Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

Ivanka Trump to give makeover to the role of first daughter

Ivanka Trump was a key player in her father’s winning campaign, and people are closely watching the next moves by President-elect Donald Trump’s 35-year-old daughter.

She’s attended her father’s transition meetings with high-profile figures, including the Japanese prime minister and technology leaders, and has indicated her interest in working on policy issues such as child care.

The Trump Organization executive vice president also owns her own company that sells clothes and jewelry. While three of Donald Trump’s adult children are viewed as close advisers, he often highlights Ivanka and has made clear that he’d love to have her with him when he moves into the White House.

It’s not clear whether that would be in a formal position. But Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested this past week that there may be an exception to anti-nepotism laws for Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who runs a real estate and construction business.

Previous first daughters have played a social role in the White House.

During Harry Truman’s presidency, when his wife, Bess, was home in Missouri, their daughter Margaret would play hostess. But it would be “unprecedented” for Ivanka Trump to serve as a close adviser, said Katherine Jellison, who heads the history department at Ohio University.

“If there was ever a first daughter who played such a close advisory role to her dad, she really kept it under cover,” Jellison said.

What we know so far about Ivanka Trump:

With the Trump family, everything comes back to the vast family business empire.

Ivanka Trump, one of Donald Trump’s three children with his first wife, Ivana, is an executive vice president of the business along with brothers Donald Jr., 38, and Eric, 32. Just how the president-elect will handle his business interests remains unclear. Trump has said he will turn management over to his sons and executives.

Ivanka Trump has her own business to consider as well. She recently drew criticism after her company promoted a $10,800 bracelet she wore during a 60 Minutes interview on CBS. The spokeswoman for the company later apologized.

Since then, Ivanka Trump has sought to put some distance between her and her fashion business. A letter posted on her website said that she would separate her social media accounts from her company’s.

But questions continue to come up. Earlier this month, a “Coffee with Ivanka Trump” was listed on a charity fundraising website. Offered by the Eric Trump Foundation, it was to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The auction — reported on by The New York Times — drew high bids, but also raised ethics questions.

The auction appeared to have been removed from the website Friday. Asked about the change, the Trump team provided a statement from Eric Trump: “The only people who lost are the children of St. Jude,” he said.

Trump’s team says no official decision has been made about Ivanka Trump’s role, and she was not made available for an interview for this story.

But the president-elect has made his wishes known.

“I think we’ll have to see how the laws read. I would love to be able to have them involved,” Trump said on Fox News of Ivanka Trump and her husband Kushner, who are Jewish. Key players in the Trump administration are virulently racist and anti-Semitic, including Steve Bannon, whom Trump named senior adviser and White House strategist. That appointment prompted tweets and messages of glee from neo-Nazi leaders and their websites. It remains to be seen how the Kushners adherence to Orthodox Judaism will play out with the Ku Klux Klan wing of Trump’s administration.

Congress passed an anti-nepotism law in 1967 that prohibits the president from appointing a family member to work in an office or agency the president oversees. But Conway said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the law has “an exception if you want to work in the West Wing, because the president is able to appoint his own staff.”

Still, Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said: “I don’t believe that this statue exempts the White House.” He said Conway’s interpretation would be reasonable policy because it would bring family members under conflict of interest rules, but added, “I’m just not convinced that’s what the statute says.”

While much about Ivanka Trump’s future role is murky, her policy interests are quite clear.

Throughout the campaign she highlighted her interest in issues like child care, pay equity and maternity leave. Her father mentioned those issues rarely.

Ivanka Trump met with a group of Republican congresswomen on these issues in September. Since the election, she has reached out to members of Congress to continue the conversation, according to Sarah Chamberlain, the president and CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership, who said she has not heard from the future first daughter.

Republican consultant Katie Packer, who opposed Donald Trump, said she was welcoming “the spotlight that Ivanka Trump is going to put on these issues.” But Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director MomsRising, an advocacy group for women and families, said she was concerned that the president-elect’s conservative Cabinet picks don’t share those interests.

“Ivanka Trump is right that child care and paid family leave are national emergencies, but she was not elected to be president of the United States of America and her dad, who was, has taken the opposite approach,” Rowe-Finkbeiner said.

Throughout the campaign, Ivanka Trump played a more prominent role than Trump’s third wife, Melania, who has focused her attention on 10-year-old son Barron.

Donald Trump said last month that Melania and Barron Trump would not move from New York to the White House until the end of the school year. She could still come in for major events, but there is historical precedent for a daughter or sister to step in and shoulder some of the social responsibilities. President James Buchanan, who was unmarried and universally thought to be gay, had his niece Rebecca Lane Johnston act as First Lady or “Hostess” for her uncle, a lifelong bachelor and the 15th President from 1857 to 1861.

Since the election, Melania Trump has kept a low profile while Ivanka Trump has been a regular fixture at Trump Tower in New York. This past week she appeared in a photo with Kanye West.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this story.

Republican blasts UW diversity program as ‘liberal indoctrination’

A Republican state senator says a new diversity outreach program at the UW-Madison is “sinister.”

Sen. Steve Nass made the comment in reaction to UW-Madison announcing its plans to improve the experiences of minorities on the flagship campus. The plan calls for having new students discuss social differences, a new cultural center for black students and increased opportunities to take ethnic studies courses.

Nass is vice-chair of the Senate’s committee on universities.

Nass said university leaders “constantly complain about lacking money” but “they never lack money for advancing new and more sinister ways of liberal indoctrination of students.”

He said the initiative isn’t about advancing critical thinking, but about “telling students to think and act in ways approved by the liberal leadership of our universities.”

UW-Madison leaders, however, say they created the diversity program at issue after a series of race-related incidents have occurred on campus.

The campus will test the program, called Our Wisconsin, on up to 1,000 freshmen to allow students to learn about themselves and others, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“That’s what the collegiate experience is all about,” UW-Madison Dean of Students Lori Berquam said. “Some of our students are joining us from small towns and they’re going to live in a residence hall that’s bigger.”

More than half of the university’s students are from Wisconsin, which the U.S. Census Bureau said was nearly 88 percent white in 2015.

The campus is part of a national trend of colleges that believe mandatory cultural competency orientation can relieve racial tensions and help students navigate diverse work environments after graduation.

The program’s creators said they consulted with other colleges that have implemented diversity programs, including University of Oklahoma, Oregon State University and the University of Michigan. A diversity consulting firm hired by the university wrote the program’s curriculum.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank set aside $150,000 to $200,000 from a special fund for the pilot program.

Lee Hansen, professor emeritus of economics at UW-Madison, has written several op-eds questioning the program and predicts there will be student backlash. He said the university’s population of more than 43,000 will always include some people who have unshakable views on race and that diversity training only pits students against one another.

Last year, the university saw incidents in which swastikas were taped to a Jewish student’s dorm room door, a Native American elder was heckled and a student of color received an anonymous note with racial threats.



Trump’s ‘America First’ echoes old isolationist rallying cry

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump boils down his foreign policy agenda to two words: “America First.”

For students of U.S. history, that slogan harkens back to the tumultuous presidential election of 1940, when hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the anti-war America First Committee.

That isolationist group’s primary goal was to keep the United States from joining Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany, which by then had overrun nearly all of Europe. But the committee is also remembered for the unvarnished anti-Semitism of some of its most prominent members and praise for the economic policies of Adolf Hitler.


The America First Committee was founded in spring 1940 at Yale University by students that included future U.S. president Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. Future President John F. Kennedy contributed $100. Within months, France had capitulated to the Germans and England appeared on the verge of collapse. The committee was soon the largest anti-war organization in U.S. history, with more than 800,000 dues-paying members.

As the committee grew, it attracted celebrities, politicians and business leaders opposed President Franklin Roosevelt’s lend-lease aid to the British. Among them was the admired aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean more than a decade earlier.


Lindbergh, whose family was of Germanic heritage, made multiple high-profile visits to the Fatherland, including to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as a special guest of Field Marshal Hermann Goering, head of the German air force. Lindbergh grew to admire Hitler’s revitalization of the German economy at a time the United States was still mired in the Great Depression. He also marveled at the advanced fighters and bombers of the Luftwaffe.

Upon his return to the United States, Lindbergh spoke favorably of the Nazis and published widely read opinion pieces saying the German military conquest of Europe was inevitable and that America should stay out of the war. He joined the executive committee of America First and became the public face of the group, traveling the country to speak at massive anti-war rallies.


America First championed the belief that two vast oceans would insulate the United States from foreign invasion. The group also opposed the acceptance of shiploads of Jewish refugees then-fleeing Nazi persecution. In addition to Lindbergh, the executive committee of America First included the automaker Henry Ford, who had paid to publish a series of anti-Semitic pamphlets called The International Jew, and Avery Brundage, the former U.S. Olympic Committee chairman who had barred two American Jewish runners from competing at the Berlin Olympics.

Lindbergh espoused anti-Semitic views in his speeches, including a September 1941 America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war,” he said. “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

Within days of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. America First quickly disbanded.


During his first major foreign policy speech in April, Trump said “America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”

He has repeatedly used the slogan on the campaign trail, including in a speech this week.

“We are going to put America First, and we are going to Make America Great Again,” Trump said last week in another speech. “We need to reform our economic system so that, once again, we can all succeed together, and America can become rich again. That’s what we mean by America First.”

Trump has proposed building a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out Latino immigrants and opposes the admittance of Muslim war refugees from Syria. He has also called for “tearing up” international trade deals.


Historians told The Associated Press there are some ideological parallels between Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and the positions taken 75 years ago by members of the American First Committee. Then as now, an economic downturn fanned popular resentment toward immigration, especially by those who were not perceived as traditional Americans.

“Building a wall is about the illusion that there can be a physical safeguard to prevent intrusion from alien forces,” said Bruce Miroff, a professor who teaches on American politics and the presidency at the State University of New York at Albany. “America First was tapping into suspicion of an ominous other who threatened the American way of life. At that time, it was about Jews. With Trump, it’s Muslims and fear of terrorism.”

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to messages this week seeking comment about the America First slogan.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, sent Trump a letter two months ago urging him to refrain from using “America First.” The group also took $56,000 that Trump and his family foundation had donated to it over the years and redirected the money to new anti-bias and anti-bullying education programs.

“For many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the group’s chief executive. “In a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.”

The group received no response to its letter, but Trump has continued to use the slogan.

Pro-Palestinian campaign divides Jewish community

As Jewish college students headed home to celebrate Passover with their families on April 21, there was one topic on many of their minds with the potential to disrupt the joyous mood around their Seder tables: the BDS movement.

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions — against Israel. It’s a growing movement on college campuses, where students are stepping up protests of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, as well as the nation’s continued occupation of land that BDS supporters say belongs to Palestinians.

BDS as proxy

The BDS movement — although focused primarily on human rights — has become a proxy for disagreements over a much wider and longer-standing set of issues. As such, the movement has pitted Jews against Jews, pro-Israelis versus anti-Israelis, and pro-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supporters versus Netanyahu critics. It’s also created rifts in the progressive movement, which attracts Jewish followers because of the faith’s culture of tolerance and identification with the underdog.

Reform Judaism — the largest branch of Judaism — was the first major religious denomination to support same-sex marriage, and Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that recognizes same-sex marriages. It also is the most progressive nation in the region by far. Arab countries stone adulterers to death, throw gays off skyscrapers to their deaths and some do not allow women to drive or even show their faces.

Given the human rights abuses of other countries in the region, a lot of Jews believe Israel is singled out due to anti-Semitism, and they’re blaming the BDS movement for anti-Semitic incidents on campuses. While the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and fights anti-Semitic hate crimes, said it hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in such crimes on campuses, a spokesman said, “The BDS movement does fuel anti-Semitism. We have some serious concerns about BDS.”

He noted that anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States routinely exceed anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said part of the problem she has with BDS is that “when we talk about Israel being grounded on injustice, we’re applying different standards to Israel than every other nation.”

The University of California-Davis held a hearing last month to consider divesting university holdings from companies that do business with Israel. After the meeting, the school’s Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi had its house defaced with swastikas. Fraternity leaders said they believed they had been targeted over their support for Israel. However, the coalition of student groups that supported divestment condemned the vandalism.

Fighting anti-Semitism on campus

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a report last year titled “Anti-Semitism on Campus: A clear–and-present danger.” The report called the growing rate of anti-Semitism on campuses “alarming” and “getting worse.” It referenced “grim examples of Jewish students being blocked from participation in student government and being harassed.”

Last month, the University of California’s Board of Regents became the first to adopt a “Principles Against Intolerance” policy in response to a series of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents — including swastikas found on Jewish fraternities and the attempted exclusion of a student government candidate because of her Jewish faith.

The document, which took months to prepare due to the charged political environment, states, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

But to many Jews, especially older ones, anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic. “The well-being of Israel is really a critical part of what it means to be a Jew today,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at UW-Madison.

The reality is that living in peace in the Middle East is impossible in these times, said Matusof. As WiG was preparing this story, the terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem injured 21 people, two of them critically. And, the same day, an Israeli military court charged a soldier with manslaughter after he was caught on video by an Israeli human rights group fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker.

“Israel doesn’t live in a friendly neighborhood,” Matusof said.

“What frustrates me now is the way we talk about Israel these days in America,” Kahn said. “We eliminate complexity. The problem is that real life is more complex than these really simple reductive narratives that people are drawing. They’re drawing cartoon characters. There’s good on one side and bad on the other. I would challenge people to find a place in their heart to care about Palestinians and Israeli Jews at the same time.”

While Kahn doesn’t believe the BDS movement is inherently anti-Semitic, she believes it’s “a magnet for people who hold Jews in great disdain.”

Jews against Israel

Most Jews, especially older ones, want a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. But many who support the BDS movement, including members of groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace, want Jews to abdicate their control of Israel. They reject the notion of Zionism, which guarantees a Jewish state in perpetuity.

“Anti-Zionism, non-Zionism is more common in Jewish history than Zionism,” said Rachel Ida Buff, faculty adviser to a recently formed JVP chapter on the UW-Milwaukee campus.

JVP is a pro-Palestinian campus group whose supporters believe the conditions that led to the creation of a Jewish state no longer exist and do not justify what JVP national media coordinator Naomi Dann called a situation that “privileges Jews at the expense of Palestinian lives.”

“The impact of Zionism … has been wide-scale displacement, dispossession of millions of Palestinians and nearly 50 years of a brutal military occupation,” Dann wrote to WiG in an email. She said her group values the fundamental equality of all people and cannot support Zionism because it devalues Palestinian lives.”

“This is a generational issue that I think is reaching the fever pitch that it is because the Zionists are beginning to be scared of it,” Buff said.

Buff said there’s a kind of McCarthyism in the Jewish community that stigmatizes and disavows Jews who speak out against Israeli military and social atrocities, as she does.

She said she’s stepped on the equivalent of a “third rail.” But she said she will not be silenced for her beliefs.

“It is up to me to decide what my government does with its tax dollars,” she said. “Stop arming the occupation. The Zionists are being played by Netanyahu. American Jews are a little bit mistaken if they think the State Department is supportive of Jews. Israel is on the brink of (becoming) a pariah state. American geopolitical involvement is not going to make the world safe for Jews.”

Progressive roots

The BDS movement in the United States is emerging “from the heart of the American left,” according to Cary Nelson, a retired English professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He’s co-editor of the book, The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.

BDS is the current cause célèbre of the left, and its presence can be seen at rallies and protests for virtually every grievance on the progressive agenda. Advocates for Palestinians have linked divestment to social justice movements against racism, militarization, globalization and other issues that are important to many college students.

Campus divestment advocates often come to student government hearings with the backing of student associations for blacks, South Asians, Mexican-Americans, gays and others. Last year, anti-Israeli protesters unraveled a sign several yards long behind speakers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park. The rally was intended to draw attention to the April 14, 2014, police shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man.

The BDS sign was by far the largest at the rally. Jody Hirsh, a world-renown Jewish educator and WiG contributor who attended the rally, left because of it.

“I went to the rally because I really feel (police shootings) are an American problem that needs to be dealt with and the first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Milwaukee, Ferguson, Palestine. Resistance to occupation is heroism,’” he said.

“I was so upset, because it’s not the same thing at all,” he continued. “I felt that this very important American issue was hijacked by something different and I felt that I couldn’t participate in the rally.”

Nevertheless, the BDS movement is growing on the backs of other issues.

“Drawing these connections cross-struggle has been huge for our movement,” said Tory Smith, a 2012 Earlham College graduate and member of National Students for Justice in Palestine.

UW students’ experience

While BDS activism is taking a toll on Jewish life on some campuses, that’s not happening on campuses in Wisconsin, multiple sources told WiG.

At UW-Madison, which reportedly has the nation’s eighth largest number of Jewish students — a statistic that Matusof questions — BDS is a very visible movement. Nonetheless, Jewish life on campus is thriving.

UW-Madison offers a major in Jewish Studies and it has a number of active Jewish organizations, including fraternities and sororities.

UW-Milwaukee has a small Jewish population of around 200, said Marc Cohen, interim executive director of Hillel Milwaukee. Hillel International supports Jewish life on campuses throughout the world. Cohen described Hillel in Milwaukee as a kind of “Switzerland,” where pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians can talk freely and openly in a neutral, non-threatening environment.

Hilary Miller, a Milwaukeean enrolled in Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, contrasts the Wisconsin experience with that at other schools. She has attended conferences at UC-Berkeley and UC-Irvine, and she’s felt the tension on those campuses. There, she said, some people in the BDS movement are “absolutely using this as a wedge against Jews. … Sometimes it reminds me of what I’ve studied about anti-Jewish propaganda in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, critics of Israel often complain that Jews have all the power, money and influence in the region. The re-emergence of what sounds similar to the myth of Jewish wealth and secret control of society frightens older Jews, because it echoes Nazi propaganda.

But Miller said she’s encountered nothing like that sort of extremism at UW-Madison, which she described as a very comfortable environment for Jews. In fact, she’s highly engaged in Jewish activities.

Miller founded the independent group Student Alliance for Israel, which she said is apolitical and promotes understanding of Israel’s traditions and culture. She attends pro-Palestinian events and rallies because she “wants to understand the other side,” she said.

Miller identifies politically with progressives, but she feels almost apologetic at times in progressive circles about her involvement in Jewish activities. She knows Jewish students who are afraid to put such involvements on their resumes out of fear it might affect their job prospects, she said.

And, based on what she witnessed in California, she’s afraid the situation on campus could deteriorate if BDS becomes a stronger force at UW–Madison.

Ongoing internal conflict

There will always be Jews who say that precisely because of their history of persecution, Israel should be more compassionate.

But Jews such as Matusof and Kahn are alarmed “that the Jewish community is not seen anymore as a minority deserving of the same sensitivities that the progressive community really holds strong,” Matusof said. “Jews in America,” he added, “are seen as a white privileged class, while we still are a minority and there still is discrimination.”

At any rate, analyzing and arguing are essential elements in Jewish theology and culture. There’s an old joke that goes, “If you ask 10 Jews for advice, you’ll get 11 opinions.”

The number is probably higher.

Israeli scholars face growing discrimination due to boycott movement

Israeli anthropologist Dan Rabinowitz is a leader in his field, heading a prestigious school of environmental studies at Tel Aviv University, authoring dozens of publications and holding visiting teaching positions over the years at leading North American universities.

But the British-educated Rabinowitz fears that his younger counterparts may not enjoy the same professional opportunities for a very personal reason: They are Israeli.

As a global boycott movement against Israeli universities gains steam, Israeli professors say they are feeling the pressure from their colleagues overseas. Although the movement ostensibly targets universities, not individuals, Israeli academics say they are often shunned at the personal level. They experience snubs at academic conferences, struggle to get recommendations and can experience difficulty publishing their work in professional journals.

“This is highly personal and personalized,” said Rabinowitz.

And yet Israeli universities are widely seen as liberal bastions, and their professors are some of the most vocal government critics. The situation is equivalent to foreign universities marginalizing American academics over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though those academics also oppose the wars.

Peretz Lavie, president of the Technion, Israel’s premier science and technology university, said the effect of such decisions has so far been minimal. Lavie is leading a battle against the boycott.

While acknowledging that Israeli government policies are open to criticism, he said that holding universities responsible for them is unfair and asked why countries with abysmal human rights records, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been spared.

“We have the feeling that these movements treat Israel differently than any other country in the world,” he said.

Many American Jews believe that anti-Semitism is at the heart of the discrimination leveled at Israeli academics, although many also allow that the hatred is unconscious rather than intentional. For millennia, suspicion and resentment of Jews has been so engrained into Western culture that it’s become part of the culture’s DNA.

The academic boycott is part of the broader pro-Palestinian “BDS” campaign, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Inspired by the anti-apartheid movement, BDS organizers say they are using nonviolent means to promote the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Israel says the campaign goes beyond fighting its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and often masks a more far-reaching aim to “delegitimize” or destroy the Jewish state. But the BDS movement’s decentralized organization and language calling for universal human rights have proven difficult to counter.

The BDS website says “the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to the Israeli occupation and apartheid or at the very least have been complicit through their silence.”

Already enjoying significant support in the U.K., the academic boycott has chalked up a series of accomplishments in the United States.

In recent years, the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the National Women’s Studies Association have approved boycott measures.

In November, a meeting of the American Anthropological Association overwhelmingly endorsed a motion supporting a boycott of Israeli universities..

Lavie said relations between Israeli and American universities remain strong at the institutional and leadership levels, and praised this month’s decision by the Association of American Universities reaffirming its opposition to the boycott. The group, which represents 62 leading U.S. universities, said the boycott “violates academic freedom.”

Nonetheless, Lavie said the boycott movement has become a top concern for Israeli university leaders, particularly as it gains support at the “ground level” from U.S. student unions and academic associations.

“There may be a domino effect,” he said. “If we do not deal with it, it will be a major problem.”

Rabinowitz counts the November vote by the anthropological association as one of the most painful chapters of his career. He said he personally tried to alter the boycott resolution twice — only to be rejected with little or no debate. He said the rejection by his colleagues was a “defining moment” for him. In a statement, the association confirmed Rabinowitz’s account, noting that the meeting was “highly charged.”

Ed Liebow, the association’s executive director, said the organization felt “a strong commitment” to take some sort of action. “The one thing we can’t do is nothing,” he said. The measure goes to the association’s more than 10,000 members for a vote this spring.

Although the American anthropologists have never before proposed a boycott of academic institutions, the association said it commonly takes public stands against governments accused of restricting academic freedom. It recently sent a letter to leaders of Turkey, criticizing them for allegedly curbing scholars there.

Ilana Feldman, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University and a boycott supporter, said the proposal, if passed, would not impede professors “in any way” from working with Israeli scholars.

Rabinowitz, however, said it is impossible to distinguish between a person and his institution, which becomes part of one’s professional identity.

Israeli academics say such feelings are increasingly common.

Rachelle Alterman, a professor emeritus of urban planning at the Technion, said she still has strong working relationships with colleagues around the world, but the pro-boycott camp is a “rising minority” in academia. She said it is less of an issue in the hard sciences like medicine and physics, and much more palpable in more subjective social sciences. Younger academics trying to establish a reputation are especially vulnerable.

Alterman said she has begun to feel a “coldness” from some colleagues at conferences that was not there in the past. She said some colleagues refuse to attend conferences in Israel, and editors at professional journals tell her it is difficult to find people willing to review papers by Israeli academics.

“I call it the dark matter. It’s there all the time, but elusive, hard to spot,” she said.

In one recent case, a British colleague coolly rejected a request to assist one of her graduate students.

“I am afraid that as part of the institutional boycott being observed by some academics in relation to Israeli organisations I am unable to help with your request,” the British professor wrote in an email.

Rabinowitz said the boycott efforts will backfire by undermining Israeli moderates and playing into the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government.

“It is the best present they can give Netanyahu and the radical right in Israel,” he said.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this article.

A century after lynching of Leo Frank, Marietta still wrestles over history

Down past the Big Chicken, the 56-foot-high, steel-beaked beacon of extra crispy that may be this town’s most prized landmark, and just across from Fast Eddie Auto Sales, the wedge of dirt hard by Interstate 75 is notable only for its lack of notability. And when Rabbi Steven Lebow pulls up there, he leaves the engine running and door open.

Nearly ever since the South Florida native found a pulpit in this fast-changing county just north of Atlanta three decades ago, this spot — or, more specifically, the tale of murder and vengeance that has stained its ground and local history for 100 years — has weighed on him.

But with transportation crews readying to build over the place where Marietta’s leading citizens lynched a Jewish factory superintendent named Leo Frank on an August morning a century ago, Lebow talks only of what’s worth preserving.

“There’s nothing to see here. It’s anonymous. That’s why we need to be the memory,” Lebow says, as trucks grind past. “We don’t want to remember it, but it’s a cautionary tale.”

As this community revisits that tale, though — “whether it wants to or not,” the Marietta Daily Journal’s “Around Town” columnists wrote recently — there are reminders that it remains unsettled as well as unsettling.

In 1913, Frank was convicted of murdering a 13-year-old girl, Mary Phagan, who worked for 10 cents an hour in his Atlanta factory. The case, charged with race, religion, sex and class, exploded in a national media frenzy, cementing a North-South divide and exposing the resentments of economic upheaval. When Georgia’s governor commuted Frank’s death sentence, citizens took matters in their own hands.

The case established the Anti-Defamation League as the country’s most outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism, while helping fuel rebirth of what had been a dormant Ku Klux Klan, months after the lynching.

Until ADL lawyers pressed officials to posthumously pardon Frank in the 1980s, the case was hushed in Atlanta’s synagogues, the homes of Old Marietta, and among Phagan’s descendants.

The pardon, though granted, was less than conclusive. Now, in a summer that has already seen Southerners wrangle with the best-known symbol of the region’s embattled past, Lebow and others want to reopen a painful chapter some would prefer to let be.

But their effort to right history, as they see it, has renewed charges that, in doing so, they are unfairly trying to rewrite it.

Soon After Dan Cox turned an abandoned Civil War-era hotel off the downtown square into the Marietta Museum of History more than two decades ago, he knocked on the door of a 96-year-old resident. She regaled him with stories until Cox asked about Leo Frank.

“You could see the iron curtain fall,” says Cox, who’s 76. “I said, ‘Why won’t you tell me?’ But she said, ‘We were told not to talk about it,’ and they never did.”

Even so, actors and academics, reporters and playwrights, have repeatedly delved into the story.

Frank, raised in New York, ran a factory in industrializing Atlanta, where he married into a prosperous Jewish family. In 1913, Phagan, her hair in bows, stopped to collect her pay from the factory, where she ran a machine that inserted rubber erasers into pencils. She was on the way to the city’s Confederate Memorial Day parade.

That night, a watchman found her bloodied body in the basement. Prosecutors alleged she’d been raped. Police arrested several men before settling on Frank, who proclaimed his innocence. His conviction rested on the testimony of a custodian, Jim Conley, a rare case of a black man’s word used against a white defendant.

Frank’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a climate of anti-Semitism had resulted in an unfair trial. The court upheld the verdict, 7-2. In 1915, Gov. John Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life, and a furious crowd hanged the politician in effigy.

“Jew money has debased us, bought us and sold us,” wrote Thomas Watson, who used his Jeffersonian newspaper to attack Frank. “In the name of God, what are the people to do?”

Months later, a group of men from Marietta, the Phagan family’s hometown, took Frank from the state prison. As the sun rose that Aug. 17, they hanged him in a grove outside town. Nobody was ever charged.

“The Frank case was like a lightning strike,” says Steve Oney, an Atlanta native whose 17 years researching the case produced the book, “And the Dead Shall Rise.” “Everything in the South stood briefly in relief and then it was dark again.”

Substantial evidence points to Frank’s innocence, Oney says, but “there are imponderables that are always going to be imponderables.”

When Oney’s book was published in 2002, Cox says he thought it would air old questions and vanquish stereotypes of a county whose synagogues, taquerias and six-fold population increase since 1960 testify to change.

But calls to the museum about Frank kept coming, even as the sites of nearly 4,000 lynchings of black men throughout the South mostly remain unmarked.

The ADL is marking the anniversary with a push for Georgia to pass a hate-crime law. The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in nearby Kennesaw opens a Frank exhibit. A musical about the case, “Parade,” is being re-staged in Atlanta. The Georgia Historical Society is bringing Oney to Marietta to talk about a case that white supremacist websites continue to pore over.

And on Aug. 16, Lebow will lead a memorial service at which he and some current and former Georgia Supreme Court justices plan to call on state lawmakers to declare Frank’s exoneration.

“This is a story that won’t go away,” Cox says. He leads the way through exhibits detailing Cobb County’s past _ Cherokees banished on the Trail of Tears, Confederates and their Unionist neighbors, and more. The only nod to the Frank case is a single placard and an old historical marker, soon to be returned to storage.

“I don’t want to minimize the event, not at all,” Cox says. “But it needs to be put away, like the flag, in its proper place.”

Dale Schwartz was 11 when his parents took over a department store in a small north Georgia town, where they became the only Jewish family. When they hired a black couple, a group of white women confronted his mother.

“Wait, they raise your children and give them milk from their breasts and they can’t sell you a dress?” his mother said. “They stormed out,” Schwartz says, chuckling at the memory.

Soon, though, crosses were set afire on the Schwartz’s lawn. The living room window was shot out while young Dale lay on the sofa. The family called the ADL.

More than 60 years later, Schwartz is a lawyer who keeps a print of Don Quixote in his office lobby. And his story is by way of explaining why, when an ADL official called in the early 1980s, he agreed to pursue a pardon for Frank.

The effort was prompted by the words of Alonzo Mann, the office boy for Frank, who, 69 years after Phagan’s murder, told the Nashville Tennessean he’d caught Conley with the girl’s body, but stayed silent because he was threatened with death.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected the first request.

“It was like Atlanta didn’t want to revisit that story,” Schwartz says, recalling a packed meeting at a Jewish center. “These old people got up to the microphone and they begged us not to do it. They said it was too big a wound.”

But in 1986, officials granted a pardon, recognizing the state’s failure to protect Frank, “without attempting to address the question of guilt or innocence.”

The ADL deemed the pardon closure of its “oldest case.” Schwartz calls it one of his proudest moments, while acknowledging it was a compromise. To challenge it now and fail “would cast a shadow over what we’ve already got,” he said. And yet, as the 100th anniversary of Frank’s death approaches, the recent mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., is on his mind.

“Somehow the juxtaposition of these events keeps popping up in my head,” he says. “There is still some element of society that thinks that hate is OK.”

When Roy Barnes came home after losing re-election as Georgia’s governor, he renovated an abandoned church in downtown Marietta as a law office, commissioning a huge stained glass window of Lady Justice, lit up at night. Settled in an armchair in what used to be the sanctuary, the Democrat reflected on a fascination with the Frank case.

Barnes, who is 67 and was raised on a Cobb County farm, recalls the hush around Frank’s name when he was a boy, and how, as a legislator, he borrowed books on the case from the state library to pass time when debate dragged. As details surfaced, he learned the lynching party included Cicero Dobbs — grandfather of Barnes’ wife, Marie.

Dobbs owned businesses including a taxi company that provided transport that fateful night. Other lynchers included a judge, a former mayor turned state prosecutor, a leading lawyer and the scion of one of Marietta’s wealthiest families. They’re all long gone, with many descendants who openly acknowledge what happened.

But Barnes says some people tell him that, while they agree Frank didn’t get a fair trial, he was still guilty.

Barnes is certain that’s wrong and should be corrected. The Frank story needs to be talked about, “to remind people here that we’re only one step away from mob rule, even from the leaders in our community, and we need to be told that and study so that we never let that happen again,” he says.

Reminded that he lost the governorship in no small part because he pushed to eliminate the Confederate battle flag from the state banner, Barnes paraphrases the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

“You know, the arc of history does bend toward justice,” Barnes says. “And for Leo Frank, justice hasn’t been given yet.”

Just off a gravel road tucked into North Georgia’s hills, Mary Phagan Kean ushers a visitor into a moss-green room filled with scrapbooks, family photos and files detailing the life and death of a 13-year-old girl a century ago.

“She’s my family. She’s my history. History is what makes you who you are,” she says.

Phagan Kean was 13, herself, when a teacher asked if she was related to the girl murdered at the National Pencil Co.

Her father confirmed that she was the victim’s great niece and namesake. Phagan Kean began years of research that produced a book and confirmed her certainty of Frank’s guilt.

When the ADL sought Frank’s exoneration, Phagan Kean recalls telling her family that it was time to speak up. Her protest saw the pardon limited.

When a historic marker was proposed for Phagan’s grave, she asked for wording making clear the pardon was based on the state’s failure to protect him, “not Frank’s innocence.” That is the marker now retired to the Marietta museum, replaced by one Lebow lobbied for, noting simply that Frank was pardoned.

Phagan Kean bought the empty plot just below Phagan’s a few years ago. If Lebow and others keep pushing, she says, she’ll erect her own marker, reminding visitors of the verdict.

“They’re not telling the truth. They’re swaying the truth their way,” says Phagan Kean, a retired teacher who acknowledges that anti-Semitism played a role, but only in the lynching.

In thoughtful, but separate, conversations, she and Lebow voice frustration over each other’s repeated insistence.

Southerners, Phagan Kean says, should not have to apologize for history. Lebow, who recently posted a picture of Frank on Facebook, followed soon after by a photo of Cobb County’s first Jewish same-sex wedding, says acknowledging mistakes of history is the only route toward a “newer South.”

Each speaks of a responsibility.

Phagan Kean, noting that for years she’s dismissed inquiries from white supremacists seeking to use the case for their own purposes, says she acts as a voice for the murdered girl because “there’s nobody to protect her but me.”

And Lebow, noting that time has taught Jews the danger of forgetting the past, recalls hearing about the case at a Kiwanis meeting years ago and realizing he had, by accident, become Leo Frank’s rabbi.

“We’ve got to be the memory of this guy,” he says, “because no one else wants to be.”

Jon Stewart talks about moving on from ‘The Daily Show’

Aug. 6 will be a dark day for many. Jon Stewart, the irreverent host of The Daily Show, the satirical news program that a proportionately large audience considers more newsworthy than the actual news, will finally step down as the show’s host after 16 years.

The announcement came in February. It’s like losing a best friend for some viewers, many of whom have never lived without the 52 year-old New Yorker’s withering, bluntly caustic dissection of current affairs. A study in 2010 in revealed most young Americans got their news from The Daily Show — even more than from The New York Times and CNN.

“That was never my intention, but for a result like that, you can only be so grateful,” he says. “We obviously did something right.”

So what’s next for the figurehead of satire and inventive analysis? Perhaps a move into filmmaking? Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, for which he left The Daily Show for 12 weeks to film in Jordan, indicates that’s a possibility.

The movie is based on a book and the experiences of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist imprisoned by Iran after he was connected to reports on violence against protestors of the country’s presidential elections.

Iranian authorities presented an interview he did on the Daily Show that year as evidence that he was in communication with an American spy, and Bahari spent 118 days in prison being brutally interrogated.

With his close personal connection with Maziar, Stewart felt compelled to work with him on a film of his torturous experiences, while also presenting the terrifying period with a humorous slant.

Casual in a gray sweater and dark jacket, Stewart spoke about his impending departure, his rep as “the most trusted man on TV,” and facing his critics.

Jon, firstly, like so many others, I’m very sad to hear you leaving The Daily Show. Why are you putting us through this?

Life. Time to move on. It’s been 16 years. It’s considered normal for someone looking to move on after that time. And it really has something to do, we all, especially in television and especially now, we all have a certain shelf life. I’ve set up a framework there that would be difficult for me to mutate, in a large enough way that it would make sense to me. The changes that I’ve made there are incremental and I think or I know, I’m at a point where I don’t know how to advance this anymore. I don’t know how to maintain it till it withers. The only thing that would decrease my participation there is a feeling to evolve it properly, to not want to stay there for the wrong reasons and having nothing to do with a greener grass somewhere.

It’s been likened to Oprah’s departure from network television.

I’m in good company then. Look, it is what it is, it’s my decision that was certainly in the back of my mind for some time, and finally I made my mind up. And if the world didn’t fall apart with Oprah’s departure, I think mine will have little impact.

So is it a personal decision, based rather than a professional one?

My family is certainly a factor. They’re always the main factor in all my decisions.

It will seem so strange not to have you on screens in the run up to an election though.

People have said this to me and while incredibly complimentary, I’ve been through it many, many times. It’s the same to me. And there’s only so many ways one can skin a cat. It’s becoming a redundant process, it’s going to be the same process. Nothing was going to be wildly different.

I think what people will miss most is your balance. You were frequently referred to as “the most trusted man on TV,” and as a fake news anchor, coming across more rational and together than any of the actual news disseminators on our screens.

Our show was always incentivized in maybe a different way. So much of news media is incentivized toward extremity and conflict. Because imagine you have a channel and its 24 hours of news. But in reality, only seven minutes of news happens a day, so they have to expand that. Those kinds of apparatus are built for 9/11, for catastrophe, for earthquake. All their resources are required for this incredibly large, incredibly urgent story. So in the absence of that, they’re not going to say, “Don’t watch us, but we’ll be here when it’s necessary.” They’ll try and gin up anything to that urgency. Ebola is a very serious issue, but they will make it more serious and more urgent than it needs to be. So that you feel compelled to tune into them. And I always just wanted to make the best show I could make every day. I don’t ever look at it as a responsibility. We work hard to control the only thing we can control, which is the quality we put out.

Back when you signed on for The Daily Show 15 years ago, it seemed that you were being groomed for the other late night talk shows. What was it about The Daily Show that stood out for you?

Because when you’re doing something that many days a week and writing that much material about it, you have to be driven about the point of view or you’ll be a bit lost. And I did a talk show that wasn’t about current events and feeling less grounded. I didn’t care as much about OJ Simpson or Monica Lewinsky, I needed it to be something that I really cared about.

The Daily Show connection in Rosewater is so absurd and crazy, did you almost feel a responsibility to get this story out there?

Yes, and I’ve said to Maziar, “I’d love to do a sequel if you can get yourself arrested somewhere else, we can work on that (laughs).” That wasn’t really the impetus for it, as much as, we had run some pieces about Iran, not so much having to do with the election but rather the culture. Maziar, when we’d found out that he had been arrested, you know, obviously it was an incredible shock, and we tried to contact the families and things, what they felt was best in continuing to publicize it. But as far as you know, this project, it really came much later when Maziar and I became friends. He and I used to have breakfast in the city when he would come by and that’s where the impetus for turning the book into a movie, began to come up.

When did you first meet him?

I hate to tell you this, but when we go to a place, generally that’s actually a picture, we’re standing in front of a green screen. Iran was the first time we sent someone somewhere. George Bush had called Iran the Axis of Evil and so, at the show, that was a relatively irresistible moniker that we thought, we must go to this place. To see evil with our eyes. But we couldn’t get in. Right before the 2009 election, they liberalized their entrance visa, because so many journalists were coming in to witness the election. So we snuck in on that. Without having any intention of covering the election. And the rest of it caught us off guard. So that was, that was more something that was a happenstance rather than a surprise And Maziar, he was Iranian but he worked for Newsweek. He had a connection with someone and not actually being journalists ourselves, we had contacted people for help in setting up bits. And because he was one of the people who had worked out of London, because he was Iranian, we were just asking him to participate, and get his feet on the ground.

But didn’t you ever feel these skits were going to put him at risk?

God no, we never, honestly, it never occurred to us. We had left before the revolution began in earnest and I thought a lot about it since then, the idea was there something in that. The problem of responsibility, what we did was nothing, what Maziar did was nothing. He wasn’t a spy, our interview with him meant nothing to that. When a country weaponizes the banal or idiocy or the innocuous, you ask yourself what could we have done differently and you ask yourself, nothing. Because whatever pretense they were using was false. It’s like if you get arrested walking down the street, you say to yourself, “What could I have done to not get arrested,” and you think, “Well, I could have just not walked.” The things that were being done were in no way what they were being used for. And I can’t imagine Maziar thought it was a risk either. It was a man, Jason Jones, wearing a kafiya, in sunglasses, being filmed, in the open saying to Maziar, “I’m an American spy, and I’d like to ask you about Iran.” I think you’d be hard pressed to think in any scenario that that might get me in trouble. It’s just so stupid. So I think that was, we thought a lot about it, you know, what he really got in trouble for was witnessing atrocity. What we could have done differently was not have someone not witness atrocity and that’s not an option.

Why take this one as your directorial debut?

Maziar had written this incredible book. And he asked if I knew how to make this into a movie. And not knowing how to do that, I said, “Of course, I know how to do that” (laughs). But it was going to be helping him to produce it. So we were going to establish a decent list of writers and people that we thought might make a great script for it. But that process was so glacial and took so long, and my eventual involvement as a writer and as a director was due to my impatience. I’d never been through that. We produce things like, 9 o’clock in the morning, you have a stupid idea, by 5 o’clock it’s on television. It was more the frustration of a movie that should be made as a current event, rather than a historical artifact. And I think we both came to the conclusion that if we want this film to be done, we were going to have to do it ourselves. But what I realized during this whole process, this whole experience, is that technology has changed the very face of what it means to be a journalist and what it means to bear witness. Because these regimes, generally have apparatuses that exist to suppress information, Western regimes as well, America as well. They may not be as ham-handed about it, it may not appear so kabuki in its practice, but journalists in America would be hard pressed to say they’d never felt the pressure to suppress information in some form from government or other entities. Well now that dissemination of information has been democratized, those regimes extend their tentacles much more forcefully, but in many more directions and that apparatus has become much not only much more expensive and unwieldy, but so much more ineffective.

The Iranian government has been, expectedly, critical of your film.

I expect nothing but absurdity. … I know I did everything I could to be fair and right with the story. I know there was nothing I could have done to make them feel, “Yea that’s fair, I see where we went wrong.” I tried to just feel as good about it, the integrity about it, as I could. Whatever they say, they say.

The critics have been somewhat unkind of the film too.

I’m used to it. You don’t perform in clubs, you don’t host the Oscars a couple of times without people drawing moustaches on your face and kicking you in the nuts. That being said, I do take seriously the notion of clarity of vision and recognize that I don’t know everything, I’m only too aware of that.

You use humor to tackle such a tricky, sensitive subject, and that’s really what you’ve done when it comes to politics your entire career, why is that?

I think some of that is wiring. I think it’s just, how I cope. Repression and humor.

Was this as a child? Because I read where you endured anti-Semitic bullying as a child.

You know, I came into a type of abuse, which all children face as a child in all places. Children have a unique ad special quality where they will assess you, find your weak spot, find what it is that they will hang on to and utilize it. But in no way was it, this was not a Louis Malle movie, it was in no way more than what the Italian kids in my school faced for being Italian. Or the Irish kids. Or the dork kids or the tall kids or heavy kids. Because of how my brain is wired, I tended to deflect it as humor where kids genetically superior to me would use fisticuffs. That, I don’t want to ever portray it that I ever suffered under this oppressive, it was very middle-class kid bullshit. I’m generally someone who likes to prat fall and run.

Annual audit documents incidents of anti-Semitism in Wisconsin

Last summer, half a dozen signs suddenly appeared in Algoma denouncing Jewish people — going so far as to urge locals to “Kill the Jews, keep Algoma clean.”

Police and the FBI investigated the incident as a hate crime, but the perpetrators were never found. 

The incident also was investigated by the Milwaukee-based Jewish Community Relations Council and documented in JCRC’s 2013 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Released earlier this month, the report will be turned over to the Anti-Defamation League and become part of its national audit.

JCRC director Elana Kahn-Oren said the report represents only the tip of the problem, since the vast majority of anti-Semitic incidents go unreported. “Many times when I talk to someone about the audit, they tell me about an incident,” she said. “So this list represents only a sliver of the story.”

Other documented instances of anti-Semitism in Wisconsin last year included:

• High school students invoked the stereotype of Jewish people as obsessed with money by throwing coins at Jewish students.

• A Wisconsin State Fair vendor said to a Jewish fairgoer that she sold a diamond but didn’t get a high price because, “Jews are cheap.” She added: “And you know, they smell.” 

• A landlord told a tenant that her drain clogged because, “All that Jewish hair is clogging it. You people have such thick hair.” 

• On hearing that a particular woman was Jewish, a Racine woman said, “Oh, you’re the people who killed my Lord.”

• A 12-year-old child in a suburban swim club called another child a “dirty Jew.” 

• Comments on the Facebook page of a local organization included repeated references to Jewish power and declarations of Jewish and Israeli control over the U.S. government. Other comments called for deporting “all elected officials with dual U.S./Israeli citizenship or ties to Zionism”; “Zionist assholes”; and “Israel has all the money … F___ing crooks.”

Kahn-Oren said that Wisconsin and other places that are not home to a large Jewish population generally have a higher proportion of anti-Semitism. 

“When someone knows someone of another faith, it (positively) affects their thought and attitude toward that faith group,” she said.

Kahn-Oren said that anti-Semitism based on theological differences is fading, but a disturbing new trend of hatred toward Jews is emerging on the political left. It’s based on anti-Zionism, she said.

“The Jewish community is the most consistently progressive faith group, and it’s hard to have those that we’ve stood in partnership with all these years say things that are painful and that feel so deeply threatening,” Kahn-Oren said. “Jews are themselves critical of Israel, but there’s a line crossed when people are questioning the very existence of a Jewish state.”

Despite occasional outbursts of hatred toward Jews, from a historical perspective conditions are favorable for Jewish adults in America today, Kahn-Oren said. Jewish children, however, often have a tough time.

“Jews have historically learned how to navigate society,” she said. “But kids don’t know what hate is. Kids in school don’t know how to navigate hate. High school can be brutal.” 

The JCRC has found that anti-Semites are usually bigoted toward Muslims, LGBT people and other minorities, as well.

“It’s all the same thing,” Kahn-Oren said. “It’s all the same fight.”

Wisconsin forum tackles hate crimes

In an ongoing effort to prevent hate-related crimes like the 2012 Sikh temple shooting, a Wisconsin civil rights committee has heard testimony from experts and law enforcement officials.

The Wisconsin State Advisory Committee, a state board that reports to the federal Commission on Civil Rights, gathered comments and testimony in Madison for a report to be presented to the White House and Congress sometime next year.

The committee first met with Sikh Temple of Wisconsin leaders a few weeks after a gunman walked into the Oak Creek temple on Aug. 5, 2012, and opened fire. Wade Michael Page killed six worshippers and wounded six others, including a police officer, before killing himself. Although FBI investigators never discovered Page’s motive, he had strong ties to the white supremacist movement.

Those invited to speak Thursday included professors and community leaders. Several speakers previewed their testimony for The Associated Press.

Rick Esenberg, the founder of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, urged authorities to avoid haste before labeling a violent crime a hate crime. Overaggressive policing could lead to people being targeted for speech that should be protected, he said.

“I don’t want to see us cross the line into targeting people based on their political views, or enacting legal measures that restrict freedom of speech,” he said.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said his group had counted 600 hate groups in 2000. Last year the number had swelled to 1,000.

Potok said the increase coincided with President Barack Obama being elected in 2008, with Potok speculating the country was experiencing a backlash over societal changes – from the economic downtown to shifts in attitudes about gay marriage.

“What we can say from that is, this too shall pass,” Potok said, citing some citizens’ reactions to the civil rights movements and waves of immigration during the Industrial Revolution.

Elana Kahn-Oren, a director with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said she has seen an anecdotal rise in anti-Semitism in Wisconsin. She noted that six anti-Semitic signs appeared in Algoma in late July.

She suggested the problem was related to the growing polarization of the state, in which discussions about politics and other contentious issues had taken on an increasingly uncivil tone.

Kahn-Oren said one way to improve tolerance was for people to make a special effort to be around those different from themselves, perhaps by buying groceries in different neighborhoods or spending time with people of different religions or sexual orientations.

“We’re changed by people who are different than us. We see they matter,” she said. “You’re less likely to hate when you learn to see the humanity of someone different than you.”

Galliano sacked over anti-Semitism, fashion world reeling

John Galliano, long a top fashion-world provocateur on and off the runway, went too far this time.

The storied French label Christian Dior said it was firing the zany British bad boy after video showing him spouting “I love Hitler” in a drunken rant went viral online – sending shock waves through the start of Paris Fashion Week.

The ouster followed a barrage of accusations and revelations about Galliano’s outbursts that spelled major career trouble for the talented and moneymaking couturier.

The allegations of bigotry had put Dior, which battles crosstown rival Chanel for the title of world’s top fashion house, in the hot seat: Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, the new advertising face of the Miss Dior Cherie perfume line, who is Jewish, expressed fury over the remarks.

Galliano’s sacking marked the latest bout of scandal to shake the rarified fashion world, including last year’s suicide of Alexander McQueen, another celebrated British designer, and supermodel Kate Moss’ brief stint in the industry wilderness after photos of her snorting cocaine went public in 2005.

“Knowing John’s proclivity for provocation on the runway and in life, to hear such accusations wasn’t surprising,” said Dana Thomas, a fashion guru and author of “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster,” an expose of the luxury industry.

“But the videos that went viral yesterday were too damning to deny,” she said. “I’m sure (Dior CEO Sidney) Toledano was deeply hurt because he’s Jewish.”

“It’s an insolence that’s unforgivable,” she added.

Fashionistas almost uniformly said Dior would pull through the controversy, and some even suggested the episode gave it a chance to clean its slate after Galliano’s 15-year rein as its mastermind of creation.

The 50-year-old designer’s tailspin began after a couple accused him of hurling anti-Semitic insults at them at La Perle, a trendy eatery in Paris’ Marais district – a hip neighborhood known for its sizable gay and Jewish populations.

As word got out that police were investigating, another woman came forward accusing Galliano of similar anti-Semitic insults in October at the same brasserie.

An apparent smoking gun emerged when the British daily The Sun posted a video on its website showing Galliano, his speech slurred, appearing to taunt two women diners.

At one point, a woman’s voice asks Galliano, “Are you blond, with blue eyes?”

Galliano replied: “No, but I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be … gassed and … dead.”

Making anti-Semitic remarks can bring up to six months in prison in France, and Galliano appeared in a Paris police station Monday to face the accusations against him.

In what some hailed as an appropriate and quick response, Christian Dior SA said it had launched termination proceedings for Galliano and decried “the particularly odious nature of the behavior and words” in the video.

Galliano’s lawyer did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

News of Galliano’s firing hit on the start of Paris’ nine-day-long ready-to-wear marathon like a tidal wave, with journalists, editors and stylists reading out Dior’s statement on a shuttle bus between shows.

Some murmured that Dior had long been looking to part with Galliano, and this was a way out. Others feared that it might bring his brilliant career to a tragic finish – and possibly overshadow his legacy.

Dior said it still planned to go ahead with its
Galliano-designed fall-winter 2011-12 collection as part 
of Paris fashion week.

Trying to limit the fallout, press officers at the designer’s signature label, John Galliano, spent much of the day checking with journalists, critics, stylists and editors to make sure they would be attending its women’s wear show, scheduled for March 6.

Questions were bound to arise about whether Galliano’s fame and fawning fans had gone to his head, or whether he had succumbed to the pressures of the high-octane, big-payoff industry.

“The situation is extremely sad. Creative people like John – great artists, great writers – often wrestle with the devil in the form of the bottle or drugs,: Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of American Marie Claire, said. After seeing the video, she said, “You were left thinking, ‘What on earth was he thinking?’”

“The pressure is probably less when you start somewhere than when you’ve been there for some time and have to continue to produce at such a high level,” she said. “We’re very curious to see who replaces John.”

The guessing-game got going in earnest from the moment it became clear Galliano was out.

While some fashion insiders put their money on Alber Elbaz, who has transformed Lanvin from a musty old label into one of Paris’ hottest, others said Givenchy’s Riccardo Tischi was their man.

Since his appointment in 1996, Galliano, who was born in Gibraltar and grew up in London, made an indelible mark on the storied House of Dior. Season after season, he reinterpreted the iconic New Look pieces pioneered by founder Christian Dior, managing to make the designs first fielded after World War II fresh and youthful.

Galliano’s glorious past collections channeled inspiration like ancient Egypt – with models in Nefertiti eye makeup and King Tut beards – as well as Masai tribespeople accessorized with rows of beaded necklaces and crop-brandishing equestrians of the 19th century.

Always theatrical and sometimes outrageous, Galliano’s star-studded runway shows are big-budget blockbusters and among the most-anticipated displays on the Paris calendar.

For years, Galliano has made a spectacle of himself at the end of his shows, prancing out in a rooster-style strut, arms akimbo, his chin up and head cocked back. Backstage he holds court for reporters’ questions and fan emulation while seated on a high-backed chair resembling a throne.

Galliano’s days holding court at Dior are over.

The last straw appeared to be a statement by Portman, who won an Oscar for “Black Swan,” expressing shock and disgust at the video. “As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way,” she said.

Marcellous Jones, editor-in-chief of thefashioninsider.com magazine, said he was “really surprised that Dior actually had the conviction to fire John Galliano because he makes them a lot of money.”

“I think we were all expecting them to send him to rehab and so they are actually firing him. It’s a bold move,” he said. “It marks a dramatic end to one of the greatest eras in the history of the house of Dior in terms of its international reputation.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised Dior’s move in a statement saying Galliano’s words had caused pain around the world – notably among Holocaust survivors and their relatives.

“The fact that someone is brilliant in a certain field does not immunize him from facing the consequences of words that are hateful, bigoted or prejudiced,” Foxman said. “Galliano is a public figure with a high profile, but he is apparently also a serial bigot.”

Outside Dior’s flagship store on ritzy Avenue Montaigne in Paris, fashion aficionados expressed surprise and anger.

“I’m shocked because the name of Dior has always been related to John Galliano – he’s creative, he’s a big designer, and everybody is waiting for his fashion show every season,” said Shams, a Kuwaiti singer. “I can’t believe it.”

– From The Associated Press