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2 synagogues evacuated during livestreamed Shabbat services as wave of bomb threats enters 4th week

(JTA) – At least two synagogues in California evacuated during Shabbat services over the weekend as online trolls targeted Jewish congregations for the fourth straight week with fake bomb and other security threats.

At least 26 congregations in 12 states have received the threats, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which is raising alarm about the barrage. The organization believes the instigators are selecting their targets based on the availability of livestreamed services and other events, motivated by their desire to watch the congregations react to the threats in real time. 

“This is what happens when individuals coalesce around their hatred of Jews and use technology to try to optimize that,” Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

The two California synagogues that evacuated in response to the threats were Temple Beth Torah, a Reform congregation in Fremont, which emptied its building on Friday evening, and Temple Beth Tikvah, a Reform congregation in Fullerton, which did the same during Saturday services. Both had received anonymous phoned-in bomb threats. 

Beth Tikvah’s Facebook livestream captures the moment that the threat made its way to the prayer leaders. “I am afraid that we need to stop and leave the building right now,” Rabbi Mati Kirschenbaum says after placing one hand on the shoulder of Cantor Shannon McGrady Bane, causing her to stop singing. She nods, removes her headset and exits the camera’s view as a message goes up for viewers: “Coverage will be stopping.”

Temple Beth Torah and Temple Beth Tikvah did not return requests for comment Monday. 

The wave of threats has also targeted two ADL offices and other religious congregations, including African-American churches. But the activity seems primarily motivated by antisemitism, Segal said, citing what he called “lowbrow and classic antisemitism” in the language used in the phone calls. The perpetrators do not seem to be connected to any larger antisemitic groups, he said.

Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have weathered previous waves of false threats, including a spate of bomb threats at day schools Jewish community centers in 2017 that was later attributed to a Jewish teenager in Israel and, in early 2020, emailed threats to Jewish community centers that were deemed not to be credible, but not before they caused disruptions in 23 states.

Segal said that even as antisemitic harassment has become a frequent problem for synagogues over the last few years, the sustained nature of this current campaign “is a level beyond what is normal.” 

The increase in the number of synagogues streaming their services since the pandemic has created a new frontier for disruption. (A watershed moment in the streaming of U.S. synagogues came in January 2022, when an armed man took a rabbi and three congregants hostage in a Texas synagogue whose service was being streamed.) 

While the ADL does not recommend that congregations stop streaming their services, Segal said synagogue leadership should be aware that “bad actors” may seek to manipulate them, especially heading into the High Holidays.

“What makes this different is that this is a particular campaign using tools that many of us take for granted but that we can see are weaponized,” he said. “As people go into the High Holidays, it’s just another thing to be concerned about and to be prepared for.”

The post 2 synagogues evacuated during livestreamed Shabbat services as wave of bomb threats enters 4th week appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Williams College Rejects Divestment Proposal, Delivering Blow to Anti-Zionist Student Movement

Anti-Israel protesters outside Columbia University in Manhattan, New York City, April 22, 2024. Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Williams College in Massachusetts has rejected a proposal to divest from weapons manufacturers that sell their products to Israel, delivering a substantial loss to the anti-Zionist movement in the final days of the academic year.

The school’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) has been considering the proposal, put forth by a group which calls itself Jews for Justice (JfJ), since January. This month, it produced a report of recommendations that will be forwarded to the Williams College Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees.

In addition to rejecting JfJ’s demand that Williams College divest from weapons manufactures that do business with Israel, ASCR declined to make itself a permanent standing committee and to recommend adopting controversial Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles which have been pushed by far-left groups aiming to use the market as an accelerator of social change.

“The ACSR recommends to the Investment Committee that the college not divest from companies that sell weapons, reconnaissance tools, or vehicles used by the Israel Defense Forces, and that the college not divest from weapons manufactures,” the report says. “Having recommended that … in the absence of other specific requests for divestment, the ACSR recommends to the Investment Committee that the college not adopt a blanket, exclusionary approach to ESG investing.”

ASCR cited a number of reasons why the move would be disadvantageous to the college, including that some of its funds are potentially “commingled.” Divesting from them, it explained, “could have a negative impact on investment performance out of proportion to the negligible impact on the targeted company.” It also said that JfJ’s demands are “broad” and target companies such as Boeing, which “not only builds missiles, but also satellite systems and commercial aircraft.”

ASCR also explained that there is no “shared understanding” among scholars and experts, nor among its own community, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would make divestment from Israel as morally cogent as divesting from South Africa in the 1980s or, more recently, fossil fuels.

“The ACSR did receive feedback from some student groups, some faculty, and some staff in support of the Jews for Justice requests,” the report continued. “But oppositional perspectives within our community have also been expressed. The recent tumult on college and university campuses is but one reflection of the contentious nature of these complicated and emotionally charged issues.”

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — a group that has been linked to terrorist organizations — and Jews for Justice — an anti-Zionist organization that represents a minority segment of opinion in the Jewish community — voluntarily ended its occupation of Williams College’s Sawyer Quad on May 18, conceding defeat after a two and half week standoff with the university that resulted only in promises of two meetings with administrators in the next four months.

“We ended the encampment, but we do not consider the outcomes of our negotiations to be a victory,” SJP told The Williams Record. “We will continue pressuring the administration until full divestment and implementation of ethical investment standards.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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University of Toronto offers a deal to protesters, but the school refuses to participate in academic boycotts of Israel

Representatives for the pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto were still deciding on the morning of Friday May 24 how to respond to an offer from the school to either end the demonstration or be issued a notice of trespass. The offer was given in the afternoon of May 23, and gave the encampment […]

The post University of Toronto offers a deal to protesters, but the school refuses to participate in academic boycotts of Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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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

— ✭ (@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.”

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