Archive | July, 2008

Ford Foundation still funding anti-Israel organizations


Ford Foundation still funding anti-Israel organizations

Posted on 31 July 2008 by admin

By Michael J. Jordan
NEW YORK (JTA) — In August 2001, Israel became a punching bag for several thousand human rights activists from throughout the world who were gathered for a U.N. anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa.
But while the Jewish state may have been the target, the Ford Foundation also ultimately suffered a serious black eye after it emerged that many of the anti-Israel activists in Durban were egged on by Ford-backed, pro-Palestinian groups.
Hoping to head off a similar debacle, Ford says it will not pay for any organization to participate in the first follow-up conference to Durban, slated for April in Geneva.
This announcement comes nearly five years after Ford, America’s second-largest philanthropic institution, adopted what experts describe as the most stringent guidelines on grantees.
Yet despite such steps and the foundation’s public criticisms of what transpired seven years ago, Ford today is funding several organizations that engage in the “Durban strategy” — a two-pronged tactic launched at the ‘01 conference to paint Israel as a “racist, apartheid” state and isolate the Jewish nation through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
The Ford slice of funds to anti-Israel nongovernmental organizations may pale compared to that provided by Europe and its myriad governmental agencies. But the Ford funding enables the groups to wage low-key, diplomatic and economic warfare against Israel, dragging the Palestinian conflict from the battlefield into international forums, media, the Internet and college campuses.
These revelations are the result of a months-long JTA investigation into Ford funding after the highly influential foundation revised its guidelines under pressure from the U.S. Congress.
The pressure followed an October 2003 JTA expose, “Funding Hate,” which found that Ford funneled millions of dollars to pro-Palestinian NGOs (non-governmental agencies), enabling them to promote their vitriolic agenda against Israel in Durban. The NGO Forum, which accompanied the official gathering of countries, issued a lengthy document, including passages containing some of the most provocative attacks on Israel ever produced under the umbrella of the United Nations.
Despite its revised guidelines, Ford appears unable — or unwilling — to prevent some of its grantees from lending support to the movement that was launched in Durban.
The new JTA investigation, which examined a large cross-section of Ford grantees that speak out on the Middle East conflict, finds that several signed a major 2005 boycott and divestment petition ( against “Apartheid Israel.”
As Ford was announcing its decision not to support the 2009 anti-racism forum, its Web site touted a 2008–09 grant for $305,000 to the Arab NGO Network for Development, which features a map on its Web site that fails to note the existence of Israel. One of the two Palestinian members on its coordination committee is the pro-boycott Palestinian NGO Network, or PNGO (, a key organizer at Durban.
Although PNGO is no longer receiving grants from Ford, the network works closely with at least three Ford grantee organizations.
Ford, which has assets above $13 billion and gives away more than $500 million annually, was endowed with funds donated by Henry and Edsel Ford but no longer maintains any ties to the Ford Motor Co.
The foundation does not support groups that solely advocate boycotts, but signing onto a boycott or divestment effort is not itself a deal breaker for funding, according to Ford’s vice president of communications, Marta Tellado.
Tellado said there are no concrete red lines.
“We don’t have a glossary of terms that are not allowed,” she said. “It’s not about the specific use of a word, but we look at the totality of that organization, if their activities as a whole still reflect our values and mission.”
Tellado said the foundation never supported the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, but it recognizes that “historically, boycott is seen as a legitimate, nonviolent means of expression.”
“We don’t think the idea of a boycott can be generalized to mean it’s aimed at the destruction of a country,” Tellado said. “But we understand that it’s a flashpoint” in the conflict today.
With preparations under way for the follow-up U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, there are strong indications that Israel again will be singled out for opprobrium.

Tellado said the Ford Foundation
wants no part of it.
“Experience totally informs our
decision,” she said. “This refl ects
our concern for the meeting’s ability
to be constructive.”
This and other steps — like severing
relations with several zealous
NGOs — garner Ford praise from
even its toughest critics.
After JTA revealed the Ford-
Durban link in 2003, Ford issued
its new guidelines for grantees.
Experts say the revisions were
the most extensive seen in philanthropic
circles. They elicited
howls of free-speech infringement
from the American Civil Liberties
Union and a slew of top U.S. universities.
Under the guidelines, Ford
grantees must agree not to “carry
on propaganda” or “promote or
engage in violence, terrorism,
bigotry or the destruction of any
State, nor will it make subgrants
to any entity that engages in these
Although no Ford grantee was
linked to terrorism per se, some
appeared to condone violence
and terror. Ford has since stopped
funding those groups.
Yet JTA has uncovered several
grantees that engage in the twin
“Israel is apartheid” and “boycott
and divest” campaigns.
“That is the essence of the Durban
strategy: demonize and delegitimize
Israel to the degree that
it gains no external support and
eventually is unable to function,”
said Gerald Steinberg, the executive
director of the Jerusalembased
NGO Monitor.
“I wouldn’t say this is a strong,
consistent pattern, but it’s more
than minor leakage. Ford should
take a more proactive approach so
its monies are not abused.”
Benefi ciaries of Ford funds include:
• Al-Mezan Center for Human
Rights (
php); Muwatin: Palestinian
Institute for the Study of
Democracy (;
The Palestinian Center for Human
Rights (
facts/fact3.htm); and Miftah: The
Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion
of Global Dialogue and
Democracy ( All
these groups signed onto boycott
and divestment petitions against
“Apartheid Israel.”
• Al Haq: Law in the Service
of Man. The West Bank affi liate
of the International Commission
of Jurists in Geneva in the “Goals
and Objectives” section of its Web
page (
php?id=51) cites “participation in
civil society discourse and activities
regarding divestment, boycott,
and sanctions.” Last July it urged
the U.N. General Assembly to recall
the “political, economic, military
and cultural isolation of South
Africa” as “such measures must be
considered in relation to Israel.”
• The Arab NGO Network for
Development. Its Web site (www. prominently features
a section called “Eye on Gaza”
with links to 10 related documents.
Among them are an article
titled “The Israeli Recipe for 2008:
Genocide in Gaza” and a March
news release of the Euro-Mediterranean
NGO Platform — another
Ford grantee — accusing Israel
of “massacres,” “war crimes” and
Observers say that the activities
of some Ford grantees point to the
challenge that any huge, decentralized
organization faces in monitoring
its partners. Ford boasts 4,000
grantees around the world.
The issue may boil down to
Ford’s interpretation of what terms
such as “promote” or “bigotry” or
“propaganda” mean, as stated in
their guidelines.
“We’re not in the business of
censorship because that fl ies in the
face of our values,” Tellado said.
“Having said that, you really do
need to monitor because words do
matter. We realize there is a lot of
hyperbole bandied about and not
backed up by fact.”
For their part, the Ford-funded
NGOs say branding Israel “apartheid”
is one way to “raise awareness”
The Palestinian Center for Human
Rights received a two-year,
$370,000 Ford grant for 2005–07
“for a program of legal advocacy
and defense of human rights and
the rule of law and promotion of
democratic processes in Gaza.”
Even Steinberg of NGO Monitor
praises the rights group for being
one of the rare Palestinian organizations
to condemn various abuses
committed by the Palestinian authorities
and police.
But in November 2006, the center
also issued an “action alert”
in which it joined with the Grassroots
Palestinian Anti-Apartheid
Wall Campaign — a network devoted
to the boycott movement
— in calling on the world to hold
“Apartheid Israel” accountable for
its “war crimes.”
Jaber Wishah, the Palestinian
Center’s deputy director, told
JTA that by employing the term
“apartheid,” “we are trying to raise
awareness of the illegal and brutal
behavior of the Israeli occupying
force and the very discriminatory
policies that the Israeli judicial
system provides cover for.”
“The strategy of boycotts and
divestment should be adopted to
put an end to the Israeli policy of
discrimination,” he said in a phone
interview from Gaza City.
Joharah Baker, an editorial
writer for Miftah, another Ford
grantee, concedes that equating Israel
with South Africa is not quite
accurate, as “no two situations are
exactly the same.” But many comparisons
can be drawn, she said
— the separation between the two
peoples, and also separating Palestinians
from Palestinians.
The Ford-Durban link
The Ford Foundation, with
its mission to “strengthen democratic
values, reduce poverty and
injustice, promote international
cooperation, and advance human
achievement,” has provided
through its Cairo offi ce more than
$200 million over the past halfcentury
to some 350 NGOs in the
Middle East.
So perhaps it was natural that
Ford would support many groups
attending the landmark Durban
Most of the media attention
went to the accompanying NGO
Forum in Durban, which attracted
thousands of activists from around
the world, aimed the harshest rhetoric
at Israel and inspired several
incidents of anti-Jewish epithets
and the distribution of anti-Semitic
The extremism sparked a walkout
by the American and Israeli
But the real story, in retrospect,
was the launch of the current “Israel
is apartheid” movement.
In that Durban NGO document
— mostly rejected by U.N. member-
states during their offi cial conference
that followed — plotters
unveiled a game plan: “Complete
and total isolation of Israel as an
apartheid state, as was done in the
case of South Africa — sanctions,
embargoes, the full cessation of all
links (diplomatic, economic, social,
and military cooperation and
training) between all states and Israel,”
coupled with “condemnation
of those states supporting, aiding,
and abetting the Israeli apartheid
state, and its perpetration of racist
crimes against humanity, including
ethnic cleansing and acts of
Ford’s vital funding of the Durban
ringleaders helped re-inject
terms like “apartheid,” “boycott”
and “divestment” into mainstream
discourse about Israel.
The foundation’s then-president,
Susan Berresford, apologized
for its role in Durban in a Nov.
17, 2003 letter to U.S. Rep. Jerrold
Nadler (D-N.Y.) on the heels
of the four-part JTA investigation
“Funding Hate.”
“We now recognize that we did
not have a clear picture of the activities,
organizations and people
involved,” Berresford wrote. “We
deeply regret that Foundation
grantees may have taken part in
unacceptable behavior in Durban.”
In 2003, Ford initially denied
to JTA that any anti-Israel agitation
or anti-Semitic activities
took place in Durban. But as Nadler
and 20 other U.S. lawmakers
pressed for an investigation, and
groups including the American
Jewish Congress threatened a lawsuit,
Ford reversed itself.
Berresford’s letter to Nadler said
that Ford offi cials were “disgusted
by the vicious anti-Semitic activity
seen at Durban” and vowed, “If
the Foundation fi nds allegations of
bigotry and incitement of hatred
by particular grantees to be true
— we will cease funding.”
Ford’s revised guidelines, produced
in November 2003 with input
from Nadler’s offi ce and Jewish
groups, altered a longstanding
hands-off policy for its grantees
and annual allocations worldwide.
Nadler said Ford’s revised policy
has become a “benchmark”
for the philanthropic and human
rights world.
“In the face of that substantial
pressure, Ford had stood strong,
re-articulated their values and
forcefully asserted their rights to
deny funding to those organizations
that violate their essential
principles,” Nadler told JTA. “They
should be lauded for that.”
After Ford’s role in the Durban
conference was highlighted and
the foundation tightened its grantee
guidelines, it also doled out millions to assorted Jewish organizations.
(See sidebar p 11.)
Ford also earned kudos for its
decision in February 2006 to withdraw
support for an American Association
of University Professors
conference in Italy after The New
York Sun revealed that some onethird
of expected participants had
publicly supported boycotts of Israeli
Now comes the move to distance
the foundation from the follow-
up to Durban, which will be
held in Geneva on U.N. grounds,
where security and protocol can be
more effectively controlled.
Yet a re-examination of that
initial Berresford letter along with
recent interviews with current
Ford offi cials suggest that Ford’s
rejection of groups that incite terror
and anti-Semitism does not
extend to the boycott and divestment
The Palestinian NGO Network
was one of the more notorious
Durban ringleaders and continues
to circle within the Ford orbit.
PNGO, according to JTA’s 2003
series, had received $1.4 million
from Ford over the years. Though
it no longer receives Ford funding,
its relations with several current
Ford grantees raises questions
about whether some funds Ford
gives to groups associated with the
network might end up supporting
PNGO in some way.
PNGO is heavily involved with
two of the prime campaigns associated
with the boycott, divestment
and sanctions movements, known
as BDS: the Palestinian Campaign
for the Academic and Cultural
Boycott of Israel and the Grassroots
Palestinian Anti-Apartheid
Wall Campaign. The latter recently
won U.N. accreditation to attend
the 2009 anti-racism forum.
These two groups, along with
PNGO, headlined a Nov. 22 conference
on boycott and divestment
strategy held in Ramallah.
PNGO’s advice to participants
at the conference on how to publicly
describe their objectives is
on its Web site (
It reads: “Emphasize that the
BDS campaign does not only
target Israel’s economy, but challenges
Israel’s legitimacy, being a
colonial and apartheid state, as
part of the international community.
Therefore, efforts are needed
not only to promote wide consumer
boycotts, but also boycotts
in the fi elds of academia, culture
and sports.”
PNGO is also linked to three
current Ford grantees. It is a coordinating
committee member
of the Arab NGO Network for
Development; an executive board
member of the Euro-Mediterranean
NGO Platform (the Arab
NGO Network is also a member);
and is associated with Muwatin,
which it thanked online for lending
a hand with the November
strategy conference in Ramallah.
Even if money is not given
specifi cally to bash Israel, NGO
workers often speak of “fungibility”
— money that is given from
one donor, for one specifi c purpose,
frees up money for NGOs to
use for another purpose.
Alfred Ironside, a Ford spokesman,
told JTA during a recent interview
at the foundation’s Manhattan
offi ces that the lines were
“Ford grants are made for specifi
c purposes, and we require a
strict accounting of how funds are
applied to grant-specifi c work,”
he said.
Monitoring grantees
To monitor its grantees, Ford
says it conducts random Web site
checks and responds to specifi c
complaints from peers in the fi eld,
lawmakers and other respected
fi gures.
If Ford deems it necessary, Tellado
said, the foundation will sever,
freeze or even recover funding.
But Ford offi cials declined to
name grantees they have punished
this way, nor will the foundation
say how many NGOs the foundation
has cut loose since revising
its guidelines.
Ford moved quickly in late
2003 to jettison a major Durban
instigator — the Palestinian Committee
for the Protection of Human
Rights and the Environment,
also known as LAW. But that public
announcement was made easier
when the group’s serious fi nancial
improprieties also came to light.
With Berresford’s retirement
last year, some on the left expressed
hope that Ford’s incoming
president, Luis Ubinas, would reverse
the guidelines policy.
The new president, however,
says there’s no chance.
“Susan put a lot of thought
into creating this policy,” Ubinas
recently told JTA, “and I have no
intention of changing it.”

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Connecting the dots

Connecting the dots

Posted on 25 July 2008 by admin

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Dallas Jewish Federation’s new education department director is the straight line between two small, gone-but-not-forgotten Jewish communities — one in Texas, the other in Slovakia. His life is what these tiny dots on the map have in common.

The once-thriving Jewish community of Wharton, Texas, came to an official end more than six years ago, when the synagogue in which Denn grew up shut its doors. A similar Jewish community in Certizne (pronounced Cher-TIZ-nee), Slovakia, died some 60 years ago, when the Holocaust claimed Denn’s great-grandfather as the town’s oldest victim.

It’s an irony that educational success killed Jewish life in Wharton, about 50 miles southwest of Houston, as it has in so much of small-town America. Denn, 46, with his multiple college degrees, symbolizes that success: Early peddlers’ children became proprietors of shops that, later, their own, better-schooled children would not choose for their life’s work, instead leaving their roots behind to undertake new, professional ventures in big cities.

The final nail in Wharton’s symbolic Jewish coffin was driven on April 26, 2002, when the 39 remaining members of Shearith Israel synagogue — which once had 400 worshippers, but gradually shrank to this true “remnant of Israel” — gathered in their shul for the final Shabbat service of a 100-year-old congregation.

It’s a similar irony that the memory of a deceased Slovakian Jewish community will be reclaimed with honor on site next Thursday, before an extraordinary gathering of survivors and their descendants. Chief among them: Meyer Denn, whose abiding interest in family genealogy was instrumental in making this happen.

“I’ve been in touch with family members over years of doing research,” says Denn, a dedicated amateur genealogist. In the recent past, he contacted all of them again about this very special event. Coming together because of his efforts will be “two cousins from Houston, plus relatives and landsmen from all over the world” — about 50 in all, from Israel, England, Belgium, Holland and Austria as well as the United States. An incredible reunion of Jews in what has been a community without Jews for over six decades.

The dedication of a memorial to the area’s Holocaust victims is the full-grown flowering of a seed of curiosity, planted and nurtured by Jan Hlavinka, a young non-Jew of Medzilaborce (pronounced Med-zee-la-BOR-tze) County, Slovakia, where the village of Certizne is located. His interest in the area’s Jewish history was piqued when he learned that his great-grandmother had once been a servant in a Jewish home in Medzilaborce, the nearby city that bears the county name. When her small son became seriously ill, the head of the household where she worked arranged for the medical treatment that saved the boy — who lived to become Hlavinka’s grandfather.

After also learning that “the whole infrastructure of the town was Jewish,” according to Denn, Hlavinka went to work for the Slovakian Institute of National Memory, whose business is identifying and documenting the persecution of minorities under both Fascist and Communist regimes. When he located Denn through the Internet, Hlavinka received the crucial information that enabled him to write “The Tragedy of the Jews of Medzilaborce County.” His book was published in January of this year.

“My grandparents’ generation first settled in Wharton at the turn of the 20th century,” Denn says, “and helped create what was, from the 1920s until the late 1960s, a very vibrant Jewish community.” But his great-grandfather, Mordcha Schwindler, refused to join his six children as, one by one, they left for America.

Instead, “On May 19, 1942, at the age of 95, he was rounded up with the rest of Certizne’s Jewish villagers, dragged out of his sickbed by Hlinka Guardists (agents of the Slovak Fascist regime), put on a wagon that took him from Certizne to nearby Medzilaborce city, and there thrown into the cattle car that deported him to his death in Poland.” Hlavinka’s book, which owes so much to Denn’s research, moved the city’s leaders to authorize a monument in their town square, a memorial to all those Jews “who were persecuted, had their homes and businesses confiscated, and were ultimately sent to their deaths.”

That monument will be dedicated next Thursday afternoon. Denn has made five previous trips to this place at the border of Galicia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire during the Holocaust years, This time he will speak there, representing the area’s post-Holocaust generation.

The event will begin with a welcome by Mayor Ladislav Demko, after which author Hlavinka will speak on “Jews in the History of Medzilaborce.” Then there will be a special bestowal of honorary citizenship on all survivors and descendents of the town’s former Jewish population.

Next will come speeches by Dusan Caplovic, deputy prime minister of the Slovak Republic; Zeev Boker, Israel’s ambassador to Slovakia; and Pavel Traubner, Ph.D., honorary president of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia. Then, immediately before actual dedication of “The Memorial for the Victims of the Holocaust from Medzilaborce and Surrounding Communities,” a prayer will be offered by Rabbi Jossi Steiner of Kosice, Slovakia, who is bringing a kosher Torah with him. The monument will be symbolically accepted by Holocaust survivor Pinchas Mendlovic, now of Tel Aviv.

Then Denn will speak, after which his cousin, Chazan Larry Josefovitz of Cleveland, will chant Kayl Maale Rachamim in memory of the area’s martyrs. Josefovitz is the grandson of Leib Wolf Freund, once shammes and gabbai of the Medzilaborce shul. Kaddish will be recited by another Denn relative, Holocaust survivor Jack Joseph of New York City.

Mayor Demko will host a hotel reception after the dedication. And over the weekend to follow, the survivors and their descendents will be together for Medzilaborce’s first Shabbat observance in some 60 years. Ironically, this will probably also be — because there are now no Jewish residents at all in the area — the last Shabbat ever celebrated there.

Connecting more dots, Denn sees special significance in the fact that this particular Shabbat will also mark Rosh Chodesh Av, beginning the days of mourning that precede Tisha B’Av and its painful remembrance of major destructions in Jewish history.

Perhaps this calendar conjunction is the greatest irony of all.

Post-dedication activities

Meyer Denn has arranged a post-dedication activities program that encompasses Shabbat. It will begin early on Friday morning, Aug. 1, with a trip to Certizne, the nearby village where the Josefovics, Schwindler and many other Jewish families originated. There the group of survivors and descendents will visit the cemetery and sites of the old shul and mikvah, then go on to other towns or back to Medzilaborce, wherever family connections are strongest. In the evening, Chazan Josefovitz will lead Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv prayers. The kosher Shabbat dinner will be prepared by Chabad of Central Slovakia.

On Saturday, Aug. 2, there will be Shacharit services and Torah reading followed by a Kiddush luncheon, Mincha followed by Seudah Shlisheet (the third Sabbath meal) and Maariv followed by Havdallah. Afterward, survivors and their descendants will spend the evening sharing memories of the people who once lived in the Medzilaborce area and telling stories about events of the past. A memorial service at the city’s Jewish cemetery — whose 400 stones are all intact — will mark Sunday morning’s final farewell.

An interesting sidelight: Medzilaborce is the ancestral home of the Warhola family, whose most famous member is the late American artist Andy Warhol. The curator of the town’s Warhol Museum — which has the largest collection of the artist’s works outside of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa., his United States home — will lead a private tour and discuss Warhol and his works with any interested visitors while they are in town.

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Dallas Doings


Dallas Doings

Posted on 17 July 2008 by admin

College Ties plans next get-together for July 24 Enjoying the June College Ties get-together are (from left) Jordan Rosenthal, Matthew BenShabat and Taylor Quint.

College Ties had a get-together on June 12 at Starbucks, Preston and Frankford. College Ties is a grassroots effort to bring Jewish college students together during summer and winter breaks. The students sign in according to the region of the country where they attend college. There is no set agenda; they just mingle and shmooze. It’s a great way to catch up on all the latest about college life from the people who’ve just been there. The next summer event is set for Thursday, July 24, 9–11 p.m. at Starbucks, Preston and Frankford.

For more info or to be put on an e-mail list of students (or e-mail list of parents of college students), contact Susie Avnery, 469-233-0222,

Rhea Wolfram, 87, receives IECA award

Eileen Hutchinson tells the TJP that well-deserving of honors Rhea Wolfram, 87, the former director of college counseling at the Greenhill School and now an independent consultant, was awarded the 2008 Irwin J. Katz Award by the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) in recognition of her outstanding community service.Rhea Wolfram

Mrs. Wolfram was one of three educational consultants to receive the award during the IECA’s spring conference, which took place May 14–17 in Minneapolis, Minn. Rhea Wolfram served as the head of college guidance at the Greenhill School for 15 years and has since worked as an independent consultant for 15 years. Additionally, she is currently a consultant to the Episcopal School of Dallas and the Winston School.

The IECA is composed of member consultants who have met the organization’s strict requirements, including a master’s degree and at least three years of admissions counseling experience, and who pledge to adhere to the IECA’s ethical guidelines on personal and professional conduct. In 1996, the IECA Foundation was established as a vehicle to connect educational consultants with students and families who would not otherwise have access to educational planning services.

Mrs. Wolfram’s long career dedicated to working with children has been a reflection of this goal. She has provided pro bono counseling to scores of students and has been delighted and amazed by the tremendous successes of these former advisees.

Along with the other recipients of the Irwin J. Katz Award, Mrs. Wolfram received $1,000 to direct to a charity of her choosing whose goals were synonymous with those of the IECA Foundation. She chose to direct her grant to the Educational Opportunity Center, an outgrowth of the West Dallas Community Centers.

Hadassah annual region conferenceAmong those attending Hadassah’s recent Region Convention held in McAllen, from left, Amy Applebaum, Maxine Pomerantz, June Penkar, Harriet Hollander, Susie Avnery, Francine Daner, Bea Weisbrod, Barbara Moses, Amy Seidner, Lorri Dickstein, Susan Blum Barnett and Robin Teig.

The Greater Southwest Region of Hadassah recently held its annual region conference in McAllen, Texas. Over 100 women enjoyed an educational and fun filled weekend.

Highlights of the conference included presentations by Katie Edelstein, national conference advisor and member of the national board of Hadassah serving in the capacity of National Hadassah membership coordinator. Katie updated delegates on the latest news in Hadassah and presented a session on communication.

The delegates also heard from Marla Gilson, national director of Hadassah’s Washington Action Office and registered lobbyist who advocates on health policy and domestic legislation as well as helping promote U.S.-Israel relations, and Judy Shereck, National Hadassah’s chair of Israel, Zionist and International Affairs.

Melissa Mendelson, associate in the Hadassah Women’s Health and Advocacy Department, updated the audience on Hadassah’s important women’s health program and also gave a detailed presentation about HPV and cervical cancer, one of Hadassah’s newest women’s health programs. Elise Passy, executive director for the Houston Chapter, presented the “GoGirlGo/GoMomGo” program to the delegates.

New officers for the coming year were installed, including incoming President Barbara Shurberg of Houston. The region bid farewell to outgoing President Laurie Werner of Fort Worth and presented her with a beautiful gift and presidential citation.

For more information about Hadassah in Dallas, call 214-691-1948 or log on to

Bingo birthday bash held for Aarona Berger, 103Aarona Berger

A bingo birthday bash on June 17 was enjoyed both by the residents of Golden Acres and many family members from Dallas along with those from Fort Worth, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Pa. and Colorado Springs, Colo. in honor of Aarona Berger’s birthday. Aarona was born in Cleburne, Texas on June 17, 1905 and, YES, that makes Aarona 103 years old — but if you visit her you’ll find that she is really 103 years YOUNG! Everyone enjoyed the festivities, which were highlighted by bingo games expertly called out by Sam Mandelbaum and a superb musical program conducted by Eli Davidsohn, who sang and played Yiddish tunes in a truly joyous manner. Rabbi Aryeh Rodin of Congregation Ohev Shalom spoke beautifully, and the surprise of the day was a performance by the Ohev Shalom children’s choir, who sang “Happy Birthday” in English, Yiddish and Hebrew. Aarona has an incredible spirit that translates into an unshakeable optimism about life. The secret to her long life: dark chocolate, exercise and knowing that God is in control of everything so not to worry! She is an amazing woman loved by all who know her.

Cub Scout Pack 613 hosts two other packs

Playing dreidel in June? On Sunday, June 22, the Cub Scouts of Pack 613 did! They hosted scouts and their leaders from Packs 727 and 898 at Tiferet Israel. Cubmaster Rick Vanglish led the tour of the synagogue and prompted the Pack 613 Cub Scouts to explain some fundamentals of Judaism to their peers from the other packs. Pack 613 scouts were able to show off their knowledge of important items in the synagogue. When they explained that the ark is like the one that Indiana Jones found, the guest Cubs immediately understood. The guests were also quick to catch onto playing a rousing dreidel with pennies. For a special treat each Cub Scout received a bag of chocolate Chanukah gelt, while all of the guest pack leaders discussed their questions about Judaism with Pack 613’s adult hosts. From Tiferet Israel the scouts traveled to the JCC to watch the Tzofim Friendship Caravan show together.

The newest boys to join Pack 613, now “Tiger Cubs,” are: Brooks Butler, Michael Cohen, Paul Schussler, Zachary Schwartz, Michael Uzick, Yosef Weiss and Meyer Zinn. Most of them recently attended Twilight Camp with over 400 other Cub Scouts. Pack 613 is looking forward to a picnic at Fort Farrington in July. It is not too late to join in the fun with Pack 613; see or contact Mr. Vanglish at

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DATA of Plano celebrates, dedicates new scroll

DATA of Plano celebrates, dedicates new scroll

Posted on 17 July 2008 by admin

Over 250 men, women and children attended the joyful dedication ceremony Sunday, June 22, of the first Torah scroll to be owned by the Plano branch of DATA, the Dallas Area Torah Association.

The ceremony was held at the DATA of Plano Center, 3198 W. Parker Road, Suite 3124, located between Half-Price Books and Firestone Tire. Rabbi Nesanya Zakon, co-director of DATA of Plano, dances with the new Sefer Torah during the dedication ceremony. Photo source:

The Torah scroll, named the “Verschleisser Family Torah,” is a gift from Moshe and Annette Nudell of Baltimore, Md., in honor of Mrs. Nudell’s parents and in memory of her brother. The Nudells are parents of Mrs. Shifra Robkin, wife of DATA of Plano Co-Director Rabbi Yogi Robkin.

Prior to receiving the gift of the scroll, DATA of Plano was required to borrow a Torah from various synagogues in order to hold services.

The dedication ceremony included a joyous processional in which the Torah was paraded and danced with, prior to being installed in the ark inside the Center.

The ceremony signals the beginning of a new era for DATA of Plano, which has experienced tremendous growth since it was founded five years ago by Rabbi Yaakov and Suri Rosenblatt, later led by Rabbi Shimson and Sara Silkin and, most recently, Rabbi Chanoch and Sarah Oppenheim.

DATA of Plano serves the greater Plano community through classes, programs, family activities, and Shabbat weekends that include services, classes and meals.

“We are touching Jews from many segments of Jewish observance: from the completely unaffiliated to those wishing to grow beyond their less-observant roots,” Rabbi Robkin said.

“Young families are moving into the neighborhood to be part of DATA,” DATA Co-Director Rabbi Nesanya Zakon added, “and we hope it will become another successful, full-blown Jewish community like those connected with other DATA branches south of LBJ and in Far North Dallas.

“We’re committed to stemming the tide of the spiritual holocaust that has occurred in the U.S. by creating a new generation of Jews who are connected, rather than disconnected.”

DATA of Plano is a branch of the Dallas Area Torah Association. Since its founding in 1992, DATA has become the premier Jewish learning institution in North Texas, providing classes, special events, ongoing programs, personal guidance to individuals and couples, and other means to impart Torah wisdom to Jews of all backgrounds and levels of observance and of all ages.

The eight rabbinical couples who make up the DATA faculty service over 600 Jews a week. Classes are offered at three DATA locations — 5840 Forest Lane in North Dallas, 3198 W. Parker Road in Plano, and 18616 Thomas Chapel Road in Far North Dallas — as well as at area businesses and synagogues.

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Around the Town


Around the Town

Posted on 10 July 2008 by admin

UNT Jewish Studies Program reaches new heights

With the great help of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, the Jewish Studies Program (JSP) at the University of North Texas (UNT) is proud to report that it had outstanding growth this past year. The Federation allocated $7,500 to the JSP in 2007.

In 2006–07, the JSP had 18 faculty members teaching 33 courses (six on Israel) in seven departments in two colleges. In 2007–08, JSP has 22 faculty members teaching 41 courses in nine departments in four colleges. Enrollment in JSP classes increased to 600. The program has nine different courses on the modern state of Israel. (According to a 2006 survey by the Israel on Campus Coalition, only seven of the 386 leading universities in the United States had seven or more courses on modern Israel.) JSP received a two-year grant from the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise to host an Israeli scholar (Eli Avraham of the University of Haifa) as the visiting Schusterman professor of Israel studies. UNT is one of fifteen universities in the U.S. to have received such a grant for one year, and is one of a lesser number to have received the grant for two years.

In addition, the JSP moved into the new Bernard and Audre Rapoport Jewish Studies Program suite of offices in August 2007.

Two new Jewish organizations formed on campus this past year, the Mean Green Mensches for Israel and AEPi fraternity. The new UNT student body president and vice president are both Jewish.

The Jewish Studies Program at UNT is the only Jewish studies program at a public university in the DFW area. At UNT, the largest university in the North Texas region, with more than 34,000 students and more Jewish students (approximately 800) than all other DFW universities combined, the JSP responds to the needs of students and the region. Through its mission, the JSP broadens the understanding of Judaism and Israel among all UNT students regardless of religion and impacts positively the North Texas Jewish community by improving the Jewish experience both within and outside the university setting, by fostering ties between UNT and Jewish institutions in the North Texas area, the United States and Israel. The JSP works closely with Hillel and, unofficially, monitors activity at UNT that might affect Jewish students and the atmosphere for Jews and Judaism.

Currently in the works at the Jewish Studies Program at UNT is the start of a Jewish Studies Library. The Texas Jewish Post is proud to be among the first donors to the project, gifting to them more than 500 books of Jewish content from its personal library. Individuals or families who would like to donate their books or collections on different phases of Judaism, history, ethics, fiction, biographies, etc. are invited to call Dr. Golden, 940-369-8933. He will be delighted to hear from you.

The JSP invites members of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County to a talk this fall by Meir Shalev, Israel’s most celebrated novelist, on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. Shalev is a bestselling author in Israel, the Netherlands and Germany, and has been translated into over 20 languages. His books include “Fontanelle,” “Alone in the Desert,” “But a Few Days” and “Esau.”

Former ourtowners have fond memories of their visitThe Factors and Railenau’s enjoyed a get together when the Railenau’s were visiting last month.

Former residents Lori Railenau and three of her kids, Phoebe, Atara and Maccabee, still reflect on their great visit here with good friends and hosts, Kim and Abe Factor and sons, earlier this summer. Unable to accompany the family and remaining in St. Louis because of other commitments were dad, Michael Railenau, and oldest daughter, Gabriella. Lori said, “There were still people I wanted to seek out, but we ran out of time. Hopefully on the next visit!”

The legacy of an icon: The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Dov Mandel, Chabad of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, writes:

“This past Fourth of July weekend took on a new meaning for many this year. Sunday, July 6, the third of Tammuz, was the 14th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of Blessed Memory. Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life waited in a line stretching more than a quarter of a mile to pay their respects at his resting place in the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y. Photo: Tina Fineberg/

“I personally had the tremendous pleasure of spending the Shabbat before the yahrzeit at the Chabad Center adjacent to the cemetery which serves the hundreds of thousands who stream through the Ohel, as the resting place of the Rebbe is known, seeking inspiration and hope. Along with 2,500 fellow Jews crammed into the massive tent hosting all services and meals, the energy generated by the Rebbe over his 40 years of leadership was keenly felt and shared among all present. The voice of prayer, Torah study and words of love and inspiration were constant, preparing us for the day upon which, our tradition tells us, the power of the soul of the departed reaches a higher level. I couldn’t have possibly tuned in to the energy of this day without this powerful Shabbat experience.

“The Zohar, the primary work of the Kabbalah, teaches us that the soul of a righteous person is found in thisPhoto: Tina Fineberg/ world even more than during his lifetime. A physical body is limited in its reach, but a soul is spiritual, and has no physical limitations. It is in the work of the Rebbe, who personally earned the admiration of millions of Jews and Gentiles alike, that the fulfillment of this statement is found. The outreach efforts of the Rebbe, which many feared would fizzle out after his passing, have expanded to over ten times their size during these past 14 years. His message — that every single Jew regardless of his or her level of observance is equally important and special — has touched and inspired millions to add more spirituality to their lives, to do one more mitzvah.

“I am fiercely proud to represent the mission of the Rebbe in Tarrant County, and I pledge my continued efforts to inspire every Jew to understand how special it is to be a Jew, and what his or her spiritual potential is.

“Although one might think that this would be a day of mourning, the Rebbe never afforded us such a luxury. As the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, is quoted: ‘The Rebbe didn’t leave a legacy; he left standing orders.’ I salute you, my dear Rebbe, on this very special day, and may we all merit the fulfillment of your dream, to see the final redemption of the Jewish people with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.”

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Dallas Doings


Dallas Doings

Posted on 10 July 2008 by admin

A ‘Good’ story of radio, music, Disney and Dallas

BB Good of North Dallas had been the national midday host on Radio Disney for 10 years, but if you have a “tween” or “pre-tween” you already know that! Good was born and raised in Quincy, Mass. and grew up listening to Top 40 radio. She says she knew at a very early age that a job as a DJ would suit her. With the maiden name of Goodman, a nickname or stage name of BB Good seemed very appropriate. Good says, “My grandma’s name was Beatrice and everybody called her Bea. I liked that name and wanted to honor her memory, so I made up the name BB Good when I was starting out at the college radio station and it stuck!” Photo: Courtesy of BB Good

Good graduated from Syracuse University’s prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communication in 1993 and has been doing radio since 1990. When the opportunity to work at Radio Disney happened in March 1998 she jumped at the chance to be a part of this exciting new medium. She moved from the Northeast here to Dallas and was subsequently moved again in 1999 to her own studio in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Five years in the vacation capital of the world flew by in a minute. “At WDW I was so lucky to be the ambassador to kids and their families from all over the U.S. and really the entire world.” Good interviewed celebrities for her daily midday show all the time — Julie Andrews, ’NSYNC, Gary Sinese, The Wiggles, and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, to name a few. “Some of the most memorable moments happened outside my studio every afternoon with the families that would take time to visit; I would have the pleasure to get to meet our Radio Disney listeners face to face, and I am sure I am in lots of vacation scrapbooks.” After five years broadcasting in Walt Disney World, the Radio Disney studio was closed. The Disney Company invited

Good and her growing family back to Dallas to the ABC Radio Networks offices/studios. Good says she never thought she would be back in Dallas after the first go-round. “I just thought at the time that Dallas was a quick stop for me. Lucky for us that was not the case!”

Now this busy mother of four is looking forward to a real summer break with her family! “I have felt like a juggler for the past few years trying to balance the needs of our family, running our home, the work schedule, our community and life. I am so grateful for this little break to really figure out my/our next steps.” Good is involved with Make-A-Wish and continues to maintain relationships with some of the kids who have visited her over the years. “I was so lucky to know the staff and volunteers of Give Kids The World in Orlando (a nonprofit resort in Central Florida that creates magical memories for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. GKTW provides accommodations at its whimsical resort, donates attractions tickets, meals and more for a weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacation. With the help of many generous individuals, corporations and partnering wish-granting organizations, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 85,000 families from all 50 states and over 60 countries). I plan to bring my own children back there for a visit when we are in Orlando this summer.”

So what’s next? For now BB is enjoying her family! This weekend, Good is joining Music Together of Dallas to host the Summer Dance Party, happening on Sunday, July 13 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the JCC, 7900 Northaven Road. This event promises to be the don’t-miss party of summer 2008. “I wanted to help out with this event for so many reasons … my kids, my husband and I all love music and of course having FUN together; we look for opportunities to make happy memories for our kids and this is a great way to get the whole family moving!” Local celebrities will help the festivities by sharing their favorite dance moves, and trained instructors will share their tips to beat the heat and keep our kids moving. “Just wait until you see my 3-year-old dance. He is so funny. He thinks he is one of the Doodlebops or maybe a Wiggle!”

BB Good lives in the North Dallas community with her wonderful husband Charles and their four sweet kids who LOVE to dance and have FUN!

JWV Bloom Post wants you!

Jerry Benjamin, a past Post Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of America, Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post #256, is seeking members for this outstanding post that has received national recognition for the fine work that they perform at the VA Hospital. This post accepts Jewish men and women who have served in the U.S. armed services or the armed services of our allies (including Israeli IDF and others!). They also have a Patron membership for those who did not serve, but would nonetheless want to support the agenda of the JWV. Some of the deeds of lovingkindness that Post #256 has contributed to at the VA hospital in Dallas include: a new waiting room for the diabetes patients’ families, a new mini-golf course for the veterans, two covered bus stop stations at the hospital, serving dinners (to allow non-Jews time to be with their families during their holidays) and a presence at the DFW airport on a regular basis to meet and greet returning soldiers from Iraq (they actually will be doing that again this Sunday morning and welcome more volunteers!). Some rabbis may forget to mention, at the time of grief to families who have had a loss, the fact that in addition to the customary traditional Jewish funeral service, any deceased member of the JWV is entitled to a proper military funeral, performed in addition to the Jewish funeral (it takes about five minutes and three members of the post are in attendance, with a bugle, to play “Taps”). The JWVs pride themselves in displaying all the proper protocol befitting the honor and respect due our patriots who have served in the armed forces. Please mention this to your congregation as well. For further information, please contact PCC Jerry Benjamin, 214-368-5225.

Mazel tov to the Hersteins

Mazel tov to Jillian Herstein and Jacob Herstein for their recent achievements at the Levine Academy Middle School Awards assembly.Jillian Herstein and Jacob Herstein

Jillian, who recently graduated from the Levine Academy, was the recipient of the Student of the Year Award for 2008. This award is given to the student who demonstrates exemplary leadership, outstanding scholarship and strong Jewish values. Jillian will attend high school at Yavneh Academy.

Jacob received the Mensch Award for the fifth grade. This honor is presented to a student for showing kindness and consideration to others throughout the year.

Jillian and Jacob previously attended the Fort Worth Hebrew Day School, where they received an early foundation for their secular and religious education. They’re the children of proud parents Bertta and Scott Herstein.

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Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce promotes economic development

Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce promotes economic development

Posted on 10 July 2008 by admin

The Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce held its first annual Awards Dinner Gala on Thursday, June 12 at the Prestonwood Country Club in Dallas. The Chamber honored Gene Frantz, principal fellow, Texas Instruments and David Litman, co-founder of and CEO of for their strong support of the Chamber’s mission — “To increase economic development by fostering understanding, cooperation and business relationships between Israel and Texas.” <p></p>

Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce Board Member and Dinner Co-Chair Yoram Solomon, a senior director in the CTO Office of Texas Instruments’ Wireless Terminals Business Unit, Semiconductor Group, introduced Mr. Frantz, who is responsible for finding new opportunities and creating new businesses utilizing TI’s digital signal processing technology.

Frantz has been with Texas Instruments for over 30 years, most of it in digital signal processing. He is a recognized leader in DSP technology both within TI and throughout the industry.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and holds more than 40 patents in the area of memories, speech, consumer products and DSP. Frantz also has written more than 50 papers and articles and makes presentations at universities and conferences worldwide. He is widely quoted in the media due to his tremendous knowledge and visionary view of DSP solutions.

Jerry White, director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at SMU, introduced Mr. Litman — a serial entrepreneur. Litman has spent the last 25 years founding, building and growing companies, including Travel Mart, and Consumer Club. He also runs Wildflower Investments, a conservative investment company. He has taught an MBA course on “Conservative Entrepreneurship” at the Cox School of Business at SMU, and he lectures to universities and business groups on how to be a conservative entrepreneur.

Other guest speakers were Chamber Ex-Officio Board Members Asher Yarden, consul general of Israel to the Southwest and Mark Ellison, director of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Office of the Governor.

In addition to recognizing its 2008 honorees, the Chamber acknowledged the contributions made by a number of key individuals and companies. Chamber Chairman Terry Anderson presented the following awards:

2008 Chairman’s Award — Mark Ellison, director of Texas Emerging Technology Fund, Office of the Governor

2008 President’s Award — Matt Blanton, founder and managing partner, STARTech Early Ventures (presented by President and CEO Russell Levine)

Founder’s Circle Award — Harry Ploss, The Israel Project

2008 Community Supporter of the Year — Jay Rubin, CEO, the Jewish Community Association of Austin

2008 Volunteer of the Year — Mark Wigder, counsel, Hunton & Williams LLP

2008 Israeli Companies of the Year — Retalix and Executive Vice President Eli Spirer, and Performance Systems and Founder, President and CEO Ofer Molad

2008 Israeli Industry Pacesetter Award — Alon USA and Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions Joseph Israel

2008 Deal of the Year — N-trig and President Rick Seger

Special awards were also given to the following people for their contributions to the Chamber: Jeffrey Koch, portfolio manager, Office of Management and Budget, The White House; Tamar Guy, executive director, Israel-America Chamber of Commerce; and Rivka Arad, director of Lifelong Learning, Temple Shalom.

Approximately 170 guests attended the Awards Dinner Gala, which was underwritten by Continental Airlines. The dinner concluded with two raffle drawings each for two international roundtrip tickets courtesy of Continental Airlines. Chamber Board Member Andy Lavigne, senior VP of Gulf Coast Credit, was the winner of the first drawing. Waldman Bros. Insurance won the second drawing; Chamber Board Member and Awards Dinner Co-Chair Martin Golman, a partner at Waldman Bros. Insurance, accepted the flight vouchers on behalf of his company.

For more information on the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, please visit and call Russell Levine, president and CEO, at 214-576-9639.

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Six decades of independence commemorated joyfully throughout the Metroplex

Posted on 09 July 2008 by admin

Dallas Jewish community comes together to celebrate Israel’s 60th

By Deb Silverthorn

The past, present and future of Israel were celebrated in style at the Aaron Family JCC as Dallas’ Jewish community gathered in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Coordinated by the JCC’s Laura Seymour, the event was co-chaired by Elizabeth and Ron Bendalin, John Lacritz, Ellen and Jim Markus and Erica Robins.

It was a true community effort. Organizing and carrying out of activities and programming were shared by the Aaron Family JCC, Adat Chaverim, Akiba Academy, Ann & Nate Levine Academy, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, BBYO, Community Kollel of Dallas, Congregation Anshai Torah, Congregation Beth Torah, Congregation Nishmat Am, Congregation Shaare Tefilla, Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas Chapter of Hadassah, Dallas Kosher, Jewish Community Relations Council of Dallas, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Jewish War Veterans Post 256, Legacy at Willow Bend, National Council of Jewish Women, Temple Bnai Israel, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Shalom, Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Tycher Library, Veranda Preston Hollow, Yavneh Academy and Young Judaea. “It’s with incredible commitment and support that all of these groups came together,” said JCC President Artie Allen. “We are pleased to host this momentous event. Sixty years for Israel is a local, national and international occasion for joy and I think we know how to do it best!”

Community members portraying Rabbi Abraham Isaac haKohen Kook, Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and other notables from Israel’s history traveled throughout the JCC, telling stories and sharing in the festivities. “This is a magnificent celebration,” said “Rabbi Kook,” Rav Hanan Schlesinger of the Community Kollel of Dallas. “For so many Jews to come together with such great enthusiasm is beautiful.”

“Kids of all ages” enjoyed Café Simcha, with Israeli delectables from Simcha Kosher Catering, Israeli dancing, “making snow” at Mt. Hermon and pita in the “desert,” laser tag, an IDF experience by Group Dynamix and more. Children from choirs around the community sang in Zale Auditorium, displays of photographs of Israel lined the halls, and videos and informational presentations were held throughout the JCC. Cooking, art, music — not a cultural moment was missed.

“I am kvelling. To change the model and to see it incorporate such collaboration from such a number of organizations is community building,” said Gary Weinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. “Nothing is better than to share in the love, respect and responsibility of building the state of Israel.”

Tarrant County

Chag sameach, Israel!

By Laurie Barker James

The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County threw a big birthday party for Israel on Sunday, May 11. Federation Vice President Eddie Feld joked that it was a “surprise 60th birthday — the surprise was that 340 people in the community wanted to come!”

The “Israel at 60 Gala” at Fort Worth’s Beth-El Congregation was packed with Israelis, American Jews and non-Jewish supporters of Israel. Event Co-chair Shoshana Howard said she and her committee would have been happy with attendance of 250, and that they “didn’t dream of anything bigger.”

“We wanted the community to be together,” she said. Gala Committee members and staff at Beth-El scrambled to accommodate the overflow of eager attendees.

Co-chairs Howard and Rachel Yaacobi put together an extraordinary event. The evening began with cocktails and Israeli hors d’oeuvres. Shoshana Thoma-Isgur and Jennifer Ratner served as emcees for the multimedia presentation, which included renditions of the national anthem by Beth-El’s Monica Braverman and “Hatikvah” by Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s Dr. Javier Smolarz.

Committee members Shirley Ben-David, Ruthy Erez, Lihi Zabari Kamen, Ilana Knust, Rivka Marco, Posy McMillen, Debby Rice, Naomi Rosenfield and Yosi Yaacobi put together a slideshow featuring historical footage of the events leading up to the vote for Israeli statehood.

In 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the mandate for governing Israel. Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. One world war and a Shoah later, that nation kept its promise.

In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution outlining the establishment of a Jewish state in British Palestinian territory. After six months of negotiation, the boundaries of the state of Israel were drawn. On May 14, 1948, the British government’s mandate over the Palestinian Territory expired. The new state was recognized by the U.S. government at 11 a.m. Israel time on May 14, and by the Russian government three days later.

Some Tarrant County “elders,” who remembered the creation of the state of Israel, spoke about their perspective of the events in a video. Leon Brachman recalled chairing a meeting in Fort Worth on the day of the vote for statehood, which was attended by the mayor, the state representative, the congressman and several local rabbis.

The TJP’s Rene Wisch was also in Fort Worth in 1948, with husband Jimmy and her growing family. The newspaper was started the year prior to Israel’s statehood, and in a telephone interview, Wisch also recalled the meeting, which she says was at Paschal High School.

“It’s amazing what Israel accomplished, despite daily adversity,” she said.

Brachman echoed that sentiment. At the time of the United Nations vote for statehood, he said, Israel was already under attack by seven Arab armies.

“We had a Yizkor service after all the celebrations for all the people who were going to die under the attacks,” he said.

Brachman also provided a sober reminder to those too young to remember when Israel could barely stand on her own. He said that in 1948, he was approached by a member of the Haganah, who came to Fort Worth to seek Brachman’s aid. When told that the Israelis badly needed weapons, Brachman went to work on the pawnshops of Fort Worth.

“We got every kind of gun imaginable, and every kind of bullet,” he said. Brachman got the arms donated by the pawnshop owners, many of whom were Jewish.

A highlight of the evening was a presentation by the deputy consul general of Israel to the Southwest. Belaynesh Zevadia made aliyah from Ethiopia in 1984, fleeing religious persecution and famine. The first Ethiopian woman in the Israeli government, Zevadia said she is living proof of the diversity of the country, as well as the power of the Jewish state for those who are persecuted for their religion.

“I am proud to represent the state of Israel,” she said.

Zevadia’s comments were echoed by Committee Co-chair Shoshana Howard.

“Hopefully there will never be another Holocaust,” she said. “But now we have a country that will never deny a place to the Jewish exiles.”

The committee received a proclamation from Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and the Fort Worth City Council, commemorating the day, and citing Israel’s “strong friendship” with the United States.

The audience was treated to an exclusive performance by dancers Liliya Aronov and Assaf Benchetrit, Israeli members of Arlington’s Metropolitan Classic Ballet. The Jerusalem-born Benchetrit has partnered with Siberian native Aronov for several years, first at the Rubin Academy for Music and Dance in Israel, and then in the United States. Dressed in blue and white, the dancers dazzled the crowd with their performance to the music of “Jerusalem of Gold.” Aronov acknowledged the presence of her father, who now lives in Israel but came to see her perform.

And they couldn’t call it a gala without sumptuous food. Party-goers were treated to Israeli hummus, falafel, tabouli and pita bread, along with wine, beer and soft drinks. The main course included salmon, saffron rice, salad and feta cheese.

The after-dinner entertainment featured Yoel Sharabi, an Israeli singer and accomplished musician whose repertoire includes modern Israeli, classic Yemenite and Chassidic songs. The Israeli-born Sharabi spends much of his time in New York, and confessed to the Tarrant County audience his troubles finding his way from Dallas to Fort Worth amid the myriad of strangely-numbered freeways.

“Texas is a big place,” he said. “Your Interstate 35 goes north, south, east and west.”

The food and the atmosphere, which included huge pictures of Israel’s most scenic destinations, combined to make the attendees yearn to see Eretz Yisrael. Christian members of Yad B’Yad recounted their awe of seeing the “Holy Land.” Those who have visited, like veteran traveler Rene Wisch, talked about their love of making the journey.

“There’s always something new to see,” Wisch said. “The country is always progressing. If I weren’t 85, I’d go tomorrow!”

For Event Co-chair Shoshana Howard, that was the whole point of the evening.

“Every Jew needs to stay connected to their identity as a Jew, and to our homeland,” she said.

Sponsors of the gala included the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, with financial support from the Jewish Federation Foundation; the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation; The Molly Roth Fund; Yad B’Yad/Hashomer; Ruthy and Eldad Erez; and the Israeli community of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

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Sixty years of successes, despite Israel’s growing pains

Posted on 09 July 2008 by admin

By Uriel Heilman | JTA

Being in Israel in the 21st century, one often wonders what Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, would think of this modern-day state if he could see it.

The malarial swamps of pre-state Palestine have been replaced by rapidly growing cities with glitzy shopping districts, carefully landscaped parks and six-lane highways that run between high-rise office buildings and limestone apartment complexes.

The agricultural pioneers, the chalutzim who struggled to sow the seeds of the new nation-state armed with triangular hats and simple hoes, have been succeeded by sunglasses-wearing settlers in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley who have installed high-tech drip-irrigation devices to hydrate hybrid tomatoes for export to markets in London, Paris and New York.

And the nation whose birth defied the odds in a war of independence against invading Arab armies to the north, east and south has become a regional military superpower with an assumed nuclear arsenal, a crack air force and peace treaties with two of its four Arab neighbors.

Agricultural settlements have turned into sprawling cities, the 1948 population of roughly 800,000 has swelled to more than 7 million and — perhaps most important of all — the Jewish state has become home for Jews from Russia, Europe, Iran, Ethiopia, Argentina, Egypt, North America, India and too many other places to count.

Sixty years on, Israel has much to celebrate, having raised a vibrant, diverse and occasionally bewildering society virtually from scratch.

In all likelihood, Herzl would not even recognize the place.

“I think Herzl would be so perplexed,” says veteran Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a conservative think tank in Jerusalem. “He wouldn’t know in what proportion to be thrilled and disappointed. Israel bears no resemblance to what Herzl imagined, conceiving a Jewish state from the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”

Herzl envisioned a socialist utopia that would combine the best of European culture and Jewish ingenuity. In his famous work “Altneuland,” Arabs hardly merit mention.

Halevi says Herzl would find Israel’s radical Jewish diversity most perplexing.

“The East-West mixture, the racial mixture of Israel, Ethiopian culture, Moroccan music — all the elements that make Israel so unpredictable and so interesting — are elements Herzl couldn’t conceive of sitting in Vienna in the beginning of the 20th century,” Halevi says.

In many ways, however, Herzl’s dream of a Jewish state has been fulfilled.

Israel has secured its place among the nations even though its leaders bemoan the existential threat posed by Iran and the demographic threat represented by the Palestinians. A state like any other, Israel boasts metropolitan cities, concert halls, theaters, centers of science and learning, skyscrapers, a stock exchange and a thriving nonprofit sector.

Of course, as a state like any other, Israel also has poor people, failing schools, government corruption, run-down neighborhoods, traffic, drug problems and criminals.

And after 60 years, Israel still faces basic questions of existence and character most countries have resolved long ago: Can the state be both Jewish and democratic? What will the final borders of the country look like? Where, exactly, is the balance between religious and secular, Arab rights and Jewish character, change and preservation, future and history?

Sixty years on, the battle for Israel’s soul is far from over.

Tel Aviv leftists debate right-wing settlers about whether the final borders of the state should encompass the West Bank or run along the pre-1967 border. Secular yuppies from Herzliya lobby to be able to buy pork products and shrimp in their local supermarkets while Knesset-sanctioned inspectors slap fines on malls that open on Shabbat.

Russian Israelis say Israeli immigration policies unfairly exclude their non-Jewish relatives, while yeshiva rabbis warn that an influx of foreign laborers and non-Jewish immigrants erode the state’s Jewish character. Arab Israelis from Jerusalem ask why their Palestinian cousins from nearby Bethlehem are barred from visiting them while a Jew from Chicago can become an Israeli citizen simply by showing up at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv with a letter from her rabbi.

These are the growing pains of a state that 60 years after its founding still hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be.

Yet even as they struggle with these basic questions, Israelis are continuing to build the state.

One would be hard-pressed to find another country in the world that has experienced such rapid growth over the span of just six decades. That the growth has occurred amid frequent wars, the constant scourge of terrorism and other daily challenges has made it all the more remarkable.

And despite the apparent lack of natural resources in Israel — the country has no oil reserves to tap, no verdant breadbasket and a relatively small population — Jewish ingenuity has made Israel a center of innovation.

Israel has more companies listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange than any other outside the United States. The world’s leading technology companies, including Intel, IBM and Microsoft, maintain extensive R&D facilities in Israel. The country has the highest proportion in the world of university graduates per capita. Outside of Europe and North America, Israel leads in the number of patent applications.

Israelis invented the video camera that fits inside a pill, giving doctors a new non-invasive way to view their patients’ insides. Four young Israelis invented the first instant-messaging technology, known as ICQ, which was later sold to AOL. The disk-on-key, now almost universally used in place of diskettes, was created in Israel.

“Israel has the highest concentration of talent in the world,” says Moshe Kaveh, the president of Bar-Ilan University.

Despite the worrisome headlines about Iran, Hezbollah’s resurgence along the Lebanon border and Hamas’ growing power in the Gaza Strip, Israel has become an increasingly stable, normal country. In 2007, terrorism-related deaths in Israel fell to 13 — the lowest level in years.

The question for Israel isn’t so much whether people will be able to live in the country in 10, 20 or 30 years but whether they will want to.

After 60 years of focusing on survival, Israel must now address its internal challenges, Israelis say, particularly the ones that threaten national unity: the religious-secular gap, the Arab-Jewish gap, the rich-poor gap, the right wing-left wing gap.

This, essentially, is how Israel has developed throughout its six decades — always in a state of emergency, under the threat of wars or terrorism, and with the great questions of society still unanswered.

Yet all the while, Israelis have forged communities, launched companies, started rock bands, built cities, gone to cafés and raised their families. This perseverance — the carrying on of daily life, despite all the craziness in the country — is what makes Israel at 60 a story worth telling.

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Clinton wins Pennsylvania, takes Jewish vote in key victory

Posted on 09 July 2008 by admin

By JTA Staff

NEW YORK (JTA) — Exit polls showed Hillary Clinton taking the Jewish vote in winning Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, defeated U.S. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), winning 55 percent of the vote to his 45 percent.

Exit polling found that Jews comprised 8 percent of the electorate, and went 62 percent to 38 percent for Clinton.

Her margin was similar among whites overall, winning 63 percent to 37 percent. Clinton’s performance among white Catholics was particularly strong, winning 70 percent to 30 percent.

“I think much of the Jewish vote voted for their comfort level, and they were more comfortable with Senator Clinton,” said Marcel Groen, a Clinton supporter and the head of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, in an interview with JTA a day after the primary. “I just think generally from a Jewish perspective, Hillary Clinton was a known commodity.”

Groen speculated, however, that among Jews who are less Jewishly identified, and for whom Israel is not a primary electoral concern, Obama may have actually won.

“I think that Jews who are more concerned with Israel will always go with people they have a history with,” he said.

Betsy Sheerr, a Jewish communal activist who also is supporting Clinton, said the lingering concern over Obama’s ties to his controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., hurt Obama in the primary. Wright has harshly critcized the United States and Israel.

“The Pastor Wright issue left a lot of people feeling uneasy,” Sheerr said. “And I don’t think that’s going to go away so easily.”

Rep. Josh Shapiro, the deputy speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Obama’s leading Jewish supporter in the state, rejected the notion that Wright had hurt the Illinois senator among Jewish voters.

“Look at the results,” Shapiro said. “The senator’s vote in the Jewish community was equal to his overall vote in the primary. I think that demonstrates that the hype that Senator Obama had a problem with the Jewish community was just that — it was hype. It was not reality.”

In recent weeks, both campaigns conducted aggressive outreach efforts aimed at Pennsylvania Jewish voters, deploying multiple high-profile surrogates as well as the candidates themselves in some instances.

Clinton had the support of several prominent Jewish politicians, most notably Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as many top donors to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. She made a surprise appearance at a major federation event and gave an interview to the local Jewish newspaper.

Obama also reached out to the Jewish community, granting a 20-minute interview to JTA and meeting with 75 Jewish communal leaders April 16 at a Philadelphia synagogue, Rodeph Shalom.

His outreach efforts were boosted by several high-profile representatives, including Shapiro; U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Steve Rothman (D-N.J.); Anthony Lake, a recent convert to Judaism who served as the national security adviser during the Clinton administration, and Daniel Kurtzer, America’s first Jewish ambassador to Egypt and its first Orthodox ambassador to Israel.

Among Clinton’s high-profile surrogates was actor-director Rob Reiner, who visited with 250 senior citizens at a Jewish community center in Philadelphia. The next morning, on April 19, Chelsea Clinton paid a visit to Congregation Beth Sholom in Elkins Park along with a college friend.

According to Groen, the visit was “not political.” She stayed for about two hours and attended a study session.

Groen said Chelsea Clinton also attended a Passover seder over the weekend, while a report in the Jerusalem Post described how some 40 Clinton staffers celebrated the second night of the holiday at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel.

“That kind of stuff is meaningful, I think, to a lot of Jewish voters,” Groen said. “It’s the kind of stuff that goes to your kishkes, if you will.”

Shapiro countered that Obama’s meeting with Jewish leaders was “unprecedented” in terms of the lengthy dialogue he engaged in with the community.

“I don’t think Senator Clinton did that in her campaign, at least in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Obama had a difficult couple of weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania primary as he worked to contain the continuing fallout from his relationship with Wright, and from recent comments about working-class voters that critics have portrayed as signs of his elitism.

The Wright issue in particular came up repeatedly at campaign events aimed at Jewish voters. During the April 16 meeting with Jewish leaders, Obama sought to further distance himself from Wright, saying he was “my pastor,” not “my spiritual adviser.”

At another point, Obama asked his audience “to not base decisions on who to support or not on e-mails or superficial characteristics or associations that are tangential to who I am or what I believe in.”

Clinton pounced on the issue in her interview with the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, saying that she would have left the church.

“We don’t have a choice when it comes to our relatives,” she said, “but we do have a choice when it comes to churches or synagogues.”

Burt Siegel, the executive director of the Philadelphia Jewish community relations council, said it was impossible to know for sure whether the Wright issue tipped the Jewish vote. But Siegel said he was confident that much of the divide between Obama and Clinton was generational, mirroring trends in the wider electorate.

“I know it was generational just from conversations at my Passover seder,” Siegel said. “All the younger people were really excited about Obama.”

Obama told the Jewish leaders on April 16 that many of the concerns raised about him have been generated by “scurrilous e-mails,” as well as by the fact that his middle name is Hussein and that he is an African American in an era of strained relations between the black and Jewish communities on some issues.

“I just want to emphasize I guess what’s in my heart, which is that my ties to the Jewish community are not political,” he said. “There’s a kinship and a sense of shared commitments that pre-dates my politics and will extend beyond this particular election.”

Clinton’s victory on April 22, while not doing much to break into Obama’s lead in votes and pledged delegates, will nevertheless enable her to persevere at least through the next round of primary contests. Indiana and North Carolina will hold their primaries May 6.

But the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Democratic nomination battle has begun to worry some activists, who caution it may harm the party in November in the general election against the presumptive Republican candidate, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“The main issue among all Jewish Democrats is a sense of coming together for November,” Sheerr told JTA. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of concern about healing within the party no matter what happens and an attempt to keep our eye on the ball, which is beating McCain.”

20 Questions with John McCain

By Rob Eshman

The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — “Hey, Rob, how are you!” John McCain said on the other end of the phone. He sounded like he’d been hovering over his cell phone, just waiting for me to dial his number.

I spoke to the senator, now the presumptive Republican candidate for president, on March 26, while he was in Los Angeles for a full schedule of speeches and fundraisers. One of his local supporters arranged the interview, the only one he’s given to the Jewish press since clinching the nomination, and the McCain campaign agreed to talk because they understand something uncommon is happening in this election: The Jewish vote is in play.

A higher percentage of Jews than usual are expected to take a second look at the Republican candidate for president this year. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unprecedented. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan ran for president, he got 38 percent of the Jewish vote. Once again, Republicans believe, this could be their year.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, Jews are like most Democrats, only more so.

“A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination,” according to a recent Gallup poll of all Democrats. “This is particularly true for Hillary Clinton supporters, more than a quarter of whom currently say they would vote for McCain if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.”

On issues of foreign policy, the Middle East and Israel, Jews will be weighing the candidates carefully.

So as pollster Peter Hart told Maureen Dowd last week, the question voters will ask about Sen. Hilary Clinton is, “Is she honest?” Of Obama they will ask, “Is he safe?”

As for Jews, I suspect the McCain question will be just as simple: “Is he Bush?”

Early Wednesday morning, I drove downtown to the Bonaventure Hotel to hear McCain deliver his first major foreign policy address as the Republican nominee.

The event was a World Affairs Council breakfast for about 1,000 people, and the subtext of his speech was clear: “I’m not Bush.”

McCain began with a description of himself as a 5-year-old watching a Navy officer drive up to his home and tell his father, a naval commander, that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

“I rarely saw him again for four years,” McCain said.

“My grandfather, who commanded the fast carrier task force under Admiral Halsey, came home from the war exhausted from the burdens he had borne, and died the next day,” McCain went on. “I detest war…. It is wretched beyond all description…. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.”

Into my mind popped memories of President George W. Bush landing on a flight carrier in his jumpsuit, as well as his recent remarks that he’s “envious” of soldiers engaged in “romantic” combat — which was just what McCain intended.

As pointedly, McCain made the thrust of his speech the importance of America working together with other nations in creating a safe and secure world. He quoted John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.

“But we must also lead by attracting others to our cause, by demonstrating once again the virtues of freedom and democracy,” he added.

He said he would immediately close down the prisons at Guantanamo. “We can’t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured.”

He called for a new treaty to deal with global warming, a “League of Democracies” to lead the world, a nuclear nonproliferation regime.

All these policies together, McCain said, “will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

In turning to the Middle East, he didn’t turn to Israel — and he didn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The oppression of the autocrats blended with the radical Islamists’ dogmatic theology to produce a perfect storm of intolerance and hatred,” he said, not letting America off the hook for our support of these petro-dictators.

In an election season with a very unpopular war as its backdrop, McCain’s serious ideas about Iraq are bound to be demeaned and caricatured, as they already have been, everywhere from YouTube to The Huffington Post. (In fact, McCain has gotten a fairer and more insightful hearing on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” where he has made 11 appearances, than he has on HuffPost.)

You can think he’s wrong when he says the surge of American troops into Iraq is working, but his plan is more detailed — and draws on more experience — than the plans put forth for withdrawal by either of his opponents.

In the World Affairs Council speech, McCain gave a bit more nuance to his statements that America could be in Iraq “another 50 years, 100 years.” When Americans say the cost of Iraq is too high, he said, they mean the cost in lives. To withdraw and leave behind an unstable country would be to destabilize the entire Middle East, to strengthen the forces of Al-Qaeda and Iran. The United States continues to have a military presence, he pointed out, in countries that are now our allies, where past wars are long over: Japan, South Korea and Germany, all places where not a single soldier is at risk. That’s what he meant by staying there.

One could argue that the actual dollar cost is just a bit upsetting to Americans, as well, but McCain pointed out that no one stands outside his speeches protesting the cost of our bases in South Korea (“And they’re protesting everything else,” he said).

Nevertheless, his much-maligned statement came off as neither Strangelovian or Cheney-esque (i.e.; “So?”), but as an informed assertion of America’s power and responsibility, and a pointed rejection of Bush’s foreign policy of the past seven years. Sitting in the Bonaventure ballroom, I realized that the Republicans, finally, after seven years, have the chance to replace a teenager with a grownup.

So when I called the senator later that day for the pre-arranged interview — “Hey, Rob, how are you?” — I had my questions on Israel, Iraq, etc. all teed up, with my overarching one — “Are you Bush?” — saved for last.

I started with Israel, asking the senator to compare his policies toward Israel to those of Clinton and Obama. I told him my sense is that over the years a bipartisan consensus has developed on the major Israeli-Palestinian issues, no matter who occupies the Oval Office. McCain deflected.

“Well I don’t know what their support is, so it’s hard for me to compare it,” he said.

He reiterated an often-told story he’s made to Jewish groups, about flying to Israel for the first time with the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, landing at the airport and witnessing Jackson being greeted by Soviet refuseniks he’d helped rescue.

“I’ll never forget that one as long as I live,” he said.

“Look,” he added, “like on other national security issues, it’s a matter of knowledge, background, experience and judgment. That’s all.”

I pointed out that President Bush had waited until the end of his second term to get involved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. When would President McCain get involved?

“Immediately,” he said. “And, as I said, I don’t know how many trips I’ve made to Israel. I know all of the leadership well. I know the parameters that they’re operating under, and I feel fully qualified to hit the ground running.”

There also has been a “Battle of the Advisers” going on, with Republican Jews singling out Obama military adviser General Merrill A. “Tony” McPeak for statements that suggest American Jews wield too much influence over America’s Middle East policy. I asked McCain if he puts much stock in such critiques, given that his adviser, former secretary of state James Baker, has said the same and worse (There was, for instance, Baker’s “F— the Jews,” although I didn’t cite this example.)

“Former Secretary Baker is not a, quote, ‘adviser’ of mine,” McCain replied. “It was only recently that former Secretary Baker endorsed me. It was just before some of the later primaries. But look, I in no way distance myself from Secretary Baker and my respect for what he’s done for the country. We just may not agree on every issue that affects the state of Israel, or other issues.”

McCain also defended his support of the controversial Rev. John Hagee, a staunchly pro-Israel evangelical who has been criticized for his anti-Catholic comments. I asked the senator how he would get pro-Israel evangelicals, who have been staunchly opposed to Israel giving up territory or compromising on the status of Jerusalem, to support any peace agreement.

“You can’t jump ahead here,” he said. “I know they favor a peace process. I know they favor that because of my close relations with them, and Pastor John Hagee … is one of the leaders of the pro-Israel-evangelical movement in America.”

I started to correct him — Hagee and other evangelicals most certainly don’t support compromise on territory or Jerusalem, and McCain must know this. That’s when I got my first taste of the famous McCain technique: I’ll-talk-so-you-can’t.

“Look,” he cut me off, “I just have to tell you that we should be so grateful for the support of the evangelical movement for the state of Israel, given the influence that they have, beneficial influence that they have over millions of Americans, and then we’ll worry about a peace process later on, but I know that they are committed to peace between Palestinians and Israelis as well.”

McCain had recently returned from a trip to Israel, where he visited the southern town of Sderot (“I always mangle the pronunciation,” he said). I asked him what advice he would give Israel in dealing with the constant barrage of rockets that Hamas regularly fires at Sderot’s residents.

“When I was there I stated unequivocally that every nation has the right to defend itself against attack,” he said.

But he added he wouldn’t presume to give advice.

Then we got to Iraq, the subject where McCain must realize he is the most vulnerable with independent voters, and Jewish voters, who, I pointed out, are largely opposed to the war. Even allowing that McCain’s plan is more developed than his critics have allowed, I asked him whether he would ever be prepared to tell the Iraqis that it is up to them, not us, to choose whether they want to be a stable democracy — or to become Lebanon.

His answer was long, rambling and, given the battle taking place in Basra that very day, a bit worrisome: “I believe that there has been political progress. I want it to be more rapid…. Looks like now we will have provincial elections. They did pass a law on addressing the amnesty issue for Sunnis. There is de facto revenue sharing from the oil revenues. Democracy is tough, so I am gratified by the progress that’s been made militarily, and I see … progress on the social, economic and political front. I believe that the worst thing we can do is set a date for withdrawal, and that’ll be chaos, genocide and, by the way, I also feel that it’ll place the state of Israel in much greater danger because it will enhance the prestige and power of Iran in the region.”

On Iran, McCain gave two different answers. When I asked if negotiations with Iran might help improve relations, he said, unequivocally, “no,” and rejected that recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. On the other hand, he didn’t rule out speaking with Iranians other than their crazy (my word) president.

“Our ambassador in Iraq, I believe, has been there three times,” McCain said. “There’s been Iranians there in Baghdad. They’ve had conversations. There’s plenty of ways to communicate.”

Does he think the war has strengthened Iran in the region?

“I think that our failures for nearly four years obviously did it,” the senator said. “But I believe that that is being reversed as the surge succeeds, and I think that the Iranians are very possibly going to step up their assistance to the jihadists, because they don’t want us to succeed in Iraq…. Osama bin Laden has said that the central front in the battleground is Iraq, and their Palestinian brothers are next. So what are the implications to the state of Israel if they prevail on Iraq? I think they’re very obvious.”

On the domestic front, I praised the senator in his call for energy independence, but pointed out that every president since Richard Nixon has issued the same call. Why would he succeed?

“Because I believe I can inspire the American people,” he said, “and I think that when the price of oil went over $100 a barrel that there was certainly a psychological barrier there.”

Then I turned to judicial nominations: McCain is opposed to legalized abortion, and the idea that he could appoint members of the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade would be a deal-breaker for many otherwise McCain-leaning Jews. What would he say to them?

“I have no litmus issues, nor is it proper to do so,” he said, “but I will nominate judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States. And if that’s the most important issue, that I nominate those people who strictly interpret the constitution of the United States, then I respect [their] priorities.”

In other words, if you don’t like it, vote for the other guy (or gal).

At this point, our allotted 20 minutes were winding down. The senator, I could hear, was in motion. But of course I still had one more question. The question: What would you say, senator, to the charge that a vote for McCain is a vote for a third Bush term?

“The American people know me,” he said, “and know me well, and that [opinion] is not reflected in the polls, and so I think that they will select a leader that they want based on his or her vision and plans for the future, not the past. Gotta run.”

That was it. We didn’t get to the economy, health care, the stuff that decides elections.

Still, for days afterward, the first question people asked me was, “So, are you gonna vote for him now?” Or, as one put it, “Are you going to follow John McCain to the dark side?”

President Bush has understood the dangers facing the world, but was unable or unwilling to address them effectively. The result is a world where America is less safe, and Israel is less secure. From Bush we learned that the answer to the question, “Is he good for Israel?” really should be: “Is he good for America?” Because when America’s strength, leadership and credibility go astray, Israel is endangered.

McCain with his echoes of Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, is undeniably more experienced, more learned — a grownup.

McCain has a plan for Iraq, the surge, and it is unfolding before our eyes. He may be out on his limb, but what he says is founded in a deep understanding of foreign policy and the uses and limits of military power. The Democratic candidates have justifiable criticism of the war, and both promise a speedy withdrawal, but they have no plan of what that really means, yet.

So for the Jews, or at least for those of us who think that war, and that region — and not just party loyalty — is still issue No. 1, the ball is in Obama’s and Clinton’s court.

Rob Eshman is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, where this article first appeared.

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