Posted by David Suissa
Will the speech shift the spotlight and pressure to the Palestinian side? Will it make Israel look reasonable? And will it get positive coverage in the press?
Those are the three measures of success for Bibi’s Bar Ilan speech. The audience? Lions who want their red meat and who won’t be satisfied with any substitute.
The red meat? The words “state” and “freeze”—no fancy strings attached.
My idea? Shock the world: Give them what they want, but not what they’re expecting. No spin, no argument, no emotion, no historical explanations, no tortured selling, no eloquence. No meat-buy products.
Just 60 seconds and 164 words.
Just enough red meat to disarm our American friends, look reasonable to the Jews, and shift the attention to the other side—where real obstacles happen.
And so few words that the main news coverage around the world cover the whole speech.
Power goes to the man of few words.
Here’s my fantasy Bibi speech:
On behalf of the Israeli people, I’d like to summarize our government’s position on the subject of reaching peace with our Palestinian neighbors.
In accordance with the Road Map to peace, we agree with the gradual establishment of a peaceful and demilitarized Palestinian state alongside a Jewish Israel, and we are ready to restart negotiations immediately. We agree to freeze any and all construction in the West Bank that would expand the boundaries of the settlements and prejudice any future agreement. Regarding construction within the settlements, we will continue our discussions with Senator Mitchell to come up with a formula that addresses reasonable and practical needs.
We will make a significant effort to achieve peace, as we have many times in the past. But we must also acknowledge that until there is a Palestinian partner that the Israeli people can trust to deliver true peace and security—from Gaza and the West Bank—any optimism at this point will be premature.
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June 12, 2009 | 6:18 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
We need to honor Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, the security guard who was gunned down June 10 by a white supremacist at the entrance to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
“A soft-spoken, gentle giant,” Milton Talley, a former employee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, told the Washington Post.
More from the Post:
Johns, a 1988 graduate of Crosslands High School in Temple Hills, lived in an apartment in the Temple Hills area. Friends said he had a son.
Allen Burcky, another former museum employee, said last night that workers there considered each other “like family” and that Johns was “very courteous, very helpful.”
Lourdes Padilla, the mother of a close friend, said that Johns trained as a plumber but that she didn’t think he had ever entered the trade. He remarried about a year ago, Padilla said.
Johns’s sister, Jacqueline Carter, declined to comment as she entered her home in Temple Hills. “She’s in bad shape right now,” said a man who was driving her.
Yhe American Jewish Committee’s Washington, D.C. chapter has set up a memorial fund to benefit the family of Officer Johns. The organization said it will soon have a place on its Web site, www.ajc.org, where one can contribute. Those who want to donate immediately should send checks made out to the American Jewish Committee, with “Holocaust Museum Memorial Fund” in the memo line, to:
American Jewish Committee, Washington Chapter
C/O Melanie Maron
1156 15th Street, NW, Suite 1201
Washington DC 20005
One hundred percent of the contribution will go to the Johns family.
The Holocaust Museum, at www.ushmm.org said it will also be taking donations at its site as well.
June 11, 2009 | 1:16 pm
“Jesse Rifkin, the mastermind behind The Wailing Wall, believes in a community of creatives, beatniks and musicians working together to create dynamic art, and that is the environment that produced this record” - JDub Records.
Here’s a sample of the music…
For more info, visit:
June 10, 2009 | 7:08 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Maybe they were divinely inspired by their concert right outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City last year—or by the happening party scene in Tel Aviv—but the Black Eyes Peas proudly acknowledge Judaism’s life-affirming outlook with the incorporation of “mazal tov” (congratulations, although they pronounce it mazel tov) and “l’chaim” (to life) into their just released party dance song: “I Gotta Feeling.”
Following their mega-hit “Boom Boom Pow” with its futuristic party theme, the Black Eyed Peas have embraced a more ancient party tradition with a bang. Their lyrics, set to dance-inducing beats and riffs, runneth over with Jewish innuendo, “Fill up my cup (Drink)/ Mazal tov (L’Chaim)”, although the rabbis might not approve of the next verse: “Look at her dancing (Move it Move it)/Just take it off”; or the way Fergie trots around in her bra, underwear, and feathered scarf; or what looks like two chicks making out.
They might have redeemed themselves by holding up a kiddush cup of Manishevitz wine, applying their words “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night…tonight’s the night/ let’s live it up” to the Friday night—the Holy Sabbath—since the song boasts a monotheistic twist as well: “Go out and smash it/Like Oh my God.”
The Jewish influence may (or may not) owe credit to the director of the video Ben Mor, who, according to WILDsound is an Israeli-American director of videos, commercials, and short films. Boom Boom Mazal Tov!
June 9, 2009 | 2:21 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
On May 20, The Jewish Journal published “Three Days in June,” a Memorial Day memoir by Manny Klein about his brother, Tech. Sgt. Bernard M. Klein, who was killed in action in World War II. Two weeks after the article was published – on a fourth day in June—Dov Bernard Klein, Manny and Adaire’s son, who was named for Manny’s brother, died suddenly at the age of 48.
Dov lived in Los Angeles through the late 1980s, where he and his wife Sandy were founders of Beth Jacob’s Upstairs Minyan, as well as involved in revitalizing other parts of the Orthodox community. In Baltimore, where he managed two kosher restaurants, he was beloved as a warm presence who brought joy to even chaotic situations. Phil Jacobs, at the Baltimore Jewish Times, wrote about his passing:
Dov Klein worked over at Accents Grille and managed Cocoaccino’s in the Greenspring Shopping Center. The places could be backed up with hungry customers, orders coming out of his ears, and he maintained a nice, easy, winning smile that suggested, “This isn’t such a big deal. Everyone will be taken care of.”
And we always were.
Dov, we learned, passed away on Tuesday.
This wasn’t the news that one would suggest be connected to Dov Klein. He was too filled with life and an attractive, positive energy.
A man in his 40s, he was way too young for me to be writing about him in this context. He cared about the work he did and he was just one of those guys who made the neighborhood feel like a welcome small town.
He knew I was addicted to Cocoaccino’s cinnamon rolls. When my daughter worked for him there, he’d send some home for me. He was her first “manager” in the work force. Many of our teens can say that. I think he really knew that for a young person working a part-time job, out of the comfort zone of his or her parents’ house, that first manager has to be a person of patience, a person with a sense of humor and a good teacher. Based on what I’ve heard from my own daughter, he was all of those.
I was one of those teens. Dov gave me my first job in 1988, scooping ice cream at the Haagen Dazs in Century City, which he managed. He taught me not only to measure out a 4 oz. scoop, but to deliver it with the joy that befits premium ice cream.
Hundreds of people packed into Manny and Adaire’s small home one night this week as they finished their last night of shiva back in Los Angeles, after spending the week in Baltimore. Some of the visitors knew Dov, but all of them knew Manny and Adaire, beloved for the personal attention and help they offer to all who cross their paths. Adaire, the librarian for many years at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, also mentors people in the process of conversion. She was featured as a Jewish Journal Mensch in 2007.
To leave a message for the Klein family or to hear audio of his funeral, click here.
June 5, 2009 | 5:55 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Dana Witkin holds her brand new Rebecca Rubin doll up to her face, and the resemblance is hard to ignore. Both the 7-year-old Orange County resident and Rebecca Rubin – the first Jewish doll in American Girl’s historical character line – have softly curled light brown hair with amber highlights, olive skin, and striking hazel eyes.
Of course, Dana’s second cousin, 8-year-old Caitlyn Dienstag, looks more like American Girl’s 1854 Swedish immigrant doll, Kirsten Larsen, with her blond hair and blue eyes. But the girls’ connection to Rebecca goes deeper than to her looks, and that is why Dana and Caitlyn are celebrating Rebecca’s launch – as well as their own birthdays – at a brunch at the American Girl Place with their mothers and bubbies.
“I’m so excited that there’s finally a Jewish doll,” said Caitlyn, who, like Dana, already owns a few American Girl dolls. Caitlyn plans to have Rebecca light candles with her on Friday night.
Rebecca is the 18-inch, 9-year-old daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants living on New York’s Lower East Side in 1914. Her collection includes candlesticks, a challah and samovar on a sideboard, as well as a picnic basket with bagels, pickles, rugalach, and an American flag. Six books by Jacqueline Dembar Greene tell her story with both historical accuracy and literary appeal.
Each year, American Girl introduces a new character to its line of historical dolls. The dolls are all set in pivotal time periods. Collections include a series of books and sometimes videos about the girl’s experience, as well as accessories ranging from pets to clothing to furniture. The dolls cost just under $100 each, and the accessories add up pretty quickly. The American Girl Place retail outlets not only sell the dolls, but offer salon, theater and café services for the dolls as well as the humans who tag along. American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, takes in about $463 million a year.
This might seem ridiculous to those not in on the fad. It’s a lot of money for a doll, and shelling out $10 to $25 to get her hair done? Or $30 to buy her a surf board?
But there’s a reason the dolls are appealing. Aside from the collectability factor, the high quality dolls and their accoutrements stand out in this disposable society. Many little girls actually save up for these dolls, and most of the dolls don’t end up headless under the bed. They are cared for and treasured, kind of like toys used to be.
And the books limn girls with real personalities – not princesses, but complex kids dealing with universal challenges of growing up in their particular historic contexts.
For the thousands of girls, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who will read Rebecca’s story, Jewish culture will come alive.
In the first of six books, meant to illustrate the immigrant experience in the early part of last century, Rebecca is introduced as a spunky and conflicted aspiring actress. Rebecca finds ways to make money so she can buy her own candlesticks for Friday night, but then she is pulled by a mitzvah – raising money to bring her cousin Ana and her family from Russia, where they are impoverished and threatened by pogroms. Her story illuminates the tension between tradition and assimilation, as her father keeps his shoe store open on Shabbat but her grandfather still goes to shul. She deals with growing-up issues such as finding her place in a family of five children, and proving herself mature enough to earn her family’s respect.
At the brunch last Sunday at the Grove, Winnie Freedman, an American Girl Place personal shopper who is the resident Rebecca expert, spoke to diners about pushkes (tzedakah boxes), family histories, and Yiddish words that are part of our vocabulary – klutz, bagel, schlep.
Girls had been lining up at the store since 4 a.m., a manager said, wanting to be among the first 100 customers, who would get Rebecca goodie bags and a chance to win a Rebecca collection, worth about $700. The Rebecca display windows were unveiled at 9 a.m., and the rest of the day featured Rebecca crafts – including making a tzedakah box—a doll raffle every hour, and the brunch. More Rebecca events will occur throughout the summer.
Caitlyn and Dana sat with their bubbies, sisters Hinda Berel and Tami Dienstag, whose family came here from Russia in the late 1800s. The girls dined on flower shaped pancakes and pink whipped cream; the bubbies opted for lox and bagels – an item introduced especially for the Rebecca menu. The moms sat nearby, a dessert of chocolate mousse in a flowerpot and a small cupcake in front of them, just before the birthday cake came out for the girls.
Both girls had Rebeccas already sitting at the table with them, in small doll-sized chairs that latch on to the table. The miniature black and white striped tea cups in front of the dolls were empty, since real tea would not sit well on Rebecca’s red wool suit with velvet collar, or the paisley shawl around her shoulders. Rebecca’s wardrobe also includes a blue cardigan and black and white hound’s-tooth skirt, a party dress with a dramatic flowery hat, and pajamas and robe.
Getting Rebecca’s look down was one of the many challenges that faced researchers as the developed the doll. They wanted a character Jewish girls would recognize as one of their own, without going for the too typical brown hair and brown eyes, or the also plausible fairer complexion.
So far, their meticulous research seems to have paid off. Not only the girls, but Jewish community leaders and academics agree that the books paint a true picture of Jewish life and the issues facing immigrant families. And Rebecca seems to be a positive role model for these girls.
“Her story is very much our family’s history,” said Shana Dienstag, Caitlyn’s mom, and a teacher at Adat Ari El in Valley Village. “And they’re so connected to their American girl dolls, that this will really mean something to them.”
June 4, 2009 | 6:16 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo will go down as an historic game-changer in the history of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East.
Let me be clear: it changes the game for the better.
One effect of the speech will be to put a lie to the idea that the US is historically and essentially a force for ill in the region. As the historian Michael Oren—now Ambassador Michael Oren—points out in his seminal book, “Power, Faith and Fantasy,” a history of US involvement in the Middle East, America has often acted with the area’s best interest at heart.
This speech echoes the concern, involvement and generosity that has marked the best of America’s efforts there.
While I’m critical of some particular aspects and emphases of Obama’s policies toward Israel—as I made clear in my print editorial this week— I think this speech helped improve America’s leverage among Israel’s enemies and reasserted, in no uncertain terms, America’s ultimate commitment to Israel’s security.
I think Jeffrey Goldberg put the carpers in their place with his blog over at The Atlantic:
“An African-American President with Muslim roots stands before the Muslim world and defends the right of Jews to a nation of their own in their ancestral homeland, and then denounces in vociferous terms the evil of Holocaust denial, and right-wing Israelis go forth and complain that the President is unsympathetic to the housing needs of settlers. Incredible, just incredible,” he wrote.
Abraham Rabinovich, who wrote one of the great histories of the Middle East conflict, hit the nail on the head with his analysis:
JERUSALEM – It may have been the most keenly anticipated speech delivered in the region since the Sermon on the Mount and Barak Obama rose to the occasion, even borrowing one of Jesus’ phrases from the sermon, “blessed are the peacemakers”.
In a masterful talk, he managed to reduce the cosmic nature of the problems afflicting the Middle East to human proportions, making it seem possible, at least for the duration of the speech, that these are matters reasonable men can address and resolve.
To the extent he succeeded in beginning to shift regional mindsets it was by presenting the president of the United States to his Moslem audience as someone who offered respect, someone who understood them, someone who was almost one of them. His Arabic middle name, low-keyed during his election campaign in the US, was here flaunted and so too his father’s Islamic roots. The occasional Arabic phrases he flashed and the frequent citations from the Koran and his portrayal of Islam as a religion of peace drew strong applause. He spoke clearly and his sincerity was palpable. This was no George Bush who was viewed even by his own countrymen through a glass wall of “otherness” and a cloud of confused rhetoric.
While praising past Arab achievements and acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinians and the humiliation of living under occupation, he did not spare his audience hard truths. In a phrase that struck at a central element of the Palestinian resistance mythos, he said “It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed, that is how it is surrendered.” Referring to the denial of the Holocaust by Iran’s leaders, he termed it “ignorant and hateful”.
Palestinians drew solace from his pledge to support their efforts to achieve an independent state and to halt Israeli settlement activity.
Israelis had been awaiting Obama’s speech with trepidation, fearful that they would be offered up on the altar of his reconciliation with the Moslem world. Except for settlers and right-wing elements, however, they were pleasantly surprised. The only “anti-Israel” element in his speech was his reference to settlements but the phrasing was, deliberately or not, strangely unclear. “The US does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements. It is time for these settlements to stop.” The first sentence could suggest a challenge to the continued existence of the 120 Israeli settlements in the West Bank whose legality the US has indeed never recognized. But the last two sentences seem to confine his remarks to the narrower question that has been dividing him and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks – stopping infill construction within the settlements.
The most important element in the speech for Israel was not about its relation with the Arab world but its relation with the US. “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable.” Israelis had not been certain that Obama, because of his background, would reiterate that strong connection. Apart from its importance to Israel in economic and political terms to have Washington as a big brother, Obama’s statement was a significant signal to Iran and other hostile elements that Israel was not alone and is thus a major deterrent factor. Israelis were also appreciative of Obama confirming, from a podium watched by 1.5 billion Moslems, the authenticity of the Holocaust and pointing out its role in the motivation of the Jews to seek their own state in their ancestral homeland in the Middle East.
Israel was less pleased with Obama’s references to Hamas, in which he appeared to recognize the militant Islamic group as a legitimate player, and his relatively soft words to Iran. His apparent readiness to see Iran access nuclear power for peaceful purposes, officials in Jerusalem warned, would bring it within a short sprint to a nuclear weapon. However, Obama’s benign tone appeared designed to bring Iran to the negotiating table. There was only one possible threat – “when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point” – but it was implicit, not overt.
After a series of peace initiatives in recent decades that have sputtered out, the region’s inhabitants are leery about getting emotionally involved with another before it begins to gain momentum. Nevertheless, in Cairo yesterday Barak Hussein Obama emerged for Arabs and Israelis as a Great White Hope.
Here’s a response from teh American Jewish Committee, which is as close to Jewish mainstream opinion as you’ll find on these matters:
June 4, 2009 – New York – AJC warmly welcomed President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo today, which aimed at forging a new understanding between the United States and the Muslim world.
While addressing a range of issues, President Obama underlined that the rejection of anti-Semitism and the legitimacy of Israel were not negotiable.
“In the heart of a region where denial is routine – denial of Israel’s right to exist, denial of the historic link of Jews to their homeland, denial of the Holocaust – President Obama spoke the truth with a clear, unwavering voice,” said David Harris, AJC Executive Director.
Obama told his audience: “Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”
Harris applauded Obama for reaffirming that America’s “strong bonds” with Israel are “unbreakable,” and for urging Arab states to “recognize Israel’s legitimacy.”
AJC praised President Obama for stating his personal commitment to pursue “with all the patience the task requires” a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Toward that end, President Obama made clear that “violence is a dead end,” as he called again on Hamas to “put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Harris praised Obama’s focus on Iran’s confrontation with the international community over its nuclear weapons drive – a confrontation the President said has reached “a decisive point.”
AJC is disappointed, however, that the President was not more explicit about the danger Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses to the entire Middle East and to global security.
“Iran’s theocratic regime is a world leader in supporting terrorism, threatening moderate Arab regimes, and orchestrating the chorus of extremists who deny Israel’s right to exist,” said Harris. “The U.S. has an obligation to more vigorously lead the international community in stopping the Iranian nuclear program.”
President Obama also noted the democracy, human rights and gender equality deficits in the Muslim world, urging greater protection of religious freedom and respect for democratic values. Harris urged the President to press forward with these causes, saying, “The Middle East will only flourish when people of all faiths live in free societies that respect their dignity and unleash their creative potential. The pursuit of peace will be impeded as long as the region’s one true democracy, Israel, is surrounded by dictatorships and theocracies.”
June 3, 2009 | 2:09 pm
Posted by Joel Chasnoff
I flew to Toronto this morning for a stand-up gig. It’s my fourth trip to Canada in the last two years. On my three previous trips, I was stopped at Customs and forced to open my suitcase so the rubber-gloved security guys could rifle through my undergarments. I don’t know why I was consistently chosen; obviously, something about me tipped off the border guards that I was suspicious.
So today, I wore a yarmulke. When the plane landed, I took off my Yankee cap and clipped on a black suede yarmulke. I figured the Customs people wouldn’t stop a guy in a yarmulke because if they did, it might look like they were singling me out because of my religion, and I could then sue them for discrimination and they’d find themselves embroiled in a scandal.
I don’t know if it was the yarmulke that did it. But this morning, Customs was a breeze.