Posted by Rob Eshman
Soaring rhetoric mixed with hard truths and tough love in President Barack Obama's major address today to thousands of young Israelis in Jerusalem. Below, for the time-challenged, we've selected the 10 best, must-read passages.
1. THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS
That is why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.
Only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have. But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians – you will define the future of Israel as well.
2. A WARNING TO SYRIA'S ASSAD
The fact that Hizbollah's ally – the Assad regime – has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. And I have made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people or the transfer of these weapons to terrorists. The world is watching, and we will hold you accountable.
3. A MESSAGE TO IRAN
Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Moreover, peace is far more preferable to war, and the inevitable costs – and unintended consequences – that would come with it. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That is what America will do – with clear eyes – working with a world that is united, and with the sense of urgency that is required.
But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I have made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. As President, I have said to the world that all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
4. "YOU ARE NOT ALONE"
Today, I want to tell you – particularly the young people – that so long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd. [You are not alone.]
5. PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
But the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.
Of course, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few would have imagined a decade ago. So many Palestinians – including young people – have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.
6. PEACE IS POSSIBLE
Which leads to my third point: peace is possible. I know it doesn't seem that way. There will always be a reason to avoid risk, and there's a cost for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse to not act. And there is something exhausting about endless talks about talks; the daily controversies, and grinding status quo.
7. TIME FOR THE ARABS TO GROW UP
Arab States must adapt to a world that has changed. The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity are over. Now is the time for the Arab World to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable– that real borders will have to be drawn.
8. ON ISRAELI ACCOMPLISHMENT
Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy. Israelis understand the value of education, and have produced 10 Nobel laureates. Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors. That spirit has led to economic growth and human progress: solar power and electric cars; bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives; stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease; cell phones and computer technology that change the way we live. If people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv: home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers. And Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.
9. THE ARABS WANT TO BE LIKE YOU
One of the great ironies of what is happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for – education and entrepreneurship; the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, to connect to the global economy – those things can be found in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine of opportunity. And this is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy. I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, and a lasting peace.
10. TIKKUN OLAM
We bear that history on our shoulders, and we carry it in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel's founding generation, you – the young people of Israel – must now claim the future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the story of this great nation.
As the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend, I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who has been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience – tikkun olam [REPAIRING THE WORLD]-- I am hopeful that we can draw upon what's best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. May God bless you, and may God bless Israel and the United States of America. Toda raba. (Thank you.)
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March 21, 2013 | 9:51 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
If Daily Beast/Newsweek launched a Top Jewish Editors List, my friend Ami Eden would surely be way up there. But the editor-in-chief of JTA is just a bit off in his comments on the annual Top Rabbis List that Daily Beast puts out.
In his blog post today on that list, he refers to the March 15 Jewish Journal cover story, “Is the rabbis list legit?,” and summarizes the flaws our writer Danielle Berrin uncovered in the execution and, as many critics said, the very idea of such a list.
But Eden then offers an unwarranted and gratuitous knock against Berrin.
“All valid points,” he writes of the concerns Berrin’s sources raised. “But… I think we’re losing sight of the bigger picture — Tina Brown publishes an annual top rabbis list. How cool is that? (If Berrin had thought of it, the L.A. Jewish Journal would be doing it every year!).”
Two things: As Berrin clearly established, this is not in any convincing way “Tina Brown’s” list or Newsweek’s — it is the creation of people outside those organizations, who then planted it at Newsweek (which was taken over by Brown’s Daily Beast). Newsweek lent the list its brand and journalistic credibility, without doing any actual vetting. In other words, it saw a chance for attention and traffic without doing the actual work.
List creator Jay Sanderson, now President of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, put it this way to Berrin: “When I see ads that say, ‘Newsweek’s number whatever rabbi,’ it makes me laugh. It makes me feel like, ‘I guess I’m Newsweek,’ because Newsweek didn’t vet this list.”
As utterly exciting as the prospect may seem to Tina Brown fans (I’m more of an Arianna guy myself), I suspect her entire thought process behind posting the list was, “Sure, traffic, whatever.”
Second point, which is really the thrust of this blog post: Eden’s swipe at Danielle Berrin. “(If Berrin had thought of it, the L.A. Jewish Journal would be doing it every year!)”
I’m not sure why Am would demean a serious piece of journalism as sour grapes, but he is simply wrong on the facts.
The fact is, when Sanderson left his position as CEO of Jewish Television Network, where he created the Top Rabbis List, he offered it to the Jewish Journal. I thought about it for two seconds and said we’re not interested. As much as I like traffic and buzz, I really do believe the list ultimately demeans the rabbinate and hurts rabbis. I didn’t see a way to do it that was credible.
(As for Danielle Berrin’s ideas, she has no problem coming up with several great ones each week. )
The Forward, under another Top Jewish Editor Jane Eisner, has gotten closer with its new 36 Most Inspiring Rabbis, which it just released this week. That list is compiled from nominations by readers. The stories are well-researched and well-written, and worth your time.
Even then, “Most Inspiring?” If there’s a Jew who doesn’t believe his or her rabbi is inspiring, it’s time for another rabbi. If you don’t believe your rabbi is the number 1 for you, keep looking.
The Jewish Journal does do an annual list, but it’s not ranking rabbis. Each December we compile The Mensch List, ten unheralded people in our community who give tirelessly, creatively and often thanklessly of themselves to improve the lives of others. This year the Los Angeles City Council honored our “Mensch List” for its service to the city. We even got a cool plaque, at taxpayer expense.
If only Tina Brown had thought of that.
You can read Danielle Berrin's full investigation into the Newsweek Top Rabbis List here.
Follow Rob Eshman on Twitter @foodaism.
November 6, 2012 | 7:31 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
“I have kids who got laid off from their jobs. I have a grandchild who just graduated college who’s having a tough time finding a job, and I just hope things change for the better.”
- Muriel Perry, who cast her ballot at Sinai Temple this morning
Dennis Kahan said he voted Libertarian this morning at Sinai Temple. He voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson, and left the spaces for Senate and Assembly candidates blank.
On the ballot measures, Kahan voted against any that raised taxes or increased government intrusion into the private sphere – so thumbs down for both Prop. 30 and 38, which would raise taxes to pay for education as well as for Measure B, which would require condom use on the sets of adult films shot in the city of Los Angeles.
“Surprisingly,” Kahan added, “I voted no on Prop. 32,” the ballot measure that would restrict the ability of Unions and corporations to use monies deducted from payroll to pay for political activities.
“I don’t like unions, because they restrict the rights of individuals to work,” Kahan explained, “but I voted against the measure because I don’t want the government telling unions what they can and can’t do.”
Robert Rosenberg wouldn’t hint at who got his vote, but he did have this to say about what needed to change in the American system of elections.
“Shorter campaigns,” he said, “and one six-year term for President instead of two four-year terms.”
November 1, 2012 | 12:54 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The man who could walk away with the Jewish vote is giving his to Barack Obama.
In a column in today's Bloomberg News, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his endorsement to President Barack Obama.
Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Independent, cited the President's policies on climate change as the primary reason for his decision.
"We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption," wrote Bloomberg. "including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year."
Bloomberg pointed out that as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney supported the science of climate change and pursued policies to address it, but as a presidential candidate has backed off both positions. He writes:
Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long- lasting and enormous -- benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.
He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.
Bloomberg stacked up some other reasons for his endorsement: Obama's record on women's rights, abortion, and gay rights, as well as his Race to the Top education initiative:
Nevertheless, the president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program -- much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency -- has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law -- for all its flaws -- will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives.
When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.
One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.
One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.
When and how did the mayor make up his mind? In a long interview with Atlantic magazine this month, Bloomberg declined to endorse either candidate. In fact, he criticized Obama for failing to engage the Wall Street community, for using polarizing language and for failing to work across the aisle. He still has those criticisms:
In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.
But it seems the fury of Hurricae Sandy, whose Ground Zero has been New York and New Jersey, has reinforced in the mayor's mind the critical need to recognize and address climate change. "One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet," wrote Bloomberg, "one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.
The big question is how a Bloomberg endorsement, coming just days before the election, will influence independent voters, and Jewish ones. Bloomberg is enormously popular among Jews-- notwithstanding a smaller percentage of Orthodox Jews riled by his stand on the practice of metzizah b'peh in circumscision. In Bloomberg Jews find a leader whose politics and positions are fiscally prudent and conservative, but socially liberal. It's these same qualities that led Bloomberg to believe he didn't stand a chance in a Republican primary. When speaking to Jewish groups about politics, I always find a wide concensus that Bloomberg is the politician who they most admire.
So, question one is how will that translate into Jewish votes in crucial swing states like Ohio and Florida?
Question two is what led Bloomberg to endorse at all. He told the Atlantic that as mayor he will have to work closely with whoever wins, so why risk alienating the wrong guy? Maybe Bloomberg, a savvy investor, has decided to play his hunch.