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2 more synagogues evacuated due to bomb threats ahead of High Holidays

(JTA) – At least two more synagogues in the United States evacuated their congregants over the weekend following bomb threats, the latest in a series of such calls that have put dozens of congregations on high alert heading into the High Holidays.

One of the synagogues was threatened during the pre-Rosh Hashanah Selichot services on Saturday night, in a sign that the perpetrators of the wave of attacks are paying careful attention to when synagogues are holding events before calling in their threats.

Since mid-July, at least 49 synagogues in 13 states have received the threatening calls, none of which have been linked to credible bomb threats, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That was up from 26 congregations four weeks ago —and the ADL expects the threats to continue when the High Holidays begin with the start of Rosh Hashanah on Friday evening. 

“Every weekend this network of swatters continues to identify targets and are calling in fake bomb threats,” Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, using a term referring to pranks that draw out a large number of police officers. “So that number is increasing and will potentially keep increasing.” 

Segal said the calls are part of a coordinated campaign orchestrated by antisemitic trolls and focused on synagogues that livestream their services, so the perpetrators can watch reactions to the threats in real time. But he noted that some institutions have been targeted even though they don’t livestream their events, and that the culprits are also developing a growing interest in non-Jewish institutions such as mosques and Black churches.

The synagogues that received bomb threats this weekend were Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California, in the Bay Area, and Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg, Florida. In both cases, the synagogues emptied out as police conducted full safety sweeps of the premises. 

The threat on Beth Am, a Reform congregation, was called in during Friday night services, at a time when the synagogue was hosting U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo and Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Israel lobby J Street. Both guests were reported safe by leaders of the Bay Area congregation.

“As a community, we remain resolute and determined in the face of this act of antisemitic harassment,” read a letter Beth Am congregational leaders sent to their community just before midnight on Friday, after the synagogue had been swept and cleared, according to J. The Jewish News of Northern California, which first reported on the incident. 

B’nai Israel, a Conservative congregation, received the threat as congregants were exiting the Selichot services on Saturday night. The St. Petersburg police department and B’nai Israel’s rabbi, Philip Weintraub, confirmed details of the synagogue’s evacuation with JTA.

“It was not disruptive to our worship,” Weintraub told JTA, adding that the police “took it very seriously.”

A spokesperson for the St. Petersburg Police Department told JTA that the investigation was still ongoing, but that law enforcement would treat the incident as a false bomb threat, which is punishable with prison time. Florida has grappled with a recent rise in antisemitic activity, and a new state law aims to make it easier to prosecute “ethnic intimidation.” But that measure hasn’t yet succeeded in curbing a statewide epidemic of antisemitic fliers, some of which were dropped outside the West Palm Beach area over Labor Day.

The Santa Clara County sheriff’s office, which oversees law enforcement in Los Altos Hills, did not return JTA requests for comment on its own bomb threat investigation.

In mid-August, two other synagogues in California also evacuated their livestreamed Shabbat services over a single weekend due to bomb threats.

There have been other evacuations of Jewish institutions that have gone unreported because they have chosen not to publicize them, Segal said. 

“They don’t want to necessarily, I presume, give these trolls the satisfaction of letting everybody know every time they’re evacuated,” he said, adding that institutions should make such decisions “based on what they think is best for the community.” In some instances, when synagogues have issued a statement about an evacuation, the perpetrators have used those statements to boast of their success, Segal said.

This is not the first time false bomb threats have been called into a series of Jewish institutions. More than 100 such threats were called into Jewish community centers in the early months of 2017 — most of which, it was later discovered, came from a teen in Israel. In 2020, dozens of JCCs received a separate series of emailed bomb threats

Weintraub is determined to not be rattled by the experience. Instead, he takes comfort in knowing the congregation already heeds security precautions recommended by police. Heading into Rosh Hashanah, he said, he isn’t scared.

“My understanding is their goal is to shake us, and I’m not going to be shaken,” he said.


The post 2 more synagogues evacuated due to bomb threats ahead of High Holidays appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Model Bella Hadid Wears Keffiyeh Dress in Cannes in Support of ‘Free Palestine Forever’

Bella Hadid attends the red carpet of the film ”L’Amour ouf” (Beating Hearts) at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 23, 2024. Photo: Daniele Cifalà via Reuters Connect

Model Bella Hadid used fashion to make a political statement at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday by wearing a dress made from a keffiyeh, a headscarf traditionally worn by Palestinians that has become a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel.

In between premieres at the film festival, the model and fragrance designer walked the streets in Cannes, France, sporting a vintage Michael and Hushi “keffiyeh dress” from 2001 that was made from red and white keffiyehs. “I made [the dress] out of the keffiyeh fabric, which I still have nightmares about, as it wasn’t easy,” designer Hushidar Mortezaie was quoted as saying. Michael and Hushi also designed a black and white keffiyeh halter top worn by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in a season four episode of Sex and the City.

Hadid shared the meaning behind her outfit in a post that she uploaded late Thursday on her Instagram Story. She reposted an image of the original 2001 design, tagged the designers, and wrote in the caption, “Free Palestine forever.” She included an emoji of the Palestinian flag.

bella hadid’s wearing a vintage keffiyeh dress in cannes by michael and hushi pic.twitter.com/caLlCck87s

— ✭ (@badestoutfit) May 23, 2024

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — which began after Hamas-led terrorists took around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages and killed 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7 — Hadid has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In a lengthy statement shared on Instagram in late October, she condemned the Hamas attacks, and said she stands in solidarity with “Palestine” and the “innocent Palestinian civilians” affected by the war.

“I believe deep in my heart that no child, no people anywhere, should be taken away from their family either temporarily or indefinitely. That goes for Israeli or Palestinian people alike,” she added. She also called for humanitarian aid to help “the urgent needs of the people of Gaza.”

During the Israel-Hamas conflict in 2021, Hadid participated in a pro-Palestinian rally where she chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state and for it to be replaced with a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. She has previously accused Israel of “colonization, ethnic cleansing, military occupation, and apartheid over the Palestinian people.”

Hadid’s father, Nazareth-born real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, recently criticized and sent racist messages to US Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) for supporting Israel. He has also accused Israel of occupation, colonialism, genocide, and apartheid. In March, he commented on the support US President Joe Biden has expressed for Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks, saying, “He will be in court with the rest of the Zionist criminals. We will hunt them down like they did the Nazis.” He also called Biden the “head of the Zionist project.”

The post Model Bella Hadid Wears Keffiyeh Dress in Cannes in Support of ‘Free Palestine Forever’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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US House Speaker Confirms Netanyahu to Address Congress Soon

US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson stands in the House of Representatives ahead of US President Joe Biden’s third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 7, 2024. Photo: Shawn Thew/Pool via REUTERS

US House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a speech to a joint session of the US Congress in the coming days.

Johnson gave a keynote address at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC on Thursday evening as part of a yearly Israeli Independence Day event. The Republican leader told the crowd that he is “happy to announce” that Congress will “soon be hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

The crowd cheered Johnson’s announcement that a visit by the Israeli premier is in the works. 

He added that hearing an address by Netanyahu would be “a strong show of support for the Israeli government in their time of greatest need.”

Johnson bemoaned that support for Israel seems to be fading among some progressive politicians and suggested that Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that launched the war in Gaza with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has even “recruited apologists” among certain members of Congress.

The House speaker also took shots at US President Joe Biden, claiming that he has withheld “vital weapons” from the Jewish state. 

“Some leaders who have been previously proud to stand with Israel, and even some who have made statements of solidarity following Oct. 7, have suddenly begun to backpedal on that support,” Johnson said. 

Biden publicly announced earlier this month that his administration would no longer deliver shipments of offensive arms to Israel if the country were to embark on a major military operation in the city of Rafah, a step that many experts consider necessary to dismantle Hamas. Several of Israel’s allies condemned Biden’s decision to condition arms shipments to the Jewish state and argued that the president abandoned a close ally of the United States. 

Johnson also rebuked the decision of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office to seek an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, claiming that the organization “likened Israel’s just war to the barbarism of Oct. 7th.” He promised that the United States would not “acknowledge or abide by” the court’s mandates. 

US Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) delivered his own keynote address at the Israeli embassy on Thursday night, reaffirming America’s “commitment to Israel’s sovereignty.”

Johnson’s invitation to Netanyahu comes amid increasing tensions between liberal members of Congress and the Biden administration over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Some Democrats have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” and demanded that Israel agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, signalling a growing rift between more progressive politicians in the Democratic Party and one of America’s closest allies.

Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has faced significant pressure by members of his own party not to join Johnson’s invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress. Progressive Democrats such as Maxwell Frost (D-FL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) have all vowed not to attend a congressional address by Netanyahu.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on Wednesday dismissed the notion of a growing rift between Democrats over Israel as “nothing but puppies and rainbows.”

“The Republicans have repeatedly tried to make Israel a partisan political issue and divide Democrats, and they have failed,” Jeffries said.

The post US House Speaker Confirms Netanyahu to Address Congress Soon first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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New Program Offers NYC 8th Graders Free School Trips to Holocaust Museum to Learn About Antisemitism

Aerial view of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York City. Photo: Gryffindor/Wikimedia.

All eight graders from public and charter schools in New York City will be offered free field trips to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and learn about antisemitism as part of a new initiative announced on Thursday.

The Holocaust Education School Tours program will begin in the fall and be offered free of charge to more than 85,000 students in public and charter schools over the next three years. Specially trained museum educators will guide student groups through the museum’s exhibitions, and work with schools to schedule tours and to provide free transportation. The museum will also hire additional education staff to help with the program.

The museum said the field trips “will provide critical education about the global history of antisemitism and propaganda, factors that precipitated the Holocaust, while fostering opportunities for students to reflect on the relevance of historical events to contemporary issues.” New York is one of almost two dozen states where Holocaust education is required and educators have noted that the eighth and tenth grades are prime stages in a student’s development to introduce Holocaust education, according to the museum.

The program was spearheaded by Julie Menin, a Jewish city councilwoman from Manhattan and a member of the council’s Jewish Caucus. Menin’s mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust in Hungary. She suggested the idea for the field trips following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, after realizing the urgent need to educate younger generations about the Holocaust and antisemitism.

New York City Public Schools Chancellor David C. Banks said there have been 281 incidents of religious bias in city schools since the Oct. 7 attacks and 42 percent of them have involved antisemitism.

“We must take decisive action as we witness the alarming surge in antisemitic incidents in our city and across our country,” Menin said. “We needed a proactive approach to combat this hatred at its roots. This initiative, born out of personal conviction and a deep sense of responsibility, aims to ensure that every young mind comprehends the history of the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism. My hope is that through education and reflection, we can inoculate future generations against the horrors of the past.”

The new program is part of a $2.5 million Holocaust education initiative that has received $1 million in funding from the Gray Foundation, which is co-founded by Jon Gray, the president of the investment firm Blackstone. The Gray Foundation has supported the Museum of Jewish Heritage since 2016.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage previously created an “educator antisemitism resource,” to help teachers address questions about antisemitism, and is working with the New York City Department of Education to develop a new Holocaust teaching guide for teachers that will be released in the fall. The 2024-25 New York state budget allocated $500,000 for the review and update of Holocaust curricula in schools.

“As we witness a troubling resurgence of Holocaust denial and antisemitism around the world, it has never been more critical to ensure that younger generations are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust,” said Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “By educating our youth about the horrors of the past, we strive to instill in them a sense of empathy, tolerance, and the resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.”

Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of trustees at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said that by giving eighth graders in New York City more access to Holocaust education “we are taking a proactive stance against ignorance and prejudice.”

“We believe that by understanding the consequences of hate, our youth can help build a future rooted in compassion, respect, and the steadfast commitment to never let history repeat itself,” he added.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage opened in October 2023 its first exhibition designed for visitors aged 9 and up titled “Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark,” which highlights how Denmark’s ordinary citizens united to save nearly 95 percent of the country’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

The post New Program Offers NYC 8th Graders Free School Trips to Holocaust Museum to Learn About Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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