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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.

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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.”

With Friedman’s confirmation looming, US Jews range from despondent to exhilarated

WASHINGTON — The moment will soon arrive when the full United States Senate will vote on whether to confirm President Donald Trump’s controversial choice for ambassador to Israel. It is not yet clear when exactly that vote will happen exactly, but since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved David Friedman’s nomination last week, it is probably a matter of days.

The announcement of Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer and longtime friend of the president’s, as Trump’s Israel envoy pick set the political world and Jewish community ablaze. A supporter of the settlement movement — both financially and vocally — and a vociferous critic of the two-state solution, the 57-year-old left many wondering whether Trump is planning to upend decades of US policy by granting him such a significant diplomatic assignment.

Indeed, after the nomination was announced, Friedman said he intended to fulfill his duties as ambassador in “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” a statement that, at the time, was read to indicate the administration’s resolve to follow through on a campaign pledge to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But beyond that, he horrified liberal Jews — the vast majority of American Jewry — by designating supporters of the progressive Middle East advocacy group J Street as “worse than kapos,” the Jews who assisted Nazis in the slaughter of their own people during the Holocaust.

At his confirmation hearing last month, however, Friedman said he felt remorse over his rhetoric. “These were hurtful words and I deeply regret them,” he said. “They’re not reflective of my nature, or my character.”

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA/J Street)

J Street was unmoved. Having already kicked off a vigorous campaign against Friedman’s appointment, the group proceeded to collect 40,000 signatures opposing his confirmation by the foreign relations panel. The organization’s president, Jeremy Ben Ami, told The Times of Israel at the time that he hoped Friedman’s words of contrition would not “expunge” his problematic record.

Over the course of the campaign, Friedman was outspoken about his belief that settlement activity is not an obstacle to peace and that Israel would not face a “demographic threat” to its Jewish character if it failed to separate from the Palestinians.

The settlers have thus rejoiced over Friedman. The Yesha Council, the main umbrella group for West Bank settlements, said last week it looked forward to “working together with him to build a brighter future for everyone in the region.”

With Friedman’s confirmation seeming extremely likely — there would need to be at least three Republican defections to block it — here is a look at where prominent American Jews and Jewish groups stand on the firebrand who may soon be the main diplomatic representative of the United States to the Jewish state.

The opposition

J Street: “J Street is vehemently opposed to the nomination of David Friedman to serve as United States Ambassador to Israel,” the group said shortly after the pick was announced. “Friedman is a leading American friend and funder of the settlement movement, lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials and has attacked fellow Jews and public figures with hateful accusations that are disqualifying for representing our country in any capacity… The nomination shows breathtaking disdain for the vast majority of American Jews who support the two-state solution, progress toward peace with the Palestinians and common decency in public discourse.”

Six hundred rabbis and cantors: “The Rabbis of the Talmud are adamant that we are to speak to and about other people — particularly those with whom we disagree — with love and respect. We are taught that shaming a person is tantamount to shedding their blood,” they said in an open letter to President Trump. “Yet Mr. Friedman seems to have no qualms about insulting people with whom he disagrees… We are very concerned that rather than try to represent the US as an advocate for peace, Mr. Friedman will seek to mold American policy in line with his extreme ideology.”

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Following extensive consideration of Mr. Friedman’s record and taking into account his statements during his nomination hearing, I have concluded that his past record would make it very difficult for him to serve as that unifying force,” he said in a statement. “For that reason, I am unable to support his nomination as America’s top diplomat in Israel.”

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin,(D) ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, right, accompanied by committee Chairman Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R), questions Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“Unfortunately, I believe that the body of Mr. Friedman’s published work will compromise his effectiveness representing the United States – and all Americans – to the Government of Israel and all Israelis,” he added. “Taken together, Mr. Friedman’s statements and affiliations make it clear that he does not believe the two-state solution is necessary for a just and lasting peace. I am concerned that Mr. Friedman’s history on this issue undermines his ability to represent the United States as a credible facilitator of the peace process.”

Ameinu: “David Friedman’s views directly conflict with long standing American foreign policy and practice in the region. He is an opponent of a two-state solution, a supporter of increased settlement expansion in the West Bank and even its annexation, and an advocate of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem without any other associated peace efforts,” the organization said. “He has also viscously attacked liberal advocates of a two-state solution as ‘worse than kapos,’ Jews who were forced to assist the Nazis. This raises serious concerns about Friedman’s temperament and his ability to serve in this sensitive diplomatic position.”

National Council of Jewish Women: “NCJW believes the choice of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel flies in the face of the principles we hold dear: in order to ensure a secure and strong Israel we must seek a fair and just peace with all Israel’s neighbors; and to strengthen Israel from within we must create a state where minorities, women, children, and all people must be treated with dignity and afforded all the protections of a great democracy,” the group’s CEO, Nancy K. Kaufman, said in a press release. “Friedman’s extremist views would lead us down a dangerous path to greater violence and self-destruction. Simply put, David Friedman is an irresponsible choice as US Ambassador to Israel. If confirmed, he could undermine Israel’s traditional bi-partisan support in the United States and alienate much of the American Jewish community.”

David Friedman testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination to be the US ambassador to Israel, Feb. 16, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images via JTA)

Americans for Peace Now: “Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of David Friedman to be the United States’ next ambassador to Israel. Friedman’s choice sends an alarming message about the Trump administration’s role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace,” the left-wing organization said in a statement. “Friedman opposes the two-state solution and thus breaks with longstanding bi-partisan U.S. policy on Israel, a policy that even Prime Minister Netanyahu endorses. David Friedman has called the two-state solution an ‘illusion,’ an ‘anachronism,’ and ‘a narrative that needs to end.’ He recently said that he does not view Israeli West Bank settlements as an obstacle to peace. Friedman opposes the very essence of APN’s values and mission. We oppose Friedman’s nomination.”

Partners for Progressive Israel: The liberal advocacy group has encouraged its supporters to send letters to their representatives in Congress saying Friedman is “hostile to the two-state solution … a friend of the settlement movement and an avid supporter of further settlement expansion. He’s shown disdain for Israel’s Arab population, questioning their value to Israeli society. He has even made the case for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. Furthermore, the contempt Mr. Friedman has shown toward liberal American Jews — labeling them worse than Nazi collaborators — makes him a horrible choice to be our representative in Israel.”

Then Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin speaks during a debate on possible amendments to a gay marriage bill in Annapolis, Md., Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin (D): “Now is a moment that calls for maximum prudence and diplomacy in office, cultural bridge-building and creative political action to break the brutal logic of hatred and war,” he said. “The confirmation of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel would be bad news not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but for solidarity and civility in the American Jewish community.”

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D): “The nomination of David Friedman as the new US ambassador to Israel underscores, yet again, the extremist agenda of Donald Trump and his administration. This is an appointment with dangerous consequences for both the United States and Israel, not only with respect to the prospect of an eventual negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but also with respect to the relationship between our two countries, and more generally, to regional stability,” he said in a statement. “Mr. Friedman’s extreme views and use of such hateful language is an insult to the majority of American Jews.”

Kentucky Rep. John Yarmouth (D): “Donald Trump’s appointment of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel is totally out of step with longstanding, bipartisan US foreign policy,” he posted on his Facebook account. “At a challenging and precarious time in the Middle East, catering to right-wing inflammatory views that will unnecessarily strain our relationships in the region is extremely dangerous. We should be working toward a two-state solution, with both Jews and Palestinians living alongside each other in peace and security.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism: “We have never before opposed the nomination of a U.S. Ambassador. We do so now because of our firm belief that Mr. Friedman is the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time,” he said in a statement.

‘We have never before opposed the nomination of a US Ambassador. We do so now because of our firm belief that Mr. Friedman is the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time’

Jacobs went on to say that Friedman lacks “the basic qualifications for the position,” that his “views on key issues suggest he will not be able to play a constructive role,” and that he “lacks the necessary temperament for such a sensitive position.”

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights: “The selection of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel represents a threat to the security of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews everywhere. The policies he supports — from the expansion of settlements to the annexation of the West Bank to the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem — not only violate decades of U.S. policy, but also will only fuel resentment and could even provoke violence,” the group said. “The selection of Mr. Friedman is a step in the wrong direction—a step likely to lead to an escalation in the conflict, and a threat to the very possibility of peace, liberty, security, and justice for all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D): “David Friedman is wholly unfit and completely unqualified to serve as our country’s ambassador to Israel,” she said in a statement. “He has a long record of extremist statements in opposition to a two-state solution and in support of settlement expansion in the West Bank. These positions are in direct opposition to long-standing official US policy held by both Republican and Democratic Administrations.”

“At a time when we need an ambassador to Israel who has demonstrated the highest level of diplomatic skills, President-elect Trump has named a bankruptcy lawyer with no foreign policy credentials; an individual who has antagonized and insulted both Jews and Arabs with his far-right statements and divisive rhetoric,” she added. “His appointment would make a very dangerous situation even worse.”

The supporters

Richard Sandler, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America: “I believe he’s a very intelligent individual, and I think he’ll be a good representative if he is confirmed,” Sandler reportedly said during a meeting with the Jewish Agency’s board of governors in Tel Aviv. “My expectations of him are very positive … Obviously he made certain comments before he knew he was going to be vetted for the position of ambassador, but I thought he explained himself very well during the Senate hearings … I think he is probably more knowledgeable than some people think on a number of topics, and I think he’s serious about wanting to find a solution.”

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America: “ZOA urges the US Senate to confirm President Donald Trump’s outstanding nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman,” he said in a statement. “Mr. Friedman has sterling qualifications, is one of America’s most eminent attorneys, speaks fluent Hebrew, is extraordinarily knowledgeable about the Middle East, and is the ideal nominee to restore and strengthen the vital US-Israel alliance and the cause of real peace. In addition, Mr. Friedman’s views reflect widely-held views of the American public at large, the Jewish-American public, Congress and our major American political parties. In sum, Mr. Friedman will be a great credit to America and an upstanding representative of the American people.”

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)

Orthodox Union: “A campaign has been launched to portray Mr. Friedman’s skeptical views toward the ‘two state solution’ — as the means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — as extreme and even beyond the pale of mainstream thought,” said the leaders of the Orthodox movement’s largest umbrella group in a press release.

“This campaign has been launched by several liberal activist organizations, editorial columnists and even a few Members of Congress. We would not deny that these organizations represent the views of many American Jews and others who indeed believe in the ‘peace process’ and a two state solution” as the preferred means of resolving the conflict. But there is also no denying that many American Jews — certainly in the Orthodox Union’s constituency — and other pro-Israel Americans share Mr. Friedman’s deep skepticism towatd this decades-old approach which has been tried and tested and failed repeatedly to deliver security and peace to the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the region.”

‘I think that given his background, his family lineage, his love for this country, and his general intellect – he has all the makings.’

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: “He is very well thought of as a creditor-debtor lawyer. He has the confidence of the president. Certainly he is knowledgeable, and he is articulate,” the group’s chairman Stephen Greenberg said during a recent press conference in Jerusalem.

“I think he has made some statements that he has come back and modified, and I think that given his background, his family lineage, his love for this country, and his general intellect – he has all the makings.”

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R): “I support the nomination of David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally, and we must always do everything that we can to strengthen that bond. I look forward to working with Ambassador Friedman,” he said to The Times of Israel in a statement.

Sitting it out

Several Jewish organizations and Israel advocacy groups have not taken a position on Friedman’s nomination — many because they are non-partisan and don’t want to inject themselves into a partisan political dispute — including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

One public official who has remained conspicuously absent from the debate is New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, who hasn’t released a statement or made public comments on the nomination.

Eyeing move to Israel, some US Jews see Trump as solution, not problem

The Parkins family of four looked dazed standing in the large lobby of John Jay College in Midtown Manhattan. Having driven all night from Chicago, they were a bit bedraggled and blinked at the hundreds milling about this massive annual event promoting immigration to Israel.

The parents, Andrea and Paul, had visited Israel three years ago and fallen in love with the country. With two high school-aged kids, however, uprooting their family wasn’t a decision to be made lightly.

Asked at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Mega Event on February 26 if the current political climate in the United States contributed in any way to their decision, Paul chuckled and said no. Andrea, however, hesitated and said, “Well, maybe a little.”

Making aliyah “was already something on our plate,” she explained. The family, a double minority in that they are both black and Jewish, has already submitted much of their paperwork. They are serious about completing their immigration process — and soon.

Gesturing to her children, Andrea said, “We’re thinking about the future.”

The Parkins family drove all night from Chicago to arrive in time for the February 26 Nefesh B'Nefesh Mega Event in New York for Jews interested in immigrating to Israel. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

With a recent increase in reports of US-based anti-Semitic attacks, Andrea’s concern for her children’s future in America could be well founded. On Monday, another spate of bomb threats to Jewish community centers brought the total of such call-in threats to 90, at 73 locations. Occurring both at JCCs and Jewish day schools, the threats have taken place in 30 states and 1 Canadian province over five waves in January and February. (Perhaps with this in mind, Sunday’s Nefesh B’Nefesh event saw serious security protecting the campus — from metal detectors at the entrance to a visible police presence in its halls.)

Preceded by desecration of graves at two US Jewish cemeteries, after this newest series of call-in threats, on Monday Labor party leader MK Isaac Herzog called on the Israeli government to “urgently prepare and establish and emergency national program for the possibility that we will see waves of our Jewish brothers immigrating to Israel.”

‘The State of Israel is ready for every number of immigrants that will come’

A day earlier at Sunday’s fair, Minister of Absorption Sofa Landver had pooh-poohed the idea of a new wave of US immigration. Regardless, she assured journalists that “the State of Israel is ready for every number of immigrants that will come.”

After greeting a large group of teenage future citizens and their parents, Landver acknowledged a rise in American anti-Semitism, but told The Times of Israel that the Trump administration would strengthen ties between Israel and its “big brother,” America. Landver said that while she hopes immigration would be spurred by “a desire to be home,” when anti-Semitism reaches a certain level “it could be pushing people home [to Israel].”

Among the diverse Jewish population The Times of Israel spoke with at Sunday’s fair, the impetus for immigration is a mix of personal and political reasons. From 18-year-old Israeli Defense Forces enlistees to octogenarian retirees, however, their decisions to leave the US had much to do with where they find their own and their families’ futures, and, to a lesser extent, their relationships to US President Donald Trump.

Each in his own corner of the US ‘boxing ring’

For Cindy and Gil Roter, the political influence on their decision “is very unconscious,” said Cindy. Both Roters are Trump supporters, whom they saw as the only pro-Israel candidate. For Gil, it “was a single-issue vote,” said Cindy, a teacher, who said she put liberalism to the side and voted based on Israel, national security, and the economy.

Cindy and Gil Roter are supporters of President Donald Trump, whom they saw as the only pro-Israel candidate. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Regarding the contentious presidential election and its aftermath, she said it is as though everyone in her social sphere is sitting in their own boxing ring corner with their gloves on. In making a new life elsewhere, she said she feels that she and her physician husband, would make “a fresh start.”

The Roters had sat in on a session on transferring Gil’s medical license for practice in Israel, one of the over 50 sessions and workshops on all aspects of life in Israel presented at the Mega Event.

Organized in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA, the event drew a record 1,500 attendees and offered what NBN labeled “a full-service aliyah planning experience” — from meetings with employment professionals and lawyers to booths with movers and realtors. Similar fairs are scheduled for Toronto, Montreal and Los Angeles in early March.

In addition to Minister Landver, other high-profile Israelis greeting participants in New York included a cadre of mayors and former Knesset member Dov Lipman. Comedian Joel Chasnoff kept the recruits entertained and an Orthodox a cappella group was relentlessly, loudly cheerful.

Over 50 sessions and workshops on all aspects of life in Israel were held at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Mega Event on February 26 in New York. (Shahar Azran)

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh works throughout North America and the UK in cooperation with the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency for Israel to raise awareness of immigration to the Jewish state. While immigration is never easy, NBN attempts to reduce the “financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of aliyah.” According to NBN, its work has seen a 90 percent retention rate of the over 50,000 new immigrants it has helped bring to Israel.

For some at the fair, aliyah was something to consider in another few years, or upon retirement. For others, such as 19-year-old Miriam, it was an imminent proposition.

The modestly dressed Modern Orthodox teen from Long Israel said she wants to move within the next few years because Israel “is the place I could live the life I want to live in the most optimal way.”

While not involved or interested in US politics — she did not vote in the recent elections, although her accompanying mother voted for Trump — Miriam said, “It just helps that nothing here is speaking to me anymore.”

Time to come ‘home’

At the New York fair, an entire floor was dedicated to Israelis living in the US who have decided to return to the Jewish state. According to several couples approached by The Times of Israel, they were there because it was simply “time to come back home.”

For the Rubenchik family, however, the Trump era was the direct cause of their exploration of their rights and obligations in returning to the Jewish state. After 30 years in the US, Motti Rubenchik compared the new administration with the rise of Nazi Germany. Saying he doesn’t want to repeat historical mistakes, the dentist and his anesthesiologist wife are seriously considering replanting their family’s roots.

Motti and Naomi, who didn’t support either candidate in the presidential elections, said “We couldn’t bring ourselves to vote.” With the rise of Trump, however, Naomi said they are “very frightened.”

“We didn’t think it would come to this,” she said, adding that while they don’t necessarily want to return to Israel, “We don’t have any other place to go.”

Larry and Judy Polsky, a retired couple from Riverdale, New York, whose daughter has lived in Israel since 2009. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

The sentiments expressed by the Rubenchiks were definitely the minority at Sunday’s event, however, which seemed to belie the national stats in which only 30% of Jews voted for Trump.

Most who spoke with The Times of Israel were of a similar mindset as Larry and Judy Polsky, a retired couple from Riverdale whose daughter has lived in Israel since 2009. As they await the birth of their first grandchild, the couple contemplates moving to an Israel that, they said, has a stronger friend in the US with Trump in office.

The Obama administration was very anti-Israel and did “unfixable damage” to Israel with its “disastrous Iran deal,” said Larry, a smiling retired physicist. Trump, on the other hand, “truly will protect Israel,” he said.

It is a fallacy to think the administration is driving people away to Israel, he said. Quite the opposite: Today Jews can feel “especially good” about moving to Israel.

“Trump’s election increases the desire to make aliyah, because now Israel has a future,” said Polsky.

U.S. Jewish NGOs to Get 97% of Homeland Security’s Defense Grant in 2012

Jewish non-profit organizations in the United States will receive 97 percent of the funds granted by the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year 2012, money which is aimed at dealing with security threats those institutions face.

In 2012, Jewish institutions in the U.S. will receive $9.7 million, or 97 percent of the funds intended for dealing with security threats, as part of the Vital Nonprofit Security Grants distributed by the Department of Homeland Security.

In 2009, when the white supremacist James W. von Brunn opened fire at the Washington Holocaust Museum, killing a guard, Jewish NGOs received over $9 million out of $15 million allocated to 227 non-profit organizations, aimed to “bolster the security of nonprofit institutions deemed by the Department of Homeland Security to be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.”

In 2010, Jewish institutions received $15 million of the total sum of $19 million distributed by Homeland Security.

However, in recent years the budget has been shrinking, while the threat level has not changed, resulting in Jewish non-profits – community centers, schools, hospitals, synagogues and charities – primed to receive a record percentage of next year’s non-profit funding.

“I’d gladly trade out threat level not to qualify for these grants,” William Daroff, vice president for Public Policy of The Jewish Federations of North America told Haaretz.
“Any non-profit in the largest urban areas can apply for these grants, and determinations are made solely on the threat level Homeland Security officials assess each institution faces.”

Daroff explained that most of the funds are usually used for the purchase of closed circuit TVs, vehicle barriers and blast proof glass, while a small amount is designated for training.

“In the post-9/11 era it’s clear that Jewish institutions are at an increased threat level, and we are briefed more often than we wish by the local and federal officials on potential threats,” Daroff said, adding that the “threats are there, but it’s always a struggle to ensure funds are there during these times of fiscal hardship, so the lobbying for them is a continuous process.”

Kathy Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, noted that “the Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting at-risk communities. These effective security grants are vital to the ongoing protection of deserving institutions, enabling us to work, worship, gather and learn without fear.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/u-s-jewish-ngos-to-get-97-of-homeland-security-s-defense-grant-in-2012-1.448373

Bannon, in film treatment, described US Jews as “unwitting” enablers of jihad

WASHINGTON — In a treatment describing a documentary on a purported Muslim plan to take over America, Stephen Bannon, now President Donald Trump’s top strategic adviser, described the “American Jewish community” as among unwitting “enablers” of jihad.

Bannon, a former banker who transitioned into a career as an ultranationalist propagandist, culminating in his becoming a top adviser to the Trump campaign, made several right-wing documentaries in the 2000s.

The Washington Post reported Friday on a 2007 proposal for a documentary that was never made called “The Islamic States of America.” It would be comprised of interviews of people who, like Bannon, believe that the threat posed to the West is broader than Islamist extremist terrorists, embracing an array of Muslim advocacy groups.

It describes as “enablers among us” – albeit with the “best intentions” — major media outlets, the CIA and FBI, civil liberties groups, “universities and the left” and the “American Jewish Community.”

It also describes “front groups and disingenuous Muslim Americans who preach reconciliation and dialogue in the open but, behind the scenes, advocate hatred and contempt for the West.”

Among these named by Bannon as “cultural jihadists” are the Islamic Society of North America, a group that had associations with the Muslim Brotherhood at its founding in the 1960s, but in recent years has worked closely with Jewish groups, including in combating anti-Semitism and raising Holocaust awareness among Muslims.

Before joining Trump’s campaign last summer, Bannon helmed Breitbart News, a site that is stridently pro-Israel, but which also has featured white nationalists and which Bannon once described as a platform for the “alt-right,” a loose-knit alliance that includes within it anti-Semites as well as right-wing Jews.

US Jews see ‘tragic irony’ in refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from entering the United States left much of the American Jewish community horrified — particularly as the announcement came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The order — titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” — immediately suspends all refugee resettlement from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days and forbids those from war-ravaged Syria from entering the country indefinitely.

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt vowed in a statement Thursday to “relentlessly fight this policy,” noting “our history and heritage compel us to take a stand.” The ADL, a Jewish civil rights group, monitors and combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry across the globe.

But that was before it was announced, when rumors were circulating that Trump would soon fulfill his controversial campaign pledge, which started as a “Muslim ban” and then morphed into a proposal to halt immigration from territories, particularly in the Middle East, where terror groups have a foothold.

On Saturday, Greenblatt, who has not been shy to speak out against Trump during the US election, noted with revulsion that the presidential executive order was signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, likening it to passengers of the MS St. Louis, a German ship filled with 937 Jewish refugees, who were denied entry into the United States, as well as Cuba and Canada, in 1939.

Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, June 29, 1939. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images/via JTA)

“It’s impossible to ignore, whether intentional or not, the tragic irony in executing the kind of order that kept Jews out of America, like those who perished on the St. Louis and countless others, on the day when we remember the unspeakable tragedy that befell European Jewry and the Jewish people,” he told The Times of Israel.

“The tragic irony of this order being executed on the same day is, at best striking, and sad to see,” he added. “[It is] a policy that is in direct contravention to our core values as a country and all that we’ve learned in the years since the Shoah.”

On Twitter, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union of Reform Jewry, compared the order to the Dred Scott court decision upholding slavery in the antebellum South and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Yesterday’s EO will be remembered with Dred Scott and WWII internment of Japanese Americans as gov actions most antithetical to Amer. values

The AJC also spoke out swiftly against the order, calling it “both unjust and unwarranted” in a Friday statement.

Trump, said the organization’s CEO David Harris, is justified in wanting to assure a secure border that properly vets those who enter the country. But such blanket action is beyond the pale, he indicated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and AJC Executive Director David Harris (right) during a meeting Monday in Israel (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/AJC)

“Blanket suspensions of visas and refugee admission would suggest guilt by association – targeted primarily at Muslims fleeing violence and oppression,” he said. “AJC regards such actions, contrary to international perceptions of a compassionate America and reinforcing anti-Muslim stereotypes, as both unjust and unwarranted.”

Trump’s executive action includes a provision that allows the US to admit refugees on a case-by-case basis during the freeze, as the government will process requests from people claiming religious persecution, but only if the religion of any such individuals is a minority religion in the respective country.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaking at the organization’s Never is Now conference in New York City, Nov. 17, 2016. (Courtesy of the ADL)

Greenblatt found that disturbing.

“It’s impossible not to see this as a broad brush that paints all Muslims from these countries with the same regard,” he said. “All of us are struggling to make sense of a policy that is at odds with the values of our country.”

He said the ADL is preparing a course of action to combat that policy of the Trump administration and will be rolling out its plan this week.

A woman wears a pin during a rally against Muslim immigration ban at San Francisco International Airport on January 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images/AFP)

“We’ll be clarifying that in the coming days,” he said.

B’nai B’rith International said it was “deeply concerned” by the “drastic” plan.

“While we acknowledge the very real threat posed by terrorists who aim to exploit our nation’s humanitarian instincts, a more nuanced and balanced approach to helping those seeking a safe harbor is clearly preferable, and more in keeping with America’s values, than the sweeping ban being imposed by the administration,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a joint statement.

“Our country has a great, though sometimes imperfect, tradition of welcoming those fleeing oppression, persecution and unending civil wars,” they said.

US Jews grapple with election-year eruption of anti-Semitism (VERY VERY VERY GOOD!!!!)

NEW YORK (AP) — American Jews gathered Thursday to wrestle with how they should confront an election-year surge in anti-Semitism, a level of bias not seen in the US for decades.

At a national meeting of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish civil rights group, about 1,000 people listened to talks expressing shock at the hatred expressed during the presidential campaign and questioned what they thought was a high-level of acceptance by other Americans.

“I’m struggling right now in this American moment,” said Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, an education and research organization, in his talk at the event. “I wonder whether I have been — and I think the answer is probably yes — a little bit naive.”

During this past year, anti-Semitic imagery proliferated on social media, Jewish journalists were targeted and longstanding anti-Jewish conspiracy theories got a fresh airing. Much of the bias originated with the alt-right, or alternative right, a loose group espousing a provocative and reactionary strain of conservatism. It’s often associated with far right efforts to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”

In this Wednesday, June 17, 2015 file photo, Jonathan Greenblatt, left, incoming national director for the Anti-Defamation League, talks with Abe Foxman, outgoing director of the ADL, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

In addition to the online intimidation, reports of anti-Semitic vandalism and other attacks have risen. Last week, the day after the election, a Philadelphia storefront was sprayed with a swastika and the words “Sieg Heil 2106,” which means “Hail Victory,” a common Nazi chant, and the word “Trump,” with a swastika replacing the “T.”

These developments have stunned US Jewish leaders, who in recent years had been more focused on anti-Semitism in Europe and on addressing complaints of anti-Jewish bias on college campuses amid the debate over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Graffiti in South Philadelphia, including the word “Trump” and a swastika discovered on a Philadelphia storefront on Nov. 9, 2016. (Facebook via JTA)

In a sign of the depth of American Jewish anxiety about anti-Semitism, ADL officials said donations to their organization increased 50-fold in the days immediately after the election and a large majority of the money came from first-time donors. Every one of their regional offices reported an uptick in calls from people wanting to donate or volunteer, the ADL said.

“We must not be silent, we must raise our voices, we must act, and to act we must understand what we are up against,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of ADL, opening the meeting in Manhattan.

As the presidential race intensified, Jews started seeing their names bracketed with a series of parentheses in harassing tweets, signaling that the person had been identified as a Jew. The image became known as the Jewish cowbell and its source was traced to neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

The ADL investigated the harassment and found more than 800 journalists had suffered anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter during the election, mostly from anonymous Twitter accounts, although some belonged to white supremacists. In a common example of the reporters’ experiences, Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Forward, an influential Jewish newspaper that extensively covered the election, said she received an email the morning after the second presidential debate with an image of a Nazi solder pointing a gun at her head, which was Photoshopped onto a concentration camp uniform.

Donald Trump’s campaign came under scrutiny since much of the harassment came from accounts claiming to support him.

An image tweeted and then deleted by Donald Trump on July 2, 2016 that uses an apparent Star of David to call Hillary Clinton 'the most corrupt candidate ever!' (screen capture: YouTube)

Trump drew direct criticism last July when he tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face with a six-pointed star, a pile of hundred dollar bills and the words “most corrupt candidate ever.” The star was in the shape of the Jewish Star of David and was widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Trump’s campaign said it was a sheriff’s badge.

Last month, Trump gave a speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, in which he accused Clinton of holding secret meetings with bankers in a conspiracy to undermine US sovereignty. The ADL said that whether intentional or not, Trump had reflected a classic anti-Semitic theme of Jewish control of banks.

The president-elect’s daughter Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is now one of his top advisers, are Orthodox Jews. Kushner has defended Trump against allegations of bias.

The issue erupted anew when Trump announced far-right publishing executive Stephen Bannon as his top White House Strategist. Bannon led the Breitbart website, considered by many to be the alt-right’s platform that has been widely condemned as racist, sexist and anti-Semitic. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway called the accusations against Bannon “very unfair.”

President-elect Donald Trump's appointment for senior counselor and chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon looks on during a national security meeting with advisers at Trump Tower, October 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Some Jewish groups have defended Bannon, including the hawkish Zionist Organization of America. Bernie Marcus, a founder of The Home Depot Inc. and board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a statement that Bannon was “a passionate Zionist and supporter of Israel.” Marcus called the condemnations of Bannon an attempt to undermine the incoming administration.

Seventy-one percent of Jewish voters voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, according to exit polls. ADL’s Greenblatt worked in the Obama administration.

Jonathan Sarna at Brandeis University, his undergraduate alma mater and where he has taught for more than 25 years, May 10, 2016 (Uriel Heilman/via JTA)

Still, Jonathan Sarna, a Brandeis University professor and historian of American Judaism, said it would be wrong to attribute the criticisms of Trump appointments or his supporters to partisanship. “I don’t know anybody who is looking at this in a serious way who says nothing has changed,” in regard to the level of anti-Semitism, Sarna said.

“American Jews assumed that anti-Semitism had largely been overcome,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, unexpectedly, anti-Semitism of a virulent kind came roaring back.”

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