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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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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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