed coronavirus cases across New York City. More than 100 had come from just one Borough Park clinic serving Orthodox Jews.

That was the beginning. Over the coming weeks, the communities were ravaged by the disease. Death notices were posted hourly on Orthodox news sites. Burial societies worked continuously and ran out of the shrouds required to lay the dead to rest. Funeral homes recruited people with SUVs to transport bodies they lacked the capacity to handle.

And then, just as abruptly as it began, the pace slowed. One large burial society in Brooklyn said the volume of dead bodies needing preparation for burial dropped off two weeks after Passover, which ended in mid-April. They had prepared 700 bodies for burial during a period in which they would normally have prepared 100.

Widespread efforts toward social distancing began to wane in some Hasidic neighborhoods, especially Williamsburg and Borough Park. After thousands of people crowded Williamsburg streets in late April for the funeral of a rabbi there who had died of COVID-19, de Blasio called out the Jewish community for failing to follow social distancing guidelines. Two days later, another funeral in Borough Park drew a large crowd that city police officers dispersed. Some yeshivas began reopening illegally, with classes held in basements or teachers homes.

The abandonment of social distancing may have seemed cavalier, but some community members say it was inevitable.

They cant socially distance because they cant be locked up, because they chose a way of life in which its impossible to exist locked up, one Hasidic man in Borough Park said about his community, noting that its not uncommon for a Hasidic family of 10 or 12 to live in a two- or three-bedroom apartment. Yes, people are going to die, but they dont have better options.

Men gathering outside a synagogue in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, May 12, 2020. (Avi Kaye)

No spike in cases seemed to follow in those neighborhoods, according to health professionals there, reinforcing the sense for many that the danger had passed.

Meanwhile, a group of local doctors working to track COVID cases in the Hasidic community in Crown Heights, where distancing guidelines appeared to be more widely adhered to for a longer period of time, found that local newly symptomatic cases peaked on March 15. That was just five days after Purim and weeks before the citys new cases peaked, well into widespread distancing.

The doctors began working together in March under the auspices of the Gedaliah Society, a professional development group that functioned in relative obscurity before the pandemic but quickly became an authority in the communitys efforts to respond to the pandemic.

Using a Google form disseminated on a blog and through social media, the doctors asked local residents to self-report their symptoms, when the symptoms began and other information that would help the doctors understand how far the virus had spread.

More than 3,500 people responded quickly to a subsequent survey asking respondents for antibody test results, leading the doctors to estimate that a majority of community members could have antibodies. They estimated that slightly more than 70% of the communitys adults between the ages of 25 and 65 had been sick with COVID-like symptoms. Among adults over age 65, they estimated, 55% had been sick.

Orthodox Jewish men move a wooden casket from a hearse at a funeral home in Borough Park, April 5, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Without random testing, its impossible to know the true penetration of the virus in Crown Heights. But the doctors estimates would put the community within the range that scientists say is likely to confer herd immunity, meaning enough of the community has recovered from a disease or been inoculated by a vaccine to significantly mitigate or stop the spread of the disease within the community.

Thats exactly what the doctors said they were seeing.

In our little island of Crown Heights, we have had relatively few new cases over the past few weeks, they wrote on May 11.

The situation had improved even more by their update on June 5, when they reported no new cases in the community.

Presumably, this is due to the large percentage of Crown Heights that has been already affected, conferring a substantial degree of immunity to us as a community, the doctors wrote on June 5.

In late June, they wrote again that they knew of no new local cases.

The numbers are high.

The Crown Heights survey looked at just one neighborhood, but Borough Park and Williamsburg, two other neighborhoods with large Hasidic populations, appear to have had a similar experience.

Overall, there is evidence that many people across New York City have had COVID-19 already. In May, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said an antibody study had shown a citywide positive rate of 19.9% and a positive rate of 29% in Brooklyn. A study posted in early June of over 28,000 antibody test results in the New York City area showed that 44% of respondents who walked into clinics for antibody testing were found to have them. (That study has not yet gone through the peer review process.)

But none of those studies offers a picture of the situation in Hasidic communities, which are relatively insular. Even the citys data, broken down by Zip code, is an imperfect measure for communities that are spread over multiple Zip codes that include many non-Jews.

Whats more helpful are what were getting from the community health centers where the Jewish people are going to be tested for their antibodies, said Blimi Marcus, a nurse practitioner living in Borough Park who has been an outspoken advocate within the Orthodox community for staying home to stop the spread of the virus. And the numbers are high.

Administrators and providers from four health care clinics with locations in Brooklyns Hasidic neighborhoods told JTA that they had seen antibody positive rates that were far higher than the citywide data.

In the first weeks when they first started to offer it, positive rates hovered in the 55-60% range, Yosef Hershkop, regional manager at Kamin Health, said of the tests done at his clinic.

Kamin Health has locations in Crown Heights, Borough Park, Williamsburg and Queens and performed thousands of antibody tests across all four locations. Hershkop said the percentage of antibody tests that came back positive had dropped in recent weeks but was still above 50%.

Hasidic children play games at an outdoor carnival in the Williamsburg neighborhood, May 2020. (Avi Kaye)

Gary Schlesinger, the CEO of Parcare, a chain of health care clinics, said his clinics in Williamsburg and Borough Park had seen antibody positive rates of 70-74%.

Nosson Hayum, a nurse practitioner at the Perfect Health Medical Center in Borough Park, said early results showed that teenage boys in the community had the highest rates of positive antibody test results.

A health care administrator at a large Williamsburg clinic that serves mostly Hasidic patients said she had seen antibody positive results of around 40%. But that number rose to 75% if you looked at males aged 18-34.

It makes sense if you look at the population were serving, the Williamsburg administrator said, noting that men in Hasidic communities have the most active lives outside the home, attending synagogue and often studying in yeshiva.

An especially high infection rate among young men is just one piece of the communitys antibodies picture. Hasidic communities tend to be younger on average, with couples often having as many as eight children or more. According to the citys most recent population data, just over 50% of Borough Parks population is 24 years old or younger and 14% are under 6. Mounting evidence suggests that young children are unlikely to be sources of transmission for the coronavirus, meaning that Orthodox communities essentially have a disproportionately high share of dead ends for the virus, or at least a larger proportion of people who are at lower risk of becoming seriously ill.

Schlesinger, who is not a doctor, doesnt claim to know why the community has seen so few cases despite synagogues and schools reopening. But if you assume that antibodies confer immunity, he said, then the numbers point to herd immunity.

If youre talking in the 70s and if herd immunity means something, then thats what it is, he said.

But Dr. Aaron Glatt, the chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau on Long Island and an Orthodox rabbi, questioned whether any data from local clinics or groups like the Gedaliah Society in Crown Heights could show that a community had achieved herd immunity.

Unless theyre getting a random sampling of the community, statistically its worth zero, he said.

Still, several epidemiologists and doctors studying the novel coronavirus acknowledged that it would be possible for Orthodox communities to have especially high rates of positive antibodies and the protection they may provide.

I think there are likely segments, enclaves, whatever, where a large number of people in the Orthodox community have been infected and recovered and thus a major outbreak among that group is unlikely, said Dr. Michael Joyner, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic who is leading a national study on the effects of convalescent plasma in treating COVID patients. Young Orthodox men were among the first participants in the study and have made up a large percentage of plasma donors.

Children look on as a Black Lives Matter protest passes through Williamsburg, June 12, 2020. (Avi Kaye)

More spread leads to closer possibility for some herd immunity, said Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who worked with the World Health Organization for over 10 years on AIDS programs in Africa.

Slutkin and Joyner both warned that somewhere between 50% to 80% of the population would need to be immune from the disease in order to significantly mitigate the spread of the virus. The self-selection in the available antibody test results makes even the highest estimates only a risky guess, and there is also much that remains unknown about coronavirus antibodies, including whether they confer immunity, how long that immunity lasts and whether all people with immunity will get positive results.

Because of these questions, the prevailing advice among public health officials is that even people with antibodies should continue to wear masks and practice distancing.

But residents of some Orthodox neighborhoods say masks are an uncommon sight on streets that are bustling again, much as they were before the pandemic hit.

Its just taken as a given, one Borough Park woman said of the idea that herd immunity is protecting the community. Im walking now and I dont see anyone wearing a mask.

Even some in the community who said they were initially wary about the early return to normalcy say they have become convinced that herd immunity had been established.

Otherwise, how do you explain zero cases after months of packed shuls, open schools, huge weddings? one Borough Park man asked.

Its not an all-or-none thing.

As the summer warmed up, parts of the Hasidic community began the usual summer rituals. Day camps opened, albeit with temperature checks and other restrictions. Children packed off to sleepaway camps, this year in other states because New York is not allowing them to operate. Wedding halls reopened to large unmasked crowds. And parts of Brooklyn emptied out as families relocated to bungalow colonies in the mountains.

Chanie Apfelbaum, an Orthodox Instagram influencer from Brooklyn who moved to a bungalow for the summer, answered a question from a follower about whether people there were maintaining social distancing.

Its hard with the kids, more like impossible, she wrote. Most people here have had it and have antibodies.

Williamsburg residents look on as protesters pass through their Brooklyn neighborhood, June 12, 2020. (Avi Kaye)

All of this is possible, one health care administrator in Borough Park said, because of the high early infection rate.

The frum community had an advantage over everybody because they were mingling on Purim and all these other times, he said. It paid off.

But while the results of this experiment in herd immunity may be encouraging, the cost at which they were acquired were steep.

We have paid a terrible price in order to achieve this statistic that is more than double that of our neighbors in Flatbush, and certainly much more than that of New York City, or for that matter any other community in the country, the Gedaliah Society wrote on May 20. This high rate of past infection community wide will, with the help of Hashem, protect us from the virus reactivating and spreading again locally, which would thereby put the vulnerable at high risk.

And behind the veil of normalcy and the pain of loss linger deep and unsettling questions about how safe the community really is.

One concern is that older people and others who are at higher risk may be continuing to isolate for fear of infecting themselves now that the communities have relaxed their restrictions.

Few of those people, who may have isolated themselves earlier and more fully than others, are likely to have antibodies.

Thats the one thing that really scares me, Hayum, the nurse practitioner, said. That a lot of the people who were locked up for three months have no antibodies, which means if there is a second wave, theyre going to be very vulnerable.

Glatt, the doctor and Orthodox rabbi, said the antibody positive rates could be inflated because those people are continuing to stay home.

If all the people that are scared to go outside arent being tested, its going to be an artificially high number, he said.

Families walk on the streets of Williamsburg, May 12, 2020. (Avi Kaye)

And as cases rocket upward elsewhere, there is also a growing risk that new cases could be introduced to the community while some swath of the local community remains susceptible to infection.

In Crown Heights, usually a site of pilgrimage for visitors from around the globe, local leaders are exhorting travelers to stay home.

Those from other communities please, avoid visiting Crown Heights for the time being. This is even more critical when involving those from the hotspot states such as Florida and California, where cases are unfortunately surging, the doctors wrote in a June 26 post that also urged against serving food after synagogue services. Similarly, those currently living in Crown Heights are advised to not visit those hotspot states for the time being.

By early July, the doctors fears had materialized. First, they had encountered a troubling case about a case of possible reinfection in the community. Then, earlier this week, someone who had traveled to one of those hot spots tested positive upon returning to Brooklyn.

On the one hand, it is reassuring that it is not a case of community spread, as it was picked up elsewhere, the doctors wrote. On the other hand, this is how community spread can begin.

They urged continued caution and a 14-day quarantine for those traveling to areas with increasing infection numbers.

How the communities weather the summer camp and travel season could offer additional insights about how vulnerable they still are to the virus.

The more people in a community who have indicators of immunity, the slower the virus is likely to spread even as members of the community could remain at risk. This makes Brooklyns Orthodox neighborhoods worth watching as the pandemic moves into its next phase.

Its not an all-or-none thing, said Joyner, the Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist.

He added: Its going to make it harder for there to be a mega outbreak. But harder does not mean theyre not going to happen.

All photos, except where noted otherwise, were provided by Avi Kaye. You can find him on Instagram at @hasidiminusa.

Read more here:

Brooklyn's Hasidic Jews are acting like they have herd immunity. Could they be right? - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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