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A day after being heckled for his Israel views, Ritchie Torres gets a hero’s welcome at Bronx Jewish school

(New York Jewish Week) – The day before winter break starts is often an exciting one at school, with pizza parties, movies in class and other laid-back activities. But at SAR Academy, a Modern Orthodox K-8 day school in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale, the air was abuzz for a different reason: Their congressman, Ritchie Torres, was stopping by for a visit to reaffirm his support for Israel.

Torres, a Democrat who is an outspoken ally of Israel in Congress and online, was a guest of honor at SAR’s morning assembly, where the entire school community comes together to say Tehillim — psalms said for healing and protection — and sing prayers for Israel and the Jewish people, in a daily ritual that began the Monday morning after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

For the students at SAR Academy, Torres is something of a celebrity, having visited the school a handful of times in the past few years and even traveling to Israel with the school’s principal, Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, last year on a Jewish Community Relations Council trip. The congressman, who was previously a member of the New York City Council, was greeted with uproarious applause — some students held posters reading “The Bronx Loves Ritchie Torres,” while others stopped him for a selfie or tried to give him homemade crafts. 

“I know, as a congressman, I’m not supposed to have favorites — but SAR is one of my favorites because it is a special and magical place,” Torres, 35, told the group of nearly 1,000 students and faculty. “It’s moments like these that we’re reminded that what matters most, and most in life is family, and friendship and faith.”

SAR Academy students lined up to take selfies and shake hands with the congressman, Dec. 22, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

It was a stark contrast from the reception Torres got Thursday night at a different Jewish venue, the 92NY Jewish cultural center on the Upper East Side. There, while discussing his recently passed bill to assign a special envoy for the Abraham Accords, the peace deals between Israel and Arab countries, he was interrupted by anti-Israel protesters who shouted, among other things, “Ritchie Torres, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.” 

At SAR, however, it was all smiles for the Bronx native, who first traveled to Israel in 2015 with UJA-Federation New York and the JCRC when he was first elected to city council, and who has been a prominent supporter since. 

“When I’m in my district in a place like SAR, I’m warmly received,” Torres told the New York Jewish Week. “Obviously, among anti-Israel activists, I’m considered controversial. But in life, you have to fight for what you believe in.”

He said no amount of criticism could deter him from his support for Israel, which sets him apart from other young members of Congress, particularly representatives of color.

“I believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and I believe in the U.S.-Israel relationship and I’m never going to waver from that belief,” Torres added.

Ahead of Torres’ remarks, Krauss thanked the congressman for his continued support of Israel and SAR. “We never want our kids’ association with Israel to be negative or sad; we also know it’s important to tell them the truth, so there’s been a lot of sadness lately,” he said. “But what you chose to do today, on Erev Shabbat, right before we’re all going out for a well-deserved holiday break, is to share good and hopeful news. That’s what our children are hearing, and I promise you that that’s something they will never, ever forget.”

(L-R) Congressman Ritchie Torres, Rabbi Binyamen Krauss and Israeli Consul General Aviv Ezra take questions from a group SAR Academy students , Dec. 22, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

After Torres and Israeli Consul General Aviv Ezra greeted the student body with brief remarks, they held a small press conference of sorts with members of SAR’s student council, a group of about 10 students representing each grade at the school.

“This is really exciting for me,” eighth-grader Hannah Goldstein, the student council president, told the New York Jewish Week. “There’s a lot going on in Israel and there’s a lot of arguments about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s really special to have someone come that’s representing America and representing the Bronx and say, ‘This is what I’m standing up for.’” 

Torres told the students he saw them as being part of shaping a more peaceful future for Israel. 

“The future of the Middle East is neither pro-Israel nor pro-Arab — the future of the Middle East is both pro-Israel and pro-Arab,” Torres said in his remarks. “We are here at SAR because the students represent the future leaders of our society. These students are going to fight to create a world where all the children of Abraham — Jews, Christians and Muslims — can coexist in peace and prosperity. Yours is the generation that’s going to realize the Abrahamic dream and build on the foundation of the Abraham Accords.”

The students didn’t shy away from asking tough questions. One middle-schooler asked Torres what more he and the U.S. government could and will do to support Israel, while an elementary-aged boy wondered if Torres would consider supporting a country who has attacked Israel in the past if they were to need aid one day. 

To the first question, Torres answered that Congress was working on a security assistance bill for the replenishment of aid to the Iron Dome. And to the second question, Torres urged the student to draw distinctions between people and their governments, especially when thinking about supporting Palestinians in a path towards peace while holding Hamas accountable.

It was Torres himself who suggested a meeting with the day school students. “SAR is an iconic institution,” he told the New York Jewish Week about why he thought it was important to visit the school. “These students are going to be the future leaders who are going to be fighting for the world that is envisioned by the Abraham Accords, they’re going to be living in the world that we’re describing here today.” 

Torres then turned to the students and said: “All of you are fighting for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and the right of Israel to defend itself against an existential threat. It’s an honor to be a righteous ally in that cause.”


The post A day after being heckled for his Israel views, Ritchie Torres gets a hero’s welcome at Bronx Jewish school appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas

[Illustrative] Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

A group of ten Harvard University alumni filed a lawsuit against the institution on Wednesday, accusing it of “devaluing” their degrees through permitting and fostering an environment of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and anti-Israel sentiment. 

Filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the alumni claims that Harvard has breached an implicit contract with its graduates, promising to maintain the institution’s prestige, which they allege has been compromised due to a toxic campus environment. This, they argue, has led potential employers and prestigious law firms to distance themselves from Harvard alumni.

“Harvard has directly caused the value and prestige of plaintiffs’ Harvard degrees to be diminished and made a mockery out of Harvard graduates in the employment world and beyond,” the lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit argues that the university’s administration has failed to combat campus anti-semitism, and has consistently overlooked assaults on Jewish students and calls by students and faculty for the annihilation of Israel. It highlighted, among other things, an open letter signed by more than thirty student organizations blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas-led attack, and campus protests which included chants like “Long live the intifada!” and “There is only one solution: intifada revolution!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab!”

The suit also points to then-Harvard president Claudine Gay’s testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she stated that calls for genocide against Jews would only violate bullying and harassment policies “depending on the context,” as indicative of the school’s tolerance of antisemitism.

The lawsuit is part of a growing dissatisfaction among graduates over what they perceive as rampant antisemitism on U.S. campuses, according to attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of legal aid group, Shurat HaDin, who is representing the alumni alongside New York-based lawyer, Robert Tolchin.

Darshan-Leitner criticized the colleges for becoming “hate centers” under the guise of academic freedom. 

The lawsuit, Darshan-Leitner said, reveals the “growing outrage and contempt that graduates all across the US are feeling over the wild antisemitism and hate speech being encouraged and explained away on the American campuses.” 

“This dangerous weaponization of higher education by radical faculty and students as well as the impotent administration response, all justified under the guise of academic freedom, has turned the colleges into hate centers which has greatly devalued their reputation and diplomas,” she said, adding that the suit could prompt similar actions from graduates of other institutions.

Tolchin accused the university of succumbing to “the flavor of the month, the lowest level of discourse.”

“Harvard’s seal proclaims “Light and Truth” in Latin and Hebrew–yes, Hebrew, the language spoken by the indigenous Israelites. Yet light and truth have been hard to find at Harvard. The darkness of antisemitism and the dishonesty, hate, and discrimination have cast a pall over Harvard so embarrassing that people do not wish to be associated with Harvard,” Tolchin said. 

Harvard has been accused of facilitating an educational environment that is unwelcoming to Israelis and Jews for years, with the lawsuit citing annual events such as “Israel Apartheid Week” and incidents targeting Jewish students and symbols on campus. 

Antisemitism expert Dara Horn, a Harvard alumnus who was asked to join Gay’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, authored a damning essay published this week in The Atlantic in which she detailed the Jew hatred on campus predating October 7. 

She noted that staff members “who grade Jewish students used university-issued class lists to share information about events organized by pro-Palestine groups;” In one instance, a professor continued teaching after rejecting the findings of an investigation by Harvard after he was found discriminating against several Israeli students. Last spring, a student was asked to leave because her identity as an Israeli was making her classmates “uncomfortable.”

She also pointed to courses themselves “premised on anti-Semitic lies”, pointing to one called “The Settler Colonial Determinants of Health”, and noted that lecturers invited to speak at the campus included some who peddled in blood libels that Israelis harvest Palestinians’ organs or that the IDF uses Palestinian children for weapons testing. 

“The mountain of proof at Harvard revealed a reality in which Jewish students’ access to their own university (classes, teachers, libraries, dining halls, public spaces, shared student experiences) was directly compromised,” Horn writes.  The alumni’s legal action comes alongside another lawsuit filed by six current Harvard students on January 10, claiming that the university has not done enough to combat antisemitism on campus which had become a “bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment.” It also comes a day after a professor at the university, Walter Johnson, resigned from two anti-Zionist campus groups after they posted antisemitic cartoons.

The post Harvard Alumni File Lawsuit Claiming Campus Antisemitism ‘Devalues’ Their Diplomas first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7

Eden Alene, winner of the reality show “The Next Star to Eurovision,” during finals in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo: Shlomi Cohen/Flash90.

Israeli Culture Minister Miki Zohar sent the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a letter on Thursday urging them to approve Israel’s submission to the Eurovision song competition, after the EBU called it “too political.”

“As you know, the State of Israel is experiencing one of the most difficult and complex periods since its establishment. We lost our loved ones, and there are women, men and children who are still held captive by a terrorist organization,” Zohar said.

Israeli media reported that the broadcasting union would not approve the song, called “October Rain,” after a number of countries even issued threats to boycott the event if Israel participates. The EBU issued a statement saying “We are currently in the process of carefully examining the lyrics of the song – a process that is confidential between the EBU and the Public Broadcasting Corporation until a final decision is made. To all broadcasters, they have until March 11th to officially submit their songs. If a song does not meet the criteria for any reason, the corporation will be given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics, according to the contest rules.”

“The song that Israel sent to the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen by a professional committee made up of well-known names in the local music and entertainment industry,” Zohar added. “It is a moving song, discussing renewal and revival from a very fragile reality of loss and destruction, and describes the current public mood in Israel these days. We see now most clearly because our lives – as one, united society – manage to overcome even the greatest suffering. This is not a political song.”

Despite the news that the song by Israeli singer Eden Golan would not be approved, The CEO of KAN, Israel’s national broadcasting service, and the body that approves the song, Golan Yokhpaz, said “We will not change the words or the song, even at the cost of Israel not participating in Eurovision this year.” Adding “The Israel Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) is in dialogue with the EBU regarding the song that will represent Israel at Eurovision.”

Zohar said later in a television interview “The songwriters, KAN, and the singer will have to make the decisions at the end of the day… I do think that Israel should participate in Eurovision because it is important for us at this time to be represented there, and to express ourselves throughout Europe.”

Speaking to the EBU, he said, “We trust that you will continue in your important task of keeping the competition free from any attempt at political manipulation.”

The post Israel Not Budging After Eurovision Disapproval of Song Commemorating October 7 first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..” https://t.co/N1wkOPgKJs

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

The post UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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