(JTA) – Jewish Democrats are backing Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Republicans are calling on him to explain himself, following a report that the Democratic House minority leader defended Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and an uncle of his who had made antisemitic comments in the 1990s.
The report belies longstanding claims made by Jeffries, a Brooklyn congressman and ally of the pro-Israel lobby, that as a college student at the time, he was only vaguely aware of the controversy surrounding his uncle’s remarks.
Then the chair of the Black Studies Department at the City University of New York, Jeffries’ uncle Leonard Jeffries came under widespread criticism in 1991 for comments in which he suggested there was a Jewish plot to denigrate Black people in movies, as well as the involvement of “rich Jews” in the slave trade.
“Russian Jewry had a particular control over the movies, and their financial partners, the Mafia, put together a financial system of destruction of black people,” Leonard Jeffries said at an arts festival that year. As the controversy snowballed he compared Jews to “dogs” and “skunks” and eventually was forced out of his chairmanship in 1995 after a court battle.
In 2013, when he was first elected to Congress, Hakeem Jeffries told the Wall Street Journal that he had only a “vague recollection” of the controversy and that his parents sought to shield him from it. But a CNN report this week found that Jeffries — who was 21 and in college when the controversy began — defended his uncle in a student newspaper and was a board member of a student group that invited his uncle to give a speech on campus. The opinion piece he wrote also defended Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader with a well-documented history of antisemitic statements, and took aim at Black conservatives.
“Dr. Leonard Jeffries and Minister Louis Farrakhan have come under intense fire,” Hakeem Jeffries wrote at the time. “Where do you think their interests lie? Dr. Jeffries has challenged the existing white supremist educational system and long standing distortion of history. His reward has been a media lynching complete with character assassinations and inflammatory erroneous accusations.”
Contemporary coverage of Leonard Jeffries’ subsequent speech to the Black Student Union at his nephew’s campus suggests that he doubled down on his attacks on Jews. “It was the Jewish community that put itself in the center of the controversy,” he said, according to a report in the local newspaper. “It’s ironic that members of the Jewish community felt compelled to take a position that is antidemocratic and … pro-Nazi in its viciousness.”
In the wake of the CNN report, the Republican Jewish Coalition called on Hakeem Jeffries to explain his “lies” about having been unaware of the controversy surrounding his uncle.
“Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries owes the Jewish community an explanation as to why he lied and attempted to cover up his defense of these revolting antisemites,” the group’s CEO, Matt Brooks, and national chairman, former Sen. Norm Coleman, said in a statement on Friday.
In a statement to CNN, Hakeem Jeffries’ spokeswoman, Christiana Stephenson, reiterated his repudiation of his uncle’s views but did not address why he had previously claimed to only be vaguely aware of the controversy.
“Leader Jeffries has consistently been clear that he does not share the controversial views espoused by his uncle over 30 years ago,” she said.
The political action committee affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee endorsed Jeffries in the most recent cycle, and he was highlighted as an example of AIPAC’s claim that it had close allies in both parties, in the face of complaints from some Democrats that the lobby leans Republican. Jeffries is leading a group of new Democratic representatives later this year on a tour of Israel sponsored by an AIPAC affiliate.
AIPAC declined to comment on the CNN revelations, but Jeffries’ allies are defending him, in part by pointing to his pro-Israel record as a lawmaker.
“Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries has been an unwavering partner of the Jewish American community and ally of Israel in Congress,” the Jewish Democratic Council of America said in a statement. “We are grateful for his leadership defending democracy, fighting antisemitism and right-wing extremism, and standing with Israel. His long record in Congress on these issues is beyond reproach and we condemn any assertions to the contrary. We are proud to call him a friend.”
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who is one of the most prominent Jews in Congress as well as a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, also came to Jeffries’ defense.
“As native NYers, Leader @RepJeffries and I became fast, dear friends. I saw how he embodied the Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and gemilut hassadim (giving love and kindness),” she wrote on Twitter. “While others foment antisemitism, Hakeem Jeffries always leads in the face of hate.”
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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.
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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