Connect with us


Israel is turning 75. For American Jews, planning the birthday party has gotten complicated.



(JTA) – Like many synagogues have done over time, Congregation Kol Ami in Seattle is partnering with local Israelis to celebrate Israel’s birthday — a big one this year.

But Kol Ami won’t be holding a straightforward celebration for Israel’s 75th. Instead, it’s working with UnXeptable, a group of expat Israeli activists who have been protesting for months against the Israeli government’s plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary, for what they are calling a “family gathering honoring Israel’s democracy.” There, congregants will study Israel’s Declaration of Independence then sign a new copy to “rededicate” it.

“Most cities are just going to do a pareve 75th anniversary of Israel and not recognize the emotional reality of a lot of Israelis right now,” said Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, using the Jewish term for food that contains neither meat nor dairy — in other words, a safe option.

“We have all these people in our communities who are worried about their friends and family, and we’re just going to be folk dancing and eating falafel?” she asked.

Such is the dynamic at play as Israel celebrates a milestone birthday under the shadow of political and cultural turmoil that people on both sides of the judicial reform fight say could change the country’s character forever — and that has altered the relationship between American Jews and Israel.

Long hesitant to weigh in on Israel’s domestic affairs, many American Jewish groups and leaders, including rabbis, spent the past several months openly criticizing the country’s right-wing government for its effort to sap the power of the Israeli Supreme Court.

Now, with the judicial legislation on pause, many of those groups have turned their attention to Yom Haatzmaut, this year celebrated starting the evening of April 25, and the 75th secular anniversary of Israel’s independence on May 14. Jewish Federations of North America is supporting its 146 local federations in convening “Israel @ 75” programming, while synagogues of all denominations have planned an array of parties, study sessions and special events.

People gather to watch performers from the Independent Women Dance Troupe during celebrations marking Israel’s 73rd Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) in New York City’s Times Square, April 18, 2021.(Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The question facing all of them: With even Israel’s president warning of possible political violence, just how festive can this year’s birthday feel?

For Kinberg, the answer is clear: An uncomplicated party would be “sort of like celebrating the Fourth of July if we’re in the middle of a civil war.”

American Independence Day offers an instructive example for Rabbi Erez Sherman of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, too — but he has come to a different conclusion from Kinberg. He said his community celebrates Yom Haatzmaut the way most Americans mark the Fourth of July — without tailoring it to the current political headwinds.

“Are we going to spend it pointing at every challenge that Congress has?” he asked. “Or are we going to say, ‘This country is unique’?”

Temple Sinai is partnering with several local Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Pico Union Project and the Jewish Journal, for its weeks-long series of “Israel @ 75” events. Another sponsor is StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy group that is involved in Israel-at-75 celebrations in several cities.

Together, the consortium will host concerts, history lectures, art exhibits and special Shabbat services — and even if the complicated present is expected to come up, it won’t be a focus.

“While we can understand challenges, there is also time for celebrations and birthdays,” said Sherman, who oversees Israel programming at his synagogue. “Israel is not perfect, but a world without Israel would be a lot less perfect than it is now.”

Thousands of Israelis protest against the planned judicial overhaul at the Azrieli junction in Tel Aviv, April 15, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The balancing act has hit home this week for the umbrella group for North America’s Jewish federations, which is holding its annual convention in Israel next week — a plan that was set even before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected and formed his right-wing government last fall. UnXeptable called for the group not to feature Netanyahu, who has sworn to restart his push to pass the judicial reform measures. But Jewish Federations of North America rejected the call on Monday, saying that “the opportunity to hear from Israel’s duly elected president and prime minister is a symbol of Israel’s achievement.”

What’s clear is that American Jews interested in engaging with Israel on its 75th birthday will have no shortage of options, from food festivals, children’s carnivals and concerts to headier fare. Experts on Israel are in high demand, with packed schedules of live and Zoom events offering up seemingly unending choices for people with all levels of familiarity with Israel’s history and politics.

For some American Jewish leaders, some of whom have expressed concern about Israel engagement in their communities, the very density and diversity of the offerings is itself a win.

“That’s great that we are in a Jewish community that has so many different forms of expression,” said Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, executive vice president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, a think tank that is organizing its own series of Israel-at-75 events that begins with a talk at New York City’s Central Synagogue titled “Dispatches from an Anxious Nation.”

For some Jewish communal organizers, celebrating Israel and discussing its future as a democracy go hand in hand, a dynamic eased by the landmark year and its invitation to hold multiple events.

In Cleveland, for example, the Jewish federation is mounting an “Israel Fest” headlined by a concert from the Shalva Band, a group of musicians with disabilities who appeared on an Israeli talent show. But the community is also hosting Israeli journalist Matti Friedman, who has been critical of the judicial reforms, as a guest speaker.

The federation is offering small grants to any Jewish Clevelanders looking to host their own Israel at 75 events, too, and is placing very few stipulations on their content.

If grantees want to use the opportunity to talk about the fight for Israel’s democracy or even debate matters related to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, they can, said Ilanit Gerblich Kalir, assistant vice president of external affairs at the federation. If they just want to host “blue-and-white-themed parties,” she said, they can do that too.

“We have to celebrate what we’re proud of Israel for. There’s a lot to be proud of,” Kalir said. “But at the same time, part of connecting with Israel and part of what’s going on is affected by this country right now.”

The post Israel is turning 75. For American Jews, planning the birthday party has gotten complicated. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





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.

Continue Reading

Local News

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.)

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News