Lectures and classes Feb. 27-March 5 – Arizona Daily Star

When the Nightingales Sing: The Joy of Sephardic Song Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road. Learn about the history of Jews in Spain, listen to Sephardic music and sing some popular Ladino songs. 12:15-1:15 p.m. Feb. 27. $70. 327-4501.

Learn To Read Music Tucson Boys Chorus Center, 5770 E. Pima St. Topics will include notes, rhythm, clefts, key signatures and musical notation. 7-8:15 p.m. Feb. 27. Free. 235-4303.

Painting Party: Sandhill Cranes Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way. Karen Workman will lead through the painting process step-by-step. Bring an apron or smock. 1-4 p.m. Feb. 28. $35. 326-9686, Ext. 18.

Here Come the Hummers Saguaro National Park East, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail. Join a park naturalist in the visitor center theater to discover the fascinating world of hummingbirds. 2-2:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5153.

Javelinas: Our Desert Neighbors Saguaro National Park West, 2700 N. Kinney Road. Learn about this intriguing creature and how it survives in this arid environment. 2:15-2:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5158.

Meet the Cuckoo of the Desert: The Roadrunner Saguaro National Park West. Presentation about the natural history, behaviors, traits and facts. 3:15-3:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5158.

Get Smart About Your Vision SaddleBrooke TWO, 38759 S. Mountain View Blvd. Discussion on eye care for those who suffer from or at risk for cataracts. Call to RSVP. 4-6 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 1-646-946-6682.

Pancake Supper Church of the Painted Hills, 3295 W. Speedway. Pancakes with butter and syrup, sausage, applesauce and drink. 5-7 p.m. Feb. 28. $6. 624-5715.

Amazing Ants in the Sonoran Desert Lutheran Church of the Foothills, 5102 N. Craycroft Road. Kim Franklin. 7-9 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 604-6897.

Mountain Lions: Beyond the Myth Saguaro National Park West. Uncover the true nature of this predator. 10:15-11 a.m. March 1. Free. 733-5158.

Creepy Crawlers: The Silent Majority Saguaro National Park West. Learn about some of the most feared and misunderstood arthropods who call the park home. 2:15-2:45 p.m. March 1. Free. 733-5158.

Living with the Desert Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Jo Falls teaches about a different aspect of desert home. 10 a.m.-noon. March 2. $89. 742-6455.

Play Sonoran Desert Bingo Saguaro National Park West. Learn about the plants and animals while playing bingo. 10:15-10:45 a.m. March 2. Free. 733-5158.

Living With Giants Saguaro National Park West. Learn how it provides shelter/substance for wildlife, when it flowers, growth patterns and its fight for survival. 11:15-noon. March 2. Free. 733-5158.

Beginning Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention Ellit Towne Flowingn Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road. Gentle enough for seniors and those needing to improve balance. 11 a.m. March 3. $45. 742-4600.

Lizards are Hot, Lizards are Cool Saguaro National Park West. Find out what it means when they do push ups or exhibit other odd behaviors. 3:15-3:45 p.m. March 3. Free. 733-5158.

Rainwater Harvesting Class: Tucson Water Rebate Watershed Management Group, 1137 N. Dodge Blvd. Class will reimburse up to $2,000 for residential rainwater-harvesting systems. 9 a.m.-noon. March 4. Free. 396-3266.

Tucson Lifestyle Cover Dog Search La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive. Dogs get a chance to be on the cover of Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. Benefiting the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. March 4. $30. 321-3704.

Cooking With Prickly Pear Saguaro National Park West. A live cooking demonstration to learn how to incorporate it into a diet. 3:15-3:45 p.m. March 5. Free. 733-5158.

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Lectures and classes Feb. 27-March 5 – Arizona Daily Star

What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About Anti-Semitism – The New Yorker

Hatred of Jews, like hatred of Muslims, is embedded more deeply in the Western consciousness than President Trump seems to understand.CreditPHOTOGRAPH BY OLIVIER DOULIERY / GETTY

The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil, President Trump said Tuesday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. He was referring, rather obliquely, to a spate of recent bomb scares and acts of vandalism, part of an uptick in hate crimes that has occurred since his arrival on the political scene. Trumps sentiment, however forced, was welcome, given the obtuseness, ambivalence, and even denial that have characterized his past responses to the problem. As a candidate and a President, he has seemed oddly untroubled by the license that anti-Semites derive from the us-against-them motif of his rants. But now, Trump says, the bigotry has to stop, and its going to stop.

Would that it were that simple. Anti-Semitism is not a run-of-the-mill example of hate and prejudice and evil, which is why contempt for Jews keeps showing up as a symptom of social stresseven now, and even in the United States. One neednt posit an eternal anti-Semitism, in Hannah Arendts warning phrase, to know that the imagination of the West has always defined itself positively against the negative other of Jewishness. That was blatantly the case in Germany in the sixteenth century, when Martin Luther characterized Jews as vermin within the German body politic, a pest in the midst of our lands. That belief ultimately came to flower, of course, in the exterminating anti-Semitism of Hitler, who saw the very existence of Jews as a mortal threat to the Thousand-Year Reich. But, as the Holocaust revealed, this fear infected both Nazi ideology and the broader Western consciousness. The crime of genocide may have been enacted by the Nazis, but Jews died as they did because the rest of Europeand America, tooexcluded them from moral concern.

Religious anti-Judaism, which became racial anti-Semitism, began long before Luther, stretching all the way back to the Gospels themselves. It is not just that Jews are labelled as Christs killers in the Passion narratives, but that Jesus is fully portrayed throughout the texts as fiercely opposed to his own Jewish people. (He came unto His own and His own received him not, John 1:11 says.) If Jesus was merciful, Jews were condemning; if Jesus was egalitarian, Jews were hierarchical; if Jesus was generous, Jews were greedy. Soon enough, Christians imagined that Jesus had never really been Jewish to begin with. Never mind that this was a terrible mistake of memory, that he was a faithful, law-observing, Shema-proclaiming Jew to the end, and that, Johns words notwithstanding, the only ones to receive Jesus in his lifetime were Jews. The imagined conflict persisted, and it informed the structure of Christian theologychurch against synagogue, New Testament against Old, Christian god of mercy against Jewish god of judgment. Down through the centuries, this positive-negative bipolarity formed the twin pillars of European consciousness, and, whenever the social equilibrium shook, Jews were targeted. When the targeting reached its genocidal peak, in the twentieth century, the old hatred was exposed once and for all.

Well, not quite for all. The Holocaust was a world-historic epiphany, but not to the Trump Administration, which last month erased the Holocausts most salient feature by deliberately omitting any reference to Jews from the White Houses official statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trumps generalizing in that statementthe victims, survivors, heroeswholly ignored the fact that Hitlers industrialized death machine was created expressly to eliminate one particular people. To neglect that purpose is to restrict responsibility for the broad civilizational crime, with roots in the religious anti-Judaism of the Christian Church, to a small gang of Nazi thugs, as if no one else were guilty. Both the neglecting and the restricting are forms of Holocaust denial.

If it is too much for Trump to grasp anti-Semitism as the bug in the software of the West, it is not likely that he will see how his own Islamophobia comes from the same malicious code. When Christendom launched the Crusades, the holy wars that shaped Europe, in the eleventh century, Jews were the paradigmatic enemy inside (the infidel near at hand), and Muslims became the defining enemy outside (the infidel far away). Little wonder, then, that the First Crusade coincided with some of the earliest German pogroms, known as the Rhineland massacres. Within a few hundred years, the Spanish Inquisition had instituted its blood-purity laws, which lumped Muslims and Jews together in a new category of biological inferiority. In 1492 and 1502, first Jews and then Muslims were declared personae non gratae in Spain, facing forced conversion, expulsion, or death. The invention of racism in Europe, in other words, aligned neatly with the discovery of the New World and the advent of colonialism. Genocide and slavery followed.

Islamophobia is thus, to use the phrase that Edward Said applied to Orientalism, a strange secret sharer of Western anti-Semitism. This hidden alignment was particularly discernible in the ease with which the Cold War, with its ubiquitous, if subliminal, anti-Semitism, morphed into the clash of civilizations, with jihadists replacing Reds as figments of the American nightmare. Trump no doubt regards himself as an American original, but he is only the latest ringmaster of this binary circus. In fact, our temperamental President is bigotrys clich. Even the cult of white supremacy on which his movement depends has its origins, too, in the positive-negative structure of the Western imagination, a structure erected in the first place to keep Jews in their place. It may offend Donald Trump to be linked to an ancient current, but while his arrival, with all its mayhem, is an unprecedented crime against democratic values, it is also evidence of the deeper disorder from which our culture has yet to recover.

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What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About Anti-Semitism – The New Yorker

Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir By Salman Abu Sitta American University in Cairo Press 2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

In recent years, two subgenres of Palestinian autobiography and memoir have emerged. First are accounts by diarists who witnessed World War I and British Mandate rule in Palestine, and experienced the Nakba the mass displacement of Palestinians during the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 as adults.

Second are memoirs of those who were children or young adults when the Nakba occurred. These are often written with a more explicit purpose memoirs of lives as exiles and refugees fighting for Palestinian rights, rather than diaries kept for personal use.

These common themes are also found in Mapping My Return, including the trauma of war and refugee life, lives of constant struggle (with Israel, but also often with Yasser Arafat) and fierce love for their homeland.

Abu Sittas autobiography, however, gives a unique insight not only into refugee life and Palestinian politics throughout the decades, but into how he, as a Bedouin Palestinian from the southern Naqab desert within the Israeli state, experienced the Nakba and its aftermath.

His life story is rooted in the vast, fertile plains of the south-western Naqab, and the bayt al-shaer (literally house of hair or tent) in which his mother lived. The familys fields were plowed by camel, and many of the men and women who came to work on the harvest were from Egypts Sinai peninsula.

Rather than flee north into Lebanon or east towards Jordan, his escape from the Zionist forces who destroyed his childhood home was to Khan Younis near the border between Gaza and Egypt, ultimately attending school and university in Cairo.

As the son of a paramount chief of the Tarabin Bedouin, whose influence stretched from Cairo to Bir al-Saba, Abu Sitta frankly admits that his tale is not one of the most tragic, painful or traumatic fates of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees.

His elite background and family connections cushioned him from the grinding poverty that hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza faced.

But the trauma of the night-time attack on his fathers home in the village of al-Main during the Nakba, the destruction and theft of its fields and the sight of Israeli massacres in Gaza started off his lifes mission to try to put a face to this invisible enemy.

Although Abu Sitta forged a career as an acclaimed engineer, he also became a historian of Palestine. He meticulously documented the villages, shrines, homesteads and traditions that Israeli laws, bulldozers and museums have sought to eradicate or appropriate.

Abu Sittas childhood reminiscences evoke a time when Palestine was undergoing rapid change. His grandfathers and uncles lived in constant tension with the Ottoman Empire, sometimes going into hiding in Jordan. Even so, they fought on the Ottoman side in World War I, against British forces invading Palestine from the south.

Abu Sittas father had to adapt to change under the British Mandate. He opened the areas first school in 1920 some of the students, already regarded as men at 16, arrived to class wearing swords and introduced new plant strains.

The contradictions in Palestinian life at this time are encapsulated in Abu Sittas observations on the education he received. He writes: The British Mandate saw fit to impose Roman history and Latin on the Arab students curricula at the expense of Arab and Palestinian history.

Despite this, Abu Sitta notes: But perhaps it was not so strange. After all, Palestine had more and longer-running cultural, political and commercial links with Rome (and Greece) than England.

The story of Abu Sittas community highlights Gazas historical connections to Egypt. Family members supported the 187982 Urabi rebellion, in which Egyptian officers tried to declare independence but were defeated by a British invasion.

Despite the value attached by Western culture to written tales, Abu Sitta asserts that they just made him more confident that, in the end, it is those storytellers at the shigg [a place where men met to drink coffee] who are the real source of our history.

As an adult, Abu Sitta became a successful engineer and urban planner, working and teaching around the world.

These later sections of his memoir highlight the diversity and often the anguish of refugee existence, and lift the message of the book beyond that of one mans story.

This is a highly readable book, much recommended to anyone with an interest in Palestinian history. More than that, it is a significant piece of documentation, recounting events and ways of life that have largely been forgotten or erased.

As the generations who directly experienced the Nakba are slowly lost, writings of this kind will only become more important.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada. Sarah Irving is author of Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian liberation and co-editor of A Bird is not a Stone.]

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Memoir helps map Palestine’s struggle – Green Left Weekly

Educators learn new ways to teach Holocaust studies – Sun Sentinel

A record number of 120 participants recently took part in the annual advanced Holocaust Symposium at the University of Miami.

During this recent symposium, teacher graduates of the UM Holocaust Teacher Institute, which takes place each summer, learned news ways to incorporate Holocaust education into their classrooms. This symposium was hosted by UM School of Law together with WLRN, the School of Education & Human Development and The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies.

Miriam Klein Kassenoff, director for the Holocaust Teacher Institute, said “The participants’ dedication and enthusiasm was amazing. Imagine coming on a rainy Sunday and staying all day and always asking great questions.”

The symposium included presentations by Jeremy Nesoff, associate program director for the Leadership Academy of the Boston-based organization Facing History and Ourselves, and renowned Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum. Haim Shaked, founding director of UM’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, also participated in a discussion with Berenbaum. The symposium also honored Joanne Harvest Koren, Lecturer in Law and director of UM School of Law’s Academic Achievement Program, for her dedication and unwavering support for it.

Nesoff said, “For me to be at a symposium with scholars like Dr. Berenbaum and Dr. Kassenoff who are really focused on how to bring this history to the students is so valuable and so important that it’s just an honor to be a part of it.”

“I really hope the teachers teaching our adolescents can leave with really concrete ideas about how they can teach this subject to our students and also think about the purpose, and the purpose should really be about civil engagement,” he added.

Kassenoff praised the guest presenters.

“Dr. Berenbaum is always brilliant,” She said. “His lectures elevate and thus the teachers feel elevated in that they have been treated to such excellent scholarship. It makes them feel energized to teach what they learn from him.”

Kassenoff continued, “Jeremy Nesoff is a top well known Holocaust educator and he inspires the teachers to show connections in teaching the Holocaust using art, poetry and literature a wonderful new lesson for my teachers.”

Mary A. Milan, a social studies teacher at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School in Miami who volunteered at the symposium, said it’s “basically teaching teachers how to teach the Holocaust.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for teachers,” Milan noted. “Every time I come here I learn something new. Even if Miriam brings Dr. Berenbaum on a regular basis as her guest lecturer, he brings new information every time. She also brings different people in every time and it’s great stuff for my education and for me to pass on to my students as I’m surprised how much this generation is interested in the Holocaust.”

Gary Sheckman, a teacher at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest and a volunteer for the seminar, which he calls a “unique program,” said, “I’ve seen Michael Berenbaum many times here. He’s a really fascinating person. It’s amazing how much he knows and that he has all the dates and people down.”

When asked to discuss the importance of this seminar due to the recent rash of violence in the world today, the number of survivors dwindling due to age and the Holocaust deniers out there, Kassenoff responded, “I think with what is going on in the world today, it is important for people who attend seminars such as our Holocaust seminars to learn how to study history through facts real facts, not alternative facts and that the educators continue to give students a moral compass of how to live and how to lead and how important it is for them to be engaged in our country’s civic lessons and be active in how they want America to be governed for their future.”

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Educators learn new ways to teach Holocaust studies – Sun Sentinel

Trump condemns anti-Semitism but can’t stop questions …

But scores of people still took issue with how long the statement took. It left many wondering just why he delayed taking a seemingly obvious moral course for a president in the face of bomb threats at 48 JCCs in 26 states in January and rising fears of widening nationwide anti-Semitism after additional incidents this month.

Former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a CNN senior political commentator, said he was “befuddled” over why Trump had not spoken out before.

“This is a President who to me is very much a mensch,” Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, using the Yiddish term for a person of decency and integrity. He also noted Trump’s support for Israel and his three Jewish grandchildren.

Trump’s missing voice on the issue effectively created a vacuum that allowed critics to lay fresh charges of bigotry against him and had even his defenders wondering why the President seemed unwilling to address the issue.

Trump had several opportunities in news conferences last week to speak out against threats that are causing deep anxiety within Jewish communities and failed to do so. Moreover, he brusquely shut down an Orthodox Jewish journalist on the issue in one of the most jarring encounters of his presidency.

That confrontation, the new spate of threats against JCCs, the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and growing political pressure for Trump to speak out — including from his defeated presidential rival Hillary Clinton — help explain the timing of his remarks.

It was fast becoming politically damaging for Trump not to adopt a stern, public line against the incidents.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said Tuesday during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The President said that his tour was “a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

Trump won kudos for his remarks.

“What he said just recently is what I would hope the President of the United States would do,” Democratic Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin said on CNN on Tuesday. But he added, “He was slow to getting to this issue.”

Indeed, Trump’s clear words were also a reminder of what had been missing — and are unlikely to satisfy Trump’s opponents. Particularly after his missteps exacerbated their concerns about his true interest in stamping out anti-Semitism.

For one thing, Trump’s extreme sensitivity to criticism has led him to equate questions about racial and religious prejudice in general as a suggestion that he might somehow be personally guilty of such sins, obscuring the larger issue and the depth of his opposition to expressions of prejudice.

When Jake Turx of Brooklyn-based Ami magazine asked Trump last week about the rise in anti-Semitic acts, the President immediately jumped to the conclusion he was being accused of bigotry, despite the fact the reporter took steps to assure him that was not the case.

“Quiet, quiet, quiet,” Trump said as the reporter tried to explain his question.

“I hate the charge, I find it repulsive,” Trump said.

The exchange was a fresh indication of how the President tends to personalize many issues, ranging from Russia or questions about the legitimacy of his election win and see them as a reflection of his own reputation.

It’s not as if he needed to wait for his visit to the museum to make his feelings clear. No president in modern times has kept up such a torrent of condemnation on the long list of people, events and issues that irk him, often on Twitter but also in frequent photo ops with journalists.

So his failure to speak out forcefully about anti-Semitism had perplexed Washington.

Trump critics suggested that the delay was in keeping with what they see as the President’s consistent failure to condemn bigotry, especially among extremist groups attracted by his campaign rhetoric. He was hit with criticism last year for not promptly repudiating key Ku Klux Klan figure David Duke, though Trump did later do so.

More recently, Trump critics pointed to the administration’s immigration ban on the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries that was stayed by a federal court as evidence of prejudice in the West Wing.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect said Trump’s statement was merely “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director.

The anti-Semitism controversy also appears to reflect the growing pains of a new administration and the struggles evident in Trump’s transition from rabble-rousing candidate to president.

Trump and his team — many of whom are outsiders in his own image — lack deep governing experience, and already seem to betray a bunker mentality that hurts their ability to navigate fast-growing political challenges.

“He took way too long” to respond, said former Democratic congressman Steve Israel, now a CNN commentator, who stressed he was not accusing Trump of anti-Semitism but wanted him to speak out more prominently against it.

“The President not only has the bully pulpit, he has the moral high ground,” Israel said, and cast doubt on the political savvy of the White House. “This is an administration that seems to be good about denying itself its own lay-ups. This should have been said earlier. It should have been easy.”

Israel and others called on Trump to take real steps to reinforce his remarks.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to establish a special task force to apprehend those behind the bomb threats and for Trump to “outline his administration’s plan to combat surging anti-Semitism.”

At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer did not offer specifics about what Trump would do policy-wise. But he promised the President would “speak very, very forcefully against those who are seeking to do hate or to tear people down.”

He also complained about those continuing to criticize the President on this front.

“It’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this, that it’s never good enough. Today I think was an unbelievably forceful comment by the President … but I think that he’s been very clear previous to this that he wants to be someone that brings this country together and not divides people,” Spicer said.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

Trump condemns anti-Semitism but can’t stop questions …

Evidence of rising anti-Semitism, but data mostly elusive – Minnesota Public Radio News

Has anti-Semitism accompanied Donald Trump’s rise to power? Some organizations that monitor hate groups and hate crimes believe so, noting a rash of recent incidents. But data is elusive, and the president’s supporters note his family connection a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren and his comments this week condemning hate and prejudice.

Here’s a look at recent incidents targeting Jewish sites and anti-Semitism in the U.S.:

Human rights activists and organizations are convinced that Trump’s popularity and electoral victory created an acceptance into the mainstream of the “alt-right,” an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism, and along with it, anti-Semitism.

There have been reports nationwide in recent months of anti-Semitic incidents, including people yelling pro-Hitler comments at a rabbi on the street in Providence, R.I., swastikas drawn in subway cars in New York City, and bomb threats at Jewish buildings in several cities.

But determining whether such incidents have increased is difficult.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups and extremists, reported last week that the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. rose from 892 in 2015 to 917 in last year. But that’s still short of the all-time high of 1,018 hate groups in 2011.

The organization also counted 1,094 bias-related incidents in the month following Trump’s November election victory, including 33 against Jews, 108 involving swastikas and 47 white nationalist fliers.

New York City police keep a running tab of hate crimes. As of Sunday, 31 hate crimes have been reported against Jewish people this year more than double compared to the same period of 2016.

Official nationwide government data for the last year isn’t available. The FBI tracks hate crimes, but the most recent available data is from 2015.

Among the most recent events were bomb threats phoned in to 11 Jewish community centers across the country on Monday, including in St. Paul, Chicago, Cleveland and Houston.

No bombs were found and no arrests have been made, but the threats along with similar threats over recent months at other centers created fear and uncertainty among Jewish people.

Also on Monday, roughly 200 headstones were found knocked over or broken at a Jewish cemetery in suburban St. Louis. No arrests have been made for the damage at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo. Investigators have not yet determined if it was a hate crime. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, posted a statement on Facebook calling the vandalism “despicable” and “cowardly.”

Until Tuesday, it was what Trump hadn’t said that raised eyebrows. Jewish groups and others were upset in January when a White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews. Aides to the president defended the statement as “inclusive” of all who were killed by the Nazis.

Last week, when a reporter from the Orthodox Ami Magazine tried to ask Trump during a news conference about increased reports of anti-Jewish harassment and hate crimes, Trump interrupted, saying, “not a fair question.” When reporter Jake Turx tried to continue, the president said: “Quiet, quiet, quiet … I find it repulsive. I hate even the question.”

Trump went on to call himself “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your life,” and the “least racist person.”

But on Tuesday, Trump denounced threats against Jewish community centers as “horrible” and “painful,” saying more needed to be done “to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Speaking after a tour of the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump said: “This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

The president is a Presbyterian, but his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president.

Ivanka and Jared Kushner’s children the president’s grandchildren are Jewish.

On Monday, Ivanka Trump wrote on Twitter, “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers,” and used the hashtag #JCC, which stands for Jewish community center.

Evidence of rising anti-Semitism, but data mostly elusive – Minnesota Public Radio News

Trump calls rising violence aimed at Jews ‘horrible and painful’ – Washington Post

President Trump urged Americans to “fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” including antisemitic threats targeted at Jewish community centers, speaking on Feb. 21 at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (The Washington Post)

President Trump, under pressure to speak out against rising anti-Semitic vandalism in the country, said Tuesday that such acts are horrible and painful.

Trump used a morning visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to offer his condemnation, saying his tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.

The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil, Trump said.

[Jewish cemetery vandalized. Jewish centers threatened. ADL calls on Trump to step forward.]

During an earlier interview with NBC News at the site, Trump said: Anti-Semitism is horrible and its going to stop, and it has to stop.

I certainly hope they catch the people, he added.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League reported a wave of bomb threats directed against Jewish Community Centers in multiple states, the fourth series of such threats this year. More than 170 Jewish gravestones were toppled at a cemetery in Missouri over the weekend.

Growing outcry against a recent spate of anti-Semitic acts and threats pushed President Trump to denunciate the rising violence, calling it “a sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.” (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Calls for Trump to condemn the violence had been growing. On Twitter on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic presidential rival, added her voice to those calling on Trump to speak out.

Jewish Community Center threats, cemetery desecration & online attacks are so troubling & they need to be stopped. Everyone must speak out, starting w/ @POTUS, Clinton said.

Trump was offered an opportunity to condemn the rising violence at a new conference Thursday. In response to an invitation by a reporter to do so, Trump called the question insulting and instead defended his personal beliefs, saying: I am the least anti-Semitic person that youve ever seen in your entire life.

Earlier in the week, appearing at another news conference alongsideIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked about rising anti-Semitic violence across the country and started his answer by talking about the size of his electoral college victory in the fall. Trump said he wants to heal a divided nation, but did not explicitly condemn the spate of violence.

[Trump was asked a question about anti-Semitism. His answer was about the electoral college.]

Trumps daughter Ivanka Trump, who joined him on the museum tour Tuesday, took to Twitter on Monday night to address the issue, saying: We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers.

President Trumps words Tuesday were welcomed by some and criticized by others as too late.

The Presidents sudden acknowledgment is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration, said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting ant-semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record.

Goldstein was critical in particular of the White Houses decision not to mention Jews in a statement last month marking the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called Trumps statement as welcome as it is overdue.

President Trump has been inexcusably silent as this trend of anti-Semitism has continued and arguably accelerated, Pesner said. The president of the United States must always be a voice against hate and for the values of religious freedom and inclusion that are the nations highest ideals.

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Trump calls rising violence aimed at Jews ‘horrible and painful’ – Washington Post

Personal collection of Holocaust historian Yaffa Eliach dedicated at … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Yaffa Eliach is probably best known for creating the Tower of Faces, apermanent display of approximately 1,000 reproductions of prewar photographs of Jewish life in the southeastern Lithuanian village of Eishishok at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) The personal collection of Holocaust documentation of survivor and historian Yaffa Eliach was dedicated at the Yad Vashem memorial and museum in Jerusalem.

The Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection was unveiled Monday.

Eliach dedicated her life to documenting the events and victims of the Holocaust, particularly the pre-World War II life in her birthplace, the Lithuanian town of Eishishok. Eliach died in November at 79.

The collection spans a half-century of recorded testimonies, transcripts, diaries, authentic memoirs and original documents in English, Hebrew, Polish, German, Russian and Yiddish; individual photographs and photo albums; and articles Eliach composed regarding the history of Eastern European Jews in general and in Eishishok.

It is being cataloged as an independent archival division, available to both researchers and the greater public, according to Yad Vashem.

Eliach published several books about the Holocaust, but is widely renowned for The Tower of Faces, an exhibit featured at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., featuring 1,500 photographs of the approximately 3,500 Jews murdered in her hometown.

The collection is described on the Yad Vashem website: The arrival of the comprehensive collection fulfills Prof. Eliachs desire for her lifetimes work to be preserved in a safe haven at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and her archives will take an honored place among Yad Vashems other archival collections conserved for future generations.

More here:
Personal collection of Holocaust historian Yaffa Eliach dedicated at … – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

On a sunny morning in February 2016, Sami Solmaz, a Kurdish filmmaker from Turkey, took a ride with Kurdish forces from the Iraqi town of Sinjar to the front lines. He spent the day filming gun battles between Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State militant group for a documentary he was making on ISIS attacks against religious minorities. That afternoon, as he was heading back to town, he heard a soldiers voice crackle over his drivers radio: Be careful! ISIS is firing chlorine bombs into Sinjar.

The militant group had been launching homemade rockets filled with chemicals toward Sinjar since Kurdish forces pushed them out of the town in late 2015. Earlier in February, a chemical attack in Sinjar had left Kurdish fighters sick, and Solmaz knew it was best to stay away. The only problem: His drivers car was in town, and so they decided to hurry back and retrieve it. We were only there 10 minutes, but you could smell [the gas], he tells Newsweek.

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On his way out of Sinjar, Solmazs face began to swell and his throat started to burn as he drove toward the Iraqi city of Duhok, where he fell into a deep sleep at his sisters apartment and awoke more than 20 hours later. When he was feeling better, he emailed Jason Guberman, the director of Digital Heritage Mapping, a nonprofit hed been helping in New York, to apologize for slipping out of touch.

Guberman was relying on Solmaz, an atheist from a Muslim family, to document Jewish heritage sitesfrom synagogues and cemeteries to ruins of schools, houses and community centers Jews once used in the Middle East and North Africa. For years, his staff and a rotating cast of about a dozen interns and volunteers have been racing to create digital records of Jewish sites. The projects name is Diarna, which means our home in Judeo-Arabic. As wars in the region destroy these sites, Gubermans team is running out of time.

In his office near Manhattans Union Square, Guberman has created a situation room that has been stripped of cubicles and lined with marked-up maps of Yemen, Iraq, and the Syrian cities ofAleppo and Damascus. This enables the team to prioritize the most at-risk areas and dispatch researchers, like Solmaz, into the field when moments of peace create opportunities. To create realistic renderings of the sites, Diarna has recruited a network of volunteer photographers and paid researchers through social media and word of mouth in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iran. Most live and work in the region and can access dangerous areas more easily than Americans or non-Muslims.

Read more:How the new monument men are outsmarting ISIS

Back in New York, his staff uses SketchUp, a 3-D modeling tool, to transform photographs from the field into digital models of the ancient buildings and plot them, according to their coordinates, on Google Earth. They also look for people familiar with the siteslike former congregants of synagogues, or the architects who renovated themwho can recall details about their appearance. Their recollections about anythingfrom whether the flooring was made of tile, wood or carpet to whether the buildings were lit with stained glass, skylights or chandeliershelp Diarna researchers create more accurate 3-D images and descriptions of the sites. Diarna often shares the witnesses raw recorded testimonies to bring online exhibits to life. Unlike other organizations doing similar kinds of work, Diarna makes its 3-D models publicly accessible.

When Diarna launched, Guberman estimated his team would identify between 500 and 1,000 sites to plot on Google Earth; the number has now surpassed 1,600.

Solmaz, who was in Iraq to collect footage for his film about ISIS, offered to visit abandoned Jewish villages for Guberman. The two had met in the summer of 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in New YorkSolmaz was there to inquire about using the buildings archives to research a documentary about Kurdish Jews, which he would be filming in Syria and Iraq. He wound up in Diarnas office, where he and Guberman chatted about his interest in Jewish culture. Solmaz had grown up in Turkeys southeast, and his grandparents had told him stories about the minorities who no longer lived thereJews, Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. By the time Solmaz was born in 1963, Ottoman and Turkish authorities had massacred or deported most of them in campaigns to Turkify the nation in its violent early days, a part of his countrys history that he thought about often in his work as a war correspondent and independent filmmaker.

An Israeli youth lies on an Israeli flag during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira in the southern Israeli town of Netivot in January 2015. Thousands of Jews mostly of Moroccan origin came to pray over the respected Kabbalist rabbi. Oded Balilty/AP

As Guberman listened, he realized he might be able to recruit Solmaz to help Diarna. But doing so would be dangerous. Syrias civil war was in its third year, and ISIS was taking over major cities and towns in Iraq. Guberman worried that Solmaz could be captured, kidnapped or killed, especially if ISISor the Syrian regimediscovered his links to an American nonprofit with a Jewish cause. We actually tried to discourage him, says Guberman, but he wanted to go. The two men agreed to stay in touch.

What had started as a chance meeting in a quiet museum would soon become a vital partnershipspanning oceans and war zonesto preserve ancient history before it vanishes.

A month after their first meeting, Solmaz returned to Gubermans office with a file of photographs. The images showed the ruins of a Jewish village in the mountains separating Iraq from Turkey, near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers Party; the insurgent group is at war with Turkey and the target of frequent Turkish bombing campaigns. Guberman hadnt told him to go there because hed assumed it was too dangerous. Jason was shocked, Solmaz recalled. He said, How were you able to get this?

Over the next two and a half years, Solmaz planned multiple trips to Iraq, northern Syria, Turkey, Israel and Greece, always allaying Gubermans concerns about safety. Jason, I can go there, I am Kurdish, hed tell him. Or Im a war correspondent, dont worry.

The arrangement has been mutually beneficial. Solmaz hikes mountains, cajoles locals and travels to war zones to find the endangered sites Diarna wants to preserve on the internet. In return, Diarna pays him for photographs, videos and reports, which Solmaz often finds useful for his projects.

A Diarna expedition photo shows the exterior of the Tomb of Nahum in Alqosh, Iraq. Diarna

When Diarna launched in 2008, most Jewish synagogues, schools and cemeteries in the Middle East and North Africa had been out of use for decades, and many had fallen into disrepair. Most of the estimated 1 million Jews who lived between Morocco and the Arabian Sea abandoned their homelands to escape anti-Semitic violence in the 1950s and 60s. Now wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, along with the emergence of ISIS, which has been attacking ancient sites with pickaxes and dynamite, pose a real threat to preserving the Middle Easts ancient history.

As destroying sacred sites has become increasingly common in the Middle East, analysts, countries and even some militants have come to see the costs of destroying them. In September, an Islamist militant became the first person convicted of a war crime for destroying cultural and religious sites in Mali. At his trial at the Hague in the Netherlands, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, urged other combatants to refrain from destroying cultural sites, saying such acts are not going to lead to any good for humanity.

Experts on ancient cultures say there is universal value in preserving sacred heritage sights of any religion. All cultures and societies have sacred sites, and these sacred sites are related to concepts of who we are, where we came from and where we are going, says Richard Leventhal, the director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvanias Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ISISs methodical destruction of holy sites serves a very important purpose for the group. ISIS is not just trying to wipe people off the face of the earth by killing them, says Leventhal, they are also destroying their history.

Under pressure from multiple enemies on multiple fronts, ISIS has been losing territory in Syria and Iraq. Their retreat is slowly revealing the extent of their destruction. The group has targeted religious sites from all faiths within the land it occupied. During the organizations 2014 and 2015 rampage against symbols of idolatry, according to its corruptedversion of Islam, the militants blew up the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. The mosque was one of several sites said to house Jonahs tomb, an important monument for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It seemingly should have been protected because it was inside a Sunni mosque, but they blew it up anyway, Guberman says. So at that point we knew that no site is safe.

But Jews have an unusually deep level of experience with violent enemies doing all they can to wipe out their history. Guberman did not want what happened in World War II in Europethe Nazis destroying hundreds of synagogues to happen in the Middle East. Without physical evidence of Jewish culture, the worlds understanding of Jewish communities in the Arab world will disappear with the death of the last generation who can remember them.

Guberman sees a special significance in his work for the worlds Jews whose heritage begins in Iraq. I mean, this is where all Jewish history comes from, he says. According to Jewish tradition, all Jews trace their lineage to Abraham, the father of monotheism who was born in the Babylonian city of Ur, now in present-day Iraq. Religious scholars say that Abraham and his descendants began to disperse across the Middle East in the 19th century B.C. Population estimates show that the majority of the worlds Jews remained in the region through the Middle Ages. As recently as the early 1900s, nearly 1 million of the worlds estimated 15 million Jews were still living across the Middle East and North Africa, some in Jewish communities with roots in antiquity.

But Israels founding in 1948 led to violence from Muslim mobs and discriminatory policies implemented by local governments aimed at Jews in the Arab world, prompting almost all of them to leave. Most initially went to Israel, which spearheaded their mass emigration through a series of famous missions like the 1949 Magic Carpet airlift that spirited 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel, and a subsequent operation that nearly emptied Iraq of its Jewish population. The Jews left; their ancient synagogues remained.

In 2008, when Guberman was finishing his degree in political science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and wondering what to do next, only about 5,000 Jews remained in North Africa and the Middle East, outside of Israel. Without a Jewish community left to care for them, hundreds of sacred sites were converted into mosques, housing and other structures, or ignored as their roofs caved in and engravings faded.

A Diarna expedition photo shows a child’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Tangier, Morocco, in 2011. Joshua Shamsi for Diarna Geo-Museum

Guberman considered applying to law school, but he changed his mind after speaking to a friend who had recently returned from a trip to Morocco. His wife is part Moroccan-Jewishand they had just had a daughter. He was very concerned about how his daughter was going to connect with her Moroccan-Jewish heritage when she grew upbecause so much history had already disappeared, Guberman says.

His friends concern piqued his interest. Guberman had always been drawn to Mizrahi (or Eastern) Jewish history and he was surprised by how little attention it received compared with that of Jews in Europejust a paragraph, he recalls, in a college textbook. Guberman and a small group of friends decided to devote themselves to its preservation.

Gubermans Bubbie offered free food and internet to her grandson and his colleagues in Connecticut when they started. The group soon secured enough funding from Karin Douglas, a philanthropist and fellow Sacred Heart graduate, to move out of Bubbies house and launch Digital Heritage Mapping, which would fuel the Diarna project. By late 2008, Gubermans small team was beginning to make renderings of sites in the precarious physical world to preserve forever on the internet. Guberman and his small team of researchers used Google Earth to map the ruins of Jewish villages that had dotted northern Iraq from antiquity through the early 20th century; an 800-year-old cemetery outside of Marrakesh, Morocco, nearly lost to a development project became a virtual exhibit online; Diarnas website published photographs of the tomb of Judeo-Moroccan mystic Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzera in the Nile Delta, before Egypts government banned an annual pilgrimage to the site in 2014 over tensions between locals and Jewish visitors.

Jason Guberman gives a lecture showing a 3-D rendering from the Diarna Geo Museum. Tracy Deer-Mirek/Diarna

Many places were still off limits when Diarna started its project, some three years before the Arab Spring uprisings toppled dictators in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Many of those autocrats clung to anti-Semitic policies. Libya under Muammar el-Qadda was particularly difficult to access for researchers working for a Jewish nonprofit. Qaddafi was notoriously anti-Semiticcanceling all debts owed to Jews, among other thingsand Diarnas efforts to recruit local researchers failed. Libyans were too nervous to be associated with a Jewish organization, Guberman explained.

But when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010, Diarna saw a unique opening.

When fighting erupted in Libya, for example, reporters descended on the country, including one familiar with Diarnas work. She contacted Guberman, offering to help him. Her only condition was anonymity.

In May 2011, Guberman sent her a map of the Hara Kabira, the old Jewish quarter in Tripoli, to help her locate the Dar Bishi synagogue, the most beautiful in the city when it opened in 1928. After Qaddafi took power in the late 1960s, the government seized and shuttered all Jewish property in Libya. Guberman hoped the reporter could find a way to survey it without raising the suspicion of the government, which was keeping an eye on foreign journalists in the city. Somehow, she slipped out of her hotel and made it there. She entered the crumbling structure through a hole in the back wall and took pictures of its gutted, columned interior, strewn with trash and vandalized by graffiti. She sent the photos to Guberman when she was safely out of the country.

The interior of the abandoned Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, Libya on September 28, 2011. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty

Guberman was cautiously optimistic that the rebels who ousted Qaddafi in 2011 might make it easier to access Jewish sites. A Libyan Jew named David Gerbi tested those expectations a few months later by returning to Tripoli from exile in Italy to restore the Dar Bishi synagogue. From New York, Guberman closely followed the news of Gerbis dramatic entrance to the holy site as the Libyan used a sledgehammer.

Guberman wondered how locals would react. He soon found out. A group of protesters opposed to the synagogues restoration gathered in central Tripoli with signs denouncing Zionism and some declaring there is no place for Jews in Libya. Fearing for his safety, Gerbi abandoned his project and returned to Italy, signaling to Guberman that the obstacles he faced researching Jewish sites under Qaddafi would likely remain. As he puts it: We realized that probably nothing good is going to come of doing work in Libya.

Gubermans team published a 3-D model of the once-stately structure on Google Earth, using photographs and coordinates the female reporter had taken. They also used her photographs to make a video tour of the model.

The latter may turn out to be among the only proof the site ever existed.

As governments collapsed across the region, threats to buildings multiplied. One of the higher-profile Jewish heritage sites lost to the fighting in Syria was the centuries-old Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in a suburb of Damascus. The synagogue is named for the prophet Elijah, whose appearance, Jews believe, will herald the coming of the Messiah. According to local tradition, Elijah anointed his successor on the site where the synagogue was built. Still well maintained when the war in Syria began, it appeared in photos published by The Daily Beast in 2014 as piles of rubbleits fine carpets, chandeliers and library of religious texts apparently gone.

Eddie Ashkenazie, a Diarna researcher from Brooklyn with roots in Syria, has been closely following the destruction. He felt a new determination in his work after watching aerial footage shot in the ancient Syrian city of Homs in 2015 that showed block after block of bombed-out buildings.

Ashkenazie has been scouting out Brooklyn synagogues with Syrian congregants whose memories of Jewish sites might still be fresh. I tell them what I do, and they’re like, Oh, bring us your pictures tomorrow, bring us your maps, he says. Just yesterday, after prayer services a group of men helped me [locate] synagogues in Damascus. After the meeting, he returned to his office and added the synagogues to Diarnas expanding database of sites.

A small number of Jews still live in Damascus, Syrias capital, some of whom have helped Diarna document sites. But the material hasnt yet been published due to concerns of drawing unwanted attention to the shrinking community and their lesser-known sacred sites. Wherever there is a community, Guberman says, their lives take precedence over our documentary mission.

Over the past few years, the last Jews in Syriaand much of the wider regionhave left. In 2015, in a controversial operation, Israeli-American businessman Moti Kahana smuggled Aleppos remaining Jewish residents to Israel through Turkey. In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel airlifted a family that made up 19 of Yemens roughly 85 Jews to Israel. Tunisian Jews have migrated recently too, as attacks have made the country less safe. When the last people leave, Guberman said, it is just a matter of time before the sites will be repurposed or destroyed.

On a recent stopover in his native Turkey, Solmaz clicked through images on his computer, each one illustrating the precariousness of Jewish heritage in Iraq. In a stone synagogue in Gondik, a small village in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, hay covered the floors to feed the livestock who now occupy it. In another picture, taken in Kirkuk, fresh bullet holes marked the walls of a Muslim familys home whose central feature revealed its Jewish pastan elaborate niche built into the wall for a Torah.

Solmaz plans to return to Iraq once Kurdish and Iraqi forces push ISIS out of Mosul, another city that was once home to thousands of Jews. More recently Mosul was home to tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who fled their homes ahead of ISISs advance. For his own work, Solmaz will document the damage the jihadis have caused to the citys non-Muslims and the architecture they left behind. For Diarna, he will look much further back in time, for evidence of a small Jewish community that endured for centuries in Mosul before fleeing persecution in the early 20th century.

To understand the present, Solmaz says, you have to know your past.

View original post here:
Jewish History is Under Siege in the Middle East and These Volunteers Are Risking Their Lives to Protect It – Newsweek

Trump: Black History Museum a Tribute to ‘American Heroes’ – Voice of America

U.S. President Donald Trump visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Tuesday, calling it a beautiful tribute to so many American heroes.

The new president read the names of several prominent black figures from American history, saying, I’m deeply proud that we now have a museum that honors the millions of African American men and women who built our national heritage, especially when it comes to faith, culture and the unbreakable American spirit.”

He pledged to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African Americans and for every American. So important, nothing more important. His visit came as the U.S. celebrates its annual Black History Month during February.

Trump said the fight for racial equality in the United States depicted at the museum is a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms. He condemned recent threats against Jewish centers in the U.S., calling them horrible and painful.

But he promised, as he has numerous occasions, Were going to bring this country together, maybe bring some of the world together.

WATCH: Trump visits museum

Popular tourist attraction

The museum, on the National Mall not far from the White House, opened last year and has drawn large crowds and wide critical acclaim. It has nearly 37,000 objects in its collection tracing the history of blacks in America, from their arrival on slave ships from Africa, to the mid-19th century Civil War fought over slavery, to the advances toward racial equality at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

There are exhibits about black communities, their families, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and legalized racial segregation that existed in the United States as recently as 50 years ago.

In his upset presidential election victory last November, Trump won just 8 percent of the black vote compared to 88 percent for his Democratic rival, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump was accompanied on his museum visit by the only African-American in his Cabinet, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is awaiting confirmation as the presidents housing chief. The president promised to work closely with Carson to do great things in our African-American communities together.

View original post here:
Trump: Black History Museum a Tribute to ‘American Heroes’ – Voice of America

Amid growing calls for action, Trump addresses JCC threats, anti-Semitism – CBS News

Last Updated Feb 21, 2017 10:23 AM EST

Under growing pressure to address threats against the Jewish community following another wave of bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers around the country Monday, President Trump broke his silence on the issue Tuesday morning.

After previously deflecting a number of questions about the apparent rise in anti-Semitic incidents, Mr. Trump chose to address the issue at the end of his visit Tuesday to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms, the president said. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

His remarks followed days of increasing attention to the problem and weeks of anxiety within the Jewish community.

2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted Tuesday morning that the president should speak out against these incidents himself.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also called on the administration to address these threats. The group issued a statement saying that the threats themselves are alarming, disruptive and must always be taken seriously, despite the fact that all of the threats so far have turned out to be hoaxes.

Later in the day, the presidents daughter, Ivanka Trump, tweeted about the bomb threats.

On Monday, a White House official put out this statement: Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.

The head of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, suggested on Twitter that Mr. Trump should speak out against the threats himself.

The situation Monday marked the fourth time in which bomb threats were called into JCCs across the country, bringing the total to 69 threats at 54 JCCs across the country in 27 states. They have all been hoaxes.

Mr. Trump dodged questions about a rise in anti-Semitismlast week at two White House press conferences. On Thursday, for example, a Jewish reporter asked the president how the administration plans to address the issue and instead of answering it, Mr. Trump told the reporter to sit down and said it was not a fair question, then declared I am the least anti-Semitic person that youve ever seen in your entire life.

CBS News Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Original post:
Amid growing calls for action, Trump addresses JCC threats, anti-Semitism – CBS News

Trump at African-American History Museum Denounces Anti-Semitism and Racism: ‘It Has to Stop’ – NBCNews.com

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced the recent rise in bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country, saying the anti-Semitism and racism that continue to afflict America must be addressed.

“Anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s gonna stop and it has to stop,” Trump told NBC News in an exclusive interview, after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Federal authorities have been investigating a wave of phoned-in bomb threats to at least 10 Jewish community centers, including in Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Texas and New York. No one was injured, and the threats appeared to be hoaxes, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America told NBC News on Monday.

The new spate of threats has brought the total number to almost 70 since the beginning of the year, according to the association.

In a separate count of hate crime incidents, the Southern Poverty Law Center found nearly 2,000 in the 34 days after the November election expressing anti-Semitic and other bias-related harassment.

“I think it’s terrible,” Trump said of the anti-Semetic threats. “I think it’s horrible. Whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or any anything you wanna think about having to do with the divide. Anti-Semitism is, likewise, it’s just terrible.”

He added, “You don’t know where it’s coming from, but I hope they catch the people.”

Related: Muslims and Jews Band Together Against Hate

When asked about his immigration executive orders that have caused a measure of chaos at airports and have now been partially blocked by federal courts pending new orders which could come out as early as Tuesday Trump said he was focused on safety, and love.

“We have to have a safe country,” he said. “We have to let people come in that are going to love the country. This is about love. This building is about love. And we have to have people come in that are going to love the country, not people that are gonna harm the country.”

The president’s comments come after he sidestepped a question at a press conference last week about personally rebuking anti-Semitism, instead choosing to brand himself as “the least anti-Semitic” person in America.

Trump’s remarks Tuesday were met with stinging criticism from Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, as a Band-Aid and a “pathetic asterisk of condescension.”

“Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration,” Goldstein said in a statement, adding, “When President Trump responds to Anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

President Donald Trump views an exhibit on slavery during the American revolution while visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Feb. 21, 2017. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

During his tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump was shown an exhibit on slavery during the American Revolution. He was joined by eldest daughter Ivanka and two black members of his team: Housing and Urban Development secretary nominee Ben Carson and administration official Omarosa Manigault.

The museum includes an exhibit about Carson’s humble beginnings in Detroit to his rise as a neurosurgeon and eventual Republican presidential candidate.

Trump later told reporters that he plans to visit the Holocaust Museum and going is “very important to me.”

To kick off Black History Month, Trump held a round-table meeting with African-American leaders at the White House in early February. At the time, he lauded the African-American history museum, which opened on the National Mall last fall, as a place where people can learn about prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass.

As a candidate in October, Trump pledged a “new deal for black America,” which included putting more police on the streets and targeting “blighted communities” with “disaster designation” in order to spur the transformation of urban cities.



During his first month in office, Trump’s administration has been

The rest is here:
Trump at African-American History Museum Denounces Anti-Semitism and Racism: ‘It Has to Stop’ – NBCNews.com

Trump: Of course I condemn anti-Semitism – Hot Air

posted at 10:01 am on February 21, 2017 by Ed Morrissey

We have to have a safe country, Donald Trump told MSNBCs Craig Melvin at the National Museum of African American History while answering the third question in a week about hate crimes aimed at Jews in America. Its age-old, Trump says, theres just something going on that doesnt allow it to fully heal. More broadly on bigotry and racism, Trump praised the museum for its work, and most of all its success:

Politico has more of Trumps direct response:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday decried anti-Semitism, calling it horrible and pledging to put an end to it.

I will tell you that anti-Semitism is horrible and its gonna stop and it has to stop, Trump told MSNBCs Craig Melvin during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Asked directly if he was denouncing anti-Semitism once and for all, Trump responded in the affirmative.

Oh, of course, he said. And I do it wherever I get a chance, I do it.

Trump also managed to fit it a supporting statement for his upcoming revised executive order on visa and refugee entry. This building is about love, Trump tells Melvin, and we have to have people come inthat are going to love the country.

Lets call this an example of the third time being the charm. The first two public occasions where the media asked questions about anti-Semitic attacks rising around the country, Trump took the questions personally as a criticism of his supporters. This time he took the question on a straightforward basis and offered a simple response that condemns those attacks. Interestingly, it was the explicitly progressive channel MSNBC that got the best response, perhaps a reflection of the venue in which it was asked. Undoubtedly the White House prepared for that question in this venue, and Trumps answer demonstrates that preparation can pay off.

Note: This post has been expanded as a breaking news item.

Update: Better clip from MSNBC added to the main post, and Ivanka Trump also sent out a message last night about the need to oppose anti-Semitism:

That was received by the Left about as well as youd expect.

View post:
Trump: Of course I condemn anti-Semitism – Hot Air

Anne Frank Center Blasts Trump’s Limp Anti-Semitism Response – Huffington Post

President Donald Trumps statements condemning anti-Semitismare too little, too late, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect said Tuesday.

The U.S. centers executive director, Steven Goldstein,slammed Trumps response as nothing but a Band-Aid and reminded Americans of his administrations history of turning a blind eye to past and present anti-Semitism.

His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record, Goldstein said. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump made his clearest denouncement of anti-Semitism yet,while touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and Jewish community centers are horrible and painful and a very sad reminder of the work that must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil, he said.

His comments come a day after Jewish Community Centers across the U.S. faced another wave of bomb threats, forcing evacuations in 10 states. But threats have been happening for a while; Jewish Community Center Association communications manager Marla Cohen told The Huffington Post on Monday that there have now been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017.

Trump shot down a Jewish reporters questions about those threats at a press conference last Thursday.

Sit down, the president told Jake Turx, a reporter for Orthodox Jewish weekly Ami Magazine, after telling him it was not a fair question.

When Turx attempted to interject, Trump fired back, Quiet, quiet, quiet, and called it a very insulting question.

Read more:
Anne Frank Center Blasts Trump’s Limp Anti-Semitism Response – Huffington Post

Historical Society shines spotlight on Cheshire County’s Jews … – The Keene Sentinel

If youve ever wondered about the backstory of Keenes first Jewish settler, or the ubiquity of Manischewitz wine at observations at the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat, in Hebrew), theres a place you can observe it all.

From Peddlers, to Shopkeepers, to Professionals: A History of the Jewish Community in Cheshire County, a wide-ranging cross section of local Jewish history, is on exhibit until April 21 at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The exhibit is co-presented by Ahavas Achim, Keenes Jewish congregation.

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Isaac Stein can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or Istein@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @ISteinKS

See the article here:
Historical Society shines spotlight on Cheshire County’s Jews … – The Keene Sentinel

As Jews, we must take sides – The Jewish Standard

On January 21 I took my ritual prayer shawl my tallit and my sign, reading Orthodox Rabbi Against Trump with Hate outlined in the background, and left my home.

With hundreds of thousands of fellow New Yorkers around me, the street became my synagogue. I thought of the blessing recited upon seeing such a large mass of people, where tradition blesses God as the knower of secrets. What brought each of us here? Were we marching for an ideal or against a leader? The answers were varied, the secrets unknown.

The glory of the King is magnified by the multitude of people, say the sages of the Talmud. This felt appropriate as I saw countless people of varying ethnicities and backgrounds, with posters and chants just as diverse. Still, there was a unity, not conformity, in this conglomeration.

As the week went on and the president announced his executive orders on immigration, I was thrust backward in time, looking through my grandparents photo albums and reading their stories. As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and refugees, I often think about the worlds silence and Americas delayed intervention during World War II. While FDR and the Allies knew of the heinous war crimes being perpetuated against the Jews of Eastern Europe, the press failed to report these atrocities though the Yiddish newspapers kept their readership informed. I remember as a teenager wondering what if while reading While Six Million Died by Arthur Morse, and feeling full of shame. I have felt that same stomach-churning uneasiness over the past years of the Syrian genocide, but the latest announcement delivered a new blow.

I imagined: how might I resist, if I were an innocent Syrian fleeing persecution? As a native Yiddish speaker, I never accepted the claim of the weak shtetl Yid, the idea that Jews went like sheep to the slaughter, that they should have done more to protect themselves. I knew my grandparents friends were smugglers, couriers, and fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and that they were partisans and poets. I was deeply knowledgeable about the rich cultural life that thrived amid such persecution. I was raised to believe in peoples inherent spiritual strengths, as opposed to thinking I understood why they deserved whatever suffering that had befallen them.

Where were we then? We, who by chance and luck, found ourselves in positions of power and places of privilege in our country, which sings Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Where are we now? As a rabbi, I think of the rabbis and community leaders before me, who pleaded with the president and powers that were, who organized and took to the streets to protest and demand action. There must have been voices, like there are today, that implored rabbis to stay away from politics, not to ruffle feathers, not to overly politicize. But there also were rabbis who accepted their mantle, who knew that they were part of a prophetic tradition that valued the sanctity of human life and were unafraid to rise up for the vulnerable.

I see my family and community today my Jewish community so protective of the memory of the Holocaust, of Hitler, of the exceptionalism about the barbarism of Nazism that allows them blinders stopping them from bearing witness to the suffering of today. I see my community as so confident in its own mythologized sense of its own uniqueness that it forgets the charge of serving as a light unto the nations and fails to show up on behalf of those suffering besides themselves.

I see my people spiritually stuck in a place of fear that does not allow them to fulfill the sacred commandment of loving the stranger, the foreigner.

Over the last weeks I have looked inward and at my religion, practicing my tradition, imploring my God, studying my history and staring at my people as I ask: How did we arrive here?

I am not a policy expert, political pundit, or lawmaker. But as a Zionist and religious Jew, I am compelled to push my Orthodox community and Jewish Trump supporters: How do we account for the president failing to mention Jewish deaths in the Holocaust? How do we come to terms with House Republicans who avoid voting on a resolution stating that the Holocaust targeted Jews? How do we justify banning an entire religion from entering the United States who come from countries that have not produced a terrorist on U.S. soil in decades? What do we make of Trumps countless tweets that do not include even one announcement of the dozens of bomb threats against Jewish institutions? How do we rationalize the presidents obsession with his own persona? The Talmud teaches that one who is arrogant is like an idol worshipper. What then do we say of the man who builds towers to the sky with his name emblazoned on them?

As Jewish parents, what do we say to our children, especially our daughters, when they discover we have elected a man accused dozens of times of sexual misconduct, who has said the most misogynistic and vile things about women, who rates women on their physical appearance alone? Is this the Torah value of walking humbly with our God, of treating each human being with dignity and respect, and acting as if we believe that each person carried the image of God in them? How do we explain the twittering bully-in-chiefs childlike behavior?

And what do we say to the prime minister of the State of Israel, who strives and claims to represent Jewish people all over the world, when he enthusiastically congratulates and aligns himself with a man who has emboldened a new generation of anti-Semitism?

I carry my family and people within me wherever I go. I accept that there is a time for war and a time for peace. I hold the dissonances that shaped my identity and believe them integral to my spiritual DNA. I pray for the welfare of this United States government and all its elected officials. That is why I cannot accept the presidents rhetoric, behavior, language, or executive orders as being aligned with normative religious values or stay silent.

This is a deeper divide than Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative it is about moral decency. In Hebrew, its derech eretz.

For all the creative and provocative signs on Saturday, January 21, and at the rallies since then, God hasnt made it onto very many cardboard posters. But I felt God with me then as I do now, emboldened by the outpouring of love for the most vulnerable in our society, touched by the community that forms itself within hours, even moments, after learning of a new damning decree. I feel God as I encounter a Trump supporter and demand to understand why the newest form of blatant racism feels acceptable to him. I feel God in these moments of dissonance and despair, and I believe wholeheartedly that light will prevail amid this invasive darkness.

We must wake up, as the prophets demanded, rise up, and speak out. As Elie Wiesel once said, Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. So, Jews: Which side are we on?

Rabbi Avram Mlotek grew up in Teaneck, where his parents still live. He is the grandchild of Holocaust refugees and a founder of Base Hillel, a new model for Jewish engagement..

Read more:
As Jews, we must take sides – The Jewish Standard

Yad Vashem event to honor Holocaust survivor and author – Arutz Sheva

Yaffa Eliach was one of the leading pioneers in Holocaust research and education in the United States, as well as a forerunner in collating and researching oral testimonies of Holocaust survivors.

The Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection is carefully organized and spans a half-century of recorded testimonies, transcripts, diaries, authentic memoirs, and original documents in English, Hebrew, Polish, German, Russian, and Yiddish, individual photographs and photo albums, and articles she composed regarding the history of Eastern European Jews in general and in Eishishok, her native town in Lithuania, in particular.

She also published several books about the Holocaust, but is most famously known for her work The Tower of Faces, an exhibit featured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which features 1,500 photographs of approximately 3,500 Jews murdered in her hometown.

The event will feature Prof. Eliach’s husband, Rabbi Dr. David Eliach, Rabbanit Esther Farbstein, and Judith Cohen, Chief Acquisitions Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“The Yaffa Eliach Shtetl Collection is one of the largest private Holocaust-related collections of its kind,” says Yad Vashem’s Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner. “It is therefore appropriate for it to be included in the Yad Vashem Archives, which houses the largest collection of Holocaust-related documentation.

“The Eliach Collection was one of the first micro-history projects on the Holocaust. The more than 6,000 photographs in the collection provide a visual testimony to the existence of the town of Eishishok where over 90% of one town’s population was murdered during the Holocaust.”

Originally posted here:
Yad Vashem event to honor Holocaust survivor and author – Arutz Sheva

Community Holocaust Survivor Theodora Klayman – Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

As time gradually claims those of whom the Holocaust could not, their stories could fade precipitously into the dusty corners of time.

History ideally records those harrowing accounts. They are indispensa-ble reminders of the extent to which man can erode into evil and humani-ty suffers.

Hear Holocaust survivor Theodora Klayman speak in Bristol on Feb. 27.

Presented in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Mu-seum as part of King Universitys Institute for Faith and Culture 2016-17 Lecture Series, Klayman will speak in the morning at Kings Memorial Chapel in Bristol, Tennessee. In the evening, she will appear at Emmanu-el Episcopal Church in Bristol, Virginia.

There cant be many of us left, said Klayman, a volunteer at the Holocaust Memorial Museum since 1999. Its up to us to tell the story. Yes, I think that its a responsibility.

Klayman stressed a need for survivors to speak when possible of the Holocaust. History depends on them.

We cant let go. We cant let go! she said. Its why I speak about it.

Klayman, a longtime resident of Maryland, married an American in 1958. They had children and grandchildren. Though her husband has long since died, the retired schoolteacher enjoys a happy life.

I tried to forget it. So what am I doing talking about the Holo-caust? Klayman said. Its dangerous to forget.

Born Teodora Basch-Vrani in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, on Jan. 31, 1938, Theodora Klayman entered life amid one of the worlds most tumultuous times. Her father, Salamon, owned a small brush manufacturing plant. Her mother, Silva, worked as a teacher.

I was spared the first three years, Klayman said. The Germans did not attack Yugoslavia until 1941.

Hitlers German-led invasion of Yugoslavia began on April 6, 1941. Germanys Luftwaffe attacked Belgrade by air in support of its ground forces amid regional assaults on neighboring Romania and Hungary. Yugo-slavia fell on April 17, 1941.

When the Holocaust started for us in 1941, I was 3. I was 7 at the end of the war, Klayman said.

Shes living testimony concerning one of the worlds most ghastly se-quences of atrocities in the Holocaust and life under a Fascist thumb. Klaymans story serves in part as a reminder that such monstrosities did happen. Likewise, her account serves cautionary roles.

We have to remember how fragile humanity is, she said.

She grew up in the small town of Ludbreg in northwest Croatia. Her grandfather, Joseph Leopold Deutsch, served for more than 40 years as the communitys Rabbi.

The Nazis invaded Klaymans Yugoslavia as she was visiting her grand-parents in Ludbreg. Concurrently, Nazi collaborators of the Fascist Ustasha (the Croatian equivalent of the Nazi SS) regime grasped control of Croatia.

Klaymans parents were shipped to a concentration camp.

When most of my family were deported, I stayed behind, she said. My parents were deported to Jasenovac, a concentration camp in Zagreb. I was in Ludbreg with my grandfather, who was a Rabbi.

A network of five sub-camps and one of 27 concentration camps in Yugo-slavia, Jasenovac was the largest. Varying numbers of Jews, Gypsies, Serbs, Croats and Muslims were sent for extermination in Jasenovac. The Holocaust Museum states that between 77,000 and 99,000 people died in the notorious camp that occupied about 223 acres on the bank of the Sava River.

Brutality thrived at Jasenovac. Ustasha guards waged killing contests. Cruelty flourished as the monsters practiced manual killings with a range of implements including axes, hammers, knives and saws.

The vast majority of Klaymans family perished.

Many, many, many practically all of them, she said. Half of my fathers siblings of six children, three of them survived.

Klayman paused. She continued, her noticeable accent hushed to nearly a whisper.

My parents, grandparentsall gone, she said.

Klayman and her brother, Zdravko, were hidden. Kept in safekeeping first by family including their maternal aunt Giza and then non-Jewish neighbors, they were able to narrowly avoid the direct horrors of con-centration camps.

As with most children detained, had they been caught, near certain death would have followed.

Had I been in Germany, Klayman said, I would not be alive. I was in a small town where people shielded me. Eventually I stayed with my aunt, whose husband was Catholic. When they were deported, I stayed with my friends. I pretended like I was someone elses child. I hid in plain sight.

Consequently, Klaymans life that could have been experienced a topsy-turvy existence. Turmoil amid World War II and the Germans bent to wipe away the Jewish religion delivered considerable blows to the culture among the living.

My grandfather was a Rabbi, but I grew up not knowing what it was like being Jewish, she said. The first time I saw any of my family was when I was 16 in Switzerland. I went to live in Switzerland when I was 19.

Mind-numbing in part describes Klaymans plight. Consider that she lived under dictator rule for the bulk of her first 20 years of life.

I lived under Fascist rule until I was 7, she said. I lived under Communist rule in Yugoslavia until I was 19. It was very difficult.

Freedom existed as just another word in the dictionary. It did not ap-ply.

We were so used to (not having freedom) that we thought it was nor-mal, Klayman said. I didnt fear death after age 7.

Droves of Nazi propagators, sympathizers, practitioners and cohorts scrambled in the immediate aftermath of the war to obliterate evidence of their crimes. For instance, Ustasha officials destroyed Jasenovac in 1945.

They wanted to destroy the testimony of what they had done, Klayman said.

A memorial site in the vicinity of Jasenovac commemorates the thou-sands who perished within the death camp. A museum and education center serve to highlight the reality of what occurred within what now amounts to be a massive gravesite.

Its like going to a cemetery where your parents are buried, Klayman said. Its sad and awful. Ive been twice. Itsvery sad.

During the 1950s, Klayman met an American during a trip he made abroad. Upon his return to the states, they corresponded via mail. A re-lationship bonded, grew and led to marriage.

They settled in Maryland. She applied her degrees in French and teach-ing English as a second language to teaching in the Maryland public school system for 30 years.

Nowadays, the 79-year-old Klayman volunteers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Shes a speaker for those who can no longer speak. Shes a win-dow into a past thats almost too horrific to fathom. Shes a living, breathing page of history that proves without debate that the Holocaust happened.

And could happen again.

Its a reminder, Klayman said of the finitely detailed story of the Holocaust within the museum. You see what people can go through if youre not careful. Its a reminder that it could happen again. We need to guard humanity.

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Community Holocaust Survivor Theodora Klayman – Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

Japan history revisionists bolder under Abe, say analysts – i24news

Experts say nationalist PM has energized those seeking to downplay Japanese war crimes

Successful hotel chain operator Toshio Motoya doesn’t mind if his denial of a notorious Japanese World War II military atrocity in China drives customers away.

Motoya not only penned a book calling the 1937 Nanjing massacre a lie but proudly displays it in guest rooms of his nationwide chain of APA hotels.

In protest, China and South Korea pulled their athletes from his inns for the Asian Winter Games that begin in northern Japan on Sunday. China has also told its tour businesses to stop cooperating with APA, essentially calling for a boycott.

Motoya has told supporters he “will never withdraw” the book under foreign pressure.

Such an attitude, analysts say, shows how those who whitewash Japan’s modern history are growing more emboldened by what they see as a tacit wink from hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Now in his fifth year in power, Abe makes no secret of his nationalist views. He says Japan must shake off past constraints, including altering its war-renouncing constitution imposed by American occupiers after World War II.

Tamotsu Sugano, an expert on Japanese rightist groups, said hotelier Motoya has close ties with ultra-conservative lobby Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, which has published a dossier calling the Nanjing massacre a “false accusation”.

And while Abe does not question the massacre, he and more than half his Cabinet ministers hold membership in a parliamentarians’ league that supports the group.

“Since he was first elected to parliament, Abe has acted very closely with the core members” of Nippon Kaigi, said Sugano, who has written a book on the organisation.

Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, says revisionism has been rising among politicians, the business sector and media since the late 1990s.

“Abe has been careful after becoming prime minister, but his firm foothold is these people,” Nakano said, calling him “their flag bearer”.

The prime minister, who once prevaricated over whether Japan’s wartime aggression amounted to “invasion”, has also appointed cabinet ministers with a revisionist bent.

And while Abe has stood by previous government apologies for the war, he said ahead of the 70th anniversary of its end in 2015 that future generations should not have to say sorry.

China says 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction by the Japanese military that began in December 1937.

Some respected academics estimate a lower number of victims, but mainstream scholarship does not question that the incident, known as the “Rape of Nanking,” took place.

Motoya’s book, dryly titled “The Real History of Japan: Theoretical Modern History II,” uses the word “fabrication” to describe Nanjing.

“Revisionists in Japan are seeking to rewrite Japan’s shared wartime history in Asia and promoting an exonerating narrative that ignores what happened,” Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, told AFP in an email.

Motoya has also come under fire for anti-Semitic comments made in an in-house magazine placed in his Canada hotels, asserting that Jews “control” key sectors of the United States.

His history book has elicited no condemnation from the Japanese government and little from media or broader society.

The nationalist Sankei Shimbun daily has rather applauded the government for “neither pressuring APA hotel nor urging self-restraint”.

The situation in Japan contrasts with Germany, where opinions expressing sympathy for Nazi rule are broadly considered unacceptable and displaying fascist symbols such as the swastika, or denying the Holocaust, are illegal.

Last year, an 87-year-old woman was sentenced to prison for denying that Auschwitz was a death camp.

The lack of vocal criticism over revisionist ideas in Japan, however, does not mean nationalist views resonate widely.

Indeed, voters have bet on Abe mainly for his promise to revitalize the economy. Polls show underwhelming support for his pet project of constitutional revision.

“The rise of China is stoking anxieties and nationalism in Japan, but nationalism doesn’t resonate powerfully among Japanese because they understand what can go wrong,” said Temple University’s Kingston.


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Japan history revisionists bolder under Abe, say analysts – i24news