- Danny Rubinstein noting that â€œrecent events we have been witnessing in Gaza are actually the disbanding of Palestinian ruleâ€? says that this self-disbanding is â€œPA’s only weapon against Israel, which will be forced to invade and fill the vacuum which the PA’s disappearance will leave.â€? (Haaretz)
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that those the killings of 19 Beit Hanun civilians in a November 2006 Israel Defense Forces artillery barrage should be prosecuted. “The lack of accountability for those firing Qassam rockets indiscriminately â€¦ as well as a lack of accountability for civilian deaths caused by Israeli military activity â€¦ resulted in a culture of impunity on both sides.” Tutu also complained that Israel repeatedly refused to give his team a visa and refued to give them a copy of the IDF’s report on the Beit Hanun shelling. (Haaretz)
- Human Rights Watch says that Palestinian combatant have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law: “The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple.” (The Jerusalem Post)
- The IDF, it is said, is much rougher on settlers than on other Jews. (Ynet)
- Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the notable religious Zionist rabbis, praises and supports the women who decided to do military service. But, he says, they are violating Halakha in joining the IDF. And, he adds: â€œin certain cases, girls are even permitted to evade service by making false declarations to the IDF about their religious beliefs.â€? (Ynet)
- Nehemia Shtrasler says that the IDF is getting too much money. (Haaretz)
- A look at one of the â€œmodern-day Ruths â€¦Lone soldiers (without family in the country) who are not halachically Jewish but are nevertheless passionately dedicated to Israelâ€? (The Jerusalem Post)
Yesterday Shimon Peres was elected the ninth president of Israel, while the Labor party voted Ehud Barak into it’s top position. While Peres’ position is more or less ceremonial, Barak’s return to significant leadership in the government marks an interesting shift.
After being disenchanted by the collapse of the peace process and the second intifada, Barak stayed away from the political scene until 2005 when he began to climb the ranks of Labor, again. There is no doubt in my mind that Barak’s perspective on both domestic and foreign affairs have changed since his term as prime minister.
I imagine that people will be keeping a close eye on how he interacts with Kadima as well as any further political ambitions.
- The ultra-Orthodox rabbinical court, Haredi Badatz, placed a curse on both the participants in the upcoming Jerusalem Gay Pride parade and the police officers who will be maintaining order: â€œ….. they will feel in their souls a curse, a bad spirit will come over them and haunt them, they will never be cleansed of their sins, from the judgment of God, in their bodies, their souls and their finances.â€? (Haaretz)
- Long Island residents who claim to be synagogue members say its rabbi â€œhas perverted the shul from a place of worship to a place of business for his own financial gainâ€? and have offered him $1 million just to walk away. But the rabbi insists that those who filed the suit were never members of the congregation, and wants to take a leader of the group, to a religious court — one with which he himself is affiliated. (The Jewish Week)
- Montrealâ€™s only community mikvah sent out official notice in February that it could no longer be used for immersion by any convert to Judaism. Rabbi Itche Meir Gurary, who has managed the mikvah since it was opened, insisted in that the new policy was to uphold the standards of absolute cleanliness: â€œIt used to be only a few converts a year, but now itâ€™s 80,â€? but critics say it was merely a pretext to keep Conservative and Reform converts out: â€œNon-Orthodox converts now have nowhere to go…It is not a private mikvah. It was built by funds raised by the community.â€? (Canadian Jewish News)
El Al has announced that it will be naming a new Boeing 777-200 after the town Sderot. Sderot has been the target of thousands of Kassam missiles launched from the nearby Gaza Strip. The other 777 plane will be named after Kiryat Shmona, a town devastated by mortar shells last summer during the war with Lebanon.
Really now. Would you want to ride on either of these planes?
“British organizations like the National Union of Journalists should be embarrassed,” read the ADL ad. “They’ve singled out Israel for boycott while ignoring the human rights abuses occurring every day in countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Venezuela.”
According to the ADL ad: “When British Unions single out Israel for boycott…That’s not activism. That’s Anti-Semitism.”
Maybe there is anti-Semitism beneath these boycott ideas. But the fact that Israel gets criticism that Sudan, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela don’t, doesn’t necessarily prove this to me.
Do we really want to compare Israel to these countries?
I, for one, certainly hold Israel — a democratic, Jewish state — to a higher standard than Sudan. Perhaps, the “Jewish” part of that is my privilege as a Jew, but as citizens of a fellow Western democracy, Britons may very well have the right to expect more from Israel than they do from a country like Iran.
I don’t support the boycotts, of course; and again, I’m open to the possibility that there is an undercurrent of Jew-hatred here. But maybe we should think twice before asking the world to expect no more from Israel than it does from Ahmadinejadville and Darfurland.
POVERTY AND WORK ISSUES:
- Workforce participation of Ethiopian men aged 22-64 has fallen substantially in the past 10 years. (Haaretz)
- Haredi women are being trained for work in advertising, a somewhat alien line of work, and it must be done with utmost caution: â€œit is best that there is no talk of the institute being a place that provides an education.â€? (Haaretz)
- Prof. Menachem Friedman argues for waiving all military requirements for the haredim, saying “If we concede to them completely on military service, many of them will leave the yeshivas and enter the labor force. I’m aware of the intense inequality in this proposal, but it is preferable to the existing situationâ€? (see second part of the article). (Haaretz)
- A Haredi journalist talks about despair and humiliation arising from poverty in the Haredi world. (Ynet)
RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION:
- Haredi schools which donâ€™t accept Sephardic kids seek to counter changes of discrimination by saying that the parents fail â€œto meet the “spiritual standards” of the school.â€? (Haaretz)
- The State of Israel has a Rabbinical Court system, which for its judges and legal aides, will hire only men. Naama Safrai-Cohen who â€œhas a master’s degree in Hebrew law and possesses extensive knowledge of Jewish fiscal and family lawsâ€? says this is discriminatory, and wants the job openings canceled until this is fixed. (Haaretz)
- In Israel, it can be difficult to fire women who have already become pregnant, so there are increasing reports of women who become fired once the employer learns that she is undergoing fertility treatments. During this time, legal protections do not apply. (The Jerusalem Post)
- Yannick Kamanan, a black soccer player for Herzliyaâ€™s team says. â€œRacist chants would greet me from the direction of the Maccabi stands each time I touched the ball.â€? Itâ€™s happened to others too, but he is the one who is complaining. (Ynet)
PEJE’s new study on the impact of Jewish day schools has garnered a fair amount of attention from the Jewish press. As our Editor-in-Chief noted, the report has mostly positive reviews for day schools.
Just a few months ago, the Avi Chai Foundation released a study on “Recent Trends in Supplementary Jewish Education,” which received far less publicity. While this report is not as bleak as some would predict, it gives voice to the many challenges that this sector of Jewish education faces.
Just a few of those issues:
- The shrinking number of hours students attend
- Parent priorities with other extracurricular activities (the “this is not real school” argument)
- Poor pay leads to mediocre educators
- Overemphasis on bar and bath mitzvahs
- Lack of national bodies to help centralize curriculum
As a former religious school teacher (I quit mostly because of the reasons listed above), I am concerned with the lack of resources devoted to fixing this sector of our community.
The majority of Jewish students in America will never attend day school. As the report reminds us:
Even many leaders who strongly prefer day schools as the optimal form of Jewish education acknowledge that, for the foreseeable future, a considerable number of Jewish families will rely upon supplementary schools to educate their children. Despite considerable efforts to recruit even larger number of non-Orthodox children to day schools, and the increased student populations enrolled in such schools, to date only a small minority of children from Reform households attend day schools, and fewer than 30 percent of Conservative households enroll their children in day schools.
I wonder whether people will rise to the challenge of reforming this age-old institution thoroughly enough to ensure the majority of Jewish children can contribute to the community?
I’m certainly not a Finkelstein devotee, but for some reason this whole affair depresses me.
ISRAEL–LAND AND RESIDENTIAL ISSUES:
- “We are being sent abroad, quite simply, to lie,” says a senior Israeli diplomat serving in a foreign country. “We meet foreign ministers around the world, tell them that building in the settlements has stopped,â€? when in fact, new units continue to be built and sold (e.g. in Amana), are in the pipeline (e.g. in Alon), or are being planned (Yakir, Revava and Karnei Shomron). (The Jerusalem Post)
- Linda Gradsteinâ€™s report on NPR, â€œWest Bank Landownership a Charged Issueâ€? (this is a sound file, click on â€œListenâ€?) (NPR)
- The tiny village of Dar al-Hanun has been there 80 years, but Israel insists that this is not a residential area, and prepares to tear up its 100 yard road. (Haaretz)
- An internal report by Israel’s Civil Administration finds that at least 25 percent of the structures built by Israelis in the West Bank’s Area C (full Israeli control) were constructed on private Arab-owned land, but only 0.5 percent of the illegal structures were constructed on land registered to Jewish owners. Enforcement is also much more lenient on illegal construction by Jews than by Palestinians. (Haaretz)
- B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel charged that Government policy in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron has forced thousands of Palestinian residents to abandon their homes and businesses and turned the area into a ghost town. (The Jerusalem Post)
- But Hebronâ€™s Jews call the report a pack of lies. (Israel National News)
- A Jewish family in the Nave Zeit neighborhood in Lod signed a contract selling his home to an Arab family, triggering continuing protests seeking to get the owner to change his mind. The Arab family had offered a higher price. (Ynet)
So while sitting at the offices of MyJewishLearning, we heard a knock on the door. Low and behold it was our friends at Chabad coming to see if anyone wanted to (or could be forced) into laying tefillin. The mezzuzah gave us away.
And as our Chief Operating Officer says, “They got me.”
As many Jews, both religious and not, may tell you, they feel irked when approached on the streets by a Chabadnik asking if they are Jewish or when hearing the melody of the Mitzva tank in the air. It can make even a confident Jew question his or her identity and practice.
But whether you like them or not, Chabad is widely successful at one of the community’s favorite buzzwords — outreach. And at least one more person put on tefillin than would have without their efforts.
Still, I feel left out. When will someone come knocking at my door asking if I’ve gone to the mivkah today?