JNS.org offers the latest Jewish news and commentary from the United States. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.
More than five months after the Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Jewish Americans” survey drew widespread pessimism over rising intermarriage and assimilation, as well as declining connection with synagogues and other institutions, proponents of a newly released study believe they may have the antidote for what ails the Jewish community. On March 10, the Jewish nonprofit Hazon and six funders released “Seeds of Opportunity: A National Study of Immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE).” The acronym, although coined specifically for the purpose of the study, is lingo that the report’s supporters hope will grow to define a movement and become part of the Jewish vernacular.
The recently deceased Sid Caesar made America laugh, and in so doing, revolutionized television comedy. The youngest of three sons born to Jewish immigrants living in Yonkers, NY, Caesar’s father Max emigrated from Poland, and with his wife Ida, who had come from Russia, operated a luncheonette. Young Sid developed his foreign-sounding double talk by listening closely to the luncheonette’s multinational clientele. “Sid was part of the Jewish tradition of storytelling,” said Eddy Friedfeld, co-author with Caesar on the comedian’s biography. “The difference was his was not joke telling, it was comedy based on character. His sketches were stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. That was not coincidentally a function of the Jewish influence.”
Unlike its commercial competitors, Al Jazeera America doesn’t care that much about general viewer ratings. Rather, the network aims to influence opinion makers—including teachers, broadcasters, and editorial writers. Its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict features superficially interesting but substantively biased segments that assail Israel while omitting mention of Palestinian Arab terrorism or Muslim persecution of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza. A long-term effect of such coverage might be to undermine the current strong U.S. public support of Israel over the Palestinian Arabs, write Myron Kaplan and Eric Rozenman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
The U.S., U.K., and Dutch governments are helping to fund a March 10-14 conference called “Christ at the Checkpoint,” which attempts to sway Evangelical Christian opinion against Israel and whose themes have anti-Semitic undertones, according to a new report by the watchdog group NGO Monitor. The report titled “Christ at the Checkpoint: How the U.S., U.K. and Dutch Governments Enable Religious Strife and Foment in the Mideast Conflict,” first obtained by JNS.org, examines how the American and European governments are directly and indirectly funding the conference.
After he was apparently criticized by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for comments he made last month on boycotts of Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry in his Monday address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference sought to allay skepticism on nuclear negotiations with Iran and Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations.
For well over a century, Christian Zionists have been steadfast in their support for a Jewish homeland. Emerging from this movement, Evangelical Christians have formed the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement due to a number of theological, moral, and political reasons. At the same time, there has been a movement among mainline Protestants, including the Presbyterian Church, who have grown more critical of Israel. With the support of anti-Israel Palestinian groups as well as non-governmental organizations funded by liberal philanthropists like George Soros, some are seeking to threaten Evangelical support for Israel. Can Israel and the Jewish people take Evangelical support for granted? Or will Evangelicals follow the path of mainline Protestant groups and their growing criticism of Israel?
Far from the “academic conference” it was touted to be, the two-day “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine” conference—organized with the help of New York University professor and president-elect of the American Studies Association Lisa Duggan—was likely nothing more than a platform for anti-Israel activists to spew their hatred of the Jewish state and promote a boycott intended to hasten its elimination, write Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Leila Beckwith, co-founders of AMCHA Initiative, an organization dedicated to monitoring and combatting campus anti-Semitism.
On Feb. 25, Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, a U.S.-based nonprofit supporting the largest independent network of science and technology educational institutions in Israel, held a New York City gala to honor five prominent supporters of the Israeli program. Zvi Peleg—director general of the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network—told JNS.org that his network strives to give the same quality of education to every citizen in Israel. “We are serving the secular [Jews], the religious, the Orthodox religious, the ultra-Orthodox religious, the Arabs, the Druze, all the populations in Israel,” he said.
Coming off of what many observers characterized as an off year in terms of getting its agenda implemented in Washington, DC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is welcoming upwards of 14,000 attendees at its March 2-4 annual policy conference, which will set the pro-Israel lobby’s 2014 initiatives. Chief among the organization’s priority items will likely be America’s continued negotiations aimed at preventing a nuclear-armed Iran and the emerging contours of a possible peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority being brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry.
It was one year ago this month that President Barack Obama announced plans for a landmark effort to better understand the workings of the brain. It was seven years before then that a now-burgeoning company in Herzliya, Israel began developing the groundbreaking brain mapping and imaging technology that will play a critical role in achieving the president’s ambitious goal by helping detect and manage a host of brain-related disorders and conditions. ElMindA’s Brain Network Activation (BNA) takes cognitive-electrophysiology (ERPs) to a new frontier, unparalleled by any other test. Next week, roughly 14,000 people will be able to learn more about this breakthrough technology at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference. ElMindA was selected to exhibit over hundreds of other Israeli companies.
Conventional wisdom has it that Jews in the United States have never been part of the hunter population because they live primarily in urban areas where a “hunting culture” is lacking. But Pauline Dubkin Yearwood thinks the reason hunting isn’t compatible with Judaism goes far beyond that. Judaism teaches that God is compassionate toward all creatures and that we are to emulate this compassion, she writes.
“American Hustle”—which received 10 Oscar nominations for the upcoming March 2 Academy Awards, tied with “Gravity” for the most nominations this year—conjures up the true story of Melvin Weinberg, an infamous Jewish con artist portrayed by Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld in the film. “One of the brilliant things about Weinberg, at first meeting him, is this—you would not take him to be such a wily con man,” says Leslie Maitland, the journalist who broke the Abscam story, which “American Hustle” is based on, in the 1970s and 1980s. “He looked like an overweight Jewish guy who lived on Long Island and smoked cigars. He did have a comb-over, but he was gray and considerably older than Christian Bale portrays him in the movie.”
It is once again awards season, with Americans finding themselves glued to their televisions and computers, imbibing a plethora of star-studded tributes and the perfunctory salacious gossip that accompanies it. But recognizing outstanding achievement in the arts is not limited to trendy musicians and heroes of the silver screen. For the last 64 years, the Jewish Book Council has spotlighted the best in Jewish literature through its presentation of the National Jewish Book Award, which comes this year on March 5 in New York. JNS.org interviews Yossi Klein Halevi, winner of the council’s Jewish Book of the Year Award, and Phyllis Chesler, winner in the Biography, Autobiography, Memoir category.
It is easy to understand why the idea of someone running Iran policy who is a keen advocate of engagement, and who believes that Iranian ally Hamas should not be isolated, is so disconcerting. The nature of Robert Malley’s new job, however, should reassure pro-Israel groups that they won’t be privately grappling with him at every turn. That role will fall to the Saudis, who are furious with President Barack Obama’s overtures to Iran, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
For most Jews in the United States, hunting laws are not a concern. Following World War II, most Jews settled in urban or suburban areas, far from roaming turkeys, elk, bears, and deer, outside of the occasional casualty in the highway emergency lane. Therefore, few even realize that the same laws that in some places prevent liquor purchases on Sundays, otherwise known as blue laws, also restrict hunting. In Pennsylvania, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, a member of the greater Philadelphia Jewish community, has made repealing the state’s Sunday hunting ban a platform issue in her bid to unseat Republican incumbent Tom Corbett.
The New York Times raised some eyebrows in the Jewish community last week with a lengthy feature about four self-described religious Jews who oppose Israel. In an apparent attempt to legitimize Jewish anti-Zionism, the article stressed that Zionism “was not always the norm among American Jews” and that it was only “the persecution of European Jews [which] turned many American Jews into Zionists.” Interestingly, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust. That was the Times’s own publisher from 1935 to 1961, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, writes historian Dr. Rafael Medoff.