(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.
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Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN
Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.
Bill Maher tells it like it is when it comes to what “the river to the sea” really means
Bill Maher cuts to the chase like no one else. Here’s a link to a segment from the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he exposes the total hypocrisy of the “useful idiots” everywhere chanting “from the river to the sea”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP-CRXROorw
Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg held a rally in support of Israel on Saturday evening, November 25.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.
Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg
Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed
Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs