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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘US Jews’

Erdogan Happy to Return Award Given by American Jewish Congress

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded favorably to a demand by the American Jewish Congress that he return the group’s “Profile of Courage” award given to him 10 years for trying to mediate between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and for fighting terrorism after two deadly attacks on a synagogue and a bank.

Following Erdogan’s verbal rants the past month, such as asserting that Israel “surpassed Hitler in barbarism” through its attacks on Gaza.”

The AJC last week called Erdogan, once a close friend of Israel, the world’s “most virulent anti-Israeli leader.”

“A decade after we gave you our award, you have become arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world — spewing dangerous rhetoric for political gain and inciting the Turkish population to violence against the Jewish people,” wrote AJC president Jack Rosen. “Now, we want it bac.”

Rosen’s wish now will be granted according to Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kılıç.

Erase any thoughts that Erdogan thinks he does not deserve the award. Perish the thought, said the ambassador, who insisted that his boss really does what he can for the security of Jews and backs a two-state solution.. That could mean the Palestinian Authority and Israel or it could mean two Palestinian Authority states – one from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat and from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and the other in Gaza.

The ambassador also says that Erdogan still is a great warrior against terrorism. That is why he thinks so highly of Hamas.

So what terrorism does Erdogan fight?

Ambassador Kılıç explained that Turkey “stands against Israel’s state terrorism.”

Americans in Beit Shemesh Present the Better Side of Haredim

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Amid the buzz surrounding issues of religious-secular tension—such as proposed Israeli legislation to mandate Haredi enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and a recent rally where hundreds of thousands of people protested the bill—Haredi entrepreneurship in the Jewish state doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Critics lament the lack of Haredi integration into both the military and the Israeli workforce, but  Beit Shemesh, located 20 miles west of Jerusalem with a population of 100,000 people, is home to innovators like Rabbi Joel Padowitz, whose ventures have a direct relationship with the Haredi community.

Padowitz, 36, is co-creator of what he believes is a “game-changing” product for Israeli tourism and business called the “Israel App.” Originally from San Diego, Padowitz made aliyah in 2009 and lives in Beit Shemesh with his wife and six children. He teaches Mishnah every day at a men’s kollel in Beit Shemesh, is an avid mountain biker, and is the founder of a Manhattan-based investment bank. He has rabbinical ordination and an MBA from Bar-Ilan University, and he now is now pursuing a BA in social science from Harvard University.

The co-founder and manager of the Israel App is equally eclectic 28-year-old Yaakov Lehman, formerly from Tucson, Ariz., who is married with a newborn child. A part-time rabbinic student and part-time social entrepreneur, he has a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in global studies, an MA from the London School of Economics in economic history, and an MA from the University of Vienna in world history. He came to Israel in 2008.

“The reason I founded the Israel App is because people come to Israel and do not get a legitimate or even meaningful presentation of this incredible country,” Padowitz tells JNS.org. “We cater to the majority of tourists who don’t hire human tour guides. We want to give them a way to appreciate more deeply all that Israel has to offer.”

The Israel App, which currently has about 6,000 users, contains GPS-guided tours for any tourist who needs to find sites or hotels or restaurants, a virtual concierge for making reservations, coupons, and background content like an “Israepedia,” a glossary covering a wide variety of historical information. Tourists can use the app without roaming charges as they travel around the country.

When Padowitz and Lehman initiated their project, they began looking for a programming team. They happened upon NetSource and its subsidiary, Concept Creative Technology, a service provider of software development. “We liked the service, the price, and their work environment,” says Lehman.

NetSource’s 48-year-old CEO, Mazal Shirem, is a divorced mother of three who grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem, where she lived until the age of 20. After 16 years with Intel and a stint in Munich, Germany, she found a business partner for her new venture whose mission “was to get Orthodox people into the employment market and give them the tools they need to learn the work environment.”

NetSource was launched in 2010 and today employs 200 people—90 percent Haredi women and 5 percent Haredi men—almost all living in Beit Shemesh. According to Shirem, the company operates so that the employees “receive the full respect of their lifestyle, including the on-site kosher kitchen, flexible work hours, and even proper subjects on which they work.”

Tamar, a 26-year-old Haredi mother of a two toddlers, is consulting with Shirem in her office. She started work there a year and a half ago as a secretary and worked her way up to an account manager.

“I really like to work here,” she says. “The girls are very nice and it’s convenient for me to work in this company because I find all the conditions which I need in order for me to go out and do my job in an appropriate environment.”

Make Aliyah, Be an Achiever and Win $10,000

Monday, January 13th, 2014

A food bank chairman, a solar energy pioneer and the creator of the “Dry Bones” comic strip are among the first winners of a Nefesh B’Nefesh prize recognizing immigrants to Israel.

More than 200 immigrants from English-speaking countries were nominated for the Bonei Zion Prize, which was awarded in five categories as well as for lifetime achievement. The recipients hailed originally from the United States.

Each of the winners will receive a $10,000 prize at a ceremony soon in Jerusalem.

Joseph Gitler, who made aliyah in 2000, won in the Community and Non-Profit category for his work as founder and chairman of Leket Israel, a national food bank that provides food for more than 140,000 people weekly.

Malke Bina, the founder and chancellor of the women’s learning center Matan, received the award in the Education category. Bina, who was one of the first educators in Israel to teach Talmud and Jewish law to female students, made aliyah in 1971.

The recipient for Entrepreneurship and Technology was Yosef Abramowitz, the CEO and a co-founder of Energiya Global Capital as well as a co-founder of the Arava Power Company. Abramowitz, whom Nefesh B’Nefesh dubbed “Israel’s premier solar energy pioneer,” made aliyah in 2006.

Jeffery Hausdorff, the recipient in the Science and Medicine category, left a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School in 2000 to make aliyah and is now a professor at Tel Aviv University and director of the Neurodynamics and Gait Research Laboratory at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Hausdorff has contributed to research in neuroscience and aging in Israel and worldwide.

Yaakov Kirschen, creator of the popular “Dry Bones” comic strip, received the prize in the Culture, Sports and Arts category. Kirschen made aliyah in 1972.

Lt. Nira Lee, head of hasbara at the headquarters of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, received the prize in the IDF and National Service Young Leadership category. The Arizona native has served in the Israel Defense Forces for three years; she made aliyah in 2010. Lee received the President’s Citation of Excellence in 2013.

The Lifetime Achievement winner was Shimon Glick, a professor and dean emeritus of the health sciences faculty at Ben Gurion University. He made aliyah in 1974 to help found the university’s faculty of medicine.

“We hope that accentuating the achievements of Anglo olim will serve as a catalyst to inspire others to make aliyah as well as highlight the achievements of these olim who are helping to make a difference to our homeland,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the executive director and a co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, in a statement.

Jewish Groups Remember Sharon as a Warrior and Peacemaker

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Jewish organizations in the United States and around the world remembered the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a military leader and a fighter for peace.

“His legacy is a more secure State of Israel, safe on its borders and resolved to put an end to the campaign of Palestinian terrorism once and for all,” Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham Foxman, the national chair and the national director, respectively, of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “It is not only Israel, but the Jewish people, the U.S., and the international community who have lost a towering figure who offered hope to his people and the region.”

Sharon died Saturday at 85 after eight years in a coma following a massive stroke.

Josh Block, president of The Israel Project, called Sharon an “embodiment of the Jewish state and a heroic protector of her people who will be remembered not only for his strength, but for his courage in pursuit of peace. Sharon’s contributions to bolstering the U.S.-Israel relationship made both nations safer, and kindled the bonds of democracy, liberty, and shared values that we care so much about.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council in a statement called Sharon “a true defender of Israel.”

J Street, the left-wing pro-Israel advocacy organization, said in a statement that “Sharon deserves credit for the intellectual journey he took during his life and for having the courage to lead. His incapacitation, when at the height of his powers, leaves the challenge of making peace to be fulfilled by his successors, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now was able to praise Sharon only after she accused him of as a man who “initiated war,” without explaining what war Israel ever initiated.

“Israelis today are saying farewell to a bold leader who toward the end of his political career was transformed from a staunch hawk who initiated war and provocative belligerent actions to a leader who recognized that Israel’s strategic interests lie in an agreement with the Palestinians,” she stated.

DeLee added, “As the sister organization of Israel’s peace movement, Peace Now, we can only hope that Sharon’s pledge would serve as inspiration for the current and future leaders of Israel.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said in a statement that Sharon “will be remembered as a true friend of The Jewish Agency, as a military man, a leader of Israel, a statesman, and a genuine partner of world Jewry.” He said Sharon “invested tremendous effort in strengthening Jewish identity, increasing aliyah (immigration to Israel), and combating anti-Semitism around the world.”

Sharon was a “fighter for his country in times of war and a fighter for peace,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, in a statement.

The Jewish Federations of North America in its statement from Chairman Michael Siegal and President Jerry Silverman said, “Ariel Sharon was a highly regarded military leader, but he was also a peacemaker. One of the country’s most daring and celebrated generals, he was also a man who was able to take bold steps in the hopes of achieving peace.”

Argentina Tells Obama to Include AMIA Bombing in Iran Talks

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez sent out a blitz of 31 tweets to urge President Barack Obama to include the issue of the Buenos Aires Jewish Center AMIA bombing in its bilateral talks with Iran.

The tweets posted Monday night from the president’s official Twitter account also mentioned the pressure that she feels from U.S. Jewish organizations about the AMIA case and complained that the focus of the U.S. government for these bilateral talks is only on Iran’s nuclear program.

The president did not refer to any Jewish organizations specifically by name.

“Perhaps the AMIA bombing, the case about which every American Jewish organization always asks the Argentine government, was mentioned?” she asked, referring to last week’s phone call between President Barack Obama and Iranian leader Hassan Rohani

“Was the AMIA case ever mentioned?” she asked tweeted to her 2.3 million followers. “Not at all,” she added.

The 1994 bombing killed 85 people and wounded 300.

Kosovo Official Presses US Jews on Israel Recognition

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Kosovo’s deputy foreign minister, citing his country’s record of ethnic Albanians protecting Jews during the Holocaust, urged American Jewish groups to press Israel for recognition of the country.

In a meeting with Jewish officials in Washington, Petrit Selimi also noted that Kozovo’s pro-American tilt made relations between the two countries a natural.

“With such a deep, historic link, it’s only natural to have Israeli recognition,” Selimi told JTA. “Israel is not just a country; it is an important country, influential in the community of nations.”

Also present at the meeting were representatives of B’nai B’rith International, the Anti-Defamation League and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Selimi also met with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, who over the years has spearheaded congressional support for Kosovo.

Israel has resisted recognizing Kosovo in part because of fierce Russian resistance to its independence in 2008 and because of close Israeli ties to Serbia. Nonetheless, there have been signs in recent months that Israel may be more open to ties with Kosovo.

Maccabiah Games Draw US Athletes to Become ‘Bar Mitzvah’

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Luke Rosener removed his orange T-shirt, changed into a white dress shirt and alighted from a chartered bus.

The garb was a far cry from the uniform Rosener will wear while playing for the U.S. volleyball team at the Maccabiah, the 78-nation sports competition that began in Israel last week. The Cupertino, Calif., native’s attire was more befitting a religious ceremony — in this case, his bar mitzvah.

Rosener, 22, had never had a bar mitzvah, owing to his family’s financial situation and his early struggles with dyslexia. But as part of the 1,200-member U.S. Maccabiah delegation, Rosener encountered a ready-made opportunity to become a bar mitzvah alongside scores of new friends also celebrating the traditional rite of passage.

That’s because Maccabi USA, the American branch of the international sports movement, brings participants to Israel a week before the competition for a mandatory program of touring and discussions rich in Jewish content. In recent years, the program, known as Israel Connect, has featured a mass bar mitzvah ceremony for participants who never had one.

“There’s so much more to [the Maccabiah] than playing sports,” said Jeffrey Bukantz, Maccabi USA’s general chairman and a former fencing Olympian. “We really do consider it the flagship of the program. It’s to the point that Israel Connect is more important than the actual sports. The kids are really impacted by the program.”

On the lush grounds of a reception center in the hills west of Jerusalem, a mile beyond the Elvis Inn pub guarded by a white statue of the King, the delegation gathered in the setting sun Tuesday for the ceremony. The entry hall’s long red carpet was lined with red, white and blue balloons and round tables in the vast garden were stacked with wrapped presents.

The Tuesday ceremony coincided with Tisha B’Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of both Holy Temples — a day on which celebrations are frowned upon. But as he prepared to chant the Torah portion designated for the closing hours of many fast days, Daniel Greyber, the delegation’s official rabbi, offered a fresh perspective.

“The afternoon of Tisha B’Av is a time of rebuilding, of looking forward,” Greyber said. “The bnai mitzvah ceremony connects us to the Jewish people — not only in this world at this time, but for all of history. In that regard, it requires celebrating.”

Along with the U.S. team’s assistant rabbi, Noam Raucher, Greyber led the crowd in spirited singing. And he punctuated the Torah reading with references to group discussions he had led the previous day covering biblical events and their relevance today.

Dave Blackburn, a star softball pitcher who has competed in six Maccabiah Games, recited Birkat HaGomel, traditionally recited by those who have escaped harm. In 2009, Blackburn was nearly killed in a car crash, an accident that claimed his right leg below the knee and broke 27 bones.

“I’ve lived to share this Maccabiah experience with you, my extended family,” Blackburn said from his wheelchair.

Greyber called the Maccabiah participants to the Torah in three groups, and as the last one ascended the podium, he called for attention.

“Everyone, look at the miracle that is happening,” said Greyber, “as the sun goes down over Jerusalem, as this group that has never been to Israel and never had a bar or bat mitzvah is having an aliyah for the first time.”

Then Blackburn’s nephew Landon stepped forward. “My uncle,” he began, struggling through tears to get the words out, “is keeping me alive, and that’s all that matters.”

Landon Blackburn, a wrestler, said later that his uncle’s participation in the games is his most cherished aspect of the trip. His own father would not have permitted him to participate without his uncle’s influence, he said.

A native of La Porte, Ind., Landon, 18, said he grew up celebrating Jewish holidays, but as a rebellious child opted not to have a bar mitzvah.

“But all that did was make my life harder, that the weight of the world was on my shoulders,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to help me cope with the hardships of life.” he said.

Having this bar mitzvah, he said, makes him feel “100 percent better about my outlook on life.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/maccabiah-games-draw-us-athletes-to-become-bar-mitzvah/2013/07/21/

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