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People of the Pod

People of the Pod

Author: American Jewish Committee (AJC)

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People of the Pod is an award-winning weekly podcast analyzing global affairs through a Jewish lens, brought to you by American Jewish Committee. Host Manya Brachear Pashman examines current events, the people driving them, and what it all means for America, Israel, and the Jewish people.
324 Episodes
Ancient texts, traditional foods, and friends and family: the markers of many Passover tables across America. But what if you added something new–or rather, someone new? Marnie Fienberg founded 2ForSeder, a program to combat antisemitism and honor her mother-in-law, Joyce Feinberg, who was one of the 11 victims murdered inside Tree of Life. The initiative is simple: extend a Seder invite to two people of another faith, who have never been to a Seder before, to build bridges and spread Jewish joy. Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Marnie Fienberg Show Notes: Learn more: Listen to AJC’s People of the Pod: What the Iranian Regime’s Massive Attack Means for Israel and the Region Meet Modi Rosenfeld – the Comedian Helping the Jewish Community Laugh Again A Look Back: AJC’s Award-Winning “Remembering Pittsburgh” Series Jewish College Student Leaders Share Their Blueprint for Combating Antisemitism 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. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman: A few weeks ago, we re-aired excerpts from our award winning series Remembering Pittsburgh, which marked five years since the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. One of our guests in that series has returned today. Marnie Feinberg founded 2ForSeder, an initiative to honor her mother in law, Joyce Feinberg, who was one of the 11 victims murdered inside Tree of Life. As we approach Passover, Marnie is with us now to share why there's no time like the present to invite first timers to the Seder table, a superb way to introduce people to the beauty of Judaism, like Joyce often did. Marnie, thank you for joining us again.  Marnie Fienberg:   Thank you so much for having me.  Manya Brachear Pashman: So we spoke a little about this project, when you joined us last fall. We have a little more time now to unpack why this initiative is such a meaningful way to preserve Joyce's legacy. Can you tell us about her Seders? Marnie Fienberg:   My mother in law as most mothers and mother in laws, she trained me on how to actually hold the Seder. So as you know, holding the Seder is almost like your second bat mitzvah, it's a rite of passage. And it's also a very important thing that, you know, not only are you trained to do it, but you have to incorporate things from, if you have a partner or from their family, you incorporate things from your own life to your family traditions. And all that kind of comes together in this wonderful magical night that is really grounded in the Haggadah.  But Joyce was of course instrumental and teaching me my mother lives kind of far away. And Joyce and I actually did Seders together for more than a decade. And they started at her house and gradually kind of came over to my house. But she really she helped me every single step of the way, to the point where when she wasn't there anymore, I almost didn't know how to do it. And I'm every time I'm thinking about the Seder and making a Seder. It's it's with her in my head as it has to be. But I still, you know, all of the traditions that she taught me we still utilize those once again, combined with the ones that I learned from my own family and she is a vise still a vibrant part of our personal Seder. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So was Joyce in your head still when you found 2ForSeder?  Marnie Fienberg:   Oh, absolutely. Well, I am a Jewish woman. And I can't sit still. I need to do something. We have tikkun olam kind of almost in our DNA. Yes. So I really wanted to not only bring her back, which I think is a natural sort of a feeling. But I also wanted to push back on all of the antisemitism that had removed her from my life.  And people were constantly coming up to me, I mean, the community in Pittsburgh and the community where I live in Northern Virginia, everybody was very supportive. But they were constantly asking me, What can we do? And it took me a little while to realize they didn't, they did mean, what can I do to help you? Of course, they did mean that. But what they really meant was, what can we do to stop this from ever happening again? I don't have the answer for that.  But I thought that the seder kind of came into my mind because I was really inspired by what Joyce always did that she brought students or faculty, you know, because she was a campus researcher, and my father in law was actually at Carnegie Mellon. He was a professor there. And they always had people who weren’t Jewish at our at the table. And the discussions were always not only very interesting, but you always saw a very different perspective, when they participated in something in a ritual that you knew so well. And it really created bonds of friendship, even with people who I didn't know. Which was wonderful.  So that's what I really wanted to encourage, you know, this was 2018 when she was murdered. So 2019 was the Seder and I just wanted to encourage every Jew in America and in Canada, because Joyce was Canadian, that they, if they if they were holding the Seder, invite to people who had never been to a Seder before, start that dialogue, invite them to the intimacy of your home, and make them part of your family for that one night.  And that will really help them understand the joy of Judaism, the happiness and the reason that we are Jewish is, it's right there in the Seder. In every Seder I've ever been to, it's always there, and to share that with someone who is not Jewish, starts the dialogue to understanding about the differences between us, the similarities, all these great things, that this is a thing that combats the hate that took my mother in law. Manya Brachear Pashman:   These are uncomfortable times, they were certainly uncomfortable back in 2018, when the Tree of Life happened, but they're uncomfortable times again for the Jewish community. For everyone really? Who's watching what's been going on in Israel since October seventh. What does the Seder offer? And how do you avoid some of the pitfalls that can arise? When you do bring people perhaps have different perspectives around a dinner table? Marnie Fienberg: I'm glad you asked that question. Because my family and Joyce, you know, we feel very strongly about what's happening in Israel, we have a lot of family over there. A lot of friends, like everyone else, we all know someone in Israel. And it's a part of what's going to happen in your Seder this year, I assume almost everybody's going to do something to remind them about, you know, that the hostages are still not freed, that there are people that are starving, but are being helped. This is a difficult situation, it's not a simple, straightforward thing. And the Seder Absolutely, is a reprieve from that for a moment. I think the idea of the Seder is about reaffirming your Judaism, because it takes you on that journey from when we were a tribe, to a nation. It's that little piece in the middle. But it's when you reaffirm your Judaism every year. So it's still important to do it. It's so important to do it your way. And if you want to have a reminder of the hostages, an empty seat at the table, something on the Seder plate, there's so many different ways that you could do something. I think that all of those things would be absolutely important right now, something that reminds you that we're doing this, not just for our family, but we're going to be doing this for those families that are missing those members right now. So I think that the the Seder in general will be healing to some extent for everybody who participates. So inviting someone who's never been to a Seder before. I think it's important, not only do you explain the Seder, which you really do need to do, you have to explain it before you start. And then they can participate and feel comfortable. But also explain to them that if you are going to be doing something to remember the hostages and all the people that were lost, let them know ahead of time that that's what you're going to be doing. You don't want to surprise your guests, your other guests will know exactly what you're doing by the guests who are not Jewish. Don't assume that they know, make sure there's great communication, and everything should go very smoothly. Manya Brachear Pashman  So I appreciate you kind of mentioning some of the rituals that we can do to honor the hostages and to remind the guests that the hostages are not free. But what about guests who come to the table who have been watching what's going on and disagree. They have really strong emotions and opinions about what's going on there between Israel and Hamas. And I asked this because I know Joyce worked at the University of Pittsburgh, as you said her husband Steven was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. And they often invited students to dinners and Seders. You might have seen the dean of Berkeley Law School has an annual custom of inviting students to his home for a dinner with students. And recently a group accepted that invitation showed up, but then got up from the table and pulled out their megaphones right there in his backyard. So it's hard to believe that that level of rudeness is possible. But it does appear to be a real risk. So can you offer some tools or tips on how to avoid that kind of a response? Or how to respond if you get that kind of behavior? Marnie Fienberg: Absolutely. And, you know, it's interesting, I think that we feel a heightened sense of that this year. But it's interesting, that is one of the most asked questions that I always get: How do I ensure that my guests don't veer into politics or if they have disagreements or things along those lines? Probably not the first year so much. But the other years, we've always had questions along those lines. So my recommendation is that you lay some ground rules ahead of time.
AJC Jerusalem director Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich shares how the IDF — and its neighbors and allies — defended Israel with remarkable success. In the early hours of April 14, sirens and explosions were heard across the Jewish state. In an unprecedented, first-ever direct attack on the Israeli people, the Iranian regime launched a wave of more than 300 drones and missiles.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Avital Leibovich Show Notes: Take Action: Join AJC in urging Congress to call on the EU to designate all of Hezbollah and the IRGC as terror organizations. Read AJC’s Explainers on Iran: Get the Facts About Iran’s Unprecedented Attack on Israel ‘Crimes Against Humanity:’ Another UN Report Finds Sexual Violence by IRGC and Other Authorities in Iran; Similar to Crimes by Hamas What is Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Why is it Designated a Terror Group by the United States? Listen to AJC’s People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Meet Modi Rosenfeld – the Comedian Helping the Jewish Community Laugh Again A Look Back: AJC’s Award-Winning “Remembering Pittsburgh” Series Jewish College Student Leaders Share Their Blueprint for Combating Antisemitism Matisyahu’s Message to His Fellow Jews and to the Israel Haters Trying to Cancel Him 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. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Few of us slept well on Saturday night into Sunday knowing that Iran had launched a wave of more than 300 drones and missiles in its first ever direct attack on Israel. In the early hours of Sunday, sirens and explosions were heard across the Jewish state. Here to talk about how Israel definit itself from what many feared was inevitable, Director of AJC Jerusalem Avital Leibovich, who also serves in the Israel Defence Force Reserves.  Avital Leibovich: Thank you. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So can you share with our listeners what it was like to hear that Iran had launched this wave of missiles and drones? Did Israelis immediately pack up and head for shelters? Avital Leibovich: I think that was one of the most dramatic nights in Israel's history. You know, we're living in an era in which everything is televised and broadcasted. And when those drones have been launched from Iran, that has been broadcasted. So you can imagine millions of Israelis sitting at home, counting the hours until those drones will hit the Israeli airspace. In addition to that there was a lot of uncertainty of which type of drones we're talking about, what kind of explosives will they carry? Will they make it or not? And also, will these drones be accompanied by other weapons? So yes, there was huge concern. It was a sleepless night, sometimes between 2am until seven in the morning, Israel has been paralyzed with this unprecedented attack. Now 200 drones that have been fired at the same time to Israel. This is something that the world have never, ever experienced, there was never a country in the world that has been attacked simultaneously by 200 drones.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Well, we also know that there were in addition to drones, there were ballistic missiles, there were cruise missiles. And we know that some of those ballistic missiles could have been fitted with nuclear warheads. And certainly, we know Iran's nuclear capability has been developing rapidly for more than a decade. Was that a concern? Avital Leibovich: Look,unlike terror groups, you know, they rely on funding of different countries, proxies and so on. Iran is a country with its own budget with its own economic means, and has been investing in technologies and procurement and development of weapons of different kinds for decades. So we saw some of the outcome of the Iranian weapons in Ukraine. When Iran sold some types of drones to Russia to hit Ukrainian civilians. We understood the capacity, the capability. And of course, Israeli intelligence followed closely the Iranian capabilities.  Now, when you have so many options, the warheads of ballistic missiles can vary. And therefore there was also uncertainty with regard to what would those ballistic missiles carry? Will they carry conventional weapons? Will they carry non conventional weapons? In addition to that, the attack came after more than six months of the war in Israel. So the level of stress and the level of uncertainty was high to begin with.  We're talking about six months in which Israel paid the heavy price of more than 600 soldiers and officers who were killed, and more than 1200 civilians. So it wasn't an isolated evening. It really came in the course of a very long war. And now, Israel is facing the big question of retaliation, yes or no, when and how? Manya Brachear Pashman:   You know, we have long talked about Israel and Iran being in a proxy war, Hamas and Hezbollah being two of those terror proxies that want to destroy Israel and are already engaged in conflict, as you've said, as you pointed out, to do just that. Yet, it really was unthinkable that Iran would dare to directly launch missiles at Israel. How did this attack change the thinking and do Israelis think it is an indication of more to come? Avital Leibovich: Israel changed its thinking twice in the last six months. The first time was October 7. Israel never believed that Palestinians who entered Israel on a daily basis from Gaza as workers, would be collaborators of Hamas and would supply them with intelligence information about communities, about homes of people, about police stations in cities and so on. So we understood that we are, we need to change the concept, the operational concept, the strategic concept as well.  And the second time was when Iran attacked Israel a few nights ago. And here for the first time, Iran shows to take a risk, and fire over 350 targets more than 60 tons of explosives at Israel from its own sovereign territory. So whether it's proportionate or not, whether it's a retaliation to something or not, this does not change the fact that this is a precedent and as a president, Israel, of course needs to change the way it reacts and it plans. I know that the cabinet has met a few times already, since the attack of Iran. And the cabinet is discussing different ways in which it could retaliate, prepare, better prepare the storages of munitions that we have. So they are different opportunities for Israel.  And one of the questions I want to ask Manya is, how is the world looking at this? Because this is not an ordinary thing. And you know, one of the statements that came out yesterday, was from the G7 ministers meetings. And I was certain that the statement will primarily include practical steps against Iran, which is not only a problem for the Middle East and Israel, but for the entire world. And one of the leading statements said that, no, we have agreed to, to convince Israel not to retaliate. And I'm thinking to myself, haven't we learned anything? Do we want to wake up in a few months and discover that Iran has turned into a country with nuclear capabilities, with five bombs with six bombs?  Now, October 7, have never would have happened if it wasn't for Iran. Hezbollah attacking Argentina, the Jewish Community Center, decades ago, and murdering a lot of Jews and diplomatic staff would not have happened if not of Iran, and a lot of terror attacks all over the world as well. So how many proofs more does the world need, in order to take concrete action concrete measures against this terror global inciter called Iran. Manya Brachear Pashman:   In addition to the United States, Israel's allies and neighbors really stepped up Saturday night, the United Kingdom, France, Jordan, they all helped down some of the drones that were headed Israel's way. But the attack undoubtedly depleted some of Israel's defenses. And so what does Israel need now from its allies, particularly, you know, in the way of action by governments in the United States and the EU? What does Israel need to make sure it can defend itself if God forbid, this happens again, or another October 7, happens again? Avital Leibovich: It's not a secret that the US and Israel are very strong strategic allies. And this has two main reasons for it. The first and maybe the most important one is the shared values that we hold between us. And the second is the mutual interests. The US needs a strong Israel in the region with strong capabilities, whether its intelligence or others. And Israel needs also a very close coordination with the US. So when we are maneuvering between these islands of terror in the region, we can work together to overcome those islands of terror. Now, in this situation, I think the coalition that work together, the countries which you mentioned, preformed an amazing, orchestrated, successful operation.  And part of it comes because Israel is now a part of CENTCOM, the central command. This is the command that actually gathers all the countries from the region. So in addition to being a part of that command, we share knowledge, technology,intelligence, we exercise together with other militaries. And this is the basis for future cooperation, like we've seen a few days ago within that coalition. So I think those steps are very important. I would say that continued US support for Israel’s strength. And obviously, we did not plan to fight for so long. And such a long period of fighting demands a lot of ammunition. So the US support, both in budget, but in also resources, military resources, is critical for Israel to succeed and continue to defend its people and in the country. Manya Brachear Pashman:   My last question, Avital, kind of references what you just said a moment ago about how the world just doesn't seem to realize the global threat that is posed by Iran. Does Israel's succe
Israeli-American Comedian Modi Rosenfeld, who took part in the inaugural AJC’s Voices Against Antisemitism Campaign, just-released a stand-up comedy special, Know Your Audience, which reflects a principle he has always subscribed to. But what happens when you know your audience is suffering a trauma like no other? Listen to this conversation with Modi, who was in Israel on October 7, on how he jokes about antisemitism and what he sees as his mission in this difficult moment: helping the Jewish community laugh again. Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Modi Rosenfeld Show Notes: Learn more: AJC's Voices Against Antisemitism: Meet the Celebrities Standing Up for the Jewish People and Israel Photo Credits: John Cafaro Credits – Standup Clips: On Antisemitism Jewish Boyfriend Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: A Look Back: AJC’s Award-Winning “Remembering Pittsburgh” Series Jewish College Student Leaders Share Their Blueprint for Combating Antisemitism Matisyahu’s Message to His Fellow Jews and to the Israel Haters Trying to Cancel Him Unheard, Until Now: How Israeli Women Are Powering Israel’s Resilience 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 Episode with Modi: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Comedian Modi Rosenfeld, known by his fans as simply Modi, is nearing the end of a live national tour, co-hosts his own podcast, and he recently released his first televised stand-up comedy special titled Know Your Audience. It’s a principle the Israeli-American comedian has always subscribed to. But what happens when you know your audience is suffering a trauma like no other. Here with us to talk about how we can and why we should laugh again is Modi Rosenfeld.  Modi, welcome to People of the Pod. Modi:   Hi, People of the Pod. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You were born in Tel Aviv and grew up on Long Island. Tell us how you found your way to comedy.  Modi:   I was actually just doing investment banking. And I used to imitate the secretaries. And my friends said this is really funny, you should do it on stage. And they set up an open mic night. And that was about 30 something years ago. And that's how the comedy began. Manya Brachear Pashman:   The special that I mentioned was filmed nearly a year ago. It was filmed before the Hamas terrorist attack and the war. You talk about COVID, you talk about marrying your millennial husband, you talk about Shabbat elevators. I'm curious if you do feel like the material still resonates in the current climate?  Modi:   Ever since October 7, I've been doing my shows and not mentioning the war itself. Until the very end where I sing Hatikva with the audience. I feel like the audience needs a moment to just laugh and not think about the war. And not think about what's happening in Israel and just have a laugh about being Jewish, being Jewish, about non-Jewish people.  Sometimes I tell the story about how I was October 7, while I was in Israel. And then sing Hatikva with the audience, people seem to, they're very touched and moved by it. And it reminds them, now, let's just remember where our hearts and where our prayers and where our thoughts are. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So let's talk about where you were on October 7. Modi:   The war began at the end of the holiday of Sukkot and I was in Israel. I had six shows, sold out shows in Israel that were absolutely amazing. One of the highlights of my career. Thursday was the last show. Friday we were there for Shabbat and Saturday we were scheduled to fly out to Paris to do four shows there. And obviously Saturday morning, the alarms went off and the bombs went off.  We were staying at the Setai Hotel, which is in Yafo, the Arab part of Tel Aviv. Bruno Mars was also staying at the hotel. He had three concerts in Israel and at 12 in the afternoon we saw them whisk him away to a private airplane to be taken out of Israel.  And I said to Leo, my husband, I said Thank God they got put on Mars out of the hotel. He said why? I said because if a bomb hits this hotel and me and Bruno Mars die, I would get zero press coverage.  And so that was you know, something light in the day, but it was a very, very stressful, scary day for everybody. We were on a scheduled flight to go to Paris. And it had a four hour delay. And we finally took off and got to Paris. And then we had to make a decision. Do we do these shows? Because the war was so fresh, people were just learning about what's happening and watching it on their phones. But the sold out shows were full. And that's when I began to do Hatikvah at the end of the shows, and I've been doing it ever since. You know, we just had an hour and 20 minutes of laughter, they just had the best time. We were all laughing. And then you just focus again, you know, yeah, we're laughing. But in Israel, there's a whole different experience happening. And even though in Israel now, the comedians there are also performing and doing shows. You've got to find a respite from being in the war. Because we are, you know, everybody's on their phones, you’re 24 hours in the war, receiving news and footage and all kinds of information. And then you finally get to just take a few minutes to laugh. Manya Brachear Pashman:   When you said that you were actually an investment banker, that you found comedy kind of as a career later on, but what role did humor and comedy play in your upbringing, in your family life, your childhood? Modi:   Only later on in life that I realized that my father more than all is a very funny person, just by having no editing skills. I never was a class clown. I was always funny with friends, but you know, when you're a table comic, and you're a real comic it’s two different things.  If you can be funny with your friends at a table, you know your audience, you know everybody at the table, you know what they've gone through, you know what we all know that they went through. And so it's easier to get a joke out. When you're on stage, you don't know everybody, and you don't know what they've all been through, or how they know each other.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how do you kind of unite your audience? How do you try to kind of find that common denominator? Modi:  People are kind of seeing the Jewish world through my eyes, through the eyes of a Jewish person. And they learn things, even though sometimes it gets a little specific, I always translate. My goal in comedy is to make people happy, is to bring laughter into the world, which I call Moshiach Energy. When you're standing in front of an audience of 500 to 1500 to 2000 people and you see them all laughing together. For me, that's Moshiach Energy.  How I pictured the world would be when Moshiach is here. You know, the Messianic era, just people just happy, united, laughing, not arguing. And even though you can create that for an hour and a half, you wish you could create it for 24/7. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how else have you adjusted your live shows to reflect the current situation in addition to adding the anthem? Do you talk about antisemitism?  Modi:   I was always talking about antisemitism, not as a lecture, not as a type of Noa Tishby, but more as a comedian. Here's what's happening, here's how it's funny. You're bringing light to it, but you’re bringing it with punch lines that are appropriate. And this was before the war, it's in my special, it’s before the war.  I don't know if you remember there was a politician in Turkey that stood up and screamed that Allah was going to kill all the Jews and destroy Israel. And then he drops, has a heart attack. I mean, the jokes sometimes just write themselves.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   A few weeks ago, we spoke with musician Matisyahu, who also has been on a national tour. He has encountered protests at most of his concerts, actually. And some concerts have even been canceled because of security concerns. Have you encountered any of that? Modi:   In general to answer that, I would say not in the form he's had. We've had a lot of security at our shows, especially the European shows. Since the war I’ve performed in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Vienna, Brussels, Amsterdam. I call it the Reparations Tour.  And we've had an enormous amount of security both from hired security and local police and guards from the city. Our last show in Paris, we had four shows in Paris, the fourth one, the police asked us to cancel because there was a huge pro-Palestinian riot across the street.  And the reason I stay riot and not protest is because it was unauthorized, and they were out of control. They had tear gas thrown in there. And that was one of the incidences. In Brussels there was a mixup in people knowing that the security would be there. So we lost about 100 people that were going to come to the show. So the show went from 900 people to 800 people. That's the worst that's happened. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And did you indeed cancel that fourth Paris show because of the riot? Modi:   The Paris police were so wonderful with providing security for all the other three shows, when they asked us to cancel that show, we listened to them, and we did it. And we actually moved it to the following day to a matinee.  But they said this is not going to be a good idea for this insane amount of, that kind of protest to be–it was catty corner across from where our theater was.  It was the Republic Square, which our theater was at the Apollo, which was you can see it. And so they said it's not a good idea to have Jews walking into a theater at that moment. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Makes sense. Was it a coincidence that it was that it was located there? Or was it connected to your show in any way? Modi:   No, no, no–the Republic Square is, I guess, an ic
Listen to this compilation of our award-winning series Remembering Pittsburgh, exploring how the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue affected the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, the U.S., and around the world. In the four-part series, we take listeners behind the scenes of how the Pittsburgh Jewish community continues to rebuild and honor the lives lost on October 27, 2018. The anniversary came during the same month as the most lethal attack on Jews since the Holocaust: Hamas' October 7 massacre of Israelis. Rising antisemitism has led to the murder of Jews around the world, from Pittsburgh, to Paris, to Israel. All forms of antisemitism must be countered to ensure a safe and secure Jewish future. Listen to the entire series at Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Eric Lidji, Carole Zawatsky, Howard Fienberg, Marnie Fienberg, Belle Yoeli, Anne Jolly, Ted Deutch Show Notes: Music Credits: Relent by Kevin MacLeod (,  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Virtual Violin Virtuoso by techtheist is licensed under a Attribution 4.0 International License Tree of Life by Nefesh Mountain Shloime Balsam - Lo Lefached Hevenu Shalom - Violin Heart Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Jewish College Student Leaders Share Their Blueprint for Combating Antisemitism Matisyahu’s Message to His Fellow Jews and to the Israel Haters Trying to Cancel Him Unheard, Until Now: How Israeli Women Are Powering Israel’s Resilience 152 Days Later: What the Mother of Hostage Edan Alexander Wants the World to Know 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. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman: Last month, the Senate earmarked $1 million in federal funding to create a curriculum for students about antisemitism and other forms of discrimination and bigotry. The recipient of that money? An organization that knows the consequences of that hatred all too well: the newly imagined Tree of Life, an education center dedicated to ending antisemitism that emerged after 11 worshipers inside Tree of Life synagogue were murdered by a white supremacist on October 27, 2018.  This week, we are presenting a compilation of our award-winning series Remembering Pittsburgh, which launched on October 5, 2023 -- right before the October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel.  Listen to the series at __ Episode 1, which originally aired on October 5,  takes you inside the Tree of Life building before it was demolished to make way for a new complex dedicated to Jewish life and combating antisemitism.  Eric Lidji: Pittsburgh definitely is not forgetting. It’s ever-present here. There are people who are healing and doing so in ways that, at least from the outside, are remarkable and very inspiring. And there are people who I'm sure have not fully reckoned with it yet. Carole Zawatsky: It's all too easy to walk away from what's ugly. And we have to remember. We can't walk away. Manya Brachear Pashman: Five years have gone by since the horrific Shabbat morning at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, when eleven congregants were gunned down during prayer – volunteers, scholars, neighbors, doing what they always did: joining their Jewish community at shul.  Today, we take you to the Tree of Life building that stands on the corner of Shady and Wilkins Avenues in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood to hear from two people in charge of preserving the artifacts and memories of the vibrant Jewish life that unfolded inside those walls until October 27, 2018.  Manya Brachear Pashman: In early September, our producer Atara Lakritz and I visited the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Squirrel Hill, where Jews have settled since the 1920s, is quite literally Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. We were there to interview those touched by the events of October 27. But it didn’t take us long to figure out that everyone there had been affected in some way.  All along Murray Avenue, in 61C Cafe, at Pinsker’s Judaica Shoppe, at the Giant Eagle supermarket, when we told people why we were there, they all had a story, an acquaintance, a connection.  Later, walking through the glass doors of the synagogue felt like we were stepping through a portal, traveling back five years, when life stopped, and the reality of the hatred and terror that unfolded there began to haunt every step.  Atara and I were invited to accompany a final group tour of the building before it closed in order for preparations to begin for the building’s demolition. The tour was painful, but we felt it necessary to share with our listeners.  As we left the lobby, we were told to take the stairs to the left. The stairs to the right were off limits. Someone had been shot there.  We were led to a small, dark storage room where chairs had been stacked for guests. A handful of people had hidden there as the shooter continued his rampage, but one man walked out too soon, thinking it was safe. When first responders later came to get the others, they had to step over his body.  In the kitchen, there were still marks on the wall where the bullets ricocheted when he shot two women hiding underneath a metal cabinet. The calendar on the wall there was still turned to October 2018 with a list of activities that were happening that week posted alongside it.  And in the Pervin Chapel where seven people died, pews punctured with bullet holes and carpet squares stained with blood were no longer there. No ark either.  But remarkably, the stained glass windows remained with images and symbols of Jewish contributions to America, the land to which the ancestors of so many worshipers once inside that synagogue had fled to and found safety. Those windows will be carefully removed by the son of the man who first installed them 70 years ago. And they will return, when the reimagined Tree of Life rises again.   Carole Zawatsky: The tragedy is a Pittsburgh experience. But it's also every Jew’s experience. It shattered for so many of us our sense of security in America. This is our safe haven. This is where we came to. Manya Brachear Pashman: Carole Zawatsky is the inaugural CEO of the reimagined Tree of Life. Since November 2022, she has overseen the development of a new complex on the hallowed ground: an education center dedicated to ending antisemitism, including a new home for the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh; a memorial to the lives lost that Shabbat morning; a dedicated synagogue space where the Tree of Life congregation can return. Carole Zawatsky: What can we build to enrich Jewish life, to remember this tragedy, and to show the world that we as Jews should not be known only by our killers and our haters, we should be known by our joy, our celebrations, our rituals, our resilience. __ Manya Brachear Pashman: Next, hear from the son and daughter in law of Joyce Fienberg, one of the 11 victims. In this second installment of our series, we sit down with Joyce's son, Howard Fienberg, and his wife, Marnie, as they share their journey of mourning and resilience. 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. 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 tr
Hear from two Jewish student leaders at Binghamton University, Seth Schlank and Eytan Saenger, on their experiences amidst rising antisemitism on college campuses in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre in Israel by Hamas. They discuss the strong sense of community among Jewish students on campus, the value of a supportive university administration, and the power of Jewish student-led movements to counter antisemitism. The students also touch on the Binghamton community’s show of solidarity with hostage Omer Neutra, a friend of many, who deferred acceptance to Binghamton before spending a gap year in Israel and enlisting in the IDF. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Seth Schlank, Eytan Saenger Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Matisyahu’s Message to His Fellow Jews and to the Israel Haters Trying to Cancel Him Unheard, Until Now: How Israeli Women Are Powering Israel’s Resilience 152 Days Later: What the Mother of Hostage Edan Alexander Wants the World to Know What It’s Like to Be Jewish at Harvard Among Antisemites and Hamas Supporters 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 Seth Schlank and Eytan Saenger: Manya Brachear Pashman:   According to a recent survey by Hillel, a majority of Jewish college students (56%) say their lives have been directly touched by antisemitism on campus since October 7. Likewise, AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report found that 20% of current and recent students reported feeling or being excluded from a group or event because they’re Jewish. That figure was only 12% in 2022. That’s one of the reasons AJC and HIllel expanded a partnership this week to improve that climate on college campuses and make sure university administrators know how to support their Jewish students.  We wanted to know what a supportive campus environment looks like. Here to give a student perspective are Eytan Saenger and Seth Schlank, two Jewish student leaders at Binghamton University, the flagship State University of New York.  Seth, Eytan: welcome to People of the Pod. Seth Schlank:   Thank you.  Eytan Saenger:   Thanks for having us. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I'm hoping you can share with our listeners what it's been like to be Jewish on campus there in Binghamton. Can you kind of give us a picture of Jewish life on campus both before and after the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas? Eytan Saenger:   So the Jewish community at Binghamton is known to be one which is very strong. There's roughly over 4000 Jewish students overall. Many students are active in Jewish life. On Friday night, you can find over 500 students having dinner at Chabad, you can find hundreds of students involved in prayers, either on a daily basis or over Shabbat or different holidays and things like that. Events that you see on campus with the Jewish community are packed and bustling all the time. You walk to class, you see people with kippot, Israeli flags. Really, you know that you're a part of a college that is a place that is welcome for Jewish students. And certainly on October 7, was something that was needed for us as a community to know that we have people to turn to and, obviously, we're in the middle, we were in the midst of celebrating a holiday, which is supposed to be a joyous holiday, celebrating the beginning anew of the reading of the Torah, we were supposed to be dancing, singing, having food, having a good time. But instead that very quickly turned into a realization of the facts and things going on in Israel.  Acknowledging that there was the most Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust, which of course dampened the mood of, especially for people like myself, who had just spent a year in Israel, the previous year. And felt such a deep connection to the people of Israel, to the land, to the whole fabric of the society there, and have family there, and things like that, where it's like, really, there was a worry of everything that was going on and trouble and processing everything that was happening.  Manya Brachear Pashman:  What was the response on campus in the aftermath?  Eytan Saenger:   We saw the whole community come together. Within the first 24 hours after the holiday ended, we held a vigil in main campus with over 700 students gathered from the community, people from outside the community as well, who were there to stand united, together. Our Rabbi actually where Seth and I, where we go to a lot of the prayers on Shabbat and the community we’re part of, the OU-JLIC community, he actually went back to reserves to fight in Israel within 24 hours and was fighting there and was actually away from Binghamton, away from the students in the community, away from his wife, away from his family for almost eight weeks, in the immediate aftermath. And so that definitely had an impact on us and was something on our minds continuing throughout everything that was going on.  Manya Brachear Pashman:  I’m going to interrupt you here and note for listeners that You’re talking about Rabbi Ben Menora of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, a father of 5, and a commander in an IDF infantry reserve unit. Go on please. Eytan Saenger:   But we were able to look towards the fellow people in our community, who you felt the responsibility for knowing that we were all going through a tough time together and knowing that we all had some connection one way or another to things that were going on. And so people were there for each other, people continue to be there for each other and people are still doing things to be there for each other as the war continues to progress.  And I'm sure we'll go more into this later on, but also the fact that we had an administration who from day one showed up for the community, was at the vigil on day one was at Chabad, the first few weeks, and really went out of their way to show that we know what just happened, we acknowledge the severity of it. And we are here for the Jewish community, even when, and this has been explicitly said by the president himself, even when we know that other administrations at other universities are not there for you at the same time, but we know it's our responsibility to be there for you. Seth Schlank:   Yeah, I would say in all aspects of a community, whether you're walking down the Spine, the main part of campus, you see all these Jewish students, whether it's an organization who's tabeling for event that has a connection to Israel, or it's the administration showing up at Hillel for dinner, to spend some time and just talk with you about how you're doing, and how you how the administration is doing their part in making this tragedy and calamity in Israel. Um, for us being so far away, having a very large support system and be able to have someone who we know has our back is amazing. Manya Brachear Pashman:   As we’ve learned, no university is immune from antisemitism. I understand the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement has tried to make inroads there in Binghamton this year; some students have encountered antisemitism online or at protests and hostage posters have been ripped down. So it’s by no means peachy keen. Eytan Saenger:   So definitely, as Seth and I have both said, we are very proud of the strong Jewish community we have here. At the same time, of course, there are still things which are on the minds of students when going about their lives on campus. In terms of whether it's a rally held, chanting slogans, which obviously do not make use for students feel any more welcome on campus. Whether it's an event that was being hosted with a pro-Israel speaker that was met with signs around a room, saying that you guys are complicit in genocide or things like that, which definitely make students think twice, sometimes about, Okay, do I want to be going to this event? Am I in a class with a professor who may judge me a certain way, because I share my stance or things like that? And so that's definitely, unfortunately, not something that we can say does not exist here at Binghamton.  There have been circumstances of protests, of specific incidents that have occurred, where different students feel different ways about those incidents about those protests and things like that. And some are, let's say more nervous when they walk around and things like that. But I think what we both agree on here is the fact that the overall nature of the campus climate and with the administration support has been one comparatively more welcoming towards Jewish students. I personally do not feel scared to walk around campus with my kippa on, I'm not hiding my Judaism when I'm walking around campus. Which doesn't doesn't overshadow the fact that there are incidents which cannot be ignored and cannot be understated, but it's definitely something that is presently being thought about. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Eytan, you mentioned that you spent time in Israel between high school and college. Is that common among the Jewish community at Binghamton?   Eytan Saenger:   Yeah, so, both Seth and I have spent gap years in Israel, there's a really significant population of Jewish students here who have spent gap years. Also because Binghamton gives credit for spending a gap year in Israel, which is a really helpful tool to a lot of students, who, let's say, are really interested in taking a gap year, but are worried about it delaying their college process more.  My program alone, last year, I was at Orayta, which is a yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem. And there's eight students at Binghamton who were on my program alone last year, and there are plenty of others f
“The Jewish people don't really give up. They’re fighters. … a vision of peace, and a vision of hope, and of empathy. I really, truly believe that that is at the core of who we are. And that is what we are actually fighting for.” Matisyahu’s recent show in Chicago was canceled due to the threat of anti-Israel protests. The Jewish American singer’s music has evolved alongside his Jewish identity. But one thing has always been clear: He believes in Israel's right to exist. Because of that, he has faced protests at almost every show on his current national tour, and some have even been canceled. Hear from Matisyahu on his musical and religious journey, especially since October 7, and what makes him Jewish and proud. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Matisyahu Show Notes: Song Credits, all by Matisyahu: One Day  Jerusalem Fireproof Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Unheard, Until Now: How Israeli Women Are Powering Israel’s Resilience 152 Days Later: What the Mother of Hostage Edan Alexander Wants the World to Know What It’s Like to Be Jewish at Harvard Among Antisemites and Hamas Supporters When Antisemites Target Local Businesses: How Communities Are Uniting in Response 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 Matisyahu: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Matisyahu is a Jewish American reggae singer, rapper and beatboxer, whose musical style and genre have evolved alongside how he practices and expresses his Jewish identity. But one thing has always been clear. He believes in Israel's right to exist, and he has expressed that repeatedly since the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel.  Since then, he has performed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He has performed for the families of hostages and for students at Columbia University as a show of solidarity for those who have faced a torrent of antisemitism there. But there are places where he has not performed, including Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona and Chicago, but not for lack of trying.  Those shows were canceled by the venue's because of the threat of protests. Matisyahu is with us now to discuss these cancellations and what's behind them. Matis, welcome to People of the Pod. Matisyahu:   Hello, People of the Pod. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So first of all, I want to introduce you to those in our audience who might not be familiar with your music. And we'll start with the anthem that I associate most with you. And that is One Day. Can you tell us a little bit about how that song came about–when and why? Matisyahu:   Well, that song was written in around 2010, I want to say or nine, maybe 2008 or nine. And I was working on my second studio album. It's called Light. And we had turned in the album and the new record executives didn't feel like we had any hits on the album. The album had been based on this story of Reb Nachman of Breslov called The Seven Beggars. And it was a bit of a concept album.  So I went to LA and I worked with a couple of writers and tried to write a hit song. And that's what we came up with was One Day, and that song got used in the Olympics in 2010, Winter Olympics on the NBC commercials. So that's kind of what propelled that song into popularity. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Popular, yes. But what does One Day mean to you? Matisyahu:   A lot of my music is very positive and very much connected to this vision of a Messianic future of peace. You know, at the time, I was very religious. And in my particular group, Chabad Hasidism, the idea of a Messiah was very prevalent in the philosophy.  I was living in a space of a vision of a future where the wolf lies down with the lamb and people turn their weapons into plowshares. And that was the thing that I was praying for and trying to envision daily. And so that was the main message of that song at the time.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   It is certainly something we’ve always needed, especially now.  You grew up in White Plains, NY, in the Reconstructionist tradition, I believe. You found your way to Chabad. Can you talk a little bit about where you are in your spiritual journey now, these days. Matisyahu:   I went through a very, very intense relationship with Orthodox Judaism, Chassidus. I started from a home, from a Reconstructionist background, so not Chassidus, for anyone who doesn't know these terms. More of a reform kind of background. And I went to Israel when I was 16, on a Conservative trip where I spent three months there, which had a profound effect on me.  And then when I was in college, about 21, 20 years old or so, is when I started really exploring the more Orthodox side of Judaism, and started out with the Carlebach shul, on the Upper West Side, and his music and reading books about Shlomo Carlebach, and the type of person he was and what type of work he was doing. And then from there, I pretty much jumped into Chabad, and moved to Crown Heights and lived in the yeshiva there on Eastern Parkway for a couple of years. And all of that, sort of prior to Matisyahu the singer coming out.  And then I spent many years, within 10 years or so, sort of exploring Chabad and then Breslov and different types of Hasidism. Different types of Chassidus within that realm.  And I guess at some point, it started to feel a little bit, not constructive for me to be there and felt more claustrophobic. And I felt that I was not really connecting so much anymore with a lot of the ideas and a lot of the rules. And so I started to just kind of live more of like a normal life, I guess, or a non-religious life.  And I'm still doing my music and making my music and writing from a place of deep Jewish yearning, empathy, and hope, you know, and using lots of the canon of the Old Testament still, to use as metaphors in my lyric, writing, and stuff like that.  But more focused on more of a humanistic kind of approach to the world, less concerned with my religion, or God, or being Jewish and more concerned with, you know, writing about being a father or a husband, or dealing with addiction, or dealing with loneliness, or dealing with different ups and downs of life. So that for me was a process going through that over the last maybe 15 years or so.  And then after October 7, you know, I mean, I've had some issues before, in 2015, with the BDS. I was thrown off of a festival. And so there again, I felt a very strong sense of Jewish pride when that happened. And especially like, when I went to Israel, after that had happened, I felt this sort of new connection with Israelis in the sense that a lot of them, writers, singers, actors, whoever, get shut down when they go overseas to try to perform. And so I felt like I had a strong connection with them and understanding of what some of them go through. And I guess that only reinforced my connection with Israel.  Then after October 7 happened, it's been this very, very strong pull back towards feeling very Jewish and feeling like that is the center and the core of who I am, and especially right now, that's what feels the most powerful and authentic to me. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So you have been to Israel since October 7, performing for soldiers on bases, hospitals, visiting some of the kibbutzim targeted by Hamas, the Nova festival site. Did it scare you to walk those sites? Can you share how you felt or what you took away from that experience? Matisyahu:   I don't know that I was scared when I was there. I was obviously touched profoundly by the stories that I heard and what I saw firsthand, so it was more of a feeling of just destruction. And then just seeing these incredible human beings that had just survived and are just the most amazing people.  And then there was this feeling of hope and this feeling of wow, look how these people come together and how I'm a part of that, and that became a really strong place for me in terms of finding hope for my tour and going out into America. And dealing with cancellations and protesters and stuff like that.  So I really wanted to try to grab that feeling that I had when I was in Israel and sort of bottle it up and take it with me and sort of get drunk on it at my shows with everybody and make everyone feel like there's a place where they can feel comfortable to be Jewish, and they can feel okay with being a supporter of Israel. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Do you feel that your colleagues in the music industry understand that and understand where you're coming from?  Matisyahu:   Well, some people seem to silently understand it, and I'll get some texts and stuff from some people here and there. But no, I don't think people do. I think there's really for the most part, as you see, the mainstream art world and music world either doesn't know where they sit, or they're not supporters of Israel. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Do you think if they went to Israel, they would have a different perspective on that, that it would shift that mindset? Matisyahu:   Absolutely. I mean, any person like, in my band, who's ever come to Israel, been with me, who's not Jewish, or is Jewish, but has had no connection, like didn't have parents or grandparents that taught them about Israel. Or didn't have that experience of going to Israel, like I did when I was 16. I think anyone who goes to Israel feels a connection to this, and especially, especially now, you know, there's no way to deny it. I don't think. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So, is it important for Jewish celebrities in particular, or influencers, to speak out about the violence on October 7? Matisyahu:   See, I think it's important, because it's important to me, you know. But what I've learned is, there's no point in getting a
In the days following October 7, Israeli filmmaker Shifra Soloveichik felt hopeless and hated, but not helpless. Inspired by women around her, she launched a digital initiative called Women of Valor: Women of War, to spotlight unheralded women with extraordinary stories during one of the most difficult moments in modern Jewish history. To mark Women’s History Month, hear from Shifra about how she is giving a voice to Israeli women whose stories have gone unheard. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Shifra Soloveichik   Show Notes: Learn more: Women of Valor on Instagram Senai Geudalia’s Story on YouTube Sarah Lopez’s Story on Instagram Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: 152 Days Later: What the Mother of Hostage Edan Alexander Wants the World to Know What It’s Like to Be Jewish at Harvard Among Antisemites and Hamas Supporters When Antisemites Target Local Businesses: How Communities Are Uniting in Response How A 10/7 Survivor is Confronting Anti-Israel Activists on College Campuses 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 Shifra Soloveichick: Senai Geudalia: So I'll start from the day before. It was Friday, October 6. That night was really fun.  We were dancing in the street from place to place, like you know hakafot here, hakafot there. And he was like being so like himself, times 100. Hugging me and dancing with me and just, at the sea of Yosef, like that was Yosef in a bottle, like celebrating his people, celebrating the Torah and being with his family, like that was the peak of Yosef.  You know, they say the neshamah [soul] knows 40 days before. So that to me, like he was like getting all of it in. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That’s Senai Geudalia, whose husband Yosef was killed on Oct 7.In the uncertain days following the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas, Israeli filmmaker Shifra Soloveichik felt hopeless and hated, but not helpless. She used her craft to launch a digital initiative called Women of Valor: Women of War, an opportunity to lift up the Jewish women of Israel and share their stories of courage and perseverance.  To mark Women's History Month, Shifra is with us now to discuss Women of Valor: Women of War. Shifra, Welcome to People of the Pod. Shifra Soloveichik:  Hi, thanks for having me.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   You have shared a little bit about the genesis of this project on your social media. You felt self conscious, scared, like a lot of us did after October 7. Can you share how you channeled that fear? Shifra Soloveichik:  So on October 7, myself, and like many Israelis, we woke up to sirens. My husband was immediately call for reserve duty that morning. And it was a very scary feeling. Because I had never experienced anything like that before. I grew up in the States. I moved to Israel when I was a young teenager, so my entire relationship, my husband, he was never in the army, so I never had that sort of experience within my relationship.  The only word I can describe I could use to describe how I felt was scared. It was a very scary day. I remember being scared to walk to my in-laws house that they live very close by because there were sirens every other minute. And we lived in an area in Israel where there aren't usually a lot of sirens. So we knew things were going on. We also are observant Jews. So if we couldn't check our phones, we were keeping Sabbath. So we weren't able to understand what was going on. We were just hearing from people talking on the streets.  We heard that maybe there was a terrorist infiltration, but we didn't quite understand the scope of what was going on. And my husband left. I didn't know what to do. I didn't realize that from that day, he would be in reserves for four months, and our entire lives completely changed. And just the first few days of the war was incredibly terrifying, because only after Shabbat did we realize what was going on. And over the next few days, did we realize what was going on.  And there were two aspects that were very fearful. One was that physically what my entire life changed within a few minutes. And I was living, I wasn't living at home, I was scared to be myself. My husband wasn’t at home. There was a physical war going on. I didn't know where he was going. On October 7, we didn't know anything. So it was just a very logistic reason to be afraid. And then on top of that, I would go on social media and I would scroll through Tiktok and Instagram and see, at the beginning level of support. But even then, there were a lot of people who were saying very hateful things calling what happened on October 7 a resistance.  So there was just that aspect of fear. But there was also this very genuine fear of being scared of being a Jew and experiencing a level of hate that I didn't know was humanly possible. So I had all of these feelings of, of fear, and also hopelessness. And the only thing that got me through that time was being with other women whose husbands were also in reserve duty, being with family, being within a support network where we would sit around, and we would knit and we would talk, all of our schedules were all gone. We didn't have school, we didn't have work. We didn't have anything to do except wait around all day for our husbands to call us and just be scared. So that support system is what got me through. And it inspired me. And throughout living in Israel and reading the news stories of the horrific tragic things that were happening, I was also finding so much strength and the connection between the Jewish women that I was experiencing in my community as well as stories of Jewish women who were so brave and powerful, and empowering in their own right, in different ways from the war and those women would inspire me as well. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So I love how you describe the subjects of women of Valor, –ordinary women who do extraordinary things, because that's often how I define the religion stories that I pursue–ordinary people who do extraordinary things inspired by their faith. What are some of the other extraordinary stories you have collected so far? Shifra Soloveichik:  Yes, absolutely. So, Iris Haim, the mother of Yotam Haim, who was abducted from his home in Kfar Aza, and was in Hamas captivity and ran away from his captors. He was killed by IDF friendly fire, a situation that is just so unbelievably awful and horrific. And we interviewed Iris Haim as part of the Women of Valor series, but I think she's an embodiment of looking at evil in the eyes and still saying that she doesn't blame the IDF. She doesn't blame her people. And that at this time, we need to come together and be one family, which I think is something so difficult to feel sometimes during such hard times of war. But even more so after such a horrific tragic loss, she was able to, and she continues to inspire people through her perspective and her power.  And I think in general, the women that I've been bringing, that we've been wanting to show a light or showcase on the series are women who, who are not letting their pain define them. Rather, they are taking the next step to be empowered through their story. I think in general, with everything that's happened since October 7, there's been so many awful tragedies that have happened to our people, to the Jewish people. And it's very easy for us as a nation to connect through the pain and connect to each other and feel each other's pain and kind of sit in the pain.  It's more so, these women are letting their power, they are choosing to let that define them. And I think that's a really beautiful part of this platform that we're creating, which is connecting other women to our strength and to the beauty that comes along with the pain but it's not letting the pain and the evil define who we are. Sarah Lopez: Two weeks after October 7, I found out I was pregnant. I was honestly shocked and the joy that I felt was such a juxtaposition to the pain that I was feeling that it almost felt kind of wrong. My husband was in miluim at the time and I surprised him when he got back.  For us it was like this little flame of light and joy during such a dark time. Now I don't feel like this is just another baby or I'm just another mother. Now this feels like a mission, it feels like a shlichut, to continue our Jewish legacy and bring life after we lost so many.  It’s kind of like a sign to our enemies, because us Jewish women, we're not gonna stop being strong and powerful. We're not going to stop living and giving life. Because we are women of valor. Manya Brachear Pashman:   How did you find the women for this project, like Sarah Lopez, who we just heard from? Shifra Soloveichik:  So we have two different parts of the project. We have documentaries, as well as a social media platform. They kind of  work together, but they are kind of different entities in the sense that and the documentaries, I have four interviews with women that I specifically wanted to show their narrative, and our social media is open to everyone, any Jewish woman can send in her submission of what her life has been like since October 7, or how she defines what a woman of valor is. So with the submissions, we have so many women just sending us stories and ideas and thoughts. And they send it through asocial media form, in a social media structure. So they'll send you their reels, or posts or written posts or captions, and so many different ways. And that was just very organic, we post on our stories that we would love for you to share your story. And it comes to us. And it's just a beautiful initiative and way for us all to connect and feel seen and
“Listen to me, Edan. I'm here. I'm with you. I love you. Just protect yourself. Just be safe.” These were the last words Yael Alexander spoke to her then-19 year old son, Edan, on the morning of October 7, 2023. Edan, an IDF soldier stationed on the Gaza border, was later taken hostage by Hamas terrorists. Yael joins us from her New Jersey home to tell her story of pain, uncertainty, and anguish over the past 152 days. This week, as President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address, she will be among the 17 American families of hostages taken by Hamas into Gaza on October 7 that will be in attendance at the U.S. Capitol.  Visit to urge Congress to keep pressing for the release of the hostages. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Yael Alexander Show Notes: Music Credits: Dramatic Piano and Strings by UNIVERSFIELD is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. More Analysis and Resources: Hostage Families Will Attend the State of the Union. Here’s What to Know. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War:  What It’s Like to Be Jewish at Harvard Among Antisemites and Hamas Supporters 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 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 Yael Alexander: Yael Alexander: I told him at the end of the call: ‘Listen to me, Edan. I'm here. I'm with you. I love you. Just protect yourself. Just be safe.’ And that's it, we hang up. I didn't know I'm not gonna hear from him again. Manya Brachear Pashman: That’s Yael Alexander, the mother of Edan Alexander, one of eight Americans still held hostage by Hamas inside Gaza. I recently visited the family’s home in Tenafly, New Jersey, a small suburban town often dubbed Little Tel Aviv for its relatively large Israeli population.  Throughout the town, there are reminders of the deep connection between its residents, the Jewish state, and its ongoing war with Hamas. A billboard downtown featuring Edan’s picture. A weekly walk for the hostages not yet home. A moment of silence at the start of every school day. Signs of support staked in front lawns. As of this recording on March 7, 2024, it has been 152 days since Yael spoke with her son Edan. Those days have been a constant whirlwind of meetings, trips, tours—all in an effort to bring him home.  Most recently, the family went to Israel for a painful look at where Edan was at the time of that last call. At the State of the Union address in Washington D.C., Yael and her husband Adi will join 15 other relatives of Americans murdered or kidnapped by Hamas, as guests of a bipartisan group of members of Congress. Yael Alexander: They told us it's gonna’ be a long process, but I didn't imagine you know, I thought after four weeks max, they're gonna bring everyone out. And now we’re four months, it’s, I don't have words. Manya Brachear Pashman: Edan Alexander, a 2022 graduate of Tenafly High School, was one of two graduates that year who instead of going straight to college moved to a kibbutz in Israel and volunteered to serve two years defending the nation where his mother and father had been raised and his grandparents still live. Yael Alexander: August 2023, Edan came to the U.S. for four weeks. He came to visit us, to spend time with his friends from college. Everyone was here in Tenafly. So, it was like the best opportunity for him and for them, like after their graduation to be again. And it was the best vacation ever. And when I drove him to JFK. I told him: Listen, Edan, I really want to come and visit you during the holidays. And I told him: I'm gonna’ come by myself, Sukkot. So please ask your commander and tell him that mommy's coming and give you some free time to spend time with me. So, October 1, I came to Israel. He came to pick me up from the airport. And we spent the two days together. Manya Brachear Pashman: After two days with his mom, 19-year-old Edan asked if he could return to the kibbutz a little early to squeeze in time with his girlfriend before returning to base. He texted with his mother throughout the rest of the week and Facetimed with her and his grandparents on Friday night, October 6th. He was stationed on the Gaza border. Yael Alexander: Friday night after the kiddush, in our house. He called me and I told him: ‘Listen Edan, let's do a FaceTime. And he's like, OK, so I'm like, looking at him and he just looking so happy and great, telling me that he ate some chicken and rice and it was OK. It was fine. And now he's going to sleep because first thing in the morning on Saturday, he needs to get up to his watch.’  And I'm like, ‘OK, great. So say bye to Grandma and Grandpa and everyone’ because we were sitting around the table. And it was very cute of him to change to the FaceTime because sometimes he doesn't want to do it. But this time he was like ‘Yeah, cool. Of course. Let's do FaceTime.’ And, that's it.   Saturday morning, October 7, I'm waking up because my dad is opening the bedroom door and he's telling me ‘Yael, you need to wake up. It's an alarm outside. It was 6:30-ish in the morning AM and we need to go to a safe place.’ And the first thing that I'm thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I need to check what's going on with Edan. So, I'm texting him, What's going on there? Are you OK? Are you safe?  And then he’s calling me. It was a few minutes before 7 AM. And he's telling me: ‘Hey, Mom, we are getting a lot of bombs here. It's like a war. I'm seeing stuff. Terrible stuff. But don't worry, I'm safe. But it felt like all the conversation is start, also he spoke a little bit English. He was sound like he was screaming and full of adrenaline. And I didn't know what he's seeing or what is happening because no one knew.  I told him at the end of the call, ‘Listen to me, Edan. I'm here. I'm with you. I love you. Just protect yourself. Just be safe.’ And that's it, we hang up. I didn't know I'm not gonna hear from him again. Manya Brachear Pashman: Yael called her husband Adi back in the States. He and Edan’s younger brother Roy and sister Mika flew to Israel the next day. Still, for days, they remained in the dark, unable to get through to their son’s cell phone. Unable to get any information. Yael Alexander: A lot of bad news, like you hearing, you know, all around. A lot of people murdered, horrible stories, like after a day or two you start hearing about these horrible stories from this morning of October 7, and still nothing from Edan.  So we went to every forum that it was like, I don't know, it was like … one night, you don't know what's going on, the day after you’re working with people on the phone that you never met, and you just trust them they're gonna find your kid. They had some you know, I don't know. Everyone was trying to help you and telling you, go to hospitals. Go and look, because there is a lot of anonymous soldiers or people. Go and look for him. So we've been everywhere like every hospital in Israel, like we went there and tried to understand where is Edan.  On Thursday someone is calling me from the army and he’s telling me that he's got a message for us. I didn't understand at first. What is this? What kind of message? I'm on the phone 24/7. We couldn't eat. We couldn't sleep, nothing, like in the loop. Like, try to find my son.  And then I'm just catching myself like, Oh, my God, you have a message for us? Yes, yes. Where are you? So we are waiting for them. We wait for 40 minutes I think. I couldn't breathe.  I remember my head like down, you know, between my knees and I'm just trying to breathe and breathe and breathe because I felt I'm going to faint. I didn't know what they want from me. We met them in this discreet room and then they told us that after they reviewed everything they know that Edan is took hostage by Hamas terrorists and they took him to Gaza. He was guarding a kibbutz that a lot of people got murdered. Thank God, they didn't touch him. They just took him from there. He was by himself. So, it wasn't like a conflict or nothing. Thank God. He was surrendering and they took him. There's something that we know. Manya Brachear Pashman: It was devastating news, but at that point in time, the best news that Yael and Adi could’ve received because it meant there was hope of seeing their son again. Yael Alexander: So, it's good. And they're looking at me like I'm a crazy person. Because this is the worst message you can ever get as a parent. My son is my life. He is my air, he is everything for me. But to understand that they took him and he's OK. It was like the world. Wow, wow, wow, wow. Now we can work to speak with everyone because he’s OK. OK, he's a hostage. But still we have the hope that he will come back home. A day after we had a Zoom with Biden and all the American families. He was really with us, you know, he understand our pain, he could connect to this. He told us, as Americans, we are going to do whatever we can to help you to get through it. Like whatever we can, we are here and we are going to do it. And it was really comforting. It was like we felt the hug.  We stayed a total of an hour and a half with the President. It was unbelievable because we were so confused. We just got a day before the message. So, we knew what is the situation with Edan, but a lot of families didn't know what happened to their loved ones. Not everyone knew if they were murdered, if they took hostage. Still it was c
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
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