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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘American Jews’

MK Danon Goes to US Jews to Make Case against Freeing Terrorists

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, and increasingly popular Likud Knesset Member, went to the American Jewish audience Tuesday to repeat his threat that he will resign his post if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushes through a vote to free more Palestinian Authority terrorists, including Arabs who are car-carrying Israeli citizens.

Danon is in a win-win situation. If it happens, Danon will have pulled out the rug from under Netanyahu because a growing number of Israelis and Americans are sick and tired of Israel’s freeing terrorists for no reason other than to pacify U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestinian Authority. If it doesn’t happen, Danon will have scored points by taking a stand long before Netanyahu has showed his cards. The Likud’s old guard doesn’t like Danon for one reason – they are afraid he is getting too popular, but they would be smarter if they understood why.

He wrote the following article that JTA featured on Tuesday as an op-ed:

It is no secret that when Israel’s government announced this past September that we would be returning to the table to negotiate with the Palestinians, I was not optimistic about the prospects of this latest round of talks.
I knew that as much as we desire peace and normalcy for this region, our Palestinian counterparts have never tired in making demands without any corresponding willingness to offer concessions and prove themselves as real negotiating partners. While many Israelis viewed these talks as a harmless diversion to placate some of our allies abroad, I warned my colleagues of the dire implications these talks would have on our security.
Though I was extremely concerned that our government might concede strategically important territory or relinquish parts of our historic homeland, what angered me most was the Palestinian demand as a precursor to even coming to the table that we release more than a hundred of their prisoners — men and women with blood on their hands. In essence, the demand was that we set murderers free for the privilege of negotiating peace.
Last week, I made the difficult but necessary decision that if the final round of the prisoner release goes ahead as planned on March 29, I will resign my position as Israel’s deputy defense minister.
It was not a simple matter for me to vocalize my opposition to these prisoner releases when they were first agreed to. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon fully endorsed the release, claiming that it would enhance our geopolitical standing.
While I respect my government colleagues, I could not remain silent amid the calls of mothers and fathers of victims of terror who were horrified by the notion of their loved ones’ killers being set free. I also knew that the release of convicted murders to the Palestinian cities and villages of Judea and Samaria would only encourage terrorists to increase their attacks on innocent Israelis.
Despite my strong protests last fall, the Cabinet voted to support the prime minister’s initiative. The murderers’ prison doors swung open while Israelis looked on in disgust at this injustice.
Flash forward nine months.
Despite our constant desire to find a peaceful solution, it is now apparent to everyone that these negotiations have failed. As much as our American friends wanted to make the impossible possible, the Palestinian leadership predictably held true to its demands for full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines while maintaining its historic refusal to recognize our legitimate right to exist as a Jewish state in our ancient homeland.
If this were simply a matter of watching with proven skepticism as this charade of diplomacy was allowed to unravel, I too would likely have been ambivalent, but I wouldn’t necessarily have been angry. The ultimate disgrace, though, was that after a complete and utter failure, where the two sides are clearly no closer to the resolution of the conflict than we were a year ago, we are again being asked to release Palestinian prisoners.
This is a farce that I am not willing to accept.
I have done my utmost to serve in my role as deputy defense minister with pride and distinction, and I had looked forward to continuing to do so for the duration of the current government. At the same time, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot, and will not, represent a government that ignores the will of its people and kowtows to international opinion even when we know that doing so is harmful to our interests. If it comes to it, I will respectfully inform the prime minister of my resignation at the very moment that first prison door is unlocked, continuing to serve my nation instead as a dedicated member of Knesset.
The prime minister and the relevant parties still have the time and opportunity to recognize the danger of this planned release, and I hope that they will make the necessary decision to protect our national interest.
But if they do not, I will not stand idly by as the State of Israel further denigrates itself and harms the security of its people.

Government Says Aliyah Stats from US Better than Previously Stated

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Official statistics on aliyah to Israel from the United States have been corrected to show that there was only a tiny change for the worse in the past year from the number of new immigrants in 2012.

The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency issued a report in late December that aliyah from the United States and Canada was 11 percent less than in the previous year. Figures for the United States include new immigrants from Mexico as well as Canada.

“Empirical data actually shows that the aliyah figures from North America in 2013 remained almost the same as 2012,” according to an official statement.

There were 3,504 immigrants to Israel from North America in 2013, 53 less than in 2012.

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

MK Who Excluded Reform Jews from Judaism Was ‘Misunderstood’

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Reform Jews really are not another religion after all, says Likuid-Beiteinu Knesset Member David Rotem, who claimed on Thursday that his reported remark to the contrary was “misunderstood.

There is no video available to see and hear what MK Rotem, an Orthodox Jew, really said at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that he heads.

He was quoted on Wednesday as having stated, ““The Reform movement is not Jewish … they are another religion,” during a discussion on a bill concerning adoption.

Such comments are par for the course in Israel, where the remark was duly noted as another moment of entertainment for the Israel public between soccer games. The Reform Movement in Israel, of course, was furious, but most secular Israelis have too much respect for Jewish tradition than to consider the Reform idea anything more than a curiosity, if not one of those strange concoctions that could succeed only in the United States and , lest we forget, pre-Nazi Germany.

“I have never said belonging to the Reform Movement makes anyone less Jewish,” Rotem wrote on Facebook Thursday. “While as an Orthodox Jew, I have theological differences with the Reform Movement’s perspective, I maintain the greatest respect for all Jews, regardless of their denomination and background. I apologize for any misunderstanding and all offense generated by the content of my comments yesterday.”

His quick apology was smart, much smarter than his faux pas. Many if not most  Reform Jews indeed are Jews by any definition of the term. But a disturbing number of Reform Jews are far from Jewish under Jewish law, and some of them are even “rabbis.”

The whole question of whether a Reform Jew, or any other person, is  a Jew or not brings into focus the entire problem with the reform Movement, parts of whose theology often appear to be not a stream of Judaism but a stream apart from Judaism.

Like the Biblical Korach, it has decided that their leaders whom they call rabbis can decide just as well as Orthodox Jews who is a Jew and what is Jewish law. It is somewhat like a natural health therapist calling himself a doctor. Why study medicine for six years, and why study Torah for many more years,” when you can take a shortcut through McDonald’s, eat a cheeseburger on the way to Yom Kippur prayers, and call the congregants Jewish because they like being called that?

Regardless of the theological problems with Reform Judaism, Rotem made a big mistake by saying that fellow Jews belong to another religion just because they are Reform.

“I hope that this clarification can generate the necessary debate on how to further unify the Jewish People, both in Israel and the Diaspora, around our shared vital interests and concerns, rather than limiting it to the differences that exist among us,” Rotem added on Facebook.

Israeli politicians like Rotem who are Israeli from top to bottom have no knowledge of the Diaspora. They don’t realize that Jews outside the country, especially in the United States, may be armchair Zionists  if not armchair Jews, but that doesn’t mean they should be shunned as “non-Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called Rotem’s comments, although he later said they were misunderstood, “inappropriate, offensive and unjustified.”

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, wrote MK Rotem, “We are deeply disturbed by reports of comments attributed to you about the Reform movement ‘not being Jewish.’ Such views are inappropriate, offensive and unjustified. The suggestion that Jews throughout the world who identify with the Reform movement are somehow not a part of the Jewish people is an unacceptable characterization of a proud, highly engaged and committed group of Jews.

“Among many U.S. non-Orthodox Jews, rejectionist rhetoric of this kind fosters divisiveness and feelings of alienation towards elements of Israeli society. As someone who has long been engaged in the issue of Jewish identify, we are surprised and saddened that you expressed these views. For the sake of Jewish unity and in the spirit of the pluralistic ideals of our beloved Israel, we call on you to retract your comments and issue a quick and unequivocal apology for your statements.”

Rotem has apologized, and whether he actually said what was reported makes no difference. The damage was done on two fronts.

He wrongly wrote tens of thousands of Jews out of the pale and he also missed an opportunity to characterize the Reform Movement as one whose roots in the United States are strongly pro-American and blatantly anti-Zionist and which claims an increasingly larger following by redefining the term “Jew.”

Aliyah from the US Down13 Percent in 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Only 2,680 Jews moved to Israel from the United States this past year, an 11 percent decrease from the 3.070 who “made aliyah” in 2012, according to information provided by the Jewish Agency and Ministry for Absorption and immigration.

The number of new olim from Canada was virtually unchanged, with 321 moving to Israeli in 2013, two more than in 2012.

The decline of American olim continues the reversal of an upwards trend in Aliyah that peaked in 2008 and raises questions about the future of American Zionism, if it is defined as packing up and leaving “home” to go home. In 2008, 3,300 Jews moved from the United States and Canada to Israel. The number declined slightly to 3,260 in 2009 and then dropped sharply the following two years to 2,801 and 2,575.

No figures were supplied concerning the breakdown of affiliation, but Jews who identify with Orthodoxy have consistently been the largest group, usually between half and two-thirds of new olim.

Aliyah from other countries this past year generally increased, with the most dramatic rise in France, with the arrival of 3,120 immigrants this year, compared to 1,916 in 2012.

The biggest decrease was registered in Ethiopia, which was expected because of the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings

“Every immigrant who arrives in order to make his or her home in Israel fills me with joy and I hope Aliyah continues to increase, “said Immigration Minister Sofa Minister Landver.

Chairman Sharansky: “That 19,200 Jews have chosen to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s

According to an analysis of the data, Israel experience programs for French Jewish youth and Aliyah encouragement efforts

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky stated, “Israel is the beating heart of the Jewish people. That 19,200 Jews have chosen to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s centrality to Jewish life and to Jews around the world. This is an era of Aliyah by choice, rather than Aliyah of rescue.”

Given the assimilation rate of approximately 70 percent in the United States, that statement could easily be argued.

Where to Find Leadership

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

In his Sept. 27 Jewish Press front-page essay, Dr. Marvin Schick (“Best of Times, Worst of Times”) decried an apparent lack of leadership in our community, in particular the ability of our community to advocate on matters related to gay marriage and tuition.

While it is true that today’s activists cannot match the talent and results of the late Rabbi Moshe Sherer and there is no living posek in America today who can match the near-universal respect commanded by Rav Moshe Feinstein, my generation should not be dismissed as a silent one fighting for lost causes.

When it comes to private school tuition, the constitution limits the government’s ability to assist our yeshivot; any attempt to expand funding beyond current proposals such as tax breaks and mandated services reimbursements would likely be defeated in court.

A more detailed list of proposals was outlined by New York State OU Political Affairs Director Jeff Leb in a March 22 Jewish Press op-ed titled “The Most Important Jewish-School Funding You’ve Never Heard Of.” Until these proposals are implemented, we should recognize that the solution for tuition affordability lies primarily within our community, not with the government.

On certain public policy issues, Orthodox opinion stands in sharp contrast to the views of most American Jews. If gains in same-sex marriage and transgender legislation cannot be reversed, how do we interact with a public whose views increasingly contradict ours? Is it still possible to work with public officials who are openly gay if we agree on other policy subjects?

Instead of attacking practitioners of other lifestyles, our time would be better spent defending our right to practice shechitah, brit milah and religious accommodation in the workplace.

Now let’s turn to the askanim who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “act as if candidates for major office are our best friends.” With the growth of the Orthodox community in New York, any candidate seeking to win citywide elected office has a frum staffer by his or her side.

Assuming your goal is to advocate for the community through the political process, there are two ways to do this as an individual. If you are independently wealthy, you open up your wallet and donate. If you’re an idealistic recent graduate with an interest in advocacy, how do you get a candidate’s ear? By putting in your time, at very little pay, setting up meetings for the candidate with rabbis and lay leaders, collecting signatures, and educating the candidate about topics that matter to the community.

At age 18, Manny Behar was a freshman at Yeshiva University with an eye toward politics. His first campaign was Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s failed 1972 presidential bid. Jackson symbolized the ideological center of his party, situated between racist southerner George Wallace and liberal George McGovern.

Although Rabbi Behar’s first race was a loss, he subsequently worked for City Comptroller Liz Holtzman, Queens Borough President Claire Schulman, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and State Assemblyman Rory Lancman. As executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, Behar advocated fiercely for the community.

In partnership with elected officials, Behar tackled companies adhering to the Arab boycott of Israel, assisted shuls and yeshivas with zoning permits, provided job and housing assistance to Soviet Jewish immigrants and much more. He never rose to the national stature of an Abe Foxman or a Malcolm Hoenlein, but I would like to think he is making a difference on the local level. Having grown up in Queens and attended shul with him, I consider Manny Behar my political mentor.

Considering the preponderance of chassidic rebbes who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “scarcely have a following,” anyone can wear a bekishe and shtreimel, pronounce takanos nobody will observe and claim yichus. True chassidic leadership rests on having a real following, connecting with the larger Jewish world, and leaving an impact on the growing body of halachic and cultural thought.

To be a gadol one’s last name doesn’t have to be Feinstein, Kamenetsky, Kotler or Soloveitchik. The younger generations of rabbis in those illustrious families certainly qualify for gadlus because they were raised in households with a deep appreciation for Torah, but I would like to believe that, im yirtzeh Hashem, my children will have the same opportunities for religious leadership as members of these families.

Not Enough Joy and Meaning

Monday, October 7th, 2013

The recent NY Times article on the newly released PEW findings on Jewish continuity paints a bleak future for American Jewry. The study, among other findings, reported that nearly six in ten Jewish respondents (58%) who have gotten married since 2000, have married a non-Jewish spouse. The study also showed that only 20 percent of those who have intermarried are raising their children Jewish by religion.

There are, I’m sure, many reasons for this worsening situation including a serious lack of Jewish education for most American Jews, a more than ever distracting world in which living any kind of religious life becomes more challenging, and many other contributing factors. However I believe there is another cause, which I have seen in my 20 years of outreach to the young and less affiliated: the sheer lack of joy or meaning that so many young Jews associate with Judaism.

More often than not, the perception young people have of Judaism is of a faith filled with rules and restrictions which offers little or no joy or meaning in return.

But why should young Jews be left with any other impression? When Yom Kippur continues to be the most celebrated Jewish experience in synagogue what else should we expect? How many American Jews are present for the somber Yom Kippur service, complete with fasting and chest-pounding/forgiveness asking but are no-where to be found the next week when joyous singing and dancing in honor of Simchat Torah takes place? That balance of reverence and joy is vital to keep our interest and it is so authentically Jewish. In the Temple of old, the Beit Hamikdash, the feeling on Yom Kippur was one of awe and even trepidation as the High Priest performed the service to secure atonement for all of Israel, but the next week that same Temple was filled with a sense of joy and exuberance during the Simchat Beit Hoshava (water drawing ceremony) on which which the Talmud tells us: “Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen true joy.”

Like most synagogues, MJE has always drawn larger numbers for its Yom Kippur services than for Simchat Torah. This year however, for the very first time, we had approximately the same number of participants for both holidays. It took us 15 years but we did it. The same number of previously less affiliated 20′s/30′s who were willing to fast and pray with us on Yom Kippur returned to sing and dance with us on Simchat Torah.

Young Jews desperately need to experience both the serious and lighter sides of Judaism. We can no longer allow our beloved faith to be marketed as a religion of guilt and restriction without even trying to present it for what it truly is: a path which can ultimately bring joy and meaning to contemporary life. And we must learn to properly articulate how the limitations Judaism does place on our lives are important in helping to create that more joyous and meaningful existence.

The goal of our synagogues and Jewish institutions today must be to demonstrate this balance of reverence and joy; fealty to tradition with personnel meaning and relevance. Jewish educators need to be better trained to invest more explanation and inspiration into our prayer services and provide greater depth and insight as to how living a life of Torah can actually improve our lives and make us happier and more fulfilled people.

Otherwise, for most American Jews, why bother?

Majority of American Jews are Intermarried

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

NEW YORK (JTA) — First the good news: There are a lot more Jews in America than you may have thought — an estimated 6.8 million, according to a new study.

Now the bad news: A growing proportion of American Jews are unlikely to raise their children Jewish or connect with Jewish institutions. The proportion of Jews who say they have no religion and are Jewish only on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture is growing rapidly, and two-thirds of them are not raising their children Jewish at all.

Overall, the intermarriage rate is at 58 percent, up from 43 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 1970.

The data on Jewish engagement come from the Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, a telephone survey of 3,475 Jews nationwide conducted between February and June and released on Tuesday.

The population estimate, released Monday, comes from a synthesis of existing survey data conducted by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

While the estimate is likely to be a matter of some debate by demographers and social scientists, it is the Pew study that offers an in-depth portrait that may influence Jewish policymaking for years to come.

Among the more notable findings of the Pew survey:

* Thirty-two percent of Jews born after 1980 — the so-called millennial generation — identify as Jews of no religion, compared to 19 percent of baby boomers and just 7 percent of Jews born before 1927. Overall, 22 percent of U.S. Jews describe themselves as having no religion, meaning they are much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.

* The emotional attachment to Israel has held steady over the last decade, with 69 percent of respondents saying they feel attached or very attached to Israel. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had been to Israel.

* Far more respondents said having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity than observing Jewish law — 42 percent compared to 19 percent.

* Approximately one-quarter of Jews said religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56 percent among Americans generally.

Among Jewish denominations, the Reform movement remains the largest with 35 percent of respondents identifying as Reform. The second-largest group is Jews of no denomination (30 percent), followed by Conservative (18 percent) and Orthodox (10 percent).

As with other studies, the Pew study found that the Orthodox share of the American Jewish population is likely to grow because Orthodox Jews tend to be younger and have larger families than Jews generally.

In addition, while past surveys showed about half of respondents raised as Orthodox were no longer Orthodox, the Orthodox retention rate appears to be improving, with just a 17 percent falloff among 18- to 29-year-olds.

Most denominational switching among American Jews, however, remains in the direction of less traditional Judaism.

In the Pew survey, 90 percent of those who identified as Jews by religion and are raising children said they are raising them Jewish. By comparison, less than one-third of those who identified themselves as Jews of no religion are raising their kids as Jewish.

Among inmarried Jews, 96 percent are raising their children as Jews by religion (as opposed to ethnicity), compared to 45 percent among intermarried Jews.

On Jewish observance, some 70 percent of respondents to the Pew survey said they participated in a Passover seder in 2012 and 53 percent said they fasted for all or part of Yom Kippur that year. The numbers represent declines from the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey conducted by the Jewish Federations of North America, which found seder participation rates at 78 percent and Yom Kippur fasting at 60 percent.

While most of those surveyed by Pew said they felt a strong connection to Israel, and 23 percent reported having visited the Jewish state more than once, the respondents expressed significant reservations about the current Israeli government’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

Forty-four percent said West Bank settlement construction hurts Israel’s security interests, and only 17 percent said continued settlement construction is helpful to Israeli security. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said the Israeli government is making a sincere peace effort with the Palestinians.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/majority-of-american-jews-are-intermarried/2013/10/01/

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