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Columnist Stephen M. Flatow read the text of the condolence letter that Imam Abdul Rahmam Ahmad wrote the Jewish community of Boston following the recent murder of 18-year-old American yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz by Palestinian terrorists. While he has no reason to doubt the sincerity of the imam's expression of “great sadness,” Flatow writes to the imam on how his condolence letter fell short, including the fact that there was no mention of what motivated the murder of Ezra.
Examining America’s response to the Holocaust can help us avoid repeating the mistakes of that era, so applying the lessons of the Nazi years to contemporary concerns—including the plight of the Syrian refugees—certainly is appropriate. But those who are invoking the memory of the Jewish refugees are choosing the wrong analogy for today’s Syrian refugees. The analogy distorts the nature of what happened—and what is happening now—to the victims, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
For students at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI), the Jewish state has become a home away from home. Although some may be feeling homesick at this time of year, the school surprised them with a Thanksgiving feast fit for a Pilgrim. While Israelis carried on with a typical weekday, these American students—enrolled for a semester of studies, travel, concerts, and authentic Israeli experiences—were eagerly “gobbling” up all the tastes of home at last week’s meal. “When we bring these young people together from all around the world, especially from the U.S., they have a tremendous sense of wanting to be part of something larger, and they form a community. We help them, but what we’re really doing is helping the students invest in their own community,” said Rabbi Mordechai Cohen, AMHSI’s head of school.
In a time of tension between major world religions, an enlightened experience on Nov. 19 at the New York Museum of Modern Art brought together distinguished members of different faiths, who convened to honor King of Morocco Mohammed VI for his effort to preserve Jewish burial places in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation.
A memorial ceremony was held at Ben Gurion Airport just before the body of 18 year-old Ezra Schwartz was flown to the United States for burial last Saturday night. William Grant, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, was in attendance. Yet if the ceremony had taken place at the site of the attack in which Ezra was murdered, U.S. diplomats would have boycotted the event. That’s because the attack took place in Gush Etzion, and U.S. policy is to boycott the funerals of American victims of Arab terror if the funerals take place beyond the pre-1967 armistice line. American Jews need to press the Obama administration to take specific, concrete steps to demonstrate American solidarity with the American victims of Palestinian terror. Ending the boycott of victims’ funerals is just one small step among others offered by columnist Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995.
“My main purpose is to explain beyond any reasonable doubt why a 12 and 13-year-old, instead of going on a bike ride…they go bring knives, kitchen knives, from their mother’s kitchen, and go try to stab Jews,” says Hussein Aboubakr Mansour. “This is not because they have any grievances against Israeli occupation. They are just 12. What kind of grievances could you build when you’re 12 years old?” Mansour’s words have more gravitas than those of many others commenting on radical Islam. A 26-year-old political refugee born and raised in a traditional, middle class Arab-Muslim family in Egypt’s capital of Cairo, he took some time during a two-week national U.S. speaking tour—sponsored by pro-Israel education group StandWithUs—for an interview with JNS.org on the persecution he suffered under Egyptian regimes, his survival of Arab Spring chaos, and his current educational efforts. Now an assistant professor of Hebrew Studies at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., Mansour’s stated goal on the tour was to “educate people about anti-Semitism in the Arab world.”
With evidence that one of the Islamist suicide bombers hid among Syrian migrants to France, the Paris terror attacks have raised concern among many American leaders that allowing Syrian refugees into the country would pose a security risk, while simultaneously igniting a debate on whether refugees’ religion should factor into their suitability for admittance. While more than half of the governors of U.S. states have said they will ban Syrian refugees from entering, Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently called on America to give priority to Middle Eastern Christian refugees because they do not pose a terrorism risk. “[Iraqi and Syrian Christians] are being persecuted and their case for asylum should stand. It will be very important to recognize Christians alongside Yazidis among the victims of genocide committed by ISIS, with the apparent charge of genocide leveled at ISIS in the works,” Joop Koopman, communications manager for the U.K.-based Catholic charity group Aid to the Church in Need, told JNS.org.
At the recent Union for Reform Judaism biennial convention, the staff and delegates were audaciously hospitable to the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. This was the first Reform convention the Boy Scouts of America had been invited to participate in since membership and leadership standards were changed to become more inclusive. The Conservative movement is following suit. Bruce Chudacoff, chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, writes that Scouting is the one organization that can provide the glue to cement the future of Jewish development in America.
When French President Francois Hollande calls the terrorism in Paris an “act of war,” nobody disagrees with him. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Palestinian Islamic terrorists have carried out “acts of war,” he is accused by the Obama administration and others of exaggerating the threat. France’s leaders have belatedly awakened to the fact that the civilized world is at war with the forces of Islamic terrorism. Israel is one front in that war. France is another. If the Obama administration does not wake up and fight, then America will soon become the next front, writes columnist Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 1995.
The latest meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama experienced less tension than previous showdowns, with Netanyahu calling it “one of the best” meetings he has ever had with Obama. Yet amid those good vibes, a report emerged regarding an under-the-radar dispute on Netanyahu’s request that Obama recognize Israeli claims on the Golan Heights region—followed by the Obama administration's rejection of that request. In the meeting, Netanyahu told Obama that he doubts Syria could ever be reunited into a functioning state and that the current situation “allows for different thinking” about the status of the Golan Heights. “Obama’s response was not surprising,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank. “But I don’t believe we have heard the last of this initiative. As long as the Syrian civil war rages, this will be a live issue.”
Jewish students at Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based Vassar College, responding to a 2015 questionnaire, said that at Vassar, it’s unwise to advertise that you are Jewish because it will threaten a student’s sense of safety. Jewish students self-censor pro-Israel opinions out of fear of retribution from intolerant peers and professors. At Vassar, voicing a pro-Israel view brands you a fascist, a racist, a colonialist, and morally compromised. The intolerant atmosphere suppresses freedom of expression, constructive debate is impossible, and conformity to an anti-Israel orthodoxy is demanded, writes Vassar alumna Ziva Dahl.
It's time for a reality check. Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons is very far from being the final chapter in the history of its nuclear deceits. We have not reached the point where we can say with certainty that the nuclear deal “brought about”—as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid claimed this week—a situation where Iran can no longer weaponize its nuclear program. Rather, Iran’s nuclear goals are still very much a part of the dangerous present in which we live, and to say that these same goals are now firmly in the past is a complacent falsehood that gives the nuclear deal far more credit than it is due, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
A day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama met at the White House, JNS.org editor Jacob Kamaras shared the “Press Stage” at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro. Instead of living in the story of the moment, the diplomat took a longer view on the world leaders’ relationship. “Frankly, I think that when history is written about this period, out of the day-to-day political narrative and the tensions that exist in both countries, I think the history will be kinder to [Obama and Netanyahu] and kinder to what they achieved together than what sometimes comes across in the day-to-day media coverage,” Shapiro said.
Fact: During World War I, 10 percent of the officers in the German army were Jewish. Fact: During World War II, 4.7 percent of soldiers in the United States Armed Forces were Jewish, despite comprising less than 2 percent of the population. Jews have always served in the military and fought to defend their country of residence. As a tribute, Jewish National Fund (JNF) has erected a Wall of Honor at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem to commemorate Jewish soldiers who fought in any war in any country. Started in 2008 with 15 plaques, today the names of 331 men and women from around the world, including Israel, are inscribed there.
Despite their disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal, America and Israel “can and should work together now” to ensure that Iran complies with the agreement and to curb Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday at the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in Washington, DC, a day after he met with President Barack Obama at the White House.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) this week praised a video produced by the Israel Collective, a project of Christians United for Israel, showcasing an Israeli charitable organization and medical center dedicated to saving the lives of children regardless of race, religion, or culture. Presented in Chicago on Nov. 3, the video—titled "The Heart of Israel"—was recognized as an “Official Selection” at the APHA's film festival. The video features the work of Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), a non-profit that provides life-saving heart procedures for children from developing countries. “We are very proud that this represents the best of Israel, based on the core Jewish values that each and every one of us has been brought up on, and that value is life,” SACH Executive Director Simon Fisher says.
Forty years after the passage of U.N. Resolution 3379, which declared that Zionism is "racism," JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen dares to hope that a diplomat with sufficient courage and vision will launch a campaign to complete the task of its rescinding, by abolishing propaganda bodies and replacing them with competent agencies dedicated to fostering cooperation between Israel and the Arab world. That would be both a real contribution to the cause of peace and confirmation of a deeper truth—that anti-Zionism is racism, Cohen writes.
Fifty years ago this week, two prominent figures in the American Jewish community startled their colleagues by calling for democratic elections to choose Jewish leaders. Yet five decades after the call of Judah Shapiro and C. Bezalel Sherman, democracy is still a foreign concept in the organized Jewish community. There are American Jewish organizations today where the same person has been president for more than 20 years, where “elections” are held but there is only one candidate, where entrenched leaders have abolished term limits so they can remain in power indefinitely, and where organizational by-laws are ignored, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
Milestones were in the air at the Ruderman Inclusion Summit, which drew 500 people from Nov. 1-2 in Boston. Not only was it the first conference of its kind, but it came amid this year’s 25th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But the Ruderman Family Foundation, the summit’s organizer, made it clear that it doesn’t consider the anniversary a time for disability rights advocates to rest on their laurels. Front and center at the summit was a sentiment that on the issue of employment, there is much work left to be done. “I hope…that we’ll be able to partner in the future with the Ruderman foundation to advance this cause as much as humanly possible, so in the next 25 years, we won’t have 60 percent of people with disabilities out of the workforce,” said former U.S. senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chief Senate sponsor of the ADA.