(JTA) – To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day this weekend, several prominent Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders headed to the site of a different genocide — that of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s.
They were there alongside Bosnian Muslim leaders to launch a new initiative aimed at advocating for peace and preventing future genocides.
“While we here today cannot change the past, we can and we must do all in our collective power to change the future,” Menachem Rosensaft, a professor at Cornell Law School who was born to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Germany, said at the ceremony.
The event took place Sunday at the Srebrenica Memorial Center, a museum marking the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in the summer of 1995. Survivors of the Bosnian genocide attended the event, according to organizers.
Jacob Finci, president of the Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said he hoped the United Nations would declare July 11 as a remembrance day of the Srebrenica massacre, just as it eventually declared Jan. 27 to be the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust.
“Our initiative today will help in that,” said Finci, who was born in a concentration camp in Italy in 1943.
The initiative comes amid intense tensions following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s military response in Gaza. Those tensions have increased as Israel has fended off allegations that it is committing genocide in Gaza, where, according to Hamas data that Israel does not dispute, more than 26,000 people have been killed during the war there.
Participants in the event decried the Oct. 7 attack, in which about 1,200 Israelis were killed and more than 24o taken hostage, while also emphasizing that the toll on Palestinians in Gaza must be considered.
“We must condemn and repudiate the savagery perpetrated by Hamas against Jewish men, women, and children on Oct. 7,” Rosensaft said. “And at the same time, let me state equally clearly and equally unambiguously here today that we must not, we cannot be indifferent to the deaths and displacements endured by Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” who are “victims of a war for which they bore no responsibility whatsoever.”
Husein ef. Kavazović, grand mufti of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, called the initiative “our humble contribution to building peace and better understanding.”
“Resistance to occupation cannot be a justification for committing crimes, just as calling for a fight against terrorism cannot be a justification for killing civilians and collective punishment,” Kavazović added.
Kavazović and Rosensaft signed a memorandum that cited Jewish and Muslim traditions, according to which anyone who saves a single life has saved the whole world.
“The significance of this initiative is far reaching,” said Germany’s high representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Сhristian Schmidt. “By building bridges between historic experiences of their communities, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders show the way towards mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.”
Schmidt said he hoped the initiative “finds followers, may I say, including the Christian community, who will spread this message all across the country and beyond.”
Also speaking at the event were Emir Suljagic, director of the Srebrenica Memorial Center, and Johann Satler, head of the European Union mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mujira Subašić, president of a group representing the mothers of the man killed at Srebrenica, also participated.
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After a Fredericton synagogue is vandalized, the community turns out for a solidarity vigil
On Sunday, Jan. 28, one day after its front windows were broken on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Sgoolai Israel Synagogue in Fredericton was at capacity for a solidarity vigil organized by friends of the Jewish community. The event began with participants standing with linked arms outside the synagogue, where the glass panes […]
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Lyft lets go of driver who allegedly assaulted a DC rabbi and Chabad scion
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Lyft has let go of a driver who allegedly assaulted the scion of a prominent Chabad rabbinical family who had used the rideshare app.
“Lyft unequivocally condemns this behavior,” a spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday. “Upon learning of this incident, we deactivated the driver and we’ve been in touch with the rider. We encourage riders and drivers to report harassment, discrimination, or safety concerns in the Lyft app.”
The police are investigating the incident but have not classified it as a hate crime.
Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, the director of Chabad at Georgetown University, ordered a Lyft Sunday midmorning on Connecticut Avenue in Washington D.C.’s northwest quarter.
In an interview, Shemtov said he entered and asked the driver to turn down the music, which was very loud. The driver complied but also said that Shemtov could have asked in the app for no music, which Shemtov acknowledged.
Less than a minute later, the driver stopped and told Shemtov to get out of the car, saying he didn’t like his “energy,” Shemtov said.
“I told him, you know, I wish him well, I hope he finds peace and happiness and this is the most aggressive thing that’s happened to me and I get out of the car,” Shemtov said. “And then he gets out of the car and chases me up the block and starts swearing at me like with the F-word and you know, I said, like, ‘Don’t touch me, I’ll call the cops if you hit me,’ or something like that. And he then he punched me in my face.”
Shemtov said the driver punched him again after he tried to stop the driver from leaving.
Shemtov, who was treated at a clinic for a gash to his face, showed JTA video of the driver punching him in the face with with his car key sticking out of his hand. He was treated at a clinic for a gash to his face. According to the police report, which quoted Shemtov and a witness, the alleged assailant shouted “Why’d you slam my door?” as he pursued Shemtov.
In an entry on the charging document marked “suspected hate crime,” the investigating officer checked “No.”
The police report did not name the assailant. Shemtov said he was not the driver whose name appeared on his app. He shared a screenshot of the driver’s cancellation notice, and the driver photo did not resemble the man in the video he shared.
Shemtov’s father is Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who heads American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). He was leaving the movement’s Washington headquarters after attending services with his father when the alleged assault occurred.
His grandfather is Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, who was close to the movement’s best-known rebbe, the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Abraham Shemtov founded the Washington office and instituted the lighting of a massive Hanukkah menorah on the Ellipse, an event that now draws prominent figures of the administration in power.
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Feds charge Massachusetts man for calls threatening Jews with ‘genocide’
(JTA) — Federal agents arrested a man who allegedly called Jewish institutions in Massachusetts and threatened them with “genocide” because he believed they were supporting genocide of the Palestinians.
“Guess what? We are going to use your logic — if you can kill the Palestinians, we can kill you,” was one of a number of statements John Reardon, 59, allegedly left on a voicemail for Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, Massachusetts on Jan. 25.
“If you can bomb their f**king places of worship we can bomb yours, if you can kill their children we can kill yours,” Reardon, of Millis, Massachusetts, allegedly said.
The allegations were detailed in a release posted Monday by the office of Joshua Levy, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Levy tied the alleged calls to reports of a massive spike in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
“The allegations here about the series of threats Mr. Reardon made against the Jewish community are deeply disturbing and reflect the increasing torrent of antisemitism across our country and right here in Massachusetts,” Levy said in the release posted Monday, the same day Reardon appeared in court in Boston. “The numbers do not lie — incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia are spiking.”
Reardon allegedly promised to retaliate against Jews with genocide and to bomb places of worship.
“You do realize that by supporting genocide that means it’s ok for people to commit genocide against you,” was another of his alleged statements.
Reardon allegedly called one other synagogue and a Jewish-affiliated institution before he was arrested on Thursday. He was charged with “[u]sing a facility of interstate commerce to threaten a person or place with harm via an explosive.”
“No one should have to fear becoming the victim of physical violence at the hands of an angry stranger,” Jodi Cohen, and FBI agent, said in the release. “While the FBI does not and will not police ideology, we take all threats to life seriously, and so should anyone thinking about making one.””
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