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At Rosh Hashanah reception, Doug Emhoff and Kamala Harris talk about putting antisemitism plan ‘into action’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Rosh Hashanah celebration at Vice President Kamala Harris’s official residence was a celebration of American Jewish success that included a reminder of the threats Jews still face.

Douglas Emhoff, the Second Gentleman, began by noting his amazement that as the descendant of Jews fleeing antisemitism in Eastern Europe more than a century ago, he has made history as the country’s first Second Gentleman, and the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice-president.

“I want to remind you all that’s it great to be Jewish!” Emhoff said to cheers at the outdoor party on Tuesday evening. There were about 150 people in attendance, including Jewish organizatioal leaders, politicians and entertainment figures.

That positivity was evident when Emhoff described his return this summer to the Jewish camp in Pennsylvania, Cedar Lake, which he attended as a child.

“They were still there being joyful and living proudly, openly and freely,” he said.

But he and Harris also emphasized the threat of antisemitism. Emhoff said the interagency task force he chairs is continuing apace in executing the White House’s strategy to combat antisemitism, although he was light on details.

“We are putting this plan into action,” he said. “I’ve been meeting with mayors, I’ve been meeting with leaders.”

Harris, citing reported spikes in antisemitism and other attacks on minorities, said the moment demanded action.

“We are being presented with a wake up call, the blast of the shofar,” she said, referring to the ram’s horn blasted during Rosh Hashanah and the month preceding it. “We are dealing with very powerful forces that are attempting to wage what I think is a full-on attack against hard won freedoms, liberty.”

She described “a venom coursing through our country” and said, “We are the antidote.” She quoted the Ethics of the Fathers, a rabbinic text containing a series of adages: “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.”

Regina Spektor, the Jewish singer-songwriter who emigrated to the United States as a child from the Soviet Union, sang an arrangement of the High Holiday prayer Avinu Malkeinu, which she said she put together on the train ride from New York.

Spektor said she was delighted that a man sitting across from her removed his hat to reveal a kippah, and then began to study Jewish scripture — something she said was unimaginable in the country of her birth.


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Europe Joins US in Urging Restraint by Israel After Iranian Attack as Diplomatic Pressure Mounts

A view of a crater on a damaged road, after Iran’s mass drone and missile attack, at a location given as Hermon area, Israel, in this handout picture released on April 14, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Israel‘s European allies urged it on Monday to show restraint over Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack, calling on Israeli leaders to step away from “the edge of the cliff” of escalation in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, which is empowered to decide on the country’s response, was set to convene on Monday afternoon, a government source said.

Israeli officials said the war cabinet, which also met on Sunday, favored retaliation but was divided over the timing and scale of any such response.

With the danger of open warfare erupting between Israel and Iran, and tension high over the war in Gaza, President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu the United States will not participate in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran, US officials said.

Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief all joined Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in calling for restraint.

“We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. “We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.”

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israel to set its sight on isolating Iran rather than escalating the situation. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned Iran not to carry out more attacks and said Israel must also contribute to de-escalation.

Russia has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran in public over the strikes but expressed concern about the risk of escalation on Monday and also called for restraint.

“Further escalation is in no one’s interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

It followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran’s regional allies, triggered by the Gaza war that has spread to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

The weekend attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused only modest damage in Israel. Most were shot down by Israel‘s Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France, and Jordan.

The only serious injury reported within Israel was a seven-year-old who was hurt by shrapnel.


Asian shares fell and gold prices rose on Monday as risk sentiment took a hit, but oil prices dipped and Israel‘s shekel rose against the dollar.

“An attack was largely priced in the days leading up to it. Also the limited damage and the fact that there was no loss of life means that maybe Israel‘s response will be more measured,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING.

“But clearly, there is still plenty of uncertainty and it all depends on how Israel now responds.”

Iran’s attack also caused travel disruption, with at least a dozen airlines cancelling or rerouting flights, and Europe‘s aviation regulator reaffirming advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.

Two senior Israeli ministers have signaled that retaliation is not imminent and that Israel will not act alone.

“We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” centrist minister Benny Gantz said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel had an opportunity to form a strategic alliance “against this grave threat by Iran.”

Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.

Iranian army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri has warned Israel not to retaliate, and told Washington that US bases could be attacked if it helps Israel do so.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States that the attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense, and that regional neighbors had been informed of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, however, that no pre-arranged agreement was made with any country prior to the weekend attack. US officials said Tehran had not warned Washington.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rejected Iran’s assertion that it provided advance notice before attacking Israel.

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Israel Says It Shot Down Iranian Salvo ‘Shoulder-to-Shoulder’ With US

Crews work on an Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle in a hangar, said to be following an interception mission of an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel, in this handout image released April 14, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Israel‘s repelling of a massive Iranian drone and missile salvo was fully coordinated with the Pentagon, which had a US operational liaison officer in the control room of the Arrow ballistic air defense system, a senior Israeli official said.

The United States, along with Britain, France, and Jordan, helped Israel intercept the bulk of the weekend barrage and potentially stave off escalation between the regional enemies.

At least half of the hundreds of pilotless one-way planes, cruise missiles, and surface-to-surface missiles, which Israel said carried a total of 60 tons of explosives, were shot down by Israeli warplanes and aerial shields, according to local media.

Israeli officials said much of the work was done by their Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 high-altitude defense systems, which were developed jointly with the Pentagon and Boeing Co.

Arrow’s interceptor missiles cost between $2 million and $3.5 million a piece, according to Israeli industry sources.

Moshe Patel, director of missile defense at Israel‘s Defense Ministry, said Arrow and lower-altitude interceptors were synced with counterpart US systems in the region.

“The systems share information, for a joint picture of the sky, and the sky was certainly busy,” Patel told Channel 12 TV.

“Afterward, there is also coordination in battle doctrine. An American officer sits in the control room of the Arrow weapons system and essentially conducts the coordination with the US systems, shoulder-to-shoulder.”

There was no immediate comment from US Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations. On Sunday, it said US forces destroyed more than 80 of the drones and at least six of the ballistic missiles aimed at Israel.

Israel said 99 percent of all the projectiles were downed in time, limiting the toll to injuries to one person and damage to one military base. That surprised even Zvika Haimovitch, a retired brigadier-general who formerly commanded Israel‘s air defenses.

“[This was] well-synchronized and coordinated between all the elements — the air, the ground forces — and, yes, to be honest it is a great percentage and much more than we expected if you would have asked me three days before,” he told Reuters.

“But we need to be sure that we will be ready for the next time because for sure there’ll be a next time,” he said. “We need to take as an assumption that the Iranians will do their homework next time and will try to challenge our systems. That means we need to be one step before and not after our enemies.”

Daniel Gold, director of weapons development at Israel‘s Defense Ministry, told Channel 12 television that work was already under way on more advanced Arrow models 4 and 5.

Arrow 3 shoots down incoming ballistic weapons above the atmosphere, using a detachable warhead that slams into the target in space.

The Maariv newspaper reported that Arrow 3 downed 110 missiles outside Israeli air space, at a potential cost of up to $385 million. The Israeli military had no immediate comment on that. Asked on Army Radio how much the interceptions had cost Israel, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he did not know.

Mindful of the need for thrift in the face of foes on several fronts, Israel in 2022 said it was developing a laser-based missile shield to deliver shoot-downs as cheap as $2 each.

“I believe that the laser will be in the next few years one of our main solutions in dealing with a variety of threats — rockets, missiles, drones, UAVs, and more,” Haimovitch said.

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Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group

Israel is at a crucial juncture after Iran fired more than 350 ballistic and cruise missiles at the Jewish state overnight on April 13, according to Israel’s ambassador to Canada. “We are facing one of the most critical moments in the history of the State of Israel when a country like Iran starts an attack […]

The post Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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