Allan Nadler Reviews Rebecca Margolis: Montreal, A Yiddish Love Story – Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil

Source: Jewish Ideas Daily, 6-28-11

International Yiddish Theater Festival.

The second International Yiddish Theater Festival, an elaborate ten-day fete whose program ranges from carnavalesque performances to academic symposia, just wrapped up last week in Montreal.  What is especially surprising about this young and very youthful celebration of what most Jews today consider the vernacular of the elderly and the Hasidim, is that Montreal is a city with a Jewish population of less than 80,000 (of whom almost 30,000 are non-Ashkenazim).  Toronto, Canada’s largest city, now has a Jewish population well more than twice that of Montreal’s.

The immediate explanation for the venue is that Montreal remains the only city in the world with a Yiddish theatrical company that actually owns its permanent stage.  The Montreal troupe itself is able to recruit Yiddish-literate performers from the only remaining Jewish day school system in North America in which Yiddish is a mandatory part of the curriculum. But such explanations are akin to the classical Yiddish penchant for answering one question with another. The deep question is why any such Yiddish institutions have survived in Montreal at all, given that they have disappeared almost completely in New York, once the world’s greatest center of Yiddish culture, as well more than a dozen smaller American Jewish communities. The historical answer to this question is expertly provided by Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil, a new volume on the subject by Canadian Jewish historian Rebecca Margolis.

Margolis’s detailed and engaging exploration of this bittersweet topic offers a fascinating contrast between the trajectories of Montreal and New York. Montreal emerged quietly as a relatively minor satellite of Yiddish culture in the initial years of massive east European Jewish migration to North America, from the 1880s through the First World War. Simultaneously, Yiddish culture in New York was exploding—during this period it would become the major center of Yiddish literary, journalistic, musical and theatrical activity, eclipsing even Warsaw and Vilna. In chapters devoted to Montreal’s Yiddish press, literati, secular schools, theater, and finally the unique Yiddishe Folks-Bibliotek (“Jewish People’s Library,” known today as the Jewish Public Library), Margolis meticulously documents the slow but steady growth of Yiddish cultural institutions in Montreal.

But Margolis’s book is more than a record of a historical trajectory.  It also offers a cogent explanation as to why Yiddish has managed to survive in Montreal in a manner unparalleled in far larger Jewish communities. One rather obvious explanation lies in the fact that Montreal Jews, educated in the English Protestant school system, always constituted a minority within a minority in a diverse, already bilingual Quebec. More interestingly, immigration to Montreal remained a small trickle until 1924, when the United States’ Johnson-Reed Immigration Act set severe quotas on the numbers of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Canada was a natural second choice for the tens of thousands who could not enter the United States, and this later wave, arriving after the Soviet revolution, constituted a more sober, less radicalized group than the fiery Yiddish socialists and communists who had flooded New York in the previous three decades.

By far the most significant factor distinguishing the Yiddishists of Montreal was their adoption of some form of Jewish nationalism. The two competing Yiddish day schools were both led by passionate Zionists affiliated with the socialist Zionist organization, even as they differed as to the proper balance between Hebrew and Yiddish in the curriculum (the Yiddisher Folkshule stressed the importance of the former; the Peretz Shule insisted on the primacy of the latter). By way of contrast, no Yiddish schools in New York included Hebrew in their curriculum or dared fly the flag of Jewish Palestine (and later Israel) on the masts of its building. Both of Montreal’s Yiddish schools did.

The Jewish Public Library was the first and only communal public library in North America whose main commitment was to promote Yiddish literary culture (though it also actively built Hebrew, English and French collections over the years). As for the Yiddish press, Montreal’s Yiddish reading community was only large enough to support a single daily Yiddish newspaper  (Der Kenneder Odler) which could in turn not afford to espouse any particular Jewish sub-ideology exclusively. Its editors over more than a half-century, the venerable scholars Max Wolofsky and Israel Rabinovitch, both assembled editorial staffs representing the full gamut of Jewish thought, from various radical ideologues to Orthodox rabbis.

While Margolis emphasizes the main difference between the New York and Montreal Yiddishist communities as being the latter’s commitment to communal consensus and moderation, she ironically fails utterly to do justice to the institutions and personalities of the mainstream Jewish community….READ MORE

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MFA makes amends in probable plundering — Artwork believed stolen by Nazis

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Source: Boston Globe, 6-27-11

The MFAs investigation of its works with little ownership history led to a payment for this 17th-century oil portrait.
The MFAs investigation of its works with little… (Museum of Fine Arts)

The Museum of Fine Arts has agreed to pay restitution to the heir of a Jewish art dealer killed at Auschwitz after determining that a 17th-century Dutch painting in its collection was once owned by him and was probably plundered by the Nazis.

With the deal, which culminates a more than decade-long investigation by the museum, the MFA remains at the leading edge of an emerging museum practice to proactively research works with little ownership history and make amends if they are found to have been acquired under questionable circumstances. Since 2004, the MFA has returned three other works seized during World War II.

In this case, the MFA agreed to pay an undisclosed sum and, in exchange, the heir of Walter Westfeld agreed to allow the museum to keep the oil portrait of a man and woman by Eglon van der Neer.

“They should be commended for both acknowledging there might be some questions in this work and seeking information about them, and then pursuing the questions until they were resolved,’’ said James Cuno, the director of the Art Institute of Chicago who will become president of the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles in August….READ MORE

Professor Raphael Loewe: Scholar of Jewish Studies Dies at 92

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Professor Raphael Loewe, who died on May 27 aged 92, was an influential scholar of Jewish studies and a poet, as well as a translator of medieval Hebrew verse.

Source: Telegraph UK, 6-26-11

Professor Raphael Loewe

Professor Raphael Loewe Photo: DONALD VERRY

As such he was the fourth generation of his family to devote his life to Jewish scholarship and teaching. His great-grandfather, Louis Loewe (1809-80), was amanuensis and confidant to Sir Moses Montefiore during missions to support Jews in Damascus, Jassy (Romania) and Jerusalem, and translated Hebrew texts into English.

James Loewe, his grandfather, also translated Rabbinic texts and, as banker to the nascent Zionist movement, provided a London home for Theodor Herzl (who described him as “a better judge of a cigar than a Zionist”). Raphael’s father, Herbert Loewe (1882-1940), Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge, edited A Rabbinic Anthology with Claude Montefiore and published on the history of Jews in medieval England….READ MORE

E.M. Broner: Feminist Pioneer and Professor, Dies At 83

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Source: NY Jewish Week, 6-24-11

Esther Broner, an author, college professor and pioneer Jewish feminist, died June 21 in Manhattan of multiple organ failure caused by an infection. She was 83.

Ms. Broner was best known for her role in establishing a women’s perspective on Passover rituals, writing “The Women’s Haggadah” with Naomi Nimrod in 1977 (the text was first published in Ms. Magazine) and running the first women’s seder in 1976 in her Manhattan apartment (similar feminist seders have subsequently grown to be held by a wide variety of sponsoring organizations around the country).

The author of ten books, including “A Weave of Women,” a novel about 15 women in male-dominated Jerusalem four decades ago, and “The Telling,” the story of the development of the women’ seder, she also taught English at Sarah Lawrence College and several other universities.

Several Jewish feminists said she brought a strong Jewish sensibility to a largely secular Jewish feminist movement….READ MORE

Jewish Bodies Found in Medieval Well in England

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Source: Arutz Sheva, 6-24-11

17 Jews whose bodies were found at the bottom of a medieval well in England were almost definitely victims of persecution, the BBC reported.

According to the report, the Jews were probably murdered or had been forced to commit suicide.

The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries, at a time when Jewish people faced murder, banishment and other forms of persecution throughout Europe.

Although the most famous expulsion and persecution was in Spain, England was not far behind. In 1190, the 150 Jews of York, then a center of Torah learning,  were burned to death by a church-incensed mob, leading to rabbis proclaiming a cherem (prohibition to live in) the city. In 1290, after years of murder and pillage, Edward II banished the Jews from England. Many drowned trying to leave.

Scientists were able to date the bodies using a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies. Seven of the skeletons were successfully tested and five of them had a DNA sequence suggesting they were likely to be members of a single Jewish family.

According to the BBC, the bodies were discovered in 2004 during an excavation of a site in the centre of Norwich. The remains were put into storage and have only recently been the subject of investigation.

“This is a really unusual situation for us,” DNA expert Dr. Ian Barnes, who carried out the tests, told the BBC. “This is a unique set of data that we have been able to get for these individuals. I am not aware that this has been done before – that we have been able to pin them down to this level of specificity of the ethnic group that they seem to come from.”

Forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black of the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification, who led the investigation team, said the discovery had changed the direction of the whole investigation.

“We are possibly talking about persecution,” she said. “We are possibly talking about ethnic cleansing and this all brings to mind the scenario that we dealt with during the Balkan War crimes.”

She noted that 11 of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women.

Pictures taken when the bodies were excavated suggest they were thrown down the well together, head first. A close examination of the adult bones showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the bottom of the well. The same damage was not seen on the children’s bones, suggesting they were thrown in after the adults who cushioned their fall.

Norwich had been home to a thriving Jewish community since 1135, and many lived near the site of the well. There are records of persecution of Jews in medieval England, including in Norwich. One example of this was when Jews were executed in the 1230s after being blamed for kidnapping a Christian child.

Archaeologist Sophie Cabot, who has conducted research on the history of the Jewish community in Norwich, told the BBC that Jews had been invited to England by the King to serve as money lenders since, according to the Christian interpretation of the Bible, Christians were not allowed to lend money and charge interest.

She explained that the source for the later friction between Jews and Christians was the fact that some Jews became very wealthy from their jobs as money lenders.

“There is a resentment of the fact that Jews are making money,” she said, “and they are doing it in a way that doesn’t involve physical labor, things that are necessarily recognized as work.”

She noted that the findings of the investigation change “what we know about the community. We don’t know everything about the community but what we do know is changed by this.”

Gil Troy: Yale Learns that scholars should study anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 6-21-11

After abruptly cancelling the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism – and enduring two weeks of criticism – Yale University is now launching the new Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA). Ignoring the last two weeks’ absurdities — the hysterics who called Yale “anti-Semitic” because of its decision and Yale’s ham-handed handling of the issue — the new center is most welcome. That one of the world’s leading universities recognizes anti-Semitism as worthy of scholarly study is significant. This center should study anti-Semitism past and present, in the United States and the world – acknowledging the characteristics defining what Robert Wistrich calls “The Longest Hatred” and its many variations.

The Yale program’s mission is scholarship not advocacy. YPSA should not be the ADL for Ph.Ds. The program should not train the global Jewish orchestra’s violin section to play the haunting sounds of Jewish suffering to score points. It should not be the center of strategy for the Jewish entry in the great American victimology sweepstakes, with different groups quibbling over who suffered the most to determine who most deserves sympathy along with affirmative action. Nevertheless, scholars must study the issue clearly and boldly, no matter how politically incorrect their conclusions.

It is surprising how lonely this new program will be; there are few such centers in America. In an age of super sub-specializing among scholars, and despite campus hypersensitivity to injustice, that five years ago there were no American centers studying anti-Semitism is scandalous. Dr. Charles Small deserves great credit for launching the first center in America, and for demonstrating through his able leadership how illuminating such centers can be.

Small needed to be a pioneer because anti-Semitism in America is often obscured by an invisibility cloak. The “Longest Hatred” is today a most overlooked, masked, and rationalized hatred. The obscuring is partially because American Jewish history is an extraordinary love story, a tale of immigrants finding a welcoming home suited to their skills, values, and ambitions. American anti-Semitism does not compare to American racism or European anti-Semitism. The whys and whats of these differences are fascinating and invite study.

The invisibility cloak works most effectively in hiding the “New anti-Semitism,” which singles out Israel and Zionism unfairly, disproportionately, obsessively. “Delegitimization,” an awkward term for an ugly phenomenon, is familiar to pro-Israel insiders but means nothing to most others, many of whom simply explain all hostility by pointing to Palestinian suffering. This rationalist analysis ignores Israel-bashing’s irrational, often anti-Semitic, pedigree. The modern anti-Semite often claims, “I am not anti-Semitic, I am just anti-Israel or anti-Zionist.” And the discussion quickly becomes muddled, because there are valid criticisms to make about Israel and Zionism – as about all countries and nationalisms.

On campus today, the burden of proof usually lies with bigots to demonstrate they are not biased. Except, somehow, the burden of proof usually falls on Jews when we encounter bias. Treating Israel as what the Canadian MP Professor Irwin Cotler calls “the Jew among nations,” frequently is anti-Semitic. Especially on campuses, the discussion is distorted because much modern anti-Zionist anti-Semitism comes from two sacred cows, the Red-Green alliance, that unlikely bond between some radical leftists and Islamists. They should be natural enemies. Yet they unite in hating Israel and Zionism.

Because so many professors and students are progressive, especially at elite universities, they frequently dismiss criticism of leftist anti-Semitism as McCarthyite or “neo-con.” But the anti-Israel hatred found on the left has its own morphology and pathology. Good scholarship analyzing it could explore its roots in the Stalinist 1930s and the anti-colonialist 1960s, could compare its European and American strains, while explaining what it says about the left’s stance towards the Western world and the Third World. More broadly, there is an historical mystery involved in how Zionism was tagged with the modern world’s three great sins – racism, imperialism, and colonialism – and why Israel is compared frequently to two of the 20th century’s most evil regimes, Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

In abandoning the realm of the rational, these accusations also demand study. Consider that Israel’s struggle is national not racial – so how is Zionism one of the few forms of nationalism deemed racist? Knowing that colonialism means settling land to which settlers have no prior claim – why are Israel’s origins called colonial? And how does imperialism properly describe the world’s 96th largest country holding on to neighboring territories it acquired after a war for self-defense, given that there are security as well as historic-religious reasons and given Israel’s willingness to return the Sinai to Egypt in 1979 for the promise of peace? With so many absurd accusations piling up, and frequently echoing with historic anti-Semitic tropes, scholars can provide clarity – without addressing the right or wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Scholars can also clarify the relationship between this genteel, often masked, “progressive” indictment and the cruder Islamist indictment, part of a systematic campaign to delegitimize Zionism, ostracize Israel, and characterize Jews as apes and pigs, monkeys and shylocks. How central is this rhetoric to the Islamist movement? What is the significance of the ugly caricatures and rhetoric emanating from the Arab world, which are a familiar fixture in the Arab press. It is not anti-Islamic or anti-intellectual to note, and analyze, the centrality of Jew-hatred in this anti-Western ideology.

We need consciences, not scholarship, to condemn anti-Semitism, and we have institutes galore to track it. Scholars can help define boundaries, create categories, sharpen vocabulary, explain origins, compare phenomena, provide context – also giving a reality check, warning of pro-Israel overreactions too. Anti-Semitism has been around for too long, done too much damage, perverted too much contemporary diplomacy and campus politics, to be ignored. Yale University should be congratulated for relaunching this program – other universities should follow.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.” giltroy@gmail.com

Holy Matzo! The World’s Largest Matzo

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Source: NY Jewish Week, 6-15-11

(Photo: Peter Morehand)

This Tuesday, Manischewitz daringly went where no other matzo maker has ever gone. The company attempted to bake (or should we say build?) the largest matzo in history — 336 times a regular matzo sheet — in honor of the opening of its new headquarters, in Newark, N.J. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz (pictured above), chief rabbi of Manischewitz, shows us just how big the giant matzo was (that’s a regular sheet of matzo his holding, folks). Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, blessed the plant and the town’s mayor, Cory A. Booker, joined the event. The matzo, which was baked in a 200-foot-long oven, was divided up after the ceremony for everyone to sample.

Manischewitz is currently in the process of registering the matzo with the Guinness World Records, which will decide if it’s actually the biggest ever made. So what does it take to make a claim of the world’s largest matzo? See the details, below.

Flour: 27.6 lbs.

Water: 8.3 lbs.

Total weight of matzo: 25.3 lbs.

Width: 41 in.

Length: 24 ft.

Surface area: 11,808 sq. in. (82 sq. ft.)

Baking temperature: 620°F

Cooking time: 204 seconds

Handlers required: 6 people

The Forward Relaunches Jewish Daily Forward Online

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Source: Business Wire, 6-14-11

Site Returns Paper Full Circle to Become the Leading Daily Jewish News Source

The Forward, America’s most influential Jewish weekly newspaper, is relaunching the Jewish Daily Forward online at Forward.com. The redesigned and expanded website provides fresh news, features, arts coverage and opinion every weekday, in addition to the blogs on arts, food, popular culture and women’s issues and the podcasts and videos that readers have come to expect and enjoy. The Forward’s content offerings also have been expanded to include:

“The new Jewish Daily Forward website completes a transformation that has been underway in our newsroom for several years, as we’ve moved from being a print-only newspaper with a website to a fully integrated news organization in print and online”

  • “Forward Thinking,” a new blog where Forward editors will discuss and analyze the most important Jewish news of the day – and other stories from a Jewish perspective.
  • “The Yiddish Scene,” a new online content channel, in English, focusing on Yiddish culture and translating the best new articles and essays from the Yiddish Forverts.
  • New columnists in print and online, including Eric Alterman, Deborah Lipstadt and David Hazony.

“The new Jewish Daily Forward website completes a transformation that has been underway in our newsroom for several years, as we’ve moved from being a print-only newspaper with a website to a fully integrated news organization in print and online,” said Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward. “The new Forward.com is designed for readers to come to our site every day to receive the latest news and fresh content in the Forward’s well-written, analytical style. The Forward will still produce a dynamic and relevant weekly print edition, but the new website is a response to the change in today’s media landscape, making it a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the Jewish story.”

Samuel Norich, publisher of the Forward said, “Many Jewish websites offer some news, opinion, arts and culture, but none can come close to the breadth and depth of coverage that a fully staffed newspaper, with a wealth of tradition and experience can provide. The new Forward.com epitomizes our unique role and value as the only truly independent Jewish newspaper in the United States, unaffiliated with any branch of Judaism, unbeholden to any religious or communal authority, and free from bias or conflicts of interest. It is the natural evolution of a paper that started in the 19th Century as a daily Yiddish paper, evolved in the 20th Century into weekly English and Yiddish newspapers, and now in the 21st Century is embracing the potential of digital media channels to be a more accessible and more immediate news source, appealing to Jews and to a broader community.”

With this initiative, the new Jewish Daily Forward online will feature a new blog “Forward Thinking,” a place for timely analysis of the news and sharp meditations about the issues and trends facing the world, served up by a talented group of editors in an environment that invites lively exchange. Featured on the blog will be editor Jane Eisner, opinion editor Gal Beckerman, and editor-at-large J.J. Goldberg, whose insightful, individual blog will be folded into “Forward Thinking.” In addition, Goldberg will continue to write his popular, weekly column and Beckerman will add his own monthly commentary to the newspaper.

Also joining Forward.com will be three new columnists who will write regularly for Forward.com. They include:

  • Eric Alterman is a distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Alterman will be moving his column from Moment magazine to Forward.com. He is also “The Liberal Media” columnist for The Nation and a fellow of The Nation Institute, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where he writes and edits the “Think Again” column, and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. He most recently won a “Mirror Award” for excellence in media industry reporting from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.
  • David Hazony is a writer based in Jerusalem, whose writings have appeared in Commentary, the New Republic, the New York Sun, Policy Review, the Jerusalem Post, and other publications. From 2004-2007, Hazony served as editor in chief of Azure, the quarterly journal of Jewish public thought published by the Shalem Center. Currently a frequent contributor to Commentary’s “Contentions,” blog, Hazony will now bring his conservative perspective to a monthly column on Forward.com.
  • Deborah E. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University and the author of “The Eichmann Trial,” published in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial.

The new site will also feature “The Yiddish Scene,” showcasing all of the Forward’s Yiddish-related content and the best of the Yiddish language newspaper, both in English and in Yiddish. In doing so it creates a bridge between the English Forward and Yiddish Forverts’ websites, and provides an easily accessible spot for English readers to read about Yiddish and Yiddish culture, regardless of their Yiddish fluency. In addition, it provides a window onto the rich offerings published each week by the Forverts.

For more information, please visit http://www.forward.com

About The Forward:

The Forward, published weekly since 1990 with online content added daily to http://www.forward.com, is widely regarded as American Jewry’s essential, independent newspaper. The English language weekly grew out of the legendary Yiddish language newspaper, Jewish Daily Forward, founded in 1897. The Forward is committed to rigorous reporting and balanced, thoughtful commentary on news, politics, arts and culture in the Jewish world. Headquartered in New York, the newspaper is owned by the Forward Association, Inc., a not-for-profit, 501(c) 3 organization. It is published on Fridays and is available by subscription and on newsstands in selected cities nationwide. For more information, visit http://www.forward.com.

Alan M. Dershowitz: Yale’s Distressing Decision To Shut Down Its “Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism”

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At a time of increasing—and increasingly complex—anti-Semitism throughout the world, Yale University has decided to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, YIISA. Founded in 2006, YIISA is headed by a distinguished scholar, Charles Small, with an international reputation for serious interdisciplinary research. The precipitous decision to close YIISA, made without even a semblance of due process and transparency, could not have come at a worse time. Nor could it have sent a worse message.

I recently returned from a trip abroad—England, Norway, South Africa, among other countries—where I experienced the changing face and growing acceptability of anti-Semitism. Sometimes it hid behind the facade of anti-Zionism, but increasingly the hatred was directed against Jews, Judaism, Jewish culture, the Jewish people and the very concept of a Jewish State (by people who favor the existence of many Muslim States).

In England, a prominent and popular Jazz musician rails against the Jewish people, denies the Holocaust and apologizes to the Nazis for having once compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, since in his view Israel is far worse. In Norway, a prominent professor openly criticizes the Jewish people as a group and Jewish culture as a collective deviation. In Johannesburg, the university severs its ties with an Israeli university, while in Cape Town a newspaper headline welcomes me with the following words, “Dershowitz is not welcome here” and an excuse is found to cancel a scheduled lecture by me at the university.

Throughout my visits to European capitals, I hear concern from Jewish students who are terrified about speaking out, wearing yarmulkes, Stars of David or anything else that identifies them as Jews.

In the United States, and particularly at American universities, matters are not nearly as bad. There are of course some exceptions, such as at several campuses at the University of California where Muslim students have tried to censor pro-Israel speakers and have been treated as heroes for doing so, while those who support pro-Israel speakers are treated as pariahs. The same is true at some Canadian universities as well.

One university that has been a model of tolerance, up until now, has been Yale, where Jewish and pro-Israel students feel empowered and comfortable, as do Muslim and anti-Israel students. Perhaps this is why the Yale Administration had no hesitancy in dropping YIISA. It can easily defend itself against charges of bias by saying, “Some of my best organizations are Jewish!” But this is no excuse….READ MORE

Cecile Rojer Jeruchim: Recipes Recall Darker Days, the Holocaust & Culinary Memories

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A Crop of Books Link the Holocaust With Culinary Memories

Family Memories: 1940s-era photos of contributors Cecile Rojer Jeruchim with her siblings on right, and Luna Kaufman with her mother appear on the left.

Courtesy of ‘Recipes Remembered’
Family Memories: 1940s-era photos of contributors Cecile Rojer Jeruchim with her siblings on right, and Luna Kaufman with her mother appear on the left.

By Devra Ferst

Cecile Rojer Jeruchim remembers the last meal she shared with her mother. It was a typical Belgian lunch of steak, mashed potatoes and Belgian endives. “I hated Belgian endives!” she recalls. It was 1943, she was 12.

When a non-Jewish friend stopped by during the lunch and offered Cecile the opportunity to accompany her to voice lessons, Cecile jumped at the chance. “Not before you finish your endives, or I will save them for you for dinner,” her mother said. Choosing to put off the disliked dish for later, Cecile left with her friend. While she was gone, her parents were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where they ultimately perished. Cecile and her sister, Anny, survived the war by hiding in a Catholic convent.

“Today I often eat Belgian endives, as their subtle flavor brings me closer to my mother…,” she writes in “Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival,” a new cookbook written and assembled by June Feiss Hersh in association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

It may seem strange or even perverse to link food and recipes with stories of the Holocaust, a time when there was such death, hunger and deprivation. But the women caught in these horrors often discussed food, reciting and recording recipes. The experience of starvation in camps and ghettos fortified these culinary memories, and the discussions took on profound meaning as psychological sustenance and as a connection to a Jewish, and even human, identity.

This book, the third published in the United States to link recipes to stories of the Holocaust, represents an important evolution in the genre. While the first two books preserve the recipes of survivors and those who perished exactly as they were written by the original cooks, “Recipes Remembered” is the first to provide readers with tested (and, if necessary, slightly altered) recipes that can easily be re-created at home, allowing the tastes of these dishes to serve as reminders of the lives of the women and men who created them.

The tome comprises a collection of about 80 survivors’ stories and their personal or family recipes. Jeruchim’s entry includes a recipe for Belgian endives along with two others. The stories, which are organized by geographical regions across Europe, are often both remarkable and heartbreaking, ranging from recollections of members of the Bielski partisans in Poland to recipes representing the refined Jewish cuisines of France and Germany. Collectively, the stories and recipes help the reader peer into the kitchen of a generation of European Jews and remember their tales through the dishes that sustained them…READ MORE

Henry Srebrnik: Canadian Jewish Congress Future Uncertain

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Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives, Montreal

Canadian Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly, Montreal, March 1919

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), the once-proud and venerable “parliament of Canadian Jewry,” has become a shadow of its former self.

Soon it will become just another agency under the aegis of a yet-unnamed organization that will supervise most of the country’s national Jewish organizations.

Originally created in 1919, the CJC soon became moribund. Only with the rise of new threats of fascism and anti-Semitism at home and abroad after 1933, was the Congress again reconstituted.

Congress became a permanent institution, an “umbrella” comprising a large number of affiliated Jewish organizations, and a pinnacle in Canadian Jewish political development. From 1939 to 1962 its national president and most powerful figure was Samuel Bronfman.

In the 1930s, the CJC was concerned mainly with monitoring the rise of various anti-Semitic and pro-fascist movements, and attempting, unsuccessfully, to facilitate the entry into Canada of Jewish refugees escaping Europe.

Following the Second World War, the Congress dealt with the tragedy of the Holocaust, and was focused on lifting the barriers to immigration by the European survivors.

It also welcomed, and provided support for, the new state of Israel.

The “golden age” of Congress was probably between the 1950s and 1970s, when it championed human rights and social justice, and was instrumental in lobbying governments to abolish discriminatory laws in employment, housing, and other impediments to the full participation of Jews in Canadian life.

It also monitored and fought, after much prodding by Holocaust survivors, the resurgence of neo-Nazism in the mid-1960s, and it later applied pressure on the Canadian government to prosecute war criminals living in the country.

At the time, as historian Gerald Tulchinsky has remarked, it “effectively embraced Jewish organizations of nearly all political and social stripes in the country and was recognized as the voice of the entire community.”

By the 1960s, though, Jewish federations were becoming established in the major Jewish centres; they not only provided services and raised funds for domestic and Israel programs, but also assumed direction for community planning.

They solidified their position in the 1970s, as all funding decisions regarding community money came under their control – including the operating budget of Congress.

The federations became the crucial link between Canadian Jews and their governments on matters relating to their communities.

Since Congress had always viewed itself as the focus for community policy-making, its dominant role began to diminish.

So by the turn of the 21st century, the Canadian Jewish Congress was definitely no longer “the only game in town.”

It co-existed, sometimes uneasily, with a number of municipal Federations and other Jewish organizations.

The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), founded in 2004, became the principal advocacy, oversight and co-coordinating body for the Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee, the Quebec-Israel Committee, National Jewish Campus Life, and the University Outreach Committee.

This year the CIJA has formally incorporated these groups, including Congress, to create one advocacy organization.

The new, as yet unnamed, agency “will continue the work of all the agencies that it is succeeding or that are being folded into it, including the whole range of traditional Congress activities,” Shimon Fogel, the CEO of the CIJA, has stated.

Fogel said the Canadian Jewish Congress leaders were involved in the process.

“This isn’t a hostile takeover.”

Maybe not, but the Congress, despite its glorious past, still faces an uncertain future.

Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political studies at UPEI.

Obama Bullies Israel; So Much for Promises at AIPAC

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Source: WaPo, 6-12-11

Since the president’s Arab Spring speech, friends of Israel have been nervous about at least two issues: the promise Israel would not have to sit down with those who seek its destruction and the negotiations based on the “1967 borders with land swaps.” This weekend it became apparent that there is much to worry about and that the Obama administration has been playing a game usually practiced by the Palestinians, namely telling its domestic audience one thing and the negotiating parties something different.

The trouble for the administration began on Friday afternoon when Eli Lake published a story for the Washington Times….READ MORE

Reuven Feuerstein: Israeli’s Nobel Prize nod gains momentum

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Intellectuals worldwide aim to see renowned psychologist Prof. Reuven Feuerstein win Nobel Peace Prize

Source: Ynet News, 6-12-11

What do a Muslim sheikh from Hebron, a world renowned Venetian intellectual and dozens of professors from the world over have in common with a Jewish educator? They all want the latter to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Several dozen prominent intellectuals will convene in Jerusalem Monday, with the intention of devising a plan meant to see Prof. Reuven Feuerstein become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Nobel Prize Committee has already received a recommendation on Feuerstein’s behalf, for which he said he was honored.

Feuerstein, 90, is a world-renowned clinical, developmental and cognitive psychologist. His lifelong work in developing applied theories in the fields of structural cognitive modifiability, mediated learning experience, deficient cognitive functions, dynamic assessment of learning propensity and shaping modifying environments, to name a few, has been recognized worldwide, and he is considered to be at the top of his field.   In 1992, Feuerstein was awarded the Israel Prize for Social Sciences.

“Since they don’t give a Nobel Prize for education, dad was recommended for the Peace Prize,” Rabbi Raffi Feuerstein, the professor’s son, explained.

“His supporters say that his work saves lives, so he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, especially when there are precedents for people receiving Nobels outside their discipline.”

Prof. Feuerstein’s methods have found their way to the Amazonas, Rwanda and even the Eskimos, and are now prevalent in Hebron as well: “We visited Hebron and saw the children’s needs there. We are now developing special programs for them,” he said.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the learning center in Hebron is one of the reasons one of the most enthused advocates for Feuerstein’s Nobel candidacy is Sheikh Jabbari Farid Khider – one of the city’s most prominent religious figures.

“We also have Gaza in mind,” the professor said. “We want them to send teachers to us and we will train them on how to teach children suffering from genetic disorders.”

Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival: Yiddish theatre celebrates history and culture

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Festival is about inclusion, says director Bryna Wasserman

Source: Montreal Gazette, 6-11-11

The Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival is not just about theatre and it’s not just for people who understand Yiddish.

More than 80 events featuring more than 150 artists from Canada, Romania, France, the United States, Israel and Poland gather to celebrate Yiddish in and through theatre, music, film, poetry, lectures, workshops, plus a symposium, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, from Monday to June 22.

Yiddish is the predominant language, but there are also events in English and in French. English subtitles are supplied in both theatre and film, where necessary.

“What we’re seeing is a panorama,” director Bryna Wasserman said. “It’s grown from a theatre festival to a culture festival.”

Wasserman said the festival is about inclusion and the aim is to reach beyond the conventional Yiddish-speaking community to embrace a wider audience.

The opening concert is a case in point.

Soul to Soul features Israeli-born cantor Magda Fishman with African-American Broadway veteran Elmore James and African-American singer and actor Tony Perry. All three will sing in Yiddish.

“I think this is a festival which can forge extraordinary bridges,” Wasserman said. “It’s a program which emphasizes variety. We see everything from the cutting edge to the most traditional.”

Soul to Soul is presented by the New York-based National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene and created by its artistic director, Zalmen Mlotek.

In July, Wasserman leaves her job as director of both Montreal’s Yiddish Theatre and the Segal Centre to become the executive director of the National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Wasserman said. “I’m excited, but at the same time these rooms and hallways (at the Segal) have a special meaning. I hope I’ve made a difference. And I am confident that there will be new and wonderful ideas coming to the Segal in the future.”

The festival program is packed with activities from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“And there will be coffee and treats to keep you going,” Wasserman said.

Every day ends with a Klezkabaret.

“It’s the type of cabaret that will get people dancing,” Wasserman said. “The idea is for people to connect, learn and celebrate.”

Those who want to learn can listen to people such as New York Times film critic J. Hoberman or film historian Eric A. Goldman talk about the history of Yiddish cinema. Or attend the symposium, which gathers some of the biggest names in the study of Yiddish culture, including keynote speaker Joel Berkowitz, director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Also part of the symposium is Université d’Ottawa professor Pierre Anctil’s French roundtable Parodie, Humour et Grotesque dans le Théâtre Yiddish.

On Father’s Day (June 19), the action moves to Mackenzie King Park. The free event, called Zumerfest, runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and features headline acts Sister of Sheynville, from Toronto, and Brooklyn’s Yiddish Princess. Special guests are Dis Meschugeles from Israel, Germany and Belarus; Jingju Canada (representing the Chinese community); Marco Gentille and Cynthia Cantave (representing the Haitian community); Sinag Bayan Arts Collective, from the Filipino community and Zaftik Trio from Australia.

The festival ends with the documentary Mending the Torn Curtain, directed by Raphael Levy and produced by Ben Gonshor, about the first Montreal festival.

The Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival is at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, 5170 Côte Ste. Catherine Rd., Monday to June 22. For program details and tickets, call 514-739-7944, http://www.segalcentre.org.

Gus Tyler: Forward Editor, Writer & Firebrand of Labor Movement, Dies at 99

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Source: NYT, 6-11-11

Gus Tyler could recite word for word the first firebrand speech he gave more than 80 years ago on a soapbox on the Lower East Side. That long-ago youth tingled with the revolutionary promise he saw on the teeming streets of New York, in the new Soviet Union, in the great books he devoured, in the endless nocturnal debates.

Gus Tyler in 1964.

He tumbled through life like a Saul Bellow character, full of analytic thought and urban vitality. He wore multifarious hats: pamphleteer, professor and poet, but insisted on defining himself with a single word: agitator.

He became one as a teenager, throwing burrs at police horses during socialist demonstrations. And as a leader of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union for decades, he helped shape labor’s contribution to the postwar welfare state. His most powerful weapons were words, in books, newspaper columns, radio commentaries and speeches he wrote for labor chieftains.

His intellectual output was diverse, but Mr. Tyler tended to come back to one theme: the importance of democracy in unions, and the importance of unions to democracies. He pushed for government-sponsored health care and was a leader in the fight to reapportion voting districts so that cities were better represented.

A. H. Raskin, the labor expert who was a reporter for The New York Times, called Mr. Tyler one of the true intellectuals of the trade union movement. The historian Bernard Bellush wrote, “There are those who say that the history of the democratic left in America since World War I is the history of Gus Tyler.”

Mr. Tyler died on June 3 in Sarasota, Fla., at the age of 99, his nephew Jonathan Tilove said — 21 years shy of his goal of outliving Moses.

But he did see a promised land of sorts: his first job was at The Jewish Daily Forward when it was a big-circulation, left-leaning Yiddish daily. He threw himself into the 1930s brawls of Stalinists, Trotskyists and all manner of leftists before fighting some of the same people in the 1940s to kick Communists out of liberal veterans’ groups….READ MORE

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Caroline Glick: Yale, Jews and double-standards

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Last week Yale University announced its decision to close down its institute for the study of anti-Semitism. The move has been widely criticized as politically motivated. For its part, the university claims that the move was the result of purely academic considerations.While not clear-cut, an analysis of the story lends to the conclusion that politics were in all likelihood the decisive factor in the decision. And the implications of Yale’s move for the scholarly inquiry into anti-Semitism are deeply troubling.The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was founded in 2006. Its purpose was to provide a scholarly approach to the study of contemporary and historical anti- Semitism. It was attached to Yale’s Institution of Social and Policy Studies. It was fully funded from private contributions. Yale did not in any way subsidize its activities from the university’s budget.

Since its inception, under the peripatetic leadership of its Executive Director Dr. Charles Small, YIISA organized seminars and conferences that brought leading scholars from all over the world to Yale to discuss anti-Semitism in an academic setting. Its conferences and publications produced cutting edge research. These included a groundbreaking statistical study published by Small and Prof. Edward Kaplan from Yale’s School of Management that demonstrated a direct correlation between anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Jewish sentiment….READ MORE

Deborah Lipstadt Appointed to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

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Source: Emory University News, 6-9-11

News Article ImageEmory University professor Deborah Lipstadt has been appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. President Barack Obama announced June 7 his intent to appoint her and other individuals to key posts in his administration.

Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory and one of the leading Holocaust scholars in the United States.

She is the author of the recently published “The Eichmann Trial.”  Her book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” is the story of her libel trial in London against David Irving, who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier.

Lipstadt was an historical consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and helped design the section of the museum on the American response to the Holocaust. President Bill Clinton previously appointed her to two terms on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

From 1996 to 1999 she served on the U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. In this capacity she, together with other leaders and scholars, advised Secretary of State Madeline Albright on matters of religious persecution abroad.  In 2005 she represented former President George W. Bush at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Obama appoints three to Holocaust council

Source: JTA, 6-10-11

President Obama appointed a pioneer of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, a prominent Holocaust historian and a top Jewish Democratic activist to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which governs the national Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.

The White House announced  the three appointees in a June 7 statement.

Nancy Brooks Gilbert, the CEO of Travels and Dialogues, an Israel tourism specialty outfit, designed the itinerary pilot trip for Taglit-Birthright, the program that brings Jewish adults aged 26 and under to Israel for the first time. Gilbert, who is active in South Florida Jewish groups, including the South Palm Beach County Jewish Federation, sponsors a village for orphans of the Rwandan genocide modeled on those Israel built for young survivors of the Holocaust.

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor in Holocaust studies at Emory University, successfully defended a libel suit brought by David Irving after she described him as a Holocaust denier. She has twice served as a a member of the museum’s council and helped design its section on the American response to the Holocaust.

Marc Stanley is the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council and also a vice-chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy groups. He has served as a president of the Dallas Home for the Jewish Aged.

White House Initiative “If You See Something, Say Something” Campaign Partners with Jewish Community

Today Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Jon Carson, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and I met with Jewish leaders from across the country to highlight the important role of faith-based leaders in providing guidance and assistance to their organizations and institutions regarding ways to protect against terrorism and other threats.

Janet Napolitano at Meeting with Jewish LeadersSecretary Janet Napolitano and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson meet with Jewish leaders on the “When You See Something, Say Something” campaign’s first faith-based partnership in the Rooselvelt Room of the White House, June 10, 2011. (DHS Photo by Barry Bahler)

Secretary Napolitano announced the expansion of the Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign into a partnership with the Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) and theSecure Community Network (SCN). “Expanding the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ campaign to national Jewish groups, the first faith-based partnership for the campaign, is an important step in the Department’s ongoing effort to engage the American public in our nation’s security efforts,” said Secretary Napolitano.

The campaign will feature print and social media materials distributed to the thousands of centers and organizations that the associations reach. SCN, an organization that was established to institutionalize security awareness and preparedness into the consciousness of the American Jewish community, provides the Jewish community with important, timely, and credible communications, consultations, and training sessions. JFNA, an organization that represents 157 Jewish Federations and over 300 Network communities, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).

Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, praised the partnership as one that “will empower us to counter this threat as we become more actively involved in our own protection.”

Saul Friedman Honored with Jewish Studies Scholarship at Youngstown State University

Source: Cleveland Jewish News, 6-10-11

The Youngstown Zionist District of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) created an endowment at Youngstown State University (YSU) in honor of Dr. Saul Friedman, retired YSU professor of history. The Dr. Saul Friedman Scholarship in Jewish Studies will reward YSU students focusing on Israel, the Holocaust and Jewish history.

Currently a professor emeritus, Friedman founded the Judaic and Holocaust studies program at YSU. He’s won the university’s Distinguished University Professor Award six times, as well as honors from the Ohio Humanities Council, ZOA, and five regional Emmys for public television documentaries he produced. He has also published 10 books on Jewish history and the Holocaust….READ MORE

Zvi Stampfer: Visiting Fulbright Scholar will teach, conduct research at Bucknell University

Source: Bucknell University News, 6-9-11

A professor and top researcher from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will join Bucknell University for the upcoming academic year as a Fulbright Scholar in Sephardic studies.

Zvi Stampfer, who also is an ordained rabbi and has a law degree, currently teaches at the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. Proficient in English, German, Arabic and various ancient languages, Stampfer has edited and translated books about the laws of divorce and Jewish law.

While at Bucknell, Stampfer will research medieval Iraq and Spain as “interfaith breeding grounds for jurisprudential cross-fertilization,” examining and comparing Jewish law as it was shaped in medieval Iraq and Andalusia. He also will teach two courses — Sephardic Jews: Muslim-Jewish Cultural Interaction in the Middle Ages and Topics in Sephardic Judaism: Sexuality in Jewish and Islamic Law.

Rivka Ulmer, professor of Jewish studies at Bucknell and chair of the Department of Religion, said Stampfer’s research and expertise as a top scholar in his field is of “utmost importance” to the understanding of Judaism and Jewish-Muslim relations. His visit to Bucknell will allow students the opportunity to learn about the origins of today’s conflicts in the Middle East, many of which stem from events in medieval times.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to learn about Judaism beyond the recent crises,” Ulmer said. “I hope that students will learn, through their interactions with Professor Stampfer, that Israel is a normal country with top scientists in many fields and a culture that promotes creative learning. Almost everything in modern Judaism is an outcome of rabbinic Judaism of late antiquity and the Middle Ages or a reaction to it.”

Yale University Anti-Semitism initiative to end

The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), which has operated since 2006, will not continue next year, Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies Donald Green said in a statement.

The decision to end the program has met criticism from groups across the nation that show support for Jewish people, such as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. But Green, a political science professor, said YIISA generated little scholarly work that earned publication in highly regarded journals, and its courses attracted few students.

“YIISA suffered the same fate as other initially promising programs… that were eventually terminated at ISPS because they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,” Green said, citing the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics as another example of an underachieving program.

By contrast, he said, other ISPS programs, such as the Ethics, Politics and Economics major and the Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center, draw “hundreds” of students to their classes each year, and programs such as the Field Experiments Initiative has produced “an extraordinary number” of articles in “top-tier academic journals.”

But several leaders of organizations that stand up against anti-Semitism have issued statements condemning Yale’s decision to close the initiative. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Yale should have addressed the shortcomings of the program instead of ending it.

“If there were problems that the university raised, they needed to be dealt with and resolved,” he said. “The decision to end the Center was a bad one on its own terms, but it is even worse because it leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, echoed Foxman’s sentiment. He said in a statement that he hopes Yale will reconsider and keep the program.

“We hope Yale will review this unfortunate decision so that YIISA’s critical work can continue,” Harris said. “In our experience working with YIISA, AJC has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative’s ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus.”

A column published Monday in the New York Post claims that Yale closed the program because YIISA “refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.”

But Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, said the committee that reviewed YIISA based its assessment “solely on the issue of faculty leadership and involvement.”

“Yale is strongly committed to freedom of speech, which gives rise to a rich diversity of views on campus,” she said.

ISPS was established by the Yale Corporation in 1968.

Shuttering of Yale program on anti-Semitism raises hackles

Source: JTA, 6-8-11

Did Yale’s program on anti-Semitism die a natural death from lack of academic vigor, as the university says? Should it have been saved, as two major Jewish groups are arguing?

Or was it killed for being politically incorrect about Muslim anti-Semitism, as alleged by others?

The decision to terminate the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism came after its routine five-year review, according to a statement from Donald Green, who heads Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies, the body that oversees the anti-Semitism initiative and other interdisciplinary programs.

The anti-Semitism initiative, Green said in a statement sent to JTA, failed to meet the institution’s criteria of delivering an “outstanding” performance in the promotion of “interdisciplinary research and instruction at Yale.”

The American Jewish Committee said the anti-Semitism initiative’s termination would “create a very regrettable void.”

AJC’s director David Harris said it “has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative’s ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus.”

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said termination should not have been the only option, whatever the initiative’s problems.

“What was required was a concerted effort to work out the problems rather than ending the program,” the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement. “Especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale’s decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying.”

Green said that other programs that the Institution for Social and Policy Studies oversees, like the Study of American Politics and the Field Experiments Initiative and Agrarian Studies, have survived because “they have generated an extraordinary number of research articles in top-tier academic journals.”

Still others, like the Ethics, Politics and Economics major and the Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center, survive because they draw hundreds of students to their seminars, he said. Others — such as the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics and the Program on Nonprofit Organizations — were terminated because, like the anti-Semitism initiative, “they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,” Green said.

In the case of the anti-Semitism initiative, Green said: “Little scholarly work appeared in top-tier journals in behavioral science, comparative politics, or history. Courses created in this area did not attract large numbers of students.”

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a group that fights anti-Israel bias on college campuses, suggested that Yale was buckling to pressure from Iran, whose Intelligence Ministry in January 2010 placed Yale on a list of 60 institutions it considered part of a U.S.-Israeli-British plot to “subvert” the Islamic Republic.

“By focusing attention on Islamic anti-Jewish hatred and on the genocidal agenda of Iran, YIISA clearly angered some faculty and administrators on campus who orchestrated this attack,” Scholars for Peace in the Middle East said of the anti-Semitism initiative. “Iran’s placing of Yale on their list of institutions to hate last year was looked at not as a badge of honor but as a problem. Some members of the Yale Corporation Board, the administration and the faculty seem to have forgotten that Iran is being embargoed by the United States.”

However, Yale officials said at the time of Iran’s announcement that the listing would have little effect on the university, and professed to be baffled as to why Iran targeted Yale. The Yale Daily News speculated that any statement by a Yale professor or student could have earned the university its place on the list, and that Iranian authorities might even have mistakenly assumed that an Iranian human rights group based in New Haven was affiliated with Yale.

Edward Beck, the president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, called the shuttering of Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative “an egregious act, an affront to academic freedom.”

Kenneth Marcus, who directs the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, called the Yale program “a first-rate, world-renowned research institution.”

Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative “has quickly emerged as the leading university-based anti-Semitism research institute in North America,” said Marcus, a former staff director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. “The idea that its closure could be based in any part on academic merit is simply preposterous.”

Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative stirred controversy last August when its signature conference featured as a keynote speaker Itamar Marcus, who heads Palestinian Media Watch, a group seen by Palestinians and some liberal pro-Israel groups as right wing.

When Marcus delivered a keynote lecture titled “The Central Role of Palestinian Anti-Semitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity,” Ma’en Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy in Washington, wrote to Yale to say that lectures by Itamar Marcus and others were “racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship.”

Much of the conference’s program, however, was made up of sessions examining a broad range of topics related to anti-Semitism featuring noted scholars, such as Deborah Lipstadt, the Holocaust historian.

After learning that Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative was to close, Lipstadt posted a message on Twitter calling the decision “weird” and “strange” and saying that the program “ran first-rate events.”

The New York Post ran an opinion article by Abby Wisse Schachter accusing Yale of shutting down the program “almost certainly” because the initiative “refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said in an email to JTA that Yale is “ready to provide support for working groups studying anti-Semitism” and noted that the university “has long been a leader in Judaic research, teaching and collection.” He mentioned its Judaica collection and its archive of video Holocaust testimony.

University of Toronto: Fund Created for Jewish studies

University of Toronto Centre for Jewish Studies expanding to the tune of $36 million

Source: YNet News, 6-7-11

Thanks to professor Hindy Najman, the University of Toronto Centre for Jewish Studies is expanding to the tune of $36 million. The money will be raised with two campaigns and the help of Ken Tanenbaum.

Last month the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the university agreed on a $15-million endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto for the new centre. The university has also taken on its own ambitious goal of raising $18 million.

The fund is said to be a larger campaign for the faculty of arts and science. It will be used for eight new faculty positions at the Centre for Jewish Studies, which will be filled within the next three years.

The Jewish Studies Centre has been around since 1967 and is heavily supported by the Tanenbaum family. Ken Tanenbaum, a third-generation philanthropist, immediately felt captivated by Najman’s vision for the future of Jewish studies at U of T. The Tanenbaums will be giving a $5-million gift to support this dream.

The $15-million fund and $3-million from the Tanenbaums will be used to support students financially, fund new programs for the university and community and carry day-to-day operations.

Today there are 65 faculty members and 2,300 enrolled students in Jewish Studies courses. (Interestingly, about 60% of those students are not Jewish).
According to The Canadian Jewish News, Tanenbaum said that U of T, with its student population of 72,000, is “a beacon of multiculturalism and pluralism… We believe that this collaborative model has great potential to build understanding across the university…”

This is a great step for Toronto Jewish community as it continues to solidify its growing presence.

Anti-Semitism: Hate Crimes on the Rise in Canada

Source: Globe & Mail,6-7-11

The Jewish community was especially victimized, with the number of hate crimes against Jews rising 71 per cent since 2008.

“If you consider the size of our community and the frequency with which we are targeted, obviously it’s very disturbing and remains a matter of great concern,” said Len Rudner, the Canadian Jewish Congress’s regional director for Ontario.

Mr. Rudner said he suspects part of the increase in 2009 was connected to events in the Middle East, specifically Israel’s aerial assault against Gaza in the last days of 2008.

Dvir Bar-Gal: Shanghai’s Jewish history

Shanghai’s Jewish history

 Source: AP, 6-5-11

Not far from the Bund district in Shanghai, with its hordes of tourists and view of the city’s famous skyscrapers across the Huangpu River, is a quiet neighborhood called Hongkou.

Walk here along Zhoushan Road and you’ll stumble on a sign that signifies an otherwise unremarkable building at No. 59 as a landmark.

“During the World War II,” the sign reads in imperfect English, “a number of Jewish refugees lived in this house, among whom is Michael Blumenthal, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury of the Carter Government.”

The marker offers a clue to the hidden Jewish history of Shanghai and the incredible story of thousands of Jews who fled the Nazis and found refuge here in what was the Far East’s only Jewish ghetto. Among them was Blumenthal, who fled Europe with his family, spent part of his youth in Shanghai, then moved to the United States.

The best way to learn about this unusual slice of Jewish and Shanghai history is on a tour with an Israeli expat, Dvir Bar-Gal. But be warned: This is no superficial glance at the highlights; this is a five-hour, $60 mini-course with Bar-Gal as professor. With his encyclopedic knowledge and intense passion, he brings to life a vanished world, attracting visitors from every continent, many of them descended from the Jews who survived World War II only because they found refuge in Shanghai.

“No other place in the whole world saved so many Jewish lives,” Bar-Gal said, adding that “there is no anti-Semitism in China.”…READ MORE

Hitler and Stalin The Q&A: Timothy Snyder, historian

Hitler and Stalin The Q&A: Timothy Snyder, historian

Source: The Economist, 6-3-11

SOME topics are so dark that even scholars feel intimidated. Yet Timothy Snyder is not so easily daunted. A professor of Eastern European history at Yale, his most recent book, “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin“, examines some of the most devastating collective memories of the modern world. With scholarly rigour and engaging prose, he seeks to explain both the causes and effects of the two most haunting mass murderers of the 20th century. The “bloodlands” of the title describes the area where the Nazi and Soviet regimes murdered 14m civilians. The Economist has praised the book for being a “revisionist history of the best kind”, one that “makes the reader rethink some of the best-known episodes in Europe’s modern history.”

The book has been controversial among some Holocaust scholars, many of whom argued that Mr Snyder does a disservice by comparing the crimes of the Nazis with those of the Soviet Union (something Mr Snyder discussed in an interview with The Economist when the book first came out last year).

Mr Snyder was recently in Poland to promote a Polish-language edition of his book. This month his tour will take him to the Netherlands, England, Australia and Israel. In a conversation with More Intelligent Life, Mr Snyder talked about his approach to the book, which is meant to clarify some common misunderstandings about the second world war.

What are some of the most common misconceptions of the history of the so-called “bloodlands”?

The first is that there’s something that people think they understand and it turns out that they don’t, and that thing is the Holocaust. The reality of it is, if anything, worse than they think, much more face-to-face, much more barbaric, much more unforgettable. People think that the Holocaust is something that happened in Germany, generally to German Jews. They think it’s something that happened only in Auschwitz. They generally don’t know about any of the other death facilities besides Auschwitz; they generally don’t know that half of the Jews who were killed were shot rather than gassed.

Hitler and Stalin killed virtually in the same place, and that is Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, the Baltic states, western Russia. The Holocaust happened in a place where millions and millions of people have just been killed due to the Soviet policies.

And the third thing I would point to is the habit of reduction. For example an approach saying: it must have all been the Germans, or it must have all been the Soviets. Both of these systems brought tremendous death and suffering. If you want to avoid criticism then you shouldn’t be a historian, because historians are trying to understand and explain. If you’re trying to please people then you should go into the fashion business, or the candy business.

You’ve lived in Eastern Europe for a while, and you have learned the languages spoken in the ‘bloodlands’.  Would you say it’s much harder, or even impossible, to get to certain information if you don’t speak the local language? 

The question of languages is very important. If you don’t know Russian, you don’t really know what you’re missing. Imagine that you’re in a huge country house and you have keys, but your keys only open some of the rooms. You only know the part of the house that you can wander in. And you can persuade yourself that that’s the whole house, but it’s not. We can only see as much, and we can only go as far as our languages take us. I wrote this book in English, but there are very important conversations that are happening in German, Russian, Polish and so on among those historians, and the book is addressed to all of them.

At a lecture at the Kosciuszko Foundation a few months ago, you said that your goal is not to compare the crimes of Hitler and Stalin. But how does one write about the casualties caused by both without forcing the reader to compare? How do you resist the urge to draw clear comparisons while writing such a book?

It’s not that I’m against comparisons per se. On the contrary, I think a comparison is totally natural. It’s just that if you want to compare you have to know what it is you’re comparing. People often generate these comparisons thinking: ‘I already know about the Nazis’ or ‘I already know about the Soviets. Therefore, I know that the Nazis were worse.’ Often they don’t know a lot about the other side of the conflict. I like to think that people will read this book and then be able to make better comparisons.

Westerners tend to know the history of Nazi Germany better than the history of the Soviet Union. Why is that? Is there more literature about the Nazi crimes than the Soviet ones in English?

Something interesting happened when the cold war ended: the US stopped being so concerned about the Soviet Union. Our teachers and professors strive desperately to save something from the 20th century, and that something is the Holocaust. It’s been happening since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Part of this has to do with an issue of identification. People in the West tend to identify with western victims. So even when they think about the Holocaust, they really think about the German or French victims, they’re not thinking about the Polish, Hungarian or Soviet victims. And when they think about the German crimes, they’re not thinking about the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war, which also killed 3m people; they’re not thinking about the partisan campaigns in Belarus, which no one has ever heard of, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. They’re thinking of the people they can identify with—nice, middle class, western-looking people. So it’s not that people only know about the Holocaust. It’s just that they have this very western idea of the whole tragedy. What I try to do in my book is to make the Holocaust more ‘eastern’, which it was.

How did you pick the individual, personal stories that are included in the book? They are effective in giving names and faces to the otherwise inconceivable numbers of casualties.

It was important to me that a book that was mainly about a tragedy on a tremendous scale be comprehensible. I did my best to explain the policies, but also to make sure the readers understood that the victims were human beings. That’s why I have the material about these individuals. It’s about life and death, and life is made of individual human beings. And the significance of death is that it ends a life.

Writing a book like this you don’t want to seem too mechanical, but you also don’t want to be sentimental, and say that only because they died all these people were good. That’s not the point. I was trying to make these people real. And if you make them ideal, they’re not real.