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From Kibbutz Be’eri to the White House, menorahs retrieved from Oct. 7 wreckage light up for Hanukkah

(JTA) — When New York City’s mayor lit Hanukkah candles with some of his Jewish constituents this week, he didn’t turn to a menorah with a long local history. Instead, he used one crafted from materials reclaimed from the Israeli music festival ravaged on Oct. 7, in what one person on hand called “a symbol of light, unity, and the perseverance of the Jewish people.”

The mayor, Eric Adams, wasn’t the only person to turn to the wreckage of Oct. 7 when lighting candles during Hanukkah, a holiday that celebrates an ancient Jewish victory over foes who sought to extinguish them. In the wake of the attack and in the shadow of the war it began, as well as a reported rise in antisemitism, Oct. 7-related menorahs have taken on special significance.

Here are the stories of three menorahs with ties to Israel’s devastated communities that have been lit up for Hanukkah this year.

From Kibbutz Be’eri, a rescued menorah offers a sign of hope

Tamir Hershkovitz lit his family’s menorah in the ruins of his childhood home in Kibbutz Be’eri on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 7. His parents, Maayana and Noah Hershkovitz, as well as his grandmother Shoshana Karsenty, had all been killed in the massacre.

The menorah belonged to his late grandfather, Yosef, who was a Holocaust survivor and partisan during World War II. An artist from Tamir Hershkovitz’s community created a large, golden replica of the family menorah and presented it to him and his sisters ahead of the candle-lighting in Be’eri, but they used the original that night.

In videos shared on social media, Hershkovitz sang traditional Hanukkah songs including “Maoz Tzur” and “Al Hanisim,” as well as “I Believe,” a song based on a poem by the turn-of-the-20th-century Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky. For years, many have said that “I Believe” could be an alternative national anthem to “Hatikvah“, and the song has taken on new meaning for families of those killed on Oct. 7.

החנוכייה החרוכה שהופיעה על שער “ידיעות אחרונות” ביום שבו נחשפו תמונות החורבן בקיבוץ בארי, נותרה כעדות אילמת לתופת. אתמול חזר תמיר הרשקוביץ לבית ההרוס, והדליק נר ראשון של חנוכה לזכר הוריו, מעיינה ונח ז”ל, שנרצחו ב־7 באוקטובר pic.twitter.com/BEktLtjImc

— ידיעות אחרונות (@YediotAhronot) December 8, 2023

“Once I sing, I’m happy. And now I’m happy,” Hershkovitz told Yediot Ahronot about lighting candles at the site of his family’s great tragedy. “I choose, for my parents, to be happy.”

The Hershkovitz menorah is not the only one to take on special significance at Be’eri, which was hit particularly hard on Oct. 7. In late November, with Hanukkah approaching, an Israeli photographer captured a man lifting the mangled remains of a family menorah from the ruins of a home on the kibbutz. From details the photographer offered in a Jerusalem Post essay, it is likely that the menorah came from the Avigdori-Shoham-Kipnis family. Two members of the family were murdered that day, as well as their caretaker; seven were taken hostage, of whom six were released last month.

Family member whose father was murdered by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023, searches in the rubble of his home for memories, in Kibbutz Be’eri, Nov. 30, 2023. (Chen Schimmel/Flash90)

“As the man cradles this symbol of his family’s past, the scene captures the heart of the Hanukkah spirit. It is a reminder that even in the depths of despair, the indestructible light of hope, tradition, and resilience flickers on,” wrote the photographer, Chen Schimmel. “In the discovery of this hanukkiah, we see a reflection of our own ability to find strength and light, even when surrounded by the ashes of destruction.”

A menorah from the rubble of Kfar Azza makes the rounds in Washington, D.C.

This menorah, which is on display at the White House Hanukkah party, was recovered from the rubble of the home in Kfar Azza. pic.twitter.com/AjSdB1UjMt

— William Daroff (@Daroff) December 11, 2023

President Joe Biden proudly announced during the White House’s Hanukkah party on Monday that the menorah to be lit was the presidential residence’s first permanent one, fashioned from one of its beams. But he also acknowledged another menorah on display that night: a glass candelabra that a man had retrieved from his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, another hard-hit southern Israeli community.

“Like the ancient Hanukkah story, buried [in] piles of shattered glass, burned debris, and bullet-riddled walls, he pulled something from the ashes fully intact: a menorah,” Biden said, calling it “a symbol of the Jewish people that not only survive but heal, rebuild and continue to shine their light on the world.”

The menorah came from the home of Shai Hermesh, a former member of Israel’s parliament who spent 20 hours in a safe room with his wife and daughter and lost his son Omer, 47, during the attack. When Hermesh returned to the rubble of his home some time after the attack, he found his tefillin and the menorah, which was still intact.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog lent the menorah to Biden. On Tuesday, the menorah was used during a second D.C. ceremony, at the Israeli embassy.

A menorah found in the rubble of Kfar Aza shines at a Hanukkah reception held at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Dec. 12. 2023. (Shmulik Almany, Embassy of Israel)

A mangled license plate becomes a source of light in New York

It wasn’t just the menorah that made Oct. 7 a presence at Gracie Mansion, New York City’s mayoral residence, during its Hanukkah ceremony. Adams vowed to keep the city’s Jewish population safe amid a subsequent spike in reported antisemitic incidents.

“The evils of our October 7th, it broke all of our hearts,” he said. “And now we must go to a real place of healing each other and healing our city. And to my Jewish community, I want you to know you’re not alone.”

Then he helped light a menorah whose origins lay at one of the most piercing symbols of Israel’s loss, the Nova music festival where 360 young adults were murdered.

Eliyahu Skaist, a Jewish metalworker in the city, fashioned the menorah from the license plate of a car burned at the festival site, where many people were killed while trying to flee. He mounted the seared plate on Jerusalem stone, which was inscribed with a biblical verse from the prophet Micah vowing to rise again after a defeat.

The menorah used at the Gracie Mansion Hanukkah ceremony Dec. 12, 2023, was fashioned from a license plate retrieved from the site of the Nova massacre in Israel. (Courtesy Mayor Eric Adams via X)

“Melding remnants of heartbreak with the bedrock of tradition, this menorah is not merely a commemorative piece, but a bold declaration,” tweeted Dovi Safier, an Orthodox writer who played a role in retrieving the plate. “It loudly proclaims the everlasting miracle of Jewish survival and hope, affirming the commitment to life and light over the forces of terror and darkness.”


The post From Kibbutz Be’eri to the White House, menorahs retrieved from Oct. 7 wreckage light up for Hanukkah appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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University of California Student Government Passes BDS Legislation

Graphic posted on a social media account administered by University of California-Davis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine on February 17, 2024. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Davis (UC Davis) student government passed on Friday legislation adopting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions, (BDS) movement and falsely accusing Israel of genocide.

“This bill prohibits the purchase of products from corporations identified as profiting from the genocide and occupation of the Palestinian people by the BDS National Committee,” says the measure, titled Senate Bill (SB) #52. “This bill seeks to address the human rights violations of the nation-state and government of Israel and establish a guideline of ethical spending.”

Puma, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Airbnb, Disney, and Sabra are all named on SJP’s “BDS List.”

Powers enumerated in the bill include veto power over all vendor contracts, which SJP specifically applied to “purchase orders for custom t-shirts,” a provision that may affect pro-Israel groups on campus. Such policies will be guided by a “BDS List” of targeted companies curated by SJP. The language of the legislation gives ASUCD the right to add more.

“No ASUCD funds shall be committed to the purchases of products or services of any corporation identified by the BDS List as being complicit in the violation of the human rights guaranteed to Palestinian civilians,” the bill adds.

A notable provision of the bill regards the charter for the Special Committee on Ethical Standing. It says the committee must be “dissolved” in a year and its”responsibilities” absorbed by UC Davis’ Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission, a division of the student government that which describes itself as a special advocacy group for non-white students. The requirement makes BDS a permanent policy of the school and links it to the issue of racial justice, which, on a college campus, serves as a safeguard against any future attempt to pass legislation proscribing the adoption of BDS.

SJP praised the bill’s passing and signing by ASUCD’s president, Francisco Javier Ojeda.

“The bill that was passed prevents any of the $20 million in the ASUCD budget from being spent on companies complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestinians, as specified by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement,” the group said on social media. “From McDonald’s to Sabra to Chevron, none of our student feeds that fund ASUCD operations will be used to financially support 30+ companies that are complicit in Zionist violence.”

Students for Justice in Palestine at University of California-Davis is one of many SJP chapters that justified Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7. In a chilling statement posted after the world became aware of the terrorist group’s atrocities on that day, which included hundreds of civilian murders and sexual assaults, the group said “the responsibility for the current escalation of violence is entirely on the Israeli occupation.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters — which have said in their communications that Israeli civilians deserve to be murdered for being “settlers” — lead the way in promoting a campus environment hostile to Jewish and pro-Israel voices. Their aim, the civil rights group explained in an open letter published in December, is to “exclude and marginalize Jewish students,” whom they describe as “oppressors,” and encourage “confrontation” with them.

The ADL has urged colleges and universities to protect Jewish students from the group’s behavior, which, in many cases, has violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post University of California Student Government Passes BDS Legislation first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Horrifying and Heart Wrenching’: IDF Releases New Footage of Shiri Bibas and Her Young Sons in Gaza 

Ofri Bibas Levy, whose brother Yarden (34) was taken hostage with his wife Shiri (32) and 2 children Kfir (10 months) and Ariel (4), holds with her friend Tal Ulus pictures of them during an interview with Reuters, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The IDF released “horrifying” new footage on Monday showing Israeli hostage Shiri Bibas and her two children flanked by gunmen in the Gaza Strip, filmed shortly after their abduction during the October 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. 

Captured by surveillance cameras in Khan Younis, the footage shows Bibas wrapped in a sheet and clutching her red-haired sons, Ariel, aged 4, and Kfir, who was only 9 months old at the time of their abduction, and is the first proof of life since October 7. The children’s father, Yarden Bibas, was separately abducted and his condition remains unknown.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari expressed the military’s deep concerns over Shiri and her children’s fate. 

“Seeing this young mother clutching her babies surrounded by a group of armed terrorists is horrifying and heart wrenching,” he said at a press conference on Monday. 

“Those who have the audacity to question our need to operate in Gaza, but don’t have the basic decency and humanity to demand that Hamas release our hostages first of all, they all should take a good look at this terrified mother, Shiri, clutching her babies,” he said, adding that the IDF would “leave no stone unturned” in returning the hostages. 

The IDF, according to Hagari, lacks sufficient information to ascertain whether they are alive or dead but is “making every effort to obtain more information about their fate.” The footage was obtained from a Khan Younis military post belonging to the Mujahideen Brigades, a small armed group who are holding Bibas and her children. 

The Bibas family said in a statement that the videos “tore our hearts out.”

“Witnessing Shiri, Yarden, Ariel and Kfir, ripped away from their home in Nir Oz into this hellscape, feels unbearable and inhumane,” the family said.  “We’re issuing a desperate call to all the decision-makers in Israel and the world who are involved in the negotiations: Bring them home now. Make it clear to Hamas that kidnapping children is out of bounds.”

The family also called for Shiri and her children to be prioritized in any future hostage release deal with Hamas. 

Hamas had claimed in November that Shiri, Ariel, and Kfir were casualties of an IDF strike, a claim the IDF has contested as unverified and said at the time that the claim was part of the terror group’s “cruel and inhuman” psychological warfare. Hamas also released a video of a visibly distressed Yarden Bibas after he had been informed by his captors that his wife and children were killed by the IDF. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the footage as “heartbreaking” and said it “reminds us who we are dealing with — brutal baby kidnappers.”

“We will bring these kidnappers of babies and mothers to justice. They won’t get away with it,” Netanyahu said.

Irit Lahav, spokeswoman for the embattled community of Nir Oz, said that the video “reminds us that we are all held hostage until the return of all the hostages.”

A quarter of Nir Oz’s residents were either kidnapped or murdered on October 7. 

The post ‘Horrifying and Heart Wrenching’: IDF Releases New Footage of Shiri Bibas and Her Young Sons in Gaza  first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Antisemitism Accusations Lodged Against Middlebury College

Illustrative: Pro-Hamas demonstrators are detained by police officers in New York during a protest at the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Accusations of institutional antisemitism against Middlebury College in Vermont have been lodged in a civil rights complaint filed by StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel.

The complaint, filed with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) argues that high level Middlebury College officials, by refusing to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally, have fostered a “pervasively hostile climate,” which prevents Jewish students from enjoying the full benefits of being a college student at a higher education receiving federal funds, according to the complaint.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering. In an email to one Jewish group that planned a vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

A month later, the administration uncomplainingly accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official, a request which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

StandWithUs also noted that Middlebury allegedly ignored numerous complaints of antisemitic harassment committed by anti-Zionist groups. After a local Chabad rabbi  wrote to school officials reporting acts of “intimidation,” including preventing Jews from entering the cafeteria, during a “Day of Resistance” event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the school’s associate vice president of safety warned him not to report the incidents to outside law enforcement, saying that doing so would be a “risk to individuals and to our community.” The official also denied being aware of any antisemitic incidents.

“The hostile environment at Middlebury College and the administration’s failure to act to correct it are unacceptable,” Carly Gammill, Director of Legal Strategy at SWU Center for Legal Justice, in a press release issued on Friday. “Too often, when Jewish students raise concerns about antisemitism, they are subjected to administrators who deflect the bigotry at play”

“Jewish students deserve the same level of respect, consideration and lawful response as all minority groups when they report cases of bigotry and discrimination,” Gammill added.

Middlebury also allegedly refused to punish anti-Zionist students for using their social media accounts to publish hate speech. Social media posts that cheered Hamas’ atrocities as “decolonization,” called Jews “colonizers” deserving of being victims of violence, and said “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” proliferated in the days and weeks after Oct. 7, but this day, Middlebury has never issued a statement condemning antisemitism.

The Algemeiner has asked Middlebury College to comment on SWU’s allegations.

“Middlebury college has failed egregiously to provide adequate protecting for Jewish students seeking to remedy persistent antisemitic bigotry on campus,” Yael Lerman, SWU director of the Center for Legal Justice said in Friday’s press release. “Middlebury administrators disregarded student allegations, attempted to silence them, neglected to enforce its own rules, and at times were complicit in discriminating against Jewish students. In doing so, the college has violated its obligations under Title VI and must be held accountable.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Antisemitism Accusations Lodged Against Middlebury College first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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