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A ‘Landing Day’ ceremony in Lower Manhattan celebrates the first Jewish community in the US

(New York Jewish Week) — When a small group of people convened next to an inconspicuous plaque steps from the entrance to the Staten Island Ferry’s Whitehall Terminal earlier this week, they weren’t there to catch a boat leaving the island.

Instead, they had come to the southern tip of Manhattan to celebrate a ship that had arrived on its shores centuries before.

The gathering on Wednesday was the 369th anniversary of an event most New Yorkers don’t know about, let alone celebrate: the arrival of the first Jewish community to the United States in 1654. That lack of awareness is exactly what Howard Teich, the founding chair of a group called the Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative, hopes to change.

That year, a group of 23 Sephardic Jews arrived on the shores of New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony located on the island. In the centuries since, the city and its image have been shaped in no small part by its Jewish denizens — from Emma Lazarus to Ed Koch to Nora Ephron.

In hosting the “Landing Day” ceremony, Teich’s ultimate goal is for Jews in the city with the world’s largest Jewish population to gather every year to celebrate their culture and accomplishments.

“We just have to change the narrative of the community right now,” Teich told the New York Jewish Week, adding that he felt Jewish communal discourse was at times overly focused on fear and division. “We’ve got to spread a positive message of who we are, what we’ve accomplished, how we’ve worked with other people, what we’ve started, the difference we’ve made in the time we’ve been here and, really, what America has meant to us as a people.”

Wednesday’s ceremony was held at Peter Minuit Plaza, next to a flagpole adorned with a plaque that reads: “Erected by the State of New York to honor the memory of the twenty three men, women and children who landed in September 1654 and founded the first Jewish community in North America.”

Donated by the State of New York, it is called the Jewish Tercentenary Monument and was put up in The Battery in 1954 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Jews’ arrival. That year, events were held for months across New York and the United States to celebrate, but in the decades since, there have only been a handful of gatherings at the site. None of the events and pronouncements associated with a Landing Day celebration in 2004, for the 350th anniversary, took place near the monument.

Teich aims to revitalize the celebration, and he hopes an annual event will take place at the plaza each fall.

“Now is the time,” he said. “[This ceremony] was supposed to show the positive of a community that’s really excelled in freedom. It’s incredible what’s been established in America and in New York in particular as a center of American Jewry to a large extent. That’s what I want to see celebrated.”

For Wednesday’s ceremony, Teich partnered with the Battery Conservancy, the New York Board of Rabbis and dozens of other Jewish and historical organizations across the city. Local and state politicians were also in attendance, including City Councilmember Gale Brewer, State Assembly Members Rebecca Seawright and Alex Bores, and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Elias Levy, the Jewish consul general of Panama in New York, was also present.

“I want our monuments to come alive,” Warrie Price, the president of the Battery Conservancy, said in a speech. “I ask all of you to make this monument  as relevant as it was in 1954, because its values and what it symbolizes are as true today as ever. We are still a landing site. We will never stop being a landing site. As New Yorkers and as a people of consciousness, we care and we will find the solutions to continue being a landing site.”

Along with speeches and music, which included Ladino and Hebrew versions of “Shalom Aleichem” and “Ein Keloheinu” from Rabbi Cantor Jill Hausman; a klezmer clarinet performance from the musician Zisel; and a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from singer Hannie Ricardo, attendees also heard a short history of the Jewish arrival in New Amsterdam from Bradley Shaw, a historian at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy.

Like so many immigrants to New York City who came after them, the Jews who landed in Manhattan in 1654 were fleeing persecution. In this case, they were escaping the Portuguese, who had conquered the Dutch colony of Brazil where the Jews had been living and instituted the Catholic Church’s Inquisition.

As it happens, just weeks before the group of 23 landed, three Ashkenazi Jews — Jacob Barsimson, Solomon Pietersen and Asser Levy, who was the New World’s first kosher butcher and Jewish homeowner — had come to New Amsterdam from Europe. Those three men greeted the group. When Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch director-general of New Amsterdam, originally rejected the new refugees — saying he wanted to establish a colony solely for Dutch Reformed Christians — Levy advocated on their behalf.

“The question I have is, did they have a minyan?” Shaw said, referring to a traditional Jewish prayer quorum of 10 men. The group had arrived just before Rosh Hashanah.

“The answer is, I really don’t know,” he said. “But that said, they might have. They had the four men from the boat and the three that were here. And of the children, there might have been one or two that were bar mitzvahed,” or over 13 years old.

With Levy’s help, along with urging from the Dutch West India Company, which counted many Sephardic Jews among their investors, the group stayed. Eventually, they established the Mill Street Synagogue, the first congregation in the United States. It eventually became Congregation Shearith Israel, or the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, whose building is now on West 70th Street.

According to the most recent estimates, the five boroughs are now home to more than 1 million Jews.

“Usually you come to a strange place and the first thing you look for is a synagogue,” said a woman at the ceremony who wished to remain anonymous, and who did not know the history of the Jews’ arrival before the event. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be the first ones to arrive.”

Teich wants to build momentum for the 400th anniversary of Landing Day — just 31 years away.

“There’s a real continuity that we need to appreciate,” he said. “That’s who we should be as a people — we have 5,000 years of history and nearly 400 here. It’s quite something.”

The post A ‘Landing Day’ ceremony in Lower Manhattan celebrates the first Jewish community in the US 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

— ✭ (@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

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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.

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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.

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