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The United Church of Christ (UCC) this week became the latest mainline Protestant denomination to approve a resolution calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel. But given the UCC’s declining membership, coupled with prominent issues such as the growing atrocities faced by Middle East Christians at the hands of Muslim terror groups like Islamic State, some observers are questioning the relevance of this latest divestment resolution. “The UCC is the fastest-shrinking mainline church on my radar,” said Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. “It has lost about 50 percent of its members since its founding in the 1950s. And shrinking churches like the UCC and the Presbyterian Church USA are the most easily hijacked by anti-Israel activists.”
Later this month, the Regents of the University of California system will decide whether to adopt a uniform definition of anti-Semitism. They are responding to requests from several organizations to adopt the U.S. State Department’s well-regarded definition, which uses the so-called “3D test” that says actions may be identified as anti-Semitic when they demonize Israel, delegitimize Israel, or subject Israel to double standards. Good definitions help identify what a particular problem is, when it occurs, and whether efforts to prevent it are successful, writes Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and former staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
In the middle of a phone interview with JNS.org, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump leaves his desk to scan the wall of his office for awards he has received from the Jewish community. Trump reads the text of some relevant plaques before returning to his desk. But before the reporter can move on to the next question, Trump eagerly points out that he was the grand marshal of New York City’s annual Salute to Israel Parade in 2004, in the middle of the second Palestinian intifada. There are already 13 declared Republican presidential candidates, but Trump argues—in his typically brash and blunt fashion—that his history with the Jewish people and the Jewish state can set him apart from the rest of the GOP field on the Israel issue. “The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” he says. “The rest of them are all talk, no action. They’re politicians. I’ve been loyal to Israel from the day I was born.”
Seemingly lost in all the debate over U.S.-Israel relations is that Member of Knesset Michael Oren’s new book, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide,” is a memoir—and the memoir covers more than the author’s four years as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. from 2009-13. “Very few people have actually read the book and seen what’s in the book, and the book is an American Jewish Zionist story,” Oren said in a phone interview with JNS.org. “It’s about a young man who grows up in the post-Holocaust generation, whose father landed on Normandy and fought all throughout World War II. It’s a total American story. I grew up in this working class neighborhood, and I was the only Jewish kid, and I experienced a lot of anti-Semitism as a kid.”
The time has come for the pro-Israel community to fight fire with fire, to shift from the defensive to the offensive. With strength, determination, and unity, we must show the anti-Semites taking over America’s universities that tsunamis can travel in more than one direction, writes Israeli-American philanthropist Adam Milstein, co-founder of the “Campus Maccabees” task force with Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban.
The setting was informal on a recent Sunday afternoon in New York City: a small-but-dry room providing a haven during a Central Park downpour that followed the Celebrate Israel Parade. But the large crowd and the weather outside were far from the mind of John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Instead, ahead of a July 7 deadline (extended from June 30) for a final nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, the vocal supporter of Israel and former official in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations honed in on a different kind of storm. “My focus is on the threat of a nuclear Iran and how close it is to creating deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton said in an interview with JNS.org. “That, and how serious the threat of a nuclear Iran is to Israel and the United States.”
After more than a decade of intermittent negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 nations missed a June 30 deadline to reach a final deal with Iran and have a new deadline of July 7. But with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejecting several key components agreed to under a framework reached in April, such as access by inspectors to military sites, many observers fear that negotiators might agree to a weak deal with Iran or no deal at all. Against that backdrop, JNS.org examines the positions of each of the P5+1 countries as they approach of the deadline.
You want to send a PDF to your colleague, but the information is sensitive. You password-protect the document and store it on your flash drive. To read the PDF, you share that password with your colleague, who uses it to gain access to the file. The goal is to ensure that someone who does not know the password cannot decrypt the PDF. “This is harder than it seems,” says Israeli-born computer scientist and electrical engineer Dan Boneh, who works at Stanford University. Boneh recently received the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computing Sciences for his technical contributions to the field of cryptography, including developing mechanisms for enhancing security on the Web and for mobile devices.
In defaming former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren as a conspiracy theorist, Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did more than align themselves with some of the more insidious, axe-to-grind Israel-bashers out there. Far worse, they portrayed Oren, a man who served Israel with distinction, as mentally inhabiting the same poisonous hinterland as Holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers. It is simply—to use the ADL’s favorite word—“outrageous,” writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. Best-known for his slapstick humor, Lewis has made arguably as significant of a mark in philanthropy. As former national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he raised more than $2 billion and hosted a Labor Day l telethon for more than 40 years. “I think many people in later years associated [Lewis] much more with the telethon than with his comedy. This work makes a perfect companion to his work as a comedian and shows that laughs by themselves are not enough in life,” said Lawrence Epstein, author of “The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America.”
The U.S.-based Israel education group The Israel Project on Friday sent an email asking supporters to sign a petition urging Philadelphia’s Drexel University to withdraw an honorary degree it gave anti-Israel activist Noam Chomsky earlier this month. Chomsky, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology emeritus professor in linguistics, has gone as far as embracing the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah and calling the policies of the Gaza-ruling terrorist organization Hamas “preferable to the policies of America and Israel.”
Since the Pew Research Center released its U.S. Religious Landscape Study in May, most discussion of its findings has been quickly drowned out by other news. This is in stark contrast to the much-debated Pew survey on American Jewry that was released in October 2013. Why the discrepancy? It’s likely because little new was discovered in the latest poll. If the findings aren't novel, are such studies having a practical impact on the programming and services that the Jewish community is funding and delivering? Philanthropists, Jewish communal professionals, and demographic experts say yes. “I am constantly changing what I do based on the facts on the ground. Philanthropists should adjust to what is happening every year—every day,” says Adam Milstein, head of the Los Angeles-based Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation.
It’s safe to say that in the coming weeks you’ll be reading a great deal about the forthcoming memoir, “Ally,” authored by Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. As we head towards the ostensible climax of the Iran nuclear talks on June 30, the timing of Oren’s book couldn’t be better. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen's advice is to ignore the background noise, read the book, and decide for yourself whether or not the smothering “chibbuk” (Hebrew for hug) in which the U.S., under President Barack Obama, has placed Israel is in the best interests of the world’s only Jewish state.
A University of Missouri fall 2015 honors tutorial that pro-Israel students felt would promote bigotry and misinformation on their college campus has been cancelled. “Perspectives on Zionism,” which was scheduled to be taught by self-proclaimed “post-Zionist” and “Nakba Jew-in-law” George Smith, was nixed due to no enrollment, according to a June 10 announcement. Yet the catalyst behind the cancelled course—Smith, a tenured biology professor who pushed for a curriculum that the instructor himself said would have included works by anti-Zionist authors such as Ilan Pappé, who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing—is very much active.
With the June 30 deadline for a deal with Iran over its nuclear ambitions looming ominously, the Obama administration is having a hard time persuading a skeptical public that these negotiations are going to tame the Tehran regime. On the two critical issues—preventing Iran from weaponizing its nuclear program, and rolling back the expansion of Iranian political and military influence throughout the region—all the evidence suggests that the White House is engaged in wishful thinking, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
In one of the larger Jewish-related events of the year, more than 1,500 people as well as an impressive lineup of political and thought leaders convened for the Jerusalem Post newspaper’s annual conference in New York City on June 7. But why was an Israeli newspaper hosting a conference on American soil? And in an increasingly digital age, why does the Jewish world put on brick-and-mortar conferences to begin with? Experts cite the benefits of propelling a cause forward, elevating a brand, and simply coming together.
More than 80 percent of eligible Jewish voters participate in American presidential elections, yet less than 1 percent voted in the recent nationwide election among American Jews. For a community that takes American democracy so seriously, U.S. Jews showed surprisingly little interest in the democratic race that was recently held in their own ranks. Just 56,737 voters participated in the elections for delegates to the World Zionist Congress, even though they had three months in which to vote and were able to cast their ballots without ever leaving their living rooms. Perhaps the low turnout will remind entrenched Jewish leaders that support for their organizations is likely to remain at embarrassingly low levels unless remedial steps are taken—including the cherished American remedy of genuine democracy, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
Victories aren’t usually depressing, but recent headlines about Israel include those such as: “Israel Left Off U.N. List of Parties That Kill, Injure Kids,” “Palestinians Abandon Bid to Ban Israel From FIFA,” and a couple of headlines about failed motions for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement on college campuses. Surely all of these “victories” are better than the corresponding defeats. But still, we can and should do better. The problem with these victories is that they reflect a much deeper problem in the strategy of pro-Israel advocates. We tend to play defense far more than offense. Playing defense lends possible legitimacy to defamatory attacks against Israel, so it’s time for supporters of the Jewish state to go on offense, writes Andrew Pessin, a professor of philosophy at Connecticut College.
The people who sat in seats one and two of row 12, section 120 at Quicken Loans Arena during Game 3 of the NBA Finals last week weren’t your ordinary Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Tomer Hulli and his father, Eli, made the trip from Israel to attend games 3 and 4 in Cleveland. Hulli, who lives in Tzur Moshe, just five minutes from Cavaliers head coach David Blatt’s home in Israel, has been playing basketball since he was 5. He said he didn’t plan this trip, but once the Cavaliers advanced to the finals, he decided he was all in. “The tickets are expensive, but you only live once,” said Hulli.
“Israel is the most embattled democracy on earth. And what a democracy it is—robust and rollicking, with an often rancorous parliament,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said via video feed June 7, addressing 1,500 people at the Jerusalem Post newspaper’s annual conference in New York City. Indeed, “rollicking” is one way to depict the three-ring circus that performed at the Jerusalem Post event. When World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder took the stage, he encouraged Jewish unity and mutual respect, saying, “If we disagree in how we get there, let’s do it in private. In public let’s speak with one voice.” But less than one hour later, a panel on Iran went in the complete opposite direction.