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Israeli expats who organized to protest Netanyahu’s government are now mobilizing to ‘save Israel’

(New York Jewish Week) – In mid-September, a group of Israeli activists projected a message in all capital letters onto the headquarters of the United Nations reading, “Don’t believe crime minister Netanyahu.”

About a month later, the same activist group projected another all-caps message onto the same building. But instead of targeting Israel’s leader, it displayed the photos of some of the country’s youngest and oldest citizens. 

“3 year-old Avigail,” read one message, above the photo of a smiling girl. Similar messages followed, depicting the photos, names and ages of Ariel, age 4; Carmela, age 80; and Yaffa, 85. Beneath every photo was the caption “Kidnapped by Hamas.”

Both projections were the work of expatriate Israeli protesters who have organized and gained national attention over the past year. But as of two weeks ago, their cause has changed.

Originally, the activists gathered to protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his effort to weaken Israel’s judiciary, organizing protests and heckling Israeli officials when they visited the city. But after Hamas’ devastating Oct. 7 attack on Israel, in which terrorists killed and injured thousands, and took more than 200 captive, the activists quickly pivoted — repurposing their tools and connections to support Israel’s war effort, aid its vulnerable populations and advocate for the release of the hostages. 

“We’re all just thinking about our families and we have sleepless nights and we’re doing whatever we can,” said Shany Granot-Lubaton, a prominent Israeli activist in New York who previously worked in progressive political organizing in Israel. The protest group she helps organize, UnXeptable, has changed its motto from “Saving Israeli Democracy” to “Saving Israel.”

“We know many people who were slaughtered and kidnapped and raped and it’s in our closest circles. We have kids, we used to be their guides at scouts, who were kidnapped and killed,” she said. “As Israelis, being far away from home right now is devastating and we all just want to do something to help.”

For Granot-Lubaton’s family, as for many Israelis, the devastation is personal. Her husband, Omer Lubaton-Granot, found out last Wednesday that four of his relatives are among the captives; two more were murdered in the massacre. He is running an advocacy campaign for the hostages in New York — part of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a larger coordinated effort with activity in Israel and around the world. Israelis have taken an active role in the grassroots “Kidnapped in Israel” project that pastes flyers of hostages on city streets. 

“It’s a whole family, and we thought that all six of them are gone, then the family realized that four of them are hostages and held by Hamas, and two of them, the bodies were identified a couple days ago,” he said regarding his captive relatives, adding that despite the initial shock and horror of captivity, it was a small relief to find out some had survived. “It’s not good, but it’s better.”

So far, the activists say they have raised around $1.2 million, in addition to sending supplies to soldiers and civilians, staging rallies, providing services and community to Israelis in the U.S. and organizing efforts aimed at freeing hostages held by Hamas. 

The protesters’ mobilization in New York and other international cities parallels the approach of the protest movement in Israel, which brought hundreds of thousands to the streets earlier this year to protest the judicial overhaul. Since Oct. 7, the movement has set aside that fight to focus on relief work — delivering services and supplies to those in need. Granot-Lubaton said her NYC-based group and others in the United States, which coordinate with the Israeli groups, is a “sidekick” to their efforts. American Jewish organizations have also been crucial partners, she said.

Israeli expatriates established branches of the protest movement in dozens of cities in North America and have learned to navigate the intricate landscape of American Jewish organizations and formed ties with many of those groups — connections that proved crucial in rapidly launching a major relief effort in the United States.

“It was very easy to transform because we know how to mobilize people, we know how to reach people,” Lubaton-Granot said. “We know how to organize events, we know how to raise funds.”

Left: A message against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is projected onto UN Headquarters ahead of his appearance at the UN General Assembly in September 2023. Right: An image of a kidnapped Israeli boy is projected onto UN Headquarters after Hamas’ attack on Israel in October 2023. Israeli expatriate activists projected both messages. (Courtesy)

In one aid operation that began at the war’s outset, the U.S.-based protesters sent four tons of supplies to Israeli soldiers who found that they lacked essential equipment as the military called up 300,000 reservists. 

Tali Reiner Brodetzki, an Israeli activist in Philadelphia, was inspired by seeing supporters of Ukraine’s war effort organize Amazon “wish lists” after Russia invaded last year. She asked colleagues from an Israeli combat veterans’ protest group, Brothers and Sisters in Arms, to tell her what the soldiers needed, and began spreading the word about a wish list of her own. 

Volunteers responded by buying 80,000 flashlights, 100,000 olive green T-shirts, socks, ceramic body armor, tourniquets and dressing for trauma wounds. The equipment was sent to a volunteer’s house on Long Island near John F. Kennedy Airport, packed into duffel bags and sent as overweight baggage on El Al flights. Activists from Brothers and Sisters in Arms collected the supplies at Ben Gurion Airport and distributed them to troops.

“We got a call from a mother crying her heart out” after her son was shot, said Granot-Lubaton, who assisted with that initiative. “He’s in the hospital and he got a bullet, but the vest we sent saved his life.” 

Many Israelis who live in New York and across the United States have flown to Israel to fight in the reserves, and some of those reservists — in addition to medics — arrived on flights organized by an UnXeptable chapter in the Bay Area, led by activist Offir Gutelzon. And some Israeli families who were in the United States on vacation have opted to stay for the meantime. The activists are helping to organize programs for children of the reservists and those here temporarily, assisting new arrivals in gaining admission to Jewish day schools and enlisting kosher restaurants to help out with food deliveries for families. 

One of the main ways the protest groups have communicated with and mobilized followers is via Whatsapp groups, and those groups have proven crucial for crowdsourcing support during the past two weeks. One woman was eight months pregnant when her husband went to the reserves, leaving her alone in the city. She was able to access health insurance and find other support through the activist network. A recent request for Hebrew-speaking psychologists in New York who could treat trauma also elicited a long list of recommendations. Some Israelis who were stranded in the city have been able to find temporary free lodging.

Some of the activist programs aim to bring Israelis, including children and their parents, together on the weekends. An event on Oct. 14 at the Manhattan JCC drew more than 300 people, and a David Broza concert on Sunday drew hundreds to B’nai Jeshurun, an Upper West Side synagogue. Many Israelis feel out of place in New York, where life continues as usual, despite the trauma and hardship back home. The Israeli and American Jewish communities have also responded differently to the war, Granot-Lubaton said.

“American Jews, they speak about the war in this very frightening way,” she said. “They’re doing ceremonies, lighting candles, but the Israeli kids in the schools are getting freaked out about it because their fathers are out there and it makes them afraid, so the way we talk about it is very different.”

Now that the immediate needs of troops have been mostly met, the activists hope to aid the communities in Israel’s south that were hardest-hit by Hamas’ atrocities, including by helping fund mental health services. Organizers also hope to support Israel’s economy, which is also battered by the war, by buying aid supplies from local stores rather than U.S. suppliers. That aid effort comes alongside an American Jewish fundraising drive that has directed hundreds of millions to Israel since Oct. 7. 

The war has also led to new ties between the Israeli activists and American Jews who opposed their previous anti-government demonstrations. Reiner Brodetzki, the Philadelphia activist, said a group of religious Jews opposed to the protest movement had dropped by her house to borrow her Israeli flags and megaphones to use in their own pro-Israel demonstration.

“It’s amazing to see how people who would not talk to us previously, and had a lot of criticism about us protesting outside of Israel against the Israeli government, how they want to work with us now,” Reiner Brodetzki said. “They understand that we love Israel and we’re supporting Israel and now we’re in this fight together.”


The post Israeli expats who organized to protest Netanyahu’s government are now mobilizing to ‘save Israel’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo: maps.pomocnik.com.

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

The post Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

The post Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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