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Hundreds of rabbis say Biden’s plan to fight antisemitism should embrace a disputed definition



WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 550 rabbis are calling for the Biden administration’s forthcoming strategy on fighting antisemitism to include a definition of anti-Jewish bigotry that has come under debate.

The letter was sent as progressive groups are seeking to dissuade the administration from using the definition because they believe it chills legitimate criticism of Israel. The letter’s signatories disagree with that assessment.

“IHRA is critically important for helping to educate and protect our congregants in the face of this rising hate,” said  the rabbis’ letter, which was sent to the White House on Friday via the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The acronym IHRA refers to the 2016 working definition of antisemitism crafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

“We believe it is imperative that in its National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism, the administration formally embrace the IHRA Working Definition as the official and only definition used by the United States government and that it be used as a training and educational tool, similar to European Union countries’ use of the definition in their Action Plans,” the letter said.

The IHRA document consists of a two-sentence definition of antisemitism followed by 11 examples of how antisemitism may manifest. Most of those examples concern speech about Israel that the IHRA defines as antisemitic. Israel critics, and some progressive supporters of Israel, say two of those examples are so broad that they inhibit robust criticism of Israel: “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” and “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The letter’s signatories hail from all three major Jewish denominations, though the list of names includes few leaders of the movements. The Reform movement has said IHRA is a useful guide but has opposed using it in legislation.

Among the signatories are rabbis known to be close to President Joe Biden, including Michael Beals, a Delaware rabbi who played a prominent role campaigning for the president in 2020, and Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi who protected his congregants during a hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue last year.

If the Biden administration does include the IHRA working definition in its plan, it won’t exactly be a surprise. Soon after his inauguration, a Biden administration official called the IHRA document an “invaluable tool,” and one month later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration “enthusiastically embraces it.” The working definition has been endorsed by past administrations of both parties and, in 2019, Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing the Department of Education to consider it when weighing civil rights complaints concerning Jews. It has been adopted in varying forms by a range of national and local governments, universities, professional sports teams and other bodies.

But now, according to Jewish Insider, progressive groups are asking the Biden administration to forgo including the definition in a soon-to-be-published strategy to combat antisemitism. Biden said at an event on Tuesday that the strategy would have 100 recommendations for action, and insiders say it may be published as soon as next week.

A number of coalitions have proposed alternative definitions that contain more limited definitions of when anti-Israel speech is antisemitic. The letter from the rabbis does not mention Israel, but cautions against adopting a definition other than IHRA’s.

“We believe the adoption of any definition less comprehensive than the IHRA definition would be a step backwards for this administration and make our work on the ground significantly harder,” it said.

In a meeting this week with members of the press, Biden’s lead antisemitism monitor, Deborah Lipstadt, who is a member of the administration’s antisemitism task force, would not say if the IHRA definition would make it into the strategy, accordin. She said it was “effective” and helped her in her work, but added, “I’m not going to preempt what the White House is going to say or not say.”

William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents, said the notion that the IHRA working definition inhibits Israel criticism has been belied by the “slew of people critical of Israeli policy [who] have not been muted because of the IHRA definition.” Daroff pointed in particular to widespread criticism of the Israeli government’s plan to weaken the judiciary, which critics have said would undercut Israel’s democracy and remove a curb on human rights abuses.

“A comprehensive report on antisemitism might not be comprehensive without defining antisemitism,” Daroff told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It might undercut American efforts to combat antisemitism abroad by weakening the clear importance of the IHRA definition.”

The post Hundreds of rabbis say Biden’s plan to fight antisemitism should embrace a disputed definition 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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