The Jolt: Emory prof resigns from Atlanta synagogue over Netanyahu alliance with far-right group

The Jerusalem Post had it first, but Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt, one of the foremost historians of the Holocaust, has resigned her membership in an Atlanta synagogue over its membership in an alliance built by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a far-right political party that advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel.

Lipstadt made the Facebook page announcement on Tuesday. She had been a member of Young Israel, an Orthodox congregation.

To outsiders, this might seem a bit complicated.

Earlier in the day, the National Council of Young Israel – in which Lipstadt’s synagogue has membership – had issued a statement endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to bring into his government Jewish Power, a far-right political party led by followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Kahane, an American-Israeli, advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu acted to get right-wing parties to merge in order to meet the threshold necessary to secure a victory in the election," read the statement by Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel. "We understand what Prime Minister Netanyahu did, and he did it to have ministers of the national religious and national union parties in his coalition."

The rabbi of Lipstadt's synagogue, Adam Starr, himself condemned the statement in a Facebook post Monday, writing "Not in my name and not in my shul's name!" But Lipstadt still felt that she could not continue to be associated with Young Israel, despite having fond words for her synagogue and rabbi.

At this time of rising antisemitism, Jew hatred, and prejudice of all kinds, each of us – and not just our spiritual leaders – must speak out and act individually and collectively. We must become, as I said from the pulpit at our service after the Pittsburgh tragedy, the unwelcome guests at the dinner party, speaking out when we hear something hateful, prejudicial, and wrong.

And so I speak out with deep sadness that such a despicable action is given "cover" by people who claim to walk in the ways of the Kadosh Baruch Hu.

Lipstadt is probably best known as a defendant in a British libel suit that Holocaust denier David Irving filed in 1996, over Lipstadt’s characterization of his statements in her book, “Denying the Holocaust.” Lipstadt and her publisher won the lawsuit. The episode was later made into a movie.


Our AJC colleague Tyler Estep is counting early votes cast in Gwinnett County's March 19 referendum on whether to join the MARTA transit network. The latest count, via his Twitter feed:

Tuesday's advance voting total for Gwinnett MARTA referendum: 938. That's more than the 907 on Day 1 Monday. Elections director has said it usually goes down after Day 1 surge.

It’s far too soon to say where more enthusiasm on the issue lies, whether with the naysayers or frustrated commuters. When enough numbers are in, geography and past voting histories will tell us something.

On Tuesday evening, we posted a Wednesday print column on how, even if they didn't intend it, Republicans have given Gwinnett Democrats a gift by shifting the referendum out of last November's general election. Here's the gist:

In politics, every election is a dry run for the next. Because Republicans in Gwinnett are split on transit, their party can make no investment one way or another. The lack of consensus means the Georgia GOP cannot build voter or email lists in the run-up to the March 19 vote.

Georgia Democrats, however, are unified on transit. The state party is going all in, and says it will dispatch field operatives, communications staffers and voter protection resources to support the referendum. (No doubt while trying to keep a low profile that doesn't spark a GOP backlash.)

Without meaning to, Republicans in Gwinnett have given Democrats the gift of a dress rehearsal for 2020. Theirs is a win-win scenario. Should MARTA win voter approval in Gwinnett next month, they'll be able to claim a piece of the victory. If the referendum fails, they'll have an issue that will only be stronger 18 months from now — with fresh voter data ready to be wielded like a cudgel.

In that column, we note that Charlotte Nash, the chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission is the only elected Republican who is publicly advocating passage of the referendum. This morning, we’ve been told this still could change. As we’ve noted before, former Gov. Nathan Deal lives in Hall County, and so depends on I-85 to get to and from Atlanta.


On a somewhat related note: Outlaw copies of state Rep. Kevin Tanner's new transportation bill are already making the rounds at the state Capitol. It's a 68-page behemoth that's expected to be filed today.


By the time you read this, Michael Cohen, former fixer/attorney for Donald Trump, will probably already have begun his testimony before the U.S. House Oversight Committee. We've already posted his opening remarks here.


Gov. Brian Kemp is putting the full force of his administration behind legislation that cracks down on sex trafficking. He said he expects lawmakers to swiftly pass Senate Bill 158, which toughens penalties against anyone who benefits financially from the sex trade and outlines new state aid for victims.

Kemp also announced his wife, Marty Kemp, would co-chair a new Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education Commission with House Pro Tem Jan Jones and GBI director Vic Reynolds. Call it the GRACE Commission.


Former state Rep. Mickey Channell died Tuesday at the age of 76, according to Gov. Brian Kemp's office. The Greensboro Republican was first elected in 1992 and served until 2014. He was previously a Greene County commissioner and member of the county board of education. A former chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, his proudest legislative achievement may have been authoring the PeachCare for Kids legislation that expanded healthcare coverage to more than 200,000 kids.


One of the longest-serving veterans at the state Capitol is calling it quits. Georgia State University announced Tuesday that Tom, senior adviser to GSU President Mark Becker, will retire on June 30.

Lewis served Gov. Joe Frank Harris as chief of staff in the 1980s. Since 1991, he’s served as the university’s vice president, senior vice president, and advisor. He’s been GSU’s link to the Legislature, and has been deeply involved in Georgia State’s growth explosion – including its acquisition of what was formerly known as Turner Field, the abandoned home of the Atlanta Braves.


U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta was front and center yesterday as congressional Democrats unveiled legislation that would update portions of the Voting Rights Act that were nullified by the Supreme Court in 2013. That includes updating the preclearance formula that for decades required Georgia and other states with a history of voting discrimination to seek approval from the Justice Department before making changes to voting rules. Georgia would be covered under the new formula.

Standing with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats days before the 54th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Lewis warned there are “forces in America today trying to take us back to another time.”

Several lawmakers at the press conference cited last year’s elections in Georgia as reason why Congress needed to step in and act.

The legislation is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday slammed what he called House Democrats' "sprawling federal takeover of election law that would erode the integrity of our elections even further." He was likely referring to Democrats' companion bill, H.R.1, but that doesn't bode well for the Voting Rights revival, either.


Lewis' longtime Georgia colleague, Sanford Bishop of Albany, is joining him as a senior member of the House Democratic whip team.


Much of the attention in Washington yesterday was on the House vote to reverse President Trump's national emergency declaration, but U.S. Sen. David Perdue also stepped in to argue there was another imminent emergency ravaging our country.

The first-term Republican introduced a resolution declaring the country's $22 trillion debt to be a threat to national security. The issue has been a top tier one for Perdue since he arrived in the Senate, but the timing is a little awkward.

It came the same day that he and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson introduced a $13 billion spending bill aimed at helping people crushed by Hurricane Michael and other recent natural disasters. But it wasn't clear that any of the spending would be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget -- raising the prospect that the spending would add to the deficit and eventually the debt.