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Prominent Jewish leaders add to drumbeat of criticism of Israel’s new government

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A slate of 169 prominent American Jews, including former leaders of major mainstream Jewish organizations, called on U.S. politicians not to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism, a signal of worsening relations between the new far-right Israeli government and the U.S. Jewish community.

The statement Wednesday signals increased anxiety among Jewish leaders about how to maintain support for Israel when it is led by a government promoting policies alien to the values of an overwhelmingly liberal American Jewish community. It also departs substantially from a pro-Israel community that has sought to label various forms of criticizing Israel as antisemitic.

It comes just days after 134 historians of Jewish and Israeli history, based both in Israel and the United States, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of threatening the country’s existence through his agreement to far-reaching reforms advocated by his coalition partners on the far right.

It also comes just weeks after hundreds of rabbis from Reform, Orthodox and Conservative congregations said they would not allow extremist ministers in the new Cabinet to address their congregations and would encourage their Jewish communities to boycott them as well.

The statement by the prominent American Jews addresses the newly installed Congress, and anticipates increased U.S. Jewish criticism of Israel because of the new government in Jerusalem. Among its signatories are past leaders of mainstream Jewish organizations that have traditionally shied from Israel criticism, among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish federations system, as well as past leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements.

Notably absent are current leaders, who have been reluctant to speak out about new members of the Israeli government who want to greatly expand Jewish settlement in the West Bank, curb advocacy for minority rights and weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.

“As the 118th Congress begins its work, we believe it is important to state our concerns — which are widely shared by supporters of Israel here and around the world and by a significant number of Israelis — regarding some of the policies proposed by members of Israel’s new government,” the statement says.

It lists among those policies proposals by Netanyahu’s new government to weaken the independence of the judiciary, add restrictions to the Law of Return determining Jewish immigration, restrict non-Orthodox religious practice in Israel and expand Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank.

“Our criticisms emanate from a love for Israel and a steadfast support for its security and well-being,” said the statement. “Some will try to dismiss their validity by labeling them antisemitic.” Instead, the statement said, the criticisms “reflect a real concern that the new government’s direction mirrors anti-democratic trends that we see arising elsewhere — in other nations and here in the U.S., rather than reinforcing the shared democratic values that are foundational to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

The statement notably appends a guide to detecting what is and isn’t antisemitic in discourse about Israel that differs markedly in its emphasis from a definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The IHRA definition, which pro-Israel organizations have sought in recent years to introduce into legislation in the United States and elsewhere, focuses on Israel criticism that its authors deem antisemitic; the guide attached to Wednesday’s statement focuses instead on criticism of Israel that does not merit being called antisemitic.

“Mistaking political disagreements about Israel for antisemitism is counterproductive,” it says. “It diverts the debate away from the substance to whether something is — or is not — antisemitic. It hinders policy debate about Israel. It distracts from addressing real instances of antisemitism and bigotry.”

The guide issued alongside the statement also says anti-Zionism and Israel boycotts may in some instances not be antisemitic, a sharp difference from ministers of the new Israeli government who say unequivocally that those things are always antisemitic.

“Boycotting goods made in the West Bank and/or Israel is not antisemitic unless it specifically singles out Israel because of its Jewish character,” said the statement. Anti-Zionism can be antisemitic if it specifically denies the Jewish right to self-determination or it employs an antisemitic trope. But opposition to Zionism in and of itself is not necessarily antisemitic.”

Among the signatories are Tom Dine, the executive director of AIPAC in its period of massive growth in the 1980s; Alan Solow, who chaired the Conference of Presidents during the Obama presidency; Rabbi David Ellenson, the former president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the chancellor emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Other signatories include Rabbi David A. Teutsch, the former president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi David Saperstein, formerly the longtime head of Reform’s Religious Action Center; Joel Tauber, a former chairman of United Jewish Communities and the United Jewish Appeal, and Joe Kanfer, a former chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Earlier this week, a slate of 134 historians of Jewish and Israeli history in Israeli American universities accused Netanyahu’s new government of “endangering the very existence of the State of Israel and the Israeli nation.” The statement said Netanyahu and his allies are dismantling the protections against government overreach that Israel’s founders deliberately put into place.

“Israel can be likened to a ship sailing the high seas,” the  statement says. “The current government is taking out the keel, consciously dismantling the state’s institutions.”


The post Prominent Jewish leaders add to drumbeat of criticism of Israel’s new government appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

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.

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Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25

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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.

Ben Carr

Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg

Marty Morantz

Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed

Gustavo Zentner

Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs

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