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Harvard extends fellowship offer to leading Israel critic Ken Roth after weeks of controversy



(JTA) – Harvard University will extend a fellowship offer to former Human Rights Watch Director Ken Roth after previously rejecting him over his past comments on Israel, capping weeks of controversy that ensnared the Ivy League school in a global debate about academic freedom and criticism of Israel.

In an open letter Thursday, Harvard Kennedy School dean Douglas Elmendorf said his previous decision not to offer the fellowship to Roth had been an “error,” and that “the broader faculty input I have now sought and received has persuaded me that my decision was not the best one for the School.” 

The school’s Carr Center for Human Rights had been in talks with Roth to take a fellowship shortly after he resigned from his position as Human Rights Watch’s director last year. Roth had held the role since 1993. Elmendorf initially vetoed the Carr Center’s decision to offer Roth the fellowship, and an affiliated professor told The Nation, the progressive magazine, that she had been told Roth’s “anti-Israel bias” was the reason.

Human Rights Watch tracks human rights abuses around the world. Roth’s critics — including Human Rights Watch’s Jewish co-founder, Robert Bernstein — alleged that the group was spending a disproportionate amount of its time and resources on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under his leadership. A year before Roth left, the organization released a landmark report condemning Israel as an “apartheid” state for the first time. 

Roth, whose father was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, also frequently tweets criticism of Israel that his critics say sometimes veers into antisemitism.

The report in The Nation, and Roth’s own account of the incident in The Guardian, set off a firestorm as the Harvard community, alongside pro-Palestinian groups and academic free-speech organizations, strongly opposed the school’s decision and called on it to reverse course. 

“Withholding Roth’s participation in a human rights program due to his own staunch critiques of human rights abuses by governments worldwide raises serious questions about the credibility of the Harvard program itself,” PEN America said in a statement. The group’s CEO was an executive at HRW under Roth.

More than 1,000 Harvard students, faculty and alumni signed an open letter calling for Elmendorf’s resignation. 

Meanwhile, some pro-Israel figures, including an executive at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and a student activist at Harvard, had defended the dean’s decision to turn down Roth. 

In one notable comment, Lawrence Summers, the Jewish former Harvard president and former U.S. treasury secretary with strongly pro-Israel views, also criticized the school’s decision

“I loathe Ken Roth’s views on Israel and think some of his statements border on antisemitic,” Summers wrote in a series of tweets. But, he added, “preventing a human rights center from having the fmr head of a leading human rights center as a visiting fellow on grounds of the person’s views/modes of expression is not consistent w/profound commitment to intellectual diversity that should be a bedrock value in universities.” 

Meanwhile, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, objected to another element of The Nation’s report. The story, Greenblatt said, “concocts a conspiracy theory” that the dean’s decision had been swayed by a number of Israeli donors to the Kennedy School. 

“It’s a textbook case of classic antisemitism: It’s not the leadership of the Kennedy School that made this decision, oh no,” Greenblatt wrote in an op-ed. “It’s the powerful and monied Jewish elite that really influences things behind the scenes.”

Through a spokesperson, Elmendorf declined an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week. In his letter to the school Thursday, he said his decision on Roth “was based on my evaluation of his potential contributions to the School.”

In a statement Thursday responding to the decision, Roth seemed to indicate he would accept the fellowship offer. “I have long felt that the Carr Center, and the Kennedy School, would be a congenial place for me to work on the book that I am writing. I look forward to spending time there with colleagues and students,” he wrote.

But Roth continued to criticize Elmendorf and said “I remain worried about academic freedom… The problem of people penalized for criticizing Israel is not limited to me, and most scholars and students have no comparable capacity to mobilize public attention.”

NGO Monitor, an Israeli nonprofit that acts as a watchdog of Israel criticism among NGOs, condemned Harvard’s reversal.

“In 30 years as head of Human Rights Watch, Roth has consistently singled-out Israel uniquely for demonization and delegitimization, using numerous false and distorted claims. These campaigns contributed significantly to antisemitism, and added to the targeting of Jewish students on university campuses,” the group wrote in a statement on Thursday.

The post Harvard extends fellowship offer to leading Israel critic Ken Roth after weeks of controversy 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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