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After enduring an angry mob of 50 anti-Israel activists, Jews at University of California, Irvine were thankful for the protection they received from police, but were left wondering why they were escorted away from the scene while the anti-Israel protesters were allowed to remain there. “They can protest whatever they want, I understand that. But don’t we have the same rights? Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech?” said Israeli veteran Eran Izak, who answered the audience's questions about the Israel Defense Forces at the event that drew the protest, a May 18 screening of the film “Beneath the Helmet.”
Earlier this month, Ben Rhodes, a national security official in the Obama administration, admitted in a New York Times profile that he used non-governmental groups to create an “echo chamber” to garner cover for the nuclear deal with Iran. Rhodes stated that his efforts to manipulate media coverage of the deal were made easier by the youth and ignorance of journalists who cover foreign policy. But Journalists are not the only people who were implicated as a result of Rhodes’s stunning admission. Christian churches and para-church organizations were an important part of the echo chamber that Rhodes created. By behaving in such a manner, these institutions did harm to the civil society in which they operate and to their own reputations, writes Dexter Van Zile, a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
Nobody has given Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump an incentive to disavow, explicitly and unreservedly, the semi-literate Klan-like rabble that is riding his coattails. That incentive can, realistically, only be provided by Trump’s Jewish supporters, since he never listens to his adversaries. If these Jews are going to give him legitimacy, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen, then their voices need to be heard on the following developments that have further marred Trump’s appeal to Jewish voters: anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish critics, “as a Jew” apologetics, and the rise of the “alternative right.”
Earlier this month, a Pew Research Center survey found that while sympathy for Israel among American voters has remained relatively consistent over the past few decades, there has been a slight uptick in sympathy for the Palestinians—14 percent to 19 percent—from July 2014. The data also revealed a substantial increase in sympathy for the Palestinians among respondents ages 18-29—also known as “millennials”—from 9 percent in 2006 to 27 percent today, while liberal Democrats were shown to sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel, 40 percent versus 33 percent. Dr. Steven M. Cohen, a research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, said the survey results echo “parallel trends in Europe among people with a similar liberal view of the world.” But Dr. Jonathan Rynhold, author of “The Arab-Israeli Conflict in American Political Culture,” maintained that “American liberals are far more sympathetic to Israel than the European left. The gulf remains huge.”
In the current U.S. presidential race, one presumptive nominee proudly made large donations to politicians “so they would do what I want” to facilitate his business goals, while the other took actions benefiting special interest groups—which then “coincidentally” donated large sums to her family’s private foundation. It’s clear that their approaches to accumulating wealth have worked. According to Forbes, Donald Trump is worth more than $4.5 billion, and the Clintons have made $230 million since leaving the White House. Historian Rafael Medoff wonders what Harold Jacobs would have thought of all this. Jacobs, an Orthodox Jew, built Precisionware into the second-largest manufacturer of kitchen cabinets in America. Medoff recounts a speech that Jacobs gave to a group of Jewish businessmen in 1964 on the topic of business ethics. Jacobs's words, he writes, were at once a stinging rebuke to his professional colleagues and an inspiring insight into the theme of his career.
While President Barack Obama prepares to become the first president to visit Hiroshima since the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city in 1945, JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen explains that the problem with turning Hiroshima into a universal symbol is that the historical context around the tragedy is removed. We have to remember that Japan was still fighting fiercely in August 1945, after its Nazi German ally had been defeated, and was prepared to sacrifice its entire population to counter the Allies. A land invasion in this environment would have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops. That was a key consideration behind the decision to end the war by dropping the bomb. While post-war Germany has faced up to its past, has paid reparations to survivors, and continues to memorialize the 6 million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazis, nothing remotely similar has taken place in Japan, writes Cohen.
On the campus of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), they’re partying like it’s 1948—and Israel’s usual detractors are staying silent. Advocates of Israel celebrated Israel Independence Week at UCLA, participating in numerous activities courtesy of Bruins for Israel. As is the case with a number of the schools in the 10-campus University of California system, UCLA is regarded as a staunchly anti-Israel campus. According to the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, there have been 13 incidents of anti-Semitism at UCLA over the past 18 months. Yet during UCLA's Israel Independence Week this year, the campus chapters of anti-Israel groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace chose not to stage protests at the pro-Israel events.
Just when you think they’ve run out of ideas, the American Jewish left has found a novel way to commemorate Israel’s Independence Day—by trying to make Israel more dependent. In a full-page ad in the New York Times on May 12, the S. Daniel Abraham Center demanded that Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries and accept creation of a Palestinian state. The Abraham Center’s solution is a recipe for total Israeli dependence—on the goodwill of the Palestinians and the assurances of the international community. Which is probably not what Israel’s founders had in mind in 1948 when they established what was intended to be a free, proud, and genuinely sovereign state, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Methodists know how important face-to-face meetings are for reconciliation. The Church’s history is replete with ruptures that were healed only after honest and sincere dialogue. The process often took years. Yet that is not the way Methodists are addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As more than 900 people from around the world gather in Portland, Ore., for the United Methodist Church quadrennial General Conference from May 10-20, certain factions in the global church who claim to promote peace for Israelis and Palestinians are instead pushing an anti-dialogue agenda that censures and denounces only one party—the State of Israel, writes Emily D. Soloff, associate director of interreligious and intergroup relations at the American Jewish Committee.
Donald Trump has failed to address Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, while deferring to Russian autocrat President Vladimir Putin. Yet in the face of endless high-minded, wonkish critiques, Trump has overwhelmed his GOP competitors. The prospect of a Trump victory in the November general election is suddenly very real, and only a fool would claim otherwise. Still, recognition of Trump’s extraordinary achievement hasn’t altered worries about how he would shape American foreign policy. JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen presents his observations about Trump’s broader approach to politics in order to put the foreign policy concerns in context.
As 2015 began, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) proudly announced that their membership had surpassed the 2 million mark. In just under a decade since its founding, the Christian Zionist organization had become the largest pro-Israel group in the country. But just a few months later, news headlines were dominated by turmoil between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama as well as negotiations surrounding the Iran’s nuclear program. As attention focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as surging anti-Semitism around the world, CUFI saw their membership growth shift into overdrive—and membership now exceeds 3 million.
As a novelist, Michael Chabon has a vivid imagination. One of his novels centers around a world in which there is no state of Israel, only a large Jewish refuge in Alaska. Chabon’s imagination was on full display last week, when he toured Israel and denounced an “occupation” that exists only in his mind. Together with other American Jewish critics of Israel, Chabon visited Hebron. Afterwards, he told The Forward that “the occupation [is] the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life.” Now keep in mind that 80 percent of Hebron is occupied by the Palestinian Authority. But for some reason, Chabon is concerned only about the 20 percent controlled by Israel, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow.
Iowa on April 27 became the latest U.S. state to pass legislation designed to undermine the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In a 38-9 vote with three excused absences, the Iowa Senate passed one of the strongest anti-BDS bills in the country. The prospective law would prohibit both investment and contracting by the so-called “Hawkeye State” with companies participating in BDS, either against Israel or “territories controlled by Israel.” The bill also prohibits secondary boycotts by extending its ban to boycotters of those who do business in Israel or the “territories.”
As recently as the 1940s, anti-Semitism was so common in the United States that even the president privately told offensive jokes about Jewish immigrants in a faux New York Jewish accent. Yet in the past few months, a candidate who is the son of Jewish immigrants and has a pronounced New York Jewish accent has won 18 presidential primaries and caucuses. He has received donations from more than 4 million Americans—the largest number of individual contributors to any political campaign in U.S. history. Have American public attitudes toward Jews changed so drastically? And if so, how did it happen? The unexpected achievements of Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders illustrate a remarkable transformation in public attitudes that has taken place, in which the cranky old Jewish socialist of yesteryear is now viewed affectionately through the prism provided by “Saturday Night Live” and “Seinfeld,” writes historian Rafael Medoff.
Every people has its betrayers. And if Jews needed a reminder of that adage, 11 Jewish law students and alumni at Harvard Law School just might have provided it. Indeed, the surprise was that it was only 11. These students and alumni became witting apologists for Husam El-Qoulaq, the Harvard law student and Palestinian activist who invoked the anti-Semitic stereotype of the smelly Jew, when he hurled a question at former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni as to why she was so “smelly.” The Jewish apologists really outdo themselves when they say they are adding “context” to the incident, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.
A successful legal campaign against the American Studies Association's boycott of Israel will likely rebound onto the other faculty associations that have endorsed this insidious campaign. The boycotters will repeat over and over again that such action encroaches upon their First Amendment rights. Like every single one of their assertions, this too is a lie. Nobody is questioning their right to preach this coarse and hateful discourse. Implementation of their political program, however, is a vastly different story, as it involves active discrimination and requires civic organizations to ditch their own charters, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
Leading up to May 2016, JNS.org's Jacob Kamaras was expecting to perhaps write a reflective piece on the one-year anniversary of Houston’s 2015 Memorial Day flood, which hit the city’s Jewish neighborhoods of Meyerland and Willow Meadows particularly hard. But his assignment editor, in this case nature, had different plans. On April 18, about 11 months after the previous flood, a deluge of similar magnitude wreaked renewed havoc on America’s fourth-largest city and the same Jewish neighborhoods. The 2015 flood had already damaged about 500 Jewish homes and three synagogues, including more than $1 million in damage for the congregation Kamaras belongs to, United Orthodox Synagogues. As a member of the media coming at this event from a more personal perspective, Kamaras wonders if the 2016 flood and the local Jewish community’s now-compounded plight will receive the attention it deserves, or if journalistic “fatigue” for a repeat storyline will set in. With the Jewish future in a major city at stake, he writes that he hopes his industry colleagues take notice.
At every event on the campaign trail, Ohio Governor John Kasich tries to convey that he has a realistic plan to get people back to work and keep America safe. But he says it’s even more important to share this simple message: the Lord made you special and He has a plan for your life that’s bigger than you. In a pre-Passover op-ed that is first published online by JNS.org, the GOP presidential contender writes that around the time of this Jewish holiday, he is reminded that God uses ordinary people to show mercy and justice to those who live in the shadows. Whatever your situation, you have the opportunity to bless people in ways you may not even realize, and in doing so, fulfill God’s purpose for your life, writes Kasich.
When it comes to projecting the Jewish vote in 2016, understanding demographics might lend some semblance of sanity to an election that most observers would compare to a roller coaster ride. As America’s primary election season is inching closer to its conclusion, five candidates remain in the race. Against the backdrop of the unpredictable primary stretch and the possibility of a contested Republican convention, JNS.org surveyed Jewish demographic experts for their take on how American Jews might vote in the remaining primaries and in November’s general election. Many voters nationwide appear to feel torn about both parties’ candidates, a sentiment that echoes in the Jewish electorate. “I think you have a whole corps of Jewish voters, Republicans and some independents, and even maybe a few Democrats, who in a sense are holding out until they see what happens in Cleveland at the Republican convention in July,” said Jewish demographer Dr. Steven Windmueller.
In its latest attempt to enhance Israeli lawmakers' knowledge of American Jewry, the Ruderman Family Foundation last week brought a delegation of Members of Knesset (MKs) to the U.S. During the mission, now in its fourth year, the six visiting MKs met with American Jewish leaders and U.S. government officials in order deepen the Israeli leaders' understanding of the challenges facing U.S. Jewry amid the unpredictable future of the U.S.-Israel relationship. “We just want a higher level of discussion in Israel about the American Jewish community,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, told JNS.org.