(JTA) — The man who was shot by police in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday after allegedly bringing a gun into a Jewish school there was the son of a Jewish physician who himself was killed by Memphis police officers 20 years ago.
The man who tried to enter Margolin Hebrew Academy with a gun was Joel Bowman, a friend of the family who was a former classmate told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. confirming a report by a local Memphis TV station that cited family and friends in identifying Bowman. Bowman is hospitalized in critical condition.
The family friend told JTA that Bowman, who is 33, was a former student at Margolin Hebrew Academy, Memphis’ main Orthodox school located on the city’s east side. On Monday, Rep. Steve Cohen, a Jewish Democrat who represents Memphis in Congress, also said the gunman had attended the school.
According to his Facebook page, Bowman is the son of Dr. Anthony Bowman, a cardiologist trained at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico who died in May 2003 after being shot by police officers outside his house in Memphis. A death notice published in the local newspaper at the time encouraged donations in Anthony Bowman’s memory to be given to Margolin Hebrew Academy.
Now, Joel Bowman’s former classmates and community members are left processing what has happened to him.
“Genuinely to the core, I don’t think he would ever intentionally hurt someone,” Brittney Eshelman-Worch, who attended Margolin Hebrew Academy with Bowman, told a local news station. “He has struggled with mental health for a number of years.”
Twenty years ago, Joel Bowman’s mother, Susan, called 911 because her husband had begun behaving erratically and holding a handgun to his head, according to a legal complaint she filed the following year seeking compensation. She and Joel, then a minor, were in the “zone of danger” at the time and had experienced emotional distress, the complaint said.
Anthony Bowman’s death and that of another man at the hands of Memphis officers on the same day prompted the Memphis Police Department to pilot the use of nonlethal weapons such as Tasers, the local newspaper reported at the time.
Susan Bowman’s complaint was ultimately dismissed in 2010 because she could not “in good faith allege that the police officers’ conduct … was motivated by considerations of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin,” a requirement of the statute under which she had pursued compensation, according to the ruling by a Tennessee court.
By then, Joel Bowman had finished high school and received a scholarship to attend Lev HaTorah, a yeshiva in Israel, during the 2009-2010 academic year. The scholarship was named after Alisa Flatow, a Brandeis University student who was killed in a suicide bombing in Gaza in 1995.
An estimated 10,000 Jews live in the Memphis area, according to a 2006 analysis by the local Jewish federation. Many of them are affiliated with the city’s Orthodox community, which is unusually dense for a Southern city. The historic Baron Hirsch Synagogue boasts of being the largest Orthodox congregation in the United States, and the community has also been chronicled in bestselling novels by the Jewish writer Tova Mirvis.
But faced with an aging population, the Orthodox community has sought to attract new families in recent years. Bowman had been one of only two boys in his Margolin Hebrew Academy class for a few years in elementary and high school, his former classmate told JTA, and he stayed in Memphis after many of his classmates left.
Public posts on Bowman’s Facebook page, where he had posted about basketball games and punk concerts during high school, offer little information about his life following his time in the school. He posted about Suicide Prevention Day in 2019 and in April of this year posted an image of Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, Jews murdered in a shooting attack in the West Bank.
In the last week, Bowman’s public posts became more frequent. Only July 24, he posted that he was on the verge of launching a farm and flower business.
On Saturday, he posted a picture of his father’s grave, located in the Anshei Sphard Cemetery in Memphis. In an extended, disjointed post accompanying the picture, he wrote about having a “therapy breakthrough” and said, using a Hebrew term for God, that he had “yelled at Hashem” at the gravesite.
Addressing the universe, Bowman wrote, “Please allow me to keep my calm, to remember to breathe, and to REMEMBER WHO I COME FROM.”
Two days later, he sought to gain entry into his former school, shortly after making his last Facebook post: “Gots time on my hands . ‘Home’ Court Visit.” Within hours, he was critically wounded.
Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires
Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to his 30-year tenure as CEO of Check Point, an Israeli software firm.
“This year Check Point celebrated 30 years since its establishment, in which we managed to generate growth and reached a peak in almost every parameter. I feel that this is the right time for me to focus on Check Point’s next leap,” Shwed, 56, said. “We are now looking for a replacement for the position of CEO. It’s a process that will take time and even when it ends I will remain involved. I want to focus less on the daily work, and more on the future of the company.”
Check Point was founded in 1993 by Shwed, Shlomo Kramer, and Marius Nacht. Shwed and Kramer were friends from their time together in Israel’s elite cyber unit 8200.
The company provides AI-powered advanced software and hardware for cyber security to more than 100,000 customers globally, bringing in more than $2 billion per year in revenue.
Headquartered in Tel Aviv and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Check Point has a market cap of more than $19 billion dollars, making it Israel’s second most valuable company, $2 billion less than automobile giant Mobileye Eye. Shwed’s role as CEO has allowed him to amass a fortune of $4.4 billion due to his 20% share ownership in the company.
Shwed is also a recipient of the Israel Prize, an annual award given to Israelis who have shown a high level of excellence in their specific fields. Shwed was given the first award in the technology field when it was introduced in 2018.
Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally
Israel’s leading hotel chain Isrotel has announced the opening of their first hotel outside of the country.
The brand, under a new division called ALUMA, meaning “ray of light” in Hebrew, will open its Skylark Hotel in Athens, Greece next month.
“We succeeded in doing the best in Israel, creating a culture that people love, so if you know Isrotel you will want to visit,” Benny Levy, the VP of sales and marketing at Isrotel, told The Algemeiner.
Levy says just because they are expanding outside of the Jewish state, “We aren’t stopping opening in Israel … Outside of Israel the potential is endless, it is a significant opportunity.”
Lior Raviv, CEO of Isrotel, added, “ALUMA is an international chain of hotels that will benefit from Isrotel’s longstanding experience and uncompromising standards of excellence, offering global travelers a wide range of city hotels and leisure resorts to choose from, and providing unique hospitality experiences. As a sister company of Isrotel, ALUMA is guided by our approach to hospitality as a way of life.”
They said most of the workers will be Israelis, ensuring the culture of the brand remains. “Israeli tourists, and especially loyal guests of Isrotel, who return to us time and again due to our hospitality experience and high standard of service, will find those same qualities and sense of a ‘home away from home’ at ALUMA, backed by the international standards of perfection and excellence,” added Raviv.
According to Isrotel, the Skylark hotel will be followed by the Anise Hotel, also in Athens, a month later. An additional hotel in Athens and one in Thessaloniki will open by the end of 2024. They said the total investment in the project is 70 million euros, with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in the future.
Isrotel has 23 hotels across Israel, including eight in the resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel. Their international move comes as Israel’s National Planning and Construction Council announced this week the changes to the city’s height limitations for hotels, allowing up to 20 floors from the previously permitted eight floors.
Tourism Minister Haim Katz praised the move, saying, “We are bringing good news to Eilat. Hundreds and even thousands of rooms will be added in the city. The move will encourage competition, remove excess bureaucracy for a hotel that wants to renew itself, and allow entrepreneurs who have not yet built to increase supply.”
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Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias
Morningstar, Inc., a Chicago based investment firm managing over $250 billion in assets, has issued a report including several recommendations for reducing anti-Israel bias in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings its Sustainalytics subsidiary assigns to corporations.
For several years, Sustainalytics gave poor ESG ratings to Israel affiliated companies, a practice that led Jewish civil rights groups and lawmakers to suspect that the company was violating state laws against engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.
The firm denied the allegations, but a review of the its ratings by JLens, a leading Jewish investor network, found that Sustainalytics created “BDS blacklists” and used in its internal reports “politicized anti-Israel language” to describe Israel. JLens’ work, which was the first to raise alarms about the issue, led to Morningstar’s cracking down on the practices and adopting policies for ensuring that Sustainalytics does not become a BDS collaborator.
Released on Jan. 31, Morningstar’s new report builds on that commitment, outlining several policy changes, including: eliminating a designation which identified companies as being involved in “occupied territories/disputed region,” quashing reliance on disinformative media reports aimed at distorting a company’s ESG rating, and appointing legal experts to examine matters relevant to international human rights law.
“We welcome Morningstar’s commitment to eliminate anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics research products,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to ongoing engagement with Morningstar to ensure the expert recommendations are fully and effectively implemented.”
The ADL took a leading role in combating anti-Israel bias in ESG ratings, incorporating JLens in Nov. 2022. ADL noted at the time that BDS activists target firms managing ESG rated funds, which attracted over $500 billion in investments in 2021, a 55% increase from the previous year, according to JP Morgan. During 2022’s proxy season, a time when publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to assess performance and weigh suggestions from shareholders, Israel was named in eight of 20 resolutions targeting foreign governments, “making the country only second to China.”
Morningstar’s recommendations will shield ESG from political bias and increase its reliability, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus explained in a statement applauding the report.
“Anti-Israel external forces are doing everything they can to infiltrate campuses, boardrooms, the [United Nations]., sports leagues, and the securities industry,” he said. “We commend Morningstar for engaging with us, examining their ESG product, and committing to make the changes necessary to ensure that their rating system is apolitical, objective, and honest. We believe that implementing the experts’ report is critical to achieving this goal.”
Ari Hoffnung, managing director of JLens, added that “investor are entitled to research that is both objective and devoid of any anti-Israel bias.”
Last July, Morningstar removed 109 negative “controversy ratings” that Sustainalytics subsidiary had given to companies operating in Israel. The firm has also stopped referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ or ‘occupied territory” and committed to educating its employees about antisemitism and amassing information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from “independent, recognized experts.”
Morningstar, however, has repeatedly denied that it ever supported BDS. In June 2022, Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor issued a statement arguing that an external review of Sustainalytics found no evidence that it “encouraged divestment from Israel” but acknowledged that at least one of its departments singled out businesses “linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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