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Anti-Semitism and the Mideast
The New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Jews in a Whisper” (column, Aug. 21):
Roger Cohen’s acute depiction of the perpetuation of British anti-Semitism
recalls the description of it in “Trials of the Diaspora,” Anthony Julius’s epic
study of the topic.
“It is not Jew-hatred that we must write of,” Mr. Julius concludes, “but
Jew-distrust ... it is a story of snub and insult, sly whisper and innuendo,
deceit and self-deception.”
But is there not more than a touch of self-deception in Mr. Cohen’s insistence
that “the task” — apparently, the only task — of diaspora Jews is to condemn the
“colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank”?
Even if one shares, as I do, Mr. Cohen’s concerns about the settlements, I would
have thought that if diaspora Jews or others were being assigned tasks vis-à-vis
Israel, a prime one would be to respond to the torrent of calumny, one-sided and
often false, that is directed at that nation on the basis of supposed standards
that are applied to no other nation.
New York, Aug. 21, 2011
The writer, a First Amendment lawyer,
has represented The New York Times.
When Roger Cohen suggests that the lesson Jews should take from British class
consciousness and anti-Semitism is for Israel to end the “colonization” of the
West Bank, he mimics the bigotry he is trying to expose. Does Mr. Cohen believe
that the British will stop whispering when the Israelis stop building
Anti-Semitism, like other forms of bigotry, is based not on what people do, but
on who they are. To suggest otherwise is to blame the victim and ignore history.
KATHERINE L. GURVEY
Lincolnshire, Ill., Aug. 21, 2011
The writer is communications director of Joint Action Committee for
Political Affairs, a bipartisan political action committee dedicated to, among
others, the United States-Israel relationship.
Roger Cohen says Jews should know better: “The lesson is clear: Jews, with their
history, cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people.” His
reference to the plight of the Palestinians is offensive: blaming Israel. He
should know better!
In 1993, Israel gave the Palestinians a chance to have their own country with
the Oslo Accords. The Palestinians responded with suicide bombings and terror.
Israel followed with offers in 2000 and 2008. Palestinians walked away without a
Since Israel won the West Bank from Jordan, the Palestinians’ life expectancy
has increased, their infant mortality has been reduced, and their economy has
prospered. If any fingers need to be pointed, they should be at the Palestinian
Potomac, Md., Aug. 21, 2011
While I applaud Roger Cohen’s call for diaspora Jews to “be vociferous in their
insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank” must
end, I take issue with his opposition to “those who, ignoring sinister
historical echoes, propose ostracizing Israeli academics and embrace an
anti-Zionism that flirts with anti-Semitism.” The movement for boycott,
divestment and sanctions as a means to press Israel to respect human rights and
international law is very specific in not targeting individual Israeli
academics, but rather institutions that collaborate with the Israeli colonial
enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The conflation of criticism of Israel, or Zionism, with anti-Semitism is the
first refuge of the defenders of Israel right or wrong, and is belied by the
active involvement of Jews in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 21, 2011
The writer is a member of the steering committee
of American Jews for a Just
On Anti-Semitism and the Mideast,
Jews in Chicago Feel Safe,
but Are Cautious
October 30, 2010
The New York Times
By RACHEL CROMIDAS
CHICAGO — Even to a block that is arguably one of the safest
and most secure in the country, the news that two parcels containing explosives
were shipped from Yemen and addressed to synagogues or Jewish community centers
in the city gave some residents pause on Saturday.
“I’m not terribly worried — I heard on the 5 o’clock news that we weren’t one of
the synagogues targeted,” said Alan Berger, a Hyde Park resident, as he arrived
for services at KAM Isaiah Israel, a Reform congregation where he serves as
“But the president does live across the street,” said Mr. Berger’s wife, Paula.
“You never know if some crazy will attempt to blow up the people in the
Reports that Chicago-area synagogues or Jewish community centers were likely
targets of a terrorist attack and the return of President Obama to his hometown
this weekend brought attention to the city’s security. But except for having to
negotiate an extra layer of the already tight security in the neighborhood, the
mood was calm among the dozen members of KAM Isaiah Israel, directly across the
street from Mr. Obama’s home in Hyde Park/Kenwood, as prayer services wrapped up
Mr. Berger, 70, said he has planned taking extra time to reach the synagogue
since Mr. Obama’s election, when the route came under regular surveillance by
Chicago police officers and Secret Service agents, who usually stop cars and
pedestrians entering the area.
On Saturday afternoon, more than nine Chicago police cars joined half a dozen
Secret Service vehicles stationed between Ellis and Greenwood Avenues. The
streets around Mr. Obama’s house have been blocked off to pedestrian and car
traffic other than residents since his election, and security is routinely
stepped up when he is in town for an overnight stay. The president returned for
a rally in Hyde Park Saturday evening, his first here since his Election Night
celebration in 2008.
“This is probably the safest place in the country to be today,” said Michael
Rothschild, who was touring the neighborhood with his wife, Judith, on Saturday
morning. “Having Obama’s house right by the synagogue, the odds of this one
being bombed are much less because it is so fortified already.”
Though federal investigators have not publicly identified the two synagogues
that were targets, religious leaders and the local media have speculated that
they were in Lakeview and Rogers Park, both neighborhoods on the city’s far
North Side. The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that KAM Isaiah Israel
was not a target.
Mr. Rothschild, a professor of business at the University of Wisconsin at
Madison who has researched the likelihood of terrorist attacks on the United
States, said the probability of an attack was still too low to deter him from
visiting the president’s neighborhood. “People tend to overweight unusual events
and underweight the things that are ordinary,” he said.
The Chicago Police Department said in a news release on Friday that it was
working with the Department of Homeland Security, the F.B.I. and the Joint
Terrorism Task Force to protect the city and its residents. The police declined
repeated requests for further comment by e-mail and phone Saturday afternoon.
“The Secret Service is paying close attention to information we receive from the
intelligence community at the local, state and national level,” said Ed Donovan,
an agency spokesman. He would not comment on how the agency planned to maintain
security in Chicago during the president’s visit.
Andrea Maremont, 68, a North Side resident and member of Temple Sholom in
Lakeview, said the threat did not worry her, despite her synagogue’s prominence
and location near a lakefront highway. She said it was assumed that her
synagogue was a target, “and we know we have to be on the alert. We just have to
go about our business.”
Rabbi Batsheva Appel of KAM Isaiah Israel echoed the cautious optimism of other
members of the city’s Jewish community as she mingled with worshipers after
“We do have a level of anxiety,” she said. “The news of packages destined for
Chicago synagogues is very sad, but there is not much we can do except be
Jews in Chicago Feel
Safe, but Are Cautious, NYT, 30.10.2010,
Sirens Wail in Memory of Holocaust
April 21, 2009
Filed at 3:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Frenetic Israel came to a standstill for two
mournful minutes on Tuesday as air-raid sirens pierced the air in remembrance of
the 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
Cars came to a halt and people froze in their tracks, many with heads bowed, in
memory of the victims. An official wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem,
Israel's Holocaust memorial, was to follow. In deference to the solemnity of the
day, restaurants, bars and places of entertainment were closed.
Israeli leaders Monday vowed that there would not be a second Holocaust, their
pledges ringing in the shadow of a U.N. conference against racism in Geneva
perceived as anti-Semitic.
At the opening ceremony for the memorial day on Monday night, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the president of Switzerland for meeting Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ahead of the conference. The Iranian leader has
suggested that the Holocaust never happened and has repeatedly called for
Speaking at the U.N.-sponsored racism conference on Monday, Ahmadinejad accused
the West of using the Holocaust as a ''pretext'' for aggression against
''We will not allow the Holocaust deniers to carry out another Holocaust against
the Jewish people. This is the supreme duty of the state of Israel. This is my
supreme duty as prime minister of Israel,'' Netanyahu said, speaking at Yad
Israel boycotted the conference, along with the U.S. and eight other countries.
In research released to coincide with the memorial day, a study by the Stephen
Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel
Aviv University found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide
diminished by 11 percent in 2008 but spiked during Israel's offensive in the
Gaza Strip in January.
The Israeli researchers, working in cooperation with the European Jewish
Congress, noted a theme in anti-Israel demonstrations: equating Israel with Nazi
Germany, with signs incorporating the Israeli star with the Nazi swastika. The
report said the intention was ''to underline that if Nazism, the monster of the
modern era, has no right to exist, then the Jewish state and its supporters,
too, should be eliminated.''
Demographer Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University of Jerusalem calculated
that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the world's Jewish population might have
been more than double what it is now -- 32 million instead of 13 million.
Israel: Sirens Wail in
Memory of Holocaust, NYT, 21.4.2009,
nears record level
17 May 2008
By Emily Dugan
of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain has reached its second-highest level ever,
MPs have been told. Figures from a charity show 547 such incidents were recorded
last year, of which a record 114 were violent assaults.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which works to protect the Jewish community
from persecution, collated the figures by counting every recorded anti-Semitic
assault, threat, act of abuse, mass-produced literature and damage and
desecration of Jewish property across the country.
Just this week, anti-Semitic graffiti was daubed across the pavements and walls
of the orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Stamford Hill in north London. CST say
similar incidents happen in Britain every day.
Mark Gardner, a spokesman for CST, said: "We have over twice as many incidents
being reported to us per annum now than in the 1990s. We're concerned that what
we're seeing is not merely because of a difficult time internationally and in
the Middle East, but that it's becoming more endemic and we're really, really
concerned about that."
Mr Gardner said the usual allies of British Jews fear showing support would
further the Zionist cause. "In the 1990s, when Jews faced attacks from the far
right there was a lot of sympathy from the liberal left establishments, but
today the same voices simply see anti-Semitism as something useful to Zionists.
"Jewish people are feeling increasingly isolated in this struggle as far as
traditional allies are concerned. It's disappointing that people who accept
fears expressed by other minority groups are so quick to slap down fears
expressed by the Jewish community." In a Commons debate on the issue this week,
the Cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda said the number of incidents of
anti-Semitism was worryingly high, and called on the Government to continue to
bear down on the problem. "We do recognise that there is no room for
complacency," said Mr Dhanda. "The number of such incidences in the UK remains
far too high. The Community Security Trust recorded 547 incidents during the
course of 2007. Although this represents an 8 per cent fall over the previous
year, it is still the second-worst actually on record."
Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said
they were "extremely encouraged" by the Government's response. He said
anti-Semitism had been a reality in the Jewish community for years in Britain,
but there had been further signs it was getting worse.
"We know our community buildings have to be secure, and our schools need
security," he said. "The quality of life for Jews here is good, but there are
perceptible changes, such as the graffiti this week. People wearing head
coverings to synagogue on a Saturday morning can feel somewhat vulnerable."
The total of incidents is slightly down on last year's record, but the most
alarming change is the number of these that were violent assaults. This figure
has risen to 114, the highest since CST records began in 1984.
The Conservative MP Paul Goodman said that while many places of worship were
targets for hate crime, synagogues were becoming singularly dangerous. "Only one
religious institution in Britain is under threat to such a degree that those who
attend are advised not to linger outside after worship, namely the synagogue,"
Anti-Semitic violence nears record level,
a Torah as Strong as Its Spirit
April 30, 2008
The New York Times
By JAMES BARRON
The back story of how a Torah got from the fetid barracks of Auschwitz to the
ark of the Central Synagogue at Lexington Avenue and 55th Street is one the
pastor of the Lutheran church down the street sums up as simply “miraculous.”
It is the story of a sexton in the synagogue in the Polish city of Oswiecim who
buried most of the sacred scroll before the Germans stormed in and later renamed
the city Auschwitz. It is the story of Jewish prisoners who sneaked the rest of
it — four carefully chosen panels — into the concentration camp.
It is the story of a Polish Catholic priest to whom they entrusted the four
panels before their deaths. It is the story of a Maryland rabbi who went looking
for it with a metal detector. And it is the story of how a hunch by the rabbi’s
13-year-old son helped lead him to it.
This Torah, more than most, “is such an extraordinary symbol of rebirth,” said
Peter J. Rubinstein, the rabbi of Central Synagogue. “As one who has gone to the
camps and assimilates into my being the horror of the Holocaust, this gives
meaning to Jewish survival.”
On Wednesday, the restored Torah will be rededicated in honor of Holocaust
Remembrance Day, which for more than 20 years the congregation of Central
Synagogue has observed in conjunction with its neighbor, St. Peter’s Lutheran
Church, at Lexington Avenue and 54th Street. The senior pastor, the Rev. Amandus
J. Derr, said that next to Easter, the Holocaust memorial is “the most important
service I attend every year.”
The Torah from Auschwitz “is a very concrete, tactile piece of that remembrance
— of what people, some of whom did it in the name of Christ, did to people who
were Jewish,” Pastor Derr said, “and the remembrance itself enables us to be
prepared to prevent that from happening again.”
A Torah scroll contains the five books of Moses, and observant Jews read a
portion from it at services. Its ornate Hebrew must be hand-lettered by
specially trained scribes, and it is considered unacceptable if any part is
marred or incomplete. For years, Jews around the world have worked to recover
and rehabilitate Torahs that disappeared or were destroyed during the Holocaust,
returning them to use in synagogues.
This Torah remained hidden for more than 60 years, buried where the sexton had
put it, until Rabbi Menachem Youlus, who lives in Wheaton, Md., and runs the
nonprofit Save a Torah foundation, began looking for it about eight years ago.
Over two decades, Rabbi Youlus said, the foundation has found more than 1,000
desecrated Torahs and restored them, a painstaking and expensive process. This
one was elusive. But Rabbi Youlus was determined.
He had heard a story told by Auschwitz survivors: Three nights before the
Germans arrived, the synagogue sexton put the Torah scrolls in a metal box and
buried them. The sexton knew that the Nazis were bent on destroying Judaism as
well as killing Jews.
But the survivors did not know where the sexton had buried the Torah. Others
interested in rescuing the Torah after the war had not found it.
As for what happened during the war, “I personally felt the last place the Nazis
would look would be in the cemetery,” Rabbi Youlus said in a telephone interview
Tuesday, recalling his pilgrimage to Auschwitz, in late 2000 or early 2001, in
search of the missing Torah. “So that was the first place I looked.”
With a metal detector, because, if the story was correct, he was hunting for a
metal box in a cemetery in which all the caskets were made of wood, according to
Jewish laws of burial. The metal detector did not beep. “Nothing,” the rabbi
said. “I was discouraged.”
He went home to Maryland. One of his sons, Yitzchok, then 13, wondered if the
cemetery was the same size as in 1939. They went online and found land records
that showed that the present-day cemetery was far smaller than the original one.
Rabbi Youlus went back in 2004 with his metal detector, aiming it at the spot
where the g’neeza — a burial plot for damaged Torahs, prayer books or other
papers containing God’s name — had been. It beeped as he passed a house that had
been built after World War II.
He dug near the house and found the metal box. But when he opened it, he
discovered the Torah was incomplete. “It was missing four panels,” he said. “The
obvious question was, why would the sexton bury a scroll that’s missing four
panels? I was convinced those four panels had a story themselves.”
They did, as he learned when he placed an ad in a Polish newspaper in the area
“asking if anyone had parchment with Hebrew letters.”
“I said I would pay top dollar,” Rabbi Youlus said. “The response came the next
day from a priest. He said, ‘I know exactly what you’re looking for, four panels
of a Torah.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
He compared the lettering and the pagination, and paid the priest. (How much, he
would not say. The project was underwritten by David M. Rubenstein, a co-founder
of the Carlyle Group. Mr. Rubenstein was tied at No. 165 on the Forbes 400 last
year with a reported fortune of $2.5 billion; in December, he paid $21.3 million
for a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta, a British declaration of human
rights that served as the foundation for the Declaration of Independence and the
The priest “told me the panels were taken into Auschwitz by four different
people,” Rabbi Youlus said. “I believe they were folded and hidden.” One of the
panels contained the Ten Commandments from Exodus, a portion that, when chanted
aloud each year, the congregation stands to hear. Another contained a similar
passage from Deuteronomy.
The priest, who was born Jewish, was himself an Auschwitz survivor. He told
Rabbi Youlus that the people with the four sections of the Torah gave them to
him before they were put to death.
“He kept all four pieces until I put that ad in the paper,” Rabbi Youlus said.
“As soon as I put that ad in the paper, he knew I must be the one with the rest
of the Torah scroll.” (Rabbi Youlus said that the priest has since died.)
Rabbi Youlus said that nearly half the Torah’s lettering needed repair, work
that the foundation has done over the past few years. Thirty-seven letters were
left unfinished: 36, or twice the number that symbolizes “life” in Hebrew, will
be filled in by members of the congregation before the service on Wednesday, the
37th at the ceremony.
Rabbi Youlus called it “a good sturdy Torah, even if it hasn’t been used in 65
years.” The plan is to make it available every other year to the March of the
Living, an international educational program that arranges for Jewish teenagers
to go to Poland on Holocaust Remembrance Day, to march from Auschwitz to its
companion death camp, Birkenau.
“This really is an opportunity to look up to the heavens and say, he who laughs
last, laughs best,” Rabbi Youlus said. “The Nazis really thought they had wiped
Jews off the face of the earth, and Judaism. Here we are taking the ultimate
symbol of hope and of Judaism and rededicating it and using it in a synagogue.
And we’ll take it to Auschwitz. You can’t beat that.”
From Auschwitz, a Torah
as Strong as Its Spirit,
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