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Jewish groups mobilize amid growing migrant crisis in NYC

(New York Jewish Week) — Outside a recently opened shelter meant to house some 2,000 migrants at Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, two modest tents are set up where volunteers hand out essentials like food, towels and toiletries, as well as provide items to pass the time, like cards, chess sets and books.

One tent is adorned with an American flag and a sign that reads “Welcome to NYC,” “Bienvenidos” and “Shalom Aleichem.” The other has two lines from “The New Colossus,” the famous poem by Sephardic Jew Emma Lazarus that’s etched into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”). 

The tents and the free products inside are courtesy of Masbia Relief, a Jewish communal disaster relief team that is an offshoot of the Masbia kosher pantry network founded by Alex Rapaport, an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn. 

“I was raised in a home where all four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors,” Rapaport told the New York Jewish Week. “There was always that thought: Where was everybody else? Where was the rest of the world when all this was happening? To me, you cannot ignore a situation like this.” 

Alex Rapaport, the executive director of Masbia, has been stocking tents with toiletries, clothes and food outside of the city’s migrant shelters. (Julia Gergely)

Rapaport and his team have been on the ground welcoming new arrivals to New York City since last August, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent his first busload of migrants to Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal and Masbia greeted them with gifts of free shoes. 

Since last spring, more than 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City, putting a strain on the city’s resources and space. Earlier this summer, the breaking point became visible as hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep on the sidewalk outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, a makeshift city intake center that had reached capacity.

In response, several emergency housing centers have opened in recent weeks, including large, tent-style shelters set up on soccer fields at Randall’s Island in the East River and in the parking lot at the state-owned Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. A number of these facilities have opened in Brooklyn, too, including at the Sunset Park Recreation Center, the McCarren Park Play Center and previously vacant space at a block-sized building called The Hall at 47 Hall Street in the Navy Yard.

Mayor Eric Adams has estimated that the influx of migrants will cost the city $12 billion. Over the weekend, pro- and anti-migrant protesters clashed outside Gracie Mansion, and another protest by those opposing the shelter in their neighborhood is planned Monday evening at a former Catholic school on Staten Island

Yet many New Yorkers remain committed to welcoming the new arrivals. The Synagogue Coalition on the Refugee and Immigration Crisis is a group of 36 synagogues and Jewish non-profit organizations that have come together to present a united front in advocacy efforts, education campaigns and direct volunteer service on behalf of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in New York. Participating institutions include synagogues B’nai Jeshurun and Ansche Chesed, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

The coalition, said co-chair Judith Bass, “gives us, as part of the Jewish community, a voice and a presence to express our support for the asylum seekers and the migrants.”

The group was initially formed in 2016 with the support of HIAS, the Jewish immigrant aid society, in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. In addition to traditional resettlement practices — such as aiding refugees in finding apartments and jobs, and helping them fill out government paperwork — coalition members participate in volunteer efforts like greeting migrants and holding food and clothing drives. 

“We used to do it because the people who needed help were Jewish and now we do it simply because we are Jewish,” Bass said, referring to how, over the years, HIAS’s mission has shifted from Jews helping Jews to a “multi-continent, multi-pronged humanitarian aid and advocacy organization” according to its website

“There is a ton of activity that’s going on and there is not one single way of helping,” Charlie Davidson, the coalition’s other co-chair, told the New York Jewish Week. One such example is happening Monday afternoon: Volunteers, including former Manhattan borough president and SCRIC co-founder Ruth Messinger, will join Team TLC NYC, another volunteer group, to fill backpacks with school supplies for children of asylum-seekers ahead of the new school year. The initiative will take place at a donation-based, volunteer-run “store” on West 40th Street called the Little Shop of Kindness

Referencing the Jewish tenet of “welcoming the stranger,” Davidson said that aiding New York’s refugee community is a particularly Jewish issue. “I can’t think of anything that’s more fundamental to who we are than recognizing that these people are in the same place that our grandparents were in when they got here,” he said. “These people are deserving of help and we’re required to provide them help.”

Rapaport said Masbia’s first supplies initiative was put into place on Aug. 5 outside the Sunset Park shelter.

“When we learned that they will be housing migrants in Brooklyn, we wanted to nurture a communal sense of sharing,” he said. “We coordinated with the powers that be to bring two tents outside, where people can pass by and see that we’re collecting personal hygiene and clothing for the people inside [the shelters], and people can express welcoming and good vibes for their new neighbors while they’re here.”

Last Thursday, on an overcast morning, Rapaport and two Masbia volunteers staffed the tents outside The Hall, the new Navy Yard shelter. The trio offered smiles and supplies to dozens of men who came to collect things they needed. 

Rapaport plays chess with some of the men who are living at the The Hall in Brooklyn Navy Yard. (Julia Gergely)

Carlos, a 30-something man who declined to give his last name, had arrived from Venezuela six months ago. He took a towel, soap, deodorant and some peaches from the tents. “It hasn’t been going very well at the moment,” he told the New York Jewish Week in Spanish. “I can’t say we’re doing great, but we can’t blame New York for what’s happening. We’re thankful because they help us.”

Like many of his fellow migrants, Carlos said he came to New York seeking asylum from the economic and human rights crisis in Venezuela. He had served nearly two years in jail there for attending a protest against the government. While he was grateful for the toiletries, he said what he most needs is work. Once he gets papers, he hopes to bring his mother and his three kids to the United States as well. “I will do any type of work — whatever is available,” he said. “What I don’t know I will learn quickly. I have no choice.” 

“These are people running away from horrors and persecution,” said Rapaport, noting that that fact can get lost in the standoff between the city, state and federal governments over responsibility for alleviating the crisis. “When that happens, it’s very hard to see the human side of the story. It’s very hard for people to understand that there is a real historic thing happening here. It’s a human issue and it’s a New York issue. And we can be welcoming towards new immigrants.” 

Bass concurs. “This is a humanitarian crisis, this is not a political issue,” she said. “We need to respond as Jews, as New Yorkers and as concerned individuals.”


The post Jewish groups mobilize amid growing migrant crisis in NYC appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Alleged Neo-Nazi Indicted for Plot to Carry Out New Year’s Eve Mass Casualty Attack Against Jews, Other Minorities

An American flag waves outside the US Department of Justice Building in Washington, US, Dec. 2, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner

US federal authorities have charged, and a grand jury has indicted, a foreign national with planning a mass casualty attack against Jews and other minorities in New York on New Year’s Eve.

The United States Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York reported that a grand jury indicted Georgian national Michail Chkhikvishvili with soliciting hate crimes and acts of mass violence.

Chkhikvishvili is reportedly the leader of a group called the “Maniac Murder Cult,” a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group.

Specifically, he was recruiting people to carry out arson and bombing attacks — as well as attacks aimed at Jewish and other minority children, according to US officials.

The US Attorney’s Office explained that the “planned New Year’s Eve attack involved Santa Claus handing out poisoned candy to racial minorities as well as distributing poisoned candy to Jewish children in Brooklyn.”

There were more than 450,000 Jews who lived in Brooklyn as of May 2024. Many neighborhoods are known to be predominantly Hasidic.

Authorities found out about the plot when Chkhikvishvili solicited an undercover law enforcement official to be involved in the attack.

He “sought to recruit others to commit violent attacks and killings in furtherance of his Neo-Nazi ideologies,” US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to find and prosecute those who threaten the safety and freedoms of all members of our community, including members of minority communities, no matter where in the world these criminals might be hiding.”

FBI New York Acting Assistant Director Christie Curtis lauded law enforcement for stopping the attack before it could ever take place.

“The swift disruption of this individual, accused of allegedly plotting violent attacks in New York, sends a clear message: we will use every resource in our power to ensure the safety of the American people,” she said. “The men and women who work on this task force day in and day out exemplify true service to our community, demonstrating unwavering commitment in thwarting those who seek to harm our citizens and our way of life.”

The plot comes amid a wave of antisemitic attacks that ramped up in America and around the world after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, amid the ensuing war in Gaza.

Earlier this month, an observant Jew was sucker punched and beaten in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC. The alleged attacker subsequently expressed his motive, saying “They’re [the Jews] the cause of all our wars,” and “We know who you are! We know the lies that you’ve told, that you have stolen the place of the true children of Israel.”

He was charged with assault and a hate crime.

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, in April, FBI Director Christopher 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 in the US were directed against Jews.

The post Alleged Neo-Nazi Indicted for Plot to Carry Out New Year’s Eve Mass Casualty Attack Against Jews, Other Minorities first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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RNC Spotlights Campus Antisemitism as Elise Stefanik Teases ‘Bombshell’ Findings From US Congressional Probe

US Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) speaks during a House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled ‘Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, Dec. 5, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

US lawmakers are preparing to release later this year a trove of new “bombshell” information revealing the extent to which antisemitism has been allowed to flourish on university campuses across the country, according to a high-ranking Republican.

US Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) spoke with political pundit and podcast host Megyn Kelly about the efforts of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to investigate surging antisemitism, including anti-Jewish bias, on college campuses. While reminiscing over last December’s congressional hearing with the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — in which each campus leader proclaimed that calls for a genocide of Jews may not violate school rules depending on “the context” — Stefanik revealed that the committee has obtained new documents shedding light on anti-Jewish hate at elite universities.

“This is pervasive in higher-ed. We have worked on this investigation, and if you think the hearing was bad, Megyn, we’re going to have to talk about all the documents that have been turned over because of our subpoena,” Stefanik said. “We’ll put out a report later this year. That’s even more bombshell material in there. It’s a disgrace what’s happening at these universities.”

Antisemitism has exploded at universities since the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, amid the ensuing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Over the past several months, the committee has rigorously investigated antisemitism at America’s most prestigious universities. The panel recently unearthed and exposed text message exchanges between Columbia University deans which revealed the campus leaders mocking Jewish students as “privileged.” The lawmakers also alleged, based on their investigation, that Harvard University has engaged in a “pattern of inaction” in response to campus antisemitism.

Stefanik spoke to Kelly at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Republicans are gathering this week to nominate their 2024 presidential candidate. The issue of campus antisemitism has been a key issue highlighted at the RNC.

On Wednesday night, Shabbos Kestenbaum, a recent Harvard graduate suing his alma mater over its alleged failure to protect Jewish students, took the RNC main stage and delivered an impassioned speech on campus antisemitism. Kestenbaum said that the surge of unchecked antisemitism on Harvard’s campus in the months following Oct. 7 left him disillusioned with progressives, prompting his move to the political right. 

“After Oct. 7, the world finally saw what I and so many Jewish students across this country experienced almost every day,” he told the RNC crowd. 

“My problem with Harvard is not its liberalism, but its illiberalism. Too often, students at Harvard are taught not how to think, but what to think. I found myself immersed in a culture that is anti-Western, that is anti American, and that is antisemitic,” Kestenbaum said. 

Kestenbaum implored the crowd to support the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump. 

“Sadly the far-left wing tide of antisemitism is rising,” Kestenbaum said. “But tonight, tonight we fight back. I am proud to support President Trump’s policies to expel foreign students who violate our laws, harass our Jewish classmates, and desecrate our freedoms … let’s elect a president who recognizes that although Harvard and the Ivy Leagues have long abandoned the United States of America, the Jewish people never will.”

Anti-Israel protests have ravaged college campuses across the United States in the months following Oct. 7. Students at prominent universities such as Harvard, Columbia, and MIT have participated in demonstrations chanting slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Burn Tel Aviv to the ground!” Progressive student organizations have also openly banned “Zionists,” forcing Jewish students to choose between supporting Israel and maintaining their social network. Campus demonstrators have also openly cheered Hamas and in some cases threatened or committed violence against Jewish students.

Jewish donors and alumni have condemned university administrators over their unwillingness to shut down demonstrations. As a result, many of them have pulled funding and vowed not to allow their children to enroll at their alma maters.

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots NFL team, has ceased donating to Columbia University, citing “virulent hate” against Jews on campus.  Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, pulled a $100 million donation from the University of Pennsylvania. The MIT Jewish Alumni Alliance urged Jewish graduates and allies to protest campus antisemitism by lowering their annual donation amount to $1.

The post RNC Spotlights Campus Antisemitism as Elise Stefanik Teases ‘Bombshell’ Findings From US Congressional Probe first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Pro-Israel Group Calls on US Justice Department to Apply ‘KKK Laws’ to Pro-Hamas Demonstrations

Pro-Hamas demonstrators at Columbia University in New York City, US, April 29, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

StandWithUs (SWU), a Jewish civil rights group based in California, is imploring the US Justice Department to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing a hostile environment at the school in which pro-Hamas demonstrators who have harassed and assaulted Jewish students continuously evade justice by concealing their identities.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

The most obvious parallel between their conduct and the KKK’s, StandWithUs noted, is an inveterate shrouding of their members’ faces with masks and keffiyehs, the traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians that has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

Additionally, the groups — which also include Within Our Lifetime (WOL), Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), Columbia University Apartheid, Columbia School of Social Work 4 Palestine (CSSW4P), and Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine (FJP) — have proclaimed their intention to purge Columbia’s campus of Zionists, a category which includes an overwhelming majority of Jews in the US and around the world. Their rhetoric, StandWithUs added, is unlike any uttered in the US since demonstrations against school integration in the 1950s.

“We hope the Department of Justice (DOJ) will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said on Wednesday. “Columbia President Shafik’s concession that Columbia is a hostile environment for Jewish students in violation of Title VI reflects a critical need for the current administration to take decisive action at Columbia.”

Lerman added, “We urge the DOJ to investigate the school’s failure to prevent groups and individuals on its campus from joining forces and depriving Jewish students of their civil rights, a failure that runs afoul of the KKK laws.”

SWU’s letter — sent to US Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department on Wednesday — comes amid an ongoing lawsuit the organization’s Legal Center for Justice (SCLJ) filed against Columbia University in February over its alleged failure to prevent and respond to an explosion of anti-Jewish hate incidents which have occurred on the campus since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, an event the protesters cheered and defended as an act of decolonization inspired by the ideas of far-left political philosophers such as Frantz Fanon.

SWU amended its complaint against Columbia in June, adding 45 students as plaintiffs and over “230 pages of allegations.” Meanwhile, the accusations which surfaced following the group’s first filing have already stained Columbia’s reputation.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” Columbia protesters chanted on campus grounds after Oct. 7, violating the school’s code of conduct but never facing consequences for doing so, the complaint alleges. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

The protesters later reinforced their rhetoric with violence, the complaint adds. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another allegedly attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen. Following the incidents, pleas for help went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held its demonstrations.

The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were purportedly forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, who took office in July 2023, recently attempted to assuage concerns that Columbia has become a sanctuary for antisemites after it was revealed that five high-level administrators participated in a group-chat in which ideas that “disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes” were exchanged. She fired none of the administrators, however, which has led to calls for her to resign from office.

“We will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination [sic] training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of university life,” Shafik said in statement. “Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result. I know that you all share this commitment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Pro-Israel Group Calls on US Justice Department to Apply ‘KKK Laws’ to Pro-Hamas Demonstrations first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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