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Before they hit the National Mall, these pro-Israel rally-goers stopped for lox and prayers

WASHINGTON (JTA) — After 12 hours on the bus, Dan Kenem appreciated the breakfast at Ohev Sholom Congregation.

“The lox really hit the spot,” he said, seated at a table in the synagogue’s social hall, just minutes after getting off the bus that had started out from Lakefield, a Chicago suburb, the night before.

David Wolkenfeld, the rabbi at this modern Orthodox synagogue in a leafy neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., had moved here six months ago from Chicago. So when he heard a week or so ago that there would be a March for Israel on Tuesday in his new hometown, he put out the word in his old hometown: Ohev Sholom would seek overnight accommodations for families coming early and would feed those coming in the morning.

That was the easy part, Wolkenfeld said. “There were a lot of enthusiastic responses” among his new congregation.

Travelers did not seem too put out by the 12-hour journey. “It was lots of fun,” said Yona Lunken as he double checked his travel bag for his prayer book, his prayer phylacteries and his prayer shawl. “Today’s a good day to pray.”

First reports estimated around 100,000 Jews at the National Mall on Tuesday who were gathered to hear from a range of speakers, including survivors of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacres that launched the current Israel-Hamas war; students from U.S. campuses who have experienced a spike in antisemitism; and a bipartisan slate of leading politicians. It is likely the largest Jewish rally in the United States since the Second Intifada in 2002.

“There was a Palestinian march that was fairly large,” said Kenem, 58, who works in real estate, referring to a D.C. protest last month. “I hope we’re close to it or bigger. It will give people on the fence an idea of what Jews in the U.S. are doing.”

Lunken, 62, an educator, said he was not a fan of crowds, but his wife, a dentist, encouraged him to go, if only because she was unable to clear her schedule to go herself.

“We need to show there are lots of us,” he said.

Camile Altman flew in from Chicago — the thought of sitting down for 12 hours was too daunting. She wavered at first, but when she learned her mother was coming in from Memphis, that clinched it.

“I felt like I’d been doom scrolling for two hours every day, which is like being around people who want to murder me, and it would good to be with a crowd who accepted me for a few hours,” said Altman, a 33-year-old tech product manager, who attended the Ohev Sholom breakfast to meet up with fellow Chicagoans.

That Altman was coming convinced her mother-in-law, Gail Guttman to come in from Bethesda, a Maryland suburb of Washington.

Guttmann, 69, a therapist, said she was wary of crowds, but decided to join hundreds of thousands of people on the mall not just to spend time with her daughter-in-law, but to exercise freedoms she did not have in her youth in Nashville.

“I lived with a lot of antisemitism,” she said, referring to practices that kept Jews from joining organizations or living in certain places. “I’m here because I can do something where I couldn’t do anything then.”

Ohev Sholom Congregation had a spread ready for rally-goers. (Ron Kampeas)

Bruce Gillers flew in from Boston for the protest, but arrived a few days early to hang out with grandchildren. He heard about Ohev Sholom’s breakfast and came in time for morning prayers. He had attended mass rallies in Washington for Jewish causes — for Soviet Jewry in 1987 and for Israel during the Second Intifada in 2002 — and he wanted this one to dwarf those.

“This is a challenge to the existence of Israel,” said Gillers, 75, an ophthalmologist.

Some organizers said the rally drew 200,000 people, more than the 100,000 in 2002, but short of the 250,000 in 1987.

The Chicago delegation made their way to the Metro, where they joined other people who had traveled into Washington to join the protest.

Asher Blum, Ari Barnett and Moshe Felson, all in their 20s and who know each other from yeshiva studies in Israel, flew from around the country into New York and made a road trip out of it. They stood on the Red Line train and wore capes that depicted the Israeli flag bleeding into the American one.

Barnett had heard about the rally through a group he belongs to, Young Jewish Conservatives, and he was taking his friends to a pre-rally event at the conservative Heritage Institute. Rep. Pat Fallon, a Texas Republican, would be present, Barnett told his friends. “He’s base,” he said, using a conservative term for “cool.”

“We want to show that Israel has America’s support,” said Felson.

Watching them was a couple that had driven down the night before from Long Island, Ted Sklar and Maddy Meltzer. Sklar held up a poster, “Never again! Am Yisrael Chai” inscribed over an Israeli flag.

Sklar, 67, a retired attorney, said he was attending for his father, who survived the Holocaust in France and who was still alive.

“The world’s moral compass is broken,” he said, choking back tears. “He’s alive, and he has to see this again? I have to do this for him, and for my granddaughter.”

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White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’

US White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, June 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The White House expressed “deep disappointment” over criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the United States on Thursday amid tensions between the two allies over Israel‘s war in Gaza.

“It was perplexing to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

The White House response came as national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned meetings with Netanyahu’s two top aides to discuss the Gaza conflict.

Netanyahu on Tuesday issued an English-language video in which he said Blinken had assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to Israel, an exchange the top US diplomat declined to confirm.

In a rare account of normally private diplomatic conversations, Netanyahu also said he told Blinken that it was “inconceivable” that in the past few months Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.

Kirby addressed the comments in a briefing with reporters, saying the US had directly expressed displeasure to Israel.

“I think we’ve made it abundantly clear to our Israeli counterparts through various vehicles our deep disappointment in the statements expressed in that video and our concerns over the accuracy in the statements made,” Kirby said.

“The idea that we had somehow stopped helping Israel with their self-defense needs is absolutely not accurate,” he said.

Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel‘s minister for strategic affairs, will speak with Sullivan as a larger, more formal “strategic dialogue” meeting was being rescheduled, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Blinken will meet with the Israelis at 3 pm, according to a senior State Department official.

Blinken said weapons shipments — with the exception of one with 2,000-pound bombs — were moving as usual given Israel faced security threats beyond Gaza, including from Hezbollah and Iran. He declined to comment on his private exchange with Netanyahu during a news conference on Tuesday.

The United States in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely populated areas but Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of US weaponry.

Scrutiny on Israel‘s conduct in its military operation in Gaza has increased as the Palestinian death toll from the war in the Hamas-run enclave has increased. Israeli officials argue they have gone to unprecedented lengths to try and avoid civilian casualties, noting Hamas terrorists embed themselves within the larger population and use civilian sites as military operation centers.

The war started when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Biden in April warned Israel that the US would stop supplying it weapons if Israeli forces launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is considered the last major bastion of Hamas.

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Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’

Shira Haas on the set of “Night Therapy.” Photo: Nati Levi

Israeli actress Shira Haas was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Monte Carlo Television Festival on Tuesday night for her role in an upcoming Israeli television series titled “Night Therapy” that will premiere later this month.

Haas stars in the 10-part psychological drama alongside Yousef Sweid (“Munich Games,” “Game of Thrones”), as well as Lucy Ayoub, Yaakov Zada Daniel, and Firas Nassar, all of whom have starred in the popular Israeli series “Fauda.”

Haas, who accepted her award from the Monte Carlo Television Festival via video because she was in the United States filming, took to Instagram to thank the festival for her award.

“This is such a special project for me, a personal and genuinely (ongoing) healing one, and I can’t wait for you all to meet Yasmin very soon,” she wrote, referencing her character’s name in the show.

Written and created by Raanan Caspi, “Night Therapy” is about an Arab-Israeli psychologist named Louie (Sweid) who struggles to raise his two children after his Jewish-Israeli wife commits suicide. To be more present for his children during the day and to better balance his work and home life, Louie decides to shift his practice so he sees patients at night. Haas plays one of his patients — a computer genius named Yasmin who rarely leaves her home and prefers to spend her time in the virtual world instead of the real one.

“Through the gateway and magic of the late clinic hours, and flashback scenes where Louie acts as an unseen observer to their problems, the series depicts refreshing points of view on life, which often require unusual treatments,” according to a synopsis provided by Yes Studios, which is distributing the show. “Combining absorbing therapy sessions — written with the input of practicing psychologists — with storylines and characters from Louie’s personal life, ‘Night Therapy’ is a touching, emotional and sexy new drama series.”

The show premieres on Yes TV in Israel on June 30 and is being sold internationally by Yes Studios. The series is directed by Gabriel Bibliowicz and produced by Dafna Danenberg, Aviram Avraham, and Benny Menache at Eight Productions.

Haas previously had starring roles in the hit Israeli television series “Shtisel” as well as the film “Unorthodox,” for which she won an award. She also became the first Israeli television actress nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “Unorthodox.” Haas Tribeca Film Festival for starring in “Asia,” in which she played a terminally ill character, and additionally won two best supporting actress awards at the Israeli Academy Awards. She is reportedly scheduled to appear in Marvel’s upcoming film “Captain America: Brave New World” as an Israeli superhero named Sabra.

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Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII

A partial view of Monet’s “L’Homme à l’ombrelle.” Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich via Wikimedia Commons

The largest art museum in Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it is selling a painting by Claude Monet as part of an agreement with heirs of the artwork’s original Jewish owner, who was forced to sell it during World War II when he fled Nazi Germany.

The Kunsthaus Zürich said it reached a “fair and just solution” and “amicable settlement” with the heirs of Jewish entrepreneur Carl Sachs regarding the painting “L’Homme à l’ombrelle” (“Man with a Parasol”) from the late 19th century. Proceeds from the sale will be allocated between the museum and Sachs’ family.

Sachs and his wife fled Nazi persecution in Germany and moved to Switzerland in 1939. He was forced to sell “L’Homme à l’ombrelle,” and several other pieces from his art collection, to the Kunsthaus Zürich in order to make a living. “The sale of Monet’s ‘L’Homme à l’ombrelle’ to the Kunsthaus Zürich was the first work that Sachs had to sell due to the acute financial emergency just a few weeks after fleeing Nazi Germany to Switzerland,” the museum explained.

“A swift sale was needed to provide the couple with money to live on, and he was therefore acting under duress,” the Kunsthaus Zürich said. Sachs died shortly afterward in December 1943 and by that point he had sold 13 artworks from his collection.

Philipp Hildebrand, the chair of Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, said: “Of course we regret that this wonderful painting will leave the Kunsthaus. At the same time, this step underpins the seriousness of our provenance strategy and our fundamental attitude towards a transparent and solution-oriented approach to works in our collection in which there are substantiated references to Nazis [or] there is a situation of a persecution-related predicament.”

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