Teaching kids to kill, in Gaza and beyond

For most third graders, the school year began this week with the hustle and bustle of new teachers, fresh notebooks, and crisply ironed uniforms. But the third grader in Gaza whose photo appeared in the New York Times on Aug. 30 wore a different kind of uniform: a headband with “jihad” slogans and military-style camouflage pants, while carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and marching alongside adult members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. The macabre practice of educating children to hate and kill, honed to deadly perfection in Nazi Germany, is alive and well 70 years after the end of the Third Reich. The practice is now found in a different part of the world, but the targets are still Jews, writes historian Rafael Medoff.

Posted on September 2, 2014 and filed under Analysis, Education, Israel, World, Opinion.

After Gaza conflict, preparing for a potentially stormy year for Israel on campus

This summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has come to a close if a ceasefire reached last week holds, has spurred a sharp rise in both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents around the world. At the same time, the boundary between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has become increasingly blurred, particularly on American college campuses. Trouble for Jewish students got underway even before the start of classes, as a Jewish student at Temple University was physically and verbally assaulted at an orientation event. “We are expecting that things can get very ugly this year on many college campuses, including some that were quiet in the past,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

Posted on August 29, 2014 and filed under Features, Education, Israel, News, U.S..

Menschkins: Piling on the pounds

The 49th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." See the color version above, and the black and white version below. Click here for an introduction to the series. Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

Posted on August 29, 2014 and filed under Arts, Menschkins.

Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a secret weapon for NBA stars

Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing to becoming a well-respected figure in the professional basketball world. “The [NBA] players and I sort of live parallel lives because we both found something that we love very much, and only faith can push you through such a non-traditional journey,” Ravin tells JNS.org.

Posted on August 29, 2014 and filed under Sports, U.S., Features.

Applying international law to the Israel-Hamas conflict

Now that the latest Israel-Hamas conflict has come to a close, the battlefield moves from Gaza to the court of public opinion. How should a scrupulous application of international law treat Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and Hamas’s actions in the conflict? That is no small question, because the outcome of a U.N. investigation into the conflict will be the commonly accepted verdict on the matter. The meticulous documentation by the IDF and the media of the facts on the ground leaves the three-person commission conducting the probe with an opportunity to steer the U.N. on a road to regaining credibility, writes attorney Eli Wishnivetski.

Posted on August 28, 2014 and filed under Features, Analysis, Israel, World.

How Jewish television pioneer Milton Berle inspired modern comedy stars

Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. America’s first small-screen star, Berle influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “His success came about because early television sets were mostly sold in wealthier urban areas, with Jews and gentile urbanites accustomed to and appreciative of Jewish humor. ... Ironically, it was Berle’s success with those urban audiences that propelled the sales of televisions around the nation,” Lawrence Epstein, author of “The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America,” tells JNS.org.

Posted on August 28, 2014 and filed under Arts, Features, U.S..

After Gaza war, helping traumatized Israelis heal

As the war in Gaza reaches its conclusion and the plight of Israeli victims of terror and their families once again fades into the background, it is our responsibility to stand with these individuals so that they can begin to heal. We must help them develop the positive outlook required for true recovery and enable them to realize that “it could have been worse,” writes Chelsea Polaniecki, who spent this summer interning at OneFamily, Israel’s leading organization solely dedicated to the rehabilitation of victims of terror attacks and their families.

Posted on August 27, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion.

The anatomy of a cease-fire

After at least 11 failed attempts at achieving a lasting cease-fire between the Hamas terrorist group and Israel, negotiators in Cairo on Tuesday announced that they reached an indefinite cease-fire deal. But will the agreement hold up this time around? Some experts are skeptical because the talks leading up to the deal lacked the three major elements they believe are required for a successful cease-fire: negative leverage, positive leverage, and a credible third-party broker. 

Posted on August 26, 2014 and filed under Features, Israel, News.

Making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East

With old alliances being frayed and new threats emerging, making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East is increasingly difficult for even seasoned observers and analysts. Disgruntled by President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the region, some long-time American allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have begun openly criticizing the U.S. approach to issues like the Gaza conflict, with some even pivoting towards Russia. At the same time, civil wars in Syria and Libya as well as instability in Iraq have proven to be fertile breeding ground for new and more brutal terrorist organizations, forcing regional and international actors into new alliances to meet this common threat.

Posted on August 26, 2014 and filed under Features, Israel, News, U.S., World.

Twenty years on, the real and radical legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Twenty years after his October 1994 death, robust accounts of musician Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s life are emerging. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy.” This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s “The Soul of Jerusalem” hit the shelves. But even the authors admit that this larger-than-life rabbi’s legacy cannot be fully captured in black-and-white pages. “Shlomo did not seem to fit any restrictive, defining label,” Ophir said. “Reb Shlomo was… a charismatic teacher who combined storytelling, sermonic exegesis, and inspirational insights into creating a new form of heartfelt, soulful Judaism filled with a love for all human beings.”

Posted on August 25, 2014 and filed under Arts, Features, U.S..

Ongoing rocket fire casts doubt on start of Israeli school year

Leading up to the start of a new academic year in Israel, parents in the rocket-battered south are saying they do not feel safe sending their children back to school. Israeli officials agree that safety is the top consideration guiding the decision on whether or not to begin the school year as scheduled on Sept. 1. “Under no circumstances will we return to our normal routine under fire,” said Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni.

Posted on August 25, 2014 and filed under Israel, News.

Losing patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism

It comes as no surprise that a Students for Justice in Palestine-affiliated student, on Aug. 20 at Temple University, shouted anti-Semitic insults and punched a pro-Israel student in the face during an orientation event. SJP historically bullies pro-Israel students and invites vehemently anti-Semitic speakers to campus under the pretenses of “dialogue.” But its activities have done far more than just harass Jewish students. Rather, the group uses its false language of “human rights” and “social justice” to get various student groups to assist its struggle for such causes, writes Elliott Hamilton, a rising senior and pro-Israel student activist at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.

Posted on August 24, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Menschkins: From meshuga to more meshuga

The 48th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." See the color version above, and the black and white version below. Click here for an introduction to the series. Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.

Posted on August 24, 2014 and filed under Arts, Menschkins.

The ‘science’ of Israel on campus: CAMERA preps students for upcoming challenges

While Israel has been engaged in a seemingly endless summer war with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, pro-Israel students are about to re-enter an increasingly hostile environment for the Jewish state on their college campuses. Just weeks before the start of the 2014-15 school year, 53 pro-Israel student leaders prepared for that challenge by convening in Boston for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference. “Everyone at the conference got hands-on experience that will be necessary to fight the information battles we face in the coming year,” said Elliott Hamilton, a rising senior at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.

Posted on August 21, 2014 and filed under Education, Features, Israel, U.S..

My war story: a new Torah for Sderot

Well-known Jewish radio personality Nachum Segal recounts what he calls a life-altering experience during the Israel-Hamas war: the dedication of a new Torah scroll for an Ethiopian congregation in the rocket-battered Negev city of Sderot.

Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion.