Ode to Arthur

Arthur Koestler.

By Marie Miguel

There are certainly more than enough horrific tales of how the persecuted lived under fascism in the middle of the 20th century, and indeed dozens of books with “Koestler” on their covers.

“Scum of the Earth” is a unique kind of autobiographical adventure, a guide to suffering atrocious treatment with as much good humor as possible. The book also describes  how a totalitarian regime can subvert the morals of both states and individuals.

For someone who wasn’t actually a criminal, Arthur Koestler certainly saw the inside of a large number of cells. Reprising this aspect of his personal history is possibly the best way to explain what the reader can expect from “Scum of the Earth.”

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Expressing Solidarity With Paris

Deborah Willig, Esq., Bonnie Squires, and Helen Loeb.

Left to right: Deborah Willig, Esq., Bonnie Squires and Helen Loeb.

The French International School of Philadelphia, located in Bala Cynwyd Pennsylvania, held a solidarity rally for students, alumni, parents, teachers, and members of the community in order to express solidarity with France and the victims of ISIL terrorism.

Deborah Willig, Esq., chair of the school’s board of directors, along with the school’s co-principals, organized the rally. Votive candles in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and the peace symbol were on a table, and attendees were encouraged to light candles in sympathy with the victims of the Friday the Thirteenth attacks in Paris.

Honorary Consul Michael Scullin, Esq. and Rabbi Albert Gabbai.

Helen Loeb, a native of Toulouse, France, now living in suburban Philadelphia, told the people gathered that her niece who lives and works in Paris had called to tell her that she had lost two friends who were at the concert at the Bataclan venue where the American rock group Eagles of Death Metal were performing.

Michael Scullin, Esq., Honorary Consul of France in Philadelphia and Wilmington, and Rabbi Albert Gabbai, of The Congregation Mikveh Israel, spoke briefly, along with the co-principals of the school, expressing condolences for the victims of the terrorist atacks in Paris. Scullin had arranged a rally the night before in front of the LOVE statue in center city Philadelphia. Votive candles arranged in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and the symbol for peace were available for lighting at the school.

How Shall We React to the Terror in Paris?


World Trade Center’s spire lit in France’s colors: blue, white and red.

Our prayers are with the victims of the horrible terrorist attacks across Paris. Now is the time to grieve.

The natural reaction is to strike back and avenge the carnage. But before we do, let us pause and consider our actions, making them deliberate and thoughtful, to do more than lash out and punish: Who is the enemy and how do we best work to defeat them in the long-term war of ideologies in which we are engaged?  We are compelled to answer this question before we can take the next step.

It is enticing to react and retaliate, but violence untargeted or mistargeted will serve to create more victims and foment more hatred. The threats are real, but we need to know who the adversary is and the most effective ways to combat the enemy. Precipitous action will do far more harm than good.


Walls of the Old City Jerusalem lit with image of French flag.

Sadly, some struggle to support the French, seeing this tragedy as an opportunity to say “turnabout is fair play” due to perceived and real anti-Semitism in France. We are better than that. The Jewish values of chesed (kindness) and rachamim (mercy) compel us to reach out and provide comfort and support. Our compassion helps us to rise above all kinds of hatred and Judaism becomes a beacon of light to the nations.  We reach out to the people of France with a unique understanding of the pain and suffering they endure, uniting with them in a battle against the darkness.  We need to declare the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité belong to all of us.  By doing so, we demonstrate that our values give us strength, the strength to love others and the strength to fight when we must against those who would eradicate us.


Fundamental Democratic Values Under Attack in Europe


Cartoon courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com/

— by Jonathan Gilad and Ryan Greiss

Since the start of the new year, two groups have found themselves targeted in Europe: satirists and Jews.

First in Paris and now in Copenhagen, two of the foundational values of Western democracies have come under attack: the freedom to identify openly and without fear as part of a religious or ethnic minority group; and the freedom of expression that permits satirical commentary about such groups.

The president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Rabbi Steve Gutow, said that these attacks “are not just attacking these individual communities, but the very foundations of freedom of expression, tolerance and security that we have come to expect.”

The JCPA chair, Susan W.  Turnbull, expressed hope that the attacks “will galvanize the world to take the steps needed to stem the tide of such violence and work toward a more tolerant future.”

The World Jewish Congress president, Ronald S. Lauder, said that “European governments should recognize that we are facing a vicious new wave of anti-Semitism and violence,” and that it is “crucial that Europe contends with this growing threat.”

Does Obama Really Doubt Kosher Market Attackers’ Anti-Semitism?

paris62047[1]President Obama and other members of his administration have repeatedly condemned the January 9 Paris kosher market attack as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community. (Barack Obama, January 22)

The violent assault on the Jewish community in France that took place on Friday afternoon – as the Jewish community in Paris was in the final hours of preparing for the restfulness and peace of the Sabbath – was the latest in a series of troubling incidents in Europe and around the world that reflect a rising tide of anti-Semitism. (Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, January 13)

All four [victims] were casualties of violent anti-Semitism–targets because they were Jews. All were killed playing some role in preparation for the celebration of Shabbat – a core practice of their faith. (Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, January 22,

But in a Feb. 9 interview with Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, the President was not as clear as he could have been, and his critics ignored all of his previous statements and leapt to the most implausible interpretation, as if this was the first time the President spoke about it.

Yglesis: Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?

Obama: Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.


Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen: http://drybonesblog.blogspot.co.il/

Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that

Compounding matters, two White House spokespeople did a terrible job responding to questions, although they did get it right later that same day.

Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn’t intend to suggest otherwise. (John Earnest, White House Press Secretary, February 10)

We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people. (Jen Psaki, Department of State Press Secretary, February 10)

Yair Rosenberg spells it all out:

One of the downsides of Obama’s carefully cultivated intellectual persona is that onlookers often mistake his errors for intended actions, not realizing that this president makes miscues like any other. What critics would’ve written off as a gaffe if it came from George W. Bush, they instead see as part of deliberate plan when it comes from Obama. But those who would read a malevolent worldview–rather than mere mangled messaging–into this episode should remember that the Obama administration has in fact been a stalwart critic of rising European anti-Semitism. The president even dispatched his confidant Samantha Power to Berlin to hector European nations about not doing enough to fight it. It is exceedingly unlikely that the administration has suddenly decided that Jew hatred on the continent is no longer a problem.

Hopefully, the next time the president errs, his team will simply correct the record the first time, rather than awkwardly attempt to spin his mistake into something more sensible.

The French Jewish Community’s Future

French-American Jew Helen Loeb was invited to speak at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Penn. on the terrorist attacks last week in Paris and the state of the France’s Jewish community.

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Many have come to me in the past few days to express their sympathy and ask about the well-being of my family. Many have also come to me to inquire and reflect about the future of the French Jewish community. So where do I start?

I am appalled by the current developments in France, of course, but also in Brussels and other places in Europe.

I grew up in Toulouse, infamous for the murder of one rabbi and 3 children just about two years ago. The Ozar Hatorah school is just 2 miles from where I grew up, where my mother and sister still live. Used to be known for its aeronautical industry and opera singing, Toulouse has become a symbol of antisemitism and homegrown terrorism.

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Seek and Ye Shall Find Bias in Europe

The New York Times, January 13.

The New York Times, January 13.

Dr. John Cohn wrote this letter to The New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, in response to the paper’s call to European readers, especially Muslims, to answer questions including what kind of anti-Muslim bias they have experienced.

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

While on the Times website I came across the following pages, with the caption, “Share your experiences as a Muslim in Europe, The New York Times would like to hear from Europeans, particularly Muslims, about their experiences.” The link took me to a page with preloaded questions, such as:

  • What types of anti-Muslim bias, if any, have you experienced or witnessed in your daily life?
  • If you are Muslim, how comfortable are you practicing Islam in Europe?
  • In the aftermath of the attacks, how might your life change, if at all?

This led me to wonder if the Times had similarly solicited information from Christians in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran or Iraq, or gays, women or Christians in Gaza. Has it?

There are, of course, no Jews to query in those places, but you could ask Israeli Christians how they are doing in the only Middle Eastern country with a growing Christian population compared to their co-religionists in neighboring Arab states… Likewise, at this time of trouble, I would think you would be soliciting the concerns of all Europeans, Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics and atheists.

Similarly, I was struck that your paper asked, “What types of anti-Muslim bias, if any, have you experienced or witnessed.” I think the lawyers call that a leading question.

In the memory of some Times readers, 6 million Jews were murdered by Europeans. And it was the synagogues of Paris, not the mosques that closed last weekend from fear of violence. I will not defend anti-Muslim bigotry, nor do I want to suggest some universal Islamic responsibility for acts of violence claimed by the perpetrators to be in the name of Islam, but who has the most to fear?

Or does that not lead to the story your reporters have already decided to write?

John R. Cohn

‘The Biggest Rally Paris Has Ever Seen’

(DEBKA) French officials say the Unity March against Islamist terror was the biggest rally Paris has ever seen with an estimated 2-3 million people taking part.

President Francois Hollande, who led the march with world figures, joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a visit to the Grand Synagogue to express condolences for the deaths of four Jews at the hands of a terrorist in a kosher store and solidarity with the French Jewish community.


The victims — Yohan Cohen (22), Philippe Braham (40), François-Michel Saada (in his 60s) and Yoav Hattab (21) — were shot in the early stages of the seven-hour standoff, which ended when police stormed the shop and killed the hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly. The families of the four victims requested to have them buried in Israel and Netanyahu promised to arrange this.

Terrorist Linked to Charlie Hebdo Assailants Kills 4 in Kosher Market

Screen-Shot-2015-01-09-at-7.53.31-PM-e1420825891680-635x357[1]A terrorist linked to the men who killed 12 people in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and suspected of killing a police officer, shot and killed four people, wounded many more and held at least five hostages inside a kosher market in Paris.

Police freed the surviving hostages and killed the gunman, reported to be Amedy Coulibaly. The Charlie Hebdo assailants were killed in a simultaneous raid on a printing business, where they also held a hostage, who was eventually freed.

B’nai B’rith International said that “terrorizing of a kosher market is not just an attack on Jews, but a reprehensible assault on free societies everywhere.”

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

The World Jewish Congress president, Ronald S. Lauder, praised the European government leaders for spontaneously traveling to Paris on Sunday to take part in a solidarity march, but urged a strong response from civil society:

We hope that this barbaric attack will trigger the same outcry among citizens in France and the rest of the Western world as did Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo. France has the world’s third largest Jewish community, and yet Jewish life in France will not have a future if the lethal threat posed by Islamic terrorists is not tackled effectively and quickly.