(JTA) — Jewish leaders expressed concern after the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, made major strides in two state elections this weekend, coming in at third place in Bavaria and second place in Hesse.
The results brought the party closer than ever to power-sharing in both states, though mainstream parties have vowed never to build coalitions with the anti-European and anti-immigrant party.
In Bavaria, Jewish community president Charlotte Knobloch said the election result, which would land 35 AfD representatives in the state legislature out of a total of 180, would “place a heavy burden on the work in the new state parliament; minorities such as the Jewish community will be further unsettled.”
But in congratulating Christian Social Union party leader Markus Söder on his overall win, Knobloch said she was confident his government would “continue the fight against extremism using all means possible.”
Since it was founded in 2013, the AfD has steadily grown in popularity, fed in part by popular anger at former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s liberal policy towards accepting refugees. Some leaders of the party, which also supports Russia in its war against Ukraine, are known for having made comments belittling the Holocaust.
Theories that the AfD has more support in former East German states than in the country’s west have recently been debunked by recent opinion polls: According to nationwide surveys, the party now ranks second in overall support next to the mainstream conservative Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.
In Hesse, the CDU earned 34.6% on Sunday, followed by the AfD with about 18.4%. The AfD will gain 9 seats in the Hesse parliament, for a total of 28 representatives in the 133-member body.
In Bavaria, the CSU came in first with just under 37%, followed by the center-right Free Voters party with 15.8%, and the AfD with 14.6%.
As usual, when no one party earns over 50%, a coalition government will be built.
In a celebratory mood after Sunday’s elections, AfD leader Stefan Marzischewski said that the results showed the party was “in the fast lane in the former West German states.”
Central Council of Jews in Germany President Josef Schuster said he was “very worried” about the popularity of the AfD in an interview published Sunday in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. He said he would seriously think of packing his proverbial “suitcase in the attic” if the party were to be part of a governing coalition in any German state.
Harvard University President Condemns Genocide Against Jews After Backlash for Equivocating on Issue
Harvard University president Claudine Gay on Wednesday issued a statement walking back and clarifying remarks she made the prior day in which she suggested that calling for the genocide of Jews did not necessarily constitute bullying and harassment on campus.
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Gay said in a statement posted to X/Twitter by Harvard. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”
Gay’s statement came after she received a wave of criticism for her testimony before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce regarding campus antisemitism, which has been surging since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. For three hours, Gay and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology evaded questions about their plans to combat an alarming spike in antisemitic incidents, including demonstrations calling for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students at college campuses across the US.
In one tense exchange during the hearing, all three presidents gave indirect answers when asked by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a Harvard alumnus, whether calling for the genocide of Jews constituted bullying and harassment. Stefanik referenced the chanting of slogans such as “globalize the intifada,” “there is only one solution, intifada revolution,” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”— all widely interpreted as calls for violence against Jews and the destruction of Israel.
“We embrace a commitment to free expression even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful — it’s when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying, harassment, and intimidation,” Gay said, refusing to provide a definitive answer.
“Does that speech not cross that barrier? Does that speech not call for the genocide of Jews and the elimination of Israel?” Stefanik asked, visibly disturbed by Gay’s answer.
“We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression even of views that are objectionable, outrageous, and offensive,” Gay responded. She also said that calls implying the genocide of Jews and Israelis “can be [considered bullying or harassment] depending on the context.”
Gay’s equivocating sparked outrage across social media, with Jewish leaders and non-Jewish allies calling for her to resign from her position.
“You refused to state that calling for the genocide of the Jewish people would violate Harvard policies,” Harvard Law School alumnus Ben Badejo wrote in a letter to Gay that was posted on X. “In so doing, you betrayed the most fundamental values of our country and of all decent people.”
StopAntisemitism, a watchdog that documents antisemitic incidents across the world, said Gay’s more recent statement from Wednesday should have been stated during her testimony to Congress.
“Then why didn’t you say this during your congressional hearing yesterday!?” the group said. “Step down. You are a failure.”
Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum, added, “Why was Claudine Gay unable to say this at the hearing and it took universal outrage and condemnation for you to issue this clarification?”
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, Gay’s tenure has been beset by accusations that she is not sympathetic to the Jewish community’s concerns about rising antisemitism and has provided refuge to Harvard students who cheered Hamas’ violence.
For several days, Gay waited to condemn the Hamas atrocities, and when she did, her statement said nothing about antisemitism. When 31 Harvard student groups, led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, issued a statement blaming Israel for Hamas’ brutality, Gay defended their right to free speech and said they should not be punished or barred from being hired at prestigious businesses and firms after completing their education.
Following weeks of criticism, Gay eventually denounced Harvard students’ chanting of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” last month and announced a campus initiative for fighting antisemitism.
“Harvard was founded to advance human dignity through education,” Gay said. “We inherited a faith in reason to overcome ignorance, in truth to surmount hate. Antisemitism is destructive to our mission. We will not solve every disagreement, bridge every divide, heal every wound. But if we shrink from this struggle, we betray our ideals.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
The post Harvard University President Condemns Genocide Against Jews After Backlash for Equivocating on Issue first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Criticism mounts against UPenn president after she declines to say calls for genocide of Jews constitute harassment
(JTA) — Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said the University of Pennsylvania board should make a “determination” about the school’s president, who is facing pressure to resign after she declined to say outright that calls for the genocide of Jews violate the university’s code of conduct.
The outcry follows a congressional hearing on Tuesday in which the presidents of Penn, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were all asked whether calls for the genocide of Jews constitute bullying or harassment on campus. All three said it depended on “context.”
The exchange has gone viral and prompted broad condemnation, including from the White House. Biden administration spokesman Andrew Bates said in an email, “It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.”
“Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting – and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans,” Bates added.
Shapiro, a Jewish Democrat, is among the most prominent voices calling on Penn’s president, Liz Magill, to face consequences for her response during the hearing. Shapiro did not say Magill should be fired. But he asked the board to convene soon and said if it did not, he said he would see what the state could do.
“Right now the board at Penn has a serious decision they need to make,” Shapiro said Wednesday. He said the board should “meet soon” to determine whether the “testimony under oath of their president in front of Congress represents the values of the University of Pennsylvania and the views of the board of the University of Pennsylvania.”
While Penn is a private institution, its charter names the state’s governor as a non-voting trustee — a position with considerable influence if not power. Shapiro said he would wait to hear from the Penn board before considering any state action.
“I’ve said many times, leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill failed to meet that simple test,” Shapiro said.
In addition to Shapiro’s comments, Marc Rowan, the chair of Wharton, Penn’s business school, has called on the university’s board to withdraw its support for Magill, according to The New York Times. A petition calling for her resignation has garnered 1,500 signatures. Eyal Yacoby, a Penn student who joined Republican leaders at a press conference prior to the hearing on Tuesday, has filed a lawsuit with another student alleging that the university “subjects them to a pervasively hostile educational environment,” the campus newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, reported.
Shapiro made clear that there was little love lost between him and Magill ever since the campus hosted an event on Palestinian culture in September that included speakers who Jewish groups have said are antisemitic. Following that conference, donors have withdrawn their support from the school, and a federal civil rights complaint has been filed against it.
“I have spoken to President Magill multiple times since that hateful festival that they had on campus,” he said. “I’ve spoken with the chairman of the board multiple times, I made concrete steps that I thought they needed to take to make sure that all students feel safe on campus. They have seemingly failed every step of the way to take concrete action to make sure all students feel safe on campus. And then, the testimony yesterday took it to the next level.”
Jewish groups also condemned the exchange on “genocide” at the congressional hearing.
“How can Jewish and pro-Israel students and faculty possibly feel safe when fellow students and faculty can call for their elimination with impunity?” the American Jewish Committee said in a statement Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote to all 50 governors recommending an “action plan” to make campuses safer for Jews.
One recommendation was that governors “conduct a third-party review of university policies and procedures related to antisemitism” that would “consider campus environment, including an assessment of antisemitic attitudes, current university policies for investigating antisemitism complaints, and consistency of treatment in handling of antisemitism complaints versus other kinds of discrimination.”
Shapiro was speaking to reporters after visiting Goldie’s, a kosher eatery targeted over the weekend by pro-Palestinian protesters who accused it of “genocide,” which Shapiro likened to Nazi Germany.
Shapiro had stopped by Goldie’s in a show of solidarity and for lunch (a falafel sandwich and a tahini shake.). He said the targeting of Jewish-owned stores was antisemitic.
“What they did was blatant antisemitism,” he said. “They protested in restaurants, simply because it’s owned by a Jewish person. That is the kind of antisemitic tropes that we saw in 1930s Germany.”
Tributes pour in from Jewish celebs as Hollywood remembers Norman Lear
Tributes poured in from a who’s-who of Jewish celebrities — from Barbra Streisand and Jon Stewart to Alex Edelman and Billy Crystal. Several comics referred to Lear as though he was family; Stewart thanked Lear for “raising me,” while Rob Reiner called him his second father.
Edelman told a story about meeting with Lear at his home after hosting his 100th birthday special on ABC. “Transparent” creator Joey Soloway shared how Lear supported the groundbreaking and very Jewish Amazon Prime show that won several Emmys and is set to open a musical adaptation on Broadway next year.
Lear is best known for the imprint he left on TV comedy through his string of wildly popular shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including “All In The Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford and Son.” Lear’s shows are credited with pushing the genre to be more socially conscious and inclusive of Black characters.
Below is a sampling of the reactions from fellow A-List Jewish celebrities as Hollywood mourns the loss of an icon.
Goodnight Norman. Love you. Thanks for raising me.
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) December 6, 2023
I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) December 6, 2023
Just heard about Norman Lear. He was 101. What a long life in television and film as well as being an activist and philanthropist. What an extraordinary man he was! Brilliant, kind and funny.
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) December 6, 2023
A funny story about Norman Lear on the day of his passing, if that’s alright… https://t.co/AEFavgqw7R
— Alex Edelman (@AlexEdelman) December 6, 2023
The greatest of the greats. R.I.P. Norman Lear. You were loved.
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) December 6, 2023
We have lost a giant..a man of great humor and dignity. What an amazing life that has given so much to us all. He used laughter as a way to look at ourselves. A blessing to have been his friend for almost 50 yrs. pic.twitter.com/qlH339kD22
— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) December 6, 2023
The post Tributes pour in from Jewish celebs as Hollywood remembers Norman Lear appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.