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The Jewish Sport Report: Two top US college basketball teams are in Israel right now

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Good afternoon! Gymnastics legend Simone Biles returned to competition last weekend for the first time since she withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics — and she performed to Israeli pop star Noa Kirel’s “Unicorn,” a song that came in third place in this year’s Eurovision contest.

“She made history and she’s amazing and it’s so moving to me because she really exemplifies the values that this song represents,” Kirel said in a Hebrew video message to Israeli media. “This is one of the wildest things that has ever happened to me.”

Arizona and Kansas State’s men’s basketball teams are touring Israel right now

The University of Arizona men’s basketball team at a tour of the City of David in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of Athletes for Israel)

Two of the country’s top collegiate basketball teams, Arizona and Kansas State, have embarked on a 10-day trip to Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Organized by the nonprofit Athletes for Israel, the program is an expansion of the “Birthright for College Basketball” trip that Auburn players experienced last summer. Adding the UAE to the itinerary was a step toward realizing the organizers’ dream of creating a trip modeled after the Abraham Accords, the series of normalization agreements between Israel and neighboring Arab countries.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who was involved in planning this summer’s trip, is accompanying the teams on their flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, to “feel very much a part of the Abraham Accords,” he told me. Pearl said his goal is to create a full “Abraham Accords Cup” with teams from the United States, Israel and Arab countries.

While in Israel, the teams will play an Israeli Select Team that will include NBA G Leaguer Ryan Turell (more on him below).

Read more about the teams’ Middle East tour right here.

Halftime report

HISTORY IN GERMANY. Makkabi Berlin, a sports club founded by Holocaust survivors, is about to become the first Jewish team to compete in the German Cup, the annual tournament featuring 64 of Germany’s top soccer teams. They face the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg on Sunday.

PEDAL TO THE METAL. Israeli-Canadian billionaire and philanthropist Sylvan Adams won the world championship in the 65-69 age group at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Scotland last weekend. He has been a key supporter of cycling in Israel.

THAT’S AMAR’E. The Phoenix Suns are retiring the number of former star Amar’e Stoudemire, who converted to Judaism and played professionally in Israel.

BIG DILL. A couple weeks ago, we reported on the growing popularity of pickleball at Jewish summer camp. America’s fastest-growing sport is also a huge hit at JCCs across the country — and this Sunday in Park City, Utah, there’s even a “Kosher Dills” Jewish pickleball tournament.

HANK READ-BERG. A new kid’s book about Jewish baseball legend Hank Greenberg, called “Hank on First!: How Hank Green­berg Became a Star On and Off the Field,” tells the story of the Hall of Famer’s courage as he overcame antisemitism to become one of the best hitters in baseball history.

Ryan Turell’s story hits the big screen

Ryan Turell, the Jewish basketball player who wears a kippah on the court, dribbles in a scene in “Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey.” (Courtesy of Prime Video)

Ryan Turell, the former Yeshiva University standout who is now playing in the NBA’s G League, is prominently featured in a new documentary that debuted on Amazon Prime this week.

“Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey,” produced by The Ringer and the Tom Brady-cofounded sports documentary outfit called, apropos for Turell, Religion of Sports, follows a number of G League players who are at various stages of their basketball careers.

Turell is shown in the film saying the Hanukkah blessings, signing kippahs for fans and describing one particular basketball move as “The Spinning Dreidel.”

“I want to be a Jewish hero,” Turell says at one point in the documentary.

Read more about the new sports doc here.

Jews in sports to watch this weekend

IN BASEBALL…

Oakland Athletics rookie Zack Gelof has been on fire since his callup — in his first 22 MLB games, the Team Israel alum has 21 hits, 15 runs scored and 6 homers. The A’s face the Washington Nationals this weekend. Alex Bregman, who has 18 homers on the year, and the Houston Astros host the Los Angeles Angels in an AL West showdown.

IN SOCCER…

The new English Premier League season kicks off this weekend. Catch Israeli star Manor Solomon with his new club Tottenham on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET against Brentford. U.S. men’s national team goalie Matt Turner has joined Nottingham Forest after a stint as Arsenal’s backup. Turner is expected to see more playing time with his new club and could possibly win the starting role. Those two teams face off Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

IN GOLF…

Max Homa is in Memphis this weekend for the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Ben Silverman, who is currently tied for second in the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, is at the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Omaha.

The JCC Maccabi Games wrap up a summer of competition in Israel and Florida

(Courtesy of JCC Association of North America)

The JCC Maccabi Games, which were held this summer in both Israel and Florida, brought together thousands of Jewish teen athletes, including a delegation from Ukraine, shown here at the opening ceremony in Fort Lauderdale. (Courtesy of JCC Association of North America)

“Today’s JCC Maccabi athletes are tomorrow’s Jewish leaders, and during the summer of 2023, we focused on building a true sense of belonging, understanding, and connection to Israel and the Jewish people for thousands of teen athletes,” said Samantha Cohen, the senior vice president for program and talent at the JCC Association and the head of JCC Maccabi.


The post The Jewish Sport Report: Two top US college basketball teams are in Israel right now appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Approbations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday said his agency was on alert for threats posed to the Jewish community during Passover, which begins on Monday night.

Christopher Wray told a group of Jewish community security officials about the FBI’s state of alertness during an event titled, “Passover Without Fear: Preparedness and Security Considerations in Today’s World.”

Wray said the FBI was “particularly concerned” that lone-wolf attackers may target Passover gatherings, high-profile events, and/or religious locations. 

At the same time, he said that while “I’m not providing these updates in any way to alarm you, because this is not a time for panic,” it was “a time for continued vigilance.” 

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

The national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network — the organization Wray was speaking to and that describes itself as “the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America” — said he was not aware of any specific threats at this time.

Taking a step back, Wray said that even before the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “the threat to Jewish Americans had already elevated.” However, he continued, “in the six months since then, we’ve seen those threats elevated” even further.

In December, the FBI said there had been a 60 percent spike in antisemitic hate crime investigations since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Then on Wednesday, Wray said the probes into antisemitic crimes tripled in the months following Oct. 7.

“Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before Oct. 7,” he explained.

Last year, the FBI found that 63 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed against Jews.

There have been a number of mass shooting, bomb, and other threats against synagogues across the US since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza.

Wray’s latest comments came one day after the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023 — an average of 24 every day — across the US, amounting to a surge of 140 percent compared to the prior year and the most such outrages since the organization began tracking such data in 1979.

The vast majority of the antisemitic incidents — 5,204 — occurred after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

“Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionism is impossible to separate from the Hamas attacks,” the ADL said. “These rallies have a dramatically different impact on the Jewish communities that have felt demonized and harassed because of this sustained level of intense anti-Zionist street activism.”

Beyond outrages such as assault, vandalism, and harassment, the ADL included in its tally “rallies that include support for Hamas or justify its attacks, calls to ‘globalize the intifada’ or ‘by all means necessary,’ and expressions of anti-Zionism such as the phrases ‘Zionism is terrorism,’ or ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

The post ‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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US to Oppose Palestinian Bid for Full UN Membership

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting to address the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The United States on Thursday will vote against a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, a US official told Reuters, blocking the world body from effectively recognizing a Palestinian state.

“It remains the US view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the support of the United States and other partners,” the US official said.

The 15-member council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution that recommends to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.”

A council resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia, or China to pass. Diplomats say the measure could have the support of up to 13 council members, which would force the US to use its veto.

“We have long been clear that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” the US official said.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a recognition that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the West Bank.

“Recent escalations make it even more important to support good-faith efforts to find lasting peace between Israel and a fully independent, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council.

“Failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region, who will continue to live under the constant threat of violence,” he said.

Israel‘s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Palestinians failed to meet the criteria to become a full UN member, which he outlined as: a permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states.

“Who is the council voting to ‘recognize’ and give full membership status to? Hamas in Gaza? The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Nablus? Who?” Erdan asked the Security Council.

He said granting full UN membership to the Palestinians “will have zero positive impact for any party, that will cause only destruction for years to come, and harm any chance for future dialogue.”

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas, a terrorist organization, ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.

Ziad Abu Amr, special envoy of Abbas, asked the United States: “How could this damage the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis? How could this recognition and this membership harm international peace and security?”

“Those who are trying to disrupt and hinder the adoption of such a resolution … are not helping the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and the prospects for peace in the Middle East in general,” he told the Security Council.

Abu Amr said full Palestinian UN membership was not an alternative for serious political negotiations to implement a two-state solution and resolve pending issues, adding: “However, this resolution will grant hope to the Palestinian people hope for a decent life within an independent state.”

The post US to Oppose Palestinian Bid for Full UN Membership first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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New Haggadah Released for Israeli Soldiers in Gaza Ahead of Passover

Israeli soldiers respond to an alert of an apparent security incident, in Ashkelon, southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

A new Haggadah designed specifically for Israeli soldiers is heading into the Gaza Strip as the Jewish holiday of Passover is set to begin new week.

The book, composed by Rabbi Gamaliel HaCohen Rabinowitz of Rehovot, came after he researched the various Jewish laws and customs regarding how to conduct a Passover Seder in a war zone.

Titled “The Seder in Gaza,” the new Haggadah answers questions such as what to do if there is only a small period of time to conduct the Seder, the traditional Passover feast, which can typically last hours. The text also addresses if soldiers need to return to combat, the order of conducting a quick Seder, and what to do about the issue of chametz within a house that is used as a temporary home to soldiers — technically it is forbidden to have chametz, or leavened products, in one’s home during Passover

The Haggadah tells the story of the Passover Seder, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. Passover is a week-long celebration by Jews around the world who read the Haggadah to commemorate the exodus from Egypt.

Many Israeli soldiers will remain in Gaza during this year’s Passover — which will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday — due to the ongoing war with Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group launched the conflict with its brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 others as hostages.

Most enlisted and reserve soldiers have been released from duty, though some remain and there is a growing number who are returning amid the anticipated operation in Rafah, the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip and where it is believed the last remaining Hamas battalions are camped out.

There are about 130 hostages remaining in Gaza who will not be celebrating the holiday with their families.

The post New Haggadah Released for Israeli Soldiers in Gaza Ahead of Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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