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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘American Jewish Committee’

An Attack On Torah And Tradition

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

In a distressing development, representatives of the North American Jewish Federation system, the American Jewish Committee, and some Israel-based anti-Torah entities are collaborating in an effort to “dethrone” the longstanding and important institution of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

The idea is misguided and dangerous, and if its supporters are successful they will have created an irreparable divide within the heart of world Jewry, negatively impacting both Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

The effort is being spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Contemporary Jewish Life, which convened a meeting in January to discuss “working in partnership toward the ending of rabbinic monopoly,” according to the AJC’s Steve Bayme.

Joining with the AJC in the effort to undermine the Chief Rabbinate are institutions and organizations such as the Reform Hebrew Union College, the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, the National Council of Jewish Women and the self-described open-Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

A leading player in opposing the Chief Rabbinate is the UJA Federation of New York, which apparently has little or no regard for the hundreds of thousands of observant Jews in the metropolitan New York area whom it purports to serve and represent.

In Israel, heading the opposition to the Chief Rabbinate is the pluralism advocacy group Hiddush. Financial support for Hiddush comes from the New Israel Fund, known for its support of left-wing causes and groups.

Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, told the Israeli daily Haaretz last month that the critical question is, “Is Israel the Jewish state for all the Jewish people?”

In the same Haaretz article, Susie Gellman, a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, said that weakening the hold of the Chief Rabbinate on Israeli life is not an internal issue for Israel alone. Her husband, Michael Gelman, co-chair of the 2013 JFNA General Assembly elaborated: “Israel is the nation state for all Jews wherever they are found.”

“Israelis won’t be under the tyranny of the [Chief] Rabbinate,” he added.

The individuals who attended the aforementioned January meeting “all agreed that the goal was to dethrone the Chief Rabbinate, but the question was how to get there,” according to minutes of the meeting obtained by Haaretz.

Those leading the attack on the Chief Rabbinate are counting on the Torah community and its leadership to be too involved in partisan differences to respond with a strong and united voice to safeguard and protect the unity of the Jewish people.

If we remain silent in the face of this brazen attempt to undermine the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, any and all recognized standards with regard to personal status and religious identity will be hopelessly diluted, resulting in an unprecedented fracturing of Jewish unity.

We of the Rabbinical Alliance of America applaud Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, who when questioned about the AJC initiative stated unequivocally that “The RCA is very happy to be excluded from the initiative because we don’t agree with it. Jewish law has certain minimal standards in order to be married and somebody has to oversee that. An institution like the Chief Rabbinate’s office is probably good to do that.”

Rabbi Dratch also noted that “Many improvements can be made to the Chief Rabbinate to be more user-friendly in order to increase respect for religious practice. Our feeling is that it requires improvement of the Chief Rabbinate, but not an overhaul.”

We call upon the leaders of the Jewish Federation of North America and the American Jewish Committee, and all of Jewish leadership, to refocus their efforts and resources on Jewish education, observance of the Torah’s commandments, and solidifying the ties of the Jewish people with Israel by supporting the sacred foundations of our people based on Torah and tradition that are at the very core of our identity and peoplehood as Jews.

Power Pushing Israel’s Bid for Security Council

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, recommitted to securing Israel a tour on the U.N. Security Council after assisting its entry to a U.N. regional group.

Israel last month became a member of the JUSCANZ regional group at U.N. headquarters in New York. JUSCANZ stands for Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, some of the 15 members of the regional group, which is a sub-group of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group at the U.N.

Israel was admitted to WEOG in New York in 2000, and in Geneva in 2013. Israel had been a member of JUSCANZ in Geneva, but until late last month not in New York.

In an address Monday to the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee, Power said she will not give up on achieving a seat on the U.N. Security Council for Israel.

Israel is vying with Germany and Belgium for a seat on the 2019-20 Security Council.

“We have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the U.N. system,” Power said.

Joining regional groups is an important example of the “continuing effort to chip away at systemic discrimination against Israel at the U.N.,” she added.

AJC Executive Director David Harris praised Power for shepherding Israel’s membership into the JUSCANZ grouping.

“JUSCANZ membership is another important step in rectifying the systemic discrimination against Israel at the U.N.,” Harris said. “Both Ambassador Power and her Canadian counterpart, Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski, were instrumental in achieving this long overdue breakthrough.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu would travel to Colombia and Mexico this spring following the announcement that Israel was granted observer status in the Pacific Alliance.

The alliance, formed in 2011 to increase economic cooperation among its member states, is composed of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The United States and France are among its observer states, which can participate in conferences and in staff work.

The decision to add Israel as an observer state was made Monday at the Pacific Alliance summit in Cartagena, Colombia.

Israel exports $864 million in goods to the Pacific Alliance countries each year, which is about 1 percent of its total exports, according to Ynet.

Liberal Jews Praise Gay Protection Law, Orthodox

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

An array of liberal Jewish groups lauded the U.S. Senate for passing a bill that would extend federal anti-discrimination protections to gays.

“Today’s bipartisan Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is an overdue and historic accomplishment in our nation’s effort to end workplace discrimination for the LGBT community,” Reform clergyman David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said Thursday.

“ENDA will extend federal workplace protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, who deserve to be judged on the merits of their work, not on whom they love,” said Saperstein, who has for years been among those leading advocacy for such a bill.

The bill was passed 64-32, with the support of all 55 senators in the Democratic caucus and nine Republicans.

Also praising its passage were the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the American Jewish Committee.

Expressing concern about the passage was Agudath Israel of America, saying its final version “fails to adequately take into account the rights of religious entities.”

Agudath Israel noted that the bill has a religious exemption, but said “it is not clear which religious entities or activities come within its parameters.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who voted in favor of the final version, had offered an amendment that would have extended protections to religiously affiliated private businesses, but proponents of the bill kept it from being included, saying the loophole could ultimately exempt virtually any business.

The Orthodox Union, another Orthodox group, did not release a statement. But when asked, its Washington director, Nathan Diament, singled out for praise Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for inserting into the bill bans on government retaliation against organizations that seek religious exemptions.

The bill now goes to the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives. Leaders there have suggested they will not bring it to a vote.

White House Asks Pro-Israel Groups to Tone Down Iran Sanctions Talk

Friday, November 1st, 2013

The U.S. government is asking pro-Israel activists to reduce their public support for more sanctions on Iran just prior to another round of discussions on the issue between Iranian and world leaders. White House officials met with Jewish organizations including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, a pro-Israel official who attended the briefing said that the Obama administration does not “want the new [sanctions] to come out now.”

Additionally, the lobby group J Street said Tuesday that “moving forward with new sanctions now could severely undermine prospects for a diplomatic solution.” The statement “could have been written by the White House itself,” a source familiar with the meeting told the Washington Free Beacon .

Democrats in Congress have also drafted a bill designed to establish a panel to “review, assess, and make recommendations” regarding the prospect of increasing sanctions on Iran.

Kerry Briefs Jewish ‘Leaders’ (Cheerleaders?) on MidEast Talks

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry met with what the Jewish Telegraph Agency described as “Jewish leaders” to “brief” them on the resumption of Israeli-Arab Palestinian talks on Thursday evening, August 8.

Although the briefing was off the record, the JTA quoted unnamed attendants who said several things.

First, that the meeting was dominated by Kerry’s “enthusiam for the resumed talks, and the serious commitment he said [sic] saw from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

And second, that Kerry “repeated his appeal to American Jews to endorse and support the peace process, first made in early June”.

Invited participants at the briefing were: leaders from the Conservative movement, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Conservative movement, the Orthodox Union, American Friends of Lubavitch, B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Clearly, for this State Department, as well as the JTA, Jewish “leaders” is synonymous with the entire spectrum from center to center left.  Where was the Zionist Organization of America? Where was the Republican Jewish Coalition? Where was Aish HaTorah? Where were any Jewish organizations that might point out the folly of the current talks, or the demand for horrifyingly painful concessions from one side just to start the talks at all, and none from the other side?

Oh, right, those present were the American Jewish CheerLeaders for this Administration and its Middle East efforts all of whom prove an airtight theory usually wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein: the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In fact, almost exactly four years ago, during Obama’s first term he had his first major sitdown with roughly the same set of Jewish “leaders.” The meeting was called at a time when American Jews who very uneasy about Obama’s interest in being supportive of Israel. At that meeting, one man actually did square his shoulders and dared to make a sideways suggestion to the president.

According to an account in the Washington Post, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein said to the president, “If you want Israel to take risks, then its leaders must know that the United States is right next to them.”

The president’s response did not give Jews or Israelis the assurance they had been seeking.  Obama said to Hoenlein, ““Look at the past eight years,” he said, referring to the George W. Bush administration’s relationship with Israel. “During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that? When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.”

In other words – being such good friends with Israel did nothing for President Bush’s ability to make progress on the peace process.  It looks like Obama’s Middle East team holds the same view the president expressed right to the faces of the American “Jewish leaders” back in 2009.   And now no one in that group is going to challenge him or his surrogates.

UN Rights Council’s Falk Blames Boston Terror on US and Tel Aviv

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Richard Falk, U.N. Human Rights Council official and the Obama administration’s unofficial pain in the neck, has written that the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings were a cheap price that the United States paid for trying to dominate the world. He also said the government’s supposed “Israel First” policy is also to blame.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not condemn or even hint criticism of Falk’s remarks, explaining through a spokesman that he is “not responsible” for Falk’s “independent views.”

Bitter criticism was fast and furious from other quarters, especially from Jewish groups, but Falk, who has described himself as a Jewish American, never has been bantered by condemnation.

This time around, after years of spitting on Israel, calling it Apartheid and often comparing it with Nazis, Falk castigated the United States and related to the casualties in Boston with a chilling and methodical reasoning of “proportionality” that is shocking coming from anyone, especially a “human rights” activist.

Writing in the Foreign Policy Journal, Falk stated, “The scale and drama of the Boston attack, while great, was not nearly as large or as symbolically resonant as the destruction of the World Trade Center and the shattering of the Pentagon. Also, although each life is sacred, … the Marathon incident has so far produced three deaths as compared to three thousand, that is, 1/1000th of 9/11.”

Of course, 9/11 may actually have been an inside job in Falk’s mind, or whatever makes him tick.

He wrote in 2004 that  the Bush administration may have been complicit in the Al Qaeda- terrorist attacks.

He implied that the U.S. government was involved, writing, “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point.”

Falk dumbfounded just about anyone who is not anti-American by explaining that the Marathon bombings were to be expected because “the American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”

He then went off the deep end altogether, explicitly stating that the United States is darned lucky the attack was not worse, because that is what America deserves.

“In some respects, the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink US relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East,: he wrote.

Falk almost never can complain about the state of the world without blaming Israel, and this time was no exception.  ”The war drums are beating at this moment in relation to both North Korea and Iran, and as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy,” according to him.

“Now at the start of his second presidential term, it seems that Obama has given up altogether, succumbing to the Beltway ethos of Israel First,” he added.

Not surprisingly, Jewish groups demanded that the Council remove Falk from his position, a request that the U.S. government has previously made to no avail.

His “latest string of inflammatory remarks – whether it be on the Internet or in one of his ‘reports’ to the council – has no place in the United Nations and his continued presence at the UNHRC further undermines the credibility of the system,” said B’nai Brith International.

The American Jewish Committee also denounced Falk.

“Here he goes again,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Given his public record, the question is why Richard Falk still occupies a UN position. Is there no shame?

“Falk’s unhinged diatribes against the U.S. and Israel are well-known….

“His malicious propaganda regarding the U.S. and Israel — and his glaring inability to see the stark truth about extremist violence and terrorism — has no place in any international body that takes itself and its mission seriously.”

Falk has a weird history of seeing terrorists and Muslim radicals through the lenses of “Human Rights.”

Pre-Israel Visit, Obama Says Middle East Peace Possibility ‘Bleak’

Friday, March 8th, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama met with more than a dozen representatives of American Jewish communities on Thursday, March 8, in advance of his trip to Israel.  That trip is expected to begin on March 20.

The meeting, which was not on the president’s public list of activities, included a range of political interest representatives, mostly from the centrist to politically left.  Although participants were not supposed to discuss the names of those present or what was discussed, enough information became available throughout the day to draw a general sense of what transpired.

The Anti-Defamation League, solidly centrist enough to be included in virtually every government gathering, was represented, along with several other typical participants such as the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz was there, as were representatives from the radical leftist Americans for Peace Now and from an organization the political life of which practically began with the Obama presidency, and which seems to be on the decline, J Street, was also represented.  Based on many reports it appears there was no one from the unflaggingly pro-Israel end of the spectrum, such as the Zionist Organization of America.

The meeting participants made suggestions of places to visit and some urged the president to take a stronger stand against Iran.  Obama’s response was reportedly that “Iran needs to be able to climb down without humiliation.”

The topics of Syria, Turkey and Iran were discussed, but several participants said that the primary focus was on the “Israeli-Palestinian peace issue.”  The two day trip will include a two hour trip to Ramallah, during which Obama is expected to meet with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Ardent supporters of Israel had been fearfully speculating over the past week that during his trip President Obama would once again make heavy demands on the Israeli government to engage in unilateral concessions.  Those fears appear to be unfounded.

All reports of the meeting reflected the sense that the U.S. president is conscious of the turmoil throughout the Middle East and the constraints that places on parties in the region.  Obama reportedly said that he has no intention of “delivering a grand peace plan” during this trip.

Perhaps the U.S. president is unwilling to repeat a major failure of his first term, when he practically demanded there be progress on the “peace process,” but, when met with the reality of the situation, had to chalk up that goal as a failed one.

It appears that what has been widely criticized might actually be good news: without an Israeli governing coalition in place, President Obama can point to that instability as the reason for disappointing those who are insistent that peace be made at all costs – even when that cost is guaranteed to mean war.

The single biggest news that came out of the White House meeting is that it appears even President Obama may have actually learned that the conflict in the Middle East has no simple answers.

Who knew that a president’s pronouncement that the possibility for Middle East peace is bleak would be such a welcome statement?

 

Schumer Cites Hagel’s Tears, but Smears Jewish Conservatives

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

As evidence continues to mount about why former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is so high on the dance card of Iranian regime supporters and so low on the dance card of most pro-Israel supporters, the politicians supporting Hagel have begun to sound desperate.

New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, may have just relocated this debate from the staid halls of congress and plopped it directly onto the high school dramatics level of bathos.

Schumer, who initially attracted attention when he publicly stated he was not sure about the Hagel nomination, then had an intimate tête á tête (multiply the last digit by many orders of magnitude) with Hagel in the White House.

It was during that bull session that the former Nebraska senator – perhaps with some assistance from others present – apparently convinced Schumer that Hagel was the right man to head the department of defense.

In the weeks since Hagel received Schumer’s hecksher, instead of soaring, Hagel’s star faltered as it grew ever more tarnished, with multiple revelations of anti-Israel and anti-American slurs.

But Hagel’s poor performance at his confirmation hearing was sufficient to convince enough congressional members to block the nomination’s movement to the full senate for a vote there.

There was concern in particular about documents that had not been turned over addressing compensation from potential worrisome sources.  In addition, some were uncomfortable with Hagel’s inability to field questions put to him during the vetting process. And then there were the questions of where the former senator stood with respect to various players in the Middle East, based on earlier comments and votes.

Now, while the senate is on a brief hiatus, revelations continue.

And just to show how low Hagel’s star has fallen, we learned that Wednesday morning, while Schumer was giving a talk to some business groups in Manhattan, he shared with them some of the details about the famous conversation he had with Hagel, the one that moved him onto the pro-Hagel for secretary of defense team.  Those details were not discussed previously, as they had been described as confidential.

What did Schumer learn? He learned that deep down, Hagel is an uber sensitive guy.  All Schumer had to do was explain why it was so hateful to Jews for Hagel to refer to them as the “Jewish lobby,” to share the pain of the double standard Jews have had to endure, and Hagel was cured!

According to Schumer, the scales fell from Hagel’s eyes.  And Hagel repented.  He felt their pain.  How do we know that?

We know that because Schumer brought his Wednesday morning audience into that intimate space with him, and told those listening what he felt.  “And he really, you know, he almost had tears in his eyes when he understood. So I believe he will be good.”

Schumer provided inaccurate information about other matters Wednesday morning.  He said that “there is not a major Jewish organization against Hagel.”

That’s not true.

The Zionist Organization of America and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) have been on record opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel since President Obama first named him as his choice for secretary of Defense.

The centrist American Jewish Committee has been at least softly opposed to Hagel’s nomination even before the nod was officially given by the president.  Back in December, the AJC’s president, David Harris said, “what message would it send to have a Pentagon chief who has very different views on strategies for dealing with Iran, the central foreign policy challenge of our time, than the White House has had to date? Or questions the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group at the same time the Administration is urging the European Union to add the group to its terrorism list?”

And the politically centrist, Democratic Party-leaning Anti-Defamation League joined the AJC in strongly questioning the nomination after information about some of Hagel’s comments, in particular that he was recorded as saying that the “U.S. State Department is an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,” at a speech at Rutgers University in 2007.

AIPAC NOT TAKE POSITIONS ON NOMINATIONS
Much has been made of the lack of opposition by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but AIPAC never takes a position on a political nomination.  The absence of one in this situation should give no comfort to Hagel supporters, or signal anything else to those who have questions and are looking to organizational leadership for direction.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/schumer-cites-hagels-tears-but-smears-conservative-jews/2013/02/21/

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