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Jewish federations come out against Netanyahu’s judicial reform in rare critique of internal Israeli politics



WASHINGTON (JTA) — In a rare comment on internal Israeli politics, the umbrella organization for local Jewish federations is urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to drop one element of his government’s controversial plan for judicial reform.

On Tuesday, the Jewish Federations of North America sent an open letter to Netanyahu and Yair Lapid, leader of the parliamentary opposition, opposing a proposed change that would allow a bare majority of Israeli lawmakers to override Supreme Court rulings. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has 120 seats, and one piece of the plan would allow 61 members to negate court decisions that strike down laws. Lapid opposes the plan.

It is the first statement by a large American Jewish umbrella group opposing the court reform. The proposed changes have sparked mass protests across Israel and warnings from a chorus of public figures that they will damage Israel’s democratic character.

Some elements of the proposal, though not the override clause, just passed a major legislative milestone in the Knesset. A bill approved in an initial vote on Tuesday would hand the Israeli government full control over judicial appointments and bar the Supreme Court from ruling on Israeli Basic Laws, the country’s closest parallel to a constitution. Following the vote, the value of the Israeli shekel plunged.

The group’s letter also encourages the parliamentary coalition and opposition to enter into negotiations over the content of the reform, as proposed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“We urge you to make clear that a majority of just sixty one votes of the Knesset is not sufficient to override a decision of the Supreme Court,” the letter said. “The essence of democracy is both majority rule and protection of minority rights. We recognize that any system of checks and balances will be different than those in our own countries, but such a dramatic change to the Israeli system of governance will have far-reaching consequences in North America, both within the Jewish community and in the broader society.”

In the past, the Jewish federations system and other American Jewish groups have taken action to oppose Israeli policies or proposals that could harm religious freedom or Jewish pluralism in Israel. The vast majority of North American Jews are not Orthodox, and federation leadership has worked in the past to counter measures that, in their view, could impinge on the recognition or rights of non-Orthodox Jews in the Jewish state.

Past actions on that front include convening nonprofits that work on religious freedom, lobbying the prime minister directly and — in the case of one federation leader — telling Israeli lawmakers who supported a bill to stay away from his city.

The federations’ letter does not include promises or threats of further action. But a separate statement by the Jewish federations’ CEO Eric Fingerhut and chairwoman Julie Platt suggested that they feared the court reform could hurt Israeli religious pluralism activists.

Passing the override clause would mean “complete power would be in the hands of each temporary majority created after each election,” said Fingerhut and Platt’s memo. “This concentration of power is a cause of great concern on many issues that North American Jews and our allies across the broader society have always cared about.”

The memo and the letter did not say which particular issues of concern would be affected by the change, but the court has been instrumental in protecting the rights of minorities, including non-Orthodox religious streams and the LGBTQ community.

The letter joins a growing list of public exhortations against the legislation from a wide array of groups and people. This weekend, new letters were distributed by the Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism, 200 U.S. Jewish scientists and Arab Israeli leaders. Some of those opposing the court reform are staunch defenders of Israel in other circumstances, including Bret Stephens, the conservative New York Times columnist; Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer; and Abe Foxman, the emeritus CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

Last month the head of the largest federation, UJA-Federation of New York, also expressed his alarm over the proposed reforms.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu again rejected a call to freeze the legislative process, a measure Herzog recommended, saying he would speak with the opposition but without “preconditions.”

The post Jewish federations come out against Netanyahu’s judicial reform in rare critique of internal Israeli politics 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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