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After weeks of silence, NY Rep. Ritchie Torres says he opposes Israeli judicial overhaul



(New York Jewish Week) — Rep. Ritchie Torres, the Bronx Democrat known for being an outspoken supporter of Israel, has issued his first statement on the country’s proposed judicial overhaul, writing that he is “pleased to see that the ‘judicial reforms’ have been put on pause.”

The statement, published last week as a letter in the Riverdale Press, a newspaper in his district, followed a meeting with a group of constituents led by an American Israeli. It was titled “Let cooler minds prevail here.”

For weeks, Torres was silent on the overhaul, even as other Democratic pro-Israel stalwarts in Congress made statements and signed letters opposing the legislation, which would sap much of the power and independence of the Israeli Supreme Court. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the legislation in the face of massive protests. It is due to return to the table next month, though what it will look like is unclear. 

“No legislature should have the ability to override a supreme court by a mere majority,” Torres wrote in the letter, which came out on April 7, the second day of Passover. “Even as a legislator, I recognize that the raw political power of a legislature should never be left unchecked.” 

He added, “I hope the present government will negotiate in good faith a compromise that preserves the independence of the judiciary.”

The letter was published days after Torres met with the group of constituents in his Bronx office on March 31. The meeting was organized by Ron Wegsman, a dual American and Israeli citizen who lives in Riverdale, a neighborhood in Torres’ district with a large Jewish and Israeli population.

“We came to him,” Wegsman said. “We got together and asked to meet with him. It was a very nice meeting. He was interested in what we had to say. We asked him to make a statement and he said that he would be happy to do so.” 

Wegsman added that he hoped for a statement from Torres given the close ties many constituents in Riverdale have to Israel. 

“What’s happening in Israel directly affects us,” Wegsman said. “It’s not something that’s happening on the other side of the world in some foreign country. Undermining of Israeli democracy would affect our families. We felt that this is something that is actually a concern of [Torres’] as a representative in the U.S. Congress, and that’s why we turned to him.”

Torres’ statement on the overhaul comes after weeks in which he refrained from opining on the legislation, even as other New York City Democrats with long pro-Israel records spoke out. 

Roughly a month ago, two letters opposing the overhaul were put out by Democratic members of Congress – one of which urged President Joe Biden “to use all diplomatic tools available to prevent Israel’s current government from further damaging the nation’s democratic institutions.” Torres was not among the 92 Democrats to sign it. Another letter came solely from the chamber’s Jewish Democrats.

Wegsman said that despite his public silence, Torres told the group “that any time someone asked him, he made clear his support for an independent judiciary in Israel.” 

The New York Jewish Week had reached out to Torres’ office multiple times in recent months for a comment on the judiciary reform, and did not receive a response. Torres likewise did not respond to a request for comment on his April 6 letter.

According to the campaign finance database Open Secrets, the American Israel Public Affairs Committe, the pro-Israel lobby, is a top contributor to Torres. While other major American Jewish groups have publicly criticized the judicial overhaul, AIPAC has stayed relatively quiet. In response to Netanyahu’s pause on the legislation, it praised Israel’s “showcasing its passionate engagement in the democratic process to determine the policies that will guide their country,” but it did not sign on to a collective statement by multiple groups praising the legislative pause.

In his letter, Torres also stuck to his pro-Israel bona fides praising Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system — and hinted at why he may have declined previous calls to join colleagues in criticizing the judicial reform. Support for Iron Dome “should, and must, remain unconditional,” he wrote.

“The usual detractors have been rushing to exploit the current controversy in Israel as an excuse for conditioning aid,” Torres said. “I reject these cynical attempts emphatically.” 

Wegsman said Torres’ sentiments on the judicial reform appeared to be genuine.

“We said to him, ‘We think you need to be more proactive and actually come out with a statement,’” Wegsman said. “He was very welcoming to us. We didn’t have to convince him. He said that it was clear that the override clause was totally unacceptable. We didn’t feel we needed to pressure him. It might be that he just had to hear it from constituents.”

The post After weeks of silence, NY Rep. Ritchie Torres says he opposes Israeli judicial overhaul appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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