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Senate confirms Jack Lew as US ambassador to Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate approved Jack Lew, the Jewish former treasury secretary, to be ambassador to Israel, a process that Democratic leaders sought to accelerate as Israel wages war with Hamas.

The 53-43 vote was mostly along party lines, with two Republicans — Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham — joining 51 Democrats.

Both sides cited the urgency of the moment in making their cases. Democrats noted Lew’s close ties to Israel, and Republicans said his work on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal made him a poor choice during a time that Iranian proxy groups are engaging in direct warfare with Israel.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Jewish Maryland Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Jewish Democrat who is the majority leader, rushed Lew’s nomination to the floor over Republican objections.

“The Senate has now taken an extremely important step in its support for Israel,” Schumer said after the vote. “This confirmation is as important and as timely as any confirmation in recent times.”

Schumer said two-way communication was critical when an ally was at war.

“It means Israel’s messages will be relayed appropriately to our government but it also means our messages will be sent appropriately to Israel’s government,” he said.

An accredited ambassador in place will facilitate the delivery of emergency defense assistance to Israel, which is now under consideration in Congress. The office will also play a central role in freeing the dozens of Americans believed to be among the 240 or so hostages held by Hamas after its Oct. 7 invasion of Israel.

Lew would additionally help negotiate the terms of delivering humanitarian relief to Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, which is under Israeli attack.

Lew, who also served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff before leading the Treasury Department, has drawn words of support from Jewish leaders in Washington who pointed to his experience in public office, his skills as a negotiator, his involvement in Jewish life and his close relationship with Jewish organizations.

He earned a reputation for resolving complex negotiations during his two stints as director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama as well as President Bill Clinton. He has spoken publicly about balancing his Orthodox observance with government work and has encouraged young observant Jews to go into public service,

Republicans who opposed Lew cited his role as treasury secretary when Obama brokered the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“I understand it’s important to move as quickly as we can to have an ambassador in Jerusalem,” said Sen. James Risch, the Idaho Republican who is the top Republican on the committee. “We are at an important moment in history with the events in Israel. This makes the stakes so much higher and important that we get it right.”

Risch and other Republicans said that as treasury secretary, Lew’s oversight of the Iran nuclear deal, which traded sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program, overly favored Iran.

“Hamas would not exist if it was not for Iran,” Risch said. “Iran arms and trains them, it finances and directs them.”

Risch said Lew deceived Congress about the degree to which he facilitated sanctions relief to Iran. “I want to support Israel,” he said. “I think everybody on this floor wants to support Israel. The last thing we need is somebody who is very contrary to our view on how Iran should be handled.”

Cardin, known for his laidback approach to legislation, exhibited rare fury with his colleagues, whom he said distorted Lew’s record and falsely accused him of lying.

“It’s just not right to say he misled us!” Cardin shouted. “He did not!”

Cardin noted that Lew was backed by a broad range of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union, a group whose constituents trend politically conservative. He also cited Lew’s long involvement in pro-Israel and Jewish groups. Lew’s confirmation “gives us the person as our representative to Israel that has the gravitas to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel,” Cardin said.

Cardin added that when he visited Israel in the days after the war started as part of a bipartisan delegation, he heard from Israeli officials that they were eager to work with Lew.

“Israel needs a strong U.S. ambassador who will represent America and be their partner  intaking on one of the greatest struggles in their history, from the terrorist Hamas and what they did on Oct. 7,” he said.


The post Senate confirms Jack Lew as US ambassador to Israel 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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