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Sophie Scholl and her anti-Nazi resistance movement are spotlighted in ‘White Rose: The Musical’

(New York Jewish Week) — In the summer of 1942, a group of determined students and faculty at Germany’s University of Munich banded to speak out against the Nazi regime.

Led by Sophie Scholl and her older brother, Hans, they called themselves the White Rose. The fervently Christian siblings led the resistance group in sounding the alarm about the Nazis’ atrocities and the mass murder of Jews in Europe by dispersing anti-Nazi leaflets across German cities and embarking on a graffiti campaign throughout Munich and the surrounding region.

But in February 1943, less than a year after the White Rose’s inception, the Scholl siblings were caught scattering leaflets in the university’s main atrium. They were reported to the Gestapo and, just days later, at ages 21 and 24, they were executed by guillotine. Several other founding members were also executed for treason and many of their young collaborators were imprisoned. 

Despite the tragic ending of the White Rose movement, their nonviolent acts of resistance have galvanized generations of young people to speak out. And now, the story has inspired “White Rose: The Musical,” a new 90-minute show that opens off-Broadway on Thursday. 

The musical, starring Jo Ellen Perlman (Netflix’s “The Prom”) as Sophie Scholl and Mark Cefalo (Broadway’s “New York, New York”) as Hans Scholl, spotlights the courage and plight of the resistance group. “To me, it is the ultimate ally story,” the show’s creator, Brian Belding, told the New York Jewish Week. “We need more of those stories of people stepping out of the comfort and privilege that they have and actually standing up for people that are oppressed.”

Belding added that he dreamed of making a show about the White Rose since he first heard their story as a college student 35 years ago — he even wrote a screenplay for a movie at the time. “It was something that grabbed me from a young age, when I was basically the age of the students in the White Rose,” he said. “It was a story that I felt I should have known, but I didn’t.”

But life, as it often does, had other plans, and Belding became a high school history teacher in the Bay Area — where every year he taught his students about the bravery of the White Rose. 

Teaching students year after year is what really “kicked me into action,” Belding told the New York Jewish Week.

“The students just always responded and they were engaged in stories, not just about the White Rose, but resistors, and especially young resistors, people they could identify with,” Belding said. “Too many history lessons are these guys in powdered wigs, you know, making speeches. We can study these dates and names of battles. But these were young people who were frustrated with what was going on, who were upset and angry and were trying to figure out a way to cope and, most importantly, to see if they could change it. That’s what my students identified with.”

Belding eventually decided to take time off from teaching in 2019 to pursue the project in earnest. He first tried to write a historical novel but found the idea came to life the most when he imagined it as a musical, so he set to work on writing the book and lyrics. 

Though Belding is not Jewish, he said he worked carefully with Jewish dramaturg Emily White to make the show culturally, religiously and historically sensitive. With White’s guidance, Belding developed a (fictional) Jewish character in the White Rose who is forced to hide their identity in order to stay safe.

White said that working on the show as a Jew — and the fact that it is a true story — was “deeply important” to her. “When I have the ability to utilize historical documents and research in my process, helping to guide a story, it adds both a layer of authenticity and a unique responsibility in approaching the work,” she said. 

White added that, while working on the script, she kept a quote from Holocaust survivor and “Night” author Elie Wiesel at top of mind: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” 

“I have always been taught this is an essential part of being Jewish, but also an essential part of being a citizen of the world,” White said. “We are all bound in each other’s oppression, and we all have a responsibility to help stop oppression from happening.”

“The incredible efforts put forth by the young people in the White Rose, who weren’t direct targets of Nazi discrimination cannot be understated,” the dramaturg added. “These people could exist today, and make an impact.”

Belding concurs with White’s sentiments, saying the main message of the musical is to “stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone” — quoting none other than Sophie Scholl. 

“White Rose: The Musical” opens Thursday, Jan. 25 and runs for 12 weeks at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd St.) Tickets start at $37.50. 

The post Sophie Scholl and her anti-Nazi resistance movement are spotlighted in ‘White Rose: The Musical’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel’s Parliament Celebrates Its 75th Birthday as War Rages

Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz addresses the Knesset, in Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. Photo: Adina Valman / Knesset spokespersons’ office / Handout via Reuters.

Israel’s Knesset celebrated its 75th year anniversary in a special session at Israel’s parliament building in Jerusalem, with politicians vowing victory while also trading punches.

“We will continue to strive with determination to defeat the enemy that stands before us and in doing so we will fulfill the wishes of our dear sons,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He added that “the image of the IDF destroying the parliament building in Gaza is a strong and important image of victory, and the establishment of the Knesset on this day is also a victory. Every democracy, big or small, is put to the test during the war and even in the current test we will stand together and win. Every day we prove to our enemies that they were very wrong. We suffered a very hard blow on October 7, but we got back on our feet very quickly.”

Israel’s Knesset, meaning “gathering” in English, first convened on February 14, 1949, also the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which begins Wednesday evening. As is the case with most holidays in Israel, the dates are marked according to the Hebrew calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.

President Isaac Herzog spoke, telling those gathered “On the birthday of the Knesset of Israel, the temple of our democracy, it is important for me to emphasize that unity is not uniformity, unity is not gagging, unity is not the cessation of discussion and debate on matters that concern the core of the state’s existence. The legislators are the temple of Israeli debate and discussion, and the space for making the decisions that have the most impact on our lives. That’s how it was, and that’s how it will be.”

Pointing to the political turmoil that preceded the war, the president added ”This house will soon hold the most important and stormy debates there are. On war and peace, on the day before and after, on security, economy and society… it is forbidden to return to the conversation of October 6.”

The Knesset was the first sovereign Jewish governing body in the land of Israel since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. Currently in its 25th governing coalition, Israel’s legislative body is parliamentary, meaning that voters choose parties instead of candidates, and the leaders of those parties are then tasked with forming a coalition government comprising members of their own parties and others. The leader of the Knesset is the prime minister, currently Benjamin Netanyahu.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid took shots at the government, saying “What is there to celebrate? The political system is not the solution, it is the problem… How did we get to a situation where the citizens of Israel feel that we have lost control and no one is taking care of it? Israel will win the war, but the victory is not only in the fact that we kill Sinwar, it is in the fact that we are better to each other, as a nation. We know today that the fact that we did not change led to the greatest disaster in our history.”

The Speaker of the Knesset Amir Ohana added at the event “The Knesset’s 75th birthday is not a happy one. The nation of Israel is in one of its most difficult moments, fighting for its right to life and security, to peace and tranquility.” He asked those in attendance to honor the soldiers’ and civilians who have perished since the war’s outbreak on October 7, when thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed southern Israel, killing over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, with a minute of silence.

Concluding, he quoted a fallen soldier: “‘Perhaps I fell in battle,’ wrote Elkanah Wiesel of Bnei Dekalim who fell this week. ‘Don’t be sad when you part with me. Please be optimistic. Keep choosing life all the time. A life of love, hope, purity, and optimism.’ This house was not always characterized by all these. Shall we consider, all of us, to agree to the prayer of a fallen soldier, to strengthen each other?”

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Destroying Hamas Is Not Genocide; It Is Self-Preservation

Hamas leader and Oct. 7 pogrom mastermind Yahya Sinwar addressing a rally in Gaza. Photo: Reuters/braheem Abu Mustafa

The Arab term for catastrophe is Nakba. The Hebrew word for catastrophe is Shoah — which is also used to refer to the Holocaust.

Since 1948, Israel has been nourished and sustained by the Jews who were violently evicted from Arab countries, by the Jews who fought for the right to leave the open-air prison called the Soviet Union, by the Jews of Ethiopia and more recently, by Ukrainians seeking shelter from Putin’s onslaught. Melting pots are complex. Israel is complex, but it is not an apartheid or racist country. It is not a “white settler-colonial state” that is engaged in the “genocide of Palestinians.”  These are all accusations that compose the modern blood libel used to delegitimize and then destroy Israel.

The initial Palestinian catastrophe was self-inflicted when the decision was made to destroy Israel in 1948, and has been continually compounded by the catastrophic decisions of Palestinian leaders in 1967, 1973, by their rejection of the Clinton Parameters in 2000, by their green light for the Second Intifada between 2000 to 2005, and by their decision to invade, rape, and pillage Israel on October 7. The Palestinian leadership must stop making catastrophic decisions that keep Israelis and Palestinians locked in a dance of death.

Israel’s resistance to Palestinian and Arab violence has saved millions of Jews from death — from another Holocaust. This is the gas and violence that antisemites today are hysterically chanting for and salivating over (shouts to “gas Jews” ). After October 7, there were tears of joy and excitement from around the world that Hamas had delivered a blow that rocked Israel, and would force it to make concessions that would further weaken its ability to survive and thrive.

Israel resists to avoid the next catastrophe, and their resistance is called genocide.

On December 11, 2023, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) stated:  “We didn’t turn out in huge numbers to elect President Biden to have him supply the bombs for a genocide.”

Israel is now defending itself in the International Court of Justice from South Africa’s accusation of genocide. The accusation states: “Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide,” and that “Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ratified by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 states that the following acts constitutes genocide. (UN Genocide Prevention):

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its

physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Why isn’t Hamas being charged with genocide? Which of these five acts has Hamas not committed, and is not now committing? Hamas kills Israeli civilians, they mentally and physically torture women and children, they viciously murder women, children and the elderly, and Hamas’ brutal rape and torture of Israeli women is a way of preventing these women from having children. Their kidnapping of Israeli children is a forcible transfer. Hamas advocates for the genocide of Israelis between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is their raison d’être (See the Hamas Charter).

Every time that Hamas or Hezbollah launches barrages of missiles at Israel, they are in violation of the law of genocide that Israel is accused of violating. When more than 200,000 Israelis are forced to evacuate their villages to escape Hezbollah missiles, it is Hezbollah that is violating the United Nations law on genocide. The objective of the blame, shame, defame movement is to delegitimize Israel and starve it of the resources it needs to resist annihilation.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) voted “present” not “nay” to fund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system when the “Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022” was introduced to Congress, but she let everyone know that she should have voted no. If every one of the Hamas and Hezbollah and Houthi missiles hit Israel — instead of being knocked out of the sky by Iron Dome — would Hamas then be brought before the International Court of Justice?

Would those who hate Israel accuse Hamas of committing genocide? I doubt it.

Israel’s resistance saves lives. When the IDF destroys Hamas and Hezbollah missile launchers, it saves lives. Hezbollah’s and Hamas’ missiles deliver death and destruction to the Muslims, Christians, Jews and Druze of Israel — and even to Palestinians when the rockets misfire. The weapons of Hamas and Hezbollah kill and wound and destroy a racially and religiously diverse population. But Israel is slandered as a racist and apartheid country.

Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” asks the question, “Why do Fences Make Good Neighbors.” To answer this question, Frost advises us to reflect on “what is being walled in and what is being walled out.” The context of Frost’s poem is two orchards in the pristine New England countryside, not Gaza or the West Bank. October 7 has made it crystal clear what and who is being walled in and out.

Israel’s war on Hamas is not genocide it is terrorcide. Israel should not have to apologize for wanting to live apart from terrorists. Creating a space so that you can live apart from terror is not apartheid it is self-preservation.

Charles A. Stone is a Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY.

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Billionaire Investor Bill Ackman and Wife Buy 4.9% Stake in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

A man enters the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Jan. 29, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman and his Israel-born wife Neri Oxman purchased 4.9% of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with an investment of $17 million. The deal comes as the flagship Israeli exchange announced a sale of 18.5% of the exchange to a consortium of foreign and domestic investors.

The shares sold were previously held by three of the major Israeli banks, Hapoalim, First International, and Mizrahi, and according to the exchange will help with liquidity and technology infrastructure.

Ackman’s purchase is an immediate profit for the Jewish hedge fund manager of Pershing Square Capital Management with a net worth of $4.9 billion. Due to an agreement made in 2017 when the exchange first expressed openness to selling some shares to private investors, they agreed to sell at a price of NIS 5.08 per share. However, the current price is four times that – 20.60 NIS – so Ackman and the other investors immediately quadrupled their investment.

Ackman has figured prominently on social media since the war’s outbreak on October 7, when Hamas terrorists raided southern Israel, massacring more than 1,200 Israeli and taking captive over 240 to the Gaza Strip. Since then, he has defended Israel and even led a campaign against his former university Harvard, and their disgraced former president Claudine Gay after she refused to condemn calls for genocide against Jews.

His wife is a renowned designed who grew up in Haifa and has a Ph.D. from MIT. The couple married in 2019 and have since been working together on Ackman’s firm’s philanthropic arm, Pershing Square Foundation.

The purchase of shares of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is Ackman’s first investment in the country since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7.

The exchange said of the news “The transaction drew robust interest from investors across Israel, the United States, Europe, and Australia, reflecting a strong vote of confidence in both the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the Israeli economy at large.”

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