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US Jewish day schools are enrolling Israeli children who have been displaced by war

(JTA) — More than a month after the start of the school year, Jewish day schools across the United States are experiencing a surge of new students: Israeli children whose own schools have been shuttered by war.

Within days after Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7, Prizmah, the North American network for Jewish day schools, began getting calls from school leaders about accepting Israeli students amid the war.

So far, 50 schools have sent inquiries, according to CEO Paul Bernstein, trying to figure out everything from how to incorporate students who are not fluent in English to how to cover the unexpected expenses of new families who hadn’t planned on paying for school.

“It’s really not a trivial question to take in a student during the year,” Bernstein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

And yet many of those schools have Israeli children newly on their rosters, with others joining them this week — a testament, Bernstein said, to the drive that Jewish day schools have to support Israel and Israelis.

“We think it’s an important contribution that a school can make to its community,” he said. “Of course, none of us wants Israelis to be disconnected from home and not able to be in Israel, but where they are here and with us, every school wants to do as much as possible to support them.”

Israeli schools were at the tail end of a Sukkot holiday break when Hamas attacked, sending the country into crisis and eliciting the largest-ever call-up of Israeli soldiers. Schools remained closed for more than a week before a scattershot reopening began, with some schools holding classes on Zoom and others, in relatively safe zones and with adequate bomb shelters, holding frequently interrupted classes in person. Two weeks after the attack, just 40% of the schools that are permitted to operate in person are doing so.

Given the uncertainty, some families that were visiting the United States during the holiday break have opted to stay. And others have chosen to join them, relocating temporarily from Israel for the relative safety and stability of the United States.

In northern New Jersey, 14 students from Israel had enrolled by the end of last week at Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. Another nine were in discussions about enrolling, according to Steve Freedman, the head of school, who said most of those who have enrolled so far have strong English proficiency and family connections in the area.

An Israeli flag flies outside the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford, New Jersey, March 30, 2022. (Courtesy SSDS Communication))

Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, four families at the school have already mourned relatives killed in Israel.

“It’s not like our children don’t know that there’s a war going on or a conflict, however it’s described to them by their parents, in Israel,” Freedman said. “So they know that there are families who are staying here right now during the war. And so they know that they’re welcoming children who left their home and they’re very excited to welcome them and be their friend and it’s actually very sweet.”

Homework is optional for the new Israeli students. As they adjust to their new school, expectations will change, but for now, teachers are “feeling out what they’re up to doing,” Freedman explained. For older  students, who use MacBooks in the classroom, more laptops are being ordered.

“Our community is completely overwhelmed by what we’re doing in the most positive way,” Freedman said. “There’s a real sense of pride that our community is doing it.”

New students have also enrolled in schools in New York, Maryland, California and elsewhere in New Jersey. In most cases, the schools are not necessarily counting on any tuition payments.

“The mitzvah on our end is just taking them all in and the money’s not the issue,” said Freedman, whose school is taking the rare step of charging monthly tuition for the Israeli families, in acknowledgment of their desire to go home, and waiving payments for families for whom that is an impediment.

“They’re not receiving handouts. This is like a dignity thing,” he said. “And so we’re just feeling each family out so that they’re comfortable and can do what they can do without feeling badly in any way.”

The Rodeph Sholom School in Manhattan is taking the same approach, according to Danny Karpf, the head of school.

“We’re just saying, ‘Come,’” he said. “What we’re going to start doing is saying people can pay what they feel comfortable paying on a monthly basis, as they’re here.”

Across the board, the usual admissions process has been pared down to the basics.

“Let’s make sure we have a phone number, we know who the parent is, we can reach them in an emergency, we need to know if they have allergies,” Karpf said, rolling off the barebones requirements. “We need to know how old they are, so we know what class to put them in, and let’s figure it out.”

Many of the dozen or so new students at Rodeph Sholom do not speak English. But the school is already built for that, Karpf explained, with a program for kids who don’t speak English fluently, and a Hebrew program for Hebrew speakers.

The next steps, he said, are figuring out how to fit as many students as possible in the school, and then raising money to meet their needs. (An Israeli initiative to support Jewish day schools has distributed resources to support teaching about the war but not yet any funding.)

“We have so many families in our community who are directly affected in many ways,” Karpf said. “It’s a way for our children who were already here, whether they’re Israeli or not, to feel more proximate to the conflict in a meaningful way, where children can connect with children and know that they are actually making a difference in comforting and supporting and befriending children who are directly impacted by their family and friends being attacked.”

On Monday, the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy & Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, an Orthodox school in New Jersey, announced that it had already taken in 11 students from five families and expected more to come.

“We are grateful to our JKHA faculty who are seamlessly transitioning students to their classrooms, working together with families to ensure their children acclimate and have a smooth transition to our school and to our students during this trying time,” the school wrote on Facebook.

In Maryland, a pair of Israeli siblings began classes Wednesday at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, a pluralistic school that already has resources in place to support Israeli students. (The school serves many families of Israeli diplomats assigned to Washington, D.C.). Three more students are set to start classes this week, including another pair of siblings, and inquiries have come to the elementary, middle and high school divisions.

The school — which is mournin  a recent graduate killed Friday while serving in the Israeli army — has guidance counselors in place as well as a program for students who are not yet fluent in English. By the end of the week, the new students already had invitations for weekend activities, said Dorie Ravick, director of admissions at the lower school.

“I spoke to one of our current families who is having one of the new students over on Sunday. So they’re really doing their best to welcome everyone,” she said.

Ravick said not all of the children fully understood the reason for their new classmates.

“They don’t necessarily know why they’re coming because they’re still pretty little,” she said. “The younger ones are just excited to have a new friend.”

The welcoming committees have been out in full force at other schools, too, as local Jewish families look for ways to make a difference at a time of crisis.

“Our parents are tripping over each other to try to make these families feel welcome to the point that we have to say, ‘Give them some time. They need some time to acclimate,’” said Freedman, of Solomon Schechter Day School in New Jersey. “In really bad times, you’re seeing some of the best of who we are.”

The post US Jewish day schools are enrolling Israeli children who have been displaced by war appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel Second Best Place in the World to Retire, New Study Finds

The Tel Aviv skyline. Photo: Reuters

Despite its ongoing war with Hamas to the south in Gaza and escalating tensions with Lebanese Hezbollah to the north, Israel has been ranked as the second best country in the world for retirement, according to a new study.

ConfidenceClub, a company based in the United Kingdom dedicated to helping retirees, released its “Aging Gracefully Index,” which examined 39 countries to determine the best places to retire. The study utilized information such as economic data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation and the cost of living database known as Numbeo, among other sources, to assign scores to and rank each country.

Israel came in second place, receiving a score of 85, which was only bested by Iceland’s total score of 87. Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland rounded out the top five.

South Africa ranked last with a score of 43, slightly edging out Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, and Italy for the other bottom-five countries in descending order.

The study focused on data-driven variables to assign total scores including elder emigration, quality of health care, life expectancy, safety, and life satisfaction.

Notably, the survey – conducted after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel — placed the Jewish state among the safest countries to retire to. Israel’s safety score was equivalent to those of Denmark and Switzerland. According to the study, “safety isn’t just about low crime rates, it’s about creating an environment where seniors can enjoy their golden years with peace of mind.”

The Aging Gracefully Index also ranked Israel high in its “Elder Balance” variable — meaning Israel’s aging population is supported by a strong working one. Alternatively, the study found that a country like Japan struggles from a high aging population and a relatively small working age one.

Israel ranked highly for retiree life satisfaction. The survey defined life satisfaction as a reflection of “how content people are with their lives, considering factors like economic stability, social connections, and personal fulfillment.”

Similar to the index’s life satisfaction variable, Israel routinely ranks toward the top of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. In March, Israel dropped one spot to fifth in the list of the world’s happiest countries. Finland was ranked the happiest country.

The Aging Gracefully Index also examined the best cities to retire to with the same criteria as it did with countries. Tel Aviv ranked the third best city for retirement after Reykjavik and The Hague — which came in first and second, respectively.

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The Ongoing Crisis of Antisemitism in K-12 Education

An empty classroom. Photo: Wiki Commons.

If you think antisemitism is bad at the university level, wait until you read what’s happening in K-12 schools across the country.

A concerned teacher recently reached out to me, horrified by the content being used to educate students about antisemitism. The materials provided by the National Education Association (NEA), particularly a document from Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), are filled with misinformation and, in my view, are themselves antisemitic.

This teacher has tirelessly sought support from various Jewish organizations to address these concerns, but she keeps hitting a wall. It seems that many organizations are reluctant to do battle with a powerful union like the NEA, leaving this teacher and others like her without the necessary support to combat these problematic educational materials.

The JFREJ document propagates a specific political agenda, portraying Israel as a white settler colonial state and ignoring the complex history and diverse demographics of Israel and the Jewish people.

JFREJ’s document suggests that Jews with light skin are complicit in white supremacy — and that’s not the only Jew-hating piece of trash in this document.

By choosing to use this material, the NEA is making a political statement. This choice reflects an alignment with far-left perspectives rather than a balanced approach to addressing antisemitism.

By choosing a Jewish organization that does not represent mainstream Jewish thought, and in fact, an organization that most of the Jewish community believes spreads antisemitism, the NEA is insulting the Jewish community by defining antisemitism according to its radical agenda.

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice is a fringe group that has aligned with far-left ideologies, and partners with other ostensibly Jewish, but really antisemitic, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

Recent headlines have been filled with reports of rising antisemitism on college campuses, but the more insidious threat lies in our K-12 schools. Ethnic studies programs, particularly those following the radical Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, are indoctrinating young students against Israel by falsely labeling it a white settler colonial state. This biased education fosters a generation of young antisemites.

There are disturbing trends in K-12 education. Jewish students are being targeted not only by their peers, but also by teachers and administrators. Parents have described their alarm as antisemitism infiltrates their children’s curriculum.

In Washington State, ethnic studies have infiltrated every aspect of K-12 education, evolving from a vague legislative suggestion into a mandate. Aggressive advocacy groups with deep pockets push for ethnic studies to be the lens through which all education is viewed, promoting a Marxist and Maoist-based liberatory model.

This model explicitly positions Palestinians as marginalized and Israel as a white colonialist oppressor, distorting history and legitimizing antisemitic views among young students.

The Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, rooted in power and oppression analysis, aims to transform the school system into an agent of change, often at the expense of academic excellence and democratic values.

Throughout California and other states, antisemitism in K-12 schools has become increasingly prevalent, particularly following the October 7 mass murder and rape of Israelis.

Reports detail shocking behaviors such as second-graders being told to write anti-Israel messages, teachers encouraging unsanctioned student protests in support of Gaza, and Jewish students being harassed with antisemitic slurs. Some teachers have even suggested that Israelis were responsible for the violence inflicted on them.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and other Jewish organizations have been inundated with calls from concerned parents, especially in the Bay Area, reporting these incidents.

The Israeli American Council reported a 690 percent increase in antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents in K-12 schools within three months of the October 7 attack. These incidents ranged from student bullying and vandalism, to discriminatory class materials and teacher statements.

The reluctance of Jewish organizations to confront the NEA underscores the significant influence that powerful unions hold over educational policies. The struggle of the teacher I mentioned to gain support highlights a broader issue, where political considerations often overshadow the need to address serious concerns like antisemitism. The NEA’s powerful position makes it daunting for individuals and smaller organizations to challenge their decisions.

For educators seeking comprehensive and balanced resources on antisemitism, organizations like the ADL offer materials designed to combat hate and educate students without political bias. Their resources help ensure that schools promote understanding and respect rather than division and misinformation.

The current wave of antisemitism in our schools is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. It is time for the Jewish community and other concerned groups to take a stand and demand better from powerful unions like the NEA. Only then can we hope to create an educational environment that is truly inclusive and free from antisemitism. This effort is not just about addressing the present concerns, but is part of a broader mission I discuss in my forthcoming book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism.

Howard Lovy is a Michigan-based author, book editor, and journalist who specializes in Jewish issues. He is currently working on a book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism. His novel, Found and Lost: The Jake and Cait Story, will be released in 2025. You can find him on his website or on X.

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The Associated Press Removes Threats of Violence and Hamas Support From Articles

Vandalism outside the home of Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak. Photo: New York Mayor Eric Adams’ Twitter account.

Even as authorities from Sydney to Brooklyn were still investigating and removing pro-Hamas graffiti, the Associated Press engaged in a scrubbing of a different sort.

In a June 10 article about the anti-Israel vandalism of the US consulate in Sydney, the Associated Press initially whitewashed a menacing symbol used to denote support for Hamas since the terror organization’s Oct. 7 terror massacre of murder, rape and countless other atrocities (“Australia PM urges activists to ‘turn down the heat’ after US consulate vandalized over Gaza war“).

The AP euphemistically reported about the symbols used to express support for the designated terror organization as follows:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by many as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, were also painted on the front of the building.

A screenshot of the AP’s headline about the vandalism in Australia, along with an accompanying video which briefly shows the red triangles:

Given that Hamas uses the red triangle in its videos documenting attacks on Israelis, it signifies support for the designated terror organization. “Resistance” doesn’t quite convey the horrors that went down on Oct. 7.

The New York Post detailed the association of the red triangles with Hamas terrorism:

The triangle became a prevalent symbol online and offline beginning in November 2023 following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s aggressive retaliatory offensive, according to the Anti Defamation League.

It first appeared in propaganda videos from the al-Qassam brigades — Hamas’ military wing — to highlight an Israeli soldier that was about to be killed or wounded in a targeted attack by the terrorists.

In the clips, the red triangle followed the target, which was then hit with a sniper’s bullet, a rocket-propelled grenade or another deadly blast.

“Though it can be used innocuously in general pro-Palestine social media posts, the inverted red triangle is now used to represent Hamas itself and glorify its use of violence in many popular anti-Zionist memes and political cartoons,” the ADL says on its website.

For example, the group said, anti-Israel protesters will put the symbol over an image of Israeli soldiers or on a Star of David “as a way to call for further violent resistance.”

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, the AP moderately improved its explanation of the red triangles, revising the sentence to at least include reference to Hamas:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by some as a symbol of Palestinian resistance but by others as supporting the militant group Hamas, were also painted on the front of the building.

While an AP video paired with the article briefly showed the red triangles defacing the US consulate, the AP’s still photographs made do with boarded up windows. The accompanying captions also ignored the sinister red triangles:

A couple walks past the boarded windows at the U.S. consulate as police investigate the vandalism in Sydney, Monday, June 10, 2024. A suspect is believed to have smashed nine holes in the reinforced glass windows of the building in North Sydney after 3 a.m., a police statement said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Meanwhile, red triangle vandalism took an even darker turn when the pro-terror symbol, used repeatedly to mark targets, appeared June 11 on the New York co-op building where Anne Pasternak, the Jewish director of the Brooklyn Museum, lives.

In coverage of that incident, the AP didn’t simply scrub the pro-Hamas significance of the symbol. Instead, the AP entirely sliced the ominous red triangles out of the story, which referred only to red paint. In his Jan. 13 article, Philip Marcelo selectively reported (“Apparent Gaza activists hurl paint at homes of Brooklyn Museum leaders, including Jewish director“):

People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of top leaders at the Brooklyn Museum, including its Jewish director, and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from city authorities.

Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

But the images that Mayor Adams shared didn’t merely show “a brick building splashed with red paint” and a banner denouncing Pasternak as a “white supremacist Zionist.”

Adams’ post on X includes four photographs of the vandalism, all displaying the huge red triangles which absolutely cannot be missed. And yet AP chose not to note the presence of the threatening imagery, much less explain its significance.

This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.

These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason. I’m sorry to Anne Pasternak and members of @brooklynmuseum‘s board who woke up to hatred like this.


— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 12, 2024

The AP’s ubiquitous photographers — the prolific bunch churns out 1.2 million images annually — also didn’t manage to capture the shocking scene of Pasternak’s home defaced with what amounts to a murder threat.

Instead, the cadre of photojournalists suffice with an image of the German consulate, which was vandalized with red paint, apparently applied in an abstract arrangement, sans red triangles. Like Marcelo’s article, the photograph’s caption also paints over the pro-Hamas imagery, referring to a random splashing of color:

Red paint covers portions of the entrance to the German consulate building, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in New York. Pro-Palestinian protesters have vandalized locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum and United Nations in New York City, throwing red paint across their entrances in opposition to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AP Photo/Sophie Rosenbaum)

Not only does the caption neglect to note the Hamas-linked graphic, it also ignores that the “locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum” were private homes.

It’s not just Hamas graphics that are subjected to AP’s scrubbing. A pro-Hamas organization also gets sanitized.

Here’s how the AP’s Marcelo whitewashes the pro-Hamas Within Our Lifetime group:

The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.

He says not a word about the organization’s support for Hamas. According to ADL, Within Our Lifetime:

has hosted or co-sponsored at least 78 anti-Israel rallies many of which included explicit support for violence against Israeli civilians by U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations  Hamas, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollahthe Houthis and affiliated individuals such as Leila Khaled and Hamas’ military wing spokesperson Abu Obaida. WOL also expressed enthusiastic support for Iran’s unprecedented April 13 drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

Marcelo similarly sluices down Within Our Lifetime’s horrifying and deep embrace of terror at the demonstration outside the Nova Festival massacre last week. His censored account states:

The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”

The AP spares its readers from the most disturbing aspects from the event. As The Times of Israel reported:
Protesters set off flares, flew flags of Hamas’s armed al-Qassam Brigades terror wing and of the Hezbollah terror group, and carried banners with slogans such as “Long live October 7” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.”
 On June 11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) denounced the antisemitism of the pro-Hamas crowd outside the Nova Festival exhibit, twice citing those most heinous lines:

What was even worse, or at least adding salt into the wounds was that just a day or two after I visited the exhibit, protestors gathered outside the exhibit chanting repugnant antisemitic phrases, donning banners that read “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How low can you go ?

Having visited the exhibit and seeing those young people and then knowing and seeing on film what happened to them at the vicious hands of Hamas, and then having people come outside and protest and say “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How repugnant. How despicable. How terribly unnerving that humanity could sink that low.

And yet, at this low point for humanity, AP has relegated these repugnant slogans glorifying mass murder to the dustbin of history.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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