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Posts Tagged ‘North America’

Latin American Trading Moving Up on Israeli Agenda

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to improve economic ties with politically friendly Latin American countries in order to compensate for the crippled economy of Israel’s main trading continent, Europe.

The new effort to increase Latin American trading, particularly with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, will compliment Netanyahu’s simultaneous effort to increase economic ties with China and other East Asian countries. These four Latin American countries formed the free-trade Pacific Alliance last year and account for about 36 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). They all trade significantly with North America.

Currently in Latin America, Brazil is Israel’s main trading partner, taking in Israeli exports at about $1.1 billion per year and importing to Israel at about $400 million per year. In June, Israeli President Shimon Peres signed a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Canada, Keystone and the Palestinians

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

As Obama wrapped up his Middle East tour, applauded by AIPAC for reaffirming “unbreakable bonds” and “deep affection” between two key allies; and by Al Jazeera for “normalizing” Israel-Turkey ties, Obama’s neighbors to the north are left scratching their heads about what he meant by his off-the-cuff statement that compared Israeli-Palestinian relations to Canada-U.S. relations.

After acknowledging in his speech the horror of an Israeli sleeping in his bed and having a rocket come through the roof, Obama went on to say: “Even though both sides have areas of strong disagreement, maybe engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things…. There will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish State of Israel and those two states will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do. The United States and Canada have arguments once in a while.”

The outlandish comparison – as Canadians do not lob rockets and missiles into Rochester or Detroit or claim the U.S. as “Occupied Canada” — could have been an Obama gaffe to add to an open-mic one he made during his welcome ceremony after he landed in Israel and declared that this trip allowed him to “get away from Congress.” Obama has become quite noted for minor and major gaffes, such as when he insulted Netanyahu and conspired with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Both incidents raised questions about his character, his policies and potentially hidden agendas.

Although one could not decipher any meaning behind Obama’s odd comparison of American-Canadian relations with Israeli-Palestinian relations, one can note some important “arguments” the U.S. now faces with Canada: primarily the Keystone XL pipeline project, designed to carry oil from Canada to Texas oil refineries.

To address further these “once in a while arguments,” a Forbes article illustrated how — with policies similar to what are being promoted by Republicans — Canada is outperforming the U.S. economically on every level. Entitled “What President Obama Doesn’t Want You To Know About Canada”, it cited senior sources in the Canadian government who met with Obama administration officials and said their impression was that the White House is jealous of the Canadian government’s power to have its way. Even the notoriously liberal Canadian Broadcaster CBC featured in its community blog: “Republicans threaten move to Canada after Obama win”.

The Obama administration’s energy policy is starkly divergent from the Harper government’s. Canada obtains oil from places such as the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta, while the Obama administration has reduced drilling permits on public lands and has stalled the go-ahead of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. The Keystone pipeline not only provides an ethical alternative to importing oil from regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela; it is also an “essential part of the North American energy marketplace” and of U.S.-Canada relations, according to former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice , who is now a senior executive with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

When Obama rejected Keystone in early 2012, he pinned the blame for the decision on Republicans, accusing them for trying to push the administration to an earlier deadline. But Obama’s dilemma about the Keystone project reveals underlying issues that could have long-term implications for Obama’s credibility in his ongoing commitment to promote an agenda affecting “climate change,” as well as to his liberal economic policies.

For example, during a speech on China and India as emerging economies, Obama’s assistant on economic policy, Lawrence Summers, raised the idea that India’s political-economic model, which he referred to as the “Mumbai Consensus,” may in the end win the day. According to Summers the Mumbai Consensus is “not based on ideas of laissez-faire capitalism that have proven obsolete or ideas of authoritarian capitalism that ultimately will prove not to be enduringly successful….” Recall that George Bush was the whipping boy for laissez-faire capitalism in certain camps after the Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae fiasco that led to the 2008 economic meltdown, even though it is no secret that the Democrats bore guilt.

With respect to Obama’s credibility, right after taking office, in having vowed to promote policies that would supposedly moderate climate change, Obama committed the U.S. to the foreground of global climate change initiatives — the centerpiece of which would entail revamping the flawed Kyoto protocol to bring include equitable commitments from countries such as China and India, which, despite being the most objectionable polluters, had been given free passes under the Kyoto accords. Now, years later and into his second term, Obama faces stumbling blocks in making good on his promises, not the least of which involves the Keystone pipeline.

RCA Delegation Visits Communities Hit by Hamas

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

A delegation of 20 rabbis from across North America arrived in Israel yesterday to tour areas of Southern Israel as part of an emergency solidarity mission of the Rabbinical Council of America.

The three-day mission, quickly organized as the violence escalated, was designed to provide affected communities and residents of Southern Israel with the assurance that their plight is not being ignored by Diaspora Jewry.

The rabbi-delegates came from communities in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Edmonton.

Organizers said that the objective is to provide strength to those most directly impacted by the violence, as well as to IDF forces currently involved in the campaign or who are actively preparing for the possibility of a ground invasion into Gaza.

The first day of the mission, Tuesday, was spent in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, which suffered three fatalities in the first day of fighting.  The delegation made a shiva (condolence) call to the mourning families and visited the apartment where the attack took place.  There they encountered a scene that remained in disarray and were able to appreciate the extent of the tragedy.

“Visiting this shiva house was a truly moving experience and allowed us to assure those who lost family members that their deaths were being felt by all of Klal Yisrael,” Rabbi Doniel Kramer from Brooklyn, New York said.

From there, the delegation met with Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement who shared his feelings upon being asked to bless students who are called to reserve duty during times of escalating violence.

“These are types of dilemmas that we as American communal rabbis typically do not face and provide us with an even greater appreciation for what the communities here are confronting at this difficult time,” Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Vice President of the RCA said.

Jewish Community Bears Impact of Hurricane Sandy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Less than a year into her job at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, N.Y., Reform Rabbi Debbie Bravo sounded remarkably poised as she and her community face one of their most powerful challenges together: Hurricane Sandy.

Bravo’s land line was dead. When she picked up her cell phone Tuesday, she had just returned from the local police station.

“I have a child who takes medication that has to be refrigerated,” she said calmly.

According to figures released by The Long Island Power Authority on Tuesday, more than 930,000 families — 90 percent of all island residents — are without power after Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc Monday night across the northeastern United States. Among those 930,000 are an estimated 139,000 Jewish households.

Hurricane Sandy, which washed ashore Monday evening just south of Atlantic City, N.J., took dead aim at the most populous region of the country, home as well to the majority of the country’s Jews. In its wake, it left a trail of devastation that may take weeks to restore, if not longer.

“I went over to the synagogue a few hours ago, which is right next to a woodsy area,” Bravo said. “Ten plus trees are down, including a huge one down on the front law. Everyone’s saying this is a hundred times worse” than previous natural disasters that hit the island.

The greater New York area, home to the largest population of Jews in North America, took a harsh hit as severe winds and flooding toppled trees, triggered electrical fires and flooded public transportation systems. The result: mass evacuations of apartments and dormitories, widespread school closings and damaged homes and community institutions.

Early Tuesday afternoon, David Weissberg, executive director of the 120-year-old Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., posted a photo of a tree that literally sliced through the roof over the center’s main building.

“We’re looking in the short term how to work around that space and need to assess how long it will take to get that space repaired,” Weissberg said.

“It’s an amazingly precise cut,” he marveled. “It fell at an angle perfectly perpendicular to the building, which will hopefully make the repair an easier one.”

Jewish communal organizations, whose offices, landlines and in some cases e-mail servers were closed or down on Tuesday, largely set up shop remotely as they set out to formulate a response.

“The concerns of the Jewish Federations movement is focussed on both those in the Jewish community and non-Jewish community as we work with local Jewish federations as well as local, state and federal emergency management personnel to assess the damage and look forward to recovery,” said William Daroff, vice president of public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.

Daroff noted that while watching the devastation unfold, social media was a source of comfort. “Compared to visuals from New York and the Long Island coast, having a support structure and literally thousands of friends acquired through Facebook and Twitter helped me feel less alone as my family sat shuttering with gusts of wind at 50 mph.”

The Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago set up a relief fund Monday night, with The Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism following suit the next afternoon.

For those without power on Long Island, finding alternative to landlines was critical.

“A lot of people are not getting cell phone service at home,” Bravo said. “For one congregant, the only time i could talk to her was when she left her house.”

As Bravo attempts to establish and maintain contact with the elderly and other congregants — including two with recent births — she also pondered the next moves for her synagogue’s two b’nai mizvah this weekend, which in all likelihood will be conducted without power.

“Truthfully in my mind, our options are try to use daylight,” she said.

The Zionist Girl the Jewish Federations Love to Hate

Friday, August 17th, 2012

My friend and colleague Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes today in Arutz 7 about her entanglements with the Jewish Federations of North America, and how, instead of confirming or denying a simple question she posed to them, they chose instead to start a campaign of personal attacks against her. (By the way, for a version of the article with all the links intact, go here.)

It began with “one former high-ranking leader of global Jewish philanthropy has claimed that the largest Jewish charity in the world succumbed to the polling/fundraising dilemma by rejecting the use of the term Zionism because that term is ‘too controversial’ – at a recent high level meeting. When this reporter tried to investigate the truth, she unwittingly became, like the title of a popular book, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest..”

She continues:

In writing the story, I did what reporters are supposed to do. First I researched and then interviewed the person making the claim. I then reached out to JFNA people who were at that meeting, and/or who are major players within the JFNA world. I reached out to them for hours, across several states, time zones and levels of leadership, in attempts to include in my story the JFNA response. I was explicit about who I was and what I was making contact about.

I contacted New York City UJA-Federation Chair John Ruskay, his press contact person Jane E. Rubinstein; president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Steve Hoffman; JFNA’s senior vice president for Global Planning, Joanne Moore; JFNA Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington, D.C. JFNA office, William Daroff; and JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky. I was stonewalled at every turn: I got literally nothing of substance back.

Needless to say, she got bupkes. They were either out on vacation or they stonewalled her. So she—and I, her editor—went ahead with the story. “And then it really hit the fan,” Lori reports.

“What should have been a minor story about a credible critic’s claim that JFNA leadership had rejected the term Zionism as ‘too controversial,’ followed by a JFNA response denying that that’s what happened, and making clear Federation’s Zionist credentials, disappeared in a barrage of personal and unfounded attacks on me.”

“The hornets were angry; she writes, “I kept getting stung.”

“I and my article were labeled “scurrilous,” “vituperative,” “false,” “evil,” misleading,” and “lashon hara.” And in their latest statement, JFNA leadership used the most somber day in the Jewish calendar to reprimand me and to accuse me publicly of “sinat chinam”– the baseless hatred of one Jew for another that, according to Jewish tradition, caused nothing less than the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for 2000 years. In Federation’s narrative, I was presented as the one who needed to repent.”

My editor joked that he wouldn’t be surprised to see me being used in JFNA fundraisers the way Rachel Maddow is used by Republican fundraisers and Sarah Palin by Democrats. He wrote: “I can see it now, a local Federation brochure: ‘Lori Lowenthal Marcus wants you to hate Jewish Federations, but we won’t let her. Send your checks to the address below.’”

So now you know. As usual in these cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. It’s possible to imagine a Jewish federation opting to dial it down on the Z word when fundraising within its constituency, seeing as some of said constituents might be busy BDS’ing Israel. But the way they went about destroying the reputation of a writer who is beyond reproach makes you wonder just what kind of hornets live in that nest…

Yishai and Malkah Welcome New Olim

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai and Malkah present this segment from Ben Gurion International Airport as they wait for the arrival of a 747 jet full of new immigrants from North America. To continue the segment, Yishai and Malkah interview many Olim that are both fresh off of the plane and have been in Israel for some time. The segment ends with a speech presented to the new Olim by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Don’t miss this moving segment!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

JCC Maccabi Games to Hold Worldwide Minute of Silence at Opening Ceremony

Friday, August 10th, 2012

WEST NYACK, NY – Ankie Spitzer will lead a live-streamed, worldwide minute of silence this Sunday in Rockland during the opening ceremonies of the JCC Maccabi Games to honor the 11 members of the Israeli team killed in the terrorist attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The minute of silence will take place between 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT, Aug. 12, during the live broadcast of the ceremonies. The global community is encouraged to participate in the live stream (http://www.jccrockland.org/maccabi) and show its united support. Spitzer, the widow of murdered fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, has relentlessly fought for a formal commemoration during the Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to deny the victim’s families’ requests.

“The actions of the IOC are unconscionable,” says Spitzer. As she recently told an audience in London that included IOC President Jacques Rogge: “Shame on you, IOC…You have forsaken the 11 members of your Olympic family.” She went on to add that, “We will come back until we hear the words you need to say because you owe them…did they [IOC] forget they are supposed to promote peace, brotherhood and fair play?”

Most recently, the IOC refused to hold a minute of silence as part of the opening ceremonies of the London Games. The decision was made despite worldwide pressure that included an online petition from the JCC – with more than 110,000 signatories representing more than 150 countries – and support from governing bodies all around the world.

“Only the IOC can give the surviving family members what they want, and ultimately deserve,” says Steve Gold, past president of the JCC and chair of the Minute of Silence campaign. “But we want them to know that we are behind them, and let the IOC know that we aren’t going away.”

Since 1995, remembering the Munich 11 has been a component of every JCC Maccabi Games: a week-long Olympic-style athletic event that brings together more than 3,500 Jewish teen athletes from around the world to compete and help promote unity and understanding. JCC Rockland took this one step further when it forged a relationship with Spitzer and the families of the victims to help bring attention to and, ultimately help redress this 40-year-old issue. The JCC also chose to dedicate the 2012 Games to the murdered Israeli athletes by hosting a series of 11 events in their memory. The 11th event will be the opening ceremony of the 2012 JCC Maccabi Games that includes this very special minute of silence.

Other leading Jewish groups, including The Jewish Federations of North America, have rallied behind Spitzer, in calling for a minute of silence. “The Jewish Federations of North America stand with the families of the fallen and the JCC in honoring the victims of this terrible tragedy,” says Kathy Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America. “A formal honoring of the slain Israeli Olympians and their families is long overdue, and we fully support efforts like this one to urge the IOC to rectify this painful omission.”

The opening ceremonies of the JCC Maccabi Games will take place at the Eugene Levy Fieldhouse at Rockland Community.

For more information on the minute of silence or to learn more about the Games and JCC Rockland, visit http://www.jccrockland.org/.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/ny/jcc-maccabi-games-to-hold-worldwide-minute-of-silence-at-opening-ceremony/2012/08/10/

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