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Menorahs across the US are vandalized as Jewish communities celebrate Hanukkah amid a spike in antisemitism

(JTA) — In Oakland, California, an 11-foot tall Hanukkah menorah was broken and thrown into a lake. In New Haven, Connecticut, a Palestinian flag was planted in a publicly displayed menorah. In Juno Beach, Florida, a menorah made of sand was destroyed.

As Jewish communities around the United States celebrated Hanukkah over the past week, numerous stories of vandalism and destruction circulated online as public menorahs — many of them sponsored by local outposts of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement — were targeted. Some of the incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.

The acts of vandalism come at a time when Jewish communities are on high alert as watchdogs say antisemitism has spiked around the globe since Oct. 7, when the Israel-Hamas war began. Many communities had planned gatherings explicitly drawing connections between the war and the Hanukkah holiday, which began Dec. 7 and concludes on Friday. In response to the uptick in antisemitism and fear, one Jewish father launched an online campaign encouraging non-Jews to display menorahs in their windows out of solidarity.

For decades, public menorah lightings have been commonplace in many cities around the United States, especially in ceremonies led by local Chabad rabbis. The Hasidic movement organized an estimated 15,000 lightings annually in recent years, and this Hanukkah it puts the number at more than 10% higher — an increase Chabad spokesman Rabbi Motti Seligson attributed in part to the war in Israel and Gaza.

“Jews from across the spectrum of observance are celebrating Hanukkah more visibly this year than ever before,” Seligson said. “They feel they don’t have a choice. It’s in response to Oct. 7.”

Boruch Klar, who runs, which bills itself as the “world’s largest manufacturer of public display menorahs,” said his company’s sales have steadily increased every year, 2023 included. He noted that the company’s sales to municipal and state offices, mostly in the United States, have increased 150% this year.

“The numbers are so high that I can’t actually believe it,” said Klar, a Chabad rabbi who sells menorahs as tall as 12 feet to army bases, shopping malls, sports teams and beyond. He said he sells thousands of menorahs each year but declined to give exact sales numbers.

The prevalence and size of public menorahs makes them easy targets for people seeking to vandalize Jewish property or just cause mischief. And since the holiday began, several incidents of vandalism and destruction of menorahs have been reported around the country — though not, Seligson said, at an appreciably higher rate than in the past.

“Hanukkah came as the perfect antidote to the adversity and the darkness,” Seligson said, noting that Chabad is not formally tracking vandalism incidents. “In the sum total, we’re seeing a lot more light.”

Still, the incidents of vandalism have been jarring to Jewish communities already on edge.

In Oakland, Chabad had assembled a 350-pound menorah that was displayed on a walking trail at the city’s Lake Merritt. Chabad hosted a candle lighting ceremony on Sunday, the fourth night of the holiday, featuring remarks from Mayor Sheng Thao.

On Wednesday morning, Rabbi Dovid Labkowski received text messages saying the menorah had been destroyed. He called the mayor’s office and rushed to the scene, he told J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

Pieces of the menorah had been cut up and thrown across the sidewalk and into the lake. Antisemitic graffiti was scrawled onto the base, including “we’re gonna find you” and “you’re on alert.” “Free Palestine” was written in Arabic near where the menorah had stood. Oakland police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“I felt outraged,” Labkowski told the J. “There’s crime in this city, but it just hit a new level of antisemitism. Together with the crime — it just makes you feel hopeless.”

On Wednesday, a large interfaith crowd gathered to light a new menorah and show support for the local Jewish community.

In New Haven, a pro-Palestinian protester climbed the city’s 30-foot menorah and planted a Palestinian flag between the candles. The menorah was not damaged, but local authorities are investigating the incident, which was caught on camera.

The Jewish Community Synagogue in North Palm Beach had commissioned an artist to create a menorah out of sand in Juno Beach — which was destroyed and defaced with a swastika. After the incident, which is under investigation, the local Jewish community gathered to rededicate the menorah, which was rebuilt.

Menorahs were also vandalized in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Olney, Maryland, the Chicago neighborhood of Lakeview and suburb of Northbrook, as well as in Brooklyn, where two public menorahs were damaged. The two Brooklyn incidents are being investigated as hate crimes, according to the NYPD.

Public menorahs have also been the scenes of dramatic incidents in Europe. In Poland, a far-right member of parliament shocked the chamber when he used a fire extinguisher to blow out the candles of a menorah in the government building. In the Dutch town of Enschede, the mayor refused to be seen with the Netherlands’ Israeli ambassador at a Hanukkah event. And a public menorah was found toppled in West Hempstead, London, on Thursday morning, with a “Free Palestine” sticker affixed to its base.

Rabbi Dovid Katz of the West Hampstead Chabad told the Jewish Chronicle of London that next year he would put up four at the same intersection.

The post Menorahs across the US are vandalized as Jewish communities celebrate Hanukkah amid a spike in antisemitism appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Representative to the Palestinians Claims Israelis Are ‘Colonialists’ with ‘Fake Identities’

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine Francesca Albanese, October 27, 2022 (Photo: Screenshot)

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories referred to Israelis as “colonialists” who have “fake identities” while quoting another Twitter/X account on Wednesday, raising questions about the impartiality of the international body.

Francesca Albanese responded to a long post by Alon Mizrahi, a far-left activist, arguing that the reason many Western nations support Israel is that they are colonial projects. 

She highlighted the following quote from Mizrahi: “free Palestine scares them [Westerners] bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities.”

” free Palestine scares them bcs it is the ghost of their own sins, rediscovered as a living, breathing human. The current political structures of colonial projects cannot afford it, so they try to uproot it. Bcs it is a fight between all colonialists and their fake identities..”

— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) February 21, 2024

The original post claimed that “All colonial powers work together to guarantee the supremacy of made-up identities over genuine, native ones. Because if this model breaks anywhere, it will collapse everywhere.”

Mizrahi argued that “A Palestinian state would be a major, major moral blow to white, Western colonialism.”

The tweet was met with immediate condemnation.

David Friedman, who served as the US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump wrote that her tweet was “Exhibit A why the UN is a failure and why we no longer belong in that bastion of hypocrisy and corruption.”

An account documenting Hamas’ October 7 atrocities asked, “If Israel is indeed a ‘colonialist project’ Where should all the Israelis go if this project should be dismantled?”

The perception of UN bias against Israel has also been boosted by the fact that, in 2023, Israel was condemned twice as often as all other countries combined.

It is not the first time Albanese has made comments that raise eyebrows. Earlier this month, in response to French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron calling the October 7 attack “largest anti-Semitic massacre of the 21st century,” she said “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of October 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Following backlash, she wrote that she opposes “all racism, including anti-Semitism, a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause.”

Hamas’ founding charter, in a section about the “universality” of its cause, reads: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Albanese has also argued that Israel should make peace with Hamas, saying that “It needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas.” 

When asked about what people do not understand about Hamas, she added, “If someone violates your right to self-determination, you are entitled to embrace resistance.”

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‘He Has Something to Say to Us Today’: Museum of Jewish History Set to Honor Legacy of ‘The Great Artist’ Arthur Szyk

Arthur Szyk, self portrait

The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City is celebrating the 130th birthday of  the Polish-Jewish artist Arthur Szyk with a special lecture series hosted by the world’s leading expert on his work.

Titled, “Commemorating Arthur Szyk’s 130th Birthday,” the lecture series will include four 90-minutes sessions led by award winning author Irvin Ungar, a former rabbi who has studied Szyk for over 30 years, publishing three books about him and hosting exhibitions of his art at museums throughout the world. Among art historians, Ungar’s scholarship and curation is credited with single-handedly fostering a “Szyk renaissance.”

Born in 1894 in the city of Łódź during the Russian Partition of Poland, Szyk, though his life ended prematurely in 1951, lived through a violent and epochal moment in history — an age of revolution, world war, and genocide. His works, from sketches of the Boxer Rebellion he drew at the age of six to his depiction of Hitler as Pharaoh — and later, Hitler as Anti-Christ — were expressive commentaries on troubled times.

After Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Szyk fled to England and then America, where he earned a reputation as a “soldier in art” for portraying the Nazis and Axis leaders as primal mad men and using irradiating imagery to alert the world to the plight of the Jewish people under Nazi occupation, an issue that affected him personally. In 1940, his mother, Eugenia, was murdered in the Chełmno extermination camp, just 30 miles from the city in which he grew up. Many more relatives, as well as those of his wife, were murdered during the Holocaust.

Arthur Szyk, Anti-Christ, 1942

Szyk’s contemporaries widely acclaimed his work, both for its creativity and social consciousness. In 1949, he published “Do Not Forgive Them, O Lord, For They Do Know What They Do!,” an anti-racist drawing condemning the bigotry that Black soldiers who fought fascism abroad faced in the segregated American south. In the piece, a soldier is on his knees and bound by rope while two hooded Klansmen holding shotguns watch him from a distance. His humanism once prompted allegations that he was a member of the Communist Party, charges which were entirely unfounded.

Today, Szyk is best known in the Jewish world for what is regarded as his magnum opus, The Haggadah, an “illuminated manuscript” which tells the story of Passover Seder in a series of watercolor illustrations. It was thoroughly anti-Nazi, linking the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany with the enslavement of Jews in Egypt and, ultimately, their Exodus.

There is much more to learn about Szyk, Irvin Ungar told The Algemeiner on Thursday during a phone interview, including his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel, as well as his “prolific” production of illustrations for modern editions of classic books such as Canterbury Tales and Anderson’s Fairy Tales.

“My job has been how to bring all these various aspects and dimensions of Arthur Szyk together and to present an unbelievably talented and creative artists who excelled in book illustration, religious art, and political art,” Ungar said. “He was excellent in all three. It’s very rare to find any artist who can excel in all three areas with the great degree of skill and craftsmanship which he did.”

Szyk, an “artist of and for the Jewish people and for the world,” transcended his time, Ungar added, and continues to speak to ours. Rising antisemitism, illiberalism on the far-right and far-left, and great power conflict were the major themes of his art and make him an invaluable resource for comprehending a world in peril.

“He has something to say to us today,” Ungar emphasized. “He had something to say about United Nations in 1947 and 1948. It applies today. He had something to say about antisemitism being the great softener of his democracy at that time, and that would also apply to our day. You can find numerous of his artwork and think ‘That was created for today,’ and that in my mind is why his artwork is eternal.”

Commemorating Arthur Szyk’s 130th Birthday, begins on Monday, February 26, at 7 PM. Ungar will give two more lectures in March before concluding the series on April 8 with an exploration of The Haggadah.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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The Serial Killer Who Might Be the First President of Palestine

Marwan Barghouti gestures as Israeli police bring him into the District Court for his judgment hearing in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2004. Photo: Reuters / Pool / David Silverman.

JNS.orgA Greek Orthodox priest named Georgios Tsibouktzakis was murdered for the crime of driving while mistakenly being perceived as Jewish. And now his killer is being widely touted as the likely first president of “Palestine.”

In recent weeks, pundits in The New York Times, The Guardian and other news outlets have promoted Marwan Barghouti as the best candidate to replace Mahmoud Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority and then become the first president of the “Palestine” that they hope to establish.

Incredibly, many of these Barghouti enthusiasts make no mention at all of the innocent people he was convicted of murdering. That’s like murdering them twice. Here’s some information on one of Barghouti’s victims.

Georgios Tsibouktzakis was born and raised in the picturesque northern Greek town of Evosmos, a name that means “pleasant scent.” Among its notable sites is the Agios Athanasios Church, which is more than 200 years old.

The Tsibouktzakis family must have been impoverished because upon completing primary school, at age 12, Georgios set aside his studies and found a job in a local fabric factory.

At some point, young Georgios experienced a religious awakening. He adopted an extremely humble lifestyle, giving away his belongings, including his most precious possession—his bicycle—and entering a Greek Orthodox religious order.

After studying at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Georgios decided to go to Israel. And why not? Christianity was born in the Land of Israel. The Christian Bible is filled with references to Judea (although there is no mention of “Palestine,” for some reason). As a devout man of faith, he wanted to spend the rest of his life in the Holy Land.

In 1990, Georgios arrived in Israel and resumed his religious studies at a local Greek Orthodox seminary. After three years, he became a monk and was given the name Father Germanos. Eventually, he was ordained a priest and deacon. He was assigned to live at St. George’s Monastery.

A word about St. George’s. Despite the frequent lies by Arab propagandists and their supporters about Israel supposedly mistreating Christians, in fact, the country is home to numerous monasteries such as St. George’s, which all operate as freely as any Jewish religious institution. St. George’s is located on a prime piece of real estate just 12 miles outside of Jerusalem.

For many years, Father Germanos was the only resident of the monastery. He spent his days in prayer and study. When necessary, he would drive to nearby Jerusalem to run errands. It was a humble and peaceful existence. Until June 22, 2001.

On that evening, the priest was driving back from Jerusalem to St. George’s. A Palestinian Arab terrorist with a sniper’s rifle was hiding above the highway near the exit for the Jewish community of Ma’ale Adumim.

As Father Germanos’s car came into view, the terrorist saw his yellow Israeli license plates. So he opened fire. Because if you have Israeli plates, you’re probably Jewish, and if you’re Jewish, you deserve to be murdered. Thus, the clergyman’s life was taken at the age of 34.

Israel’s security services learned from their sources that the attack had been planned and carried out by Force 17, a terrorist unit of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party movement that was commanded by longtime “intifada” leader Marwan Barghouti. That information was confirmed by the apprehended shooter, a 22-year-old Fatah member Hassin Radeida.

Barghouti was arrested and indicted as the mastermind of the murder of Father Germanos, as well as a string of other murders. Barghouti had the opportunity to contest the charges and prove his innocence. But he refused to deny culpability and declared that the “Zionist” court had no right to prosecute him.

Of course not—since, in Barghouti’s view, murdering Jews is right and proper, then prosecuting anybody for murdering them is wrong and improper.

On May 20, 2004, Barghouti was convicted of the murders of Father Germanos and four other innocent people. He is serving five consecutive sentences of life imprisonment.

The various news columnists and others who have been building up Barghouti in recent weeks say that he is the only figure in the Palestinian Arab world who is popular enough to serve as head of the P.A., and then as the president of “Palestine.”

If that’s true, what does that tell us about Palestinian Arab society? Their single most popular political person is a serial killer. How sad that supporters of the Palestinian cause have decided to champion such a monster, while Father Germanos and the murderer’s other victims lie in their graves, forgotten and abandoned.

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