Cleveland Jewish News: Jewish community, Pennsylvania governor reflect one year after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
The Cleveland Jewish News included B'nai B'rith's Pittsburgh Healing Fund in its coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Almost a year since the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Jewish community has continued to offer reflections on the deadliest attack in American Jewish history.
“We observe on Sunday the anniversary of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, in which 11 innocent people were murdered simply because they were Jews,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in a statement. “We mourn the lives lost and the senseless carnage wrought one year ago. We stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those killed and injured, and the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community.”
“This tragedy ended the age of innocence for American Jewry. It can no longer be said that we are immune to the pandemic of anti-Semitism,” the statement continued. “We must learn from this tragedy and work to prevent further occurrences. Security at all communal institutions including synagogues, schools and centers must be enhanced while we maintain them as inviting and open facilities.”
The organization added, “As we mark this solemn occasion, words and condolences are not enough. There must be action from all sectors of government and society. Jews and non-Jews alike must unite against anti-Semitism in all its forms, at home and abroad, if the increasingly urgent threat of global Jew-hatred is to be confronted.”
B’nai B’rith International has raised money for its Pittsburgh Healing Fund and will be distributing the funds towards mental-health support for survivors and a program to assist first responders, including organizations such as the Jewish Family and Children Services of Pittsburgh.
The B’nai B’rith fund will also support a program to assist first responders.
“All Americans, including American Jews, have the right to expect our centers of worship to be safe havens where we can connect at once with our fellow faithful and the Divine,” said the Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement. “It brings us great sadness that after that terrible day, so many Jews no longer feel safe in these precious and sacred gathering places.”
“Things have gotten worse, not better, since Pittsburgh. We will continue to fight this rising tide, partnering with our allies in law enforcement, education, the clergy and government,” continued SWC. “But what is most needed is the involvement of good-hearted people in every city, town, church and school who recognize the manifestations of anti-Semitism, both obvious and subtle, and are willing to speak up and say: No, not here, not with our children, not in our community.”
Responding to calls for more safety provisions, Pennsylvania state lawmakers included $3.2 million in funding and expanded safety opportunities for at-risk schools in the FY 2019-20 budget. Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to fund security personnel at nonpublic schools through the Safe Schools Targeted Grant Program and now, nearly five years later, the Commonwealth has expanded safety provisions to include security equipment and programs grants.
The police officers who were wounded in the shooting, who have since been back at work, have expressed appreciation to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community for its support.
’We need to stop violence using every tool possible’
“It’s difficult to believe a year as passed since the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue,” Gov. Tom Wolf told JNS. “I’ve carried sorrow for the victims, their families and the community as I sought to understand why this heinous attack occurred and how we can prevent anything like it from ever occurring again.”
Wolf honored the shooting’s victims last month while visiting Auschwitz in Poland, where he wrote their names in the memorial site’s guestbook. He also went to the Holocaust memorial in the Lithuanian town of Paneriai, where 70,000 Jews were killed. At each site, the governor carried the mezuzah that was on the office door of Tree of Life rabbi Jeffrey Myers.
The ornate mezuzah snapped when police broke down the door of the synagogue in their rescue efforts and to stop the suspect, Robert Bowers. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
Wolf has signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 27 as an official day of remembrance, ordering state flags to half-staff one year after the attack. While state flags will be at half-staff, the U.S. flag will remain at full-staff.
“The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue revealed hate here in Pennsylvania. We need to do everything we can to stop it before it grows,” said Wolf. “We need to work together to prevent Pennsylvanians from being attacked due to bigotry, and we need to stop violence using every tool possible. That includes everything from programs supporting tolerance to legislation preventing future shootings.”
The synagogue has announced that it will reopen and continue to use the building as a place of worship. It will also utilize the space for classrooms, exhibits, social events and include a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the mass shooting.
A date for the reopening has yet to be set. The building has not been in use since the shooting.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman's letter to the principal of an Australian school where a Jewish student recently became the target of anti-Semitic bullying.
Two separate antisemitic incidents involving children in Melbourne are shocking the Australian Jewish community, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
In one incident, a five-year-old boy was harassed for weeks by other children in his school’s bathrooms. The child, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, was attending the Hawthorn West Primary School.
According to the report, he was chased continuously to the bathroom and laughed at for being circumcised, to the point that he started to wet himself in class rather than using the toilet. He was also addressed with expressions such as “Jewish cockroach.”
In an interview with The Australian Jewish News, the mother of the boy said that after behaving strangely for months, one morning he burst out crying over breakfast.
A 12-year-old Jewish student was forced to kneel down and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate, while a five-year-old boy was allegedly called a "Jewish cockroach" and repeatedly hounded in the school toilets.
“He literally fell down on the floor,” his mother told The AJN, “and said, ‘Mummy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless Jewish rodent. I’m vermin."
Although the school acknowledged the bullying, they did not treat it as an antisemitic incident.
“While school staff were not able to substantiate that any negative interactions were antisemitic in nature, on the basis of those investigations, school staff identified an incident that involved children laughing at [the boy],” the North-West Victoria Department of Education director Barbara Crowe told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This was not acceptable and would have been an unpleasant experience for [the boy]. I am sorry that this occurred.”
In a separate incident, a 12-year-old was forced to kiss a Muslim classmate’s feet in a public park under the threat of being beaten by several other boys. The incident was filmed and the images circulated widely online.
The child was attending Cheltenham Secondary College in Victoria. According to the report, no action has been taken by the school against the group of Muslim boys involved, because the incident did not happen on the school’s premises.
However, the parents of the student who presented his feet to be kissed were described as “horrified” by their son’s behavior.
Both boys were withdrawn from their respective schools.
B'nai Brith International President Charles Kaufman wrote a letter to the school principal of Cheltenham Secondary College, expressing his disappointment in the response to the incident. "Somehow you find the hurling of vile anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse against a 12-year-old Jewish student as mere bullying, an isolated incident," Kaufman wrote. "Somehow you feel powerless to do anything about this shameful act because the incident occurred off campus.
"Are these nine students enrolled in your school?" he asked. "If so, you have an ethical and professional responsibility, if not a legal one, to address this matter with the students and their parents."
He concluded by stating that "B’nai B’rith International condemns this hateful, criminal assault. If you sit and do nothing, you sit in shame."
B'nai Brith International is an organization dedicated, among other things, to advancing human rights and Israel advocacy.
JTA.org quoted Dvir Abramovich, the chairman of B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation Commission, in its coverage of anti-Semitic bullying in Australian schools.
Two reports of anti-Semitic bullying at schools in Australia are receiving widespread media coverage.
A photo that allegedly shows a 12-year-old Jewish student being forced to kneel to kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate was circulated on social media. The incident occurred at the Cheltenham Secondary College in the town of Cheltenham, a Melbourne suburb, according to The Age, a Melbourne-based newspaper.
The report did not make it clear if the Muslim boy’s religion had anything to do with the incident.
A second incident took place at the Hawthorn West Primary School in Melbourne, where a 5-year-old Jewish student was called a number of anti-Semitic insults, including a “Jewish cockroach,” according to The Age.
Both Jewish boys have left their schools.
Dvir Abramovich, chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation Commission, said the incidents are part of a broader trend of anti-Semitic bullying.
“There is mounting evidence that families are forced to take their children out of public schools and to enroll them in Jewish day schools due to a growing sense of insecurity and fear that their kids will be harmed simply because of who they are,” Abramovich told The Age.
The mother of the boy in the photo said she was disappointed by the school’s lack of response. She told The Age that the school said it was not responsible for the incident since it did not take place on its campus. But the mother said she talked to the parents of the Muslim student, who disapproved of their son’s actions.
Another boy involved in the incident was later suspended for punching the Jewish boy, The Age reported.
Meanwhile, the boy at Hawthorn West Primary School was repeatedly subjected to anti-Semitic insults and teased because he was circumcised, his mother told The Age. The school sent the parents an apology letter last month, the mother said.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) distributed written remarks from B'nai B'rith International during its Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Europe's largest human rights conference.
Eric Fusfield B’nai B’rith International
September 24, 2019
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates:
Of all the hatreds that tear at our social fabric today, none is more unremitting, more resilient, more adaptable than anti-Semitism. As representatives of B’nai B’rith International, an American-based organization with members in dozens of countries around the world, my colleagues and I have viewed the resurgence of anti-Semitism throughout the OSCE region in recent years with deep anguish. In my home country of the United States, the problem has become strikingly apparent, as synagogue mass shootings in Pittsburgh and San Diego in the past year have left American Jewry shaken and fearful for its safety.
The responsibility of governments, international organizations, and leaders of society to confront this phenomenon is becoming increasingly urgent. To do this we need practical tools. One such mechanism has been ODIHR’s Words into Action project, which, with the support of the German government, has countered anti-Semitism through activities in the areas of education, security, and coalition-building. Words into Action, whose contract recently expired, has published practical guides and provided other resources to assist educators, government officials, and civil society in better understanding and developing strategies to combat anti-Semitism.
It is crucial that this work continue in some context, as the need is more pressing than ever. B’nai B’rith calls on the OSCE to continue its support of ODIHR’s tolerance and nondiscrimination unit in its programs to combat the unique, and uniquely persistent, social illness of anti-Semitism. Now is simply not the time to reverse course on this important effort.
In 2014 we honored the 10th anniversary of the OSCE Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism and the historic declaration that emerged from that gathering. But the review conference that took place in Berlin that fall underscored that much work remains to be done. The past five years have seen a wave of anti-Israel demonstrations throughout the OSCE region; these gatherings have typically featured blatantly anti-Semitic themes and have often turned violent. Attacks and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions, such as the white supremacist march two years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia have increased in frequency and intensity, as the landscape from Belgium to Bulgaria, Germany to Greece, Holland to Hungary, and Ireland to Italy has witnessed violence against Jewish targets. This spread of hatred has been accompanied by a corrosion of the public discourse with respect to Jews and Israel and has left Jews both in Europe and North America fearful for their safety and security.
As a result of anti-Semitic attacks, thousands of Jews have emigrated from Western Europe to Israel in each of the past several years. Furthermore, a survey of European Jewish leaders last year indicated that membership and participation in Jewish institutions has declined, at the same time that security has, of necessity, been increased. Next Sunday night the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, will begin. Across the continent, synagogue attendance is expected to suffer as a result of fear about openly practicing Judaism.
The rise of anti-Jewish hatred has also resulted in a proliferation of anti-Semitic propaganda, much of which is directed against the State of Israel. Tragically, the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state has become a daily occurrence, as Israel’s enemies repeatedly accuse it of being a Nazi-like occupier and an apartheid state that disenfranchises the Palestinians. Falsehoods about Israel are repeated so often that they become widely accepted in the popular culture and sometimes impact government policy. The effort by Israel’s relentless critics to denigrate the Jewish state is not only evidence that anti-Semitism is alive and well 74 years after the Holocaust – this new variation of the world’s oldest hatred actually poses a security threat to the Jewish state by intensifying its international isolation.
For more than a decade, the OSCE has taken up the urgent struggle against rising antiSemitism. High-level conferences in Vienna in 2003 and Berlin in 2004 and 2014, among other gatherings, have focused a needed spotlight on this and other forms of intolerance.
The historic 2004 Berlin Declaration, which provided a series of important recommendations for governments to follow in combating anti-Semitism, specifically addressed the growing problem of anti-Semitic attacks being committed by opponents of Israel’s policies. The passage stating that “international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism” stands as an important rebuff to those who try to justify hate crimes with politics.
Permanent Council Decision No. 607, which preceded the 2004 Berlin Conference, and subsequent Ministerial decisions, represent vital affirmations of the OSCE’s commitment to fight anti-Semitism and related forms of racism and xenophobia. That pact has been bolstered by the creation of ODIHR’s indispensable tolerance and non-discrimination unit, which carries out this important work each day and which includes an expert advisor on anti-Semitism, and by the appointment of the Chairman-in-Office’s three personal representatives on combating intolerance.
In 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism that clearly illustrates the dimensions of the problem. The time has come for the OSCE to follow suit. The Ministerial Council should approve a working definition of anti-Semitism based on the IHRA model, one that should then be widely promoted within the OSCE to educate public officials, journalists, teachers, and others about the contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.
While much has been done to fight anti-Semitism in the past decade or more, much work remains. The need for practical and effective strategies to combat and defeat this pathology is still crucial. To this end,
We must continue to affirm commitments made at the landmark 2004 conference and reiterated at subsequent conferences and assess the implementation of those commitments.
We must enhance funding for ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination unit, which has now become a fixed and integral part of the OSCE’s work. We must enable the TND unit to sustain and expand its critical activities, which has included the Words into Action project and educational programs on anti-Semitism in more than a dozen countries.
We must extend, for the foreseeable future, the terms of the three personal representatives on intolerance.
Member-states must fulfill their reporting requirements with respect to hate crimes data. Far too few governments have done so until now.
Finally, we must strongly reinforce the crucial principle declared at the 2004 Berlin Conference – That no political position, cause or grievance can ever justify anti-Semitism – and make clear that the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state is often none other than a pretext for the hatred of Jews themselves.
The Trentonian published a letter from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman condemning the use of the anti-Semitic phrase "Jew her down" by a member of the Trenton City Council.
I am sickened to read that Trenton City Council President Kathy McBride publicly used the term “Jew her down.” The use of this word as a verb is worse than offensive. And for Council members Robin Vaughn and George Muschal to follow up by supporting the use of the phrase is a pure confession of personal ignorance. Vaughn’s pivot of “We really need to get a more acute meaning and understanding of “anti-Semitic” is political folly. Her own comment acknowledges “an acute sense of ignorance.”
Muschal completes the trifecta of hate speech practitioners by saying the phrase is a “statement of speech.” It’s nothing “vicious?” Well, certainly not to anti-Semites.
There’s much work to be done in educating the public about hate speech. It’s hard to imagine that such a void of understanding could possibly exist in these callous times, but it does. I hope these officials connect much better with their constituencies and vice versa.
McBride, Muschal, Vaughn and no doubt others may want to ask their Jewish friends about the use of “Jew” as a verb. They also may want to contemplate terms that are offensive to any racial or ethnic group. I won’t get into specific references out of respect for diverse groups and cultures. However, trust me, the use of Jew as a verb is offensive.
Please refrain from using this expression in the future. It’s embarrassing to anyone who uses it, and really shameful by elected officials of a major American city.
— Charles Kaufman, President, B’nai B’rith International
The Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and President Charles O. Kaufman on the appearance of an anti-Semitic cartoon in The New York Times.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups have condemned The New York Times for publishing anti-Semitic cartoons in its international edition on April 25 and over the weekend.
Thursday’s cartoon featured U.S. President Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke, sporting dark-tinted glasses and being led by a dog with the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a large blue Star of David hanging from its collar.
The weekend image by Norwegian cartoonist Roar Hagen depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with sinister eyes taking a picture of himself with a selfie-stick, carrying in what appears to be an empty desert with a tablet featuring the Israeli flag painted on it.
“Untimely bad move by the The New York Times showing an ominous-looking cartoon featuring the Star of David and Israel’s prime minister again, right after apologizing for the first cartoon and promising to prevent similar cases of anti-Semitism in the future,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS. “All of us must hold them accountable to their promises. Enough is enough.”
“The anti-Semitic editorial cartoon in Thursday’s international edition of The New York Times was an outrage. Drawn with great technical skill and conceived with great ignorance, if not hate, this piece was simply a reflection of the Times’ long-standing bias against Israel. The symbolism used was vintage Nazi Germany,”said B’nai B’rith International president Charles Kaufman and CEO Daniel Mariaschin in a statement.
“This cartoon punctuated yet another shocking weekend of hatred toward Jews. How anti-Semitic commentary has made it into the mainstream of public opinion is beyond comprehension in modern times,” they continued. “In this case, this incident is the exclamation point about media today. Editors have virtually disappeared as the marketplace of ideas flourishes with unchecked sources and little, if any, corroboration of information. What seems to matter most is being first to market with a thought rather than exercising discretion, a penchant for accuracy and news judgment.”
The Times apologized on Sunday, and said that “investigated how this happened and learned that, because of a faulty process, a single editor working without adequate oversight downloaded the syndicated cartoon and made the decision to include it on the Opinion page. The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training. We anticipate significant changes.”
Kaufman and Mariaschin said that “while we acknowledge that the Times has issued apologies for the cartoon, merely apologizing is not enough.”
“We call on the paper to review and revise its editorial processes so that blatantly anti-Semitic and racist content will not be given a platform by one of the most widely read newspapers in the world,” they continued. “The artist who created the cartoon and the editors who approved its publication must be held accountable.”
B’nai B’rith International did not make Mariaschin available to comment on the weekend cartoon.
“Whatever your interpretation of this particular image, we can only conclude that The New York Times is deliberately giving the Jewish community the proverbial finger even while it apologizes for its other cartoon,” tweeted HonestReporting, a non-governmental organization that monitors anti-Israel media bias, regarding the weekend cartoon.
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, told JNS that “sometimes, a perfunctory ‘apology’ does not really cut it.”
“Obviously, the ‘apology’ for last Thursday’s deeply offensive cartoon, did not penetrate with the editors of The New York Times enough to prevent them from printing yet another, equally vile anti-Semitic cartoon in [the weekend] edition,” she said.
“One must ask why they are so obsessed with Israel and with Prime Minister Netanyahu? The problem is that anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Netanyahu statements have become so acceptable in today’s society that the ‘respectable’ editors of The New York Times do not recognize that they, themselves are guilty of committing, over and over again, classic anti-Semitic stereotypes and offenses.”
Andrea Levin, president and executive director of CAMERA, told JNS that is “striking” that the Times would publish another cartoon that denigrates Netanyahu just days after the latest firestorm.
“In the midst of a firestorm of criticism about the Times publishing an antisemitic cartoon on April 25, it’s striking that three days later editors choose to publish yet another image that caricatures and denigrates Israel’s prime minister and links the message to Judaism [italics intended],” she said.
“The second cartoon may not sink to the same level of Der Stürmer-like bigotry as the first but its publication points to the Times’ obsession with smearing Israel and, in particular, to its continuous expressions of contempt for the nation’s elected leader. It also points to the contempt of the media giant toward public concerns regarding biased depictions of Israel and Jewish issues.”
“At a moment when readers might expect greater sensitivity in coverage of these issues, the message appears to be more in the vein of a crude expletive than a reassurance,” said Levin.
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