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George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire, has all the makings of a character in a Hasidic fable. He sees no moral contradiction in funding the forces for an “open society” in Eastern Europe, while giving at the same time to left-wing lobby groups advocating for a diminished relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the single sovereign open society in the Middle East. He values the “universal” in Judaism and cares little for the “particular.” Yet Soros is the target of anti-Semitism in his native Hungary. Is Soros being targeted as a man or as a symbol? Even if there is a trace of the former, it’s the overwhelming presence of the latter that should keep us healthily skeptical, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
There is a broad consensus among American Jewish leaders in support of Israel’s use of metal detectors to intercept terrorists on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “supports taking the necessary and appropriate steps to assure security for all and to protect the sanctity of these holy sites,” the umbrella group’s CEO, Malcolm Hoenlein, told JNS.org. Among dovish groups, Dr. Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, called the metal detectors “a commonsense and relatively unobtrusive way to protect the safety of both Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount and its environs.”
The president of The Forward newspaper thinks there is a “mobilized faction” in the American Jewish community attempting to “censor” dovish views, but other editors and leaders of some left-of-center Jewish organizations see things differently. The dispute arises from comments by Samuel Norich, The Forward’s president, during a panel discussion that aired July 12 on the Jewish Broadcasting Service. At the center of the discussion was The Forward’s recent decision to publish a full-page ad supporting imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti.
Mayim Bialik, a star on the CBS hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” launched a witty new video campaign this week for SodaStream, succeeding actress Scarlett Johansson as the official pitchwoman for the Israeli beverage carbonation company. In an interview with JNS.org, Bialik praised SodaStream—which employs both Israeli and Palestinian workers—for embodying “diversity, coexistence and peace.” The company’s former headquarters were situated beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines, making SodaStream a target of the BDS movement. “As so many people in Israel know, people from different religions, ethnicities and nationalities can work together in peace and harmony despite what the media wants us to believe,” Bialik said.
Jewish Voice for Peace’s (JVP) recently launched “Deadly Exchange” campaign opposes initiatives that promote joint training programs between U.S. police and Israeli security forces. JVP is claiming African-Americans are being murdered because of Israel and its Jewish supporters, engaging in a new version of the old anti-Semitic blood libel. While the Jewish communal tent should be as large as possible, there is no place in it for those like JVP who encourage hatred against Jews, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
The U.S. consul general in Jerusalem recently set off on the first leg of a 200-mile hike that will simultaneously promote one pro-Palestinian myth while inadvertently exploding another. Consul General Donald Blome is ignoring Israeli hiking trails in Judea and Samaria, and instead is making his way across the Ibrahim Path, which runs from northern Samaria to southern Judea. Thousands of Palestinian hikers each year traverse the Ibrahim trail without interruption—there are no Israeli “occupation” troops along the journey. Perhaps that is something for Blome to contemplate while he hikes, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Susan Salzberg was the first to spot her late father-in-law’s face—a face with a striking resemblance to that of her 22-year-old son. Since as many as 200,000 Jews passed through the Lodz Ghetto from 1939-1944, the Salzberg family hardly expected to see Lewis Salzberg among the images in “Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross,” an exhibit on display in Boston through July 30. Ross’s lens caught the pain and pathos of the Jews remanded to the Holocaust era’s second-largest ghetto after the Warsaw Ghetto.
Anti-Israel bias in the textbooks used by many American high schools may be to blame for the decrease in sympathy for Israel among young adults. “The problem starts in high school,” said Dr. Sandra Alfonsi, longtime director of Hadassah’s “Curriculum Watch” division. “There’s no doubt the lack of sympathy for Israel on college campuses today is at least partly the result of several generations of teenagers being educated with textbooks that are slanted against Israel.” One of the controversial texts used in high schools around the country is the “Arab World Studies Notebook,” which depicts Israel as the aggressor in every Arab-Israeli war and praises Muslim conquerors for their “gentle treatment of civilian populations.”
Whereas British Jews made a strategic decision decades ago to take their own security seriously, American Jews lack a similar commitment. This failure to make security a core component of communal life leaves Jewish institutions vulnerable. The time has come for a complete change in attitude, write security experts Stephen Bryen and Andrew Apostolou.
An organization comprised of former Israeli generals and security officials has spurred confusion regarding the Jewish state’s policy on Palestinian Authority (PA) payments to terrorists and their families. “Commanders for Israel’s Security” (CIS) asserted that passing the Taylor Force Act in the U.S. would pose the risk of undermining the PA’s security cooperation with Israel. The American legislation would cut U.S. economic aid to the PA if it continues to issue the terror payments. Soon after CIS issued its statement, 13 retired Israeli security officials responded in an op-ed that called opposition to the Taylor Force Act “fundamentally mistaken.”
It isn’t easy for some Jewish liberals, but many of them are waking up to a world that doesn’t neatly conform to their existing prejudices. That doesn’t obligate them to abandon their political principles, but they need to understand the world is a complicated place where Jewish safety can be endangered by solidarity with the left, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
While Reform and Conservative Jews have every right to be upset about the Israeli government’s decision to go back on its word about the Western Wall, what most of them don’t understand is why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did it. It’s not because he doesn’t care about the diaspora. Rather, it’s a result of a cynical political struggle. Critics of the move need to understand the context of this controversy and other religious pluralism issues that further widen the divide between American Jews and Israel, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
The anti-Semitism on display at a recent LGBT parade in Chicago has generated a slew of articles about “intersectionality”—the idea that all forms of social oppression are linked, but with the caveat that what counts as “oppression” can only be determined by the “oppressed.” How should Jews respond? One option is that Jews, particularly those in progressive circles, should develop their own version of intersectionality. There are many peoples around the world with whom Jews share common links and mutual experiences of persecution. Highlighting this reality can begin the task of speaking truth to the growing power of intersectionality, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
The new leader of a pro-Israel program working on more than 120 North American college campuses is seeking to raise awareness about the Jewish state’s diversity. “Israel is often stereotyped, but every Israeli is unique and together, they are a diverse people,” said Michelle Rojas-Tal, the newly appointed director of the Israel Fellows program, a joint initiative of The Jewish Agency for Israel and Hillel International. “As someone who grew up in an interfaith family in inner-city New York, I genuinely relate to Israelis and the Israeli story. As a Jew, I am inspired to help other young people appreciate and build the connections they have to Israel.”
The headlines of the Jewish press this week were filled with stories about angry American Jews arriving in Israel and denouncing the Israeli government’s decision regarding egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. This week’s other headlines, however, reported some threats to Israel that are genuinely existential, not merely a rhetorical flourish. While American Jews speak about “fighting” over the Western Wall issue, Israeli Jews who could be hit by Syrian mortars or Hamas rockets are the ones doing the real fighting, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Scholars Steven M. Cohen and Sylvia Barack Fishman have authored a new study that calls attention to the implications of the decline of the non-Orthodox Jewish family—and calls for action. To their critics, who claim they are insensitive to the needs of the intermarried or those who have no interest in traditional Jewish institutions, the scholars simply point to the numbers. Those who want to enable the continuance of a community that enriches its participants’ lives should heed the call of Cohen and Fishman, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.
If you haven’t encountered the term “Shi’a corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran in Syria intensifies. It has been an established fact that the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10—despite the existence of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A Shi’a land corridor would make enforcing this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recently wrote, “We cherish the variety of views present in the Reform Jewish community. However, we do not allow disagreement to inhibit our pursuit of justice.” The Reform movement is confronting real problems, such as the diminution of Jewish identity and catastrophic levels of basic Jewish illiteracy. It’s a terrible mistake that the movement’s answer to these crises is to wade deeper into politics, writes columnist Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg.
Every few years, a young far-left activist discovers Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and they are appalled. The idea of conservative Evangelicals advocating for the Jewish state runs counter to every prejudice about Christians the young advocate was raised to harbor. So the individual scours the internet, desperately hunting for that one item that will confirm their bigotry. And when they come up dry, they ignore, tinker with or amend the facts because they cannot confront a simple reality: they are intolerant of Evangelical Christians, writes Ari Morgenstern, CUFI communications director, in JNS.org.
Ivanka Trump is more than just the First Daughter. As a key adviser as well as the wife of Jared Kushner, the president’s Jewish son-in-law and point man on a host of issues, she has become a major political figure. More than that, as the country’s most famous convert to Orthodox Judaism she is a flash point for the hostility most of her co-religionists harbor for her father, writes JNS.org's Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.