Archive | March 2020

For Italian Jews, the ‘smell of death’ is all around

For Italian Jews, the ‘smell of death’ is all around


Isolated and worried, thousands of Italian Jews have turned to their communal media and institutions for a lifeline and sense of solidarity.

An empty canal is seen after the spread of coronavirus has caused a decline in the number of tourists in Venice, Italy, March 1, 2020 / (photo credit: REUTERS/MANUEL SILVESTRI)

At least twice a day, Micol Naccache breaks down in tears over what the coronavirus is doing to her city of Milan and its Jewish community.

A high school teacher and mother of two, Naccache describes herself as “an optimistic person.” But she is struggling to stay positive following the death of one of her friends from the disease, whose outbreak in Milan earlier this month forced all of Italy into a lockdown that has been in force now for three weeks.

“I smell death around me, it’s the first time something like this has happened to me,” said Naccache, 48, who begins each day by disinfecting her entire home with alcohol spray, partly for protection and partly as a distraction. “It’s like in a war, where you walk on and people are dying around you. I don’t see them dying but I can feel it, death all around me.”
More than 7,500 people have died in Italy of COVID-19, the largest death toll of any country. Some 800 people are dying each day of a disease that has overwhelmed local health services.

Isolated and worried, thousands of Italian Jews have turned to their communal media and institutions for a lifeline and sense of solidarity.
One of the victims last week was Giorgio Sinigaglia, a friend of Naccache and fellow member of the Jewish Community of Milan. Sinigaglia was a 54-year-old engineer and father of four. The week before that, the virus claimed Michele Sciama, a former leader of the community.

The pandemic has killed at least five Jewish people in Milan, and all of them have been buried at the Jewish cemetery, said Alfonso Arbib, the community’s rabbi. Their bodies have not been prepared in accordance with Jewish religious laws, or tahara, which involves washing the corpse, among other rituals.

“It’s not safe,” Arbib said, “and preserving life is the most important thing right now.”

Several others from the community have died in recent days, he said, though it’s not immediately known if their passing was due to COVID-19. Arbib also said that among several others who have contracted the virus, some are fighting for their lives.

Last week, images of army trucks bringing bodies to be cremated in the northern city of Bergamo stunned Italy. Arbib said the scenes were particularly shocking for Jewish Italians, whose faith forbids cremation.
“So far, we’ve been able to prevent this because burials are still allowed under certain conditions, but it is a concern that this would no longer be possible if the death toll keeps climbing,” he said.

Funerals are limited events these days, with only 10 mourners from the immediate family allowed to attend. The customs of sitting shiva and nichum avelim – Judaism’s seven days of mourning at the deceased’s home and visits there during the period by relatives, friends and acquaintances – have been made impossible because of the country’s lockdown.

“Losing a loved one without saying goodbye is really painful,” Stefania Sciama, the daughter of the former community leader of Milan, told The Times of Israel in an interview published Thursday. “My father died alone and now I can’t even comfort my mother.”

Her mother, Viviane, is alone at her home and keeps in contact with other relatives through video chats.
errifying Liliana Segre, 89. She’s a Jewish senator from Milan and a Holocaust survivor.

“I have to tell the truth, the thing that scares me the most is to die alone,” she told Moked, the Jewish-Italian news service, on Tuesday. “I have already seen those who died alone, but I didn’t think I, too, would be on the frontline.”

Milo Hasbani, the president of the Jewish Community of Milan, a nonprofit representing most of the city’s Jewish institutions, is feeling “powerless to help the people I’m responsible to help, and it’s a very difficult feeling,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“There is actually little I can do in practical terms when I can’t leave my house. It’s very tough.”

The community in Milan did manage to organize an assistance service for the elderly who were left alone, including the delivery of groceries and medicines to their homes. It also has harnessed video chat and streaming platforms to preserve a sense of togetherness.

Arbib gives daily lessons on the Torah over Facebook to dozens of viewers. Each time one of his congregation members dies, he dedicates the following lesson to the deceased and delivers an obituary as his followers add their own words in text comments.

The Milan community’s website, Mosaico, has published an obituary about each person it has lost to the disease and invited readers to add their own words in the comments. The one about Sinigaglia, the engineer, has received about 200 comments, including by close friends recalling moments they shared with him. Encouragements and condolences have been sent to his widow and children.

“I’m not a fan of Facebook and internet communication, I’m more of an old-school guy, especially when it comes to offering condolences,” Hasbani said, “but now we have nowhere but the internet to come together to mourn. So that’s what you’re seeing.”

At a “difficult moment of social isolation and solitude,” the website is geared toward facilitating “emotional closeness and sharing of pain,” said Fiona Diwan, the editor in chief of the website and Milan’s Jewish monthly, Bet Magazine.

”When hugs, sociability and the possibility of burying one’s loved one are missing, only the written words remain,” she said.
Naccache, the teacher, tunes in to lessons by a rabbi and author from Rome, Benedetto Carucci Viterbi.

“He gives beautiful lessons that really resonate with me and give me power to go on,” she said.

Her children, aged 8 and 10, attend Milan’s Jewish school, La Scuola Ebraica, which has 500 students. Like most other schools in Italy, it has switched to remote studying, but “it’s very difficult for students to concentrate,” said Naccache, who also teaches law and economics remotely at a different school.

On March 9, hundreds of Italian Jews tuned in to a livestreamed reading of the Scroll of Esther for Purim carried on the Zoom video chat platform. Rabbi Ariel Finzi of Naples read the text while sitting on a baroque-style couch, presumably at his home. Participants from all across Italy left encouraging words on the chat’s text box.

“It was a powerful moment, we were all in our homes but you could really feel the community around you,” said Adam Smulevich, a journalist for Moked, the news and information service of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, which represents the country’s approximately 30,000 Jewish citizens.

Moked, which was founded in 2009, has become a central vehicle for connecting households grieving over the coronavirus crisis in isolation.
Following the lockdown, Moked upped its production of articles and launched video editions that are streamed on Facebook. It also produces at least three newsletters each day with content from its some 100 contributors, as well as a magazine and a children’s newspaper each month.

“At first it was farther away and now it’s coming closer, it feels pretty close now,” said Daniel Reichel, a Milan-based journalist who is on Moked’s staff of five.

Italian Jews are coming together through their community’s websites, media and streamed sermons, but “also on family WhatsApp groups,” he said. Reichel’s family, which is spread across Italy and in Israel, created its first such family group to stay connected through the crisis.

But Reichel, 33, has limited time to use it and engage with his relatives. These days, Moked’s journalists wake up at the crack of dawn and work until about 10:30 p.m., he said.

“Our responsibility is important on normal days, but now it’s double: We need to provide information, of course, but also offer encouragement, sometimes a distraction, fight loneliness, inspire and fight fake news,” Reichel said. “But it’s also about offering a lifeline, being present in the lives of people who became very alone, very fast.”

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Weekly Review – Mar. 27, 2020

Weekly Review – Mar. 27, 2020

  ILTV Israel News

ILTV is an independent English-language media company based in Tel Aviv that provides daily news and entertainment to its viewers.

Launched in 2015, ILTV is committed to producing high quality content in a broad array of subjects, from reporting news and current events to programming which highlights technology, art and entertainment, sports and culture.

In today’s media, biased reporting and anti-Israel agendas are prevalent, as the State of Israel is under relentless attack.
From the “spinning” of unfolding political events in order to display Israel in a negative light, to the misrepresenting facts, media outlets are providing the fuel which shapes negative public opinion and contributes to the Delegitimization of the State of Israel.

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Antyizraelskie NGO wykorzystują COVID-19, żeby szerzyć nienawiść

Antyizraelskie NGO wykorzystują COVID-19, żeby szerzyć nienawiść

Becca Wertman
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

Studenci z Uniwersity of Maryland (USA) postanowili przedyskutować jak Żydzi utrudniają Palestyńczykom obronę przed koronawirusem.

Cyniczne wykorzystywanie globalnego kryzysu zdrowotnego przez tak zwane organizacje praw człowieka daje jasny komunikat: tym grupom zupełnie nie chodzi o sprawiedliwość i moralność.

Dla antyizraelskiej działalności organizacji pozarządowych (NGO), które nieustannie dążą do demonizowania i delegitymizacji państwa żydowskiego, zdominowanie światowych mediów przez pandemię COVID-19 stanowi sporą trudność – świat ma obecnie rzeczywisty problem, którym musi się zajmować.

Niemniej niektóre NGO znalazły rozwiązanie. Postanowiły mianowicie połączyć swoją agendę z COVID-19. Jest to zgodne z wcześniejszymi próbami NGO zbijania kapitału na panującym publicznym dyskursie przez manipulowanie narracją o zmianie klimatycznej i prawach ludzi LGBT, by zrobić z tego część swoich antyizraelskich kampanii.

Weźmy, na przykład, obelżywą i antysemicką wypowiedź w tweecie Sarah Leah Whitson, byłej szefowej wydziału Bliskiego Wschodu w Human Rights Watch, która obecnie pracuje w Quincy Institute. Nie po raz pierwszy Whitson użyła klasycznych antysemickich chwytów w tym wypadku oszczerstwa o rytuale krwi. W odpowiedzi na cyniczny tweet, że „6 milionów żydowskich Izraelczyków” zrozumie teraz, czym jest życie pod „okupacją” z powodu związanych z wirusem restrykcji, Whitson lamentowała, że to jest „taki maleńki przedsmak. Brakuje łyżki krwi”.

Z pewnością nie wszystkie NGO posunęły się tak daleko. Niektóre trzymały się swojego standardowego, antyizraelskiego nonsensu. Wspólnym wątkiem jest „okupacja”. Po prostu dołączono wirus COVID-19 do standardowej, antyokupacyjnej retoryki i kampanii, bowiem dla pewnych NGO i aktywistów z obsesją na punkcie Izraela, jest to nadal najpilniejszy, globalny problem. Oczywiście, ich narzekania na działania Izraela na Zachodnim Brzegu nie zajmują się na poważnie tym, czy skutecznie powstrzymają one szerzenie się choroby, ale zakładają, że Izrael musi działać w złej wierze, bo „okupacja”.

Na przykład, 10 marca Students for Justice in Palestine z University of Maryland zorganizowali spotkanie pod hasłem: “Korona i przeciwdziałanie okupacji”. Jak głosił plakat anonsujący to spotkanie, miano dyskutować następujące kwestie: „Jak w Palestynie radzą sobie z koroną?”, „Jak okupacja pogarsza sytuację?” i „Jaki jest najlepszy sposób walki z okupacją”.

Innym przykładem jest tweet amerykańskiej, marginalnej grupy IfNotNow z twierdzeniem, że „Burzenie palestyńskich domów pogorszy szerzenie się koronawirusa. Wysiedlanie ludzi już jest nieludzkie, teraz jest to także pilna sprawa zdrowia publicznego. Izraelska armia musi zaprzestać burzenia domów i skupić się na zdrowiu i dobrostanie wszystkich Izraelczyków i Palestyńczyków”.

Drugim hasłem jest ”Obwiniaj Izrael za Gazę”. Przez 15 lat od wycofania się Izraela z Gazy NGO kontynuowały przypisywanie winy za “humanitarny kryzys” Izraelowi w oparciu unikatowe interpretacje międzynarodowego prawa stosowane wyłącznie wobec Izraela. NGO odmawiają Hamasowi i innym organizacjom sprawczości w przesuwaniu zasobów z publicznej infrastruktury i usług na broń, tunele i terroryzm. W obecnym kontekście, NGO używają COVID-19 jako wymówki, by potępić uprawnione działania antyterrorystyczne i z góry obwiniać Izrael za wybuch epidemii w Gazie.

Na przykład, 15 maja Ken Roth, dręczony obsesją na punkcie Izraela dyrektor Human Rights Watch, tweetował: “Koronawirus sprawdzi mądrość polityki Izraela wyniszczenia gospodarki i systemu opieki zdrowotnej Gazy i Zachodniego Brzegu. Jako mocarstwo okupacyjne (także dla Gazy, biorąc pod uwagę surowe ograniczenia poruszania się), Izrael jest odpowiedzialny za opiekę zdrowotną”. Także izraelska NGO, Gisha, opublikowała artykuł: “Aktualności o przejściach granicznych: Izrael narzucił rozległe restrykcje podróżowania przez przejście graniczne Erez z powodu strachu przed koronawirusem”, pomijając informację o ogólnym ograniczeniu przez Izrael dostępu do swoich granic, w tym z Gazy, by powstrzymać szerzenie się wirusa.

Także palestyńskie organizacje związane z terrorem wykorzystują kryzys dotyczący zdrowia publicznego dla swojej antyizraelskiej propagandy. Na przykład, Samidoun, grupa związana z terrorystycznym Ludowym Frontem Wyzwolenia Palestyny (LFWP), zamieściła artykuł na swojej stronie internetowej: „Izraelski apartheid, COVID-19 i palestyńscy więźniowie: Wolność teraz!” NGO twierdzi: „Palestyńscy więźniowie kontynuują walkę przeciwko przypominającej apartheid reakcji Izraela na COVID-19, która stanowi zagrożenie dla palestyńskich więźniów i w rzeczywistości dla wszystkich Palestyńczyków. U żadnego palestyńskiego więźnia jeszcze nie stwierdzono koronawirusa, ale warunki ich przetrzymywania budzą poważny niepokój”.

Addameer, inna związana z LFWP grupa, także dzieliła się artykułami o podobnej treści: „obecnie, kiedy świat cierpi z powodu pandemii COVID-19, palestyńscy więźniowie nadal cierpią z powodu zaniedbania medycznego”.

To cyniczne wykorzystywanie globalnego kryzysu zdrowotnego przez tak zwane organizacje praw człowieka powinno więc przekazać jasny komunikat: w sytuacjach kryzysowych oczekuj regularnego bicia w bębny antyizraelskiej propagandy od organizacji, które twierdzą, że chodzi im o sprawiedliwość i moralność.

Becca Wertman

Kanadyjska dziennikarka współpracująca z izraelską organizacją NGO Monitor.

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Italian artist accused of antisemitism for new painting of blood libel

Italian artist accused of antisemitism for new painting of blood libel


The painting is very detailed, showing a group of hook-nosed Jews with peyot and yellow, uneven teeth strangling the child and draining his blood.

Giuseppe Alberti, Alleged martyrdom of Simonino da Trento, 1677, oil on canvas, Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio. Provincial monuments and collections. / (photo credit: MUSEO DIOCESANO TRIDENTINO)

An Italian artist renowned for his baroque-style paintings filled with Christian imagery was met with controversy after unveiling his latest painting of the martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento, which is a depiction of Jews ritualistically murdering a Christian child, the Algemeiner reported.

Painter Giovanni Gasparo uploaded a picture of his canvas to his Facebook page on Tuesday. Titled Martirio di San Simonino da Trento (Simone Unverdorben), per omicidio rituale ebraico (The Martyrdom of St. Simon of Trento in accordance with Jewish ritual murder), the painting is very detailed, showing a group of hook-nosed Jews with peyot and yellow, uneven teeth strangling the child and draining his blood. Some of the Jews are also shown wearing kippot and shtreimels, with one in the center wearing a tallit over his head and shoulders. In addition, the child is shown with its arms outstretched, reminiscent of Jesus Christ on the cross as the Jews look on with apparent sadistic joy.

Publicerat av Giovanni Gasparro Tisdag 24 mars 2020

The event depicted in the painting has some historical basis. A two-year-old child in the city of Trento named Simon went missing in March 1475. Historical accounts are divided on where exactly the body was found, but a prevailing rumor at the time was that it was found in the cellar of a Jewish man named Samuel.

Regardless of the circumstance, the people of Trento lashed out brutally at the Jewish community over the Easter holiday, accusing them of the blood libel, the usage of Christian children’s blood in Jewish religious rituals. The Jewish community was made to confess after being subjected to torture, and 15 Jewish men were burnt at the stake. This sparked a wave of antisemitic violence fueled by the blood libel in cities in the region, including the expulsion of Jews.

Within a year of his death, the local clergy of Trento were petitioning to have Simon canonized, meaning considered a saint, with over a hundred miracles being attributed to him. However, the Vatican under Pope Sixtus IV denied his martyrdom and refused to canonize him. Despite this, veneration persisted and eventually, the Vatican recognized his cultus and martyrdom in 1588 under Sixtus V, and he was considered the patron of victims of kidnapping and torture. However, he was never truly canonized by the church. This was made clear in an official letter by Pope Benedict XIV in 1755.

“It is simply untrue to say that the Church has canonized little [Simon of Trento],” the letter stated. “A decree of beatification was issued by Sixtus V., which took the form simply of a confirmation of cultus and which allowed a Mass to be said locally in honor of the boy martyr. Everyone knows that beatification differs from canonization in this, that in the former case the infallibility of the Holy See is not involved, in the latter it is.”

In 1965, as part of Nostra Aetate – the efforts to remove many of the antisemitic aspects of Catholicism, such as blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus – Pope John VI even removed Simon’s martyr status.

The Catholic Church has even gone so far as to support museum exhibits to draw attention to the violent history in the legacy of St. Simon. In December 2019, the Museo Diocesano Tridentino in Trento launched an exhibition titled The Invention of the Culprit in cooperation with the local Catholic and civil authorities to draw attention to and debunk what the museum called a piece of “egregious fake news from the past” and “one of the darkest pages” in the history of antisemitism.

The amount of gruesomeness in the artwork is not so surprising, with Gasparro’s artwork being known for his dedication to “sacred art – with a particular taste for the macabre and the grotesque (lots of flesh and lots of blood),” according to commentator Ester Moscati in the Italian-Jewish publication Mosaico, according to the Algemeiner.

At only 36 years old, Gasparro’s artwork has been displayed in multiple countries for 20 years, and has been given numerous honors and awards. However, Moscati fears that the talented artist has put his talents into creating “a work that is full of anti-Jewish hatred, as if he felt the need, at a time when the fake news is going crazy, to dust off [similarly fake news] from the dark and gloomy past.”

These sentiments were also shared by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Writing a letter to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the center’s international relations director Dr. Shimon Samuels said he was shocked that a Catholic artist would reject the Nostra Aetate.

The letter pointed out that it was no coincidence that the painting was unveiled on Tuesday, March 24, which is the traditional Feast Day of St. Simon. In addition, it was to be followed by a conference on April 3 titled The invention of the guilty and the concealment of the innocent – The case of San Simonino of Trento, though it was postponed due to the coronavirus.
“Your Eminence, it is very disturbing that these festivals and conferences annually take place around Passover and Easter… The Second Vatican Council acted to forbid the veneration of Simon of Trent, in order to combat antisemitism in the Church. Nostra Aetate also began a long sought healing relationship between Christianity and Judaism,” the letter stated.

“The work of Gasparro is apparently welcomed in Italian churches, but this painting clearly foments scapegoating in a climate of recurrent fake news, thereby undermining Vatican policy, and should receive a forthright public condemnation… We would appreciate Your Eminence’s assistance, as the blood libel is still bleeding!” Samuels’s letter concluded.

Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.

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PA reports 1st Coronavirus death

PA reports 1st Coronavirus death

  ILTV Israel News

A 60-year-old woman from the village of Bidu, just south of Ramallah, has just been named as the first #Palestinian victim to the #Coronavirus.

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