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A manufactured ‘mainstream’ wants the White House to define antisemitism on its own flawed terms



(JTA) — As the Biden administration nears the long-awaited announcement of its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, tensions have emerged over what definition of antisemitism the White House will use. According to Jewish Insider, “major mainstream Jewish groups” are battling against the “left” to define antisemitism, suggesting that the groups’ preferred definition, that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, is the mainstream one.

The framing determines a winner before the contest even begins — this is the power play of the term “mainstream.”

Here’s how it works: A purportedly neutral source — Jewish Insider, say, or the Associated Press — names a set of players as the “mainstream.” Without any discussion of method or sources, the characterization produces reality. The self-fulfilling designation allows a select group of organizations to command the center. These groups and their spokespeople then use their “mainstream” power to naturalize and normalize their own agenda, like defining the IHRA definition as the “gold standard” despite concerns that it chills legitimate criticism of Israel, or condemning “progressive” voices for their refusal to conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism, or chastising Rep. Rashida Tlaib for commemorating the Nakba, the “catastrophe” that befell her people with the creation of Israel.

Game on.

The strategy of claiming the center to control it is nothing new. In the annals of American Jewish institutional formation, it’s happened again and again. Just witness the names of organizations: the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America, and the list could go on and on. One after the other, these groups have claimed to be the center, the “mainstream.”

RELATED: The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and why people are fighting over it, explained (2021)

As a historian who has written about many of these groups, I can tell you that every claim to be the united front, the central address, the singular American Jewish organization has rested on the surety that most American Jews believed no such thing. Indeed, words that posture such a “mainstream” are best read as indicators of dissent, debate and fracture.

When it comes to confronting antisemitism, some of today’s Jewish leaders might imagine that American Jews can achieve unity that has long eluded them or Jewish institutional life. They might be so certain of this vision as to pretend that it is true, with fundraising and media blitzes that appear to speak on behalf of all Jews. Slick advertising campaigns, whether on television and social media or highway billboards, and a hotly contested and poorly constructed yet exclusive definition of antisemitism may make it seem that the Jewish “mainstream” speaks as one, loudly for all Jews and all people who care about fighting antisemitism.

But don’t let the powerplay bulldoze you. Those television and social media blitzes? They are the product of one megadonor’s imagination and thick wallet. The pink highway signs that deliver glib “lessons” against antisemitism in the form of snark? They are brought to you by the same high-net-worth family that advertised its storage company with similarly cheeky taglines. And even the creation of and campaigns to endorse the IHRA definition have specific histories and funding sources.

None of this is to say that those efforts should be dismissed because they have histories and are tied to narrow but deep pockets of wealth. The problem comes when those histories and sources of power go unacknowledged and instead parade themselves as the “mainstream,” the authentic truth of what all Jews must believe.

RELATED: The White House intends to fight antisemitism. That starts with a sensible definition. (Opinion)

In the power plays to claim the Jewish “mainstream,” institutions and their leaders are trying to silence those who disagree with their policies and politics. The term “mainstream” acts as a cudgel against efforts to build solidarity between Palestinians and Israelis who oppose the actions of the Israeli government. Its purveyors vocally and consistently defend harsh anti-boycott laws, on the books in several American states, that penalize institutions or individuals for engaging in or promoting boycotts against Israel. Or they helicopter onto American college campuses to pressure university administrators to subscribe to the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Instead of arriving at the field ready to play an honest game, “mainstream” Jewish institutions and their leaders want to be the only players. To argue that we must all agree on one definition in order to talk about antisemitism is like clearing the field before the game even begins.

Because this is more than a game — because hatred and bigotry fuel violent crimes at an alarming rate in the United States — Jewish and non-Jewish people who have a stake in the conversation about antisemitism should refuse to play. Publications that insist on anointing a “mainstream” ought to be called out. And the press, instead, should investigate the role that some of its agents play in advancing the power play of the “mainstream” — including, for example, Jewish Insider, which is less than transparent about its own history and sources of funding.

As a participant in one of the “listening sessions” convened by the White House in February of this year, I can report that the scholars who joined me around the table (OK, Zoom screen) had a wide range of perspectives. When asked to share our views on antisemitism, none of us got to call ourselves the “mainstream” expert on the questions. Instead, we identified the methods, sources and theories that authorized our understandings of the roots and manifestations of antisemitism.

I can only hope that the other listening sessions and the White House process has proceeded accordingly, with little reverence for the self-appointed Jewish “mainstream.” A resolve to understand the diversity of views and what led people or groups to them will upset any single view — or definition. A successful strategy will not be cowed by the “mainstream” but instead will highlight the varieties of truly and authentically held ideas that together can animate efforts to stem the tide of antisemitism and bigotry.

The post A manufactured ‘mainstream’ wants the White House to define antisemitism on its own flawed terms appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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