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Some Jews are taking down their mezuzahs due to antisemitism. Some non-Jews are putting them up.

(JTA) – When a man broke into the home of a Jewish family in Studio City, California, last week yelling antisemitic language and “Free Palestine,” neighbors quickly honed in on a key detail: The assailant had allegedly previously questioned the family about the mezuzah on their door.

This caused some fear among secular Jews on their block, said Menachem Silverstein, an Orthodox comedian and rabbi who is close friends with the victims. He said an Israeli neighbor told him that he was considering taking his family’s mezuzah down.

But the response from Silverstein’s non-Jewish neighbors, he said, “gave me goosebumps”: They proposed putting up their own.

“I’m tearing up. I’m like, this is the most beautiful thing anybody has ever said to me,” Silverstein recalled to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It was the inspiration I needed, personally.”

The neighbors ultimately decided that the break-in was a one-time incident and held off on following through with their offer. Still, Silverstein said, the mere gesture that they might be willing to support Jews in this way stuck with him at a time when so many Jews say they are feeling alone and unsupported by the non-Jews they know.

He compared the moment to the “I am Spartacus” scene in the 1960 movie, in which the hero’s countrymen all identify as him in order to protect his identity. It also calls to mind the myth that the king of Denmark wore a yellow Star of David to shield the country’s Jews under Nazi rule.

“If everyone has a mezuzah, no one has to take it down and you can’t identify the Jews who have a mezuzah,” he said.

And to Silverstein, the gesture invoked something even more gut-wrenching. “To me it felt like the precursor to ‘We’ll hide you when you’re in our attic.’”

Silverstein’s reaction taps into a broader conversation taking place in Jewish homes and communities around the world. As antisemitic sentiment has risen across the world in the wake of Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis in a terrorist attack on Oct. 7, Jews are questioning whether their mezuzahs — small boxes containing a passage from the Torah commanding Jews to inscribe the words on the doorposts of their homes — make them vulnerable to attacks by identifying their homes as Jewish.

A man walks along a building whose facade is covered with Stars of David in the Alesia district of Paris, Oct. 31, 2023. (Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images)

In some places, as in Studio City, it seems that the fears have been justified. In Canada, an Ontario couple says they believe their mezuzah was a giveaway to vandals who spray-painted antisemitic graffiti on their garage. Jews in Paris and Berlin who have expressed concern about Jewish stars being painted on their buildings wonder whether it was their mezuzahs that tipped the vandals off.

Some are seeking ways to keep their mezuzahs up while making them inconspicuous. In Europe, some Jews have been buying up Camozuzah, a mezuzah disguised to look like a home alarm, originally developed by a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi in Ireland in 2021 for Jewish university students concerned about antisemitism there.

Others may be removing their mezuzahs altogether. Jews in London and Berlin say they’ve taken their mezuzahs down as a safeguard against unrest. Levi Wolff, the rabbi at the Modern Orthodox Central Synagogue in Sydney, Australia, posted on Instagram this week that an anonymous person had left a mezuzah at his house, which he took to mean that “someone in our community has removed his/her mezuzah and is returning it to me, out of fear of their home being recognized as a Jewish home.”

Wolff, who is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, then implored Jews to keep their mezuzahs up and to not be afraid in the face of antisemitism, such as a pro-Palestinian protest in Sydney where participants recently chanted “Gas the Jews.”  Other Chabad rabbis have emphasized that now is an ideal time to put up mezuzahs, an act that they counteracts darkness in the world, and many have taken steps to distribute mezuzahs in their communities.

The Camozuzah is designed to look like a security system but instead obscures a mezuzah that meets the requirements of Jewish law. (Camozuzah.com)

Other spiritual leaders have struck a more cautious tone. Marc Katz, a rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, New Jersey, posted on Facebook Tuesday that, in light of Halloween, Jews should consider being extra cautious with how many visible signs of Jewish identity they display on their houses.

“It’s OK to take down your outward signs of support for Israel or even your outward signs of Jewish identity (like your mezuzah) if you are truly worried for your safety,” Katz wrote, in a post also shared by his synagogue. “At times that are unsafe, Jews are allowed to do the imperfect to protect themselves and their resources.”

The rabbi cautioned his congregants that they should be prepared to return to normal “when the threat goes away.”

Elsewhere, other non-Jews looking to stand in solidarity with Jews and Israel also shared plans to put up their own mezuzahs. One non-Jewish woman in Toronto went viral on the social network X, formerly known as Twitter, for sharing her own mezuzah affixed to the door of her apartment building. She says she procured it inexpensively from a Judaica shop after consulting with Jewish friends who told her that it wouldn’t be insensitive.

“Some of our Toronto neighbours are facing harassment — just for being Jewish,” wrote the woman, who identified herself as Susie Movat. “As a non Jew, I’m putting a mezuzah on my door to stand in solidarity with my friends who deserve to live without fear. Never again.”

Some of our Toronto neighbours are facing harassment – just for being Jewish. As a non Jew, I’m putting a mezuzah on my door to stand in solidarity with my friends who deserve to live without fear. Never again. pic.twitter.com/grZ4lTqzqj

— susie movat (@MovatSusie) October 27, 2023

Some Jewish users applauded her. “While current events have seen so many of our neighbours rip off masks to show us the deep rot of systemic antisemitism, it has also blessed Jews by shining spotlights on those non-Jews in our midst who like Susie passed this “would you have hid Jews during the Holocaust” test,” wrote Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa physician who tweets frequently on Canadian Jewish issues. The British Jewish historian Simon Schama, author of “The Story of the Jews,” joined in the appreciation.

But others said they thought the gesture represented cultural appropriation, in the vein of Christian Passover seders, and questioned whether it was the strongest show of allyship. “You can donate to a synagogue’s security fund (yeah, we have those, because we have to) or education fund,” one representative user tweeted. “Appropriation is NOT the way.”

Silverstein, who comes from a Chabad family, said he didn’t interpret his neighbors’ gesture as appropriative. Instead, he said, “It was such a beautiful thing to see non-Jews acknowledge the importance of a mezuzah.”

As for whether Jews everywhere should consider taking their own down for protection, Silverstein advised, “Consult your local rabbi.” But he noted Jewish tradition teaches that the mezuzah itself is historically its own form of protection.

“Our mezuzah is the security system. Our mezuzah has the Shema in it,” he said. “Having that mezuzah up, as scary as it may seem, I truly feel that God will protect you.”


The post Some Jews are taking down their mezuzahs due to antisemitism. Some non-Jews are putting them up. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News

We’ve produced a collection of feature articles four times a year since 2022. A special edition of this magazine will appear in mid-September—with reflections on the Jewish year that was. And in December, look out for a reimagined publication with a name of its own. Get future copies delivered to your door as a thank-you […]

The post Flip through the digital edition of the Summer 2024 print magazine from The Canadian Jewish News appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl

Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, attends a meeting with people at a hall on the seashore in Gaza City. Photo: Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

A senior US official said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is the Palestinian terrorist group’s ultimate decision maker and has little interest in reaching a ceasefire deal with Israel, in testimony before a US Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, there’s one guy 10 stories below the ground: a psychopath, messianic in his own belief that he has established himself in history, and [he believes that] there’s a sunk cost of having lost thousands of fighters and carnage in Gaza,” said Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs.

Sinwar, the top Hamas official in Gaza and the mastermind behind the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, has reportedly been hiding in Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels during Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the coastal enclave.

Leaf’s comments echo others made by Biden administration officials.

In April, a US official told reporters that Sinwar is single-handedly holding up any progress on a potential hostage deal.

The senior Biden administration official said that while Hamas’ political bureau has shown some willingness to compromise on the terrorist group’s most hardline positions, Sinwar’s maximalist demands continuously win out.

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [the hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7] than secure a ceasefire, and that’s just the truth of the situation,” the official said.

Leaf, in her testimony on Tuesday, said that Qatar — where many top Hamas political officials are based — has been “squeezing” the group — though to little effect, according to a report from Axios.

“There’s a cadre of political officials of Hamas in Doha, and boy do they squeeze them, I can assure you they squeeze them,” Leaf said.

Israel has described Hamas’ response to the new US ceasefire proposal as total rejection. But efforts to secure an agreement are still continuing, according to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, backed by the United States.

The Axios report added that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani met on Tuesday in Doha — Qatar’s capital — with senior Hamas officials in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the talks about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.

The post Top US Official Calls Hamas Leader Sinwar a ‘Psychopath,’ ‘Messianic’ as Ceasefire Talks Swirl first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hold a joint news conference in Jerusalem, May 25, 2021. Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday confirmed the US was still withholding a shipment of bombs to Israel, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Washington to remove restrictions on arms deliveries to the Jewish state and asserted that the top American diplomat had assured him the Biden administration was working to lift any halts on weapons.

The Biden administration is “continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said at a news conference at the US State Department.

However, he added, the administration is committed to making sure “that Israel has what it needs to effectively defend itself.”

Blinken’s remarks came after Netanyahu posted a video online earlier in the day in which he lamented that the US recently paused a weapons shipment to Israel and threatened to block more but said Blinken told him that Washington was seeking to end any halts on arms deliveries.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said.

“But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel,” he continued. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

The Israeli premier then asserted that Blinken told him the issue would be addressed.

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu said. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case. During World War II, Churchill told the US: ‘Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.’ And I say, ‘Give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job much faster.’”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, both the White House and the US State Department refuted his apparent claim that Washington was withholding more than a single shipment of bombs.

“Everything else is moving as it normally would move, and again, with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges,” Blinken said.

The White House echoed Blinken’s comments, saying that only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs had been withheld and nothing else.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We just don’t.”

Jean-Pierre added that the US and Israel have been having discussions about the release of the shipment but that there was no update at this time.

“There are no other pauses, none,” Jean-Pierre said. “No other pauses or holds in place.”

On Monday, unconfirmed reports in both Israeli and German media said that during Netanyahu’s meeting with Blinken in Jerusalem last week, the Israeli premier urged the US to return the frequency of its arms shipments to the level immediately after Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched the war in Gaza with its massacre across southern Israel. According to the reports, Blinken said that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days.

Netanyahu also reportedly warned Blinken that the slowing of aid and the perception of America’s weakened support for Israel benefits Iran and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East, including Hamas, emboldening them to intensify attacks against Israel and potentially resulting in a broader regional war.

The Biden administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats, especially those on the progressive left, to condition if not outright withhold US military support for Israel. Critics of Israel have argued the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed too many civilians and led to a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has said Hamas is to blame for starting the war, stealing aid, and intentionally placing its operation centers inside or underneath civilian sites.

Hamas started the war with its surprise invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorist group murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped over 250 others as hostages. Israel responded with its ongoing campaign aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas, which rules Gaza.

In recent months, the Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s operations both in public and private, pressuring Jerusalem to change its military strategy and seek a ceasefire.

The issue came to a head last month, when Biden announced that it would cease a bomb shipment to Israel and threatened to halt more weapons deliveries if the Israeli army launched an offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza and Hamas’ last major military stronghold.

I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden told CNN.

Israeli officials and experts have said operating in Rafah is essential to eliminating the last remaining Hamas battalions. Netanyahu said the Jewish state appreciates US support but “will stand alone” if necessary.

The post Blinken Confirms US Pausing Bomb Shipment to Israel After Netanyahu Calls for End to ‘Inconceivable’ Weapons Halt first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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