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UN chief to sit out Park East Synagogue Holocaust event for first time in 10 years

(New York Jewish Week) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will not make his usual appearance at a prominent New York City synagogue’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day event this year.

Guterres and his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon have been featured guests at the annual event at Park East Synagogue for at least the past decade. But this year, Guterres said he would sit the event out because it should be centered on survivors, as well as the “pain” of the Jewish community as it contends with antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“Following the terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October, and the subsequent rise of anti-semitism and the continued pain of the community, the Saturday service at Park East Synagogue will be focused on healing and the testimony of survivors,” a spokesperson for Guterres told the New York Jewish Week via email. “It will not [be] an event for the diplomatic community so, therefore, the Secretary-General will not be attending.”

It was unclear if the decision to exclude Guterres from the ceremony was made by the synagogue or the secretary-general, or mutually. It will be held at the Upper East Side Orthodox congregation on Saturday, Jan. 27, a date designated by the U.N. General Assembly in 2005 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In response to an inquiry, Park East said via email that this year’s event “will focus on the Shoah and the barbaric attack on Israel on October 7th, the kidnapped, the rise of worldwide anti-Semitism, and internal pain.”

Israel’s acting consul general in New York, Aviv Ezra, will attend the event, alongside the synagogue’s rabbi, Arthur Schneier, and the families of Holocaust survivors. The event will include testimony from a former Gaza hostage and from the brother and sister of a hostage still held by Hamas, the synagogue said.

Guterres’ absence from the event will come as he has faced heavy criticism from Israel and its supporters for his response to the war. He has condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, but on Oct. 25, he incensed Israelis by saying that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum,” linking the terrorist atrocities to occupation, settlements and economic woes. That statement led Gilad Erdan, Israel’s U.N. ambassador, to call for Guterres’ resignation.

Guterres is also not expected to attend a Holocaust Remembrance Day event hosted by the Israeli mission to the U.N. on Wednesday, the mission said. The U.N. chief will attend a Friday memorial ceremony at U.N. headquarters that will be attended by Erdan and the State Department’s antisemitism envoy, Deborah Lipstadt, according to the U.N schedule.

Israeli advocates have pressed Guterres to speak out more forcefully in support of the Hamas hostages, with weekly protests outside his Sutton Place home. The protesters have formed a relationship with the U.N. chief but still believe he should do more to support the captives by speaking out unequivocally, and without accompanying condemnation of Hamas with criticism of Israel.

One of the leaders of the protest group, Shany Granot-Lubaton, said Guterres not appearing at the Park East Synagogue event is a “missed opportunity.”

“This year, after the Jewish people have suffered the worst massacre since the Holocaust, when a sadistic and cruel terrorist organization murdered, raped, abused, kidnapped, and burned entire families —Guterres’ presence at a synagogue would send a crucial message to the world,” she said, adding that the protest group would invite Guterres to other Holocaust memorial ceremonies with Jewish community members.

“We hope he chooses to go and show his support,” Granot-Lubaton said.

Guterres has delivered a speech at Park East for International Holocaust Remembrance Day each year since he assumed office in 2017. Last year, Guterres said it was “an enormous privilege” to speak at the event.

“The Holocaust did not happen as a ‘lesson’ for humanity. But, it did happen. And because it happened, it may happen again,” he said. “We must be forever vigilant. Antisemitism has been described as the canary in the coal mine of freedom. Throughout millennia, the persecution of Jews was a mark of rotten societies.”


The post UN chief to sit out Park East Synagogue Holocaust event for first time in 10 years appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaking to legislators during the State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 at South Dakota State Captiol in Pierre. Photo: Samantha Laurey and Argus Leader via REUTERS CONNECT

South Dakota’s state Senate passed on Thursday a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating anti-Jewish hate crimes.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) already adopted the definition, which has been embraced by lawmakers across the political spectrum, via executive order in 2021. This latest measure, HB 1076, aims to further integrate the IHRA’s guidance into law and includes the organization’s examples of antisemitism. It now awaits a vote by the state House of Representatives.

“As antisemitism continues to rise across America, having a clear and standardized definition enables a more unified stance against this hatred,” the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), said in a statement. “We appreciate Governor Kristi Noem for making this legislation a policy goal of hers, strengthening the use of the IHRA Working Definition in South Dakota through legislation, following the December 2021 adoption via executive proclamation.”

CAM called on lawmakers in the lower house to follow the Senate’s lead and implored “other states to join the fight against antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition, ensuring the safety and well-being of their Jewish residents.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations.

Widely regard as the world’s leading definition of antisemitism, it was adopted by 97 governmental and nonprofit organizations in 2023, according to a report Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Antisemitism Research Center issued in January.

Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest US state to pass legislation applying IHRA’s guidance to state law. 33 US States have as well, including Virginia, Texas, New York, and Florida.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post South Dakota Passes Bill Adopting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Columbia University allowed for antisemitism to explode on campus endangering the welfare of Jewish students and faculty, StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice and Students Against Antisemitism (SAA) alleges in a lawsuit announced on Wednesday.

Filed in the US District Court of Southern New York, the complaint recounts dozens of reported antisemitic incidents that occurred after Oct. 7 which the university allegedly failed to respond to adequately because of anti-Jewish, as well as anti-Zionist, bias.

“Columbia refuses to enforce its policies or protect Jewish and Israeli members of the campus community,” Yael Lerman, director of SWU Center for Legal Justice said on Wednesday in a press release. “Columbia has created a pervasively hostile campus environment in which antisemitic activists act with impunity, knowing that there will be no real repercussions for their violations of campus policies.”

“We decline to comment on pending litigation,” Columbia University spokesperson and vice president for communications told The Algemeiner on Friday.

The plaintiffs in the case accuse Columbia University of violating their contract, to which it is bound upon receiving payment for their tuition, and contravening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. They are seeking damages as well as injunctive relief.

“F— the Jews,” “Death to Jews, “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds after the tragedy, violating the school’s code of conduct and never facing consequences, the complaint says. Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

300 faculty signed a letter proclaiming “unwavering solidarity” with Massad, and in the following days, Students for Justice in Palestine defended Hamas’ actions as “rooted in international law.” In response, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, opting not to address their rhetoric directly, issued a statement mentioning “violence that is affecting so many people” but not, the complaint noted, explicitly condemning Hamas, terrorism, and antisemitism. Nine days later, Shafik rejected an invitation to participate in a viewing of footage of the Oct. 7 attacks captured by CCTV cameras.

The complaint goes on to allege that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

More request to the university went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while Students for Justice in Palestine held demonstrations. The school’s powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events whole no one explained the inconsistency.

Virulent antisemitism at Columbia University on the heels of Oct. 7 was not a one-off occurance, the complaint alleges, retracing in over 100 pages 20 years of alleged anti-Jewish hatred at the school.

“Students at Columbia are enduring unprecedented levels of antisemitic and anti-Israel hate while coping with the trauma of Hamas’ October 7th massacre,” SWU CEO Roz Rothstein said in Wednesday’s press release. “We will ensure that Columbia University is held accountable for their gross failure to protect their Jewish and Israeli students.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Columbia University Sued for Allowing Antisemitic Violence and Discrimination first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution

Graphic posted by University of California, Los Angeles Students for Justice in Palestine on February 21, 2024 to celebrate the student government’s passing an resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

The University of California-Los Angeles student government on Tuesday passed a resolution endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as false accusation that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

“The Israeli government has carried out a genocidal bombing campaign and ground invasion against Palestinians in Gaza — intentionally targeting hospitals universities, schools, shelters, churches, mosques, homes, neighborhoods, refugee camps, ambulances, medical personnel, [United Nations] workers, journalists and more,” the resolution, passed 10-3 by the UCLA Undergraduate Student Association Council (USAC), says, not mentioning that UN personnel in Gaza assisted Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

It continued, “Let it be resolved that the Undergraduate Student Association of UCLA formally call upon the UC Regents to withdraw investments in securities, endowments mutual funds, and other monetary instruments….providing material assistance to the commission or maintenance of flagrant violations of international law.

The days leading up to the vote were fraught, The Daily Bruin, the university’s official student newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“Non-UCLA students” sent USAC council members emails imploring them to vote for or against the resolution and USAC Cultural Affairs Commissioner and sponsor of the resolution, Alicia Verdugo, was accused of antisemitism and deserving of impeachment. The UCLA Graduate Student Association and University of California-Davis’ student government had just endorsed BDS the previous week, prompting fervent anticipation for the outcome of Tuesday’s USAC session.

Before voting took place, members of the council ordered a secret ballot, withholding from their constituents a record of where they stood on an issue of monumental importance to the campus culture. According to The Daily Bruin, they expressed “concerns” about “privacy” and “security.” Some members intimated how they would vote, however. During a question and answer period, one student who co-sponsored the resolution, accused a Jewish student of being “classist” and using “coded” language because she argued that the council had advanced the resolution without fully appreciating the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the history of antisemitism.

“As a Guatemalan, …my country went through genocide,” he snapped at the young woman, The Daily Bruin’s reporting documented. “My family died in the Guatemalan Mayan genocide. I understand. I very well know what genocide looks like.”

Other council members  voiced their support by co-sponsoring the resolution, which was co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group that has held unauthorized demonstrations and terrorized Jewish students across the country.

Responding to USAC’s decision, Jewish students told the paper that they find the campaign for BDS and the attempts of pro-Palestinian students to defend Hamas’ atrocities myopic and offensive.

“How can anyone dare to contextualize since Oct. 7 without acknowledging that the Jewish people are victims of such a cataclysmic attack?” Mikayla Weinhouse said. “BDS intentionally aims to divide a community. Its supporters paint a complex and century-old conflict in the Middle East as a simplistic narrative that inspires hate rather than advocates for a solution.”

University of California-Los Angeles denounced the resolution for transgressing school policy and the spirit of academic freedom.

“The University of California and UCLA, which, like all nine other UC campuses, has consistently opposed calls for a boycott against and divestment from Israel,” the school said in a statement. “We stand firm in our conviction that a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty and to the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on this campus.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post University of California-Los Angeles Student Government Passes BDS Resolution first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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