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A proud Syrian Jew fled to Amsterdam to escape abuse. Since Oct. 7, he’s been afraid to sleep in his own apartment.

(JTA) — When Shevan arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee of the Syrian Civil War, he picked up running. The habit helped him combat traumatic memories from his home country, where he was arrested for participating in peaceful demonstrations against the Assad regime in 2011.

During six months in prison, Shevan says he was tortured, raped and abused. He fled to Lebanon after his release and registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which allowed him to resettle in the Netherlands in 2013. Now 33 years old, the gay, Jewish Syrian works as an activist for LGBTQ causes and human rights.

He planned to run the Amsterdam Marathon this year with a Ukrainian flag, showing his solidarity with the country that has suffered thousands of casualties since Russia’s invasion that began in February 2022. Then a week before the marathon, war erupted between Israel and Hamas.

So Shevan carried three flags during the race on Oct. 15. He added an Israeli flag to honor the 1,400 Israelis killed and over 200 taken hostage by Hamas. And he ran with a Palestinian flag to support civilians in the Gaza Strip, whose health ministry has reported over 8,000 people killed by Israeli airstrikes amid a desperate humanitarian crisis.

Shevan hoped that running 26 miles with three flags on his back would promote his belief in peace and security for all people, from the Middle East to Europe. But three days after the marathon, he found a red swastika and Star of David painted across the window of his ground-floor apartment in Utrecht.

“I ran for peace,” said Shevan, who asked the Jewish Telegraphic Agency not to use his last name for fear of further retaliation. “What more should I do? I ran, for God’s sake, with three flags. This situation has just pushed me to be crazy.”

Shevan said he has been targeted as a Jew in the Netherlands well before this year’s Israel-Hamas war, too. Last year, he found his front door covered in swastikas, Stars of David and the word “Juden.” In 2021, while wearing a kippah on the train, he was assaulted by a Dutch man who called him a “dirty Jew” and other antisemitic curses. Over the years he has filed multiple reports with the police, but they have never made an arrest.

Since Oct. 7, Shevan has been extra careful. He no longer wears a kippah in public and he removed the mezuzah and the sign reading “Shalom” in Hebrew and English from his front door. After the attack on his window, he stopped sleeping in his own home. He uses his apartment during the day and stays with friends overnight.

“What I face right now, of course it’s not like Syria,” he said. “But I would like once in my life to have justice. I don’t want anyone to call me ‘dirty Jew,’ or ‘dirty gay,’ or ‘dirty whatever.’ I just would like to live in peace.”

Dutch Jews often report a ripple of backlash when there is fighting in Israel, according to Naomi Mestrum, director of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), a group that tracks antisemitism in the Netherlands.

Only about 30,000 Jews live in the Netherlands. The community was decimated by the Holocaust, when roughly 100,000 were killed in death camps. Today, many Dutch people lack education on their own country’s Jewish history; earlier this year, a Claims Conference survey reported that a majority of Dutch residents did not know the Holocaust took place there.

A view of the recent vandalism on Shevan’s window. (Courtesy)

The lack of familiarity and knowledge about Jews can inflame prejudice, said Mestrum. It can also aggravate the conflation of Jewish people in the Netherlands with the actions of the Israeli government.

“The community is very small, and that means that most people in the Netherlands might have never even met a Jew,” she told JTA. “It makes them like strange creatures that are far away — it’s the unknown.”

Like other parts of Europe and the United States, the Netherlands has seen public fury boil over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the enclave’s ensuing humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Dutch protestors have demanded a ceasefire and increased aid in Gaza, including some activists who occupied the entry to the International Criminal Court in The Hague last week.

Shevan sympathizes with voices calling for peace. He has visited Israel and met both Israelis and Palestinians who advocate for a peaceful resolution to the decades-old conflict, including the Canadian-Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver, who was abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7. But he was appalled when a Dutch neighbor, apparently outraged at the Israeli government, turned her sights toward him.

“When the war started between Israel and Hamas, I was in the supermarket and she asked me, ‘How many Palestinians did your people kill today?’” he said. “What kind of a question is this, for God’s sake? How many Palestinians did my people kill today — my people? What do you mean by my people?”

Esther Voet is the editor-in-chief of the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad, known in English as the Dutch Jewish Weekly. It is the oldest news magazine in the Netherlands — operating since 1865 — and the country’s only Jewish weekly, boasting a readership between 20,000 and 25,000 in a country of only 30,000 Jews.

After Hamas’ Oct, 7 attacks, Voet said her staff was inundated with calls. Many subscribers pleaded for a change in the delivery procedure: They did not want their magazines to arrive in its usual transparent plastic cover. If the magazine did not change its packaging, some readers said they would cancel their subscriptions.

“We decided to put it in a white anonymous envelope, so that their neighbors do not know they are Jewish,” Voet told JTA.

A recent cover of the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad reads “We are one.” (Courtesy of Esther Voet)

At CIDI, Mestrum has also been overwhelmed with calls from tense Jewish families.

“We are getting a lot of phone calls from parents that are worried about their kids going to school,” she said. “We have incidents of kids getting very nasty comments, praising Hitler or praising Hamas for finishing Hitler’s job.”

On Oct. 13, Amsterdam’s three Jewish schools closed as a precautionary measure, following a former Hamas leader’s call for street protests across the Muslim world that day. Some of the city’s synagogues have reported a rise in threats over recent weeks.

Chanan Hertzberger, chairman of the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands, told JTA that his organization has pushed for increased security around the country’s synagogues and Jewish schools. Authorities in several Dutch cities were quick to shore up their protection around Jewish institutions after Hamas’ attacks, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government has been “extra alert” to the issue.

But many members of the Jewish community are still fearful, said Hertzberger. And as they see antisemitism flaring in their backyard, many can no longer view Israel as a safe refuge.

“The community got a big blow,” he said. “We always regarded Israel as the place where we can always go, no matter what happens.”


The post A proud Syrian Jew fled to Amsterdam to escape abuse. Since Oct. 7, he’s been afraid to sleep in his own apartment. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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