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Jeff Tweedy’s son became a ‘pariah’ on his college campus after speaking up for Israel

(JTA) — One big turning point in Sammy Tweedy’s Jewish story took place when he was preparing for his bar mitzvah, and his rock star father, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, converted to Judaism as part of the process.

Another occurred in 2020 when he was a sophomore in college and accepted a free Birthright trip to Israel — triggering an avalanche of criticism from his classmates at Sarah Lawrence College just outside of New York City.

“It was just like, I had done something very wrong by going to Israel, which I found to be very hypocritical,” Tweedy recalled to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week. “Because nobody asked me, ‘Hey, what’s your opinion on this?’ I would have even been OK with someone saying ‘Hey, how do you justify going to Israel?’ because I would have justified it to them.”

Three years later, Tweedy has withdrawn from Sarah Lawrence, vowing never again to return to campus, in part because of the anti-Israel and antisemitic vitriol he said he has experienced there. As a group serving Jewish students in the region raises the alarm about the climate at Sarah Lawrence, Tweedy has become an unlikely standard-bearer in the movement to fight antisemitism on college campuses. He recently appeared in a New York Times article on the topic.

In particular, Tweedy represents what advocates say is a persistent and disquieting trend, made only more intense since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, of liberal Jewish students who do not oppose Israel being made to feel unwelcome in progressive groups and spaces.

“As long as you’re not willing to call for the destruction of the State of Israel and the expulsion or murder of the inhabitants of the State of Israel, you’re in for some trouble as a Jewish young person or college student,” he said.

“I just realized I might as well just be the one person in these environments, in these classrooms, presenting an opinion that is somewhat more sympathetic to Israel,” Tweedy said, adding that he is not a fan of Israel’s right-wing government and its main party. “Like, I’m not a Likudnik … but I think that people misunderstand fundamentally why Jewish people are there.”

Growing up in Chicago — whose iconic Marina City skyscrapers feature on the cover of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” album  — Sammy Tweedy attended the Reform Congregation Emanuel synagogue. He and his brother both celebrated their bar mitzvahs there, but he said he sometimes bristled at the messaging he heard about Israel at synagogue and in other Jewish spaces, recalling that he felt the need to constantly “deprogram” himself.

“There’s … pro-current Israeli government policy propaganda that, you know, you are exposed to as a Jewish young person in America,” he said.

“I was given (at worst) unquestioning perspectives on Israel and (more commonly) just consensus without question that Israel should exist,” he added in a text message. “Which I agree with. But at summer camp and synagogue, those were just Zionist spaces.”

Some young adults who say they were handed a one-sided perspective on Israel have gotten involved in criticizing the country from a Jewish point of view. IfNotNow, for example, was founded in 2014 by graduates of Jewish day schools and summer camps to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its war on Gaza at the time.

Tweedy went a different direction. After his Birthright trip, he enrolled in history classes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found himself defending Israel. When students in class argued that “the Jewish connection to the land of Israel is completely fabricated,” he would speak up, offering historical perspective about the Jewish history in the region that dates back to biblical times. He says he was soon labeled a “racist” around campus.

“I was like, ‘What did I say that was racist? Why are they saying that?’ It’s because ‘you said Jewish people are indigenous to Israel.’ And I was like, that’s not f—ing racist. That doesn’t mean that Palestinians shouldn’t be able to live in that land or call it Palestine or whatever,” he said.

Tweedy also felt dismayed when the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter endorsed “armed struggle” against Israel and honored Khaire Alkam — who shot and killed seven Israelis at a synagogue — on a “wall of martyrs” in a campus building shortly after the attack this past January.

As word got around about his views, Tweedy was hit with a wave of social media messages from fellow students calling him out. Since Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza, the barrage increased. One post shared with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency read “the blood of gaza is on your hands.” In another, a student admitted to harassing him. He sometimes joined in arguments, as shown in messages he shared with JTA.

He filed a bias incident report to administrators on Nov. 11, after he saw the campus SJP charter say in an online post that U.S. media is “controlled by Zionists.” He said the school determined that the use of the word “Zionist” made the post acceptable.

A Sarah Lawrence spokesperson told JTA that the school does not share information on students with the media.

But Tweedy is far from the first Jewish Sarah Lawrence student to complain about the school’s handling of reported antisemitic incidents. On Oct. 31, Hillels of Westchester — representing chapters at Sarah Lawrence and a handful of other nearby schools — sent a letter to Sarah Lawrence President Cristle Collins Judd alleging that since at least 2014, Jewish students have been “harassed, intimidated, bullied, and ‘canceled’ for simply expressing themselves as Jews, or discussing or identifying with Israel.”

The group added in their letter that Briana Martin, the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion director, sent a message to student groups after Oct. 7 that did not mention Israeli deaths. “We are aware of the ongoing conflict happening with Palestine, including the most recent events that happened over the weekend,” she wrote. “It is disheartening and tragic, and we know many are deeply impacted by this.” She also promoted an “Hour of Solidarity with Palestine” event organized by SJP.

“Since Saturday October 7th, our focus has been, first and foremost, on the welfare and education of all our students and it remains so,” the Sarah Lawrence spokesperson said in a statement to JTA.

“We are deeply disappointed that, at such a challenging time, misleading claims are circulating, serving to fuel the information wars that have clouded the news these past several weeks,” the statement continued. “We are actively engaged in direct conversations with students from our various Jewish student organizations, and have responded individually and collectively to concerns shared with us by students and families.”

In responding to the Hillel group’s first letter, Judd pointed to the college’s current renovation of the school’s Ruth Leff Siegel Center, which will “support cultural and spiritual student communities.” But she also rejected the group’s involvement in campus affairs.

“Hillels of Westchester has no official relationship with the College, nor do you speak in any official capacity for our students,” Judd added.

A view of the Ruth Leff Siegel Student Center at Sarah Lawrence College. (SaidieLou/Wikimedia Commons)

Now, Hillels of Westchester Co-President Sheila Rennert said the group is in the “evidence-gathering phase” of a potential Title VI lawsuit against the school, alleging that the college has not followed through on its federal legal obligations to keep Jewish students safe.

Any redress through a future lawsuit won’t affect Tweedy directly. The history and music major left to study abroad at Tel Aviv University in August, joining in the mass protests against the Israeli government’s controversial plans to overhaul its judicial system and enjoying the city’s “secular nightlife.”

“I just felt very attached to that vision of Israel, and preserving that sort of modern, more tolerant idea of what Israel could mean, and I was having a really great time there,” he said.

With Israeli universities on hiatus because of the war, he left Israel shortly after Oct. 7 and has been staying with his girlfriend in Florida, where he is finishing up his last semester of classes remotely.

He said he won’t step foot on Sarah Lawrence’s campus ever again.

“The feeling of being a pariah was so intense that I developed these stomach problems that just made life really difficult, and I think they went away since leaving. So just literally for my health I can’t go back there,” he said. “But I’m going to transfer credits and graduate from there and say goodbye and never donate a cent and tell everyone I know to avoid the school at all costs.”

Tweedy wouldn’t share his father’s views on Israel, but he said everyone in the family has their own perspective. His older brother Spencer recently published a post on Substack criticizing “Jewish supremacy” in Israeli governance and calling for a ceasefire in the current war, which Israel and its allies say would allow Hamas to remain in power.

“I’m probably the most vocally pro-Israel, pro-normalizing the existence of Israel so that we can actually work to end this conflict,” Sammy Tweedy said about his family. “But I think we all are united by this idea that you can’t delegitimize the existence of one people or another and expect that to lead to any bettering of the situation.”

After college, Tweedy wants to be a musician like his dad; he and Spencer have both played on some of their father’s solo records. But he also wants to do something that has a concrete impact: He’s considered writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and applying to work for organizations that aim to build peace.

“I care about the region. And I want people to stop killing each other,” he said.


The post Jeff Tweedy’s son became a ‘pariah’ on his college campus after speaking up for 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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