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This Hanukkah, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff will have 3 menorahs that represent Jewish joy and trauma

WASHINGTON (JTA) — For the next eight days, one menorah will be lit in the office of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff; another will sit in the office of his wife, Vice President Kamala Harris; and a third will illuminate their home.

Each menorah carries symbolism, representing the triumphs or tragedies of Jewish history.

The Second Couple two years ago inaugurated a tradition of lighting Hanukkah candles at their residence. This year, both Harris’ and Emhoff’s offices — both in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus — will have the candelabras as well. At least two menorahs will light up each evening: the one in the residence and the one in Emhoff’s office, where he will be joined by his team for the ritual.

Each of the three melds joy and grief, a nod to a year which included both the trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the worst slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

The menorah in the residence is on loan from the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the site of the 2018 shooting, which was the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history. It is one of two designed for the site of the massacre by Daniel Libeskind, the renowned architect who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Libeskind presented the menorahs to the reconstituted synagogue, museum and memorial center this year on Oct. 27, the fifth year anniversary of the attack. Emhoff met Libeskind when he toured Berlin earlier this year, and he has twice visited the Tree of Life synagogue.

The menorah in Emhoff’s office is designed by Erwin Thieberger, a Holocaust survivor and coppersmith who lived in Washington’s Maryland suburbs and who modeled his menorahs after those he had made out of flattened nails and scrap metal in the concentration camps.

This menorah is on loan from the recently inaugurated Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum in Washington D.C. It was donated to the museum by Thieberger’s late rabbi, Tzvi Porath of Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Another Thieberger menorah featured in the Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the White House in 2015, when Barack Obama was president.

A menorah sits on a table at the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office, Wednesday, December 6, 2023, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House.
(Official White House Photo by Oliver Contreras)

The menorah on display at the entrance to Harris’ office is on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York. Designed by Josef Haller, it was presented in 1935 to Kahilath Jakob, a small prayer room in Vienna, one of 60 or so Jewish places of worship in the city to survive the Nazi occupation of Austria.

“The Vice President and I want to thank the Jewish Museum in New York, Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum, and the reimagined Tree of Life for lending us such special and historic menorahs in celebration of Hanukkah,” Emhoff said Thursday in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “These menorahs are incredibly meaningful and deeply impactful. Each one reminds us that we must continue our efforts to combat antisemitism and all forms of hate, while living openly, proudly, and with joy as Jews.”

Emhoff spearheaded a panel that shaped the Biden administration’s antisemitism strategy, which was unveiled earlier this year. He has embraced a role that he has said surprised him, as a positive role model for American Jews.

In 2021, the Second Couple’s menorah came from the home of a businessman, Aaron Feuerstein, who was revered for paying employees for months while he rebuilt a factory destroyed in a fire in 1995. It was a nod to the businesses who sought to keep their staffs employed throughout the COVID 19 pandemic.

Emhoff is lighting the “national menorah” later Thursday on the Ellipse in front of the White House, a decades long tradition administered by the Chabad Hasidic movement. On Sunday, he and Harris will host a formal Hanukkah lighting and party at their residence at the Naval Observatory in northwest D.C.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host their own Hanukkah lighting and party at the White House on Sunday night. A spokeswoman for the First Lady said the menorah in the White House is the same one they inaugurated last year, the first menorah custom-built for White House use.

“It’s made of historic wood from the beams of this house, rescued when President Truman renovated this building,” Jill Biden said at least year’s lighting. “Its hand-hammered silver cups are meant to magnify the glow of the candles, their beauty reminding us both [of] the Hanukkah miracle and the joy it inspired.”

The post This Hanukkah, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff will have 3 menorahs that represent Jewish joy and trauma appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Low Expectations Ahead of Palestinian ‘Unity’ Talks in Moscow Convened by Russian Regime

Posters on a wall in Tel Aviv highlighting the plight of Israeli hostages seized by Hamas. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Representatives of Palestinian factions are traveling to Moscow this week for talks aimed at forging a greater degree of unity, but analysts remained skeptical that the Russian initiative is likely to register progress.

The talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will bring together officials of the Islamist terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) with representatives of PLO factions including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Announcing the talks last week, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov told pro-regime media outlets that “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region,” would be invited to the Moscow parley, emphasizing at the same time that Russia’s rulers continue to regard the PLO — the main power in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) — as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”

Several regional policy analysts argued that expectations from the talks should be necessarily limited, especially as Russia has failed in past efforts to bring rival Palestinian factions closer together.

“Russia does not have any road map for the Palestinian file, especially for the Gaza Strip as it would be necessary to have mediation functions and maintain good contacts with both Israel and the paramilitary wing of Hamas in Gaza,” Ruslan Suleymanov — an independent Middle East expert based in Baku, Azerbaijan — told the German broadcaster DW on Monday.

Suleymanov said that the talks were primarily an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to showcase Russia’s geopolitical clout amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and with elections — which Putin is expected to win easily — on the calendar in March.

“It’s really just dialogue for dialogue’s sake,” Suleymanov remarked.

Hugh Lovatt — senior policy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations — offered a similar perspective.

“This Russian summit is a way to show that Russia has the diplomatic capacity to play a hands-on role in supporting Palestinian national unity,” he told DW. However, previous reconciliation talks that were hosted in Moscow, Algiers and Cairo have “also not succeeded in brokering a lasting reconciliation deal between the rivals,” he said.

A potential obstacle to the talks emerged on Monday with the resignation of the PA’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Shtayyeh, who had enthusiastically backed the Moscow talks in a speech at the Munich Security Conference earlier this month. The PA has been under increasing pressure from the US to form a more representative government that would be in a position to manage the Gaza Strip once hostilities end.

“The decision to resign came in light of the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem and the war, genocide and starvation in the Gaza Strip,” Shtayyeh told PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter.

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he added.

A Hamas spokesman told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Sunday that the terrorist group wants to form “an impartial national government based on the consensus of the Palestinian factions,” adding that the talks in Moscow would focus only on “a certain period and clear tasks.”

Separately, Hamas politburo member Muhammad Nazzal told the pro-Hamas website Middle East Monitor that the Moscow meeting was necessary because there had been “no official communication” with the PA on the subject of post-war planning.

Nazal claimed in the same interview that Hamas remained a powerful force in the Gaza Strip, where it continues to hold hostage more than 100 of the 240 people seized during its pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7. “Rumours of Rafah in the south of being the last stronghold of Hamas are false; the resistance exists across the entire Gaza Strip,” Nazzal said. “Moreover, the movement is fighting a fierce political negotiating battle, no less than the battle it is waging on the ground.”

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Harvard Professor Resigns From Antisemitism Task Force

Demonstrators take their “Emergency Rally: Stand with Palestinians Under Siege in Gaza” out of Harvard University and onto the streets of Harvard Square, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 14, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Internal tension and disagreement have caused a member of Harvard University’s Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism to resign as co-chair, The Harvard Crimson reported on Monday.

Raffaella Sadun, a Harvard Business School professor, reportedly left the group —which was formed to issue recommendations for addressing anti-Jewish hatred on the campus — because the university would not guarantee that the task force’s guidance would be implemented as official school policy. Her aggravation has been mounting for “some time,” the paper added, but she declined to cite conflict as the reason for her departure.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that [interim Harvard University] President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

In a statement, interim president Garber told The Harvard Crimson that Sadun had “expressed her desire” to get back to “research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities.”

“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participating in the task over the past few weeks,” Garber said. “Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”

Announced in January, the Presidential Task Force on Antisemitism is Harvard University’s response to years of antisemitic incidents that earned the school the distinction of being labeled the most antisemitic campus in American higher education by education watchdog AMCHA Initiative. A now defunct group had been created by former president Claudine Gay, the Antisemitism Advisory Group, amid an explosion of antisemitic activity on campus following Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Gay eventually resigned from her position after providing controversial answers to a congressional committee about her efforts to manage the problem and being outed as a serial plagiarist. In her absence, Garber pushed ahead with forming task forces for addressing both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Since then, the antisemitism group’s membership have stirred controversy and speculation. In January, Jewish community activists and nonprofit leaders criticized its naming history professor Derek Penslar as a co-chair because, in his writings and public remarks, he had described concerns about rising antisemitism at Harvard as “exaggerated” and blamed Israel for fostering anti-Zionism. According to the Crimson, Penslar considered resigning but decided against doing so. In Jan., Rabbi David J. Wolpe stepped down from the group, saying in a statement on X that “both events on campus” and Gay’s congressional testimony “reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”

Last week, the school issued a statement denouncing another antisemitic outrage, a faculty anti-Zionist group’s posting on social media an antisemitic cartoon which showed a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David containing a dollar sign at its center dangling a Black man and an Arab man from a noose. The group’s leader, professor Walter Johnson, has since resigned as a member.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Antisemitism in Norway At Highest Levels Since WWII, Says Local Rabbi

Norwegian student Marie Andersen carries an antisemitic sign at an Oct. 21 pro-Hamas demonstration in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: Screenshot

Antisemitism in Norway is at its highest level since World War II, the rabbi of the country’s capital city of Oslo told Israeli television on Monday.

“There is a wave of antisemitism that we have not seen before,” said Rabbi Joav Melchior, who was born in Oslo but raised in Israel and currently leads the roughly 2,000 strong community of Oslo. “We haven’t seen such a wave since World War II, such an aggressive wave of antisemitism, even at the level of what is said in the media.”

“This is expressed in the things that people say both against Israel, both against Zionists and against Jews, which they did not say in the past,” he continued. “It’s something that would not have been accepted in the public discourse without a very harsh reaction,” he continued.

The comments by the rabbi follow actions by the Norwegian government that have been explicitly anti-Israel. Speaking at conference two weeks after the October 7 massacre, when Hamas terrorists stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 250, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide condemned Israel and not Hamas. Additionally, he compared Israel’s defensive response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, as well as refused the King of Norway from sending a letter of support and condolences to Israel following the attack.

In late October, a young Norwegian woman caused outrage around the world by carrying a viciously antisemitic placard at a pro-Hamas demonstration in Warsaw. The woman defended her behavior in an interview with a Norwegian broadcaster, characterizing the State of Israel as “dirty” and underlining that her main regret was that the furor she generated had “undermined the pro-Palestinian movement.”

Melchior continued in the interview, saying “There were certain cases of violence against Jews, both in their homes and on the street. Those people claim that they are not against Jews, because there are Jews who condemn Israel. It is as if the alibi of the anti-Jewish movement is to say that they are not antisemitic.” Despite this, the rabbi says it is still safe to walk around the street.

Due to the rise is antisemitism and the general anti-Israel sentiment in the country, Melchior said many Jews are debating whether they want to continue living in Norway.

“I think the reason for immigrating to Israel should not be because of antisemitism, but out of Zionism and out of a connection to the people of Israel and the desire to live in the Land of Israel, and that is what we educate,” he added.

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