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In the days leading up to the July 28 revelation of the U.S. granting parole to imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, former State Department counsel Abraham Sofaer charged that Pollard’s actions have provoked anti-Semitism in America. Sofaer, who was part of the U.S. team that investigated the Pollard affair in the 1980s, claimed Pollard “created a terrible situation for American Jews who then obviously [were] all the more suspected.” The fear that Pollard’s actions would cause anti-Semitism was also articulated at the time of his arrest by many prominent American Jews, conservatives and liberals alike. But as it turns out, Jewish fears of being seen as disloyal are not supported by evidence and were just as misplaced in the 1980s as they are today, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
When it comes to the deal agreed to a fortnight ago in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program, there’s a pattern evolving that should be worrying the Obama administration: the more you know about it, the less you like it. The current agreement fails to address painfully large holes in the inspection regime, and a better deal means getting Iran to accept the “anytime, anywhere” principle on inspections. A better deal also means getting absolute clarification on the existence of concealed nuclear facilities, as well as a candid and honest account of Iran’s past nuclear activities—chiefly, the military aspects of such work. During this long, hot summer, the American people should tell those whom they elect that they are no longer prepared to accept the false choice of “take this deal or risk another war,” writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its 25th anniversary should be celebrated, we must acknowledge that the U.S. still has a long way to go on disability rights. While the ADA exempts private membership clubs and religious institutions from its mandates, we have a moral and religious obligation to work with and for people with disabilities in their fight for basic human dignity. We cannot forget that we are all b’tzelem Elohim, created in God’s image. In the next 25 years, let’s build upon the dreams of the ADA and the Torah’s words to create a world where people of all abilities are afforded full civil rights, writes William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy at The Jewish Federations of North America.
The July 14 announcement of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers has drawn much public criticism, praise, and punditry—in the Jewish community and beyond—and will continue to do so over the course of the ongoing 60-day period for the U.S. Congress to review the agreement. But which so-called “regular citizens” are taking the time to actually read the deal? That question is arguably most pressing in the New York City metropolitan area, home to more Jews than any region of its kind nationwide. Not surprisingly, then, the “Big Apple” has been the epicenter of both education and advocacy, including events ranging from discussions to protests, in the weeks since the Iran deal was reached.
As the U.S. Congress debates whether or not to support the Iran nuclear deal, the same discussion is taking place in local Jewish communities around the country, where many Jews will inevitably look to their congregational rabbis for guidance on how they should view an agreement that many are criticizing for endangering the security of their brethren in Israel. But pulpit rabbis are not members of Congress, and synagogues are not political advocacy organizations. So how and when is it appropriate for them to comment publicly on the Iran issue? JNS.org spoke with rabbis across the denominational spectrum to get a sense of what they consider to be the appropriate balance to strike.
In an almost unprecedented moment for American Jewry, the majority of prominent Jewish organizations have lined up in order to combat the Iran nuclear deal. Amid this historic display of unity, J Street has been the outlier, vigorously campaigning in support of the deal. With the nuclear issue putting Israel and the Jewish people in a life-threatening situation, now is the time for Jewish leaders who care about unity and who care about Jewish life to show J Street their communal tent’s exit flap, write Charles Jacobs and Elliott Hamilton of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.
JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen offers 12 questions—and that just scratches the surface—for the White House’s new @TheIranDeal Twitter handle, which the Obama administration says will try to “set the record straight” on the nuclear agreement between world powers and the Islamic Republic. For everyone else, Cohen suggests: keep blitzing @TheIranDeal with questions. Keep demanding answers. Just because they are silent, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.
In layman’s terms, “concierge” essentially means a personal assistant. So what exactly does a “concierge rabbi” do? Just ask Rabbi David Greenspoon of Reisterstown, Md., who founded “Jewtique: Concierge Rabbinic Services.” Though Greenspoon recently took on a new full-time pulpit in Virginia, he hopes his concierge business will continue to feed the souls of both his congregation and other Jews seeking his guidance. “You have to meet people where they are at and help them realize the depth and quality of the Jewish experience,” says Greenspoon, who provides services ranging from baby namings to funerals.
Israel’s Channel 2 recently dedicated a full 15 minutes to the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Reporter Danny Kushmaro brought to an Israeli audience awareness of “the Jews that stand behind the boycott of Israel.” For Yitzhak Santis, a longtime “student” of JVP, as well as many Americans, there would be little surprise to hear the venomous rhetoric disgorged by JVP activists. But for an Israeli audience that never heard of JVP, the reaction had to have been nothing short of shock and a profound sense of betrayal, writes Santis, chief programs officer at the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.
He’s a Jew from Brooklyn. He’s running for president. But is Israel on his radar? Once considered a long shot for the Democratic presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has gained significant momentum in recent weeks. Though he grew up in a Jewish-heavy area and spent time on an Israeli kibbutz after he graduated from college, Israel has taken a backseat on Sanders’s Congressional agenda to issues such as income inequality, challenging Wall Street, and raising the minimum wage. At the same time, the senator’s progressive political base harbors increasingly negative attitudes about the Jewish state. What would that mean for a Sanders presidency? “Even if Sanders is relatively quiet on Israel, there’s a good chance that his leftist supporters are more critical,” said Tevi Troy, who served as White House liaison to the Jewish community under president George W. Bush.
Americans were assured by the Obama administration that there would be “anytime/anywhere inspections” of Iran's nuclear program. But the recently signed nuclear deal requires up to 24 days of advance notice before inspectors enter nuclear sites. Americans were told that sanctions would be lifted gradually, commensurate with Iran’s commitments. Yet Iran is now receiving a swift and unconditional windfall of $150 billion in sanctions relief. The nuclear agreement is appeasement, bordering on capitulation and treason, writes Sarah N. Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth think tank.
One of the major issues in the debate over the Iran deal revolves around the question of what will happen if international inspectors want to visit a particular nuclear site, and the Iranians say no. But an equally important consideration is: What will happen if Iranian violations are actually discovered? The Obama administration’s handling of Palestinian violations of agreements they’ve signed offers a clue as to how it will respond to Iranian breaches, writes attorney Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter was killed in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terror attack in 1995.
Beyond the recently reached nuclear deal’s implications for Iran’s nuclear program itself, much of the fear about the agreement centers on how the substantial sanctions relief (as much as $150 billion) it provides to the Islamic Republic might open the floodgates to increased Iranian exporting of terrorism. “It is clear to me that the sanctions will be thoroughly gutted,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank, told JNS.org. “There will be little way of financial pressure that the U.S. and its allies will have after the implementation of the deal.”
It has not been a good month for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Not only is Bernie Sanders coming up on her in the clubhouse turn, but Hillary’s recently exposed emails reveal praise for professional anti-Semite Max Blumenthal. The likes of this sort of praise have not been seen since the notorious David Duke commended Blumenthal for exposing the evils of Zionism despite his Jewish name and Jewish face. After ignoring President Barack Obama’s associations prevented the Jewish community from anticipating both his hostility toward Israel and his pursuit of the disastrous agreement with Iran, that mistake should not be compounded in assessing Hillary, writes Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.
While the ink dries on the newly signed nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, America’s largest pro-Israel organization is seeking to help defeat the pact in Congress through the work of its nascent office in Washington, DC. San Antonio-based Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which during 10 years of existence has grown to 2.2 million members, is beginning to hire staff for a new entity dubbed the “CUFI Action Fund.” Gary Bauer—head of the Action Fund and the U.S. under secretary of education in the administration of former president Ronald Reagan—said that because the Iran nuclear deal has failed to meet the Obama administration’s own stated standards, “we’re going to go all out, as challenging as it will be, to get the 67 votes that we will need in the United States Senate” to nix the agreement.
When hackers from a group called Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail defaced the website of Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, Pa., in July 2014, the synagogue chose to look forward rather than dwell on the result of the cyberattack. “We rebuilt our site and have worked with our domain provider to strengthen security, with an eye toward preventing future hacks,” Rabbi David Ackerman, leader of the congregation, told JNS.org. The defacement of Beth Am Israel’s website (meaning that the website’s usual content was replaced with propaganda through videos and statements) is part of a new-age trend in anti-Semitism. In particular, the Anti-Defamation League’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents that took place throughout America during 2014, data that was released in March 2015, identified a spike in cyberattacks by overseas hackers on synagogues, schools, and other Jewish institutions.
Having spent a decade growing into America’s largest pro-Israel organization, with 2.2 million members, the journey of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) arrived at a historic crossroads Tuesday. The same could be said for the rest of America and much of the world. Upon the announcement of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, CUFI deployed thousands of Christian Zionists to lobby members of the Senate and House of Representatives to support Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat. Though the complete details of the agreement reached in Vienna were not immediately available, CUFI’s Tuesday-morning lineup of speakers struck a defiant tone. “The magic number, the magic number of the United States Senate is 67. If we get 67 votes in the United States Senate, we can override the president’s veto,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Six American presidential candidates made their pitch on Israel and the Middle East to thousands of prospective Christian Zionist voters on Monday at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit. Gary Bauer—a former U.S. presidential candidate himself and head of CUFI's new 501(c)(4) Action Fund—said that the 501(c)(3) non-profit CUFI, though limited in what it could previously do in terms of “overt politics,” has always told its supporters “that when they’re looking at a candidate for federal office or state office, it’s imperative that that this issue (Israel) be a priority with other things that they care about.”
Ralph Nader, the famous crusader against fraud and corruption, believes he has uncovered a horrific new injustice—and the perpetrators are “the Jews.” At the recent annual convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, where Nader was a featured speaker, the five-time unconventional U.S. presidential candidate said, “You never avoid using the word anti-Semitism when Arabs and Arab-Americans are discriminated against... and that is anti-Semitism. The Semitic race is Arabs and Jews and the Jews do not own the phrase anti-Semitism.” In leaping into the debate over anti-Semitism, Nader—who rose to fame in the mid-1960s with his campaign to expose safety problems in automobiles—has ventured far from his areas of expertise, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
The late-May flood in Houston, which damaged 500 Jewish homes and three synagogues in that city, garnered national media attention in the immediate aftermath of the natural disaster. But while the attention from the press has subsided, the Jewish community’s recovery process remains at a critical juncture. Enter the Nachum Segal Network (NSN) and “JM in the AM,” the Jewish radio show whose three-hour broadcast garners between 75,000 and 100,000 listeners each weekday morning. On July 7, host Nachum Segal and his production crew left the confines of their New Jersey-based studio for Houston, where they witnessed the flood damage firsthand and recorded their July 8 show at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. “There are people who we’re affiliated with who think it’s really important that if something happens somewhere in the Jewish world, whether it be France, or Israel, or somewhere here in the United States, that we should be there; that we should be lending an ear to the community, giving a voice to this community, to listeners who care,” Segal told JNS.org.