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Behind the Aegis

Behind the Aegis's Journal
Behind the Aegis's Journal
November 6, 2023

Special report: What's it really like to be Jewish on campus right now?

Four weeks into the Israel-Hamas war, a separate pernicious conflict is roiling American college campuses. Photos, clockwise from upper left, at U.C. Berkeley (by Kimberly Winston); U. Chicago (Debra Nussbaum Cohen); U. Michigan (Debrah Miszak); Harvard (Mira Fox); Columbia (Camillo Barone); Tulane (Leah Jablo); and USC (Louis Keene). Graphic by Matthew Litman

At the University of Chicago, a Jewish senior has stopped crossing the quad to get to her classes, going the long way around to avoid seeing slogans like “Zionist Freakshow Off Our Campus” and “Gaza is a Concentration Camp.”

The student head of Hillel at the University of Michigan, meanwhile, has been so consumed with the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war that she has had to ask for extensions on assignments — in some cases from faculty members who signed a letter condemning the school’s president for ignoring the plight of Palestinians after the Oct. 7 terror attack.

And at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Israeli-American leader of a group called Peace is Possible is newly alienated from his Palestinian co-president.

The war “has made us argue in a way we hadn’t before,” said Or Doni, 20, a biology and neuroscience major. “He sent me a very long message a few days ago, talking about how he’s upset about things I’ve said, and how I’ve said them.”

October 27, 2023

Five Years ago: The Tree of Life Synagogue became a crime scene with the bodies of 11 Jews.

Today, we honor the memory of the people who lost their lives — Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger.

Say their names!

October 26, 2023

Signs showing a Star of David in a trash can are suddenly everywhere. Hamas used the image 10 years ago

Signs showing a Star of David in the trash are commonplace at pro-Palestinian protests. They’re a new iteration of a similar anti-Nazi sign. Courtesy of Getty (swastika); ADL (Star of David)

Photos of pro-Palestinian protesters holding signs with a Star of David in a trash can and the words, “Keep the world clean,” are becoming commonplace at rallies and on social media.

The images, often crudely drawn on handmade posters, seem organic. But “it appears that Hamas has been using some type of this image for at least 10 years,” according to Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. The image has taken on a new life since Hamas carried out the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, followed by Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

Online searches easily turn up many instances of the anti-Israel signs and slogans at pro-Palestinian protests in places ranging from Sarajevo and Madrid to Missouri and Idaho.

The most widely shared instance was a photo of a young Norwegian woman, Marie Andersen, who made headlines holding the trash can sign with the Star of David, smiling and exultant, during a pro-Palestinian protest in Warsaw, where she is a medical student. Poland’s president, deputy foreign minister and Warsaw’s mayor all condemned the display as a violation of anti-hate laws. Andersen defended the sign in an interview on Norwegian TV, saying that it showed “how dirty I think the Israeli government is, both in this warfare, but also by running an apartheid state for decades.” She added that the poster was “not aimed at Jews” and that she was sorry the sign had “undermined the pro-Palestinian movement.”


October 26, 2023

As campus tensions over Israel flare, White House decries 'grotesque sentiments' against Jewish students

As Jewish students studied inside the Cooper Union library, a pro-Palestinian protest formed on the other side of the glass. One student who was inside said the action was “targeted.” Courtesy of Abigail Mottahedeh

The day after several Jewish students at Cooper Union were told to hide as pro-Palestinian protesters banged on the doors of the school library, the White House issued a statement decrying the rise of antisemitic rhetoric on college campuses.

“Amidst the rise in poisonous, antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes that President Biden has fought against for years, there is an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages being conveyed on college campuses,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in the statement.

“Just over the past week, we’ve seen protests and statements on college campuses that call for the annihilation of the state of Israel; for genocide against the Jewish people. Jewish students have even had to barricade themselves inside buildings. These grotesque sentiments and actions shock the conscience and turn the stomach.”

The statement tied the current campus turmoil to the Holocaust, and characterized protesters’ anti-Zionism as antisemitism. “They also recall our commitment that can’t be forgotten: ‘never again,’” Bates continued. “Delegitimizing the State of Israel while praising the Hamas terrorist murderers who burned innocent people alive, or targeting Jewish students, is the definition of unacceptable – and the definition of antisemitism.”

October 24, 2023

Opinion American Jews Won't Abandon the Left. Will It Abandon Us?

In the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, many American Jews grappled with a challenge that the Talmudic scholar Hillel had posed 1,900 years earlier: “If I am not for myself, who will be? … If I am only for myself, what am I?”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jewish lay and religious leaders commonly invoked that famous philosophical question from synagogue bimahs, at political conferences and in newspaper editorials. They had been shocked at their apparent abandonment by many American liberals — particularly liberal Christians — who voiced greater concern and affinity for hostile Arab countries than for the state of Israel. The whiplash from this abandonment led many American Jews to reevaluate their political allegiances. Could they stand up for themselves, even if doing so meant breaking with former allies, and still stay true to their liberal values?

It’s that same feeling of abandonment that many American Jews, particularly the community’s majority of political liberals, are struggling with today. In the two weeks since Hamas unleashed a brutal attack against Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis — a modern-day pogrom that included rape, the murder of babies, the kidnapping of young and old civilians by the hundreds and gangland executions of innocents — many American Jews are writhing in anger at self-styled progressives who strike them as wholly insensitive to Jewish suffering and trigger-happy not just to decry Israel’s military response but to deny its very right to exist.

“I am in such a state of despair,” said Nick Melvoin, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board and current candidate for Congress. “In my generation, we have been warned how quickly people would turn on us and we just thought no way.” A rabbi and progressive activist in LA put the matter in sharper relief when she observed that the “clear message from many in the world, especially from our world — those who claim to care the most about justice and human dignity — is that these Israeli victims somehow deserved this terrible fate.”


October 21, 2023

Who is Hamas?

On October 7, 2023, Hamas attacked Israeli civilians in southern towns and communities bordering the Gaza Strip, in what was the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Israel quickly declared war against the Gaza-based terrorist organization. With wars between Hamas and Israel breaking out every few years, one has to wonder...what is Hamas and how did it arise as the sole power governing Gaza today?

(I think this is the correct forum. I am unsure where videos are supposed to go.)
October 19, 2023

I'm a gay Black Jew, and I feel abandoned by the allies I've supported for years

When you’re living at the front lines of intersectionality like I do as a gay Black Jew, you learn early on that no one is coming to your rescue. This is how I feel about Israel right now. While the last two horrible weeks have included some commendable allyship, they have also revealed a level of indifference and disbelief to Jewish pain that extends beyond my darkest nightmares.

From mass anti-Zionist protests to relentless antisemitic social media posts, folks that Jews have championed during their gravest hours have turned their backs on us with soul-crushing ease.

It’s not everyone, of course; numerous levelheaded leaders from every sector have shown up —- heroes like Floyd Mayweather, the former professional boxer who brought a private jet worth of supplies for the Israeli military on Sunday, and Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat who proclaimed Oct. 7 another day that will “live in infamy” and denounced the Democratic Socialists of America for indoctrinating young people against Israel.

But they are overshadowed by disappointment — disappointment that has me questioning the value of humanity and left me barely able to sleep — from those I’d hoped would be on my side when the unthinkable happens. And the unthinkable has clearly taken place.


October 19, 2023

Berlin synagogue firebombed, with antisemitism spiking as Gaza war rages

A Berlin synagogue was attacked with Molotov cocktails early Wednesday as antisemitic incidents in the German capital have been rising following the violent escalation in the Middle East.

The Kahal Adass Jisroel community said its synagogue in the city’s Mitte neighborhood was attacked with two incendiary devices. Police confirmed the incident.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz later strongly condemned the attack, saying, “We will never accept when attacks are carried out against Jewish institutions.”

“Unknown persons threw two Molotov cocktails from the street,” the community wrote on X, formerly Twitter. It also posted video footage of police officers investigating the scene in front of the synagogue that was cordoned off.


October 17, 2023

'There are no words': When what's not said is what hurts the most

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl delivers her sermon on Oct. 13, 2023 at Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Courtesy of Central Synagogue. Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl is senior rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City. She was the first Asian American to be ordained as a rabbi in North America, and before that the first ordained as a cantor. She is also a member of the Forward Association.

Ein milim, ein milim — there are no words. This is what I hear over and over from Israeli family and friends since the largest, most vicious massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

Ein milim. How can mere words describe the barbarism of hundreds of Hamas terrorists streaming into Israel with no other purpose than to hunt down and murder Jews — in their homes, at bus stops, at a music festival — while gleefully livestreaming their rampage to exultant crowds?

What words can you say to a father witnessing a video of his 20-year-old daughter, petrified, screaming, as Hamas terrorists motor her off into the abyss.

What words can convey the horror of Hamas terrorists storming into “safe rooms,” slaughtering parents before their children’s eyes, and then dragging those children down into the tunnels below the Gaza Strip?


For those who don't recognize her: Texas synagogue gunman spoke twice to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl in New York City
October 17, 2023

After a Palestinian-American child is stabbed to death, Jewish groups across the spectrum speak out

After a Palestinian-American child is stabbed to death, Jewish groups across the spectrum speak out against anti-Muslim hate

In the wake of the murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in a Chicago suburb, Jewish groups across the religious spectrum are pleading with Americans to not allow anti-Muslim hate to spread because of Israel’s war with Hamas.

Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist umbrella bodies have joined a statement spearheaded by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a national public policy group, and two Orthodox groups have released their own statements.

“This is a moment of deep Jewish pain, mourning the lives taken and praying for the safe release of the hostages in Gaza – and this pain and fear is compounded by a horrific rise in antisemitism here in the United States and around the globe,” said the JCPA statement, which in addition to the religious movements was also signed by the American Jewish Committee, J Street, Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women, among other groups.

“We also know that we are not the only ones being targeted in this moment,” it said. “Our Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian American neighbors are facing bigotry, threats, and violence – including the despicable murder of a six-year-old child this weekend outside Chicago, by a man who reportedly espoused anti-Muslim hate.”


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