Wicked Local - State funding, tax credits will help fund Swampscott’s B’nai B’rith affordable housing project
Wicked Local covered the announcement of an award to B'nai B'rith Housing that will be used to redevelop a former Massachusetts school into senior residences.
On Jackson Park under a large, white tent, Gov. Charlie Baker and Janelle Chan, of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, recently announced $120 million in governmental funding and tax credits to support affordable-housing projects across the commonwealth.
Why Jackson Park? The public green space rests at the bottom of a hill on top of which sits the former, vacant Machon School.
And the nonprofit B’nai B’rith Housing’s yet-to-break-ground redevelopment of the old elementary school into 38 affordable rental units for seniors was among the 28 housing projects that will benefit from the funding awards.
“This project is a perfect example of the creativity and the imagination and the diligence of the town of Swampscott and one of our nonprofits to make affordable housing happen for our seniors,” said Baker standing behind a podium before a capacity-tent crowd. “The big issue we have is not that we don’t do this, but that we don’t do it enough.”
The funding puts B’nai B’rith Housing closer to breaking ground on what will be called the Senior Residences at the Machon.
“The building will feature common spaces such as a library and fitness center,” wrote B’nai B’rith in a statement to the Swampscott Reporter. “In keeping with BBH’s high quality, service-enriched housing model, residents will have access to an on-site resident service coordinator who will partner closely with Swampscott area senior-service agencies to promote wellness, health, and educational programs for all the residents of the building.”
The collective awards announced — $80 million in direct governmental subsidies and $40 million in federal and state tax credits — will help preserve and produce 1,581 rental units, including 1,349 affordable units and 273 units for extremely low income households.
“We truly appreciate the state’s support and are excited to continue working with the town of Swampscott and area service providers to bring much-needed affordable housing to seniors and older adults in Swampscott,” said Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Housing Susan Gittelman.
A Swampscott Housing Production Plan published in 2016 indicates the town’s residents are growing older and will continue to do so over the next decade. That changing demographic demands more affordable housing.
“The over-65 population will nearly double by 2030, while the school-age population will increase modestly,” reads the production plan. “Almost half of senior households have an annual gross income of less than $40,000.”
The Senior Residences at the Machon will reserve eight of the 38 affordable units for “extremely low-income seniors,” according to the state.
“This project is an excellent use of the old Machon School building, supporting seniors who increasingly cannot afford Massachusetts’ skyrocketing housing costs,” said state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead. “I am grateful to the administration for including this project in its award round, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the administration to reduce housing costs on the North Shore and increase the supply of housing options.”
The funding announcement comes as movement around affordable housing and seniors has taken place in Swampscott. In his remarks, Selectman Peter Spellios mentioned the creation of the Swampscott Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Town Meeting’s adoption of inclusionary zoning.
Meanwhile, a selectmen-appointed Swampscott for All Ages Committee is busy at work. Members have been charged with spearheading the town’s endeavor of making sure Swampscott’s ready to serve residents who are part of an impending silver tsunami.
Last week’s announcement also comes as producing a diversity of housing stock across the commonwealth remains a top priority of the Baker’s administration.
“Our administration has already invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass our Housing Choice bill to facilitate the production of more new housing units in communities across Massachusetts,” said Baker.
The byproduct of those investments included the production and preservation of more than 17,000 housing units, including 15,000 affordable units, since 2015. Last year, Baker signed a $1.8 billion housing bond bill, the largest in the state’s history.
In February, Baker refiled the Housing Choice bill to reform state mandates around zoning to help communities pursuing new housing production. His administration has also set a goal of 135,000 new housing units by 2025.
Israel Hayom - 25 Years after AMIA Bombing, Argentine Jews Split over Government Efforts to Make Amends
Israel Hayom interviewed B'nai B'rith International Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs Adriana Camisar about the Argentine government's decision to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization 25 years after the AMIA bombing.
Argentine Jews were expressing despair on the 25th anniversary of a terrorist attack on a Jewish community office building in Argentina’s capital, despite the government's announcement of new efforts to make amends.
"After 25 years, like all the decisions, they did it because of the anniversary. … I know they have good intentions, but 25 years is a lot of time. A lot of people work hard to hide evidence, to erase the evidence, and now I hope they can do something. But I am skeptical,” survivor of the 1994 bombing Javier Miropolsky tells i24NEWS.
Miropolsky was buried under debris of the building where he used to work helping the elderly and disabled for five hours before he was rescued.
“I personally feel betrayed, by all the governments, because it was the country where I was born and someone tried to kill me there,” he said explaining that he first considered himself Argentine first and then a Jew.
The attack changed his perspective, especially when the Israel ambassador came to visit him in the hospital, not a representative of the Argentine government.
“That meant a lot to me. So, I decided to come here [to Israel] – it was a wise decision,” he said.
“It’s very difficult to be a Jew there [in Argentina] right now.”
But Adriana Camisar, Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs for B’nai B’rith International underscored the importance of the Argentine government's decision on Thursday to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
“This is an extremely important decision by the Argentine government because for the first time in 25 years Hezbollah is finally considered a terrorist organization," she stressed.
"And it will be more difficult for agents of Hezbollah to get funds in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay – which has been for a long time a lawless area, and it is considered the main source of Hezbollah financing outside of the Middle East.”
Camisar said the 250,000-strong Jewish community in Argentina was "vibrant – they love their country, but of course, they just want justice."
Argentine Justice Minister Germán Garavano also told i24NEWS that freezing Hezbollah's assets and adding the group's military wing to Argentina's terror list would help "create deterrence."
He related two other decrees put forth by the Argentinian government to declare a national day of mourning and a series of other actions to preserve the memory of the victims of the attack, as well as extend the period for victims to claim reparations.
i24 News interviewed B'nai B'rith International's Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs Adriana Camisar about the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Killing 85 people, this bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center was the deadliest attack in Argentina's history.
This article from The Jerusalem Post announces that Antonia Yamin, KAN Israel's representative in Europe, won in the broadcast category of the 2019 B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem award.
Antonia Yamin, the KAN representative in Europe, was this year’s winner in the broadcast section of the B’nai B’rith World Center journalism award.
Yamin said that when she landed in Berlin in 2017, she wondered how she would find stories and tell them well enough to grab the attention of Israeli television viewers.
The first Jew that she saw in Berlin was a man of about 40, who hid his side curls beneath a peaked cap, and who hid the strings of his ritual garment inside the waist band of his pants.
He was somewhat flustered as he became aware that she knew that he was Jewish. It was not the first time that someone had identified his background. There was something of a haunted look in his eyes, and she immediately realized that the story in Europe would be different from anything she might have anticipated while still in Israel.
“The story of the Jews of Europe is a story worth telling,” she said.
Chicago-born Zvika Klein of Makor Rishon won in the print media section for the second time, having previously won the award six years earlier.
Klein said that when he started out as a Jewish world reporter, he was advised by another journalist to graduate from there to politics. When Klein said that he wanted to stay with the Jewish world because he found it extremely interesting, his interlocutor told him that there was no future in such a beat.
Indeed, at that time there were very few journalists that he could count as rivals, but more recently more journalists are discovering that the Jewish world is an exciting subject to cover. The story of the Jewish world includes every kind of Jew, he said.
A certificate of merit was awarded to YNET’s Attila Somfalvi, and a special citation to singer, actor, commentator and former politician in local government Yehoram Gaon for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts.
Somfalvi was absent because he was covering the Ethiopian community protest demonstrations, but sent a video in which he said that the problem with Israelis is that they like to embrace dead Diaspora Jews such as the ones who were killed in the terror attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Why not embrace them when they’re still living?” he asked.
JNS - Washington Security Briefing Offers Tips on Keeping Religious Facilities and Congregants Safer
JNS.org cited B'nai B'rith International's deputy director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, in an article about a discussion held at the FBI for religious groups regarding security challenges faced by religious communities.
Representatives of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other religious groups gathered together recently at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a discussion on security issues facing faith communities.
The timing couldn’t be more apt, as one FBI source noted that this is the most “complex and dynamic threat environment we have ever been in.”
Every day, said the source, foreign governments are researching and identifying ways that they can “exploit” and “sow discord,” and turn people against their own communities. He added that faith communities need to think about the consequences of what happens if the United States and Iran have a deeper conflict, and Hezbollah responds by attacking local communities.
“You need to be thinking about that now,” stressed the source.
The FBI’s advice in a shooter situation? Run, hide, fight.
During the June 18 program, faith leaders heard from officials from the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and others, including assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Partner Engagement Kerry Sleeper. Speakers highlighted the changing and growing threats facing faith communities, and listened as the community leaders discussed concerns of their members, as well as how to move forward and ensure that everyone—federal officials, local law enforcement and faith members—has the tools necessary to prevent future attack.
One discussion led by a specialist in the FBI focused on the preattack behaviors of active shooters. Noting that the agency had studied 63 active shooters, the agent sought to debunk some myths and highlight common threads among attackers.
For instance, the FBI agent said, while many say that these people are loners, in fact, all either lived with someone or had “significant” in person or online interactions. The attackers had, on average, 3.6 separate stressors in the year prior to the attack, and 73 percent had a known connection with their attack site. Where attackers had no connection, they often did surveillance prior to attacking.
Discussions were also held around concrete steps that faith leaders can take to prepare congregants if an attacker strike their house of worship. Noting that it can take several minutes for law enforcement to arrive during an active shooter situation, one official suggested that congregants be taught the importance of the FBI’s advice: run, hide, fight.
“It’s human nature to freeze if you don’t have a plan in place,” he said, adding that people should know where all the exits are and how they would escape. The advice to hide “really means to disappear”—not be hidden halfway or in view of the attacker. The other option is to fight.
“How will you defend yourself? You don’t need weapons; you don’t need jiu-jitsu,” but people do need a plan, the official advised, adding that “there are ways to prepare people mentally, without scaring them.”
‘We are all feeling vulnerable’
Eric Fusfield, deputy director of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B’nai B’rith International, appreciated the details and analysis, as well as the chance to hear from leaders in other faith communities.
“Our ability to build coalitions is always our greatest strength, and it’s always important that communities that face similar and overlapping threats to come together and identify ways to respond,” he continued. “We need the help and support of our neighbors, and they need ours, so it’s only natural we come together in times like this when we are all feeling vulnerable and want to secure our communities.”
Other sessions included an address by Elizabeth Neumann, assistant secretary for threat prevention and policy at the Department of Homeland Security, who said that the last few years have seen a rise in domestic terrorism from those who are “borrowing” from the ISIS handbook in planning and implementing attacks; and a talk by an FBI agent who recounted his experiences during a shooting in 2012 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc.
The daylong program was spearheaded by the Secure Communities Network, the Christian Emergency Network and Muslim Public Affairs Committee.
It is believed to be the first gathering of its kind hosted by the FBI and with such a “broad and diverse group” of participants, according to Michael Masters, national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network, which was founded in 2004 auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
In a recent article in one of the biggest German weekly newspapers Die Welt about the resignation of Jewish Museum’s Director Peter Schäfer, the author cites B'nai B'rith International's criticism of the position and statements of the museum.
Talmud-Gelehrte sind zwar notorisch streitfreudig, wenn es um die Auslegung religiöser Schriften geht, aber vielleicht auch deshalb in tagespolitischen Fragen eher zurückhaltend. Deshalb war es eine Sensation, als 45 Talmud-Gelehrte einen offenen Brief unterschrieben, in dem sie eine „wachsende Zensur und die Einschränkung der Redefreiheit“ in Deutschland
Anlass war der Rücktritt eines der Ihren – des deutschen Talmud-Gelehrten Peter Schäfer – als Direktor des Jüdischen Museums Berlin (JMB). Einer der Urheber des Briefs, Ishay Rosen Zvi von der Universität Tel Aviv, nannte es „empörend“, dass Schäfer Antisemitismus vorgeworfen worden sei.
„Blood libel“ gegen Schäfer?
Zwar hat wohl niemand diesen Vorwurf erhoben, doch Zvi ging weiter und sprach von einer „blood libel“ gegen Schäfer. Unter „blood libel“ versteht man die Lüge, die Juden würden das Blut geschächteter christlicher Kinder benutzen, um ihre Pessach-Matzen zu backen. Eine Verleumdung, die im Mittelalter immer wieder zu mörderischen Pogromen führte. Die Gleichsetzung der vor allem von jüdischen Organisationen wie dem Zentralrat oder B’nai B’rith erhobenen Kritik an Schäfer mit dem Judenhass christlicher Fanatiker ist so absurd, dass man an Zvis akademischer Qualifikation noch mehr zweifeln muss als an seiner politischen Urteilskraft. Aber sie ist kennzeichnend für die Bitterkeit, die – so scheint es zumindest –
Schäfer selbst in die Auseinandersetzung um seinen Rücktritt getragen hat. In einer von über 370 Wissenschaftlern aus aller Welt unterzeichneten Erklärung wird nämlich von einer „erzwungenen Demission“ des Direktors gesprochen. Wenn Schäfer zum Rücktritt gezwungen wurde, dann hätte das nur Monika Grütters tun können. Als Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien führt sie den Vorsitz im Stiftungsrat, der das Museum kontrollieren soll. Sollte Grütters dem Direktor den Rücktritt nahegelegt haben, dann kann nur Schäfer das wissen und weitergetragen haben.
Die 370 Gelehrten reden auch von „Lügen“ und „falschen Anschuldigungen“ gegen Schäfer. Die gleiche Formulierung findet sich im Brief des Vorsitzenden des Vereins der Freunde des Museums, Walter Kuna an alle Vereinsmitglieder. Das ist eine Praxis des Generalverdachts gegen Kritiker, die so empörend ist, wie es die – unbelegte – erzwungene Demission des Direktors wäre.
Nur eine Person wurde gefeuert
Tatsächlich ist nur eine Person am JMB gefeuert worden, und zwar Pressesprecherin Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin. Jahrelang hat sie loyal ihren Chef abgeschirmt und verteidigt. Kein Akademiker hat gegen diesen Willkürakt protestiert, der für den im JMB herrschende autoritären Stil typisch ist, dem sich viele Mitarbeiter – allen voran Programmdirektorin
Léontine Meijer-van Mensch – durch Weggang entzogen haben. Als Ergebnis bleibt die Dauerausstellung geschlossen, das geplante Kindermuseum unfertig, die Akademie des Museums ohne Führung.
Und wenn es um falsche Anschuldigungen geht, so muss vor allem die Unterstellung genannt werden, Benjamin Netanjahu habe bei Angela Merkel interveniert, was letztlich zu Schäfers „erzwungener Demission“ geführt habe. Eine Falschmeldung, die eine Zeitung von der anderen abschreibt, ohne die Quelle zu prüfen: Ein Artikel in der israelischen „Haaretz“, die ihrerseits einen Artikel der Berliner „taz“ überinterpretierte und mit einer irreführenden Überschrift versah.
Tatsächlich fand im Rahmen der deutsch-israelischen Regierungskonsultationen Ende 2018 ein Austausch von „Non-Papers“ statt. Das ist ein üblicher Vorgang, bei dem eine Seite die andere ausdrücklich unterhalb der Ebene offizieller Noten oder diplomatischer Demarchen auf bestimmte Sorgen aufmerksam macht – etwa auf die Geschichtsdarstellung in Schulbüchern oder die Unterbesetzung einer Konsulatsabteilung. In einem dieser Non-Papers, das ein Mitarbeiter des Auswärtigen Amts an die „taz“ durchstach, äußerte die israelische Seite ihr Befremden über die Jerusalem-Ausstellung des JMB, die nicht nur nach ihrer Meinung das jüdische Narrativ unzureichend berücksichtigte.
Staatsministerin Grütters hat sich dieser Kritik nicht angeschlossen. Sie hat die Ausstellung verteidigt und Schäfers Vertrag vier Monate nach der israelischen Intervention verlängert – was man als gezielte Brüskierung der Regierung Israels deuten könnte, aber kaum als Kotau vor Netanjahu. Bloße Fakten hindern aber keinen Netanjahu-Hasser daran, die Fake News zu
verbreiten, der jüdische Staat bestimme die Personalpolitik im deutschen Kulturbetrieb. Weil sich der Zentralrat der Juden über einen Tweet des Museums empörte, in dem die Resolution des Bundestags zur antiisraelischen Boykottbewegung BDS kritisiert wird, beschimpfte Micha Brumlik den Zentralrat in der „taz“ als „Hofjuden“. Empörend ist dabei weniger, dass der emeritierte Professor der Erziehungswissenschaften den Zentralrat kritisiert, sondern dass er die Bundesrepublik mit einem feudalen Duodezfürstentum vergleicht.
„Blick nach vorn richten“
Inzwischen hat der Stiftungsrat getagt und Worte gewählt, die auch für auslegungsfreudige Talmud-Gelehrte eindeutig sind: Es sei „einmal mehr deutlich geworden, dass gerade auch Juden sich in der Arbeit des JMB wiedererkennen müssen und die nicht jüdische Welt mehr über das Judentum erfährt. Aus Fehlern der Vergangenheit haben Prof. Schäfer und das Museum ihre Konsequenzen gezogen. Jetzt heißt es, den Blick nach vorn zu richten.“
Die Grammatik ist schief, die Aussage klar: Viele Juden in Deutschland haben sich im JMB nicht wiedererkannt. Die nicht jüdische Welt hat zu wenig über das Judentum erfahren. Deshalb musste Schäfer gehen. Bis zur Benennung eines neuen Direktors oder einer neuen Direktorin im Frühjahr 2020 soll eine „Vertrauensperson“ den Stiftungsrat „in konzeptionellen Fragen beraten“. An dieser Personalie wird man erkennen können, ob das JMB tatsächlich den Blick nach vorne richtet und sich das „J“ im Namen wieder verdienen will.
Op-Ed By Daniel S. Mariaschin in the Jerusalem Post - Iran, Argentina and a 25-Year-Old Terror Attack
In the wake of the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post about the need for justice in this still-unresolved case.
Next month will mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, which took the lives of 85 people and injured more than 300. The attack on the social services hub of the Argentine Jewish community remains the largest terrorist attack in Latin America. Memorial services marking a quarter century since the attack will begin this month.
To this day, justice has not been served to the victims and their families.
For three years in the wake of the attack, the judge heading the inquiry produced 22 arrests – mostly Buenos Aires provincial policemen – and a trial that, in the end, amounted to nothing more than a diversionary wild goose chase. A representative of our organization attended every day of the nearly three-year trial.
But the stench of a cover-up hovered over those proceedings. Not-guilty verdicts were handed down for those brought to trial, and the judge was later impeached for attempting to bribe a witness to give testimony incriminating police officers and for his general mishandling of the case. He was summarily removed from his post.
But what did come out of early scrutiny of the attack was the unmistakable hand of the Iranian regime. At first, it was studied speculation, but by 2006, two prosecutors in the case officially put the finger on Tehran. Operatives connected to the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires were identified, but at that point, they all had made their way out of the country.
The case was turned over to two new prosecutors, Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martínez Burgos, who in 2007 brought the matter to Interpol. They had requested that “red notices,” or arrest warrants, be issued to nine suspects, including former Iranian president Ali Rafsanjani, former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and former Iranian ambassador to Argentina Hadi Soleimanpour. Interpol’s executive committee let those three officials off the hook, choosing instead to issue notices for the other six suspects.
Years passed, but Nisman, now working alone, pressed ahead. In 2015, he was ready to release evidence that a deal had been negotiated at the highest levels of the two governments, which would see Tehran deliver oil to Argentina in exchange for food, weapons and a pledge to convince Interpol to drop the red notices on the terrorist suspects.
On the eve of this information being shared in the Argentine Congress, Nisman was found dead, from what the authorities called a suicide. Doubt immediately surfaced, given the nature of the charges Nisman was about to bring. Subsequently, the mysterious circumstances of Nisman’s death have become clarified, and evidence points to him having been murdered.
THE AMIA CASE is only one in a litany of terrorist acts carried out on foreign soil by the Iranian regime.
In 1992, in what foreshadowed the attack on the AMIA building two years later, a suicide bomber attacked the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 and injuring 242. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Jihad organization, a group believed to have ties to Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. Also that year, three Iranian opposition leaders and their translator were killed at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. The verdict in that case pointed to Iran’s highest officials – as believed to be the case in the AMIA bombing – having signed off on the attack. In 1996, in an attack on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, a truck bomb killed 19 American soldiers and a Saudi citizen, and nearly 500 people were injured. While credit was not claimed, it is widely and authoritatively believed that Hezbollah was behind the attack.
Iran’s malign behavior operates on three fronts: its pursuit of nuclear weapons; its support for and use of terrorist proxies in the Middle East and beyond; and its serial abuse of human rights of women, adherents of the Baha’i faith, political dissenters, juvenile offenders and the LGBTQ community.
The Trump administration has rightly pointed to serious omissions in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multi-lateral agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program. But in bringing Iran to the table, the international community made a monumental error in judgment in not opening talks at the same time on the other two legs of Tehran’s destructive behavior. Had it done so, we might well have been able to shine a conclusive light on the activities of its agents in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.
Today, at the site of the AMIA bombing, there is a stunning memorial to those killed on that day 25 years ago, created by the Israeli artist Yaakov Agam. Perhaps more touching are the names of the victims listed at the site: professionals of Jewish organizations, office workers and people from the community who had come to seek assistance for one or another personal or family matter. A van packed with 600 pounds of explosives put an end to all of that, in seconds.
The Iranians are still at it. They’ve provided Hezbollah with more than 100,000 rockets, and Hamas with many thousands. They work with the likes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela, and with North Korea. They have taken over Lebanon, have ensconced themselves in Syria and are meddling in Iraq, Yemen and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tehran has used the JCPOA as cover for its other nefarious activities. It has enjoyed impunity for far too long. Its decades-long record of promoting terrorism to advance its hegemonic objectives demands accountability and international opprobrium. That the European Union could not agree on designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization (it ultimately created the fiction of military and political “wings” of the organization so it could have it both ways) speaks to the failure of international will to confront the Iranian menace.
In the meantime, a quarter century has passed without the perpetrators of the AMIA bombing and their sponsor being brought to account. For the sake of the victims and their families, is it too much to ask that justice be served? If we are to turn the tide on state sponsored terrorism, let it begin here – before the dust collects on memory while those who were responsible remain free.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International President's Charles O. Kaufman's letter decrying the actions of the Jewish Museum Berlin's Director Peter Schäfer in its coverage of Schäfer's resignation from his post.
The director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum, Peter Schäfer, announced his resignation on Friday “to avoid further damage,” a week after The Jerusalem Post first reported that the institution endorsed the BDS campaign on the museum’s Twitter feed.
“All those responsible must help ensure that the Jewish Museum Berlin can again concentrate on its important work in terms of content,” German Culture Minister Monika Grütters, who oversees the board of the museum foundation, said on Friday. Schäfer’s deputy, Martin Michaelis, will assume responsibility for running the museum until a successor can be hired.
Pressure to remove Schäfer grew over the past week, and experts in the field of antisemitism told the Post that they implored Grütters to take action against Schäfer and the antisemitism scandals at the museum.
“What’s crucial now is for the museum to identify leadership that commits to professionalism and the truth of sharing the long and rich Jewish life of Germany,” B’nai B’rith International president Charles O. Kaufman, who sent a letter last week to Schäfer about the museum’s anti-Israel direction, told the Post on Friday. “This museum must earn the name Jewish Museum, and in doing so, earn the trust of the country, Europe and all visitors from around the world. It must not immerse itself in politicizing history, stooping to propaganda, and worse, revisionism.”
British journalist Tom Gross was invited to tour the museum by Schäfer’s office last year and expressed his dismay afterward at some of the anti-Israel political aspects he saw.
“The important thing now, since the museum is currently replacing its permanent exhibit, due to reopen next year, is to make sure Schäfer’s replacement is someone who is more interested in remembering the enormous contributions of Berlin’s Jews to German and world history, and in accurately explaining the sheer sadistic horrors of the Holocaust, rather than engage in anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, extreme left-wing posturing,” Gross told the Post.
Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, spokeswoman for the museum, was summarily dismissed, according to a Munich-based media outlet. The paper reported that she had written the anti-Israel tweet.
The Post asked Schmidt-Narischkin numerous times last week for a comment, but she declined to respond. The museum is widely considered a hot-bed of anti-Israel resentments.
“Enough is enough,” said Dr. Josef Schuster, president of the nearly 100,000-member Central Council of Jews in Germany. “The Jewish Museum Berlin seems to be completely out of control. Under these circumstances, one has to think about whether the term ‘Jewish’ is still appropriate.”
His comments came after the museum tweeted an article from a left-wing Berlin-based paper calling on the Bundestag to reverse its anti-BDS resolution, which classified BDS as antisemitism.
The council added that the museum’s management “has lost the trust of the Jewish community in Germany.”
Schuster said on Friday that Schäfer’s decision to toss in the towel was “an important step.”
Schäfer has been facing criticism over the years for promoting a one-sided exhibit on Jerusalem that plays down the role of Jews in the city, according to critics. In March, Schäfer invited the antisemitic Iranian regime diplomat Seyed Ali Moujani to the museum. Ali Moujani used the meeting to promote the view that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Schäfer regretted the interaction last week, but in March he welcomed the anti-Israel tirade against the Jewish state.
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, first coined the phrase the “anti-Jewish Museum” in 2012 in connection with the institution hosting the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler, who promoted BDS at the museum in 2012, after having expressed support for the terrorist entities Hezbollah and Hamas in 2006.
“Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important,” said Butler at the time.
The Jerusalem Post included excerpts from a letter to the Jewish Museum in Berlin from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman in its coverage of the museum's support for the BDS movement.
Uwe Becker, commissioner of the Hessian federal state government for Jewish life and the fight against antisemitism, has blasted Berlin’s Jewish Museum for stoking an antisemitic boycott of the Jewish state.
In a written statement to The Jerusalem Post, Becker said on Sunday that “The Jewish Museum in Berlin obviously sees as its task to take a stand against Jewish life in our country and especially against Israel. The recent support for BDS is a disgrace! After a total single-sided exhibition about Jerusalem now another scandal. This is not a Jewish but an anti-Jewish Museum.”
The Post obtained a letter from Charles O. Kaufman, president of B’nai B’rith International, to Peter Schäfer, the controversial director of the museum in Berlin.
“It appears that the German propaganda machine of the 1930s lives,” Kaufman wrote on Sunday in the letter. “I became aware of your anti-Israel mission with your recent ‘Welcome to Jerusalem’ exhibit, an utter distortion of the capital of the Jewish State. Now with its pro-BDS message to Twitter followers, the Jewish Berlin Museum becomes the leading contender to be renamed the Insult to Injury Museum. This latest action from the ‘Jewish Berlin Museum’ is ridiculous if not shameful. BDS is an antisemitic movement that demonizes Israel, Jews and seeks to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Economic data shows that the BDS movement actually harms, not helps, the plight of the Palestinian people. It’s sad that this museum so miserably misses the mark time and again in telling the story of the Jewish people. Its work not only serves as an insult to Jews; it’s an insult to the intelligence of the German people.”
The intense criticism directed at Schäfer’s alleged anti-Israel and anti-Jewish direction of the museum comes in response to a pro-BDS Tweet from the publicly-funded Jewish Museum on Thursday. The museum appeared to endorse an article in favor of reversing an anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) resolution passed by the German parliament last month.
The museum tweeted to its 7,510 followers: “must read. The [anti-BDS resolution recently passed by Bundestag] decision of the parliamentarians does not continue to help in the fight against antisemitism: @tazgezwitscher on the accusation of 240 Jewish and Israeli academics to the Bundestag.”
The museum’s tweet linked to an article sympathetic to the BDS movement that appeared in the left-wing paper taz, a paper that has been engulfed in antisemitism scandals over the years.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, tweeted on Sunday in response to a Post story about the BDS activity at the museum: “Demonization campaigns singling out Israel (BDS) are immoral, and propaganda promoted by jmberlin [Berlin Jewish Museum] from tazgezwitscher and 200 ‘intellectuals’ does not change that.”
Steinberg first coined the phrase the “anti-Jewish Museum” in 2012 in connection with the museum hosting the pro-BDS academic Judith Butler. Butler promoted BDS at the museum in 2012, and expressed support for the terrorist entities Hezbollah and Hamas in 2006: “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important,” said Butler.
British journalist Tom Gross told the Post: “I was recently invited by the Berlin Jewish Museum director’s office to tour the museum’s current ‘Jerusalem’ exhibition. I was shocked by the prevalence of the anti-Zionist, often antisemitic, fringe Neturei Karta movement in the Jewish part of the exhibit. The hateful placards of this group (who have supported Holocaust deniers in Iran) were on display without any contrary explanation for museum goers of who they are.”
He added: “When I expressed my dismay to the museum director’s office, even though they had invited me to the museum, they failed to respond. The Jerusalem exhibit presently dominates the museum since the permanent exhibition is closed for over a year while it is completely re-done. I just hope that when it reopens it will give an honest assessment of the Holocaust and antisemitism, and not some distorted version.”
In March, Prof. Peter Schäfer, the non-Jewish director of the Jewish Museum, hosted a diplomat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, sparking widespread criticism for mainstreaming the Iranian regime’s genocidal antisemitism.
“With the invitation, the Jewish Museum gives the Iranian Embassy the opportunity to make its antisemitic anti-Zionism part of the public debate,” said Stop The Bomb spokeswoman Ulrike Becker at the time.
Katharina Schmidt-Narischkin, a spokeswoman for the museum, did not immediately respond to a Post query regarding the new wave of criticism facing the museum. Schmidt-Narischkin told the Post on Sunday that the museum rejects BDS.
In this op-ed for the Toronto Sun, author and CEO of B'nai B'rith Canada Michael Mostyn writes that the Al Quds Day March should be cancelled due to its highly anti-Semitic speakers and undertones.
Imagine, for a moment, that a 1,000-strong rally took place each year on city property in downtown Toronto.
Imagine that speakers at this rally described people of African descent as “inhuman,” praised the KKK and its leaders, alleged that Canada is “basically owned” by Africans, and called for Africans in formerly white-ruled South Africa to be “shot” if they insisted on remaining in their homeland.
Imagine that, in a show of force, participants in this rally marched up University Ave., disrupting traffic on one of the city’s busiest arteries.
The City of Toronto, you would understandably assume, would take every step possible to prevent this sort of hate rally from continuing.
In reality, a rally just like this – the Al Quds Day march – does take place each year in Toronto. The only difference is that, instead of targeting Africans, it targets Jews and Israelis.
The city’s failure to stop this outrage – and its instance on subsidizing this hate rally at taxpayers’ expense – is an unmitigated municipal embarrassment.
The irony is that the politicians aren’t to blame for this one. Recently, after a year of dithering, city council finally endorsed proposals by Mayor John Tory and Councillor James Pasternak to impose financial penalties on organizers of hate activities on city property.
B’nai Brith Canada, as the grassroots voice of Canadian Jewry, followed up twice with city staff to reveal what the city is doing to implement council’s instructions in advance of the 2019 Al Quds Day rally June 1.
The answer: Apparently nothing.
Judging by the lack of substantive response from city staff, it appears that the Al Quds organizers won’t need to pay for occupying University Ave. without a permit. They won’t need to pay for using sound amplification equipment, again without a permit. They won’t need to pay for the dozens of police officers, at least, who will be required to secure the rally and prevent clashes with counter-protesters.
Instead, taxpayers – including Jewish and Israeli residents of Toronto – will be forced to pay for this outpouring of hate. Organizers of peaceful, lawful public events – such as Ribfest, the Walk with Israel, and the Roncesvalles Polish Festival – all pay their own fees. But hatemongers seemingly get a free pass from the city.
Many, if not most, Al Quds attendees aren’t even residents of Toronto. Last year, organizers hired eight buses to bring participants downtown, mostly coming from mosques in cities such as Brampton, Richmond Hill and Pickering. Only one Toronto pick-up location is listed.
In other words, extremists from across Southern Ontario will gather to spew hate in Toronto – and leave Torontonians footing the bill.
I call on the City of Toronto to put an end to this madness. I call on city staffers to simply do their jobs, and enforce the city’s Hate Activity Policy, which they have inexplicably failed to do for years.
At the end of the day, what I really call for is an end to the hypocrisy. We all know that if any other religious or national group were targeted in this way, the city would have taken decisive action long ago.
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