The Only Way to Fight Hate

TIME Magazine             November 1. 2018
By Nancy Gibbs

Hate, among all our base instincts, is the most distinctly human. In animals, violence and venom are tools of survival; in humans, of supremacy. Small, scared people hate, self-hating people hate, bullied and betrayed people hate, as though hate will make them large and safe and strong. The twisted writings of this latest class of attackers suggest they felt called to their hatreds as a duty. Robert Bowers allegedly blamed Jews for their outreach to refugees and vowed to repel “invaders” moving north through Central America as he set off to the synagogue: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” an account matching his name posted, like a martyr dispatched to a massacre. Accused mail bomber Cesar Sayoc stalked George Soros, the billionaire Holocaust survivor and Democratic donor, who conspiracy theorists claimed was funding that invasion–never mind that those armed invaders were nearly a thousand miles away and the main thing in their arms was their children. “Whites don’t kill whites,” a witness quoted Gregory Bush as saying; he was arrested in the murders of two black shoppers at a Kentucky grocery store, allegedly having failed to get into a predominantly black church nearby.

We’re having a master class on hate because we’ve no choice; it has moved from the part of our character we work hardest to suppress to the part we can least afford to ignore. Hate slipped its bonds and runs loose, through our politics, platforms, press, private encounters. And the further it travels, the stronger it grows. People unaccustomed to despising anyone, ever, find themselves so frightened or appalled by what they see across the divide that they are prepared to fight it hand to hand. Calls for civility are scorned as weak, a form of unilateral disarmament. President Trump calls for unity in the same breath that he undermines it, demonizing adversaries, minimizing threats, trivializing trauma. He didn’t consider canceling a political rally out of respect for the slain; he considered it, he said, because he was having a bad hair day.

So much attention is paid to the President’s lies that we can miss his radical honesty. He didn’t see any need to call the former Presidents in the wake of assassination attempts; “I think we’ll probably pass,” he said. That mail-bomb spree was a shame, he argued, because it slowed Republicans’ midterm momentum. His tweets of sympathy for the victims of the synagogue shooting were followed by color commentary on the World Series. The solution to such shootings, he suggested, was to bring back the death penalty: How better to fight violence than with more violence? And if there is a rising of dark and dangerous forces in the land, he believes, it means that “the Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”

Likewise, the evidence of his utter lack of empathy belies his great gift and political advantage–this ability he has to sense our darkest instincts and call to them, coax them out of hiding, when we’d much prefer not to see them at all. Of all the norms he violates, this is among the most disturbing: that Americans will always seek leaders who lift us up and bring us together rather than drag us down and tear us apart. Make America Great Again has been a brilliant, aspirational slogan for the resentful and aggrieved; but that road to greatness turns out to run through the smoking wreckage of institutions, values and national honor. Gone is the joy that comes from political battle that is not a fight to the death. When politics becomes blood sport, people actually die.

Students from the Yeshiva School pay their respects as the funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz passes their school in Pittsburgh on Oct. 30.
Students from the Yeshiva School pay their respects as the funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz passes their school in Pittsburgh on Oct. 30.   Gene J. Puskar—AP/Shutterstock
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Here then is the challenge: our normal responses aren’t working. The spread of conspiracy theories as the “real truth” at least presumes that truth matters, even as the theories undermine it. Social networks designed to connect friends turn out to be expertly designed to create enemies. Fact-checking makes no difference; tribes trump truth. When reporters try to hold the President accountable for inflaming the hatred, he attacks them for bias, for fueling division. When partisans on the left call for fighting fire with fire, they validate the tactics that debase our discourse.

Caught in the cross fire is a public not so much enraged as exhausted, at a loss to explain or escape the ugly, intellectually barren fever swamps that now pass for our public square. Conspiracy theories flourish as a substitute for the hard work of actual knowledge. They grant those who embrace them a shortcut to superiority: average people believe what they hear on the evening news or read in the papers, but you are smarter, you know better, you see the patterns and plots behind these events, the “globalists” pulling the strings, the “deep state” undermining your mission. You can’t be fooled, you won’t be puppets, you know better, you know the truth.

So what to do? The most eloquent politicians who warn of the toll this is taking are mainly the ones departing the scene. Where will we find moral leaders in an age of abdication, when “elites” of all kinds are suspect, whether teachers or preachers or scientists or scholars?

If our past is a guide and comfort, it comes from where it always comes from. Look left, look right, not up or down. Leadership lies with the spirit of the Tree of Life synagogue, where victims included the dentist who offered his services at the free clinic, the brothers who had “not an ounce of hate in them,” as their rabbi said at their funeral, the couple married there more than 60 years ago, all mourned by the thousands who came out to stand vigil in silent solidarity. It lies with the postal workers going about their work even as more mail bombs turned up, and the neighbors in Kentucky who, in the wake of the grocery-store shootings, held a community meeting to discuss race and violence.

If the opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference, then the antidote to hate is engagement. It comes from the people who spent the weekend knocking on doors and staffing phone banks to get out the vote on Election Day. From the enterprise of technologists looking for ways to drain some of the toxins from our information streams. From employees who are letting their bosses know what kind of humane, sustainable culture they expect in one of the richest countries on earth. From church groups and civic clubs and marchers raising money for clothing drives or breast-cancer research or tree plantings. From teachers staying after school to tutor and coaches teaching their players about the difference between an opponent and an enemy, so they can take that wisdom with them into a public space that feels less like a sport than a war. Leadership will come from uncountable individual decisions to model kindness, to fight alienation, to get offline and into the streets or the classroom or the sanctuary and help someone in trouble.

This much is clear. Whatever happens on Tuesday, no one is coming to save us. We’ll have to do this ourselves.

Nancy Gibbs, a former writer and editor in chief at TIME, is Visiting Edward R. Murrow professor, Harvard Kennedy School. She is the co-author, along with Michael Duffy, of two best-selling presidential histories: The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity and The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House.

This appears in the November 12, 2018 issue of TIME.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 5, 2018 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Are U.S. Jews Still More Safe Than the Jews of Europe?

Dear Friends,

We are very pleased to share the excellent article below with you which was written by our Tikkun Olam Award recipient #31.
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Harriet and Bill
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Are U.S. Jews Still More Safe Than the Jews of Europe?

The last two years have seen extreme right-wing views entering the mainstream, including a militant strain of white nationalism. But until the unprecedented Pittsburgh synagogue hate crime, I would have said U.S. Jews lived unthreatened lives relative to Europe. Now, that’s changed.
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Haaretz      November 5, 2018
By Alvin Rosenfeld
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A police officer stands guard outside Temple Sinai before Friday evening Shabbat services on November 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A police officer stands guard outside Temple Sinai before Friday evening Shabbat services on November 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaAFP

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The murderous attack on Jews at prayer in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, on October 27, put a bloody exclamation point behind an already growing sense of unease in today’s America.
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Over the past two years, the entry into the country’s mainstream of extreme right-wing views, including a militant strain of white nationalism, made clear that the social and political climate was changing, and not for the better.
No one, however, expected a crazed gunman shouting “all Jews must die” to enter a synagogue on a normal Shabbat morning and carry out the worst massacre of Jews in American history. While it is still too soon to assess all of the implications of this horrific event, anti-Semitism is sure to be on Jewish minds and, very likely, on the minds of others, too, as we approach the midterm Congressional elections.
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Until this unprecedented hate crime, most American Jews of this generation, if asked, would say that they typically go about their daily lives without encountering overt antagonism.
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In earlier decades, however, American Jews experienced varying degrees of discrimination and exclusion. A hard-edged anti-Semitism was a prominent part of the public discourse of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and during these years Jews were frequently accused of disloyalty, economic profiteering, and war-mongering.
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Acts of aggression against individual Jews and Jewish institutions have also occurred over the years and continue to this day, with frequent reports of assaults on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and elsewhere.
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The United States has hardly been free of anti-Semitism, yet most American Jews have long felt generally accepted, are fully integrated in virtually all strata of American life, and believe themselves to be secure and at home in the United States.
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Well before the Pittsburgh shootings, though, recent events had begun to rattle these feelings of safety and belonging. Anti-Jewish hostility has been on the upsurge globally since the turn of the millennium, and Jews everywhere have begun to feel more vulnerable.
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Members and supporters of the Jewish community come together for a candlelight vigil for victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in front of the White House,  Washington, DC. October 27, 2018The Jewish community and allies come together for a candlelight vigil for victims of the synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. White House, D.C. October 27, 2018AFP

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The Anti-Defamation League’s most recent report reveals that 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents took place in the U.S. in 2017 – a 57 percent increase over the previous year’s total. Most involved vandalism and verbal abuse and not physical assaults.
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Compared to the situation in European countries, where physical attacks against Jews, some of them lethal, are far more common, it had long been thought that the situation in America has been relatively safe. Nevertheless, given the uptick in anti-Semitism in both word and deed and the general sense of tension and confrontation in today’s highly polarized American society, there is need for increased protection – a need that is sure to increase dramatically in the aftermath of Pittsburgh.
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In response, a newly extended defense organization, Community Security Services, has already trained some 4,000 Jewish volunteersto protect synagogues and other Jewish institutions in America. That number is now sure to grow.
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Beyond these problems, manifestations of anti-Jewish hostility have become evident in extreme segments of the political right, the political left, and political Islam. The first of these now seems especially threatening.
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The public displays of hard-right, white supremacist, and anti-Semitic fervor that culminated in the infamous rally of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and others in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017 came as a shock. Many Americans looked on with a deepening sense of dismay, which was compounded when President Trump remarked that there were “very fine people” on both sides of that violent event.
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File photo: White nationalists march in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.File photo: White nationalists march in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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One wondered if it was an aberrant, one-off happening or heralded the revival of re-energized passions on the extreme right.
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A second rally held one year after the Charlottesville gathering attracted only a small handful of supporters, though, so it seemed to many  that the “alt-right,” a loose collection of diverse, counter-cultural types on the reactionary right, had for now retreated mostly to its previous online existence.
But the Pittsburgh assault signaled that not everyone would be satisfied with a merely virtual anti-Semitic existence somewhere in cyberspace. Robert Bowers, a previously unknown Jew-hating activist, his head full of delusional notions about non-existent Jewish threats, decided it was time to “go in.” He did just that and, guns blazing, took the lives of 11 innocent Jews.
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Ominously, and in another sphere of public life, several extreme figures, including Holocaust deniers and openly declared anti-Semites, are running for local, state, and national office, mostly as Republicans, in several U.S. states.
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The most notorious of these is Arthur Jones, an avowed white supremacistanti-Semite, and former leader of the American Nazi party, who is on the ticket as the uncontested Republican candidate for a Congressional seat in Illinois’ third district.
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Add to all of the above a widespread sense of disquiet about some of President Trump’s more extreme America First policies, as well as his often incendiary  rhetoric, some of it bound to fuel a growing intolerance and even xenophobia among groups within the country, and the situation worsens. Factor in as well America’s pervasive gun culture, and the potential for still more violence becomes obvious.
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In addition, an increasingly hostile scene for Jewish students on some U.S. college campuses, anti-Semitic exhortations issuing from imams in a number of American mosques, Louis Farrakhan’scontinuing preaching against “Satanic Jews,” and the frequent appearance of swastikas and other signs of anti-Jewish hatred make it understandable why many American Jews are feeling concerns  they have not previously known.
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Older Americans may recall when rabid anti-Semitic propaganda was widely disseminated in the years of Father Coughlin and the Christian Front, Henry Ford and “The International Jew”, and the swastika epidemic of 1959-60. For most younger Americans, though, today’s toxic rhetoric and the violence that can accompany it are new and alarming.
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Until the murders at the Tree of Life synagogue, it would have been safe to say that compared to the situation of Jews living in European countries, most American Jews live unthreatened lives. The America they have long known as stable and hospitable, however, is in a phase of social, political, and ideological tumult, in which extreme views of many kinds have come prominently to the fore. Anti-Semitism flourishes in such an unsettled climate, as do other kinds of racial, ethnic, and religious hostility.
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Just how this troubled sense of things will accompany voters to the ballot box remains to be seen, but it should not be discounted as a factor in how people of all faiths, or none, and particularly Jews, will vote.
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Alvin H. Rosenfeld is Professor of English and holds the Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies at Indiana University, where he is also Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary anti-Semitism at Indiana University. He is the editor of Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives (Indiana University Press, 2013) and Deciphering the New Antisemitism (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2015)

November 5, 2018 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

Trump Needs to Demilitarize His Rhetoric

White nationalists at a march ahead of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11, 2017White nationalists at a march ahead of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11, 2017.STEPHANIE KEITH / REUTERS

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Anti-Semitism reared its ugly head this Sabbath in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. The 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers walked into Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire on congregants as he yelled out, “All Jews must die!” Bowers is so far to the right and so addled by hatred that he has refused to support President Donald Trump on the grounds that he is “controlled by Jews.”
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Speaking to reporters shortly after the shooting, Trump expressed his condolences and said, “You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age, but we just don’t seem to learn from the past.”
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But the president can’t really be so surprised. He has been warned repeatedly about the dangers of tolerating white nationalism even as he has borrowed language from anti-Semitic propaganda.
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When the president has played in this sandbox for political purposes, he has been playing with fire. Although American Jews has never experienced the same level of virulent, state-sanctioned aggression as European Jews have, anti-Semitism has never been absent in this country. Like their analogues abroad, populist American leaders in the 19th century told their followers that Jewish bankers posed a threat to the security of hardworking Americans. Images of Jews with big noses and crooked faces were commonplace in political cartoons. When more than 1.7 million Eastern European Jews arrived in the country at the turn of the 20th century, they encountered nativist organizations that fought for federal restrictions on immigration.
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In perhaps the most famous American anti-Semitic incident of the last century, a mob in 1915 stormed a Georgia prison to seize the Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who had been falsely accused of murdering a 13-year-old Christian girl. They lynched him.
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The most famous American anti-Semite may have been the automobile giant Henry Ford, who published a newspaper in the 1920s, The Dearborn Independent, that served as an outlet for anti-Semitic propaganda. Ford once wrote that there was a “Jewish plan to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, not by governmental subjugation, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange.” A close second to Ford was the aviator Charles Lindbergh, the spokesman for the America First Committee, which opposed U.S. entry into World War II. Another contender was the wildly popular “radio priest” Father Charles Coughlin, who railed against “world Jewish domination.”
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Anti-Semitism manifested itself at every level of society and across the country. In the South, the Ku Klux Klan also targeted Jews as it went after African Americans. Jews “procured” young women to “enhance their own monetary interests,” the Klan stated in the 1920s. In Dorchester, Massachusetts, Irish Catholic gangs in the 1940s roved the streets in “Jew Hunts” that culminated in physical assaults. Even as Jews started to break into certain industries, such as entertainment, in the 1930s and ’40s, they confronted tight restrictions that kept them out of law firms, medical professions, universities and colleges, fraternities, hotels, country clubs, and more. One hotel boasted in an advertisement, “No Hebrews or tubercular guests received.” Elite institutions of higher learning such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton imposed strict quotas on how many Jews they would admit. The application for Sarah Lawrence College asked, “Has your daughter been brought up to strict Sunday observance?” Like African Americans, Jews were subject to restrictive real-estate covenants that prevented “Hebrews” from living in particular neighborhoods.
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Much of the Jewish community prospered, securing middle-class jobs across a number of industries and settling into the growing suburban communities of postwar America. Jewish synagogues and civic institutions sprouted up in almost every region of the country. Federal and state legislation outlawed residential and employment discrimination. The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Benjamin Epstein, called this era the “golden age” for American Jews. The Jewish community was elated when in 1965 Vatican II adopted a version of the “Nostra Aetate,” which rescinded the charge that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.
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But anti-Semitism did not disappear from American life. Anti-Semitic rhetoric was intertwined with anti-communist rhetoric during the Cold War era. The Democratic Congressman John E. Rankin of Mississippi proclaimed that the issue of the era was “Yiddish Communism versus Christian civilization.” Anti-Semitism and racism also went hand in hand. When Rabbi Abraham Heschel joined Martin Luther King Jr. to march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, he was dismayed to see banners that read: “Koons, Kikes, and Niggers Go Home!”
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Anti-Semitism has continued to crop up on the right side of the political spectrum. In 1990, the America First pundit and future presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan blamed Operation Desert Storm on “the Israeli defense ministry and its ‘amen corner’ in the United States.” But anti-Semitism has also stained the left. Just recently, the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has been making hateful comments about Jews since the early 1980s, warned supporters of “Satanic Jews who have infected the whole world with poison and deceit.” On college campuses in particular, criticism of Israel has sometimes veered into anti-Semitism.
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But if anti-Semitism in the U.S. is nothing new, it’s still shocking to hear coded language—whatever the intention—come from the very top. Despite having a daughter, a son-in-law, and grandchildren who are Jewish, Trump has dabbled in anti-Semitic rhetoric. In April 2013, seeking to criticize The Daily Show, he tweeted: “I promise you that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz—I mean Jon Stewart @TheDailyShow.” As a candidate in 2016, he retweeted messages from anti-Semitic supporters and refused to clearly distance himself from the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. He embraced the label of America First, which carries obvious anti-Semitic resonances, and tweeted out a photograph of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David and in front of piles of money, with text that read: “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
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Just days after Trump was warned about the anti-Semitic implications of a speech alleging a globalist conspiracy, his campaign ran an ad showing images of three Jews—the billionaire philanthropist George Soros; the then-chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen; and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. In the voice-over, Trump said, “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interest, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.” That line about “the levers of power,” whatever his intentions, was darkly reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
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After Trump became president, the situation did not improve. The so-called alt-right, which includes anti-Semitic groups, was pleased to see the head of their preferred platform, Breitbart News, have a seat in the Oval Office through adviser Steve Bannon. In January 2017, the White House’s official message on Holocaust Remembrance Day did not mention Jews or anti-Semitism. The worst moment occurred when Trump refused to come down hard and decisively against the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 chanting, “The Jews will not replace us!”
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In recent weeks, the president has used Soros—increasingly a boogeyman in anti-Semitic conspiracy circles—as a major foil. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearings, he tweeted out a message claiming that the opposition to his nominee was being “paid for by Soros and others.”
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It’s not just the head of the Republican Party who’s crossing the line. A Republican congressional candidate in Illinois, Arthur Jones, once called the Holocaust an “international extortion racket.” The National Republican Congressional Committee released an ad in Minnesota that depicts Soros as a puppet master, standing over piles of cash, causing social unrest and “owning” Democrat Dan Feehan.
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More generally, Trump and the GOP’s hard-line anti-immigration policies plug into a long history of white nationalism. By fanning the flames of one form of hatred, nativist xenophobia, they unintentionally but no less inevitably fan the flames of anti-Semitism as well.
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In this environment, it’s no surprise that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. From January to September 2018, 50 anti-Semitic attacks were reported in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Two new studies, one by the Anti-Defamation League and another by the Columbia University professor Jonathan Albright, found that the number of anti-Semitic posts have increased on Instagram and Twitter. One frequent target has been the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or hias, which has been lobbying for the admission of refugees. Connecting the dots between his pathologies, hours before the shooting, Robert D. Bowers posted online: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
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Some segments of the Jewish community have been silent in the face of these developments, perhaps because they believe that the GOP, and Trump in particular, are strong advocates for Israel and of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
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After the massacre in Pittsburgh, Trump suggested that American synagogues hire armed guards with assault weapons. Rather than militarizing prayer, Trump should demilitarize his rhetoric. His language has been a kind of ammunition.
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Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/americas-long-history-anti-semitism/574234/ 

November 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

With Shabbat, Pittsburgh begins to heal a week after the Tree of Life massacre

By Moriah Balingit and Kellie Gormly

Washington Post           November 3, 2018

PITTSBURGH — They gathered in the shuttered street Friday, just as the sun began dipping toward the horizon. Men and women, in the shadow of the imposing concrete facade of Tree of Life, stood beyond the yellow police tape that still surrounds the building.
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Here, underneath a stoplight and amid the din of traffic, they turned to the east — toward Israel — and began their prayers.
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This group wanted to ensure that these evening prayers, which marked the start of Shabbat, continued at Tree of Life, even if the bloodstained sanctuary remains a crime scene, a place where 11 people seeking the solace of morning services had instead met their deaths.
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“When you went to the funerals, you heard how dedicated they were to Shabbat,” said Sam Weinberg, principal of the Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh. He reached out to his students to gather here for Shabbat prayers, and many of them came, some donning yarmulkes in Steelers black and gold.
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“It would have been a shame not to have them here,” he said.
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Across the city on Friday night, the ritual repeated itself in homes and in synagogues.
It has been a week since a man burst into this synagogue in the heart of the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, killing some of the most dedicated congregants and shaking the sense of security for Jews worshiping across the country. But even as Tree of Life remained cordoned off, and even as victims remained in the hospital, people lit Shabbat candles, prayed, shared food and attempted to reclaim a sense of peace.

Myriam Gumerman, 69, right, reads a prayer as she joins with her daughter, Karen Kantz, center, and friend, Machiel Keestra, left, as they celebrate the Shabbat with her at her home on Friday. (Justin Merriman/For The Washington Post)
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About a mile away, at the home of 69-year-old Myriam Gumerman, an eclectic crowd gathered to observe Shabbat. There was her friend Elkhaili Oumallal, a 35-year-old community college student and translator, whom she had befriended as a passenger in his Uber. Oumallal is Muslim and Gumerman is Jewish, but both were raised in Morocco.
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Then there were her neighbors: a Jewish couple from Amsterdam and a Christian couple — Anne Curtis and Tim Clark — who has lived in the neighborhood for more than four decades.
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For Curtis, the dinner was an extension of the Pittsburgh concept of “nebby,” local slang that means “nosy,” but also conveys a sense of concern for neighbors. In the days since the shooting, she has been calling and texting neighbors to ensure they were safe.
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“The core is we take care of each other,” Curtis said.
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To read more and view 76 image photo gallery CLICK HERE

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Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/at-the-start-of-shabbat-pittsburgh-begins-to-heal/2018/11/02/9e164bd2-df09-11e8-b732-3c72cbf131f2_story.html?utm_term=.95f35a4cf8bc

November 4, 2018 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

Email From Polish Ambassador to Switzerland

Dear Friends,
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If you have any information on the issues noted in the email below, we would appreciate receiving your input. In addition, please share his email with individuals and organizations you think may have some relevant knowledge.
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Thank you for your time and consideration,
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Harriet and Bill

 

From: Kumoch Jakub <Jakub.Kumoch@msz.gov.pl>
To: HaitiHolocaust@aol.com <HaitiHolocaust@aol.com>
Cc: jeffrey cymbler <jkcymbler@gmail.com>; Uszyński Jędrzej <jedrzej.uszynski@msz.gov.pl>; Markus Blechner <polconsul.zurich@gmail.com>
Sent: Mon, Oct 29, 2018 2:44 am
Subject: Forged Haitian passports from Berne, Switzerland

Dear Sir/ Madam,
 
I’ve recently found your website dedicated to the rescue of Jewish people by the Government of Haiti, which I find very interesting.
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Let me introduce myself. I’m Polish Ambassador to Switzerland and for many months my diplomats and I have been conducting a broad research into the so-called Latin American papers from Berne, Switzerland. The passports of Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti and Peru which indeed helped rescue around 1,5 thousand human lives during the Holocaust, were products of what we called Bernese Grouphttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernese_Group , a clandestine network of Jewish organizations and Polish diplomats in Berne. I am sure you will find interesting the document in attachment – it’s the minutes of interrogation of Abraham Silberschein. He explains how he acquired a number of Haitian passports from the honorary consul of Haiti in Switzerland. We have also localized other documents, among others, the response of Haiti to the Polish and American requests to recognize the documents issued to our Jewish citizens.
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But first of all we’ve been working on the full list of Survivors. What interests us is Haitian passports forged in Berne in 1943.Unfortunately we know only fifty names of people who were in possession of such passports. In our researches we’ve been co-operating with many Jewish historians and Survivors and we’ve been supported i.a. by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial Museum. 

Best regards,

 
 
Jakub Kumoch, PhD
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
Phone: +41 31 358 0240, fax: +41 31 358 0216
http://intranet/userfiles/image/Cz%C5%82onkostwo%20Polski%20w%20RB%20ONZ/1.poland.podstawowy%20-%20mniejszy.png
 
This message (including attachments) is the property of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and may contain important and/or privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient or have received this message by mistake, please notify the sender immediately and delete this message. Any unauthorized copying, disclosure or distribution of the material in this message is prohibited. 
 

November 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

NYT: The Nazi Downstairs: A Jewish Woman’s Tale of Hiding in Her Home

A search for a lost masterpiece uncovered a woman’s harrowing account of escaping deportation, and possibly death, while spying on a Nazi at close range.

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Elsa Koditschek’s home in Vienna was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940. 
She later secretly moved back in. 
Credit via Sotheby’s
 

Elsa Koditschek was living in a prosperous section of Vienna, near the foothills of the Alps, when the Nazis, who had annexed Austria, confiscated her home in 1940. A German officer, a squad leader in the SS, soon moved in.

Mrs. Koditschek, a Jew, was allowed to stay on, in an upstairs apartment, a tenant in her own house for about a year, until a deportation edict arrived ordering her to a bleak, uncertain future in a Polish ghetto. She fled instead, leaving behind her life’s possessions including the only major artwork she had ever purchased, a landscape by Egon Schiele.
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For years, she hid in the homes of non-Jewish friends, according to an account she gave in dozens of letters written during and after the war. But she was ultimately desperate enough to seek refuge in the house the Nazis had seized from her, sneaking back in to live there in secrecy and silence with an upstairs tenant.
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From there, she spied on the SS officer, Herbert Gerbing, watching through a window as he sat in the garden with his family. Probably unbeknown to her, while she hid upstairs, he was helping with the deportation of Jews across Europe.
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Who would think I would find myself sharing a roof with an SS officer?” she wrote later in a letter to her son, Paul, who had moved to New York years earlier.
Egon Schiele’s “City in Twilight (The Small City II),” painted in 1913, was owned by Mrs. Koditschek.  Credit via Sotheby’s

Mrs. Koditschek’s Schiele was ultimately sold during the war, while she struggled to survive, and it has been sold several times since.

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But her letters, handwritten on onionskin and intact after having been carefully packed away in a relative’s basement, helped the Koditschek family and researchers at Sotheby’s piece together the provenance of the painting. So this fall in New York, when it goes up for auction with an estimated value of $12 million to $18 million, Mrs. Koditschek’s heirs will share in the proceeds with its current owners.

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“It’s so unusual to have a victim of Nazi theft or expropriation who writes everything down,” Lucian Simmons, the worldwide head of restitution at Sotheby’s, said. “Usually you’re trying to join the dots, but the dots are far apart.

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“Mentions of the Schiele painting in the letters buttressed the provenance research by Mr. Simmons, who had approached the family in 2014 after independently finding indications that it had lost an important painting during the war. What followed were several years of negotiation with the current owners of the Schiele, Europeans who had bought it in the 1950s, that led to an agreement that will govern the sale next month of the work, “City in Twilight (The Small City II)” painted in 1913.

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“It’s an important painting with a wonderful revolutionary abstract form,” Mr. Simmons said.

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Perhaps more remarkable than the painting is the tale that accompanies it: the account of woman made vagabond by the Nazis who ended up returning to the very house from which she had been evicted, and living out the war there, just feet above one of her persecutors. Mrs. Koditschek survived the war, and related her account in many letters to her son, who died in 1974. But he seldom discussed those experiences in any detail, so relatives have only recently begun to unravel Mrs. Koditschek’s history by sifting through the correspondence. (Sotheby’s provided translations of excerpts from the letters.)

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Their tone deepens as events evolve, according to Sarah Whites-Koditschek, a great-granddaughter, and turns grim in 1941 when the deportation order arrives. At that point, Ms. Whites-Koditschek said, “She’s just writing about whether she can find any way to escape.”

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To read more CLICK HERE
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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/arts/the-nazi-downstairs-a-jewish-womans-tale-of-hiding-in-her-home.html
 
 

October 17, 2018 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

Update on Fascism by Yale Prof. of Philosophy

Dear Friends,

We think you will agree this five minute video op-ed by Yale Professor Jason Stanley is of special interest because of the insights and conclusions.
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CLICK HERE to watch.
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Best,

Harriet and Bill

New York Times Opinion

When fascism starts to feel normal, we’re all in trouble.

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By Jason Stanley
The author is a professor of philosophy at Yale University.
  • Oct. 15, 2018
While calling President Trump a fascist may seem like an exaggeration, it might not be that far from the truth. Should we be worried? Jason Stanley has spent the past decade studying fascism, from Mussolini to Duterte. In this video op-ed, he argues that yes, we should be worried: If Americans are not vigilant, fascism could become a new reality in the United States.
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Jason Stanley (@jasonintrator) is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. He recently published a book, “How Fascism Works.”
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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/opinion/fascists-leaders-america-trump.html
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October 16, 2018 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment

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