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Synagogues Think About Reopening – The Jewish News

Posted By on June 6, 2020

Perhaps its because pikuach nefesh, the saving of life, is the ultimate Jewish value overriding all other commandments except the prohibitions against murder, idolatry and sex crimes that few synagogues and temples in the Detroit area are reopening for services.

And perhaps its because Orthodox congregations have not, in general, held services using Zoom or other remote access programs certainly not on the Sabbath or holidays when they do not use electricity that they have been the first to restart in-person services.

Michigans Orthodox Vaad HaRabonim, or rabbis council, issued a letter May 21 providing guidelines congregations can use to safely start minyanim assemblies of at least 10 for services, noting that specifics should depend on the size and layout of each synagogue and the age and risk factors of members.

All minyanim, whether indoors or outdoors, must, according to the Vaads guidelines, include the maintenance of social distancing and the wearing of masks. Anyone over 65 should not participate without permission from a physician. Services inside homes are not permitted. Each congregation should appoint a monitor to ensure the guidelines are being followed.

With these guidelines in mind, Dovid Ben Nuchim, an Orthodox synagogue in Oak Park, resumed daily services on May 27. Children under 13 are not permitted, and there is no open womens section. Everyone must wash or sanitize his hands upon entry. Those wanting to participate need to request a spot in a particular minyan and fill out a form agreeing to abide by the guidelines.

Keter Torah, the Sephardic synagogue in West Bloomfield, started holding morning services on Memorial Day weekend. The first Shabbat they had about 15 men; on Shavuot, 19 men and two women attended, said Rabbi Sasson Natan.

The congregation is not allowing children or anyone over age 70 at services. All congregants must wear masks and gloves and sit so there are at least three empty seats between individuals. Windows and doors are kept open in the synagogue to encourage air circulation.

Rabbi Sasson reads the Torah, and anyone honored with an aliyah stands at the back of the bimah so he can see but not touch the scroll.

The rabbi sees a benefit unrelated to the coronavirus in the mandate to wear masks. Now we have a reminder that tells us do not talk in the sanctuary unless it is really necessary, he said.

Rabbi Yechiel Morris of Young Israel of Southfield says his congregation may try to reopen in mid-June. The Orthodox Union has suggested waiting 14 days after any reopening date suggested by the governor to see if theres an uptick (in COVID-19 cases), he said. We will wait to see how things play out in Michigan.

Conservative and Reform congregations are in no hurry to reopen. Most have been doing daily and Shabbat services online, and many see a higher attendance at the virtual minyanim than they experienced in person. Rabbi Aaron Starr of Conservative Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield said their average daily minyan attendance has nearly tripled.

Rabbi Robert Gamer of Conservative Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park also said daily minyan attendance has increased. The congregation started doing Sunday through Friday evening services by Zoom in March and added daily morning minyanim in mid-May. The congregation has been live-streaming Shabbat morning services for almost five years, and in mid-May they returned to doing so from the synagogues bimah; only the rabbi, Cantor Sam Greenbaum and Torah reader Howard Marcus are present.

At Reform Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, the clergy and lay leaders are evaluating a number of possibilities, including allowing private events such as bnai mitzvah starting in August, holding outdoor services on Friday night and having clergy lead Friday night virtual services from the temple, rather than from home. Temple Israel in West Bloomfields building is closed to the public but the temple hosts a number of services and educational programs on Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube.

Starr spoke for many community rabbis when he noted, We are more than our building We are the family that truly cares for one another, stands with one another, works with one another and who looks forward to a bright future together.

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Synagogues Think About Reopening - The Jewish News

Nearly half the Jewish sites in Syria have been ruined. The fate of most Iraqi sites is unknown. – JTA News

Posted By on June 6, 2020

(JTA) Nearly half the Jewish sites in Syria and a quarter of the sites in Iraq have been destroyed, according to a research project.

In Iraq, at least 68 out of 297 Jewish heritage sites have deteriorated to the point that they are beyond repair, the London-based Jewish Cultural Heritage Initiative said in its report, published earlier this week.

In Syria, at least 32 out of 71 such sites have crossed the point of no return, the report said.

The structures date from the second half of the first millennium BCE up to the present day. Most sites were built in the 19th or 20th centuries.

The condition of many sites is not known despite efforts by the research team. In Iraq, there is uncertainty about two-thirds of the sites. Only 11% of the 297 Iraqi sites are still standing. Of those, most are in poor or very bad condition.

In Syria, the fate of only 8% of Jewish sites is unclear, but 45% of them have been destroyed. Those that remain have fared better than the Iraqi ones, with most kept in fair condition, according to the report.

Among the most endangered structures are the Bandara Synagogue in Aleppo, Syria, and the Synagogue of the Prophet Elijah in Damascus, the researchers found.

In Iraq, the bulk of the destruction happened during the second half of the 20th century as a result of neglect, reuse for different purposes shops, auto repair, etc. and destruction for redevelopment in the aftermath of the emigration of the Jewish community and the seizure of Jewish property, Michael Mail, the chief executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jewish heritage in Mosul was affected by the battle to liberate the city from ISIS, but was already in advanced decay prior to the groups seizure of the city in 2014, he said.

Mail said the Shrine of the Prophet Ezekiel in al-Kifl is now the Shiite Al-Nukhailah mosque. Hebrew inscriptions and other traces of the Jewish nature of the shrine remain in the room that houses the tomb of Ezekiel, he said.

In Syria, the rate of deterioration and destruction has increased in the past few decades, although violence and seizure of Jewish property happened earlier, Mail added, including heavy damage to the Bandara Synagogue in Aleppo during anti-Jewish riots in 1947.

Synagogues there are in the best condition among Jewish heritage sites.

The Synagogue of the Prophet Elijah in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, has been largely destroyed and the condition and location of its archive are unclear as a consequence of the Syrian civil war, Mail said.

Baghdad alone had more than 120,000 Jews before a series of pogroms and persecutions caused them to leave.

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Nearly half the Jewish sites in Syria have been ruined. The fate of most Iraqi sites is unknown. - JTA News

Sunday Mass could return this weekend in Chicago – Chicago Sun-Times

Posted By on June 6, 2020

As houses of worship across the country grapple with how to welcome back believers following the coronavirus shutdown, the Chicago-area faithful could be returning for mass at dozens of Catholic churches this Sunday.

About 80 parishes have been cleared by Chicagos local arm of the Catholic Church to enter its next reopening phase, which allows for regular masses for larger groups, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Thats almost a quarter of its 316 parishes, but just because churches have been certified doesnt mean theyll resume mass right away, according to archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Thomas.

Its encouraged that they start slow, she said.

When the pandemic hit three months ago, services were limited to 10-person weddings, funerals, reconciliations and baptisms. That was extended to private prayer and adoration sessions last week still capped at 10 people as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a set of relaxed recommendations for houses of worship to reopen.

Now, churches certified for Phase II of Cardinal Blase Cupichs reopening plan not to be confused with Phase 3 of Pritzkers statewide reopening plan, which last week allowed thousands of restaurants and businesses to resume limited operations will be limited the first week to 15% capacity or 50 people maximum, easing up to 20% if all goes well.

That falls within city-specific guidelines that Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she plans to follow.

I know people miss church. I understand that. I was brought up in the church, Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday evening. But we need to make sure we are doing everything we can safely and carefully.

In addition to social distancing, face covering and sanitation guidelines, parishes will keep attendance records for contact tracing, and there wont be any seat-changing, basket-passing or touching allowed.

The archdiocese wouldnt provide a list of the Phase II-certified churches.

Meanwhile, about a dozen mosques in the area have slowly begun welcoming back Muslims, while some are sticking to e-services for now, according to Abdullah Mitchell, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

Figuring out the safest way to do things thats dominating everyones time, Mitchell said, adding that the organizations are marking social distancing points in prayer areas.

Similar precautions are still being worked out at Chicago synagogues, a handful of which have reopened with careful adherence to relevant guidelines, said Rabbi Yona Reiss of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

Others hoping to reopen shortly. Everyone has the same interest in mind: to ensure the health and safety of participants, Reiss said.

Chicago Loop Synagogue president Lee Zoldan said she doesnt expect that to happen at her sanctuary until July at the earliest, as many of her fellow congregants feel very guarded about returning.

I dont think they want to come, she said. Theres no point in opening the synagogue if no one is there.

Contributing: Manny Ramos, a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicagos South and West sides.

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Sunday Mass could return this weekend in Chicago - Chicago Sun-Times

Keeping the spirit: Religious groups adapt to COVID-19 but challenges persist – Medill Reports: Chicago

Posted By on June 6, 2020

By Jake HollandMedill Reports

Instead of preaching to a live crowd, replete with white-haired parishioners and toddlers wobbling up and down the nave, Pastor Ryan Kapple has found himself facing the empty pews, delivering sermons via livestream to no one in particular.

High-definition cameras track and record Kapples every move and turn of phrase, transmitting his services via Facebook Live to the 300 or so members who frequent Leawood Presbyterian Church in suburban Kansas City.

Like nearly every institution in American life, places of worship churches, synagogues, mosques and the like have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus and subsequent social distancing measures.

No longer are Christians able to physically gather as one, to sway to sweet hymnals and nod their heads when a verse speaks to them. No longer are Jews able to join together at the synagogue for weekly Shabbat dinners, and no longer are Muslims able to lay side by side in the mosque to pray.

But amidst the uncertainty and lack of physical meetings, religious leaders have turned to online platforms to practice their faith with community members. These measures are hardly a substitute for in-person worship, but they allow people of faith to find support from their community and their religion at a time when so much else remains up in the air.

Gathering is essential to institutions of faith, and gathering is part of the human experience, Kapple said. Its been a challenge, definitely, adjusting to our new normal.

Having to shift online, fast

For the past 12 years, Kapple has served as the pastor of Leawood Presbyterian Church. He revived the nearly shuttered church, the oldest in the city, and brought on a network of families young and old who normally fill the place of worship every Sunday.

When COVID-19 started to sweep the Great Plains, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson shut down non-essential businesses and instituted a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Kapple, like other faith leaders in the two states, complied with the directives, trusting public health measures as a way to slow the spread of the virus. When the order was announced, Kapple stopped in-person Sunday services and shifted them online.

He said hes been encouraged by parishioners positive reactions to online worship, especially among people in their 70s and 80s who may not be as familiar with the technology. Still, though video services have allowed people to stay connected, a hunger remains for in-person worship and community.

Everyone is eager to come back and re-shift from digital to face-to-face, Kapple said.

Like Kapple, Arthur Nemitoff, head rabbi at The Temple, Congregation Bnai Jehudah in Overland Park, Kansas, transitioned all his services online, along with classes and Hebrew lessons.

Nemitoff credits the success of this digital transition to existing infrastructure the synagogue had developed while its main building was being renovated last year a project that required services be livestreamed while construction was underway.

During the months of renovation (the building reopened in November 2019), Nemitoff and the other rabbis learned what worked and what didnt when it came to broadcasting services via video.

The building is nice, but its just a tool for being able to do what we do best, which is to nurture Jewish meaning, connection and continuity, Nemitoff said. Thats what our purpose is, and well use whatever tools we can to do that.

Just as churches have adapted their practices based on the individual needs of congregants and the rules of their particular sect, so too have synagogues, said Andi Milens, senior director of community engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.

While a Reform synagogue like Bnai Jehudah is able to sidestep social distancing ordinances by streaming Friday services online, an Orthodox synagogue whose adherents typically do not use any technology on Shabbat is not able to do so.

Experiences will vary widely among the different types of Judaism, and so will solutions to the pandemic, Milens said.

Kansas City is actually two cities. There is the better known Kansas City, Missouri, with a population just shy of half a million, and theres Kansas City, Kansas, with a total of about 150,000. Straddling the Kansas-Missouri border, the entire metropolitan area encompasses over 2 million people.

As in other states, faith is a central pillar of many residents lives. In Missouri, 70% of adults said they believe in God with absolute certainty, and in Kansas, 66% of adults said the same, according to a 2016 Pew poll.

Protestantism and Catholicism are by far the most common religions in both states, with 76% of Kansans and 77% of Missourians identifying as some form of Christian, according to Pews Religious Landscape Study. Those identifying as Jewish or Muslim make up 1% or fewer of the citizens in both states, though there are a number of mosques and synagogues in the Kansas City area.

Milens, the community engagement director, said most of the regions Jewish people are of the Reform sect, though there is still a sizable Orthodox population. She estimates that anywhere between 15,000 and 18,000 Jews live in the metropolitan area.

While both states share common demographics, however, their responses to the coronavirus pandemic varied. Kansas declared a state of emergency on March 12, and Missouri declared one the day after. Kansas announced a stay-at-home order on March 28 but Missouri did not declare one until about a week later.

While the government of Kansas City, Missouri, issued its own directives, suburbs on both sides of the border issued conflicting information. In the early days of the pandemic, a citizen of Overland Park, Kansas would have faced a different situation from a citizen of Belton, Missouri, despite the two suburban cities bordering one another.

The realities of living in a two-state metro area go beyond differences in government they also affect religion. The Catholic Church in the United States is composed of archdioceses and dioceses overseen by local leaders.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, for example, gave churches the go-ahead to offer drive-thru confessions where Catholics can divulge their sins to a priest while remaining socially distant in their cars. The Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph, on the Missouri side of the border, did not greenlight the practice.

Andrew Mattingly, an associate priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, said his Catholic church in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, has moved its confessions into the main section of the church to adhere to social distancing. Before the novel coronavirus arrived, the church had performed this rite in a traditional confessional separated into two parts by a screen.

The new confession uses two temporary screens to separate the priest from the parishioner, and white noise machines are used to accommodate confessors who wish to remain anonymous, Mattingly said.

We cant just set up two chairs because every Catholic has the right to anonymous confession, he said.

The act of praying and worship in a communal building arent the only aspects of religion being affected by COVID-19, Milens said.

Community socializing rooted in religious organizations is also suffering from social distancing. Informal chats after services or a hug shared in the parking lot have been effectively halted thanks to social distancing. This can be particularly tough on folks who are older or who live alone, Milens said.

Though the rate of infections across the United States has slowed in recent weeks, the feasibility of Jewish summer camps remains up in the air. These camps are important for social and religious growth for many American Jewish children, Milens said.

Other community groups in Kansas City have continued to offer programming, albeit virtually. The Jewish Community Center of Kansas City, for example, hosts workout classes online and book groups are meeting online. And communities, though physically distant, have continued to provide support for the most vulnerable.

Kapple said Leawood Presbyterian operates a weekly food pantry that serves nearby residents regardless of religious affiliation. Armed with donations from the local Trader Joes and from community members, volunteers have been handing out more food than ever as the virus cuts into the economic lifelines of millions of Americans.

The church also operates a deacons fund that has provided monetary support for churchgoers who have been furloughed or lost their jobs, Kapple said.

Mattingly, the Catholic priest, echoed Milens, saying informal connections among parishioners have been strained due to social distancing.

Were blessed that on Sundays after our normal Masses, people will hang out for 30 to 45 minutes on the Church steps and just chat and catch up with other people, he said. Those connections have been absent, and a lot of people are missing that communal aspect.

Kapple said one major challenge brought about by online prayer has been donations.

The churchs elders decided not to apply for loans or grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, meaning Leawood Presbyterian, like many religious institutions, must solicit donations to continue running.

Kapple said most people traditionally donate in-person when the offering basket is passed around during services. Now that things have shifted online, however, Kapple said the church has had to rely entirely on online giving.

He said the congregation is lucky because it has been working for the past decade to shift donations to online systems and not rely entirely on in-person offering baskets. Still, that doesnt mean things have been easy.

When people gather, they give, Kapple said. Were just not gathering now, so weve been pushing the message through social media to get donations going, to keep the mission going now more than ever.

Nemitoff, the rabbi, said while most people have reacted positively to the synagogues online services, there remains a group that is unable to partake in online prayer, be it for daily minyan or Friday Shabbat services.

He said some older congregants dont have computers or cell phones and are thus unable to stream services online. The synagogue still sends out physical mail every time theres an important announcement for these folks who arent able to receive email newsletters, Nemitoff said.

And Bnai Jehudah has had to shutter its preschool since its not safe to meet in person, Nemitoff said. Teachers there have been doing a weekly circle time online to keep the preschoolers occupied, but they just dont have the attention span that older kids do.

Small group religious instruction has been moved online, as have Hebrew lessons, Nemitoff said. In the year the synagogue was being renovated, these classes, services and other programming transitioned online, something Nemitoff credits as part of the reason why the Temples pandemic-induced shift to Zoom went so smoothly.

Our Lady of Good Counsel retained what in-person worship it could during the shutdown. (It has since reopened its main services.) While the main Sunday Mass had shifted online and only 10 or fewer parishioners mainly staff and their immediate family members were allowed to attend in person, traditions like confession, Eucharistic adoration and small prayer remained ongoing.

The church was open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon, and people could filter in individually during that block of time to look upon the Eucharist as they prayed, as well as engage in the modified confession system Our Lady of Good Counsel had adopted. Mattingly estimates that anywhere between 10 to 30 people trickled into the church each day for Eucharistic adoration while weekend services were closed to the public.

In addition to the main Sunday service that was livestreamed, Mattingly hosted a Mass for nine other people afterwards. That small group was able to pray in person, albeit without all of the main staples of a Sunday Mass, like full music and altar servers.

Mattingly considers himself lucky because he was still able to stay physically connected to the church, unlike other parishioners who were unable to attend due to the 10-person limit.

Whether theres one person or a thousand, I still get to say Mass every day, and I still get to receive the Eucharist every day, he said. So for me Id definitely say its been a bit easier [transitioning].

Disruption to daily or weekly services, however, is only one part of the picture. Significant life events such as baptisms, coming-of-age rituals, weddings and funerals have been put on hold or severely modified for the present to adhere to social distancing regulations.

The synagogue had five students scheduled to perform Bar or Bat mitzvahs between March and the end of June, Nemitoff said, but these childrens families have decided to postpone the ceremonies rather than hold them online.

One feature of a Bar or Bat mitzvah is the childs recitation of a portion of the Torah, and Nemitoff said, even though these childrens dates have been pushed back, they will be allowed to read the portion of the Torah they had practiced for their original date.

Another ceremony held virtually: a brit milah, or male circumcision, and accompanying baby naming. It was performed at the hospital with only the mother, father, baby and physician present, and Nemitoff called in via video, as did family members.

He hopes the synagogue will be able to perform rites like Bar and Bat mitzvah in the second half of the year, but circumstances remain up in the air.

Nobody knows whats going to happen, Nemitoff said.

The hardest aspect for him, however, has been end-of-life events like funerals. No longer is Nemitoff able to sit with mourners to hold their hand and tell them things will be alright, and he instead must offer condolences and counseling virtually.

Theres been nothing more painful than knowing that there are funerals taking place with no one there, said Nemitoff, who organized virtual shiva minyans for people to offer their condolences. As lovely as these are, theyre no substitute for being able to be there in person.

Kapple, the Presbyterian pastor, said he has only performed one graveside service since the pandemic began, for a man who had died from cancer.

Only 10 people were allowed to attend, per state guidelines, but he said the family was grateful for that for the ability to grieve in person and to go through the emotions of loss.

It was comforting for them, Kapple said. The committal service was a sense of closure and reminded us that this mans pain and suffering are over and that theyd be reunited in heaven.

Despite all of the challenges inherent in a global pandemic health-related and otherwise some religious leaders are able to see at least some good come of it.

Nemitoff said that shifting to the online model has been a boon for daily prayers called minyans. Before the pandemic, there were days when just a few congregants drove to the synagogue to participate in a prayer group.

These were held in the early evening, and many people did not attend because of work or family reasons, Nemitoff said. Now, there have been days where 10 or even 25 people have come online to join the minyan.

Weve been able to provide an important service, a touchstone, for people, Nemitoff said. You dont have to travel to get there you can go listen as youre fixing dinner.

For Passover Seder, Nemitoff and his wife invited people from all over the country to join in over Zoom, something they wouldnt have thought to do before the pandemic.

Kapple, for his part, said he was overwhelmed with support for the video messages he posted during Holy Week, the seven days preceding Easter. The series dubbed Pursuing Perfection: 7 at 7 and 7 featured messages from Kapple at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day.

Like Nemitoff, Kapple considers himself lucky because he had livestreamed some of his services previously, first with a janky iPhone-on-tripod setup he engineered and later with a formal video system installed by one of the churchs congregants.

He said churchgoers who were not previously close have begun friending each other on Facebook and spreading words of encouragement to one another. Though the pandemic has scattered congregants physically, they are in some ways closer to themselves and their faith than ever before, Kapple said.

For Kapple, an ardent sports fan, the postponement and cancellation of sports events have allowed him time for reflection. Sports, he said, can easily become an idol and distract from the things in life that matter most.

I think its been good to reevaluate our priorities, during the pandemic, Kapple said.

Though religious leaders have leaned on technology to continue the practice of their faith and maintain the connection of their communities, they said tools like Facebook Live and Zoom are by no means ideal.

Nemitoff said the nature of praying is community, of coming together physically as one. He said while he would love to see everyone back in the synagogue, the continued threat of the novel coronavirus means it will be some time before things go back to normal.

Much like society as a whole including businesses, restaurants and parks have reopened in phases, he anticipates Bnai Jehudah will do the same.

Im pretty confident it will be a mix of virtual and live daily prayer, Nemitoff said.

Even once social distancing is eased and congregants are once again able to pray in person at Bnai Jehudah, Nemitoff said the synagogue will continue streaming its daily minyans because many people are unable to meet in person at 5:45 on a weeknight.

I think that the nature of a praying community is not so much the praying, its the community, Nemitoff said. And when youre not in person, you lose a large piece of the community.

The synagogue plans for one-on-one and small groups being able to meet with physical distancing by June 15, assuming benchmarks set by the county are met. For now, the synagogue will remain closed to more regular activity like in-person services until at least July 6, with a re-assessment near the end of June to see if that target date is indeed possible.

Mattingly, the Catholic priest, said Our Lady of Good Counsel reopened in mid-May. To continue honoring the six-foot rule, the church is requiring non-family members to space themselves out within the building.

The church has added an extra Sunday morning Mass to ensure everyone who wants to attend safely can, and parishioners are now assigned to one of the Mass times to reduce overcrowding and accommodate this spaced out setting.

For Kapple, the biggest concern going forward is making sure everyone feels comfortable. He and church elders have begun to discuss the process of reopening their building, but he said services would continue to be livestreamed for those unable or unwilling to attend in person.

Ive been saying this phrase to remind everybody that were all on the same page: Whether youre off site or online, were all on mission, Kapple said. We believe God is present in all of our lives, whether were in the church building or not.

Photo at top: A modified seating arrangement at Bnai Jehudah in Overland Park, Kansas. The synagogue remains physically closed, but its rabbis and staff are working to gradually reopen the building to small group meetings and, eventually, full services. (Courtesy of Arthur Nemitoff)

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Keeping the spirit: Religious groups adapt to COVID-19 but challenges persist - Medill Reports: Chicago

Why Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism | Nadav Lawrence | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

Posted By on June 6, 2020

For many on the Left, the term anti-Zionism has become a badge of honor, the real test of whether someone is really on the Left or not. The flag-bearers of the term brand Zionism and the State of Israel as settler-colonialism. In doing so, either through ignorance or intent, they cross the line into anti-Semitism.

To understand why, it is necessary to delve into a brief history of European colonialism. The United States of America was founded by the descendants of European settlers. Those settlers arrived in the New World without ever having stepped foot there before and without any prior historical, cultural, linguistic, or religious connection to it. The settlers and their descendants looked to the places they had left behind to give names to their new territories and colonies. New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York are but three examples of places whose namesakes are to be found in the Old World. The settlers brought their alien languages, religions, and cultures with them, and imposed them on the indigenous peoples that managed to survive. Similar scenarios were played out in places such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Embedded within modern left-wing thought in the English-speaking world is a deep sense of shame about this colonial past. How could it be that White Europeans could travel around the world, to lands they had no connection to, and invade them, colonize them and squeeze out the indigenous peoples? For many on the Left, European imperialism and colonialism mark the advent of modern history. Many of the outrages and injustices which still plague the world today have their origins in that period. There may well be much truth to these claims, but there is one aspect of this ideology which is a complete distortion of history.

As they grapple with their sense of guilt, many Western leftists have grafted their understanding of their own societies histories onto the Israeli-Arab conflict. They place Israel among the U.S., Australia, New Zeland, Canada, and, worst of all, Apartheid South Africa as a settler-colonial state. They claim that Israeli Jews are European colonizers who invaded Palestine and stole it from the indigenous Palestinians. They assert that what is happening to the Palestinians today is the same as what happened to the native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, and Black South Africans in their own societies. It is here that they radically depart from historical reality.

Israeli flags fly at Latrun ahead of Israeli Independence Day

Unlike the European settlers who arrived on the shores of America, the Jews who returned to the Land of Israel, particularly from the late 19th century onwards, possessed a collective memory of the land they were returning to. They were joining fellow Jews who had already been resident in the land for thousands of years. They, like their ancestors before them, had turned towards this land every day in prayer for millennia. Their forefathers, exiled from this land, had prayed and dreamed of returning to it throughout the generations. They did not need to found a New London or a New Moscow; the land was already peppered with indigenous Jewish place names such as Jerusalem (Yerushalayim), Hebron (Hevron), Bethlehem (Beit Lechem), and Beersheba (Beer Sheva). It was not English, French, or Russian, which was to become the language of their country. They revived Hebrew, a language native to both the land and their ancestors who lived there. In short, theirs was a story, a religion, a culture, and a language that was indigenous to the land, not foreign to it. It was on that basis that Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish People, sought to establish an independent Jewish state.

The differences between European colonialism and Zionism are clear. European colonialism involved the transplanting of foreign people to lands they had no historical connection to, under the flags of the countries they had left behind. They imposed their alien languages, religions, and cultures on those lands and the indigenous peoples who already inhabited them. By contrast, Zionism involved the return of a people to the land they were indigenous to. It included the revival of their indigenous language, a return to their religions holy places, and the resurrection of a unique national consciousness, wholly divorced from the Jewish experience in exile. These unique features mark Zionism not as a colonialist project, but as a national liberation movement.

All of this does not, of course, mean that one cannot or should not criticize the Israeli government or support the rights of the Palestinians. One can acknowledge that the establishment of the State of Israel caused great upheaval to Arab society in the former British Mandate of Palestine/Land of Israel without denying the legitimacy of the Jewish national liberation movement. Indeed, the establishment or reconfiguration of nation-states caused huge upheavals to societies and peoples across the globe throughout the twentieth century. Yet there are no serious movements calling the creation of Pakistan an evil which must be undone, or demanding the return of the 7 million ethnic Germans who were expelled from what became Polish territory between 1945 and 1950. By contrast, the anti-Zionist movement takes great pride in declaring Zionism to be a unique evil. Anti-Zionism makes claims against Israel which are made against no other country which achieved its independence in similar circumstances during the mid-twentieth century.

By demonizing Israel and equating Zionism with European settler-colonialism, anti-Zionists at best ignore, and at worst blatantly deny, the historical, religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. It is here that they find themselves accused of anti-Semitism. What they are in effect saying to Jews is that we support you so long as you do not assert yourselves as Jews. As long as you stay in Europe or North America, forever an exiled minority, we support you. But, the second you assert your freedom, religion, culture, and language in the land your people are indigenous to, you are our enemy. For the vast majority of Jews, this passes for anti-Semitism.

Nadav is a Jerusalem-based researcher and writer. All views expressed are his own.

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Why Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism | Nadav Lawrence | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

To understand Zionism, we must listen to the voices of its victims – +972 Magazine

Posted By on June 6, 2020

Last month, Felix Klein, Germanys Commissioner for the Fight against Antisemitism, accused the eminent Cameroonian historian and philosopher Achille Mbembe of antisemitism. Along with other groups and figures, Klein attempted to bar Mbembe from delivering an opening talk at a major festival in Germany, sparking a fierce public debate.

As Mairav Zonszein reported in +972, Kleins accusation was based on Mbembes comparison between Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and the apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as his comparative approach to studying the Holocaust, which his accusers claimed amounted to trivializing the genocide.

The affair has revealed the ways in which the discourse on the relationship between postcolonial studies and the study of antisemitism is both important and in need of development.

One of the criticisms voiced against Mbembe was that postcolonial analysis tends to ignore the unique aspects of antisemitism compared to other forms of racism. Yet this argument ignores the other side of the equation: that the contemporary discourse on antisemitism ignores the colonial aspects of Israel and Zionism, and produces an exceptionalist view of antisemitism and Israel as entities unto themselves in an isolated history.

It was not uncommon for Jews to recognize as early as the 1920s and 1930s that Arab resistance to the Zionist movement, and later Israel, did not derive from antisemitism but rather from their opposition to the colonization of Palestine. For example, the Zionist leader and founder of the Revisionist movement, Zeev Jabotinsky, recognized Zionisms colonial features and offered an honest explanation of the Palestinians motivations for rejecting it.

My readers have a general idea of the history of colonization in other countries, Jabotinsky wrote in his 1923 essay The Iron Wall. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonization being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations [] have always stubbornly resisted the colonists.

Palestinian Arab militia members, next to a burnt truck on their way to Jerusalem, circa 1948. (Palmach Photo Gallery/Wikimedia Commons)

Haim Kaplan, a devoted Zionist from Warsaw, wrote in his diary in the same spirit in 1936. Reflecting on the Great Arab Revolt in Palestine, where his two children lived at the time, Kaplan observed that the talk of a renewed Arab antisemitism was little more than Zionist propaganda. From their perspective, the Arabs were right: Zionism dispelled them from their land, and the movements adherents should be regarded as the side that waged war on the local population.

Despite these assessments, figures like Jabotinsky and Kaplan still had their reasons for justifying Zionism. In many countries today, including Israel, their critical observations of the movement would have been denounced as antisemitic. But they were right.

Robust scholarship has shown that Zionism has featured settler colonial elements. Zionists sought to build an overseas community, bounded by ties of identity and a shared past, in a land they viewed as empty or inhabited by natives that they regarded as less civilized than themselves. They wanted not so much to govern or exploit the natives, but to replace them as a political community. A key question that many historians are debating is how dominant settler colonialism has been compared to Zionisms other characteristics.

Approaching Zionism as one settler colonial movement among others does not necessarily negate the pursuit of justice embedded in Zionism, in which the Jews deserve a homeland of their own in the modern world. It also does not necessarily deny Israels right to exist, just as the recognition of the United States, Canada, and Australia as settler colonial states does not negate their right to exist.

It does, however, make Zionisms duality clear: it is both a national movement designed to provide a sovereign haven for Jews fleeing antisemitism, and where Holocaust survivors could rebuild their lives; and it is a settler colonial project that has created a hierarchical relationship between Jews and Palestinians based on segregation and discrimination.

Illustrative photo of kibbutz ceremony, July 1951. ( )

The settler colonial prism is valid for understanding other historical cases in the world, and there is no reason not to debate even when the discussion gets emotional the case of Israel-Palestine along these lines, including the concept of apartheid.

Understanding Zionism means embracing the complexity of two narratives that seem irreconcilable, but are in fact complementary: to tell the story of the reasons why Jews fleeing antisemitism and discrimination in Europe immigrated to Palestine, while at the same time telling the story of the consequences of this act for Palestinians over the past century.

The Palestinian intellectual Raef Zreik described this duality poetically: Zionism is a settler-colonial project, but not only that. It combines the image of the refugee with the image of the soldier, the powerless with the powerful, the victim with the victimizer, the colonizer with the colonized, a settler project and a national project at the same time. The Europeans see the back of the Jewish refugee fleeing for his life. The Palestinian sees the face of the settler colonialist taking over his land.

In the same vein, understanding antisemitism also means embracing its complexity: Jews today are victims (or potential victims) of antisemitism in many parts of the world, sometimes under the guise of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist speech, and at the same time, Israel is a powerful state, a wrongdoer, and an occupier. Jews, like all human beings, can be both victims and victimizers.

This does not diminish Jews. Rather, it bestows on them a double responsibility: to fight antisemitism worldwide while, as Israelis, to bear responsibility for crimes against the Palestinians.

Politically, therefore, any discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that confers full political, national, civil, and human rights to all the inhabitants between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea whether in the form of one state, two states, or a binational federation should be welcomed and not deemed antisemitic.

Palestinian citizens take part in a protest against the Jewish Nation-State Law, central Tel Aviv, August 12, 2018. (Oren Ziv/

Germany has been in the last two generations despite its shortcomings and complex postwar history a model of coming to terms with its past. We now wonder whether this road has reached a dead-end that requires careful rethinking. The situation in Germany today is absurd. Any harsh critique of Israels occupation or its policies is deemed antisemitic. Is this really a lesson Germans want to draw from the Holocaust? That Jews can do no wrong? This kind of philosemitism is disturbing.

As scholars of the Holocaust, one of the things our research has taught us is the importance of listening to the victims voices. This sensibility, from the Eichmann Trial to Saul Friedlanders books on the Holocaust, reflected the general publics and scholarly recognition of the value of incorporating the voices of victims into the historical narrative. A similar moral demand was posed by Gayatri Spivak in the field of postcolonial studies when she asked: Can the subaltern speak? Stemming from the Holocaust and from the experience of European colonialism, listening to these voices has been acknowledged as a universal moral imperative beyond the Holocaust.

Who are the subalterns and who are the victims in this case? From the perspective of the Holocaust and antisemitism, they are Jews, but from the perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they are Palestinians, whose voices therefore demand great attention.

It was Palestinians who identified early on the colonial features of Zionism. They contested the claim that the local Arab population voluntarily left in 1948, documenting that they were in fact expelled during what they describe as the Nakba. They are today witnesses to the Israeli occupation: the plunder of land, the establishment of settlements, the killing of innocents, the demolition of houses, and more. They are seeing the shattering of any possibility of an independent Palestinian state as Israel prepares to formally annex large parts of the West Bank.

We ought to listen to these voices. Not because they are always right (who is?), and even if they are heated (the occupied have a right to be angry), but because we have an obligation to listen to witnesses of injustice. These voices are part of the conversation and cannot be reflexively dubbed antisemitic. Listening to them and being accountable to them makes us more, not less, Jewish. It makes all of us more, not less, human.

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To understand Zionism, we must listen to the voices of its victims - +972 Magazine

This antifa group was also Zionist, pro-Palestinian and Yiddish-speaking and its trending – Forward

Posted By on June 6, 2020

Read this article in Yiddish

Antifa is in the air. Its on President Trumps lips. Its trending on Twitter, but its not a new thing.

Indeed, it has a very Jewish history. Its an ideology that was born in order to oppose Hitler. Antifa is short for anti-fascist.

Its so Jewish that one of the items being shared widely on Twitter right now is the Yiddish and Hebrew manifesto of the antifa arm of a group that was an offshoot of a Marxist-Zionist political party, Left Poale Zion.

The document and the organization that produced it may seem like a bundle of contradictions, and maybe more so today. The groups members were Jews and Arabs. But they were also Zionists the Arabs, too. And although the official Palestinian leadership sided with the Germans in an effort to end the British mandate, the Palestinian members of this group sided with the allies.

They recruited fellow Arabs to fight against the Germans and raised funds for the Soviet army. On the domestic front, the organization preached unity between Jews and Arabs and sought to integrate the Histdarut, Israels main labor union.

Besides organizing rallies and conferences, Poale Zions antifa group raised money by selling stamps with its emblem abroad.

Here is the text of the manifesto, translated into English:

While contemporary left-wing Jews have no direct connection to this pre-state antifa organization, some on Twitter cite it and similar organizations as an inspiration.

Spencer Sunshine, a scholar of the far-right, antifascist action and the Bund, the Jewish socialist movement that advocated Jewish cultural autonomy in Eastern Europe, noted that many leftist Jews view the Bunds armed self-defense units as a precursor to antifa.

But theres a key difference that likely keeps most contemporary Jewish antifascist activists from embracing this precursor organization wholeheartedly its Zionism. Unlike in the 1930s, said Spencer, few of todays American Jewish leftists would support a binational Zionist platform like the Left Poale Zions: In young Jewish radicals eyes today these nationalists are still Zionists and do not have the kind of legitimacy that makes them want to be looked upon as forbearers.

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This antifa group was also Zionist, pro-Palestinian and Yiddish-speaking and its trending - Forward

The Relevance of Liberal-Nationalism Today – The Media Line

Posted By on June 6, 2020

Date and time: Wednesday, June 10, 2020, 8:30-9:30 pm Israel Daylight Time (UTC+3)

Register here.

We are concluding this lecture series with a look at the overarching political philosophy of Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, combining national pride and identity with classical liberal values, with special guest, former government minister Dan Meridor.

Following on from his previous lecture, in which he argued for Zionism as an example of a liberal form of nationalism, Begin Center Senior Fellow Paul Gross will be discussing the specific ideas of liberal-nationalism and how they could be employed to solve the contemporary crisis of democracy. His short lecture will be based on his essay The Case for Liberal Nationalism, published in The American Interest in February of this year.

He will be joined by very special guest, Dan Meridor, former justice minister, finance minister and deputy prime minister, who began his political career as Menachem Begins cabinet secretary. Mr Meridor will be relating specifically to liberal-nationalism in the Zionist and Israeli context.

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The Relevance of Liberal-Nationalism Today - The Media Line

Polish journalist calls Jews ‘ruthless’ and the Holocaust ‘a myth’ in new book – Jewish News

Posted By on June 6, 2020

A Polish antisemitism watchdog is calling out right-wing journalist Rafal Ziemkiewicz over his latest book, which calls Jews ruthless and the Holocaust a myth.

The Open Republic Association argued to the Warsaw prosecutors office that the book, which hit stores last week, is a criminal example of hate speech based on nationality. Ziemkiewicz also writes in it that young Israelis are killing machines.

The associations statement says that excerpts from the book that were published online do not leave any doubt that the book proclaims antisemitic views intended to cause hatred towards Jews, as well as cast doubt on historical facts about the Holocaust of Jews during World War II.

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The Association pulled a quote from the book: Zionism because of the Holocaust, or rather the myth of the Holocaust, which it built itself, gained particular cruelty. Shoah has proved, its prominent representatives say today, that Jews must be ruthless.

In 2018, Ziemkiewicz, who is also a popular science fiction author, canceled a speaking tour in the United Kingdom after British parliament members and other campaigners spoke out against his views, which have been described as antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic.

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Polish journalist calls Jews 'ruthless' and the Holocaust 'a myth' in new book - Jewish News

Heres what you need to know about the anti-fascist group Antifa – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on June 6, 2020

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization. In a series of tweets, he has blamed Antifa for much of the property destruction accompanying the protests of George Floyds death at the hands of police. Trump did not present evidence backing up that claim. Below is an explainer from August 2017 on Antifa, a loose network of anti-fascist activists who believe its acceptable to fight back physically against white supremacists. This explainer was written following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Experts say Trumps intention to designate Antifa as a terror group is perplexing: While there is a government list of designated foreign terrorist groups, there is no such list for domestic groups. And Antifa is not a structured organization, like ISIS or al-Qaida.

The U.S. doesnt have a list of domestic terrorist groups, said Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation Leagues Center on Extremism. Antifa is not a coherent group or organization, so how that is being defined Im mostly unsure about what the intent there is, and how thats being used.)

Is it OK to punch a Nazi in the face?

Thats the question animating much of the discussion of Saturdays white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which quickly devolved into a brawl between rally-goers and a contingent of anti-fascist counterprotesters known as antifa. Following the clashes, a white supremacist rammed his car into the counterprotest, killing Heather Heyer, 32.

Some have celebrated the antifa activists for standing up to hate. But others have condemned them alongside neo-Nazis for engaging in violence. And on Tuesday, Trump appeared to equate them with the rabble of white supremacists, branding antifa the alt-left and saying theres blame on both sides.

Heres what you need to know about antifa, the loose network that fights fascists on the streets.

Antifa was born from groups that fought the original fascists.

Todays antifa (an abbreviation of anti-fascist action) sees itself as the ideological descendant of activists like these. Anti-fascist brawlers many of them communists, socialists or anarchists began organizing in the 1920s and 30s to oppose the rising dictatorships in Italy, Germany and Spain through demonstrations and street fights. The groups re-emerged in Europe in the 70s and 80s to combat white supremacists and skinheads, and the idea migrated to America, where groups were originally known as Anti-Racist Action.

While its hard to pin down numbers on antifa in the United States, members and experts say the movement has boomed since Trumps election. Mark Bray, a lecturer on human rights and politics at Dartmouth College, estimates that there are a couple hundred antifa chapters of varying sizes and levels of activity across the country.

The threat posed by the alt-right in the context of empowerment through Trump made a lot of people concerned about fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist violence, said Bray, author of the forthcoming book Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. They turned to the Antifa model as one option to resist it. The option of physically confronting these groups has spread among the left and been normalized.

It has no formal organization or leadership structure.

Like the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, antifa has no institutional structure or unified plan of action. Much of its activism comes through informal collaboration around certain cities or regions, and individual members taking initiative. Separate Facebook pages exist, for example, for New York antifa, New York City antifa and Western New York antifa.

Long before antifa gets to physical altercations with the far right, members will attempt to prevent white supremacists from assembling or spreading their message. Bray said some antifa members will pressure white supremacists employers to fire them.

Daniel Sieradski, a Jewish antifa member who became involved following the presidential election in November, said he and other activists try to pressure venues to cancel white supremacist events, and only show up to counterprotest once that fails. (Sieradski formerly worked at JTA as the director of digital media.)

Ive always identified with the spirit of the movement, which is to challenge racists when they come into your community and try to incite hatred and violence, Sieradski said. Every effort is made to prevent the Nazis from showing up in the first place. Once they manage to do so, the demonstrations do not get violent until confrontations are provoked.

Antifa tends to align with the left and some members are anti-Zionists.

Because antifa is so loosely constructed, it has no formal ideological agenda beyond opposing fascism. But the movement has roots in left-wing movements like socialism or anarchism. Bray said that members may be part of other left-wing activist groups, like the Occupy movement, and subscribe to ideas popular in progressive circles.

Bray said that while anti-Zionism is not a focus of antifa, many members tend to be anti-Zionist as part of their far-left activism. Anti-Racist Action groups, he said, had taken part in anti-Zionist events in the past.

Sieradski said, however, that Jews play a significant role in the movement because were fighting Nazis and antisemitism is the prime ideological viewpoint of Nazis.

Antifa has no problem with fighting Nazis

Antifa has no qualms about scuffling with white supremacists. The group gained publicity in February when it physically fought alt-righters at the University of California, Berkeley, during a speech by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Tussles with the far right have followed at other events.

Sieradski said violence is a last resort, but added there is nothing wrong with responding to anti-Semitic or racist rhetoric with a punch. Those who are advocating ethnic cleansing should be punched, he said, and showing white supremacists that their rallies will end with them being hurt will deter them from assembling.

When Nazis are screaming epithets in our faces, should we just smile? Sieradski asked. They come into our towns and yell at us and threaten us and say they want to kill us. Should we take that sitting down because fascists deserve free speech, too? When someone is threatening you with an existential threat, you fight back. You dont stand there and take it.

Antifa members also reject the notion that the movement instigated the violence in Charlottesville or is as guilty as its white supremacist foes. Spencer Sunshine, who counterprotested at the Charlottesville rally and witnessed the deadly car ramming, said there certainly were fights, but there is no comparing antifa with the far right.

Any equivalence between antifa and fascists is a complete lie, he said. We were not armed the way the fascists were, and certainly did not drive a car into crowds. It was a total Nazi rally.

but has been criticized for its violent tactics.

Antifa has garnered its share of liberal critics who say nothing even neo-Nazism justifies violence and the suppression of free speech. Critics also say that antifas violence draws attention to the far right and allows white supremacists to claim they are acting in self-defense.

Following Saturdays rally, Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.

Mark Pitcavage, an ADL senior researcher, said his group cannot condemn one sides violence and condone the other. He added that the attention Charlottesville gained is also energizing the alt-right to hold more rallies.

I dont know how you can put together a calculus of violence where some sort of act of violence is unacceptable if one group does it but if another group commits it, thats acceptable, he said. Wed just rather not see violence.

That doesnt mean that the sides are equal, the causes are equal, he said. Its important to realize that their violence does in no way compare in numbers or severity to the far-rightist violence in the United States.

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Heres what you need to know about the anti-fascist group Antifa - The Jerusalem Post

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