This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines
Volunteers package lettuce in Be'er Ganim, near Ashkelon, Nov. 8, 2023. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.
  • Words count:
    310 words
  • Type of content:
    News
  • Publication Date:
    December 4, 2023
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    1 file,
Headline
Study: Nearly 50% of Israeli citizens volunteer in wartime
Intro
“During this tumultuous time, the surge in volunteering reflects a powerful testament to the resilience and unity of Israeli society,” says Hebrew University professor who conducted the survey.
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Nearly one in two Israelis continues to volunteer nearly two months into the war with Hamas, according to a survey released on Monday, one day before International Volunteer Day.

Forty-five percent of Israelis have reported volunteering, including 49% of Jewish Israelis and 28% of the Arab sector, according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem study.

Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s population.

The rate of volunteerism remains higher than in previous crises, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic when 20% of the Israeli population reported volunteering, and is steady around the record-high number of volunteers during the first month of the war. 

A full quarter of the volunteers identified themselves as "spontaneous” volunteers who stepped up due to the war, which broke out on Oct. 7, with only 20% having a history of regular volunteering.

Volunteers reported high rates of satisfaction and relief due to their activities, and expressed a strong intent to continue volunteering post-war.

Nearly half of the volunteers defined themselves as coming from secular backgrounds, surpassing those from the traditional and religious sectors, and a reversal of the pre-war trend, the survey found.   

Additionally, a significant number reported above-average incomes, reflecting diverse economic backgrounds among volunteers.

Volunteering during this conflict spans age groups, the survey showed, including 43% of Israelis aged 18–35, 52% aged 35–55 and 47% aged over 55.

Nearly 70% of volunteers have engaged in activities within their local communities, through various affiliations like schools, youth movements and professional groups, the survey found.

“During this tumultuous time, the surge in volunteering reflects a powerful testament to the resilience and unity of Israeli society,” said professor Michal Almog-Bar, head of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy at Hebrew University, who conducted the survey. “The emergence of diverse volunteering patterns underscores our ability to adapt and collaborate, highlighting the crucial role each individual plays in shaping a stronger, more cohesive community.”

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  • Words count:
    583 words
  • Type of content:
    News
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  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges against a Japanese Yakuza gang leader, who acquired weapons-grade plutonium that he intended to sell to Iran.

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, a Japanese national, smuggled uranium and weapons-grade plutonium from Burma to Thailand for sale to a man posing as an Iranian general. The latter was actually an undercover source for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, per the indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday. 

“As alleged, the defendants in this case trafficked in drugs, weapons and nuclear material—going so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons,” stated Anne Milgram, administrator of the DEA. “This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers, who operate with total disregard for human life.”

Yakuza is an umbrella term for Japan’s major organized crime syndicates, similar to the American mafia. Former U.S. president Barack Obama sanctioned the Yakuza and several other criminal organizations, which he said “have reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems,”  in 2011.

Ebisawa procured the nuclear materials from a Burmese rebel group and intended to sell them in exchange for money and weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, per the indictment.

An undercover agent told Ebisawa that Tehran needed the uranium for a “nuclear weapon,” the indictment alleges. 

“Ebisawa responded ‘Yes, I know.’ On the same call Ebisawa added that he could supply ‘plutonium’ that would be even ‘better’ and more ‘powerful’ than uranium for Iran’s use. Ebisawa noted that he did not have a ‘license’ to deal in these materials,” and the DEA agent “acknowledged that ‘this is gonna be a very quiet and secret illegal transaction.’ Ebisawa agreed ‘yes, so that is why we need to talk fast about that,’” per the indictment.

Ebisawa eventually supplied samples of the nuclear materials to the fake Iranian general. A U.S. nuclear forensic lab found that the plutonium that Ebisawa provided was “weapons-grade,” meaning that it was sufficiently pure for use in a nuclear weapon if enough of it could be acquired.

The lab also identified uranium and thorium in the nuclear samples.

It’s not clear where or how the Yakuza leader and his Burmese rebel co-conspirators acquired the plutonium, which can only be created in a nuclear reactor. 

In 2010, a documentary reported that Burma had a nuclear weapons program, and a U.N. report that year accused North Korea of exporting nuclear technology to Burma, Iran and Syria. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a think tank that tracks nuclear proliferation, does not assess that Burma has a nuclear weapons program, despite previous accusations.

Iran has enriched uranium to 84% purity, which is just shy of the weapons-grade 90% threshold. Tehran denies that it is pursuing a nuclear weapon, but the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency says there is no civilian use for the levels of enrichment that Iran is undertaking.

Wednesday’s Justice Department charging documents do not indicate that Ebisawa was ever actually in contact with any real Iranian officials. He was arrested in New York.

Ebisawa and a co-conspirator will be arraigned in federal court in the Southern District of New York on Thursday. He has been indicted on eight felony counts, including international trafficking of nuclear materials and conspiracy to acquire, transfer and possess surface-to-air missiles, and faces multiple potential life sentences. 

He has pleaded not guilty and is being held in a federal jail in Brooklyn.

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  • Words count:
    374 words
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    Update Desk
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  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

A poll of registered N.Y. voters suggests that a majority of Jews in the state intends to vote for former U.S. president Donald Trump in the presidential election in November.

N.Y. Jews now favor Trump to U.S. President Joe Biden 53% to 44%, according to the Siena College poll, released on Tuesday. Jews in the state said that they intend to continue to back Democrats over Republicans 54% to 39% in congressional elections.

The poll has an overall margin of error of 4.2 percentage points in either direction, which means that a gap of 8.4 percentage points could potentially be dead even.

Jews made up just eight percent of the large sample size: 806 people. That means the margin of error for the some 65 Jewish respondents would be potentially much larger than 4.2 percentage points. 

Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, told JNS that “the margin of error for Jews in the Sienna poll is plus or minus 13 points on each number.”

“This poll tells us very little about how New York Jews will vote,” he said.

Mellman expects Biden, who “has been uniquely supportive of Israel,” to do well with Jews, as did Democrat Tom Suozzi, who beat Mazi Pilip earlier this month in a N.Y. congressional election.

Sam Markstein, national political director at the Republican Jewish Coalition, sees things differently. Markstein wrote on Wednesday that the poll reflected a shift among Jewish voters.

“Jewish voters moving towards the GOP is a clear trend, long in the making,” he wrote. He cited Lee Zeldin’s comparative success attracting Jewish votes in the 2022 N.Y. gubernatorial election.

Zeldin, who is Jewish and an RJC board member, did particularly well in New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities. 

He won upstate Rockland County, which has the largest per capita Jewish population of any U.S. county, by 12 points. He also garnered 88% of the vote in New York City’s 48th Assembly District, which includes the heavily-Chassidic Borough Park neighborhood.

That wasn’t good enough for Zeldin to win, however, as Gov. Kathleen Hochul was re-elected by a 6% margin.

The Siena poll does not suggest that even an increasingly Republican-friendly Jewish community could flip the state red, as the poll has Biden beating Trump overall 48%-36%.

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  • Words count:
    1021 words
  • Type of content:
    Magazine/Feature
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  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024
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    2 files

Rivka Herzfeld loves the idea that Jewish law calls for new dishes to be dipped in a mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, and that one thanks God before using such utensils. The resident of Teaneck, N.J. just needs a way to access the water.

Herzfeld uses a motorized scooter to get around, which means that the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Pashut Solutions, which helps venues become more accessible for those with disabilities, needs a ramp to access the mikvah.

That’s not something upon which she and others with physical disabilities can always count.

February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, and Rebecca Schrag Mayer, director of Yachad New York, told JNS that it represents “an opportunity to amp up what we’re always doing.”

“The point of this month is an invitation to everyone to take a step back,” she said. “Just to realize who isn’t there and something small we can do to make everyone feel comfortable.”

Yachad, an agency of the Orthodox Union, dedicated to “enriching the lives of Jewish individuals with disabilities and their families,” created a calendar for the month with each day assigned its own theme.

Feb. 2 encouraged using “inclusive body language,” and Feb. 6 recommended attending shiurim, or Torah classes. Feb. 16 called for people to learn brachot, or blessings, in sign language. Feb. 25 is “disabilities in media.” Along with these themed days, the Yeshiva University book sale is going on from Feb. 4 to Feb. 26.

Wheelchair Accessibility
Ramp to assist accessibility for those in wheelchairs. Credit: AndrzejRembowski/Pixabay.

‘They do it because it’s the right thing’

Erica Baruch consults with nonprofits, including religious organizations, and helps 12 Jewish organizations in the Denver and Boulder areas of Colorado with accessibility and inclusion, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Baruch told JNS that religious organizations do not need to comply legally with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. “They do it because it’s the right thing,” she said.

“Accessibility is really important because if you can’t get into the building, if you can’t use the bathroom, then you can’t be there,” she said. “You can’t be part of the community.”

Mezuzah
Mezuzahs can be hung lower on walls to allow easier access for all. Credit: BRBurton23/Pixabay.

Automatic door openers can be useful for those who need them, but they can conflict with a synagogue’s or other Jewish organization’s security needs, particularly in the midst of surging antisemitism. When considering security, Jewish organizations should also remember that there need to be ways for those with disabilities to evacuate quickly, in the event of a fire, active shooter or other emergency, Baruch said.

Among the ways that some synagogues have sought to become more accessible are ramps leading up to the bimah; sound systems that are compatible with different sorts of implants for hearing; wheelchair-accessible sanctuary seating; and renovated bathrooms.

Herzfeld told JNS that others—pregnant women, the elderly, parents of young children in strollers, anyone with an injury—can also benefit from accessible shul buildings.

Yachad recommends that synagogue leaders consider widening aisles in sanctuaries to accommodate wheelchairs, large-print prayer books and mechanisms to facilitate those with physical impairments being called up to the Torah or opening the ark.

Many changes don’t require significant funds, according to Baruch.

One religious school moved a student’s classes to the main floor since the student was unable to ascend or descend stairs, she said. Lowering mezuzahs or adding a mezuzah at a lower height (traditional observers often touch them and say a blessing), also doesn’t cost much.

“The things that you can do without major fundraising, you do,” she said. “And you talk about it. You talk about why you’re lowering the mezuzahs. You talk about why you’re holding services in the social hall.”

“You raise awareness, and the hope is that builds momentum,” she said.

Herzfeld’s synagogue spent $1,500 turning a step from the sanctuary women’s section to an elevator into a ramp, allowing a smoother path for her scooter. That wasn’t free, and it took three days to complete, but it was a substantially cheaper fix than leveling the entire women’s section, she said.

‘Finding places where everyone belongs’

A survey of more than 2,300 Jews released in November 2021 found that 31% percent thought the Jewish community was doing “extremely” or “very” well, including those with disabilities in synagogues and Jewish organizations, and at communal events. More than four in 10 (41%) thought the Jewish community was doing “somewhat” well, according to the survey by the nonprofit RespectAbility.

Jewish Boy in Wheelchair at Mikvah
A young Jewish boy in a wheelchair is lowered into the water at the Mikve Tehera in Efrat, Israel. Disabled in wheelchairs will, with the help of new electronic equipment as the facility modernizes its utilities, be able to bathe in the mikvah. Aug. 17, 2016. Photo by Gershon Elinson/Flash90.

“When asked where the community found the ‘most access and inclusive environment’ and where they found the ‘most challenges for access and inclusion’ of people with disabilities, the largest response was the same for both questions—synagogues,” per the survey.

More than one in five (21%) said that “synagogues have the most access while 18% said synagogues have the most challenges,” according to RespectAbility. “This follows multiple efforts to expand inclusion at synagogues and demonstrates the inconsistencies in disability inclusion among varied institutions.”

Mayer told JNS that the isolation that came with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns reversed progress made over the more than 15 years she has been at Yachad.

“We were so focused on expanding our circle and finding places where everyone belongs,” she said, of the pre-pandemic days. Then lockdown restrictions came.

“The first people you’re limiting are the outliers,” she told JNS.

When restrictions lifted on the size of religious gatherings, many synagogues retained a mindset that they had developed—faster and quieter prayer services, with less singing and dancing. The faster clip posed challenges to those who already struggled to keep up, Mayer said.

Baruch added that “the more we talk about it, the more we raise awareness about the different disabilities that exist in our community.”

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  • Words count:
    962 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
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  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

Who is a Kohen, a Jewish priest? Technically speaking, of course, the Kohen is a member of the priestly tribe of Israel descended from Moses’s brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons—the first Kohanim. Today, scientists claim to be able to detect the “Kohen gene” in those descendants’ DNA. It’s mind-boggling that, well over 3,000 years later, we can identify the descendants of a certain family and determine who is a Kohen through genetics.

But this is not only a question of discovering our biological lineage. There are often important halachic issues at play if one is a Kohen. As a member of the priestly tribe that once served in the Holy Temple, the Kohen is held to a higher standard in a number of areas of life. He may not act as a pallbearer at funerals and must keep his distance from graves. Nor is he permitted to marry a divorcee or a convert. Other rules apply as well.

As a rabbi, I’ve had my fair share of trying to establish with certainty whether someone is a Kohen or not in order to confirm, for example, whether he is allowed to marry a divorcee. I’ve done identity checks and genealogical searches, including trying to locate the tombstones of great-grandparents.

This week, in Parshat Tetzaveh, we read about the sacred vestments of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol, and the ordinary priests. The High Priest looked quite majestic in his regalia. His ornamental garments included a decorative robe, tunic, turban, breastplate, apron and gold headband. He cut a very impressive figure indeed when he entered the Temple. 

But believe it or not, according to Maimonides, every Jew is a Kohen.

Just before the Ten Commandments and the great Revelation at Sinai, God told Moses that He had a mission for the Israelites: “You will be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

So, the entire Jewish people was given a mission on the mountain. We are all expected to be singular people with a particular mission. We have been made messengers of God, a “light unto the nations,” and to make the world a better place in every way we can. We are all part of the “kingdom of priests” and together we are called upon to be a “holy nation.”

But what does “holy” mean? The dictionary definition is “sacred, dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose.” Personally, I have always preferred translating “holy” as “distinctively different.” 

Not every Jew is a genetic Kohen. The vast majority are not. But according to Maimonides, we can all be a Kohen spiritually.

In his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, at the end of the Laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, Maimonides states:

What differentiated the tribe of Levi [which the priestly tribe comes from] was that they were designated and set apart from the ways of the world. They do not receive land, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power. Instead, they are the Legionnaires of God.

And not only the tribe of Levi exclusively, but anyone whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him. … Proceeding justly as God intended, removing from his neck the yoke of the many material schemings which people seek, such a person is sanctified as holy of holies.

So, figuratively speaking, everyone can be a Kohen. By dedicating our lives to a higher purpose, to more noble pursuits, we become part of the “kingdom of priests” whether our father was a Kohen or not.

If you weren’t convinced that Israel and the Jews have a special place in the world, all you need to do is read the headlines. That the whole world is so preoccupied with Israel, that they ignore the real atrocities and genuine genocides around the world in China, Russia, Syria, Iran and elsewhere, actually proves that we are distinctly different.

Why do we attract the world’s undivided attention? It’s not normal. As Douglas Murray put it recently, “Israel is the only country who isn’t allowed to win a war.” Clearly, we are an exceptional people.

Many times in the past, however, Jews have been described as “a messenger who forgot the message.”

If we did, then Oct. 7 reminded us. It was a horrible wake-up call, but the mission is now well remembered. We got the message loud and clear. Even secular, unaffiliated Jews have woken up to the eternal reality of their true, inner identity; their separateness from the mainstream and their distinctive differentness.

But we must never allow that distinctiveness to be defined by victimhood. We must be what we were meant to be: Nothing less than the moral conscience of the world.

In the Book of Kings, seeking to guarantee that her son Solomon will inherit the throne, Bathsheba says to her husband King David, “The eyes of all of Israel are upon you.” 

Eighty years ago, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, told his troops just before D-Day, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

So it is with our brave defenders today. And not only our valiant warriors, but all of us must remember the message and the mission.

With faith and fortitude, we must recommit ourselves to our national calling of being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

And as G-d promised to look after the tribe of Levi, his “legionnaires,” so will He keep all of us—especially our soldiers and the hostages—safe and secure, forever enveloped by His loving and protective embrace. Amen.

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  • Words count:
    239 words
  • Type of content:
    Update Desk
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024
  • Media:
    1 file

New data shows that an effort by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to respond to antisemitism in higher education has led to nominal results so far.

In January, DeSantis announced an “emergency measure” during Florida’s State of the State address that would allow Jewish students and others experiencing religious discrimination to potentially receive in-state tuition, with application fees waived, as part of the process. 

He said of the measure that “the pro-Hamas activities and rampant antisemitism we’ve witnessed throughout the country on these campuses has exposed the intellectual rot that has developed on so many university campuses over the years.”

At the same time, the Republican governor acknowledged in his address that those considering a move “will have a tough decision to make—pack up and leave, or stay and endure continued hatred.”

According to state records, at least five individuals have expressed interest in transferring. It’s not clear if any or all are Jewish.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani said she thought the measure was “more political than actually intentional.”

JNS contacted DeSantis’s office and was referred to the Florida Department of Education.

Amy Farnum-Patronis, director of the office of university communications for Florida State University in Tallahassee, confirmed that the school had one application via the executive order.

Althea Johnson, director of media relations at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said one student is going through the transfer for the summer semester.

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  • Words count:
    49 words
  • Type of content:
    Video Page
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

JCPA president Dan Diker and Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh discuss how radical fundamentalists have been pouring money into Middle East studies programs on U.S. campuses for decades. They also analyze the use of U.S. charities to funnel money for terrorism.

https://youtu.be/Vv89RFmrw3c
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https://youtu.be/Vv89RFmrw3c
  • Words count:
    697 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

It’s challenging to remember life in Israel before the Simchat Torah massacre of Oct. 7., but it’s possible. We can remember the horrid Yom Kippur, just 12 days before the massacre, that required police to control and then stop a prayer service. For over a year beforehand, Israelis were at each other’s throats over proposed judicial reforms. Lines were drawn between right and left, religious and secular, north and south, the center and the periphery.

On Oct. 7, however, we realized that in a divided society everyone is distracted from keeping us safe and secure. Hamas saw an opening and took advantage of it.

Since Oct. 7, Israel changed in many ways. Most importantly, it changed from a divided to a united nation. Israelis from all walks of life came together to serve in IDF reserve units, send supplies to soldiers and refugees, and pray together in mass gatherings.

In early November, an iconic photo went viral on Israeli social media. It showed attorney Ran Bar-Yoshafat, the vice president of the Kohelet Policy Forum that advocated for judicial reform, standing with his arm over the shoulder of Gideon Segev, an activist with Brothers in Arms, the lead organization opposing judicial reform. They were both dressed in their IDF uniforms, rifles slung from their shoulders. They were united against Israel’s enemies.

This unity was refreshing and inspiring. Over multiple elections over the last several years, Israel’s political polarization seemed irreparable. Yet the impossible occurred: Politics gave way to unity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz even set aside their differences and created a landmark agreement to establish an emergency wartime government. Almost all Israeli politicians refused to play the blame game and focused on fighting the enemy together.

The war isn’t over yet, but the question of whether Israel can win is no longer being asked. It’s clear that Israel isn’t just winning the war; it’s crushing the enemy. The IDF has killed over 12,000 Hamas terrorists. Over 70% of Hamas’s fighting force has been demolished. There are few Hamas strongholds left and its leaders are on the run. Israel’s soldiers have experienced unprecedented success.

Israel isn’t only winning on the battlefield; it’s winning the diplomatic war as well. It has successfully staved off the usual demands for an immediate ceasefire. It has also won in the courts. South Africa’s charge of genocide and its request for a court order stopping Israel’s military operations were rejected by the International Court of Justice. There is bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S. Congress, with more than 20 Senate Republicans crossing party lines to vote for a Democratic bill that will help fund Israel’s war effort.

Just as Israel’s division resulted in its devastating losses on Oct. 7, its newborn unity has resulted in its military success. A unified nation is no longer distracted by the divisions that weaken it. It can focus its efforts, energies and resources on the country’s safety and security. Its leaders, soldiers and citizens can focus on preserving the nation’s values. It is strong.

It's unfortunate that such a devastating tragedy was necessary to unite the people of Israel. It would be easy to allow regret to overcome the nation. Instead, it’s time for the Jewish people to redouble their efforts to preserve our newfound unity.

It won’t be long before Israel’s leaders and the IDF declare victory over Israel’s enemies and the end of the war. There will be celebrations of victory and memorials for the heroes we lost. The post-war recovery will be shortened by convening commissions of inquiry and holding new elections. That is when the Israeli people must apply the lessons of Oct. 7.

If Israel has learned its lesson, it will come together and hold a civilized election while maintaining its essential unity. Thus, Israel will remain strong and secure. But if Israel hasn’t learned its lesson and unity dissipates, it will be weakened and less secure.

To avoid this, the Israeli people must incorporate the lesson of unity into their national soul and ensure that it remains eternal.

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  • Words count:
    857 words
  • Type of content:
    News
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024

Public school districts in Chicago and in the Boston area are under investigation for alleged violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Education announced.

Chicago Public Schools, which traces its origins to 1837 and now has 634 schools, nearly 325,000 students and nearly 45,000 employees and an $8.49 billion budget, and Natick Public Schools, in the Boston area, which has 5,300 students at nine schools, are being investigated for discriminating based on “shared ancestry,” which can include antisemitism.

The Education Department and its Office for Civil Rights don’t detail the nature of the allegations against the schools and districts that it lists weekly on its website.

Bella Wong, interim superintendent of Natick Public Schools, told JNS that the district received notification from the Education Department on Tuesday that there is an investigation “to assure the district adhered appropriately to protocols utilized to affirm and ensure the civil rights of our students are protected.”

“The Natick Public Schools is extremely committed to this endeavor. Annual training is mandated for all staff. Working together we are engaged proactively on a daily basis in all of our schools to ensure this is true for all of our students regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other class protected by law,” she said.

“To this end, we welcome working with the OCR on this review,” she said of the department’s Office for Civil Rights. 

JNS asked the district for further information about the allegations it faces, but the district did not respond by press time.

In March 2022, a swastika was found drawn in a bathroom at Natick High School, one of the district’s educational institutions. More recently, community members talked about Jew-hatred at a Dec. 18 meeting of the Natick School Committee. 

One speaker referred to “increases in hateful speech and graffiti” that is antisemitic, “as we’ve seen in many of our schools. We’re not safe in this world. Please tell me that we’re safe here.”

“For years, my family has talked to me about antisemitism, but I couldn’t relate, at least in this part of the country,” another speaker said. “However, when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, it took me a couple of weeks to catch up to what many people in the Jewish community already knew. Jewish people are in trouble. The following Friday when there were terror threats, I was scared to send my son to school for the first time in my life.”

“Please, if you see a swastika in school, tell a teacher, and I’m sure they haven’t wondered if upon hearing that a child found a swastika, would the teacher care or would they feel that Jewish students deserve it?” the person added. “Please say, we can trust the Natick public schools to keep Jewish children safe.”

Windy City 

Mary Fergus, executive director of media relations for Chicago Public Schools, told JNS, that the “safety and well-being of our staff and students is a top priority and a foundational condition for our school communities.”

“While we cannot go into detail about any particular report or investigation due to student and staff privacy protections, our Office of Student Protections and Title IX thoroughly reviews each report in accordance with district policy and procedures,” she said.

“As a system, we recognize that the ongoing conflict in the Middle East has led to an increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents,” she added. “While CPS actively works to promote student voice and protect students’ constitutional free speech rights, bias-based harm is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The school district has “encouraged everyone to ensure their language and actions are respectful of their fellow school community members,” Fergus added. “Each one of us shares the responsibility to create a safe and welcoming working and learning environment, free from harassment and discrimination.”

In January, hundreds of Chicago public school students walked out of class to protest Israel’s war to destroy the Hamas terror organization. Writing about the Chicago City Council’s vote to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip—which came after the mayor Brandon Johnson broke a 23-23 tie—The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted that Chicago Public Schools aided the resolution by letting students walk out for a ceasefire and that Johnson said he is “incredibly proud” of the students.

Chicago Public Schools is working with schools where walkouts occurred to train students about inclusive environments, and it held a Feb. 9 professional development session for staff and students at schools that had walkouts about current events, including in the Middle East, according to the district. The district also mandated Title VI training for all staff starting on Feb. 9.

The school district is also working with partners to update curricula that relate to antisemitism and the war in Gaza and it is verifying that all elementary and high schools are following state law that requires instruction about the Holocaust and genocide, and it sent out resources to leaders of schools about how to respond to violence in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria, according to Chicago Public Schools.

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  • Words count:
    901 words
  • Type of content:
    Opinion
  • Byline:
  • Publication Date:
    February 21, 2024
  • Media:
    2 files

The Biden administration is trying to pressure Israel to accept its idyllic vision of the Middle East by threatening to recognize a Palestinian state. The Israeli government should answer in the immortal words of actor Clint Eastwood in the “Dirty Harry” films: “Go ahead. Make my day.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should explain what will happen the day after the United States makes its announcement. Israel will recognize “Palestine” and inform the administration that now that the Palestinians have achieved independence, peace negotiations will be permanently ended since there is no longer anything to discuss. The land dispute with the Palestinians would also be officially over, same with the “occupation.”

The territory of the Palestinian state will consist of Areas A and B of the West Bank as defined by the Oslo Accords. All of Gaza, minus a buffer zone, will be part of Palestine. If and when a government capable of ensuring the safety of Israelis across the border is in place, Israel will withdraw completely. Palestinians will need to apply for a visa to cross Israel’s sovereign territory to travel between the West Bank and Gaza, and a corridor with Israeli border controls will be established to facilitate movement back and forth.

Israel will immediately apply sovereignty to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Residents can choose to stay in their homes or receive compensation to move. Those who remain will be under the jurisdiction and protection of Israel.

Jerusalem will remain united under Israeli sovereignty. Israel will decide whether the Islamic Waqf may continue to have any authority on the Temple Mount. Christian and Muslim citizens of Palestine can obtain tourist visas for access to their holy places. Jews will have unrestricted access to the Temple Mount, subject to security concerns.

Jewish holy places within Palestine must be protected, and Jews granted access under the same terms that Palestinians are allowed entry to the Temple Mount. Any denial of access will be reciprocated.

Palestinian refugees will have a right to return only to the state of Palestine.

Israel will cease to collect tax revenues for the Palestinians, as well as cut off all water and utilities that are not purchased from Israeli companies. Palestine will have to negotiate trade agreements for the import and export of goods to Israel.

Palestinian Map, Palestinian Version
Palestinian Authority version of the proposed map of a Palestinian state. Credit: P.A. official website.

Israel will take whatever measures are deemed necessary for its security, which includes ensuring that the Palestinian state is demilitarized and that it controls the airspace. It will retain its freedom of action for self-defense.

Palestinians living in Area C and eastern Jerusalem will be given the option of becoming citizens of Israel. At most, Israel would have to absorb roughly 100,000 Palestinians, which is the number that founding father and first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was prepared to accept after the 1948 War of Independence if the Arabs had made peace. Those who decline the offer would be considered illegal immigrants and deported to Palestine. Israel may, at its discretion, offer permits to Palestinian citizens to work in Israel.

If adopted, this series of events would ironically constitute the unilateral acceptance of the Trump “Peace to Prosperity” plan.

Following the establishment of the Palestinian state, the Saudis and Qataris will no longer have any excuse not to normalize relations except for the king of the former’s rabid antisemitism and the emir of the latter’s support of the Islamist goal of world domination.

Palestinian Map, U.S. Version
U.S. version of the proposed map of a Palestinian state from “The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace” by Dennis Ross (2004.) Credit: Courtesy/Reprinted with the author’s permission.

Comparisons to South Africa (which are bogus, to begin with) will be irrelevant because Israel will not control any aspect of Palestinians’ lives (no doubt, Israel’s detractors will shift their focus to equally specious arguments about Israeli Arabs).

The Palestinians’ true intentions will immediately become clear to everyone, except perhaps the U.S. State Department when they say they are unsatisfied with recognition. They will insist on a larger state that fulfills their dream of freedom from the river to the sea (unlike many protesters, I know which river and sea they refer to). “Resistance” will continue to be justified until that goal is achieved.

The world’s response to Palestinian demands should be, as we said as kids, “tough noogies.”

Of course, that’s not what will happen. The United States, the United Nations and everyone else will not change their position one iota. Protests around the world will continue. They will back Palestinian demands for an enlarged state, and continue to refer to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as “illegal” and their land as “occupied.”

Just as the U.N. “peacekeeping” force has done nothing to prevent Hezbollah from violating international law, Israel alone will have to ensure that “Palestine” does not become “Hamastan,” and it will be pilloried for any acts of self-defense.

America will have taken us back to square minus one, and the Palestinians will have succeeded only in what they have done consistently: give up a larger potential share of Palestine by their intransigence and cede more land to Israel. But at least they’ll have a flag, and the world will have a 23rd Arab state and 57th Muslim state.

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