Newspapers serving New York’s Orthodox community are wrestling with the limits of political rhetoric, as supporters of President Trump continue to share conspiracy theories and dubious advice about Covid-19.
One columnist recently shared a theory made popular by QAnon, the conspiracy theory that includes anti-Semitic elements. Another paper accepted an advertisement urging Jewish educators to ignore medical advice about safely opening schools.
“The extremes are louder and more challenging. It’s not all about Trump,” one publisher told Gary Rosenblatt, The Jewish Week’s editor at large. “It’s about this weariness” over the pandemic, and how to deal with it, from masks to social distancing to the debate over in-person schooling.
Related: A one-time aide in the George W. Bush White House argues that President Trump’s “war on the truth” actually undermines Jewish interests. “If conspiracies like QAnon and election fraud can be true,” writes David Meyers in a JTA op-ed, “why not the ‘Protocols of the Elder of Zion’ or claims that Jews like George Soros are using their money to destroy the United States from within?”
An Orthodox rabbi from New York known for his support of far-right groups in Israel has been chosen by the outgoing Trump administration as the first leader of a U.S. investment fund aimed at advancing Israeli-Arab cooperation.
Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, a senior adviser to David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, will head the Abraham Fund, sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The fund is an outgrowth of the recent normalization agreements between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations.
A White House official said Lightstone has been instrumental in getting U.S. businesses to invest in joint ventures between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. Critics say he has a track record of supporting far-right groups in Israel, and lacks the professional chops to work in development.
Background: Democrats fear that Trump’s push to fill the position reflects his administration’s mad dash to set in motion changes that a Biden administration will find challenging to undo. An official told CNN this week that, especially when it comes to foreign policy, one goal is to set so many fires that Biden will struggle to put them all out.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up a trip to Israel on Friday with a visit to a museum in Jerusalem that honors Christian Zionists.
The visit to The Friends of Zion Museum came a day after Pompeo became the first secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and visited the contested Golan Heights. He also announced a new policy allowing settlement products exported to the US to be labeled “made in Israel” and a new initiative to combat the Palestinian-led international boycott movement, which he said would be designated as “anti-Semitic.”
Perspective: While his unprecedented visit was celebrated by Prime Minister Netanyahu and advocates of Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, Pompeo’s lasting impact in the region is unclear as a new U.S. president takes office, writes Raphael Aren in The Times of Israel.
Another view: “Biden will have difficulty reversing much of what is already done,” writes Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post.
A broad coalition of Jewish studies scholars and directors of Jewish and Holocaust museums has signed a petition opposing the proposed appointment of Effi Eitam, a far-right Israeli politician, to chair Israel’s Holocaust museum.
The 750 signers say Eitam is unfit to lead Yad Vashem because he called for most Palestinians in the West Bank to be expelled and for Arab Israelis to be excluded from the country’s political system. Eitam also was reprimanded by the IDF’s chief of staff because soldiers under his command beat a Palestinian to death.
“Eitam’s hateful rhetoric towards Israeli Arabs and Palestinians stands in opposition to the stated mission of Yad Vashem,” the petition reads. Israeli politicians, Holocaust survivors and the Anti-Defamation League have called for his name to be withdrawn.
His supporters point to his experience as a general and political leader.
Perspective: Eva Fogelman, a prominent psychologist who has studied why non-Jews risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, says Eitam’s nomination sends exactly the wrong message.
Two years after the deadly shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the city has become a hub for white supremacist activity.
In just the past several weeks, a white supremacist group held a march down a main boulevard there. About 100 people attended a white supremacist music festival in the area. A vocal white supremacist who had posted a call online to murder local Jews was released from prison. And flyers with white nationalist slogans have papered the city, JTA reports.
“We have, since 2018, seen a dramatic increase in white supremacist-related violent incidents and in the overall presence of white supremacists within our [area],” John Pulcastro, an FBI supervisory intelligence analyst, said at a symposium last week at Duquesne University’s Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law. His comments were first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Jews of Color Initiative is opening a New York Hub to better serve the city’s Jews of color and to strengthen and grow their community.
A grant from UJA-Federation of NY will support the Hub’s efforts over the next three years. It will focus on program development for Jewish of color and on mentorship, collaboration and leadership cultivation opportunities.
The Fellowship and Incubator aim to address the unequal access and lack of representation of Jews of color in Jewish organizations and leadership roles.
“New York City has one of the largest and fastest-growing populations of Jews of color in the U.S., including an up-and-coming generation of young innovators and leaders,” Ilana Kaufman, Executive Director of the Jews of Color Initiative, said in a statement. “We want to invest in the vibrant JoC community of New York and create meaningful Jewish experiences offerings that reflect their lives and interests.”
What happens when the world does not conform to our expectations? The story of Esau, writes Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky, reminds us that even in topsy-turvy times like our own, “human beings also have the power and freedom to set their course, to defy norms and even to choose God.”
More wisdom: A life of frivolous things is certainly wasted, but a life without them is narrow and pinched, writes Rabbi David Wolpe.
Candlelighting, Torah Readings
Friday, Nov. 20, 2020
Kislev 4, 5781
Light Candles at 4:16 pm
Saturday, Nov. 21
Kislev 5, 5781
Shabbat Ends 5:17 pm