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Hillel center in Odessa, Ukraine, damaged by Russian strike

(JTA) — A Russian missile strike caused “significant damage” to Hillel International’s offices in Odessa, Ukraine on Sunday, the organization said.

It was the second time a Hillel building in Ukraine was damaged by Russian fire since the start of the war last year. Its chapter in Kharkiv was destroyed by Russian shelling last year.

The international Jewish life organization, which operates on college campuses and supports young adult non-students in some places, including Ukraine, shared news of the damage on social media Tuesday. It said the missile had destroyed the office’s door and windows, and that the ceiling collapsed, but that no one was in the building at the time.

“I do hope we will be able to restore programs as soon as possible,” Osik Akselrud, director of Hillel’s Central Asia and Southeastern Europe regions, said in a statement. Hillel also shared a brief video appearing to show a construction crane already present on the scene working to repair the damage. 

One day before the bombing, Hillel Odessa shared photos of its recent Havdalah activity, a post-Shabbat celebration in which students imagined a “Jewish city of the future.”

Hillel Kharkiv — which last year mourned the death in combat of a Ukrainian Jew who had been active there — has continued offering active programming in the past year, and recently celebrated Lag b’Omer. Hillel operates several centers in Ukraine with the support of Jewish philanthropies including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Schusterman Family Philanthropies. It also operates in eight Russian cities.

Ukraine president Volodomyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, has at times used the threat of damage to Ukrainian Jewish sites to rally world Jews to the war effort. But as at other times when Jewish sites have suffered damage, the most recent bombardment in Odessa appeared to be indiscriminate and also damaged other Ukrainian historic sites.

One person was killed during the most recent strike in the city, which before the Holocaust was one of the largest Jewish population centers in the world.


The post Hillel center in Odessa, Ukraine, damaged by Russian strike appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University exploded into a welter of anti-Israel protests while its president, Minouche Shafik, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday testifying before US lawmakers about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

A group that calls itself Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) commandeered a section of campus on Wednesday afternoon and, after declaring it a “liberated zone,” lit flares and chanted pro-Hamas and anti-American slogans, according to reports. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived to disperse the unauthorized gathering, hundreds of students reportedly amassed around them to prevent the restoration of order.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, a wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

NYPD officers began making arrests on Thursday morning, although it was unclear how many of those apprehended were Columbia University students and what success they have had in regaining control of the “liberated zone.” Video from the campus showed officers loading dozens of protesters onto police buses.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” Shafik said in a statement, adding that the protesters had “violated a long list of rules and policies.”

Founded in 1754, Columbia University has reached an inflection point in its history as critics strive to hold it to account. Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionist agitators have beaten up Jewish students, stolen posters of missing Israelis who have been taken as hostages into Gaza, called for a genocide of the Jewish people, and invited members of a terrorist organization to speak at events on campus. Critics have alleged that no one has been punished for these violations of the school’s code of conduct.

While Columbia spiraled into chaos, Shafik was in Washington, DC telling lawmakers on the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she has done all she can to address the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

At one point, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

On Thursday, Miriam Elman, a Columbia University alumna and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner that Shafik was outshone by three of her colleagues who were also called to testify before the committee and discussed the presence of antisemitism among the school’s faculty: Professor David Schizer — co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald, both of whom are members of the board of trustees.

“Shipman was right to say that professors need to be held to a higher standard than students,” Elman said. “The Columbia official who delivered the best performance at the hearing, however, was David Schizer. He compared what Jewish students are facing on campus to the long history of anti-Jewish hate and to experiences that his own grandfather faced when he was nearly lynched by antisemitic thugs. His powerful and personal opening statement was pitch perfect for the moment.”

Columbia University is under investigation by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is preparing to defend itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that school officials intentionally ignored antisemitism and left Jewish students exposed to numerous physical and emotional injuries inflicted on them by students and faculty.

For many in the Jewish community, what is happening at Columbia is a microcosm of a problem plaguing colleges and universities everywhere.

“Yesterday’s hearing is a recognition of the growing atmosphere of hate that continues to target students around the country,” said Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, which is representing one of the students who is suing Columbia. “We want to thank Chairwoman Foxx and the committee for their work to hold higher education institutions and their leaders accountable for protecting against antisemitism.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. It’s a shame that our Palestinian friends have spent so much time and gotten so good at pointing out the contradictions that underlie and undermine our political systems. I say it’s a shame because they never […]

The post Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Approbations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday said his agency was on alert for threats posed to the Jewish community during Passover, which begins on Monday night.

Christopher Wray told a group of Jewish community security officials about the FBI’s state of alertness during an event titled, “Passover Without Fear: Preparedness and Security Considerations in Today’s World.”

Wray said the FBI was “particularly concerned” that lone-wolf attackers may target Passover gatherings, high-profile events, and/or religious locations. 

At the same time, he said that while “I’m not providing these updates in any way to alarm you, because this is not a time for panic,” it was “a time for continued vigilance.” 

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

The national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network — the organization Wray was speaking to and that describes itself as “the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America” — said he was not aware of any specific threats at this time.

Taking a step back, Wray said that even before the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “the threat to Jewish Americans had already elevated.” However, he continued, “in the six months since then, we’ve seen those threats elevated” even further.

In December, the FBI said there had been a 60 percent spike in antisemitic hate crime investigations since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Then on Wednesday, Wray said the probes into antisemitic crimes tripled in the months following Oct. 7.

“Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before Oct. 7,” he explained.

Last year, the FBI found that 63 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed against Jews.

There have been a number of mass shooting, bomb, and other threats against synagogues across the US since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza.

Wray’s latest comments came one day after the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023 — an average of 24 every day — across the US, amounting to a surge of 140 percent compared to the prior year and the most such outrages since the organization began tracking such data in 1979.

The vast majority of the antisemitic incidents — 5,204 — occurred after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

“Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionism is impossible to separate from the Hamas attacks,” the ADL said. “These rallies have a dramatically different impact on the Jewish communities that have felt demonized and harassed because of this sustained level of intense anti-Zionist street activism.”

Beyond outrages such as assault, vandalism, and harassment, the ADL included in its tally “rallies that include support for Hamas or justify its attacks, calls to ‘globalize the intifada’ or ‘by all means necessary,’ and expressions of anti-Zionism such as the phrases ‘Zionism is terrorism,’ or ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

The post ‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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