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What’s it like being a Jewish student at Harvard today? With us to tell their firsthand accounts are Nitsan Machlis, Co-Chair of the Harvard Kennedy School Jewish Caucus, and Shabbos Kestenbaum, a Harvard Divinity school student who is part of a group that sued the university–alleging that they failed to address “severe and pervasive” campus antisemitism.  AJC's State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report found that 24% of current or recent college students say they felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because they're Jewish. Listen in to hear from Machlis and Kestenbaum on how Harvard’s administration has made Jewish students feel unwelcome and unsupported – and what they’re doing to fix it. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Nitsan Machlis, Shabbos Kestenbaum Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: The Fallout from the University Presidents Congressional Hearing: What Does it Mean for Jewish Students? When Antisemites Target Local Businesses: How Communities Are Uniting in Response How A 10/7 Survivor is Confronting Anti-Israel Activists on College Campuses Tal Shimony Survived the Hamas Attack on the Nova Music Festival: Hear Her Story of Courage, Resilience, and Remembrance More Analysis and Resources:   What is Students for Justice in Palestine, the Hamas-supporting Anti-Israel Group Being Banned on College Campuses? Confronting Campus Antisemitism: An Action Plan for University Students AJC Campus Library Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Nitsan Machlis and Shabbos Kestenbaum: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Since the October 7 terror attack on Israel by Hamas, it has become increasingly difficult for Jewish students to feel safe on American college campuses. AJC's state of antisemitism and America 2023 report found that 24% of current or recent college students say they felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because they're Jewish. This is even true at one of the world's top Ivy League schools. Some might even say, especially true at Harvard University.  This week, the co-chair of a task force set up by Harvard to combat anti semitism resigned. The second such departure after Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from an anti semitism Advisory Committee. He cited former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s congressional testimony and events on campus, which reinforced the idea that he could not make the sort of difference he had hoped. The latest event on campus: a blatantly antisemitic cartoon circulated on Instagram by pro Palestinian student groups.  Here to give us some perspective on the ground are Harvard Divinity student Shabbos Kestenbaum  and head of the Harvard Kennedy School Jewish Caucus, Nitsan Machlis.  Shabbos, Nitsan, welcome to People of the Pod. Nitsan Machlis:   Thank you. Shabbos Kestenbaum:   Thank you. Good to be here. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So as I mentioned on Sunday, Professor Raphaela Sadoon resigned from her role on the University Task Force to Combat Antisemitism. Any idea why?  Shabbos Kestenbaum:   Sure. So when President Garber put out that announcement, it was definitely a surprise to many of us. The official reason was she wanted to focus on her administrative and academic responsibilities as a professor at the business school. But we know that that's not true. The very next day, The Harvard Crimson wrote an article detailing from members on the antisemitism Task Force, that she was incredibly frustrated with the slow pace, with the bureaucracy. And more fundamentally, she had asked Harvard to commit themselves to actually applying the recommendations that the taskforce would issue. And Harvard was not willing to do that. And I think that speaks volumes, again, about their priorities and how serious they are about combating antisemitism, that they wouldn't even commit themselves to listening to the advice of people that they themselves appointed.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So what are some of those basic obvious objectives that you think the task force–what are your expectations for this task force? Shabbos Kestenbaum:   Well, my expectations for the task force is nothing. I mean, the first one was so remarkably useless. It was disbanded after, what 40 days. And this one, I'll give it, let's say 100 days tops. But in terms of what I would want to see, and what Jewish students have been asking for for years, is I'll give you an example. When all incoming students come into Harvard, they take mandatory Title Nine training, and it tells them that things like fat phobia, like sizeism, like the wrong gender pronouns are forms of abuse, and they can be disciplinary, if someone were to engage in them.  Why is antisemitism not included in that type of mandatory training? And why is it that we need the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust for Harvard to wake up to that reality? So that's number one.  Number two, we need to see the fair enforcement of the school code of conduct and the fair enforcement of school policies. If you're a student engaged in antisemitism, the way that many of them are at the moment, you will be disciplined in the same way you would be and you have been, because Harvard has a track record of doing this, if you were engaged in racism, or sexism, or homophobia. But why the double standard when it comes to Jews? And then more fundamentally, we need to really restructure and reconsider DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus that have never included Jewish people. Not once. These are just three basic recommendations off the top of my head that we've been saying for so, so long.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   It seems like students and faculty are simply oblivious to just how vulnerable Jewish students are feeling. Case in point the cartoon last week showing a hand marked with a star of David and $1 sign holding nooses around the necks of a black man and an Arab. Can you share with our listeners, what kinds of explanations, apologies or consequences that you've heard about associated with that cartoon?  Nitsan Machlis:   That cartoon was really upsetting on a personal level. I'll share maybe attuned with the general theme here that I personally have never felt threatened on campus. I have friends who have had very bad experiences. I think antisemitism at an institutional level definitely exists.  But I think that cartoon for me was the first time that I really felt like, wow, this is very upsetting. And this is something that could hurt me. I haven't had conversations with students about the cartoon. And I was actually surprised how many students were unaware that that cartoon had, in fact, been circulating.  And many times I found that in conversations I'll have with friends, they will be very upset, but they didn't even know it was happening. So I will hear about this first from my Israeli circles or from my Jewish circles. But many students are really unaware the extent these images are circulating on campus. So I don't know if that directly answers the question of reactions.  But for me, there's been this big question of how do people not know this is happening? And how can I be so upset for several days over this and my classmates are not even aware. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Shabbos you, as you were saying, you're one of six students who has sued the university for not adequately protecting Jewish students. In fact, you personally encountered antisemitism. Can you share that experience with our listeners? Shabbos Kestenbaum:   Sure. So unfortunately, I haven't just encountered it on a one off, but it's been pervasive and it's been consistent. But one particular example that stands out was the very first day of the spring semester here at Harvard. I was walking through Harvard Yard and I noticed that every single poster that called attention to kidnapped Jewish babies was vandalized and not just vandalized, but with horrific horrific antisemitism, saying that Jews are best friends with Jeffrey Epstein, that they're responsible for 9/11.  And in fact, on Kfir Bibas, who's the one year old Jewish child, someone had written his head is still on, where's the evidence? So I, of course, reported that immediately, no action was taken. It was only after CNN and Fox News had covered the story that Harvard retroactively issue a statement.  But anyways, the next morning, I get a unprompted unsolicited email from a current Harvard employee who asked me to meet him in a secluded underpass to debate whether Jews were involved in 9/11. I, of course, reported that.  And then later that night, he posted a video on his social media waving a machete with a picture of my face, saying that he wants to fight and he has some master plan. And as I said, I recorded all of this, I went through all the proper channels, whether it was DEI, whether it was the police, whether it was the Office of Student Life. To this day, February 27, he is still employed at Harvard. In fact, a friend of mine told me he saw him walking through Harvard Yard just a couple of days ago. It is inconceivable that any other minority group would be treated the way that Harvard treats its Jewish student body. And that's what makes this lawsuit, unfortunately, so necessary. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That sounds absolutely horrifying and terrifying for you. I'm so sorry that you're having to deal with that. And that's on social media. Have you also encountered people on campus? Have you had personal encounters as well? Shabbos Kestenbaum:   Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I'll just tell you the most recent incident that happened. There is a forum for Harvard students, specifically Harvard Divinit
During their murderous rampage across Southern Israel on October 7th, Hamas weaponized sexual violence. Over 138 days later, denial of these crimes runs rampant despite verified evidence and testimony from survivors of the NOVA festival, the attacked kibbutzim, and freed hostages.  Hear from Julie Fishman Rayman, AJC’s Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs, on the efforts in Congress to stand in solidarity with Israeli victims of Hamas’ sexual violence, and what you can do to make sure the plight of Israeli women is heard.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Julie Fishman Rayman Show Notes: Act: Urge Congress: Condemn Rape and Sexual Violence by Hamas Terrorists Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: When Antisemites Target Local Businesses: How Communities Are Uniting in Response How A 10/7 Survivor is Confronting Anti-Israel Activists on College Campuses Tal Shimony Survived the Hamas Attack on the Nova Music Festival: Hear Her Story of Courage, Resilience, and Remembrance How to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in a Post-October 7th World Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Julie Fishman Rayman: Manya Brachear Pashman:   This week, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel delivered a report to the United Nations detailing the systemic sexual violence committed by the Hamas terror group during and after the October 7 attack on Israel. The horrific report follows a bipartisan resolution adopted by the US House of Representatives last week, condemning the use of rape and sexual violence. Here to discuss that resolution is AJC’s Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs Julie Fishman Rayman. Julie, welcome. Julie Fishman Rayman:   Thank you so much, Manya. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So anything bipartisan on Capitol Hill is rare and worth discussing. Can you walk our listeners through the details of the resolution and explain why there was such unity around it? Julie Fishman Rayman:   Absolutely. So the resolution was introduced in January. And it really came out of a concerted effort on the part of mostly female members of Congress, who were hearing about what had gone on on October 7, and what was continuing to go on in Israel as it related to gender based violence and sexual assault.  And they read the tea leaves of the deafening silence on behalf of the global community and said, if people aren't believing Israeli women, we are going to show that Congress, the American Congress, is united in believing Israeli women. So there are two resolutions, in the House and in the Senate, the resolution in the House passed.  And they're pretty straightforward, expressing this sense, both of outrage and outlining some next steps. So in addition to condemning rape, and all forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war by Hamas, calling on nations to criminalize rape and sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable, including by armed groups, which is somewhat of a different take on this.  Calling on international bodies to really condemn these atrocities in a way that we have seen too many of them pause or hesitate or simply remain silent. Reaffirming the US government support for an independent, impartial investigation —this is very important— into what happened on October 7th and afterwards, and reaffirming this commitment to supporting survivors, which is, I think, so critical in this moment. It’s one of those things you could say, Oh, of course, we support the survivors. But recognizing the reality of what's going on in Israel today, and how this trauma continues to play for those victims, is really critical, right. In this moment, Israel is not focused on supporting the survivors of rape and sexual assault, not because it's not important, but because they're still fighting a war and focusing on you know, rebuilding and what to do with the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced from their homes, to elsewhere.  So in the hierarchy of need, addressing all sorts of trauma, is it has to be sort of lower on the totem pole and hopefully will be addressed. But that's a piece of what the international community can do and what Congress is trying to do. Just express that support and solidarity. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Calling on international bodies to condemn sexual violence, international bodies such as the UN, correct? Julie Fishman Rayman:   Yes.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   All right. Can you tell us a little bit about the report that the Association of Rape Crisis Centers released this week? Julie Fishman Rayman:   It's a really important report. Not least of which because in some ways it's the first sort of fully fleshed out credible report about the atrocities of the seven. And in a lot of ways it's important also because it pushes us to be uncomfortable, right?  I think a lot of why this issue has been sidelined or pushed aside is not just because Israel continues to be fighting a war. And their myriad other issues, the release of the hostages, etc, that are really, there's all these competing needs, both in our minds, as people who are sympathetic to these causes, but also in the world, and in terms of advocacy.  But it really pushes a lot of these deeply uncomfortable themes to the forefront. So for example, there's a whole section in this report about the sadistic practices of Hamas, binding and tying, mutilation or destruction of genitalia, insertion of weapons into intimate areas, destruction and mutilation of the body. It's grotesque. It is hard to read about, it's hard to say. But in some ways, I think that's sort of our responsibility, right? We who have not thank God lived through this trauma can be the voices for those who have and may not feel comfortable coming forward to tell their stories, may not have the emotional capacity or stamina, to tell their story and relive the horrific trauma that they suffered. So every time I sort of talk about this issue, I try to make whoever I'm speaking to, especially women, say the really uncomfortable things that we're taught as young children not to say in polite society, talk about vaginas, talk about rape, talk about fondling of breasts and mutilation and all of these things.  Because if we're not comfortable saying it out loud, we're not going to be comfortable doing that advocacy that's so important. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Has sexual violence been used or highlighted as a weapon of war elsewhere, Julie, that we know of? Julie Fishman Rayman:   It’s enough of an instrument of war, that it's been deemed a war crime. I think that this, like so many things that took place on October 7, it was used to such a degree that the global community at some point will have to reckon with how we treat or how we consider sexual assault as an instrument of war.  But certainly in lots of other places this is the sad reality. And I would say the sad reality of sort of the treatment of women. But of course, we know from October 7, that it wasn't just women. It was women, children, accounts of men being sexually abused. Even men who are still hostage in the tunnels in Gaza, there are reports of sexual abuse against them.  So we sort of think about it in terms of gender based and focused specifically and solely on females. But the sad reality is, that's also not the case. And for men, especially, I think the stigma can be that much more heightened. So knowing that it could take years or even decades for us to fully understand the full gravity of the situation of what happened on October 7th against women. When it comes to men and other victims, we may never understand the full scope of what happened and what continues to happen. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What is the progress of the resolution in the Senate? Julie Fishman Rayman:   It's moving. It’s been introduced, it has about a quarter of the Senate as co-sponsors, which is significant. There’s a need for swift movement, I would say and greater advocacy so for listeners, they can go to and find our action alert, calling on senators to co-sponsor and support this really important resolution when it's up for a vote.  This is one where again, our advocacy is critical and sometimes we shy away. But it's much easier to send an email to your Senators than it is to actually have to talk about these really awful issues.  So for anyone who is looking for a 30 second way to sort of comfortably take action on this important issue, the action alert is a really good and meaningful way to do so. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you kind of walk us through the advocacy efforts that push this through the House of Representatives, but also are pushing it through the Senate? In other words, are there victims participating in this, families of victims? What kinds of stories, and again, this could be a very uncomfortable portion of our conversation, what kinds of stories are being shared with people to convince them to put their name on this resolution? Julie Fishman Rayman:   A lot of the stories are coming from the family members and loved ones of current hostages. So there's there's an amazing piece of advocacy going on, in the halls of Congress nearly every week that that touches on this, but isn't entirely about the sexual assault. But it's about those families coming whether they're Americans, Israelis, or some other nationality. And they have family members who are still hostage. They are coming week after week, day after day, to speak to members of Congress to keep that issue at the forefront. And of course, for a lot of them the hostage issue is part and parcel integrally connected to the issue of gender based
One in five U.S. Jews reported that local businesses where they live have been the target of antisemitism in the past five years, revealed AJC's State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, published this week. To dive deeper into this concerning trend, we spoke with Adam Deutsch who, since October 8, has displayed a “We Stand With Israel Sign” in the window of his Scarsdale, NY ice cream shop. In January, his storefront was spray painted with the words “genocide supporters.” Hear from Deutsch on how his local community rallied against this hateful action and why he’s been even more vocal about his support for the Jewish state and prouder to be Jewish. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Adam Deutsch Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: How A 10/7 Survivor is Confronting Anti-Israel Activists on College Campuses Tal Shimony Survived the Hamas Attack on the Nova Music Festival: Hear Her Story of Courage, Resilience, and Remembrance How to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in a Post-October 7th World Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Adam Deutsch: Manya Brachear Pashman:   The contrast was stark. The words “genocide supporters” scrawled in black spray paint across the windows. On the other side of the glass, giant stuffed animals and pillows embroidered with the abbreviation for I love you so much. This was the scene one morning in January at The Scoop Shop, an ice cream and gift store at a shopping plaza in Scarsdale, New York. The vandals also left their mark on a nearby boutique. Both stores had one thing in common: Jewish owners.  This week, AJC released The State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, which for the first time found that one in five American Jews reported local businesses where they live had been the target of antisemitism in the past five years.  With us to talk about the incident in January is the owner of the Scoop Shop, Adam Deutsch.  Adam, welcome to People of the Pod. Adam Deutsch:   Thank you for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Adam, if you wouldn't mind walking us through that morning when you discovered the graffiti on your storefront. Adam Deutsch:   Sure. So my brother actually got a call, we're partners, got a call around 7am rrom the people who do the maintenance in the shopping center. They were with the police who actually noticed the graffiti. So we got a call from them saying that something was written on the store window.  My brother was in the middle of getting ready to drop his kids off at school so he was planning on coming right after that. He called me. And we met over there and they were already starting to clean it off. But at first I couldn't really read what it said. The handwriting was very mishy mashy.  But once we actually saw it, we realized that it was not good. Not like it would have been good anyway, graffiti on the store. But we realized it had something to do with the fact that we supported Israel or that we were Jewish or something along those lines. We weren't positive at first. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how did the vandals know to target your business?  Adam Deutsch:   So we have a sign that says We Support Israel with the Israeli flag in our storefront window. I think it was October 8, someone came to the shopping center and asked if we would put it up. We said absolutely. So we've had it up for a few months. A few shops in the shopping center do as well, the other store that was vandalized did also.  So I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that I'm Jewish, necessarily. Because how would they know that? However, the fact of what they wrote, that they believe what's going on in Israel is genocide made them write what they wrote. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how did law enforcement respond? And I'm also curious if the shopping plaza’s staff contacted law enforcement when they contacted you and your brother? Adam Deutsch:   The police were actually, they do rounds in the shopping center. They do like a drive by all the time. So the police actually are the ones that saw what happened, the New Rochelle police department. They, the guys who do the maintenance of the shopping center were changing the garbages at the time. So it was like they told them, they called us. But there was a lot of police presence. And you know, the district attorney's office and there was FBI. I thought it was handled very well. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So it sounds like they did report it as a hate crime. Adam Deutsch:   Yeah, so it was originally being reported as a possible hate crime. So I know that they have not caught the person. But I was also told that since it was written on glass, as opposed to brick, which is not permanent. And the fact that it wasn't really derogatory towards Jews or towards any group, that it wouldn't have been a hate crime. If they got caught, they wouldn't have been arrested for a hate crime. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I should add that the AJC survey found that a vast majority of American Jews and American adults, 93% of Jews, 91% of the American public, believe it's important that law enforcement report hate crimes, or even be required to report hate crimes to a federal government database.  So I wonder if your incident is going to be reported and recorded since it was on glass. So bizarre.  So and neighbors, how did the neighbors respond? Adam Deutsch:   First of all within the first–this was at eight o'clock in the morning, by the time we got there, within the first half hour of us being there, my phone received probably 20-30 text messages. Someone created this flyer that they were planning on doing an ice cream social get together and a pro-Israel rally at four o'clock.  I was planning on working by myself because it's January in an ice cream store, it's pretty quiet. I right away started texting all my employees, who are in high school. So I knew they couldn't get there until after three o'clock. But I said you got to come. I need everyone here.  Not knowing exactly what it was gonna be like. But, you know, I was getting texts from everyone, people who belong to all different temples saying that their temple sent this out or, this group on Facebook sent this out. It was building a lot of steam. I was like, something’s gonna be crazy today.  It was already crazy what we woke up too, but I wasn't expecting it to really inflate business. But I mean, literally from 8:15 in the morning when I walked into the store until 10:30 at night, I didn't sit down once.  It's still hard for me to grasp what has happened in these last few weeks. But the support from the community and the words that we're getting from everyone, and I mean, I shook hands with more rabbis in the last couple of weeks than I have since my bar mitzvah for sure. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I am curious, though, if you changed anything that you did – I've been asking you, how did law enforcement respond? How did neighbors respond? How did you respond?  Adam Deutsch:   Aside from being an ice cream shop, we're also a custom gift store. So we do custom shirts, water bottles. We print and we do stuff for teams and schools and everything like that.  So that morning, my brother had to go to our office, and he was doing an order for a bat mitzvah that weekend. So he literally went to the office, the first thing he did was, he printed five or six more signs, t-shirts that said we stand with Israel and the Scoop Shop logo and the Israeli flag.  We now have five signs in the front window. He made a few thousand stickers that we were handing out to everyone. We were wearing t-shirts that said, you know that we stand with Israel. And I mean, we've doubled down and we I mean we're standing pretty strong. So that's the biggest thing that changed is that we have more support for Israel signage than we did before. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Had you ever been targeted personally before by antisemitism?  Adam Deutsch:   Personally, no. However, in December, my daughter, there was an incident at her school where her and a couple of her friends were just sitting in class, she's in sixth grade. And a kid went up to them and started making some antisemitic comments to them. Not even knowing that they were Jewish, but like, he then asked them if they were Jewish. So the fact that this all happened, and I didn't really put two and two together at first, and I still don't think there's any connection at all. The school handled that.  But I grew up in New Rochelle, and it's a very large city, and there's a lot of Jewish people in one part of town, and non-Jewish in another part of town and not like it's like, segregated like that. But like, there was always people who just didn't know or didn't understand. And, you know, just thought of us Jews as different, which is the same as it is in the world today. I knew it growing up, but I didn't think twice about it. I mean, I've never seen it as bad as it is now. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What sets AJC's survey apart from others is that it measures perceptions of antisemitism, both among American Jews and the American public. And I'm curious what your perception was, before this happened or before October 7 did you sense that antisemitism was already on the rise or not so much? Adam Deutsch:   I mean, it's been in the news a lot for the past few months. So like, since October 7, I mean, that's really what put it in my head more like, I always knew it was out there, but I never really thought it was more than usual or that it was more than other races or religion.  You know, I didn't think it was different than other groups of people. But just seeing on the ne
Yoni Diller, a 28-year-old Israeli filmmaker, arrived at the Supernova Music Festival just hours before Hamas terrorists launched their unprecedented attack on Israel that killed 1200 people, including 401 at the music festival alone. Yoni escaped the festival on foot, walking for hours through southern Israel’s desert to safety.  Having survived this harrowing experience, Yoni is now traveling the world to share his story with political leaders, college students, and others, providing firsthand testimony of the horrors he and his fellow festival attendees witnessed on that fateful morning of October 7th. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Yoni Diller Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Tal Shimony Survived the Hamas Attack on the Nova Music Festival: Hear Her Story of Courage, Resilience, and Remembrance How to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in a Post-October 7th World A Spider Web of Terror: How Iran’s Axis of Houthis, Hezbollah, and Hamas Threaten Israel and America Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Yoni Diller: Manya Brachear Pashman: During the Grammys this past Sunday, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. remembered the 401 people murdered and 40 kidnapped by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 attack on the Nova Music Festival.  Yoni Diller is a 28-year-old filmmaker from Ra’anana, a town outside Tel Aviv. Yoni and his friend Nadav arrived at the Supernova Music Festival just a few hours before rockets began flying overhead. At daybreak, he had expected to send up a drone camera to capture the scene of unadulterated song and dance in the desert. But he never got the chance to get his camera ready. Yoni is with us now to describe that harrowing day that started at dawn. Yoni, welcome to People of the Pod.   Yoni Diller: Thank you for having me.  Manya Brachear Pashman: Could you please walk us through what you saw that morning?  Yoni Diller:   So, when the sirens went on at 6:30, we saw hundreds of missiles heading our way. So we rushed back to our campsite. We packed up our stuff, we tried to leave, the parking lot was chaotic. And I suggested going a different way. This decision to head south towards Re’im, which is another village. I didn't think it would change or it will change everything, but it did. On the road, people originally told us to turn around, to do a u-turn.  Manya Brachear Pashman: You told me earlier that was when a car riddled with bullet holes approached you and you found yourself helping a wounded women. That was 25 year old Shani Gabay whose remains were identified seven weeks later. At that time, when you were helping her, you heard gunfire in the distance and you tried to take cover in a nearby valley.  Yoni Diller:   Yes. I saw terrorists from a distance and continued to hide. A short moment later, mass shooting started in the Be’eri area, north of us.  I checked my phone to assess our surroundings and our current location. At the same time, my friend's sister called him to check on him to check everything's okay. He promised everything's gonna be alright. And about that time about a dozen others had joined us and we start walking. But the best thing I could do at that moment is to scream for everyone to get down because bullets are flying up on top of our head.  So when the gunshots stop for a second, we decided to head towards Patish, it was more than 24 kilometers away. My intuition told me that this will be safer there.  Manya Brachear Pashman: Did you just say 24 kilometers away? How did you make it through an almost 15-mile walk? You're walking in fields, the open fields in the desert, without food or water for over four and a half hours. It's really really tough. The fear and uncertainty made it even harder. At some point, Nadav found a single grapefruit that gave us enough energy to finish the long walk to Patish.  Throughout this journey we continued to hear automatic gunfire. Finally after 4 ½ hours we arrived at Patish. Emotions were mixed because we began to learn the enormity of what happened. Friends were missing and there were rumors of many people hurt and worse from the festival. Later on around 2 in the afternoon, a bus came to take us away, bringing us to Be’er Sheva and then to Tel Aviv. Then I arrived to Ra'anana finally. Safe and sound in one piece. I hugged my family and I understood just how lucky I had been.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So can you kind of explain to our audience what is so wonderful about this festival, this trance culture and this music, this experience? Yoni Diller:   So trance, psy-trance, electronic music, personally for me it's not a genre. It’s like you said, it's a culture, it’s the people in it. It's the free spirit people, liberal people, just all about spreading love. It doesn't have to be in a hippie way, just more in a way that everything is very simple, you know. Simply just be a good person, giving, ego’s not involved, very laid back people. And that's the whole idea behind all these festivals and that's what's for me. It's about the people, it's about the music, it’s about the art, everything together.  I joined a group of friends, friends of friends, we were like total more than 20 people and two of them lost their lives there and two others that I know from another group that went with me to high school also.  One got killed and actually the one the other one got kidnapped. These festivals,  from event to event, you get to know people from everywhere. It's a small world. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Your companion who was kidnapped, has he been released, any word on where they are now? Yoni Diller:   No, one of them is still there. Hopefully he's still alive. I’m not even sure what's less worse, being kidnapped, or hostage, or being killed. We don't really know what they're going through over there. The best we can do is just wish for them to be released, no matter what the circumstances are. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Yes, my colleagues here at AJC are working to bring about the safe return of all the hostages. Listeners can go to to learn more about those efforts.  Yoni, do you feel like people outside Israel fully grasp the gravity of what happened to people there, or really how truly innocent the festival goers were? Yoni Diller:   Unfortunately, you know, this generation wants to get fast news and simple news comfortably, and a lot of them consume content from, you know, platforms like Tiktok, or Instagram. And unfortunately, there's a lot of fake news out there, a lot of false accusations. And, you know, people sometimes deny that October 7 happened. And that's really unfortunate. I'll give you an example.  I flew to the US after the event, I was part of this special delegation to do advocacy and telling the story to politicians in DC, in New York. And also, independently later after this delegation, I stayed another week in the States, and I took the train to these campuses. And I spoke and told my story. You know, campuses like NYU, Columbia, I went to Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Princeton.  Six campuses in three days. It wasn't easy. I was really exhausted. But the fact that I had that meaning that, you know, I'm there to tell the story.  Not for me, not telling the story for me. I’m telling that story for people to actually know what really happened, you know, the truth. I'm saying this for people who weren't lucky to tell them to tell the story themselves, or for the families.  So what I saw, when I told the story, is a lot of people were actually in shock, like, wow, I didn't know if this would really happen. Like, how can you not know, we're in 2023. Information hasn't been easier to be delivered from place to place up until this moment, and how do you not know exactly what happened? There's videos everywhere.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   You mentioned that students were actually shocked that when they heard your testimony, and what happened. What other kinds of reactions are you getting, both reassuring reactions and negative reactions? Yoni Diller:   I would say that the positive reactions I had a lot, a lot of good reactions. I mean, most of the people I spoke to or through this Hillel organization and the campuses. And, you know, people come up to me after the event and they feel very sorry, and they sort of it was really nice, but I would say that the only time that I dealt with some, somebody that was maybe a negative was at Princeton, there was this guy, some 18 year old kid. Apparently he's not one of the Israeli supporters I would say, is an understatement. And he had a weird comment.  It took him actually 10 minutes to ask me a question, at the end of the lecture, I asked if anyone has any questions, and he asked me something. He was very embarrassed to ask me this. But he said something about should we feel bad for the Palestinians, they've been oppressed for many years, October 7th was legitimate, it should have happened, something in that kind of way.  So instead of attacking him and try to humiliate him, or trying to make him look really bad, make him look silly, I told him, Look, I can talk to you about it. No problem. I'm not here to talk about politics or give you history lessons. I'm just here to tell my story, this is what happen. Again, I can get into it, but I wasn't really interested,I wasn't sure it was really appropriate to just get into that, because he just wanted to find some action.  In terms of antisemitism or just being against Israel, I see it's a very broad trend, nowadays. I had this event with Douglas Murray the other day. And he said, this generation is Gen Z, you kn
Dancing. Costumes. Music. Rockets. Running. Chaos.  At 6:29 am on the morning of October 7, Tal Shimony went from dancing in a field outside the Southern Israeli kibbutz of Re’im at the Supernova Music Festival to running for her life as the site was attacked by Hamas terrorists. Tal guides us through the horrors she witnessed that morning, and the exhibit 'Nova 6.29,' where the community aims to tell their story and honor those killed and taken hostage, in the deadliest attack on a music event in history.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Tal Shimony  Show Notes: Song credits: Clear Test Signal Artifex Remix - Nova Tribute Learn more: Tribe of Nova Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: How to Mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in a Post-October 7th World A Spider Web of Terror: How Iran’s Axis of Houthis, Hezbollah, and Hamas Threaten Israel and America Unpacking South Africa’s Baseless Genocide Charge Against Israel Countering the Denial and Distortion of the 10/7 Hamas Attack Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Tal Shimony:  Manya Brachear Pashman:   More than 3000 people were at the Supernova Music Festival that began on Friday night October 6, and was meant to last through the next day. But at 6:29 am on October 7, it came to an end. In the horrific hours that followed, more than 400 people were killed and more than 40 kidnapped by Hamas terrorists.  Survivors organized an exhibit at the Tel Aviv Expo to tell their story. ‘Nova 6.29’ is named for the moment when rockets began falling on the tribe of Nova desert rave. During an AJC Project Interchange Fact Finding Delegation to Israel in December 2023, my colleagues met survivor and organizer Tal Shimony. After hearing her story, we wanted you to meet her too.  Tal, welcome to People of the Pod. Tal Shimony: Thank you so much for inviting me, it means a lot for me and also for my tribe. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So before we begin, I'm hoping you can kind of help our audience understand your tribe and understand just what the tribe of Nova or trance culture is, and what were people celebrating that morning?  Tal Shimony: Yeah, of course, I will explain to the audience about trance culture and who we are. It's named after music, electronic music. What's very interesting about this music, it came to Israel around the 80s from the area of India, and very soon became a very popular culture here and a very big scene here in Israel.  Every weekend, we have around 20 parties that are happening in nature, that are celebrating this culture. The trance culture is connected in a way to the more liberal and free culture, connected to the yoga world. Which means it's a very global and international thing. We're speaking about love and peace.  In all of the international trance festivals, it's not very much allowed to bring national flags. You're not allowed to bring flags of your own country. You can bring flags that are stating a peace of love or stuff that are representing your group of friends, but nothing that is representing anything national. The aim is to do a community that has no judgment. That everyone can join it. If you're a good person, and you love nature, and you love humankind, and you love the music, you can join. And that's the Nova tribe’s main values. These are the things that we are standing for.  And the gap between what happened to us at 6:29 that morning, and of course, the whole day after, because it's not just that moment that was horrible. It was the whole day after it and of course, until now it's still going on. And from that moment on, the gap between this and who we are and what we are and what we came to celebrate is so big.  For me, this is the unbelievable thing. A lot of time I ask myself, What am I doing here? What happened? Why did it happen to us? Manya Brachear Pashman:   How many festivals have you been to personally, and what took you to that one in October? Tal Shimony: I've been going to trance festivals and nature parties in Israel since I'm really young. I live in a really small village in the north that is quite hippy. So these things are a part of who I am and what I do since I'm around 15. My first International Festival was in Hungary when I was 19. So I traveled to festivals around the world when I was very young. Today, I'm 25.  So this thing has been a part of my world for a while now. And Nova festival came into my world around two years ago. I went to the same festival as I went to the first time. And I didn't want to go alone. And some of my friends connected me to one of the Nova producers, Nimrod Arnin, or the way I call him, Nimi. He’s a good friend. And became sort of a little love story, not in the romantic way. But in a way they opened their arms to me, this production, said come join us, just be with us as our friends. And I just fell in love with these people. They are so beautiful.  The people who will lead this community are people that are full with heart, all they want to do is give good to this world. They volunteer monthly as a production. And we have another volunteering now and this week on Friday. This is something that they do all the time and, and every time and at some point, I decided that every time I'm going to come to visit Israel, I will visit in the time of the Nova festival.  I've been living in Berlin for the last three and a half years. So it's not like it's been easy for me to come to the Israeli festival of Nova. But I did. I felt like it was important to me to do so. And they really produce something that is in international levels. Just like the Hungarian festival I went to or the Portuguese Boom famous festival or Universo Paralello, which is the festival that Nova worked in collaboration with in the seventh of October. The international trance community is hugging us as much as they can, because it's also very complex for them. This is for me what this thing is about. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you take us back to October 6, and then October 7, Tal, and tell our listeners what you went through that day personally? Tal Shimony: Yeah. So I was not supposed to be at that party. But I got a call from one of the producers, my friend, his name is Dov. And he needed help in a new ecological team. He's been building up this first of a kind ecological project in an Israeli festival, using reusable cups in the bar, and handing out trash bags to the audience and differentiating trash, plastic trash and non-plastic trash, things that are really revolutionary in Israel.  And since I was living in Berlin, in Germany, as you know, is top one in this thing. He called me and he asked for help. I was supposed to come to Israel for the winter because the Berlin winter was too cold for me. And I decided I'm going to take my flight a bit more earlier than I planned and landed in Israel in the second of October. Which means the sixth of October was my first Friday at home after many months. I was doing a Friday dinner, shishi, Shabbat dinner with my family. Around 11 I took a ride with a friend. And we had two other friends in the car and we drove into the party. I arrived around 12:30.  And I said it to you before the podcast that my boyfriend is one of the leaders of this production. He was already there. He was setting up the event, so this is why I had to take a ride. And he had his car there. And then he was really tired, he went to sleep. And I started working. At around 4am, I got a radio. And I started doing my job. And around 5:45, actually, quite exactly, my friend Yarin, he was going to play. His DJ name is Artifex, you probably know this name. He is the last DJ who played at the party. I woke up my boyfriend at 5:45, and I told him, let's go to dance, I can take my break now. And we can go and hear Yarin play on the main dance floor. It's a really big dance floor. It's one of the biggest he ever played in, so we were very excited for him. He’s a good friend. And we went to dance.  Now you see in the dance floors of, especially of Nova community, but generally in the trance community, you don't really need to stay next to your friends, you can walk around, everyone are friends with everyone, everyone is super friendly and nice. And I think it's a very beautiful atmosphere. As I said, no judgment, everyone was smiling at you.  Manya Brachear Pashman: And then the sun starts to rise over the festival, right? Describe that for us. Tal Shimony: I don't think there are words that can express how you can feel when the sun is rising on a desert party in Israel. First of all, the Israeli sunrises in the desert are the most beautiful thing you can see. Really. I've seen a lot of sunrises, in a lot of places in the world, I'm traveling quite a lot. This is something else. The atmosphere is magical.  And also, you are dancing in the dark next to people that you don't see, when suddenly the light of the sun comes in, and you can see the people around you. You can see their eyes, you can see their faces.  And I think around 6:20 the sun was already starting to rise and at 6:20 my boyfriend said he's going to the bathroom and I asked to join him. He found me in the dance floor somehow, which was luck for both of us. And we went to the bathroom, we went outside the bathroom at 6:29. And I can see a missile from far away. And I asked my boyfriend, didn't you say there is a ceasefire?  And the minute I finished my sentence, hundreds of rockets are already flying above my head. And when I say above my head, you need to understand it was very, very close to my head. Physically, you can really feel the echo on your body, the echo
This week, Mark Weitzman from the World Jewish Restitution Organization, joins us to discuss the links between the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the Holocaust, and how Holocaust museums worldwide and in Israel are grappling with the aftermath. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, we also delve into the direct connection between Holocaust denial and distortion to the denial and distortion of October 7 events, and how both are rooted in antisemitism. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Mark Weitzman Show Notes: Learn: AJC’s Translate Hate Glossary: See why Holocaust denial / distortion is antisemitic. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: A Spider Web of Terror: How Iran’s Axis of Houthis, Hezbollah, and Hamas Threaten Israel and America Unpacking South Africa’s Baseless Genocide Charge Against Israel Countering the Denial and Distortion of the 10/7 Hamas Attack 4-Year-Old Hostage Abigail Idan is Free–Her Family is On a Mission to #BringThemAllHome Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Mark Weitzman: Manya Brachear Pashman:   One could easily say the October 7 Hamas invasion and massacre in Israel is one of the most well-documented terrorist attacks in history. Dozens of smartphone cameras and GoPros filmed Hamas terrorists crossing the border between Gaza and southern Israel murdered more than 1000 soldiers and civilians and kidnapped more than 200 others, the deadliest antisemitic attack since the Holocaust. But just like the scourge of Holocaust denial, October 7th denial is growing. Mark Weitzman is the chief operating officer of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, a nonprofit that pursues claims for the recovery of Jewish properties lost during World War Two.  He's also the lead author of the working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance known as IHRA, and chairs the IHRA Working Group on museums and memorials.  As we approach International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mark has joined us to discuss how we can make sure the world does not forget or deny any atrocities committed against Jews.  Mark, welcome to People of the Pod. Mark Weitzman: Thank you very much for the invitation to be here. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Mark, you are an expert on Holocaust denial and distortion. What does it have in common with the denial we’re seeing around October 7?  Mark Weitzman: I think there are clear connections between people who are downplaying or distorting the events of October 7, and those that engage in Holocaust distortion or hardcore Holocaust denial, because both are linked by an attempt to try to explain what is for them an uncomfortable historical reality that targeted Jews, whether the Holocaust or the events of October seventh, to justify their preconceived political agenda, which often includes an antisemitic conspiracy theory, either as its base or as its method to achieve their goals.  One of the root causes of Holocaust denial distortion, from the antisemitic perspective, is the attempt to say that since the Holocaust, there is a certain sympathy for Jews as victims, and sometimes that turns into political sympathy or support for the State of Israel. Sometimes it turns into actions that are pro-democracy or anti-racist in terms of society and saying that we've seen what happened in Auschwitz, we don't want our society to go in that direction. So we're going to take certain positive steps. Those people who want to turn the clock back to a world where people could still be judged by their religion, their race or whatever signifier, often have to grasp with the Holocaust. It's the paradigm of what can happen when society turns evil.  The same thing in the sense is at the root of October 7 denial. It's the attempt to say that, Oh, no, we don't want to allow any sympathy to Jews or Israelis, we have to justify it or explain it away in a way that allows us to accept the reality of what it happened, because denying it puts you in a really sort of cuckoo cage of denying what’s obvious to everyone what happened there.  So in this sense, in a particular sense, it can be by saying that, Oh, yeah, it happened there. The Israelis were killed, but they were killed by the Government of Israel. The hostages were not really taking the Gaza, they're actually hidden in Israeli buildings or holdings. That, you know, this is all part of a plot by Israel and the US government, aimed at undermining the Palestinian narrative and drive for freedom. But the goal there is similar, it's to grapple with a reality that most people would find repugnant. An anti semitic reality. The latest poll in the US shows 80% of the US population support Israel versus Hamas. And in an attempt to justify their stance, their pure antisemitic stance, they have to deal with that reality. And so you can't ignore it, you can say it didn't happen. Since as you pointed out, it's one of the most photographed and verified actions in recent memory. So you try to twist it away, and turn it on its head. Manya Brachear Pashman:   But how do people wrap their heads around this fantasy fiction? Mark Weitzman: These conspiracy theories are linked. And I don't think enough people have realized this or paid attention to it, that Hamas’s original charter, 1988, actually quoted, literally quoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is, as we all know, the Bible of antisemitic conspiracy theories.  And they literally based their charter, it's the only western document quoted in their charter, their original charter. And it links the events of October 7, with the history of antisemitic conspiracy theories. This is not an anti-Zionist document, the protocols, it's an anti-Jewish, antisemitic document. So there's a direct connection there.  The Holocaust is the most documented event in human history. There are films, there are millions and millions of pages of documents. There are so many archival records of survivors, of perpetrators, of war crimes tribunals that have, you know, judged and and entered into evidence, the effects of the Holocaust, the reality of the Holocaust, not just in the United States.  But look at the David Irving trial, the famous David Irving trial. But all the war crimes trials in Europe as well, to say that it did not happen, or to twist, it requires an effort of will. And it's not just on the individual level.  In our work at the WJRO, we see governments today that do not want to deal with restitution, and use manipulation of the Holocaust, to try to get out of it by claiming that it was all the Germans, the local collaborators had nothing to do with it, or that the numbers were inflated or that we don't know what the value was, what was really owned by by Jews at that time.  All sorts of methods used to evade trying to make some payment, some form of restitution, and then to survivors and part of our mission is to set forth and ensure that the historical record, even in terms of the theft of Jewish property, is well established.  So when we get to the events of October 7, particularly in an era where fake news, where people claim to believe all sorts of conspiracy theories, whether it's related to COVID, whether it's related to American election results, and a lot of these people kind of bond together. The underground of election denial and some of the anti-COVID extremists, and some of the Hamas or some of the October 7 deniers or distorters. Very often, they live in the same atmosphere, in the same basement, they imbibe the same fumes, they're in touch with each other. Very often they're cooperating or believe in similar conspiracy theories.  And this is one of the problems that we have as a society, amplified by social media, is to separate the real from the fake, and to try to limit and minimize the impact that the fake has on real life, on mainstream society, and politics, and culture, and so on. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So as I mentioned in the introduction, International Holocaust Remembrance is January 27. You just returned from a meeting with representatives of Holocaust institutions around the world. How did these museums come to be? I mean, was it a bricks and mortar movement to counter Holocaust denial, was it seen more broadly as a tool to fight antisemitism or something else entirely? Mark Weitzman: Well, I think that most of these came to be, first of all, through the efforts of survivors. In so many cases, it was the survivor community that were the driving force behind it. And yes, it was in response to antisemitism and to Holocaust denial. But those movements were not, in a sense, the dominant factors that we may think today.  It was a sense, I think, more of trying to pass on what they went through, both to the Jewish community, their children and grandchildren, and so on, but more importantly, to the community writ large, meaning that to the world at large, whether it's the US or the UK or Canada. They wanted people to learn the lessons from what they had gone through and survived. They wanted people to not to have to deal with the same things that they dealt with.  And it's fascinating to me, one of the most interesting things that I find in the field is that today, and not only a majority of visitors to Holocaust museums, the vast majority, are not Jewish. But the majority of people who work in these institutions are not Jewish either. There are people who have dedicated their lives to some second career, some it's, you know, a career long commitment to both studying and teaching and passing on lessons of the Holocaust.  So what began sometimes within the Je
This week President Biden re-designated Yemen’s Houthis as a global terrorist group amid its increasing attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Hezbollah terror group continues to threaten Israel's northern border, and the Israel-Hamas war continues as Hamas still holds more than 100 Israeli hostages taken on 10/7. Matthew Levitt, Fromer-Wexler Fellow & Director of the Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute, joins us to help make sense of the renewed terror threat, how these terror groups are coordinating their strategy and attacks, and what the U.S., Israel, and its allies are doing to fight back against Iran and its terror proxies. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Matthew Levitt Show Notes: Learn: 5 Things to Know About the Houthis, Their Attacks on Israel and the U.S., and Their Treatment of Yemen’s Jews Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Unpacking South Africa’s Baseless Genocide Charge Against Israel Countering the Denial and Distortion of the 10/7 Hamas Attack 4-Year-Old Hostage Abigail Idan is Free–Her Family is On a Mission to #BringThemAllHome What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Matthew Levitt: Manya Brachear Pashman:   This week the US military struck a Houthi arsenal in Yemen that had threatened US Navy vessels in the Red Sea. It was America's fourth strike on Houthi turf since November 19. Meanwhile, the Hezbollah terror group continues to violate a UN Security Resolution and threaten Israel's border, and Hamas still holds more than 100 Israeli hostages taken during the October 7th invasion and massacre.  What do all these terror groups have in common? Returning here to discuss is Matthew Levitt, the Fromer-Wexler Fellow & Director of the Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute.  Matt, welcome back to People of the Pod. Matthew Levitt:   Thank you so much for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So let's start with the terror group making the latest headlines. The Houthis? Who are they and why has the Biden administration just re-designated them a terrorist organization? Matthew Levitt:   So the Houthis are a separatist group in Yemen, based in the north of the country. They are Shia, and they get support from Iran. But they're not exactly the same kind of Shia as Iran. And they aren't exactly the kind of proxy that says jump when Iran says how high.  This is a relationship of convenience and my enemy's enemy. And they both hate the United States and the west and hate Israel. And the Houthis have been for years an ineffective, and for the Iranians an inexpensive and risk free way to complicate things for the Saudis. So for years, the Houthis were shooting at the Saudis when the Saudis were involved in the Yemeni war, after the Houthis had taken over.  And that's one of the reasons why things are a little sensitive right now, because there have been efforts to try and negotiate a ceasefire between the Houthis and the Saudis. The Saudis aren't happy with what the Houthis are doing right now in the Red Sea. But they also don't want to rock the boat.  The Houthis have as part of their mantra printed on their flag, Death to Israel, Death to America, Death to Jews, all three, they're not particularly, you know, unclear. And so they have flown drones towards Israel that have been shot down, they have fired ballistic missiles at Israel, some of which have been shut down by US Navy vessels, at least one was shut down by the Saudis. Just pause to think about that for a minute. The Saudis weren't thinking this was aimed at them, the Saudis shut down a Houthi missile aimed at Israel, which suggests that the Israel-Saudi reconciliation track, while very much on pause, is not over. And the Israelis have shot down some including for the first time ever using the arrow anti-missile system, which shot down a ballistic missile in lower outer space.  Now, the Houthis have tried to leverage their position geographically by targeting ships in the Red Sea. They claim that they are targeting only those ships that are owned in whole or in part by Israel or have serviced Israeli ports. They've hit some American ships as well. They're clearly getting intelligence from the Iranians on this. And it has disruptive international freedom of navigation.  And you have now a new problem in terms of getting things where we need them to be to stock our shelves, because boats that would normally go up the Red Sea and through the canal are now going around South Africa. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And this volatility on the part of the Houthis is also compounded by what's going on with Hamas, and also Hezbollah. Is Iran the common denominator here, Matt? I mean, is that what all these terror groups have in common, or is there much more? Matthew Levitt:   So it's true, the Houthis claimed that what they're doing is in support of the Palestinians. But what we are seeing for the first time put into action is the strategy that was developed by the late Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, who was killed in Iraq several years ago. And that strategy was what he called uniting the fronts. And so this idea that across the spectrum, and it really is a spectrum of proxy, activity of sponsorship.  Hezbollah is at one end very, very close to Iran, the Houthis, I would argue, are at the other end, and Hamas is kind of somewhere in between. Getting them all to be able to coordinate their activities, when push comes to shove. Now, Hamas for its part is very happy with the Houthis. They're quite disappointed with Hezbollah.  There are reports in the Arabic press, that Hamas expected that Hezbollah would get much more involved and Hezbollah didn't when they saw the US naval presence, you know, two aircraft carriers. Whatever the specifics, Hamas have been very vocal about how displeased they are with the level of support they're getting from Hezbollah, though that has been significant. And they're pretty pleased with the support they're getting from the Houthis, which is outsized what might have otherwise been expected from the Houthis. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So the alignment of these groups with Iran, what exactly does that mean? Does that mean that Iran is pulling the strings? Are they funding the activities? All of the above? I mean, you mentioned the goal of coordinating all these proxies, but does coordinating go as far as collaborating? Matthew Levitt:   So I don't want to get into a semantic discussion of what exactly is the difference between collaborating and coordinating. I think what's important to understand here is that it's not like in the movies, where everybody's getting together at a meeting with evil laughs, coordinating all that they're doing. There have been some meetings, we know that for at least the past few years. Iranian Quds Force, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad had been meeting at what they call, their term not mine, a joint operations room in Beirut. What all is coordinated is not entirely clear. You've had Iranian and some Shia militants from Iraq, the Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī making statements recently about how, you know, generally things are coordinated right now.  Frankly, the level of coordination took a hit with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. And there was no one with the gravitas to kind of bring all these proxies together. So they actually leaned on Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah to come in and serve that role not only kind of mediating between the various Iraqi Shia militant groups, but also the others, the Hamas is that Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthis. So they're not all sitting around a big conference table. And you'll do this and you'll do this, but they're all getting support–financial and often weapons from Iran. There is some significant cross pollination in some personalities.  So for example, for the first time this week I've seen in the open source, Israelis say that the head of the Redwan special forces unit in southern Lebanon that has been firing anti tank guided missiles into Israel multiple times a day is a guy known as Abu ‘Ali Al- Tabataba’i. He was in southern Lebanon for many years. Then he was sent to Syria, where he worked with Iraqi Shia militants and Quds Force. Then he was moved from there to Yemen, where Hezbollah had a very, very small contingent, maybe a couple of dozen.  But the fact that they sent someone that senior was telling. I actually wrote a piece of Foreign Affairs about this years ago, when it came out that he was sent to Yemen. He was designated by the US Treasury, there's a Rewards for Justice from the State Department to reward out for his head. Well, he now is back from Yemen, got a promotion and is the overall head of the Redwan unit. And he has at this point, all kinds of personal relationships.  And so there's a little bit of cross pollination, you might talk about the people you know, from back when you went to college together. And back in the day the Al Qaeda would talk, did you go to the duranta camp in Afghanistan? Do you remember that trainer? Well, now there's a similar thing going on in the Shia extremists milieu? Did you go to the camps together? Were you in Iran at the same time, or Iraq or Lebanon at the same time? Which trainer did you have, who did they send to you? And so there is coordination happening, but I don't think it's Houthis. Sometime this morning, you're going to be targeting a ship.  On the flip side, there is some open source information a
The International Court of Justice is currently hearing South Africa's case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. Professor Geoffrey Corn from Texas Tech University joins us to explain how we got here, the case’s significance, and why the claims of genocide are baseless.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Geoffrey Corn Show Notes: Explainer: What You Need to Know about South Africa’s Baseless Genocide Accusation Against Israel Go Deeper: 5 Reasons Why the Events in Gaza Are Not “Genocide”  Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War:  Countering the Denial and Distortion of the 10/7 Hamas Attack 4-Year-Old Hostage Abigail Idan is Free–Her Family is On a Mission to #BringThemAllHome What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Geoffrey Corn: Manya Brachear Pashman:   The International Court of Justice is holding its first hearings in a case filed by South Africa, accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. While it could take years for the panel of judges to rule on the genocide accusation, South Africa has asked the judges to issue a restraining order of sorts in the coming weeks that could among other things, call on Israel to halt its effort to root out Hamas and bring home the remaining hostages, at least until a verdict is reached. Here to explain what's at stake and the questions that the court will need to weigh is Professor Geoffrey Corn, Director of the Center for Military Law and Policy at Texas Tech University. Professor Corn. Welcome to People of the Pod. Geoffrey Corn: Thank you for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So you are an expert in international humanitarian law and the law of war, which to some those terms might seem contradictory, or are the? Are they actually one in the same?  Geoffrey Corn: No, they refer to the identical branch of international law, historically, we call this branch of law, the laws and customs of war. Before the end of World War II, it was referred to as the law of war. And then, of course, with the advent of the United Nations Charter, technically war was prohibited. And states engaged in armed conflicts.  And so the name evolved for many years to be referred to as the law of armed conflict, the Loack, that's still what it's called. And in official US circles, we have the Department of Defense law of war manual, and the army law of armed conflict manual, most of the world today refers to it as international humanitarian law. And that, as you know, it can be misleading because it suggests that it's really focused on human rights. In fact, IHL, or international humanitarian law is a synonym for the law of armed conflict. It's the law that regulates the conduct of hostilities, during conflicts between states or between states and non-state groups, and protects victims of war. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So let's cover another basic distinction or definition that will help listeners decipher all of this, the charges that I spoke of in the introduction, they had been brought in the International Court of Justice. And now that's the 15 judge panel of the United Nations.  Not the International Criminal Court, which is also in The Hague, but charges individuals with war crimes. So can you explain for our audience the purpose of the International Court of Justice? Geoffrey Corn: Sure, the International Court of Justice is part of the mosaic of the Charter of the United Nations, a treaty that was created in the aftermath of World War II, to manifest the international community's determination that wars not be the mechanism by which states resolve their disputes. So there are a variety of mechanisms built into the Charter of the United Nations, the one people are most familiar with is the Security Council, which is vested by the treaty with enforcement power.  So the Security Council has the authority to authorize measures for the restoration of international peace and security. So for example, in 1991, when the coalition conducted military action against Iraq to force it out of Kuwait, that was done under the authority of the Charter of the United Nations and the Security Council resolution to restore international peace and security.   One of the four components of the United Nations is the International Court of Justice. It is a successor to a prior international court that sat in the Hague, and its singular jurisdiction is over disputes between states, or to give advisory opinions on international law as requested by the Security Council or the General Assembly. But the primary function of the International Court of Justice is to serve almost like an arbitration mechanism when states have disputes so that they can resolve them in accordance with international law without resorting to force to resolve those disputes. And so it has no jurisdiction over individuals.  It is, as you know, very different from the International Criminal Court, which is a treaty based criminal tribunal, and its jurisdiction is dependent on whether or not the individual is a national of one of the treaty parties, or whether the alleged crimes occurred in the territory of one of the treaty parties is Israel is not a party to that treaty, nor is the United States. But Palestine is. They've accepted Palestine as a member of the court, which means the prosecutor for the international criminal court has jurisdiction to investigate and pursue charges for any alleged war crimes that he believes have occurred in Palestinian territory, which includes Gaza. So two very different courts, very different consequences for their assertion of jurisdiction. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So now, both Israel and South Africa are signatories of the 1948 Genocide Convention. That is precisely why these charges have been brought to the ICJ. It's because they are both signatories of that treaty. Geoffrey Corn: Yeah, so I wouldn't say charges, I would say accusation. Right, because when we say charge, we tend to think of a criminal accusation.  Let's remember that an accusation is just that. It's not proof, it doesn't prove anything. If you read the filing by South Africa, it really is an exercise in selective fact assertion and ignoring inconvenient facts, there's a lot more to this story that we're going to see when we see the Israeli filing in response. So the Genocide Convention says, if there's a dispute between signatories or contracting parties to the treaty, they agree to allow the International Court of Justice to resolve that dispute. So one of the aspects of South Africa's filing is that they alleged that they've made a number of diplomatic forays to Israel demanding that they explain how what they're doing is legal and asserting that it's genocide. And Israel has not responded to those diplomatic forays, and therefore, that's created a dispute within the meaning of the treaty. And one of the things the court is going to have to resolve is whether there is in fact, a dispute between two members of the treaty as a jurisdictional predicate to even reaching the question of whether they should impose preliminary measures. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And does that precede the ruling on provisional measures?  Geoffrey Corn: It will be it will be part of the ruling. In any in any court of law, there's always a question of jurisdiction. Now, in most cases, it's not complicated. If you commit a crime where you live, the state has jurisdiction over that crime, but in the international realm, it's often a matter of debate as to whether or not the tribunal that has been requested to adjudicate an issue is actually vested under the law with the power, that's what jurisdiction means the power to resolve that issue. So the first issue that the court’s going to have to resolve is whether it in fact, has jurisdiction pursuant to the terms of the Genocide Convention. And then if it says it does, then it will go to the question of whether there is a compelling case for preliminary measures. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So we know South Africa has a history of anti-Israel positions, it has historically sided with the PLO, Palestinian Liberation Organization and it now appears to be supporting the Hamas terrorists that govern Gaza. There also might be some political posturing going on here ahead of a national election. But how did we get here? A genocide claim against the Jewish state.  Geoffrey Corn: I think the answer to that is twofold. I mean, the first is that there is a widespread public perception that the level of carnage being inflicted as a result of Israeli Defense Force operations in Gaza is intolerable. And it's created a perception among many that the Israelis are actually not just trying to defeat Hamas’ military capability–they are trying to destroy in part the Palestinian population of Gaza, that that's their intent.  Now, I personally believe that that is a highly erroneous inference to draw from the facts on the ground. But this is part of Hamas’ information campaign. This should be unsurprising from the inception of this conflict, they know that they cannot defeat Israel in battle.  And this is one of the ironies of Israel's military struggle against Hamas. And I would say even if it occurs, Hezbollah. These highly capable organized military groups are under no delusion that they have the capability to confront the Israeli Defense Force and defeat it on the battlefield. For them, combat is not about defeating your enemy.  For them combat serves their information campaign. They use combat to create conditions to
Since October 7, the USC Shoah Foundation has added a new component to its mission: collecting the testimonies of those who survived the worst antisemitic attack since the Holocaust to counter those who deny it took place.  Dr. Robert Williams, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation, joins us to discuss the history and tendency to deny atrocities committed against Jews, the importance of collecting testimonies, and how they help in understanding antisemitism in all its forms.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Belle Yoeli (1:44) Robert Williams Show Notes: Take action to bring all hostages home now. To support our work today, you can visit Or text AJC DONATE to 52886. Learn more: USC Shoah Foundation: Survivors of the October 2023 Hamas Terrorist Attacks Testimony of Shaylee Atary Winner Testimony of Maor Moravia  The Testimonies Archive The Testimonies Archive Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: 4-Year-Old Hostage Abigail Idan is Free–Her Family is On a Mission to #BringThemAllHome What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Robert Williams: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Since the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7, the Shoah Foundation has added a new component to its mission: collecting the testimonies of those who survived the worst antisemitic attack since the Holocaust to counter those who have dare to deny it took place.  Dr. Robert Williams is the Advisor to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, where he served for four years as chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. In October 2022, he became the Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation. Dr Williams is with us now to discuss the history and tendency to deny atrocities, in this case, those committed against Jews. Thank you for joining us. Dr. Williams, if you could begin by explaining to listeners what Holocaust denial is, and how it's similar or different from Holocaust trivialization and distortion.  Robert Williams: Holocaust denial is a little easier for us to wrap our heads around, for better or worse. Holocaust deniers are essentially trying to tell people that the Holocaust didn't happen for one of two reasons. The most obvious reason is because they're antisemitic, they want to tell people that the Jewish Diaspora writ large has come together to invent this grand conspiracy to pull the wool over the eyes of non-Jews for all manner of dastardly purposes. So that's the first reason.  The second reason is also antisemitic, although in a slightly different way. That is to rehabilitate national socialism as an acceptable ideology. No matter which way you slice that cake, it still ends up being antisemitism. That's why, to echo the words of people like Deborah Lipstadt, and others: Holocaust denial is antisemitism. Full stop. And it's a problem. It's something we need to deal with. But in our parts of the world, roughly speaking, the northern hemisphere, the West, it's become fortunately a bit of a microphenomenon over the last couple of decades.  The bigger problem is the second part of your question: Holocaust distortion, and I use the terms trivialization and distortion interchangeably. I prefer to use distortion. But Holocaust distortion is in essence, rhetoric that minimizes, confuses, or otherwise misrepresents the Holocaust, both as something factual, and something that has relevance today.  And that can take on a variety of forms, it can be something obvious like minimizing the number of victims, to something that's a little less obvious like figure skaters dressing up like concentration camp victims for their routines.  Now distortion also brings with it a challenge: is somebody distorting because they're cynical antisemites? Sometimes the answer is yes. Other times, distortion of the Holocaust happens because people don't know the facts, or they think they know the facts and they don't, and they end up saying the wrong thing.  But again, the end result, no matter the motivation, becomes problematic. Because if you are misrepresenting the Holocaust, you are effectively doing two things. On an ethical plane, you are disrespecting the memories of the victims and the survivors, and that's wrong. And on a practical plane, you are opening the door. I like to say Holocaust distortion kind of acts like a gateway drug to outright denial, to conspiracy thinking, and to more dangerous forms of antisemitism. So you have to tackle distortion, but you tackle distortion often in ways different from that of denial.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   But rather than focus on the word Holocaust, I want to focus on the word denial. You mentioned Deborah Lipstadt, for example, and she recently expressed concern that people are denying that Hamas committed so many heinous crimes on October 7.  Is this a phenomenon, this denial of atrocities – do you see it more applying to atrocities against Jews? Or have we seen it in other instances?  Robert Williams: Well, we’ve certainly seen it in other cases of mass crimes and genocides. One of the most prominent cases that predates the Holocaust is denial of the genocide of the Armenian people in the early 20th century, something that persists in certain parts of the world and is part of official state policy in some countries. Denial of the Armenian Genocide is problematic for a whole host of reasons. First, again, it's immoral visa vie the victims and survivors of that particular genocide to deny their experience, to say it never happened, to minimize it. It also has inhibited global understanding of Armenian life, history and culture since the genocide happened.  So denial of mass atrocity crimes is something quite common when it comes to the denial of crimes against the Jewish people. You do see this over and over over and over again, though, you see, either excuses for the various pogroms that have claimed the lives of hundreds of 1000s of Jews over the centuries, or an attempt to minimize it, or an attempt to suppress that history. And that's separate from the denial and suppression of Holocaust history that we've seen through time. And we have seen, not just in the case of the October 7 attacks, but denial of other atrocities that were carried out against Jews through various forms of anti semitic terror violence. But we've definitely begun paying attention to it after October 7, in part due to the scale, you know, the largest act of anti semitic violence against the Jewish people since 1945. In the one place where it was never supposed to happen, people were supposed to be safe.  And the international community, you know, you're used to seeing these claims of exaggeration or outright denial from certain countries in the Middle East or North Africa, but this is become widespread. Think within, was it a week, nine days after that horrible series of attacks, with people asking to see photographs of the murdered children, because they didn't believe that. So engaging in very dangerous, I would say almost pornographic rhetoric, about violence against the most innocent among us. And engaging in it in a way that encourages denial encourages doubting the veracity of these crimes, or–and we've seen this in other corners as well since October 7 –rhetoric that in turn moves from denial to outright justification for the atrocities that were committed. It's very tricky. It's not black and white. Unfortunately. Mnya Brachear Pashman:   Does social media amplify Holocaust denial, and are we seeing that same trend now with the October 7 attacks? You talk about it being a post-truth world. Robert Williams: I absolutely think that's the case. Although I will say, outright denial on social media. Again, it's there. It's a problem, but it's less common than distortion and intentional manipulation. You know, I think even the term Holocaust distortion is potentially problematic, we're probably better served calling it Holocaust disinformation. And I think we're seeing some of the same dynamics at play in the post October 7, discussions that we see in online forums, including closed forums, in places like telegram or Gab or Discord, as well as in more public facing ones like X and Instagram and threads. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Before we leave the topic of denial, and move on to distortion, because I do want to explore that a little bit more. I do want to ask about the role of Holocaust denial in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, he wrote his dissertation at the University of Moscow denying the Holocaust happened to the Jews, that it was more of a product of the Jews’ collusion with the Nazis. Is that a belief that is common among Palestinians or pro-Palestinian supporters. What role does that piece of disinformation play in exacerbating the sentiments? Robert Williams: There's a lot to unpack in that question. I'm going to start with the caveat that I'm a specialist on Europe, not a specialist on the Middle East. So a lot of my understanding of dynamics around distortion and denial among non Israeli Palestinians is anecdotal, and based on secondary literature.  But it does seem that there is a current in some parts of the Palestinian culture where denial of the Holocaust is known to the degrees to which it's accepted, or probably vary from time and place. And it makes a certain amount of sense. Because if you can deny the reality of the Holocaust, you can then point to the State of Israel and say, the Jewish people who've n
Four-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, the youngest U.S. citizen who was kidnapped and held by Hamas, returned home during a pause in fighting in November. But the whereabouts and well-being of 129 hostages are still unknown.  Abigail’s great-aunt, Liz Hirsh Naftali, joins us to recount her family’s harrowing story – including the murder of Abigail’s parents – and her relentless effort to bring the remaining captives home to their loved ones. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Shay Avshalom Zavdi (1:32) Liz Hirsh Naftali Show Notes: Take action to bring all hostages home now. To support our work today, you can visit Or text AJC DONATE to 52886. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Liz Hirsh Naftali: Manya Brachear Pashman:   One hundred twenty-nine hostages taken from Israel by Hamas during the October 7 attack are still unaccounted for. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the effort to root out Hamas from Gaza will continue until every hostage returns home.  With us to discuss how her family is carrying both tremendous loss and tremendous gratitude for the return of one of their youngest family members, is Liz Hirsh Naftali. Naftali’s great niece 4-year-old Abigail Mor Idan returned to her siblings on November 26. Hamas terrorists killed Abigail’s parents.  Liz, who lives in New York, joins us from Israel where she has been spending time with her family and advocating for the release of the remaining hostages. Liz, welcome to People of the Pod.  Liz Hirsh Naftali: Hi, thank you for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Your family members were living on a kibbutz a half mile from Gaza. How did you hear about their fate? Liz Hirsh Naftali: First, I have two nieces with families that lived on the kibbutz, and my sister in law and her husband. My sister Mara has lived on this kibbutz Kfar Aza for over 50 years. And they raised four children and two of the children stayed, my two nieces. So on October 7, I happened to arrive on October 6 to Israel because my daughter lives in Tel Aviv. And I was coming to spend a week with her. And I was in my hotel early on the seventh when the sirens started, and we ran to the stairwell for shelter. And after like the second or third time very early in the morning, around 9, I started to hear there was something happening at the Gaza-Israel border. And so I called my sister in law who didn't answer and then I called another sister that lived on this kibbutz. And then I called another sister in law in Tel Aviv.  And she said, the first thing she said was that my niece and her husband and their baby Abigail had been killed by Hamas terrorists. That was what I first learned. And basically, that's the news we had all day. And it came from the 6 and the 10 year old sister and brother, who were in the house when Hamas terrorists came in and murdered my niece. Then they went outside, and they’re with their father and he was holding Abigail, their three year old, and they went to run for safety.  And Hamas terrorists shot and killed her husband, my nephew. The six and 10 year old thought that their little sister and the father both were killed. So they went back to their house, they locked themselves in a closet for 14 hours. And really, the news that we got that day was from a six and a 10 year old, who basically were locked in until they were rescued by soldiers and then brought to other family members that were on this same kibbutz. And so our news that day was incredibly terrible, which was that my niece, her husband, and their three year old, were all dead. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how did you hear about what happened to Abigail, what actually happened to Abigail? Liz Hirsh Naftali: A few days later, we learned that actually, Abigail, as you refer to in the intro, had crawled out from underneath her father's body. She was covered in his blood. And she went to a neighbor that she knew. Most of the kibbutz at this time was locked down. Everybody was in their safety rooms, but they let in Abigail, they heard her voice. And they took her with their three children. And what happened is the husband decided to go out to try to defend the kibbutz. The mother and her three children and Abigail stayed hidden in the safe room, and he was injured, so he did not come back.  So what we learned a few days later was that an eyewitness on the kibbutz had actually seen this mother and her three children, Abigail, being marched off of the kibbutz by Hamas terrorists. So that was the last we learned. That was the only way we learned that Abigail survived. And we then for 50 days did not have any news about where Abigail or this woman and her three children were located. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What can you tell us about Abigail? We're talking about her in the abstract. But what can you tell us about that adorable little girl?  Liz Hirsh Naftali: All these hostages are people. And I'm glad you said that because they are loved ones. And they are special people. And they have big characters, but we sometimes just put them down to how many numbers there are, or a picture on a screen. And so I'm wanting to say that it's very important that we actually talk about their characters because they could be our child, our grandmother, our sister, our father, our brother, or our son.  Abigail turned four in captivity two days before she was released. She is this beautiful little girl who has lots of energy, big brown eyes, loves to play, loves to play with her big siblings. She is really smart. She is funny. She's just delightful.  And so, you know, when we talk about the thought that she was for 50 days a hostage. It's just inconceivable that any child would be a hostage, let alone a three year old for 50 days who just became an orphan. I mean, the thought of that is just something that I still grapple with. I can't understand how it happened, how people can do that, or what the experience is like for this child. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What have you learned about those 50 days about Abigail's time in captivity? I mean, has she been able to share anything about her experience, or have others who were with her? Liz Hirsh Naftali: You know, one of the things that we're very thoughtful of is, first, she is four years old. Second, there are still hostages. People are really very careful because one, they're asked not to speak a lot about the experience so that we don't get in the way of the future and hopefully very soon hostage release. But what I can tell you, which is, you know, common is that these hostages and Abigail herself are not fed properly. A three year old should be eating more than a piece of bread and some crackers and water. And that's what most hostages have come back and said they were eating.  And the one thing that we held hope was that Abigail would stay with this mother and her three children. The youngest of this woman's three children was Abigail's classmate in nursery school, they knew each other. And you've just really wanted to believe that this mother was holding and hugging Abigail, and she was, and that was one of the things that we did learn afterwards.  Other than that, we learned that they had moved around. And that they had been kept together because we've heard stories where hostage kids were separated from other kids and just terrible things. But in Abigail's case, she was with this mother and her three children.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Has there been a birthday party for Abigail since she returned?  Liz Hirsh Naftali: Yes, she had a birthday, I think every day for Abigail since she returned has been a birthday. I mean, think about a family that lost a mother, a father. And Smadar and her husband Ro'ee, were part of a big family, both in their personal families, but part of this big kibbutz family. And the two children lost their parents, the six and 10 year old, they also then found out their sister was alive, and they left her and they were in this closet. And I think that for them, that every day was just waiting for their sister to join them. And that just that moment where they were all together, was the greatest celebration, celebrating that these three children had each other and have each other.  And you know, one of the things people have asked is like, how was that reunion, and I wasn't at the hospital. But what I have heard, and which I think is just beautiful, is that when Abigail saw her brother and sister and her cousins come in, she lit up. You know, this was a child that was in the dark for 50 days, didn't have family. And when she saw them, just the light came back in. And they're very close. So when you ask about a birthday, I think every day is a celebration, and every day is appreciated. And in their case you know, every day is Abigail's birthday for this family. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That's beautiful. You also mentioned that you were in Israel, on October 7, you had just arrived in Israel to see your daughter. How long did you stay? And how is your daughter? Did she get called up to fight because I know that she served in the IDF at one point.  Liz Hirsh Naftali: I arrived on October 6 in the evening, I went to Jerusalem with a friend, had dinner, went to shul, went back to my hotel in Tel Aviv. And I was supposed to have breakfast with my daughter, she had been away for the holiday with her b
As American colleges and universities struggle to foster discussions about the war between Israel and Hamas that don't veer into antisemitism and misinformation, three university presidents testified on Capitol Hill about the current state of Jew-hatred on college campuses. However, their testimony drew widespread outrage over their refusal to condemn calls for genocide against Jewish students. AJC Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Sara Coodin, and AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life, Dr. Laura Shaw Frank join us to break down the fallout and give us a broader view of how university leaders are handling this situation.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Avital Leibovich (1:44) Sara Coodin, Laura Shaw Frank Show Notes: Take action to bring all hostages home now. AJC has been working nonstop to support Israel, combat antisemitism, and safeguard Jewish communities worldwide. To support our work today, you can visit Or text AJC DONATE to 52886. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Global Antisemitism Report Part 2: The Impact of the Hamas-Israel War in Germany, Asia, and the Arab Gulf Global Antisemitism Report Part 1: What It’s Like to Be Jewish in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa Right Now What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Learn: AJC Campus Library: Resources for Becoming a Strong Jewish Student Advocate Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Sara Coodin and Laura Shaw Frank: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Since the horrific October 7 terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas and the start of Israel's counter offensive, American colleges and universities have been struggling to encourage fact based debates and demonstrations that don't veer into antisemitism and misinformation. University presidents have issued and reissued statements that originally missed the mark, and presidents from three of the nation's top universities appeared on Capitol Hill for congressional inquiry that led one to resign and put another in jeopardy. Here to discuss that inquiry and give us a broader view of how university leaders are handling this crisis is Dr. Sara Coodin, AJC’s Director of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Laura Shaw Frank, AJC's Director of Contemporary Jewish Life. Laura, Sara, welcome to People of the Pod. Sara Coodin:  Thank you. Manya Brachear Pashman: I want to start with the testimonies by three university presidents last week: Claudine Gay at Harvard, Elizabeth McGill at the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth at MIT. Since that, since their appearance on Capitol Hill, President McGill has resigned. And President Gay has survived a debate over whether to oust her from Harvard. For those listeners who didn't follow those hearings, Sara, you were there, right? Can you summarize for us what happened? Sara Coodin:   I was there, and I have to say I was really quite surprised that it went on for as long as it did. There were close to six hours from start to finish. And the kind of publicity that followed over their inability, all three of them to respond to those very pointed and basic questions by Representative [Elise] Stefanik, really happened in the 11th hour. And there was a lot that happened before. There were a lot of important questions and points that were raised before that kind of pivotal moment in the hearings. So I just want to say that, because for those of us who were sitting in the room and listening and watching, there was a lot to sit through. And there were a fair number of questions that emerged that were very onpoint.  And I think as direct as Representative Stefanik’s questions were, there were questions about the ability of these universities to access considerable resources. Harvard sits on a $50 billion+  endowment, 350+ years of history, and tens of thousands of faculty. So one of the questions that emerged was, why haven't they been able to address this up until now? What's new in the present commitment?  And I think for me, that was a really central question. Because these are some of the most recognized elite and well endowed universities, in a country that prides itself on excellence in higher education. These are the most excellent of the excellent. So what gives? When they've suddenly decided that this is a huge problem, they're devoting their considerable resources to addressing it.  But you know, to do that, convincingly, I think they have to respond to the fact that this is not something that emerged overnight. This is not something that happened simply in the wake of October 7. It's been brewing for a long time. So why the institutional silence, or turning away from these questions and issues up until now? I think that for me, it was one of the key takeaways before that moment where they were not actually able to respond in any kind of real way to that question about codes of conduct, which in a way is a very limited, very specific question. But I think their inability to come up with a convincing set of arguments and proposals for how they're going to address antisemitism on their campus, either programmatically or through structural innovations, like codes of conduct. You know, people left with very little to take away, there were very few takeaway moments for me in terms of convincing, really proactive measures that they were willing to take that could address the culture problems on their campus.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Of course, you mentioned the pointed questions by Representative Stefanik. You’re talking about her question about, does a call for the genocide of Jews violate the university's Code of Conduct? The presidents really stumbled to answer those questions kind of unequivocally and unequivocally denounce the mass murder, or calls for the mass murder of Jews.  They kept turning back to free speech, right, and academic freedoms on campus and prioritizing that instead. Was that your takeaway? Sara Coodin:   I think that they had prepared for a series of responses that were very suitable for a court of law. And I think they weren't prepared to respond to the court of public opinion, which is essentially what happened. I mean, enough people were paying attention to that hearing, and have their eyes on these universities and on this particular set of problems that's made national headlines.  Before this December hearing, they should have been prepared, frankly, they should have spoken to members of the Jewish community, including representatives from AJC to address what the concerns really are, from our side of things. They seemed very well prepared to defend a very narrow, legalistic notion of what free speech is, of where it starts and where it begins. That is not incorrect. It's not an inaccurate description. But it's one that really misses the larger point.  And I think the directness of those questions by Stefanik, and others, was really a kind of shot, where it where it hurt, you know, because they they weren't able to respond to those basic queries that I think really picked up on some of the basic questions that we have for the schools and for these leaders. What are you doing? And why are you so unable to draw a basic line in the sand that condemns something with a degree of moral clarity that seems convincing? Why can't any of them do that? So I think that's what that question became.  Manya Brachear Pashman: Did you feel like the journalists who covered this hearing also got that? I mean, you talked about six hours of discussion, and really the stories about the hearing focused on that 11th hour, those really, very pointed questions. But did you feel like the coverage really got to the heart of this issue? And perhaps could lead to some constructive conversations going forward or not necessarily? Sara Coodin: I mean, there were some interesting moments. All three university leaders condemned antisemitism at the outset of the hearing, they were asked in a very direct fashion, Do you condemn antisemitism? Yes, yes, and yes.  They were asked whether they stood in support or opposition to BDS resolutions, or to BDS full stop, and two of the three had time to answer and said, we do not support BDS. So that's also significant that they expressed that to hear a top university leader actually say those words is meaningful. Because we've seen, of course, last year with the Harvard Crimson editorial, where, you know, they came out and support of BDS. So to hear the leader of Harvard actually condemn it, and say, This is not represent our position, our perspective. That's significant.  That being said, you know, having sat through the first three hours, or whatever it was, before they broke for a recess, what were the key takeaways up to that point where they had nothing to say and just sort of stumbled? Not terribly many, they seem to be sticking to a very set number of talking points, very clearly focused on saying, you know, free speech matters on campus, which means something that can include hate speech, and unless it turns into conduct behavior, there's nothing we can do. There's nothing we’re willing to do.  That was the line and they repeated it and they kept doubling down on it up to the point where they continue to double down on it in response to Stefanik’s question. There was a lot of it, too much of that and not enough of the kind of responses that I think we were all wanting and needing to hear from these university leaders. Laura Shaw Frank:  I wanted to just note
“I cannot recall a moment where we have seen this kind of openly expressed antisemitism.” Dr. Remko Leemhuis, AJC Berlin Director, sums up the state of antisemitism in Germany post-October 7 with this chilling statement. Hear from Leemhuis, along with Asia Pacific Institute (API) Assistant Director Hana Rudolph, and AJC Abu Dhabi Director Marc Sievers, on how the October 7 Hamas massacre of Israelis has impacted Jews in Germany, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the United Arab Emirates. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Hana Rudolph (7:18) Remko Leemhuis (15:20) Marc Sievers Show Notes: Take action to bring all hostages home now. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Global Antisemitism Report Part 1: What It’s Like to Be Jewish in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa Right Now What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Hana Rudolph, Remko Leemhuis, and Marc Sievers: Manya Brachear Pashman: American Jewish Committee has 14 international offices around the world. This week, we checked in with some of those offices to learn what they're seeing and hearing on the ground since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. In an earlier installment, we took you to Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Our journey continues today in Asia, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi.  We started in South and East Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since the director of the Asia Pacific Institute (API) [Shira Loewenberg] was en route to Indonesia, we caught up with Assistant Director Hana Rudolph. Hana, let's start with Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, the country with the world's largest Muslim population. In fact, where AJC has made tremendous inroads in recent years engaging with faith and political leaders. What has the response to the October 7 attacks been there? Hana Rudolph:  The Indonesian government doesn't have ties with Israel, though it does support a two state solution. So we don't expect there to be a vocal kind of support for Israel. But the anti semitism and the conspiracy theories, the false narratives happen incredibly alarming. There was a rally on November 5, a pro Palestinian rally, and rally organizers think that there were 2 million people who turned out for that. So we're talking huge numbers.  The prevailing narrative there is really that Israel is the indiscriminate aggressor, they are just killing women and children for no reason in Gaza. There's very little mention of Hamas’ massacre on October 7, and that's the narrative.  AJC has taken several delegations of Indonesians to Israel for our Project Interchange. A lot of our alumni had been receiving death threats. And we're not talking about death threats for posts that they're actively making right now in support of Israel. We're talking about death threats because, you know, some long time ago, when they were on this delegation, they posted something that was seen as something pro-Israel, and now they're receiving this kind of pushback and hate and condemnation for it. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You mentioned the dominant narrative. Are there other narratives developing? Hana Rudolph:  One of the most, I think, notable and disappointing reactions across our region has been China. China refused to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7. And there has been a notable uptick in antisemitic rhetoric across Chinese social media platforms, which, as you know, are heavily censored when the government chooses to do so. So here the government is choosing not to censor. And in fact, several state-run institutions are actively promoting radically antisemitic content. So I'll give you a few examples. CCCB describes Jews as accounting for 3% of the US population and manipulating and controlling, in their words, 70% of the country's wealth. The China Internet Information Center compared Israel to the Nazis.  And these are, of course, narratives that, you know, once they're once they're put out there, they're being actively promoted and popularized by other social media influencers. So the content that's being generated, you know, as a result goes far beyond even those examples. We've noticed that there are several major Chinese map platforms that are no longer labeling Israel as a country, you know, they'll demarcate the borders, they'll identify cities, but you don't see Israel labeled.  Most likely, China is seeing the current conflicts within the context of the US versus China and this whole conflict is just another opportunity to champion itself as the leader of the developing world. You know, it's a continued strengthening of the China, Russia, Iran, North Korea bloc of malign actors.  It's just very laughable, really, that China is maintaining what is described to be a position of neutrality, when one, it won't condemn Hamas’ attack; two, it won't condemn antisemitism. But instead, it'll explicitly denounce Israel for quote, going beyond self defense, and, again, in the foreign minister’s words, collectively punishing the Gaza people in its counterstrike.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   What are we seeing in Australia, where the Jewish community numbers about 100,000? I know historically, antisemitic incidents per capita have remained low there.  Hana Rudolph:  The Australian government has, by and large, really supported Israel in the same way that the US has. But the politics and public sentiment also look a lot like here. So there's been growing pressure for the government to call for a ceasefire, things like that. The uptick in antisemitism also looks a lot like here. It's been very alarming. There's actually a very sizable Jewish community in Australia. It's about 100,000, and Australia has the largest number of Holocaust survivors per capita, just to give some context.  Since October 7, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has documented 221 incidents of antisemitism, so we're just talking about one month. This includes threats to Jewish schools and synagogues, property damage, even a few physical assaults. There has also been large pro-Palestinian demonstrations. I think the one that probably everyone signed in the news is a demonstration on October 9. So we're talking just two days after the attack. Outside of the Sydney Opera House where pro-Palestinian protesters were chanting ‘Gas the Jews.’ Manya Brachear Pashman:   Remarks and resolutions coming out of the United Nations General Assembly have shown little support for Israel since the beginning of this conflict. There was a resolution calling for a truce this week. There's one calling on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the buffer between Israel and yet another hostile neighbor, Syria. How have the nations in the Asia Pacific voted on these resolutions?  Hana Rudolph: I would say that the most kind of encouraging signs coming out of some of these countries have really been in terms of the government's position. So I want to especially highlight Japan, South Korea, and India. These are all countries that have joined the U.S. in condemning Hamas’ attack on October 7, affirming Israel's right to self defense. They all abstained from a recent UN General Assembly resolution that called for an immediate humanitarian truce. And the reason why they abstained is because there has been a Canadian amendment to unequivocally condemn Hamas terrorist attacks and demanding immediate release of hostages.  This amendment was backed by the U.S. but was rejected by the resolution. And so these three countries all abstained. We see it as a positive. The Marshall Islands and Micronesia Islands, both Pacific Islands, voted against it. They have always been strong supporters of Israel. We're incredibly grateful for that relationship. …. Manya Brachear Pashman: Since October 7, AJC Berlin director Remko Leemhuis has taken two German delegations to Israel to speak with hostages' families, to see the homes raided by Hamas, and understand the military operation underway there. Remko joined us from Berlin to speak about those missions, but also to talk about what he's seeing and hearing back home. Remko Leemhuis:  We had an attack on a synagogue here in the center of Berlin that was attacked with Molotov cocktails, even though there was police protection. We had the homes of people marked with a star of David. You know, where members of the Jewish community live. And these are the things that happened sort of outside of demonstrations–we had people that have been threatened, because they were wearing a kippah or are visibly Jewish. And when we look at the demonstrations, we see what we've seen, this is nothing too new. All sorts of expressions of antisemitism beginning with, from the river to the sea. People chanting that. We're also seeing that they compare what's happening in Gaza with the shoah, so, Holocaust trivialization.  Again, we see attacks on police officers, and thinly veiled, classic antisemitic stereotypes. You know, they're not saying the Jews but saying, you know, the Zionist. And that’s also something not too new, but the how forc
Following Hamas’ October 7 massacre of Israelis Jews around the world have experienced a  surge of antisemitism. We checked in with some of AJC’s global experts  to learn what they’ve been seeing and hearing on the ground and to understand what efforts are underway to protect Jews and counter this hate. In the first of two installments, we hear from AJC Europe Managing Director Simone Rodan Benzaquen, AJC Africa Director Wayne Sussman, and Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute on Latin American Affairs. Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Simone Rodan Benzaquen (7:09) Wayne Sussman (14:54) Dina Siegel Vann Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Wayne Sussman, and Dina Siegel Vann: Manya Brachear Pashman: American Jewish Committee has 14 international offices around the world. For today’s episode, we checked in with some of those offices to learn what they're seeing and hearing on the ground since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. Today, we take you to Europe, Africa and Latin America. We start in Paris, where years of work to combat rising antisemitism has seen a serious setback. For more than two decades, since the Second Intifada, antisemitism has been on the rise on the European continent. In fact, it was that ripple effect that prompted AJC to ramp up its advocacy there. AJC Managing Director of Europe Simone Rodan Benzaquen joined us from Paris. Simone Rodan Benzaquen: What we have seen, I think, in Europe is more or less what we've seen, everywhere, what can only be described as an explosion of antisemitism across the European continent, I would say, mostly in Western Europe, here in France in particular, but also in the United Kingdom, we have seen the same. In Germany, we have seen similar things going on in Sweden and Denmark. But of course, here in France, where antisemitism has existed for at least two decades, or at least this contemporary form of antisemitism, for the past two decades with high numbers of antisemitic hate crimes. The situation is very, very serious. We've had basically three times the number of antisemitic hate crimes, since October 7 of what we had during the entire year, last year.   We have desecration of cemeteries, we have antisemitic tags. We have intimidation, we have spitting on people. It is as if the sheer horror, the violence that happened on October 7, unleashed an antisemitic passion, an antisemitic violence across the world. As if the horrible images that were filmed by the Hamas terrorists on October 7 sort of was a legitimization. Manya Brachear Pashman: So what does that mean for the Jewish community and daily life? Simone Rodan Benzaquen: We’ve reached a point where people are hiding every single aspect of their Jewish identity. People are changing their names on their delivery apps, people are changing their names on their doorbells, if they believe that they sound Jewish. People are hiding every single aspect of their Jewish identity. On Uber apps, on taxi apps, myself, you know, I go on TV and do interviews quite a bit and so I give a different name to the taxi, and I give a different address a few blocks down the street is to be sure that you know, just in case, the taxi driver doesn't know where I actually live. So everybody takes precautions. It’s gotten to a point where we just don't live the same life as everybody else. Manya Brachear Pashman: Has the work you’ve done over the past two decades made a difference? For example, since the Second Intifada, there have been a number of conflicts between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza. Do you see progress? Simone Rodan Benzaquen: We in Europe have felt like we've been doing a little bit of the work of Sisyphus over the past two decades, where we have moments of hope and things are getting better. And we say to ourselves, oh, maybe this is a wakeup call. And sort of, then we go back to, you know, before. And I hope that this this time around, given the level of violence, given the level of antisemitic hate crimes, given the number of sheer antisemitic attacks.  When you actually take it down, you come to on average about 40 antisemitic acts a day. I mean, that's huge for a population that represents far less than 1% of the entire French population. I hope this will serve as a wakeup call. But there is the question of what does it mean, how do you translate it politically? How do you translate it into government action? I mean, Europe has come up with different plans, action plans against antisemitism, but it's not enough and more needs to be done. I think one of the things that we as Jewish communities were very wary about was the fact that  over the past sort of two decades, there was sort of a lack of how can I say, solidarity from other French people. Again, we've had antisemitic hate crimes for the last 20 years, people have been murdered. But every single time, when you look at the demonstrations, at the marches after something horrible happened, you would mostly have a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand Jews in the streets.  And so there was sort of a feeling that within the French Jewish community that they were a little bit abandoned by the rest of society. And so we know from our surveys, AJC does a survey every two years where we know that, for example, French people, and Germans as well, are convinced about the fact that antisemitism is not the problem of Jews alone, but that of the entire society.  So both in Germany and in France, 73% of the population say that it is not the problem of Jews alone. But despite that number, it has never sort of translated into something concrete. So we would never have marches. We would never have like sort of big shows of solidarity with the Jewish community. And I think, since, if there's one good news, and there's not a lot of good news these days, if there's one good news is that last Sunday there were massive demonstrations across France, against antisemitism with basically the entire political class were present, with 20 government ministers who were present, with a prime minister who was present, with three former prime ministers who were present, two former presidents, plus a lot of people on the streets. We had over 180,000 people in the streets of France, basically expressing solidarity with the Jewish community and saying that they want to fight against antisemitism. So I think that was a sort of a very important sign of hope for many French Jews. …. Manya Brachear Pashman: Now we go to the continent of Africa, where AJC Africa Director Wayne Sussman joins us from the South African city of Johannesburg to explain how the war that began on October 7 affects Israel’s relations with African countries.  Wayne Sussman: I would say the tensest of the relationships right now is between Israel and South Africa. The Ambassador of Israel to South Africa received a démarche.  So when the first two countries to recall their ambassadors were South Africa and Chad. When it comes to Chad, that was more unexpected than South Africa. Because relations were recently increasing between Chad and Israel. Sadly–and one's got to remember that the largest Jewish community in Africa by a country mile is in South Africa. But sadly, the government of South Africa has had a very adversarial relationship with the State of Israel over the last few years. And this has manifested in the last few weeks. Manya Brachear Pashman: Because of this antagonistic relationship with Israel, has the South African Jewish community faced quite a bit of antisemitism? Wayne Sussman: Even though the current government of South Africa has had an adversarial relationship with the State of Israel, levels of antisemitism are extremely low–far lower than Europe, far lower than Latin America, far lower than the United States of America, far lower than Canada, far lower than Australia.  So we are working off a very low base here in South Africa. But over the last few weeks, antisemitic incidents have increased. For the time being, levels of violent incidents have been low. A turning point was on Sunday afternoon in Cape Town on the Sea Point Promenade, just to zone in on Sea Point, where the majority of Jews in Cape Town live. And the promenade is a beautiful public space, which all residents of the city use.  And what we saw the day before was a pro-Palestinian demonstration through the streets of the City of Cape Town. It was a largely peaceful protest. There were pockets of the protests, which had hateful slogans and made concerning threats against the main Jewish Day School in Cape Town.  And then the next day, a group of Christians at the Sea Point Promenade, which I referred to earlier, which is in the Jewish neighborhood of Sea Point, were going to have a prayer vigil for the State of Israel. They had a stage set up, microphones, etc. And a group of 200 to 300 pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas sup
From the frontlines of the Israel-Hamas War, Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich, director of AJC Jerusalem, joins us to discuss the current pause in fighting between Israel and the terror group Hamas, the release of hostages, the significance of international support for Israel, and the challenges the Jewish state faces in the West Bank. Leibovich also provides insights into the humanitarian conditions of the hostages and the broader implications of the conflict.  Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Watch – Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich’s War Diary How All Israelis are Affected by the Israel-Hamas War How October 7 "Changed the DNA" of Israelis Forever How Volunteers are Stepping up to Support the IDF Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Avital Leibovich: Manya Brachear Pashman:   As the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists nears its expiration on Thursday, Hamas continues to hold hostage 160 people. 80, including 61 women and children have been released during the pause. In exchange, Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, Director of AJC Jerusalem joins us from Israel now for an update. Avital, welcome to People of the Pod and how are you? Avital Leibovich:   Thank you for having me. I am doing well, considering the fact that we are in a war here in Israel. My biggest concern at this time is the well being of my family. My son is in the army, my daughter is on reserve duty. So that's my number one concern. And of course, the well being of Israel, the safety and security of Israel.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So Avital, what does this pause mean? What is being accomplished during this time? Avital Leibovich:   So the pause is something that Hamas pressured Israel. It pressured Israel because the military pressure was quite significant. The pause allows a few things to happen. Number one, we, Israel will receive hostages, and in return, Israel will free from prison, women and youth that were involved in different planning of terror attacks or executed themselves terror attacks. And that's one thing. The second thing I would say, is time for Hamas to regroup. That's for their benefit. This pause allows them to regroup, rearm, reposition themselves. The third thing and I'm going back to Israel also allows Israeli army to better prepare to rearm to place itself in the right positioning and then be ready for the next stage, which is resumption of the fighting. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And do you expect that fighting to resume right away? Or do you think that Israel would like to extend the pause as long as possible in order to get as many hostages back as possible?  Avital Leibovich:   Yesterday, there were meetings between, actually was a very interesting meeting in Qatar. In the meeting, we had the head of the Egyptian intelligence, the head of the Israeli Mossad, and the Qatari representative, and the American head of the CIA, the American CIA. And in this meeting, the discussion evolved on a few more days of pause, and in return, Hamas will release a few more hostages.  So right now Israel has said that it agrees to a few more days of a pause. But we're only talking about a few more days. The ultimate goal of this war is to eliminate Hamas government in Gaza. And in order to change that government, in order to bring some sort of a new future to this region, to Israel, to Gaza, to the Palestinians living in Gaza, this takes time.  So the fighting I assume will take a long time. It's going to be a long time because Gaza has been built underground and above the ground in such a way that requires inch by inch, very careful work a lot of the time other facilities are booby trapped. There is a huge array of tunnels underground, which are very long. With junctions. Some of the tunnels can even have cars inside. So this has to be a very, very careful job. We have a lot of soldiers inside Gaza right now. And so this pause I would say is temporary. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What are we learning from the hostages who are being released? Avital Leibovich:   That's the most heartbreaking issue. We're learning a few things. The first thing is they had to speak very, very quietly among themselves. Of course, I'm referring to those who had other hostages with them. But those who had other hostages with them had to whisper. And how do we know this because some of the kids are still whispering today, some of the kids that have been held as hostages and just returned from captivity, they're still whispering. Another thing we know is that they had very little food, very little quantities of food, which also brings a lot of worries here in Israel, because there are many elderly people held. There's still a baby inside the toddlers and a few other children. And so the nutrition issue obviously is quite critical.  The third thing we learned is that some of them were held in complete seclusion. One of the children that returned two days ago is a 12 year old boy, by the name of Eitan Yahalomi. His father was murdered, his mother is still alive. And he actually was in a room by himself for at least two weeks. And imagine for a 12 year old to be in this kind of hostile environment, on his own without anybody to communicate, underground, most of the time, that's quite scary.  We also know that they had very poor hygiene conditions, no running water, very, very minimal toilet facilities. We also know they never received any medical care and attention, no medicine, no doctors, nothing of that sort. And the last thing we know is that most of the time they were held underground, in an underground facility, different sizes of rooms. And all of these things are just a small indication of the cruelty of this terror organization called Hamas. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Congress is debating whether to send aid to Israel to support Israel in the war. How important is it at this point? Avital Leibovich:   I think it's very important. First of all, I do want to say that the support that Israel received from the US until now, it's unbelievable. The fact that there are, on the military side the fact that there are our aircraft carriers here in the region, and planes filled with different kinds of ammunition. That sends a very strong message of both deterrence and strength to the enemies in the region. And second, on the political, more strategic level. The voting, the vetoing of the different proposals on the Security Council in the UN, the multiple visits starting from President Biden to Secretary of State Blinken, which he’s supposed to arrive here tomorrow. And also appointing a special envoy to this specific situation that we have here in the region.  So all of these things speak volumes. So yes, I think it's very significant to Israel, and also the future decisions will be significant. Look, being at war for such a long time and 53 days have passed already has serious precautions on different issues. Economy is one of them. Obviously, tourism has stopped, small businesses have been affected and many other sectors as well. So aid would be very, very significant to Israel. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I'm also curious about the security situation in the West Bank. We were so focused on terrorism coming from the West Bank before this happened. What is the situation there now, especially as hostages are being released? Avital Leibovich:   It's a good question, because from where I'm sitting, the West Bank at this point of time is another front that Israel has to deal with at this specific moment. We have a serious challenge with the fact that the Palestinian Authority does not really have governance in many areas in the West Bank. And as a result of that, there are different kinds of terror groups, Hamas is one of them. But it's not the only one, trying to recruit Palestinians to commit different terror attacks. The second side of it is a lot of incitement, which is really flooding the social media platforms, and also has an effect on the mood on the streets on the mood of young people and others as well. So the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, actually almost on a daily basis, needs to enter certain areas where there is no prisons, unfortunately, have any Palestinian policemen, and actually arrest those terrorists on the ground. And I think in the last 50 days or so the IDF has arrested more than 1000 people that have been suspicious and with some kind of planning or plotting terror attacks against Israelis. And this does not seem to quiet down I have to say so I am concerned of this front.  At this point of time Hamas is though, by the way, investing a lot of time and effort because Hamas is interest is of course, to create lack of stability here in Israel. So part of that is the instability is trying to influence what's going on in the West Bank and trying to get people out to the streets, either protesting against idea for
Delve into the unsettling rise of antisemitism on American college campuses, focusing on alarming incidents at Cornell University and Columbia University. Our guests, Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff, both members of AJC's Campus Global Board, share their experiences of Jewish students being targeted in the classroom, physically attacked while raising awareness about kidnapped babies in Gaza, and facing death threats for merely speaking Hebrew. Join us as Molly and Elliott share their perspectives on this surge of antisemitism following the October 7th Hamas attacks, and the solidarity and Jewish pride they are seeing on campus. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Jewish U.S. Military Veterans’ Message to IDF Soldiers Fighting Hamas: “We’re With You” What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. AJC Campus Library AJC Campus Global Board Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Throughout her studies at Cornell University, junior Molly Goldstein has become passionate about the intersection of international relations, human rights and conflict resolution. She joined AJC's Campus global board last year to develop her Jewish advocacy skills on and off campus. But nothing could have prepared her for what has unfolded this year on Cornell's campus, where nearly a fourth of the students are Jewish. An arrest has been made after a number of posts on an online discussion board threatened extreme violence and death to Jews on campus, specifically identifying the address of Cornell's kosher dining hall.  Likewise, Elliot Sadoff also joined AJC's Campus global board last year. He is a dual degree student at Tel Aviv University and Columbia University, where an Israeli student was physically attacked while hanging posters of kidnapped babies trapped in Gaza. And Jewish students have received death threats and been spat upon for speaking Hebrew. Molly and Elliot are with us now to discuss what they've witnessed as antisemitism related to the Israel Hamas war has emerged at an alarming rate on a number of American college campuses across the country. Elliot, Molly, welcome to People of the Pod. Molly Goldstein:   Thank you for having us.  Elliot Sadoff:   Yeah, thank you. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So I first have to ask, how are you both doing? And how are you coping with the intensity of all of this? Elliot Sadoff:   I mean, I think you can ask anyone how they're doing these days, and it's hard to answer. But definitely holding in there. I've been very lucky the past few weeks because of the program I'm in where I have a lot of students with me who are studying at Tel Aviv University. So we've really formed a tight knit community that's able to support each other throughout these times. With everything going on on campus and around the world. It's a very good support system to have that I don't think a lot of students do. It's not easy to go to class and be looking around you thinking what's going to happen, what are people going to say, what does this professor think? But to have a support system like that is very helpful.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Molly, how about you? Molly Goldstein:   Over the past month, it's definitely progressed to feeling more and more afraid to be a Jew on campus. But something that doesn't make it to the media, I believe the media likes to portray, you know, all the horrible things that are happening on campus, but the Jewish community at Cornell has really come together, in one of the most beautiful ways I have ever seen during my time at Cornell. We've had the Shabbat dinners with filling capacity of the kosher dining hall. We've had, you know, Jews from Monsey coming and bringing us food for a barbecue for 200 people. We had never met them before in our entire lives. And they just decided to come up and do this wonderful, wonderful, good deed for us. And there's nothing more I could have asked to be proud of as a Jew. And I hope that Jews on campus know that, although it's scary, we will get through this time. And we should be proud and continue to be Jewish. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That's really comforting to hear. And I'm sure your parents find that really comforting to hear, especially as they watch the news and wonder how their children are doing. What are you hearing from them? How are they doing? Molly Goldstein:   Yeah, parents are definitely more scared than I have ever seen them before. I mean, I had people's parents coming up to get their kids and take them home. People's parents like requesting that we have to sue the University and we have to get these kids off campus and we have to take really harsh actions. And it's because they're scared, they don't know what to do. They're far away from their kids. And, you know, it's up to us to make sure that their parents know that we'll be safe and, and for them to know that everything that needs to be done is getting done for Jewish students. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Elliot, anything to add to that? Elliot Sadoff:   Yeah, I mean, I can just echo what Molly was saying about kind of uniting around this and being proud of, like being Jewish and rallying around the community and that my parents are scared, a lot of parents are scared. But there's also been a lot of people working together to change that environment, to change the narrative to to help students be proud of who they are. I don't know if you've seen recently there's a large Facebook group, Mothers Against College Antisemitism, which I think now is hundreds of 1000s of people. I could be mistaken there. But it shows that there are people who care about us, there are people who care about protecting their identity and supporting students and I think that's really meaningful. That's very helpful to see on campus. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Molly, can you walk our listeners through what has happened at Cornell? I mean, how did you first hear about the threats that I mentioned in the introduction? And what precautions did you and other students take? Molly Goldstein:   Yeah, absolutely. So I was sitting in my room actually in the Center for Jewish Living, which was the place that was threatened by a bomb threat, as well as it's right next door to the kosher dining hall, which the student threatened to shoot up. And I was sitting, you know, doing homework in my room, and all of a sudden, there's a Cornellians for Israel group chat that now has 1000s of people in it. It's progressed over the month since the war has started. And we just get a link from one of the students that found it, and said, like, look, what we have posted online, and all of a sudden, all the threats started coming in. My immediate reaction was genuine fear. I'm sitting in the building, I did not know what was going to happen to me or my fellow community members. And pretty quickly, we got Cornell Police Department on the case, we got the FBI, Homeland Security, Ithaca police and New York State Police, everybody showed up and was at the dining hall and kosher spaces. And that night, the President of the University and vice president of the university came to our house, to see how we were doing and make sure that we know they're doing everything they can to ensure our safety.  And, you know, they would not have come if they really thought their lives were in danger. But it was scary. I had students, you know, weren't sleeping in the house that night. They found other places to go, whether that was other friends who had apartments or relatives, family, friends in Ithaca. And as the day went on, we had New York Governor Kathy Hochol came the next morning, the next morning, within just 12 hours was at our doorstep, talking to us, ensuring that New York State was going to do everything they can to condemn antisemitism to ensure our safety for not just Jewish students at Cornell, but Jewish students at all New York State campuses, which includes Columbia, and you know, CUNY schools, which are having a really difficult time with anti-Zionism and antisemitism. And as time went on, we were getting, you know, news media coverage. And we never went on lockdown. But we were doing everything we could to keep people safe. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Did you feel that the university was doing enough to respond? It sounds like people from across the state were doing enough, or doing a lot. But was the university doing enough in your opinion? Molly Goldstein:   In my opinion, yes. I think the fact that the President and the Vice President came immediately to make sure we're doing okay, they released a statement that night, and the next day they were updating their social media with everything that they were doing. And they just released actually that they are changing their antisemitism in their DEI training, so that it's more prevalent and that education can be better on that front.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Eliott, can
In honor of Veterans Day, explore the unique experiences of Jewish U.S. military veterans with Dave Warnock, U.S. Army Veteran, and Andrea Goldstein, U.S. Navy Veteran and Reservist. Our guests share what inspired them to join the military, how their Jewish heritage played a significant role in shaping their service, and what advice they have for the Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting now against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Warnock and Goldstein are members of AJC’s ACCESS Jewish Military Veterans Affinity Group, a space to convene young Jewish professionals who have served in the American military. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Dave Warnock, Andrea Goldstein Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Dave Warnock and Andrea Goldstein: Manya Brachear Pashman: This episode pays tribute to our nation's veterans. Guest hosting is my colleague Dr. Dana Levinson Steiner, Director of ACCESS Global at AJC, where she oversees an international program to engage young professionals. In that group are a number of Jewish military veterans who have served in the American Armed Forces. Dana, the mic is yours.  Dana Levinson Steiner: Thanks, Manya. I'm so happy that we're here today. It was just over two years ago that we formed the ACCESS Jewish Military Veterans Affinity Group, which is a space for us to convene young Jewish professionals who had served in the American military. And here we are now recording our first People of the Pod podcast episode in honor of and commemorating Veterans Day.  With us today are: Dave Warnock, U.S. Army Veteran, joining us from his home in Seattle, Washington, and Andrea Goldstein, U.S. Navy Veteran and Reservist, who is based in Washington, D.C. Dave, Andrea, thanks for joining us today. Dave Warnock:   Happy to be here, Dana. Andrea Goldstein:   Yeah, I’m glad to be here.  Dana Levinson Steiner: To kick off the conversation, please tell us a little bit about your journey as an American Jewish military veteran. What inspired you to join the United States Armed Forces? Dave, let’s start with you. Dave Warnock:   For me, there are two kind of main things when I look back on what propelled me to join the US Army. The first one was my great grandfather, Saul Fink. The family legend is like he emigrated over from the shtetl. His family settled in Harlem. And when he heard about what was going on in Texas at the time, and 1916 and 1914 with the Pancho Villa incursions, he felt so propelled by patriotism and love of America that he had to run away from home and enlist at 16 years old. Which he did. Joined the Horse Calvary, a proper Jewish cowboy chasing after Pancho Villa in New Mexico, in a forgotten war. And he made sort of a career out of the army. So that's the legend that he was propelled by patriotism, maybe hated the tenement, maybe just wanted to get out of Harlem, get some fresh air, see the American West, I don't know.  But his service propelled him forward in American society, through the US Army in a way that I think would have been unavailable to a lot of Jews at the time. It's not to say that it was an easy journey. He was certainly discriminated against; he shortened his name from Finkelstein to Fink for reasons that are not kind of lost to history. One joke is that it couldn't fit on the nametag. But through this service, he was elevated in society, he became an officer in World War I. He served through World War II and in the army of occupation in Germany. And his stature, sort of the patriarch of my family, loomed large. My middle name is Solomon, I'm named after him. So that kind of tradition was part of it. Another part was, I enlisted in 2004. So three years after 91/1 when I was a freshman in high school, and that terrorist attack really did propelled, cemented my decision to serve you know, if that didn't happen, I don't know what I would have done differently. But those are the two main reasons that propelled me to join. And I joined the Army and I volunteered for the infantry because I wanted to be a soldier.  Dana Levinson Steiner: In a lot of ways, it is our family that inspires us to make these kinds of decisions and we learn so much from our family history and our family lineage. Andrea, I'd love to hear a little bit more about your journey too and I'm curious if family played a role in your decision to join the Navy. Andrea Goldstein:   My family decision to do the military was much more related to growing up in the United States, growing up in New York at a time actually, probably when we didn't have the NYPD outside of synagogues. I didn't really think about being Jewish, at least in New York in the 90s. But my family came here in mostly two waves, most in the early 20th century, and then another wave right before the Holocaust, and found everything they were looking for. And depending on which wave, either second generation or third generation where a sense of precarity and being American was gone. We just were American Jews. And I am currently sitting in a home that has embroidery on the wall that was sent to my great-grandmother, by family members who ended up–who perished in the shoah. This country really gave us everything and I wanted to give back to that.  The value of tikkun olam is very central to everything that I do. And so serving my country and wearing the cloth of the nation to me felt like really the only way to do that.  9/11 was not a motivating factor for me, despite growing up in New York City and being in New York City on 9/11. My desire to serve in uniform predated that, in fact, 9/11 led me to really not so much reconsider, but really give even more thought to my military service, because I knew I would be serving in conflict zones, which, with the peacetime military of the 90s, that wasn't clear. But I ended up joining through an officer program. I didn't initially have any family support, because it was such a shocking choice. I had great-grandparents who'd served during World War Two great-uncles, but not from a military family at all. And what became very understood by my family, because it was, what was motivating me was, this desire to serve my country and wear the cloth of the nation, no matter what. Dana Levinson Steiner: I want to pivot a little bit, I want to get back to questions of Jewish identity in a moment. But when we're thinking about American Jews serving in the US armed forces, while there isn't a ton of data, the most recent-ish data suggests that just about 1% of the US armed forces, or the US military, is made up of American Jews. It's tiny, only 1%. And that 1% is of an already really small number of American Jews who already live in this country.  So, you know, thinking about this statistic and also acknowledging American history in serving in the military. What do we make of this small number? And what would you like to tell young American Jews who may be considering joining the military but may have doubts or concerns? Andrea Goldstein:   So there are a couple of things I would say to that. I would comment on that data–first of all, that's only commenting that that only includes self reported numbers because we don't collect demographic data on, it’s seen as completely religious affiliation. The military does not collect demographics on Jews as being an ethnic group. So it's actually quite difficult to self-report your religion. So there's going to be an undercount, there are people who are Jewish, who may even practice privately, who are not reporting. And it also doesn't capture Jewish families.  So it doesn't capture the number of people who may be not Jewish themselves, but their partner and spouse is Jewish, and they're raising Jewish children, and they're observing Jewish holidays with their families. So there's a lot that we really don't know. What I would also say is, if you were to overlay where the military struggles to recruit from, with the parts of the country where most Jews live in the United States, you would see probably some very interesting geographic trends.  The military has become a family business. There has also been, there have been some comforts that the military has had in where they recruit from. And that typically is not New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Washington, DC. So in addition to being one of the very few Jews that I know, in the military, I think I know probably even fewer people from New York City, especially officers. Dana Levinson Steiner: Dave, I'm curious, your thoughts on some of these numbers? And also maybe what you would tell–you and I have talked about this before about wanting to really engage in conversation with young American Jews about this experience and what it can mean for them, you know, acknowledging this number a while not perfect, I would imagine it's not so massive. So tell us a little bit about what you think and also maybe what you would tell a young American Jew who might be considering e
In this heartfelt conversation with Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg, the parents of 23-year-old Hersh, who is among the over 240 hostages held by Hamas terrorists, they detail what they know about their son’s abduction from the Supernova music festival on October 7th and the challenges they face in trying to secure his rescue. They also describe their dismay that world leaders are not doing enough to bring the hostages home and share ways to keep their son and all the hostages’ stories alive.  Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Jon Polin, Rachel Goldberg Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg: Jon Polin: This is a global humanitarian issue. And every day, I wonder why is the world not speaking in that way? Why is the world shoving this into a simple black and white box of Israeli-Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian? Why are 33 foreign ministers around the world not holding hands and screaming about the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis? Manya Brachear Pashman: On October 7, Hamas terrorists broke into homes and raided a music festival, murdering more than 1400 civilians and soldiers and kidnapping at least 245 from more than 30 different countries. Almost four weeks later, only five hostages have returned home. Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg say it doesn’t matter where this happened. It is an international atrocity carried out against innocent lives and families around the world, including their own. But no one is talking about the hostage situation in Gaza in those terms. Why not?  Jon and Rachel are with us now to talk about their quest to bring home their 23-year-old son Hersh and the other hostages. Jon, Rachel: Welcome. Thank you for joining us.  Jon Polin:   Thank you.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you tell our listeners what you know about your son's abduction and the circumstances? It is a widely known story I think by now but just for those few that have not heard. Rachel Goldberg: So, I'll give you a sort of quick version because as you said, I think a lot of people already are familiar with Hersh's story. But he and his best friend who were at the music festival when the massacre started, they escaped in a car with two other friends and started to try to head north to get out of harm's way.  But the road was blocked by Hamas gunmen who were just shooting at point blank range anyone who even got near them. So Hersh and his friends, and many other of the young people who were also in cars trying to escape, just stopped the cars, flung the doors open, and went running to these outside, roadside bomb shelters.  Hersh and his friend Amer ended up with 29, a total of what we believe to be 29 of them smushed into this cinder block reinforced windowless small bomb shelter, which Hamas started to descend upon and threw in initially, hand grenades, which Hersh’s friend Amer was standing by the doorway and manage to actually retrieve, pickup before detonating and throw back out at least seven of them. Three did detonate inside causing a lot of carnage.  And then Hamas brought in an RPG which they fired directly into this small room of young people. And then they sprayed the room with machine gun bullets.  After a couple of minutes of the dust settling, most of those young people were dead. Many of them were severely wounded, some were trapped under the dead bodies and the dying bodies and it is from those witnesses that we heard what happened to Hersh.  Which is, he was slumped with three other boys against one of the walls and they were all somewhat injured but they still appeared alive. And Hamas walked in and said, everybody you know you four stand up and come outside. And when they stood up, the eyewitnesses told us that Hersh's left arm from around the elbow down had been blown off. He had somehow managed to fashion some sort of bandage or tourniquet, and he walked out.  They all walked out calmly. I'm sure they were in deep shock and dazed and traumatized by what they had just seen take place in front of them. And they were boarded onto a Hamas pickup truck which headed toward Gaza. And Hersh's last cell phone signal was found inside of Gaza at 10:25am, Saturday morning October 7.  We subsequently did get a video from CNN’s Anderson Cooper who had come across it in research he had been doing on a documentary about the music festival. And he shared that with us.  So we've actually seen Hersh walking out of the bomb shelter using his less dominant hand. He is left-handed and now doesn't have a left hand. He uses his right hand to board the pickup truck and he turns around to sit down and it's in that moment when he turns that you can see the stump where his left arm used to be. And he sat down and that's the last that we have seen him, heard anything about him in the last 26 days. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I did watch that interview with Anderson Cooper, where they showed that footage and I'm curious what your takeaways were from that video, what were your observations, and also, did it give you hope to see him? Jon Polin:   So on the one hand, as you can imagine it is a video that nobody would ever want to see of their loved one, their child. So basic answer is it's horrendously terrible to see it.  On the other hand, I have been in a position where we need to just look for optimism and hope anywhere we can find it in the last 26 days. And so when I saw that video, my lens on it was, and especially since I know what had preceded it for the 90 minutes before that: the carnage, seeing his best friend killed, etc.  I looked at the video and I saw Hersh looking composed, walking on his own two feet, using his one remaining hand, which happens to be his weak hand, to pull himself onto this truck. And clearly in shock, as one would expect. But I took some optimism from seeing what kind of shape he appeared to be in. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You said 26 days, I cannot believe it's been 26 days that they've held these hostages with no word. And Rachel, you're wearing a 26 on your shirt I saw. What kind of support are you getting? What kind of conversations are you having with policymakers, negotiators, anyone, that indicates progress? Rachel Goldberg: Well, it's kind of a two pronged question. Because what are you doing to walk through these days is, we are surrounded by a team–beyond angels, beyond friends, beyond professional people who are dragging us along when we can't drag ourselves, and they're very talented, and they're very smart and tireless and tenacious. And so that helps us.  And in the bigger picture, I mean, we've had a lot of conversations with both sides in terms of, you know, we are American-Israeli, so we right away that first Saturday turned to the US Embassy. They were extremely responsive right away, partially because they could be. They weren't at war, you know, Israel, I do cut them some slack for being slow in the beginning, because I mean, there were still terrorists running around killing people in their homes. When we first heard about what happened to Hersh. So we were spread very thin. There were things happening up in the north, there were things happening down south. I mean, I understood why there was a sort of short start to that end of things. On the American side, we've had incredible conversations with you know, as high up as you could get with President Biden, with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, with 15 different senators. They don't care, they said, this isn't a Republican-Democrat issue. This is an American hostage issue. We don't care what stripes you're wearing, people being real adults, which is refreshing and felt very good and supported. And that is a very excellent first step.  We are now on day 26. And I need a little bit more actually, information, maybe action. I'm never one of the people in this that has said tell me what you're doing and tell me what the plan is because I always think that's ridiculous. Obviously, we can't know about that stuff. But because of Hersh’s grave injury, it's different, I think, than if I had known he was just kidnapped and healthy, because I have a very primal fear that maybe he didn't get the treatment he needed, and maybe I'm here on day 26, but Hersh died on day one. So that's very difficult. Or maybe he did get treated and then three days afterwards, they said, well, we don't have any more antibiotics and then he died of sepsis. You know, so there's a lot of different kind of constellations of what ifs that, you know, run through our minds, and that make it very difficult to kind of feel trust and kind of know everyone said it's gonna take a long time. And it's a process. And I feel like well, that, unfortunately, we don't have that. And it's very concerning.  When we were in America, we've had conversations with ambassadors from different countries who were, I think, trying to be helpful. In Israel, we've tried to have conversations with who we can get to,
AJC CEO Ted Deutch joins us to discuss the significance of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life and its aftermath, the anniversary, and what it means to Jews around the world after the October 7 attack on Israel, when once again Jews were murdered just for being Jewish. In the final episode of the Remembering Pittsburgh series, Ted reflects on what being Jewish in the United States feels like at this moment, and how the Jewish community is uniting to overcome yet another challenge. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Ted Deutch Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Remembering Pittsburgh Part 2: What the Family of Tree of Life Victim Joyce Fienberg Wants You to Know About Her Legacy Remembering Pittsburgh Part 3: How the #ShowUpForShabbat Campaign Drew Global Solidarity Amid Tragedy Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Hevenu Shalom - Violin Heart Fire Tree (Violin Version) - Axletree Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman: This month, AJC set out to mark the five-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting at the Tree of Life with a series of episodes exploring this turning point for the American Jewish community. Our first installment aired October 5. Two days later, the Jewish people faced another unprecedented deadly antisemitic attack, this time in Israel. Synagogues stepped up security and families tamped down their fears to take their children to Hebrew school or attend Shabbat services. In the second episode of our series, we sat down with Howard and Marnie Fienberg, who paid tribute to their mother Joyce. In the third installment, we looked back at how the horror drew people to solidarity.  For this closing episode of the series, I sat down with AJC CEO Ted Deutch, who served as a congressman at the time of the Tree of Life massacre. We discussed this anniversary and its parallels to the October 7 attack on Israel, when once again Jews were murdered just for being Jewish. Manya Brachear Pashman: Ted, where were you on the morning of October 27, 2018 when you heard about the Tree of Life?    Ted Deutch: I was a congressman who represented Parkland, where the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas took place. And the morning of Tree of Life, I spoke to a group of high school students from all around South Florida, who participated in a program about how they can become leaders in the community. I spoke with them about what had happened a few months before in Parkland, and what I had seen from high school students in Parkland and how they responded and how you stand up to violence and try to stop it and how you respond to evil and how important it is to use the power that you have as young people. That was literally what I was doing right before I walked out of the Florida Atlantic University auditorium and saw my phone start to buzz with news of Tree of Life. Everything that I had said to the students in the discussion, that really difficult conversation we had with these students who shared with me their fears of violence, their fears of going to school–those fears hit home really hard for me and for the Jewish community.  Manya Brachear Pashman: Did you view this as a significant turning point for the Jewish community in America or worldwide? Ted Deutch: This was something that we dealt with in Europe, we feared, we stood AJC's stood with the Jewish community across Europe as they, as they were attacked over years. I was a member of Congress when we had vigils with the ambassadors from European countries, in memory of lives lost, Jewish lives lost as a result of antisemitic attacks. And here, that morning is a turning point for all of us in the Jewish community, and how we respond, how we view the threat of antisemitism now as a deadly threat to the Jewish community in America, and for the rest of America to see another example of what happens when antisemitism, hatred are running rampant and where it can lead and how dangerous it is. Manya Brachear Pashman: From your vantage point as a congressman, what shifted on Capitol Hill, if anything, after October 27? Ted Deutch: Well, I was a member of Congress, but I focused so much of my work on the Jewish community. And we had started a Bipartisan Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in response to what happened in Europe. We never could have imagined something like that happening in our own country, especially in this place. I mean, this is the most idyllic, suburban, lovely neighborhood. I mean, it is, as everyone knows, it is literally Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, right? He lives just a stone's throw from Tree of Life. And so our work became that much more urgent. And we immediately refocused our efforts and those of us who were committed to fighting antisemitism, to ways that we could ensure the security of the Jewish community, and we immediately started looking at ways to find additional funding for security and and we dug deep into FBI reporting and research into what else is out there and what else they're tracking and what the fears are. And, unfortunately, whether in Congress, now at AJC, that hasn't stopped since. Manya Brachear Pashman: Did the members of Congress who are not Jewish respond differently? Ted Deutch: There was real support, and support not just for me and my fellow Jewish members, but for the Jewish community overall. Lots of members of Congress, most, know the Jewish community, many of them have Jewish communities they focus on in their own districts, sometimes large, sometimes very small. But the security concerns became real for every one of them – whether they had a large thousand-family congregation in a major city or a tiny synagogue somewhere in a remote part of the country, everyone felt it, everyone was put on edge, and every member of Congress felt an obligation to respond to that. I just remember having conversations with colleagues who were people of faith, who went to church. They were so struck by the fact that they came and went every Sunday, walked into their churches, doors were wide open. And the contrast to synagogues where you really need to be committed in so many places to get in so many places to go to synagogue, because you have to go through security, and sometimes you have to check in with the police, and in some places, you have to go through metal detectors. That really, really hit them and I think continues to, especially now. Every time something happens in Israel, we see a need for greater security at home. In the aftermath of the horrific attack by Hamas. It’s affected Jews, obviously in Israel and around the world and how we view Israel, but we all fear for what could happen in the United States. Manya Brachear Pashman: You left your job on Capitol Hill and became CEO of AJC just last year. I’m curious whether the horror in Pittsburgh so soon after the Parkland shooting was an inflection point for you and your path? Ted Deutch: I wasn't thinking about leaving Congress. But when a friend reached out and asked if I'd be interested in being considered for the AJC job, I started reflecting upon the issues that I worked on, and what I had been through. And this fits into a very specific part of that thinking it was. It was the whole series of what happened, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, and the impact that that had on the community. Then almost in immediate succession, quick succession, this horrific shooting at Tree of Life. First, there was the trauma in our own community, then there was the real trauma in the broader Jewish community. And then, not that they're directly related, but on January 6, when I was sitting in my office with the lights off, and my electronics silenced as the Capitol Police told us to do, and I was sitting in a dark cubicle in our staff office … watching what was happening in the Capitol and listening as people ran by my office and not knowing who they are. Everything was, everyone was so concerned about violence that day and my first thought that day was how grateful I was that I had just moved into this new office and had not yet had an opportunity to hang my mezuzah. And, right, so where does this fit in? I didn't decide to come to AJC because of some series of traumatic events. But just in terms of a turning point for me, what happened at Tree of Life and how that informed the remainder of my time and I was in Congress and the way I thought about my work, and, and then those fears on January 6, and realizing again, how at risk I felt even in the U.S. Capitol as a Jew. I suppose there is probably a straight line that I didn't see that started that day that led me to where I am now. Manya Brachear Pashman: So, you’ve been here a year now. How have these events shaped your work since you arrived? Ted Deutch: AJC's is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people in Israel, and to advance democratic values. If we go back to Tree of Life, and think about what's transpired since and the rise in antisemitism as we saw it around the country, and on social media, and the many ways that the community has felt at risk.  The week I started, Kanye West went on his antisemitic rampage on social media on Twitter. The Jewish community is not well if antisemitism is running rampant. So it's why we worked so hard with the White House, it's why we encouraged them to create a national strategy. It's why we brought in special envoys from around the world to meet with the White House to help inform the process. It's why we celebrated the release of the National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism and put toge
In the aftermath of the slaughter of 11 Jews inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, American Jewish Committee (AJC) drew up a plan to galvanize Jewish communities and their allies across the world in an expression of unity and defiance: #ShowUpForShabbat. The campaign, which reached hundreds of millions of people, urged those of all faiths to attend synagogue services during the Shabbat following the attack to show solidarity with the Jewish community. In this third episode of our Remembering Pittsburgh series, hear from some of those who showed up to that Shabbat five years ago on what the experience meant to them and how the events of that week altered their perspective on antisemitism in America. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Belle Yoeli, Anne Jolly, Rachel Ain, Sharif Street, Jennifer Mendelsohn Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Remembering Pittsburgh Part 2: What the Family of Tree of Life Victim Joyce Fienberg Wants You to Know About Her Legacy Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Shloime Balsam - Lo Lefached Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman:  This month, AJC set out to mark the five-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting at the Tree of Life with a series of episodes exploring this turning point for the American Jewish community. Our first installment aired October 5. Two days later, the Jewish people faced another unprecedented deadly antisemitic attack, this time in Israel. Synagogues stepped up security and families tamped down their fears to take their children to Hebrew school or attend Shabbat services. In the second episode of our series, we sat down with Howard and Marnie Fienberg, who paid tribute to their mother Joyce. In this third installment, we look back at how horror drew people to solidarity. May we see that same solidarity today.  Belle Yoeli: We saw hundreds of thousands of people show up. And we saw pictures later, after the fact, and videos, and people making speeches, and just so much solidarity. This was captured on the news. I think it really stands out as one of the most amazing responses to antisemitism that we've seen in modern history. Manya Brachear Pashman: On October 27, 2018, Americans witnessed the deadliest antisemitic attack in this nation’s history. Eleven worshipers inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were murdered just for being Jewish. The senseless slaughter inside a house of worship devastated and shocked American senses because it was simply unAmerican. But the aftermath of the atrocity became an American moment when so many people showed up – showed up with hugs, showed up with flowers, showed up with prayers for their Jewish neighbors.  The most visible expression of this came a week after the massacre with the unprecedented turnout of people of all faiths at synagogues across the nation as part of AJC’s #ShowUpForShabbat campaign. Together, Americans sent a message that hate will not prevail. Belle Yoeli: Everyone wanted to do something, and the entire Jewish community mobilized to make this happen with the understanding that as AJC has always said that antisemitism is not just about the Jewish community. It starts with the Jewish community, but it's a threat to democracy, and the murder of Jews in their religious institution is such a breaking, a fracturing of everything that the United States stands for, everything that democratic society stands for. Manya Brachear Pashman: Today, Belle Yoeli is the chief advocacy officer for AJC. In 2018, she worked as the chief of staff for then AJC CEO David Harris. David had spent nearly 20 years counseling European leaders on the rise of antisemitism in their midst, calling their attention to violent crimes against Jews when conflict erupted between Israel and their Arab neighbors. Belle was on her way to a nephew’s birthday party when she got the call on October 27 about what had happened in Pittsburgh. She remembers sobbing in the car on the phone with colleagues as they all grappled with the reality that whether they were regular shul-goers or had just happened to go to synagogue to celebrate a friend’s bar mitzvah that day – it just as easily could’ve been them. For many, what they needed now was to go to shul and not be afraid, and to see others, not just their own community, but others of all faiths in the pews alongside them. What they needed most now was to know they were not alone. So they drew up a plan. Belle Yoeli: A couple members of our staff actually kind of simultaneously came up with a similar idea, which was that we need to, more than anything, rally non-Jews to come and support the Jewish community at this time, and what better time to do that than the following Shabbat. Manya Brachear Pashman: Dubbed #ShowUpForShabbat, the social media-based campaign called on both Jews and those of other faiths to flock to synagogues that coming Shabbat on the weekend of November 2 in support of the Pittsburgh Jewish community and all of American Jewry. The response across 80 countries was astounding. More than 250 million people spread the message on social media, including celebrities Andy Cohen, Itzhak Perlman, and Mayim Bialik, and politicians Paul Ryan, Kamala Harris, and Sadiq Kahn. And hundreds of synagogues across the country and around the world, from Tokyo to Santiago to London to San Francisco, welcomed people of all faiths into their sanctuaries. Those who walked through the doors included diplomats from dozens of countries, federal, state, and local elected officials, and Christian, Muslim, Hindu clergy. Synagogues across the country reported massive crowds rivaling or exceeding those seen at High Holy Day services. Belle Yoeli: There are some times, I think before Pittsburgh, and before Tree of Life and after, where the Jewish community doesn't always feel like we are seen, and that we need defense too. When it comes to antisemitism, because Jews are viewed as white or for other reasons, or when it comes to us attacks against Israel, we don't feel like our partners are necessarily always there for us, although many are. Seeing with such clarity how people were showing up for the Jewish community, we all really needed that. And honestly, society needed that and to see that. That we will not let this stand. I think it shook everyone to their core and not just the Jewish community. That's what struck a chord with people that could have been me, that could have been hatred towards African Americans, that could have been hatred towards the Muslim community. Every single community who has a piece of them, an identity that’s so strong resonated with that. Manya Brachear Pashman: We connected with people who showed up that Shabbat five years ago, and asked them what the experience meant to them, whether the events of that week altered their perspective on antisemitism in America, or changed how they show support to their Jewish neighbors. Anne Jolly: An important part of what we proclaim is love God, love your neighbor, change the world. And so we believe that means we show up for each other. We can't love each other without being present with each other. So we have to be together. You have to show up. Manya Brachear Pashman: Episcopal Bishop of Ohio Anne Jolly was serving as the rector of St. Gregory Episcopal Church in Deerfield, Illinois in October 2018. A former hospital chaplain, she was sitting in her office when she heard the news break that Saturday morning. Her first call was to her friend and colleague Rabbi Karyn Kedar down the road at the Reform temple commonly known as Congregation BJBE. Rabbi Kedar had recently preached at St. Gregory and then-Pastor Jolly was scheduled to deliver the guest sermon at BJBE the following Friday night. Anne Jolly: I called her and we talked and we prayed. And I said to Karyn, I think probably you need to preach on the Shabbat following the shooting at your temple and she said, ‘I want you to do it.’ She said ‘I think I think we need to hear your voice and that the congregation needs to hear you. Rabbi Kedar I think thought that to hear a voice of someone who is not Jewish saying aloud, We love you, we care for you. We believe we are all created in God's image together. And that means we need to show up for each other. It means we need to be present with each other, that to hear that from someone who was not part of their community might be more powerful, more impactful, and more important for the community here at that time. Manya Brachear Pashman: When Bishop Jolly arrived that following Friday she did not expect her sudden sense of fear when she encountered armed guards. Anne Jolly: I didn't realize I was afraid until I walked in the door. And I stopped and had to take a deep breath and realize that I was afraid because I was entering into a space of people who have long been afraid. And that I had never had to experience that before in that way. And I wasn't really afraid for my congregation the same way I was for my beloveds in the synagogue, that they had more of a reason to be afraid than I did. And that was all the more reason for me to be there, and to be present with them. Manya Brachear Pashman: Bishop Jolly credits that night at BJBE for the deep connection that formed with the congregation. In fact, she returned to BJBE many more times to celebrate Shabbat. Precisely a year later, the members of the Jewish congregation showed up at her door after a pumpkin patch at St. Gregory had been destroyed by
Join us in a tribute to the memory of Joyce Fienberg, one of the 11 victims of the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In this touching second installment of our series on the events of 10/27 , we sit down with Joyce's son, Howard Fienberg, and his wife, Marnie, as they share their  journey of mourning and resilience. Joyce was not only a dedicated member of the Tree of Life synagogue but also a retired university researcher, a devoted mother, and grandmother. Howard and Marnie open up about their extended period of mourning due to trial delays, offering a glimpse into the emotional toll of such a traumatic event. Marnie details how she turned her grief into 2 for Seder, an initiative to honor Joyce and push back against the hate that creates antisemitism. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Howard Fienberg, Marnie Fienberg Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Tree of Life by Nefesh Mountain Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman:   After her husband and mother died in 2016, Joyce Fienberg started each day at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, to recite Kaddish, the mourner's prayer. Even when she was no longer officially considered a mourner as Jewish tradition prescribes, 11 months, she continued to attend services each morning at the synagogue.  That's why Howard Feinberg knew his mother Joyce was at Tree of Life when he heard there had been a shooting there on the morning of October 27, 2018. It would be more than 12 hours before he learned she was among the 11 killed that day.  Howard and his wife Marnie are with us now from their home in Northern Virginia to talk about their prolonged mourning period and how they have held onto and channeled that grief. Howard, Marnie, thank you so much for joining us. Howard Fienberg:   Thanks for having us. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Howard, you followed your mother’s example and recited kaddish for 11 months. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? That experience of saying Kaddish and mourning for your mother, and also can you share with our listeners why it felt like the mourning period was extended? Howard Fienberg:   I felt a huge amount of support everywhere I went, in order to be able to say Kaddish every day. Which for someone who was not the most observant of Jews, it was a big lift to be able to do that every day. In fact, even when traveling in disparate places, that I could always find, somehow, be able to pull together 10 people to be able to say Kaddish was a big deal. And I wanted to make sure that no one would struggle in similar circumstances as well.  Obviously, initially, in Pittsburgh putting together 10 people was not a particularly big lift. Because the community support in that first week of Shiva was phenomenal. But it's not an easy thing in many congregations, and I think we are fortunate in mine that we always seem to pull it out every day. But I want to make sure that it happens. So in practice wise, that's one of the biggest things, my involvement with the synagogue, and prayer.  The broader extension of the mourning period, in a way, was a result of the constant delay of the trial for the monster that committed the massacre. And that was a result of both just the general usual procedural delays that you would expect, combined with COVID excuses that dragged things out during the trial. And once a new judge took over responsibility for this case, things suddenly snapped into gear and it moved forward. And we're particularly grateful for the judge in this case, just for his very no-nonsense approach moving forward. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you talk about whether the guilty verdict once it did take place, and a verdict was delivered, how that verdict changed anything for you and your family? Howard Fienberg:   It was a matter of relief, to a great extent. I sat through almost the entirety of the trial, heard and saw all of the evidence. A lot more than I expected to and ever wanted to, but I felt duty to do so. From an outside perspective, looking at it all, you would say this is a slam dunk case, lined up for all the federal hate crimes that were involved. And at the same time, I was in doubt until the jury came back and said, all said guilty. It's just the nature of things. I was on pins and needles. Massive relief afterwards and the same thing with the final verdict and sentencing. Massive relief for us and our families.  And that did allow…nothing's ever closed. You don’t finish feeling the loss of somebody, especially when they're taken in, you know, horribly violent terrorist circumstances. But you move from segment to segment. So the same as we do in the year of mourning, you're moving from shiva, which is one kind of thing, to the 30 days, and then to the end of the mourning period. And this was moving to yet another period. And what exactly this is and how long it will be, I don't know. But we're figuring that out as we go. I certainly feel a lot more relaxed. Marnie Fienberg: Feels a little lighter. Howard Fienberg:   Yes, definitely lighter. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That's good to hear. That's good to hear. I am curious, you said you felt a duty to listen to those details, even though you didn't want to. Can you explain why you felt that sense of obligation? Howard Fienberg:   Part of it is, somebody in our family needed to. And it wasn't something that I wanted everybody to sit and hear and see. And I specifically told friends and family as much as I could, to stay far away and said, as much as you want to know, I'll let you know. But otherwise, it's horrific. And it wasn't anything that I would wish for anybody to see and hear. But at the same time, it's the reality of how my mom died. And what the circumstances were, what was going on with the antisemitic conspiracy theories that drove the monster that killed her. And what did he have in mind, and what was his intention, what did he plan, what did he do? These were important things.  And the bigger picture, which I didn't even know going in, was the extent to which the police in Pittsburgh were so heroic. And while they were not able to save my mom, they saved other people, including friends of ours, and people who are now friends, who would not be alive if those cops had not tried to charge at the front door trying to charge the building and getting shot. And then the SWAT teams going into the building, and in a couple cases getting almost murdered themselves, trying to rescue the people that were inside. And they did rescue some people. And those people would most likely be dead if the SWAT had not rushed in. Equipment wise, they were not ready ordinarily for this sort of situation. But they went in anyways because they knew they needed to, and they didn't hesitate. And that's the kind of thing that you can only understand, having gone to the trial and learned what went on.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Marnie, I want to turn to you. You quit your job as a federal contractor and started a nonprofit initiative called 2 For Seder. What prompted this sudden shift in your career? Marnie Fienberg: Well, I think that I was so upset about what happened with my mother-in-law, I did take a leave of absence initially. And I wanted to volunteer. Being a Jewish woman, and having all this anger and grief and all the support that we had received from people, literally all over the world. I just couldn't sit back and do nothing. So I wanted to do something that was really in honor of Joyce, but also something that would help every single Jewish individual if they so chose to be able to take some small tikun-olam-style action, and push back against the hate that creates antisemitism. And I think 2 For Seder really accomplished that, especially that first year. And we were really on track to grow quite enormously, except for COVID. COVID stopped us in our tracks, because it is about inviting 2 people into your home, who have never been to a Seder before and really educating them and immersing them in that Jewish joy and intimacy that you create every year at Passover.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So I'm really curious about the seder connection. Was Joyce known for putting together really elaborate Seders? Was she just always at the Seder table? Why Seders? Marnie Fienberg: So this is a two part sort of explanation. So one is the sort of graduation to being allowed to hold the Seder. So my mother-in-law, really for 15 years we actually had done where we started at her house, and I helped her and I learned as we went and then we flipped it. And we came to our house and she would help me and make sure that I was doing things the right way and guiding me the right way. And there's, I mean, there's so much to do, putting on a Seder and trying to of course fit, you know, 30-35 people into a house that really should only have about 20 people in it is, of course, part of the tradition. And she never blinked an eye, it was never too much.  It was really mostly about making everyone at the table, regardless of their background–she always had students over, she always had people who had no place to go–every single person needed to feel like they were home. So if you had some sort of dietary restrictions, or any sort of an allergy or anything, my mother-in-law would bend over backwards, she bend herself into pretzels to make you feel 100% comfortable. And every single person who ever graced her table felt like they had never been more comfortable before. They felt like they wer
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