(New York Jewish Week) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told an audience here that reports of the deaths of Israeli democracy are exaggerated, and urged American Jews to make their concerns known to the new far-right government rather than walk away.
“There are a lot of foolish words flying out in the air,” Bennett said last night in remarks at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan, referring to various proposals among newly installed Israeli cabinet members. “There’s a core of responsibility that will fend off the most radical of the suggestions, but to be fair, I don’t know.”
Speaking onstage with Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, Bennett appeared to be referring to two critics of LGBT rights in Israel, Bezalel Smotrich and Noam Party leader Avi Maoz, when he said, “No one’s going to touch the LGBT community in Israel. No one’s going to mess around with it. Israel is robust.”
Bennett, who served as prime minister from 2021 to 2022 in the rotation government that preceded Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in December, spoke at the Reform synagogue at a particularly tense time in Diaspora-Israel relations. Leaders of groups representing American Judaism’s largely liberal community have expressed deep concerns over proposals by Netanyahu’s new coalition partners to greatly expand Jewish settlement in the West Bank, curb minority rights and strengthen Orthodox control in matters of Jewish religious status.
Two weeks ago, Goldstein wrote a statement saying that he is “alarmed” by recent reforms, introduced by Israel’s newly installed justice minister, that would allow Israel’s parliament to override decisions by the Supreme Court and further politicize the selection of its justices. He implored Netanyahu to reject the overhaul.
On this too, Bennett sought to be reassuring. He criticized a Supreme Court that he said had “gradually usurped authority that it didn’t have,” but said that it needed only a “small little nudge” to address those concerns. “I smell a compromise coming,” he said.
“I recommend you enter a dialogue with the government” in Israel, he urged the audience. “Speak up and talk with the government. Israelis sometimes think the world revolves around Israel and don’t always see the broader view of Jews around the world and the world itself. I think sharing with the Israeli leadership, what’s going on and what it means and what the implications are, is meaningful. There are ministers who have never been abroad, so you are what you are experience.”
Bennett, who stepped away from politics last year ahead of the November election, also spoke at length about his efforts to broker a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine in the first months of Russia’s unprovoked war on its neighbor. Bennett asserted that in meetings with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president said he would no longer demand regime change and demilitarization in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Vlodomyr Zelensky told him Ukraine would “no longer want to join NATO, which was the very reason for the war.” Bennett suggested the negotiations fell apart because of Ukrainian objections. “I want to be cautious here,” he said. “The message [from Zelensky] was ‘we don’t want to run yet to ceasefire for various reasons…. Putin was an aggressor and he needs to pay the price.’”
Despite Bennett’s reassurances that Israel’s democracy remains robust, many audience members remained wary about the new government.
“I’m concerned about what I’m seeing in Israel,” said Asaf Jacobi, 39, who earned his law degree in Israel and served in its military. “They’re trying to unstabilize the checks and balances in Israel to the extreme. [Netanyahu] is clearly putting his interests over the country, and you can see people in the streets are really not happy with what’s happening. It’s too religious and too extreme.”
Debra Delorenzo, who has lived in the Upper East Side her whole life, said Bennett “did a wonderful job. He’s a good speaker and engages the audience.” And yet, she said, “I wanted him to address certain things and he skirted around it. I wanted him to talk about the occupation. I wanted him to talk about [Netanyahu] who I can’t stand. Israel is a democracy, but it’s losing it’s panache about it. It’s become more of an occupier. I love Israel, and I”m Jewish, but there are things going on there that [Bennett] didn’t address.”
One elderly woman, who declined to give her name, welcomed the political changes in Israel.
“We love the government,” she said. “And we think that the change in the judicial system should have occurred long ago.”
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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.
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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