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Without Jewish friends at my school, I feel alone in my fears about what’s happening in Israel

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — My high school does not have a Jewish community, and it is part of a public school system whose teachers union endorsed a boycott of Israel in 2021. So the only Jewish community I have is at my synagogue. Beyond its walls I feel silenced.

I woke up Saturday morning to my mother asking me to talk about something serious at breakfast. I didn’t think much of this because I hadn’t checked my phone yet. My heart dropped when I learned Israel was attacked. I have family in Israel, and I know many people who have family in Israel. There was no other way to put it: I was scared. It lingered in my mind as I watched the Navy’s Blue Angels jets fly over San Francisco’s waterfront during the weekend’s Fleet Week celebrations, thinking about the rockets flying above Israel. I prayed for Israel that night but woke up Sunday to even more sad headlines.

That morning I headed to temple, where I teach Sunday school to third graders. It was no surprise we had fewer than 10 kids out of the 30 on the roster; many parents were apparently worried that the synagogue might be a target for protests or attacks. One little girl asked me where everybody was. We had a morning meeting discussing what had just happened, and we were told to be vague, to not answer questions, and to direct them to the lead teacher if the children did ask. I shook my head and told her, “I don’t know, I guess they had other things to do today.” 

My temple had prepared a celebration for Simchat Torah. Instead, we gathered with other synagogues in the city at Congregation Sherith Israel to mourn the lives that were lost in Israel. As I headed home with a heavy heart, I read more and more articles being shared, but I was still left with so many unanswered questions, and I didn’t know what to say or do. My Jewish and non-Jewish friends ask me how I feel, and I don’t know exactly how to answer. I know I stand with Israel, but how do I know what is really going on when blame is being thrown in every direction?

I ended up calling one of the rabbis at my temple, and I asked him my questions and shared what I had seen on social media. I learned what is fueling the ongoing war and why it is so difficult to agree on one narrative because both sides want the same piece of land. I also learned that you can’t change anybody’s mind while trying to speak yours, for example speaking out against the antisemitism that Hamas represents. Some people will say that Israel had it coming, but then again, they listen to their families, and they stand with their own people.

I know people will be talking about this at school. I am not sure how to respond if somebody asks me about it because of how delicate this is for everybody. After the teachers union voted for the Israel boycott, my parents were questioning my sister’s and my safety in this district. I have no Jewish friends at school; I have nobody with whom I feel comfortable talking about Israel. I have my phone and I can call people from my temple, but it isn’t the same. If I wanted to talk about it, I would have to be extremely careful about what I say because I know how many people disagree with me. Many believe the Hamas attack was justified, while I believe it was terrorism. These kinds of disagreements can be dangerous. Palestinian protesters gathered at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco to support the attack on Israel as a legitimate fight against “oppression,” and countless others say that the attack on civilians — including women, children and the elderly — was an act of “resistance.” How is this the resistance if Hamas are ultimately hurting the Palestinians too? 

It can be scary to openly identify as Jewish, but I do not hide that I am Jewish at school because I am proud of who I am and where I come from. Yet I have heard countless remarks about Jewish people in my school that make the antisemitism in this country truly personal for me. For example, when I told my “friends” that I was going to Jewish camp over the summer, somebody responded saying, “Is it Auschwitz? Because that’s a Jewish camp.” 

I really couldn’t hide my shock, and as much as I try to shake comments like that one off, I suspect I will hear such comments now more than ever. I am not ready to get into heated arguments about who has been more violent, nor do I want to. For now, I will stand with Israel the way I stand for the Amidah prayer: proud, straight-backed and silent.

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Left-wing Jews usher in Hanukkah in NY with rally demanding a ceasefire and mourning Gaza casualties

(New York Jewish Week) – Hundreds marched around Columbus Circle in the biting cold on Thursday night, holding electric candles and signs calling for a ceasefire, as they sang a biblical verse calling for the end of war as a tuba and a drum played along.

The activists then raised a 9-foot tall menorah emblazoned with the word “ceasefire” in multi-colored lights, each letter adorning one of the nine candle stems, ushering in the Hanukkah holiday with pleas for a halt to the Israel-Hamas war.

“We light our Hanukkah candles in public, we put them in our windows and in our town square to proudly display our Jewish heritage and to call upon the miracles of this time of year,” Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari of the Philadelphia synagogue Kol Tzedek told the crowd. “We are each here to kindle the lights of Hanukkah and to call, together, for a ceasefire.”

The event on the first night of Hanukkah also took place exactly two months after Hamas began the war with an invasion of Israel that killed 1,200, largely civilians, and took more than 240 hostages. In the period since then, some of the groups organizing Thursday’s menorah lighting have led frequent rallies in New York City, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere calling for an immediate ceasefire — blocking entrances to buildings and bridges and sometimes ending in dozens of arrests. 

Their advocacy, so far, hasn’t met its goal. Israel rejects ceasefire calls because they would leave Hamas in power in Gaza, and Hamas has continued to rain rockets on Israel and hold more than 130 hostages. The United States has backed Israel’s military campaign. 

Left-wing activists rally in support of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on the first night of Hannukah in Columbus Circle, New York City, Dec. 7, 2023. (Luke Tress)

Israel recently began focusing its firepower on the Gaza city of Khan Younis, where Hamas’ leadership is believed to be based. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting — a number that does not differentiate between civilians and combatants or denote deaths from misfired Palestinian rockets. 

And while only 37% of New Yorkers approve of Israel’s war effort, according to a recent poll, the Jewish ceasefire activists have the support of only a minority of their own community: 72% of Jewish New Yorkers support Israel’s war effort, while only 19% disapprove. 

​​”I think people are spiritually depleted and morally depleted and it’s really painful to open the news every day and see what’s happening on the ground in Gaza,” said Rabbi Alisa Wise, the lead organizer of the recently-founded Rabbis for Ceasefire. That group was one of the organizers of the event along with IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and a new group called Shoresh. Many of those groups have called for a ceasefire since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and have focused their criticism on Israel, accusing it of “genocide.” 

Wise said many on the Jewish left are “exhausted and depressed” by the war and find protest activities draining, but also feel the urge to make their voices heard. She added that there is also “this sense of determination, and now that we’ve seen what we’re capable of and what we can do it really feels like people are going to not stop pushing.”

At the entrance to the gathering, three towering banners bore the words “ceasefire,” “justice” and “peace” in Hebrew, English and Arabic, near tattered posters of Israeli hostages on lamp poles. Some in the crowd wore keffiyehs and several carried Palestinian flags. Alongside the Jewish public figures who attended the event — among them the commentator Peter Beinart and actor Wallace Shawn — one of the speakers was Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour. 

Organizers said 700 people attended the rally. In between the speeches, the crowd chanted the blessings upon lighting the menorah and sang songs calling for peace.

In Israel and elsewhere, supporters of the country’s war in Gaza have pointed to the story of Hanukkah — a small Jewish army defeating a foe that sought to destroy it — as a historical parallel to the current conflict. On Thursday, a rabbi in a suburb of New York City wrote on Facebook that taking the holiday as an opportunity to call for a ceasefire is “absolutely ridiculous, since Chanukah is literally a celebration of a military victory against an enemy that wanted to wipe out Judaism in Israel. Sound familiar?!”

Wise told the New York Jewish Week that the holiday presents an opportunity to fortify the Jewish left — and said that her group focuses on the way the rabbis of the Talmud approached the holiday. A passage in the Talmud describing Hanukkah includes only a passing reference to the military victory and instead stresses the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lighting a menorah for eight days. 

“We were thinking about the way the rabbis really deemphasized the militarism and emphasized the miracle,” Wise said. “Those rabbis were leading us away from the militarism. They brought the story of [the] miracle, and we’re thinking about that.”

Like Jews across the United States, Wise’s group has adapted the holiday’s messages and rituals to the current moment. The group issued a guide for the holiday with different kavanot, or intentions, for each night’s candle lighting, including focusing on themes such as courage, healing and peace, and has sought to lean into the holiday’s themes of miracles and spreading light.

Left-wing activists rally in support of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on the first night of Hannukah in Columbus Circle, New York City, Dec. 7, 2023. (Luke Tress)

“Every year we return to this holiday and we have the opportunity to figure out this year, what from the tradition do we need, what thread do we need to pull?” she said. “So that’s how we’re approaching it this year.”

The war has also sparked a surge in antisemitism in New York and elsewhere in the U.S., according to law enforcement and Jewish security groups, and rising hate crimes have heightened tensions and fears surrounding the conflict. Speakers at the rally decried the increase in antisemitism and Islamophobia, which has also increased, although to a much lesser extent.

“This is a holiday that’s about light in the darkness. Even in the darkest, coldest time of year we bring this light in,” Wise said. “As we light, we bring the possibility of the ceasefire movement growing and a possibility of peace and justice closer.”


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‘She’s Dead!’ Brutal Antisemitic Assault Leaving Woman Unconscious Reported in London

Suspects allegedly involved in an antisemitic assault in London, on Dec 7, 2023. Source: Shomrim (Stamford Hill)

A Jewish woman was brutally assaulted in London this week by two suspects who pummeled her with punches and kicks for over a minute, according to footage posted on social media by Shomrim of Stamford Hill, a Jewish organization that reports on antisemitism.

The attack, which occurred on Thursday evening in the Stamford Hill neighborhood, left the woman unconscious and only ended after two female suspects reportedly said that the woman was “dead” after kicking her while she was on the ground for over thirty seconds, according to Shomrim, which also serves as a neighborhood watch group.

#HateCrime #Antisemitism #ViciousAssault

See dramatic footage of the horrendous #Racist vicious assault leaving the female victim unconscious!

The brutal attack ended after the two female offenders kept on kicking the unconscious victim in the head before laughing over her body…

— Shomrim (Stamford Hill) (@Shomrim) December 8, 2023

Metropolitan Police are currently searching for the female suspects. No arrests have been made.

Information on the condition of the victim was not immediately available.

The Stamford Hill section of London is no stranger to antisemitic incidents. In October, days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, two Jewish primary schools in the area were vandalized and doused with red paint.

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Menorahs in Brooklyn Stolen and Vandalized, NYPD Investigating as Hate Crime

A man seen on CCTV vandalizing a menorah in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Source: X/Twitter

Multiple public menorahs in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York were stolen and vandalized, according to a spokesman for the Chabad Jewish movement.

The stolen menorah was seen on Sunset Park Center lawn on Wednesday evening, according to Yaacov Behrman, a spokesperson for Chabad. On Thursday, it was found broken.

In a separate incident captured on video, a man is seen riding up to a menorah in Sunset Park on a bicycle and pushing it over.

“The holiday hasn’t begun, and the vandalism has already started,” Behrman said on X/Twitter.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

The post Menorahs in Brooklyn Stolen and Vandalized, NYPD Investigating as Hate Crime first appeared on

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