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February 19, 2017 / 23 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘party’

TORAH SHORTS: Parshat Vayigash: Party Sacrifice of Peace

Thursday, January 5th, 2017
Up until the time of Jacob, the animal sacrifices that our ancestors brought to God were completely consumed by fire. The entire beast was burnt in a ceremony known in Hebrew as a Korban Olah. This act demonstrated a total submission and entreaty to God. It all went to God. Jacob does something different.
Jacob is informed that his beloved long-lost son Joseph was alive and not dead as he was lead to believe for twenty-two long years. As he rushes down to Egypt to reunite with Joseph, Jacob offers a different type of sacrifice, which is called Zevachim and also Shelamim (peace offerings). In this sacrifice, part of the animal is burnt upon the altar, but here man also partakes of the meat of the sacrifice.
In the words of Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 46:1:
“[The peace offerings] express a loftier concept, that of “God coming into our midst.” They are therefore offered in the happy awareness that wherever a family lives in harmony, is faithful to its duty and feels that it is being upheld by God, there God is present. That is why the spirit of the Shelamim, the “peace offerings” of a family life blessed by God, is so typically Jewish. The concept of surrendering to God and permitting oneself to be absorbed by Him has begun to dawn also upon non-Jewish minds. But the thought that everyday life can become so thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of God that “one eats and drinks and while doing so, beholds God,” that all our family rooms become temples, our table altars, and our young men and young women priests and priestesses – this spiritualization of everyday personal life represents the unique contribution of Judaism.”
“The reason why Jacob-Israel at this point did not offer a Korban Olah, but Zevachim, is that now, for the first time, Jacob felt happy, joyous and “complete” (“Shalem” in Hebrew also means “complete” or “whole”) within the circle of his family. It was under the impact of this awareness and this emotion that he made a “family offering” to God.”
Part of the point of the Shelamim sacrifice was to share it with family and friends in a festive celebratory spirit: to consecrate the meal, to make the meal itself holy and have God as part of the celebration.
May we have many causes of celebration and holy festivities.
Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

A Very Special Chanukah Party

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

I was fortunate to have been invited to the Chanukah party co-hosted in Washington by the country of Azerbaijan and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations.

Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim country, strategically located (bordering both Iran and Russia), that has developed a close relationship with Israel. It has purchased nearly five billion dollars’ worth of defense equipment from Israel and is Israel’s largest oil supplier.

My first encounter with Azerbaijan took place three years ago when its ambassador to the U.S., Elin Suleymanov, came to the Presidents Conference to meet with us – a meeting I attended as a representative of Emunah of America. Conference representatives subsequently received an invitation to attend a reception in Washington for the Republic Day of Azerbaijan.

I thought it was important to show our support for a country that is not only strategically important but that serves as a model of diversity and tolerance – and friendship with the United States and Israel.

I traveled to Washington for that reception, along with Gerald Platt and Ken Abramowitz, both of the American Friends of Likud. The room was filled with about 500 people including military personnel, congressmen, and people in Arab garb from Saudi Arabia and other Mideast countries.

As far as I knew, Gerry, Ken, and I were the only Jews in the room. Ambassador Suleymanov greeted the three of us warmly, and when he addressed the crowd, he thanked everyone for coming, including ” my Jewish friends. ” Needless to say, we were very moved and happy we’d made the trip.

In light of that earlier experience, and because of the increasingly close relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel, I had no doubt that the right thing to do was to once again travel to Washington to attend the Chanukah party. I wanted to show my support for (and encourage) the warm relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel, which was one of the goals of the Presidents Conference in co-hosting the party.

When I spoke to Ambassador Suleymanov and his wife, I told them we pray that the warm relationship and mutual economic cooperation between Azerbaijan, the United States, and Israel will grow ever stronger and that Azerbaijan will continue to use its influence to help foster peace and further development in the region.

I also attended the party to show my support for the Presidents Conference itself, which was being criticized (unfairly, in my opinion) by some of its own member organizations for holding the event in a Trump hotel.

The Conference had asked Ambassador Suleymanov to rent a room near the White House, so that those who were attending the Chanukah party there could participate in both events. The only other stipulation the Conference made was that the food be kosher. The Ambassador rented the room at the Trump International Hotel simply because it was the best practical solution.

At the party, Presidents Conference Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein presented commemorative menorahs to the ambassadors of 13 countries, including seven with Muslim majorities, as well as the chief of the PLO delegation in Washington, Maen Areikat, to thank them for their assistance in helping put out last month’s devastating forest fires in Israel.

After the speeches and photo-ops were over, I took the opportunity to approach Mr. Areikat. I told him that hopefully the evening’s events were an important overture and a sign that peace could eventually be achieved.

He replied, “When your Prime Minister Netanyahu recognizes his immediate neighbors like he recognizes Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, there can be peace.”

I responded that I know there could be peace if they would just utter the sentence “We recognize Israel as a Jewish state. ” Mr. Areikat hesitated and then said: “We can say that after an agreement is signed. ” And he told me he liked my dress.

We exchanged cards, and I intend to keep in touch with him to see if we can have any further dialogue.

The beauty and essence of the evening can be gleaned from the speeches by Mr. Hoenlein, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, and Ambassador Suleymanov. A few excerpts:

Malcolm Hoenlein: “We are indebted to the people who are here because there is no greater demonstration that all of the charges and all of the predictions of Israel’s isolation were answered when Israel faced the disaster of the fires. Countries came immediately…to demonstrate that there is a common humanity, just as Israel responds first and foremost wherever there is a tragedy, whether in Nepal, whether in Haiti….

“This is really the test. We understand the political machinations. People have to say things and do things, but this is really the bottom line, that we have common aspirations; we have common hopes, and anyone who cares about their children and grandchildren, about the future of the world, shares in those hopes and aspirations…”

Ambassador Suleymanov: “We…hope to be able to be a friend for Israel and a friend for the Jewish people among the Muslim nations.… [W]e want to be able to help Jews and Palestinians find points for agreement, to come together to work together, and ultimately we hope that will help to resolve the longstanding conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We want people to talk to each other.”

Ambassador Dermer: “Not only can we light candles together, we can douse flames together, and the fact that all of you represent countries who in our hour of need were there for us, is deeply appreciated.”

The words spoken by these three men should be a lesson not only for the nations of the world but also for us Jews. The Presidents Conference – especially Malcolm Hoenlein, who devotes his days and nights to the benefit of Jews everywhere – deserves kudos and our continued support for hosting the event and for all their wonderful work on behalf of Klal Yisrael.

Mindy Stein

Obama’s UN Abstention Was Enabled By American Jews’ Blind Democratic Party Loyalty

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, The Lid}

Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed his anger over the UN Security Council  (UNSC)  vote including the ambassadors of all the countries on the UNSC President Obama and John Kerry.  IMHO he should have directed his anger to one more group; American Jews blind Democratic party loyalty empowered Obama to stab Israel in the back.

Over thirty years ago Secretary of State James Baker said “F**k the Jews they won’t vote for us anyway.” But because most American Jews’ Blind Democratic Party Loyalty no matter what, today Democrats Party politicians act as if their stance is “F**k the Jews they will vote for us whatever we do!”

In 2008 despite all the warnings, despite the fact that Barack Obama sat in a church hearing anti-Semitic sermons for two decades, despite the fact that he was close friends with Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman Rashid Khalidi. Even before the election the Jewish community knew that at a 2003 event honoring Khalidi, Obama had made a toast that was so anti-Israel that the liberal L.A. Times hid the tape. Before the 2008 election Obama had already surrounded himself with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel advisers. Ignoring all that, the Jewish community gave Obama 78% of the Jewish vote. The vote was led by the leadership of certain major Jewish organizations who despite their phony claims of bi-partisanship, have a blind allegiance to the Democratic Party. That allegiance was so strong that when the Democratic Party demanded that V.P. Candidate Sarah Palin’s invitation to speak at an anti-Iran rally be rescinded these major Jewish organizations complied.

During his first term President Obama proved to be the most anti-Israel president since the modern state of Israel was created in 1948. But it shouldn’t have been as surprise.

At the very beginning of his administration Obama told the supposed Jewish leadership that one of his goals was to drive a wedge between the US and Israel. “When there is no daylight,” the president told American Jewish leaders in 2009, “Israel just sits on the sidelines and that erodes our credibility with the Arabs.” The explanation ignored Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and its two previous offers of Palestinian statehood in Gaza, almost the entire West Bank and half of Jerusalem—both offers rejected by the Palestinians.

Actually, wasn’t exactly Jewish leadership the President spoke with.  Obama decided to include the leader of the anti-Israel organization J Street in his meeting promoting them to leadership. J Street is a George Soros created with that had no legitimacy in the Jewish community. At the same time Obama pushed Jewish members of Congress to endorse J Street by lending their name to the organizations first national conference. That first meeting also sent a different signal to those Jewish leaders Obama left out Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America who was usually included in these type of meetings off his list, because unlike the rest of the leadership Mort didn’t have blind allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Despite all this, despite telling leaders he was going to drive a wedge, despite the fact he was picking his own version of Jewish leadership, not one of the people who attended the meeting publicly objected, warned the Jewish community.

Obama even foreshadowed the Iran deal during his first months in office. During his 2009 speech in Cairo he said, “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons,” which foreshadowed his future negotiations with the rogue Iranian regime.

During the first term Obama continued to surround himself with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic advisers even including Al Sharpton who led two anti-Jewish riots in NYC, or Robert Malley who has not only written anti-Israel essays but his dad was a close friend of Yasser Arafat, these haters plus many more were all appointed without a peep from the supposed Jewish leadership.

During his first term when Obama constantly announced anti-Israel policies, not one of these Jewish leaders opened their mouth. Not one of them called on the silent Democratic Party “supporters of Israel” in congress to criticize this president. Because of that not one of those congressional Democrats complained which enabled even more bad behavior.

Despite an anti-Israel first term as the 2012 election neared, The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee in a joint statement asked their fellow Jews to pledge not to criticize Obama’s anti-Israel policy. They said it was to keep the issue bi-partisan but it was because their leadership was very partisan—supporting progressive issues and the Democratic Party candidate. Another of those supposedly “bi-partisan” leaders Jack Rosen of the American Jewish Congress actually had fundraisers for the president in his home.

Even in 2016 after the election the ADL supported an anti-Israel, anti-Semite Keith Ellison, and crapped all over Steve Bannon who has actively participated  in pro-Israel and pro-Jewish rallies.

On Obama’s insistence, the Democrats removed four pro-Israel planks from their party platform in 2012, when they tried to add one (Jerusalem as capital of Israel) back, the convention voted no but the leadership lied and said it was passed. The planks about not returning to the 1949 armistice lines, not negotiating with Hamas, and Palestinian refugees will return to Palestinian territory as opposed to Israel were never put back. But despite the fact that was on top of the most anti-Israel president in history almost 70% of Jews who voted rewarded Obama by voting for him again.

Famous Jewish supporters of Israel like Alan Dershowitz and former NYC Mayor Ed Koch who criticized Obama as being anti-Israel during his first term, all of a sudden forgave him as Election Day neared. When I pointed out the hypocrisy to the former Mayor, in true Ed Koch style he told me to “go to hell!” If you knew Ed Koch that was a badge of honor.

When they interviewed the president during a teleconference about the Iran deal for the Jewish community, the head of he Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the head of the Jewish Federation didn’t challenge him about the deal. This is not to say they should have been rude, but instead of asking specific questions about the side deals, or about the fact that the U.S. is obligated to protect Iran’s nuclear plants, or the paragraph which allows Iran to take the money and then leave the deal, or the part about Iran doing its own inspections or any specific question about the deal, these two supposed leaders attached their lips firmly on the arse of the POTUS and asked softballs like, “Can the U.S. Israel relationship be repaired?” Or when the president lied during his opening statement, they didn’t question him about it. Perhaps they didn’t read the agreement, perhaps they were trying to protect the president, but it was just another way the Jewish community enabled Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to ignore the Jewish voters.

Then after eight years of a president of the United States did his best to delegitimize the Jewish State, ignored previous US/Israel deals,  publicly berated Israel at every opportunity,  leaving Israel’s Premier to sit and stew with the Israeli delegation in a White House conference room for an hour because they wouldn’t capitulate to the President’s demands, and even blaming Israel and American Jews for pushing the U.S. into the Iraq war while he was trying to sell-in the disastrous Iran Deal and  sent some of his political advisers to Israel along with State Department money, all in an attempt to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel’s most recent election, the Democrats nominated to replace him with Hillary Clinton the woman who was Obama’s partner in screwing Israel during his first administration. Despite the fact that Hillary has made a career of being anti-Israel, and surrounded herself with anti-Semites, 71% of Jews voted for her over Donald Trump who is strongly pro-Israel and pro-Jewish.

People shouldn’t be surprised. By voting Democratic despite their anti-Israel policies and anti-Semitic statements, and our supposed leaders supporting the Democratic Party despite their anti-Israel policies (and their vows of bi-partisanship) we taught the Democrats that they could do anything they want to the Jews, or on Jewish issues and we will support them in the next election, we will give them our campaign donations and we will give them our votes.

Obama had Susan Powers abstain in Friday’s UNSC vote because Jewish voters have been committing Jew-i-cide…supporting a party that hates them.  Ze’ev Jabotinsky was correct when he wrote in “The Iron Wall:”

“It is incredible what political simpletons Jews are. They shut their eyes to one of the most elementary rules of life, that you must not “meet halfway” those who do not want to meet you.”

Candidates’ positions are influenced by their voters to some extent. Progressives have become the most important voting bloc in the Democratic Party, they tend to be anti-Israel (just check out the last two DNC Platforms, and included amongst are many  anti-Semites.Why do you think Keith Ellison is the leading candidate to take over the DNC? So if the Jews are going to blindly vote Democratic anyway, why not appease the progressives and crap on Israel? 

On the Republicans side the reason many GOP candidates are pro-Israel is the evangelical vote that is a major part of their base. But if the very pro-Israel evangelicals ever lose their influence in the party, Jewish issues will be truly bi-partisan…. both parties wont care about them.

There is only one way to avoid anti-Israel bipartisanship.  First of all, Jews need to start voting for the other guys—not blindly, but look at Republican candidates with an open mind. The other thing the Jewish community has to do is stop financially supporting groups whose leadership blindly supports progressive politics and parties.  There are plenty of Jewish charities to give money to…I strongly urge my fellow Jews to donate to those groups instead of the blatantly political ones like the ADL, The Jewish Federation, The American Jewish Congress, The American Jewish Committee and any organization that support the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.  Only by shifting the Jewish vote and moving our money away from Democratic organizations masquerading as Jewish ones will we be able to make BOTH parties fight for our support by backing those issues important to the Jewish community.

Jeff Dunetz

Presidents Conference-Azerbaijan Hanukkah Party — What Really Happened

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

On December 14, 2016, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (the Presidents Conference) in concert with the Embassy of Azerbaijan held a historic Chanukah party in Washington, D.C. that will be talked about for some time. Controversy continues to swirl over not only who attended the party, but who did not; how many were clicking glasses inside and how many were scowling outside. Ironically, this special event was singularly memorable not only for its historic collection of diplomatic personalities but also for the landmark under-reporting and misreporting of the event.

The Presidents Conference is comprised of the presidents of 50-plus so-called “major” Jewish organizations, although some are so small few have heard of them. Malcolm Hoenlein serves as executive vice chair of the conference.

The Conference Hanukkah party was timed to intersect with the official White House Chanukah party being held a few blocks away the same evening. Included among the approximate 150-200 attendees were at least 13 ambassadors and other senior diplomatic envoys, many from predominantly Muslim countries, along with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. The senior diplomats hailed Turkey, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan, as well as Belarus, Romania, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and even the PLO Mission, along with the Azerbaijan Embassy sponsors and Israel’s Ambassador.

Around Washington, D.C., it is not hard to attract senior personalities and officials to a party. Top congressmen and senators are always special guests and speakers at luncheons, conferences, and receptions. Typically, they dash in and dash out, within moments of their appearance, lingering just long enough to read a short political statement and then exit.

Not so at the Conference’s Hanukkah Party, where all attendees happily mingled for two hours, accepted tasty hors d’oeuvre passes from polished waiters, exchanged business cards, and cracked jokes. Senior diplomats jostled each other to take pictures and selfies, jamming together for a panoramic group shot. In other words, this Hanukkah Party was actually a “party.”

The highlight of the event was bestowing formal thanks to all the countries who had contributed fire fighting forces to Israel during the wild blazes that scorched the homes of hundreds and forced thousands to be evacuated throughout the country. Each ambassador or senior envoy received a mounted menorah as a token of esteem, described as “a reminder of Israel’s national pride.” Ambassador Dermer and Hoenlein used the occasion of the international fire fighter assistance to proclaim that Israel was not as isolated as many pretend, and to prove how well Israel could partner with countries of mainly Muslim majorities.

The invitation list and the Azeri sponsorship was spurred by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s concurrent state visits to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, both Muslim-majority nations.

When it was time for recognition, Hoenlein presided over the festivities as though he were addressing a circle of friends, not adversarial diplomats, giving each representative a commemorative menorah. Turkey’s ambassador was as much at ease as anyone even though normal relations have just recently been restored with the Erdogan government. Even the PLO representative was in a smiling mood as he posed for pictures holding his menorah, handed out business cards, and even shook the hand of Ambassador Dermer, this at a time when relations between the PA and Israel are at a recent all-time low.

What normally would have been recorded as a diplomatic breakthrough by Hoenlein and the Israeli Ambassador, unfortunately, became mired in protest and boycott by Jewish groups as well as massive misreporting and under-reporting of the event.

The major problem inhaling all the room’s oxygen was not that Israel was finding common ground with predominantly Muslim nations as well as other regional players, but that the common ground in question was located in a function room of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Hence, everything about the event from the wording on the invitation, “celebrating religious freedom and diversity,” to the guest list, to the attendees, to the refuseniks, all became mired in the miasma of the Donald Trump electoral controversy.

Suddenly, it was not important that the PLO, Turkey, and numerous other countries were officially and amicably participating in a Jewish-Israeli celebration of historic national strength. All that was dwarfed to a far back burner by the fact that the Conference of Presidents was visibly appearing at a hotel emblazoned with the moniker Trump.

Quickly, Union for Reform Judaism president Rick Jacobs criticized the location asking, “This decision is tone deaf at best, naked sycophancy at worst,” adding, “Especially while the president-elect himself is still working through the implications of holding the nation’s highest office while presiding over a company with widespread holdings, it would have been far preferable to choose one of the other approximately 3,000 other possible locations in downtown Washington.”

According to sources at both the Azerbaijani embassy and the Conference of Presidents, the selection was made by Azerbaijani Embassy because it was just a few minutes from the White House, and many on the guest list would be shuttling between both celebrations. Moreover, the Trump Hotel was the only nearby facility capable of complying on short notice with the kosher kitchen requirements for some 200 guests.

Nonetheless, several other Jewish organizations–members of the Conference—announced that they would be also boycotting. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical association of the reform movement, complained, “Holding this event at Mr. Trump’s hotel is at odds with that idea and with many policies and values of Jewish life and community.” Jewish Women International issued a press release headline, “JWI Will Not Attend Conference of Presidents’ Hanukkah Party at Trump Hotel, and they were joined by the National Council of Jewish Women, Americans for Peace Now, HIAS, Ameinu, and the small historical Jewish labor group known as the Workmen’s Circle.

Skipping over the importance of assembling Muslim and regional diplomats to celebrate historic Israeli nationalism and religious pluralism, news of the party was soon dominated with the boycott and ensuing protest. This was especially so in the Jewish media, that is, the printed newspapers and web new outlets serving the Jewish community. Moreover, the precision and balance of the reporting became an issue.

One Jewish media outlet claimed the media had been excluded from attendance. In fact, four members of the media were invited including this writer. All four were affiliated with national outlets. None of the four were prohibited from writing about the event or received any guidance.

Several Jewish newspapers carried a well-bannered story asserting that Malcolm Hoenlein would be “standing in a largely empty, ornate Trump International Hotel ballroom late Wednesday afternoon during the Conference of Presidents’ now-infamous Hanukkah party.” The story added “Nobody’s going. The reasons are obvious,” said one Washington Jewish insider. “It is highly embarrassing for Malcolm Hoenlein.” The affiliation of the “Jewish insider” was not indicated.” On its face, this report strained credulity.

Any large international hotel ballroom is generally configured to seat 500 to 1,500 people. It was known that only 150 to 200 people were invited. Hence, a small function room or party room was needed. In this case, it was the Lincoln Library Room in the Trump hotel. More importantly, the event was sold out and over capacity even before the story ran.

This writer received the last available invitation at 11 a.m. December 13, the day before. Several important personalities in the nation’s capital who wished to attend were denied just an hour later for lack of space. Every confirmed guest received a numbered email for identification purposes with a special caveat that if any reservation would not be used, the RSVP was to be relinquished due to a long waiting list. More than one letter and phone call of complaint was filed by eager diplomatic dignitaries as well as Jewish movers and shakers who could not gain access simply because the event was packed. No one was uninvited to make room for high-ranking last-minute reservations. The false story was never corrected, retracted, or updated by those that ran it. However, one Jewish publication substituted a story by a different reporter with the identical headline so links to the original URL went to a completed different replacement story that also contained erroneous and uncorrected information.

Among the major organizations reported as boycotting was the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America. One Israeli newspaper article was even headlined, “ADL, Major Jewish Groups Snub Invite to Trump Hotel Hanukkah Party in DC.” That article stated, “What has not been known, until now, is that several of the Conference’s centrist member groups – core constituents, including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah and Jewish Federations of North America – are also refusing to attend the party.” However, all four named organizations deny it.

When contacted, an ADL spokesperson repeatedly denied the organization boycotted, and forwarded a freshly-typed letter to the Editor of The New York Times refuting that newspaper’s December 16 article entitled, “Celebration at Trump Hotel Illustrates Rift Among Jews.” The ADL letter signed by CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated, “It is inaccurate to suggest that all of us ‘refused to attend’ as part of some coordinated attempt to snub the organizers or boycott the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. ADL’s reason for missing the party was simple: I was traveling on the West Coast, and our national chair and other senior leaders were similarly unavailable. There was no organized ‘snub’ or boycott, as some media have reported. Indeed, we have a longstanding policy against waging boycotts, in light of the boycotts that have been used to unfairly single out the Jewish people and the State of Israel throughout history. On any other day, we would have been delighted to celebrate the Jewish holidays with our colleagues at the President’s Conference and with Israel’s friends from the Embassy of Azerbaijan. Sincerely, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO, Anti-Defamation League.”

The American Jewish Committee also denied it boycotted as reported. In a public statement the day after, headlined, “AJC Attended Hanukkah Celebration Hosted by Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington,” the organization asserted, “AJC CEO David Harris issued the following statement: A media report suggesting that AJC was ‘one of four major Jewish groups’ refusing to attend an event held in Washington by the Embassy of Azerbaijan — because of the venue at a Trump-owned hotel — is untrue. AJC did, in fact, attend. While I could not be in Washington yesterday to participate personally, of course we would want AJC to be represented due to our respect for the host — the Embassy of Azerbaijan.” The Harris statement continued, “As I know from many visits, Azerbaijan is a country that has extended a welcome mat to the Jewish people since time immemorial and, as illustrated by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent visit to Baku, has been a close friend and partner of Israel. Azerbaijan has also played a key role at important moments in advancing U.S. interests in the region. Yesterday’s reception to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, a powerful symbol of the age-old quest for religious freedom, was a most thoughtful and welcome gesture on the part of our Azerbaijani friends.”

Hadassah also refuted the false report. Within minutes of asking, Hadassah national president Ellen Hershkin issued a statement declaring, “Many news articles both here and in Israel erroneously stated that Hadassah either ‘refused’ to attend or was ‘boycotting’ the December 14th Hanukkah party at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents and the Azerbaijan Embassy.” Hershkin added in bold letters, “This couldn’t be further from the truth,” adding, “This was not a political decision, a political statement, nor a decision based on the venue. Hadassah national president Ellen Hershkin and CEO and executive director Janice Weinman did not attend this Hanukkah party due to their required attendance at a long-standing Executive Committee meeting that could not have been rescheduled. These meetings are set and confirmed well in advance with Hadassah volunteers traveling from across the United States to NYC … Hadassah supports the duly democratically elected Government of the United States, as well as the duly democratically elected Government of the State of Israel. It also recognizes the role that Azerbaijan has played historically as a haven for Jews and currently, in support of Israel.”

The fourth cited organization, Jewish Federations of North America, likewise denied the report. A senior executive of JFNA confirmed there had been a scheduling conflict.

Some media sources have parenthetically acknowledged the denials, but then ask why organizational stand-ins were not designated to represent them. The Conference of Presidents explains that, as is standard in all such events, the invitations are non-transferrable. All attendees had to bring the printed invitation plus the printed email bearing their name with a special registration number. Hence, an assistant director rather than the director could not show up bearing the invitation because the name would not match the printed invitation for security purposes.

An ADL spokesperson says, “We didn’t boycott. We called and gave our regrets. The invitations are non-transferrable.” Hadassah’s Hershkin echoes that with a statement, “Traditionally the invitations from the COP are extended to the President and CEO only.”

Another Jewish newspaper, as late as December 21, ran an article referring to 11 boycotting organizations and named them with bullet points: The ADL, the AJC, JFNA, and Hadassah were in the list. Moreover, as this article is being typed, irrepressible email lists call for counter-boycotts against the accused organizations. One email proclaims, “as a 50-year life member of Hadassah, I am ashamed! I have sent a letter and discontinued all correspondence from Hadassah.”

Denials notwithstanding, some Jewish agencies contacted seemed to want it both ways. They wanted to deny they boycotted, but not too vociferously, leaving room for some to think they had. This only underscores the dilemma many Jewish organizations face as they dart between the marching elephant legs of fierce support and fiery opposition to the forthcoming Trump administration.

Beyond who attended and boycotted, confusion arose over the number of protestors outside the Trump hotel event. One major Jewish media outlet claimed in its lead sentence that “hundreds of protestors” assembled outside the Trump Hotel. Hundreds? That could be 300 to 900. Immediately, this number was scrutinized.

This writer arrived 15 minutes after the start of the event and observed only about a dozen protestors at the corner and most of them appeared to be pro-Trump supporters carrying pro-Trump signs. About an hour later, this writer saw about 30 to 50 people gathered on the corner. Noah Pollak, from the Emergency Committee to Save Israel, indicated mid-event that he also saw 30 to 50 assembled persons and tweeted as much, pushing back on the estimate of “hundreds” and calling the report “fake news.”

The Washington Post reported that more than 150 assembled in protest. The local TV station, WJLA, reported “more than 100.” Two or three other sources reported about 200. A grainy, dark and often-imperceptible video by the chief protest group, known as “If Not Now,” tends to show several dozen. It depends on what moment in the evening that one counted as the assemblage grew and shrank. Opinions will differ on the photographic record. Certainly scores were photographed at the height of the demonstration—but it is hard to discern how many were protestors, how many security, how many pro-Trump activists, and how many passive gawkers. By the time the party disbanded around 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the gaggle at the corner had thinned to just a few people.

Meanwhile, the important numbers inside the function room were not recorded in the first wave of reportage. The first Jewish media outlet to write about the diplomatic attendees and the significance of the event was The Algemeiner in an article entitled “Muslim Ambassadors Receive Menorahs as Gifts at Leading Jewish Group’s Hanukkah Party at Trump Hotel in DC.” Later an article was syndicated contrasting the Trump Hotel event and the White House event with some tongue-in-cheek observations and correcting the misinformation about the boycotting organizations. But a seventeen-paragraph article the next day in a leading Jewish newspaper, which focused primarily on the protestors, did not even mention the attendance of numerous ambassadors from predominantly Muslim countries as well as the PLO representative.

For its part, a member of the Conference of Presidents decried some of the coverage as “fake news.” The member derided one of the leading boycotting organization executives as “an arsonist,” bent on disrupting an important diplomatic event just because a room was rented at a Trump property. What’s more, the member derided another protesting organization as a small, obscure “half member that no one has heard of for twenty years.” When this writer asked one boycotting executive if she would also boycott events at locations named for Woodrow Wilson who promoted the KKK, the Carnegie Institution because of its involvement with genocidal eugenics, or the Rockefeller Foundation because of its sponsorship of the program that sent Mengele into Auschwitz, she declined to answer, and after another question, she hung up.

Leading members of the media are grappling with the concept of fake news and vehemently push back on confusing, deliberately faked news with erroneous reporting. But there is a middle ground between fake news and erroneous reporting. It is slanted news, that is, agenda-driven journalism that cherry-picks information, exaggerates negatives and positives, eschews balance, jumps at the chance to disparage, and leaves in place a false record that is uncorrected, un-retracted, and not updated. Reporting on the Conference’s Hanukkah party may qualify as all three.

Edwin Black

Jews Rally, Counter-Rally outside Hoenlein’s Group’s Hanukkah Party at Trump’s DC Hotel [video]

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

More than 150 Jewish young adults yelled anti-President-Elect Trump slogans and sang traditional Hanukkah songs with anti-Trump twists marching from Freedom Plaza to the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC Wednesday night, during a pre-Hanukkah party that was being held inside by the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, the Washington Post reported.

Another, albeit smaller group of about 15 Jews called Jews Choose Trump held a counter-protest nearby. Lee Green, a Jewish member of the electoral college from North Carolina, traveled from his home state to voice her objection to the idea that US Jews demonstrate against Trump.

The group opposing Trump and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, was made up of the usual leftwing, Reform-affiliated suspects, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the URJ, who called Hoenlein’s decision to celebrate Hanukkah at a Trump owned joint “tone-deaf at best, naked sycophancy at worst.” The protest was organized by If Not Now, a leftwing, anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Jewish group.

Hoenlein told the Post a week ago that the Trump hotel was picked for the party “purely on a pragmatic basis,” and that “the reasoning behind it was nothing to do with the Trump name.” He explained that the Azerbaijani Embassy, which co-hosted the party with the Conference of Presidents, planned it close to a month ago, and couldn’t find a venue that was able to accommodate a kosher gathering.

The counter-protesters sang patriotic Israeli and American songs, and at one point, according to the Post, pro-Trump protester David Goldberg yelled at Sharon Kleinbaum, the clergywoman of New York City’s LGBT Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, “What is it that you think we celebrate on the festival of Hanukkah?” adding, “You would have been on the side of Antiochus rather than Judah the Maccabee.”

Back in 2014, Kleinbaum was chastised by many in her own congregation for reading the names of Arab children who were killed in the Gaza war, alongside the names of Israeli soldiers who gave their lives in the same war, creating the impression that the latter bore responsibility for the former. She is also infamous for her statement: “I do believe that Israel violates the human rights of Palestinians every single day. Both things are true.”


Obama at Last Hanukkah Party: They Said I Won’t Last 1 Year, I Made It to 8 [video]

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

“I want to say how much Michelle and I appreciate the opportunities to have celebrated so many Hanukkahs with you in the White House,” President Barack Obama concluded his final Hanukkah party at the White House, and wisecracked: “You know, at the beginning of my presidency, some critics thought it would last for only a year. But – miracle of miracles –it has lasted eight years. It’s lasted eight whole years. Nes Gadol Haya Po.”

Say what you will, the man has great writers and – crucial – can deliver a line. Here’s some more:

“Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: how a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

“This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it – to publicize the mitzvah. And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here. (Laughter.)

“Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be – and defending the rights of others to do the same – that’s our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window – not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

“The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance – these are one and the same. Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody. In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah. And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays. A stunned Elie asked him, ‘Hanukkah in Auschwitz?’ And the man replied, ‘Especially in Auschwitz.'”

President Obama ended his speech with the following eloquent observation: “As many of you know, the name ‘Hanukkah’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘dedication.’ So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”

And now, let’s see what he does or does not do to the Hanukkah folks at the UN Security Council…


Israel is a Burden to the Democratic Party

Monday, December 12th, 2016

In a recent piece by Times of Israel staff we learn that, according to the Brookings Institution, a majority of Democrats consider Israel a “burden.”

The great majority of Americans, however – 76 percent – disregard Democratic Party disdain for the Jewish state and see Israel as a “strategic asset.” And they should. Aside from all the medical and technological breakthroughs that Israel is responsible for, it is also one of best allies the United States has in the world. Israel not only shares key intelligence information with the US government, it is also a bulwark of liberal democracy in a part of the world famous for brutal, head-chopping theocratic regimes that loathe both countries on religious grounds.

But none of this is new.

The Democratic Party betrayed the State of Israel and the Jewish people when it decided that making a home for itself of anti-Semitic anti-Zionists was a dandy idea. In almost any political venue controlled by Democrats anti-Semitic anti-Zionists hold a well-respected seat at the table alongside the Jews that they perpetually spit at as racist, colonialist, imperialist, militaristic, apartheid, scum.

From Daily Kos to the National Democratic Party, Jewish Democrats are taken for granted and held in contempt. And why shouldn’t they be? American Jews are at least as slavish to the Democrats as are American black people and the party leadership knows it. This is why they did not hesitate to put up an anti-Zionist, like Keith Ellison, as the primary contender for DNC Chair.

After listening to arguments, I’ve decided that Democrats are right to back Ellison. Ellison is staunch in his support of the party, he is the first Muslim-American to join the ranks of Congress, and he, in both votes and values, represents the character of the Democratic Party as it is in the early twenty-first century.

A Touch of Historical Backdrop

From FDR to the present, great numbers of Americans viewed the Democratic Party as the vehicle for the people. If the Republicans allegedly represented the party of uncaring plutocrats, the Democrats developed a reputation for standing with American workers, the labor unions, and the regular people. Rolling into the 1930s and the Great Depression government and business ruled the United States. It took many decades of fighting and dying for the labor movement in the United States to earn the recognition and power that it received under FDR and the New Deal, thereby creating the economic possibility of a burgeoning American middle-class after World War II.

Following that war, American liberalism shifted from a focus on labor to a focus on ethnic minorities, or what you might call “rights liberalism,” which would come to dominate Democratic politics in the form of “identity politics” by the turn of the century. So, for many of us growing up on the coasts following the Vietnam War, politics seemed simple and Manichean. It was a black and white choice between the forces of freedom and fairness versus the forces of traditional repression and prejudice.

In the early 1980s, however, the American cultural-political zeitgeist shifted quickly under president Ronald Reagan. Suddenly, according to singer-songwriter Huey Newton (who I loathed) it was “hip to be square” and American college students shifted from a focus on the humanities and social sciences to business administration and the art of money-making. What those of us who held fast to the earlier, 1960s visions of our older brothers and sisters did not at first realize was that the social justice vision of American politics was strengthening beneath the surface of Reagan’s America. It may have been a New Day for American conservatism, but the ideological children of Abbie Hoffman, if not Robert Kennedy, were gaining power just beneath the surface of American public life, particularly at the universities.

Why Trump Won

 For many liberals it seemed that Reagan had done such a good job of trashing their political movement that they changed their primary self-identifying term from “liberal” to “progressive.” The American Left was so savaged by the Gipper that by the end of the 1980s the very word “liberal” had fallen into disfavor. By the 1990s, when we were all familiarizing ourselves with Bill and Hillary, the progressive-left moved back into the foreground, yet seemed entirely incognizant of the amazing strides that the American people had made concerning fairness and decency toward ethnic minorities, women, and Gay people in the previous decades. By the Era of Clinton, the bad old days of de jeure racism was long over, Gay men and women were emerging from their closets, and almost everyone considered female corporate executives as natural as daytime.

Things were not perfect, and things will never be “perfect,” but the United States had come a very long way in a very short period of time toward equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.  Instead of acknowledging this and moving forward in a potential spirit of harmony, the progressive-left during the Obama administration used gender, race, and class as political weaponry with which to demean, defame, and even ruin the lives of people who might fairly disagree with them on substantive issues.

 Political Correctness became stifling to thoughtful people who realized it was no longer about fairness toward others, but about ideological bullying, repression of alternative thought and speech, social shaming, and legal harassment for the purpose of political dominance and power.

In this way, perfectly reasonable questions concerning the rise of political Islam became entirely verboten among the allegedly “sophisticated” on the coasts. Likewise, Americans who saw the chaos and violence and rapes associated with the Muslim immigration crisis in Europe, and who dared raise concerns, were lambasted as the worst people on the planet. Furthermore, Jewish American college students who support Israel, and thus the movement for Jewish freedom, were spit upon as baby killers and racists and supporters of genocide by those who claimed to represent the Left.

 There were many reasons why Hillary Clinton got beat. The common wisdom is that a combination of angry white working-class racists and fearful white upper-class racists did Hillary in. As we got closer to November the progressives and the Democrats beat the drum of racism and sexism and hatred so intensely that they scared the holy hell out of their own children who hoped not to be snatched out of their beds by Nazis or Klansmen by the morning of November 10.

And this represents a major, and largely overlooked, reason why Democrats and progressives were weeping into their beers the next day. You cannot go around telling regular Americans, of any ethnicity, that they’re a bunch of heinous racist, sexist, Nazis and then expect them to support your candidate.

 However, if the Democrats believe that Israel is a burden to the United States then they need to bring in Representative Ellison to help relieve them of that burden. We all know about Keith Ellison by this point. He’s an anti-Zionist who promoted the notion that Israel is an “apartheid” state, who voted against funding Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, and who was a long-time admirer and supporter of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic (and stone-cold crazy) Nation of Islam.

Nonetheless, the Democrats should bring in Ellison as Chair of the DNC because it’s important to Jewish people that you stop playing hide-the-salami with your anti-Zionism.

It’s just good to know where people actually stand.

Michael Lumish

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/israel-thriving-mike-lumish/israel-is-a-burden-to-the-democratic-party/2016/12/12/

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