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Art, Protests, and Being Proud to Be Jewish

Demonstrators take their “Emergency Rally: Stand with Palestinians Under Siege in Gaza” out of Harvard University and onto the streets of Harvard Square, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 14, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

On Oct. 8, Israeli artist Zoya Cherkassky, not knowing what was coming next in the Jewish State, took her 8-year-old daughter and fled to Berlin. Zoya, 47, who was born in Kyiv and emigrated to Israel in 1991, also took her art supplies. Creating art was how she processed tragedy.

The early images of the atrocities at Kibbutz Be’eri made Cherkassky think of “Guernica,” Picasso’s 1937 painting of the Basque town after the Nazi Luftwaffe bombed it. Picasso vividly portrayed the horror of inhumanity. Cherkassky began to draw her emotions and quickly produced 12 works that just as vividly show the shock, fear, and brutality of Oct. 7.

A family of ashen, burned bodies look at us in horror, hands pressed against gaping mouths, silently screaming. An elderly couple, hands bound behind their backs, embrace as blood and flames surround them. A mother holds her baby son close as she stares in disbelief at a mass of dead bodies.

“Museums exist to be custodians of world cultural heritage, and this kind of savagery and barbarism is the antithesis of that,” James Snyder, the new director of the Jewish Museum in New York City, said. “We need to speak out against them and do what we can to educate and engage.”

Snyder, who had worked with Cherkassky during his tenure at the Israel Museum, quickly installed her drawings in an all-black room, called “7 October 2023.” For most of us, this was entirely appropriate — in fact, I would love to see more work by Israeli artists. But for the art world, whose hostility toward Israel is renowned, this was considered a “colonial” move.

On the evening of Feb. 12, I went to the museum to hear Snyder interview Cherkassky. The event was packed. We had all gone through security, as every Jewish institution implemented after 9/11. But metal detectors don’t scan for pro-Hamas “disrupters,” and at three points throughout the evening, these disrupters screamed the usual epithets at Cherkassky. I’m sure everyone there did the same mental calculation: Metal detectors were present, so they couldn’t be armed. But none of us could be sure.

That made Snyder’s response all the more interesting. “Thank you for the dialogue,” he calmly told them, as security escorted them out. “This all helps counter polarization.” Cherkassky chose a different tactic: She cursed at the protestors. After another set was forced to leave, Cherkassky said: “I am very happy that there are privileged young people from privileged countries that can know how everybody in the world should act.”

After the third set, a young GenZer behind me screamed out: “This isn’t dialogue; this is antisemitism.” Shockingly, many in the audience screamed at her to “Shut up!”

The Jewish Museum is to the north of Temple Emanu-El, the site of the Kissinger memorial protests that led to white leftists throwing water in the faces of an elderly couple. There was no public condemnation of the protesters from the synagogue.

All of which begs the question: How should Jewish institutions respond to Oct. 7 and the daily, violent riots that have followed?

Last week, I went down to the Museum of Jewish Heritage to hear a panel discuss film clips from Feb. 20, 1939, when 20,000 pro-Nazi Americans filled Madison Square Garden. The footage is terrifying, especially when a Jewish man bravely jumps on the stage and is thoroughly beaten.

The panel made direct parallels to today’s alt-right — Charles Lindbergh became the leading voice of the America First Committee, an isolationist group of 800,000 that was against America entering World War II — and discussed the limits of freedom of speech. But despite the fact that thousands of “Globalize the Intifada” rioters filled Times Square on Oct 8, before Israel began to respond, the museum purposefully avoided any references to what New Yorkers are now living with on a daily basis.

How could a museum dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust hold an event that intentionally ignored the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust? Toward the end, the moderator even expressed shock that people were “conflating Israel and Jews.”

It turned out to be a prophetic statement, but not in the way he intended. At roughly the same time, a young Jewish dentist was murdered by a Muslim man in San Diego, which has been alleged to be a hate crime. Just like in the 1930s, Jews’ desire to conform — to distance themselves from their heritage — isn’t going to save them.

Many American Jews have a lot to learn from Israelis — not just about the necessity of fighting back, but that our 3,000-year connection to our homeland is integral to who we are. We’re beginning to see it from GenZers who are being bullied on campuses. They’re testifying before Congress about the antisemitic violence on campuses, and making videos inspiring other Jewish students to stand up for themselves.

Perhaps some of this was meant to be a lesson to those who still haven’t fully processed what being Jewish — ethnically Judean — means. And how allowing your soul to fully grasp that feeling can bring a type of strength, bravery, and resilience that no one can touch. For more secular Jews, Israeli artists, who understand all of this intuitively, may be the best teachers.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is editor in chief of White Rose Magazine. A version of this article was originally published by The Jewish Journal.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

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‘Israel Is Not Jewish People,’ New York Times ‘Daily’ Guest Really Wants You to Know

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

When producers from the New York Times podcast “The Daily” posted on social media looking for “Jewish students who represent a range of feelings and experiences, from being enthusiastically pro Palestinian to enthusiastically pro Israel, and everything in between,” I replied, “This is a trap! They’ll use the ‘pro-Palestinian’ (the polite term they use for the ones who want to wipe Israel off the map) ones to make it sound like the Jewish community is divided and give listeners the illusion that the anti-Israel protests aren’t antisemitic.”

Sure enough, the Times podcast episode that finally aired, headlined, “The Campus Protesters Explain Themselves,” included three students.

Mustafa Yowell, of Irving, Texas, said his mother was from “Nablus, Palestine” and described himself as a Palestinian Arab. He’s a student at the University of Texas, Austin who complained to the Times that “two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers had infiltrated the campus.” By “IDF soldiers” he meant Israeli students at the university who had, like many Israelis, served in the army before college.

The second student interviewed, Elisha Baker, a student at Columbia University, described himself as a proud Zionist and a graduate of Jewish day school.

And the third student, Jasmine Jolly, a student at Cal Poly Humboldt, described herself as the daughter of a Catholic father and “of Ashkenazi descent on my mom’s side.” Jolly showed up at protests with a sign that said “in honor of my Jewish ancestors, I stand with Palestine.” Jolly also chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.”

“There’s nothing that has come across to me as antisemitic if you are able to pause and remember that Israel is not Jewish people and Zionism is not Jewish people,” Jolly explained to the Times audience.

Jolly read an email from her Jewish grandfather claiming, “Israel is an increasingly apartheid state.”

This is just such a misleading view of reality on campus and in American Jewish life. Even polls like Pew that use an expansive definition of who is Jewish find overwhelming Jewish support for Israel and negligible support for Hamas, including among younger Jews 18 to 34.

In reality, a lot of the anti-Israel protesters aren’t even Palestinians; they are European or Asian students or white or black Americans who either have been brainwashed by their professors or who have underlying, pre-existing antisemitic attitudes. Few of them have been to the Middle East and many of them are ignorant about basic facts about it — remember the Wall Street Journal piece, “From Which River to Which Sea?

“The Daily” episode made it crisply concrete, with the Times representing Jews as being split 50-50, with one normative Jew and one Jew chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution.” That’s ridiculous, yet a similar approach contaminates other Times coverage of the Jewish community, misleadlingly portraying American Jewry as deeply divided rather than unified around the goals of getting the hostages back, eliminating the threat of Hamas, and making American college campuses safe for Jewish students.

The Times was at this game well before Oct. 7, 2023, proclaiming “the unraveling of American Zionism” and trotting out old chestnuts such as the Reform movement’s Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 and the New York Times‘ favorite Jew, Peter Beinart.

I find myself rolling my eyes at such depictions, but there is clearly some audience for them among the Times readership and top editorial ranks. The Times executive editor, Joe Kahn, told Semafor’s Ben Smith in a May interview, “I’m not an active Jew.” Maybe the New York Times can sell sweatshirts: “Inactive Jew.” Who, exactly, is supposed to find that distinction between “active” and “inactive” Jews reassuring? Maybe they can put it on top of the front page in place of “All the News That’s Fit to Print”: “Edited by someone who wants the public to know he’s not an active Jew.”

Of all the moments to choose to distance oneself publicly from the Jewish people, this is sure quite one to choose.

This “Daily” episode seems calculated to appeal to the inactive Jews, and to others who want justification to believe it’s not antisemitic to set up on Passover and falsely accuse Israel of genocide. It’s nice for the Times to include a Zionist voice on the program, but he wound up sandwiched in between a Palestinian and an “only one solution, intifada revolution” person. It’s fairly typical for the New York Times these days, but it isn’t pretty.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. He also writes at

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