u.s. jews

Rahm Emanuel to US Jews: ‘This is our moment’ to defend the values that aided us

https://www.timesofisrael.com/rahm-emanuel-to-us-jews-this-is-our-moment-to-defend-the-values-that-aided-us/

 

 

Rahm Emanuel’s grandfather arrived in Chicago exactly 100 years ago. He was 13, and spoke not a word of English. He had been sent to safety by his parents in Eastern Europe, who put him on a boat to get him away from the pogroms. He came to meet “a third cousin he didn’t know,” says Emanuel, in a city whose name “he could not pronounce.” A century later, his grandson is that city’s mayor.

Emanuel marvels at that “amazing journey.” Marvels that his grandfather managed to build a life — working initially as a meat packer and a truck driver and a steel worker. Marvels at the America that took him in and made that life possible. Marvels at the spectacular realization of the American dream that, just two generations on, enabled Rahm (Hebrew for “high” and “lofty”) to rise to play major roles serving two American presidents and now to run the third-largest city in the country, while his two brothers have forged stellar careers in medicine and in Hollywood.

That welcome for a Jewish immigrant a century ago, that opportunity offered by America, Emanuel firmly believes, brings with it an obligation — an obligation that now extends across American Jewry.

In an interview this week in Tel Aviv, the not usually understated mayor — known as an extremely tough and tough-talking political operator — was generous when discussing Israel. He was careful and circumspect when talking about relations between Israel’s governments and the administrations in which he served.

He spoke with fierce passion, however, when it came to American Jews’ responsibilities to “speak out” and use their influence in today’s America, to ensure that the policies that embraced his grandfather, and the values underpinning those policies, are not destroyed.

He acknowledges that Jews are also being targeted. “Trust me, I know” there’s anti-Semitism, he says. But the Jewish community is more capable and influential than others who are facing hatred, he argues.The mayor, who last week declared his city a “Trump-free zone,” argued that the Jewish community of America today is unprecedentedly powerful and influential. It needs to use that strength, on behalf of immigrants and others less fortunate, precisely as, in previous generations, others spoke out and acted on behalf of the Jews. “In our history,” he says, “we were better off because there were those who were righteous.” Today, “we have the responsibility… to use our position of power for those who are powerless… To use our position of security to provide safety and security.”

Anti-Semitism has “always been present, as has bigotry and racism before,” he says. “It’s just less on the periphery, and more in the center, and more visible for those of us who may not have seen it in all its ugliness before.

“But that fact is,” he elaborates, “American Jews, in our history, as a people, we’re in a unique position in America. You’re looking at the mayor of Chicago. The mayor of Chicago is an American Jew. The mayor of Los Angeles is an American Jew.”

Emanuel, 57, was here leading a business and academic delegation that signed numerous cooperation agreements with Israeli counterparts, notably regarding water. We spoke in a small room at the hotel where an evening of events was being held for the group, including a panel discussion at which military, intelligence, cyber and technology experts set out some of the challenges Israel faces, and the innovative ways in which we are meeting them. His son Zack and a handful of aides sat in on our conversation, silently.

Emanuel, unsurprisingly, is a savvy interviewee, careful, as he says, laughing, not to provide me with a “banner headline.” He worked for two presidents, Bill Clinton (as a special adviser for almost six years from 1993-98) and Barack Obama (as chief of staff for two years from 2009-10), whose relations with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were far from smooth, but is diplomacy personified when discussing the Palestinian peace process and the Iranian nuclear deal. He is full of compliments for Israel (his middle name), where his father was born, and where he is a frequent visitor. It’s today’s America, as this (lightly edited) transcript of our interview makes plain, that has him profoundly riled up:

The Times of Israel: You come here often, and you have a strong Israel connection, a strong family history here. How do you think Israel is doing?

There’s unbelievable strengths. I’m here for a water conference. The advancements Israel is making on water, technologically, taking its challenge of scarcity and turning it into an opportunity and economic development….

[I came here first] on, I think, June 7, 1967; we stayed three months. We did that in ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’73. Every year for three months, we lived here early June to September, as a family. Today your strength is exactly the same as it was before: an incredible group of people whose love and passion and sense of life is something to be admired.

I’m still upset that you moved Dizengoff Circle, that it’s not there… I can’t find my way around Tel Aviv.

(Emanuel pauses, seeming reluctant to say anything even remotely controversial.)

You’re asking me as an outsider looking in?

But you’re not just an outsider.

When I was growing up, [coming here] obviously two days after the [start of the] Six Day War, [there was] the sense that we were going to explore, and go everywhere, from Beersheba in the Negev to Kiryat Shmona and everything between, and Jews are going to be everywhere. We’re going to go and populate the land of Israel. Today, you have gone from a nation-state to a city-state, where everybody’s coming in to Tel Aviv and Jews are not even a majority in certain parts of Israel or even near a majority. And that’s a different thing, as somebody that watched it in 1967, to where it is in 2017. As we come to the 70th anniversary. That’s just an observation.

How’s your Hebrew, by the way?

It sucks, man. [Though] I can understand it.

Why do you think the Clinton-era peacemaking didn’t work?

Well, you had an agreement under his tenure with Jordan. You’ve had an agreement pre-dating him with Egypt. That worked.  You made a judgement that it didn’t work.

But if the goal was a permanent accord with the Palestinians…

You had some cooperation that you could never have had before. You did not have a signing agreement, but you do have some elements of a bilateral relationship, some elements of peace. So, as an outsider I would say you’re in a better place, but I want to be careful. It’s not for me… I don’t want to weigh in…. But as I always say to my staff, if we’re going to leave the shore to try to swim to the other side, we better make sure we have a plan to get to the other side. Don’t get in the middle of the water and stop.

There are legitimate observations that you haven’t had a partner for the whole thing. There are other things that are Israel’s responsibility, that it could do.

I don’t want to push you, but…

Don’t worry. (Laughs.) I’m not going to go for your banner headline, that I created an international crisis. (Laughs.)

Regarding the Obama administration’s approach on Israel, were there things that were just perfect, unfair, fair? And then looking at this administration…

Yes. (He cackles.) This ain’t my first rodeo, dude.

What I do know intimately: When it comes to Israel’s national security apparatus, the Obama administration was incredible. What Israel needed, so it had the confidence to make peace, was the confidence that its security would be ensured. From particular weapons, to particular cooperation between defense entities. Clinton was a great friend but it’s unparalleled [under Obama]. Even if a member of your branch of the armed forces and your defense establishment wasn’t pro-Obama, they would say the cooperation, partnership, agreements, long-term, that you had: Match it against any other administration. Unbelievable.

They’d argue about the Iran deal, some people.

The Iron Dome missile shield. Where did you get the weapons, the research dollars? Hardware to software, America’s hard power to soft power. And that is what you need for the confidence to go and take a leap of faith. It was unparalleled.

My position on Iran is clear. I’m supportive of the agreement. I think it’s in the United States’ interest. I think it’s also in Israel’s interest, and in fact your own defense entities acknowledged what it’s done for Israel, that it’s a good agreement.

Some of them.

Well, those are the ones I read. (Laughs.) Like everything else, it’s a question of the risk.

The fact is that on the Palestinian issue, the Netanyahu and the Obama administrations disagreed on the level of risk that they thought Israel could afford to take. But that’s a legitimate disagreement.

Yes. It’s an analysis of a set of facts. Then try to figure out what it looks like when you go around the corner. That’s what policy and leadership’s about. That’s legitimate. People of good intentions can have a legitimate disagreement. So I think on that level the Obama administration was an incredible friend. An ally.

There was work done to try to get [a deal with the Palestinians]. I know that the president thought that in the long-term interest for Israel, it was better to deal with having a security [agreement]. This is not unique to President Obama. It’s true about what President Bush thought. It’s true about what President Clinton thought. And their State Departments. It’s been the position regardless of the president of the United States, what party or administration. They put different emphases on it. But it has been America’s position that for Israel, it’s better to have an agreement with a partner, with the Palestinian leadership, than not. It’s a simple fact. It’s not tied to an administration or a philosophy.

I want to ask you about the current administration.

That one I’ll talk about. (Laughs.)

I used to come to America and think, I come from this crazy country with volatile politics and worrying rises of extremism sometimes. And then I went in the last few months, and it’s a different America.

Never has Israeli politics looked better, is what you’re saying?

Where do you think America is headed? How do you explain that election? How troubled are you by it?

I don’t want to acknowledge that it says a lot about America, but you had an election. It has meaning. It has import.

There are people in the past who talked about dark forces and dark currents in American politics. We now are coming face to face. And the good news is, I think, that we will come out as a country, stronger and better, to confront the issues that we didn’t as a country confront, that were close to home. We’re going to deal with certain things.

There is a political element to this. There is a racial element to this. And then there’s an economic argument to this.

I never thought that we would see neo-Nazis. Not just neo-Nazis. Explicit language of hatred toward whether it’s African-Americans, Mexican-Americans or those aspiring to be Americans. I never thought of it. Not in my lifetime

If you brought 50 mayors together from major global cities — I talk to my friends and colleagues in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, China — the biggest challenge we have today if you’re a mayor of a global city is creating inclusive growth. (My own take is that there are 100 cities that drive the intellectual, economic and cultural capital of the world. Chicago is one of them. It’s one of the leaders. Metro Chicago’s economy is the 21st largest economy in the world, the second most competitive in North America. And it’s actually, in international ratings, the 7th, 8th or 9th most competitive economy in the world.)

Look out the window. We see a crane [in the distance]. New construction site over here. Nobody can afford to live in this place when you’re done.

We today have a massive amount of wealth being created, but in an exclusionary way, not in an inclusionary way. The challenge for all of us, whether we’re in business, private sector or public sector, is how to create economic growth that brings more people into the winning circle rather than more people into the losing circle.

One of the biggest challenges we have in the United States is that for the first time ever in American history — and I say this with my son in the room — we have a generation that’s growing up where we think that our children’s future is less promising than the future I inherited from my parents.

That’s not limited to America. What’s new to America is that psychology, that perspective. To address that problem of inclusive growth, of having a future that’s stronger, better and more positive than our present, nobody else can solve that but us. Do we train and educate a workforce for tomorrow, or not? China has nothing to do with that. Do we invest in our roads, our schools, our trains, our airports? China has nothing to do with that. We do. Do we invest in our research, in our bio-medical, in our advanced research, or not? China has nothing to do with that.

The solution to everything that will make America great, actually, America can determine. Things we were ignoring, or refusing to face up to, we now have an opportunity to address and be honest about.

Will we have leaders who will do that? That’s a different subject. And will the public reward or punish those leaders for being leaders?

It wasn’t solely economics. What about the politics?

Here’s why I actually wanted to become mayor. People feel that the nation-state we grew up in, me and you, is no longer what it was before. It’s not operable. Mayors, cities, have something that nation-states don’t have. They have legitimacy.

The mayor of London has more legitimacy than the national government does with the British people. The mayor of Paris has more legitimacy than the national French government, and more legitimacy than [the European parliament in] Brussels. Cities, one, have legitimacy, and two, we get things done and make things happen. We need a national government to help us in those efforts, which has not happened, and that’s a different debate… I would like to have a partner like I had when I had Obama — to do the investments for the future in research, in infrastructure, in education…

What Brexit was about, what the [UK] elections were about, was punishing what was going on in Brussels. Our election was about punishing Washington. People felt that the future for their children was not being addressed in Washington. So what the electorates in England and France and the US did, they took a hammer and smashed the political system. It’s not about smashing the economic system. It’s about smashing the political system for not addressing the economic [challenges]… People feel like the political system is not addressing their needs, and is so broken, that the only way to [fix] it is to go outside to find an answer.

Brussels can say whatever they want. You know what the rest of Europe thinks of it. Washington looks like Disneyland on the Potomac. London’s vote on Brexit was about, ‘We want control over our lives. We don’t want this impersonal thing telling us what to do.’

That makes a lot of sense. But I want to push you a little bit more though. Dissatisfaction, the desire to break the system …

I’m giving you my best material…

… unleashed forces that I didn’t expect to see in America.

Nobody expected to see it.

You did not expect to see neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, right?

No.

And so…

You’re talking to a person who started his own political awareness opposing neo-Nazis in Skokie and then in Marquette Park in Chicago when I was 16 or 17 years old. I had no concept that that would ever come to America. Nobody did.

I showed my staff an email from a colleague of yours at the Wall Street Journal. I had emailed him in March 2016 and he sent it back to me [recently] to remind me. [I’d written:] What makes you think that Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee, and given all the anger that he won’t be more prominent in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio?

That said, I never thought that we would see neo-Nazis. Not just neo-Nazis. Explicit language of hatred toward whether it’s African-Americans, Mexican-Americans or those aspiring to be Americans. I never thought of it. Not in my lifetime.

You didn’t mention Jewish Americans in that list of targets. Because you don’t want to say it or because it’s more marginal or…

If you look at Jewish history, never has the Jewish community been more influential, more powerful, in the history of the Jewish community in America.

I’m so driven about speaking out, not only on behalf of immigrants, because America, and Chicago specifically, a hundred years ago this year welcomed my grandfather from Moldova as a 13-year-old, an illegal immigrant. And his grandson is the mayor. Which speaks to the power of America and the power of my city, Chicago, my home.

In our history, beyond ourselves, we were better off because there were those who were righteous. Here, as you walk into Yad Vashem, the first people you meet are not Jews. The first people you meet are those who are righteous.

And I believe as a Jewish American — I’m an elected official — we are of more influence economically, politically, culturally, than in any other place in the world in world history, in our own history as a people. And the reason I didn’t include [American Jews] in [my point about] African-American and Mexican-American or aspiring Americans is because we [American Jews] are in a position to be righteous. (He slaps the table.)

We have the responsibility now. Not that where America is today is where Germany was. I’m not making that [assertion]. Don’t ever say I said that. But we, I, the mayor of Chicago, a Jewish American, must use my voice. That if you are going to ask people to give you their name, their number — dreamers — you cannot be the government that turns around and uses that information. You cannot. (Emanuel last week declared Chicago a ‘Trump-free zone’ after the president outlined plans to end a program protecting children brought illegally to America from deportation.)

I want to be sure I understand you.

We, as American Jews — the reason that I did not put the Jews in America as being victimized — not that there’s not anti-Semitism, that, trust me, I know. That’s not what I’m talking about. But we are in a position of influence, unlike other people [being targeted] and we have a responsibility, given the journey we as Jews have taken, the journey we as American Jews have taken…

And that responsibility is to stand up and…?

… to use our position of power for those who are powerless. To use our position of comfort for those who are uncomfortable. To use our position of security to provide safety and security to those who are not. That is our responsibility.

And what does that mean specifically?

To speak out. And use our influence.

Look, I have a responsibility as mayor, I have a responsibility as a mayor who’s an American Jew, who knows the history of his own family in the journey to Chicago, but also the history of what happened to us. I’ve said this before in public so this doesn’t scare me. This is our moment.

Are you saying that the Jews should be championing an open border policy for all? I’m sure you’re not saying that, so just elaborate.

No, no. What I’m saying is that we have a government — it’s not about open borders, it’s about what your government… I do not believe that government should be targeting …

on the basis of nationality…

or ethnicity or faith.

Mayor Khan from London, who likes to tease me about this, came to Chicago and on the Saturday morning he came to my synagogue. (As my rabbi said, I know why you’re here, Mayor Khan. How did you convince Mayor Emanuel to come? We’re so honored to see him. It’s not the High Holidays.)

We came, a Muslim and a Jew, fathers of children. That is what brings us together: It is our common interests. I respect him as a man of faith, he respects me as a man of faith. I respect him as a colleague, as a mayor of a metropolitan world-class city. He respects me as a mayor of a world-class city. We can learn from each other. And I respect him as a father of two beautiful children, and he respects me as a father of three beautiful children.

And then when I came just two months ago to London, he and I, with my daughter and his daughter and his wife, we went to dinner, not as mayors, but as fathers.

You’re trying to get to a policy discussion and I’m getting to a moral argument. I think we have a responsibility.

I’m still scratching this one question, which is, do I think there’s anti-Semitism? I don’t think there’s anti-Semitism, I know there’s anti-Semitism. There’s anti-Semitism in America, always has [been], not just at this moment. There has been in the past.

I am saying we, American Jews, have a responsibility to speak out for those [now being targeted] because it has happened for us. And we are lucky that somebody wanted to be righteous and chose [to act on our behalf]. This is our moment. We must use our comfort to comfort those who are uncomfortable.

Implicit in what you’re saying is also that you don’t think anti-Semitism in America has risen to some shattering and terrifying new level.

No. It’s present. It’s always been present, as has bigotry and racism before. It’s just less on the periphery, and more in the center, and more visible for those of us who may not have seen it in all its ugliness before. But the fact is, American Jews, in our history, as a people, we’re in a unique position in America.

You’re looking at the mayor of Chicago. The mayor of Chicago is an American Jew. The mayor of Los Angeles is an American Jew.

An American Jew whose grandfather…

Grandfather on my mother’s side

100 years ago this year?

1917, leaves his mother and father, [who] put him on a boat to get him away from the pogroms, on his own, 13 years old, not a word of English, to meet a third cousin he didn’t know, to pronounce a city that he could not pronounce, fifth grade education,. He came to Chicago. And his grandson is the mayor.

What did he do when he came?

He was a meat cutter and a truck driver and a steel worker. Now, the other two grandsons haven’t done squat. This grandson he’s proud of. Okay? (Laughs.)

So that’s an amazing journey. And I’ve said this and I’ll repeat it: My family came from Moldova. What is the difference between that journey and the journey from Mexico? That you believe your kids in that place will have a better future. What is the difference between a journey of somebody from Ireland versus somebody from India? It’s different oceans, the same aspiration. The journey from Poland to Chicago, or from Pakistan to Chicago? Different oceans, same aspiration. Same.

This journey from Mississippi, Mexico or Moldova, may be different waterways but it’s for the same future. Your president, Shimon Peres, always said, The power of America is not a location, it’s its ideas and values. That was what pulled my grandfather to Chicago. And that will always stand.

As long as I’m mayor, Chicago will stand for what it always has, which is a future that tomorrow can be better than today. And if you embrace the values that we all share, that we’ll sacrifice and struggle for, our children will have a better future. That will be the shining example of Chicago. And we’re never going to walk away from it.

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Qatar pays for outreach to US Jews

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Qatar is paying $50,000 a month for outreach to the Jewish community to a prominent Jewish Republican operative, at a time when the Gulf nation is facing calls for isolation from other moderate Arabs and by conservatives in Washington.

“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran’s sphere of influence,” Nicholas Muzin, whose Stonington Strategies secured the contract, this week told O’Dwyer’s, a newsletter covering the PR industry.

Muzin, an observant Jew, is a rising star among conservative Republicans. He has served as a senior adviser to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and was an advisor to the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and to the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pressure on Qatar in recent months has increased because of its openness to dealing with Iran, its ties with radical Islamist groups and because of the influence of the Al Jazeera news network, which is based in Qatar. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on this issue, with President Donald Trump appearing to back Saudi-led efforts to isolate the country, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposes them.

An array of pro-Israel figures in Washington have joined the effort to pressure Qatar to fall more in line with conventional Sunni Arab outlooks, as determined mostly by Saudi Arabia. Leading the lobbying is Bluelight Strategies, a PR outfit that often represents Jewish, Democratic and pro-Israel groups. One of Bluelight’s principles, Steve Rabinowitz, told JTA that his shop’s efforts, including a recent conference on Qatar, were wholly funded by Khalid Al-Hail, a Qatari businessman who is one of the leaders of the Qatari political opposition.

Qatar has for decades acted independently of others in the region, in part as a means of accruing leverage to resist pressure from the Saudis. This has led to its openness to dealing with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood — but also with Israel. Qatar is one of the few Arab states where Israelis travel freely.

Rivlin: Israel stands with US Jews after Charlottesville rally

President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday that Israel stands with the American Jewish community in the wake of the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, while calling the display of Nazi flags by white supremacists there “beyond belief.”

“The very idea that in our time we would see a Nazi flag — perhaps the most vicious symbol of anti-Semitism — paraded in the streets of the world’s greatest democracy and Israel’s most cherished and greatest ally, is almost beyond belief,” the president said in a letter addressed to Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“We have seen manifestations of anti-Semitism again and again arise across the world; in Europe and the Middle East. In the face of such evil, we stand now as we did then. With faith. With faith in humanity, with faith in democracy, and with faith in justice,” he added.

“I know that the great nation of the United States of America and its leaders will know how to face this difficult challenge, and prove to the world the robustness and strength of democracy and freedom.”

Rivlin’s statement avoided the latest iteration of the controversy: US President Donald Trump’s comments appearing to equate neo-Nazis with left-wing anti-fascist activists, which have been strongly criticized by a number of Israeli lawmakers.

US President Donald Trump and President Reuven Rivlin shake hands following a press conference at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

A group of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville on Friday to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. During the protest, marchers waved swastikas and chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” a popular Nazi chant.

Counter-protesters massed in opposition the next day. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car was driven into a crowd of people protesting the racist rally, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 26 others. The driver was later taken into custody.

Two Virginia state troopers were also killed when their police helicopter crashed and caught on fire while responding to clashes between white supremacist protesters and counter-protesters.

Israeli leaders had come under fire before Tuesday for failing to speak out on the violence and hateful rallies in Virginia over the weekend, as a group of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white nationalist groups clashed with anti-fascist activists.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke his silence on the issue, tweeting that he was “outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett had been the only major Israeli politician to speak out against the neo-Nazis, saying in a statement Sunday that US leaders must denounce the white supremacist rally’s “displays of anti-Semitism.”

Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump, meanwhile, came under harsh criticism, even from members of his own party, for blaming the violence on hatred and bigotry “on many sides,” and not explicitly condemning the white extremist groups at the rally.

On Sunday, the White House released a statement clarifying that his condemnation of hate and bigotry at the “Unite the Right” Virginia rally had been in reference to the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

Amid intense pressure, he followed up on Monday with a direct condemnation of white supremacy and white nationalism, naming the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

But a day later, on Tuesday, he again reiterated that “both sides” were to blame, saying that “there are two sides to every story.”

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right?” he asked. “Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said.

Trump’s depiction of the counter-protesters is similar to the narrative that has come from white nationalists since the bloody demonstration.

Republicans and Democrats alike, meanwhile, have expressed unhappiness with Trump’s statements.

US Muslims intermarry way less and are far more religious than US Jews

NEW YORK (JTA) — Since it came out in 2013, the “Pew study” — a landmark survey of American Jewish demographics, beliefs and practices — has been at the center of American Jewish scrutiny and handwringing. Now it’s American Muslims’ turn.

On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a survey of American Muslims focusing not only on numbers and their way of life, but also on how the community has responded to the election of President Donald Trump.

Comparing the two studies shows a Muslim sector in America that is more religious, growing faster and feels more embattled than American Jews. But both groups voted for Hillary Clinton.

Here’s how the Jews and Muslims of the United States stack up.

There are more Jews than Muslims in America, but the Muslim population is growing faster.

Pew found that there are about 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, a little more than 1 percent of the population. US Jews, by contrast, stand at 5.3 million — around 2 percent of all Americans.

But Muslims, Pew found, skew younger and have higher birth rates. More than a third of US Muslims are under 30, only 14 percent are over 55 and their birth rate is 2.4, slightly higher than the national average. Most American Jews are over 50 and their birth rate is 1.9. While the median age of US Muslims is 35, the median age of US Jews is 50. Americans in general have a median age of 47.

These numbers explain why a 2015 Pew study found that by 2050, American Muslims will outnumber American Jews. While the Jewish population is expected to stagnate at about 5.4 million, Pew predicts that in a little more than three decades, there will be 8 million Muslims in America.

The respective studies also included some data unique to each religion. While there are sharp internal divides between Shia and Sunni Muslims, Pew did not address the question of “who is a Muslim” as it did with Jewish Americans.

The study reported demographic data that may contradict popular American stereotypes of Muslims. Only 14 percent of Muslim immigrants are from the Middle East, while one-fifth are from South Asia. And the plurality of American Muslims — four in 10 — are white.

Only 13 percent of American Muslims are intermarried.

When Pew released its study of the Jews in 2013, American Jewish leaders began fretting about an intermarriage rate of 58 percent since 2000 — and they haven’t stopped. By that measure, American Muslim leaders can rest easy.

Unlike the majority of American Jews, only 13 percent of American Muslims are intermarried. And the number has declined in recent years: In 2011, the number was 16 percent. The numbers are so low that the word “intermarriage” doesn’t even appear in the survey.

But another statistic shows that American Muslims may be following their Jewish neighbors. Among Muslims born in the US, the intermarriage rate is nearly 20 percent.

Most Jews say they don’t face discrimination. Most Muslims say they do.

Another reason for the difference in intermarriage rates could be the discrimination that Jews and Muslims each face in America. Jews, who are more likely to marry outside their group, are also more accepted in America than Muslims.

In an age when Trump the candidate called for a ban on Muslim immigration, the Muslim study focused heavily on Muslim feelings of discrimination and belonging in America. Questions were asked about Islamophobia, anti-Muslim violence, the president, terrorism, extremism and how Muslims feel about being Muslim and American.

In brief, the study found that nearly half of Muslims have faced discrimination in the past year, and 75 percent feel Muslims face a great deal discrimination in America. But nine in 10 feel proud to be American. Three-quarters of American Muslims say violence against civilians can never be justified, as opposed to 59 percent of Americans in general.

In 2013, most Jews said that Jews do not face a lot of discrimination in America, and only 15 percent personally faced discrimination in the year before the survey.

But Pew’s Jewish study was published three years before the spike in anti-Semitism that accompanied the 2016 election. A poll by the Anti-Defamation League published in April revealed starkly different numbers, showing that most Americans were concerned about violence against Jews.

Jews graduate college at higher rates than Muslims and earn more.

The graduation rates and household incomes of American Muslims track with the rest of the country. Like Americans in general, 31 percent of Muslim Americans have graduated college. And a quarter of Muslim Americans earn more than $100,000, similar to the national average. But 40 percent of Muslim households earn less than $30,000 — eight points higher than Americans in general.

Nearly six in 10 American Jews, meanwhile, have graduated college. And 42 percent have household incomes higher than $100,000, while only 20 percent earn less than $30,000.

Muslims are far more religious than Jews, but both say social justice is central.

American Jews and Muslims are particularly different when it comes to religion. While nearly two-thirds of American Muslims say religion is very important to them, only a quarter of Jews do. A third of Jews believe in God, compared to 85 percent of Muslims who said belief in God is essential to being a Muslim. Nearly six in 10 American Muslims say following the Quran is essential to being a Muslim, compared to less than a quarter of American Jews who say the same about Jewish law.

Four in 10 American Muslims attend mosque at least once a week and eight in 10 observe the monthlong fast of Ramadan. By contrast, two-thirds of American Jews attend synagogue less than once a month and only about half fasted on Yom Kippur.

But there are some commonalities, too. Nearly all American Jews and Muslims say they are proud to be Jewish and Muslim, respectively. And both groups prioritize social justice. Solid majorities of Jews (60 percent) and Muslims (69 percent) see “working for justice and equality” as an essential part of their religious identity.

Jews are more liberal than Muslims, but a higher percentage voted for Trump.

American Muslims responded to Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric on the campaign trail by voting for Clinton. Nearly 80 percent of American Muslims voted for the Democrat, while only 8 percent backed Trump. By contrast, Clinton earned 70 percent of the Jewish vote, with Trump garnering 25 percent.

But proportionally more American Jews identify as liberal than do American Muslims. While nearly half of American Jews call themselves liberal, only 30 percent of American Muslims do — close to the national average.

But Muslims are trending liberal on at least one issue: A majority believe homosexuality should be accepted in society, compared to just 27 percent who felt that way a decade ago. Four-fifths of American Jews agree.

Fired by Trump, reviled by Democrats, Comey will be missed by those who protect US Jews

WASHINGTON (JTA) — “You make us better,” James Comey told the Anti-Defamation League in his final public speech as FBI director. Judging from the applause in the conference room at Washington DC’s venerable Mayflower Hotel, the feeling was mutual.

Mired in investigations of the scandals of 2016 (Hillary Clinton’s relationship with her email server) and 2017 (Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia), not a lot of love ended up being lost between the FBI director and either party.

Democrats called for Comey’s firing last year when a week and a half before the election he reopened the Clinton case because of emails found on former congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop in an unrelated case.

US President Donald Trump (who as a candidate repeatedly praised the FBI director) fired Comey on Tuesday, ostensibly because Comey treated Clinton unfairly last July when he excoriated her for her email habits in a press conference (but recommended against legal action). The firing, however, was drawing attention for its timing: Comey is delving into ties between Trump campaign and transition officials who may have had ties to Russia.

But among the folks whose business it is to keep Jews safe – like those gathered Monday in the Mayflower for the ADL’s leadership summit – admiration for Comey was fairly unequivocal. To a degree greater than most of his predecessors, he made the Jewish story central to the FBI mission.

FBI Director James Comey addresses the Anti-Defamation League's annual National Summit at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC on May 8, 2017 (screen capture)

Comey required all FBI staffers to undergo a tour of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Good people helped to murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all,” he told a museum dinner in 2015. “That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.”

Comey, already known as a persuasive speaker, was especially adept at understanding what moved Jewish Americans. In his ADL speech this week, he recalled meeting a man who was not far from the scene when a gunman opened fire last June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“My name is Menachem Green and I’m Jewish,” Comey quoted the man as saying (pronouncing Menachem impeccably) and went on to say Menachem Green was pleased to tell him that he ran toward the shooting alongside a police officer he learned was a Muslim.

“We were Jew and Muslim and Christian and white and black and Latino running to help people we didn’t know,” he said. He also recalled the “Muslim activists who raised over $100,000 to repair Jewish headstones in St. Louis and Philadelphia – that makes us better.”

Comey also embraced one of the ADL’s signature issues, improving reporting of hate crimes by local authorities. “We must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country so we can stop it,” he said.

FBI Director James Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on Capitol Hill May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP)

Just a week earlier, Comey was due to receive a recognition award from Secure Community Network, the security affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, said Comey was to be recognized for his work with the community in tracking down the perpetrator of dozens of bomb hoaxes on JCCs and other Jewish institutions.

“Director Comey put in extraordinary resources and showed tremendous commitment to the American Jewish community,” noting that the agency had deployed agents to Jewish communities across the states.

Comey could not personally accept the recognition, and SCN delivered it to a surrogate – but this was because Comey was on the Hill, testifying to the Senate about how he handled the email and Russia scandals.

He noted in his testimony one of the FBI triumphs of recent months as a defense of the agency – helping to solve the JCC bomb threats.

“Children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at Jewish institutions, especially the Jewish community centers — the entire FBI surged in response to that threat,” Comey said in his opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This file photo taken on January 22, 2017 shows US Vice President Mike Pence, 2nd left, shaking hands with FBI Director James Comey, right, watched by Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, left, and US President Donald Trump, 3rd right, during the reception for law enforcement officers and first responders in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 200 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

“Working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards, using our vital international presence and using our partnerships especially with the Israeli national police, we made that case and the Israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped the terrifying plague against the Jewish community centers,” Comey said.

Comey may be gone, but the shock among Democrats – and some congressional Republicans — at his departure means his memory is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

“We must have a special prosecutor,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who is the minority leader in the Senate, said in a statement delivered at a briefing for reporters late on Tueday. He said he had told Trump in a phone call that firing Comey was a “very big mistake.”

Trump fired back at Schumer on Twitter, recalling that Schumer had recently said that he did not have confidence in Comey. “Then acts so indignant,” Trump said of Schumer.

Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, “I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.” Then acts so indignant.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is the ranking Democrat on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is also probing the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, said there was no contradiction between being appalled at Comey’s handling of the Clinton case and also at Comey’s firing.

He noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation because he had met with a Russian diplomat during the transition, had signed off on the firing.

“The decision by a President whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an Attorney General who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” he said.

German officials: Increase in US Jews seeking citizenship since election

Since the election of US President Donald Trump, increasing numbers of Jews whose parents and grandparents fled from Nazi Germany to the United States have applied for German citizenship, German officials said.

Consulates in New York and Boston have seen a rise in the number of people seeking to reclaim their ancestors’ German citizenship.

“We can confirm that there has been a perceptible increase in the number of people claiming German citizenship under Article 116, Paragraph 2 of the German Basic Law,” Bradford Elder, a spokesperson for the New York German consulate, told German news site Deutsche Welle.

Article 116 is intended mainly for Jews, socialists, and communists who fled Germany under the Nazis. It states that “former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored.”

According to the German consulate in New York, between 50 and 70 people applied for citizenship each year in 2014 and 2015. In the month of November 2016 alone there were 124 applications. In March 2017 a total of 235 people submitted the paperwork to become German citizens.

German biometric passport of November 2006 in high resolution. (Public doman, Wikimedia commons)

The Boston German consulate, meanwhile, has seen the number of applicants triple.

Ralf Horlemann, the consul-general of Germany in Boston, said that in the first quarter of 2016, there were 13 people who reclaimed their German citizenship in Boston. In the first quarter of 2017, that number grew to 49.

“Although we don’t have any firm statistical data on the reasons behind the application for naturalization,” he told the news site, “we have seen a considerable increase in applications since, well the autumn, or the end of last year.”

Some applicants, like Ilana and Rena Sufrin, 26-year-old twins from Pittsburgh, began the application process before the US election, primarily to obtain EU benefits. But they now maintained German citizenship is an insurance policy in increasingly uncertain times.

“I feel like people don’t really believe that something [bad] could happen,” said Rena Sufrin, according to DW. “But I feel like it’s at the back of everyone’s mind, especially when you start hearing the way people like Trump talk. It gets a little unnerving.”

They began the application process in 2015, intending it as an entry to the European Union, and a way to connect to their German heritage.

“When we initially applied, Obama was president,” said Ilana. “I’m a pretty liberal person. I had a lot of hope. I didn’t think there was going to be any potential problem. But I would say now …”

“It’s definitely a good thing to have,” her sister added.

Larry Klein told KUNC Community Radio for Northern Colorado that initially he began the application process so that it would be easier for him to travel around Europe. But now he is glad to have a German passport in his pocket as a backup plan.

“The tone of this country at this point in time is disturbing. A country like Germany which, you know, has this history that obviously my family’s well aware of, espouses the beliefs and philosophy that actually is the way I’d like a country to behave,” he said. “So, things come around in very interesting ways.”

Linda Heuman’s parents and grandparents came to the US as refugees. Her great-grandparents were killed in the Holocaust. She said that after Trump came to power it became clear to hear that she might need an escape route.

“I just instantly felt like I needed someplace else to go. I have that somewhere in my history, like that visceral knowledge,” Heuman said. “With racism on the rise and anything might happen so, so that was my motivation for finally getting around to filling out the paperwork.”

Terry Mandel told DW that her main reason for wanting dual citizenship was in case of emergency.

“It was 99 percent motivated by wanting to have a way out,” Mandel told DW. “It’s about having a plan B. I’ve always referred to it as plan B.”

“Like many progressive Americans, I didn’t think there was a chance that Trump could win,” she said. “But I still thought: Why take the risk?”

Father of JCC bomb hoaxer apologizes to US Jews, blames tumor

http://www.timesofisrael.com/father-of-jcc-bomb-hoaxer-apologizes-to-us-jews-blames-tumor/

 

The father of the Israeli-American teen behind hundreds of hoax bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US issued an apology “from the bottom of our hearts” to all American Jews on Monday, and stressed “there was no hatred” behind the threatening calls.

Speaking two days after the 18-year-old’s mother had blamed her son’s autism and a tumor on his brain for the hundreds of hoax calls he made, his father also said that it was “illness” that was responsible for his son’s actions. “The child is different. He is unique,” said his father, who appeared in silhouette on Channel 2 news and was identified by the pseudonym Eli. (A police gag order prevents the naming of the 18-year-old suspect, who is being identified only as “M.”) “There was no motive of hatred. The motive was illness.”

Eli, who was previously reported to have worked in high-tech, said without elaboration that he himself had been “exposed to thousands of destructive chemicals” and underwent “three operations to remove tumors. And my son has a tumor.”

He said that he and his son had watched TV news reports of US Jewish centers being evacuated because of the hoax bomb calls. “You see what can happen,” he recalled telling his son, apparently referring to the dangers facing Jews. How did his son react? he was asked. “He didn’t answer.”

The father of the JCC bomb hoax suspect, interviewed on Channel 2 news on April 3, 2017 (Channel 2 screenshot)

Eli, who was held in detention for several days on suspicion of involvement in the threats, but who has since been released with certain limitations, said he wanted to apologize to American Jewry. “To all the Jews in America, I want to say clearly, we are very, very sorry, from the bottom of our hearts. Very sorry.”

The father’s lawyer added that he had nothing to do with his son’s hoax calls, and had no idea what the boy was up to.

Asked somewhat provocatively by the TV interviewer whether he was proud of his son, Eli replied: “I love him. His heart and my heart are the same heart.”

The antenna in the window of the teen JCC bomb hoax suspect's Ashkelon room (Channel 10 screenshot)

Questioned about the antenna his son placed in his bedroom window that the teen used to connect to the internet without being easily traced, Eli said he had not been suspicious about it.

The suspect, who also used voice-masking technology, is to appear before judges again on Thursday, where police will seek a further remand in custody.

In comments on Monday. M’s mother said her son has been diagnosed with autism and could not control his actions due to a tumor in his brain.

A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

She said she was “shocked” to discover her son was behind a spate of US bomb scares and wished “I had known and could have prevented it.”

But, speaking with her face concealed, she insisted that the teen was not responsible for his actions. “My son is not a criminal, he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” she said, repeating claims by his lawyer that a non-malignant brain tumor discovered several years ago had an adverse affect on his behavior.

An Israeli teen, center, suspected of calling in bomb threats to hundreds of institutions is brought to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

The teen, whose family lives in Ashkelon, is facing charges of extortion, making threats, publishing false information and is accused of sowing widespread fear and panic.

Police say he was behind a range of threats against Jewish community centers and other buildings linked to Jewish communities in the United States in recent months, and is alleged to have made hundreds of threatening phone calls over the past two to three years, targeting schools and other public institutions in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

His mother, who spoke halting American-accented Hebrew and was identified only as “C,” said it was clear from a young age that her son, while highly intelligent, could not function in the regular education system.

She said she was 40 when she gave birth to him, in the US, and that he had an unusually large head, and did not develop speaking skills at a normal rate, but was very good at solving puzzles and was later diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

The mother of an Israeli-American teen allegedly behind hundreds of threatening calls and fake bomb threats to Jewish institutions around the world speaks to Channel 2 (Channel 2 news)

“He couldn’t sit down, he’d walk around, shaking,” she said of his inability to concentrate on tasks. Writing and listening were also problematic.

He couldn’t cope with the formal framework of preschool education, she said. When he was about 6, the family moved to Israel, and he could not function in the school system.

The boy’s parents decided to homeschool him, and the mother gave up her job as a biochemist to care for her child from first grade through twelfth.

The woman showed Channel 2 reporters some of her son’s obsessions — endlessly drawing maps, creating complex games for himself with incomprehensible lists of numbers, and collecting and cataloging tickets for every single bus or train ride he took.

Shira Nir, a lawyer of an American-Israeli teenager suspected of calling in fake bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the world, shows the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court what she says is an image of a cancerous growth in her client's brain, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

She said her son almost never left home and spent most of his time alone. He had no friends, she said.

“I didn’t know how much he sat on his computer,” she said. “I was working. I work nights. I’m at work all night, I come back and sleep.”

The Ashkelon bedroom of the JCC bomb hoax suspect (Channel 2 screenshot)

She added that she had discussed the recent bomb scares with her son, as she was worried about Jewish American friends of hers. Her son, she said, had also expressed concern about the threatening calls to Jewish targets. “It doesn’t make sense. This is a kid who loves Judaism.”

The mother said she was “very sorry for what happened,” but that her son was “not at fault.”

An American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by police as he leaves a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

“It’s the tumor. It could happen to anyone with a tumor in his head,” she said. “He’s autistic, he can’t control it, he can’t think straight. He needs medical help.”

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported last Sunday that the teenager made more than 1,000 threatening phone calls over the past two years, including at least two threats to Delta Airlines, resulting in the grounding of planes already in the air.

The Albany JCC closed briefly due to one of the bomb threats, January 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Twitter via JTA)

Israeli police only managed to zero in on the suspect after US President Donald Trump sent a team of 12 FBI agents to Israel in recent weeks, Haaretz reported.

The FBI agents are still involved in questioning him here, the TV report said, and the family is concerned that the US may seek to extradite the suspect.

Below is a recording and transcription of one of the bomb threats, made on January 18.

TRANSCRIPTION:

It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to be blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.

TIES BETWEEN US JEWS AND ISRAEL COULD REACH BREAKING POINT IN 2017

 

The year 2017 could see a “perfect storm’ for Israel’s relationship with the Diaspora, according to a report released by the Reut Institute this month under the title “The Future of the Nation State of the Jewish People: Consolidation or Rupture?”

The report discusses various components of Israel’s ties with world Jewry, primarily US Jewry, and posits that if Israel does not take action to change an outdated mindset and working assumptions which no longer correlate with reality, Israel’s function as the national home for the Jewish people will ultimately be destroyed. If that happens it warns, the Jewish state’s very existence could be threatened further than it is today.

 

The Reut Institute, a non-partisan and non-profit organization which strives to be a “force of change” in Israel and the Jewish World, collaborated with numerous experts to produce the 31-page-report.

The Reut Institute conducted the research project in response to several indicators of a consistent decline in the connection between the state of Israel and large Jewish communities in the US, partly fueled by an increasingly complex relationship between Israel and the younger generation of American Jews.

The Institute sees the convergence of major Zionist events this year, including the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and the 50-year anniversary of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, which also marks 50 years of Israeli control of the West Bank, as occasions which will highlight the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its implications for Israel-Diaspora relations.

“The resolution of the conflict is a foundation of central organizations in the American Jewish community, including AIPAC, the World Jewish Congress, and Jewish Federations of North America,” the report says. “Due to a decline in the prospects for a Two-State Solution, and the lack of an agreed upon alternative, these organizations increasingly struggle to deal with a complex Israeli reality.”

The institute also sees the advent of the Trump era as driving a further wedge between Israel and progressive Jews in the US.

“The present Israeli government’s strong support of the Trump Administration, expected agreements on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and lack of progress in negotiations with the Palestinians, are likely to place most American Jews and the Israeli government on two different sides of the political arena,” the document states, also warning that Israel is becoming a partisan issue.

“Consequently, American Jewish organizations will be compelled to take clear sides on Israeli political issues, including Israeli settlement policy and the status of the Orthodox Rabbinate.”

The latter comprises the third major component flagged by the institute – the growing daylight between Israel and non-Orthodox Jews over the the status of Progressive Judaism in Israel. Referencing the as yet unimplemented government agreement for an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, as well as issues pertaining to conversions and mikvaot, the research found that these types of disputes negatively impact the ability of an increasing number of individuals, as well as Jewish communal organizations to maintain a meaningful connection to Israel.

“Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is taken for granted, but the reality is that this has changed in the last few years,” the Managing Director of the Reut Institute Naama Klar told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Klar emphasized that the issue should not only be of concern to the Israeli government, but also to civil society, lamenting an ignorance regarding the importance of the Diaspora relationship among the general public, which social entrepreneurs, public intellectuals and and thought-leaders can help change.

The institute is collaborating with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry in an effort to work with Israeli leadership programs and youth movements to change this. She explains that while according to the “old mindset,” Israel would send shlichim (emissaries) to Diaspora communities to try to strengthen its relationship with them, the focus is now shifting inwards. “There is a problem and it’s our problem,” she asserts, warning that if certain questions are not asked by Israeli leaders and members of society, “we are on a destructive trajectory.”

At the crux of these questions is how modern-day Israel can fulfill its role as the national home of the Jewish people. According to the institute, the reasons for which Israel was in the past an asset to the Jewish people are no longer relevant in the same ways. For instance, it states that most Jews today do not face existential threats and thus no longer see Israel as a country of refuge; it also posits that the decline of Israel’s image may even endanger Diaspora Jews, particularly in times of conflict. Raising a host of other issues, such as a lack of identification with Israeli policies, dissatisfaction with its democracy and the Orthodox monopoly of the country, the institute concludes that “instead of being a source of unity for the Jewish People, the State of Israel has become a cause of division.”

The result of this, the report continues, challenges the basic legitimacy of Israel’s existence, which stems from its role as a national home for the Jewish people.

Offering solutions as to how Israel can today serve the resilience and prosperity of the entire Jewish people, the institute highlights three areas: consciousness, structure and policy.

“The State of Israel should aspire to develop a widespread consciousness among Israeli Jews, which emphasizes the basic assumption that the State of Israel is the nation state of the entire Jewish People,” the institute says of the first element, noting that formal and informal educational bodies can play an important role in this.

In terms of structure, the organization notes that in the past, the Israel-Diaspora relationship was managed by “strong mediators and dominant institutions” such as Chaim Weizmann and Rav Soloveitchik, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and other Israeli government institutions. Today, the Reut Institute believes their influence has waned and must be modernized in addition to bringing in new mediators. “Historically, these issues were decided by religious authorities from various communities in a decentralized manner,” the report points out. It also raises the idea that Israel should allow a higher level of Diaspora political involvement, as well as anchoring Diaspora Jewry as a core issue in Israeli decision-making.

Quoting Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am, the institute drums home the essential mission of preserving the unity of the Jewish people: “If a land is destroyed, but its people are still full of life and strength – they will rise to her. Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah and the people will return and build it again; but if a people is destroyed, who will rise up for them, and where will help come from?”

Bomb threat suspect’s arrest brings relief, but US Jews vow to stay vigilant

WASHINGTON — Despite Israeli police arresting a Jewish Israeli teenager Thursday suspected of making the majority of bomb threats to Jewish centers and other institutions around the country, JCC leaders and prominent American Jews said they would not be putting their guard down.

“I don’t think it’s changed at all,” Richard Zakalik, executive director of the JCC in Getzville, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, told The Times of Israel. “I mean, you got one guy who was arrested and there was a copycat and there are others. This isn’t something new with Jews. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.”

The JCC in Getzville received a bomb threat last month, prompting the evacuation of its facilities. The call came on February 20 — President’s Day — as past of a wave of threats that were phoned in to 11 other Jewish institutions that day.

Since January, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions, causing the evacuation of dozens of Jewish community centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.

The threats have come in repeated waves, via phone and email, and many of the institutions have been targeted more than once.

On Thursday, police in Israel arrested an Ashkelon man, 18, suspected of being behind hundreds of threats to institutions in the US and elsewhere, a bizarre twist following fears in the US Jewish community that the threats were part of an uptick in anti-Semitism.

A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

Zakalik’s sentiment was seemingly shared by many in the American Jewish community, who say hate crimes have spiked in the last three months.

“This arrest doesn’t change the fact that anti-Semitism is at an alarmingly high level,” Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, told The Times of Israel in a statement. “There have been other threats, instances of physical attacks on Jews, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and cyberattacks against Jews.

Rep. Ted Deutch on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

“We need improved coordination between government agencies to investigate cases and combat anti-Semitism,” he added. “I continue to urge the administration to put together a comprehensive and coordinated approach to combating these threats.”

Aside from the bomb threats, other anti-Semitic attacks that definitely originated on US soil have also sparked worry in Jewish communities. Those include swastikas drawn on numerous schools and other buildings, and hundreds of Jewish tombstones that have been vandalized, including recently in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

In another incident this month, a gun was fired into a synagogue, Adath B’Nai Israel Temple, in Evansville, Indiana.

Nevertheless, some leaders of JCCs in the United States feel some portion of the threat may have been mitigated with the arrest of the Israeli teenager.

“I’m relieved that an arrest has been made,” Barak Hermann, who heads the JCC of Greater Baltimore, told The Times of Israel. “I hope that that arrest will reflect all the threats, both email and phone, that have been coming in. I’m hopeful that they found the primary perpetrator [of the threats] that we and other JCCs across the US and Canada have received.”

People evacuated because of a bomb threat return to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center and David Posnack Jewish Day School on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Despite the arrest, the facility Hermann runs isn’t letting down its guard. “We’re going to maintain all the same security protocol that we’ve had in place,” he said.

Zakalik said the same thing about his JCC in western New York: “Our security precautions were in place before the bomb threats and they will be in place after the bomb threats.”

One reality that American Jews had to grapple with Thursday was the background of the alleged perpetrator, a Jewish Israeli-American teen.

“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish community centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all – is reportedly Jewish,” said Doron Krakow, CEO and president of the JCC Association of North America, in a statement.

Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, also expressed regret. “It was heartbreaking to learn that a Jewish man is a prime suspect,” he said in a statement.

Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at the 2012 General Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland (photo credit: JFNA/JTA)

Last month, President Donald Trump reportedly told a group of state attorneys general visiting the White House that he suspected the bomb threat calls may be planted from within the Jewish community out of political motives.

Later that same day, he opened his first address to a joint session of Congress by condemning anti-Semitic attacks throughout the country.

Earlier this month 141 leaders of American Jewish community centers sent an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding he take more action to address the threat , and expressing frustration over how it was being handled. But on Thursday, Jewish leaders praised the cooperation that took place between Israeli and American crime enforcement agencies.

“Ten days ago, and again this morning, Jewish leaders were briefed by top officials from the FBI. From those briefings we learned about the unprecedented level of time and resources that were committed to this investigation along with high levels of cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and a long list of partners, including Israeli law enforcement,” Silverman said.

“As a community and a society we must remain vigilant in our effort to counter anti-Semitism and other hate crimes as they appear,” he added.

Donald Trump’s approval rating among US Jews is 31 percent, Gallup poll finds

(JTA) — President Donald Trump’s approval rating among Jews in the United States is 31 percent.

The figure is more than 10 percent lower than the president’s overall approval rating of 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll taken from Jan. 20, the day Trump was sworn in, to March 15.

Gallup points out that Jews appear to be reacting to Trump along party lines. Some 64 percent of Jews identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, according to data from the same time period, and 29 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.

Gallup also points out that Trump has sent “mixed signals to American Jews about their position in the country and his administration’s stance toward Israel.” Among the issues was being slow to denounce a pronounced wave of anti-Semitism and failing to mention Jews in the administration’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, as well as appointing a pro-settlements ambassador to Israel but then calling on Israel to “hold off” on building in settlements.

Trump has a “significant opportunity to boost his image among Jews, Americans and the world,” Gallup reports.”During the campaign, Trump talked about using his negotiating skills, and those of (his son-in-law Jared) Kushner, to reach a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. If Trump accomplishes what his predecessors could not by negotiating a peace deal, this could certainly affect his approval rating not only among American Jews but among all national adults.”