This category assigns stories to the homepage of JewishJournal.com
Posted by Joe Winkler, JTA
Last week was the 84th birthday of Anne Frank, as well as anniversary of the first post in her diary in which she famously wrote, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
First published in 1947, “The Diary of A Young Girl,” was an immediate sensation — not only for the impressive writing, but for the stark description of life in hiding. The book has had a storied history since then, winning a Pulitzer Prize, earning worldwide accolades, and drawing royalty to performances of the stage version. Not everyone was enthused by the performance, however. In 1957, Parisian officials would not allow the play to run for fear that Germans would feel slighted by the performance. Moreover, the play became a lightning rod for anti-Semitism, attracting neo-Nazis throughout the world to disrupt performances.
Still, the book has become a staple of school curricula, though even this has sparked controversy. In the United States, the religious right found the book offensive for portraying different religions in a pluralistic manner. Some parents went so far as to pull their children from class the days the diary would be read. In 2009, Hezbollah pressured a private school in Beirut to remove snippets of the diary from its curriculum.
Perhaps most interestingly, the diary was used by prosecutors to convict the Nazi officers who deported Jews out of Holland to concentration camps.
With time, Anne Frank became a universal symbol of hope and the desire for freedom. In 1961, President Kennedy honored Anne Frank and explained that she gave the world …
… a gift that will survive her enemies…Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, few are more compelling than that of Anne Frank. Her humor, her humanity and her hope illuminate the hearts of men heavily clouded by the apparent willingness of those who seek power and domain over the soul of man to again deprive people of the right to live in peace, tolerance and freedom.
In 1994, appearing at the opening here of an exhibition about the life of Anne Frank, South African President Nelson Mandela said: ”The victory of the democratic forces in South Africa is a contribution to this worldwide effort to rid humanity of the evil of racism. It is Anne Frank’s victory. It is an achievement of humanity as a whole.”
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April 12, 2013 | 9:03 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) has rejected accusations that the organization or any member of its staff attempted to shield a known pedophile from law enforcement.
Responding to reports that first appeared on April 10 in the Sydney Morning Herald, a respected Australian newspaper, the 157-year-old L.A.-based social services agency released a statement reaffirming its commitment to following “all mandated reporting laws to the letter.”
The statement also defended its former staff member, Debbie Fox, who until October 2012 was the director of children and family services at JFS, and who also served as director of the Aleinu Family Resource Center, an arm of JFS that serves the local Orthodox community.
“At no time did Aleinu staff ever shield a suspect from local or international law enforcement in any way whatsoever, nor would they ever do so,” JFS’ statement read. “Rather, Aleinu staff follows all mandated reporting laws to the letter, working closely with local law enforcement, without exception.”
The original report in the Herald, just one of a string of stories coming out about abuse within the Australian Jewish community, is connected to the case of a single unnamed alleged Jewish child abuser from Australia who later made his home in Los Angeles. That individual is, according to the Herald, under investigation by detectives in Australia. In 2011, the man’s case was brought to Fox’s attention by an unnamed accuser, who alleged that he had been molested by this individual in Australia.
According to JFS CEO Paul Castro, the alleged victim approached Fox hoping to “find a way to get the powers that be, within the Orthodox community, to pay attention to this individual that she identified as an alleged perpetrator.”
“He didn’t give us particulars, he didn’t give us details,” Castro said of the alleged victim. “He said it was something that occurred many years ago in a different community.”
As a result, Castro said, Fox never opened a file about the case, but she did bring the matter to the attention of a council of Orthodox rabbis that consults with Aleinu on matters where legal action is not possible but where the community’s interests may require that some protective action be taken.
“From our perspective and Debbie’s,” Castro told the Journal, “it was about how to connect the person who was making the allegations and the alleged perpetrator to resources within the Orthodox community.”
Fox contacted the Journal on April 12 but said she could not speak immediately with a reporter. She agreed to be interviewed within the coming days.
Rabbi Avrohom Union, the rabbinic administrator of the Rabbinical Council of California, is a member of Aleinu’s Halachic Advisory Board. Although he could not recall the details of the case, he said he did remember Fox bringing the case to the group’s attention.
But, Union said, as a matter of course, the rabbis on the board were not consulted about whether to report cases where the law clearly required it; Fox, Aleinu staff and JFS as an agency are all mandated reporters under California law.
Rather, Union said, “The matters that were brought to us were where there was no legal remedy, and we considered what additional steps could be taken to provide protection where there was a concern for the community.”
The Herald story, which ran under the headline “Jewish welfare group knows it is sheltering a paedophile,” focused on what JFS and Fox knew and did in 2011 after the unnamed alleged victim warned Fox about the unnamed alleged abuser. The article quoted from e-mails reportedly written by Fox and “obtained from U.S. sources” that suggest Fox was protecting a known abuser.
“I have no idea how anyone found out — but calls are coming daily from many sources,” Fox reportedly wrote in an e-mail that the Herald report claimed Fox had sent to the alleged abuser. “So far, we've been protecting you.''
But according to Nancy Volpert, JFS’ director of public policy and media relations, no one from JFS was contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald either before the publication of the story or since.
“They did not attempt to reach us through any of the media channels or through our main contacts,” Volpert told the Journal on April 12.
Castro said he had spoken with Fox in the days since the Herald’s article was published. In the original article, the Herald reported that “Ms. Fox did not respond to questions,” but Castro said Fox told him that she had not been contacted by any member of the Herald staff either.
Reached by phone in Melbourne, Richard Baker, one of the reporters who wrote the original story for the Herald, told the Journal on Friday that he had sent two emails to Fox's email address at JFS and received no response.
As of Friday morning, Fox was still listed as an active member of the JFS staff; by the afternoon her name and email adddress had been removed from the page.
Asked if JFS had looked at any of Fox’s e-mails dealing with the matter, Castro said that he had not, and was placing trust in Fox’s assertions.
“At this point, we have not done that,” Castro said. “Debbie is a long-standing employee with a tremendous reputation for ethics.”
For more on this developing story, visit jewishjournal.com.
December 3, 2012 | 9:27 am
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson vowed to spend as much as $100 million to defeat President Barack Obama and help the GOP take control of Congress. According to two GOP fundraisers with close ties to the Las Vegas billionaire, he made good on that promise -- and then some. Adelson ultimately upped the ante, spending closer to a previously unreported $150 million, the fundraisers said.
Adelson, a fierce critic of Obama’s foreign and domestic policies, has said that his humongous spending was spurred chiefly by his fear that a second Obama term would bring "vilification of people that were against him." As that second term begins, Adelson's international casino empire faces a rough road, with two federal criminal investigations into his business.
Read more at HuffingtonPost.com.
November 6, 2012 | 12:17 pm
Posted by Jay Firestone
Jeff Hensiek and Adam Wills contributed to the post.
1) Star Wars, Episode VII:
Han Solo casts the ceremonial first ballot in the first free elections since the fall of the Empire.
2) Harry Potter
Voting by Owl accounts for most accurate election results in history of the magical world.
3 ) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Oompa Lumpas rally to oppose Prop. 32 which they believe may weaken labor union campaign contributions.
4) Being John Malkovich
Voter I.D. laws cause massive confusion inside the latest Malkovich vessel.
5) Back to the Future
Mayor Goldie Wilson campaigns for reelection in downtown Hill Valley. Proposition to fund clock tower restoration falls short of the necessary votes.
6) Chronicles of Narnia
Long lines extend far beyond household wardrobes.
7) Lord of the Rings
Middle Earth voters carefully cast their ballots into the Crack of Doom at the highly active, volcanic Mount Doom in Mordor. Everybody gets a free sticker.
Widespread election fatigue across Pandora appears to have been caused by an overwhelmingly high number of campaign contributions and advertisements from rival Super PACs: "Citizens for Unobtainium" and "Navi for Eywa."
9) The Matrix
Cautious voters succumb to Machine voting. Absentee voters choose either Red or Blue pill.
10) The Wizard of Oz
Munchkinland sees moderate election turnout as Mayor of Munchkin City in the County of Oz faces massive smear campaign for “glorifying the name” of an illegal alien. Exit polls looking good for the incumbent coroner; pundits calling it the "Witch Bump."
Bonus: Video Game - Super Mario World
Mario/Luigi ticket tops polls and has star support from Princess of Mushroom Kingdom. Pundits suggest he may squash opponents, but faces backlash from PETA protesters. Opponents say he has received questionable campaign contributions, both from anonymous sources and grass roots efforts. Favors: Public transportation via pipes, whistles. Opposes: Slow moving terrorists.
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.
September 26, 2012 | 8:47 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Yom Kippur afternoon at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 5773, offered a mix of politics, power and menchlichkeit. The Reform synagogue invited the governor of California for an afternoon chat before the congregation on the holiest day of the year. It was a way to pass the long hours of the latter part of a thoughtful day, offering a merging of information and progressive politics, as well as a chance for Gov. Jerry Brown to put in multiple plugs for his Prop. 30 ballot initiative that hopes to raise taxes to fund schools and balance the state’s foundering budget.
Beginning his remarks with a history lesson on the adventurous spirit of California’s founding and of the story of the Gold Rush, Brown’s erudition ended with a quotation from the poet Robert Frost. Along the way he talked of his four years of study to become a Jesuit priest, and of the difference between valuing repentance – the theme of the day – and politics, an arena in which, he said “There is no particular reward for acknowledging sin of any kind, because it will be replayed endlessly.”
Brown said California’s early spirit is “still with us,” citing the oil, movie, alternative energy and technology industries that have since come to define the state. Calling it a place of “creativity and invention,” he remarked that California is also a place that “creates some fear and some antipathy around the country.”
His words of optimism were marked by a decided advocacy for Prop. 30, which includes a 1/4-cent increase in the sales tax, and an income tax increase for high earners. Prop 30, he said, “solves a huge problem,” raising money for schools, which, he said, will face huge cuts if it does not pass in November.
Brown nudged the Beverly Hills crowd to help get the measure passed, evidence of why he’d come. It “will take a little money – hopefully from some of the people in this room. Not too much, but,” he said to great applause, “it feels better to give.”
The governor was introduced by Rabbi Laura Geller, and then by movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg – a longtime congregant. Katzenberg told the standing-room-only sanctuary the Jewish value of tikkun olam on this day was being applied to “tikkun California –how we make California a better place.”
The governor’s approximately half hour speech was followed by a conversation conducted by Geller and Rabbi Jonathan Aaron, posing questions collected from congregants prior to the event.
Asked by Aaron to distinguish Prop. 30 from Prop. 38, a second tax hike measure facing voters on the same ballot in November, Brown made clear that “the problem is, the state’s general fund has a hole, and Prop. 30 plugs it, and Prop. 38 does not.” The former gives money to the general fund to be directed to schools, including public schools and universities, but also allows for funding public health programs, as well as safety, welfare and prisons. Prop. 38 would fund public schools directly, including preschools through high school, but would leave higher-education institutions, among other programs, potentially facing large cuts.
Under California law, even if both measures are approved, only one could take effect, because they are in conflict.
Geller also asked about the “Divest from Iran Act” sponsored by Assembly members Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) that Brown signed into law this week.
“I wanted California to send a message of disapproval to Iran. It’s the least I could do,” the governor told the crowd in another applause line. He spoke on the same day that Iranian President Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations, saying (through a translator): “The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil.”
In closing, Geller posed one last question, which she said was meant as a surprise. She asked the governor, a former seminarian, to compare his current job to that of a congregational rabbi.
“It is more difficult to pastor a congregation than to shepherd a state,” the two-time governor responded spontaneously with a smile. “You have to see them in person.”
Then, he added, “it’s also more rewarding.” His final words were to quote Robert Frost. “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its own melting’” and, the governor said, paraphrasing the late poet, it “ends in surprise.”
September 13, 2012 | 7:13 pm
Steven Klein, consultant to the film, "Innocence of Muslims" spoke to Reuters about his involvement with the director, "Sam Bacile" and tragedy resulting in the Middle East.
September 12, 2012 | 8:38 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Here are the Top 5 Reasons I instantly knew that the incendiary YouTube movie “The Innocence of Muslims” wasn’t produced by a Jew.
1) It was terrible. No “Jewish Israeli film producer” would ever destroy his or her reputation putting out such garbage, no matter what his or her political beliefs.
2) Associated Press initially quoted the filmmaker as saying he raised $5 million dollars from to make the film. The movie looks like it was shot for $29.95, with actors who were clearly working for snacks, and not even worth that.
3) The filmmakers said he raised the $5 million from “100 Israeli Jews.” Please. It’s close to impossible to raise that kind of money in a short time from anyone—and certainly not from sophisticated people who’d want to see what they're getting for their money.
4) The filmmaker said his name was “Sam Bacile.” No Israeli or Jew our reporters Danielle Berrin and Jonah Lowenfeld interviewed had ever heard of him. Only someone who doesn’t know the Jewish community, who thinks of it as a mythic collection of rich, filmmaking, real-estate selling non-beings called, “Jews,” would think anyone could operate in this community without making a hundred connections, going to a thousand parties and banquets, getting on dozens of lists, making friends and enemies and developing a <reputation. Anybody who thinks 100 Israeli Jews would give $5 million to a stranger never heard the Hebrew word frier-- sucker.
5) The film mocked the theology of Islam—which Jews don’t care about. The Jews who are actively anti-Muslim—and there are a hardcore handful-- focus their criticism on what they see as the Koranic roots of Islamic intolerance and violence. They don’t care about the truthfulness of the Koran’s stories—they just assume all religious stories are, to put it mildly, a stretch. They don’t care what stories Muslims tell themselves—I mean, who are we to make fun of telling stories-- they just want it to leave non-believers in peace.
[BONUS REASON #6]: The film mocked Mohammed as a homosexual. That set off all my kooky right-wing Christian alarm bells. Jews consistently show the highest levels of approval for gay rights. In the most recent Public Religion Research Institute poll last April, 81 percent of Jews supported gay marriage. Could you find 100 Jews to support a film full of anti-homosexual scenes? In Hollywood? Please.]
It turns out I was right. Late this afternoon, AP sleuthed out the real “filmmaker,” a 55 year-old Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
I don’t blame Nakoula for the riots and murder of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Islamic extremists did that—and these are people who committed a far greater atrocity on September 11 without a single bad video to spur them on.
But I do accuse him for trying to hide behind “the Jews.” Nakoula engaged in a pathetic sort of blood libel, blaming Jews for a video that led to the deaths of innocents.
Some people have asserted it doesn't matter who made the video, what matters is the world condemn the violent extremists who used it as the latest excuse to rampage and terrorize.
But claiming Jews made it only ensures extra outrage, and further endangers innocent people-- people who would have nothing to do with garbage of this sort. With friends like Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who needs enemies?