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At an American Jewish conference in Tel Aviv, protesters are driving the energy



TEL AVIV (JTA) — At a marquee conference of American Jewish leaders that kicked off tonight in Tel Aviv, the loudest cheers were for anti-government protesters, most of the energy could be found outside of the convention center’s gates, and the biggest news was who didn’t show up.

The General Assembly, the signature conference of the American Jewish organizational world, was meant to be a celebration of Israel’s 75th birthday and a testament to the enduring strength of ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Sunday’s opening event, the Jewish Federations of North America said, was meant to pay tribute to that relationship — and feature speeches by Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But in the face of loud protests outside the event, Netanyahu abruptly canceled his appearance on Sunday, citing a full schedule ahead of Israel’s Independence Day on Wednesday. Over the course of a series of speeches by international Jewish dignitaries, his name was not mentioned once.

Instead, both inside and outside the conference walls, the tone of the evening was set by the protesters. They gathered by the hundreds opposite one of the convention center’s entrances — and in smaller clusters around the building — giving the thousands American Jewish visitors a taste of the protest culture that has developed this year in Israel as huge numbers Israelis have taken to the streets to oppose Netanyahu’s sweeping proposals to sap the power of the judiciary.

From the stage, the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv was mostly business as usual — except that the prime minister backed out of attending. (Courtesy JFNA)

Protesters waved Israeli flags, chanted the word “democracy” syllable by syllable, and blew into small plastic horns whose blaring sound carried remarkably well —  permeating the walls of the conference plenary session. An entrepreneur standing at a card table was selling packages each containing a horn and a small Israeli flag for, depending on who asked, either 20 or 30 shekels (roughly $5.50 or $8).

The most direct route from the train to the conference was blocked off, owing to Tel Aviv’s ongoing attempts to build a citywide light rail system. So, with roads closed, the best way to get from the train station to the event was to follow the protesters — identifiable by the huge Israeli flags they carried or wore around their necks. Many were also pushing strollers or walking dogs.

“Israel must be a free democracy,” protesters chanted as attendees exited the event. “Please help us. Fascism shall not pass.”

Most of the protesters were gathered far from the gate where conference participants actually entered. But they got a shout out in the conference program as well. Julie Platt, the Jewish Federations’ board chair, drew a sustained round of applause and whooping from the 2,000 attendees when she spoke about how inspiring the protests were.

“What is clear is how passionate we all are about Israel and how central Israel is to our lives,” Platt said. “Its struggles our are struggles, its success is our success, and its debates are our debates. To the leaders of Israel, including those attending tonight, we stand united in our support of dialogue and broad consensus based on mutual respect.”

Then, she added, “To the protesters exercising their democratic rights, we see you, we hear you and we are inspired by your love of Israel.”

When the Jewish Federations last held the General Assembly in Israel, in 2018, Netanyahu sat onstage for a Q&A with the group’s chairman for more than half an hour. In Netanyahu’s absence this year, the night’s keynote speaker was Israeli President Isaac Herzog. His role is largely ceremonial, but he has been spearheading dialogue about the judicial overhaul — as well as issuing dire threats about what may happen if that dialogue fails.

Herzog repeated a version of those warnings Sunday night, portraying the debate over judicial reform as a cautionary tale about the dangers of polarization.

“The fierce debate over Israel’s direction in recent months is a striking example of the ways that alienation between different groups, and polarization that festers for years, becomes corrosive and weakens the pillars that hold our nation together,” he said. “I am convinced that there is no greater existential threat to our people than the one that comes from within.”

In his speech, Herzog announced an initiative called “Voice of the People” that will be aimed at fostering dialogue between Jews of differing opinions across Israel and the Diaspora. That initiative will be anchored by a conference he called the “Jewish Davos,” in a nod to the Switzerland-based annual economics conference that is seen as a global meeting of the minds.

“Nonpartisan, apolitical, Voice of the People will be a collaborative forum — one that can hold and reflect the full and diverse range of Jewish voices,” he said. “It will be a place where we can engage in serious, sensitive and strategic discussions on the most complex and pressing issues facing our people.”

If that conference happens, it would not be the first of its kind. Israeli President Shimon Peres, who served from 2007 to 2014, held an annual conference featuring famous names discussing hot-button issues. And historically, the federations’ General Assembly itself has been viewed as an ecumenical Jewish conference to discuss a wide range of issues.

Aside from that, the night’s program featured mainstays of traditional American Jewish gatherings celebrating Israel: a video with black-and-white stills from the country’s founding years, testimonials from Jewish immigrants to Israel from around the world, a performance by a musical group composed of Israeli soldiers. The conference will continue with a full day of sessions on Monday.

Near the end of the night, as the festivities were winding down, two people in the audience held up Israeli flags. One of them, in the corner, featured a quote from Israel’s national anthem that has become a protest slogan: “Free in our land.”

The post At an American Jewish conference in Tel Aviv, protesters are driving the energy 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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