Posted by Tom Tugend
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and its agencies mobilized early Thursday morning to both alert and calm the Jewish community in the wake of the shooting of two congregants in the parking lot of Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue.
“The Jewish Family Service has dispatched counselors to work with young students at Adat Yeshurun, the Board of Rabbis is in touch with its congregational members, and the Bureau of Education is coordinating with Jewish schools in the Los Angeles area,” said John Fishel, the Federation’s president.
The Federation has offered its full assistance to the police and will assist any congregation or school with security measures,” Fishel said.
Carol Koransky, the Federation’s executive vice president and director of its Valley Alliance, is coordinating the organization’s efforts in the field.
“Regrettably, these outrageous attacks seem to run in cycles, and always seem to pick up near the time of Jewish holidays,” Fishel said. “There’s a fine line between being alert and prepared, but not giving in to excessive anxiety or panic.”
Fishel said that there were an estimated 50 worshippers during morning prayers at Adat Yeshurun when the attack occurred.
He noted that the Federation’s response in mobilizing expert resources across Los Angeles proves its vital importance as the Jewish community’s umbrella organization.
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October 28, 2009 | 6:27 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
What the world didn’t see: the Oral Statement delivered by Colonel Richard Kemp to the UN Human Rights Council 12th Special Session, 16 October 2009, during the debate on the Goldstone Report [VIDEO FOLLOWS]
Thank you, Mr. President.
I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.
Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.
Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.
The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.
Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.
More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.
Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.
And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.
Thank you, Mr. President.
October 28, 2009 | 4:26 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Pics are coming in of the first- ever joint mission of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis to Israel. The group of 16 rabbis left Monday and is now winding up a whirlwind 3 day trip through Israel.
The mission was the brainchild of Los Angeles Consul General Jacob Dayan, who envisioned the trip as a way to demonstrate Jewish unity over Israel. The delegation includes rabbis representing the three main denominations in Judaism. In the course of its visit the delegation has visited the Rabin Memorial, marking 14 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv where immigrant children attain their education; the Ayalim pioneering settlement in the Negev, and the Western Wall. The group also met with Israel’s President Shimon Peres.
Accompanying Dayan were the following rabbis: Rabbis Daniel Bouskila, Ken Chasen, Mark Diamond, Denise Eger, Morley Feinstein, Ed Feinstein, Mordecai Finley, Laura Geller, Donald Goor, Eli Herscher, Marvin Hier, Isaac Jeret, Yosef Kanefsky, Adam Kligfeld, Elazar Muskin, John Rosove, Kalman Topp, Stewart Vogel, Robert Wexler, David Wolpe.
The Jewish Journal will have a full story on the trip in next week’s edition.
October 28, 2009 | 4:01 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Star of Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” and yenta to the rich man, Patti Stanger, was just about to walk onto the bimah of Stephen S. Wise Temple to debate author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach when I approached her. It was to be their second public debate on the topic of love and money, with the first having been held at Nessah Synagogue back in April.
She looked much prettier in person than on her notorious and beloved television show: tall, thin, with full lips and bosoms (apparently natural) and bright blue eyes. Dikla Kadosh of the Jewish Journal once gave her my business card after she interviewed her for the Journal cover story entitled “Yenta-in-Chief”. My headshot appeared on the business card, and Dikla told her I was single. Dikla related to me that she remarked that I was cute and had a guy in mind for me. I figure why not try all avenues, including her dating service, Millionaire’s Club, to find my beshert?
Nothing came out of Dikla’s vicarious introduction. Her staffers never called me and actually treated me a bit rudely with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” e-mail after I submitted my application for her dating service (free for women). Stanger’s known for her authoritarian attitude. That’s what makes the show so popular.
“Hi Patti,” I said as I approached her. “My colleague at the Jewish Journal once interviewed you, and I thought I’d introduce myself….”
“Thanks,” she said curtly with no smile, looking tense, barely looking me in the eye. She dashed off to the stage.
What a bitch! I thought. I would have preferred something like: “I can’t talk now because I’m about to go up, but thank you for saying hello.”
I told my ego she was under pressure, and my timing was bad. This event, held on October 26, was being taped for an upcoming episode of her show. And she’s probably used to hundreds of single girls vying for a quick audience with her.
The debate started with Boteach exhorting the audience of about 400, mostly singles, to keep love untouched by the shallowness and materialism so prevalent in L.A. “If we’re going to marry for money, then what have we become?”
“It’s not about the money,” Stanger argued back when her turn came. “It’s about the thoughtfulness that goes with it.” It’s natural, she added, that women seek a provider, especially as they build a home, while men are initially attracted to women of beauty.
At one point Stanger showed off her new engagement ring. Her boyfriend, Andy, who was sitting in the front row, had finally proposed to her after six years of dating.
“Why do we want the diamond? It means something. He claimed us,” she said. As a self-made woman, she added that she bought him a $10,000 watch as a gift and that women should be encouraged to make their own money.
At this point I was siding with Boteach, and so were the girls sitting next me, who kept shaking there heads and murmuring that they don’t agree with her. We gave Boteach points when he argued that men’s obsession with beauty lead to paranoid women and wives who resort to “shoving a needle in her forehead.” Men and women will forever live in insecurity if they are loved for their money and looks, respectively.
Stanger earned a little more of my respect when she qualified what she does, or at least her initial goal when she started her matchmaking business, as “teaching rich nerds how to treat a woman….My whole philosophy is about treating people with respect.” (Does that include single journalists saying “hi”?)
Questions from the audience turned into personal counseling sessions with Stanger offering advice to the women on how to improve their dating lives. She offered one pretty woman in a frumpy pink skirt a free makeover to make her “hot”; she recommended another woman with marital problems get counseling; she advised another girl to use the “5 second flirt” at social events to attract men, a tip she fleshed out in her book, Become Your Own Matchmaker: 8 Easy Steps for Attracting Your Perfect Mate. Overall, the debate was entertaining with plenty of jokes and valid arguments from both sides.
As a woman who has dated both rich and poor men, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Women, even secure, confident women, generally like to feel safe, secure, adored and protected with a man, and spending money on her often gives that feeling. However, a man with limited means can make a woman fell these things with his confidence, positive attitude, and sincere affection, qualities that will no doubt lead to his success in other areas.
I think Boteach got it right when he said: “the one thing that makes a woman happy is when she feels like the center of the world of the man she’s involved with.”
At the end of the evening, girls flocked to Stanger’s book signing table to say “hi”, and I decided to give my my “hi” one more try while offering my business card, even though at that point I wondered if I would still want to be her client. I took her cold shoulder less personally when I noticed she treated most every other girl there with curt, smile-less one-liners bereft of sincere eye contact, unless they brought a copy of the book to sign. She could have had a bad day, but still. Meanwhile, Boteach greeted every person with warmth and chit-chat. Then again, his table was relatively empty, which in and of itself may offer commentary on what women really want.
However, f I can judge them by their treatment of their fans (and clients), I think I know who gave better advice.
October 27, 2009 | 8:18 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Following is the draft of the speech former congressman Mel Levine (D-CA) delivered Oct. 28, 2009 at the first convention of the pro-Israel lobbying group J-Street in Washington, D.C.
Let me begin with a candid personal statement and an acknowledgement of my own point of view, or personal reference point.
What has driven my involvement in Middle East issues throughout my adult life has been my commitment to work for Israel’s security and survival.
To anyone familiar with my legislative record, this will come as no surprise. Having said that, I long ago concluded that, while maintaining her qualitative military superiority is essential to Israel’s security, ultimately the greatest guarantee of security would come from a stable, secure peace.
As numerous Israeli leaders across the political spectrum have concluded, the two state solution is now the only realistic path to a secure peace.
[Late Egyptian] President Anwar Sadat’s courageous initiative led to an Israeli-Egyptian peace which, while hardly perfect, has greatly benefited Israel, Egypt—and the United States. Similarly, the peace between Israel and Jordan, with all its limitations, serves the interest of the parties, the region and the united states.
A man I was honored to call my friend—Yitzhak Rabin—one of Israel’s greatest warriors, concluded that peace was both essential and possible. We heard that again today from highly respected and decorated israeli political and military officials.
One of the principal reasons why I became an early supporter of President Obama is that I believed then—and I believe now—that he is a unique individual who understands Israel’s need for security—and who also is uniquely situated, intellectually and temperamentally, to lead and achieve the necessary compromises on all sides to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab world.
We are only nine months into the Obama presidency and much remains to be done. Already, however, he has set a tone which makes it much more likely that other countries will be receptive to American leadership both on issues of Middle East peace and more broadly as well. And President Obama has not waited until the end of his administration to engage in Middle East peace. At some political cost to himself, he has engaged from the outset—and has selected a highly respected and talented peacemaker, George Mitchell, to head the effort.
Further, President Obama’s actions have begun to make a tangible difference regarding Iran. His decision to reconfigure the missile defense program in the Czech Republic and Poland not only led to a more sensible structure of the program, which better protects Israel and others from possible Iranian aggression, but also removes an obstacle to US-Russian cooperation, which is absolutely essential if we are to obtain the support we need for effective multilateral sanctions against Iran. It does not guarantee success, but a critical step toward a policy that will actually work, rather than one which is characterized by strong words and no tangible results.
I must confess that, during the 2007 - 2008 election campaign—and still in the early months of the Obama presidency—I have been taken aback by the vitriol, the dishonesty and the relentless smears by those on the far right who want President Obama to fail.
I believe that those of us who care about Israel and who care about peace must stand up to those who will say or do anything to undermine the enterprise.
That leads to the core issue I was asked to discuss this afternoon: the politics of this enterprise—achieving the two state solution.
The politics are very straightforward: focus on the facts and the objectives and fight the smears.
For those of us who care deeply about Israel’s future, nothing less than achieving the two state solution will enable Israel to attain its most important national security objectives—- peace with her neighbors and security from a hostile regime in Iran. A two state solution by itself will not solve the Iran problem but it will do more to take a critical issue away from the Iranian government than all of the tough talk we heard during the prior administration.
In fact, what did the last administration achieve in this regard? Not much. For all the tough talk about Iran and the warm and admittedly welcome praise for Israel, Iran moved closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, Hamas took over Gaza after elections were imposed by the bush administration despite Palestinian and Israeli opposition, American influence in the region waned, and American engagement toward peace was belated and largely ineffectual.
President Obama well understands that an Israeli-Palestinian peace will not solve all of the problems in the region.
But it would certainly make Israel safer. It would serve both Israeli and American interests by removing the excuse Iran and other extremists have for supporting Hizbollah and Hamas—and it would enhance America’s ability to achieve our other middle eastern foreign policy goals. It would take a powerful argument away from violent extremists, who may not care about the Palestinians but who have made it an artform to recruit zealots by appearing to embrace their cause.
It is true that success begets further success; and failure leads to more failure and policy stagnation. It is in America’s interest both to protect israel and to develop a policy which actually succeeds, which will enhance other u.s. interests in the region.
For president Obama to succeed, he will need to personally engage—at home and abroad. He will need to use his considerable persuasive powers to explain his objectives and his approach—to emphasize that he is seeking solutions that in no way compromise either Israel’s security—and that actually enhance the security of all of those in the region who seek peace.
Oddly, I see some similarities between the politics of what he needs to do to lead such an effort and what he has had to do to achieve a health care bill—where a similar set of unfounded and vicious assaults have been leveled—and where the rejoinders are calmly clear, specific, and reasoned.
As president Obama has dispensed with “death panel” rhetoric from the far right on health care, i am confident that he can as effectively—and as accurately—illustrate that American efforts to achieve the two state solution not only don’t undermine Israel’s security but greatly enhance it.
One of my most treasured possessions is a letter I received from then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on my retirement from Congress, thanking me for my effective support for Israel. Yitzhak Rabin gave his life for daring to work for peace to protect israel. He deeply believed, after a lifetime of wars, that achieving peace was essential to secure Israel’s future. I do too.
President Obama understands that the achievement of a two state solution will serve America’s interest by protecting Israel, leading the middle east toward a more prosperous and productive future, and undermine violent extremists who want to harm America and America’s friends. He understands the history, the needs of the parties, and the daunting challenges.
Reminding America that this can only be achieved through hard bargaining—with intensive American engagement and leadership—and not simply by “feel good” rhetoric—will be essential. I am confident that these clear explanations will, despite all the obstacles, yield success in the region and support at home.
October 23, 2009 | 1:33 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The White House announced that President Barack Obama will attend the largest gathering of North American Jewish community leaders.
Obama will address the 2009 General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America in Washington, D.C. on Monday morning, November 9.
According to organizers, the GA will be the first Jewish communal organization event Obama has addressed since taking office.
“We are honored to be hosting President Obama at the GA,” said Dede Feinberg of Washington, who with her husband Kenneth is serving as the GA’s North America co-chair, in partnership with International Co-Chair Leonid Nevzlin of Israel.
“The voice of President Obama will surely expand our thinking and stretch our perspectives,” said Joe Kanfer, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America.
This year’s GA, with the theme “Remember When You Thought Anything Was Possible? It Still Is,” highlights how The Jewish Federations of North America helps the Jewish people worldwide. Top Israeli government officials and other leaders from the worlds of politics, business and philanthropy are also scheduled to speak. The GA, which takes place November 8-10, is one of the largest annual Jewish communal gatherings in North America.
The sudden decision to address a significant and high profile Jewish audience comes as poll numbers show Obama’s popularity declining among Jewish voters, and his approval ratings among Israelis in the single digits.
Writing from an Aipac conference in San Diego, Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horowitz laid out Obama’s Israel/Jewish problem:
But the administration’s [recent] emphasis on the “Jewish state” of Israel, along with the signs of an emerging Israel-US middle ground on settlements, the demand that the Palestinian Authority come back to the peace table without preconditions, and gestures like Obama’s unexpected message of greeting for President Shimon Peres’s Facing Tomorrow conference this week - all these would indicate that the Obama presidency is attempting to slightly reset its relationship to Israel.
It is a minor shift - and not, it should be stressed, an ideological change - doubtless precipitated in part by Obama’s dismal approval ratings in Israel. It is a consequence, too, of the belated realization that trying to corner Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over a settlement freeze, extending to Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, was simultaneously alienating mainstream Israel while pushing Mahmoud Abbas ever higher up a tree; how could the PA president agree to talk with Israel when Netanyahu wasn’t even meeting Washington’s demands? And it may also be no coincidence that the subtly more supportive stance has taken shape since veteran Middle East expert Dennis Ross moved into a White House role more proximate to the president.
“The administration has stumbled, no doubt about it,” a senior AIPAC figure who strongly supports Obama told me this week. “The ferocity of the settlement freeze demand, most especially as stated by Secretary of State Clinton, and the failure to highlight Israel’s historical territorial legitimacy in Obama’s Cairo speech in June - these were mistakes. And now they’re recalibrating.”
Doubtless the General Assembly speech is part of that strategy. Though Obama won close to 80 percent of the Jewish vote in November, his support among Jews has cooled. As Raiphe Sonenshein wrote in The Jewish Journal:
he latest Gallup poll indicates that in September, President Obama’s approval rating held steady at 52 percent. He has dropped from the stratosphere into the rough-and-tumble territory of normal politics.
Among Jews, his support level is still a healthy 64 percent - but far lower than it once was.
While Jews are still far more pro-Obama than whites in general (who are at 44 percent), Jewish backing of the president has declined from their 78 percent vote for him in November and their 83 percent approval rating in January.
Obama’s decline in Jewish support is much like that among Hispanics and other whites, who have been drifting downward for months. Clearly the long march toward health care reform has taken its toll.
My sense is that missteps in the Middle East have had as much or more to do with Obama’s declining popularity among Jews as has his health care, economic and other policy challenges. At the GA, he will have to find the words to reaffirm his strong support for Israel, to use his rockstar, Nobel Prize-winner status on the world stage to make the moral case for a strong Jewish state, to rally the world against a corrupt Iranian regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and to advance his vision of Mideast peace in a way that does not isolate or single out Israelis. On this last point, he can’t be seen as backing down, but he has to find a way to ally himself with Israeli’s deepest hopes, rather than stoking their ever present fears. My suggestion: invoke Rabin. The late Prime Minister, assassinated while on the brink of forging peace, still stands as a symbol of what is possible for a strong and confident Israel, backed by unwavering American support, to achieve. The more Obama can stand on that GA podium in the shadow of Rabin, the more effective his speech will be.
More information on the GA is available here.
October 21, 2009 | 6:14 pm
Posted by Orit Arfa
Last I spoke with Jolene Ilkay and Micky Jolles in September as part of this blog series, they were on the El Al charter flight of Nefesh B’Nefesh, above the Atlantic, literally on their ascent to Israel.
But in Israel, life doesn’t really begin until “after the chagim” (after the High Holidays) when everyone recovers from their Sukkot vacation and festivities. So I caught up with the new olim once the sukkahs were dismantled to find out how routine life as an official Israeli was progressing.
Both overcame what they believed would be their two major obstacles: for Ilkay, finding a job; for Jolles, finding a place to live in Haifa, where he’s enrolled at Ulpan Etzion (a Hebrew language course.)
Ilkay, who lives in an apartment in Herziliyah with her Israeli boyfriend, Dor, got a job working as an administrator for Oranim, an organization that operates various Israel programs. “Everything is going great,” said Ilkay over Skype. “I’m working, doing ulpan, and I’m starting school in a week in a half.” She plans to get her MSc in management through a joint Oranim/NYU-Poly program.
Jolles is sharing a dorm room at the ulpan, studying full-time. “It all worked out,” he said. Now he’s focusing on learning Hebrew and befriending his international group of classmates.
Their biggest struggles involved dealing with notorious Israeli bureacracy.
“Everything is that much more difficult here,” Ilkay said, referring to issuing government documents and dealing with banks. “It’s not like the States where, if there is a rule, that’s the way it goes for everybody.”
Jolles went through similar hassles. ‘There were some difficult times just getting a hold of people you need to talk to, or you call someone to get information and they tell you one thing and the next person tells you something else. You’re running back and forth to get things done.”
Ilkay also commented on the high cost of living in Israel, from groceries to furniture to electronics. “Everything is more expensive here, but you get paid less,” she said. “I’m figuring out how people survive here. I’m getting by with what I have…it’s definitely a harder life, but it’s worth it for me, by far.”
Their highlights were spending time with friends and family—or their significant others’ families. Ilkay spent the chagim mostly with her boyfriend’s family near Jerusalem while Jolles spent chagim with his girlfriend’s family in Israel and also with his sister’s family, who made aliyah several years ago.
“We had dinners in the sukkah, which I haven’t had in like 15 years,” Jolles said. “It was awesome.”
Ilkay helped build a sukkah for the first time. “And to see all the sukkahs in Jerusalem was amazing. I loved it,” she said.
Both of them reveled in the Yom Kippur atmosphere, in which the entire country shuts down and it’s illegal for Jews to drive.
“We walked on the freeway,” Ilkay said. “All the kids in the neighborhood were in the square. Everyone was out and about walking. There were no cars. It was beautiful.”
“I never experienced anything like that before,” Jolles said.
As life in Israel begins to unfold for them, they don’t look back. “Everything’s amazing,” Ilkay said. “Thank God I have a job. I’m going to school. I’m learning Hebrew. I’m keeping myself busy. Initially it was kind of upsetting trying to get my bank account and all the forms needed. When that was finished, everything was great. Now I’m just starting my life. I couldn’t be happier.”
Jolles is just as overjoyed. “There were definitely times when I have to reflect and say, wow, I made aliyah and am in Israel—what was I thinking? But at the same time I would never thinking about changing my mind or what it would be like if I hadn’t made this decision. I’m so happy to be in Israel.”
October 20, 2009 | 5:24 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
You have 11 days to enter your favorite Jewish charity to win a Jewish Choice Award 2009 from the web site GreatNonprofits.org. It’s a legit group with a great track record, and now it’s out to draw great Jewish non-profits, and the people who love and use them, to its site. here’s the scoop:
onprofits with at least 10 positive reviews (4 or 5 stars) will receive exposure to potential donors via the GreatNonprofits list of Top-Rated Jewish Nonprofits and via Guidestar, the premier site for philanthropic research on the Web. Plus, nonprofits with the most positive reviews in their regions and budget sizes will receive badges, a free project posting on JGooders.com, and additional media promotion.
Nonprofits can take this opportunity to invite stakeholders - clients, volunteers, donors and partners - to write a review. They will gain powerful, authentic stories that they can use in internal and external communications. Community members will be sharing with the public their best experiences with nonprofits. Contest deadline: October 31st
Are you a nonprofit? Scroll down to see tips for gathering reviews!
“Reviews show the real human impact of a nonprofits and raise the visibility and credibility of those organizations,” says GreatNonprofits CEO Perla Ni. “This will help highly-rated nonprofits attract more support and volunteers.”
GreatNonprofits is a nonprofit Web site where people can post reviews of nonprofit organizations, similar to Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Nonprofits with the most positive reviews in their category will be announced as winners and receive promotion on GuideStar.org. Awards will be given out of 10 categories (6 geographic US regions, 1 international, and 3 budget size – small, medium and large).
In addition, everyone who writes a review is eligible to win great prizes such as signed copies of “Business Mensch,” by Noah Alper, free Noahs’ Bagels, and a stay at Kimpton hotels.
The contest deadline is October 31. Gentlemen and ladies, start your entries…..