11 Passover haggadah supplements to print if you want to discuss Oct. 7 at your seder

(JTA) — With just hours before Jews around the world will sit down for the first Passover seder since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, many are reckoning fully for the first time with how to discuss the trauma and pain of the last seven months at their tables.

A diverse array of Jewish groups and leaders have produced materials designed to help with that reckoning. The traditional haggadah — of which there are many new ones this year — offers a durable framework for grappling with a world that includes both danger and resilience for the Jewish people; the new supplements aim to help Jews connect that story with current events, including the attack on Israel, Israel’s war in Gaza and rising reports of antisemitism around the world. The supplements come from Jews and Jewish institutions across the political, ideological and religious spectrum.

Here’s a (non-exhaustive!) selection of some of the many supplements released this year, all of which can be printed at home for those who choose to do so.

Rabbi at Columbia U urges Jewish students to leave as pro-Palestinian protests continue to roil campus

(JTA) — An Orthodox rabbi at Columbia University has encouraged students to leave the campus until further notice, saying that he does not believe the university and city police can be counted on to keep Jewish students safe.

“What we are witnessing in and around campus is terrible and tragic. The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy,” Rabbi Elie Buechler wrote in a message to students in Yavneh, the Orthodox student community.

“It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” he wrote, adding, “It is not our job as Jews to ensure our own safety on campus. No one should have to endure this level of hatred, let alone at school.”

Buechler declined to respond to questions but told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had posted his message only to a private student group. It has since spread widely on social media and messaging platforms. 

The campus Hillel said it disagreed with Buechler’s message but shared his concerns, while the campus Chabad expressed grave concerns about conditions on campus but said its Passover seders would go forward without interruption.

“We do not believe that Jewish students should leave Columbia,” Columbia/Barnard Hillel tweeted. “We do believe that the University and the City need to do more to ensure the safety of our students.”

The communications came after days of heightened tensions at the New York City Ivy League university, which included testimony by the school’s president to a congressional panel examining antisemitism on college campuses; the creation of an encampment by pro-Palestinian students and their supporters; and the decision by the president, Nemat Shafik, to ask the NYPD to remove the protesters on Thursday. More than 100 were arrested.

Demonstrators remained in place Saturday as another night of clashes unfolded. Some of the incidents took place just outside the campus’ gates, but others took place inside the campus, which officials said they had closed to anyone not holding a Columbia ID – a measure the administration has taken periodically since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. 

A video posted by Chabad, for example, showed pro-Palestinian protesters calling for the destruction of Tel Aviv from atop the iconic sundial at the center of campus. Another video showed pro-Israel students waving Israeli flags and singing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, on the sundial as a protester wrapped in a keffiyeh, a Palestinian scarf, held a sign reading, “Al Qassam’s next targets,” with an arrow pointing to the students singing. It was a reference to a Hamas brigade. 

The White House expressed concern on Sunday as footage from the protests went viral.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous — they have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America,” Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary, said in a statement on Sunday. “And echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable. We condemn these statements in the strongest terms.”

Chabad said Rabbi Yuda Drizin had escorted Jewish students from the campus to their dorms past crowds of protesters early Sunday morning, posting a video in which a protester shouted at the group, “Why do you keep killing children?”

“We try to avoid sharing the worst of what is going on at Columbia’s campus right now,” Chabad said in Instagram stories on Sunday, posted by Naomi Drizin, the rabbi’s wife who runs the campus center with him. “We can no longer stay quiet. … It’s been a rough two semesters but this week has been off the charts.”

Drizin said the Chabad had hired additional armed guards for its Passover seders and services starting on Monday night.

The university said in a statement Sunday afternoon that it was “acting on concerns” of Jewish students but did not specify how or respond to additional questions.

“As President Shafik has said repeatedly, the safety of our community is our number one priority. Columbia students have the right to protest, but they are not allowed to disrupt campus life or harass and intimidate fellow students and members of our community,” the statement said. “We are acting on concerns we are hearing from our Jewish students and are providing additional support and resources to ensure that our community remains safe.”

The Hillel said Columbia’s efforts needed to extend beyond the campus gates. “Columbia University and the City of New York must do more to protect students. We call on the University Administration to act immediately in restoring calm to campus,” it said in a statement. Referring to two major city streets that adjoin the campus, it added, “The City must ensure that students can walk up and down Broadway and Amsterdam without fear of harassment.”

One video posted to social media showed Nerdeen Kiswani, a leader of the pro-Palestinian activist group Within Our Lifetime, speaking on campus; Kiswani is not a Columbia student or faculty member but said earlier this month, when her group sponsored an event that praised Hamas, that she was “sitting in” on the campus.

Some Jewish students had previously said that they distinguished the rhetoric from on-campus student protesters from outside protesters, with one saying on Friday, “The students have more boundaries.” But some said those distinctions were receding as it became clear that the university could not effectively prevent outsiders from coming onto campus and as student protest leaders failed to denounce the aggressive tactics apparently deployed by outsiders.

“It is possible violence from non-students may normalize violence from students,” wrote Yoni Kurtz, a Columbia student who has been commenting on campus affairs on X, formerly Twitter. “That is why it is important for all protesters, inside or outside the gates (from [Students for Justice in Palestine]’s leaders to those who have joined in the last few days) to condemn violence and/or separate from those who won’t.”

Tensions appeared poised to remain high as the weekend neared a close and Passover approached. On Telegram, a group called “Columbia Encampment,” which has swelled to nearly 3,500 members, called for additional disruptions on Sunday, according to screenshots that were circulating widely.

Meanwhile, a prominent pro-Israel professor, Shai Davidai, announced that he had requested police protection so that he could enter the encampment on Monday.

Davidai, an Israeli business professor, has become a hero to many Israel advocates for his early and aggressive laceration of Columbia’s administration, while others have criticized him for stoking tensions on campus.

On Sunday, Davidai posted on social media that he had asked for a police escort when he arrived on campus on Monday, saying he needs “at least 10 cops” to accompany him and his entourage when they seek to enter the protest zone. He also told his followers that the Kraft Center for Jewish Life had barricaded its entrance and closed early.

The center’s director, Brian Cohen, tweeted a rebuttal. “The Kraft Center closed Saturday at our scheduled time. We will open today on schedule. And tomorrow. And the day after that…” he wrote.

Cohen told Jewish students in a letter on Sunday that Hillel would remain available to them through the crisis.

“This is a time of genuine discomfort and even fear for many of us on campus. Let us be clear: The Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life is and will remain open,” he said in a statement, adding, “Students looking to be in community with one another, or in need of a quiet place to study or be with friends, are welcome to come by any time.”

 

In a first, US is reportedly set to sanction Israeli military unit for alleged human rights abuses

(JTA) — Israeli officials are decrying reports that the United States plans to sanction an Israeli military unit for human rights abuses, a step the State Department has never before taken. 

The report of sanctions comes amid escalating violence in the West Bank. Last week, an Israeli teenager was murdered in what authorities said was a terror attack, and deadly riots by settlers followed. In recent days, an Israeli military raid resulted in the deaths of 14 Palestinians and injuries to 10 Israeli soldiers. 

On Sunday, the news site Axios reported that Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to announce sanctions on the Netzach Yehuda battalion, which was formed to integrate haredi Orthodox soldiers into the military. Soldiers in the unit have been arrested and jailed for a litany of abuses against Palestinians over the years, including torture and assault.

The unit has faced condemnation within Israel. In 2022, due to its record of abuses, Israel’s then-Diaspora minister called for it to disband. The unit was subsequently moved from the West Bank to the Golan Heights. Following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, it deployed in Gaza. 

In a message ahead of Passover, which begins Monday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against the reported sanctions, which according to Axios would ban the military unit from receiving any U.S. assistance. 

“I will strongly defend the IDF, our army and our fighters,” he said. “If somebody thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit in the IDF – I will fight this with all my powers. As our soldiers are united in defending us on the battlefield, we are united in defending them in the diplomatic arena.”

Objections to the sanctions crossed political lines in Israel. In a social media post, Benny Gantz, a centrist former defense minister, called Netzach Yehuda an “inseparable part of the Israel Defense Forces” and said that Israel’s judiciary “evaluates meticulously any claim of a violation or deviation from IDF orders and code of conduct.”

The report was also making waves in the United States. Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Donald Trump ally who has campaigned against campus antisemitism in a series of high-profile House hearings, also slammed the report, saying that President Joe Biden and Blinken are “choosing to purposefully undermine Israel to appease the pro-Hamas faction of the Democratic Party. This is unacceptable.”

The reported sanctions would follow multiple rounds of sanctions against West Bank settlers accused of engaging in violence and those who have supported them. The Biden administration has enacted the sanctions after growing frustrated with the Israeli government’s efforts to rein in settler violence.

The controversy over Netzach Yehuda is playing out following a multi-day Israeli military raid on the Palestinian refugee camp of Nur Shams in the northern West Bank. The raid killed 14 Palestinians, all of whom were militants, the IDF said, while 10 Israeli soldiers were injured. 

The raid is the latest of a string of IDF counterterror operations in the West Bank, which has seen violence spike since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. Hundreds of Palestinians and more than 10 Israelis, a mix of soldiers and civilians, have been killed in the West Bank in that period. 

The past week has been a particularly violent one in the territory. Following the discovery last week of the body of a 14-year-old Israeli, whom Israeli authorities said was killed in a terror attack, Israeli settlers rioted in a Palestinian village; a Palestinian was killed in the riot. Clashes have continued in recent days. 

‘I’m ready to leave this campus’: Jewish students at Columbia feel discomfort and isolation following Thursday’s unrest

(JTA) — Yakira Galler, a first-year student at Barnard College, has had trouble sleeping. 

Galler has an apartment that looks out onto Broadway, which divides Columbia University’s campus from Barnard, its women’s college. Each night this week, she has heard crowds of protesters banging pots and pans, chanting “Intifada, revolution” and calling for the Ivy League university to divest from Israel.

The street protests accompanied a much larger on-campus demonstration that devolved into unrest on Thursday, when the university asked police to dismantle an encampment pro-Palestinian students had set up; more than 100 people were arrested. The scenes from Thursday drew global attention, a statement from the mayor and passionate debate over the limits of campus civil disobedience. 

For Galler, though, seeing hundreds of students — including some she knows — protesting Israel brought her back to a different time of trauma, not long ago: The days after Hamas attacked Israel, killing some 1,200 people and launching the war in Gaza. 

“Wednesday at Hillel felt like October,” she said. “I remember speaking to one of the Hillel professionals, just telling her that all I feel is anger and I feel like I’m being radicalized and I don’t want to be.”

She added, “I just want to be able to think clearly and in a nuanced way and rationally but I am so overcome with these emotions.”

In the months since Oct. 7, Columbia has at times felt like a battleground as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students have faced off against each other and, often, the university administration. Thursday’s protest represented an escalation of those tensions, with police entering campus and loading students into NYPD vans. 

Reflecting on Thursday’s unrest, Jewish students, most of them in and around the Kraft Center for Jewish Life, where Hillel is housed, told JTA that they felt uncomfortable and unheard on campus. Some said they’re glad the school year is almost over. 

Daniel Barth, who graduated last semester and will be participating in commencement ceremonies next month, said he appreciated his time at Columbia and the vibrant political debates on campus. But Barth, who wears a kippah, says that practice has been “tested” recently, including when someone spit near him. 

“I’m ready to leave this campus,” he said. “I thought it would be a lot more bittersweet, but I think it’s just a sense of relief. I’m not necessarily attached to being here anymore.”

Ezra Dayanim, also a senior, is enrolled in Columbia’s joint undergraduate program with the Jewish Theological Seminary. He happened to be in a class on political protest when he learned about the arrests on Thursday and said they drove home for him that constructive debate feels impossible at his school. 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been far larger and louder than pro-Israel ones, he said. And he feels discussion has been difficult because pro-Palestinian groups have a policy of not engaging with Zionist groups. (The school suspended its chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group, last semester — a core grievance among pro-Palestinian protesters.)

“I know that we stand in different places, and it’s unfortunate, but neither one of us is going to apologize for what we believe in,” Dayanim said. “So we have to find a way to coexist.”

Dayanim also feels isolated by the response of the school’s student leadership. On Thursday evening, student government officers sent an email to the students condemning the arrests and the university’s calling police to campus. Dayanim responded to the committee and copied multiple deans and the provost, expressing his disappointment in the message.

“We’re members of the student body as well and we want to be represented and seen and heard and we’re not,” he said.

Columbia’s gates were closed to ID holders the week of University President Minouche Shafik’s testimony in Congress. (Jackie Hajdenberg)

Henry Sears, the co-president of Columbia’s chapter of J Street U, the student arm of the liberal Israel lobby, was sitting in the middle of the Columbia campus when the arrests began. He heard chants of, “NYPD, KKK — the IOF, they’re all the same,” the latter a reference to the Israeli military that refers to Israel as an occupying force.

Other chants he heard, including “From the water to the water, Palestine is Arab,” and videos of flares that he saw later that night, made him feel “very uncomfortable and unsafe in my neighborhood,” he said. He emphasized that he supports Palestinian statehood alongside Israel. 

“I am really involved in this area on campus,” he said. “There are definitely a good amount of people who — they know who I am and they know my political views. Even though I’m part of J Street, so my political views include a separate state of Israel alongside a separate state of Palestine, but that’s not what they want.”

Some students expressed misgivings about the police crackdown on the protests, even as they said the messages made them uncomfortable.

“I recognize the consequences that come with the the NYPD entering campus, especially with students of color,” Galler said, speaking by phone because she was taking a break from being on campus.

“I don’t think that should be the first decision,” she said. “That being said, from what I saw, the NYPD did not act with violence, and I think they dealt with the situation as it needs to be dealt with. … [When it] got to a point where you had people outside breaking NYC laws, then I can understand why the university felt that they needed to bring in force.”

Second-year law student Hannah Wander also drew a distinction between student and non-student protesters. “The students have more boundaries,” she said, adding that they wouldn’t “directly attack people.” As she spoke, a testament to public Jewish life at the school was unfolding next to her: Male Jewish students were wrapping tefillin with the Chabad rabbi, Yuda Drizin.

“The chants are bad, but you don’t tend to get people saying, ‘We want more October 7th’ or explicitly pro-Hamas,” she said.

Daniella Coen, an Israeli citizen and a senior in the first class of Columbia’s dual-degree program with Tel Aviv University, said the chants were no small matter. She told JTA she could hear chants of “intifada” on Thursday from where she was studying inside Butler library.

“I have family members who survived the Holocaust and people who died in the intifada, in the Sbarro pizza shop,” she said, referring to a large terror attack in Jerusalem in 2001 near the beginning of the second intifada, a years-long campaign of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel. “The entire family, multiple children, everybody.”

Asked whether the events of the past week have changed her view on Columbia, Coen said, “I’ve had a good education on the campus.” She added that she “100%” believes in the right to protest. But she worries that, following Thursday, she no longer identifies with the image Columbia projects to the world.

“In terms of what the school purports to stand for,” she said, “I’m having difficulty with that.”

For many Israelis this Passover, celebrating the Festival of Freedom feels impossible

TEL AVIV (JTA) — This year, Noam Safir and her family will order takeout for the Passover seder because her mother Moshit has no energy to cook a festive meal, as she has done in past years.

Moshit is the daughter of the oldest Israeli hostage held by Hamas — Shlomo Mansour, 86.

“It’s going to be less of a celebration and more of marking the holiday,” Safir, 20, told reporters in a video call this week.

It’s a sentiment that is widely shared this year by families of the hostages and the millions of Jews in Israel and around the world who have mounted a sweeping advocacy campaign pressing for their release. The Passover holiday begins on Monday, when Jews are traditionally read through the haggadah, which recounts the story of the Israelites’ freedom from slavery and exodus from Egypt.

“I don’t even want to be a part of it,” Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son Hersh, 23, remains a hostage in Gaza, told the Times of Israel on Friday. “There’s something perverse about even going through the motions of celebrating a holiday of freedom from captivity when our only son is not free and is in the worst form of captivity that any of us can imagine. It feels completely inappropriate.”

For Mai Albini-Peri, 29, from Jerusalem, whose grandfather Chaim Peri was also kidnapped and taken to Gaza during the Oct. 7 attack, the Passover rituals feel almost impossible to carry out. “How can we celebrate such a holiday while 133 people are still without their freedom, still waiting to be liberated?” he asked.

On Oct. 7, Peri hid his wife in the safe room and went out to fight the invading terrorists. “My grandpa sacrificed his freedom to save his wife,” Albini-Peri said. He went on to note that his grandfather, who marked his 80th birthday last week in captivity, was a peace activist who drove sick children from Gaza to Israeli hospitals. “He dedicated his life to liberating oppressed people wherever,” he said.

Safir said her family will leave an empty seat at the seder table for Mansour. Jews in other parts of the world, including London and Los Angeles, have been asked to do the same in honor of the 134 hostages still in captivity.

Some families will be using a haggadah sold by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum and produced by the print shop at Kibbutz Beeri, where 90 residents were murdered and 20 taken hostage on Oct. 7. The haggadah features an essay by Goldberg-Polin and her husband, Jon, that adds a fifth question to the holiday’s traditional four: “Why are our loved ones not sitting at the table with us?”

In Israel, the head of the Tzohar rabbinical organization, Rabbi David Stav, said it was “impossible to celebrate this holiday without calling out to the heavens that the captives should be taken out from the darkness in which they are being held in and into the light of freedom.”

Stav added, “That empty chair should be used as a teaching moment for our children to ask an additional ‘fifth question’ so that they can understand what makes this year different and what they might be able to do to help bring the hostages home.” Tzohar also recommended dedicating the symbolic fifth cup of wine at Seder, traditionally known as Elijah’s Cup, to the hostages and to say an additional prayer composed by the group in light of the war.

But not all of the hostage families are incorporating a new ritual this year.

“We don’t need physical symbols because we’re living it every day,” said Talya Dancyg, 18, whose grandfather Alex Dancyg was kidnapped from Nir Oz. The elder Dancyg was the one who would lead the seder every year. “Usually my grandpa is the one who takes the show, telling the jokes and the stories. This year it won’t be like that.

“It’s called ‘leil haseder’ but it won’t have any seder,” she added, referencing the Hebrew word for order. She did add, however, that her family would be taking time at the seder to acknowledge how their own lives were saved on Oct. 7. “My family was saved from Nir Oz,” she said. “We get to say thank God for giving our lives back.”

Dancyg, who lived with her grandfather growing up, spoke of the close bond she shared with him. “I talked with him about everything. I talked with him about love and he was responding like a 16-year-old boy.”

It’s not only hostage families whose experience of Passover has been altered. For Israelis, the festival is the first major Jewish holiday since Oct. 7, which was itself the festival of Simchat Torah, and many Israelis are feeling unease, especially amid a recent flare-up of tensions with Iran that included the launch of 300 drones and missiles at Israel.

The first night of Passover, when much of the country pauses for families to gather, has seen terror attacks in the past, such as when a hotel hosting a seder in Netanya was bombed in 2002, killing 30, the deadliest single attack of the Second Intifada. Israeli officials believe Hamas initially planned what became the Oct. 7 attack for Passover last year but delayed after security was elevated.

The Netanya bombing targeted extended families who had gathered at the hotel, in keeping with Israeli tradition. But for many of the roughly 118,000 Israelis who are evacuated from their homes because of the war, this year a joint seder won’t be possible, with members of the same family scattered in different hotels all over the country.

In one of the larger hotel chains along the Tel Aviv boardwalk, evacuees are particularly disgruntled after being told that their seder will be held in a separate room from the tourists from overseas. Evacuees were also told they couldn’t use the hotel’s pool over the busy holiday period. “It’s as if we’re outcasts,” one woman, Shula, who declined to give her last name, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Among the organizations in Israel that are hoping to alleviate the challenges posed by Passover for evacuees is Colel Chabad, which has more than 25,000 people registered for its communal seders all over the country. Another is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which is distributing close to 19,000 debit cards amounting to a total of more than NIS 18 million  ($4.8 million) for evacuated families to use towards purchasing food items for the holiday.

“’All who are hungry, come and eat’ is something recited at every Passover seder around the world,” IFCJ President Yael Eckstein told JTA. “With so many evacuees not in their own homes, and so many suffering from loss or the unknown fate of their loved ones, this will be a Passover like none Israel has ever experienced before. Our commitment is to continue to help feed and provide for those who need it, how and where they need it.”

Medical aid group Yad Sarah is assisting evacuees, the wounded and the elderly holding non-traditional seders by providing at-home hospitalization supplies and accessible transportation to seder destinations on Passover eve.

Other efforts are underway to ensure that Israelis are able to observe and celebrate the holiday, wherever they are. With a larger-than-normal number of soldiers on active duty, army bases will be hosting more seders than usual. (Israel’s top court rejected a request to allow soldiers to eat chametz, leavened food that is barred on Passover, on their bases.) And in a particularly heart-rending effort this week, a top government minister implored the United Nations to ensure that Israeli hostages in Gaza can access the ritual foods — grape juice and matzah — needed to fulfill the most basic commandments on Passover.

In Tel Aviv’s Hostage Square, thousands gathered this week for a “Unity and Freedom Rally” ahead of Passover.

Eli Bibas holds pictures of his grandsons, who remain hostages in Gaza, during a pre-Passover rally in Tel Aviv. (Deborah Danan)

Eli Bibas, father of Yarden Bibas and grandfather to the youngest hostages held by Hamas, 4-year-old Ariel and 1-year-old Kfir, said that from his perspective, “Passover was not a holiday” this year.

A day earlier, new video footage emerged of a bloodied Yarden being taken by his captors through the streets of Gaza on Oct. 7 as an angry mob surrounded him. The older Bibas said the footage was “devastating” to watch, especially as the family’s hopes dimmed that a deal for the release of additional hostages might be reached before Passover.

Yet he told JTA that he had made a painful calculation about the seder night, one that Jews in dire circumstances have made many times throughout history.

“Nevertheless, because we have other grandchildren, we’ll sit at the table and celebrate — that’s the wrong word — we’ll spend the holiday together as a family, albeit a broken one,” he said.

Fred Neulander, rabbi serving life sentence for hiring hit men to kill his wife, dies in prison at 82

(JTA) — Fred Neulander, a New Jersey rabbi serving a life sentence for hiring hit men to murder his wife Carol in 1994, has died in prison. He was 82.

The New Jersey Department of Corrections website lists Neulander as deceased and says his “date out of custody” was Thursday. Local news outlets are reporting that Neulander was found unresponsive in a prison infirmary and pronounced dead on Wednesday.

In a case that riveted the Philadelphia area and American Jewry for years, Neulander, the founding rabbi of the 1,000-family M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was convicted in 2002 of paying confessed killers Len Jenoff and Paul Michael Daniels to murder his wife so that he could freely carry on a love affair with former Philadelphia radio personality Elaine Soncini.

Carol Neulander, 52, was found lying dead in a pool of blood on the living room floor of the family home in Cherry Hill in November 1994. She had been brutally bludgeoned to death. Neulander resigned from the synagogue several months later, after investigators found evidence of his affair, but he was not arrested for nearly four years.

Neulander’s first trial on the murder charges ended in a hung jury.

But on Nov. 20, 2002, eight years and 19 days after the murder of his wife, the Reform rabbi, 61 years old at the time, was found guilty on all counts for capital murder, felony murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Camden County Assistant Prosecutor James Lynch later described the slaying as a classic case of murder for hire.

He was spared the death penalty only after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the sentence, as required under New Jersey law.

Jenoff, who had been posing as the rabbi’s private investigator, confessed to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that he was the rabbi’s hit man. He later came forward and confessed his role in the crime to investigators from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.

Jenoff and Daniels were both released from prison in 2014 after spending about 14 years in custody.

In 2016, a state appeals court rejected a request to overturn Neulander’s murder conviction.

From behind bars, Neulander continued to deny his role in the murder. “My behavior was appalling in my marriage and I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. It was arrogant and it was selfish, and that burden, I will just carry for the rest of my life,” Neulander told NBC10 in 2012. “I knew better. I should have behaved better. It’s just that simple.”

A musical about the murder, titled “A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,” was produced in Los Angeles in 2022, over the objections of the Neulanders’  three children, who survive him.

Neulander was also the author of a memoir about his rabbinate, “Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Arms Open: Observations From the Rabbinic Trenches,” which he published under a pseudonym, Adam Plony, during his first trial in 2001.

A nonfiction book about the case, “The Rabbi and the Hit Man,” by Arthur Magida, was the basis for several television documentaries. In the book, Magaida captures the huge distance between Neulander’s standing in his suburban congregation and the sordid details of the murder for hire.

“On the Tuesday night of Carol’s murder, Fred had stayed at the synagogue later than usual,” wrote Magida. “M’kor Shalom was always busy on Tuesdays, with choir practice in the evening and lots of meetings for adults while their kids attended religious classes.”

An exhibit recreating the Oct. 7 Nova Music Festival massacre arrives in NYC

(New York Jewish Week) — To celebrate the end of his two years of service as a medic in the Israel Defense Forces’ paratrooper division, Tomer Meir joined 13 of his friends at the Nova Musica Festival on the weekend of October 6 in Re’im in southern Israel. 

It was his first ever music festival. “It was the best moments of my life. I can’t explain the state we were in,” the 21-year-old told the New York Jewish Week. “It was pure love — people dancing, laughing, smiling. All the good stuff that we’re living for.” 

Until 6:29 a.m. on Saturday morning. The red alerts, the rockets and the running.

“The music stopped. The rockets started. We started running for our lives,” Meir said. Meir is a survivor of the Nova Music Festival Massacre, where Hamas militants killed 364 festival-goers and took at least 40 hotstages on the morning of Oct. 7.

Six months after the attack, Meir is in New York sharing his story as part of an interactive exhibit about that day, which he says is helping him heal.

“As a survivor, the healing that we are doing together as a community is what is really healing for me,” Meir said. “To heal each other — this is Nova.”

The Nova Musical Festival exhibition, titled “October 7th, 06:29AM,” is an immersive step into what it was like to be at the festival when it was attacked.

Screens show clips from the attack on Nova are displayed next to personal and camping items taken from the festival recreating the festival layout at “The Nova Music Festival Exhibition: October 7th 06:29 AM, The Moment Music Stood Still.” (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images for The Nova Music Festival Exhibition)

The exhibit, which debuted in Tel Aviv for 10 weeks in December, was created by Israeli designers and cultural producers, many of whom were producers with the Nova Music Festival itself. It was brought to New York with the help of Scooter Braun, the Jewish-American music producer and philanthropist.

Like the Tel Aviv version, the exhibit recreates the visuals and sounds of the Nova Music Festival massacre. But the New York version is in some ways “more intense,” according to Yael Finkelstein, a volunteer who collected items from the Nova site and helped set up both the Tel Aviv and New York exhibit. 

“In Israel, we did this very fast after the 7th of October, so we don’t want to cause pain to people,” said Omri Sassi, one of the exhibit’s producers, who was also a DJ at the festival and founder of the Nova community. But in New York, he said, “We needed to show to people from out of the country what happened.” 

New elements at the New York exhibit include dozens of video testimonies from survivors, Zaka volunteers and family members, as well as graphic raw footage taken on Oct. 7 from both festival-goers and Hamas militants. In addition, survivors of the massacre such as Meir and Sassi will be at the exhibit every day to share their stories and answer questions.

Their goal, Meir said, is to show New Yorkers that the horror they experienced could happen to anyone.

“It could be your kids, your mother, your sister or brother. It could be anyone — if you want your children to have a time to celebrate life like was I celebrating, first you have to come see what happened to us,” said Meir.

They also want to offer a respite from tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, which began with the Oct. 7 attack. Some Israelis, including Nova survivors, who have traveled to the United States to tell their stories have faced protests from pro-Palestinian advocates who see them as advancing propaganda to benefit Israel’s war effort. 

That perception is misguided, Yoni Feingold, another one of the exhibit’s creators, told the New York Jewish Week.

“The first thing that everybody should understand is this was an international music festival, a language of the whole world,” Feingold said. “Our goal is to separate the idea that this international music festival was on the Israeli side of the conflict. We’re not talking about politics, we’re not talking about the conflict — this is about a music festival.”

He noted that the exhibit was premiering during Coachella, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States, held in California. 

“Any young person that goes to Coachella this weekend should relate to an innocent music festival that was attacked viciously when the whole goal was to spread love and peace and acceptance of everybody,” said Feingold, who is the chairman of the Association of Cultural and Performing Arts in Israel. His wife, Reut, is the curator and director of the exhibition.  

Before entering the exhibit, guests watch a short documentary about the culture of the “Tribe of Nova,” the festival billed as a celebration of “friends, love and infinite freedom” that centered on  “trance music,” a genre of electronic dance music, which helps attendees understand the energy of love, joy and music that Nova festival-goers brought to the experience before terror struck. 

After learning about the Nova ethos, guests enter the exhibit, tiptoeing around remnants of campsites, while dozens of screens simultaneously play videos taken on the morning of Oct. 7 The effect is loud and alarming, meant to place each guest in the exact moments of chaos, tension and fear that coursed through the festival grounds. (Producers of the exhibition recommend that children under 16 not attend the exhibit.)

In other screens scattered throughout the rooms, the exhibit features video testimony from dozens of survivors of the festival, each sharing what drew them to Nova and how they escaped. In one section, volunteers from Zaka, the first responder search and rescue service in Israel, describe the horror and mutilation that they saw when they arrived at the Nova festival site on Oct. 7 and in the weeks after. Another section allows guests to step into a recreation of the concrete bunkers many of the victims piled into to protect themselves.

Hundreds of shoes were left behind at the festival site. Volunteers spent weeks collecting, photographing and cataloguing the items. (Julia Gergely)

Everything in the exhibit was brought in directly from the Nova site, Feingold said. That includes the dirt on the ground, lawn chairs, blankets, burned cars, porta-potties pockmarked with bullet holes, the DJ equipment and stage. 

A massive “Lost & Found” section fills a corner of the 50,000 square-foot space. Clothing, kippot, backpacks, flasks, books, hats, shoes and watches that were left behind that morning are set up on tables. Each item was collected by volunteers at the Nova site, who also photographed everything so survivors and family members may be reunited with their belongings if they see something they recognize.

Before the exhibit concludes, guests can view a memorial with photos of the 364 victims killed during the massacre, and a wall dedicated to the approximately 250 hostages kidnapped from Re’im and nearby areas that day. 

A pile of kippot found at the festival site. (Julia Gergely)

The exhibit is open at 23 Wall Street in New York from April 21 to May 25. Timed-entry tickets are minimum $1, though guests have the option to purchase a ticket for $18, $36, $72 or $180, with the ticket cost donated to the Nova Healing Journey, an initiative supporting therapy and other mental health treatments for Oct. 7 survivors and their families. 

As in the Tel Aviv exhibit, each room gets brighter as guests walk through, ending in a warm, light-filled “healing space” with couches and coloring books. One wall is adorned with the slogan of hope that has taken off since the days immediately after the attack.

“We will dance again,” the wall promises. 

“The journey to heal yourself is a journey, for sure. Part of the community of Nova is that we heal each other together — healing is to help take care of others,” said Meir. “For me Nova is hope, helping each other, always smiling and taking care of each other. I wish to spread that hope all my life.”

South Africa’s president rehearsed genocide charge against Israel in meeting with local Jewish leaders

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the leadership of the South African Jewish community requested a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss rising antisemitism.

The meeting took place in December, and the course it took surprised the South African Jewish Board of Deputies: Instead of discussing the safety concerns of his Jewish constituents, the board’s leader said, Ramaphosa spent most of the meeting attacking Israel, which he accused of committing genocide. He later cited the meeting when South Africa charged Israel with genocide at the International Court of Justice.

“It was a complete betrayal of the community,” Wendy Kahn, the Board of Deputies’ director, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview this week.

Ramaphosa had scheduled the meeting for Dec. 13, after the launch of the country’s summer holidays, so a number of the seven Jewish officials who attended had to cut into summer travel plans to make the meeting in the capital city of Pretoria.

The inconvenience seemed worth it, Kahn said. Antisemitism had spiked in South Africa and the parliament’s overwhelming vote to cut diplomatic ties to Israel and shutter its embassy was creating problems for the South Africans with family in Israel.

Yet instead of focusing on those issues, according to Ramaphosa’s office, the South African president used the meeting to accuse Israel of genocide. His statement following the meeting does mention his government’s “denunciation of anti-Semitic behavior towards Jewish people in South Africa, including the boycott of Jewish owned businesses, and Islamophobia.”

But most of the statement concerns South Africa’s criticism of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. It says Ramaphosa explained that his government “condemns the genocide that is being inflicted against the people of Palestine, including women and children, through collective punishment and ongoing bombardment of Gaza.”

Kahn said the Jewish leaders were taken aback by the turn the meeting took.

“We told him about antisemitism, we told him about the boycotts,” she said. But in the president’s response, Kahn recalled, “He suddenly comes up with all this information about genocide, the genocide that Israel is committing, because, you know, he had to tell us that there was this genocide.”

Why Ramaphosa felt the need to bring up the genocide accusation wasn’t clear to Kahn’s organization until weeks later, when South Africa submitted its complaint to the International Court of Justice charging Israel with genocide.

In the document’s 13th section where South Africa was asked to show that “Israel has been made fully aware of the grave concerns expressed by the international community… and by South Africa in particular,” it listed the meeting with the Jewish Board of Deputies as evidence.

The community interpreted that to mean that Ramaphosa effectively considered them agents of Israel, Kahn said.

“A meeting that was called to discuss antisemitism became actually a meeting where antisemitism was committed,” she said this week. “We were absolutely shattered to see that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies was included, was cited in the case at the ICJ.”

Ramaphosa’s office did not return a request for comment or an answer to the question whether he views South Africa’s Jews as Israeli agents. Some South African politicians have explicitly argued that case, such as a Cape Town lawmaker who unsuccessfully called for a Jewish high school to be penalized last year because one in five graduates joins the Israeli army.

“The SAJBD made it clear that we are not the representatives of the state of Israel nor go-betweens of the two countries,” the Board of Deputies said when it realized the meeting was being instrumentalized as part of the genocide charge. “We are South African citizens like any other, with valid concerns about our human rights as citizens of this country.”

The encounter was of a piece with the hostility that the community has endured from sectors of the South African political establishment, Kahn said. She noted how Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, appearing at The Hague in January during the genocide hearings, was asked about antisemitism in his country.

“In South Africa, we have got a number of Jewish people doing business, living with us, and they also attend their churches in peace,” Lamola said.

The Board of Deputies had given the ministry a report on antisemitism, Kahn said.

“You’re the one who should be protecting South African Jews against hate,” she said of Lamola. “And you’re saying there’s no there’s no antisemitism. You haven’t even bothered to find out what the actual actual information is.” There have been at least eight cases involving antisemitic hate allegations brought to South African courts since Oct. 7, she said.

South Africa has long been critical of Israel, and in January, the Jewish captain of its under-19 cricket team was removed from his post due to anti-Israel protests against him. A 2019 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that of the country’s approximately 52,000 Jews, more than 40% “say that they have considered leaving South Africa permanently in the past year.”

A woman prays over a missing poster for a hostage abducted by Hamas terrorists, on the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg, Oct. 27, 2023. (South African Jewish Board of Deputies/YouTube)

Kahn, who was in Washington this week on a trip organized by the World Jewish Congress, emphasized that antisemitism was not pervasive in the country. She said the community has friendly ties to parties in opposition to Ramaphosa’s African National Congress, as well as with Christian churches with memberships numbering in the tens of millions. It also has a good relationship with law enforcement.

She has heard that the number of Jews seeking to leave the country has increased but said that has more to do with political and economic instability. The reports of increased antisemitism may be a factor, but not the only one, in a desire to leave, she added.

She also said Jews are not hiding visible symbols of their identity.

“We’ve got a jeweler in our community, he’s got a jewelry shop in one of the big shopping malls near the Jewish community” in Johannesburg, she said. “And he tells the story that he cannot keep up with the demand for Magen Davids. They are really flying out of the shop.”

The most poignant representation of grassroots sympathy for Israel, she said, came on Oct. 27. The community, without first seeking police permission, taped posters of hostages taken by Hamas along the ramparts of the Nelson Mandela Bridge. They also placed 221 red balloons along the bridge, one for each of the people known at the time to be held captive.

Kahn said the community intended to keep the posters in place for an hour, wanting to avoid confrontations with hostile actors, or the sight of police removing the posters.

Instead, she said, the community kept the posters in place the entire day, noticing the curiosity and empathy they sparked in passersby, and there were no confrontations. She shared video with JTA of passersby crouching to read the stories of the hostages, with some clasping their hands together in silent prayer.

“People prayed and people cried and people were just absolutely — they were riveted,” she said, getting emotional at the recollection. “In the end, we left them up for the entire day. Not one of those posters was torn down.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrator is removed from Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration in Poland

(JTA) — As dignitaries stood on stage in Warsaw to mark the 81st anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a lone figure got up to join them: a man wearing a hoodie with the colors of the Palestinian flag.

The man placed flowers atop a pile assembled for the occasion, then moved to the side of the stage where he unfurled a large Palestinian flag and stood with his head down, according to an attendee at the event.

The protest featured just one participant and resolved without derailing the ceremony when police officers escorted him offstage. Still, it offered evidence of just how extensive and varied the settings for pro-Palestinian demonstrations have become since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

The annual ceremony in Warsaw takes place outside the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, located in what was once the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Nazis imprisoned nearly half a million Jews, almost all whom were ultimately murdered. The monument memorializes the hundreds of ragtag, half-starved Jews who banded together in April 1943 to battle the Nazis — and held them off for nearly a month rather than surrender themselves and their brethren to the death camps. Ultimately, the uprising failed, but it remains the most famous symbol of resistance to the Nazis’ genocidal ambitions.

The gathering was smaller than last year, when leaders convened from all over the world for the 80th anniversary of the uprising. Still, it featured local dignitaries and representatives from foreign governments, who laid wreaths at the site, along with prayers by Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

This year’s ceremony also comes after a time of tension between the Polish and Israeli governments over the Israel-Hamas war, following the killing earlier this month of a Polish aid worker who was part of a World Central Kitchen convoy bombed by the Israeli army. After Israel’s ambassador to Poland rejected criticism, he was summoned by the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw for a formal reprimand. He subsequently issued an apology for the death of the worker, 25-year-old Damian Sobol.

US sanctions far-right Israeli activist Bentzi Gopstein and 2 groups in latest round of West Bank penalties

(JTA) — The State Department on Friday announced sanctions against Ben Zion “Bentzi” Gopstein, a prominent far-right Israeli activist, for his “destabilizing” activities in the West Bank, along with two Israeli organizations that raised funds for sanctioned settlers.

The penalties were the third round of sanctions the State Department has levied against far-right Israelis in recent months, as the Biden administration attempts to exact a price for West Bank violence.

Gopstein is a leading figure on the far-right, helming the anti-Arab Lehava activist group. He is an ally to Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Lehava campaigns against intermarriage between Jews and Arabs and is known to protest outside their weddings.

The State Department said that, under Gopstein, Lehava’s members “have engaged in destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank.”

“Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The sanctions come as tensions remain high in the West Bank, with regular violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Since Oct. 7, hundreds of Palestinians, a mix of civilians and combatants, have been killed by Israeli forces. More than 10 Israelis have been killed in the territory in the same period. 

In recent days, the body of a 14-year-old Israeli who Israeli authorities say was killed in a terror attack was found in the West Bank. Subsequently, in a separate clash in the West Bank, Israeli settlers killed two Palestinians

Gopstein, 54, attempted to run for the Knesset in 2019 with Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party, but was disqualified by the Israeli courts for incitement to racism. An Israeli court found Gopstein guilty of incitement to racism in January, including referring to Israeli Arabs as “a cancer.” 

The State Department also announced sanctions against two Israel-based groups, the Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich, for launching fundraising campaigns in support of sanctioned extremists.

The Mount Hebron Fund raised $140,000 for Yinon Levi and Shlom Asiraich generated $31,000 for David Chai Chasdai. The State Department sanctioned Levi and Chasdai in February for ties to violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the State Department said.

The sanctions mean Gopstein and the two groups are blocked from any assets they hold in the United States and from carrying out transactions with U.S. residents.

Gopstein is a resident of Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of Hebron in the West Bank where Ben Gvir also lives.

The sanctions follow similar penalties against three settlers and two West Bank outposts in March, and sanctions against four people in February. The Biden administration also imposed visa restrictions on settlers found to be involved in attacks in December.

The administration says the penalties are appropriate at a time when it has levied sanctions against officials of Hamas, the terror group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, launching the war in Gaza. The sanctions also block the settlers from entering the United States.

Advertisement