A statewide Jewish community of just 400 people is about to receive a leadership boost in a move that will also make history for the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz and his wife Mussie will be the new Chabad emissaries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, helping Chabad reach a special milestone. Of the U.S. 50 states, all but South Dakota have Chabad centers. But that’s not the only historic aspect of the young couple’s arrival. Mendel Alperowitz will be the South Dakota Jewish community’s first full-time rabbi in decades. “In Brooklyn there are shuls and restaurants everywhere—it’s so easy to be Jewish,” says Rabbi Alperowitz. “In South Dakota they have to come together to create Jewish community, to celebrate Shabbat. It’s really an inspiration.”
H.R. 5732, also known as the Caesar Civilian Protection Act of 2016, passed through the House this week in a voice vote. The bill includes tough sanctions against individuals and entities associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in such vital sectors as banking, airline and energy. It would also require the president to make available to Congress the names of Syrian regime war criminals. If passed into law, the measure would send a message to those who believe that Assad is now safe from international justice that many past dictators thought that they too would go on forever, but they were wrong, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Prominent dovish American Jewish leaders are distancing themselves from claims by two leading Israeli left-wing figures that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged the recent wave of Palestinian arson attacks. Leaders of dovish organizations including the Israel Policy Forum, Partners for Progressive Israel, and Americans for Peace Now took issue with the controversial anti-Netanyahu statements by Peace Now co-founder Amiram Goldblum and Member of Knesset Zehava Gal-On (Meretz).
Democratic and Republican lawmakers are vowing to challenge a limit on U.S. defense aid for Israel that President Barack Obama included in the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations. The agreement—reached in September—guarantees Israel $38 billion in aid over 10 years, but it also states that if Congress increases the aid, Israel is obliged to return the extra funds. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Ariz.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday at Agudath Israel of America’s legislative luncheon in New York that the restriction is "unconstitutional" because it would interfere with the ability of Congress to fulfill its mandate as a co-equal branch of the federal government. Engel vowed to "fight every step of the way" to bring about the revocation of the aid limit.
After years of silence, the Obama administration has finally spoken out about an American citizen who was killed in Israel. There's just one catch. The focus of the administration's sudden concern is not one of the 141 Americans who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. It's a Palestinian-American terrorist who tried to murder Israelis, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Longstanding schisms within the Palestinian polity have adversely affected the development of institutions that will be needed for the envisioned Palestinian state and, indeed, for forging a consensus on negotiating the peace deal with Israel that is necessary to achieve a two-state solution. Unless there is some dramatic development at this week's Fatah party gathering in Ramallah, the true obstacle to moving forward towards a comprehensive and sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace will be tragically clear, writes Kenneth Bandler of the American Jewish Committee.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Monday on the Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, saying Israel will not allow any radical jihadist group to get a foothold on its borders. The IAF mounted two strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria between Sunday and Monday. The air force killed four Islamic State operatives Sunday after the terrorists fired mortars and artillery on Israel Defense Forces Golani Brigade troops patrolling the Israel-Syria border. Monday's strike targeted an Islamic State post on the southern edge of the Syrian Golan Heights.
Improving weather conditions, a massive influx of support from the international community and efforts by Israeli first responders have enabled the Jewish state to get raging wildfires under control. Israel’s Arab and Muslim allies were instrumental in helping the Jewish state combat the flames, with Egypt, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority all aiding the relief efforts.
“Put your hands behind your back and get on your knees,” 19-year-old Noam Ohayon exhorts JNS.org's reporter, who complies. “Now fall forward on your face. Without breaking your fall with your hands.” Ohayon, his voice full of mirth, then puts things in perspective. “Now imagine having to do that outside in the height of winter on the Golan [Heights] on a concrete path full of stones and ice,” he says. The exercise is just one of many challenging drills Ohayon had to endure in what is known as “Shavua Na’or,” or Na’or Week, at the Tamir pre-military preparatory academy in the northern Israeli town of Katsrin. The academy is one of 54 similar institutions across Israel that groom high school graduates for the Israel Defense Forces.
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds never spoke about his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Roddie survived an arduous march through frozen terrain and was interned for nearly 100 days at Stalag IXA, a POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany. “Son, there are some things I’d rather not talk about,” Roddie would tell his boys, Kim and Chris Edmonds, when they were young. When Roddie died in 1985, Chris, now a Baptist pastor, inherited his father’s war diaries. Now that his father’s wartime stories are known, Chris said his life has been “turned upside down.” The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that identifies non-Jewish rescuers of Holocaust survivors and pays tribute to their courage, honored Roddie’s memory Nov. 28 with the Yehi Ohr Award during the foundation’s annual dinner at the New York City Public Library.
The United Nations has made it a major priority to advocate for the resettlement of refugees, so the following fact may come as a surprise: 40 years ago this week, the U.N. actually condemned a country for resettling refugees. But this part may be less surprising: that country was Israel, writes Aron White of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
The New Israel Fund (NIF) recently received a grant to “research and report on anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses.” On the surface, this appears to be a welcome development—a progressive group being mobilized to confront a major social malady plaguing institutions of higher education. Beneath the surface of the Sept. 27 grant, however, are vested interests seeking to use this issue to cover up their role in fomenting the atmosphere that is hostile to Jewish students. The NIF is being paid by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund—a main backer of the anti-Israel activism that contributes to, enables and devolves into anti-Semitism on college campuses, writes Yona Schiffmiller of the NGO Monitor research institute.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at his repellent best when he was interviewed by Israeli television journalist Ilana Dayan this week. Although the interview was pegged to the restoration of Turkish-Israeli bilateral ties this past summer, Erdoğan used the occasion to spit his usual invective against Israel and Jews. As tempting as it is to conclude that while political rhetoric is one thing, political action is another—an impression increasingly conveyed in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election—in Erdoğan's case, such a distinction isn't really possible. That's because Erdoğan really is a dictator, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
For most organizations, moving underground would be ominous. For Israel’s national blood services center, it’s exciting. Nov. 16 marked the groundbreaking for the Jewish state’s new state-of-the-art central blood bank. Located in Ramla, the facility will be the world’s first completely underground national blood services center. Israel’s challenging reality affects every key aspect of the design of the center. Eli Bin, director general of Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) national blood bank service, told JNS.org that "due to the challenges faced by our country both in terms of security and possible natural disasters, MDA must maintain its high standard and build a blood services center that's compatible with Israel's population growth rate as well as the aforementioned challenges."
When Israeli media personality Yair Lapid established the Yesh Atid party back in 2012, the U.S. State Department and Jewish peace activists were ecstatic, figuring Lapid would draw votes away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. They were delighted with Lapid again earlier this year, when he refused to join Netanyahu's governing coalition, briefly giving the Israeli left hope of preventing a Likud-led government. Let's see what they think of Lapid now that, as a leader of one of Israel’s opposition parties, he has publicly acknowledged that there is no "occupation" of the Palestinians and that the Palestinian Authority is the obstacle to peace, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.