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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shmuley boteach’

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.

Which Jews Choose (Samantha) Power, Which Won’t

Friday, June 7th, 2013

At least three leading pro-Israel American organizations have come out early and with vigor against the nomination of Samantha Power to become the next United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

The non-partisan Washington D.C.-based Endowment for Middle East Truth, a self-described think tank and policy shop, issued a statement deploring the nomination on Tuesday, June 4,  the same day that the Republican Jewish Coalition did.  The Zionist Organization of America, the oldest Zionist organization in America, was the first out of the starting gate with its long, detailed, public opposition to Power’s nomination on Monday June 3.

And on the other side of the ring we have perhaps the most famous and famously wealthy Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz and rabbi to the Stars and former congressional candidate Shmuley Boteach, all of whom are publicly placing their heckshers on Powers.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said Power “has a record of statements that are very troubling to Americans who support Israel.”

“In 2008, as an academic who taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Samantha Power suggested  that the U.S. should invade Israel militarily to impose a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and protect “a new state of Palestine.” Her writing and public appearances reflected her views that special-interest lobbies in this country (read, the “Israel lobby”) have too great an impact on our foreign policy in the Middle East,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a written statement. “She must respond to the strong doubts about her views raised by that record. Senators should also examine her tenure as head of the President’s Atrocity Prevention Board to see what results, if any, came out of her time there.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA is deeply concerned about and opposed to the nomination of Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The overwhelming evidence of her entire record causes us great fear and concern as to her appropriateness for this post. Ms. Power’s record clearly shows that she is viscerally hostile to Israel, regards it as a major human rights abuser, even committing war crimes, and would like to see the weight of American military and financial power go to supporting the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. In contrast, she has spoken of Iran as though it scarcely poses a problem. She also strongly suggested that the U.S. cease worrying about alleged Jewish power and money which allegedly forces the U.S. to support Israel and which allegedly is not in the national interest.

“Samantha Power is clearly the wrong choice for UN Ambassador, particularly at this sensitive juncture in history,” EMET’s President and Founder Sarah Stern wrote in a press release.

“Considering  Power’s openly hostile positions  on Israel as well as her deep seated resentment for the United States, and her biases in favor of the Palestinians despite their continued incitement to hate and to kill Israelis, our one true democratic  ally in the region,  and on the Iranian nuclear program, “she continued, “this appointment shows supporters of Israel that the Obama Administration’s worst instincts are coming to the fore in its second term. It’s deeply distressing.  We  oppose her nomination in the strongest terms possible.”

There are those in the public eye who are frequently considered to have strongly Jewish, pro-Israel positions, who have expressed support for Power.Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the prolific author once known as the “rabbi to the stars” because of his close-relationship with singer Michael Jackson, was won over by Power during a closed meeting between her and “40 Jewish leaders held in the offices of Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt.

Boteach described that meeting and his conversion to Power-lover and defender of Power in an article published in the Huffington Post:

Typical of her erudition and brilliance, Samantha presented a sweeping view of American policy in the world’s most dangerous region. Then, she directly addressed the accusations that she harbored animus toward Israel. And in the presence of the leaders of our community, she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion.

And the ADL’s national director Abraham Foxman and Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, had this to say:

As the world is sickened by the images of slaughter in Syria and as Israel faces an ever more volatile Middle East, we are heartened that the U.S. will be represented by an individual whose moral resolve and fierce pragmatism will serve our country well.

Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, strongly recommended confirming Powers’ nomination, but the words he chose and the way he used them are worth parsing carefully.  He wrote:

      To be sure, Samantha has said some things she now regrets — about Hillary Clinton, about Israel and about other controversial matters. She says what she thinks when she thinks it.
As the United States representative to the United Nations, she will articulate the policy of the Obama Administration.        She will have to be more diplomatic than she was while in private life. I am confident that she will make our country proud.
I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions. As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things.
Indeed, because of her sometimes critical attitude toward certain Israeli policies — some of which I agree with, others of which I do not — she will bring added credibility to her positions at the most anti-Israel location in the world other than perhaps, Tehran.

In other words, she has a loose mouth, she’s said things she shouldn’t have, she will need to learn to be a diplomat, but she will be the voice of the Obama administration at the United Nations.  And by the way, her being perceived as anti-Israel is really kinda good for the Jews, right?

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.

Cory Booker & Shmuley Boteach: The Rabbi and the Rhodes Scholar (Video)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Twenty years ago this Monday, corresponding to the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, a young African-American Rhodes scholar walked into a Chabad Jewish student center in Oxford, England. He had had a date with a Jewish woman who told him she was going to be at the Sukkot festivities at Rabbi Shmuley’s and would meet him there. As it turned out, he was stood up, and as he waited sheepishly in the corner of the room not knowing what to do next, he was approached by the Rabbi’s wife who invited him to sit in ‘the hot-seat’ next to the young Chabad Rabbi. Being the most joyous night of the Jewish calendar, the young student would later join with hundreds of other students dancing with the Torahs. This accidental meeting would change both their lives.

Cory Booker had little exposure to the Jewish community prior to that evening and I, who was serving as the Rabbi to the students of Oxford University, had only sporadic exposure to the African-American community. But in the days, weeks, and months that followed we began studying together almost daily. We studied the great texts of Judaism and discussed the great speeches of African-American leaders. Cory would later serve a full term as President of our Jewish student organization, which was then the second largest student group at the University with thousands of members. Together we hosted luminaries like Mikhail Gorbachev and other world leaders who lectured on values-based leadership.

Twenty years, countless conversations, and hundreds of Friday night Shabbat dinners later, Cory today is a much-loved honorary member of the American Jewish community, regularly lecturing at Synagogues and Jewish conferences across the country. More significant, Cory has challenged the Jewish community to live up to its Biblical calling to serve as ‘a light unto the nations.’ In many of the speeches we deliver together he asks the Jewish participants if they study the weekly Parsha, if they honor the commandments, and cherish the Sabbath. What allows an African-American Christian Mayor to challenge Jewish leaders to deepen their Jewish commitment? Because those same leaders are amazed at Cory’s knowledge of Judaism and appreciation of the Jewish contribution to civilization.

I have long believed that the next wave of Jewish commitment will be inspired by non-Jews. In massive conferences like Christians United For Israel we are already seeing a great wave of Christian interest in Judaism and a desire to reconnect Jesus back to his Jewish roots. But Cory has taken this a step further, studying Judaism with a view to teaching it to Jews.

A few years ago AIPAC invited Cory and me to address a large group in Chicago. It was the week where we read the story of Genesis in Synagogue and Cory delivered a moving speech on the creation of Adam and Eve, culled from a speech by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The wife of a prominent American Jewish leader approached me after the speech and asked if I would study the Parsha of the week with her, as I do with Cory. I asked her why now. She responded, “When you hear someone so prominent in the American political landscape deriving inspiration from the Torah, and he’s not even Jewish, you become a little embarrassed that you are ignorant of your tradition and you want to discover what he has discovered.” I have heard similar sentiments expressed by other Jewish listeners on many occasions.

My friendship with Cory also sparked a lifelong closeness between me and the African-American community. I became the first-ever white morning radio host on America’s legacy black radio station, WWRL in New York City. I took the Rev. Al Sharpton to Israel to alleviate the enmity between him and the Jewish community, I was the driving force behind an effort to have 600 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina find permanent homes in Utah where they have been moved only temporarily, and I preached at the Martin Luther King chapel at Morehouse College at a conference with Coretta Scott King. And as part of my current run for Congress in New Jersey, I travelled to Rwanda to highlight the 1994 genocide and help combat efforts to deny it. The Rwandan government invited me to meet President Paul Kagame in New York last week and I hosted a reception for Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo with American Jewish leaders.

There are those who believe that the black and Jewish communities share a common history of persecution. But being among the world’s foremost victims is not the basis of our bond. The relationship between blacks and Jews is built on shared faith rather than shared oppression, common destiny rather than common history, shared values rather than shared interests, and a mutual commitment to social justice rather than a mutual alienation from the mainstream.

I thank God for a friendship that has endured for two decades and the enrichment it has brought to us and our respective communities.

Germany’s Circumcision Police

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

There was a head-spinning moment in Germany last week: News emerged that a rabbi had been criminally charged for performing his religious duties. Rabbi David Goldberg of northern Bavaria, who shepherds a 400-member community, is the first person to run afoul of a ruling by a Cologne judge earlier this year that criminalized circumcision, a basic religious rite.

There is some precedent outside of Germany for such a ruling. In 2001, a Swedish law sparked a protest from Jews and Muslims by requiring that a medical doctor or anesthesia nurse accompany registered circumcisers, and that anesthesia be applied before the procedure. The law is still in effect.

In 2006, a Finnish court charged a Muslim mother with assault for circumcising her baby, and this was followed by a Jewish couple being fined for causing bodily harm to their son. The Muslim mother wasn’t ultimately punished, and in 2006 the Finnish Supreme Court said her actions weren’t criminal and religious circumcision not a crime. In the United States, a San Francisco ballot initiative tried last year to make circumcision an offense punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison; it failed to get enough votes. (In Germany, the Cologne judge seems not to have not yet specified punishment for violations.)

The ban by the court in Cologne, however, is the most troubling. For decades Germany has been an example of how a nation can take responsibility for its previous crimes. It is very moving to see Germany’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin, just two blocks from the country’s parliament. But the circumcision ban deserves universal scorn.

The American and European rabbinate should lead a delegation of mohelim (ritual circumcisers) to Germany to seek arrest for civil disobedience in protest against government persecution. I would join them and call upon Islamic imams to stand with us.

Does the German government really want to get into a public battle over whether they are better guardians of the health and welfare of Jewish (and Muslim) children than their parents?

The Los Angeles Times recently cited a study predicting that as the number of circumcisions goes down in the U.S., the cost of health care will steadily climb. Eryn Brown reported that “If circumcision rates were to fall to 10% . . . lifetime health costs for all the babies born in a year would go up by $505 million. That works out to $313 in added costs for every circumcision that doesn’t happen.”

Why? Because circumcision has been proven to be the second most effective means—after a condom—for stopping the transmission of HIV-AIDS, with the British Medical Journal reporting that circumcised men are eight times less likely to contract the infection.

The New York Times echoed these findings in an Aug. 27 report that projected “declining U.S. circumcision rates could add more than $4 billion in health care costs in coming years because of increased illness and infections.” The story focused on the American Academy of Pediatrics updating its 13-year-old policy on circumcision and declaring that the health benefits of circumcision—in reducing chances of HIV infection and other STDs, urinary tract infection, and cancer—outweigh the risks.

While the Germans decry the barbarity of circumcision for men, they also overlook the benefit to women who are the men’s partners. Male circumcision reduces the risk of cervical cancer—caused by the human papillomavirus, which thrives under and on the foreskin—by at least 20%, according to an April 2002 article in the British Medical Journal.

While some attempt to equate male circumcision with female clitoridectomy, the comparison is absurd. Female circumcision involves removing a woman’s ability to have pleasure during sexual relations. It is a barbarous act of mutilation that has no corollary to its male counterpart. Judaism has always celebrated the sexual bond between husband and wife. Attempts to malign circumcision as a method of denying a man’s sexual pleasure are ignorant. Judaism insists that sex be accompanied by exhilaration and enjoyment as a bonding experience that leads to sustained emotional connection.

We Jews must be doing something right in the bedroom given the fact that, alone among the ancient peoples of the world, we are still here, despite countless attempts to make us a historical footnote.

AIPAC, NORPAC, Stay Neutral in Race between Rabbi Boteach and CAIR Supporter Pascrell

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is running for US congress in the 9th Congressional District in New Jersey.  He is pro-marriage, pro-security, pro-democracy, pro-Israel, and pro-Arab (as in pro-democracy and western-style freedoms for Arabs).  His opponent, Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr., signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building, and has done his best to help block the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani.

This particular election should be an easy choice for pro-Israel voters.  Should be, but something’s missing.

Other than the Republican Jewish Coalition and the locally-based Jewish paper, The Jewish Voice and Opinion, Rabbi Boteach doesn’t have the public support of major pro-Israel political organizations behind him.  In fact, although critics attack groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the single issue NORPAC political action committee as being blindly supportive of Israel, neither one of these political heavyweights are actively supporting Boteach’s bid for congress.

Why?

Both NORPAC and AIPAC typically support the incumbent in a race, unless he or she has failed to meet what is sometimes criticized as a “fairly low benchmark.”

Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC, told The Jewish Press that, in general, if an incumbent has a “good voting record,” which means largely that they “vote for U.S. aid to Israel, vote in favor of pro-Israel Resolutions, and have voted in favor of Iran sanctions,” they are considered a “friendly incumbent” and NORPAC will support them.  There are a few exceptions, but those are rare.

One example of such an exception was in the bruising primary campaign preceding this general election in NJ’s 9th, when Pascrell defeated his Democratic opponent, the fiercely pro-Israel Steve Rothman.  That battle was a Middle East conflict set in the Garden State.  A major Pascrell supporter, Dr. Aref Assaf, the president of the Arab American Forum authored an op-ed contemptuously referring to Rothman as being “Israel’s man.” Assaf also denounced Rothman as an “Israel-firster,” as in Israel was more important to Rothman than is the United States.

Even though both Pascrell and Rothman were incumbents with “good voting records,” NORPAC supported Rothman in the primary because he had an “extraordinary record on Israel.” However, NORPAC is now treating the NJ 9th election as an “open seat.” This means that they will bundle funds for either contestant, if asked.  “But,” Chouake said, “NORPAC is not making donations from their general fund for either candidate.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the kind of red line drawn by the major pro-Israel political organizations.

Chouake admitted that Pascrell signing the Gaza 54 letter and supporting Imam Qatanani were problematic.  “But Qatanani is a constituent of Pascrell’s, and the decision about whether to deport the Imam is a judicial one, not a congressional one.”

Maybe so, but Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation on behalf of Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.”  That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas.  But even while in the United States, Qatanani has openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel.  He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers. It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”

On the other hand, although AIPAC and NORPAC are sitting out this election, the pro-Israel sugar daddy/mama team of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have contributed directly to Boteach, as well as to a Boteach-connected super PAC.  In total, their contributions to Boteach account for more than half a million dollars.  The cash-infusion, in turn, led the Republican National Congressional Committee to upgrade Boteach’s campaign to “Contender” status.  That new status ensures Boteach will be the further recipient of important support from other GOP congressional leaders and other campaign accoutrements.

In fact, riding the wave brought on by the Adelsons’ donations, Rabbi Boteach is currently in Florida, attending the Republican National Convention.  The Jewish Press caught up with him in the RJC lounge.

What pushed the world-famous celebrity rabbi, author and reality show star to choose politics as his next frontier?

He says he “wants America to refocus on values, but not the side show ones on abortion and gay marriage.”  Boteach wants to focus on “supporting marriage, offering vouchers for school choice, and granting tax breaks to corporations to close on Sundays.”

He pointed out that “before the big brouhaha surrounding Chik-fil-A and gay marriage, the chain deserved attention for its astronomical growth, even though all the outlets were closed on Sundays.” His point is that being family-friendly does not have to have negative economic consequences for businesses.

When asked what distinguished him from his opponent who has what some professionals claim, is a “strong pro-Israel record,” Boteach let loose.  “Look, the number one issue threatening Israel is Iran.  But right behind that is the international delegitimization of Israel.  And Pascrell is one of the foremost congressional participants in that delegitimization.”

“Pascrell has engaged in a blood libel.  It was an astonishing act of ignorance for Pascrell to sign the ‘Gaza 54′ letter.”  That letter, according to Boteach, “charged Israel with engaging in collective punishment by falsely claiming they deny food and medicine to the Gazans.”  Pascrell has stood by that letter, saying he did not regret signing it.

Boteach asked, “what is the point of having the pro-Israel red line be support for aid to Israel, if, when every time Israel uses that aid to defend herself, she is accused of things like ‘collective punishment?”

Boteach is clearly disappointed by the lack of expected support.  Nonetheless, with the clout added to his campaign by the large financial show of Adelson support, Boteach was invited to address the RJC’s Salute to Pro-Israel Elected Officials at the Crowne Plaza Westshore Hotel last night.  Boteach is hoping that, “G-d willing,” at the next Republican Convention, he’ll be part of that audience.

AIPAC expressed disinterest in speaking on the record.  Congressman Pascrell’s campaign spokesman Keith Furlong did not respond to a request for comment.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Obama’s Doublespeak On Russian Missile Defense and Israel

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

President Obama’s recent open mic comments to President Medvedev of Russia are troubling, which explains why Obama and the White House have decided to make light of them. It seems that every time a microphone captures the President in unscripted remarks, he’s saying something that contradicts his own public pronouncements.

There was the famous incident in November, 2011, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy, not knowing his microphone was hot, expressed his contempt for Prime Minister Netanyahu, calling him a liar, with President Obama jumping in to commiserate, lamenting the fact that he has to deal with Netanyahu even more than the French.

And now comes Obama’s comments about a missile defense treaty with Russia where the President tells Medvedev that he and Putin have to give him “space” until his reelection when he’ll have far greater “flexibility,” presumably because he no longer has to answer to the American people.

A great debate has been waged this year as to whether President Obama is reliably pro-Israel and deserves the support of the pro-Israel community. The president made his case to AIPAC by listing a long record of promoting military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish State, arguing that “I have Israel’s back.” While I have personally praised the President for that cooperation and other support shown Israel, there is more to the story, and he knows it.

For the first three years of his presidency, Obama basically declared Israel’s settlements to be illegitimate, put near-unilateral pressure on Israel to make peace without any expectations from the Palestinian side, declared at a speech that was supposed to be about the Arab Spring that Israel should return to its indefensible 1967 borders–albeit with land swaps, treated Prime Minister Netanyahu shamefully at a March 2010 meeting where he refused even a photo op with the elected leader of the Middle East’s only democracy, and had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dress down the Prime Minister before that meeting, leaking the harsh tone of the conversation to the media.

Ever since his self-confessed ‘shellacking’ during the mid-term elections, part of which was due to his perceived unfriendliness to the Jewish state, the President decided to make nice with Bibi and treat him with the same respect he accords other world leaders, albeit without the warmth of the two-armed embrace he reserved for Hugo Chavez or the bow he accorded the King of Saudi Arabia.

At the UN in September, 2011 the President strongly supported Israel against a Palestinian attempt at unilateral statehood. The President deserves credit for the effort. Then, he talked tough on Iran and imposed even greater sanctions, although he has yet to define any red lines that would invoke a military strike. The President has gotten much better in his posture vis-à-vis Israel and he is winning back Jewish support as a result.

But here is the all-important question. Why? Why has he suddenly changed in showing Israel unalloyed support?

I am not one who believes in ascribing insincere motivation to others. I judge people on their actions. But based on his actions, rather than his rhetoric, I believe the answer to the President’s new posture towards Israel lies in his words to President Medvedev. He has no ‘flexibility’ before an election in which Jewish votes and financial support are critical to what will be a very close race. And therefore, after the election, he cannot be trusted to refrain from exerting undue pressure on Israel to consummate a peace deal that will likely not lead to peace but will simply compromise Israel’s security.

And herein lies my mystification at the bizarre story of fifteen presidents of orthodox Synagogues in Passaic encouraging their congregants to switch registration to Democrat in order to vote for Steve Rothman over Bill Pascrell in the upcoming Democratic primary in New Jersey’s ninth district.  This is because Pascrell is perceived to be less friendly to Israel since, among other considerations, he was one of 54 Congressman who signed the J-Street letter criticizing Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Now leaving aside the questionable ethics of the advice, are they seriously suggesting that any Democratic supporter of President Obama is going to be as sound on Israel as, say, Republican Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who both invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress?

The Daily Beast quoted me last week as saying that President Obama is a strong friend of the Jewish people and that anyone who speaks of him as anti-Semitic is guilty of character assassination. I stand by that quote. President Obama has elevated committed Jews like Dan Shapiro to be our Ambassador to Israel, and orthodox Jews like Jack Lew to be his Chief of Staff.  But being a great friend of the Jewish people does not automatically make you a great friend of Israel. After all, President Obama has yet to even visit Israel as President. And yet, the principal problem with President Obama is his belief that Israeli intransigence, rather than, say, Islamist terror or Palestinian rejection of Israel as a Jewish state, is the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In this sense President Obama follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – Israeli toughness, rather than Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist, is the principal cause for the continuation of the conflict.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-obamas-doublespeak-on-russian-missile-defense-and-israel/2012/04/02/

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