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The war against Islamic State is a war against the philosophy of jihad. As with any war involving multiple parties fighting on the same side, an overarching political vision is nearly impossible to achieve. During the Second World War, the U.S. and Britain had few illusions about the Soviet Union, even as they allied with it. Similar cynicism is warranted now when it comes to Turkey—specifically regarding its contradiction of membership in a democratic alliance like NATO and support for jihadist organizations like Hamas, writes JNS.org Shillman Analyst Ben Cohen.
Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. His doctors told him his prostate cancer had metastasized to his liver, and that he had only three months to live. Zacks—who would die in February 2014—decided to make his bedroom a school in which he and those he loved would study together about how to live at the end of life. The details are chronicled in Zacks’s posthumously published book, “Redefining Moments: End of Life Stories for Better Living.”
“Open Hillel” wants the Jewish campus umbrella represented at more than 550 schools to allow the expression of more diverse points of view, including those critical of Israel. Hillel International believes it is already highly inclusive, but will not compromise on guidelines that state it will not “partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel.” On Sept. 9, Hillel President and CEO Eric Fingerhut said he met with Open Hillel student representatives in Boston “in order to listen to their concerns and to personally convey that Hillel welcomes all Jewish students no matter their politics or perspectives.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Jewish state, has called for the creation of an independent Kurdish state. But some experts question the viability of the idea, citing the Islamic State terror group’s initial ability to overwhelm the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. “It showed the limitation of what the Kurds can do without American support and without the consent and support of the two big neighbors, Iran and Turkey,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The hottest month of summer was ice cold, as thousands of people poured buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In just a few weeks, three million donors helped raise more than $100 million, blowing the $2.7 million the ALS Association raised during the same time period last year out of the water. These results have left leading Jewish organizations asking themselves, “Is this the fundraising wave of the future?” Experts say the success of the ALS campaign shows the need for Jewish non-profits to think creatively, particularly on social media, but that shtick such as the Ice Bucket Challenge is no substitute for the traditional fundraising pillars of building relationships and having a cause that matters. “Not to throw cold water on a one-off campaign, even a wildly successful one, but our success is our sustainability,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America.
The self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street states that it opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but its campus arm has sometimes come under scrutiny for partnering with anti-Israel organizations. In response to the latest such test case, at Swarthmore College in eastern Pennsylvania, J Street is clarifying that it in fact does “not have any problem” with co-sponsoring programs with pro-BDS groups.
Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) television network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “I wanted it to be ‘The Jewish Experience,’” said film educator Eric Goldman, who organized the showcase with TCM producer Gary Freedman. “I wanted a broad sweep—how Israel, the Shoah (Holocaust), prejudice, and anti-Semitism affect Jews.”
The Islamic State terrorist group, experts say, has managed to brilliantly leverage its acquisitions—including land grabs, hostages, and oil—in a style that is part mafia, part bureaucratic. The group continues to be well-armed, flush with cash, and in possession of American and European captives. “[Islamic State’s] criminal activities—robbery, extortion, and trafficking—have helped the organization become the best-funded terrorist group in history,” U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Marco Rubio wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. “This wealth has helped expand their operational capacity and incentivized both local and foreign fighters to join them.”
On Labor Day weekend, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder welcomed thousands of Muslims to Detroit for the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). But when one looks at the roster of radical Islamic speakers highlighted in the ISNA program, one wonders about the wisdom of Snyder, a U.S. state’s top official, speaking at such an event and therefore bestowing a state’s legitimacy upon the host organization, writes Sarah N. Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth.
This summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has come to a close if a ceasefire 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.