At March of the Living, learning how to live

In our current age of constant Holocaust analogies, Jacob Kamaras admits that he has been guilty of “Holocaust fatigue.” But he doens’t want to feel that way. His late grandparents on his mother’s side survived the Holocaust. For a grandchild of survivors, the Holocaust should be consistently meaningful. Therefore, his my professional duties of covering the annual March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau as a journalist, he hoped that the event would help cure his “Holocaust fatigue” and desensitization to news of all varieties. He wasn’t cured in a day, but fittingly, what might have put him on the path to being cured was others’ desensitization. At March of the Living, Kamaras writes, he shared young participants' experience of taking important steps in the journey toward learning how to emotionally connect, learning how to feel, and learning how to live.

Posted on May 7, 2016 and filed under Analysis, Features, Holocaust, Opinion.

Season 3 of ‘Trump’: reasons to be nervous about foreign policy

Donald Trump has failed to address Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, while deferring to Russian autocrat President Vladimir Putin. Yet in the face of endless high-minded, wonkish critiques, Trump has overwhelmed his GOP competitors. The prospect of a Trump victory in the November general election is suddenly very real, and only a fool would claim otherwise. Still, recognition of Trump’s extraordinary achievement hasn’t altered worries about how he would shape American foreign policy. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen presents his observations about Trump’s broader approach to politics in order to put the foreign policy concerns in context.

Posted on May 5, 2016 and filed under Analysis, Opinion, U.S..

‘No statute of limitations on genocide,’ Nuremberg anniversary confab reminds

Why should the casual observer care about the seemingly obvious need to prosecute and convict Nazi war criminals, whether it be during the Nuremberg trials of the 1940s or similar proceedings in more recent years? “The Nuremberg trials only convicted the leaders and a relatively small number of people,” retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told JNS.org. “Even for the trials that occurred thereafter, we’re talking about just hundreds of people…and for years they were protected. And there’s no statute of limitations on genocide and war crimes. So it’s very important that everybody in the world who is contemplating committing genocide understand that they will never be able to live out their life without being held legally accountable.” Dershowitz and Irwin Cotler, renowned human rights attorneys and pro-Israel advocates, took center stage in the Polish city of Kraków on March 4 for a symposium held to mark the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. While the Nuremberg Laws were a precursor to the Holocaust, the Allied forces’ military trials of 13 prominent Nazi leaders served as a foundation for contemporary international humanitarian law. “We’ve learned that if you do not bring war criminals to justice, what you do is you not only encourage impunity, you embolden the war criminals and you encourage more war crimes,” Cotler told JNS.org.

Posted on May 5, 2016 and filed under News, Holocaust, World.

CUFI: awareness is key to pro-Israel group surpassing 3 million members

As 2015 began, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) proudly announced that their membership had surpassed the 2 million mark. In just under a decade since its founding, the Christian Zionist organization had become the largest pro-Israel group in the country. But just a few months later, news headlines were dominated by turmoil between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama as well as negotiations surrounding the Iran’s nuclear program. As attention focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as surging anti-Semitism around the world, CUFI saw their membership growth shift into overdrive—and membership now exceeds 3 million.

Posted on May 5, 2016 and filed under Christian, Features, Israel, U.S..

How do we remember to ‘never forget?’

Never forget. It’s a phrase that has become synonymous with the Holocaust. But what happens when survivors don’t want to remember the things we’re told to “never forget?” Putting together a six-part film series helped Sarah Kamaras realize that recognizing a survivor’s unwillingness to speak about his or her experiences bridges the gap between “universal” and “unique” when it comes to understanding the events of the Holocaust.

Posted on May 4, 2016 and filed under Opinion, Holocaust.

What the Yom HaShoah siren means to Israelis

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. At 10 a.m. all throughout Israel, a countrywide air-raid siren wails. That sound is alarming and too familiar for many Israelis—it is the same air-raid siren that alerts communities of falling rockets, urging them to take cover. When Israelis hear the alarm on Yom HaShoah, everyone understands that it is not a rocket alarm. Cars on the road come to a halt. People stop what they are doing and listen. The siren, although it sounds the same, has a very different call to action than the terrorism siren. But "Aliyah Annotated" columnist Eliana Rudee wonders: Can we truly separate these two sirens?

Posted on May 4, 2016 and filed under Aliyah Annotated, Israel, Opinion.

Jewish novelist Michael Chabon rails against fictional ‘occupation’

As a novelist, Michael Chabon has a vivid imagination. One of his novels centers around a world in which there is no state of Israel, only a large Jewish refuge in Alaska. Chabon’s imagination was on full display last week, when he toured Israel and denounced an “occupation” that exists only in his mind. Together with other American Jewish critics of Israel, Chabon visited Hebron. Afterwards, he told The Forward that “the occupation [is] the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.” Now keep in mind that 80 percent of Hebron is occupied by the Palestinian Authority. But for some reason, Chabon is concerned only about the 20 percent controlled by Israel, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

Posted on May 3, 2016 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Israel’s Temple Mount approach faces renewed questions after latest tensions

As both the holiest site in Judaism and home to a 1,400-year-old mosque, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is a natural flashpoint of Jewish-Muslim tension. But the conflict over the holy site has been particularly heated over the past year, with the latest incidents coming during the recent Passover holiday. The Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian status quo at the Temple Mount bans Jewish prayer there and restricts non-Muslim visitation to certain days and hours. While Jordan’s government recently warned of “serious consequences” for Israel over what it has described as “the invasion of settler groups and Israeli occupying forces in the Al-Aqsa mosque,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to resist calls by members of his own political party and ministerial cabinet for increased Jewish access to the Temple Mount. “If we do not think carefully and act wisely with regard to the Temple Mount, 1.6 billion Muslims, fueled by religious fervor, are liable to mobilize and become active participants in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Prof. Yedidia Stern, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank. “Arguments based on principle, as important as they may be, must be weighed against the likely outcome of their implementation.”

Posted on May 2, 2016 and filed under Israel, News.

Israel geeks out: science, art, and tech event embodies Jewish state’s ‘DNA’

The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute, and its pilot’s chair was made from a former Russian fighter jet. 2016 marked the first time that the Geek Picnic took place outside of the former Soviet Union. Carmi Wurtman—owner of 2BVibes Productions, the company that licensed the rights for the festival—said that for five years, he had been eyeing the event as one that would “work well with Israel’s DNA.”

Posted on May 2, 2016 and filed under Features, Israel.

A remnant of better days, Jerusalem’s only gay bar remains open for business

If any city needs a nonjudgmental space, it’s Jerusalem. Both sides of Israel’s capital—the Muslim eastern half and the Jewish western half—have in common large numbers of socially conservative residents who look down on homosexuality. “In the west, you have Orthodox Jews, and in the east you have Arabs—and the Arabs are so homophobic,” says Khaled Alqam, a gay Arab, while sitting under a heater on the patio of the Video Pub in Jerusalem. “They think if you’re gay, you’re a spy.” That’s why Video—which has been Jerusalem’s only gay bar virtually since it opened four years ago—is such an important place for Alqam and a rotating cast of regulars, along with other locals and tourists who drop in. By virtue of its status as a gay bar, the cubbyhole of a venue has a solid clientele of gay Arabs in an area where most bars serve a predominantly Jewish customer base.

Posted on May 1, 2016 and filed under Features, Israel.

Canadian institute places Israel’s space program at the center of its universe

“Do you remember when Leonard Nimoy said, ‘Live long and prosper?’” Dr. Frederick Krantz asked an audience at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal. Listeners chuckled in approval of his “Star Trek” reference, indicating that a large percentage were familiar with the iconic TV series and had fond memories of the late Canadian-Jewish actor. Krantz continued, “Well, that is very true. Israel is not only a power in the Middle East, but will be a power in space.” The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research last month held its 28th anniversary gala, an event titled “Israel in Space.” It was North America’s largest-ever gathering dedicated to Israel’s space exploration achievements, according to Krantz, the Jewish research institute's director.

Posted on May 1, 2016 and filed under Features, Israel, World.

Watching BDS like a Hawkeye: Iowa latest state to stand against Israel boycotts

Iowa on April 27 became the latest U.S. state to pass legislation designed to undermine the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In a 38-9 vote with three excused absences, the Iowa Senate passed one of the strongest anti-BDS bills in the country. The prospective law would prohibit both investment and contracting by the so-called “Hawkeye State” with companies participating in BDS, either against Israel or “territories controlled by Israel.” The bill also prohibits secondary boycotts by extending its ban to boycotters of those who do business in Israel or the “territories.”

Posted on April 28, 2016 and filed under News, U.S..

Anti-Semitism, George Orwell, and the U.K.’s Labour Party

By being cast as the ultimate insiders, controlling everything from the global economy to U.S. foreign policy, Jews end up as the ultimate outsiders in the public imagination—too suspect to benefit even from the niceties of the United Kingdom's generally anti-racist political culture, especially once their emotional, familial, or other ties with the State of Israel are brought into play. This is a problem that goes much deeper than just the Labour Party's anti-Zionist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, or the party's newly suspended lawmaker who suggested the “relocation” of Israel, Naz Shah. The problem is also certainly not restricted to the U.K. That’s why George Orwell was absolutely correct when he counseled that “antisemitism should be investigated—and I will not say by antisemites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion,” writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

Posted on April 27, 2016 and filed under Analysis, Opinion, World.

How ‘Seinfeld’ paved the way for Bernie Sanders

As recently as the 1940s, anti-Semitism was so common in the United States that even the president privately told offensive jokes about Jewish immigrants in a faux New York Jewish accent. Yet in the past few months, a candidate who is the son of Jewish immigrants and has a pronounced New York Jewish accent has won 18 presidential primaries and caucuses. He has received donations from more than 4 million Americans—the largest number of individual contributors to any political campaign in U.S. history. Have American public attitudes toward Jews changed so drastically? And if so, how did it happen? The unexpected achievements of Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders illustrate a remarkable transformation in public attitudes that has taken place, in which the cranky old Jewish socialist of yesteryear is now viewed affectionately through the prism provided by “Saturday Night Live” and “Seinfeld,” writes historian Rafael Medoff.

Posted on April 27, 2016 and filed under Analysis, Opinion, U.S..

My first Passover as an Israeli

The first time “Aliyah Annotated” columnist Eliana Rudee came to Israel for Passover, she was sold. At Burger’s Bar, they served hamburgers with potato bread buns to accommodate those who were keeping Passover. As a person who does not react well to wheat, she was probably one of the only ones who rejoiced over Passover easing her dietary woes, rather than the normal havoc that matzah creates in “normal” people’s stomachs. Now, spending her first Passover in Israel as a citizen of the Jewish state has reminded Rudee of why she made aliyah—to be amongst her people. 

Posted on April 27, 2016 and filed under Aliyah Annotated, Israel, Opinion.