Jewish women try to make sense of mikveh maelstrom

“[The mikveh] has to be a very safe place in your life because it’s also when you are at your most vulnerable,” says Chaya Sett, a self-described “regular” in the mikvehs of Jerusalem’s Old City. Sett speaks for many mikveh-going women in the wake of the recent arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel on charges of voyeurism at his Washington, DC-based synagogue’s mikveh. It is precisely because of the vulnerability issue that many women are calling for increased security measures and, from some quarters, a major shift in oversight of mikveh practices. 

Posted on October 31, 2014 and filed under Features, Jewish Life.

Israel’s new pioneers work to transform the Negev desert through farming

In southern Israel, the next generation of Jewish pioneers is making the desert bloom. A group of young, Zionist, idealistic adults are cultivating a previously uninhabited area in the northwest Negev on Israel’s borders with Egypt and Gaza, growing tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, pomegranates, olives, and more. “I am there (in the Negev) because I can make a difference,” said Nava Uner, who lives in Bnei Netzarim, one of three Halutza (pioneer) communities in the Jewish National Fund's Young Farmers Incubation Project.

Posted on October 30, 2014 and filed under Features, Israel.

Biography sheds new light on David Ben-Gurion’s place in Jewish history

The new biography “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” shows that like Vladimir Lenin, who more than any other person created the Soviet Union, and like Winston Churchill, who saved England in its darkest hour by his sheer will and determination, David Ben-Gurion created the State of Israel and set it on its path. Author Anita Shapira adeptly records how he did it and chronicles the rest of his storm-tossed life, so that future generations may appreciate both his achievement and his faults, writes book reviewer Rabbi Jack Riemer.

Posted on October 30, 2014 and filed under Book Review, Israel.

The ‘chickenshitgate’ fallout for America, Israel, and the Middle East

Umpteen immediate questions remain after a senior Obama administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chickenshit." Will Obama apologize? Will he publicly name and discipline the official who insulted Netanyahu? But the biggest question of all is a long-term one: What will the strategic map of the Middle East look like once Obama is done as president? That’s what should be occupying the minds of Israel’s leaders, who are painfully aware that Obama’s peace efforts can only lead to more conflict and strife, writes Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S., Analysis.

Why the mastermind behind Leon Klinghoffer’s murder went free

Amid the ongoing controversy over the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” little has been said about the Palestinian terrorist behind the attack in which Leon Klinghoffer was murdered. Muhammad Zaidan, the Palestine Liberation Front leader who made decision to hijack the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, evaded justice for years until dying of natural causes. President Bill Clinton failed to prosecute Zaidan out of fear of upsetting the “peace process,” writes Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter was killed in a 1995 Palestinian terror attack.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under Opinion, U.S..

While threats to Israel surge, so does Christian Zionism, says CUFI’s Hagee

While anti-Semitism in Europe and anti-Zionism on U.S. college campuses are on the upswing, how is American Christian support for Israel trending? Stronger than ever, says the founder of the country’s largest pro-Israel organization. “I can assure you that the evangelical Christians of America support Israel right now in a more aggressive mood than at any time in my lifetime,” Pastor John Hagee, chairman of the 1.8-million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI), told after 5,000 people attended CUFI's 33rd annual “A Night to Honor Israel” in San Antonio.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under Christian, Israel, News, U.S..

Under guise of normalcy, Ammunition Hill once again a Jerusalem battleground

Ammunition Hill seems to historically always be in harm’s way. It got its name during the 1930s as a storehouse for British ammunition and was the scene of major battles between Jordan and Israel during both the War for Independence and the Six Day War, due to its strategic location as gateway to the Mt. Scopus area and ultimately the Old City. These days Ammunition Hill is perched on the border of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods now connected by the Jerusalem light rail, and the recent vehicular attack there showed that the site is anything but an ordinary rail station. “Look around and it doesn’t seem like we are at war, but we are at war,” says light rail passenger Ohela Avinir.

Posted on October 27, 2014 and filed under Features, Israel, News.

The return of Palestinian unilateralism

It’s increasingly clear that the mood among the world’s democracies on the Palestinian statehood issue is shifting. The view that Israel must be cajoled and bullied into giving Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas what he wants at the U.N. is spreading, and that could turn out to be just as dangerous as a Hamas missile campaign from the Gaza Strip, writes Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.

Posted on October 26, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, World, Analysis.

CUNY is no place for BDS movement’s hate

On Friday afternoon, the Doctoral Students Council of the City University of New York (CUNY) once again failed to pass a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The resolution’s backers claimed they were promoting justice and human rights, and that they were seeking sovereignty and freedom for the Palestinian people. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition. We have to empower the campus community to make a meaningful contribution to peace by promoting constructive efforts toward coexistence, and the hate-mongers who want CUNY to boycott Israeli universities are an obstacle to peace, Baime writes.

Posted on October 26, 2014 and filed under Israel, Opinion, U.S..

Menschkins: The new Borscht Belt

The 57th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." See the color and black and white versions below. Click here for an introduction to the series. Click here for more coverage on Jewish arts.

Posted on October 26, 2014 and filed under Arts, Menschkins.

Museum ready to illuminate millennium-long Jewish history of Poland

In stark contrast to its Holocaust past, Poland now experiences far less anti-Semitism than the typical European country and is home to a burgeoning Jewish community. At the same time, young non-Jewish Poles are increasingly curious about Jews and Judaism. Recognizing that this environment was fertile ground for a museum highlighting the history of Polish Jewry, a group of Warsaw-based organizers invited scholars and cultural activists in New York to help promote the museum concept and identify funding sources for what two decades later became the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened its core exhibition Oct. 28. “We place the Holocaust within the 1,000-year history of Polish Jews, not a 1,000-year history of anti-Semitism,” says Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the core exhibition's program director.

Posted on October 23, 2014 and filed under Features, World, Holocaust.

‘Fury’ a blistering account of World War II—sans the Holocaust

Going into a World War II film, audiences expect to see 70-year-old battle scenes play out on the big screen, in sometimes gory detail. The war in David Ayer’s latest film, “Fury,” is no different. The blistering motion picture is masculine, unflinching, and uncomfortable to watch at times—in line with the nature of war. But what detracts from the film is its focus on just a small part of the larger picture of World War II, most notably its omission of the brunt of the Holocaust, writes reviewer Jason Stack.

Posted on October 23, 2014 and filed under Arts, Features, Holocaust.

Growing organization helps Israeli Americans find their voice

The so-called “alphabet soup” of American Jewish organizations covers seemingly every communal concern and interest group. Yet despite their direct connection with the Jewish homeland and firsthand knowledge of issues prioritized by American Jews, Israelis living in the U.S. have historically been both neglected and unorganized. Working to change that trend is the fast-growing Israeli-American Council (IAC), which was founded in Los Angeles in 2007 and started expanding nationally in 2013. This year, IAC’s programming has reached more than 100,000 of the estimated 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans. From Nov. 7-9, the organization will hold its inaugural national conference in Washington, DC.

Posted on October 22, 2014 and filed under Israel, U.S., Features.

American Studies group receives renewed scrutiny over boycott of Israel

About a year after the American Studies Association’s (ASA) widely condemned vote to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the organization’s policy on Israel is receiving renewed scrutiny over a practical application of that vote. The ASA’s 2014 annual meeting, to be held Nov. 6-9 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, has garnered criticism for a policy of excluding Israeli academics.

Posted on October 21, 2014 and filed under Israel, News, U.S..

Tight Senate race in Georgia garners national and Jewish communal attention

In Georgia, a state with a sizable Jewish voter block, the U.S. Senate race to fill the seat of the retiring Saxby Chambliss is attracting truckloads of cash from outside the state for advertising buys. “I think that voting in Georgia—not just Jewish voting but voting in Georgia—is likely to give us a glimpse of what the new demographic in the South is going to be like,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.  

Posted on October 21, 2014 and filed under U.S., News, Features.