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Jewish students at NYU raise $22,000 for Israel in 24 hours

(New York Jewish Week) — Like so many Jews across the country, Ruthie Yudelson was celebrating Shabbat and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret when the news began to trickle in about terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. 

A junior at New York University, Yudelson, 21, was with her peers at New York University’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, which houses the school’s Hillel, when the news broke. Immediately, people were trying to piece together the little bits of information they could from friends and family in Israel, she recalled. 

By the afternoon, Yudelson had organized a group of students to say Tehillim, or psalms, which Jews recite on behalf of the sick and in times of danger. “I expected it to be some five or six people,” Yudelson said. To her surprise, 25 students showed up to sing, talk and be together. 

That small crowd on Saturday afternoon, Yudelson said, was the first hint of the potential organizing power of her campus community, something that the Jewish students demonstrated again just over a week later. For exactly one day beginning at midnight on Sunday, Yudelson and a group of fellow Jewish NYU students came together for “24 hours of service” to raise money for Israel via UJA-New York’s Israel Emergency Fund, which disseminated some $22 million in grants to Israeli nonprofits as of Monday. 

At the end of the fundraiser, at midnight on Monday, the initiative, which has involved some 40 students, raised $22,000 from donors Yudelson described as a mix of “friends, family, local businesses and nonprofit philanthropies.”  

“We see in the students’ eyes a ton of anger, fear, sadness and angst. Nobody’s able to sleep or eat or go to class,” said sophomore Benji Meppen, a co-organizer of the event. “We wanted to capitalize on that and say let’s take that nervous energy and put it towards something good. Let’s be in the building, let’s be in community, Let’s be together and raise money while doing something meaningful.”

Yudelson and a team of fellow undergrads — Meppin, Jake Bengelsdorf, Adina Levin and Zoe Kimmelman — began organizing the fundraiser last Tuesday, pitching potential donors on a 24-hour event where students would work on a variety of volunteer projects at the Bronfman Center — including writing cards for Israeli soldiers, staffing a support hotline for students affected by the war and knitting baby clothes for attack victims. They also committed to studying Torah and saying Tehillim in memory of the victims. While the students engaged in that activism, donors would sponsor their efforts and send money to Israel.

“What we’re aiming to do is to bring people together, not just around concepts of solidarity but around practical, actionable good,” Yudelson told the New York Jewish Week Monday as the fundraiser reached its midpoint. “The idea is that we can make cards for displaced children, we can bake rice krispie treats for soldiers’ families and we can write letters to individuals grieving terror attacks — and that people will be inspired by these actions in a way that compels them to donate actual effective amounts of money.”

Throughout Sunday night and Monday, “there’s been a lot of energy, and it’s been really great to see,” Meppin said. “Personally, I find every moment that I’m not doing something, I sit on my couch or sit on my bed and look at the news or I read WhatsApp that I don’t want to read. I become incredibly angry and sad just as everybody else is. It’s been great to stay in the building and do something meaningful.”

Yudelson, a environmental sociology major, holds a variety of leadership positions within the Bronfman Center, including at the Israel Journal, an online publication at the school “dedicated to clearing up the conversation around Israel,” as well as in the school’s Orthodox and Conservative Jewish student groups. She also works as a service engagement intern at the center, organizing community service programs throughout the year. Meppin, a film major, is on the student executive board of NYU Hillel and is the co-president of the Israel Journal.

Following the attacks, Yudelson — a Teaneck, New Jersey native who also has Israeli citizenship — said that she immediately began to think about how the Bronfman Center could become a space where students can express feelings, gather information and come together in a particularly fraught time. “The first way that this uncertainty and fear was metabolized for me was communally,” she said. 

“I have a lot of cousins who are fighting in Gaza. I have friends from high school, people that I grew up with who are in a tank right now,” Meppin, who is from Los Angeles, said. “For me, to be a 19-year-old in film school, I feel rather meaningless. We hope that this event will help relieve people of some of those feelings while still raising money for UJA.”

NYU has been one of a handful of campuses across the country that has drawn scrutiny in the wake of Hamas’ attack, largely after the president of the law school’s Student Bar Association wrote a letter in the school’s newsletter stating, among other things, that “​​Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”

But Yudelson says the Bronfman Center fundraiser hasn’t yet faced the same kind of pushback.The wider NYU community has been supportive, she said. 

Yudelson surmised that the reason for the lack of criticism is that the fundraiser is focused on humanitarian aid, or because it is not “the most political” as far campus actions go, although she did stress that “all the aid that we are collecting is going to Israel.” She also said she wasn’t sure how much the larger undergraduate campus population was aware that the fundraiser was happening.

“It’s been wonderful to be a part of,” Yudelson said. “Right now it is a very weird time in our current cultural moment and it’s hard to be hopeful, but being a part of this fundraiser, I’ve been mostly hopeful and excited.”

For college students — who tend to have low bank account balances — “it’s hard to imagine ourselves as having any sort of effective or important piece in the larger geopolitical struggles happening right now,” she said. 

But that does not mean that they should not try, said Meppin. “As Jewish college students in New York City, we can choose to take an active role in this conflict and ensure the future Jewish people,” he said. “I’m very happy that we are currently doing that as we speak.”

The post Jewish students at NYU raise $22,000 for Israel in 24 hours appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world.

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

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