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Jewish service can support recovery efforts in Israel and sustain Jewish life in North America

It’s not hard to feel a sense of despair in these extraordinarily difficult times for Jews in Israel and around the world following the horrors of Oct. 7, the upsurge in antisemitism close to home, and the continuing loss of human life.

In times of despair, Jewish tradition offers us a path to hope, repair, and connection: service. In times of brokenness, we are called upon to ask: “What can I do to make things better?” Through service, we can address the most pressing needs in our communities, build connections, and restore our own sense of purpose. 

Since Oct. 7, we have seen an unprecedented mobilization of mutual aid work in Israel. Volunteers are meeting urgent needs: identifying housing for people who have been displaced, running schools for displaced children, and supporting farms that have lost their agricultural workers. People are cooking meals for soldiers, displaced neighbors, and families impacted by the call-up of army reservists. In the early days of the war, numerous volunteers mobilized to collect, organize and distribute everything from food and toiletries to mobile phone chargers and clothing for those who needed it.

Service has a critical, long-term role to play not just in this time of crisis and in supporting recovery efforts in Israel, but in sustaining Jewish life and community in North America. 

American Jews, too, have turned to service as a meaningful response to the crisis. At Repair the World, the organization I lead, the number of Jews turning to Jewish service since the start of the war has surged. Some have organized supplies to directly support Israelis and others have contributed to their own communities. Some are seeking out Jewish community because they are feeling less comfortable in other spaces. Others cite the rise of antisemitism and the importance of building bridges with their neighbors. All are looking for a way to find meaning and purpose.

For almost 15 years, Repair the World has been mobilizing Jews to serve, grounded in the idea that through service we can both strengthen our Jewish community and also make social impact. Our research clearly demonstrates that meaningful acts of service, grounded in Jewish learning and designed to address true community needs, can transform people and communities.

In Israel, several organizations, most notably Birthright Israel, MASA and Yahel already have mobilized Jews from North America to volunteer in Israel. This work should expand dramatically in the coming months. We know that service is one of the most powerful ways to build bridges across lines of difference. By  volunteering in Israel in partnership with Israelis, American Jews can contribute to Israel’s recovery while building meaningful connections with their Israeli counterparts, deepening their own connection to Israel and providing a spiritual boost to Israelis by showing them that world Jewry is with them. Serving in Israel also can inspire an ongoing commitment to service once volunteers return home, which is a meaningful way for them to continue to live their Jewish values. 

Repair the World volunteers pack meal kits in Chicago. (Repair the World)

We must ensure that the American Jewish service in Israel holds true to what we at Repair the World have learned is most effective: that the service meets real needs, is done in partnership with those impacted and includes Jewish learning. Service is a universal value, but Jewish tradition has much to say about how we offer it, and participants should explore Jewish wisdom about how service should be approached. 

Service that combines these components — that actually contributes to relief and recovery efforts and cares about the experience of American Jewish volunteers — will have the biggest impact. 

Back in the United States, we’re seeing young American Jews who may be feeling alone or distressed seeking new ways to connect to Jewish life and Jewish community. We need to recognize that service is a form of deep Jewish expression and do everything possible to welcome these young Jews into our Jewish community of purpose that focuses its time and energy on making the world better. 

And at this time of rising antisemitism, there are young Jews expressing a newfound desire to be part of a movement that connects Jewish communities with other communities. Most of our organization’s service work is done in deep partnership with non-Jewish communities, including those that are low-income, largely immigrant, on the socioeconomic periphery or communities of color. We’re building bridges by working arm in arm in places like soup kitchens, food pantries, after-school programs and organizations supporting those experiencing homelessness. 

Finally, service gives those who participate a sense of well-being, purpose, and connection to their peers. Among volunteers who have served in our programs, 90% indicated that Repair programs contributed to their overall health and well-being. 

In these challenging times, service is a powerful statement of hope – a statement that our actions matter. Tikkun olam isn’t just about repairing the world, but repairing ourselves. 

 


The post Jewish service can support recovery efforts in Israel and sustain Jewish life in North America appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Princeton University Accused of Censoring Pro-Israel Journalists

People walk past Princeton University’s Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey, November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) partnered to implore Princeton University to stop issuing no-contact-orders (NCO) to pro-Israel student journalists who cover anti-Zionist demonstrations on campus.

At Princeton, a NCO, issued by the school’s Title IX office, is mostly aimed at protecting a sexual assault complainant against their alleged abuser. Issued upon request and before a thorough investigation of the claim that prompted it, the order prohibits the accused from contacting the complainant in any form, including by email or phone, and from being near them on campus —in a cafeteria or library, for example.

“No-contact orders are an important tool to ensure the safety of victims of physical violence, sexual misconduct, true threats, or discriminatory harassment,” ADL and FIRE said in a letter to Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber sent on Thursday. “But Princeton is allowing students with ideological disagreements to transform no-contact orders into cudgels to silence the ‘lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation’ that Princeton promises all students.”

The letter noted that in Nov., Alexandra Orbuch, a writer for The Princeton Tory, a conservative student publication, was assaulted by a male member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) while filming a protest the group held on campus. The man allegedly followed Orbuch to obstruct her efforts, eventually stepping on her foot and pushing her. When Orbuch complained to a nearby public safety officer, the officer told her that she had “incited something.”

Despite the gendered nature of the assault —an issue Princeton has dedicated an entire office to dealing with — the university granted the male student a no-contact oder against Orbuch, explaining that any reporting she published which alluded to him would be considered a violation of the order and result in disciplinary charges. A similar incident occurred in 2022, when Tory reporter Danielle Shapiro attempted to report on the Princeton Committee on Palestine. After being notified of the order, Shapiro was told refer to a “Sexual Misconduct & Title IX” webpage, according to a guest column she wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“This is at least the second time in the last two years that a Tory student journalist has been silence by a no-contact order at the behest of community members offended by his or her pro-Israel journalism,” Thursday’s letter continued. “This systematic weaponization of no-contact orders to silence pro-Israel journalism — or any journalism — cannot stand.”

The incidents involving Orbuch and Shapiro are two of numerous examples of universities subjecting conservative and pro-Israel campus community members to reputational smearing and denying them the same rights and protections as progressives and pro-Palestinian advocates. The issue has drawn attention from Congress, whose House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce is investigating whether universities such as Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) employed a self-serving interpretation of the US Constitution to avoid punishing students who committed antisemitic discrimination and harassment.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R), chair of the education and workforce committee, has noted in two letters that colleges have by and large punished conservative professors for being critical of policies supported by progressives, such as affirmative action, but argue for the importance of free speech to the academic community when, for example, pro-Palestinian students chant slogans widely interpreted as calling for a genocide of Jews in Israel — e.g. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — or proclaim that Hamas’ atrocities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which included raping Israeli women, were justified.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Princeton University Accused of Censoring Pro-Israel Journalists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Shameful Podcast Host Praises Guest Who Claims US Gov’t Controlled by 457 Jews

A man holds a sign promoting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory across the street from the former World Trade Center site on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Photo: Luigi Novi via Wikimedia Commons.

Of all the vile antisemitic conspiracy theories I’ve heard, there is a bizarre one that may take the cake.

On his 600th episode, “Fearless” podcast host Jason Whitlock hosted E. Michael Jones, who claimed President Joe Biden is not in control, and that America is run by Jews. But wait! He has an exact number.

“First of all, Joe Biden is not in charge of the government,” he said. “…There are 457 Jews who are running the Biden administration. They’re the people in charge…”

The context was that Jones said that Jews have “spent their entire time in this country” undermining the moral fabric of America, such as being responsible for pornography and other things. He also said Jews have hurt Black people the most.

Whitlock answered that he didn’t disagree, but asked why Jones was letting Biden off the hook. He also praised his guest as being “fearless.” Spreading lies doesn’t make you fearless.

I followed Whitlock when he was covering sports, and I have watched many episodes of his podcast. His political takes are sometimes articulate and intelligent, but other times, he delves into conspiracy theories. He often has a good sense of humor.

He has 427,000 followers. I criticized him before in The Algemeiner for insinuating that the backlash against NBA player Kyrie Irving, who tweeted an antisemitic film, was not due to the film, but for his refusal to take the Covid vaccine. Whitlock inquired in an online message if I would come on his show, and I replied that I would via e-mail, but perhaps he never got the message.

Does Whitlock believe that 457 Jews control the government? I doubt it, but if he takes his job seriously, he should have done what any real journalist should do and asked, “What is your evidence for that?”

But Whitlock is more interested in garnering attention, and he is not alone. Podcasters are pressured to be as controversial as possible, truth and results be damned. It creates more content when you can have other episodes explaining the controversial one.

Whitlock may have been wronged by some network or organization, which made him go off on his own. But that is not an excuse for letting antisemitic conspiracy theories go unchecked. Whitlock correctly said that a journalist should have the right to interview anyone, regardless of their views. It’s fine to interview the devil, but it’s not okay to let him go unchallenged.

I do not believe in cancel culture, but it’s become shockingly clear that if you want attention, one of the best things to do is to scapegoat Jews. There are some who say Whitlock should have stayed in his lane and stuck to sports. I disagree. Anyone has the right to speak about whatever topic they choose. But if Whitlock wants to be a person of God, as he claims to desire, he should not stoke antisemitic flames. And if he wants to ignite controversy, he should choose a topic that doesn’t involve scapegoating Jews.

In an intro to the episode, Whitlock said that listeners would need their big boy pants for the episode. Nope. There is nothing adult or manly about spreading conspiracy theories. It’s childish and cowardly.

In life, some have no voice. Whitlock has a big one. He is charismatic. There are many who look up to him and see him as a role model. I expect more from him, and he should expect more from himself.

The author is a writer based in New York.

The post Shameful Podcast Host Praises Guest Who Claims US Gov’t Controlled by 457 Jews first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Hamas Members, Like All Palestinians, Just Want Freedom’: Rashida Tlaib Appears with Speaker Who Defended Hamas

US Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) speaks at a rally calling on Congress to censure President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 30, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Aaron P. Bernstein.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib participated in an event late last week with a pro-Palestine activist who has defended Hamas, doubted that it engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during its October 7 terrorist attack, and compared Gaza to Auschwitz.

Tlaib appeared with the speaker, Huwaida Arraf, at a Zoom event last Thursday to launch the new political wing of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, whose goal is to end military aid to Israel. 

Arraf, who is a civil and human rights attorney, founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and former staffer at Seeds of Peace, posted a graphic on October 7 suggesting that Hamas’s attack was not terrorism.

 

What Western “leaders” and mainstream media will have you believe… #Gaza pic.twitter.com/kBm1e7siUi

— Huwaida Arraf (@huwaidaarraf) October 7, 2023

The image of the hang glider became synonymous with the idea of “Palestinian resistance” in the days following October 7. However, it was Hamas operatives on hang gliders who massacred more than 250 young people at a music festival that was taking place in southern Israel.

Two days later, on October 9, Arraf wrote “No matter how much Israel bombs, starves and kills Palestinians, they will never be able to extinguish the Palestinian desire to LIVE FREE. Support for Israel’s brutal aggression will only fuel more resistance. #Gaza”

In a statement to The Algemeiner, Democratic Majority for Israel wrote: “It’s reprehensible that Congresswoman Tlaib would associate herself with those who deny or even celebrate the terrorist group Hamas’ horrific attacks of October 7 that resulted in 1,200 deaths and included raping, burning, mutilating and executing women and children.”

In November, after disclaiming that she does not support Hamas in part due to its religious ideology, wrote that “Hamas members, like all Palestinians, just want freedom. They have always warmly welcomed people, irrespective of religion and nationality, including Jewish Israelis, who come in solidarity, not as occupiers.”

Then, in December, Arraf posted doubting that Hamas engaged in sexual and gender-based violence during its October 7 attack, writing “Israel continues to refuse independent investigations into its claims that Hamas raped Israeli women and girls. If it happened, it is a war crime and should be dealt with accordingly. So far though, all we have is inconsistent claims from someone who says she saw something (not a survivor of assault herself) and statements from someone tied to the Israeli government who has started a project. And, of course, Israeli government claims.”

However, independent investigations by newspapers such as The New York Times and The Guardian, based on eyewitness testimony and video, have found that the use of sexual and gender-based violence was widespread on October 7. Both investigations were published after Arraf’s post, but she did not respond to a request for comment asking if the subsequent investigations changed her view on this particular subject. She also did not respond to a request for comment on any of her other posts.

Tlaib’s Communications Director did not respond to a request for comment on whether the congresswoman was aware of Arrafs’s views prior to the event.

Most recently, after The Algemeiner had already reached out to Tlaib’s office, Arraf posted a graphic comparing Israel’s war in Gaza to Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During the event, they spoke about, among other things, how to make Palestine a local issue.

Tlaib said that most taxpayers don’t want their money to go to “death and destruction” and “apartheid.” 

Arraf said “The forces that we’re up against are so very great. And recognizing the interconnectedness of the struggle — the fact that we’re likely fighting the same forces trying to keep us down and that profit from our oppression — is important to strengthen our voices.” 

The post ‘Hamas Members, Like All Palestinians, Just Want Freedom’: Rashida Tlaib Appears with Speaker Who Defended Hamas first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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