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I advocate for stronger yeshivas and nothing about that is anti-Orthodox – JTA News

Posted By on February 5, 2020

NEW YORK (JTA) What do murderous anti-Semites and yeshiva education activists have in common?

Nothing at all. But you wouldnt know that from recent comments by prominent members of the haredi Orthodox community, who have taken to connecting the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks to those who advocate for improved curricula at Hasidic yeshivas, including myself and others whose entire elementary and high school education took place within such schools.

In a recent opinion piece, Avi Shafran, spokesman for Agudath Israel, wrote that yeshiva critics contribute to very real animus toward Orthodox Jews.

At the recent Unity Rally in downtown Manhattan, with 25,000 in attendance, Orthodox community activist Chaskel Bennett gestured to our small group of activists and told the crowd that our efforts to improve yeshiva education were as dangerous to the safety and well-being of my community as the threats we are rallying against here today.

That same week, New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger asserted in a speech that those who stand with yeshiva graduates pushing for reforms are responsible for an influx of anti-Orthodox hate.

An article in the Daily Wire by an Orthodox writer suggested that we are intent on destroying Orthodox communities, and that our efforts are as much an existential threat as the madmen who storm their grocery stores with guns and rush their homes with machetes.

Were these comments offered by just an eccentric figure or two, we might write them off as isolated remarks. They would probably strike most readers as utterly absurd, even comical, if they werent so vile or about a subject so serious.

However, these are not fringe voices but part of a coordinated vilifying campaign against yeshiva critics by prominent and mainstream voices in the haredi community in a clear attempt to silence us.

It is telling that some of these writers have chosen to refer to me as Nicholas (a name I have never used) rather than Naftuli, clearly intending to portray me as an outsider whose message is invalid and irrelevant.

It is Shafrans piece that is the most troubling. In his op-ed, he claims that I called Orthodox Judaism crooked and absurd, relying on comments I made about particular stringencies in the haredi world and taking them wildly out of context.

Shafran and I certainly disagree on many things. I disagree with him that non-Orthodox rabbis are akin to vermin. I disagree with his organizations official position that one should consult a rabbi before reporting suspected cases of sexual abuse to authorities. I disagree with Agudath Israels position that Conservative and Reform Jews will be relegated to the dustbins of Jewish history. And I disagree with remarks made at an Agudah event that claimed the Jewish congressmen involved in the impeachment proceedings are responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism in America.

But let us be clear: The real issues are not Shafrans abhorrent remarks about those with whom he disagrees. The real issue, from which Shafran and his colleagues would like to distract you, is the tens of thousands of Hasidic Jewish children being denied an education, in violation of New York state law, and in violation of Jewish law the latter of which requires that a father must teach his son a trade.

His shameful tactics are employed not only toward yeshiva advocates but also parents of the children for whom we advocate.

Shafran notes the high volume of comments from yeshiva parents opposing stricter oversight of private schools to ensure compliance with the law. What he fails to note is that yeshiva leaders have used misinformation and fear-mongering to compel yeshiva parents to submit comments to New York states education department bolstering the yeshiva leaders case.

Shafran then attempts to minimize a crucial city Department of Education report that found that of the 28 yeshivas reviewed, only two were fully providing the entire spectrum of mandated secular studies.

He points out that many New York City public school students are failing to achieve proficiency in math and English, too. But what Shafran ignores is that a school with the necessary curriculum even if students do poorly on exams is still better than a school that does not teach the core subjects at all.

Shafran also fails to point out that the citys abysmal findings took 4 1/2 years to produce after Mayor Bill de Blasio stalled the investigation in order to appease haredi constituents. As for the handful of schools that have shown some improvement, the evidence suggests, in fact, that this was largely in response to Yaffeds advocacy on the issue.

Shafran suggests that my own persistence in bringing the issue to wider awareness proves that I couldnt have been harmed by my own grossly deficient yeshiva education. Thats like saying Malala Yousafzais successful efforts on behalf of girls in Pakistan are proof, ipso facto, that the issues facing them do not exist. For one so keen on touting the superior critical thinking skills produced by a yeshiva education, such faulty reasoning is all the more conspicuous.

By vilifying us, such writers hope to silence us and by silencing us, they hope to maintain the decades-long educational neglect that has gone on in many Hasidic yeshivas, where secular studies barely suffice for students to reach adulthood with basic English literacy.

The claim that our work leads, directly or indirectly, to attacks against Jews is at once dangerous and perverse. To make such an argument in the service of further depriving children of a basic education is a mind-numbing and cynical exploitation of recent tragic events. Jewish leaders and the general public would be wise to recognize this and call out what is plainly an attempt to exploit tragedy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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I advocate for stronger yeshivas and nothing about that is anti-Orthodox - JTA News

As defense chief, Lieberman railed against ultra-Orthodox draft evasion. His office gave them deferments – Haaretz

Posted By on February 5, 2020

Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman depicts himself as a leader of efforts to curb draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. He even scuttled the formation of two coalition governments over the issue, but a Haaretz investigation found that, while he was defense minister, his office arranged military exemptions for hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men.

Lieberman denies the allegations, but according to the accounts, his term as defense minister, from 2016 to 2018, was a golden age of sorts for well-connected ultra-Orthodox men seeking to avoid the draft. The beneficiaries of access to Liebermans office at the Defense Ministry were said to have included the sons of politicians, rabbis and other well-known figures from all the streams of the ultra-Orthodox world Hasidim, non-Hasidim, Sephardim and even members of the Jerusalem Faction, who were violently demonstrating at the time against conscription of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. In addition, oversight of draft deferments provided to Haredi, ultra-Orthodox, draft-age men became less strict during the period.

This is the same Lieberman who on Sunday of this week tweeted that ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Knesset member Uri Maklev is trying to cover up for the draft dodgers and the [efforts of] ultra-Orthodox parties to squeeze money out of the state budget at the expense of the health system, young couples and soldiers. And last week, Lieberman wrote: Ive just seen rioting by ultra-Orthodox from the Jerusalem Faction at the entrance to Jerusalem. In the next coalition government, we will ensure that funding goes to health and to soldiers and not to yeshivas and yeshiva students.

According to various sources, Avi Abuhatzeira, Liebermans adviser on ultra-Orthodox issues, used to send his requests for draft exemptions directly to Meitav, the military unit responsible for the screening and placing draftees. If this is true, it constitutes a serious breach of regulations, military sources said.

Liebermans denial

Liebermans office vehemently denies the allegations. The former defense minister never intervened in any case relating to draft exemptions, not even through a hint, his office said. As with requests from the rest of the public, requests from the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community on issues involving the draft are dealt with without interference, in accordance with decisions made at professional levels.

Lieberman denied the allegations on Monday, saying, "the Office of the Defense Minister, even if it wanted to, does not have the ability to hand out exemptions." Referring to the ultra-Orthodox, Lieberman said, "they're worried that they might wind up outside of the coalition and budget committee and won't get what they're used to getting. So they're using all the lies, fabrications and obscenities they can. It's all kosher. This is stupidity and a lack of understanding."

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According to the accounts by sources who spoke to Haaretz, Abuhatzeira, who was not only an aide to Lieberman but also a confidant, was the key player in the arrangement. He is said to have received the various requests from Haredim and was involved in obtaining exemptions on an almost daily basis. During Liebermans tenure, the offices of all of the ultra-Orthodox members of the Knesset passed along dozens of requests for exemptions to Liebermans office and in most cases, Abuhatzeira was successful in obtaining a draft exemption, the sources said.

The Knesset members themselves or their office aides would contact Abuhatzeira by calling him directly, by leaving him a message or by email, and he would immediately get on it, said one source. It was routine. No one was hiding it. Abuhatzeira was really like part of the Haredi parties, the source added.

Among those whom Abuhatzeira assisted were the son of an ultra-Orthodox politician and a man well-known in the Haredi community who had submitted forged documents to the army and who later received a medical exemption from the draft after Abuhatzeira intervened.

The cases Abuhatzeira worked on that I was aware of were very complicated, said a source from outside the army. They were cases in which the chances of getting an exemption without intervention were nil.

Associates of Abuhatzeira said he had permission to work directly with the office of the head of the armys planning and personnel management division, which referred him directly to Meitav. But other sources disputed that he had direct access to Meitav.

Abuhatzeira received permission to speak directly with Meitav maybe once or twice, and even then he had to provide a full report to the higher-ups, a source insisted. If Abuhatzeira was sitting for entire days at Meitav headquarters in violation of regulations, that would be a serious mishap.

A source who had served in very senior positions in the army said that he hadnt been aware of Abuhatzeiras activities in real time but had noticed that Abuhatzeira was very involved in issues involving ultra-Orthodox conscription.

He was warned several times to work in an organized, transparent fashion, the source said. The senior staff was aware of his dominance on the issue of Haredim, and the orders were that he should deal only with the senior officers and not with lower-level commanders. He was warned about this many times. Abuhatzeira wasnt supposed to get anywhere near the Meitav headquarters and if he did so, it was very irregular.

Lt. Col. Revivo

From information that has reached Haaretz, it emerges that Abuhatzeira was not working with any kind of approval from the military and directed his requests primarily to Lt. Col. Tzachi Revivo, who is now a colonel and who at the time was the deputy commander of Meitav. According to various accounts, Liebermans aide visited Meitav headquarters on a regular basis in connection with his requests.

I saw Abuhatzeira around our office a lot, said someone who had worked at Meitav headquarters. He would deal with all kinds of things here. We were dealing then with all kinds of stories about Haredim.

Another source who worked at Meitav at the time claimed that there was an understanding among the top brass of the army, coming from Liebermans office, that ultra-Orthodox representatives have an open door to the army.

Revivo also met with Lieberman at least once at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv. No other army officer was present at the meeting and Revivo had not obtained permission from his superiors to meet with the defense minister.

This is the first time that I have heard about such a meeting, a former senior officer in the armys manpower division said. Every army commander who wants to meet someone from the political echelons must get the approval of everyone above him, up to the office of the chief of staff. Revivo never received such approval.

Both Revivo and Lieberman deny that the meeting took place. Lieberman doesnt remember the name Tzachi Revivo or whoever you are talking about, Liebermans office said. It is possible that he attended one of the many discussions that took place at the defense ministers offices. Nevertheless, someone who worked in Revivos office confirmed that the meeting did indeed take place.

Another measure of Liebermans offices activity was the number of draft exemptions issued by special decision, meaning that they were provided for reasons other than the usual grounds, which would include having a criminal record or a medical problem.

Lieberman was defense minister from May 2016 to November 2018. Data obtained by Haaretz show that in 2016, 64 yeshiva students received special exemptions; in 2017, there were 45; while in 2018, the number more than tripled to 158. Last year, after Lieberman left the ministry, the number dropped to 82.

The Israeli army spokesman said in response for this article: Meetings between Israeli army officers and the political level and its advisers are conducted under orderly army regulations and require a hierarchy of approvals. Meetings that are not approved in this manner are not acceptable, and if they took place without approval, that would be a mishap. The Israeli army will investigate the claims made in the report in depth and the results of the examination will be presented to the chief of staff. The lessons will be drawn and, to the extent required, disciplinary action will be taken against those involved.

For his part, Abuhatzeira said: Like the thousands of other requests received by Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermans office during his tenure requests that came from every sector of the State of Israel the requests that are the subject of the report were dealt with seriously and were referred to the professionals for consideration. And everything was done with the approval and the authority of the professionals.

Along with the exemptions for well-connected Haredim, during Liebermans tenure, the army granted hundreds of exemptions to members of the extremist ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem Faction, even as Lieberman was repeatedly railing against the factions demonstrations. In February 2017, for example, after one demonstration, Lieberman commented: The very existence of these demonstrations protesting enlistment in the Israeli army and trying to undermine the authority of the state is unacceptable, he said. We will work with the options open to us at the Defense Ministry so that those participating in this ongoing incitement against the Israeli army dont benefit from any concession, benefit or cooperation.

Drying up the pool of deserters

According to sources within the Jerusalem Faction, army deserters and others who never reported to induction centers to declare their status as yeshiva students received military exemptions by mail without any explanation. A former senior army officer confirmed this and explained that it was not the doing of Liebermans office.

This decision was a professional one, he said. Lieberman actually opposed the move, but we decided to dry up the pool of deserters. According to the source, there were also deserters who were not ultra-Orthodox who received similar exemptions, but the Haredim also got other concessions. Nevertheless, according to another source, Abuhatzeira and Liebermans office made use of the decision. Abuhatzeira asked the Haredim to calm things down and stop igniting the streets, explaining that he had lists [of names] and that they would be granted [draft] exemptions, the source said.

During those years, many aspects of the process of obtaining draft deferments were made easier. Instead of requiring that young Haredim come to a local enlistment office to declare their yeshiva student status, army representatives began holding open houses in ultra-Orthodox communities, where the draftees could submit their deferment requests. Later on, yeshivas began submitting the final deferment papers on behalf of their students.

A document obtained by Haaretz shows that at the beginning of 2018, the army began granting other concessions: The conditions under which yeshiva students could travel abroad were eased somewhat, and it was decided that a yeshiva student caught working in violation of his draft deferment would not be immediately drafted, but instead would be put on probation for three months.

Senior army officers recognized the contradiction between Liebermans declared policy and his actual practices. The order and the spirit of the instructions we received from his office were that we would deal with those who cooperate with us, but crack down on those who resist, said one officer. But in fact, while there was close cooperation with the mainstream Haredim, the Jerusalem Faction, which opposed any cooperation with the army, also received concessions.

The Jerusalem mayors race

Liebermans cooperation with the ultra-Orthodox community was more overt in Jerusalem mayoral races in recent years. The Yisrael Beiteinu leader made efforts to get his associate Moshe Leon elected mayor. As part of that effort, in the run-up to the 2013 election, Lieberman met with the head of the Jerusalem Faction at the time, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, to persuade him not to support a mayoral candidate of his own.

Channel 12 News reported that Lieberman explained to the rabbi that he supported cancelling Jerusalems Gay Pride parade. Seated next to Lieberman was Avi Abuhatzeira, who at some point asked those present not to record the meeting.

In the 2018 municipal election, Lieberman was successful. Leon was elected Jerusalems mayor, in part as a result of close cooperation with the ultra-Orthodox parties. According to reports in the Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom dailies, Leon and Arye Dery, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said that in return for their cooperation, Lieberman had promised to promote a milder version of a conscription bill that would be acceptable to all the Haredim.

Lieberman denied the reports, but several sources told Haaretz that Lieberman had indeed made such a promise.

On this issue too, Abuhatzeira was working behind the scenes, meeting on several occasions to discuss the bill with Jerusalem Rabbi Baruch Soloveitchik, who is responsible in the non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox community for issues relating to military conscription.

At the time, Soloveitchik is said to have told one of the Haredi candidates for Jerusalem mayor, Yossi Daitch, that he could not call on the public to support Daitch because support for Moshe Leon as mayor would result in a more lenient conscription bill.

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As defense chief, Lieberman railed against ultra-Orthodox draft evasion. His office gave them deferments - Haaretz

This Tu B’Shevat, cleanse the mind through ‘forest bathing’ – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on February 5, 2020

When she faces a big life or career decision, Samantha Kanofsky seeks advice from the trees.

For example, after graduating from Pomona College with a degree in environmental studies in 2009, Kanofsky moved back to her hometown of Berkeley. The financial crisis had hit, and she felt lost. So she began wandering around the Berkeley Hills.

I would spend hours just praying, singing, crying, thinking about my life, she told J. in an interview. I had some really powerful experiences out there.

Those experiences reinforced her desire to work outside in nature and not in a climate-controlled office. Today, the 32-year-old runs her own company called SoulLight Counseling and Communications, which she describes as communication coaching and nature immersion for fast-paced individuals and organizations.

One of the services that Kanofsky offers is leading workshops based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which roughly translates to soaking in the forest atmosphere. On Feb. 9, she will lead a forest bathing workshop as part of Wilderness Torahs Tu BShvat in the Forest program in Redwood Regional Park. Feb. 10 is Tu Bishvat, a minor Jewish holiday concerning trees.

According to Kanofsky, her workshops provide participants with an opportunity to bring a question or challenge in their lives to a tree and open themselves to the counsel of the tree, as if the tree is a rabbi, she said.

Im not the first Jew to do this, Kanofsky explained, noting that forest bathing is similar to hitbodedut, a style of self-secluded meditation practiced by Hasidic Jews, often outdoors.

The key to the experience is to sit quietly and notice the thoughts and feelings that arise organically, she said. She tells first-timers and skeptics: Dont pressure yourself to have some revelation. Just be open and listen in a new way.

Research has shown that spending time in nature has measurable health benefits, Kanofsky said. She cited a recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter that found that people who spent at least two hours a week in natural environments like parks reported better physical and mental well-being. Kanofsky sees ecotherapy as an antidote to the goal-oriented, screen-addicted lives that so many lead.

I think in this day and age, people are so busy and so inundated with information and communication that the chance to sit silently without a mission, without a task to be done, to just like sit and receive the beauty of forest atmosphere and to really connect with your soul and to hear from your higher self is in and of itself transformative for people, she said.

Born in Berkeley and raised in Pleasant Hill, Kanofsky comes from a family of healers; her mother, who is half Korean American, half Jewish, is an acupuncturist, while her Jewish father is a psychologist. Her younger sister is also a therapist.

Dont pressure yourself to have some revelation. Just be open and listen in a new way.

When she was a child, her parents were early participants in a Jewish Renewal havurah with other families called Shir Neshamah, and Kanofsky fondly remembers taking camping trips with the group. At Pomona, she was involved in climate change activism. She also spent a semester abroad at the Arava Institute in Israel, where she learned about permaculture and greywater reuse techniques.

That semester was the first time she lived in really close contact with the Earth. Upon returning to the United States, she vowed to do something with my hands in the dirt.

She also credits her Korean grandmother with inspiring her ecotherapy practice. My grandmother, who I was very close to, would talk often about food as medicine, she said. She was a critic of Western health care and how overprescribed we are. (She said her grandmother survived lymphoma after refusing chemotherapy and changing her diet.)

Kanofsky said she did not set out to cater specifically to the needs of Bay Area Jews, but she sees the population as a launching pad for her practice because thats my community.

Since August, Kanofsky has partnered with the Oakland (Temescal) Moishe House to lead hikes on Shabbat. Dee Granberg, 29, a resident of the house, said she appreciates how Kanofsky really fully embraces the woo, but also doesnt take it too seriously. She does a great job of weaving together secular mindfulness as well as this specific Japanese practice with Jewish mystical practice.

Granberg had a mystical experience on a recent Shabbat hike at Strawberry Canyon. She said she saw patterns on trees and the texture of leaves on the trees in a way I hadnt really done before. It was super powerful.

Another participant, Courtney Fuller, said that the hike helped her begin to process her grief over the loss of her grandmother and best friend the previous month.

I approached the giant tree, closed my eyes, and hugged my Grandy through it as tight as I possibly could and in that moment, I felt a giant sense of relief, and an even greater sense of release, she said. Of Kanofsky, she added: Her calm voice and mindful direction helped inspire everyone on the hike to lead with their hearts, which made me feel safe as I was experiencing something extremely raw in their presence.

Moving forward, Kanofsky said she is excited to lead her first teen night hike on Feb. 22. Where did that idea come from? From the trees, of course.

Kanofsky explained: Im sitting with this big old oak tree and thinking, God, what am I going to do next with SoulLight? And I got this really clear message. Youre gonna lead a night hike for teenagers.

Working with teens feels especially important, she said, because thats a generation that in particular has grown up with screens and a lot of social media and it feels like a really potent chance to introduce them to another way of connecting with each other and with themselves.

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This Tu B'Shevat, cleanse the mind through 'forest bathing' - The Jewish News of Northern California

Hidden stories of the Yiddish Press –

Posted By on February 5, 2020

How do cultural myths homogenize individuals within that culture? How do we express the variance within American Jewish culture? If youre Eddy Portnoy, the solution lies within existing and unheard histories of Jewish identity.

On Jan. 30 in the Smith Memorial Ballroom at Portland State, the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies held the 15th annual Solomon Memorial Lecture. The guest lecturer this year was Eddy Portnoy, senior researcher and director of exhibitions at the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research. Portnoy has several published works, but his most recent endeavor is his book Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press.

Portnoy began his graduate research at Columbia University, where he found copies of an old publication from the 1920s called The Yiddish Press. It was there that he discovered how many stories went untold in Jewish popular culture. Portnoy realized that many traditional Jewish narratives are based on a very repetitive story of Jewish immigrants coming to America, starting their businesses from nothing and eventually making their way to a successful and assimilated American life. According to Portnoy, there were no stories representative of stupid jews, meaning there were only stories of objective success, a hard and somewhat unattainable idea.

What was found by Portnoy in The Yiddish Press, however, was a multitude of stories that deviated from traditional Jewish narratives. The title Bad Rabbi is actually a chapter in Portnoys book about a Hasidic rabbi who comes to America and marries a woman for money, despite already being married, then having to go through a very long and begrudging trial to try to not end up in prison. Other stories in the book include a Jewish drag queen, a wrestler, several murderers and a tattoo artist.

The intent of publishing all of these stories in Portnoys book was to try to represent instances of Jewish cultural diversity. Portnoy said, a lot of Jewish-American historiography within the last century is full of Jewish immigrant success stories. Portnoys book highlights what he calls Jewish immigrant failures where a long series of trial and errors is brought to the forefront of each story.

Portnoy brings up a very valid pointthat becoming a success story is a very constraining pressure that is put onto many immigrants, not just Jewish immigrants. It is a pressure that can cause a single homogenous story, one that not everyone can identify with. The pressure to be considered a success or successful can also create cultural stereotypes, and not accurately represent a culture and the people who identify with that specific culture. What Portnoys book shows the public is that it is okay to create your own narratives in a culture that you identify with. Nobody is perfect, and thats not a bad thing.

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Hidden stories of the Yiddish Press -

How Zionism Keeps us in the Game – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on February 5, 2020

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

{Originally posted to the Abu Yehuda website}

Anshel Pfeffer, a very smart guy and one of the few writers that regularly appears in Haaretz who is worth reading, does not believe in Zionism. He doesnt oppose it, he just thinks talking about it is a kind of category mistake:

You cannot be either a Zionist or an anti-Zionist, just as you cannot be a veteran of Iwo Jima unless you were born at least 90 years ago and fought in that battle. Zionism isnt an ideology. Its a program, or an ideological plan, to establish a state for Jews in the biblical homeland. And that program was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when David Ben-Gurion declared Israels independence at the old Tel Aviv Museum. Thats it. Done.

believing that on the whole, founding the State of Israel was the right thing to do, doesnt make you a Zionist any more than thinking that Oliver Cromwell was right to overthrow King Charles, makes you a Roundhead. It simply doesnt matter what you think about long-ago events you didnt take part in. Israel is a reality and its not going anywhere.

As a consequence, he thinks that the World Zionist Congress is a waste of time and money, as are almost all other Zionist organizations, including those like the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund that are closely entwined with the government of Israel.

Hes right about those organizations, but hes wrong about Zionism. There absolutely is such a thing as Zionist ideology, a set of basic principles that Zionists believe. And here they are:

Pfeffer points out that there were religious and secular, socialist and revisionist Zionisms, and this was true before 1948, and its still true today. But all of them affirm the principles above. The existence of factions doesnt negate the truth behind an ideology. After all, these are Jews we are talking about.

One neednt be a Jew to be a Zionist. Agree with the principles above and you are a Zionist, regardless of your own religion or peoplehood.

Pfeffers criticisms of Zionist organizations are on target: diaspora Jewry no longer needs to subsidize the thriving state of Israel, nor does it need to support bloated bureaucracies that carry out functions that could more transparently and simply be handled by the government, like vetting new immigrants under the Law of Return or planting trees in Israels forests. These organizations are vestiges of the pre-state struggle to maintain and grow the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. We should get rid of them.

But he conflates the bureaucratic excrescences of a long-accomplished program to create a state with the ideology that gave rise to the program and which is the reason for the continued existence of that state. That ideology and that state are under continued attack today. Israel isnt going anywhere, he says, but there are many who would like to see it changed beyond recognition, in particular by denying the part of proposition 2) above which says that the Jewish state must be more than just a state with a Jewish majority.

Attacks on Zionism center on the inescapable fact that no matter how careful Israel is in ensuring the civil rights of all its citizens which Israel does relatively well, given the circumstances that insistence on more than just a Jewish majority represents a degree of ethnic privilege. There is a Law of Return for Jews and not for Arabs, and it is an essential part of a Jewish state, as are the symbols of the state, its official language, its holidays, and so forth.

Its not only Israels enemies who oppose Zionism. There are patriotic Israelis who love their country, pay their taxes, and have fought in Israels wars, who believe that Israel ought to be nothing more than a state of all of its citizens, Jew and non-Jew alike. That is an anti-Zionist position.

Zionism is a form of ethnic nationalism, and in todays intellectual climate, forged by the European wars of the 20th century, nationalism is considered incompatible with liberal democracy. However, Israel is a special case, because the Jewish people are a special case. The Jews are unique in history for maintaining their identity both in their homeland and in exile from it for several millennia. The Jewish people are the paradigm case that defines our conception of a people, and antisemitism is the paradigm case for understanding ethnic hatred.

Zionism didnt appear from nowhere. It was the considered answer from Herzl and others to such phenomena as the failure of European liberalism to extend emancipation to Jews and to end the scourge of Jew-hatred. The truth of Zionism was emphatically demonstrated by the Holocaust, in which Jews were murdered by the millions by members of what was, in some ways, the most highly developed culture on the planet.

The Jewish peoples historical narrative, expressed in the Torah which can be appreciated by any educated Jew, even those who do not pray three times a day or even ever set foot in a synagogue is a story about the relationship between Hashem, the Jewish people, and the land of Israel. This is who we are, the people who were given this land to be their home as long as they behaved themselves. You dont have to be observant in the traditional sense to be moved by the basic idea. It is the glue that holds us together as a people.

The conversion of the Jewish state to a pure liberal democracy would be a tragedy for the Jewish people even if it didnt lead to Israels transition away from a Jewish majority state. It would rip us away from our narrative and I believe begin the final disappearance of the Jewish people from the world stage.

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How Zionism Keeps us in the Game - The Jewish Press -

Scribblings: How the Soviets promoted openly antisemitic anti-Zionism – Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council

Posted By on February 5, 2020

In this column in January 2017, I discussed some research done on archived KGB documents by noted Israeli investigative journalist and author Ronen Bergman. Basically, Bergman showed that during the Cold War, Soviet efforts to support the Arab war on Israel and spread extreme propaganda demonising Israel and Zionism were not simply cynical efforts to gain Arab support and damage the interests of US allies.

The documents suggest KGB leaders were sincere believers in the worst sort of antisemitic conspiracy theories, including believing in the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, openly speaking of the global Jewish conspiracy, and insisting Zionists were secretly behind anything negative affecting Soviet interests, such as the increase in US-USSR tensions following the election of Ronald Reagan as US President in 1980.

As I also noted, Soviet propaganda lies behind many of the extreme claims about Israel and Zionism found on the international left today Zionism as a uniquely evil form of imperialism and colonialism; claims that Zionists both collaborated with the Nazis and exhibit behaviour similar to Nazism; beliefs that Zionists and the Jewish Lobby control Washington and other capitals, the media, and international finance, etc.

Now the American blogger Elder of Ziyon (a tongue-in-cheek nom de guerre) has uncovered some new details about how these Soviet-promoted racist beliefs were disseminated. He notes a recent column in a Jordanian newspaper by anti-Zionist writer Marwan Soudah in which Soudah recalls the importance in Arab intellectual circles in 1970, of a book written by the martyr of thought and the word, Yuri Ivanov, entitled Beware of Zionism!. . I remember that these books were distributed in Amman for free and on a large scale to the pioneers of the Soviet Cultural Centre

The Ivanov book in question, called in English Caution: Zionism!, was one of the most seminal and widely distributed works of official Soviet anti-Israel propaganda.

And as Elder of Ziyon demonstrates through extensive quotes, it went beyond spreading the usual claims about Zionism being a tool and agent of imperialism; a form of colonialism and racism deploying fascist methods which is also able to censor the international media, and engaging in endless atrocities including widespread use of paid hirelings to organise the elimination of people refusing to serve the Zionist interests.

The book is also very openly antisemitic, blaming the Jews as a whole for the supposed crimes of Zionism because Judaism is an arch-reactionary and racist faith, as in this quote:

What lies behind this protracted and deliberately confused uproar? Is it but another example of the open racism of the Zionists? Partly yes, but the heart of the matter lies elsewhere. The arch-reactionary nature of the Jewish faith has long been no secret one has only to open the Bible for ones eyes to fall on numerous racist sentences. Even less of a secret is the racism of the Zionist leaders, for after all that was what they started from.

In other words, contemporary left-wing anti-Zionism is not only tainted with antisemitism because rejecting self-determination for the Jewish people, alone of all the worlds national groups, is inherently discriminatory. It has also been enmeshed with unequivocally antisemitic beliefs about Jews from its very origins, such as the widely disseminated Soviet propaganda of the sort illustrated by Ivanovs screed.

A Smoking Gun

There are still people insisting there is no firm evidence Iran has been trying to make nuclear weapons. They say Iran denies it is doing this, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has never said unequivocally that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons (no, but IAEA inspectors have reported mountains of evidence of Iranian actions that can only be explained by the pursuit of nuclear weapons). They cite US intelligence reports from a few years ago saying Iran had not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons (Iran was pursuing all the components of a nuclear bomb what it had not yet decided was the exact timeline to turn those components and capabilities into a deployable weapon).

In truth, there are lots of smoking guns proving Iran has been illegally trying to develop nuclear weapons but one has just been published that should convince anyone who is not absolutely determined to deny any and all evidence of Irans nuclear intentions. (And there are people out there who would continue their denials even if Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came into their living room and physically showed them a nuclear device.)

A document from the Iranian nuclear archive captured by Israel in 2018 was recently shown to a fact-finding mission to Israel led by Canadas former foreign minister John Baird. While Bairds mission has not yet published its report, it released the document to Britains Daily Mail (Jan. 18).

It is, quite simply, a request, dated Nov. 28, 2002, from a senior Iranian nuclear scientist to the head of Irans nuclear project, asking for detailed parameters for designing a nuclear warhead to be placed on a missile.

There is no ambiguity in the brief document signed by Muhammed Nasiri, head of the Integration project of the AMAD program, Irans secret nuclear research program, and addressed to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of AMAD. It talks openly about warheads and it talks about missile trajectories. It does not say nuclear warhead, but AMAD did nuclear research, not missile design. The document proves unequivocally that Iran was trying to design nuclear warheads to fit on its missiles.

So can we now please finally drop the ridiculous pretence some people insist on that there is no proof Iran has been seeking nuclear weapons?

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Scribblings: How the Soviets promoted openly antisemitic anti-Zionism - Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council

Afghan Taliban Statements On Donald Trump’s Peace Plan For Palestine: ‘Zionist Terrorists Are Supported By The Tyrants Of This Age (America)’ – Middle…

Posted By on February 5, 2020

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) has issued the following two statements opposing the peace plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

"The Radical Zio-Crusader Leaders Like Benjamin Netanyahu And Donald Trump Should Know That Palestine Is Not Forgotten By The Rest Of The Ummah"

Excerpts from the January 30, 2020 statement:

"Our Holy Prophet [Muhammad] Peace Be Upon Him said, as narrated in [the books of his traditions] Muslim and Bukhari:Believers in their mutual love, compassion and mercy are like one body; when any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever (Bukhari).

"It is for this reason that today the troubles of Muslims living in Palestine are the troubles of everyone who calls himself a believer. The conflict of Palestine, which began in the twentieth century, continues at a time when the filthy Zionists are getting the support of the tyrannical forces like America to continue their occupation of the Muslim lands in Palestine, a land holding the third most holiest site of Islam and the former Qibla of Muslims Bait al-Maqdis.

"The Zionist terrorists are supported by the tyrants of this age (America) who continue to work for destabilizing the middle eastern Muslim countries and for the past 53 years, the Muslims of Palestine have suffered and are struggling for their freedom against this Zio-Crusader oppression. The whole world is witness to the crimes and terrorism of the Zionists in Palestine who have ethnically cleansed and committed genocide against the Palestinian Muslims to usurp their homeland. They have taken the lands and destroyed the homes and mosques of the local Palestinians and have been killing them systematically in their own land. From adults to young children, no one has been spared and thousands of others are languishing in the concentration camps.

"The Trump administration has once again spared no effort to show its enmity towards Muslims by announcing a 'Deal of the Century.' The radical Zio-Crusader leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump should know that Palestine is not forgotten by the rest of the Ummah. The Muslims of Palestine are part of the Ummah and the Palestinian cause beats in the heart of every Muslim. The ridiculous deal announced by Trump with the Zionists is the defining feature of the occupation and terrorism of the Israelis with the backing of the Americans.

"The crimes of the Israeli establishment not only amount to war crimes under international law but are in violation of all the fundamental rights and principles of all the international laws. Therefore, all Muslim states in the world must raise their voices against this new Israel-American aggression at every platform because this transgression will further destabilize the entire middle east and pour fuel on the already raging fire. This must also serve as a wakeup call for every concerned Muslim who must strongly condemn such terrorism and show true solidarity with the Palestinian cause by targeting American interests through boycotts, protests and other means."

"The Afghan Nation Which Has Also Been A Victim Of War, Displacement And Occupation Understands The Pain Of The Oppressed Palestinians..."

Excerpts from the January 31, 2020 statement:

"For seventy years now, Palestine has symbolized what being oppressed and deprived of one's lawful rights look like. The Palestinian Muslims are the most oppressed nation on the face of the earth with 85% of their historical homeland (Palestine) forcefully occupied and more than half of its inhabitants forced to live as refugees in neighboring countries and across the globe.

"The Afghan nation which has also been a victim of war, displacement and occupation understands the pain of the oppressed Palestinians better than anyone else. But the world has yet to end their transgression against the defenseless Palestinians and [they] are still presenting proposals of occupying the remaining land of Palestine and snatching away what meager rights they still possess.

"The first transgression against the Palestinians occurred some seventy odd years earlier when a Zionist state was established through the occupation of half of the land of the Muslim Palestinians. Then in 1967, the Zionist regime occupied the remaining land of the Muslim Palestinians and took control over western [sic] Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) including Masjid al-Aqsa before beginning construction of illegal settlements on the Muslim lands."

"The Transgression Against The Rights Of The Palestinian Nation Is Oppression That Effects Humanity At Large And Must Be Prevented By Every Human Being"

"Recently, the U.S. president Donald Trump and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu announced the 'Deal of the Century' proposal with the sole aim of giving legality to the Zionist occupation of Muslim lands and specifically Bait al-Maqdis and depriving the Palestinians from ever demanding their rights in a court of law.

"If on the one hand the issue of the first Qibla of Islam (Masjid al-Aqsa) is the mutual cause and a religious responsibility that must be discharged by the entire Muslim Ummah, on the other, the transgression against the rights of the Palestinian nation is oppression that effects [sic] humanity at large and must be prevented by every human being.

"If there is even an iota of human conscious [i.e. conscience] left and the world is not governed by law of the jungle then this plot to exterminate an entire people must be opposed and the Palestinians not deprived from their basic human rights.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which has always expressed its religious solidarity and affinity with the oppressed Palestinians raises its voice in opposition against the current conspiracy and considers it a clear violation against Palestinian rights. The Islamic countries and all other parties that believe in the principles of justice must stop this oppression, occupation and transgression from taking a physical form."

Source: (Afghanistan), January 30 & 31, 2020. The original English of the statements has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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Afghan Taliban Statements On Donald Trump's Peace Plan For Palestine: 'Zionist Terrorists Are Supported By The Tyrants Of This Age (America)' - Middle...

Roytenberg: Register to vote in the World Zionist Congress elections – Canadian Jewish News

Posted By on February 5, 2020

The year 2020 is an election year. Im not writing about the American election, but about an election that should be of interest to Jews all over the world. In the coming months, elections will be held for the 38th World Zionist Congress (WZC). The Congress will meet in Jerusalem in November, bringing together representatives of Jewish communities in Israel, the United States, Canada and many other countries.

As many readers will know, the first Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 under the chairmanship of Theodor Herzl. It met yearly between 1897 and 1901 and then every other year from 1903 to 1913 and from 1921 to 1939. In 1933, David Ben Gurion campaigned tirelessly in Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Austria for the 18th Congress, and established a dominant position for Labor Zionism that was to last for the next 44 years.

After a hiatus during the Second World War, the WZC reconvened in 1946 in the aftermath of the Holocaust and played a critical role in the events leading to the creation of the State of Israel.

In 1951, the 23rd Zionist Congress enacted the Jerusalem Program, which holds that the State of Israel is the central unifying cause of the Jewish people.

With the State of Israel now approaching its 72nd anniversary of independence, what is the role of the Zionist Congress in todays world?

The World Zionist Congress is the governing body of both the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Because the majority of the members of the WZC are elected to represent Jews outside of Israel, the congress provides an avenue for Jews in Canada and elsewhere to have a voice in shaping Israeli society.

The WZO mission statement says the WZO strives to enhance the impact of Zionist ideology and activity in Jewish communities around the world, including Israel, both by working through shlichim of the Zionist Federations and their constituent bodies, and by influencing the agenda of the organized Jewish community, particularly through its involvement with the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Thus, the membership of the congress shapes the message that the WZO communicates back to the Jewish communities of the Diaspora as well as the way Zionism is understood in Israel itself.


JAFI was founded in 1929 in response to the establishment by the League of Nations of the British Mandate for Palestine, which called for the creation of a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. The Jewish Agency was the institution envisioned by the Mandate that would be responsible for creating the Jewish national home.

Today, JAFI continues to play an important role in the ongoing process of building the State of Israel into a place that is welcoming to all Jews. Their mission statement says they aim to create a new generation of strong leaders, build a thriving economy in Israel and provide meaningful opportunities for the global Jewish family to connect and engage.

In pursuit of this mission, JAFI runs social agencies for the elderly and the disabled. It provides affordable housing for the elderly, including Holocaust survivors, as well as for new immigrants and single-parent families. It provides support for at-risk youths, and operates museums, think-tanks, programs which promote aliyah and support olim, religious conversion classes and many other services.

You can learn much more about the WZO and JAFI by visiting their websites. By registering as a member of a recognized Canadian Zionist organization by the end of February, 2020, any Canadian Jew over the age of 18 can vote for the World Zionist Congress, which in turn gives you a voice in the direction of the WZO and the Jewish Agency.

Dont miss out on your chance to be heard. Join today.

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Roytenberg: Register to vote in the World Zionist Congress elections - Canadian Jewish News

FISCHBERGER: The Cognitive Campaign To Co-Opt Zionism – The Daily Wire

Posted By on February 5, 2020

In the United States, The Cognitive Campaign to Co-opt Zionism is in full force. This is a movement, sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional, consisting of one simple goal: The complete separation of Judaism and Zionism, which is the belief in the right of the Jewish people to a state in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel.

But what exactly is a cognitive campaign?

In the information era, war is often not waged in any physical space. Instead, the battlefield lies inside peoples hearts and minds where influence is the weapon of choice. As Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser and David Siman-Tov of Israels Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) explain: The purpose of the cognitive campaign is to cause target audiences to adopt the perception of reality held by the side wielding the effort, so that it can more easily advance the strategic and/or operational objectives that it sees as critical.

Campaign activists accomplish this via a wide array of tools, ranging from traditional diplomacy, mass media, social media, grassroots efforts, and so forth. Cognitive campaigns have become such powerful weapons in both domestic and international affairs that governments have created entire agencies to operate exclusively in the field of public perception.

However, the cognitive campaign to co-opt Zionism is one that is seldom discussed, likely due to the sensitivity surrounding the subject within the Jewish community. Jewish identity has many different characteristics. Some emphasize the community aspect of Judaism, others the religious aspect, and others the Zionist aspect. And in a society that puts such an emphasis on personal identity, it is galling to see broad swaths of the public, Jews included, disparage Zionists because of their beliefs. Many American Jews simply do not see Zionism as a legitimate component of Jewish identity. Unfortunately, it is often Jews themselves who take prominent roles in the campaign against Zionism.

The cognitive campaign to separate and redefine Zionism from Judaism is longstanding. For decades, Zionism has been compared, in some quarters, to colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy. In 1975, a shameful resolution was passed at the U.N. declaring that Zionism is racism (it was later reversed in 1991, but by then the damage was done). Today, this cognitive campaign is led by anti-Israel activists, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, and BDS supporters, who relentlessly promote misinformation that Israel is a non-democratic, oppressive, apartheid state.

In the digital age, almost everyone spends time on social media, where cognitive campaigns thrive, and where people live in echo chambers that oftentimes expose them to only one perspective on a given issue. When combining this one-sided social media exposure with the blatant lies constantly told about Israel in the media and academia, people fall victim to the illusory truth effect, which causes them to believe misinformation due to repeated exposure. If someone ignorant of the facts were to stumble upon all the terrible things said about Zionism and Israel, its no wonder he might distance himself.

This brings us to President Donald Trumps recent Israel-related moves. Part of the controversy surrounding the presidents actions is that they amplified the already fraught tension inside the Jewish community about the connection between Judaism and Zionism.

Take, for example, the Trump administrations declaration that Israels settlements in Judea and Samaria do not necessarily violate international law. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit the nail on the head when he stated that the declaration establishes the truth that we are not strangers in our land.

Then theres President Trumps executive order (EO) combatting anti-Semitism on college campuses an EO that many erroneously claimed would redefine Jews as a race or nationality. In fact, the EO merely enshrines that Jews will enjoy the same protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act as other racial, ethnic, or national groups. It also implicitly links Zionism with Judaism, by relying on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which stipulates that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (i.e., Zionism) is inherently anti-Semitic.

Of course, one cannot forget President Trumps statement regarding the American embassy move to Jerusalem, when he reminded the world that Jerusalem was the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times a fact which he reinforced in his newly unveiled vision for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

All these actions by President Trump not only reaffirm the connection between Jews and Zionism, but also subvert decades of the cognitive campaigns attempt to separate the two.

Make no mistake the cognitive campaign to co-opt Zionism is consequential for the Jewish people. Will large sectors of Jewish society continue to distance themselves from Zionism? Or will they re-embrace it?

The most effective way to combat this campaign is through what can be described as a Counter-Cognitive Campaign. Obviously, this campaign must spread some much-needed truth about Zionism as a legitimate national movement. Equally important, the campaign must clarify that although Judaism and Zionism need not always be conflated, they must not be disassociated from each other. Of course, not every Jew needs to consider Zionism a core part of his individual identity. We do, however, need to recognize that every Jew enjoys the right to identify as a proud Zionist and nobody can demonize him or her for that.

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FISCHBERGER: The Cognitive Campaign To Co-Opt Zionism - The Daily Wire

The Upcoming World Zionist Congress Elections – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on February 5, 2020

The World Zionist Congress consists of 500 delegates elected from around the world including the United States and meets in Jerusalem every five years to allocate some $1.1 billion in funds.

Since delegates typically vote in favor of allocations that support their delegate slates policy preferences, the makeup of the delegate body is crucial to the success of the various interests in play in Israeli society.

Thus, those interested in promoting yeshiva education, shmiras Shabbos, kashrus standards, the religious integrity of the Kosel, and halachic standards in marriage, divorce, and conversion, should look to elect delegates with a similar worldview so they can direct WZC funds to the appropriate supportive institutions.

The 38th World Zionist Congress is scheduled to meet this year from October 20-23 to decide on allocations. However, the election of delegates to the congress is taking place right now (it began on January 21 and ends on March 11).

In order to secure as much funding as possible for the promotion and protection of Torah values in Israel, a delegate slate called Eretz HaKodesh has been formed. It is being encouraged in its proposed work by numerous rabbanim including Rav Yitzchok Berkowitz, Rav Elya Brudny, Rav Chaim Kohn, and Rav Asher Weiss.

Those interested in making a positive impact on true Torah values in Eretz Yisroel are urged to go to to learn about WZC voting qualifications and how to cast a ballot. The process is straightforward and quite simple.

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The Upcoming World Zionist Congress Elections - The Jewish Press -

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