Monday, February 20, 2017

Nikky Haley at the UN

What a refreshing approach! I just wish she was the President and not just the American representative to the UN. But I guess we should take what we can get. And with Haley we get a lot:


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here's Something to Feel Good About

Warmly regarded (Jewish girls at an NCSY event)
(JTA) – Jews are the most warmly regarded religious group in America, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, which was released Wednesday, found that Americans generally express more positive feelings toward various religious groups than they did three years ago.

As they did the first time the survey was taken in 2014, Jews topped the survey, in which respondents rank various religious groups on a “feeling thermometer.” On the scale of 1 to 100, 1 is the coldest and 100 the warmest; 50 means they have neither positive nor negative feelings.

Jews were ranked at 67 degrees, up from 63 in the 2014 survey, followed by Catholics at 66, up from 62, and Mainline Protestants at 65. Evangelical Christians stayed at 61 degrees.

Buddhists rose to 60 from 53, and Hindus increased to 58 from 50. Mormons moved to 54 from 48.

Atheists and Muslims again had the lowest ratings, but both still rose on the warmth scale. Atheists ranked at 50 degrees, up from 41, and Muslims were at 48, up from 40.

The authors noted that warm feelings toward religious groups rose despite a contentious election year that deeply divided Americans. “The increase in mean ratings is broad based,” according to the authors. “Warmer feelings are expressed by people in all the major religious groups analyzed, as well as by both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults.”

The random-digit-dial survey of 4,248 respondents was conducted Jan. 9-23. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Americans tend to rate their own faith groups highest, the survey found. Jews rated themselves at 91 and rated Muslims at 51, up from 35 three years ago. Jews rated themselves the highest compared to other groups; the next highest was Catholics at 83.

The survey showed a divide between older and younger Americans. While Jews received a 74 from respondents aged 65 and up, the age group’s second-highest ranking behind Mainline Protestants, respondents aged 18-29 ranked Jews at 62 and gave their highest ranking to Buddhists at 66.
Religious groups also were rated higher by respondents who knew someone from that religion. Those who knew Jews gave them a 72, and those who do not know any Jews gave them a 58.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Antisemtism - Alive and Well in Germany

Kristallnacht - Germany 1938
This story in the Jerusalem Post is an OUTRAGE! Who says Antisemitism is long gone from Germany. It seems to be quite alive and well.This is truly sickening! 

A regional court in Germany has decided that a brutal attempt to set fire to a local synagogue in 2014 was an act meant to express criticism against Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict with Hamas.

A German regional court in the city of Wuppertal affirmed a lower court decision last Friday stating that a violent attempt to burn the city’s Bergische Synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

Johannes Pinnel, a spokesman for the regional court, explained the court’s decision regarding the three German Palestinians who sought to firebomb the Wuppertal synagogue in July 2014. The court said in its 2015 decision that the three men wanted to draw “attention to the Gaza conflict” with Israel and deemed the attack not to be motivated by antisemitism.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 to stop Hamas rocket attacks into Israeli territory.

The court sentenced the three men – Muhammad E., 31, Ismail A., 26, and Muhammad A., 20 – to suspended sentences for tossing firebombs at the synagogue. and causing €800 worth of damage.

The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938.

Wuppertal has a population of nearly 344,000 and is located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The court noted that the men had consumed alcohol and there were no injuries to members of the synagogue.

A 13-year-old boy who lived near the synagogue and noticed the flames called the police. Several days before the fire, a person sprayed “Free Palestine” on one of its walls.

After the court’s ruling, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP, said the “attack on the synagogue was motivated by antisemitism” and blasted the court for issuing a decision stating that the goal of the attack was to highlight the war in Gaza.

“This is a mistaken decision as far as the motives of the perpetrators are concerned,” he said, adding that the burning of a synagogue in Germany because of the Middle East conflict can be attributed only to antisemitism.

“What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict? Every bit as much as Christians, non-religious people or Muslims in Germany, namely, absolutely nothing. The ignorance of the judiciary toward antisemitism is for many Jews in Germany especially alarming, ” said Beck.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rex Tillerson on Israel

Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson (WJD)
When Rex Tillerson was one of President-elect Trump’s candidates for Secretary of State, I was a bit worried about his views with respect to Israel. Mainly because I had no clue what the position of this wealthy chairman of Exxon-Mobil from Texas - actually was. I could find no record of any statement by Mr. Tillerson on this subject.

Since people in the oil industry are not known for their sympathy toward the Jewish state - they might tilt more towards a natural ally  - the oil rich Arab states.

I was therefore hopeful that the any of the other candidate’s on Trump’s short list would be chosen. Their record was public and clear. They were all known to be strong and outspoken supporters of Israel. More than any past Secretary of State has been since Israel’s creation.

To my dismay at the time, it was indeed Rex Tillerson that was chosen. But my fears have just been allayed by Mr. Tillerson’s testimony before congress yesterday. It appears he joins the other distinguished group of candidates for the job. His support for Israel is just as strong as theirs. And he has now made his view public. From World Jewish Daily:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, told a senate committee during his confirmation hearing that the U.S. must “recommit” to its alliance with Israel.

According to YNet, in a barely concealed swipe at the outgoing Obama administration, Tillerson slammed the recent United Nations Security Council resolution condemning settlements as “not helpful” and likely “undermines” the possibility of peace talks.

He also slammed Secretary of State John Kerry for his speech bashing Israel shortly after the vote on the resolution, which the U.S. failed to veto.

“The secretary’s speech, which followed that UN resolution, I found quite troubling because of the attacks on Israel and in many ways undermining the government of Israel itself in terms of its own legitimacy and the talk,” Tillerson said.

He made it clear that Trump’s policy toward Israel will be quite different, saying, “We have to recommit … that we’re going to meet our obligations to Israel as our most important strategic parter in the region.”

He added, “Israel is, has always been and remains our most important ally in the region,” he said. “I think in the Trump administration, the president-elect already made it clear and, if I’m confirmed, I agree entirely and will support (Israel).”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Message to Rabbi Marvin Hier

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (JTA)
Message to Rabbi Hier: Do not succumb to pressure by the misguided . Please do not insult the incoming President of the United States by backing out of your commitment to be one of six clergymen selected to offer a benediction at his inauguration ceremony.

I wish these people would stop being so high on themselves. They may think they have the moral high ground here by protesting Mr. Trump at every single opportunity. But they do themselves and the Jewish people no favors by constantly showing how much thy hate the new President.

I have no proof of this. But my feeling is that most of these people are of the progressive social engineering mentality that never saw a conservative politician they liked. That they are protesting Trump so often in ways that they have never protested any other conservative politician is because they now feel they have license to do so. Why? Because Mr. Trump's rhetoric has been so terrible and worthy of condemnation all by itself. Even to some of his supporters. So they feel they can get away with it, without people discovering their true agenda.

But it's just excuse - an opportunity that they can get away with. They can bash him much more freely for the real reasons they hate him: his conservative political views.  

I have no respect for people that will not give the legitimately elected President of the United States a chance to prove himself before he even starts... and protests him every chance they get asking people to boycott his inauguration. Even his election opponents will be there... Republican and Democrat. People that clearly did not vote for him: The Clintons... The Bushses... They understand that every freely and democratically elected official should get the chance to serve the people that elected him. There will be plenty of time to protest him once he is in office. Now is not that time. And those that do so expose themselves for who they really are: Leftist fascists!. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Palestinians: Israel is the Wrong Target!

Sultan Abu Al-Einein of the Fatah Central Committee. (screenshot - Jpost)
Memo to Fatah: I don’t understand your logic. The US is moving its embassy to Jerusalem and you attack the Jews?! You should be attacking the US! From the Jerusalem Post:

The Palestinians will start a new violent uprising if Donald Trump's incoming White House administration relocates the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior Fatah official indicated this week in an interview translated by MEMRI

"I believe that any American act of stupidity will ignite the Palestinian territories," Fatah Central Committee member Sultan Abu al-Einein told Egypt's Alghad TV on Sunday. 

Al-Einein, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also pointed to Israeli "arrogance" and settlement activity along with the potential US maneuver as provoking Palestinian violence.

"We must prepare for a confrontation with the new US administration, which has clearly and audaciously declared that Israel and its settlements are legitimate and legal," he asserted. 

The Palestinian official charged that Washington and Jerusalem "will bear responsibility for the return of the bloodshed in the Palestinian territories."

The Trump team has said that the US president-elect considers moving the embassy a "very big priority." 

Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump repeatedly said he would move the US Embassy if elected – a political promise past US presidents have frequently made, yet has never been held. 

Longstanding US policy is to treat the status of Jerusalem as an issue to be settled in final-status negotiations with the Palestinians.

Trump's pledge to move the mission has been met with mixed reactions from Israeli officials.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has questioned whether it would be wise for Trump to prioritize moving America’s embassy upon taking office. Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has backed the potential move as "a great step for peace."

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Story I Thought I'd Never Read

Jared and Ivanka
From Politico:

At the intimate, light-brick synagogue in Georgetown, members don’t fuss over their famous-for-Washington congregants. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew prays at Kesher Israel just like everybody else in the tight knit Modern Orthodox community.

And when longtime Kesher congregant Joe Lieberman became the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, the shul addressed a unique question in order to accommodate him: Could practicing traditional Jews pass through magnetic detectors without violating the strict rules of Shabbat? No, ruled Kesher’s rabbi at the time. Congregants would need to be swiped by wands, so that the Secret Service would do the work that observant Jews couldn't.

But even for a congregation accustomed to dealing with power brokers, the potential arrival of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is being treated as something extraordinary.

The possibility that influential members of the first family could attend services at Kesher next year — the only Modern Orthodox synagogue servicing downtown D.C. — has become the premier topic of conversation at Shabbat dinners, and among members gossiping after services.

Nobody is certain where Trump and Kushner, who comes from a devout Orthodox family and typically observes the Sabbath, will ultimately end up. A source close to Ivanka Trump said the couple has yet to decide where they will attend synagogue. They will be choosing from several Modern Orthodox synagogues in the area. They could settle in Potomac, Maryland, and attend Beth Sholom, or they could head to Silver Spring and join the Kemp Mill Synagogue.

But many Kesher members assume their shul is the front-runner because of its central location, prestigious reputation and experience handling famous congregants. It is Washington’s answer to the establishment congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side that Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend regularly. Plus, Kesher’s most direct Washington competitor, Ohev Shalom, is seen as a long shot after its rabbi blasted Donald Trump as a bigot earlier this year.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner will make history next month as the first members of a presidential family who are practicing Modern Orthodox Jews. They observe the Sabbath, walk to synagogue regularly and attend services on the High Holidays. The eldest of their young children, who is 6, is expected to attend a Jewish day school, according to a source close to the incoming first daughter. 

The question now gripping the Washington Jewish community is where the Kushner-Trump family will build out the community necessary to live a traditional Jewish life, as the family decamps from its Trump-branded building in Manhattan to serve as West Wing advisers.

The community is buzzing over all the potentially awkward scenarios that Ivanka Trump and Kushner may confront in the Washington area, where everyone's livelihood seems to be politics.

Kesher members can't help but wonder: Will Kushner really sit in the wooden pews next to Norman Eisen, the former Obama ethics czar who has been railing against Donald Trump’s ethics conflicts and who has publicly questioned his fitness for office?

Will the most powerful first daughter in history occupy the small area on Kesher’s
second floor where VIP women, like Hadassah Lieberman, have prayed before her? Will the Trump-Kushner family spend the high holidays with Kesher member and writer Leon Wieseltier, who recently penned an op-ed in The Washington Post imploring Americans to "stay angry" about Trump’s election?

A source close to Ivanka Trump denied a report Sunday that the family had inquired about membership at Ohev Shalom, a synagogue in Shephard Park whose rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, protested Trump when he delivered a speech in March at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington. “This man is wicked,” Herzfeld stood up and proclaimed, before being escorted out of the arena by security. “He inspires racists and bigots. He encourages violence. Do not listen to him.”

The source close to the couple said the family “never heard of that rabbi and never inquired about that synagogue."

The couple declined to comment on the search.

For families connected to Kesher Israel, according to interviews with half a dozen members, many have mixed emotions about praying next to the first family of the most divisive incoming president in history. They are torn between deep discomfort and some excitement at getting a close-up look at two of the most powerful people in America.

But for the most part, even Trump’s fiercest critics said they would welcome Kushner and Ivanka Trump into their community and check their politics at the door.

“We have a concept in traditional Judaism of muktseh,” Eisen said in an interview. “Money is muktseh, something forbidden on the Sabbath. Before Shabbat, you take your money, your cellphone, you put it aside. Politics is muktseh. I would welcome them exactly the same as I would any other family that wanted to join our community.”

Eisen, who has publicly defended Kushner for walking to Trump Tower on a Saturday for emergency transition-related work, added: “For what it’s worth, I think the two of them are among the more moderate voices advising the president-elect.”

That they are considered modifying influences on Trump helps in the Jewish circles that are preparing themselves for close contact with the Trump-Kushner family.

But even for people willing to check politics at the door, some are concerned about their relatively quiet synagogue becoming the eye of a political storm.

“This is a disaster,” said one anxious, liberal Kesher Israel congregant who declined to speak on the record.

For now, the congregations are staying mum, protecting any conversations they are having with the Kushner family with the seriousness of doctor-patient confidentiality.

“I can’t say whether they have contacted us or not,” said Elanit Jakabovics, the
president of Kesher Israel. “Congregant interactions are private.”

But Jakabovics said she expects that even the more liberal members of the community would accept Trump’s adult children. Since it is the only full-service Modern Orthodox synagogue in downtown Washington, D.C., members also don’t have the luxury to leave as an act of political protest.

“Whether it's Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner or anyone else coming to D.C. to work or visit," said Jakabovics, "Kesher's community is open to all."
And some members are pitching Kesher as the place for VIP Jews, in part because they’ve handled all the related issues before.

“What’s great about Kesher Israel is we’ve had people in the past with Secret Service, vice presidential candidates, and everyone is treated the same,” said Robbie Diamond, a member of the synagogue and the founder and CEO of Securing America’s Future Energy. “We’re used to having people like that. We don’t fuss over those people, so they feel comfortable going.”

Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also old pros at socializing with liberals who dislike the president-elect’s style and substance. So far, they have preserved their personal brands and relationships.

One potential drawback is that Kesher is still operating with an interim rabbi, as it searches for a replacement for Rabbi Barry Freundel, who plunged the community into scandal in 2014. Back then, the scholar was found spying on women with hidden cameras as they undressed to enter the mikvah, a ritual bath.

Freundel is now in jail, but the scandal still hangs over the shaken community, which also seems almost happy for a new kind of spotlight. And some of Kesher’s most prominent members are hoping that the synagogue could be an outlet for Kushner and Ivanka Trump to take a step away from the work of the administration.

“People focus on individuals and not political leanings,” added Diamond. “At Kesher, you can also enjoy friends and people as people — not just what defines them during the week, or by what they believe.”