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Yom Kippur Synagogue Attack Leaves German Jews Still Uneasy

By YnetNews

As Jews around the world gathered Sunday night to mark the beginning of Yom Kippur, many in Germany remained uneasy about going together to their houses of worship to pray, a year after a white-supremacist targeted a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on the holiest day in Judaism. If the assailant — armed with multiple firearms and explosives — had managed to break into the building, there's no telling how many of the 52 worshippers inside might have been killed. As it was, he turned his attentions on people outside, killing a passer-by and a man at a kebab stand before he was apprehended. Since then, security has been increased at Jewish institutions across the country, but many wonder whether it is enough amid reports of increasing anti-Semitism and the Halle attack still fresh in their minds. Naomi Henkel-Guembel was inside the building that day a year ago and didn't immediately understand what was happening when she heard a loud bang outside. Together with other young Jews from Berlin, the 29-year-old had traveled to the eastern German city to celebrate Yom Kippur, which fell on Oct. 9 in 2019, with the small, aging community there. She still remembers the scene vividly as the 28-year-old German right-wing extremist tried to barge into the synagogue, shooting at the heavy door in an unsuccessful attempt to force it open, then throwing explosives over a wall into a cemetery inside the compound while livestreaming the attack. "When I heard the second explosion and saw a light flash outside the window, I knew that this was an anti-Semitic incident," said Henkel-Guembel. "Still, I was not aware of the dimension of what was happening outside of the sanctuary — I would have never thought that somebody would throw explosive devices at the synagogue and the adjacent cemetery." The attack suspect, Stephan Balliet, is currently on trial on charges of murder for the killings outside the synagogue. He explained his motivation to the court: "Jews are the main cause of white genocide and want to establish a new world order." The attack, one of the most violent and overt anti-Semitic acts in postwar history, caused shockwaves across Germany, which considers protecting its Jewish minority of about 200,000 a special responsibility after the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews. While many Jewish institutions get some kind of protection — particularly on Jewish holidays — the Halle synagogue didn't have any. Now steps are being taken to ensure wider-spread security, said Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. People "were clearly more worried to send their children to school or kindergarten or to visit Jewish institutions," Schuster told journalists in an interview. "But after that day, security staff in front of synagogues and other Jewish places was increased and it has stayed that way." Since then, Schuster said, state authorities have developed new security measures for Jewish houses of worship and all 16 German states have given varying amounts of financial support to spend on boosting security. Bavaria, for example, provided 8 million euros ($9.37 million) to its Jewish communities and Saxony-Anhalt, where Halle is located, committed some 2.4 million euros over 2020-2021 to help better secure Jewish sites. Earlier this month, the federal government said it would also provide 22 million euros to improve security. Still, the deputy head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, Juergen Peter, acknowledged recently that "the protection of Jewish institutions is better than last year, but it is not good enough nationwide. "Overall, we cannot be satisfied with the current status quo," Peter said, adding that on average, there had been more than five anti-Semitic incidents registered per day in Germany in 2019. Those included physical attacks, property damage, threats, anti-Semitic propaganda and other acts of malicious behavior such as giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute. Ronen Steinke, an investigative reporter with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, studied the issue in depth after the Halle attack and found that too often Jews are left to avert the danger of possible assaults themselves. In his book "Terror Against Jews," published earlier this year after he visited more than 20 Jewish communities around the country, Steinke found that while authorities are helpful with making security assessments, the communities themselves are often left to implement the official suggestions. Smaller communities, in particular, struggle and frequently end up not getting enough funds "because they have problems with the bureaucracy or because they can't agree with the state on a common line. Danger prevention is the task of the state, not the job of those who are threatened by danger," said Steinke, who himself is a German Jew. Even if security can be perfected, that does not mean there is no work left to be done by the German authorities, he said. "It's a perverted state of siege, in which one can only go to school or religious service if people with pistols have to watch out for you." For Naomi Henkel-Guembel it has been a year of soul searching after Halle. "The event left deep marks, not just for those who were immediately affected, but for Jews in Germany in general," said Henkel-Guembel, who is currently studying in Berlin to become a rabbi. The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Henkel-Guembel grew up in Munich, then moved to Israel after her high school graduation in search of a Jewish homeland. Today she shares her time between both countries. Since Halle, she said, she and others who were at the Yom Kippur service have been questioning whether Germany is where they want to build their future lives as Jews. For herself, Henkel-Guembel said she has decided to stay, and has even joined the trial of the Halle attacker as a co-plaintiff, as allowed under German law. "The question is whether one leaves and surrenders the space to the attacker and his abettors — or whether one opposes them," she said.

Israel Ushered in Yom Kippur with Record COVID Cases, Tight Restrictions and Government Apologies

By JTA

Israel confirmed more than 8,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, a new high, as the rate of tests coming back positive climbed to 14% and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the country opened too fast after the first lockdown. Israel currently is more than two weeks into a second lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. As of Sunday morning, there have been 1,450 Israeli deaths from the coronavirus. "Did we make mistakes in the past? Of course," Netanyahu said in a Hebrew video posted on social media. "The opening of event halls was too fast. Maybe the opening of the whole school system," he said. "Our decision to open event halls was too fast. Perhaps also the decision to reopen all schools." Meanwhile, coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu apologized specifically to haredi Orthodox Israelis, who have felt targeted by the restrictions. A top haredi lawmaker resigned from the government to protest the lockdown's timing during the High Holidays. In a Facebook post, Netanyahu offered oblique criticism of the protesters who have been staging weekly protests against his leadership, including his handling of the pandemic. He juxtaposed a picture of the Western Wall Plaza uncharacteristically empty against a picture of the 16,000 protesters who gathered in Jerusalem Saturday night. About 150 protesters were fined for not adhering to social distancing rules, and the government will again take up legislation that would limit protest and public prayer during the lockdown on Tuesday.

Pompeo: The Chinese Communist Party is Re-Writing the Bible

By the Jerusalem Post

China continues to persecute religious minorities, rewriting the Bible to make it conform to Chinese Marxist doctrine, and sending Uighurs Muslims to re-education camps, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said. Speaking during a session at the Values Voter Summit 2020, held virtually, Pompeo said: "We watch today the challenge that Christians and Catholics have to practice their faith inside of China." "The Chinese Communist Party is trying to rewrite the Bible itself to `Sinicize' the Christian doctrine," he added. "That's unacceptable. That will diminish the Chinese people. We want good things for them." China officially recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. However, the US Department of State's 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: China notes that although "the constitution, which cites the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, states that citizens have freedom of religious belief," it "limits protections for religious practice to "normal religious activities" and does not define "normal."" It further notes: Only religious groups belonging to the five state-sanctioned "patriotic religious associations" representing these religions are permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services. There continued to be reports of deaths in custody and that the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, subjected to forced indoctrination in CCP ideology, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices." In 2018, The Rev. Bob Fu, a former house church leader who immigrated to the US and founded persecution watchdog China Aid, told Congress that China's government was enacting a five-year plan to "Sincize" Christianity. One way they planned to do this was by "retranslating" the Old Testament, and providing new commentary on the New Testament to introduce Buddhist and socialist concepts, making them appear divinely inspired. "There are outlines that the new Bible should not look Westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism," Fu told The Christian Post after the hearing. "The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it." "I believe and President Trump believes that absent of religious freedom, the lives of people around the world are very difficult," Pompeo said. "Authoritarianism almost always follows the oppression of religion. Pushing religion out of the public square drives oppression, drives authoritarian regimes. And so we have made that a priority." He added: "The Chinese Communist Party is seeking hegemony across the world, and we have an obligation to do our best to make sure that the freedoms that we value and the capacity to exercise our human rights aren't trampled upon by whether that's their predatory economic activity or their military might or their misinformation campaigns here in the US. "We work hard to make sure that we maximize religious freedom for every human being all across the world."

Lenny Kravitz Talks about his Jewish Upbringing

By the Jerusalem Post
Singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz discussed his Jewish upbringing in an interview with the New York Times discussing his new memoir Let Love Rule, which recounts his childhood to the release of his 1989 debut album. Kravitz noted how his Russian Jewish Father, Sy Kravitz, made certain that he grew up in a Jewish household and observed Jewish traditions. Sy was a TV producer, who Kravitz was quoted by the New York Times as saying was a "self-assured Jewish man," raised by Jewish parents. He married Kravitz's mother Caribbean-American actress Roxie Roker in the 1970s. Sy's parents refused to attend his wedding, however, after Kravitz was born around the same time his uncle on his father's side died - to which he is named after, Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz - his family came to terms with Sy's decision, the singer previously noted according to the Algemeiner. "I am deeply two-sided," Kravitz said in his memoir, according to the New York Times. "Black and white. Jewish and Christian. Manhattanite and Brooklynite." In the exclusive interview, the New York Times asks about his relationship with his parents and the role his father had in Jewish upbringing. The New York Times presenter made a comment that Sy didn't "seem to have been interested in educating you about Judaism." To which Kravitz remarks, "No, he wasn't that kind of a communicator with me. And he wasn't religious. As with many Jews in my family at the time, it was all about tradition and keeping that alive, especially after what people in the family had gone through in World War II. But I still got exposed to it, from going to temple and spending the High Holidays with my family at their houses." While the singer said that he couldn't "say that [he] understood everything, or accepted" everything that his father did but that by "writing this book, [he] got to understand him as a man, instead of looking at him as [his] father who screwed up in different arenas. I ended up liking and loving him even more."


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