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Posts Tagged ‘Birthright Israel’

Kagame, Weisel, Adelson, Steinhardt and Boteach in Panel on Genocide

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

In the wake of the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria, the fear of genocide has once again been cast on a world stage. This World: The Jewish Values Network will present an historic panel, “Genocide: Do the Strong Have a Responsibility to Protect the Weak?” on Sunday, Sept. 29th  at the Great Hall at Cooper Union. The panel will discuss the upcoming 20th Anniversary of Rwandan Genocide and the international focus on preventing genocide in Syria and other nations.

Panelists include: President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, widely credited for putting an end to the genocide in his own country; Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who through his writing and lecturing is the world’s leading authority on the Holocaust and world genocide; Philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, the world leader in funding holocaust memory, and Michael Steinhardt, co-founder of Birthright Israel, the world’s most successful Jewish educational project. The discussion will be moderated by “America’s Rabbi,” Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain of New York University and Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at the school, will provide opening remarks.

The event will be held at The Great Hall at Cooper Union, The Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, New York. Program begins at 6:30 p.m..

“This panel discussion brings together two of the most famous names in the world related to genocide in the 20th century—President Kagame, who stopped the world’s fastest ever genocide, and Elie Weisel, the living embodiment of the memory of the six million martyrs of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Boteach. “I travelled to Rwanda twice, just recently again with my family, and shared with President Kagame my strong belief in his joining Prof. Wiesel in a public forum to motivate the world’s nations to prevent genocide. It is our hope that the world can learn from both these men in order to prevent the future mass slaughter of innocents..”

Rabbi Sarna highlighted the moral implications this discussion promises to highlight for the emerging adults and students.

“This event presents a rare opportunity to bring together people who not only have been witness to moral failing, but who have played important roles in bringing healing. University students in particular are hungry for bold voices which address 21st century realities,” Rabbi Sarna said.

This World: The Values Network seeks to bring universal Jewish values to the mainstream culture via the mass media. This World was founded by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Boteach is the international bestselling author of 29 books, including “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” In November he will publish “Kosher Lust” based on the Bibilcal book of “Song of Solomon.” The Washington Post and Newsweek call him “the most famous rabbi in America.” The Jerusalem Post counts him as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.

Adelson: From Caricature to Life

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

In the interests of full disclosure, let me first offer that Sheldon Adelson and members of his family donated to my campaign for Congress when I ran last year (yes, I know I lost. But ‘Shmuley for President 2016’ is just three years away). Furthermore, as was widely reported, he and his wife Miriam donated to an independent Super Pac that backed my candidacy.

In addition, on June 4th in Times Square the organization of which I am Executive Director, This World: The Values Network, together with Rambam hospital in Haifa — one of the Middle East’s largest and most respected medical campuses — will be hosting an International Champions of Jewish Values Awards Gala. The honorees are some of the world’s most distinguished individuals, with Nobel Laureate (and my personal hero and mentor) Prof. Elie Wiesel being given the “Champion of Jewish Spirit” award, and my friend Dr. Mehmet Oz, the world’s most famous physician, being recognized as “Champion of Human life.” The award for “Champions of Jewish Identity” will go to Sheldon and Miriam Adelson who are being recognized for their vast contributions to Jewish identity worldwide.
Having offered that disclosure, I was happy to see that, as part of Adelson’s recent testimony in a breach of contract lawsuit filed by a former consultant, people were finally able to see the human being that lies behind the caricature.

 On the witness stand, Adelson was humorous, engaging, relaxed, endearing, and utterly himself.  “Even successful companies and wealthy people are entitled to justice,” he said, referring to his reasoning behind taking the stand in his own defense.  His testimony included affable one-liners that could have easily been mistaken for a late night talk show’s opening monologue.  “I came from the other side of the tracks,” he quipped.  “In fact, I came from so far on the other side, I didn’t know the tracks existed.” And again, “I would have been a rags-to-riches story, except my parents couldn’t afford the rags … So I’m a less-than-rags-to-riches story.”

Those of us who know Sheldon have always been amazed at how he is depicted by some in the media as a mean-spirited, heartless mogul pulling political strings and throwing his weight in campaigns in order to elect lawmakers who favor lower taxes.

That fraudulent caricature overlooks the true essence of a man who is one of the world’s most generous benefactors of charitable causes and one of the foremost Jewish philanthropists of all time.  The media neglect to mention that Adelson contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to programs such as Birthright Israel ($180 million), the Adelson Educational Campus ($80 million), Holocaust memory ($50 million to Yad Vashem), and Hebrew Senior Life in Boston ($20 million).

Adelson founded and supports the Adelson Drug Rehabilitation Clinics in Las Vegas and Tel Aviv, run by his wife, a highly respected authority in addiction medicine. Together, Sheldon and Miriam have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to approximately 200 scientists from nearly 70 medical research institutions via the Adelson Medical Foundation, with many of the scientists having lauded their financial support as having changed the ways in which medical research is conducted.  And this is just a snapshot of his charitable giving.

Sheldon and Miriam regularly welcome America’s “Wounded Warriors” for “Salute our Troops” stays at the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas.  The soldiers and their spouses are flown in and provided with weekend accommodations and VIP treatment in recognition of their service and sacrifice.

As a Rabbi I am particularly grateful to the Adelsons for the gargantuan sums they contribute toward programs that foster Jewish identity among the world’s Jewish youth, like Birthright Israel, and I write this column because, although people can strongly disagree with Sheldon’s politics, those of us working in the Jewish community should give thanks to those who love the Jewish people and dedicate their fortunes to seeing an ancient people survive and prosper.

I have twice led Birthright groups to Israel. The program is near miraculous. No people on earth offer its youth a free ten-day trip to an ancestral homeland so that they can soak in their ancient history and values. But without the Adelsons, Birthright would be offering the trip to just a fraction of the more than 350,000 who have already attended.

Yet, in spite of it all the world’s perception of Sheldon Adelson seems mostly shaped by his campaign contributions to the Republican Party. Even the 50,000 jobs he has created thorough Las Vegas Sands has not blighted the concerted assault on his name as he has been depicted as a GOP money man with little regard for the destitute or the poor. But if his agenda is, as some critics say, to hold on to his money, how does that explain the hundreds of millions he continually gives to charity? Could the explanation possibly be that he believes, with other Americans, that private philanthropy is more effective at solving social problems than government bureaucracies? Could it be that his promotion of conservative fiscal policies echoes, as a man who is self-made and whose father drove a cab, a belief in the dignity that comes from personal endeavor and self-reliance? Might it not be possible that he is one who believes that we all seek personal, financial, and spiritual redemption, although we prefer that it come first and foremost through our own devices? And even if people disagree with those conclusions and harbor a markedly different political philosophy, does he deserve to be hated for those principles?

Adelson is also condemned for his strong support of Israel and the more conservative policies of the Netanyahu government. But I too am an advocate of great caution in Israel’s relationship with its neighbors. As a Jew my Torah teaches me, as its first principle, that every Palestinian and Arab, like every Jew, is created in the divine image. We are all equally God’s children. But I share the conviction that Israel’s many attempts at peace and territorial concessions have led, not to an end of conflict, but tragically to dead Jews and a never-ending stream of rockets fired at Israeli hospitals and schools.

Let us also not forget that Adelson criticized many of the social values of the Republican Party (just as I did throughout my campaign) before it became fashionable to do so.

As someone involved in Jewish communal and public affairs, who has advised him to be more proactive in responding to media distortions (as a world-renowned Jewish philanthropist he owes it both to himself and the Jewish community), I have had the opportunity to get to know Adelson on a personal and professional level. Above all is his commitment to family. Here is a man who chose to have two sons at a later age when most men of his wealth are basking in their success on yachts and villas along the French Riviera.

But as a child of divorce perhaps what leads me to most respect Sheldon is the steadfast love and respect on display for his wife at all times. Indeed, in his testimony many of his witticisms were about how much he obeys his wife. When Judge Rob Bare, instructed Adelson to “do one thing at a time” and focus on the line of questioning while refraining from taking notes on the stand, his response was, “Your honor, I think you have something in common with my wife.  She doesn’t want me to do two things at once.”

In a world where many men who make fortunes find it difficult to sustain a commitment to a woman, it’s inspiring to see a billionaire who believes his foremost achievement is his marriage to his wife.

Don’t Risk Israel’s Security On Obama’s Words

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

“Americans who support Israel should take the president at his word.” So wrote Haim Saban recently in The New York Times, claiming President Obama was fully committed to the Jewish state.

But is that true? Should we take Obama at his word?

No, not when Israel confronts the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Not long ago Obama was caught on an open microphone sympathizing with French President Sarkozy’s slurring of the Israeli prime minister. And his public snubbing of the Israeli leader’s request to discuss Iran during a recent U.S. visit was, according to Reuters, “a highly unusual rebuff to a close ally.”

Even more worrying, last month former U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who attended several of Obama’s meetings with Netanyahu, admitted “there are serious differences between our interests and Israel’s own security interests.”

All this raises questions about Obama’s sincerity when he publicly says he’ll “always have Israel’s back.”

Nor are these the only times the president has left American voters wondering where he really stands on foreign relations.

Remember when earlier this year he was inadvertently recorded asking former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for “space” until his reelection, when he’d have more “flexibility”? Obama was clearly not being forthright with the American people on his plans with missile defense.

What else hasn’t he told us?

Think about Obama’s anti-Israel friends and mentors – radicals like Rashid Khalidi, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, or the late Edward Said, whom Obama studied under. Has he made anti-Israel promises to them? Is Obama’s campaign rhetoric in support of Israel only creating “space” until after the election?

Even some liberals now complain the president has lost so much Israeli trust that, in the words of Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, “there is almost no chance of progress [for peace] if Obama wins re-election.”

Given that Obama’s public expressions are not something Israelis can rely upon, we need to take seriously the question: What are his second-term plans when he no longer needs the Jewish vote?

Obama’s supporters tell us there’s nothing to worry about. He can be trusted, they say, because of his record of military aid to Israel and his support for sanctions against Iran.

But the aid was committed in programs that began under previous administrations well before his presidency. He cannot rightly take credit for this aid, just as he cannot take credit for merely signing pro-Israel legislation that had bipartisan congressional support.

Moreover, Obama’s campaign never mentions that in the past few years his budgets have proposed significant cuts in U.S.-Israel missile defense funds. Even worse, the Iranian sanctions contain loopholes that, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “you could drive a warhead through.” All 20 of Iran’s major trading partners enjoy sanction exemptions. They won’t stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Let’s also not forget that when Obama took office, he admitted his administration sought to put “daylight” between America and Israel. He lectured that the Jewish state needed “to engage in serious self-reflection.” And, in his 2009 address to the Muslim world, he implied a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Palestinian dislocation.

With a second term, the president won’t have fears of electoral accountability and will act upon his true feelings toward Israel.

This is worrying – especially at a time when Israelis as well as Americans sorely need a president whose words and policies they can rely on.

Not since 1967 has Israel’s security situation been more precarious. Iran is now racing for a nuclear bomb while bragging it only needs “24 hours and an excuse” to destroy the Jewish state. Egypt is lost to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hizbullah is armed to the teeth in Lebanon. Turkey’s government is more foe than friend. The Gulf States use enormous petroleum wealth to fund global anti-Israel propaganda. The “Arab Spring” continues to usher extremists into power. And Hamas rules Gaza.

All the while the United Nations never misses a chance to denounce the Jewish state; Western universities support boycotts of Israel; and a sizable portion of the Democratic Party protests the inclusion of support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in their platform. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, can’t even name Israel’s capital.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/dont-risk-israels-security-on-obamas-words/2012/10/11/

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