(JTA) — A top Jewish community security consultant accused the University of Arizona of ignoring antisemitism as a warning sign in a case that culminated in the shooting death of a professor.
“Professor Thomas Meixner lost his life because antisemitism is not being taken seriously enough,” Michael Masters, the CEO of the Secure Community Network, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Arizona Republic.
Masters said the alleged assailant’s explicitly antisemitic threats should have been a red flag for the campus police, which, Masters said did not aggressively pursue criminal charges, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which did not file charges. The assailant in one text to a teacher wished “death to all Jews.”
“Too often reported violent antisemitic threats like these are dismissed as a byproduct of poor mental health and are not treated with necessary precautions,” Masters wrote. “More could and should have been done to prevent a senseless murder.”
Masters’ group coordinates security for Jewish organizations across the country. Last week, it alerted authorities in New York City to an online post by someone who said he would “shoot up a synagogue”; police apprehended the man alleged to have made the post, who had a gun, ammunition and a Nazi armband. Previously, people who have received Security Community Network training have credited it with mitigating attacks, including during the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue last January.
Murad Dervish, the suspect in the Oct. 5 slaying on the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona, believed Meixner was Jewish and was targeting Dervish because he was a Muslim, according to Meixner’s colleagues.
Dervish, a graduate student in the department of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, had received a poor grade and was fired last semester as a teaching assistant, although he was allowed to stay on at the school as a student.
Meixner, the department head, was a Roman Catholic, but, according to Eyad Atallah, another teacher whom Dervish threatened, Dervish refused to believe it.
“You’re a filthy kike lover who’s been deceived by them, but I really can’t blame you, they’re very deceptive,” Dervish said in a text to Atallah, who had for a time befriended him.
In a text message to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Masters said the Meixner killing showed how antisemitic violence accrues collateral damage.
“We must take threats seriously — no matter their motivation — and work to address them in a comprehensive, coordinated manner,” he said. “Had that been the case, one has to wonder if the victim, in this case, would still be alive and whether we’ll learn the lesson to keep the next potential victims safe and alive.”
The university expelled Dervish and barred him from campus but did not have mechanisms in place to keep him from entering the building.
The county attorney’s office said Dervish’s texts did not rise to the level of an actionable threat. His threats did not “meet the evidentiary requirements for charging him with the crime of Threats and Intimidation,” the office said in a statement.
Atallah told the Arizona Daily Star that he believed Dervish carefully phrased his texts so he could plausibly claim he was not directly threatening the person they were addressed to. In one text to Atallah, Dervish said, “I hope somebody blows your f****** brains out.” Atallah, who acquired a bulletproof vest and limited his time on campus after the threats, believes Dervish would have killed him too had they encountered one another on the day of the shooting.
It’s not clear how Dervish, who had been charged and sentenced to prison in other states for violent acts, was able to purchase a gun. He has pleaded not guilty.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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