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New York Jews, grappling with surging antisemitism, are bolstered by massive pro-Israel rally

(New York Jewish Week) — Congregants lined up in the morning cold outside the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in the Upper West Side as the dawn broke Tuesday. Many of them held signs in support of Israel as well as supplies for the long day ahead as they boarded a large tour bus headed for Washington, D.C..

“This is an important act of unity and solidarity,” Rabbi Dalia Samansky told the passengers as the bus slowly made its way toward the March for Israel rally at the National Mall, as tens of thousands of other Jews from around the country headed toward the event. The Reform synagogue’s cantor, Daniel Singer, then played a rendition of “Tefilat haderech,” or “A prayer for the road,” on an acoustic guitar.

The congregants said they were inspired to make the long, trafficky trip to the rally to support the hostages held by Hamas, publicly back Israel, and take a stand against antisemitism as anti-Jewish discrimination surges in New York and elsewhere amid the fallout from the war. After event organizers announced a historic turnout of nearly 300,000 people at the rally, the participants said the event had bolstered their spirits and made a powerful statement in support of Jewish solidarity and Israel’s cause.

The group of marchers from Stephen Wise included synagogue members, some of their friends and family, and others who occasionally attend services. The contingent ranged in age from high schoolers to the elderly, and included several family groups. The synagogue’s chief rabbi, Ammiel Hirsch, is in Israel on a trip.

“I’m joining because I see the scary rise of antisemitism and I’ve been talking to people, and it’s just heartbreaking,” said Maxine Albert, a Manhattanite who sometimes attends services at the synagogue. “People are telling me that they’re not wearing anything that identifies them as Jewish.”

“It scares me and I want to stand up,” she added.

Samansky said the rally came as many congregants felt increasing pressure over their support for Israel, as many activists clamor for Israel to accept a ceasefire with Hamas and the memory of the terror group’s Oct. 7 atrocities fade from the public discourse. Many of the congregants also felt isolated and abandoned by their former allies on the left due to the lack of a condemnation for antisemitism, Samansky added.

“A lot of our congregants are really struggling with their own place in the world, their own place in the social justice world that they have believed and been a part of for so long, while also dealing with their fear of being Jewish right now,” she said. “More and more congregants are saying, ‘Should I wear my star? Should I have my mezuzah be so prominent?’”

“It’s so important to be at this [rally] to say we have a right to be Jewish, we have a right to be proud to be Jewish, we have a right to support Israel, and Israel has a right to be proud and to defend itself,” she said.

Several congregants said that the defaced and ripped up hostage posters around New York City were a reminder of the hostility around them, and some compared the tense atmosphere in the city to the rising antisemitism in prewar Europe. A number of attendees also cited the hostile atmosphere on college campuses as a worrying harbinger for the future.

“When I was growing up, it was [shortly] after the Holocaust, so antisemitism wasn’t considered to be mainstream. It had to be hidden,” said Joyce Goldwyn-Spencer. Now, she said, “so much time has passed and they have the excuse of using Israel, blaming Israel.”

“I think there is a sense of awakening,” said congregant Debra Warren, saying some U.S. Jews had become aware of “the Jew hatred that’s probably been simmering under the surface that’s now bubbled above the surface.”

The congregants firmly backed Israel’s need to defeat Hamas while mourning the Palestinian victims, and blamed much of the toxic discourse surrounding the conflict on a lack of nuance in the conversation and poor understanding of the complex issues at play in the region.

After the five-hour drive, the synagogue’s bus pulled into a parking lot at FedEx Field in North Englewood, Maryland, some nine miles east of the National Mall. The congregants spilled onto the asphalt to join throngs of other Jews and allies; the Stephen Wise group mostly broke apart as they mixed in with the thousands who made their way to the rally via shuttle, subway, taxi and on foot.

The masses in attendance at the rally included secular Jews and non-Jews, Haredim, school groups in matching shirts and Israelis navigating the crowds in Hebrew. Youths from the Chabad movement manned a tent, putting tefillin on passersby and handing out yellow balloons to high schoolers as young men wearing kippot danced in a circle nearby. Many in the crowd, framed on the lawn between the White House and the Washington Monument, carried U.S. and Israeli flags and photos of hostages. The crowd fell silent as families of the captives spoke, with some in the audience breaking into tears.

The crowd size — likely the largest Jewish gathering in U.S. history — was a powerful message for the congregation. “That’s what we needed, to make it really significant and historic,” Goldwyn-Spencer said.

Several congregants also said the support from public officials and non-Jews inspired confidence.

“It was exciting and beautiful to see Jews coming together,” Warren said, adding that the wide range of groups at the rally was affirming. “I think the hardest part has been the sense of feeling alone. As Jews, we have each other.”

“I never thought that we would need to do this but the time is now so I’m glad to be there,” said congregant Michael Sherman, adding that he was cheered by “Jews putting arms around each other, helping each other — secular, Orthodox.”

On the way back to the parking lot, young Israelis and Haredim alighted on the subway together as a group of high schoolers sang. The Stephen Wise delegation boarded the bus back to New York, and the cantor, Singer, played “Oseh Shalom” as two teenagers passed out bags of chocolate chip cookies to the weary congregants.

“This isn’t 1939. We’re not going to stay silent in the face of antisemitism. We are going to stand up, we are going to protect ourselves and be proud of who we are,” Samansky said. “We’re determined to continue speaking out and being present and reminding the world that we are here and we have the right to be here.”


The post New York Jews, grappling with surging antisemitism, are bolstered by massive pro-Israel rally 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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