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At a Jewish comic book festival, fans and creators take time to celebrate joy

(New York Jewish Week) — More than 400 comic book lovers flocked to Manhattan’s Center for Jewish History on Sunday for the first-ever Jewish Comics Experience, a pop culture convention that was billed as the “ultimate comics and pop culture event.”

Some 35 comics creators participated in the inaugural JewCE, including “Sin City” creator Frank Miller and underground comics legend Barbara “Willy” Mendes. Others participating were artists who specialize in depicting Torah stories, creators of Jewish superheroes, autobiographical writers who just happen to be Jewish and non-Jewish authors and artists who create Jewish content. 

“It’s high time that Jewish creators are recognized for their contribution to comic culture, a culture that was for the most part created by Jewish people,” JewCE co-founder Fabrice Sapolsky told the New York Jewish Week. 

Though the event was planned long before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent war, the continued violence in the Middle East and its reverberating effects was resonant across the convention. In myriad panel conversations and in one-on-one discussions, the situation in Israel, increased antisemitism across the globe and the acute need for Jewish joy were frequent themes. For many creators and attendees, “showing up” and supporting the Jewish community was at the top of mind, while others noted the camaraderie among individuals who all shared a a love of Jewish culture. 

According to Miriam Mora, the co-founder of JewCE and the director of programming at the Center for Jewish History, the difficult moment made a Jewish comic convention more relevant than ever. “Comics are worth paying attention to because there’s no better way to lift up our community and to fight antisemitism than to educate people about Jewish contributions, Jewish identities, Jewish stories than to celebrate them,” she said. 

Indie “comix” icon Mendes, best known for the classic comic “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” agreed. “We just need people to know how wonderful we are because there’s a lot of propaganda out there that we’re terrible,” she told the New York Jewish Week. “We need to counteract that with proof that Jews are wonderful, and that’s what this is all about — and that’s why I’m so happy to be part of the convention.”

The history of Jews and comics is a long and rich one, beginning with the earliest comic book creators — nearly all Jews — to the continued presence of Jewish stories in both popular comics and more esoteric ones. For example, Marvel briefly had a Jewish Black Panther character, while, more recently, author Yehudi Mercato drew upon his Mexican-Jewish family for his middle-grade graphic memoir, “Chunky.” Meanwhile, some traditional Jewish texts have gotten the graphic novel treatment, including Mendes’ recent takes on the weekly Torah portion.

Indie comics icon Barbara “Willy” Mendes poses in front of her mural depicting Torah portions. (Elizabeth Karpen)

JewCE was created to spotlight this rich, diverse history, and the convention was born out of smaller Jewish comic cons that Sapolsky had organized in 2016 and 2018 at Congregation Kol Israel in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 2022, Mora reached out to Sapolsky to propose the idea of a larger Jewish comic con at the Center for Jewish History. A lifelong comic book fan herself, Mora thought the center, with its central location near Union Square, was the perfect locale. 

“I always regretted that I couldn’t do more Jewish comic cons and Miriam said the magic words. She said ‘let’s be creative,’” Sapolsky told New York Jewish Week. 

That creativity was on full display Sunday as creators spoke at panels such as “Jewish Folklore in Comics,” “Queering Jewish Comics” and “Getting Past Ashkenormativity and Secularism in Comics.” Jewish publishers sold a variety of books and individual creators signed their work and mingled with fans. One table was run by the mother of a writer of a Holocaust education comic who couldn’t make the trip from Los Angeles. 

Miriam Libicki, an artist and author, traveled many hours from her home in Vancouver to attend the inaugural event. “I knew I really would love to be part of this new con starting up,” Libicki, the author of “But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust,” told the New York Jewish Week. “All the creators are so many people that I’m huge fans of, or colleagues and just Jews in comics who have found each other.”

For some attendees, JewCE was their entry into the world of Jewish comics.

Friends Tracy Weiss and Chavi Kahn had planned to see the Yeshiva University Museum exhibit “The Golden Path: Maimonides Across Eight Centuries” at the center when they discovered it closed for convention day. So instead, they attended JewCE, describing it as “completely out of our comfort zones.” And yet, they were surprised at how much they learned about the Jewish origins of the comic industry. 

“You could really see the theme of trying to rise above our enemies and challenges,” Kahn said. “And I think it’s particularly resonant in this moment when there are so many challenges, and the depth of this expression is really impressive.”

In addition to the convention, a concurrent exhibit at the Center for Jewish History, “The Museum and Laboratory of the Jewish Comics Experience,” will be on view through the end of the year. Curated by Mora, the “museum” portion of the exhibit consists of five mini exhibits from the five partner organizations that make up the CJH. The Leo Baeck Institute, for example, has an exhibit on how superheroes fought fascism, while the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research’s exhibit is about Yiddish cartoons — as well as a reading library made up of hundreds of Jewish comics. 

The laboratory, meanwhile, is an interactive, kid-friendly exhibit that allows museum-goers to try their hand at drawing comics and even dress up to become the Jewish superhero they’ve always dreamed of. 

Miriam Mora, co-founder of JewCE and the director of programming at the Center for Jewish History, inside the concurrent exhibit The Museum and Laboratory of the Jewish Comics Experience. (Courtesy the Center for Jewish History)

A preview event on Saturday evening included the first-ever JewCie Awards, designed to highlight excellence in Jewish comics. Awards were handed out to numerous creatives for categories like best diverse representation, best historical narrative and best autobiographical comic. Among the winners were Neil Kleid, Asaf Hanuka and Dani Kolman, while famed satirist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jules Feiffer and Eisner-nominated author Trina Robbins won the respective Macher and Macherke Awards for their lifetime contributions to comics. 

Chari Pere, who was nominated as Artist of the Year, told the New York Jewish Week on Sunday that she relished the opportunity to connect with Jewish peers and to find new audiences for her work. 

“This is something that people were hoping about for years,” Pere said of the Jewish con. “As a Jewish cartoonist, what could be better to be among your peers and to be able to have your Hebrew-themed illustrations and ‘Shabbos Tales’ comics featured in an environment where people know what that means?”

Artist and comedian Danielle Brody began drawing cartoons during the pandemic, and only recently became a comics creator, publishing the “Don’t Fuhaggadahboudit” Haggadah in the spring and the soon-to-be-released “Hot Hanukkah Book.” 

She said she loved basking in the overwhelming Jewishness that surrounded the convention. “Sometimes when you’re a creator, it feels like sometimes you’re the only person doing something and it can get lonely,” she said. “So to be in a space where everyone’s a Jewish creator, and is channeling their Judaism into art and comics and telling stories, is everything.”

Chicago-based writer Paul Axel, author of “Rotten Roots,” emphasized that it was empowering to be in a space where participants shared both a love of comics and a love of Judaism — and how it was incredibly important to keep pushing for Jewish spaces in the comics industry. 

“When you go to a comic con, everybody’s a comic book fan — everyone loves some aspect of that,” he said. “To have a second layer, a deeper layer of the shared culture and ethnicity and identity and religion adds so much more to the show.”

Sapolsky said that JewCE’s first run in New York City is far from its last. The exhibit will run through the end of 2023 and those it are already in talks to take the exhibit to other cities

“For us, creating JewCE is not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning of the journey,” Sapolsky said. “We’re ready to think that this event is bigger than any of us. It’s something that has to count because Jews do count, but on top of counting, it’s also important for non-Jews to discover who we are.”


The post At a Jewish comic book festival, fans and creators take time to celebrate joy appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups

Mahmoud al-Aloul, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of Palestinian organization and political party Fatah, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Mussa Abu Marzuk, senior member of the Palestinian terror movement Hamas, attend an event at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 23, 2024. Photo: Pedro Pardo/Pool via REUTERS

The US on Tuesday said it “strongly opposes” a Beijing-brokered declaration signed earlier in the day by the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement and the Hamas terror group, aimed at reconciling their longstanding divisions and establishing a unity government to manage Gaza after the war.

The declaration, which was also signed by more than a dozen other Palestinian factions, is seen as a symbolic win for China’s role as a global mediator, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing it as a “historic moment for the cause of Palestine’s liberation.” However, doubts linger about its effectiveness in addressing the years-long rift between the groups.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller responded to the announcement, saying Hamas had “blood on its hands, of Israelis and of Palestinians,” and could not be in any leadership role.

“When it comes to governance of Gaza at the end of the conflict, there can’t be a role for a terrorist organization,” Miller said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) — which currently exercises limited self-governance in the West and has long been riddled with allegations of corruption and authoritarianism — should be in control of both the West Bank and Gaza, Miller said, adding that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), unlike Hamas, had renounced terrorism.

The PLO is a coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

“If you look at the death and destruction that Hamas’ decision to launch the attacks of Oct. 7 has brought on Gaza, they have — there’s no one that has brought more pain and suffering to the people in Gaza than Hamas through their decisions — first to launch the attacks of Oct. 7, and then their ongoing decision, which continues today, to hide among civilian communities and use civilians as human shields.”

Miller also addressed China’s role in the mediation, saying that the US has generally encouraged China to leverage its influence with regional countries, especially those where the US has less sway, to prevent conflict escalation. One example was the Chinese-mediated deal last year restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also urged China to discourage both Iran from financing proxies attacking Israel and the Houthis from targeting commercial shipping. “We have asked China to use its influence to try to bring those attacks to an end, and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller said.

Tuvia Gering, a China and Middle East analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the move is part of China’s effort to rival the US by building alliances with developing nations as well as the Arab and Muslim world to prioritize its interests and stifle Western dominance.

China is “challenging America in every space possible as a new type of major power that takes in the considerations of the Global South and the coalitions of those oppressed by imperialism and Western hegemony” to create “a new global order,” he told The Algemeiner.

Gering condemned Beijing’s move, saying it “normalized terrorism” and will embolden the Palestinians into further intransigence in talks for any future peace accord.

“Until today, China failed to criticize [the Palestinians] and put all the onus onto Israel. This means effectively that the Palestinians will only adhere to the most maximalist positions in negotiations for the two state solution [which] will become even more of a distant reality,” Gering told The Algemeiner.

Gering also predicted that the “golden age” of China-Israel relations, which burgeoned over the last decade with the inking of major bilateral deals, was over because of China’s decision to “legitimize terror” since Oct. 7. Gering warned that moving forward, Israeli strategy in the region must also take China into account.

Gering expressed doubts that the declaration signed on Tuesday would lead to any major developments, noting “a large amount of skepticism” in the Arab world.

Indeed, the declaration gave no outline for how or when a new unity Palestinian government would be formed.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which was also a signatory on the declaration, issued a statement later in the day outlining its demand for all factions in any future unity government to reject recognition of Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz blasted the agreement, saying it underscored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ embrace of “the murderers and rapists” of Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“In reality, this won’t happen because Hamas’ rule will be crushed, and Abbas will be watching Gaza from afar. Israel’s security will remain solely in Israel’s hands,” Katz said.

In his statement, Wang reiterated China’s commitment to a “comprehensive, lasting, and sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza and advocated for an “international peace conference” aimed at pursuing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dina Lisnyansky, an expert in Middle East affairs and Islam, warned that while the deal may not come to fruition, China’s role is of growing concern for Israel. Egypt and Algeria — both mediators in failed past attempts at rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas — were far weaker than China as regional actors. “When China sets its sights on something it usually achieves its goals, so it should worry us greatly,” Lisnyansky told The Algemeiner.

Lisnyansky also said that Israel should sanction the PA for signing the declaration. “Israel should negate any entity that has any ties at all to Hamas, which needs to lose both its authority and legitimacy.”

The post US ‘Strongly Opposes’ China-Brokered Deal to Form Palestinian Unity Government With Terrorist Groups first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics

And who has the best chance of medalling in Paris.

The post Here’s every Jewish athlete competing at the 2024 Paris Olympics appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President

US Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS

Following US President Joe Biden’s stunning exit from the 2024 presidential race, allies of Israel are looking for clues as to how Vice President Kamala Harris, the new presumptive Democratic nominee, could approach issues affecting the Jewish state if she were to win the White House in November.

Harris’s previous statements reveal a mixed record on Israel, offering signs of both optimism and pessimism to pro-Israel advocates.

Though Harris has voiced support for the Jewish state’s right to existence and self defense, she has also expressed sympathy for far-left narratives that brand Israel as “genocidal.” The vice president has additionally often criticized Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

In 2017, while giving a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-Senator Harris delivered a 19-minute speech in which she showered praise on Israel, stating that she supports “the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.” Harris stated that America has “shared values” with Israel and that the bond between the two nations is “unbreakable.”

In 2020, while giving another speech to AIPAC, Harris emphasized that US support for Israel must remain “rock solid” and noted that Hamas “maintains its control of Gaza and fires rockets.”

Despite such statements of support, however, Harris has previously exhibited a degree of patience for those who make baseless smears against Israel. 

In October 2021, when confronted by a George Mason University student who angrily accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide” against Palestinians, Harris quietly nodded along and then praised the student. 

“And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris told the student. 

Following Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people and kidnapping of 250 others across southern Israel on Oct. 7, Harris has shown inconsistent support for the Jewish state. Although she initially backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism, she has also levied sharp criticism against the Jewish state’s ensuing war effort in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

During a call with then-Israeli war cabinet leader Benny Gantz earlier this year, Harris suggested that the Jewish state has recklessly imperiled the lives of Palestinian civilians while targeting Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

“Far too many Palestinian civilians, innocent civilians have been killed,” Harris said. 

The same month, while delivering a speech commemorating the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Harris called the conditions in Gaza “devastating.”

“And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said.

While speaking with Israeli President Isaac Herzog to mark the Jewish holiday of Passover in April, Harris shared “deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and discussed steps to increase the flow of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians and ensure its safe distribution.”

Harris also pushed the unsubstantiated narrative that Israel has intentionally withheld aid from the people of Gaza, triggering a famine. 

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, released a report in June arguing that there is not enough “supporting evidence” to suggest that a famine has occurred in Gaza.

Harris has also expressed sympathy for anti-Israel protesters on US university campuses. In an interview published earlier this month, Harris said that college students protesting Israel’s defensive military efforts against Hamas are “showing exactly what the human emotion should be.”

“There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points,” she added. “But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

Some indicators suggest that Harris could adopt a more antagonistic approach to the Jewish state than Biden. For example, Harris urged the White House to be more “sympathetic” toward Palestinians and take a “tougher” stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Politico report in December. In March, White House aides forced Harris to tone down a speech that was too tough on Israel, according to NBC News.

Later, she did not rule out “consequences” for Israel if it launched a large-scale military offensive to root out Hamas battalions in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns for the civilian population.

Harris initially called for an “immediate ceasefire” before Biden and has often used more pointed language when discussing the war, Israel, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. However, her advisers have sought to downplay the notion that she may be tougher on the Jewish state.

“The difference is not in substance but probably in tone,” one of Harris’s advisers told The Nation.

Meanwhile, Halie Soifer, who served as national security adviser to Harris during the then-senator’s first two years in Congress, said the current vice president’s support for Israel has been just as strong as Biden’s. “There really has been no daylight to be found” between the two, she told Reuters.

Still, Biden, 81, has a decades-long history of maintaining relationships with Israeli leaders and recently called himself a “Zionist.” Harris, 59, does not have such a connection to the Jewish state and maintains closer ties to Democratic progressives, many of whom have increasingly called for the US to turn away — or at least adopt a tougher approach toward — Israel

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman suggested that Harris would be a far less reliable ally than Biden, pointing to her ideological alignment with the most progressive lawmakers in Congress. 

“Biden made many mistakes regarding Israel, but he is miles ahead of Harris in terms of support for Israel,” Friedman told The Jerusalem Post. “She is on the fringe of the progressive wing of the party, which sympathizes more with the Palestinian cause.”

“This will move Jewish voters to the Republican side,” the former ambassador argued. “Harris lacks any affinity for Israel, and the Democratic Convention will highlight this contrast. This could lead to a historic shift of Jewish voters to the Republican side.”

Meanwhile, J Street, a progressive Zionist organization, eagerly endorsed Harris the day after Biden dropped out of the presidential race, citing her “nuanced, balanced approach” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflictt.

“Kamala Harris has been a powerful advocate for J Street’s values in the White House, from the fight against antisemitism to the need for a nuanced, balanced approach on Israel-Palestine,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “She’s been a steadfast supporter of hostage families and Israel’s security, while also being a leading voice for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the need to secure an urgent ceasefire.”

The post Kamala Harris’s Record on Israel Raises Questions About Support for Jewish State if Elected US President first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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