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Wexner-funded museum says it will keep up exhibit by Palestinian artist who appeared to celebrate Hamas on social media

(JTA) – A prestigious university art museum funded by the pro-Israel philanthropist Les Wexner says it will keep up an ongoing exhibit by a Palestinian artist who published posts celebrating Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel on social media.

The decision has come even as Wexner’s foundation is penalizing Harvard University for not being more assertively pro-Israel.

The Wexner Center for the Arts, affiliated with the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, says its current exhibit featuring the works of visual artist and filmmaker Jumana Manna will run through Dec. 30 as planned.

But the center canceled a planned November panel discussion due to feature Manna, saying in a statement, “Due to current world events, we do not feel this is the right time to have conversations about a region at war.” Les Wexner is the museum’s board chair.

Some Jewish artists are pressing the museum to do more, citing posts from Manna’s social media accounts. One post shows the comment “Long live the creativity of resistance” above an image of Hamas terrorists paragliding into Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped hundreds more. Another shows a laughing-face emoji above a still from a video of teenagers riding bikes into Israel shortly before the Hamas attack.

Jumana Manna confirmed that she had posted laudatory reactions about images shared when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, but said she had not understood at the time that civilians had been harmed. (Instagram via source)

Manna, whose Instagram account is currently private, confirmed the posts as hers in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency but said they were not intended to celebrate the murder of Jews.

She said they had been taken out of context and used in “a vindictive social media trolling campaign” against her. The watchdog group StopAntisemitism, which has been calling attention to people who have expressed support for Hamas’ attack, has been calling attention to Manna and exhorting its followers to ask the museum to cancel her exhibition.

Manna claimed she had made her “creativity of resistance” post “before having any knowledge of what became a shocking massacre on October 7th” and merely intended to celebrate “the stubborn and creative will to break free from captivity.” The laughing-face emoji post, she said, was not referring to the murders that would soon unfold, but to the “sense of astonishment” of Palestinian teenagers riding their bikes “into the lands their grandparents were expelled from.”

“I neither sanction nor celebrate the murder of civilians, be they Jewish, Palestinian or any other,” Manna said. “It was never my intention to trivialize pain and grief.”

Manna also signed an open letter published in the magazine Artforum earlier this month that called for a ceasefire in Gaza without initially condemning Hamas. Artforum’s editor-in-chief was fired last week over the letter, reportedly following pressure from Jewish and pro-Israel art curators and collectors.

The Wexner Center’s public relations manager, Melissa Starker, told JTA in a statement that the museum “serves as a vital forum where artists share ideas and where diverse audiences engage with the art and issues of our time.”

Starker continued, “While the center is committed to this mission, it is important to understand that the views expressed by the artists through their work are their own and do not represent the views of the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Wexner Center Foundation, its trustees, or The Ohio State University. An exhibition, performance, film, talk or any artist’s work shown within the center is not to be construed as approval or endorsement of the artist’s publications, activities, actions, or positions.”

Starker added that OSU “condemns all terrorist groups and terrorist attacks, including those perpetrated by Hamas on Israeli civilians, Americans, and others the weekend of October 7, 2023.”

The museum is part of a growing body of cultural institutions that have grappled with how to proceed with planned exhibitions and events in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack and Israel’s resulting war against Hamas in Gaza. Some have sought to tamp down expressions of pro-Palestinian support or solidarity, drawing criticism from members of the cultural community.

In New York City, the Jewish cultural center 92NY saw several authors and staff members disassociate themselves after it canceled a talk by a bestselling author who had signed an open letter harshly critical of Israel. El Museo del Barrio, also in New York City, decided not to display a work it had commissioned after the artists included a Palestinian flag in the display. And the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada altered artists’ statements accompanying their work to eliminate the word “Palestine” — then backtracked after the artists protested.

In the case of the Wexner Center, the decision to continue exhibiting Manna’s work is particularly notable because the nonprofit created by its board chair recently cut ties with Harvard University over what it said was an insufficiently pro-Israel posture from that school’s administrators.

Jumana Manna’s exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts is her first major exhibition in the United States. (Screenshot)

The Wexner Foundation, which funded leadership programs for Jewish professionals and visiting Israelis at Harvard’s Kennedy School of government for decades, announced in an Oct. 16 open letter that it was ending its partnership over “the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists.”

That move came after Harvard President Claudine Gay was slow to initially respond to the Hamas attack while several student groups blamed Israel entirely for the massacre, although Gay ultimately issued several statements condemning the group.

Les Wexner is the chair emeritus of the Wexner Foundation’s board of trustees and, along with his wife Abigail, signed the Harvard letter as chairs.

A spokesperson for the Wexner Foundation did not return requests for comment. Starker told JTA that the foundation “has no connection” to the arts center. The foundation’s website lists the museum alongside a medical center and local nonprofits as among the “Wexner family philanthropic interests” beyond the foundation. Les Wexner is from the Columbus area.

The Jewish artist Barbara Rabkin, who has been advocating against Manna’s exhibit on social media, told JTA she believed the Wexners should “encourage” their namesake museum “to remove the works of antisemites and to reconsider [their] funding/naming strategies in light of this information — much as they’ve done with Harvard.”

Rabkin also said she thought the museum should cancel Manna’s exhibition.

“She has participated in promoting and celebrating Hamas’ inhumane brutal slaughtering and kidnapping of innocent civilians in Israel,” Rabkin said of Manna. “Her social media posts are a desecration of everything art is supposed to stand for — the elevation of humanity.”

Manna’s exhibit at the Wexner Center, “Jumana Manna: Break, Take, Erase, Tally,” is the first major exhibition in the United States of the Berlin-based artist, who was born in Princeton, New Jersey; grew up in Jerusalem; and holds Israeli citizenship. It includes screenings of her 2022 film “Foragers,” which centers on Palestinian foragers of wild plants who, in the museum’s description, are “criminalized by the Israeli government in the name of nature conservation.”

“Working with the team at Wexner Center has been a pleasure throughout,” Manna told JTA, adding that she hoped to restage the panel discussion at another time. “It saddens me to know that they are subject to this smear campaign.”


The post Wexner-funded museum says it will keep up exhibit by Palestinian artist who appeared to celebrate Hamas on social media appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo: maps.pomocnik.com.

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

The post Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

The post Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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