(JTA) — More than 330 American rabbis, including some who occupy prominent roles in major cities, are pledging to block members of the Religious Zionist bloc in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government from speaking at their synagogues and will lobby to keep them from speaking in their communities.
An open letter now circulating says they will not invite members of the bloc “to speak at our congregations and organizations. We will speak out against their participation in other fora across our communities. We will encourage the boards of our congregations and organizations to join us in this protest as a demonstration of our commitment to our Jewish and democratic values.”
Netanyahu announced his proposed new government including the Religious Zionists late Wednesday, although its details have yet to be finalized.
Israeli government ministers sometimes speak at American synagogues to drum up support for their initiatives and ideas. It’s not clear if figures who are harshly critical of non-Orthodox Jews, as Religious Zionist leaders have been, would accept invitations from their synagogues even if offered. Nevertheless, the letter’s uncompromising tone and the breadth of the signatories is a signal of a burgeoning crisis in relations between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community triggered by the elevation of the extremists, who won 14 seats in the Nov. 1 election.
Its signatories come from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. There are no Orthodox signatories.
Among the signatories are current and former members of the boards of rabbis in Chicago and Los Angeles; rabbis who lead the largest Conservative and Reform congregations in the Washington, D.C., area; former leaders of major Reform and Conservative movement bodies; the current leader of the Reconstructionist movement; and the rector of the Conservative movement’s Los Angeles-based American Jewish University. The letter was organized by David Teutsch, a leading Reconstructionist rabbi in Philadelphia, and John Rosove, the rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel in Los Angeles.
The letter outlines five Religious Zionist proposals that it says “will cause irreparable harm to the Israel-JewishDiaspora relationship”: changing the Law of Return to keep out non-Orthodox converts and their descendants; eroding LGBTQ rights; allowing the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings; annexing the West Bank; and expelling Arab citizens who oppose Israel’s government.
How much of that agenda will make its way into governance remains to be seen. Netanyahu has said he is confident that he will be able to constrain some of the figures he plans to name to lead ministries.
Among these are Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been tapped to control the police and who has been convicted of incitement over his past support of Israeli terrorist groups and inflammatory comments about Israel’s Arab population; Bezalel Smotrich, who has been accused by Israeli security forces in the past of plotting violent attacks against Palestinians, and who will supervise West Bank Jewish settlements; and Avi Maoz, who has described himself as a “proud homophobe” and has called all liberal forms of Judaism a “darkness,” and who will have authority over some aspects of education.
A number of U.S. Jewish groups spoke out against including the extremist faction in the government while Netanyahu was negotiating with the bloc, and more have done so since he announced the government’s formation on Wednesday. They include the Anti-Defamation League, the major non-Orthodox movements, and the liberal Jewish Middle East policy groups Partners for Progressive Israel, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
Abe Foxman, the retired director of the ADL and a longtime bellwether of establishment Jewish support for Israel, said earlier this month that he is hopeful that Netanyahu can contain the extremists, but that “if Israel ceases to be an open democracy, I won’t be able to support it.”
Some organizations that spoke out in 2019 when Netanyahu considered a coalition with extremists were silent even as others sounded the alarm since the election, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. An AIPAC statement after Netanyahu’s announcement this week said, “Once again, the Jewish state has demonstrated that it is a robust democracy with the freedoms that Americans also cherish,” The Conference of Presidents has not issued a statement.
Orthodox groups have yet to pronounce on the new government. The Zionist Organization of America, which backs settlement building, has indicated it will support the new government.
The American Jewish Committee shifted its tone slightly from before the election, when it declined to speak out. In a statement after Netanyahu’s announcement, it sounded a note similar to Foxman’s, saying it would work with Netanyahu “to help ensure that the inflammatory rhetoric that has been employed by some members of the governing coalition — rhetoric unrepresentative of Israel’s democratic values, its role as a homeland for all Jews, and its unwavering quest for peace — will not define the domestic and foreign policies of the new government.”
The Biden administration has said that it will judge Israel’s government by its policies, not the individuals in Netanyahu’s cabinet.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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