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Why we’ll fight Israel’s new extremist political agenda with the determination of the Maccabees



(JTA) — The Book of Exodus tells us that the penultimate plague inflicted on Egypt, the plague of darkness, was one of the worst. The 16th-century Italian commentator Sforno, who lived in the aftermath of the Inquisition in Spain, wrote that the darkness went beyond the mere absence of light: It was a tangible darkness, a darkness you could feel. We can empathize as we feel the darkness of intolerance, hate, bigotry and zealotry today.

We kindle our lights during the eight days of Hanukkah to remember a time of darkness so bleak that the Maccabees, cruelly oppressed by Antiochus IV, could feel it. The Jews were a tiny minority in the expansive, ancient Greco-Syrian Empire. The Maccabees fought one of the earliest battles for religious freedom. Though they were vastly outnumbered, our ancient heroes remained courageous and determined.

Today, we recognize that no nation is immune to our era’s autocratic repression of democracy, human rights and civil rights. Battles against bigotry, hate and religious intolerance are being fought in too many places around the world, including in our beloved Israel. With the same determination as the Maccabees, we must fight for religious pluralism and equality in Israel with law and democracy as our weapons and drive out the darkness by bringing the light of equity, compassion and justice. 

Loud voices within the new Israeli government are distinguished by their hatred for those who are not like them: non-Orthodox Jews, LGBTQ+ individuals, Palestinian-Israeli citizens, Palestinians, immigrants  and others. The extremist political agenda of this new government is profoundly distressing, representing radical policy shifts that are antithetical to the core values of liberal Jews. We North American Jews can either walk away or lean in with all our might. 

Some maintain that because the values that used to bind Jews in the Diaspora to the Jewish State are being replaced with extreme ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox policies, it is time for liberal Jews to walk away from the Zionist project. This would be a terrible mistake: Zionism is more than what Israeli politicians say or do. Authentic Judaism is much more diverse and expansive than the restrictive definitions of the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. 

This is the moment for liberal Jews to fight even harder for the Jewish State envisioned in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Leaders of the new Israeli government are hoping that we will abandon Israel and allow them to create a new Israel that is divisive, tyrannical and tribalistic. This is why they fight us so bitterly at the Western Wall, and why they stymied the agreement that would have created an equitable prayer space at that holiest of Jewish sites.

We will not stand idly by while the most important project of contemporary Jewish life, the State of Israel, is led down the road of autocracy by extremists. Instead, we will renew our dedication to the State of Israel as a safe home for all her citizens and the democratic, pluralistic homeland of all Jewish people. We refuse to allow extremists to subvert religious equality in Israel. 

The Reform and Conservative Jewish movements are growing in Israel, showing that Israelis yearn for a Judaism that is egalitarian, relevant, evolving and morally rigorous.

The progressive Zionism we embody is not reliant on the politicians or parties in power; rather, it is tied to the diverse people of Israel and the bedrock values of “freedom, justice and peace” upon which Israel was built and are enshrined in its Declaration of Independence. This is a critical time to invest our energy and resources in growing the pluralistic Jewish communities in Israel. The Israel Religious Action Center, our Reform movement’s social justice arm in Israel, is one such institution that is lighting the way for that just, secure and pluralistic Israel we envision and hold in our hearts. 

Over the coming months, our Reform movement will bring thousands of North American Jews — teens, families, and adults — to experience the beauty and miracle of modern Israel while visiting and strengthening our allies throughout the land. The unity and security of the Jewish people matter immensely to us, and the well-being of the Jewish State is also our responsibility. These are two profound reasons why we will not stop standing up and fighting for the Israel we love.

We will not let the darkness overtake the light. The light shines brightly when we celebrate the many authentic ways our people live out their Jewish commitment. The light shines brightly whenever we are partisans for justice and compassion. As inaugural poet Amanda Gorman said, “There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” 

Let this be said of us — this Hanukkah and every day.

The post Why we’ll fight Israel’s new extremist political agenda with the determination of the Maccabees 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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