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Tel Aviv is the ‘home of Judaism.’ So is Boston, Sao Paulo, Marseille …

Tue, 2017-05-23 21:32

Ivanka Trump praying at the Western Wall, May 22, 2017. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

(JTA) — Donald Trump and his staff may have left Israel feeling pretty friendly to the Jews, but man, we don’t make it easy for them.

Flying with reporters from Saudi Arabia to Israel on Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that they were “[o]nto the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.” Critics were not kind.

Jordan Schachtel of Conservative Review noted that because Tel Aviv does not have the religious significance of Jerusalem, Tillerson “managed to insult the people of Israel — and Jews worldwide.” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin accused the former ExxonMobil CEO of “bumbling his lines and committing gaffes a junior Foreign Service officer would never make.” And Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of American fumed that “Only those who are blind cannot point to Jerusalem as the center of Judaism and Israel.” (I am anxiously waiting a comment from the Jewish Institute for the Blind.)

Granted, “Tel Aviv, home of Judaism,” is about as awkward as it gets. Besides sounding like the world’s least promising tourism slogan, it’s inaccurate for all the reasons Schachtel and Klein pointed out. And there’s a backstory here that makes people worry that it wasn’t a simple mistake on Tillerson’s part.

In the days leading up to the president’s big trip to Israel, there was much conjecture about how Trump would and wouldn’t tweak U.S. policy toward Israel, and especially Jerusalem, which no president has officially recognized as Israel’s capital or even, technically, part of Israel.

The back and forth on the issue was enough to give you whiplash. Trump seemed pretty committed to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv — until he wasn’t. A White House live feed of Trump’s meetings was briefly labeled “Jerusalem, Israel” — until it wasn’t. Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall — but only days after some U.S. Consulate staffers managed to tick off Israelis ahead of the trip by sniping that the Western Wall doesn’t belong to Israel.

As for Tillerson, when he was asked aboard Air Force One whether he agrees with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley that the Western Wall is part of Israel, he replied, “The wall is part of Jerusalem.” That, to be fair, is a fine bit of Jesuitical rhetoric, which Cullen Murphy once defined as “language that on its face was unassailably true and that all parties could solemnly accept, even as it deliberately settled nothing whatsoever.”

It really isn’t up to Tillerson to set new U.S. policy on the fly, and Haley was definitely going rogue when she tried. As maddening as it can seem to Jews who feel Israel should be able to pick its own capital, Israel stands virtually alone in insisting that the status of Jerusalem is a settled matter.

But I am less interested at the moment in the political discussion than the theological one. The idea that even Jerusalem is the “home of Judaism” is both obvious and contentious. Obvious because, as Klein points out, it is the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, the seat of King David’s Jewish kingdom and the focus of a people’s 2,000 years of longing for return. Contentious because, while a Jew’s eyes “gaze toward Zion,” they also have settled on places and communities around the world where Judaism has found a home. It was Heinrich Heine who called the Torah “the portable homeland for the Jews,” and Judaism flourished in places — from Babylon to Brooklyn, as it were — when the Land of Israel seemed out of reach.

The idea that God dwells in one place is hardly alien to Judaism. The building of the Mikdash (the Holy Place) is a central theme of the Torah, and Jerusalem is understood as the place where God was to dwell among the people — specifically, the Holy of Holies. The Western Wall — actually a retaining wall built to shore up the Temple Mount — is revered because of its proximity to what would have been the seat of the Holy of Holies, whose exact location was lost to history after Rome sacked the city in 70 C.E.

These were the terms of the debate that sprang up after Ivanka Trump tweeted, in all innocence, “It was deeply meaningful to visit the holiest site of my faith and to leave a note of prayer.” Observers harrumphed that the wall wasn’t the “holiest site” — that would be the Temple Mount itself. Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, saying Ivanka’s people “botched an important piece of Jewish tradition,” suggested that the mistaken idea that the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site is a result of the custom, widely but not universally observed, that Jews are not to set foot on the mount lest they trample the original site of the Holy of Holies.

David B. Green, writing in Haaretz, defended Ivanka.

“For Jews who focus their religious devotion on physical locations, it is indeed the holiest spot in the world,” Green wrote, “certainly the holiest place they may visit, because it is part and parcel of the Temple Mount, and because the exact coordinates of the holy of holies are unknown and would be off-limits if they were known.”

So there.

There is a camp that worries about all this focus on place ends up fetishizing walls and stones and archaeology in a way that feels — well, un-Jewish. Folks like these often quote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the 20th-century theologian who insisted that Judaism is a religion of time, not space, and that Jews were given a temple only as a sort of concession after they showed their weakness by worshipping the Golden Calf.

“The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn,” he wrote.

According to this view, the “home of Judaism” is wherever a Jew learns Torah, or performs a mitzvah, or sits down to a Shabbat meal.

Judaism needs its holy places as much as it needs the flexibility and creativity to flourish wherever Jews find themselves. I feel an extra measure of holiness whenever I visit Israel, but honestly that’s more likely to be when I see kids romping in a playground in a Tel Aviv suburb than when I stand among the tourists at the Western Wall.

The late great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai has a lovely poem, “Tourists,” about how our focus on space can distract us from what’s really holy. The narrator is shopping for groceries in the Old City of Jerusalem when a tour guide points out the Roman arch just above his head.

Amichai writes, “I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them, You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”

In Manchester, Jews have been preparing for an attack for years

Tue, 2017-05-23 21:16

Emergency responders arriving at the Manchester Arena following a bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert, May 22, 2017. (Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Britain’s bloodiest terrorist attack in over a decade occurred Monday just two miles from Rabbi Yisroel Cohen’s synagogue.

Yet one day after the deadly bombing in Manchester, Cohen told JTA he has no intention of changing security arrangements at his congregation.

In fact Cohen, a Chabad emissary who works in a Jewish enclave in the northern part of the city surrounded by a heavily Muslim area, said there is little room for improving security across his tight-knit community.

After all, the Jewish community in Manchester — one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing spots thanks to an influx of immigrants and young couples seeking alternatives to pricey London — has been on its highest alert since long before the explosion that killed 22 people and wounded 50 at an Ariana Grande concert. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the act.

“Well, the radio equipment is working, the residents have been briefed, police are patrolling, security professionals from the Jewish community have been in place since the attacks in Belgium” last year, Cohen said when asked about security. “There is only so much you can do – except pray.”

On Kings Road, a busy street of the heavily Jewish borough of Prestwich, residents keep an eye out for strangers. Any abnormal behavior – particularly photography or the gathering of information — quickly invites polite but firm inquiries by both passers-by as well as shopkeepers who cater to the local population of haredi and modern Orthodox Jews.

The vigilance in Jewish Manchester owes much of its preparation and training to the local police, the Community Security Trust organization and other groups. But it is also born of circumstance: Manchester’s some 30,000 Jews are concentrated in a relatively small area. This makes them an easy target, but it also means that the community’s institutions are easier to protect and vigilance is easier to instill.

While there are also concentrations of Jews in North London, in Manchester — a city of 2.5 million, where 15.8 percent of the population is Muslim — there is added tension because the Jewish and Muslim communities live in close proximity. Kings Road, for example, is sandwiched between the Judaica World bookstore on its western end and the Masjid Bilal mosque on its eastern one.

This juxtaposition in recent years has generated some friction, including in the harassment of Jews on the street and the occasional violent incident.

At least one more premeditated plan to attack Manchester Jews was uncovered and foiled five years ago. In 2012, a British judge imprisoned a Muslim couple, Mohammed Sajid  and Shasta Khan, for seven years for gathering intelligence on Manchester Jews for an attack.

“That incident came at a time of reassessment about the threat to Jews in Manchester, and it was one of the reasons that led to a complete overhaul,” Cohen said.

“So today, we in the Jewish community are perhaps less surprised than others at what happened,” the rabbi added, though he also said that Mancunian Jews are “shocked at the horror” witnessed at the concert.

Paul Harris, editor of the city’s Jewish Telegraph weekly, told JTA he generally agrees that Manchester’s Jewish community is well prepared to deal with any emergency or fallout thereof, but he also flagged one weak point: On evenings and afternoons, observant Jews in the city congregate outside synagogue — a habit that makes them an easy target and which, for that reason, has largely been abandoned in at-risk communities in France and beyond.

“Maybe that will change now,” Harris said.

In a statement Tuesday following a suspect’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May said the bombing was a “callous terrorist attack” that targeted “defenseless young people.” Police believe a homemade explosive vest was detonated by a suicide bomber who may or may not have been working alone.

The explosion ripped through the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena at 10:30 p.m. after Grande, a 23-year-old pop singer from the United States, had already left the stage. At least 12 of the 22 killed in the attack were children younger than 16. News of the explosion sent worried parents to the arena, where children, teenagers and young adults streamed out of the main exit in a state of panic.

Cohen said that Chabad was not aware of Jewish fatalities in the attack.

The attack happened a little over two weeks before the June 8 general election in which hardliner Theresa May from the Conservative Party is running against Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. The attack may further increase May’s lead in the polls on Corbyn, a left-leaning promoter of outreach to Muslims who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends.

Last year Corbyn — amid intense criticism in the media and from members of his own party for his perceived failures in curbing expressions of anti-Semitism within Labour’s ranks — said he regretted expressing affection to the two Islamist terror groups. Following the attack Monday, all parties agreed to suspend campaigning for three days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference Tuesday in Jerusalem with President Donald Trump, who was visiting Israel, referenced the attack in criticizing incitement to terrorism by the Palestinian Authority under its president, Mahmoud Abbas.

“President Abbas condemned the horrific attack in Manchester,” Netanyahu said while standing next to Trump. “Well, I hope this heralds a real change, because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed.”

Speaking in Bethlehem, Trump joined other world leaders who condemned the attack.

“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. I will call them losers,” he said.

Back in Manchester, Rabbi Shneur Cohen of the Chabad Manchester Center City organized a food and drinks distribution to police officers who were stationed outside the arena where the attack took place.

“We are Manchester, we stand together,” Cohen told reporters at the scene.

But Harris, the Jewish Telegraph editor, said that despite such gestures, “there is definitely a silence, a shocked silence” in the city following the attack.

Fox News removes stories on WikiLeaks link to slain Jewish DNC staffer Seth Rich

Tue, 2017-05-23 20:48

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Fox News Channel removed stories based on unfounded allegations that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer slain last year, was targeted because he was leaking information to WikiLeaks.

“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich,” Fox said Tuesday on its website.

“The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed. We will continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted.”

The Daily Caller, a conservative news site, removed a similar site; the story now redirects to a not found page. Breitbart, a conservative news site that had picked up the Fox story, still has its story online.

Last week, Rich’s family had called on Fox to retract the stories and threatened legal action.

Rich, 27, a Jewish Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking home before dawn on July 10, 2016. Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry. Rich’s body was found about a block from his home with his wallet, watch and cellphone still in his possession.

His death sparked several conspiracy theories, including that he was a source for WikiLeaks.

Several days after Rich’s death, WikiLeaks released a collection of Democratic National Committee emails that U.S. intelligence officials now say was related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Fox’s Washington affiliate in its original story linked Rich’s death and the email dump, citing statements from Rod Wheeler, a private investigator who said he is working with the Rich family. Wheeler said, among conflicting comments, that there is evidence of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks.

The report also cited an unnamed federal agent, though Rich’s family told BuzzFeed that no federal agency is working on the case. Wheeler has since backed off his claims.

In August, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 award for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview on Netherlands TV suggested that Rich may have been a source for the leaks clearinghouse, reigniting conspiracy theories. Assange refused to substantiate his implication.

It was not clear whether Fox pulling the story from the website will stop some of its commentators from trying to advance the story. Fox personalities, including Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and Geraldo Rivera, in recent days have fervently embraced the conspiracy theories.

Trump’s Twitter profile features his Western Wall prayer

Tue, 2017-05-23 20:29

President Donald Trump’s background picture on his Twitter feed, May 23, 2017. (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump changed his Twitter profile’s background picture to feature a photo of his prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Trump or one of the people he trusts with his personal Twitter account posted the photo on Monday after Trump had prayed at the wall. The previous picture showed Trump seated in the Oval Office surrounded by staff.

Trump’s feed also included tweets reflecting his assessment that his Middle East tour this week was a success.

Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East were great. Trying hard for PEACE. Doing well. Heading to Vatican & Pope, then #G7 and #NATO.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017

He thanked Israel’s leaders for their warm reception.

Thank you for such a wonderful and unforgettable visit, Prime Minister @Netanyahu and @PresidentRuvi.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017

Israel gave Trump the royal treatment he longs for back home

Tue, 2017-05-23 20:09

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin guiding President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, May 22, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/Israeli Government Press Office/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) – President Donald Trump must have felt like he was back behind his desk at Trump Tower.

During his whirlwind visit to Israel and the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, the U.S. leader was treated with the deference befitting a CEO. His words were greeted with rapturous applause and vows of support.

After one of multiple standing ovations during his speech Tuesday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, a beaming Trump joked with the crowd, “Thank you. I like you, too.”

And instead of headlines describing the latest twist in the Russian elections probe or his firing of FBI Director James Comey, he woke up to the front pages of Israel newspapers celebrating his visit to the Western Wall. Trump even made a photograph of his brief moment of solitude there the cover image on his Twitter page.

Beyond the niceties, Trump won some real concessions during the trip. As he noted repeatedly, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to work with him toward his “ultimate deal” – without mentioning preconditions. But there is little faith in either leader’s ability to deliver much for peace and no specifics were announced.

Speaking ahead of Trump at the Israel Museum, Netanyahu said, “President Trump, working with you, I believe we can advance a durable peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as the Palestinians, because of the common danger that the Arab world and Israel face from Iran, and because of the leadership that you bring to this process.”

In Bethlehem hours earlier, Abbas said he hoped Trump “will go in history” as the president who finally achieved Middle East peace.

Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, said both leaders appeared eager to accommodate the new president — partly in fear of how he would react to rejection.

“Because he’s an unusual person and unpredictable, he has some leverage,” Shapiro told JTA. “Nobody wants to get caught saying no, and they haven’t. They haven’t necessarily said yes, but it explains why the initial resistance others have encountered, that we encountered, may not be as strong this time.”

Trump made it relatively easy for his hosts to agree with him by demanding little during the visit. Apparently satisfied with recent tweaks in Israel’s West Bank policy, Trump made no reference to Jewish settlements in the territory. Nor did he mention the Palestinian state that the United States and Israel officially support establishing there, but which Netanyahu has ceased referring to.

On Monday, responding to a request by Education Minister Naftali Bennett at Ben Gurion Airport to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which would reverse decades of U.S. neutrality on the city, Trump replied simply, “That’s an idea.”

Trump did, however, subtly repeat his admonition of the Palestinian Authority to stop encouraging terrorism, telling Abbas, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice.”

And he seemed to reject Netanyahu’s preferred plan to normalize Israeli-Arab relations as a step toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians, describing the reverse chronology: “I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East.”

Shapiro said that Trump has already said enough to make clear his vision of peace is not much different from Obama’s: direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks toward a two-state solution, with Arab support from the outside. While Trump benefits from growing Arab interest in working with Israel to counter Iran and the Islamic State group, Shapiro said, not much could be inferred from Israeli and Palestinian acquiescence to talks.

“The parties are very well practiced at making generally positive noises without really changing their behavior,” he said. “It’s possible the president and his team are going through a learning process where that’s the nature of the conversation they’re having.”

Shlomo Brom, the head researcher on Israeli-Palestinian relations at the Institute for National Security Studies, said if and when Trump presents a more concrete peace plan, Israel and the Palestinians would likely go along — each waiting for the other to play spoiler. But ultimately, he said, they would struggle to summon the necessary political will.

Netanyahu, who leads a pro-settler government, struggled much of Sunday to get his ministers to approve even modest measures aimed at improving the Palestinian quality of life. Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, voted against a measure to boost Palestinian building in Area C of the West Bank, which Israel fully governs.

It does not help that Netanyahu is under police investigation for alleged corruption, which he denies.

For his part, Abbas is historically unpopular with his people and, at 82 years old, likely in the twilight of his presidency. Popular discontent in the West Bank has taken the form of violent protests on behalf of a mass hunger strike of prisoners in Israeli jails that has now gone on for six weeks.

Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador who served as the deputy chief of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Netanyahu and Abbas are not the only ones who are perceived as weak. He said Israel and the Palestinians do not expect Trump to be around for long given the investigations into potential collusion between his associates and Russia.

“If I put myself into the shoes of the ministers or MKs [Knesset members] right now, why should we get excited?” he said. “The clock is ticking, the countdown has begun and all we have to do is wait and see – and not get into too many confrontations with the administration.”

But Brom and Shapiro agreed that Trump’s domestic situation does not affect his clout with Israel and the Palestinians. They said if Trump managed to convince each side to call the other’s bluff for long enough, he might just end up making significant progress toward peace. But that would require skillful diplomacy.

“When the United States has a serious policy and people who are good at moving forward this policy, to some extent it can move the two sides to agree on things they didn’t previously agree on,” Brom said. “So far there is no reason to be optimistic that this administration is capable of doing that. We’ve seen complete chaos.”

Mark Zuckerberg says state visits do not mean he is running for public office

Tue, 2017-05-23 18:51

(JTA) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his current attempt to visit every U.S. state and learn about people’s hopes and challenges is not a signal that he his running for public office.

Zuckerberg made the statement Sunday in a Facebook post from Rhode Island, his latest state visit in a string of unannounced appearances.

My personal challenge this year is to visit every state I haven't spent time in before to learn about people's hopes and…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, May 21, 2017

“My personal challenge this year is to visit every state I haven’t spent time in before to learn about people’s hopes and challenges, and how they’re thinking about their work and communities,” he explained.

“Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not.”

Zuckerberg said his biggest takeaway from the visits “is that our relationships shape us more than we think — how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits. There is a lot of discussion about inequality, but one under-looked dimension of inequality is in the makeup of our social networks.”

He said the idea that “your relationships shape your path more than we realize” is an area where Facebook “can make a difference.”

Zuckerberg wrote: “Facebook has been focused on helping you connect with people you already know. We’ve built AI systems to recommend ‘People You May Know.’ But it might be just as important to also connect you with people you should know — mentors and people outside your circle who care about you and can provide a new source of support and inspiration.”

Bob Dylan’s visionary life, explained (in a video for his 76th birthday)

Tue, 2017-05-23 18:44

(JTA) — Bob Dylan, who turns 76 on Wednesday, added another honor to his legendary résumé in his 75th year: the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Of course, the singer nicknamed The Bard has always endeavored to be more than just a musician. Watch the video above and relive some other big Dylan milestones.

Jewish activists welcome the scandals slowing the Trump agenda

Tue, 2017-05-23 18:28

President Donald Trump waiting for the arrival of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the White House, May 18, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – It’s not quite schadenfreude, but some Jewish organizational officials are sighing in relief at President Donald Trump’s cascade of domestic woes, saying it may present opportunities for their relatively liberal agenda.

Domestically, some Jewish groups are welcoming the prospect that scandals and distractions besieging the White House could delay – if not scuttle – what they fear as radical changes in immigration, education and health care.

On foreign policy, a president wounded by domestic scandal is working all the harder to score a win on Israeli-Palestinian peace. Trump wrapped up a two-day visit to Israel on Tuesday, wowing Israelis with visits to the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and insisting that both Israel and the Palestinians are ready for peace.

As a result, liberal pro-Israel groups have tamped down their sharp criticism of Trump and hawkish pro-Israel groups are now spooked.

Scandals surrounding allegations of ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia are proliferating instead of abating. His own perceived missteps have not helped: In recent weeks, these include blabbing to Russian government officials about highly secret intelligence reportedly sourced from Israel, and sacking his FBI director and offering the Russia probe as a rationale.

Now Republicans, who lead Congress, are treading carefully around the health care bill and Trump’s budget proposals that would slash benefits and are joining calls for broadening the probe into the Russia allegations — signals they may be less willing to have the president’s back.

That, coupled with the  Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel to investigate the scandals – a development likely to further preoccupy the White House staff – is seeding hope among some liberal Jewish groups.

“This is slowing things down, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Melanie Nezer, the vice president for policy and advocacy at HIAS, the lead Jewish group on immigration and refugee issues.

Nezer said the scandals could compound the trepidation among lawmakers on the Hill already unsettled by the protests and court stays that followed Trump’s executive orders banning entry to refugees and travelers from some Muslim majority nations.

“There was already a lot of hesitation in Congress about the travel ban and the refugee ban and this could cause increased concern about moving forward on [Trump’s proposals on] refugees and immigration,” she said.

Abby Levine, who directs the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, an umbrella organization for Jewish groups that pursue a largely liberal agenda, said the scandals were relieving pressure on her constituent groups.

“The scandals of the past few weeks are clearly the focus of attention of the White House and it’s very hard for them to get anything else done,” she said. “In a sense, there are positives to that in that there’s not the capacity to change legislation.”

Levine said that a White House too preoccupied with scandal to deal with Congress enabled Jewish organizations to dedicate resources to other areas where they could push back against the Trump agenda, citing as examples litigation by HIAS against the travel bans and advocacy by the same group and others on behalf of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

Jewish groups dealing with health policy also are feeling relief at the White House retreat from advancing a version of the health care overhaul bill passed earlier this month by the U.S. House of Representatives. An array of Jewish groups decried cuts in the bill to state-run programs for the poor, among other rollbacks of Obama-era policies. The critics included heavy hitters like the Reform movement, the Jewish Federations of North America and the National Council of Jewish Women.

As with immigration, there was already a sense that Congress was retreating from the more dramatic policy shifts contained in the health care bill; Republican senators had said they would substantially revamp the House bill.

“The center of gravity has shifted to the Hill,” said one top Jewish organizational official, who asked to speak anonymously to protect relationships. “The White House is nowhere to be seen.”

The official said the White House’s absence reinforced a natural advantage for the Jewish groups, whose lobbyists have long-standing relationships with Congress members, whereas the White House has barely established Hill relationships yet.

Mark Olshan, the associate executive vice president at B’nai B’rith International, which maintains a network of Jewish homes for the elderly and advocates on health care issues, described a mixed blessing resulting from the White House’s preoccupations.

B’nai B’rith was especially concerned that the American Health Care Act could make it harder for seniors with preexisting conditions to afford quality health care. Olshan said health care advocates hoped for a delay in the Senate “so cooler heads would prevail” – and that the scandals seemed to be providing that delay.

“Clearly with what is going on, the attention has shifted,” Olshan said. But he said that was true on the Hill as well – and that was a problem. “What we’re trying to get accomplished on the health care side is not getting the attention it should.”

The scandals could also inhibit ambitious overhauls to the education system favored by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, including shifting $1 billion in federal funds toward promoting “school choice,” allowing parents to choose to spend government funds on private and charter schools. Orthodox Jewish groups have eagerly backed DeVos’ proposals, while the Reform movement has opposed them.

Turmoil at home has led Trump to look overseas for relief. He has seized on his trip this week to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the Vatican as a way to change the narrative.

His Twitter page is now graced with a background photo of Trump, clad in a yarmulke, touching the stones of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, and is peppered with the hashtag #POTUSAbroad.

The liberal pro-Israel community has noticeably eased its public opposition to the Trump agenda as he becomes more deeply invested in forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace. J Street, which in February presented itself as the home for the Trump resistance, has tamped down its criticisms.

Asked for comment, a J Street spokeswoman declined, but pointed to a May 18 statement by the group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who describes his lingering concerns about Trump but welcomes the direction of his foreign policy.

“If the Trump administration does follow a serious and pragmatic course that pushes both sides to take proactive steps and make compromises toward a two-state peace agreement, J Street would support such an effort,” Ben-Ami said. (Right-wing groups have correspondingly expressed alarm at Trump’s push for peace and his friendliness to the Palestinian leadership.)

Trump would not be the first president to look overseas when faced with troubles at home. In the final two years of their presidencies, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were besieged by domestic woes and sought success abroad, including among Israelis and Palestinians.

Engaging with America’s allies makes sense as a strategy, said David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, because whatever a president’s domestic travails, America’s friends abroad remain invested in a robust American posture in their neighborhoods.

“The Arabs and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu are determined to make this a successful visit because they want to ensure that ‘America First’ does not lead to American entrenchment away from the Middle East,” he said, referring to a Trump campaign slogan that many feared signaled isolationism.

Aaron David Miller, a Middle East negotiator under Republican and Democratic presidents, said if anything, scandals at home would spur the “adults in the administration” – Trump’s seasoned national security staff, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis – to reinforce America’s security abroad.

He recalled that President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, negotiated disengagements in the months after the 1973 Yom Kippur War while Nixon was dealing with the Watergate scandal.

“They will compartmentalize,” Miller predicted of the national security officials. “They will not allow these distractions to erode the image of the United States as a credible power.”

SodaStream bringing 74 West Bank Palestinians back to work at Negev plant

Tue, 2017-05-23 17:56

Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum posing for a photograph at the SodaStream factory next to the Israeli city of Rahat. (Dan Balilty/AP Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some 74 Palestinian employees of SodaStream, who lost their jobs when the company shut its West Bank plant in the face of international pressure, will return to work at its factory in southern Israel.

The employees’ work permits, which allowed them to enter Israel from the West Bank, expired in February 2016.

The Israeli government agreed to reinstate the permits after persistent requests from SodaStream and its CEO Daniel Birnbaum, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

“We are delighted to welcome back our 74 devoted Palestinian employees, who are able to join their 1,500 friends at our Rahat facility in the Negev,” Birnbaum told the newspaper. “The Israeli government did the moral and honorable thing to grant work permits to our employees, who can now provide for their families and also prove that coexistence is possible.”

In October 2014, SodaStream announced it would close its factory in Maale Adumim and move to southern Israel in the face of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to hurt Israel’s economy over its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement claimed that SodaStream discriminated against Palestinian workers and paid some less than Israeli workers.

Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their jobs at that time. Israel gave the remaining 74 employees permission to enter the country and continue to work for SodaStream until February 2016.

The company now has more than 1,400 employees in the Idan Hanegev industrial park near Rahat, one-third of them Bedouin Arabs from the surrounding area.

The Palestinian employees will have to leave for work at 4:30 a.m. in order to make the long commute and be there on time, but at least one told the Post that he does not care.

“SodaStream is our second home,” Ali Jafar, 42, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “When you have the opportunity to return home, you return.”

Monica Lewinsky writes obituary for Roger Ailes’ era of ‘gutter’ journalism

Tue, 2017-05-23 17:46

(JTA) — Monica Lewinsky said the late Roger Ailes’ success in building Fox News was directly related to his capitalizing on the affair involving the former White House intern and then-President Bill Clinton.

Ailes, the former head of Fox News forced out under the cloud of a sexual harassment scandal, died last week at 77.

“This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes,” Lewinsky wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times published Tuesday. “It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally.”

Ailes, Lewinsky charges, took the story of her affair with Clinton and the subsequent trial and “made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.”

She qualified her accusation: “Let’s not pretend that Fox News was the only network to cover this story in the gutter. Mr. Ailes’s station may have pioneered this new style of television reportage, but the other cable news channels didn’t hesitate to join the race to the bottom.” The internet also contributed, she added, pointing out that The Drudge Report first broke the story of the affair.

“As the past year has revealed, thanks to brave women like Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, it is clear that at Fox, this culture of exploitation wasn’t limited to the screen,” wrote Lewinsky, who is Jewish, referring to Fox employees who complained about harassment on the job. “The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention.”

Lewinsky is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and leads the #BeStrong initiative to combat cyber-bullying.

She noted in her essay that there are “some positive signs that the younger generation — James and Lachlan Murdoch — seem to want to change the culture Mr. Ailes created,” referencing the sons of Rupert Murdoch, the publishing magnate who created the network. Lewinsky noted that last week a Fox pundit who made a racist remark to an African-American employee there was dismissed and she praised the firing of popular host Bill O’Reilly over sexual harassment allegations.

Elderly man wearing kippah attacked near LA synagogue

Tue, 2017-05-23 15:51

(JTA) — An elderly man wearing a kippah was attacked as he walked to morning prayers in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

The attack took place Monday morning in the Fairfax District, near the Congregation Bais Yehuda synagogue, according to the local ABC affiliate, KABC. Surveillance video shows the assailant punching and kicking the man, knocking him to the ground. The assailant then walks away from the scene.

Los Angeles police have not classified the attack as a hate crime or robbery but rather a random attack, KABC reported.

Hate crime in Los Angeles, Orthodox Jewish victim is Beaten up badly on the way to pray in shul on the block of Detroit and Oakwood this morning.

Posted by Gary Schlesinger on Monday, May 22, 2017

Books stolen from Polish Jewish communities during WWII donated to foundation

Tue, 2017-05-23 15:27

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Some 33 rare books stolen during World War II from Jewish communities located in present-day Poland were donated to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

The ceremony took place last week at the National Library in Warsaw.

Representatives of the Central and Regional Library in Berlin and of the Judaicum Center in Berlin jointly donated the books to the foundation director, Monika Krawczyk.

Most of the books handed over come from the former collections of the Jewish Theological Seminary of the Fränkel Foundation in Wroclaw. The oldest book, published in 1644, is signed by the German-Jewish theologian David Rosin, who lived from 1823 to 1894.

There are also two books from the collection of the Great Synagogue in Warsaw: Ludwik Wachler’s “Literature Handbook of 1833” and a pastoral letter from 1785. One of the books comes from the synagogue in Legnica and contains fictional literature.

The books have been identified as part of a provisional study conducted by a team of specialists at the Berlin library and center.

A public database of these institutions contains more than 35,000 volumes. Among them there are thousands of books containing traceable names or surnames, and identifiable volumes owned by specific individuals or organizations.

Rockets fired on southern Israel from Sinai during Trump’s visit

Tue, 2017-05-23 15:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket was fired from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt at southern Israel.

No one was injured and no damage was caused by the rocket fired Tuesday morning. President Donald Trump was visiting the center of the country at the time, the Israeli army said.

The rocket was projected to fall in an unpopulated area, so the Code Red alert was not activated in the area.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. An affiliate of the Islamic State claimed it fired a rocket last month from Sinai into Israel, and in February, the Islamic State-linked Sinai Province group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack from the Sinai on Eilat.

Meeting with Abbas, Trump calls Manchester attackers ‘evil losers’

Tue, 2017-05-23 14:31

President Donald Trump shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a joint news conference in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, May 23, 2017. (Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, Donald Trump condemned those behind the deadly bombing in Manchester, England, the night before as “evil losers.”

“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term,” Trump said in a joint news conference with Abbas on the second day of the U.S. president’s two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank. “They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are.”

At least 22 people were killed as they exited a concert by the American pop star Ariana Grande at Manchester Arena. Police said the attack was carried out by a lone suspect who died in the explosion. The Islamic State has taken responsibility.

Abbas also expressed his “warm condolences” to the victims of the attack and to the British people.

Discussing his talks with Abbas, Trump spoke of achieving a peace deal, saying “I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal. President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”

On Monday, Trump met with Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israeli prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, where he also spoke of possibilities for recharging the peace process.

“There are many things that can happen now that could never have happened before,” Trump said during the visit. “We must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation.”

In his appearance with Abbas, Trump made what many took as a reference to Palestinian payments to the families of terrorists. The practice of paying “martyrs” and their families dates back decades and survived the Oslo peace process launched in 1993.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” Trump said.

He also called for zero tolerance for terror.

“We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” the U.S. leader said.

In his remarks, Abbas said he has no problem with Judaism. He said the Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it.”

Abbas said the Palestinians “are committed to working with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel.”

Trump calls for coalition against extremists, insists Israel and Palestinians ready for peace in Jerusalem speech

Tue, 2017-05-23 12:42

President Donald Trump speaking at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Donald Trump in the major address of his visit to Israel called for a coalition of nations to fight against extremism and insisted that both Israel and the Palestinians are ready for peace.

Trump was greeted with an extended standing ovation on Tuesday afternoon by a small audience of Israeli lawmakers and guests at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and his speech was punctuated by applause.

“Conflict cannot continue forever,” he said. Trump called for a coalition of partners of the nations of the world “who share the aim of stamping out extremists,” and said diverse nations can unite around such a goal.

Such a coalition, the president said, “requires the world to recognize the vital role of the State of Israel.”

Trump praised the history of the Jewish people as “a story of faith and perseverance.” He added that Jews in Israel are free to do whatever they dream, and that “Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience” there.

“I call upon people to draw inspiration from this ancient city to set aside our sectarian differences to overcome oppression and hatred,” he said.

Trump acknowledged that Israel and Jews throughout the world are targeted by Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State and Iran, who the president said “will not have nuclear weapons.”

“Iran calls for the destruction of Israel. Not with Donald J. Trump,” he said.

Trump asserted that both Israel and the Palestinians are ready to pursue a peace agreement and reiterated his “personal commitment” to helping them achieve that goal.

“I’m telling you, that’s what I do, that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace,” Trump said, adding “My friend Benjamin, he is ready for peace, he is reaching for peace,” referring to Netanyahu.

“Making peace will not be easy. But with determination, compromise and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians will reach a deal,” he said.

Trump called America’s security cooperation with Israel “bigger than ever,” and a difference from the Obama administration.

“A big, big beautiful difference,” he said.

Trump was set to leave later Tuesday afternoon on his way to the Vatican.

Trump, at Yad Vashem, calls Israel a ‘soaring monument’ to ‘Never Again’

Tue, 2017-05-23 11:06

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Donald Trump called the State of Israel “a soaring monument to the solemn pledge we repeat and affirm.’Never again,’” during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust center.

Trump and his wife Melania lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance on Tuesday afternoon.
The president, wearing a black kippah, also was accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump also lit a candle at the eternal flame in the hall.

Israel, Trump said, is “testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.”

“The Jewish people persevered. They have thrived. They have become so successful in so many places, and they have enlightened the world,” he said.

He said that it is every person’s duty “to remember to mourn, to grieve, and to honor” each life lost in the Holocaust.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who with his wife Sara attended the ceremony, responded that the people of Israel “pledge never to be defenseless against that hatred again.” To achieve this, he said “Israel must always be able to defend itself.” Netanyahu thanked Trump for the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security.

Trump was presented with a replica of a personal album that belonged to a German Holocaust victim, Ester Goldstein. While most of the Jews who contributed photographs and handwritten messages were killed in the Holocaust, Ester’s older sister, Margot Herschenbaum, 91, survived and briefly met the president.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
In public statements, both leaders condemned the suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester hours earlier.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” Trump also said, an apparent reference to Palestinian payments to the families of terrorists. He also called for zero tolerance for terror. “We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” he said.

Trump spoke of achieving a peace deal, saying: “I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal. President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”

In his remarks, Abbas said that he has no problem with Judaism. The Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it,” he said.

Palestinian man stabs Israel police officer in Netanya as country on high alert for Trump visit

Tue, 2017-05-23 10:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israel Police officer in the central Israeli city of Netanya was stabbed in the neck by a Palestinian man in what is being described by police as likely a terror attack.

The police officer, 26, was able to use his gun to shoot the attacker, who was moderately wounded. A female pedestrian at the scene was lightly injured from the gunfire as well, according to police.  All of the wounded were treated at the scene and then taken to a local hospital for treatment.

The attacker was identified by police as a Palestinian man, 44, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

An eyewitness to the attack told the Ynet news website that the stabber called out “Allahu Akbar,” or God is Great, before attacking the police officer.

The attack took place as President Donald Trump was making his way from Bethlehem in the West Bank to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Police are on high alert throughout the country during the presidential visit.


19 killed in suspected terror attack at Ariana Grande concert in England

Tue, 2017-05-23 06:23

(JTA) – At least 19 people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack during a concert in northern England during a concert by the American popstar Ariana Grande.

Grande was not hurt in the explosion Monday night at the Manchester Arena stadium, which Prime Minister Theresa May said was likely a terrorist attack, The Guardian reported. British authorities said the explosion may have come from an explosive vest detonated in a crowd by a suicide bomber.

Many of the dozens of people wounded in the attack were teenagers and young adults, according to Reuters. Worried parents began arriving at the stadium in search of their loved ones. The attack was the deadliest since bombings that left 52w people dead in London in 2005.

The attack comes roughly two weeks before the United Kingdom’s general election, in which May, a hardliner from the center-right Conservative, party is running against the leftwing Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, who supports boycotting Israeli settlements and who is widely perceived as having tried to promote better relations and understanding between mainstream British parties and groups associated with radical Islam.

May called an early election following the resignation last year of former prime minister David Cameron, also a Conservative. Cameron stepped down following a referendumcalled by himself, in which a majority of voters rejected his position that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union. Immigration by Muslims and other foreigners played a central role in the debate about whether the kingdom should leave or remain within the bloc it helped establish in the 1970s.

Grande, a 23-year-old who grew up Catholic but left the faith over the treatment of homosexuals in Catholicism in favor of Kabballah Jewish studies that she said in 2014 “changed her life,” wrote on Twitter that she was “broken” and “so sorry.”

Schumer calls on Trump to press Abbas on incitement

Mon, 2017-05-22 23:24

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, at the AIPAC Policy Conference, March 28, 2017. (Courtesy of AIPAC)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, called on President Donald Trump to press Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “immediately” end incitement when they meet.

“If President Trump plans to use this gathering to help pave the way towards peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, he should urge President Abbas to immediately pursue a new path,” Schumer said in an email to JTA on Monday evening, on the eve of Trump’s meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem.

Schumer, who is Jewish and close to pro-Israel groups, called on Trump to demand that Abbas end the practice of paying subsidies to the families of Palestinians who are jailed or who have been killed and who have carried out attacks on Israelis. He also said the Palestinians should stop naming streets and institutions after terrorists, and should enhance education for coexistence.

“It is perfectly fine for textbooks to celebrate one’s own cultural heritage and accomplishments, but it is simply unacceptable for those same textbooks to teach false narratives, promote anti-Semitism, and deny Israel’s right to exist,” he said.

Trump, who had a warm reception on Monday in his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, and who visited the Western Wall, has decried reports of Palestinian incitement.

However, he did not take Abbas to task publicly on the matter when they met earlier this month at the White House. A White House readout of their meeting said Trump raised it privately.

Short on time, Yad Vashem packing emotion into Trump visit with story of one young victim

Mon, 2017-05-22 21:54

Ester Goldstein, left, and sister Margot lived in Berlin before they were separated in 1939. (Courtesy of Yad Vashem)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Donald Trump will spend just 30 minutes at Yad Vashem on the second and last day of his visit to Israel, but the leadership of the Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem plans to use the brief time to deliver a powerful message.

Rather than bombarding Trump with facts or analysis, they will tell him the story of one German Jewish girl, Ester Goldstein, who was murdered by the Nazis.

“The story of a child touches everyone, not only the president,” Yona Kobo, researcher of online exhibitions at Yad Vashem, told JTA. “Ester and her friends were so fragile and naive and sweet. They were also very intelligent and mature, and rooted in Jewish customs, like respecting your mother and father.”

During his Tuesday afternoon stop at Yad Vashem, Trump will be presented with a replica of a personal album that belonged to Ester. While most of the Jews who contributed photographs and handwritten messages were killed in the Holocaust, Ester’s older sister, Margot Herschenbaum, 91, is still alive and will meet the president.

The first entry in Ester’s album is from 1937, when she was 11, and the final one is dated Sept. 16, 1942, about a month before she was killed at 16 in the ghetto of Riga, Latvia. One of the final entries, by a 16-year-old classmate, reads “Love life, and don’t be afraid of death. Believe in God and a better future.”

Ester’s parents and younger brother were killed in Nazi death camps. But Herschenbaum was rescued by a Kindertransport operation to Australia in June 1939, when she was 9. After the war she moved to the United States, where she was sent Ester’s album. She later donated it to Yad Vashem’s collection of 30,000 such artifacts.

“I was deeply moved when I heard that Yad Vashem decided to present a replica of my sister’s personal album to the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump,” Herschenbaum wrote in an email to JTA. “I always wanted to ensure that the memory of Ester and the fate of my family would never be forgotten. This is the reason that I chose to donate the album to Yad Vashem.”

“I hope that the President will appreciate the uniqueness of this item and realize its true meaning.”

Trump has received a crash course in the Holocaust since entering politics two years ago. During the campaign, many Jewish groups were critical of his campaign messages — like “America first” and conspiratorial talk of “global special interests” that seemed to echo historical anti-Semitic themes. As president, his White House issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention the Jews, and Sean Spicer, his press secretary, said that Adolf Hilter had not used chemical weapons during World War II.

Spicer quickly apologized for the comment, which he made in an effort to emphasize the barbarism of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but Trump never directly addressed criticism of his actions, much of which came from Jewish groups.

The president seems to have learned his lesson. During the annual Days of Remembrance, he spoke specifically of the Holocaust’s toll on Jews, who were the singular targets of the genocide. But he caused another controversy in Israel when it was reported that he was looking to cut his already short visit to Yad Vashem to 30 minutes.

The visit is near obligatory for foreign dignitaries. Barack Obama spent an hour at the memorial center as president, and George Bush took even longer.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit Yad Vashem along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Trump will rekindle the eternal flame and lay a wreath on a stone slab that marks ashes from those killed in death camps. A cantor will sing a version of the “El Maleh Rachamim” prayer for the souls of the victims of the Holocaust, and Trump will be invited to sign the Yad Vashem guest book.

“Although Trump is coming for a very short visit to Yad Vashem, he’ll pay his respects to the victims,” Kobo said. “We have to see the glass as half full. We hope he’ll come again and we’ll show him more of Yad Vashem and more of Israel.”

She said the aim of focusing the visit on Ester — just one of the 1.5 million children among the 6 million killed — is to convey the human toll of the Holocaust that can be lost in the numbers. There are reasons to think the approach could work with Trump.

According to reports in the U.S. media, he has little patience for long briefings but can be moved by emotion. For example, his decision to fire 59 missiles at a Syrian army airfield apparently was motivated largely by video of children and adults being killed in a chemical weapons attack.

But Kobo, who contacted Herschenbaum to attend the ceremony, said Trump is not the only — or even the main — target audience. She hopes the president’s visit will introduce some people to the Holocaust who would never otherwise hear about it, including anti-Semites of all political stripes.

“We’re trying to reach as many people as possible and educate them about this Jewish and human tragedy,” she said. “The Holocaust isn’t a single story but many stories. And if you hear about them one by one, you can build yourself a bigger picture and being to understand how what so many different people in some many different countries went through.”