Claim Ownership


Subscribed: 0Played: 0


“I cannot recall a moment where we have seen this kind of openly expressed antisemitism.” Dr. Remko Leemhuis, AJC Berlin Director, sums up the state of antisemitism in Germany post-October 7 with this chilling statement. Hear from Leemhuis, along with Asia Pacific Institute (API) Assistant Director Hana Rudolph, and AJC Abu Dhabi Director Marc Sievers, on how the October 7 Hamas massacre of Israelis has impacted Jews in Germany, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the United Arab Emirates. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Hana Rudolph (7:18) Remko Leemhuis (15:20) Marc Sievers Show Notes: Take action to bring all hostages home now. Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Global Antisemitism Report Part 1: What It’s Like to Be Jewish in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa Right Now What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Hana Rudolph, Remko Leemhuis, and Marc Sievers: Manya Brachear Pashman: American Jewish Committee has 14 international offices around the world. This week, we checked in with some of those offices to learn what they're seeing and hearing on the ground since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. In an earlier installment, we took you to Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Our journey continues today in Asia, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi.  We started in South and East Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Since the director of the Asia Pacific Institute (API) [Shira Loewenberg] was en route to Indonesia, we caught up with Assistant Director Hana Rudolph. Hana, let's start with Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, the country with the world's largest Muslim population. In fact, where AJC has made tremendous inroads in recent years engaging with faith and political leaders. What has the response to the October 7 attacks been there? Hana Rudolph:  The Indonesian government doesn't have ties with Israel, though it does support a two state solution. So we don't expect there to be a vocal kind of support for Israel. But the anti semitism and the conspiracy theories, the false narratives happen incredibly alarming. There was a rally on November 5, a pro Palestinian rally, and rally organizers think that there were 2 million people who turned out for that. So we're talking huge numbers.  The prevailing narrative there is really that Israel is the indiscriminate aggressor, they are just killing women and children for no reason in Gaza. There's very little mention of Hamas’ massacre on October 7, and that's the narrative.  AJC has taken several delegations of Indonesians to Israel for our Project Interchange. A lot of our alumni had been receiving death threats. And we're not talking about death threats for posts that they're actively making right now in support of Israel. We're talking about death threats because, you know, some long time ago, when they were on this delegation, they posted something that was seen as something pro-Israel, and now they're receiving this kind of pushback and hate and condemnation for it. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You mentioned the dominant narrative. Are there other narratives developing? Hana Rudolph:  One of the most, I think, notable and disappointing reactions across our region has been China. China refused to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on October 7. And there has been a notable uptick in antisemitic rhetoric across Chinese social media platforms, which, as you know, are heavily censored when the government chooses to do so. So here the government is choosing not to censor. And in fact, several state-run institutions are actively promoting radically antisemitic content. So I'll give you a few examples. CCCB describes Jews as accounting for 3% of the US population and manipulating and controlling, in their words, 70% of the country's wealth. The China Internet Information Center compared Israel to the Nazis.  And these are, of course, narratives that, you know, once they're once they're put out there, they're being actively promoted and popularized by other social media influencers. So the content that's being generated, you know, as a result goes far beyond even those examples. We've noticed that there are several major Chinese map platforms that are no longer labeling Israel as a country, you know, they'll demarcate the borders, they'll identify cities, but you don't see Israel labeled.  Most likely, China is seeing the current conflicts within the context of the US versus China and this whole conflict is just another opportunity to champion itself as the leader of the developing world. You know, it's a continued strengthening of the China, Russia, Iran, North Korea bloc of malign actors.  It's just very laughable, really, that China is maintaining what is described to be a position of neutrality, when one, it won't condemn Hamas’ attack; two, it won't condemn antisemitism. But instead, it'll explicitly denounce Israel for quote, going beyond self defense, and, again, in the foreign minister’s words, collectively punishing the Gaza people in its counterstrike.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   What are we seeing in Australia, where the Jewish community numbers about 100,000? I know historically, antisemitic incidents per capita have remained low there.  Hana Rudolph:  The Australian government has, by and large, really supported Israel in the same way that the US has. But the politics and public sentiment also look a lot like here. So there's been growing pressure for the government to call for a ceasefire, things like that. The uptick in antisemitism also looks a lot like here. It's been very alarming. There's actually a very sizable Jewish community in Australia. It's about 100,000, and Australia has the largest number of Holocaust survivors per capita, just to give some context.  Since October 7, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has documented 221 incidents of antisemitism, so we're just talking about one month. This includes threats to Jewish schools and synagogues, property damage, even a few physical assaults. There has also been large pro-Palestinian demonstrations. I think the one that probably everyone signed in the news is a demonstration on October 9. So we're talking just two days after the attack. Outside of the Sydney Opera House where pro-Palestinian protesters were chanting ‘Gas the Jews.’ Manya Brachear Pashman:   Remarks and resolutions coming out of the United Nations General Assembly have shown little support for Israel since the beginning of this conflict. There was a resolution calling for a truce this week. There's one calling on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the buffer between Israel and yet another hostile neighbor, Syria. How have the nations in the Asia Pacific voted on these resolutions?  Hana Rudolph: I would say that the most kind of encouraging signs coming out of some of these countries have really been in terms of the government's position. So I want to especially highlight Japan, South Korea, and India. These are all countries that have joined the U.S. in condemning Hamas’ attack on October 7, affirming Israel's right to self defense. They all abstained from a recent UN General Assembly resolution that called for an immediate humanitarian truce. And the reason why they abstained is because there has been a Canadian amendment to unequivocally condemn Hamas terrorist attacks and demanding immediate release of hostages.  This amendment was backed by the U.S. but was rejected by the resolution. And so these three countries all abstained. We see it as a positive. The Marshall Islands and Micronesia Islands, both Pacific Islands, voted against it. They have always been strong supporters of Israel. We're incredibly grateful for that relationship. …. Manya Brachear Pashman: Since October 7, AJC Berlin director Remko Leemhuis has taken two German delegations to Israel to speak with hostages' families, to see the homes raided by Hamas, and understand the military operation underway there. Remko joined us from Berlin to speak about those missions, but also to talk about what he's seeing and hearing back home. Remko Leemhuis:  We had an attack on a synagogue here in the center of Berlin that was attacked with Molotov cocktails, even though there was police protection. We had the homes of people marked with a star of David. You know, where members of the Jewish community live. And these are the things that happened sort of outside of demonstrations–we had people that have been threatened, because they were wearing a kippah or are visibly Jewish. And when we look at the demonstrations, we see what we've seen, this is nothing too new. All sorts of expressions of antisemitism beginning with, from the river to the sea. People chanting that. We're also seeing that they compare what's happening in Gaza with the shoah, so, Holocaust trivialization.  Again, we see attacks on police officers, and thinly veiled, classic antisemitic stereotypes. You know, they're not saying the Jews but saying, you know, the Zionist. And that’s also something not too new, but the how forc
Following Hamas’ October 7 massacre of Israelis Jews around the world have experienced a  surge of antisemitism. We checked in with some of AJC’s global experts  to learn what they’ve been seeing and hearing on the ground and to understand what efforts are underway to protect Jews and counter this hate. In the first of two installments, we hear from AJC Europe Managing Director Simone Rodan Benzaquen, AJC Africa Director Wayne Sussman, and Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute on Latin American Affairs. Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Simone Rodan Benzaquen (7:09) Wayne Sussman (14:54) Dina Siegel Vann Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Happens Next: AJC’s Avital Leibovich on the Hostage Deal and Challenges Ahead What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Wayne Sussman, and Dina Siegel Vann: Manya Brachear Pashman: American Jewish Committee has 14 international offices around the world. For today’s episode, we checked in with some of those offices to learn what they're seeing and hearing on the ground since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. Today, we take you to Europe, Africa and Latin America. We start in Paris, where years of work to combat rising antisemitism has seen a serious setback. For more than two decades, since the Second Intifada, antisemitism has been on the rise on the European continent. In fact, it was that ripple effect that prompted AJC to ramp up its advocacy there. AJC Managing Director of Europe Simone Rodan Benzaquen joined us from Paris. Simone Rodan Benzaquen: What we have seen, I think, in Europe is more or less what we've seen, everywhere, what can only be described as an explosion of antisemitism across the European continent, I would say, mostly in Western Europe, here in France in particular, but also in the United Kingdom, we have seen the same. In Germany, we have seen similar things going on in Sweden and Denmark. But of course, here in France, where antisemitism has existed for at least two decades, or at least this contemporary form of antisemitism, for the past two decades with high numbers of antisemitic hate crimes. The situation is very, very serious. We've had basically three times the number of antisemitic hate crimes, since October 7 of what we had during the entire year, last year.   We have desecration of cemeteries, we have antisemitic tags. We have intimidation, we have spitting on people. It is as if the sheer horror, the violence that happened on October 7, unleashed an antisemitic passion, an antisemitic violence across the world. As if the horrible images that were filmed by the Hamas terrorists on October 7 sort of was a legitimization. Manya Brachear Pashman: So what does that mean for the Jewish community and daily life? Simone Rodan Benzaquen: We’ve reached a point where people are hiding every single aspect of their Jewish identity. People are changing their names on their delivery apps, people are changing their names on their doorbells, if they believe that they sound Jewish. People are hiding every single aspect of their Jewish identity. On Uber apps, on taxi apps, myself, you know, I go on TV and do interviews quite a bit and so I give a different name to the taxi, and I give a different address a few blocks down the street is to be sure that you know, just in case, the taxi driver doesn't know where I actually live. So everybody takes precautions. It’s gotten to a point where we just don't live the same life as everybody else. Manya Brachear Pashman: Has the work you’ve done over the past two decades made a difference? For example, since the Second Intifada, there have been a number of conflicts between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza. Do you see progress? Simone Rodan Benzaquen: We in Europe have felt like we've been doing a little bit of the work of Sisyphus over the past two decades, where we have moments of hope and things are getting better. And we say to ourselves, oh, maybe this is a wakeup call. And sort of, then we go back to, you know, before. And I hope that this this time around, given the level of violence, given the level of antisemitic hate crimes, given the number of sheer antisemitic attacks.  When you actually take it down, you come to on average about 40 antisemitic acts a day. I mean, that's huge for a population that represents far less than 1% of the entire French population. I hope this will serve as a wakeup call. But there is the question of what does it mean, how do you translate it politically? How do you translate it into government action? I mean, Europe has come up with different plans, action plans against antisemitism, but it's not enough and more needs to be done. I think one of the things that we as Jewish communities were very wary about was the fact that  over the past sort of two decades, there was sort of a lack of how can I say, solidarity from other French people. Again, we've had antisemitic hate crimes for the last 20 years, people have been murdered. But every single time, when you look at the demonstrations, at the marches after something horrible happened, you would mostly have a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand Jews in the streets.  And so there was sort of a feeling that within the French Jewish community that they were a little bit abandoned by the rest of society. And so we know from our surveys, AJC does a survey every two years where we know that, for example, French people, and Germans as well, are convinced about the fact that antisemitism is not the problem of Jews alone, but that of the entire society.  So both in Germany and in France, 73% of the population say that it is not the problem of Jews alone. But despite that number, it has never sort of translated into something concrete. So we would never have marches. We would never have like sort of big shows of solidarity with the Jewish community. And I think, since, if there's one good news, and there's not a lot of good news these days, if there's one good news is that last Sunday there were massive demonstrations across France, against antisemitism with basically the entire political class were present, with 20 government ministers who were present, with a prime minister who was present, with three former prime ministers who were present, two former presidents, plus a lot of people on the streets. We had over 180,000 people in the streets of France, basically expressing solidarity with the Jewish community and saying that they want to fight against antisemitism. So I think that was a sort of a very important sign of hope for many French Jews. …. Manya Brachear Pashman: Now we go to the continent of Africa, where AJC Africa Director Wayne Sussman joins us from the South African city of Johannesburg to explain how the war that began on October 7 affects Israel’s relations with African countries.  Wayne Sussman: I would say the tensest of the relationships right now is between Israel and South Africa. The Ambassador of Israel to South Africa received a démarche.  So when the first two countries to recall their ambassadors were South Africa and Chad. When it comes to Chad, that was more unexpected than South Africa. Because relations were recently increasing between Chad and Israel. Sadly–and one's got to remember that the largest Jewish community in Africa by a country mile is in South Africa. But sadly, the government of South Africa has had a very adversarial relationship with the State of Israel over the last few years. And this has manifested in the last few weeks. Manya Brachear Pashman: Because of this antagonistic relationship with Israel, has the South African Jewish community faced quite a bit of antisemitism? Wayne Sussman: Even though the current government of South Africa has had an adversarial relationship with the State of Israel, levels of antisemitism are extremely low–far lower than Europe, far lower than Latin America, far lower than the United States of America, far lower than Canada, far lower than Australia.  So we are working off a very low base here in South Africa. But over the last few weeks, antisemitic incidents have increased. For the time being, levels of violent incidents have been low. A turning point was on Sunday afternoon in Cape Town on the Sea Point Promenade, just to zone in on Sea Point, where the majority of Jews in Cape Town live. And the promenade is a beautiful public space, which all residents of the city use.  And what we saw the day before was a pro-Palestinian demonstration through the streets of the City of Cape Town. It was a largely peaceful protest. There were pockets of the protests, which had hateful slogans and made concerning threats against the main Jewish Day School in Cape Town.  And then the next day, a group of Christians at the Sea Point Promenade, which I referred to earlier, which is in the Jewish neighborhood of Sea Point, were going to have a prayer vigil for the State of Israel. They had a stage set up, microphones, etc. And a group of 200 to 300 pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas sup
From the frontlines of the Israel-Hamas War, Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich, director of AJC Jerusalem, joins us to discuss the current pause in fighting between Israel and the terror group Hamas, the release of hostages, the significance of international support for Israel, and the challenges the Jewish state faces in the West Bank. Leibovich also provides insights into the humanitarian conditions of the hostages and the broader implications of the conflict.  Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? The Good, the Bad, and the Death Threats: What It’s Like to Be a Jewish College Student Right Now Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Watch – Lt. Col. (res.) Avital Leibovich’s War Diary How All Israelis are Affected by the Israel-Hamas War How October 7 "Changed the DNA" of Israelis Forever How Volunteers are Stepping up to Support the IDF Learn: Debunking the False Equivalency Between Israeli Hostages and Palestinian Prisoners What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Avital Leibovich: Manya Brachear Pashman:   As the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists nears its expiration on Thursday, Hamas continues to hold hostage 160 people. 80, including 61 women and children have been released during the pause. In exchange, Israel has freed 180 Palestinian prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, Director of AJC Jerusalem joins us from Israel now for an update. Avital, welcome to People of the Pod and how are you? Avital Leibovich:   Thank you for having me. I am doing well, considering the fact that we are in a war here in Israel. My biggest concern at this time is the well being of my family. My son is in the army, my daughter is on reserve duty. So that's my number one concern. And of course, the well being of Israel, the safety and security of Israel.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So Avital, what does this pause mean? What is being accomplished during this time? Avital Leibovich:   So the pause is something that Hamas pressured Israel. It pressured Israel because the military pressure was quite significant. The pause allows a few things to happen. Number one, we, Israel will receive hostages, and in return, Israel will free from prison, women and youth that were involved in different planning of terror attacks or executed themselves terror attacks. And that's one thing. The second thing I would say, is time for Hamas to regroup. That's for their benefit. This pause allows them to regroup, rearm, reposition themselves. The third thing and I'm going back to Israel also allows Israeli army to better prepare to rearm to place itself in the right positioning and then be ready for the next stage, which is resumption of the fighting. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And do you expect that fighting to resume right away? Or do you think that Israel would like to extend the pause as long as possible in order to get as many hostages back as possible?  Avital Leibovich:   Yesterday, there were meetings between, actually was a very interesting meeting in Qatar. In the meeting, we had the head of the Egyptian intelligence, the head of the Israeli Mossad, and the Qatari representative, and the American head of the CIA, the American CIA. And in this meeting, the discussion evolved on a few more days of pause, and in return, Hamas will release a few more hostages.  So right now Israel has said that it agrees to a few more days of a pause. But we're only talking about a few more days. The ultimate goal of this war is to eliminate Hamas government in Gaza. And in order to change that government, in order to bring some sort of a new future to this region, to Israel, to Gaza, to the Palestinians living in Gaza, this takes time.  So the fighting I assume will take a long time. It's going to be a long time because Gaza has been built underground and above the ground in such a way that requires inch by inch, very careful work a lot of the time other facilities are booby trapped. There is a huge array of tunnels underground, which are very long. With junctions. Some of the tunnels can even have cars inside. So this has to be a very, very careful job. We have a lot of soldiers inside Gaza right now. And so this pause I would say is temporary. Manya Brachear Pashman:   What are we learning from the hostages who are being released? Avital Leibovich:   That's the most heartbreaking issue. We're learning a few things. The first thing is they had to speak very, very quietly among themselves. Of course, I'm referring to those who had other hostages with them. But those who had other hostages with them had to whisper. And how do we know this because some of the kids are still whispering today, some of the kids that have been held as hostages and just returned from captivity, they're still whispering. Another thing we know is that they had very little food, very little quantities of food, which also brings a lot of worries here in Israel, because there are many elderly people held. There's still a baby inside the toddlers and a few other children. And so the nutrition issue obviously is quite critical.  The third thing we learned is that some of them were held in complete seclusion. One of the children that returned two days ago is a 12 year old boy, by the name of Eitan Yahalomi. His father was murdered, his mother is still alive. And he actually was in a room by himself for at least two weeks. And imagine for a 12 year old to be in this kind of hostile environment, on his own without anybody to communicate, underground, most of the time, that's quite scary.  We also know that they had very poor hygiene conditions, no running water, very, very minimal toilet facilities. We also know they never received any medical care and attention, no medicine, no doctors, nothing of that sort. And the last thing we know is that most of the time they were held underground, in an underground facility, different sizes of rooms. And all of these things are just a small indication of the cruelty of this terror organization called Hamas. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Congress is debating whether to send aid to Israel to support Israel in the war. How important is it at this point? Avital Leibovich:   I think it's very important. First of all, I do want to say that the support that Israel received from the US until now, it's unbelievable. The fact that there are, on the military side the fact that there are our aircraft carriers here in the region, and planes filled with different kinds of ammunition. That sends a very strong message of both deterrence and strength to the enemies in the region. And second, on the political, more strategic level. The voting, the vetoing of the different proposals on the Security Council in the UN, the multiple visits starting from President Biden to Secretary of State Blinken, which he’s supposed to arrive here tomorrow. And also appointing a special envoy to this specific situation that we have here in the region.  So all of these things speak volumes. So yes, I think it's very significant to Israel, and also the future decisions will be significant. Look, being at war for such a long time and 53 days have passed already has serious precautions on different issues. Economy is one of them. Obviously, tourism has stopped, small businesses have been affected and many other sectors as well. So aid would be very, very significant to Israel. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I'm also curious about the security situation in the West Bank. We were so focused on terrorism coming from the West Bank before this happened. What is the situation there now, especially as hostages are being released? Avital Leibovich:   It's a good question, because from where I'm sitting, the West Bank at this point of time is another front that Israel has to deal with at this specific moment. We have a serious challenge with the fact that the Palestinian Authority does not really have governance in many areas in the West Bank. And as a result of that, there are different kinds of terror groups, Hamas is one of them. But it's not the only one, trying to recruit Palestinians to commit different terror attacks. The second side of it is a lot of incitement, which is really flooding the social media platforms, and also has an effect on the mood on the streets on the mood of young people and others as well. So the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, actually almost on a daily basis, needs to enter certain areas where there is no prisons, unfortunately, have any Palestinian policemen, and actually arrest those terrorists on the ground. And I think in the last 50 days or so the IDF has arrested more than 1000 people that have been suspicious and with some kind of planning or plotting terror attacks against Israelis. And this does not seem to quiet down I have to say so I am concerned of this front.  At this point of time Hamas is though, by the way, investing a lot of time and effort because Hamas is interest is of course, to create lack of stability here in Israel. So part of that is the instability is trying to influence what's going on in the West Bank and trying to get people out to the streets, either protesting against idea for
Delve into the unsettling rise of antisemitism on American college campuses, focusing on alarming incidents at Cornell University and Columbia University. Our guests, Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff, both members of AJC's Campus Global Board, share their experiences of Jewish students being targeted in the classroom, physically attacked while raising awareness about kidnapped babies in Gaza, and facing death threats for merely speaking Hebrew. Join us as Molly and Elliott share their perspectives on this surge of antisemitism following the October 7th Hamas attacks, and the solidarity and Jewish pride they are seeing on campus. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Jewish U.S. Military Veterans’ Message to IDF Soldiers Fighting Hamas: “We’re With You” What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. AJC Campus Library AJC Campus Global Board Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Molly Goldstein and Elliot Sadoff: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Throughout her studies at Cornell University, junior Molly Goldstein has become passionate about the intersection of international relations, human rights and conflict resolution. She joined AJC's Campus global board last year to develop her Jewish advocacy skills on and off campus. But nothing could have prepared her for what has unfolded this year on Cornell's campus, where nearly a fourth of the students are Jewish. An arrest has been made after a number of posts on an online discussion board threatened extreme violence and death to Jews on campus, specifically identifying the address of Cornell's kosher dining hall.  Likewise, Elliot Sadoff also joined AJC's Campus global board last year. He is a dual degree student at Tel Aviv University and Columbia University, where an Israeli student was physically attacked while hanging posters of kidnapped babies trapped in Gaza. And Jewish students have received death threats and been spat upon for speaking Hebrew. Molly and Elliot are with us now to discuss what they've witnessed as antisemitism related to the Israel Hamas war has emerged at an alarming rate on a number of American college campuses across the country. Elliot, Molly, welcome to People of the Pod. Molly Goldstein:   Thank you for having us.  Elliot Sadoff:   Yeah, thank you. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So I first have to ask, how are you both doing? And how are you coping with the intensity of all of this? Elliot Sadoff:   I mean, I think you can ask anyone how they're doing these days, and it's hard to answer. But definitely holding in there. I've been very lucky the past few weeks because of the program I'm in where I have a lot of students with me who are studying at Tel Aviv University. So we've really formed a tight knit community that's able to support each other throughout these times. With everything going on on campus and around the world. It's a very good support system to have that I don't think a lot of students do. It's not easy to go to class and be looking around you thinking what's going to happen, what are people going to say, what does this professor think? But to have a support system like that is very helpful.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Molly, how about you? Molly Goldstein:   Over the past month, it's definitely progressed to feeling more and more afraid to be a Jew on campus. But something that doesn't make it to the media, I believe the media likes to portray, you know, all the horrible things that are happening on campus, but the Jewish community at Cornell has really come together, in one of the most beautiful ways I have ever seen during my time at Cornell. We've had the Shabbat dinners with filling capacity of the kosher dining hall. We've had, you know, Jews from Monsey coming and bringing us food for a barbecue for 200 people. We had never met them before in our entire lives. And they just decided to come up and do this wonderful, wonderful, good deed for us. And there's nothing more I could have asked to be proud of as a Jew. And I hope that Jews on campus know that, although it's scary, we will get through this time. And we should be proud and continue to be Jewish. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That's really comforting to hear. And I'm sure your parents find that really comforting to hear, especially as they watch the news and wonder how their children are doing. What are you hearing from them? How are they doing? Molly Goldstein:   Yeah, parents are definitely more scared than I have ever seen them before. I mean, I had people's parents coming up to get their kids and take them home. People's parents like requesting that we have to sue the University and we have to get these kids off campus and we have to take really harsh actions. And it's because they're scared, they don't know what to do. They're far away from their kids. And, you know, it's up to us to make sure that their parents know that we'll be safe and, and for them to know that everything that needs to be done is getting done for Jewish students. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Elliot, anything to add to that? Elliot Sadoff:   Yeah, I mean, I can just echo what Molly was saying about kind of uniting around this and being proud of, like being Jewish and rallying around the community and that my parents are scared, a lot of parents are scared. But there's also been a lot of people working together to change that environment, to change the narrative to to help students be proud of who they are. I don't know if you've seen recently there's a large Facebook group, Mothers Against College Antisemitism, which I think now is hundreds of 1000s of people. I could be mistaken there. But it shows that there are people who care about us, there are people who care about protecting their identity and supporting students and I think that's really meaningful. That's very helpful to see on campus. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Molly, can you walk our listeners through what has happened at Cornell? I mean, how did you first hear about the threats that I mentioned in the introduction? And what precautions did you and other students take? Molly Goldstein:   Yeah, absolutely. So I was sitting in my room actually in the Center for Jewish Living, which was the place that was threatened by a bomb threat, as well as it's right next door to the kosher dining hall, which the student threatened to shoot up. And I was sitting, you know, doing homework in my room, and all of a sudden, there's a Cornellians for Israel group chat that now has 1000s of people in it. It's progressed over the month since the war has started. And we just get a link from one of the students that found it, and said, like, look, what we have posted online, and all of a sudden, all the threats started coming in. My immediate reaction was genuine fear. I'm sitting in the building, I did not know what was going to happen to me or my fellow community members. And pretty quickly, we got Cornell Police Department on the case, we got the FBI, Homeland Security, Ithaca police and New York State Police, everybody showed up and was at the dining hall and kosher spaces. And that night, the President of the University and vice president of the university came to our house, to see how we were doing and make sure that we know they're doing everything they can to ensure our safety.  And, you know, they would not have come if they really thought their lives were in danger. But it was scary. I had students, you know, weren't sleeping in the house that night. They found other places to go, whether that was other friends who had apartments or relatives, family, friends in Ithaca. And as the day went on, we had New York Governor Kathy Hochol came the next morning, the next morning, within just 12 hours was at our doorstep, talking to us, ensuring that New York State was going to do everything they can to condemn antisemitism to ensure our safety for not just Jewish students at Cornell, but Jewish students at all New York State campuses, which includes Columbia, and you know, CUNY schools, which are having a really difficult time with anti-Zionism and antisemitism. And as time went on, we were getting, you know, news media coverage. And we never went on lockdown. But we were doing everything we could to keep people safe. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Did you feel that the university was doing enough to respond? It sounds like people from across the state were doing enough, or doing a lot. But was the university doing enough in your opinion? Molly Goldstein:   In my opinion, yes. I think the fact that the President and the Vice President came immediately to make sure we're doing okay, they released a statement that night, and the next day they were updating their social media with everything that they were doing. And they just released actually that they are changing their antisemitism in their DEI training, so that it's more prevalent and that education can be better on that front.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Eliott, can
In honor of Veterans Day, explore the unique experiences of Jewish U.S. military veterans with Dave Warnock, U.S. Army Veteran, and Andrea Goldstein, U.S. Navy Veteran and Reservist. Our guests share what inspired them to join the military, how their Jewish heritage played a significant role in shaping their service, and what advice they have for the Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting now against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Warnock and Goldstein are members of AJC’s ACCESS Jewish Military Veterans Affinity Group, a space to convene young Jewish professionals who have served in the American military. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Dave Warnock, Andrea Goldstein Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Would You Do If Your Son Was Kidnapped by Hamas? Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Dave Warnock and Andrea Goldstein: Manya Brachear Pashman: This episode pays tribute to our nation's veterans. Guest hosting is my colleague Dr. Dana Levinson Steiner, Director of ACCESS Global at AJC, where she oversees an international program to engage young professionals. In that group are a number of Jewish military veterans who have served in the American Armed Forces. Dana, the mic is yours.  Dana Levinson Steiner: Thanks, Manya. I'm so happy that we're here today. It was just over two years ago that we formed the ACCESS Jewish Military Veterans Affinity Group, which is a space for us to convene young Jewish professionals who had served in the American military. And here we are now recording our first People of the Pod podcast episode in honor of and commemorating Veterans Day.  With us today are: Dave Warnock, U.S. Army Veteran, joining us from his home in Seattle, Washington, and Andrea Goldstein, U.S. Navy Veteran and Reservist, who is based in Washington, D.C. Dave, Andrea, thanks for joining us today. Dave Warnock:   Happy to be here, Dana. Andrea Goldstein:   Yeah, I’m glad to be here.  Dana Levinson Steiner: To kick off the conversation, please tell us a little bit about your journey as an American Jewish military veteran. What inspired you to join the United States Armed Forces? Dave, let’s start with you. Dave Warnock:   For me, there are two kind of main things when I look back on what propelled me to join the US Army. The first one was my great grandfather, Saul Fink. The family legend is like he emigrated over from the shtetl. His family settled in Harlem. And when he heard about what was going on in Texas at the time, and 1916 and 1914 with the Pancho Villa incursions, he felt so propelled by patriotism and love of America that he had to run away from home and enlist at 16 years old. Which he did. Joined the Horse Calvary, a proper Jewish cowboy chasing after Pancho Villa in New Mexico, in a forgotten war. And he made sort of a career out of the army. So that's the legend that he was propelled by patriotism, maybe hated the tenement, maybe just wanted to get out of Harlem, get some fresh air, see the American West, I don't know.  But his service propelled him forward in American society, through the US Army in a way that I think would have been unavailable to a lot of Jews at the time. It's not to say that it was an easy journey. He was certainly discriminated against; he shortened his name from Finkelstein to Fink for reasons that are not kind of lost to history. One joke is that it couldn't fit on the nametag. But through this service, he was elevated in society, he became an officer in World War I. He served through World War II and in the army of occupation in Germany. And his stature, sort of the patriarch of my family, loomed large. My middle name is Solomon, I'm named after him. So that kind of tradition was part of it. Another part was, I enlisted in 2004. So three years after 91/1 when I was a freshman in high school, and that terrorist attack really did propelled, cemented my decision to serve you know, if that didn't happen, I don't know what I would have done differently. But those are the two main reasons that propelled me to join. And I joined the Army and I volunteered for the infantry because I wanted to be a soldier.  Dana Levinson Steiner: In a lot of ways, it is our family that inspires us to make these kinds of decisions and we learn so much from our family history and our family lineage. Andrea, I'd love to hear a little bit more about your journey too and I'm curious if family played a role in your decision to join the Navy. Andrea Goldstein:   My family decision to do the military was much more related to growing up in the United States, growing up in New York at a time actually, probably when we didn't have the NYPD outside of synagogues. I didn't really think about being Jewish, at least in New York in the 90s. But my family came here in mostly two waves, most in the early 20th century, and then another wave right before the Holocaust, and found everything they were looking for. And depending on which wave, either second generation or third generation where a sense of precarity and being American was gone. We just were American Jews. And I am currently sitting in a home that has embroidery on the wall that was sent to my great-grandmother, by family members who ended up–who perished in the shoah. This country really gave us everything and I wanted to give back to that.  The value of tikkun olam is very central to everything that I do. And so serving my country and wearing the cloth of the nation to me felt like really the only way to do that.  9/11 was not a motivating factor for me, despite growing up in New York City and being in New York City on 9/11. My desire to serve in uniform predated that, in fact, 9/11 led me to really not so much reconsider, but really give even more thought to my military service, because I knew I would be serving in conflict zones, which, with the peacetime military of the 90s, that wasn't clear. But I ended up joining through an officer program. I didn't initially have any family support, because it was such a shocking choice. I had great-grandparents who'd served during World War Two great-uncles, but not from a military family at all. And what became very understood by my family, because it was, what was motivating me was, this desire to serve my country and wear the cloth of the nation, no matter what. Dana Levinson Steiner: I want to pivot a little bit, I want to get back to questions of Jewish identity in a moment. But when we're thinking about American Jews serving in the US armed forces, while there isn't a ton of data, the most recent-ish data suggests that just about 1% of the US armed forces, or the US military, is made up of American Jews. It's tiny, only 1%. And that 1% is of an already really small number of American Jews who already live in this country.  So, you know, thinking about this statistic and also acknowledging American history in serving in the military. What do we make of this small number? And what would you like to tell young American Jews who may be considering joining the military but may have doubts or concerns? Andrea Goldstein:   So there are a couple of things I would say to that. I would comment on that data–first of all, that's only commenting that that only includes self reported numbers because we don't collect demographic data on, it’s seen as completely religious affiliation. The military does not collect demographics on Jews as being an ethnic group. So it's actually quite difficult to self-report your religion. So there's going to be an undercount, there are people who are Jewish, who may even practice privately, who are not reporting. And it also doesn't capture Jewish families.  So it doesn't capture the number of people who may be not Jewish themselves, but their partner and spouse is Jewish, and they're raising Jewish children, and they're observing Jewish holidays with their families. So there's a lot that we really don't know. What I would also say is, if you were to overlay where the military struggles to recruit from, with the parts of the country where most Jews live in the United States, you would see probably some very interesting geographic trends.  The military has become a family business. There has also been, there have been some comforts that the military has had in where they recruit from. And that typically is not New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Washington, DC. So in addition to being one of the very few Jews that I know, in the military, I think I know probably even fewer people from New York City, especially officers. Dana Levinson Steiner: Dave, I'm curious, your thoughts on some of these numbers? And also maybe what you would tell–you and I have talked about this before about wanting to really engage in conversation with young American Jews about this experience and what it can mean for them, you know, acknowledging this number a while not perfect, I would imagine it's not so massive. So tell us a little bit about what you think and also maybe what you would tell a young American Jew who might be considering e
In this heartfelt conversation with Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg, the parents of 23-year-old Hersh, who is among the over 240 hostages held by Hamas terrorists, they detail what they know about their son’s abduction from the Supernova music festival on October 7th and the challenges they face in trying to secure his rescue. They also describe their dismay that world leaders are not doing enough to bring the hostages home and share ways to keep their son and all the hostages’ stories alive.  Take action to bring all hostages home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Jon Polin, Rachel Goldberg Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Renana Gomeh’s Sons Were Taken Hostage by Hamas: What She Needs You to Do to Bring Them Home Now What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas 7 Ways Hamas Exploits Palestinian Civilians in Gaza How much do you know about Hamas? Try to ace our quiz and expose the truth about the terror group today. Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg: Jon Polin: This is a global humanitarian issue. And every day, I wonder why is the world not speaking in that way? Why is the world shoving this into a simple black and white box of Israeli-Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian? Why are 33 foreign ministers around the world not holding hands and screaming about the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis? Manya Brachear Pashman: On October 7, Hamas terrorists broke into homes and raided a music festival, murdering more than 1400 civilians and soldiers and kidnapping at least 245 from more than 30 different countries. Almost four weeks later, only five hostages have returned home. Jon Polin and Rachel Goldberg say it doesn’t matter where this happened. It is an international atrocity carried out against innocent lives and families around the world, including their own. But no one is talking about the hostage situation in Gaza in those terms. Why not?  Jon and Rachel are with us now to talk about their quest to bring home their 23-year-old son Hersh and the other hostages. Jon, Rachel: Welcome. Thank you for joining us.  Jon Polin:   Thank you.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you tell our listeners what you know about your son's abduction and the circumstances? It is a widely known story I think by now but just for those few that have not heard. Rachel Goldberg: So, I'll give you a sort of quick version because as you said, I think a lot of people already are familiar with Hersh's story. But he and his best friend who were at the music festival when the massacre started, they escaped in a car with two other friends and started to try to head north to get out of harm's way.  But the road was blocked by Hamas gunmen who were just shooting at point blank range anyone who even got near them. So Hersh and his friends, and many other of the young people who were also in cars trying to escape, just stopped the cars, flung the doors open, and went running to these outside, roadside bomb shelters.  Hersh and his friend Amer ended up with 29, a total of what we believe to be 29 of them smushed into this cinder block reinforced windowless small bomb shelter, which Hamas started to descend upon and threw in initially, hand grenades, which Hersh’s friend Amer was standing by the doorway and manage to actually retrieve, pickup before detonating and throw back out at least seven of them. Three did detonate inside causing a lot of carnage.  And then Hamas brought in an RPG which they fired directly into this small room of young people. And then they sprayed the room with machine gun bullets.  After a couple of minutes of the dust settling, most of those young people were dead. Many of them were severely wounded, some were trapped under the dead bodies and the dying bodies and it is from those witnesses that we heard what happened to Hersh.  Which is, he was slumped with three other boys against one of the walls and they were all somewhat injured but they still appeared alive. And Hamas walked in and said, everybody you know you four stand up and come outside. And when they stood up, the eyewitnesses told us that Hersh's left arm from around the elbow down had been blown off. He had somehow managed to fashion some sort of bandage or tourniquet, and he walked out.  They all walked out calmly. I'm sure they were in deep shock and dazed and traumatized by what they had just seen take place in front of them. And they were boarded onto a Hamas pickup truck which headed toward Gaza. And Hersh's last cell phone signal was found inside of Gaza at 10:25am, Saturday morning October 7.  We subsequently did get a video from CNN’s Anderson Cooper who had come across it in research he had been doing on a documentary about the music festival. And he shared that with us.  So we've actually seen Hersh walking out of the bomb shelter using his less dominant hand. He is left-handed and now doesn't have a left hand. He uses his right hand to board the pickup truck and he turns around to sit down and it's in that moment when he turns that you can see the stump where his left arm used to be. And he sat down and that's the last that we have seen him, heard anything about him in the last 26 days. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I did watch that interview with Anderson Cooper, where they showed that footage and I'm curious what your takeaways were from that video, what were your observations, and also, did it give you hope to see him? Jon Polin:   So on the one hand, as you can imagine it is a video that nobody would ever want to see of their loved one, their child. So basic answer is it's horrendously terrible to see it.  On the other hand, I have been in a position where we need to just look for optimism and hope anywhere we can find it in the last 26 days. And so when I saw that video, my lens on it was, and especially since I know what had preceded it for the 90 minutes before that: the carnage, seeing his best friend killed, etc.  I looked at the video and I saw Hersh looking composed, walking on his own two feet, using his one remaining hand, which happens to be his weak hand, to pull himself onto this truck. And clearly in shock, as one would expect. But I took some optimism from seeing what kind of shape he appeared to be in. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You said 26 days, I cannot believe it's been 26 days that they've held these hostages with no word. And Rachel, you're wearing a 26 on your shirt I saw. What kind of support are you getting? What kind of conversations are you having with policymakers, negotiators, anyone, that indicates progress? Rachel Goldberg: Well, it's kind of a two pronged question. Because what are you doing to walk through these days is, we are surrounded by a team–beyond angels, beyond friends, beyond professional people who are dragging us along when we can't drag ourselves, and they're very talented, and they're very smart and tireless and tenacious. And so that helps us.  And in the bigger picture, I mean, we've had a lot of conversations with both sides in terms of, you know, we are American-Israeli, so we right away that first Saturday turned to the US Embassy. They were extremely responsive right away, partially because they could be. They weren't at war, you know, Israel, I do cut them some slack for being slow in the beginning, because I mean, there were still terrorists running around killing people in their homes. When we first heard about what happened to Hersh. So we were spread very thin. There were things happening up in the north, there were things happening down south. I mean, I understood why there was a sort of short start to that end of things. On the American side, we've had incredible conversations with you know, as high up as you could get with President Biden, with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, with 15 different senators. They don't care, they said, this isn't a Republican-Democrat issue. This is an American hostage issue. We don't care what stripes you're wearing, people being real adults, which is refreshing and felt very good and supported. And that is a very excellent first step.  We are now on day 26. And I need a little bit more actually, information, maybe action. I'm never one of the people in this that has said tell me what you're doing and tell me what the plan is because I always think that's ridiculous. Obviously, we can't know about that stuff. But because of Hersh’s grave injury, it's different, I think, than if I had known he was just kidnapped and healthy, because I have a very primal fear that maybe he didn't get the treatment he needed, and maybe I'm here on day 26, but Hersh died on day one. So that's very difficult. Or maybe he did get treated and then three days afterwards, they said, well, we don't have any more antibiotics and then he died of sepsis. You know, so there's a lot of different kind of constellations of what ifs that, you know, run through our minds, and that make it very difficult to kind of feel trust and kind of know everyone said it's gonna take a long time. And it's a process. And I feel like well, that, unfortunately, we don't have that. And it's very concerning.  When we were in America, we've had conversations with ambassadors from different countries who were, I think, trying to be helpful. In Israel, we've tried to have conversations with who we can get to,
AJC CEO Ted Deutch joins us to discuss the significance of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life and its aftermath, the anniversary, and what it means to Jews around the world after the October 7 attack on Israel, when once again Jews were murdered just for being Jewish. In the final episode of the Remembering Pittsburgh series, Ted reflects on what being Jewish in the United States feels like at this moment, and how the Jewish community is uniting to overcome yet another challenge. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Ted Deutch Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Remembering Pittsburgh Part 2: What the Family of Tree of Life Victim Joyce Fienberg Wants You to Know About Her Legacy Remembering Pittsburgh Part 3: How the #ShowUpForShabbat Campaign Drew Global Solidarity Amid Tragedy Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Hevenu Shalom - Violin Heart Fire Tree (Violin Version) - Axletree Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman: This month, AJC set out to mark the five-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting at the Tree of Life with a series of episodes exploring this turning point for the American Jewish community. Our first installment aired October 5. Two days later, the Jewish people faced another unprecedented deadly antisemitic attack, this time in Israel. Synagogues stepped up security and families tamped down their fears to take their children to Hebrew school or attend Shabbat services. In the second episode of our series, we sat down with Howard and Marnie Fienberg, who paid tribute to their mother Joyce. In the third installment, we looked back at how the horror drew people to solidarity.  For this closing episode of the series, I sat down with AJC CEO Ted Deutch, who served as a congressman at the time of the Tree of Life massacre. We discussed this anniversary and its parallels to the October 7 attack on Israel, when once again Jews were murdered just for being Jewish. Manya Brachear Pashman: Ted, where were you on the morning of October 27, 2018 when you heard about the Tree of Life?    Ted Deutch: I was a congressman who represented Parkland, where the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas took place. And the morning of Tree of Life, I spoke to a group of high school students from all around South Florida, who participated in a program about how they can become leaders in the community. I spoke with them about what had happened a few months before in Parkland, and what I had seen from high school students in Parkland and how they responded and how you stand up to violence and try to stop it and how you respond to evil and how important it is to use the power that you have as young people. That was literally what I was doing right before I walked out of the Florida Atlantic University auditorium and saw my phone start to buzz with news of Tree of Life. Everything that I had said to the students in the discussion, that really difficult conversation we had with these students who shared with me their fears of violence, their fears of going to school–those fears hit home really hard for me and for the Jewish community.  Manya Brachear Pashman: Did you view this as a significant turning point for the Jewish community in America or worldwide? Ted Deutch: This was something that we dealt with in Europe, we feared, we stood AJC's stood with the Jewish community across Europe as they, as they were attacked over years. I was a member of Congress when we had vigils with the ambassadors from European countries, in memory of lives lost, Jewish lives lost as a result of antisemitic attacks. And here, that morning is a turning point for all of us in the Jewish community, and how we respond, how we view the threat of antisemitism now as a deadly threat to the Jewish community in America, and for the rest of America to see another example of what happens when antisemitism, hatred are running rampant and where it can lead and how dangerous it is. Manya Brachear Pashman: From your vantage point as a congressman, what shifted on Capitol Hill, if anything, after October 27? Ted Deutch: Well, I was a member of Congress, but I focused so much of my work on the Jewish community. And we had started a Bipartisan Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in response to what happened in Europe. We never could have imagined something like that happening in our own country, especially in this place. I mean, this is the most idyllic, suburban, lovely neighborhood. I mean, it is, as everyone knows, it is literally Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, right? He lives just a stone's throw from Tree of Life. And so our work became that much more urgent. And we immediately refocused our efforts and those of us who were committed to fighting antisemitism, to ways that we could ensure the security of the Jewish community, and we immediately started looking at ways to find additional funding for security and and we dug deep into FBI reporting and research into what else is out there and what else they're tracking and what the fears are. And, unfortunately, whether in Congress, now at AJC, that hasn't stopped since. Manya Brachear Pashman: Did the members of Congress who are not Jewish respond differently? Ted Deutch: There was real support, and support not just for me and my fellow Jewish members, but for the Jewish community overall. Lots of members of Congress, most, know the Jewish community, many of them have Jewish communities they focus on in their own districts, sometimes large, sometimes very small. But the security concerns became real for every one of them – whether they had a large thousand-family congregation in a major city or a tiny synagogue somewhere in a remote part of the country, everyone felt it, everyone was put on edge, and every member of Congress felt an obligation to respond to that. I just remember having conversations with colleagues who were people of faith, who went to church. They were so struck by the fact that they came and went every Sunday, walked into their churches, doors were wide open. And the contrast to synagogues where you really need to be committed in so many places to get in so many places to go to synagogue, because you have to go through security, and sometimes you have to check in with the police, and in some places, you have to go through metal detectors. That really, really hit them and I think continues to, especially now. Every time something happens in Israel, we see a need for greater security at home. In the aftermath of the horrific attack by Hamas. It’s affected Jews, obviously in Israel and around the world and how we view Israel, but we all fear for what could happen in the United States. Manya Brachear Pashman: You left your job on Capitol Hill and became CEO of AJC just last year. I’m curious whether the horror in Pittsburgh so soon after the Parkland shooting was an inflection point for you and your path? Ted Deutch: I wasn't thinking about leaving Congress. But when a friend reached out and asked if I'd be interested in being considered for the AJC job, I started reflecting upon the issues that I worked on, and what I had been through. And this fits into a very specific part of that thinking it was. It was the whole series of what happened, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, and the impact that that had on the community. Then almost in immediate succession, quick succession, this horrific shooting at Tree of Life. First, there was the trauma in our own community, then there was the real trauma in the broader Jewish community. And then, not that they're directly related, but on January 6, when I was sitting in my office with the lights off, and my electronics silenced as the Capitol Police told us to do, and I was sitting in a dark cubicle in our staff office … watching what was happening in the Capitol and listening as people ran by my office and not knowing who they are. Everything was, everyone was so concerned about violence that day and my first thought that day was how grateful I was that I had just moved into this new office and had not yet had an opportunity to hang my mezuzah. And, right, so where does this fit in? I didn't decide to come to AJC because of some series of traumatic events. But just in terms of a turning point for me, what happened at Tree of Life and how that informed the remainder of my time and I was in Congress and the way I thought about my work, and, and then those fears on January 6, and realizing again, how at risk I felt even in the U.S. Capitol as a Jew. I suppose there is probably a straight line that I didn't see that started that day that led me to where I am now. Manya Brachear Pashman: So, you’ve been here a year now. How have these events shaped your work since you arrived? Ted Deutch: AJC's is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people in Israel, and to advance democratic values. If we go back to Tree of Life, and think about what's transpired since and the rise in antisemitism as we saw it around the country, and on social media, and the many ways that the community has felt at risk.  The week I started, Kanye West went on his antisemitic rampage on social media on Twitter. The Jewish community is not well if antisemitism is running rampant. So it's why we worked so hard with the White House, it's why we encouraged them to create a national strategy. It's why we brought in special envoys from around the world to meet with the White House to help inform the process. It's why we celebrated the release of the National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism and put toge
In the aftermath of the slaughter of 11 Jews inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, American Jewish Committee (AJC) drew up a plan to galvanize Jewish communities and their allies across the world in an expression of unity and defiance: #ShowUpForShabbat. The campaign, which reached hundreds of millions of people, urged those of all faiths to attend synagogue services during the Shabbat following the attack to show solidarity with the Jewish community. In this third episode of our Remembering Pittsburgh series, hear from some of those who showed up to that Shabbat five years ago on what the experience meant to them and how the events of that week altered their perspective on antisemitism in America. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Belle Yoeli, Anne Jolly, Rachel Ain, Sharif Street, Jennifer Mendelsohn Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Remembering Pittsburgh Part 2: What the Family of Tree of Life Victim Joyce Fienberg Wants You to Know About Her Legacy Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Shloime Balsam - Lo Lefached Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman:  This month, AJC set out to mark the five-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting at the Tree of Life with a series of episodes exploring this turning point for the American Jewish community. Our first installment aired October 5. Two days later, the Jewish people faced another unprecedented deadly antisemitic attack, this time in Israel. Synagogues stepped up security and families tamped down their fears to take their children to Hebrew school or attend Shabbat services. In the second episode of our series, we sat down with Howard and Marnie Fienberg, who paid tribute to their mother Joyce. In this third installment, we look back at how horror drew people to solidarity. May we see that same solidarity today.  Belle Yoeli: We saw hundreds of thousands of people show up. And we saw pictures later, after the fact, and videos, and people making speeches, and just so much solidarity. This was captured on the news. I think it really stands out as one of the most amazing responses to antisemitism that we've seen in modern history. Manya Brachear Pashman: On October 27, 2018, Americans witnessed the deadliest antisemitic attack in this nation’s history. Eleven worshipers inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were murdered just for being Jewish. The senseless slaughter inside a house of worship devastated and shocked American senses because it was simply unAmerican. But the aftermath of the atrocity became an American moment when so many people showed up – showed up with hugs, showed up with flowers, showed up with prayers for their Jewish neighbors.  The most visible expression of this came a week after the massacre with the unprecedented turnout of people of all faiths at synagogues across the nation as part of AJC’s #ShowUpForShabbat campaign. Together, Americans sent a message that hate will not prevail. Belle Yoeli: Everyone wanted to do something, and the entire Jewish community mobilized to make this happen with the understanding that as AJC has always said that antisemitism is not just about the Jewish community. It starts with the Jewish community, but it's a threat to democracy, and the murder of Jews in their religious institution is such a breaking, a fracturing of everything that the United States stands for, everything that democratic society stands for. Manya Brachear Pashman: Today, Belle Yoeli is the chief advocacy officer for AJC. In 2018, she worked as the chief of staff for then AJC CEO David Harris. David had spent nearly 20 years counseling European leaders on the rise of antisemitism in their midst, calling their attention to violent crimes against Jews when conflict erupted between Israel and their Arab neighbors. Belle was on her way to a nephew’s birthday party when she got the call on October 27 about what had happened in Pittsburgh. She remembers sobbing in the car on the phone with colleagues as they all grappled with the reality that whether they were regular shul-goers or had just happened to go to synagogue to celebrate a friend’s bar mitzvah that day – it just as easily could’ve been them. For many, what they needed now was to go to shul and not be afraid, and to see others, not just their own community, but others of all faiths in the pews alongside them. What they needed most now was to know they were not alone. So they drew up a plan. Belle Yoeli: A couple members of our staff actually kind of simultaneously came up with a similar idea, which was that we need to, more than anything, rally non-Jews to come and support the Jewish community at this time, and what better time to do that than the following Shabbat. Manya Brachear Pashman: Dubbed #ShowUpForShabbat, the social media-based campaign called on both Jews and those of other faiths to flock to synagogues that coming Shabbat on the weekend of November 2 in support of the Pittsburgh Jewish community and all of American Jewry. The response across 80 countries was astounding. More than 250 million people spread the message on social media, including celebrities Andy Cohen, Itzhak Perlman, and Mayim Bialik, and politicians Paul Ryan, Kamala Harris, and Sadiq Kahn. And hundreds of synagogues across the country and around the world, from Tokyo to Santiago to London to San Francisco, welcomed people of all faiths into their sanctuaries. Those who walked through the doors included diplomats from dozens of countries, federal, state, and local elected officials, and Christian, Muslim, Hindu clergy. Synagogues across the country reported massive crowds rivaling or exceeding those seen at High Holy Day services. Belle Yoeli: There are some times, I think before Pittsburgh, and before Tree of Life and after, where the Jewish community doesn't always feel like we are seen, and that we need defense too. When it comes to antisemitism, because Jews are viewed as white or for other reasons, or when it comes to us attacks against Israel, we don't feel like our partners are necessarily always there for us, although many are. Seeing with such clarity how people were showing up for the Jewish community, we all really needed that. And honestly, society needed that and to see that. That we will not let this stand. I think it shook everyone to their core and not just the Jewish community. That's what struck a chord with people that could have been me, that could have been hatred towards African Americans, that could have been hatred towards the Muslim community. Every single community who has a piece of them, an identity that’s so strong resonated with that. Manya Brachear Pashman: We connected with people who showed up that Shabbat five years ago, and asked them what the experience meant to them, whether the events of that week altered their perspective on antisemitism in America, or changed how they show support to their Jewish neighbors. Anne Jolly: An important part of what we proclaim is love God, love your neighbor, change the world. And so we believe that means we show up for each other. We can't love each other without being present with each other. So we have to be together. You have to show up. Manya Brachear Pashman: Episcopal Bishop of Ohio Anne Jolly was serving as the rector of St. Gregory Episcopal Church in Deerfield, Illinois in October 2018. A former hospital chaplain, she was sitting in her office when she heard the news break that Saturday morning. Her first call was to her friend and colleague Rabbi Karyn Kedar down the road at the Reform temple commonly known as Congregation BJBE. Rabbi Kedar had recently preached at St. Gregory and then-Pastor Jolly was scheduled to deliver the guest sermon at BJBE the following Friday night. Anne Jolly: I called her and we talked and we prayed. And I said to Karyn, I think probably you need to preach on the Shabbat following the shooting at your temple and she said, ‘I want you to do it.’ She said ‘I think I think we need to hear your voice and that the congregation needs to hear you. Rabbi Kedar I think thought that to hear a voice of someone who is not Jewish saying aloud, We love you, we care for you. We believe we are all created in God's image together. And that means we need to show up for each other. It means we need to be present with each other, that to hear that from someone who was not part of their community might be more powerful, more impactful, and more important for the community here at that time. Manya Brachear Pashman: When Bishop Jolly arrived that following Friday she did not expect her sudden sense of fear when she encountered armed guards. Anne Jolly: I didn't realize I was afraid until I walked in the door. And I stopped and had to take a deep breath and realize that I was afraid because I was entering into a space of people who have long been afraid. And that I had never had to experience that before in that way. And I wasn't really afraid for my congregation the same way I was for my beloveds in the synagogue, that they had more of a reason to be afraid than I did. And that was all the more reason for me to be there, and to be present with them. Manya Brachear Pashman: Bishop Jolly credits that night at BJBE for the deep connection that formed with the congregation. In fact, she returned to BJBE many more times to celebrate Shabbat. Precisely a year later, the members of the Jewish congregation showed up at her door after a pumpkin patch at St. Gregory had been destroyed by
Join us in a tribute to the memory of Joyce Fienberg, one of the 11 victims of the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In this touching second installment of our series on the events of 10/27 , we sit down with Joyce's son, Howard Fienberg, and his wife, Marnie, as they share their  journey of mourning and resilience. Joyce was not only a dedicated member of the Tree of Life synagogue but also a retired university researcher, a devoted mother, and grandmother. Howard and Marnie open up about their extended period of mourning due to trial delays, offering a glimpse into the emotional toll of such a traumatic event. Marnie details how she turned her grief into 2 for Seder, an initiative to honor Joyce and push back against the hate that creates antisemitism. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Howard Fienberg, Marnie Fienberg Show Notes: Listen: Remembering Pittsburgh Part 1: Behind the Scenes at the Reimagined Tree of Life Take Action: Urge Congress to Stand Against Rising Antisemitism Music credits: Tree of Life by Nefesh Mountain Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and review us on Apple Podcasts. Episode Transcript: Manya Brachear Pashman:   After her husband and mother died in 2016, Joyce Fienberg started each day at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, to recite Kaddish, the mourner's prayer. Even when she was no longer officially considered a mourner as Jewish tradition prescribes, 11 months, she continued to attend services each morning at the synagogue.  That's why Howard Feinberg knew his mother Joyce was at Tree of Life when he heard there had been a shooting there on the morning of October 27, 2018. It would be more than 12 hours before he learned she was among the 11 killed that day.  Howard and his wife Marnie are with us now from their home in Northern Virginia to talk about their prolonged mourning period and how they have held onto and channeled that grief. Howard, Marnie, thank you so much for joining us. Howard Fienberg:   Thanks for having us. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Howard, you followed your mother’s example and recited kaddish for 11 months. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? That experience of saying Kaddish and mourning for your mother, and also can you share with our listeners why it felt like the mourning period was extended? Howard Fienberg:   I felt a huge amount of support everywhere I went, in order to be able to say Kaddish every day. Which for someone who was not the most observant of Jews, it was a big lift to be able to do that every day. In fact, even when traveling in disparate places, that I could always find, somehow, be able to pull together 10 people to be able to say Kaddish was a big deal. And I wanted to make sure that no one would struggle in similar circumstances as well.  Obviously, initially, in Pittsburgh putting together 10 people was not a particularly big lift. Because the community support in that first week of Shiva was phenomenal. But it's not an easy thing in many congregations, and I think we are fortunate in mine that we always seem to pull it out every day. But I want to make sure that it happens. So in practice wise, that's one of the biggest things, my involvement with the synagogue, and prayer.  The broader extension of the mourning period, in a way, was a result of the constant delay of the trial for the monster that committed the massacre. And that was a result of both just the general usual procedural delays that you would expect, combined with COVID excuses that dragged things out during the trial. And once a new judge took over responsibility for this case, things suddenly snapped into gear and it moved forward. And we're particularly grateful for the judge in this case, just for his very no-nonsense approach moving forward. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Can you talk about whether the guilty verdict once it did take place, and a verdict was delivered, how that verdict changed anything for you and your family? Howard Fienberg:   It was a matter of relief, to a great extent. I sat through almost the entirety of the trial, heard and saw all of the evidence. A lot more than I expected to and ever wanted to, but I felt duty to do so. From an outside perspective, looking at it all, you would say this is a slam dunk case, lined up for all the federal hate crimes that were involved. And at the same time, I was in doubt until the jury came back and said, all said guilty. It's just the nature of things. I was on pins and needles. Massive relief afterwards and the same thing with the final verdict and sentencing. Massive relief for us and our families.  And that did allow…nothing's ever closed. You don’t finish feeling the loss of somebody, especially when they're taken in, you know, horribly violent terrorist circumstances. But you move from segment to segment. So the same as we do in the year of mourning, you're moving from shiva, which is one kind of thing, to the 30 days, and then to the end of the mourning period. And this was moving to yet another period. And what exactly this is and how long it will be, I don't know. But we're figuring that out as we go. I certainly feel a lot more relaxed. Marnie Fienberg: Feels a little lighter. Howard Fienberg:   Yes, definitely lighter. Manya Brachear Pashman:   That's good to hear. That's good to hear. I am curious, you said you felt a duty to listen to those details, even though you didn't want to. Can you explain why you felt that sense of obligation? Howard Fienberg:   Part of it is, somebody in our family needed to. And it wasn't something that I wanted everybody to sit and hear and see. And I specifically told friends and family as much as I could, to stay far away and said, as much as you want to know, I'll let you know. But otherwise, it's horrific. And it wasn't anything that I would wish for anybody to see and hear. But at the same time, it's the reality of how my mom died. And what the circumstances were, what was going on with the antisemitic conspiracy theories that drove the monster that killed her. And what did he have in mind, and what was his intention, what did he plan, what did he do? These were important things.  And the bigger picture, which I didn't even know going in, was the extent to which the police in Pittsburgh were so heroic. And while they were not able to save my mom, they saved other people, including friends of ours, and people who are now friends, who would not be alive if those cops had not tried to charge at the front door trying to charge the building and getting shot. And then the SWAT teams going into the building, and in a couple cases getting almost murdered themselves, trying to rescue the people that were inside. And they did rescue some people. And those people would most likely be dead if the SWAT had not rushed in. Equipment wise, they were not ready ordinarily for this sort of situation. But they went in anyways because they knew they needed to, and they didn't hesitate. And that's the kind of thing that you can only understand, having gone to the trial and learned what went on.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   Marnie, I want to turn to you. You quit your job as a federal contractor and started a nonprofit initiative called 2 For Seder. What prompted this sudden shift in your career? Marnie Fienberg: Well, I think that I was so upset about what happened with my mother-in-law, I did take a leave of absence initially. And I wanted to volunteer. Being a Jewish woman, and having all this anger and grief and all the support that we had received from people, literally all over the world. I just couldn't sit back and do nothing. So I wanted to do something that was really in honor of Joyce, but also something that would help every single Jewish individual if they so chose to be able to take some small tikun-olam-style action, and push back against the hate that creates antisemitism. And I think 2 For Seder really accomplished that, especially that first year. And we were really on track to grow quite enormously, except for COVID. COVID stopped us in our tracks, because it is about inviting 2 people into your home, who have never been to a Seder before and really educating them and immersing them in that Jewish joy and intimacy that you create every year at Passover.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   So I'm really curious about the seder connection. Was Joyce known for putting together really elaborate Seders? Was she just always at the Seder table? Why Seders? Marnie Fienberg: So this is a two part sort of explanation. So one is the sort of graduation to being allowed to hold the Seder. So my mother-in-law, really for 15 years we actually had done where we started at her house, and I helped her and I learned as we went and then we flipped it. And we came to our house and she would help me and make sure that I was doing things the right way and guiding me the right way. And there's, I mean, there's so much to do, putting on a Seder and trying to of course fit, you know, 30-35 people into a house that really should only have about 20 people in it is, of course, part of the tradition. And she never blinked an eye, it was never too much.  It was really mostly about making everyone at the table, regardless of their background–she always had students over, she always had people who had no place to go–every single person needed to feel like they were home. So if you had some sort of dietary restrictions, or any sort of an allergy or anything, my mother-in-law would bend over backwards, she bend herself into pretzels to make you feel 100% comfortable. And every single person who ever graced her table felt like they had never been more comfortable before. They felt like they wer
At 6:30 a.m on October 7, 2023, Renana Gomeh’s life changed forever when Iran-backed Hamas terrorists stormed her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz and took her two sons, ages 12 and 16, hostage. She has not heard from them since, knows nothing about the conditions they're held in, or whether they're still alive. Listen to Renana’s painful account of what happened two weeks ago, how she is coping, and her mission to bring them home.  American Jewish Committee (AJC) and more than 110 Jewish organizations have urged the United Nations and all governments to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. Take action to bring her sons home now. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40)  Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: What Biden’s Wartime Visit to Israel Signals to Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What is Known About Israeli Hostages Taken by Hamas  Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. ___ Transcript of Interview with Renana Gomeh: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Over 200 hostages are being held by the Iran backed terror group Hamas after its terrorist attack against Israel and the massacre of over 1400 Israelis on October 7. American Jewish Committee and more than 110 Jewish organizations from more than 40 countries have urged the United Nations and all governments to secure the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. The condition of many of the hostages remains unknown, yet we know some are in dire need of urgent medical care. With me to discuss her efforts to bring back her 12 year old and 16 year old sons is Renana Gomeh. Renana, thank you for joining us.  Renana Gomeh:   Thank you so much for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Now, your two sons were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on October 7. You were on the phone with your sons, as Hamas terrorists were breaking into your home. I cannot imagine what you've been going through over the past 2 weeks. Could you please tell listeners what happened that morning at 6:30am? Renana Gomeh:   Yes, I was on another kibbutz that Saturday morning, with my spouse. I have a partner living on another kibbutz in another community near the Gaza border, which is 15 minutes drive away. And I'm divorced, and my ex-husband lives 400 meters away from me. He's also a member of my kibbutz, of my community. And the boys just usually sleep at my place. You know, this is how they prefer it. And since they're not very young children anymore, we let them choose. So they were alone at home.  And he was at his place with his girlfriend, with his partner, who I love to bits. And about 6:30 in the morning, we all woke up to the red alert, which is unfortunately something which became a routine and we're used to. Since I was also on our kibbutz on the Gaza border, all communities at the Gaza border had red alerts and rockets flying over, hundreds of rockets flying over on a completely surprise attack. We just didn't see it coming whatsoever. I called my boys as I was running to the safe room at the place I was in to make sure that they're in the safe room at my place. And as the safe room is the eldest son's bedroom, he was there but he made sure that his little brother was also there. So they were in the safe room. And every couple of minutes I spoke to them to see that they were okay.  At a certain point they said they're starting hearing gunshots outside the house and I could hear gunshots outside the house I was in. Again, it was a completely well-planned and well-executed attack on all communities at the same time. So no one could go outside.  And I told them it was probably the army defending them. You know, they’re keeping us safe. 30 minutes later or so I can't remember. I've lost track of time to be honest, of that morning. We started getting text messages from other members of the community saying terrorists are walking outside freely, breaking into houses, trying to get people out. I was begging neighbors and people from the community to go and see, to go and see them, go and be with them. You know, try and help them. But no one could go outside. And there were probably over 100 terrorists walking around, getting into houses. So there was not a chance that anyone could help.  At a certain point I asked my elder brother, who's also a member of the community, to call my eldest [son] and tell him how to lock the door. The doors don't lock in a safe room because the safe rooms were planned against missiles and rocket attacks and against earthquakes. So they actually want you to have the door been able to open from the outside, so they can take you out. So they don't lock. But you know, there's certain technical ways to try and keep them locked. So I asked him to call my eldest and tell him how to do it. And then I later found out that he held the door like hell. And he fought for that door. But it didn't make it. And about an hour later, about two hours after the attack started, they called me and said, they hear someone breaking in. Breaking the door, breaking in, walking in the house.  And a couple of minutes later, I could hear Arabic speaking outside. The door opens. And my youngest said, Please don't take me, I'm too young. He was always good at manipulation. This time it didn’t work. And they took them. That was the last I've heard from them. It's almost two weeks now. And I've nothing, I've heard nothing. I know nothing of their whereabouts. I know nothing about the conditions they're held in, whether they eat, whether they sleep, and whether they're still alive. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I'm so sorry to make you relive that. But I also know that it's important that you share your story with the wider world.  Renana Gomeh It is, it is. I know. This is all I can do at the moment, you know. And so it means a lot to me that you're actually giving me the platform. Because what I need your audience to do is to enlist to the effort to get them released now. To get my boys home alive now. They shouldn't be there. They take children hostage, 80 people out of our small community, which only is about 400 people. 80 people were taken hostage from the age of six months to the age of 86. People who need medicine, people who need medical care. It's just plain children that need a mother.  I later found out that my ex-husband and his girlfriend were also taken hostage from their house. My hope is that they've met and they’re together. As 80 people were taken my hope is that someone that they know is with them, to support them and to help them. That's the story you know. As a mother to other mothers, just trying to imagine it was your child being kept there. Just for one hour, let alone 13 days. My heart goes out to every mother even in the Gaza Strip. You sometimes get in the news in Israel, you sometimes get news like a 14 year old terrorist was killed tonight at a terror attack and I always my heart goes out to them and I say you know he's 14, he’s someone's child. But what kind of a mother raises such monsters? Manya Brachear Pashman:   Of course, listeners who are hearing this can go to to send a letter to the United Nations, send a letter to Congress to demand swift action to release the hostages. I know that you are pushing for swift action to release your sons and the other hostages. Who have you met with, who have you talked to about bringing your sons home and what can be done?  Renana Gomeh:   Well I’ve met anyone who was willing to meet me. I was mainly trying to get the media, international media to hear my voice and to get people around the world to hear us. I think the international community has a lot of tools and there's many ways you can help by just by putting pressure, as you just suggested, by putting the right pressure in the right places, in order to release them. Obviously I want all of them to be released, there’s over 200 people kept in the Gaza Strip, as far as we know, I think there's more. But, you know, it's not for me to say. What we need you to do is to approach your governments. And ask them to release those civilians that are held. We don't even know, again, in what conditions and especially released those 40 or so children. Children under the age of 18, from babies to teenagers. They're not part of this game. I'm sorry. They are not bargain chips in the war game. Get them free now without any conditions whatsoever. I can't see how anyone can think otherwise. It's just plain and simple. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Renana, are you getting any explanations or theories from diplomats, people that you're speaking with, on why they're holding your sons and other children like this? Renana Gomeh:   To be honest, until two weeks ago, I saw us as neighbors. And I thought there was mutuality between us, you know, that we could have a future together. Those two people have a mutual economy, have mutual relations, even have mutual cultures. But I don't think we do. I can't even try and get into these terrorists' heads and the way they think, because what they did is not just taking soldiers hostages in order to bargain them, to trade them, for prisoners. What they did was to rape and decapitate and murder, just for the sake of fun.  They came in, had cameras, to have this horror filmed, and put on Facebook and on TikTok. So I can't even begin to try and understand but I reckon they probably want to bargain them for the prisoners, which as far a
Jason Isaacson, AJC’s Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer, joins us to break down U.S. President Joe Biden’s historic wartime visit to Israel and his message to Iran and its terror proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. Jason also shares his take on the fast-moving situation, including the fallout from the explosion at the Gaza hospital, the announcement of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and the growing antisemitic attacks in the Middle East and Europe.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Jason Isaacson Show Notes: Listen – People of the Pod on the Israel-Hamas War: Mai Gutman Was Supposed to Be at the Music Festival: IDF Lone Soldier Recounts Harrowing Week Responding to Hamas Terror: IsraAID CEO on How You Can Help Israelis Right Now Learn: What Everyone Needs to Know About Hamas’ Lie About a Rocket Strike on a Gaza Hospital  Donate: Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve appreciated this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. Transcript of Interview with Jason Isaacson: President Joe Biden: October 7th, which was a sacred Jewish holiday, became the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.  It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people. The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing.  We will not stand by and do nothing again.  Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. To those who are living in limbo waiting desperately to learn the fate of a loved one, especially to families of the hostages: You’re not alone. Manya Brachear Pashman:   On October 18th, 2023, President Joe Biden became the first American President to visit Israel during wartime, demonstrating his unequivocal support for the Israeli government. Here to talk about President Biden's visit is Jason Isaacson, AJC's chief policy and political affairs officer, joining us from Berlin where he's witnessed some of the European response to the crisis. Jason, welcome back to People of the Pod. Jason Isaacson:   Thank you, Manya.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   I am always shocked when the President goes to a war zone like he did go to Ukraine in February, or in this case, Israel. What did President Biden's visit signal about his support for Israel during this time? Jason Isaacson:   This is a president who has long identified himself as a strong supporter of Israel, who has spoken again and again, throughout his political career, from the time that he was a young man serving in the US Senate, of his support for, his identification with Israel.  But to hear him speak, as he spoke on Wednesday, in Tel Aviv, after meeting with the Israeli war cabinet that Prime Minister Netanyahu assembled, after other meetings that took place as well, to hear him speak with such passion, such conviction about the priority for the United States, of standing by Israel, of identifying with the struggle that Israel now faces against Hamas terror.  To hear him talk about “the nations of conscience,” as he referred to the US and Israel together. The struggle that the Jewish people have had over the centuries, the fight against antisemitism, his references to the Holocaust. All of that, and to say that the United States was standing by Israel, in the fullest possible way, the deployment of an aircraft carrier battle group to the eastern Mediterranean. Another aircraft carrier battle group, steaming to the eastern Mediterranean as well to provide additional support. The package of additional military assistance. He described it as an unprecedented package of military assistance that he is asking Congress to approve, to help Israel through this difficult time.  All of these statements and his just physical presence in Israel, in the midst of war, spoke volumes of the support that the United States has for Israel. And he also spoke frankly, about the tragedy that occurred the night before he arrived, at a hospital in Gaza. And the fact that all the indications are that this was caused by the fire of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the rocket that misfired. It wasn't, as so much of the media and so much of the region, frankly, has alleged that it was somehow the work of Israel.  Very clearly from the evidence that has been accumulated by U.S. surveillance and other means of data collection. This was something that was a misfire from the Palestinian side. All of that, packaged into a single presentation by the president at the old American Embassy in Tel Aviv, just spoke volumes of the support that the United States has for Israel, that the US is standing by Israel in this very difficult time. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Let's talk about people who immediately assumed that it was an Israeli airstrike that caused that explosion at that hospital. Many did jump on board with that argument, including Jordan and Egypt. And those are countries with whom Israel has had peace agreements for quite some time, but they seem to embrace that story right away. What is going on with the the Arab nations? What has their response been to this violence? Jason Isaacson:   It's profoundly disappointing. Lies have velocity and in the age of social media, enormous power, and circulation that really just can't be turned back without a huge effort to introduce the truth into the narrative. The lies that have been told about Israel for decades, have saturated the region and frankly, the world, and a lot of the international media as well, quite regrettably. Even in our own country.  So it's easy to believe that if you've been told for decades, that Israel is a colonizer, Israel is an oppressor, Israel is heartless in its treatment of its Palestinian neighbors, then you see pictures of people carrying wounded people or bodies strewn about a courtyard in Gaza, knowing that Israel is attacking Gaza, because it's trying to root out the Hamas terrorists have attacked Israel just a few days before. It's easy to believe if you've got that background, and you've been hearing this and been raised on this kind of media saturation, that Israel is to blame.  And it is only later that the facts come out, that the imagery that we have been now seeing on social media from a few sources, highly credible sources, what the United States government has now found through its own quite formidable means of data collection, that that this was not Israel, targeting a hospital or firing on a hospital. It was a Palestinian rocket that fell on this hospital while they were sending a barrage of rockets into Israel. There have been hundreds of Palestinian rockets and missiles that have fallen in Gaza and have killed Palestinians. This was the latest incident. It's horrible.  The people of Gaza are suffering. The Palestinians are suffering because of the rule of Hamas. And the more that the region talks about that openly–instead of talking about it privately.  AJC knows from our many years, including recently, of traveling across the Arab world and speaking to Arab leaders who know better, know the reality: that Israel is fighting ruthless terrorists, funded by, supported by, armed by Iran. And waging this war that is really their war, against these kinds of extremists who are hijacking a great faith and fighting in the name of a great faith when they are actually doing everything they possibly can to damage the reputation of and the standing and the principles of a great faith.  And Israel is fighting this fight not only for itself and for its people, but frankly, for the possibility of peace and stability and prosperity in that region. I'm hopeful that at some point, it will be possible for the leaders of that region to step forward and say publicly what they have said so many times privately that they know that Israel's struggle is their struggle. And there have been a few assertions of this, I have to point out, in the last week and a half, there have been some statements that have identified by name, Hamas.  I was struck by a statement made by the UAE ambassador to the UN. Statements that were issued on Twitter, by the Kingdom of Bahrain and by the United Arab Emirates a few days after the October 7 atrocities in Israel. But so many of the statements that we've seen in the last week, have been profoundly disappointing and hypocritical.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   You mentioned the actual threat of Iran to Arab nations. I'm curious what message Biden's visit sends to Iran and its terror proxies on the border with Lebanon? Jason Isaacson:   Well, I very much hope that having the USS Gerald R. Ford in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on its way as well. There was also, I believe, a fighter squadron that was being repositioned to the region. There are enormous military assets that were already in the region.  But the US has made it very clear, President Biden, Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin, in their visits to the region as well, have made it very clear that the US is telling the region as President Biden said, again and again, you know, my message to the region is: don't. Don't even think about the possibility of adding to this fight against Israel of joining this fight against Israel. The US will step forward.  Whether the US will not only provide additional military hardware, as the President has offered, and there of course are many friends in Congress who are stepping forward right now to provide for that as well. But the US could also enter this fight, depending on the circumstance, on the possibility of a widening of the war. Should Iran make the tragic blunder of deciding to somehow enter into this fight in a more direct way, there would be a powerful response. I think the President has made that quit
Mai Gutman, 28, a graduate student and member of AJC's Campus Global Board, had planned to join her friends at the Supernova music festival near Israel's border with Gaza on Saturday, October 7. But when relatives came to visit, she decided to celebrate Shabbat and Simchat Torah in Jerusalem instead—a change of plans that saved her life. At least 260 young Israelis and people from all over the world were brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists at the festival. Mai, an IDF reservist who was just recently called up, joins us from her base to talk about waking up in Jerusalem the morning of October 7, the harrowing messages that she received from friends, and the four days since.   *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Mai Gutman Show Notes: Donate: Learn: Song credits:  Pond5:  “Hatikvah (National Anthem Of Israel, Electric Guitar)”; Composer: Composer: Eli Sibony; ID#122561081 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 Mai Gutman: Manya Brachear Pashman: The techno music festival near Israel's border with Gaza was billed as the essence of unity and love in a breathtaking location. At least 260 people were brutally killed by Hamas terrorists there on Saturday morning, October 7th. 28-year-old Mai Gutman was supposed to be there and had already joined the WhatsApp groups of friends and fellow concert goers to keep in touch. But she did not go. Mai, a member of AJC's Campus Global Board and a reservist who was just recently called up, joins us from her IDF base to talk about waking up in Jerusalem the morning of October 7th and the four days since.  Mai, welcome.  Where are you now? Mai Gutman:   I live in Herzeliya. Currently, located in a place that I can't exactly disclose, but I am in the north of Israel. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Are you able to share what you're seeing and hearing all around you? Mai Gutman:   Currently where I am I mean, we can hear the news, we can hear what's going on around us in the South as well. Even though we are stationed in the north. Today [October 11, 2023] was a pretty hectic day in terms of developments on the northern border. We had a day pretty much full of running to the bomb shelters and staying there, which indicated some sort of an escalation. I can't go into too many details, obviously. But we can feel the escalation coming and we're prepared for it. Manya Brachear Pashman:  So you were born in Israel but grew up mostly in Melbourne, Australia. How did you end up back in Israel? Mai Gutman:   I moved to Australia with my parents when I was only 18 months old, and I had grown up in Australia. But I had always felt a very strong connection to Israel. Something that really I couldn't put into words, I couldn't explain, it was just an inherent feeling. And when I was 18, I just decided that I'm going to go to Israel, I'm going to make Aliya and I'm going to draft into the army just because I think, you know, for me, it was important, if I'm going to live there, then I definitely need to carry the burden and be a part of society in that way and contribute. Because I find it difficult to comprehend living here, and not being a part of that very fundamental part of people's lives. It's a very crucial part of people's lives around here. And I feel like I wouldn't really be able to fit in and understand, you know, Israeli society, and also the Israeli mentality without having that experience. And I also just think that it's important, all in all, just to contribute. And that's I guess, how I got into the army. And I served for almost three years in a combat unit in search and rescue. For me, at the time, when I first drafted it was really the first years of women going into combat units. So it was a very kind of still a new idea. And I was really eager to jump on that and see how I go. Manya Brachear Pashman: So with no immediate family there, does that qualify you as a lone soldier? Mai Gutman:   Yes, absolutely. So I enlisted with Garin Tzabar, which is a program that brings young adults from all around the world who want to make Aliyah and specifically to draft into the IDF, but don't have any immediate family with them. So Garin Tzabar provides that network of family and support, I guess, to deal with, first of all, all the bureaucracy that comes with moving to another country and drafting into the military. But also, you know, you get put on a kibbutz and you get given a host family, which is really nice. And it's just nice to have that initial support network because it might feel a little bit lonely when we first arrive. But now we're really like a one big family and we still keep in touch to this day, even though it was I think, 10 years ago, almost that we were all together on the kibbutz. Manya Brachear Pashman:  So where were you when this escalation first began on October 7? Mai Gutman:   I want to preface this by saying I was in Jerusalem on October 7, I was celebrating the chag of Simchat Torah, and the Sabbath with my family with my cousins. And also I had cousins that actually came from America, to join us in Jerusalem was a very big occasion. And that's really, I think, the only reason why I decided to come to Jerusalem and spend time with family because there was a very big music festival happening that weekend. And I was very keen initially, to go to that music festival. I had initially planned to go with my friend. And I joined, you know, the WhatsApp groups to try and find a good crew to go up with and find a means of transportation and all that. And then yeah, literally, you know, I think it was a couple of days later that my aunt had called me and she said, Hey, listen, you know, your cousins are coming. We're all going to be in Jerusalem at the same time. Like, let's, let's all do hog together, we really want you to come and be with us. And I said, Well, obviously, I mean, I'd rather be with family on such a unique occasion, I can go to a music festival any other time.  So you know, I just kind of dropped those plans and ended up doing it in Jerusalem and ended up spent spending that weekend in Jerusalem, which was, I think the decision that ended up saving my life. And the morning of October 7, I had woken up to the sound of sirens, of Red Alert sirens, which is the sirens that go off when there's a rocket that's approaching an area in Israel, which was quite confusing to me. It was about 8am. And it was quite confusing to me, because in order for rocket sirens to be going off in Jerusalem, for me, I had to put quickly two and two in my head and say, well, that means that there's a lot more going on down south.  So I you know, being a Sabbath day being a chag day as well in my family being, you know, Orthodox and observant of that day, we didn't have our phones at the ready. We didn't have the news on or anything like that. So I had decided to quickly jump on and see what was going on. Because obviously it was a lot more serious than what I thought.  And I opened my phone and I'm reading the headlines in absolute disbelief, in shock. Terrorists had infiltrated into Israeli territory, they had massacred people on the streets, innocent civilians. They had burned houses, they'd gone into bomb shelters and literally just gunned people down. I think the most shocking part, though, was when my phone started pinging with those WhatsApp groups that I was saying earlier that I was part of a music festival. And the messages started coming through saying Help us help us You have no idea that here they're gunning us down. They're shooting at us. I'm bleeding, I'm hurt. Can someone call the police, call the army. My friend’s dead. I think someone help me, someone help me. And other people are texting like you know some people went some people did it's pretty big Whatsapp group. What's going on? Who do we call? No one at the police station is answering. Nobody in the army bases are answering–why? Because terrorists had already commandeered their bases. They had murdered everyone. Almost everyone in those bases in order to get through. And they've made their way to this music festival of peace and love where people were celebrating. Young people my age, young people, my friend’s age, my friends as well, who were there who came to have a good time. And you see them in this footage that they're sending through in the early hours of the morning, sending through footage of, of running of bullets, and they're dressed in their costumes, their beautiful faces made with colorful face paint.  And you can see that they were just having a good time and tears streaming and screaming and running and shooting in the background. And it's like a war zone.  It was like a scene from Armageddon. It looks apocalyptic. And I was just shaking, holding my phone shaking. What do I do? How do I feel helpless, I have nothing that I can do. And in the meanwhile, there are sirens going off in the background rocket rocket attacks on Jerusalem, rocket attacks down south. And you just feel like, Oh, my God. And you've just woken up just so you understand. Like you've just woken up. It's so overwhelming. Manya Brachear Pashman: Oh, Mai. I can’t imagine your struggle in those moments to really distinguish between nightmare or reality.  What did you do to try to make sense of things?  Mai Gutman: I turned on the news. And on the news, they're saying, Oh, we think that, you know, there are rocket sirens. And we think that there might be something going on in the South that maybe terrorists have entered. We're not sure. And nothing about the music festival. The music festiv
We’re joined by Yotam Politzer, CEO of IsraAID, to discuss how Israel’s leading international humanitarian organization is responding to the immediate and long-term needs on the ground in the wake of Iran-backed Hamas's barbaric terrorist attack in Israel. Politzer shares how American Jews can step up to support Israelis through this incredibly difficult time. American Jewish Committee (AJC) has launched an Israel Emergency Campaign to support Israeli relief organizations. Their first grantee will be IsraAID, AJC's longtime partner, which has responded to emergencies worldwide, but never before in Israel. Until now.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Yotam Politzer  Show Notes: Donate: Learn:  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 Yotam Politzer: Manya Brachear Pashman:   On the morning of October 7th, Hamas, the terror group governing Gaza and backed by Iran’s regime, launched a brutal assault against Israel, invading towns and cities across the southern border aiming to kill as many people as possible and taking more than 100 captives to Gaza. By the time of this recording, the death toll had reached 900. Thousands more are wounded.  In response to this atrocity, American Jewish Committee has launched an Israel Emergency Campaign to support Israeli relief organizations. The first recipient money raised will be AJC’s longtime partner IsraAID, which has responded to emergencies in more than 50 countries around the world, but never before in Israel– until now.  Yotam Polizer, CEO Of IsraAID, joined us in Tel Aviv earlier this summer. He is joining us again now from New York, where he was visiting when the war broke out. While Yotam is unable to return home at the moment due to lack of flights to Israel, he is working hard to coordinate emergency response from here and is with us to discuss the efforts underway. Yotam, welcome back to People of the Pod.  Yotam Politzer:   Thanks for having me.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   It must be so difficult not to be there with your team.  Yotam Politzer:   Thankfully, our headquarters and our emergency response team is already in full speed. So I think it's also important for me to be here for two reasons, one, to coordinate the support, and not less importantly, to communicate to people here, both in the Jewish community and in the general community, what we're seeing and hearing in terms of the humanitarian needs on the ground. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So what are you hearing from your people on the ground there? What are they reporting? Yotam Politzer:   I don't think I need to elaborate on the horrors because I think we've all been following the news and saw all the horrific images. But for us, as Israel’s leading international humanitarian organization, we have never had a full-scale humanitarian response in Israel. This is the first time we're actually doing it. And we're doing it because the situation is indeed dire and extreme. The biggest need that we identify right now is related to mental health. And because, of course, we are not a humanitarian organization, we're not involved in the security and the military operation. And of course, there are many needs related to the operation that's going on. From a humanitarian perspective, the whole country is traumatized.  I don't know of a single person who doesn't know anyone who either was murdered or kidnapped or both. And the number of people who have an immediate family member, or neighbor, who was murdered, or unaccounted for and probably kidnapped by Hamas is so high, talking about hundreds of 1000s of people. Specifically, what we consider the most vulnerable are obviously the people who lived on the frontline, the villages, the moshavim, and the kibbutzim surrounding Gaza. They have lost on average 10-20% of their population in each of these villages. In Kibbutz Be'eri, just an hour ago, it was published that they found 108 bodies– that's probably much more than 10% of the population there. And many more again, are kidnapped. So these communities who suffered the worst atrocities a person could think of are now in different shelters around the country. So supporting them in these shelters in any shape or form is the most important humanitarian mission of our time.  Many of them have been evacuated specifically from this kibbutz to the Dead Sea, to the Dead Sea hotels, because it's one of the safest places in Israel. If God forbid, we will have another frontline on the north border, that's still safe enough for these people. And these hotels are now operating as shelters and evacuation centers. And the government and the local regional council and the hotel owners are currently providing the food and shelter. So there are less needs on that front. But again, when it comes to mental health support for everyone there, this is crucial. So that's what our team has been focusing on.  Manya Brachear Pashman:   You’re also operating what are called Child Safe Spaces, which you describe as “a place for the kids to be kids.” Tell us more about that.  Yotam Politzer:   We can't imagine what these kids went through. And we just want to give them some sense of normalcy. And let them be kids again, and let them play and let them express themselves and let them release their stress and allow their parents or whoever is left from their families a chance to finally maybe get some sleep, try to reorganize, regroup and deal with everything else that they need to deal with. Try to, you know, start thinking about rebuilding their life after these horrors, which again, will obviously take years. So when we look at the humanitarian needs, I think we need to look at the immediate needs. But even more important, we need to understand that there will be long term needs for these people, and for everyone that is related to them. And so as IsraAID it's very important for us to be first on the ground, wherever it is, in Israel, or in anywhere else in the world. In fact, our team who was responding to the earthquake in Morocco, is now on its way back to Israel to join our team that's already responding in Israel. So that's in short. Manya Brachear Pashman:   In fact, some of the services that you are describing, I believe, you described to me when we spoke earlier this summer, regarding the war in Ukraine, right, many of these similar services were provided there as well, as well as other places around the world. Can you elaborate a little bit about where else around the world you have offered the same services that you're now offering everywhere? Yotam Politzer:   I mean, I started my humanitarian career in Japan, again, another developed country, following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, that killed more than 20,000 people. And they're there, the local government, the local community was very well equipped to support with infrastructure, but they didn't have any kind of emotional mental health support and trauma care. So we actually brought therapists from Sderot, who was working with children who are traumatized in Sderot and develop these models. We brought them to Japan, and we worked with the Syrian refugees with Arabic speaking therapist from Israel. We worked we work in Ukraine in partnership with the First Lady doing mental health and trauma and resilience. And, now we're in Israel. And yes, there are many great professionals doing that in Israel, but many of them were affected. And the level of trauma is so big, that we have to do it in Israel, too. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So what can people here do Yotam? How can they help? Because there's certainly a feeling of helplessness as we watch these images from abroad.  Yotam Politzer:   Yeah and I totally understand and I think being in a position of doing is very important. Look, I think the two main things to do right now, from here from the other side of the world, which is what I'm trying to do as well, while I'm here, is supporting initiatives like IsraAID, like many other organizations who are responding, and they are great organizations, from Magen David Adom, MDA, that people know, and United Hatzalah, and many are focusing on medical services, some of the hospitals, which is very important.  The other thing, which is very, very important, and I think each and every one of us can do, even if we don't have the financial resources, is to be ambassadors for the people of Israel. And we need it more than ever. And it means to do it in the Jewish community, outside the Jewish community, on social media, in synagogues, in schools, in the supermarket, everywhere, there are so many ways to become ambassadors for Israel. And this is something we can all do using our phone. And, and it's very, very important.  And for the people of Israel, and especially the people who are worst affected. There's so much anger, so much frustration, so much fear, and anxiety. And showing our solidarity, in every shape or form, has a huge mental health impact on Israel. I mean, these pictures of cities, the Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate. In Kyiv. More than 20 places were displaying the Israeli flag as solidarity. I saw it shared so widely in Israel. I mean, knowing hat we have friends. And a lot of them have a huge impact, not only on the Hasbara, and advocacy, which is important, I'm not against it, but also for the mental health and well being of the people of Israel. So it's very, very important.  What is less helpful at the moment, I'm not against it in general. I don't think we need to send supplies from here to Israel. I know a lot of people want to send supplies, but we can purchase supplies in
This month, we mark the five-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting at the Tree of Life. On October 27, 2018, 11 worshipers were murdered solely for being Jewish, in the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. As the first installment in a four-part series, we take you inside the Tree of Life building before it is demolished in the coming months to make way for a new complex dedicated to Jewish life and combating antisemitism. Hear from Carole Zawatsky, the CEO behind the reimagined Tree of Life, and Eric Lidji, director of the Rauh Jewish Archive, as they explain their mission: to preserve artifacts and memories so that the story is preserved forever. Carole shares her commitment to honoring the victims, and Eric discusses the challenges of documenting an ongoing tragedy. Together, they emphasize the power of bearing witness to history and the healing strength of remembrance. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Eric Lidji, Carole Zawatsky 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 Fire Tree (Violin Version) by Axletree is licensed under a Attribution 4.0 International License. Al Kol Eleh (backing track), with Yisrael Lutnick 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: 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.  This is the first installment of a series of episodes throughout the month of October devoted to remembering and honoring the lives lost that day and reflecting on how the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history changed those families, changed us, and changed our country.  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. 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: The founding director of the Maltz Museum in northeast Ohio, Carole has spent the last 30 years developing programs and education around the Holocaust and genocide, and overseeing projects that explore Jewish heritage from a national perspective and through a local lens. She led our tour. On October 27, 2018, the congregations of Tree of Life, New Light, and Dor Hadash, which all met in separate areas of the large, multi-story building, had just ushered in the new Hebrew year of 5779. Young students at the Hebrew school had written their own personal Ten Commandments that the teachers had hung on the walls of an upstairs classroom. Carole Zawatsky: Don't egg your neighbor's house, respect your parent. Every one of them said: Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not kill. And those 10 commandments that they wrote in their little student handwriting were thumbtacked up on the wall in the very classroom where the gunman was apprehended. Manya Brachear Pashman: Before the rebuilding of Tree of Life begins, Carole’s no. 1 priority has been preserving the artifacts and remnants that bear witness to what happened. Artifacts include the ark, damaged by bullets, the Torah scrolls, which were remarkably unscathed but for the handles. The list of whose Yahrzeits fell on that day, still on the podium; and, of course, the children’s artwork and the wall behind it. Carole Zawatsky: In the work happening here, and in my role as the CEO, I constantly ask: ‘Am I doing it right? Am I doing enough?’ And preserving the evidentiary material was incredibly important to me, that we have the physical evidence to bear witness. And as that drywall in the classroom in which the gunman, the murderer, was apprehended, was coming down, I found myself asking: ‘Have I saved enough? Will this story be preserved forever? Have we done everything we can?’ Manya Brachear Pashman: Helping Carole with this Herculean effort, is Eric Lidji, the director of the Rauh Jewish Archive at the Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Museum, in downtown Pittsburgh. Eric has been collecting documentation and evidence for the archive since October 28, 2018.  Painted stones left in memory of the victims, hand-made signs, pamphlets, and prayers from vigils, sermons from interfaith services. But also a pair of tennis shoes, a guitar, a framed leaf from the Raoul Wallenberg Tree planted in Israel, a cross affixed with Stars of David -- all individual expressions of a community-wide anguish. Eric Lidji: Even before I entered the building, we knew that there were going to be pieces of the building that had historic value. Since late 2018, I've been in the building numerous times, dozens of times, doing work there. And it sort of culminated in this opportunity in early June, where we were allowed to go in and identify pieces of the building that became historic that day, and figure out how to get them out. Manya Brachear Pashman: This is no simple job for anyone involved, no less for Eric, who is accustomed to handling archival materials from generations past, not the present. Eric Lidji: It’s hard for me to disentangle the work of pulling these things out of the building with the knowledge that these families that I've come to know and love, that this is sort of directly related to their loved ones passing. 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.  The stories that we're used to telling at the archive, they move much slower. You know, when you get records from 75 or 100 years ago, that's in motion too, but it's moving very slowly. A
All eyes have been on the University of Pennsylvania and the Palestine Writes event, a gathering meant to give voice to Palestinian art, poetry, and literature on campus. However, a number of the speakers, including Roger Waters and Marc Lamont Hill, have well-documented histories of antisemitic statements.  Maya Harpaz, Vice President of Israel Engagement at Penn Hillel, and Jonah Miller, a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, take you through what unfolded, growing campus antisemitism, defining free speech on campus, and the responsibility of university administrators to protect Jewish students.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Maya Harpaz, Jonah Miller Show Notes: Watch: Live from Penn: Maya Harpaz of Penn Hillel on Palestine Writes Read: Everything you need to know about the Palestine Writes event at Penn and antisemitism.  AJC Campus Library: Resources for Becoming a Strong Jewish Student Advocate Listen: What the UN Needs To Do To Stop Iranian and Russian Aggression Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Maya Harpaz and Jonah Miller: Manya Brachear Pashman: Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman, AJC's Senior Director of the Alexander Young Leadership Department, guest hosts this week’s conversation with two Jewish college students about a situation on their campus and how they responded. Meggie, take it away.  Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman:   Thanks, Manya. This past week, it seemed like all eyes were on the University of Pennsylvania in the lead up to the Palestine Writes event. The event was meant to give voice to Palestinian art, poetry, and literature- all of which are quite appropriate and indeed valuable to have on a university campus. However, a number of the announced speakers strayed from the event’s purpose and instead have well-documented histories of antisemitic statements. These include Roger Waters, who was recently described by the U.S. State Department as having a long track record of using antisemitic tropes, after he desecrated the memory of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, compared Israel to the Third Reich, and recently paraded around a stage wearing an SS Nazi uniform during a concert in Berlin. It also included Marc Lamont Hill, whose public remarks as a CNN commentator called for Israel’s eradication. At play were questions around growing campus antisemitism, free speech on campus, and the role of university administrators in preventing such bigotry–particularly with the release in May of the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, and its outsized focus on how antisemitism affects Jewish students on campus.  To help us break down these events and what unfolded are two Jewish students who experienced this all firsthand and helped drive the course of events.  Joining me are Maya Harpaz, a junior at Penn, and Vice President of Israel Engagement at Penn Hillel, and Jonah Miller, a junior at Penn, and a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s student newspaper. Maya and Jonah, thanks for joining us on People of the Pod.  Jonah Miller:   Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to our discussion. Maya Harpaz:   Yeah, thank you for having us. Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman:  Great. So with that, let's jump in. So there are many chapters to what happened at Penn, and I think a great deal of misinformation. So let's go back to the beginning. When did Jewish students first hear about the Palestine Writes event, and particularly its speaker lineup? And upon initially learning about it, what were the specific concerns that Jewish students had? Jonah Miller:   I think that when I learned about the Palestine Writes event, I learned about it simultaneously with who some of these speakers are. Penn is a large university and institution that has countless events each day, hosted and co-sponsored by numerous different departments and facets of the university. If I had learned about this festival, solely, just about the festival, I would say, you know, great, it's great that this culture, and these literary items are being amplified on campus. Everyone and every culture should have a space on this campus.  But to learn about at the same time as concerns of antisemitic speakers, that's when I as a Jewish student, started to get a little nervous. Nervous, because how could Penn allow antisemitic speakers to come speak on a campus that is close to 20% Jewish? And even without that high percentage, how could they be invited to speak at all? Maya Harpaz:   Yeah, I can touch on that as well. In my role as VP Israel, a big part of that is seeing what events are going on, whether it be related to the Middle East at large, Israel, Palestinians, all of that combined. So I learned about this event A while ago, late July, early August. So before it was really even being spoken about on campus. I was having conversations as the speakers were still being finalized, as marketing materials were still being put out and discussed with a lot of the other student leaders and Hillel staff, about what our approach was going to be to handle this event.  And how we were going to relay that to the Jewish community at large. So similar to what Jonah said, Jewish students definitely learned about the event and the problematic speakers hand in hand after Hillel started sending out emails about it. And after we sent our letter to the administration and after the DP coverage. Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman:  So Maya, I want to dive into that approach in the letter that you just raised. At least from the outside, one of the first steps seemed to be a letter drafted by Penn's Jewish student leadership to President Magill, of which you were a signatory, outlining specific steps the community wanted the university to take on. So can you give us some background of how that letter came into being and can you share for our listeners what it outlined for the administration? Maya Harpaz:   Yes, so this letter came to be sort of as we were having these conversations over the summer. And then once we got to campus, we all sat down with the presidents of PIPAC, SSI, Tamid, presidents of Chabad. And we sort of sat down and we were like, we know why these speakers and why this event could be problematic for our community. How do we outline that to the administration in a way that is logical and not also attacking of another group's culture. Because that's not what we wanted to do. It wasn't our goal to get this event canceled, it wasn't to blow it up in their faces. It was really just, we have specific concerns, and how do we articulate that?  So we wrote this letter addressed to the president, the provost, and the dean, and sent it to high-level members of the President's administration, specifically referencing Roger Waters and Marc Lamont Hill. And we asked them to have a meeting with us so we could really sit down and have a conversation, and to make a statement about this event.  And from my perspective, it was definitely a productive meeting, we voiced our concerns about the speakers, we asked them a lot of questions about what was the process of this event being welcomed on our campus, and they explained how they rented out the space and the head of the NELC department explained the process of co-sponsoring, and we really had an open dialogue about what really happened and how we can improve on that in the future. And then shortly after that, the President released her statement about the event. Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman:  So Maya, I want to dive into a number of things that you just got at. So one is, and you alluded to this, the letter specifically did not call for the canceling of the event. And from my understanding, that's not something that Hillel was asking for. Can you talk about why that is? Maya Harpaz:   Yes. So as Jonah also said, when you learn about just the event as the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, it sounds perfectly normal. Sounds like it's just a group wanting to celebrate their culture and their literature. And our goal was not to cancel that. There was over I think, 120 speakers. And our goal was to call out the ones that were problematic towards our community, not cancel their right to speak, their right to celebrate.  I'm a big believer in free speech. And I didn't want to ask anyone to cancel something. I know that, I'm sure that we at Hillel and Chabad have events with proud Zionists that have maybe done questionable things or said questionable things in the past too, that maybe even some of our own Jewish students don't agree with.  But Roger Waters definitely crossed the line for us. And we ended up asking for him to be uninvited and even though he was on Zoom, we were definitely very, very concerned about that, because it definitely crossed the line of our threshold of comfortableness in terms of hate speech, but it wasn't our goal to get this event canceled. And we knew it wasn't a reasonable ask either. It was a huge event that's been in the planning and in the works for a year. Meggie Wyschogrod Fredman:  And then I want to touch on kind of the tail end of what you just described. So what did come out of that initial letter is President Magill, and her administration, indeed issued an initial statement following that letter, following what you had articulated. And that statement did have a clear condemnation of antisemitism, but it left some unsatisfied with what may not have been in there. So I'm curious from both of you, what was your interpretation of that initial statement? And can you describe what came next, particularly as the national attenti
This week, Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Managing Director of AJC Europe, joins us to discuss AJC’s leading role in the Jewish community’s diplomatic efforts at the United Nations General Assembly. Simone highlights key areas of advocacy, including countering the Iranian threat, addressing antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, advancing the Abraham Accords, and supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. We also explore the impact of addresses from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, who have used the UN platform to spread antisemitic and anti-Israel narratives. Simone sheds light on the challenges and progress in shaping international policies on these critical issues. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Simone Rodan Benzaquen Show Notes: Test your knowledge: About the UN, Israel, fighting antisemitism, and AJC's role Read: AJC Advocacy at UN General Assembly 2023 Top 5 Things AJC is Tracking at the United Nations General Assembly Five Things to Know About President Raisi and Human Rights in Iran and Beyond Key Takeaways From President Biden’s Address to the UN General Assembly Mahsa Amini Protests One Year Later: What is the Current Human Rights Situation in Iran? Listen: Deborah Lipstadt on the Abraham Accords’ Impact and the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Simone Rodan Benzaquen: Manya Brachear Pashman:    All this week, leaders from 193 nations have gathered in New York, addressing the United Nations General Assembly. But there's a lot of action on the sidelines as well. That's where policy experts from the American Jewish Committee do their diplomatic outreach, urging leaders to expand and strengthen ties with Israel, and counter rising antisemitism and extremism. With us to discuss what's been happening on those sidelines is Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Managing Director of AJC Europe. Simone, welcome to People of the Pod. Simone Rodan Benzaquen:   Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. Manya Brachear Pashman:    So I'll start with Iran. How are we pushing leaders to address the threat from Iran this week? Simone Rodan Benzaquen:   So Iran, as you rightly point out, is a really priority issue for us in all of the meetings we've had in particular with on my end with the European leaders, and it's, and our objective is really to make sure that we are countering Iran on all fronts. Of course, there's the nuclear file.  And so our objective is to push leaders to be aware and really understand that, if that was to happen, we are entering an entirely new world. If we think that the war that Russia has been waging on Ukraine was a game changer for the stability of the world, we have not seen anything yet. So our objective is to really push European and international leaders to really address the issue.  The second issue is, of course, human rights. We are now a year after the murder of Mahsa Amini, and really the horrible repression that the Iranian regime has committed against its own people. And there has been a time when European international leaders were very, very clear in their support for the Iranian people, and in condemning the Iranian regime and the Islamic Republic.  But these past months, we've heard a little bit less of that. So our objective is really, has really been to reengage them on that commitment.  And then third of all, and this is really a very specific issue, particularly in Europe, is the Iran Revolutionary Guard. And so the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council, the IRGC, is not listed as a terrorist organization in the EU. And that is obviously not normal. First of all, because they have been committing horrible crimes in their own country, because they have been committing terrorist acts across the world. Because they are obviously a key sponsor of terrorism across the world, because of their role also in Ukraine. They have armed Russia with Iranian drones, they have trained people on the ground. And lastly, and this is for us, very important as the Jewish advocacy organization, they have been threatening Jewish communities across Europe. There are a number of cases that are now very clear, which include in Germany, in the United Kingdom, but also in Greece and in Cyprus, where it's very clear that Iran is threatening Jewish communities and Israelis on European soil.  Now, Europe for the past years, has made it very clear that it's a key priority for itself to combat antisemitism on the ground and in Europe. And that's a very important commitment. Now, if they're very, very serious about that commitment, they also have to act against the IRGC, which is today a key threat to Jewish communities on the ground.  So we have been pushing European leaders to take steps to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. As always, this will take time; it's not going to happen just during the UN General Assembly. But we've made some progress. We have had some very good conversations with a number of European countries and I hope down the line that we will be able to get there. Manya Brachear Pashman:    So now what about Hezbollah? Because I know for many years we have pushed leaders at the UN General Assembly to designate Hezbollah, a terrorist organization in its entirety. This campaign has been going on for many years. Is that campaign changing in any way this year? Simone Rodan Benzaquen:   No, it's not changing, it continues to be a key priority for us. By the way, the issue is linked, of course, I mean, what is Hezbollah, if not a proxy of Iran, an Iranian state within Lebanon, that is threatening, of course, Israel, but also has been committing terrorist acts across the world.  So no, it has not changed. We are just trying to link the dots and explain to everybody that everything is linked. We're not there yet. There are a number of countries, as you know Manya, who have taken individual steps in Europe to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, because it is blocked on the EU-wide level.  But you know what, we just celebrated Rosh Hashana. You know, at the end of the day, there is always hope,  particularly for the Jewish people. So we will not be giving up on it and eventually we'll get there. Manya Brachear Pashman:    You mentioned the IRGC's role in Ukraine with providing weapons and we heard from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky this week, warning that Russia was weaponizing essentials like food and energy, not only against Ukraine, but against every country. And I know the UN Human Rights Council created, with AJC's urging, an independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which has already determined that Russia is responsible for war crimes. So how are we advancing that conversation on the sidelines this week? Simone Rodan Benzaquen:   Listen, on the European side, I would say the conversation is very easy, because Europeans understand that if Russia is allowed to strategically win this war. That means that, though, that they, their countries, that the European Union, as such, will be threatened by Russia. Russia will not stop with Ukraine. President I hesitate always to call him president, but Putin has made it very clear that for him, the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century, is the fact that the Euro that the Soviet Union fell apart. And so he wants to go back to that scenario.  So Europeans are aware of it, their commitment to Ukraine, is very much there, actually, surprisingly, because many people, when the war started, were very much afraid that that, at the end, you know, there will not be European unity, that there will not be unity in the international community and in the West, in their support for Ukraine, and finally, you know, a year and a half later, we're still there, the United States is committed in supporting Ukraine, the European Union is committed in supporting Ukraine.  But more needs to be done. We need to be able to provide more help to Ukraine. And again, as you said, especially as Russia is weaponizing every single possible way, whether it's energy, whether it's food, to exert pressure, to make sure that at the end, we are faltering. Manya Brachear Pashman:    So I want to switch the focus a little bit from international diplomacy and war to the IHRA working definition. This has been an ongoing conversation with the UN. AJC has been urging the UN and its member countries to use it to develop plans to counter anti semitism. How is that coming up on the sidelines this week?  Simone Rodan Benzaquen:   So we've had some very constructive conversations, first of all, a majority of countries now have adopted the working definition of antisemitism. And they've recognized how much an important tool it is to not only to recognize, to define, but also to apply and to combat antisemitism. So it's a very constructive conversation. But we have also had conversations with countries who have not yet adopted the working definition, who would say, we don't have a problem of antisemitism, we don't really have to do it. And after explaining to them how important it is, and what an important tool it has been for countries, and what an important signal also it would send to the world, if they were to adopt the working definition of antisemitism. I can tell you now, in advance that in a few days, a couple of countries will be announcing that they will be adopting the working definition of antisemitism because of the conversation that we have had with them. Manya Brachear Pashman:    The conversation you've be
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, joins us to discuss how she’s settled into her new role and shares insights on the development of the new U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, for which AJC has long advocated. Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust historian and one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People of 2023, also delves into the ways in which the Abraham Accords have contributed to the fight against antisemitism in the Middle East. Additionally, she provides an insider's look into the challenges and progress associated with addressing antisemitism and how the National Strategy factors in.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Deborah Lipstadt Show Notes: Go Deeper:  Test your knowledge of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism  Read: Everything You Need To Know About The U.S. National Strategy To Counter Antisemitism And AJC's Task Force Honoring International Antisemitism Envoys AJC David Harris Award Listen: People of the Pod: Hear from America’s New Antisemitism Envoy Deborah Lipstadt Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Deborah Lipstadt: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Deborah Lipstadt, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism is a renowned Holocaust historian, recognized earlier this year as one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People of 2023. She has written eight books, and four years ago, advised the United Nations on its unprecedented report on global antisemitism. In fact, she joined us on this podcast shortly after the report's release. Since then, she has joined the US State Department in a role that for the first time carries the rank of Ambassador. She joins us again this time in our popup Tel Aviv studio. Ambassador, welcome to People of the Pod. Deborah Lipstadt: Thank you. Manya Brachear Pashman:   America's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism was adopted in May. Your job primarily deals with US Foreign policy to combat antisemitism. But how does this new domestic strategy affect your work? Deborah Lipstadt: Well, it affects our work and that certainly I was consulted and worked closely with the White House in the shaping of it, my team played a part in helping to shape it people to reach out to and things like that. And there are over 24 agencies involved including the State Department, we're now looking at all the other national strategies to see best practices, what America could possibly adopt. And of course, informally, I'm the administration's most knowledgeable person on antisemitism. So they turned to me quite often for advice, for ideas, etc. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Okay. All right. Well, so as I said, your role is more international. Do you need a domestic counterpart? Does the United States need a domestic antisemitism czar? Deborah Lipstadt: I'm not sure. It's a lot on–the strategy is really run out of the Domestic Policy Council, which until about a week ago, was headed by Ambassador Susan Rice, who was greatly responsible for seeing this thing come to fruition. And we'll see how it works. It's up to them to decide how they want to do it. But I think it's also good that each agency from the usual suspects, as I like to say, homeland security, education, FBI, law enforcement, are involved, but so are so many others. Small Business Administration, Veterans Affairs, Smithsonian, all looking at ways to counter antisemitism, make sure there aren't barriers that are there, whether because of antisemitism or just ignorance. Manya Brachear Pashman:   And second gentleman Doug Emhoff has been certainly-- Deborah Lipstadt: Even before I was sworn in, after I was confirmed, I was in Washington and he asked me if I would come in and visit with him. We had a wonderful visit. We’re in touch all the time. And he really feels this very deeply. And I give him great credit because he could easily have said, Look, I'm the first Jew in this position. First second gentleman. We put up a mezuzah for the residence. We have a Hanukkah party. We have a Seder. We do other things. Don't ask me to take the lead on this. But he's taken the lead. He's traveled all over, he traveled with me to Poland and Germany, where I coordinated a meeting for him with other special envoys, just to give him a sense of what other countries were doing.  And I think when he and his staff and other people in the White House who were with us saw that, it sort of energized them to say, my God, other countries have taken this really seriously. They're way ahead of us. We have to do something serious as well. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You know, with that in mind, I mean, if you think about it, your predecessors in this position have kind of made it their business to monitor, sound the alarm about antisemitism in Europe, elsewhere around the world. AJC helped convene that group of envoys at the White House. And so in many ways, the table's turned a little bit in terms of, you know, instead of the United States monitoring and sounding the alarm, these envoys came and advised the United States. Has this kind of mutual mission actually improved the relationship with some of these countries?  Deborah Lipstadt: It's improved the relationship tremendously. We really work as a team, not as a team–each one has its own you know, position, certain things one can get involved in certain things. You know, I lurk and watch what's going on, but I'm not involved in it. But one of the first things I did in fact, it was the same day as last year's AJC Global Forum, which was in New York, I think, at Temple Emanuel. And I was on the stage with Katrina von Schnurbein, the amazing EU envoy on Countering Antisemitism and Enhancing Jewish Life. And then she and I left the meeting with Mr. Lottenberg, Fernando Lottenberg, who's the OAS Special Envoy, and we met with a group of us of special envoys met to talk about how we could work together.  And so we've been meeting and convening. Katrina convened something that the EU others have convened, and then we meet, you know, sometimes we'll meet through the auspices, let's say, we'll be meeting here because many have come for AJC. But it is a government to government when we meet, it's not, convened by someone else. But it's people who speak for their governments coming together, which is quite amazing.  I've had great predecessors in this job. They're all terrific. And were strong supporters of me taking the position, very excited about it from both sides of the aisle. And I'm very grateful for that. But there are differences. First of all, Congress elevated the position to an ambassador before I was in the picture.  So it wasn't for me. And that carries weight in the world of protocol. That means you speak for the President. I see what weight it carries. In fact, I was just in conversation with a Republican senator, around the time of the rollout, because I was briefing him about the national strategy.  And he had been one of those who had pushed for the elevation of it to be an ambassador. And I said, you know, when I first heard you were doing this, I said, Oh, doesn't really matter. I said, I was wrong, you were right. It really enhances the importance, and it shows how America takes this seriously. But my predecessors, certainly amongst the earlier ones, we were the first country to have a position like this. So when something happened in France, and Belgium and Germany, whatever, they would go, and they would say to the government, you know, we take this very seriously, and we think you should take it seriously. Or if they were taking it seriously, we take this very seriously, and what can we do to help you take it seriously, and say, you have a problem, we've got to address it. And now first of all, I go and I said, we have a problem, because we have acknowledged that exists in our country. And sometimes I don't have to go racing as they might have had to, because there's someone else there. There's a local person, there's a national person there, too. So the fight has become much more coordinated, enhanced, and really raised to a government level in a way that it hadn't been previously. Manya Brachear Pashman:   Are there particular lessons that you can recall from any of your predecessors? Any of the envoys that you’ve taken to heart and realized. Deborah Lipstadt: I spoke to virtually all of them before I took the position. And they each had different advice, and I won't say one or the other, etc. But one the reasons–and I've only been in the job a year, but – building alliances in the State Department. And I'm worried a little bit not because of anything anybody tells me, just natural inclination to worry to be a pessimist so that we can be happily surprised when good things happen or the bad stuff doesn't happen.  But, would I find compatriots in the State Department, would people see me as you know, an add-on, a niche? Would I be operating off by myself? And that hasn't happened. And it's really been quite amazing. Partially thanks to the advice I've gotten, partially, I think, my own interpersonal connections, but I have built really strong alliances. And I'm not saying I have personally, but people in other offices with other portfolios, see this not as a niche issue. But as a central element of American foreign policy. Manya Brachear Pashman:   We hear a lot of statistics of incidents of hate crimes each month each year. And I'm curious if that's what matters most. In other words, does the perception of a community also matter whether it's a Jewish community or a
As we mark the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords, significant progress has been made in deepening Arab-Israeli engagement. With us this week is Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), a founding member of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus. Ernst joins guest host Benjamin Rogers, AJC’s Director for Middle East and North Africa Initiatives, to reflect on the achievements of the landmark deal, its importance to the United States, speculation over Saudi Arabia, and the crucial role of the Senate in advancing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Joni Ernst Show Notes: Engage: How much do you know about Abraham Accords? Take our quiz and put your knowledge to the test! Read: The Abraham Accords, Explained Listen: Meet 3 Women Who are Driving Change in the Middle East 'Golda': Behind the Scenes with Israeli Director Guy Nattiv on the 1973 Yom Kippur War Noa Tishby on the Abraham Accords: The Middle East Realizes Israel is Not the Enemy Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Joni Ernst Manya Brachear Pashman:   As an organization, AJC has been engaged in the Middle East for more than 70 years. In fact, a senior AJC delegation first traveled to Morocco in March 1950. Since then, there have been several more milestones. AJC's own Jason Isaacson participated in the Madrid Conference in 1991, a historic effort by the international community to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; and AJC opened its first Arab world office in Abu Dhabi in 2021. This week, Benjamin Rogers, AJC's Director for Middle East and North Africa Initiatives, explores one of the most significant developments in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict – The Abraham Accords. The conversation marks the Accords third anniversary on September 15. Benjy, the mic is yours.  Benjamin Rogers:  Thank you so much, Manya. And I remember the day well, I had been in the Gulf just a few months prior December 2019, talking about these issues, talking about normalization, talking about cooperation. But to see the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Israel, the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain, on the White House lawn, signing an agreement of friendship, an agreement of cooperation. It was an electrifying moment. As we prepare to celebrate the third anniversary of what is possible,when Israelis and Arabs come together and set aside their differences. I can think of no better person to help us reflect on this moment than our guests today. It is my honor to welcome Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, founding member of the Abraham Accords Caucus to our program today. Senator, thank you so much for being here. Joni Ernst:  Of course, it is an honor, a privilege and a pleasure to be with you today. I'm celebrating as well, I think it's a phenomenal achievement for the United States and for our friends in Israel and those Arab nations. Benjamin Rogers:  And I think that's a great starting place for our conversation. Share with us a little bit about your story. What was your reaction when you learned of these agreements? How did that translate to saying, Hey, I'm going to work with my colleagues. I'm going to sit down with Senator Lankford, Senator Rosen, Senator Booker, and we're going to be the founding members of the Senate Abraham Accords caucus? Joni Ernst:  And it goes back quite a ways. My own personal journey, I had served in the Iowa Army National Guard and had deployed to the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom and, and having that experience serving in our United States Armed Forces, we have the great privilege and honor of serving with many members from other countries as well. And we have an understanding of those nations and what they're trying to achieve and how we can promote stability in certain regions. So from that basis, then I served in the Iowa State Senate, and when you think of Iowa and Israel as maybe not a natural connection, but we have a huge Christian community across the state of Iowa that is very supportive of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel. And so from that platform of the Senate, I was able to move into the United States Senate with a broad basis, not only the military perspective, but then also how Iowa and Israel can come together collaborate on things like agriculture, cultural exchanges, and with that basis, then finding other members of the Senate that had similar goals and objectives. And that came together really, with the incredible, really the incredible advent of the Abraham accords. And so we were able to start the caucus, those of us that have very strong feelings about stability in that region and partnership in that region. So coming together with senators, Rosen and Volker and Lankford, it was a really wonderful way for us to celebrate the Abraham Accords, and bring others from the United States Senate and House into that fold as well. Benjamin Rogers:  Amazing. I was struck by what you said, you don't necessarily think of commonalities between Iowa in Israel. But the interfaith component, the agriculture cultural component, I know you're also you talked about a little bit of security, I know, energy is a huge issue. Can you walk us through how these issues that are, you know, seemingly local, actually have larger, regional and international importance? How cooperation could maybe help your average person in Iowa City say, hey, look, this makes sense to me. I get what we're trying to do here. Joni Ernst:  Right. And we exist in a global economy. Of course, we, as the United States are blessed with an abundance of resources. But when we're able to partner with other nations around the globe, we find new ways of using the resources that we have at virtually at our fingertips. And what we have seen just in the exchanges and the ideas that are shared between entrepreneurs and Iowa, entrepreneurs and Israel, Israel being a huge startup nation. It has been a fascinating journey for me just explore from the realm of agriculture, the types of irrigation methods that are used in Israel. One of the visits that I had to Israel is visiting with a young entrepreneur that had developed left, a type of bandage, skin type bandage a liquid that could be applied on the battlefield. But the source of that one of the sources for that bandage, that liquid bandage that would seal the skin together, actually comes from hogs that are sourced from Iowa. So I mean, it's it. We're all connected in so many interesting and fascinating ways. But when you talk to Iowans about this, they get it, they understand how connected we are, through our everyday activities. And I love it that we've been able to work strongly and partner with Israel, now expanding that opportunity as well, and to the other narrow Arab nations of that region. It's just an incredible time period of time that we're witnessing right now. Benjamin Rogers:  So that's great to hear it. Can you say a little bit more? What, when you found her the caucus? What were the hopes? As you know, we've been, as we're about to celebrate three years on what are some of the successes, AJC has been engaged with you a lot on bills like the defend act, MARITIME Act, the Regional Integration Act, what, how, what is the role of the caucus? What is the role of the US Senate in saying, Hey, we're here to support the Abraham accords? Joni Ernst:  Well, you outlined a number of those goals and objectives. But the first reason bringing us together, one was to celebrate the great accomplishment of the accords. That was the baseline. But then we built off of there because between the four of us in the United States Senate that founded the caucus to Republicans to Democrats, understanding that this is an extremely bipartisan move, and how do we not just celebrate the existence of the accords? But how do we become tools to further engage with those nations, maybe expand the chords? And, you know, what we'll say is normalization of relations. And maybe sometimes that's not the right word, but just this incredible collaboration between those countries? How can we be a part of that, and really sphere, the legislation that we're working on in Congress to benefit the United States, first and foremost, always, you know, looking for ways that we can, can protect ourselves further articles. But also do that with our friends, Israel, and other Arab nations that have joined the courts or are considering joining into the courts. So we have been able to focus primarily from my perch on the Armed Services Committee then on things like the defend act, where we are working with Israel, the members of the Abraham Accords, and integrating air and missile defense systems, giving these nations a common operating picture, where they can literally save minutes seconds on an impending attack coming from, of course, main adversary in the Middle East Iran. So if we can all work together and save lives on the ground, so much the better for all of those nations. So we did have the main parts of that bill, the defend act, it was passed through the National Defense Authorization Act, last year. This year, Senator Rosen and I also have the MARITIME Act, which is yet another step forward for our caucus, our objectives of securing that region. And it does basically the same thing that you'll see with the defender Act, which was primarily focused from the air protecting from the air. Now we are focusing on the maritime domain, and making sure that as we see naval traffic through that region, that they are protected as well. So we j
This week, Academy Award-winning director Guy Nattiv discusses his new film 'Golda,' which follows the journey of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as she navigates the tense 19 days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Nattiv delves into how Helen Mirren, who portrays Golda Meir, expertly embodied the role. He also shares why, being a child of '73, he felt so compelled to tell this story. Tune in to hear the poignant anecdotes from the set and learn about the involvement of war veterans in the filmmaking process. *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Guy Nattiv Show Notes: Watch: ‘Golda’ opens in US theaters starting August 25th from Bleecker Street / ShivHans pictures–find theater and ticket information at Read: Tough Questions on Israel Answered Listen: Matti Friedman on How the 1973 Yom Kippur War Impacted Leonard Cohen and What It Means Today The Rise of Germany’s Far-Right Party and What It Means for German Jews AJC Archives Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Guy Nattiv: Golda Meir [from AJC Archives]: We’ve suffered because of our stance, which is not just obstinacy, not just because we liked it this way. But I think it has been accepted more and more that we have something at stake, and that’s our very existence. Whether the borders are such that we can defend them or not, is a question of to be or not to be. Manya Brachear Pashman:  That's the late Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir speaking with AJC about fighting wars to defend Israel's existence. The movie Golda premiering in American theaters this week tells the story of one such battle: the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against the Jewish state. Here to talk about the movie and why it's an important story to share with the world, especially through Golda Meir's eyes is its Academy Award winning Director Guy Nattiv. Guy, welcome to People of the Pod.  Guy Nattiv:  Hi, Manya. Manya Brachear Pashman:  So Guy, as we just heard from Golda Meir herself, Israel has been defending its very existence since its creation, in war after war after war. Why did you want to direct a film about this particular war, which turned out to be quite a turbulent moment in the life of the Jewish state?  Guy Nattiv:  Well, I was born into this world, in a way. I'm a child of '73. My mom ran to the shelter with me as a baby, my father went to the war. And I grew up on those stories, of Golda, of the war, and I really wanted to know more, but there wasn't any way of knowing more. And I think that 10 years ago, protocols came out and gave a sense of what really happened, protocols from the Agranat Committee, from the war rooms, from the government. All those declassified documents. And that shed a different light on what really happened there, and on Golda. And doing the research on Golda  and talking to people who really knew her, gave me a sense of why we needed to tell the story. It's for my generation and for the generation of my fathers’ and mothers’.  Manya Brachear Pashman:  So who made the decision to cast Helen Mirren as Golda Meir?  Guy Nattiv:  I wasn't the one who casted Helen. When I came on board, Helen was already attached. I think that Gideon Meir, the grandson [of Golda], he was the one who thought about Helen first, he said, I see my grandmother in her. And when I came she already read the script, and it was only meeting me to close the circle.  Manya Brachear Pashman:  And what did she bring to the role? Guy Nattiv:  Humor, humanity, wisdom, charm. It's all there. But she brings a lot of human depth to the character. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Were there conversations off camera during the making of the film about Israel, about its history, about the lessons learned in this moment in its history, with Helen Mirren, or other cast members? Guy Nattiv:  Yeah, but the problem is that we don't really learn, right, because look what happened now in Israel. It's the Yom Kippur of democracy. So I don't think we learned enough. Where we are basically in the same situation, as '73, with a leader that is so disattached. At least Golda believed in the judicial system, she believed in High Courts, she was a humanist. She believed in democracy, full democracy. And I think the situation now is so dire. And when I went to protest in Israel, I went to protest with a lot of veterans from the war, who had the t-shirt 'This is the Yom Kippur of democracy.' We're fighting, they're almost fighting again, but this time not because of our enemies, because of ourselves. We're eating ourselves from within. Manya Brachear Pashman:  I'm glad you mentioned the veterans of the war because this was such a painful conflict for Israel. Such a tragic blow to the nation’s psyche. More than 2,600 Israeli soldiers were killed, 12,000 injured, nearly 300 taken prisoner. What do you believe this film offers those veterans? Guy Nattiv:  I think it brings a lot of humanity to Golda, who they saw as just the poster, as just a stamp, as just a statue, right? She was somebody who's not human. And I thought that Helen in the way that the film is structured is bringing Golda in a human way. And they see her struggle. And how she cared about those veterans. How she cared about every single person, every single soldier that died in this war. She wrote every name. She took it to her heart. And I thought that was something that veterans would respect. And also what I did is, when I edited the film, I brought five veterans from the front, a lot of them watched the movie in the first cut, the really first offline cut, and they helped me shape the narratives and bring their own perspective to this movie. So I thought that was very cool. Manya Brachear Pashman:  You've made it clear that this is not a biopic about Golda Meir. This is really about this moment in history. Guy Nattiv:  No, it's not your classical biopic, if you want to do a biopic about Golda Meir, you'll have to have a miniseries with eight episodes or more. This is an hour and a half, on a very specific magnifying glass on the requiem of a country. The requiem of a leader. The last of Golda. The last days. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Let’s listen to a clip from the film that really shows why Golda Meir was known as the Iron Lady of Israeli politics. Here’s Helen Mirren as Golda Meir, sitting across the table from Henry Kissinger, played by actor Liev Schreiber.   Clip from ‘Golda’: Golda Meir (portrayed by Helen Mirren): This country's traumatized. My generals are begging me to occupy Cairo. And Sharon is, is like a dog on a leash. Henry Kissinger (portrayed by Liev Schreiber): If you do that you will be on your own. Israel's long term interests will not be served by a fracturing of our relationship, Golda. Sadat has already agreed to the terms of the ceasefire. Golda Meir (portrayed by Helen Mirren): Of course he has. He's on the brink of defeat. It will give him a chance to regroup. You are the only person in the world who could possibly understand what I'm going through. Henry Kissinger (portrayed by Liev Schreiber): Yes, I know how you feel, but we need a ceasefire. Golda Meir (portrayed by Helen Mirren): I thought we were friends, Henry. Henry Kissinger (portrayed by Liev Schreiber): We will always protect Israel. Golda Meir (portrayed by Helen Mirren): Like you did in ‘48? We had to get our weapons from Stalin. Stalin. Our survival is not in your gift. If we have to, we will fight alone. Manya Brachear Pashman:  So Guy, what would you include in a mini series, if you produced a mini-series instead? Guy Nattiv:  I would go to her childhood in Ukraine, probably, I would show her family in Israel. I would show more of her relationship with Lou Kedar, they were really close, her assistant. There's a lot of things that I would do, but not in the format of a feature. Although if you want to do something like you know, a four and a half hour feature, like, used to be in the 80s or the 70s. They were massive, like Gone With the Wind. This is something else. But this is not this movie. This movie is really a specific time in history. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Through her eyes, basically. Guy Nattiv:  Through her eyes. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Yeah. Guy Nattiv:  Under her skin. Manya Brachear Pashman:  I'm curious, if in the making of the film, there were any kind of surprising revelations about cast members or their perspectives, their opinions, or revelations about the history itself. Guy Nattiv:  One of the guys that was a stand-in, he was an extra in the movie. He was at the table of all the ministers. Ephri, Ephraim, his name is. I played the siren in the room. So everybody will get the siren, and the long siren. And he started crying. And he said, I'm sorry, I cannot really stay here for long. And I asked him, why not? He said, because I'm a veteran of the war. I was 21 when I went to the tunnel, and I fought. And he lives in the UK. And we shot the film in the UK and he came and it was amazing. And he came to Helen and me and he showed us photos of him as a 21 year old from the war. It was very emotional, it was surprising, he's only this extra. Who is a war veteran, who's playing a Minister. Manya Brachear Pashman:  Wow. Did he explain why he tried out, or auditioned to be an extra, why he wanted to do this? Guy Nattiv:  He’s doing a lot of extra work in the UK. You know, he moved to the UK and is an extra in a lot of movies. And when he saw that this movie exists, he said, I must come, I must be one of those ministers. And we needed a desk full of mini
Polls in Germany suggest the far-right political party Alternative for Germany, or AfD—with its antisemitic, anti-Muslim, anti-EU, and other extreme views—has support from a fifth of German voters. Hear from Felix Klein, the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, and an AJC Project Interchange Alum, on what has contributed to the rise of AfD, why the party threatens German Jews, and the danger it presents to Germany’s democracy.  *The views and opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect the views or position of AJC.  Episode Lineup:  (0:40) Felix Klein Show Notes: Read: A Roadmap for America: AJC’s Experience in Europe Is Helping the U.S. Fight Antisemitism German Antisemitism Czar Says Calling Israel 'Apartheid' Is Antisemitic Listen: What the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism Means for Jewish College Students Follow People of the Pod on your favorite podcast app, and learn more at You can reach us at: If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please be sure to tell your friends, tag us on social media with #PeopleofthePod, and hop onto Apple Podcasts to rate us and write a review, to help more listeners find us. __ Transcript of Interview with Felix Klein: Manya Brachear Pashman:   Polls in Germany suggest the far right political party Alternative for Germany has support from a fifth of German voters. In some states, such as Thuringia, the AfD has the support of more than a third. This past weekend, the party met to select its candidates for the European parliament, where it has joined a far right bloc that will boost EU funding for the party.  Here to discuss how that affects Germany's Jewish community is Felix Klein, Germany's first Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism. Felix, welcome back to People of the Pod. Felix Klein:   Hello, it's a great pleasure to be here again with you. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So tell us a little bit about Alternative for Germany or AfD, as it's often referred to, and explain for our audience why it was founded 10 years ago? Felix Klein:   Well, AfD was founded in light of the big financial crisis. It was at the time, about 10 years ago, it was questionable at all whether the euro, as one of the most prestigious and most important European projects, could continue as a currency, as a common European currency, because countries like Greece were heavily indebted. And there was a big discussion whether to, to kick Greece out of the Euro system, or, and it was differently decided. O  r to keep it in the EU, of course, and in the Euro system.  And the then-Chancellor Angela Merkel said there is no alternative to that. No alternative for the solution suggested by the government. And there were many people in Germany that were not happy with that, saying, Oh, yes, there is an Alternative for Germany. And that was also the title of this new party, the Alternative for Germany. So it started really, with people who were not happy with the policy towards the European Union and the European solidarity. It didn't start so radical as it is now. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So how did it become as radical as it is now? And why are we seeing a bit of a resurgence? Felix Klein:   Well, in times of crisis and uncertainty people are unfortunately, I think that happens when many democracies are more open to populist ideas and parties. And that happens, many countries, including Germany, and AfD, was successful in getting support of those who were not happy with the decisions of the government in Corona, pandemic, from 2020. And now, last year, with the War of Russia, attacking Ukraine, again, we had a strike of uncertainty, energy prices went up in Germany, people are uncertain of what to do, many are not satisfied with the way the government deals with all these issues. And this is another explanation why AFD was able and successful to catch support, particularly in Eastern Germany. Manya Brachear Pashman:   But it sounds like it also has values that go beyond fiscal responsibility or the economy.  Felix Klein:   Yes, it's beyond the economy. So as I told you, AFD started off with economic issues, but unfortunately, it was attracted by people who have very, very problematic views. And to people who would deny or distort the Holocaust. People will say it was for a long time anyway, Germany was dominated by foreign powers by the EU, and you hear what they're saying this is antisemitic thoughts and narratives. And those people became more influential by the party over time. And what we've seen now, where this party really now chose candidates for the European elections who actually are in against the European Union. Many of them want Germany to leave the EU. There you see how radical it has come, they're also anti-Muslim. This is maybe the most important narrative, anti-migration, anti-Muslim, anti-EU. And of course, with all of that comes also antisemitic narratives. So this is why I'm very, very concerned about the success of this party. And I've expressed it openly in an interview that was published in Welt am Sonntag last Sunday. Manya Brachear Pashman:   You just mentioned that this party appeals to those who deny or distort the Holocaust. How so? Felix Klein:   Holocaust distortion is a very common idea in this party. Up to 20% of the Germans think that we should not talk so much anymore about the atrocities committed by the Nazis, that we have to look forward, etc. So, it is not a big surprise that, of course, anything that downgrades, if I may say so, the horrors committed by Germans in the Holocaust, and in the Second World War, in general, is very common.  Very prominent figures of the AfD call really for a cut, which is illogical anyway, you cannot cut yourself off of your own history as a country. But many of these voices call for a different remembrance culture, that it is a shame for Germany that it constructed the Holocaust Memorial in the heart of Berlin. Germany should not be so shameful with itself. And unfortunately, many people agree to this kind of ideas. So holocaust distortion is a big thing. Holocaust denial, it's not so much of a problem. But of course, anything that kind of makes the Holocaust less, less cruel or less incredible, as it was, is welcomed by this party. Manya Brachear Pashman:   I want to go back to the topic of the European Union, because one of the reasons why Alternative for Germany joined this far-right bloc was to boost EU funding for the party, but yet it's calling for the dissolution of the EU, or at least for Germany to withdraw. Can you explain that calculus? Felix Klein:   Well, it's, of course very contradictory. On one hand, you call for European funds. And anyway Germany is, I think, the one of the countries that really is taking advantage of the most of the European Union, our industry is heavily export-oriented. One out of four workers in Germany depend on international trade, and of course, it would be very much against German interest to leave the EU. On the other hand, it is a very common narrative in Germany to blame the EU for many developments and decisions taken by the government and they do not have a problem calling these two things at the same time. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So besides Holocaust distortion, is there other antisemitic rhetoric coming from this party that you see, or fear threatens Jewish life in Germany?  Felix Klein:   Yeah, one of them, clearly I see conspiracy theories being very popular within the AfD voters and a very concrete danger for Jewish life is a motion the AfD has tried to introduce into our parliament that would have banned kosher slaughtering. And fortunately, it didn't go through of course, but if you ban kosher meat, with the argument for animal protection, then of course, you violate the basic right of religion. Because the way you would like to eat is a part of the freedom of religion and fortunately, the motion didn't go through but you'll see that the AfD is really in that very concretely threatening Jewish life in Germany.  Another thing is, of course, they are on first hand very anti Muslim, anti migration. But it is a common fact that anti Muslim hatred is very much linked to antisemitism actually and the way they also talk about Israel as being a big and important factor against the Muslims shows the whole narrative of, to say that Israel is there also to keep Muslims out, is very dangerous. Because I think we all agree that Israel is not against the Muslims, or it's not an anti-Arabic country, as such, but this is what the AfD would like people to believe. Manya Brachear Pashman:   In other words, championing Israel, for motives that don't belong to Israel, in other words, assigning motives to Israel that don't even exist. Felix Klein:   It triggers a discussion about Israel, which is absolutely bad, not only for Israel, but also for the Jews living here, because they then have to have an opinion about Israel. And it is complicated enough anyway for the Jews who live in Germany, to explain to non Jews that they are not ambassadors or representatives of the Jewish state here, that they are normal German citizens, and of course, they might have an opinion about Israel. But they are by no means representatives of Israel. I think you have the same discussions in the US, where many people think that American Jews represent the Jewish state. Manya Brachear Pashman:   So you have also warned that there are not just antisemitic forces, but anti-democratic forces at work in this party. What do you mean by that? I mean, is that in reference to how they denigrate the EU? Or are other other things in play? Felix Klein:   I refer to the conspiracy theories I already mentioned, which are as such anti democratic, because anybody who believes in a conspiracy theory thing has a problem with democracy. And I would say 99% of
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store