UC Riverside student gov’t. targets Sabra

The student government at the University of California, Riverside, unanimously voted to approve a resolution calling for the removal of Sabra brand hummus from campus dining services.

The resolution passed in a 13-0 vote with one abstention. The resolution is not enforceable, and the UC Riverside administration says it has no plans to remove the hummus.

The removal was requested because the Sabra company’s joint owner is the Israel-based Strauss Group, which allegedly supports the Israeli military. The campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine backed the resolution.

“Sabra Dipping Company is owned by two independent global food companies–PepsiCo, based in the U.S., and Strauss Group, which is headquartered in Israel,” Sabra spokeswoman Ilya Welfeld said in a statement issued to the local NBC affiliate.

“Each company is a separate entity and independent company,” she said, adding that Sabra has “no political positions or affiliations.”

In 2015, the campus dining service removed Sabra hummus after being approached by the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on campus. Tapaz2Go hummus, from Mediterranean Snacks, briefly replaced Sabra, but Sabra hummus was restored after the university realized that a political position was an underlying cause for its removal.

In March 2014, the school’s student government passed a resolution urging administrators to divest from Israel, but rescinded it the following month.

DePaul University briefly stopped offering Sabra hummus in 2011 before reinstating it, and a year earlier, students at Princeton University voted on the issue. In neither case was Sabra hummus permanently removed from the campus dining facilities. (JTA)

Pope Francis meets delegation from ADL

Pope Francis, meeting a delegation from the Anti-Defamation League, denounced “widespread” anti-Semitism.

Francis met with the delegation at the Vatican, according to a report from Vatican Radio.

“Sadly, anti-Semitism, which I again denounce in all its forms as completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person, is still widespread today,” Francis said, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the Vatican.

The pontiff also reiterated a statement released on the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the landmark declaration on Catholic-Jewish relations from 1965, that the church “feels particularly obliged to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”

In a series of tweets, ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt said the encounter was both meaningful and powerful.

“Blessed to have met w @pontifex who talked about fight ag #antisemitism which he called ‘completely contrary to Christian principles,’” Greenblatt tweeted.

The pope recalled his visit last year to Auschwitz, saying, “There are no adequate words or thoughts in the face of such horrors of cruelty and sin; there is prayer, that God may have mercy and that such tragedies may never happen again.” (JTA)


NY state apologizes for ‘anti-Israel’ cartoon

The New York state Department of Education has apologized for including a political cartoon on a statewide exam that critics called anti-Israel propaganda.

According to the American Jewish Congress, which circulated a petition claiming the cartoon was “blatantly anti-Israel,” the department responded to its complaints with a statement expressing regret for the cartoon’s inclusion, the New York Post reported.

“We regret this test question was included in the Regents exam and apologize to those who were offended by it,” the department said in the statement. “We are reviewing our internal procedures to vet all questions to ensure inappropriate questions are not included on future exams.”

The statement continued: “Political cartoons contained on Regents exams are sometimes very pointed and thought-provoking but they are never intended to represent the point of view of the Board of Regents or the Education Department on a given issue.”

The cartoon that appeared on the high school exam administered Jan. 24 shows three Israeli soldiers–identified by a Star of David on the back of one–huddling behind an overturned table with guns drawn. One of the soldiers says, “I knew this peace table would come in handy someday.”

The question on the multiple choice exam is ‘What is the main idea of this cartoon?”

One 10th-grade student told the Post that a Jewish classmate told a teacher that he felt targeted.

“The entire class said it was offensive, but the teachers told us it was a random question found online and put it in the test,” the unnamed student said. “A Jewish kid then told the teacher he felt insulted. He said he felt like they were putting the blame on his religion.”

State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman initially told the Post that the question “measures the students’ ability to analyze a political cartoon, understand the cartoonist’s point of view and apply that information to the questions being asked.”

He said the question was not meant to indicate a point of view held by the Education Department.

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, applauded the department for issuing its apology.

“After a week and half, the NYS Department of Education finally apologized for this heinous political cartoon. Better late than never,” Hikind said. “How a cartoon like this was approved in the first place is beyond my comprehension. I hope that our educators will be more sensitive in the future and use common sense in selecting appropriate cartoons.” (JTA)


Jewish refugee group helps reunite Syrian family

A Syrian family was reunited with help from the resettlement agency HIAS after the mother and her two daughters were temporarily prevented from traveling to the United States by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Razan Alghandour and daughters, Hanan, 8, and Lian, 5, were reunited with their husband and father, Fadi Kassar, at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, the Hartford Courant reported.

Kassar had been granted asylum in the United States in 2015 and settled in Connecticut. His family was due to join him last month, but they were barred from boarding a connecting flight in Ukraine after Trump signed the order on Jan. 27, forcing the family to return to a refugee camp in Jordan.

According to a statement from HIAS–the former Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a 135-year-old Jewish agency that assists refugees and asylum seekers–the group raised the family’s case with government officials and in the media, and had a lawyer on hand to greet the family at the airport.

“Unfortunately, this is just one of thousands of cases of innocent people who have been wrongly denied entry to the U.S.,” HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield said.

Renee Redman, a New Haven-based immigration attorney who assisted the family, compared their plight to Jews fleeing the Nazis.

“It’s like the Holocaust,” Redman said, according to the Courant. “People are fleeing for their lives and are spread out all over the world, and this has made it even worse.” (JTA)


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