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Remembering the Jersey City massacre • Tenement Museum has new prez • Raphael Warnock walks back Israel sermon
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Remembering the Jersey City massacre • Tenement Museum has new prez • Raphael Warnock walks back Israel sermon

A patient at Herzog Hospital’s Covid Isolation Unit in Jerusalem plays checkers with a staff member wearing protective gear. Israel’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines arrived on Wednesday as the country began to gear up for a mass vaccination effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control. (Courtesy)
A patient at Herzog Hospital’s Covid Isolation Unit in Jerusalem plays checkers with a staff member wearing protective gear. Israel’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines arrived on Wednesday as the country began to gear up for a mass vaccination effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control. (Courtesy)

In the year following the deadly shooting at a kosher grocery in Jersey City, multiple upheavals — from the pandemic to racial justice protests to the election — quashed any concerted effort at a united Jewish front against anti-Semitism.

Divisions within the Jewish community have only widened over diverging experiences of, and reactions to, the pandemic and the way it has changed the city, JTA reports.

“The talk of unity never really got off the ground,” Yochonon Donn, an editor of charedi Orthodox newspapers, said. “The differences are too great. The Orthodox community is very conservative and the non-Orthodox community is very liberal.”

Case in point: When charedim protested state restriction zones in their neighborhoods to curb the pandemic, liberal Jews organized to support the measures and expressed consternation at violations of social distancing in Orthodox neighborhoods.

Related: Congregation B’nai Jacob, an egalitarian synagogue in Jersey City, will host a virtual memorial, tomorrow at 6:30 pm, honoring the memories of three civilians and the police detective killed in the attack on the Kosher Market last year. The Forward reports that the memorial is part of the synagogue’s efforts to improve ties with its non-Jewish neighbors and improve its previously non-existent relationships with the city’s Satmar chasidic community.

The Grand Rabbi of the Satmar chasidic community of Williamsburg said that his followers should not consider themselves as American but rather as Jews in exile.

Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum, speaking Sunday night in Brooklyn, warned against activism in secular politics, saying, “We need to understand that we are in exile, we live here but we are not Americans.” The comments were first published by KAN News.

Nevertheless, Satmar chasidim, including Teitelbaum, were overtly political in their support of President Trump’s reelection campaign.

As Israel received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he aimed to be the first person in the country to receive the inoculation.

“We brought the vaccines to Israel! I intend to be the first in Israel to get vaccinated, to set an example for all Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Recent surveys found that a majority of Israelis are fearful of the vaccines and would not want to be included in the first set of inoculations.

Vice President Mike Pence, in a Chanukah-eve call with Jewish leaders, reviewed the Trump administration’s policies on Israel and on religious freedoms.

Pence spoke for 10 to 15 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, the day before Trump is hosting his last two Chanukah parties, and two days before the first night of Chanukah. He did not take any questions, two listeners on the off-the-record call told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

He boasted of Trump initiatives moving the embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and, more recently, advocating for the labeling of goods made in West Bank settlements as made in Israel. He also noted that the addition of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court helped secure the decision allowing houses of worship to open during the pandemic.

Raphael Warnock, a Democrat running for Senate in Georgia, said he opposed the boycott Israel movement and that he had an “increasing recognition” of the danger that Hamas poses to Israel.

In a call organized by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the Baptist minister appeared to walk back some of the harsh criticisms of Israel he made in a 2018 sermon at his church.

Key quote: “As you might imagine, I’m a pastor,” Warnock said on the JDCA call. “I preach every Sunday, I preach a lot of sermons. And I think that, as I recall that sermon, I was speaking to the issue of activists and human rights, and the ability of people to be heard. At the same time, I have an increasing recognition of Hamas and the danger that they pose to the Israeli people.”

The JDCA call also included Jon Ossoff, a Jewish candidate who is running in the Jan. 5 runoff election against the other Republican incumbent, David Perdue. Should Warnock and Ossoff win, the Democrats would gain control of the Senate.

Opinion

A Chabad rabbi in El Paso describes how the chasidic outreach movement is tailoring its signature public Chanukah celebrations to the Covid era. “This year, more than ever, we need to light the menorah at home every night of Chanukah and focus on this message: Even when we are limited in our public in-person interactions, creating more light in our private spaces impacts everyone around us,” writes Rabbi Levi Greenberg. 

Around the Agencies

The Tenement Museum board of trustees named Dr. Annie Polland as the institution’s next president, effective Jan. 2021. Polland served as executive vice president of Programs and Interpretation at the museum from 2009 to 2018 before becoming executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). She will replace Dr. Morris J. Vogel, who has served as president since Oct. 2019, a position to which he returned after serving as Tenement Museum president from 2008 until his initial retirement in 2017. Since March, the museum has struggled in the midst of the pandemic shutdown, focusing primarily on driving philanthropy and engaging audiences through digital and virtual content.

Latet, an Israeli nonprofit that provides welfare and food aid services, issued a report saying some 3.8 million Israelis live in poverty and more are going hungry now than prior to the pandemic. Latet’s Alternative Poverty Report found that during 2020, the number of households living in poverty has jumped from 20.1% before the pandemic to 29.3% (850,000 households), meaning some new 268,000 households now live in poverty. The full report in Hebrew can be downloaded here. The English version of the report will be available at the beginning of 2021.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is inviting people to join the organization on Facebook and unite with different Jewish communities worldwide through a Chanukah candle-lighting video each night of the holiday at 5:00 pm. The videos, which will be posted on JDC’s Facebook page, will include participants from Cuba, Hungary, India, Israel, Morocco, Russia and Ukraine. The virtual programming will include menorah-lightings, concerts, cooking workshops and educational sessions as well as volunteer opportunities. The holiday begins on the Dec. 10 at sundown.

Streaming Today

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev presents a webinar on how BGU scientists are preserving the biodiversity of the Red Sea’s coral reef. Learn about the university’s hotel management and tourism programs and Eilat’s growing high-tech sector with Yaniv Poria, academic Director of BGU’s Eilat Campus; Nadav Shashar, coordinator of the Marine Biology and Biotechnology Program, and Or Haviv, partner and head of Arieli Ventures and co-founder and CEO of Eilat Hub. Moderated by Doug Seserman, AABGU CEO. Click here to register. 12:00 pm.

The Katz Center at the University of Pennsylvania presents Dr. Todd Gitlin, co-author of the 2013 book, “The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election,” discussing his admitted failure to redeem the claim of chosenness as a concept that might be parlayed into a humane and universalistic vision. 5:00 pm.

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