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Major Diaspora philanthropists warn of danger to Israeli democracy



(JTA) – They have donated untold millions to develop Israel and defend it from its detractors. Now, a group of major philanthropists in North America have come together to warn that Israeli democracy is in jeopardy as the new government seeks to overhaul the judiciary and grant itself veto power over Supreme Court rulings.

Fifteen major donors and charitable foundations, including Birthright co-founder Charlies Bronfman, released an open letter Sunday urging Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to reconsider his government’s plans and enter into a dialogue on the proposed judicial reforms as recommended last week by the country’s president, Isaac Herzog.

Netanyahu’s governing coalition has pushed the court reform legislation forward in the face of mass protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets. The proposed reform has also drawn criticism from legal scholars, public intellectuals and foreign leaders, including President Joe Biden.

“Because of our love for Israel, we are deeply troubled by this attempt to curtail the independence of the judiciary, one of the key features that makes Israel one of the most vibrant democracies in the world,” the donors’ letter reads.

In addition to Bronfman, the signatories include Adam Bronfman, the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, Lester Crown, Jeffrey Solomon, Marcia Riklis, Daniel Lubetzky, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Leichtag Foundation, Georgette Bennett, the Joyce & Irving Goldman Family Foundation, the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Joseph & Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, Dana Raucher, and Jeremy and Anne Pava — the founders of Micah Philanthropies. (Raucher sits on the board of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent organization.)

The letter argues that Israel’s political system lacks many of the checks and balances that exist in other countries, such as a bicameral parliament, making the Supreme Court’s independence an essential component of Israeli democracy. But the letter also says that some reforms to the court are needed.

“The only counterweight to the legislative and the executive is an independent judiciary, which — while imperfect and in need of improvement — plays a critical role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all Israelis and ensuring that the laws of the country are applied fairly and justly,” the letter reads.

It continues, “While we appreciate that judicial reform was a campaign issue and that many Israelis voted for the governing coalition hoping for changes to the country’s judiciary, we strongly believe that democracy demands discourse. Swift legislation without adequate dialogue can undermine the checks and balances that are at the core of Israel’s democracy, threatening critical relationships both within Israel (among Jews and between Jews and Arabs) and between Israel and the Diaspora.”

When the most right-wing coalition in Israeli history came to power in December, many Jewish philanthropists and communal leaders expressed concern over Israel’s future privately. But as time has gone on, tensions between the Israeli government and Israel’s backers in the Diaspora have increased.

A leaked policy memo from the party of a deputy minister in the Israeli government, for example, portrayed many American Jewish donors to Israel civil society as a nefarious force bent on imposing pluralistic values on Israeli school children. And while speaking at gatherings hosted by American Jewish organizations, Netanyahu and his Diaspora affairs minister, Amichai Chikli, have swatted away criticisms of the government’s decisions.

The letter is the latest in a mounting pile of open pleas from groups who say the proposed reforms threaten Israel’s future. Also this weekend, new letters were distributed by the Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism, 200 U.S. Jewish scientists and Arab Israeli leaders.

The post Major Diaspora philanthropists warn of danger to Israeli democracy 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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