Leila Khaled and the Corruption of the Academy

Sept. 14, 2020 – By DAVID ROYTENBERG

On Sept. 6, 1970, 50 years ago last week, Leila Khaled, a Palestinian refugee from Haifa, participated in the hijacking of El Al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York. The crime was part of a coordinated attack involving 600 passengers on four commercial jets from four airlines, all bound for New York.

Leila Khaled
Leila Khaled

The Israeli pilot and crew overpowered the hijackers. Khaled’s accomplice wounded two members of the flight crew and was himself killed. Khaled was handed over to the British authorities when the Israeli pilot landed at Heathrow.

The hijacking was the second one for Khaled, who was also involved in an attack on TWA flight 840 on Aug. 29, 1969. In that earlier act of terrorism, a flight bound for Tel Aviv was diverted to Damascus by six attackers.

With three other aircraft captured on Sept 6, 1970 on the ground in Beirut and Amman, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was responsible for all of the hijackings, demanded Khaled’s release in return for the release of British hostages. On Sept. 10, the PFLP highjacked a British VC10 to Amman, and on Sept 12, they blew up the airliner. They were holding 300 hostages in Jordan and Lebanon, and by Oct. 1, the UK surrendered to their demands. Khaled, two-time air pirate, was set free. She never stood trial and never expressed any regrets.

More shocking than the fact that she was never tried is that Khaled has spent the 50 years since she escaped justice being treated as an honoured spokesperson for the Palestinian people and their cause. In recent years, she has been a globetrotting advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

In 2013, B’nai Brith Canada protested when a student group invited Khaled to speak via remote video link at a conference at the University of British Colombia. The organizing group was “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights,” registered with the Alma Mater Society affiliated with the UBC.

Six years ago, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada wondered, as did many others, “at a time when we’ve just seen a terrorist tragedy in Boston, and arrests here in Canada due to a bombing plot … which has all been speculated to be a product of homegrown radicalization, why would we [allow] a public institution in Canada to bring in a convicted terrorist to speak to students?”

Khaled, now 76, was back in the news this week because San Francisco State University (SFSU), also funded with public dollars, is implicated in a Zoom panel discussion hosted by the university’s “Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies” program, and scheduled for Sept. 23. University president Lynn Mahoney defended the panel, which is entirely composed of anti-Zionists, as promoting “diversity.”

As news spread of the planned anti-Israel event, held with SFSU’s endorsement, protests were heard from many quarters, but none as poignant as a letter from Rodney Khazzam, who was a child hostage on the flight Khaled hijacked on Sept 6, 1970.

In his letter to the SFSU president, Khazzam bluntly states that Khaled “attempted to kill me, an innocent, civilian child at the time. I am alive because of the heroic pilot who thwarted the hijacking. … When she realized she was being captured and her plan was being foiled, she detonated a grenade and indiscriminately attempted to set if off onboard. By sheer fortune, all her attempts failed.”

In March 2019, SFSU settled two lawsuits alleging that it failed to prevent an atmosphere of antisemitism on campus. This time, the welcome extended to a life-long member of a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s annihilation suggests that the university has not made the changes necessary to prevent antisemitism.

More broadly, the celebration of violence in the academic sphere reveals a profound moral rot, not just at SFSU, but at other universities that welcome unrepentant terrorists.

Addendum: Rodney Khazzam has begun a petition calling on SFSU president Lynn Maloney to cancel Khaled’s appearance.

The aircraft Khaled helped commandeer were “all passenger planes filled with civilians. These were not war planes. Would it be OK for a 9/11 hijacker to teach university students has one survived?” the petition asks.

Khaled, it goes on, is being given the “honour” of speaking at the university “for one reason only: She is an infamous female hijacker/terrorist. That is her claim to fame…It is deplorable to see a State university in America rolling out the red carpet for this woman, to speak and influence college kids on campus. We must sign and stop this from happening.”

The petition is at: 

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-hijackerterrorist-leila-khaled-from-speaking-at-sfsu.html


David Roytenberg
David Roytenberg

David Roytenberg is a computer consultant living in Ottawa.  He is Secretary of MERCAZ Canada and chair of adult education at Kehillat Beth Israel congregation.

Tribute to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Recounts Personal Meetings, Influence

Aug. 11, 2020 – By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL—Reading Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s popular work on Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, not only changed Murray Dalfen’s relationship to Judaism, but led to a treasured friendship with the author that lasted three decades until the eminent scholar’s death this month.

Dalfen, head of a major North American commercial real estate company, described his awe at the late rabbi’s intellect, astonishing capacity for work, and genuine love of people at a virtual tribute to Rabbi Steinsaltz held by Chabad of Westmount on Aug. 9.

Rabbi Steinsaltz, best known for his monumental lifelong project of translating the entire Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew, making it more accessible even to the lay person, died in his native Jerusalem on Aug. 7 at age 83.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

He visited Chabad of Westmount on three occasions, most recently in 2013, giving memorable lectures and leading joyous farbrengen (gatherings) each time, said the centre’s director, Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz.

“He had a profound impact on everyone there, people from all walks of life,” Rabbi Shanowitz recalled. “He took lofty concepts and communicated them to people of all levels, getting to the essence of the matter.”

Born into a secular family and later trained as a scientist, Rabbi Steinsaltz became religious as a youth and was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

Dalfen, a leading benefactor of Chabad of Westmount, said that after reading The Thirteen Petalled Rose, first published in 1989, he was determined to meet its author. The slim volume, which aimed to make esoteric Jewish mysticism intelligible and relevant, was life-altering for Dalfen.

Getting a personal audience with this towering sage was not so simple, but Dalfen managed to meet Rabbi Steinsaltz in Israel. He would visit him there numerous times over the ensuing years. “I find it unbelievable that I was able to know him for 25 or 30 years on a close level.”

Dalfen later sponsored and raised money for the publication of several of the rabbi’s many books, including one of the more than 40 volumes of the translated Talmud.

Dalfen provided some insights: “He was not humble, but was approachable. He had strong opinions and expressed them.” But he was also kind and had a great sense of humour.

Rabbi Steinsaltz had an “extraordinary memory and knowledge, it was limitless,” and even a stroke in 2016 that robbed him of his speech did not impede his ability to think and continue to write, Dalfen recounted.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Whenever he was in Jerusalem, Dalfen was sure to find a seat opposite Rabbi Steinsaltz at the shul he attended near the Kotel. What surprised him is how the rabbi would reach out to everyone there, even interrupting prayers to speak to someone who needed him.

“I only saw him lose his temper once,” Dalfen recalled. “It was at my home. Someone criticized one of his books on the Talmud. That person got quiet quickly.”

He recalled a bit of wisdom the rabbi imparted once when they were walking the streets of Westmount. “He said: ‘If one changes their direction even one degree, one ends at a different destination.’”

Chabad of Westmount Rebbetzin Devorah Shanowitz, who emceed the tribute, also had an indirect connection to Rabbi Steinsaltz: They shared a sister-in-law. Prior to the Zoom event, Shanowitz spoke to her to gain a glimpse into the man, whom she called “the Rashi of his generation,” whose work will endure forever.

Observing that his impact was felt beyond the Jewish world, Shanowitz cited Time magazine’s description of Rabbi Steinsaltz as “a once in a millennium” figure.

The tribute heard that he never went to bed before three or four in the morning because he was so engrossed in study and writing, despite health challenges he had for years. Yet at the end of his life, Rabbi Steinsaltz regretted that he had accomplished only a fraction of what he had wanted in unlocking seminal Jewish texts for the benefit of all.

Shanowitz also learned that Rabbi Steinsaltz, on a visit to Eastern Europe, was made aware of the existence of a grave of an ancestor. Time was limited and he was scheduled to speak to a group of young people. “He vacillated, but decided the living take precedence and forwent going to the cemetery.”

Connecting with young people was important for him. Shanowitz related that years ago, he was disappointed and a little angry that only a handful of students showed up for a lecture he was to give in Minnesota because it conflicted with final exams.

Long after, Rabbi Steinsaltz was approached at the Kotel one day by a young man. “He told him he had been among those few students [who attended the lecture] and that hearing Rabbi Steinsaltz had transformed his life, and that is why he was there (praying).”

The tribute concluded with an excerpt from a conversation between Rabbi Steinsaltz and Dalfen during the 2013 visit to Chabad of Westmount. Dalfen asked what the mood in Israel was during that violent and turbulent period. “Do you want to hear propaganda or the truth?” Rabbi Steinsaltz answered without missing a beat.


A Conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz and Murray Dalfen

Click for video: A Conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael Steinsaltz sat down for a conversation at Chabad of Westmount in Montreal, Canada. In this frank and informal discussion, he talks about politics, love, family, and more with Murray Dalfen.

The content in this video is produced by Chabad.org, and is copyrighted by the author and/or Chabad.org.

Zoom Life-Cycle Events: The New Normal?

July 30, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Not long ago, my sister and I were kibitzing about making a bris on Zoom. At the time her daughter was eight-plus months pregnant. She did in fact have a boy, just this week.

The COVID pandemic has relegated so many facets of Jewish life to Zoom, the platform of choice for virtual holiday observance, synagogue services, bar and bat mitzvahs and other life-cycle events.

I doubt that a bris would generate much interest on Zoom. Who would want to watch? I couldn’t look when my own three sons were circumcised.

On the other hand, a baby-naming would be a lovely celebration to share with family and friends.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my Zoom life expanded exponentially: My middle son and his long-time girlfriend decided to get married this summer and almost all the guests will be attending their wedding via Zoom.

The couple is planning a small outdoor ceremony for the immediate families, but the whole affair will be live-streamed for some 200 friends and relatives in the U.S. and Canada.

My husband and I are thrilled about the marriage, but the Zoom component… well, I guess it’s just a fact of Jewish life these days. 

Given the pandemic’s indefinite presence in our lives, it would be very difficult to plan for a big, fat expensive Jewish wedding. The only thing fat about this wedding will be my waistline.

Like many people, I’ve developed the COVID spare tire around my middle. I have been doing a lot of baking and now I’m scrambling to find an outfit I can fit into for the wedding.

We’ve been given just two weeks to prepare. I was hoping for a late summer date so I could lop off a few pounds, but the rabbi was readily available on the long weekend in August, and naturally his presence matters more than my appearance. Hopefully, there will not be too many Zoom close-ups on me.

Besides the weight gain, I have not had a good hair day in months and I am being extra COVID-cautious because of the wedding, so I won’t be visiting a hairdresser until after the event.

Neither will my husband go to the barber, despite his lop-sided haircut – testament to my lack of skill with the electric hair groomer.

Then there’s the matter of the venue. The wedding will take place in our backyard, a most inelegant space, with a green carpet of weeds that passes for grass and a large paver-stone sports pad with two basketball nets.

We also have a trampoline, a relatively new purchase we made for our grandchildren, along with a fleet of tricycles and Little Tykes cars. In fact, the backyard could actually pass for a day-care centre – hardly the ideal setting for a wedding.

But we’ve been busy fixing the deck and cleaning up the yard. The basketball nets, the vehicles and all the other toys will be moved out of sight for the big day.

My husband and a family friend have also built an amazing rustic-style chupah from large tree branches they found in the ravine behind our house. And once it’s decorated with flowers, the chupah will be quite the Zoom showstopper.

In fact, the chupah may be moving to another home near us. Our daughter-in-law-to-be has a couple of friends who are also having similar, small backyard weddings this summer, and one friend is interested in using our chupah.

Since the duration of the pandemic is so unpredictable, small Jewish weddings on Zoom may become a new trend. These affairs would certainly lighten the financial load for parents, which is a clearly a plus for Zoom Jewish life.

The other day Beth Tzedec held an Aufruf, a special prenuptial component of a synagogue service. Traditionally the Aufruf is only for grooms-to-be, but this Conservative congregation includes brides-to-be as well. Everyone participated on Zoom, of course.

I was able to attend this early morning service in my pyjamas…Zoom Jewish life definitely has its advantages.