Saturday, March 28, 2020

Grief and fear from Coronavirus

Four hundred Americans died today of Coronavirus (at least 400). 268 died yesterday, and 249 the day before. March 22 was the first day more than a hundred Americans died of the virus. In the last week, 1445 Americans died of the virus. We're not succeeding in "flattening the curve."

I'm having a lot of trouble making myself going to bed. I'm afraid of death. I think about the people I know who are sick. I think about the people I love, in my family, who could fall ill with the coronavirus and die of it, because they're/we're old and have disabilities like lung diseases and asthma.

 I keep reading about people dying of COVID-19 like this, and frankly it's terrifying.

The New York Times has started a section of the paper with obituaries for people who have died of coronavirus - Those We've Lost. Does anyone remember the "Portraits of Grief" - the obituaries of all the people who died on 9/11?


I'm afraid of what we're becoming. Will we / are we rationing care for people ill with coronavirus on the basis of prior disability? Are people with disabilities somehow lesser than abled people, inferior, are their lives worth less than people who don't have disabilities? One of the things that's shocked me since the 2016 election campaign is the resurgence of eugencist thinking (and actions) from people on both the left and right. People who are coming right out and saying that the lives of older people are less important, and that we should even be willing to die of the virus for the political cause they support. This is Nazi thinking.
J SHAPIRO: Ari Ne'eman is a visiting scholar at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. 
NE'EMAN: They (disabled people) are terrified that when it comes to scarce resources like ventilators, they will be sent to the back of the line. And they're right to be terrified because many states are saying this quite explicitly in their allocation criteria. 
J SHAPIRO: Ne'eman looked at state policies for crisis care and found several - including in New York, Alabama, Tennessee, Utah - that ration care at the expense of people with disabilities. He says this violates civil rights laws like the Americans With Disabilities Act. 
NE'EMAN: Our civil rights laws don't go away in the midst of a pandemic. 
J SHAPIRO: He's worried of a repeat in this country of what's happening in Italy, where ventilators go to young people over older ones. He thinks are fairer ways. Let the ventilator will go to the first person who needs it. Others have suggested a lottery system. Meanwhile, disability groups in other states are preparing similar complaints. Another letter came from Neil Romano, who was named by President Donald Trump as chair of another federal agency, the National Council on Disability. He, too, asked the Department of Health and Human Services to take action to stop rationing. Now he's talking to the department's Office for Civil Rights.
From ProPublica:
Alabama’s disaster preparedness plan says that “persons with severe mental retardation, advanced dementia or severe traumatic brain injury may be poor candidates for ventilator support.” 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tompkins County, NY - now 23 people have tested positive for COVID-19

Plus, the tracker for Coronavirus tests in Tompkins County, New York.

Coronavirus charts for March 25, 2020 for US and world

The chart for the increase is US deaths was made by me using Excel, relying on the Worldometer figures. The rest of them are from the Financial Times free coronavirus coverage. Worldometer link:

As of 9:17 pm EDT the number dead from COVID-19 in the US is 944, and the case fatality rate is 1.429%. (Number of total positive tested is 66,048). It's very possible that the CFR is actually much lower, since not very many people have been tested.

Here are the scary charts from FT. Link:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

US Coronavirus deaths from February 29, 2020 to March 23, 2020

I decided I wanted to keep track of the Coronavirus deaths in the US myself, so I made a chart of the number of deaths and the daily changes from February 29 until today, using the numbers provided by the Worldometer. As a bonus, I learned how to make charts in Excel. Here's today's chart (as of about 11:30 pm, March 23).

Because I've forgotten most of the math I learned in elementary and high school, I don't know how to figure out the rate of increase.

By the way, if we continue on this trajectory without slowing the rate of infections and deaths, we're well on our way to being another Italy. See this article by Ezekiel Emanuel - Fourteen Days. That's the most we have to defeat Coronavirus: "Models from Imperial College London and others suggest that up to 2.2 million Americans could die within a year without sufficient efforts to 'flatten the curve.'"

Monday, March 02, 2020

Israel goes to the polls, again, for the third time in a year

The Israeli election is tomorrow (yet again!). Yediot Acharonot published a wonderful first page for their election edition - Israeli elections on the Monopoly board.

The main headline, in the middle: "Israel votes: third time to the polls. Perhaps this time... Elections, third time: Netanyahu and Gantz fight for every vote. Will there be a clear decision, or will we go to a fourth round?"

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Holocaust Conference on Post-War Memory - dishonest description by Algemeiner article

An article in the Algemeiner ( presents an entirely inaccurate impression of a conference planned for this May 20-22 on "“Post-War Memory, Holocaust Memorialization, and the Implications for the Present." It is a regional conference sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University, which will be held in Durham, NC

The Algemeiner article begins by saying that "A radical professor who thinks America is hopelessly racist will preside over an upcoming Holocaust education conference that will seek to show 'connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany.'"

He continues: "One of those 'connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany' that [Barry] Trachtenberg and his cohorts are focused on is comparing slavery in America to the Holocaust. In the conference description, they write that the event 'will also explore how the specific history of the Holocaust helps us to particularize and compare the continued controversial impact and reception of Southern slavery and segregation on our public and private lives.'"

The Algemeiner quotes one sentence from the description of the conference and leaves out the relevant context. This is the paragraph from which that sentence was taken: "Given the location of our Institute in the US South, the Regional Institute will also explore how the specific history of the Holocaust helps us to particularize and compare the continued controversial impact and reception of Southern slavery and segregation on our public and private lives. Through guest speakers and select readings, we will discuss historical connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany (such as connections between Jim Crow and Nazi antisemitic legal policies) and parse distinctions between different manifestations of racism and moments in racist histories to identify what is specific to place, context, and peoples." Contrary to the Algemeiner's assertion, asserting that there was a connection between Jim Crow policies and Nazi antisemitic politics is not "radical," nor is it a sign that the organizers of the conference hate America. 

James Q. Whitman's recent bookHitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017), argues that American citizenship laws, anti-miscegenation laws, and Jim Crow segregation were some of the influences upon Nazi racial laws.
As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.
The Algemeiner article also did not provide any other information about the conference, except to lambaste the politics of one of the organizers, Barry Trachtenberg, who is the Michael R. and Deborah K. Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History, Associate Professor in the Department of History, and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There are two other organizers - Karen Auerbach of UNC-Chapel Hill and Paul B. Jaskot of Duke University.

This is the full description of the conference, presenting it in an entirely different light from the hatchet-job provided by the author of the Algemeiner article.
Call for Proposals HEF Regional Institute 2020 
“Post-War Memory, Holocaust Memorialization, and the Implications for the Present” 
Durham, North Carolina, May 22-24, 2020 
The Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University will host the second Regional Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization in Durham, North Carolina on May 22-24, 2020, with the support of Wake Forest University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. 
There has been significant work in the past decades on postwar memory and memorialization as a crucial component of Holocaust Studies. Whether discussing the role of the trials of perpetrators, the reestablishment of Jewish communities in the diaspora, the rise in memorialization and other cultural representations of the Holocaust, or the explosive impact after 1993 of survivor oral testimonies for Holocaust research, it is clear that the postwar historical moment is an inextricable complement to the horrific pre-1945 history of the Holocaust. This HEF Regional Institute will build on these broad trends by engaging in depth with one particular period of postwar memory and memorialization – the end of the war to the Auschwitz Trials (1963-65). This period on the whole has not received as much attention as the post-1965 histories; conversely, in recent years, some key work has refocused our disciplinary interests on this moment, particularly in terms of issues of memory and memorialization. 
Fellows will gain a familiarity with historiographic debates related to postwar memory and memorialization (focusing on history, Jewish Studies, art history, and cultural history) but also a deep exploration into recent new work on the period that also has great relevance to the field as a whole. In addition, the institute will be especially helpful to those Fellows who are contemplating developing a post-war element to their Holocaust Studies courses. 
Given the location of our Institute in the US South, the Regional Institute will also explore how the specific history of the Holocaust helps us to particularize and compare the continued controversial impact and reception of Southern slavery and segregation on our public and private lives. Through guest speakers and select readings, we will discuss historical connections between racist ideology and policies in the US and Nazi Germany (such as connections between Jim Crow and Nazi antisemitic legal policies) and parse distinctions between different manifestations of racism and moments in racist histories to identify what is specific to place, context, and peoples. 
Higher education faculty and graduate students who have attended a HEF Summer Institute or who have previously taught courses on any aspect of the Nazi Holocaust or Jewish civilization are encouraged to apply to become Regional Institute Fellows, particularly those who live and work in the Southeast United States. A fellowship includes the cost of tuition, room, and board during the Institute. (Fellowships do not cover travel expenses to and from Durham or the cost of any assigned materials.) Please contact with questions. 
The 2020 Regional Institute will be held from May 22 – 24, 2020. Please send application materials, which should include 1) a cover letter indicating your interest and intent to teach classes related to the topic, 2) your CV, 3) a sample syllabus of Holocaust or Jewish Civilization courses that you have previously taught, and 4) for graduate students, a letter of recommendation. Send materials in a single pdf to by January 1, 2020. 
Organizers: Karen Auerbach-UNC Chapel Hill; Paul B. Jaskot-Duke University; and Barry Trachtenberg-Wake Forest University

Friday, January 10, 2020

Silence: the Reward for Attending a House of Mourning - #DafYomi Ber. 6a-b

Some thoughts on today's Daf Yomi, Berakhot 6a-b. (Daf Yomi means "Daily Page," referring to a page from the Talmud. It's a practice of reading through/studying the entire Talmud, one page each day, from beginning to end. It takes about 7 and a half years, and a cycle just ended last week. I decided to start doing it this time around, with no promise that I'll finish it).
One topic is the reward one gains for doing various deeds, beginning with running to hear a rabbinic lecture. The one that struck me is the reward for going to a house of mourning: "אמר רב פפא: אגרא דבי טמיא - שתיקותא" - Rav Pappa said: the reward for attending a house of mourning is silence."
What does this mean? One commentator explains it from another passage: "Those offering consolation are not permitted to speak until the mourner opens his mouth" (Moed Katan 28b).
So sitting with the mourner without speaking, with the person whom grief has silenced, until they are able to speak, to leave that condition of stillness and reenter the world of other people that is created through speech. Not to intrude onto silence with one's chattering words and self-concerns. But can the mourner escape from his or her silent world without a hand being extended by the would-be consoler? Must all the work be done by the mourner to restart the conversation? How to center speech in the silence of the mourner and reach into that person's grief without causing further pain.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Holiday photos 2019

One of the fun things I did before Christmas was to help a friend of mine trim her tree. I'm Jewish and don't have a Christmas tree, but I really like putting up pretty decorations on a tree. Here are some examples. The big teardrop shaped ornament in the middle is from the Poland (my friend's ancestors are from Poland). Notice also the little glass tea set on the right.

Some more elaborate ornaments. 

And here are some more ornaments, including a tiny ceramic tote bag, a peanut (I think that's what it is), and another tiny glass teapot.

And this is my Hanukkah menorah, with the eighth candles for the eighth day of Hanukkah. The shammash is in the other menorah to the right (I couldn't fit it in between the other candles).

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year from Ithaca - 2020 from the Ithaca College towers

Every year at the end of the year the windows in the two Ithaca College towers are arranged to spell out the last two digits of the old year. At midnight they are quickly changed to the last two digits of the New Year. I didn't see the change this year, but I drove within view of the towers soon after midnight. The windows are left this way for several days.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Again on the Hanukkah hymn, Maoz Tzur - who is the "Red One" named in the sixth stanza?

I wrote on this question on December 14, 2009, and here is the answer once again (slightly edited).

I'm thinking about the words to Maoz Tzur, the Hanukkah hymn. According to the siddur edited by Philip Birnbaum, it was composed in the 13th century (Philip Birnbaum, Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem [New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1969] 777). (The article in Wikipedia makes the same statement, based on Zunz). 

The article on Maoz Tzur in refers to an article by Ismar Schorsch, the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, published in the journal Judaism in the fall of 1988, entitled "A Meditation on Maoz Zur." Schorsch's family escaped from Germany on the first day of Hanukkah of 1938, after his father had been freed (he had been arrested on Kristallnacht). He writes that his family always sang the first five stanzas of Maoz Tzur with great fervor during their Hanukkah celebration (p. 459): "The poem's theme of redemption seemed to offer a poignant comment on our family's experience." They omitted the sixth stanza, however.

He records the history of the poem as follows (p. 460): "In its present form, Maoz Zur consists of six stanzas. Since the days of Leopold Zunz, the first five have been ascribed to an unknown German poet named Mordecai, who lived sometime before the middle of the thirteenth century and whose name survives as an acrostic formed by the first letter of each stanza." Schorsch writes that the poem is written as if shortly after the Maccabees had retaken the Temple from the Syrian Greeks. "The rescue from 'Greek' tyranny triggers a recollection of earlier cases when God's intervention redirects the course of Jewish history." These are in Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. The fifth stanza describes the "redemption at the time of the Hasmoneans."

The sixth stanza was composed later than the first five, and it is (p. 461) "an unabashed messianic plea for divine retribution upon Israel's Christian oppressors." He comments that it is often left untranslated in modern prayer books (like the Birnbaum siddur, which translates only the first five stanzas). The fifth stanza adds the final subjugator of the Jewish people - Edom (which in rabbinic interpretation is equated first with pagan and then with Christian Rome, thus becoming the code name for Christianity as a whole).

My rough translation (helped by Schorsch's discussion on p. 462):
Reveal your holy arm (cf. Isaiah 52:10) and bring near the day of salvation.
Avenge your servants against the evil kingdom.
The time has lengthened, and there is no end to the evil days.
Destroy the red one (Admon=Christianity) in the shadow of the cross,
and send forth the seven shepherds [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David]
This stanza is a more urgent request for divine salvation - rather than remembering the past salvation from danger and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, it directly calls on God to save his people from the Christians. The term "Admon" (meaning the red one) is an allusion to the biblical name Edom (equated with Esau in Genesis 25), which is understood by the rabbis to refer to the Roman Empire, and then after its Christianization, to Christianity. Schorsch believes that this stanza was also written by an Ashkenazic Jew (p. 463), "stirred by the tremors and aftershocks of the Reformation," who believed that the Christian kingdom could only be overcome by direct divine intervention.

With this understanding of the meaning of the text, it's clear why Philip Birnbaum did not care to translate the stanza into English. Although he does not mention it in his entertaining introduction to the siddur (full of jabs at earlier translations and editions of the prayer book), he refrains from translating quite a number of potentially troublesome passages, particularly mystical ones, and in this case, one that could be viewed as an open attack upon Christianity, something that he presumably thought would be unwise even in the United States.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A disturbing antisemitic assault on the New York City subway.

A disturbing antisemitic assault on the New York subway.

Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) comments on Reverend Brooks' tweet:

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

B'Tselem: On the Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation

Just the tip of the iceberg:
One victim a year, times thirty years

December 10, 2019

B’Tselem is marking 30 years since its founding in 1989. As always when reaching a milestone, we debated how, if at all, to mark this anniversary, given that it’s certainly not a happy occasion. In the end, we decided to focus on one issue we have grappled with since day one - the lack of accountability by security forces for harm to Palestinians. The result is this collection of testimonies: “Just the tip of the iceberg: One victim a year, times thirty years.

To write this publication, we went back to the hundreds of files that document in minute detail what has long since become daily life - and death - in the Occupied Territories: cases in which soldiers killed, wounded and beat Palestinians. We selected one incident from each year since our founding, and over the past few months, went back to the victims and their families to learn about how their lives were affected, and to hear their reactions to the fact that no one was held accountable for the harm done to them or their loved ones.

During this process, we quickly learned two things. The first was that confining the conversation in this manner was not possible. The occupation takes control over every aspect of the lives of people living under it, and this gets reflected in what they say: a father whose son was killed by soldiers had to stop working in Israel after his permit was denied and the family was thrown into a life of poverty; a mother who could not visit her wounded daughter in the Jerusalem hospital she had been taken to because the authorities would not give her a permit; a resident of Gaza whose brother was killed when he was a child, and then, after he reached adulthood, his parents were killed in Operation Protective Edge, and many more.

The second thing we learned is that while much has changed since B'Tselem was founded, the main thing remained the same: Israel imposes a cruel and brutal regime of military occupation, which denies millions their fundamental rights. Almost every decision requires Israel’s consent, and Israel, for its part, chooses to ignore the needs of the Palestinians and refuses to see them as human beings who are entitled to everything Israeli citizens are entitled to - first and foremost, life, but also a home, water, privacy and security.

Israel hardly pays a price. Internally, it faces no accountability for its policies (neither criminal nor civilian), and abroad, the international community avoids taking effective action to compel Israel to change its policies. And so, without any significant diplomatic, political or economic repercussions for these policies, Israel really has no incentive to change anything.

Despite all this, the horrific, intolerable reality of occupation has to be changed. The occupation is not fated. It is a policy repeatedly chosen by successive Israeli governments. As such, it can and must be brought to an end, and a different reality must be chosen, one in which all 14 million people living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River live in freedom and equality.

Yael Stein
Research Director 

Monday, December 09, 2019

David Rich's comments on the Jewish Labour Movement's submission to the EHRC

Thursday, November 28, 2019

More of Jeremy Corbyn refusing to denounce antisemitism in the Labour Party

David Aaronovitch, a columnist for the Times of London, writes about another thing that Corbyn refused to denounce: the statement by a Liam Moore, a Labour candidate for a local council seat, who wrote that "People, understand Rothschilds Zionists run Israel and world governments."
It came when [Andrew] Neil put to Mr Corbyn that the Chief Rabbi had not been wrong to dispute Labour’s claims that antisemitism in the party had been dealt with. The example Neil gave was one reported here in the JC last year. The council candidate for a ward in Liverpool, Liam Moore, had tweeted “Rothschilds Zionists run Israel and world governments”....
Neil to Corbyn:  Let me ask you this. Is it antisemitic to say Rothschild’s Zionists run Israel and world governments? 
JC: In the Chakrabarti report we asked that people did not use comparisons about conspiracies, not use… 
AN: Is that antisemitic? 
JC: …because in the belief of Shami, and I support her on this in that report, that can be constructed as being an antisemitic statement and therefore – and therefore should not be -– 
AN: Right, but let’s just get it clear. I asked you – I gave you a specific quote. Are the words ‘Rothschild’s Zionists run Israel and world government’. Is that antisemitic? 
JC: It should not be used and it is. 
AN: But you can’t say it’s antisemitic? 
JC: Look, I just said that it should not be used. 
Finally, painfully, he allowed that it was “an antisemitic trope”. Neil banked that and asked, so if the Chief Rabbi was wrong, why was Moore still in the party? After a short eternity of bluster (the transcript makes almost unbearable reading) Corbyn finally answered “Look, I don’t know the process that is involved with him.”....
The man, a Labour council candidate, tweets out neo-nazi conspiracy theories about Jews, is then endorsed as a candidate by his local party, his antisemitism is described as “inappropriate”, a year later is still in the party and the party leader and putative prime minister, under intense criticism for just this, says “Look, I don’t know the process that is involved with him.” And, of course, there are plenty of others.

Jeremy Corbyn failing to apologize to the British Jewish community

Jeremy Corbyn, painfully refusing to apologize for antisemitism in the British Labour Party.

Andrew Neil - Wouldn't you like to take this opportunity, tonight, to apologize to the British Jewish community for what's happened? 
Jeremy Corbyn: What I'll is this - I am determined that our society will be safe for people of all faiths. I don't want anyone to be feeling insecure in our society and our government will protect every community. 
Neil: So no apology? 
Corbyn: Against the abuse they receive on the streets, on the trains... 
Neil: So no apology? 
Corbyn: or in any other form of life 
Neil: Try one more time. No apology. 
Corbyn: Andrew, Andrew, Can I explain what we're trying to do? 
Neil: You have, and you've been given plenty of time to do it. I asked you if you wanted to apologize 
Corbyn: We don't want anyone to go through what anyone has gone through 
Neil: And you've said that several times. I understand that Mr. Corbyn. I was asking you about an apology.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Response to the Chief Rabbi's statement

Jim Dedham of Shiraz Socialist (and Workers Liberty) has a good response to the Chief Rabbi's statement and Jeremy Corbyn's disastrous interview on the BBC:
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is certainly a small-‘c’ conservative on both political and theological matters. And he congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming Prime Minister (though it’s worth noting that religious leaders are expected to offer congratulations and promises of prayer to incoming prime ministers). 
Whether or not Mirvis is a Tory is not the issue. 
The most senior rabbi in British Orthodox Jewry has made an unprecedented intervention into party politics, warning that “the very soul of our nation is at stake” and that Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism within Labour means he is unfit to be prime minister. While Mirvis stopped short of endorsing any other party or using language as explicit as that used by Jonathan Romain, a senior Reform rabbi, who urged his congregants to vote tactically to defeat Labour, the message is clear: don’t vote Labour. 
Rightly or wrongly, close to 85 per cent of British Jews (according to the polls) believe that Labour has become an antisemitic party under Corbyn and that he himself is an antisemite. 
Corbyn’s supporters (including some Jews) point to his record as a “life-long” opponent of “all forms of racism”, but the fact remains that under his leadership the majority of British Jews have become alienated from Labour and the party is under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission following claims of “institutional” antisemitism.
He makes an interesting point, which I hadn't considered before, that what he calls the "absolute anti-Zionism" of the far left (organizations like the British Socialist Workers Party, the SWP) is a form of political antisemitism. It's not merely opposing the discriminatory policies of the state of Israel towards Arab citizens, general criticism of the government, or opposition to the Israeli occupation - it goes much further than that, to a belief that the state of Israel should never even have been established.

Read the whole article - he eventually comes out supporting a vote for the Labour Party in the upcoming election on December 12, but he's fully aware of why most Jews will not be voting Labour.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Chief Rabbi of Britain: What Will Become of Jews in Britain if Labour forms the next government?

The British Chief Rabbi has just weighed in on the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. This is his statement, published in The Times. For those without a subscription, here's the whole article (link is at

Ephraim Mirvis: What will become of Jews in Britain if Labour forms the next government?

Elections should be a celebration of democracy. However, just weeks before we go to the polls, the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety.

During the past few years, on my travels through the UK and further afield, one concern has been expressed to me more than any other. Of course, the threats of the far right and violent jihadism never go away, but the question I am now most frequently asked is: What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?

This anxiety is justified. Raising concerns about anti-Jewish racism in the context of a general election ranks among the most painful moments I have experienced since taking office. Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics — and rightly so. However, challenging racism is not a matter of politics, it goes well beyond that. Wherever there is evidence of it, including in any of our political parties, it must be swiftly rooted out. Hateful prejudice is always wrong, whoever the perpetrator, whoever the victim.

The Jewish community has endured the deep discomfort of being at the centre of national political attention for nearly four years. We have been treated by many as an irritant, as opposed to a minority community with genuine concerns. Some politicians have shown courage but too many have sat silent. We have learned the hard way that speaking out means that we will be demonised by faceless social media trolls and accused of being partisan or acting in bad faith by those who still think of this as an orchestrated political smear. Yet, I ask myself: should the victims of racism be silenced by the fear of yet further vilification?

Therefore, with the heaviest of hearts, I call upon the citizens of our great country to study what has been unfolding before our very eyes.

The Jewish community has watched with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism. Even as they received threats, the response of the Labour leadership was utterly inadequate. We have endured quibbling and prevarication over whether the party should adopt the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism. Now we await the outcome of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into whether discrimination by the party against Jews has become an institutional problem. And all of this while in opposition. What should we expect of them in government?

The way in which the leadership has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud — of dignity and respect for all people. It has left many decent Labour members both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.

The claims that the party is “doing everything” it reasonably can to tackle anti-Jewish racism and that it has “investigated every single case”, are a mendacious fiction. According to the Jewish Labour Movement, there are at least 130 outstanding cases before the party, some dating back years, and thousands more have been reported but remain unresolved.

The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure, which can be remedied with additional staff or new processes. It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership. A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.

Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism.

How far is too far? How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.

It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country? When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.

Ephraim Mirvis is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Dr. Mark Falcon Lesses - two scientific articles

My grandfather, Dr. Mark Falcon Lesses, published a number of research articles over the year. In the same box with his certificate from the UJA in 1948, I found offprints of some of the articles. These are the first pages of two of them.

The first one, tititled "Hyperparathyroidism with Nephrolithiasis" (New England Journal of Medicine, 1949), is a case study of a young woman who suffered from a high fever and urinary tract infection. It turned out that she had kidney stones which were a consequence of hyperparathyroidism. One of the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can be kidney stones because of the high calcium levels associated with this syndrome. She was in and out of the hospital, and treated unsuccessfully many times with antibiotics and removal of the kidney stones, until the misbehaving parathyroid was found and removed.

The second article is titled "Treatment of Thyroid Carcinoma with Radioactive Iodine (I 131)," from the American Journal of Medicine, 1951. I haven't read it yet so I can't provide my layperson's summary of it.

My grandfather's award for "Distinguished Service to the Jewish People"

I'm visiting family in Massachusetts now, and I was looking through a box that contained old photos and other documents about or by my grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses. I found a certificate from 1948 commending him for "Distinguished Service to the Jewish People" for helping to raise funds for the United Jewish Appeal. (And 1948, of course, was the year that the State of Israel came into existence).

United Jewish Appeal

Certificate of Award
For Distinguished Service to the Jewish People
presented to

Dr. Mark Falcon Lesses
In sincere appreciation of his devotion and selfless effort which contributed greatly to the success of our 1948 campaign in behalf of the 
In a year of destiny, his notable service helped American Jewry play an historic role in the establishment of the State of Israel, in the beginning of a new era of hope and reconstruction for the Jews of Europe and in strengthening the foundations of Jewish life at home.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The attempted massacre at the synagogue in Halle, Germany

I feel deeply affected by the attempted murder of Jews at prayer in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, and by the murder of two people on the streets of Halle simply because the killer came upon them when he failed to get into the synagogue.

It's really too hard for me to articulate my feelings - they are a mixture of fear, and anger, and a feeling that the world is irrevocably broken. I don't know why this event has finally given me that feeling. So much awful has happened in the last few years - including the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year (the anniversary is coming up on October 27). But that this attempted massacre occurred in Germany, of all places, which is a flawed country but has very much engaged in remembering the Holocaust and facing up to the horrific deeds of the Nazis against Jews and other victims, is simply too much.

(For me this is coupled with Trump's decision to stab the Kurds in the back and allow the Turks to invade the Kurdish area of Syria. To betray people our soldiers fought with to defeat ISIS, the genocidaires of the Yazidis. People who fought and died for the security of the US and for their own people. I never used to think that concepts of "national honor" meant anything - but now that we've lost ours, I feel it keenly).

Friday, October 11, 2019

Jews: overlapping target of Neo-Nazi and Islamist Terrorists

For those who fool themselves into thinking that Jews in Europe are only targeted by Neo-Nazis, see Anshel Pfeffer's latest column for Haaretz:

For the Jews barricaded in a synagogue in Halle, it made no difference if the shooter was a neo-Nazi or a soldier of the Caliphate. But for the left and right in Europe, the U.S. and Israel, Jewish bodies are political capital

Oct 10, 2019 7:39 PM 
Sometimes it makes sense to go back and read Mein Kampf.... 
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler makes it clear that his particular obsession with Jews was not based on their being one of the inferior races. There were plenty of those, and the Germanic and Aryan races would fight them for domination of scarce natural resources and living-space. 
For Hitler, the Jews were a threat to the human race because they had brought to earth the notion that there was a way for humans to share the earth instead of killing each other for it. The Jews, according to Hitler, had imposed their values on the natural order and were a force working against humanity. "All world-historical events are nothing more than the expression of the self-preservation drive of the races," he wrote. "It is Jewry that always destroys this order," and "murders the future.".... 
Mein Kampf is clearly referenced in the video manifesto of the 27 year-old German man who tried to enter the Humboldt Street synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur (Wednesday) and murder the Jews praying inside. Having failed to shoot open the armored door, he fled, killing two passersby. 
"Feminism is the cause of declining birth rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew," he declared, livestreaming himself before arriving at the synagogue. 
The chain-reaction leading from feminism, to dropping birth-rates and mass immigration to Germany, all originates from the Jew. And since mass immigration in today’s Europe is a by-word for Muslims, then we are all in the firing-line together. The ideological manifesto of the Halle shooter is virtually identical to that of the mass-murderer of Christchurch who massacred 51 Muslims at prayer in New Zealand and of the shooter who murdered eleven Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh a year ago.

The updated version of Mein Kampf’s natural order of races fighting each other, to the death, is today’s "replacement theory," the conspiracy theory popular on the far-right with echoes on the less radical but more populist right-wing, which sees the hordes of Muslim immigrants invading western countries, depopulated by plummeting birth-rates, and replacing their white Christian majority. The liberal elites responsible for welcoming these immigrants have been contaminated by the Jews and their ideas. 
Unsurprisingly, not one of the mainstream Israeli politicians releasing statements at the end of Yom Kippur about the Halle shooting could bring themselves to call the hatred by its name. How could they? 
Their ideological allies, from Donald Trump in the U.S. to Viktor Orban in Hungary, regularly spout watered-down versions of the "replacement" theory. As do those very same Israeli politicians, when they talk of Israel’s own Muslim communities and the African asylum seekers who have found shelter here.... 

In the last eight years, all the Jews murdered in Europe for being Jews, were killed by Muslims. Because they represented something to them too. 

It’s not that the left is much better. Statements from left-wing politicians and commentators about how Jews and Muslims are now both targets of the far-right are just a bit too convenient. They obscure the fact that in the last eight years, all the Jews murdered in Europe for being Jews, were killed by Muslims. Because they represented something to them as well. 
If the attacker on Yom Kippur had successfully broken down the door, then we would have more dead Jews in Halle to add to the twelve murdered over the past year by white supremacists in Pittsburgh and Poway. But the interesting thing with left-wing condemnations is that they tend to be much more eloquent when the perpetrator is white and comes from the far-right. 
Because a dead Jew is never just a dead Jew, it depends who killed the Jew. 

The left has long categorized Jews as being white and therefore privileged oppressors. We lose our privileged status only when the shooter is from the right. 

Anti-Semitism is binary, just not in the way that word is usually used in these situations. The left has long categorized Jews as being white and therefore privileged oppressors. We lose our privileged status only when the shooter is from the right, and proposes, as the Halle shooter did, to "kill as many anti-whites as possible, Jews preferred." 
In the 20th century our parents and grandparents were killed for being both rapacious capitalists and godless communists. In this century we are killed for both encouraging Muslims to emigrate to the Christian West and for being the vanguard of the imperialist Christian West dispossessing Muslims in the Middle East. Either way we are the targets. 
Facing the far-right, both Muslims and Jews are targets. And in the wave of Islamist attacks in recent years, Jews weren’t the only targets either. There were plenty of non-Jewish targets, including satirical cartoonists and pop concert-goers and people eating at restaurants and many bystanders. 

In the Venn diagram of Islamist and Neo-Nazi terror, Jews are the only overlapping target. 

But in the Venn diagram of these two waves of terror, Islamist and neo-Nazi, Jews are the only targets who overlap in the crosshairs of both sets of attackers. 
The man and woman murdered on Wednesday have yet to be identified as of time of writing and when their names are released, will remain significant only to their families and friends. Not being Jewish, their deaths are not politicized. 
For the 80 Jews in Halle, praying on Yom Kippur that the shooter would not break in, they had no idea if he was a neo-Nazi or a soldier of the Caliphate. 
And if those had been their last moments alive, they would not have known how their deaths would be exploited by the politicians, framed by the media, and claimed by Israel - or by multi-cultural Europe.

Miko Peled, who appeared in Ithaca in 2016, now speaking to neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers in Britain

I wonder if it's occurred to the people who organized Miko Peled's talk in Ithaca in 2016 to feel a bit of shame in retrospect, considering that he's now appearing at venues in Britain organized by open neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers? 

Peled is the son of an Israeli general who has decided that Israel is entirely responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He spoke here on November 2, 2016, after giving a talk in Syracuse on September 16 to the Syracuse Peace Council. The Ithaca sponsors were a parade of the local leftist great and good:  Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Citizens for Justice in Palestine, Episcopal Peace Fellowship's Palestine/Israel Network, Veterans for Peace, Ithaca Catholic Workers, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Multicultural Resource Center. He spoke at GIAC - the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

See William Jacobson's report on his visit to Ithaca -

What's he been up to since then?

He just spoke at a church in Soho, as reported by David Collier - and It turns out his talk was sponsored by a group called "Keep Talking," which was founded by a 9-11 Truther named Ian Fantom and a Holocaust denier named Nick Kellerstrom. Other antisemites also attended the meeting, among them Alison Chabloz, who has been convicted and jailed for Holocaust denial (illegal in Britain), and Stephen Sizer, the Anglican vicar who also blames Israel for everything and has cosied up with the Iranian regime.

I'm not holding my breath waiting for his local fans to apologize for bringing him here. Much of his antisemitic reputation was already known at the time he came to Ithaca, and it didn't stop any of them from bringing him. A pity.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Progressive Israel Network Opposes Netanyahu’s Annexation Pledge

Statement by network of (mostly) American Jewish Zionist organizations against the annexation of the West Bank.

September 10th, 2019

Progressive Israel Network Opposes Netanyahu’s Annexation Pledge

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of his intent to extend Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, the Progressive Israel Network released the following statement:

A democratic and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians requires national self-determination for both peoples. Any step to unilaterally impose Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian people and territory in the West Bank is a step away from the two-state vision and toward the formalization of two separate and unequal legal systems. Both Israelis and Palestinians want and deserve to live in peace, with justice and dignity. Israelis deserve to live in a healthy and vibrant democracy. Palestinians deserve to live free from occupation.

Netanyahu’s suggested move would entrench Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank. It harms millions of Palestinians living under occupation and poses an existential threat to Israeli democracy. Israeli democracy cannot endure without putting an end to the 52-year occupation.

Our vision for Israel and its relationship with the U.S. includes:

* A strong and democratic Israel that ends its 52-year occupation and that provides for all its citizens justice, dignity and equal rights. An Israel that seeks peace, rather than entrenching occupation and inequality.

* Strong US leadership towards a two-state solution, which opposes unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

* A US-Israel relationship that reinforces our countries’ shared democratic values and institutions.


The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of the ten leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy, equality in Israel and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The coalition speaks with a unified voice in support of democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution. The network’s founding members areAmeinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah. This statement is further joined by the National Council of Jewish Women.