Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parasha naso

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mormons and jews

A 2010 report from the Anti-Defamation League said Utah, which is 60 percent Mormon, had zero incidents of anti-Semitism.
Many respected Mormon leaders such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are so pro-Jewish that it's almost awkward. Hatch wears a mezuzah (Jewish prayer scroll usually affixed to door frames) around his neck and is quoted as saying: "Anything I can do for the Jewish people, I will do. … I feel sorry I'm not Jewish sometimes."
Even Mormon religious texts are favorable to Jews: "Ye need not any longer hiss, nor spurn, nor make game of the Jews, nor any of the remnant of the house of Israel." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 29:8)
None of this pardons the recent unsolicited baptisms. Wiesel was absolutely right to say of them: "I think it's scandalous. Not only objectionable, it's scandalous."
But such Mormon offenses can be seen in the broader light of LDS respect and appreciation for the Jewish people.
Wiesel, however, proceeded to criticize Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney for not doing more to stop posthumous baptisms. This makes the subject political, and as soon as that starts happening, political writers feel honor-bound to make partisan comparisons.
And in this "good for the Jews?" comparison, Romney's religion fares well when assessed next to President Obama's ethnic group. Mormon guilt can be characterized as a surfeit of enthusiasm for Jewish people, mostly pertaining to deceased Jews.
Dislike and disrespect for Jews among the African-American community, however, is fairly widespread and is aimed at living Jews. A 2002 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that "35 percent of African-Americans … [hold] … strongly anti-Semitic beliefs."
Studies in 2009 and 2011 put these numbers at 28 percent and 29 percent. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Leonard Jeffries, Tony Martin and other leading Jewish detractors have risen from this culture of anti-Semitism.
Such animus must be assessed in light of the FBI's recent reports on religious hate crimes that show 71.9 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes are anti-Semitic in origin — nine times higher than the second-largest category (anti-Islam, 8.4 percent).
Anti-Semitism in the United States has grave consequences.
Accordingly, if I had to prompt one presidential candidate to address Jewish issues with his respective groups, I would ask the president to make remarks similar to those he made to a black audience in a 2008 speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church ("the scourge of anti-Semitism has … revealed itself in our community").
Mormons may inappropriately baptize our dead, but a large percentage of African-Americans hold deeply antagonistic opinions of Jews, and that, to me, is far more problematic.
Stephen Richer is a Salt Lake native and a director at a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

American Jews' new 10 Commandments

The Ten Commandments of America's Jews

In the past two decades, the vocabulary of American Jewish life has undergone a profound transformation. The evidence is all around us: in books promoting “empowered Judaism,” blogs singing the praises of “Do It Yourself Judaism,” slogans celebrating a “Jewish renewal” or a “Jewish renaissance” in America, and more. In what has been called the big tent of the new Judaism, the theme of inclusion reigns, with synagogues declaring their intention to create caring communities, family-friendly environments, and, especially, homes for “diversity.” An advertisement for an educational retreat in Atlanta holds out the promise of having it all: “An Open, Remixable, Meaningful, Connected Jewish Life.”
Although much has been written about disunity among today’s American Jews, what these words reflect is, in fact, a consensus on what Jewish life ought to stand for—a consensus held by activists, rabbis, popular writers, organizational leaders, and other figures of influence.1 The locutions themselves are worthy of explication; more important is what they tell us about the meaning of Jewishness in contemporary America. Here, in summary form, are what might be called the ten commandments, the new do’s and don’ts, of contemporary American Jewish life.
I. I am the Lord your God, Who took you
out of Egypt to ‘repair the world.’
No trope is more common today than the injunction to engage in tikkun olam. The Hebrew phrase has an ancient pedigree, with spiritual if not mystical connotations; but of decidedly recent vintage is its current interpretation: namely, that Jews are uniquely responsible for improving the lives of their fellow human beings. For many, indeed, the imperative of social action defines the essence of Judaism. In American Grace, a study of contemporary American religion, Robert Putnam and David Campbell report that Jews (unlike their Christian counterparts) tend to be tongue-tied on matters of belief and religious observances but speak with great certainty about their responsibility to help“repair the world.” So important has this mission become that in some quarters it is held to supersede all other commandments. In the words of a young Reform rabbi in Los Angeles: “Don’t keep kosher, that’s fine; don’t keep Shabbat, that’s fine; marry a non-Jew—whatever. But understand that it will take away your Jewish identity if you don’t fight for justice.”
II. You shall not be judgmental.
Within wide sectors of the Jewish community, it has become a truism that there is no single correct way to be Jewish, and that the measure of Jewish authenticity is whether itfeels right. As one of the more prolific younger writers on Jewish topics has put it in explaining his “Buddhist-Judaism,” “it is more authentic because it is more faithful to the truth of my experience.” Nowhere is the ethos of nonjudgmentalism said to be more necessary than on the sensitive issue of intermarriage. Jews who intermarried were once regarded as transgressors of a great taboo; today, the great taboo is criticism of Jews who intermarry. Hence the rebuke greeting a writer who suggested that celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in an interfaith home was a falsification of both faiths. “What you are doing,” declared an official at an organization dedicated to reaching intermarried families, “is really the most divisive thing that Jews do to other Jews these days, which is to tell your fellow Jews that they are not ‘Jewish enough.’”
III. You shall be pluralistic.
Flowing directly from the refusal to render judgment on rights and wrongs is the conviction that Jewish organizations and communities must strive to serve as a big tent for all kinds of Jews. Many have come to believe that diversity, especially when it comes to every conceivable variety of family configuration, enriches Judaism by exposing people to different ways of thinking and living. For some, the imperative of inclusion has even taken on sacred significance, traceable to the rabbinic legend about the patriarch Abraham’s tent, whose four sides were left open to all comers.
IV. You shall personalize your Judaism.
 There was a time when most Jews roughly agreed on the key components of Jewish identity as well as on collective Jewish needs. In our time, large numbers of Jews appear convinced that they alone determine not only how they will be Jews but what it means to be Jews. We live, many believe, in an age not only of freedom but also of multiple and shifting identities. Hence, each Jew is empowered to invent his own version of Judaism via a personal journey through many different forms of engagement and disengagement. “Our identities are multiple and constantly under construction,” writes a young modern-Orthodox rabbi. So, too, is our understanding of Jewish commitments.
V. Meaning, meaning shall you pursue.
 It follows from the previous commandment that the way for institutions to compete for the temporary attention of individual Jews is to offer them “meaningful” experiences. For some, the quest for meaning may take the form of a tikkun olam trip to aid the needy in faraway places. For a relative few, it may even lead to a deepened acquaintance with Jewish texts. “A Judaism and a Jewish community without Torah as its center isn’t going to survive,” declares an influential young rabbi, adding, “nor is it clear to me why it should.” By these lights, Jewish survival for its own sake is meaningless.
VI. You shall create caring communities.
In contrast to the world of large Jewish organizations and religious institutions, which are judged as being coldly unwelcoming in spirit, welcoming itself is now highly prized and enjoined. Synagogues train official greeters to keep an eye out for newcomers; a congregant in need of professional counseling may receive aid gratis from a fellow congregant; the unemployed may benefit from a rabbi’s discretionary fund that has been newly expanded for just this purpose. The burden of responsibility rests entirely on the institutions, which must avoid having expectations of those benefitting from their care.
VII. You shall encourage the airing
of all views.
The glory of Judaism, in the current reading, lies in its openness to debate, controversy, and dissent. This not only distinguishes Judaism from dogmatic religions that brook no questioning but also justifies the individualism at the heart of commandments II through V. Of late, the virtues of freewheeling debate have been invoked largely in order to create a space for Jewish criticism of the state of Israel, thereby provoking the need to define rules of civil discourse on inherently polarizing issues. Are Jewish anti-Zionists, for example, to be given a platform by the organized Jewish community? What about supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement? By and large, the needle has moved progressively toward the side of those wishing to push the proverbial envelope.
VIII. You shall not be tribal.
The state of Israel, beyond its specific policies, has become problematic in a more general sense as well. In some circles, the very notion of holding a special allegiance to a country or people is seen as an unfortunate throwback to an era of blind chauvinism. Why, increasing numbers ask, should I feel any special responsibility to a people with whom I am connected solely through the accident of my birth? One leader has advocated a balanced solution: “We must understand that tomorrow’s Jews will simultaneously be Members of the Tribe and Global Citizens.” Others balk at the “tribe” part altogether, repudiating the claims made by Jewish peoplehood and tilting instead toward cosmopolitanism.
IX. You shall celebrate your Jewishness.
But if engagement with the Jewish people has become more awkward, pride in being Jewish has not. By every measure, American Jews of all ages express no discomfort with their Jewishness; to the contrary, and unlike Jews of an earlier era, they neither worry about anti-Jewish discrimination nor feel any pressure to prove that they belong as Americans. What they find irksome is the opposite: namely, reminders of external threats or inner weaknesses. “Don’t talk to us about the Holocaust, or anti-Semitism, or having babies,” a leader of programs for young people recently chastised the older generation of communal activists. Rather than indulging a “crisis narrative” or fretting over the future, we should be celebrating the present—a moment of dynamism and creativity in which new forms of Judaism and Jewish culture are flowering and from which Jews in other lands, especially Israel, have much to learn.
X. You shall hold the Jewish
conversation in public.
In line with the celebratory impulse, today’s Jews feel no compunction about discussing Jewish life in publications with a wide general audience, from the op-ed columns of theNew York Times to the web pages of the Huffington Post. In this era of Jewish security, it is said, no aspect of Judaism, whether flattering or embarrassing, should be relegated to the sidelines of parochialism. This strikingly reverses the habits of the past, when, as the legal scholar Suzanne Stone has noted, a sharp distinction was drawn between conversations in the house of study or within the Jewish community, where fractious debate was both safe and welcome, and conversations in the public square, where “the honor of religion [was] at stake…and expression highly regulated.” Today, the mandate is to exhibit no such concern about “what the Gentiles will say” and to be unafraid of being heard and read by all.
What is one to make of this constellation of do’s and don’ts? Surely its most striking features are its stance and its tone: idealistic, expansive, and upbeat. Presenting Jewish life positively and without fear, it dismisses talk of Israel’s vulnerability or of threats to Jewish survival in the United States. The impulse to share Jewish folkways with the world at large, and to discuss in public and without inhibition the most intimate aspects of current Jewish life, reflects a strong sense of security and “at-homeness.” If anything, the greater dangers are seen as parochialism, the failure or refusal to credit the intertwining of Jewish and Gentile lives, and the consequent impulse to isolate Jews from their business associates, their friends, and, in a growing number of cases, their family members.
For the newly expansive approach, it is an article of faith that Judaism benefits from diversity and openness, which in turn help foster creativity and even a “renewal” of Jewish life. By contrast, efforts to impose limits on whom Jews should marry, how they should structure their families, or what they should believe, in addition to being retrograde in themselves, can lead only to losses and stagnation. Seeking to be inviting and enticing to Jews and Gentiles alike, the new American Judaism shuns prescriptive language and limits its demands to the doing of good as defined by universal ethical principles.
It is no coincidence that the ideas and attitudes embodied in the new American Judaism are largely indistinguishable from the cluster of ideas and attitudes that inform liberal American culture at large. The abhorrence of chauvinism, the refusal to privilege any culture’s values over any other’s, the emphasis on doing good: What are these if not the hallmarks of today’s regnant multiculturalist dispensation? As noted 15 years ago by the late Charles S. Liebman, Jews, like their neighbors, increasingly embrace an ethos “marked by voluntarism (radical choice), autonomy (the license for invention),personalism (the quest for personal meaning), universalism (the abnegation of parochial collective identity), and moralism (the emphasis on the moral and ethical value of rites and customs).”2 If, at mid-20th century, Jews in record numbers joined synagogues in silent agreement with the slogan “the family that prays together stays together” and in a later period embraced a more inward-looking pride as ethnic assertion was sweeping the land, today’s Jewish vanguard faithfully reflects the culture of the moment.
Upon closer inspection, however, the new Jewish consensus (like, it must be said, its American prototype) is hardly without ironies, contradictions, problems, and costs. Take, for example, the goal of fostering diversity and inclusion. Lofty aspirations, they can also yield the reverse effect on what can actually be said and done. In order to bring everyone under one big tent, potentially divisive issues must be shelved—leading right back to the narrow rigidity that the new inclusiveness was ostensibly designed to replace.
Nor is that all. Take the case of AVODAH, a domestic Jewish service organization that recently announced a program to send its alumni to engage in social action in Israel. One hundred alumni promptly petitioned for the program to be canceled on the grounds that AVODAH was in violation of “its own commitment to pluralism.” Why? Because the non-Zionists among them would feel “marginalized” by any activity conducted anywhere in the state of Israel. Ironically, it is the “edgier” organizations such as AVODAH that are most susceptible to being hoisted on their own petard and thereby hobbled in their pursuit of their self-defined missions.
In addition, diversity itself turns out to be a misnomer—if for no other reason than that, simply stated, non-pluralists need not apply. For all the talk of how enriching diversity can be, some of the most “inclusive” Jewish institutions are loath to make room for those, especially Orthodox Jews, who depart from their orthodoxies. In the liberal rabbinical seminaries, where sub-ethnic cultures and folkways are valued and professorial candidates are sought from all over the world, no effort is made in the recruitment of faculty to add diversity of ideological outlook. And when it comes to the left-leaning political consensus, to “settled” views on family life and abortion, or, indeed, Jewish understandings of social justice and tikkun olam, no effort is made either to seek or to accommodate dissenting voices. On these matters, inclusiveness is a bridge too far.
No less selective and arbitrary is the exercise of free and open discussion. As suggested earlier, the most controversial issue agitating the organized American Jewish community today is how to deal with criticism of Israeli policy. Such criticism is portrayed by the new Judaism as healthy and even helpful because it reminds Israelis of the need to live up to the highest Jewish values. But rebuking one’s fellow Jews, a corrective commanded by the Bible, appears to be a one-way street. Twice over the past years, Israeli government agencies ran afoul of American Jewish organizations by sponsoring TV commercials suggesting that Jewish life in America can lead to assimilation and the loss of Jewish identity. Both sets of commercials, in keeping with the form, were terse and blunt. The message they delivered was also factually true. Moreover, the ads were in Hebrew, placed in Israeli media, and directed at an Israeliaudience. Nevertheless, they elicited outrage on the part of leading American Jewish organizations offended by the message that all may not be rosy in American Jewish life. In quick order, the Israeli sponsors pulled the ads. The lesson? American Jews are free to criticize aspects of Israeli society that bother them but woe unto Israelis who dare speak openly about assimilation, the Achilles heel of American Jewish life.
By far the most problematic aspect of the new consensus is not its internal contradictions and hypocrisies but its substance—in particular, its acquiescence in an unbridled individualism and its evident indifference to collective Jewish needs. The emphasis of today’s ten commandments is on what institutions owe to individuals—inclusion, safe space, unqualified acceptance of all types of Jewish expression—while virtually nothing is asked of the individual beyond the mere sentiment of do-goodism. Not by chance is the emblematic Jewish program of our times, Birthright Israel, a no-cost 10-day trip to Israel. Why a Judaism that expects nothing should itself be expected to appeal to anyone is a great mystery, but such is the essence of the new American Judaism.
To be sure, some have wished to raise the bar of expectation. Last November, Elie Kaunfer, a serious and energetic younger rabbinic leader, courageously made the case for a more demanding Judaism at the annual assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. In his talk, titled “Our Birthright Is Torah,” Kaunfer urged his audience to “articulate why it matters for Judaism to survive,” answering his own question by invoking Torah as “our system, our language, our heritage.” But then, out of a reflexive deference to his audience and to the prevailing temper of the times, Kaunfer promptly went on to universalize the “our.” Torah “has something to say to everyone,” he asserted. “Not just kids. Not just day-school graduates. Not just synagogue-goers. Not just rabbis. Not just New Yorkers. Not even just Jews!”
Such is the current Jewish ethos. It demands a global consciousness and rejects tribal allegiances so that the Torah might evidently no longer be described, as the Pentateuch itself does, simply as morasha kehillat Yaakov, the inheritance of Jacob’s community, but as God’s gift to all humanity. Evidently, for something Jewish to be meaningful, everyone must find it meaningful; it must speak to the world. But as the scholar Michael Berger astutely observed in a riposte to Kaunfer: “If something is yours, you don’t feel the need to ask ‘why’—it’s just yours. The French don’t wake up every morning asking why should French culture exist—it just does, it’s theirs, and many of them are proud of it.” Not so, evidently, for the exponents of today’s Jewish consensus.
The betrayal of Jewish particularism is the most insidious consequence of that consensus. Jewish collective needs are minimized or kept at arm’s length even by those, including rabbis, who should be most concerned about the welfare of the Jewish people. So blatant is this tendency that Elliot J. Cosgrove, the editor of a recently published collection3 of theological reflections by non-Orthodox rabbis, can write of his fellow contributors:
With very few exceptions, the lack of mention of Israel, Jewish peoplehood, and other markers of Jewish particularism—theological, national, cultural, or otherwise—serve as notable data points shared among these thinkers. While Jewish, these theologians are not parochial, in that they insist on existing side by side with other faith traditions and with our common humanity, and addressing the shared concerns of the universal condition.
A generous reading of Cosgrove’s assertion might determine he is noting that the pendulum of Jewish life, which in the second half of the 20th century was firmly fixed on Jewish particularism, has swung in our time to the opposite pole of “global citizenship.” A less generous reading would begin by asking what manner of shortsightedness accounts for this refusal to see, first, Jews as a people with its own interests and, second, the reestablishment of a Jewish state as a singular theological event of our times. As our religious thinkers shift their gaze to “the universal condition,” who will tend to the condition of the Jewish people? Who, if not rabbis, will develop a Jewish, rather than a universal, theology for an American Jewish population that lacks religious mooring? And as American Jews comfort themselves in the knowledge that anti-Semitism is alien to American society, who will teach them that the rules of Jewish history probably have not been suspended despite the relatively benign spirit of our time? The experience of Jews in such thriving democracies as France and England suggests a more vigilant approach is necessary.
The point is not to cower in fear but to think beyond the moment, to identify specifically Jewish interests, and to formulate strategies in furtherance of those interests—precisely the agenda eschewed by the new American Jewish consensus and its cosmopolitan mission. So, much of Jewish life in this country continues to oscillate between high-minded invocations of the need to repair the world and endless rounds of catering to subjective tastes and whims disguised as self-validating beliefs: “This works for me, so it must be right.” If rabbis indulge in such solipsistic legerdemain, is it any wonder that those who know no better conceive of Jewish identity as entirely subjective, devoid of collective obligation, and subject to no authority but the passing dictates of one’s conscience?
Perhaps the time has come to take a fresh look at the original Ten Commandments, which open with a different I: the voice of a commanding God reminding a specific people of its particular historical experience and proceeding to issue judgmental commands and injunctions. That Decalogue, after all, has had a long shelf life, and is likely to outlast the self-defeating ten commandments of today’s American Jews.


1 To see how widely the new consensus is held, readers may consult the opinion pages of the English-language Forward, a national Jewish newspaper; Sh’ma and Zeek, journals of progressive Jewish thought; the official organs of the non-Orthodox religious movements; and recently published books such as Jewish Theology in Our Time, edited by Elliot J. Cosgrove (more on this later) as well as my own edited volume, The New Jewish Leaders: Reshaping the American Jewish Landscape. Dissenters from the consensus include many but not all Orthodox Jews, recent immigrants and their children, and political conservatives—minority populations, all.
2 This summary of Liebman is by the sociologist Steven M. Cohen.
3 Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief (Jewish Lights, 2010).

About the Author

Jack Wertheimer is professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Among his contributions to COMMENTARY are “Judaism Without Limits” (July 1997), “The Orthodox Moment” (February 1999), and “The Perplexities of Conservative Judaism” (September 2007).

Is Israel supposed to absorb all of African refugees?

Commentary... the idea that tiny Israel should be considered the solution for African poverty is absurd. There are currently approximately 70,000 illegal African immigrants in Israel, roughly one for every 100 Israelis—Jew and Arab alike. In such a small country, that’s a large burden for Israelis to carry. If Americans are upset about undocumented immigrants in this country, the uproar in Israel isn’t hard to understand. Moreover, unlike the bulk of illegal immigration into the United States, the Africans are not merely a function of an economic cycle in which Mexicans and other Central Americans cross the border to fill low-paying jobs such as farm work. The Africans are refugees from war and famine in East African nations like Sudan and Eritrea, who not unnaturally see democratic and prosperous Israel as a haven from suffering that they cannot find anywhere else in the region. It’s also true that unlike the nations they pass through on their way to Israel, the Jewish state has treated newcomers with compassion.
Those who are quick to accuse Israel of racism should remember that it went to great trouble and expense to facilitate the mass immigration of tens of thousands of black Jews from Ethiopia in the past generation. Though the absorption of these immigrants has been a bumpy road for many, the nation took great pride in their coming and has done its often-inadequate best to care for them.
The Jewish tradition of caring for the homeless and the stranger has created a largedegree of sympathy for the African migrants in Israel. But while it was possible for the country to take in the initial small numbers who found their way there, including those seeking political asylum, now that the rate is up to 1,000 new illegals a month, the situation has gotten out of hand. Israel simply hasn’t the ability to care for or employ that many people who have no ties to the place.
Moreover, no matter how immigrant-friendly Israel may be, any nation has the right and the duty to police its borders. As is the case with America’s southern border, there are no easy or simple solutions–people who want to come will find a way to get in. But no nation can be expected to just simply accept such a situation, especially when it brings with it a rise in crime and other social pathologies. Though nothing justifies some of the unfortunate statements made yesterday in Tel Aviv, Israel has a right to ask those who arrive without permission to leave and to ensure that those illegals who keep coming are kept out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Balanced Jewish News

If you do not like the left wing bias of the JTA, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, there is now an alternative Jewish news service, aptly named the Jewish News Service,  that you can sign up for.  Email: to get the newsletter sent to you.  Imagine a Jewish news service that is not in the bag for J Street.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

new video elevator pitch for judaism

At least count the Omer today. Only 2 more chances this year

Parashat Bemidbar

Numbers 1:1−4:20
May 26, 2012 / 5 Sivan 5772
This week’s commentary was written by Rabbi Abigail Treu, Rabbinic Fellow and Director of Planned Giving, JTS.
“Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”
The question asked in the chorus of “Seasons of Love,” made ever more poignant by the tragic death of its composer-lyricist, Jonathan D. Larson, just months before Rent opened on Broadway in 1996, has been rattling lately in my mind. After all, we are doing an awful lot of counting this week: we count the final days of the Omer, and, as our parashah begins, take the census of the Israelite community. What does all of this counting have to do with the ways in which we measure what really matters?
First, the counting of the Omer, which culminates in Shavu’ot this weekend: it is deceptively simple. All you have to do is count every night, increasing the count by one each day, and at the end you’ll have reached Shavu’ot―a seemingly mundane mitzvah, the blessing over which is nothing more than praising God for the command to count. And yet it is for many one of the most difficult mitzvot to keep. Who among us remembers to count it without fail every night? Somehow not a year goes by without a slip-up. It turns out that counting days is not so easy after all.

The Omer is counted every evening after nightfall, from the second night of Passover till the night before Shavuot.

Forgot to count the Omer at night? Count the following day, but without a blessing. On subsequent nights, continuecounting with a blessing as usual. The blessing is made only if every day has been counted; if you missed a day, say the day's count without the blessing.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.
Begin here if counting during daytime hours, or if you haven't counted every day since the beginning of this year's count:
this year's count:
Today is forty-eight days, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How J Street betrays Israel

The Anti-Israel Lobby

‘Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace’ J Street backs congressmen who do not support Israel
BY: Adam Kredo - May 23, 2012 5:00 am
The self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” liberal advocacy group J Street is soliciting funds for congressional candidates who are openly hostile to Israel while simultaneously targeting for defeat explicitly pro-Israel lawmakers who do not agree with its radical Middle East agenda, according to aWashington Free Beacon analysis of J Street’s election year strategy.
Among the more than 50 candidates endorsed by J Street is a sizable delegation of lawmakers who have expressed hostility towards the Jewish state.
At least six of J Street’s candidates have failed to affirm the U.S.-Israel alliance on the House floor, rejected Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorists, and backed a congressional missive demanding that Israel end its siege of the Gaza Strip. All of these positions place the candidates outside the mainstream pro-Israel community.
J Street’s attraction to such fringe candidates—as well as its public efforts to remove Israel’s allies from Congress—has led insiders to question its commitment to both the Jewish state and the core tenets of pro-Israel activism.
“They’re showing their true colors,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who currently runs his own political action committee. “You can forget about what they’re saying, but look at who they’re supporting—it’s people most observers would consider to not be friendly to Israel.”
“They sort of help the bad guys on this issue,” Amitay added.
Enemy number one on J Street’s political hit list is Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.), a first-term legislator who been among Israel’s chief defenders during his two-year tenure in the House.
Walsh attracted J Street’s ire earlier this month when he referred to the two-state solution as a sham and advocated for “one contiguous Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
His call led J Street to issue a red alert to its supporters calling for Walsh’s ouster from Congress this November.
“The policies endorsed by Representative Walsh are not pro-Israel and are not endorsed by the Israeli mainstream,” the group wrote in a press release. “It is time for the American Jewish community to call him out and make clear that he does not speak for us or for Israel’s democratic, Jewish future.”
Walsh bristled at J Street’s attacks in a recent interview with the Free Beacon.
“For a group like J Street who only claims to be pro-Israel to go after me for being pro-Israel makes no sense,” Walsh said. “They hide under the cover of ‘pro-peace, pro-Israel,’ but they’re pro-Palestinian.”
Walsh went on to deem the group politically irrelevant.
“No one from the middle to the right takes them seriously,” he said. “They’re almost a joke. They’re extremely toxic and so loudly in your face to anyone who takes even a little bit of a pro-Israel stance.”
In a video that has since been scrubbed from the Internet, J Street’s vice president for campaigns admitted that the group has a small political constituency and explained that its ultimate goal is to “move Jews” farther to the left in order to place them more in line with J Street’s own views.
In addition to Walsh, J Street has targeted New Hampshire Reps. Charlie Bass (R) and Frank Guinta (R), who both possess stellar pro-Israel credentials.
Bass, for instance, co-sponsored the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, a bill passed by the House earlier this monthdespite the objectionsof several lawmakers affiliated with J Street.
His challenger, Ann McLane Kuster, who J Street has termed “a progressive hero,” has virtually no public record regarding Israel and is touted by J Street not as a pro-Israel stalwart, but as a “community activist, author, public policy advocate, and attorney.”
“They’re obviously just endorsing the candidate most likely to defeat Bass,” who has staunchly backed Iran sanctions and supported Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism, said one pro-Israel insider familiar with the race.
Guinta, too, has taken a strong stance against Iran’s pursuit of nuclear arms and has vocally expressed support for the Jewish state.
Additionally, J Street is working to defeat Rep. Judy Biggert (R., Ill.), co-sponsor of the America Stands with Israel Act and a regular defender of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
“It is ironic that J Street turns out to want American Jews to be one issue voters,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior official in the George W. Bush administration who tracks opinion in the Jewish community. “J Street supports candidates critical of Israel and opposes candidates who are very pro-Israel. Doesn’t much matter where they stand on anything else.”
“Maybe,” Abrams added, “we should salute J Street’s bipartisanship: They barely care what party you’re in as long as you think undermining the Government of Israel is a good idea.”
As it works to defeat these expressly pro-Israel lawmakers, J Street is raising money for members and candidates who have run counter to the mainstream pro-Israel community’s agenda.
“J Street is much more concerned with pushing their far left agenda on Israel policy than supporting candidates who by all measure actually are pro-Israel,” said one pro-Israel political operative who is familiar with the group’s strategy.
Some of those endorsed by J Street hold positions at odds with J Street’s own principles, which stipulate that, among other things, a candidate must demonstrate “support for the special relationship between the United States and Israel.”
Endorsed Rep. Lois Capps (D., Calif), for instance, refused to sign a 2009 resolution that both affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and also condemned the Goldstone Report, a highly flawed United Nations report that wrongly accused Israel of committing war crimes—a claim that report’s author, Richard Goldstone, later retracted as false.
Capps then declined to join 327 of her colleagues later that year in expressing support for a bi-partisan letter “reaffirming the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
In 2010, Capps become one of the “Gaza 54” when she signed onto a J Street-orchestrated letter that asked President Obama to pressure the Israeli government to ease up on its so-called siege of the Gaza Strip.
Later in 2010, Capps again bucked the majority of Congress when she refused to back a letter reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” incident, in which Israeli soldiers were attacked and beaten by a delegation of pro-Palestinian terrorists.
J Street has also thrown its support behind Capps’ Californian colleague, Rep. George Miller (D), a fellow “Gaza 54” signer who would not support a congressional missive voicing “solidarity” with Israel. Miller also would not vote in favor of a letter that reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel and recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian attacks.
Another J Street endorsee who appears to run counter to the group’s own mission is Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), a “Gaza 54” backer who voted against a 2009 Iran sanctions bill and condemned Israel defending against armed militants aboard the “Freedom Flotilla.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) has also been endorsed by J Street; he declined to join a bipartisan cadre of 76 senators who expressed the commitmentof the U.S. government’s alliance with the Israeli government regardless of disagreements over the peace process.
J Street has also endorsed Reps. David Price (D., N.C.) and Peter Welch (D., Vt.), both of whom endorsed the “Gaza 54” letter and spearheaded a letter asking President Obama to continue sending U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority despite its attempts to establish statehood at the United Nations.
“It’s clear from the candidates J Street chooses to support they are not interested in standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel and value those who seek to drive a wedge between the Israeli government and the American government,” said the pro-Israel political operative.
Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, said J Street’s election year tactics fit in with its ongoing campaign to undermine the Israeli government.
“I’m surprised J Street didn’t think of doing this sooner because it fits so nicely with the group’s broader program of attacking Israel and her supporters, and promoting her detractors,” Pollak said. “Members of Congress who are singled out by J Street should wear it as a badge of honor.”

My shavuot videos

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

US learned Homeland Security from Israel

In her 25th visit to the holy land, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who served as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, discussed the events surrounding 9/11 and how the war on terrorism brought Israel and the United States closer then ever, the Times of Israel reports.
Speaking at a homeland security conference in Tel Aviv, sponsored by Motorola, Rice noted that although the two nations were always allies, al Qaeda provided the two countries, “with a common cause in the fight against people who would seek political gain by attacking civilians, parents and children.”
Rice discussed the tense and chaotic aftermath of the attacks, and the realization that American security would be changed forever. So, she said, the administration made the decision to turn to their long-time ally in the Middle Eastern. “We realized that Israel, our good friend, was very advanced in this area. Security has been a concern of Israel’s since the day it was born.”
Rice went on to praise the technical advances made by the Jewish state that have become a critical part of the American fight against radical Islamists.WJD

Friday, May 18, 2012

Haredim and service

Legislation to replace the “Tal Law” will be passed by the end of July, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the first cabinet meeting of the newly enlarged coalition, held Sunday morning.

The new law, he said, will divide the burden of military service in a more equal, egalitarian and just basis for all Israelis, Jews and Arab alike, without pitting different communities against each other.

Netanyahu said that an inter-party working group will be formed this week to present alternatives to the Tal Law.

Passed in 2002 as a temporary, five-year law, and renewed in 2007, the High Court of Justice ruled in February of this year that the law allowing haredi men studying full-time in yeshiva to indefinitely postpone their military service contravenes Israel’s Basic Laws. It will expire on August 1.

Netanyahu originally announced back in January that the Tal Law would be extended for another five-year term, but widespread public opposition forced an about-face on the issue.

The prime minister also said that a similar working group would be established in the coming days to lead to a change in the electoral system, another of the commitments made by Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz in their agreement last week to form a national unity government.

He also mentioned the other coalition goals of passing a new budget and advancing the peace process with the Palestinians.

To that end, Netanyahu added, special envoy to the Palestinian Authority Yitzhak Molho met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

“I hope we will be able to advance the dialogue between the two sides in order to resume the diplomatic talks,” the prime minister said.

Despite Netanyahu’s warm words of welcome to Mofaz and Kadima, several MKs from both parties have continued to express their concerns with the new arrangement.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) said on Saturday evening, “We certainly need to examine the negative consequences of recent political events. Events like this do not encourage people to be involved in politics and even to not come and vote.”

And senior Kadima MK and former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik said on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program that Kadima’s move to join the government “was a step that looks bad.”

But she added, “The stench will be less important if the results are good... then we will have done good for the State of Israel.

I want to give this opportunity to this move which has started in a negative fashion but could end up finishing well.”