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This week in power: New congress, Jerusalem fight, Chanukah message, Punk Jews

by Danny Groner

December 13, 2012 | 2:45 am

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Familiar faces leaving
"The Jewish religion is the third most represented denomination in Congress, trailing behind the Protestants and the Catholics, but since 2008, the numbers of Jews serving have been declining," according to reports. At 7 percent of Congress as a whole and 12 percent of the Senate, it's a sizable percentage compared to the overall population of Jews in America. ""The generation that’s leaving -- and there are ones who are leaving, like Howard [Berman] and Gary [Ackerman] -- these are guys who grew up in the formative years of Israel and understand what the struggle was,” one pundit told JTA. “They are being replaced by a post-1967 generation who know not a threatened Israel, a vulnerable Israel -- who know a muscular Israel." One representative many will surely miss is Barney Frank, who is retiring.

Barkat's memo
Mayor Nir Barkat took to the Wall Street Journal with an op-ed this week that stated: "Jerusalem has been and forever will be the heart and soul of the Jewish people. It is also the united and undivided capital of the state of Israel. The Jewish people and the Jewish state have a bumpy road ahead. We appreciate the support of our friends, and only through continued bold leadership at home—leadership willing to stand up to pressure from foreign capitals—will we get through this challenging time." It came after weeks of criticism of Israel over how it was handling settlements in East Jerusalem. Their plan "threatens to box Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, which they hope to make their capital, into a sealed-off enclave, impeding connections to the rest of the fledgling state of Palestine and bisecting the northern and southern halves," said an Economist editorial. Stay tuned.

Rabbis' message
Three rabbis from the prominent synagogue Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, New York, sent an e-mail to their members recently in support of "the recent vote by the United Nations to upgrade the status of Palestinians living on the West Bank to a 'non-member observer state." Once word got out, some wondered whether rabbis should be taken such a strong outward stance on this heated issue. "My rabbinic colleagues across our nation share diverse positions on the Arab-Israeli struggle.  I respect this diversity because we are nearly all unified by our profound devotion to the Jewish state, the Israel Defense Force, and all of its citizens," said Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff in the Jewish Journal. "I would need to search far and wide to find colleagues more devoted to Israel  -- in word and deed – than the rabbis of B’nai Jeshurun.  I pray that the discussion which their email provoked will lead to honest, effective conversation about how we can all become more engaged in the pursuit of a two-state solution built on justice and peace."

What we light for
Chanukah is upon us, so what are hoping for this season? "If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deeper meaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide," said Hilary Leila Krieger in a New York Times editorial. "The brutality of the region has leached into Israel and is reflected in the ongoing disaster of the occupation. Israel ought to fix it, now. That, to me, is the true meaning of Hanukkah," wrote Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. "Too often, the holidays have become commercialized and the season can feel pressured with shopping and rushing and planning. Taking a step back can offer the opportunity to connect with the wisdom of tradition and to rekindle the spirit of today and the hope of tomorrow," said some Huffington Post bloggers.

What punks
A new documentary called "Punk Jews" is drawing some attention for its portrayal of the rougher and more unconventional members of the tribe. "My own quest has led me to a subset of devout Jewish men and women who struggle to reconcile their faith in a demanding God with their heretical embrace of creative freedom. For the Bulletproof Stockings, this marriage of faith and creativity results in them observing the rabbinical rule of kol isha, which forbids men from hearing women sing. They do not, however, attempt to restrict the larger audience that hears their music—and their work is readily made available to anyone as MP3s and in YouTube videos," said Kelsey Osgood in his New Yorker article about the filmmakers. Some have taken an inspiring message from the film. "The temple in Jerusalem had been defiled by Hellenists, who tried, as many have before and after them, to eliminate the Jewish people through dominance and assimilation. The rededication of the temple was a punk act; we were fighting for our homes, our lifestyle and our beliefs," said Saul Sudin at The Huffington Post.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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