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This summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has come to a close if a cease-fire reached last week holds, has spurred a sharp rise in both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents around the world. At the same time, the boundary between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism has become increasingly blurred, particularly on American college campuses. Trouble for Jewish students got underway even before the start of classes, as a Jewish student at Temple University was physically and verbally assaulted at an orientation event. “We are expecting that things can get very ugly this year on many college campuses, including some that were quiet in the past,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing to becoming a well-respected figure in the professional basketball world. “The [NBA] players and I sort of live parallel lives because we both found something that we love very much, and only faith can push you through such a non-traditional journey,” Ravin tells JNS.org.
Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. America’s first small-screen star, Berle influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “His success came about because early television sets were mostly sold in wealthier urban areas, with Jews and gentile urbanites accustomed to and appreciative of Jewish humor. ... Ironically, it was Berle’s success with those urban audiences that propelled the sales of televisions around the nation,” Lawrence Epstein, author of “The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America,” tells JNS.org.
With old alliances being frayed and new threats emerging, making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East is increasingly difficult for even seasoned observers and analysts. Disgruntled by President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the region, some long-time American allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have begun openly criticizing the U.S. approach to issues like the Gaza conflict, with some even pivoting towards Russia. At the same time, civil wars in Syria and Libya as well as instability in Iraq have proven to be fertile breeding ground for new and more brutal terrorist organizations, forcing regional and international actors into new alliances to meet this common threat.
Twenty years after his October 1994 death, robust accounts of musician Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s life are emerging. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy.” This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s “The Soul of Jerusalem” hit the shelves. But even the authors admit that this larger-than-life rabbi’s legacy cannot be fully captured in black-and-white pages. “Shlomo did not seem to fit any restrictive, defining label,” Ophir said. “Reb Shlomo was… a charismatic teacher who combined storytelling, sermonic exegesis, and inspirational insights into creating a new form of heartfelt, soulful Judaism filled with a love for all human beings.”
It comes as no surprise that a Students for Justice in Palestine-affiliated student, on Aug. 20 at Temple University, shouted anti-Semitic insults and punched a pro-Israel student in the face during an orientation event. SJP historically bullies pro-Israel students and invites vehemently anti-Semitic speakers to campus under the pretenses of “dialogue.” But its activities have done far more than just harass Jewish students. Rather, the group uses its false language of “human rights” and “social justice” to get various student groups to assist its struggle for such causes, writes Elliott Hamilton, a rising senior and pro-Israel student activist at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.
While Israel has been engaged in a seemingly endless summer war with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, pro-Israel students are about to re-enter an increasingly hostile environment for the Jewish state on their college campuses. Just weeks before the start of the 2014-15 school year, 53 pro-Israel student leaders prepared for that challenge by convening in Boston for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference. “Everyone at the conference got hands-on experience that will be necessary to fight the information battles we face in the coming year,” said Elliott Hamilton, a rising senior at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is part of the international NGO “soft power” war, whose unrelenting attacks on Israel’s right to self-defense ultimately aid Hamas terrorism. While JVP states that it is “agnostic” about a two-state solution, its actions demonstrate a clear anti-Israel agenda. When JVP supports the call to “Stand Against Zionism Everywhere”—as it recently did in California—the group stands unmasked as anything but a voice for peace, writes Yitzhak Santis, chief programs officer at Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.
The Obama administration was forced to go on the defensive last week regarding accusations published in The Wall Street Journal that it held back Hellfire-missile transfers to Israel for further review. The WSJ strongly implied that President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at an all-time low as a result of perceptions among U.S. officials that Israel is not doing enough to end its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Some pro-Israel observers say they feel betrayed by the reported delay of the Hellfire missiles, regarding the move as the Obama administration breaking its promise not to allow political and diplomatic disagreements to interfere with U.S.-Israel security cooperation.
For the first time in 80 years, the United States could find itself without an international export credit agency if Congress does not reauthorize the charter of the United States Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire on Sept. 30. A failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im bank by that deadline could have significant financial implications for countries like Israel, which is home to companies accustomed to receiving loans from the bank.
In the early 1990s, San Diego was experiencing serious drought conditions. At that time, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) was essentially the area’s only source of water. In 1991, MWD cut San Diego’s supply by 31 percent, prompting the local business community to seek other water sources for the region’s 3 million people. That’s where Israel enters the picture. Starting in November 2015, a desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif., built and operated by the Israeli company IDE Technologies, will produce 50 million gallons of water per day, accommodating 7-10 percent of the San Diego area’s needs.
The horrors of northern Iraq have compelled the Obama administration to both quell its isolationist instincts and to delay the much-vaunted policy “pivot” from the Middle East to East Asia. However much we try, the Middle East will not let us go. And yet we still have no grand strategy for the region, no sense of how we want it to evolve, no doctrine to bring stability to its suffering peoples, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Although the 2016 presidential election is still a long way off, prospective candidates are already testing the waters for possible presidential bids—primarily candidates considering running in the currently wide-open Republican race. Thus when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), one of the most visible potential contenders in 2016, said that he had never proposed to cut foreign aid to Israel, many in the pro-Israel community took notice.
While he still believes that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen cannot envisage making peace with the Jewish haters of Israel. Betrayal by a brother always hurts more than the venom of a declared enemy. Whenever anti-Zionist Jews shout “NOT IN OUR NAME,” we should remind them that their name is not our name, Cohen writes.
In “The December Project,” author Sara Davidson captures the spirit of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement who died last month, and based on his insights forms a new guide for how to live in the final stage of life. Davidson’s book is critical at a time when life expectancy is rising, yet most of us have no one to teach us how to prepare for senior living, writes reviewer Rabbi Jack Riemer.
Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. “I can't help but smile and get happy when I hear a frying pan played well,” says Jonas, who also credits his childhood cantor with inspiring his path. “I remember going to synagogue during this time and listening to Cantor Harry Lubin, and being awestruck by the beauty and power of his voice,” he says of the legendary chazzan for synagogues in Chicago and Bethesda, Md.
After being vacant for nearly a year, the role of America’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom will likely soon be occupied by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. While his liberal political views sometimes put him at odds with conservative-leaning Jewish organizations, most observers feel Saperstein’s experience in the issues relevant to the religious freedom post make him a good fit.
Few issues in the U.S. Congress have as much bipartisan support as pro-Israel legislation. It is difficult to find a member of the Senate or House in either party who, at least publicly, is not claiming undying love and support for Israel and its military’s Operation Protective Edge. But last week, there was a rare moment of uncertainty in regards to where emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system would come from, and whether the proposed funding could survive the partisanship and inaction Congress is known for.
During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. JNS.org presents a list of such celebrities and some of the brands they have endorsed.
Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve in the army],” Lahat told JNS.org. “For us it’s not a war far away in Iraq or Afghanistan. For us it’s right at home. My family is in danger, my country… you have to go and defend it.”