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Phylisa Wisdom to head New York Jewish Agenda, 3-year-old progressive advocacy group

(New York Jewish Week) — New York Jewish Agenda, a progressive Jewish advocacy organization, has named a successor to its founding executive director. 

Phylisa Wisdom, 37, joins the organization after a year as director of development and government affairs at Yaffed, whose mission is to improve the quality of secular education in New York’s Hasidic and haredi yeshivas. She is taking over the position from Matt Nosanchuk, NYJA’s founding president and executive director, who will continue to be involved with the organization as a member of its board of directors, as per a press release. 

Joining NYJA is a “long-term dream come true,” Wisdom, 37, told the New York Jewish Week.

Wisdom, whose first day on the job was Monday, has experience in advocacy through political campaigns, nonprofits and government agencies. She has held roles at the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee, Literacy Trust and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Founded in 2020 by Rabbis Rachel Timoner and Sharon Kleinbaum along with Nosanchuk, the New York Jewish Agenda works to support and amplify the voices of Jewish community leaders “whose shared values motivate them to promote social justice, combat antisemitism, and support a democratic vision of Israel,” according to its website. “We engage on critical issues across New York City and State through advocacy, education, and collaboration.”

The organization has been involved with a wide range of issues and topics such as health, criminal justice reform, antisemitism, and advocating for Israel’s democracy. Most recently, NYJA has advocated for better representation of New York City’s Jewish community in Mayor Eric Adams’ Jewish Advisory Council

“Phylisa Wisdom is exactly the right leader for this moment,” Timoner, NYJA co-founder and board member, said in the press release. “She’ll bring an inspiring and incisive voice to ensure that the majority of New York’s Jews are represented and heard.”

Wisdom said she hopes as executive director to build upon NYJA’s work of engaging the city and state on these issues. She’s also hoping to widen the group’s purview.

“I’m excited to build out our portfolio in other areas of interest,” Wisdom said. “So that’s really in public health, in immigration, in education, both public and private, and in supporting the climate. So really looking at state and city budget priorities, engaging our Leaders Network in those practices related to the budget, and making sure that our Leaders Network and founders, and the entire Jewish community’s voices are heard on these issues as well.”

A native of San Diego, Wisdom “came of age doing Jewish activism,” she said, describing her connection to Judaism as “largely through activism and engagement, community engagement and really a deep commitment to tikkun olam that was nurtured from a very young age, both by my parents and family and also my extended community.” 

Wisdom’s years of activism began with registering voters as a teen; while in high school, she also joined the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center in lobbying for reproductive justice. 

Professionally, Wisdom, who has a masters in public policy, has worked with children with special needs for many years, including at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts. There, as a public policy fellow, she worked on teen antiviolence programming.

Wisdom arrived in Brooklyn in 2017, fulfilling what she said was a long-held dream to live in New York. “My grandmother is from here and I’ve always loved the city,” she wrote in an email. She said she’s an avid consumer of the city’s restaurants, museums and arts and that while she does not belong to a synagogue, she has many Israeli friends and aims to become more involved with Brooklyn Jews, the young-adult division of Timoner’s Congregation Beth Elohim.

Wisdom’s path to Yaffed followed a stint working at the literacy nonprofit. There, she collaborated with the city’s Department of Education to ensure that students who needed literacy support had access to it. That led her to Yaffed, where she advocated for the needs of yeshiva studentsFrom there, she joined Yaffed to advocate for the needs of yeshiva students.

“I was really looking for a way to combine the love of education and making sure that kids got what they needed in their educational lives, and the public sector,” she said. Likewise, she said, she believes her new role offers opportunities to blend her passions.

“I am really excited that I can take all of those experiences and circle back to a Jewish community and be able to do that work and combine these passions,” Wisdom said. 

The post Phylisa Wisdom to head New York Jewish Agenda, 3-year-old progressive advocacy group appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Biden Highlights US Commitment to Israel, Ukraine, Indo-Pacific in West Point Speech

West Point graduating cadets congratulate each other at the conclusion of commencement ceremonies in West Point, New York, U.S., May 25, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner

President Joe Biden emphasized the critical role of U.S. support to allies around the world including Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific in a speech on Saturday at the commencement for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The speech before 1,036 graduating U.S. Army cadets is part of a push by Biden to highlight the administration’s efforts to support active and retired military personnel. These include a bipartisan law he signed two years ago to help veterans who have been exposed to burn pits or other poisons obtain easier access to healthcare.

Biden described American soldiers as “working around the clock” to support Ukraine in its effort to repel a two-year long Russian invasion, but repeated his commitment to keeping them off the front lines.

“We are standing strong with Ukraine and we will stand with them,” Biden told the crowd to a round of applause.

He also highlighted the U.S. role in repelling Iranian missile attacks against Israel and support for allies in the Indo-Pacific against increasing Chinese militarism in the region.

“Thanks to the U.S. Armed Forces, we’re doing what only America can do as the indispensable nation, the world’s only superpower,” Biden said.

The president is scheduled to participate in Memorial Day services at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Monday. A week later, he will travel to Normandy, France, to participate in ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Biden is expected to give a major speech about the heroism of Allied forces in World War Two and the continuing threats to democracy today.

As vice president, he twice addressed a graduating class of cadets at the academy about 40 miles (64 km) north of New York City, but this was the first time as president.

Donald Trump, Biden’s Republican challenger in the 2024 election, was the last president to speak at a West Point commencement, in 2020.

College campuses nationwide have erupted in sometimes-violent protests over Biden’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas following the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack. Students have used commencement speeches at universities such as Harvard, Duke and Yale to protest Biden’s actions.

Earlier this month, the Democratic president gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college, where protests were sparse.

The military academy was founded in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to train Army officers and has produced some of the United States’ greatest generals, including two who went on to become president.

Trump has seen some of his support from the military community erode.

In 2016, he won 60% of voters who said at the time that they served in the military, according to exit polls conducted by NBC News. That figure dropped to 54% in 2020, according to NBC News.

In 2020, Biden won 44% of voters who said they served in the military, according to the data.

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World Court’s Order on Rafah Does Not Rule Out Entire Offensive, Israel Says

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

Israel considers that an order by the World Court to halt its military offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza allows room for some military action there, Israeli officials said.

In an emergency ruling in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide, judges at the International Court of Justice ordered Israel on Friday to immediately halt its assault on Rafah, where Israel says it is rooting out Hamas fighters.

“What they are asking us, is not to commit genocide in Rafah. We did not commit genocide and we will not commit genocide,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel’s N12 TV on Saturday.

Asked whether the Rafah offensive would continue, Hanegbi said: “According to international law, we have the right to defend ourselves and the evidence is that the court is not preventing us from continuing to defend ourselves.”

The ICJ, which is based in The Hague, did not immediately comment on Hanegbi’s remarks. Hamas also did not immediately comment.

Another Israeli official pointed to the phrasing of the ruling by the ICJ, or World Court, depicting it as conditional.

“The order in regard to the Rafah operation is not a general order,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Reading out the ruling, the ICJ’s president, Nawaf Salam, said the situation in Gaza had deteriorated since the court last ordered Israel to take steps to improve it, and conditions had been met for a new emergency order.

“The state of Israel shall (…) immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” Salam said.

That wording does not rule out all military action, the Israeli official said.

“We have never, and we will not, conduct any military action in Rafah or elsewhere which may inflict any conditions of life to bring about the destruction of the civilian population in Gaza, not in whole and not in part,” the official said.

The ICJ has no means to enforce its orders.

Israel began its offensive in Gaza to try to eliminate Hamas after Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7 last year, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 250 others as hostages. It has pressed on with its offensive since the ICJ ruling.

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ICC Chief Prosecutor Denies Equating Israel with Hamas

Defense Counsel for Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, Karim Khan attends a news conference before the trial of Ruto and Joshua arap Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague September 9, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Michael Kooren/File Photo

i24 NewsIn an interview with The Sunday Times, International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim Khan has firmly dismissed accusations that he equates the actions of Israel with those of Hamas, labeling such claims as “nonsense.”

This marks Khan’s first major interview since announcing his intent to request arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders.

Khan clarified his stance, emphasizing that he does not consider Israel, with its democratic framework and supreme court, comparable to the terrorist group Hamas.

“I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas, of course not. I couldn’t be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us,” Khan stated.

In response to an Israeli official’s inquiry about locating hostages, Khan drew a parallel with the UK’s handling of the IRA.

He referenced various terrorist incidents involving the IRA, including assassination attempts and bombings, noting that despite these, the British did not resort to indiscriminate bombing in populated areas known for IRA activity. “You can’t do that,” Khan asserted.

Khan also shared his personal commitment to the issue of hostages, revealing that he wears a blue wristband with “Bring Them Home” inscribed on it and carries a dog tag dedicated to Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage at nine months old.

“This would break anyone’s heart,” he remarked. “There are Palestinian babies dying and we cannot have double standards.”

Addressing the potential issuance of arrest warrants, Khan stressed the global community’s responsibility to enforce them. “If states don’t step up, it has massive implications,” he warned.

“The ICC is their child — I am just the nanny or hired help. They have a choice to look after this child or be responsible for its abandonment.”

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