News Briefs: Bill Banning Religious Symbols at Work Introduced in Quebec and More

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Brown President Nixes Israel Divestment Referendum That Students Approved

Although 69 percent of Brown University students voting in campus elections March 22 supported an undergraduate student referendum asking the institution to divest from companies conducting business with Israel, President Christina Paxson said she won’t act on it, JTA reported.

“Brown’s endowment is not a political instrument to be used to express views on complex social and political issues, especially those over which thoughtful and intelligent people vehemently disagree,” Paxson said in a statement. “As a university, Brown’s mission is to advance knowledge and understanding through research, analysis and debate. Its role is not to take sides on contested geopolitical issues.

“I have been steadfast in my view that Brown should not embrace any of the planks of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement,” she added.

Bill Banning Yarmulkes, Religious Symbols at Work Introduced in Quebec

Some public employees wouldn’t be able to wear religious symbols — including yarmulkes — at work under a bill introduced in Quebec, JTA reported.

The bill, which was introduced by the coalition government of Premier Francois Legault, is designed to enforce the separation of church and state, although critics say Muslim women who wear hijabs may be its main target.

Yarmulkes, hijabs, Sikh turbans and crucifixes would be prohibited under the bill.

Jewish organizations have expressed worries about the legislation.

“We are very concerned with the new Quebec government’s statements regarding a ban on religious symbols displayed by government officials and displayed in public institutions,” said Harvey Levine, the Quebec regional director of B’nai B’rith. “We call on the [Quebec government] to avoid the slippery slope of diminishing fundamental rights and work instead to secure religious liberties for all Quebecers.”

Billboard Accuses New York Times of Being Anti-Israel in Its Coverage

The New York Times is accused in a billboard outside its offices of stirring anti-Israel sentiment with its reporting, JNS.org reported.

The billboard was posted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

The billboard includes an image of a Molotov cocktail. Its wick is lit with a burning Times article entitled “Israel Bulldozes Democracy.” Around the image are the words “While Hamas firebombs Israel … The New York Times inflames with biased coverage.”

“One meaning is, obviously, to remind Times staff that Hamas is violent,” CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin said. “The Times absolutely needs this reminder because far too often their reporters ignore Hamas’ violent theocracy in the Gaza Strip.”

Song on New Vampire Weekend Album Refers to Founding of Israel

Vampire Weekend’s new album on May 3 will feature a song called “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” that refers to the Balfour Declaration that led to Israel’s founding, The Sunday Times reported.

Singer Ezra Koenig spoke about his Jewish identity in the article.

“[A]nyone with a brain can see people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, cynically using the charge of anti-Semitism in both England and the States,” he said. “And that doesn’t mean there isn’t anti-Semitism — it just means Jewish identity is increasingly fraught.”

The band’s previous album included a Koenig-written song about an Orthodox Jewish girl falling in love with an Arab falafel shop worker.

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Andy Gotlieb is the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent. He holds 31 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too. Prior newspaper stops include the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Tampa Tribune and the Philadelphia Business Journal. The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various times, business, politics, crime and government, among other beats. The final 2.5 years in that stretch was an editor at the Philadelphia Business Journal, where my responsibilities included complete control over a weekly section and working with both staff writers and freelancers. In late 2005, I switched gears and began working in public relations for the next decade. I learned the ins and outs of public relations -- including being on the other side of the media-PR equation -- and made numerous contacts. I rejoined the ranks of journalism in March 2016, starting as the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent.

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