U.S. Jewish troops in Iraq mark Passover
in one of Saddam's palaces.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
hen Rabbi Mitchell Ackerson asks why
this Passover is different than any
other, the answer involves Saddam
Ackerson, the senior Jewish chaplain for Operation
Iraqi Freedom, led historic seders this week for Jewish
servicepeople and civilians in Saddam's former
Presidential Palace in Baghdad. As he readied the
seder for up to 125 Jewish troops, civilian administra-
tors and diplomats, and even a few Iraqi Jews,
Ackerson considered the location appropriate.
"We've all come in partnership to provide freedom
for this country, in a place where freedom was ripped
apart," Ackerson said in a phone interview late last
week from Baghdad.
The seder marked another historic milestone: In a
rare move, the Department of Defense requisitioned
"seder kits" from a civilian supplier for the estimated
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1,000 Jews serving in the Iraqi war effort and else-
"This is the true spiritual victory over an evil
empire," said Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, joint forces
command chaplain for the National Guard in New
York, who has helped ferry religious supplies to
Jewish troops in the war. "Our government takes the
religious needs of its soldiers very seriously and goes
out of its way to make sure they are met."
Other organizations also pitched in. The Aleph
Institute in Surfside, Fla., sent Passover supplies to
more than 1,300 soldiers around the world. The
group, which is affiliated with Chabad-Lubavitch and
also ministers to the needs of Jews in U.S. prisons,
shipped thousands of pounds of shmura matzah,
seder plates, Haggadot, grape juice, gefilte fish and
macaroons to soldiers from Haiti to Italy to Iraq.
E-mails to the Aleph Institute came from troops
aboard Sixth Fleet ships off Italy; from Navy person-
nel in Haiti; and even from a Protestant Air Force
chaplain asking for help for 6-8 Jews.
Other organizations, including the Jewish War
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European report notes rise in anti-Semitism,
but blurs question of responsibility.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
long-awaited report on European anti-
Semitism confirms that it is a growing prob-
lem across the continent — but dances
around the politically sensitive question of
who is responsible.
The 344-page report by the European Monitoring
Center on Racism and Xenophobia, or EUMC, details
a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium, France,
Germany, the Netherlands and England.
Physical assaults are absent or rare in Greece, Austria,
Italy and Spain, the report found, but anti-Semitic dis-
course is virulent there as well.
Those findings are unlikely to surprise observers who
have watched a rash of anti-Semitic outbursts spread
across Europe since the Palestinian intifada began in
September 2000. More surprising was the almost pass-
ing reference made to the perpetrators.
Newer actors, such as immigrant Muslim youth are
mentioned in the report, but an EUMC press release
accompanying the report sought to highlight the role of
more traditional sources of anti-Semitism, such as far-
right groups and skinheads.
That came as a shock to Jewish groups, who were
Veterans of New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of
Rockland County, N.Y., and a newly launched group
called the Jewish Soldiers Foundation, have helped
fund similar efforts. These groups stepped in after
some said Jewish troops were not receiving sufficient
holiday supplies on time for other holidays.
In the past, the Jewish Chaplains Council of the
Jewish Welfare Board in New York was generally in
charge of such efforts. A series of reports in the Jewish
Week of New York detailed delays and other organiza-
tional problems with the delivery of religious items
under the Welfare Board's aegis.
Rabbi Ackerson said the Defense Department pur-
chased enough supplies for Jewish servicepeople in
Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. They include
two seder kits with Haggadot, seder plates that
include the necessary ritual foods, beef stew, fish,
fruit, grape juice and gum, along with kosher-for-
Passover rations for 14 more meals, he said.
The military's official kosher supplier, My Own
Meals of Chicago, produced about 4,000 MREs
(meals ready to eat) at $6.95 per ration, about 30
cents more than conventional rations, said its founder
and president, Mary Ann Jackson. This was the first
year the company got back into the Passover business,
In 1995 and 1996, the company made thou-
sands of Passover meals, but the Welfare Board
only ordered a few hundred.
Rabbi Goldstein is among those who welcome the
furious when the EUMC quashed an earlier report last
year identifying Muslims and pro-Palestinian left-
wingers as the main sources of the "new anti-Semitism"
in Europe. The EUMC said that report was withheld
because of methodological shortcomings — it eventual-
ly was released under pressure from Jewish groups —
but many suspected the findings simply had proven
politically unpalatable given Europe's huge Muslim
"After the scandal of the previous report, the EUMC
has compiled an impressive quantitative analysis that
shows an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism in
Europe," said Elan Steinberg, executive vice president of
the World Jewish Congress. "But they studiously avoid
going into the causes of the anti-Semitism; you're
almost left with the impression that it occurred from
"It's an intellectual whitewash and an instance of
Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European
Jewish Congress, said, "It's contradictory that the
EUMC puts an emphasis on white, right-wing perpe-
trators, "whereas the report reveals that the majority of
attacks in most countries are committed by young
Muslims of North African origin.
"How can we effectively fight anti-Semitism when we
refuse to identify the true perpetrators?" he asked.
"The E.U. still appears unwilling to acknowledge its
own findings that Muslim immigrant youth are increas-
ingly responsible for anti-Semitic violence motivated by
the conflict in the Middle East," the Anti-Defamation
League noted in a statement.
Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella
organization of French Jewry, said the response to the
spread of anti-Semitism needs to be "education, sanc-
tion and integration."
Cobi Benatoff, president of the European Jewish
Congress, said the report was important enough to be
presented to the European Parliament. "However, to be
forthright, this is only a first step," he said. "We must
get the message of the fight against anti-Semitism into
the streets, into the schools, the universities, the church-
es and the mosques of Europe. In order to achieve this
goal, we must have the support of our political leaders
and of the media."
At a roundtable discussion following presentation of
the report, EUMC Director Beate Winkler said, "The
main question this report raises is: How will Europe
deal with multi-culturalism and its diversity in the
According to the study, "racist incidents decrease
when political leadership makes it publicly clear that
there is zero tolerance for xenophobia," she said.
The report marks the first time that data on anti-
Semitism has been collected systematically across all 15
E.U. member states under common guidelines set
down by the EUMC. The study calls for a strong E.U.
legal framework to support policy decisions and an effi-
cient data collection system to monitor future incidents.