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Jewish leaders fear ultra-Orthodox Jews have missed isolation message – The Guardian

Posted By on March 28, 2020

Jewish leaders are concerned that messages about the risks of Covid-19, and the need to isolate and keep social distance, are not reaching pockets of the ultra-Orthodox community who rarely engage with the media and have limited access to the internet.

Two members of Londons ultra-Orthodox community died of coronavirus at the weekend, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said. But in Stamford Hill, an area of north-east London with a large Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, population, some synagogues are still open.

The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations circulated guidance at the end of last week saying women, children and elderly and weaker men with health disabilities should not go to synagogues, but it did not extend the advice to healthy men. Schools and places of religious education should shut, the guidance said.

Almost all synagogues have been closed for more than a week, with many livestreaming services and celebrations. Kosher shops have put social distancing policies in place, and synagogues and other Jewish organisations have stepped up efforts to provide assistance to elderly and vulnerable people.

Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, who lives in Stamford Hill, said most people were heeding the messages about physical distancing. The issue Im concerned about it is that the government is, to a certain degree, abdicating responsibility. People need to be told.

He conceded that some in the community were not following advice. But Im not quite sure why attention is falling on us, he said, pointing to the actions of young people in parks and other faith groups that are still meeting for worship.

However, Levi Schapiro of the Jewish community council (JCC) in Stamford Hill said some synagogues in the area were still open because the government advice was weak.

The JCC was working hard to get the message to stay at home out there. Were running adverts, were posting in Hebrew and Yiddish on social media, and there are four cars driving round the streets as were speaking, broadcasting messages through loudspeakers. Its a very big operation.

But the government message is nowhere near explicit enough. If you want us to shut down completely, tell us and well shut down.

In the north-east of England, home to the UKs fastest-growing Haredi population, the community has effectively gone into shutdown, said Jonathan Klajn of the Gateshead JCC.

Its very upsetting. The synagogues are at the heart of community life, but the rabbis, community leaders and doctors met, and with a single voice they said: Weve got to lock the doors.

Symptoms are defined by the NHS as either:

NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms shouldstay at home for at least 7 days.

If you live with other people,they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. But, if anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start.Even if it means they're at home for longer than 14 days.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine.

If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.

If you still have a cough after 7 days, but your temperature is normal, you do not need to continue staying at home. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

Staying at home means you should:

You can use your garden, if you have one. You can also leave the house to exercise but stay at least 2 metres away from other people.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, use theNHS 111 coronavirus serviceto find out what to do.

Source:NHS Englandon 23 March 2020

So far weve put three community bulletins through peoples doors, signed by rabbis and doctors, saying: Dont take chances.

The message is really being hammered home. No one is suffering from a lack of information. One person told me that he never normally listens to the radio, but hes tuning into the prime ministers press conference every day.

One person monitoring the response of the Haredi community said people had received the message but they havent yet internalised it. Going to the shul [synagogue] three times a day is so ingrained in the psyche that theres no frame of reference to behave otherwise.

A video circulating among ultra-Orthodox communities shows Yitzchok Kornbluh from Stamford Hill saying that, despite the risks, shuls were full, mikvaot [ritual baths] were full. Where is the seichel [common sense] of those who went to shul today?

Ephraim Mirvis, the UKs chief rabbi, ordered the closure of synagogues affiliated with United Synagogue, the largest network of Orthodox synagogues in the country, last week.

Almost all synagogues have since closed, with many switching to livestreaming services and celebrations. Kosher shops have put social distancing policies in place, and synagogues and other Jewish organisations have stepped up efforts to provide assistance to elderly and vulnerable people.

A letter signed by 20 Jewish doctors, which circulated in Stamford Hill last week, was prefaced: You are fully responsible for deaths that occur as a result of ignoring this advice. It ended: This is a case of pikuach nefesh [the Jewish command to save life] and we are all responsible.

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Jewish leaders fear ultra-Orthodox Jews have missed isolation message - The Guardian

‘Adored’ Edgware and Hendon Reform shul rabbi dies from coronavirus – Jewish News

Posted By on March 28, 2020

The much-loved rabbi of Edgware and Hendon Reform synagogue has died suddenly from coronavirus.

Rabbi Neil Kraft, who wasborn and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, spent 17 years leading the community and was due to retire in a matter of weeks.

He appeared unwell in shul last weekend after conducting part of the Shabbat service via a live stream. He was later admitted to hospital where he was put on a ventilator in intensive care, but died yesterday.

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His son Elie wrote: Despite the NHS doing an amazing job trying to have him, he unfortunately didnt make it. I dont really know what to say other than my family and I are completely devastated. Not only did he mean a lot to us. He also meant a lot to the wider Jewish community.

He added: While I am extremely grateful for the love and support I know you will want to share, wed be very appreciative if youd allow us some space to grieve.

A congregant who asked to remain anonymous said: Rabbi Krafts congregation adored him. He touched many lives and hearts and will be so sorely missed. Words cant even describe it. Life at EHRS will never be the same again, but has been made all the better for the time Rabbi Kraft spent there.

Rabbi Kraftled the Woodford and District Liberal Synagogue community and South London Liberal Synagogue before joining Edgware and Hendon Reform.

He leaves behind his wife, Susannah, and two sons.

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'Adored' Edgware and Hendon Reform shul rabbi dies from coronavirus - Jewish News

The silver lining of Benny Gantzs astonishing betrayal – Forward

Posted By on March 28, 2020

Israeli politicians, with their famous lack of principles and shifting priorities, often make fools of prognosticators trying to discern the direction in which the country is headed. Along the way, they also tend to make fools of their own supporters, or anyone who placed a cautious amount of faith in them. Still, opposition leader Benny Gantzs astonishing display of political fungibility yesterday managed to shock even the most hardened observers.

Gantz, who has spent the last year being pilloried by Netanyahu and his sycophants as a weak and mentally deficient man set on making deals with terror sympathizers, decided to drop his ostensible bid to become prime minister and support an emergency unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The incumbent, facing trial in May for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, is safe in his place for at least the next several months.

Most of all, though, this was a dispiriting moment for Israelis who had hoped for a brief moment that Netanyahus divisive and allegedly criminal tenure would come to an end. The new hope, if there is one, is to fully demolish what remains of the wall that separates the Zionist Left from non-Zionist Arab Israelis.

To recap: a broad majority coalition of former IDF generals, Avigdor Liberman, ex-Likudniks, liberals, leftists, and Palestinian citizens of Israel came together on March 15th two weeks after an election that Netanyahus Likud Party appeared to have won and recommended Gantz as their candidate for prime minister.

That the entire Joint List of parties representing the countrys Arab minority supported the army chief who directed the last major Israeli military campaign in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge in 2014, was of huge consequence; that he was also supported by Liberman, a buffoonish anti-Arab racist, spoke to the widespread desire to see the end of the Netanyahu era.

Realizing they had lost their majority in the Knesset and were facing the prospect of legislation blocking Netanyahus path to another term, the Likud, through its Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, tried to use the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to close the Knesset and prevent the election of a new Speaker (electing a Speaker is a prerequisite for establishing a majority and enacting laws).

On Monday, Israels Supreme Court ruled that Edelstein could not defy the majority in the Knesset and would need to hold a vote for his replacement on Wednesday. Rather than implement the unanimous opinion of Israels highest court, Edelstein resigned, which delayed the vote until Thursday.

This brings us to Gantzs decision to unexpectedly throw his hat into the ring in the Speakers race. Previously, Gantz intended to support a different candidate from his Blue and White coalition, but Likud threatened they would close the door on a unity government if he proceeded with the plan to elect a Speaker and pass legislation prohibiting someone under indictment (such as Netanyahu) from being prime minister, which is already the case for every other seat in the cabinet. So Gantzs entry into the race signaled to the Likud and Netanyahu that he was ready to capitulate.

We are now only days away from Gantz formally backing Netanyahu in exchange for a dubious promise that Gantz will assume the premiership in September 2021. Gantzs partners in Blue and White, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon, both of whom previously served in senior positions in Netanyahu governments and know the value of his promises, abandoned Gantz.

Israelis, Jews and Arabs, who trusted Gantz not to enter a government with Netanyahu feel betrayed. It is true Gantz is not the first opposition leader to break such a promise. But he willingly ceded power at a moment of unexpected strength: He had a broad majority in the Knesset to pass a law preventing someone like Netanyahu from ever forcing the entire country to carry the weight of their personal legal woes again. Even the two members of Gantzs own party who said they would vote down a government headed by him that was supported by the Joint List wanted to at least support the law.

Yet the emotionally drained and defeated Israeli opposition shouldnt be too surprised by this betrayal. In rationalizing his abrupt turnaround, Gantz tweeted, Israel before everything else. This was his original nationalist campaign slogan, and a reminder that by even contemplating a coalition government backed by the Joint List, he was also breaking a campaign promise to form a government only from the Zionist majority.

Benny Gantz will not be the Israeli leader who brings to an end the national political boycott of the countrys largest minority group. In these times, it is hard to be optimistic there will ever be one.

But if another consensus center-left figure emerges to challenge the Likuds hold on power, they will have to reject from the outset the self-defeating notion that only Zionists have a say in the countrys future.

Abe Silberstein is a freelance commentator on Israeli politics and U.S.-Israel relations. His work has previously been published in the New York Times, Haaretz, +972 Magazine and the Forward.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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The silver lining of Benny Gantzs astonishing betrayal - Forward

As Coronavirus Has Plunged the Globe into Panic, Some Are Blaming the Jewish People – CBN News

Posted By on March 28, 2020

JERUSALEM, Israel As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, disinformation about COVID-19 thrives on the internet. It includes a dangerous blame game and some are pointing the finger at historys main scapegoat, the Jewish people.

Of course the usual suspects. The Iranian regime, which has been so horrific vis a vis its own people, they still have their ongoing flights with Beijing. Theyve exported corona throughout the Gulf. A disaster.Who do you blame? You blame the Jews. You blame the United States of America, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Weisenthal Center.

The finger-pointing included Turkey as Fatih Erbakan, head of Refah Party and the son of former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan said on March 6: Though we do not have certain evidence, this virus servesZionism's goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing Zionism is a 5,000-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.'


Rabbi Cooper says this is nothing really new although now its the worlds newest virus meeting the worlds oldest hatred.

Historically going back to the medieval times actually a 1000 years ago when Jews were first falsely accused about killing Christian children around Passover and baking matza, a horrible screed that led to death and destruction. Then the black plague. The bottom line is that throughout the millennia, Rabbi Cooper said. Whenever there is a virus-like this or a pandemic scapegoating is right at the top of the list especially before modern times came about and the Jewish people have always suffered

In the 21st century, social media carries the Anti-Semitic message.

One Twitter user tweeted: a lot of people are waking up to the fact that the coronavirus is a Jew organize crime created hoax intended to coverup Jew organize crime being carried out.

Rabbi Cooper calls those conspiracy theories ludicrous.

The Simon Wiesenthal center fights back by trying to degrade the ability of anti-Semitic groups to spread their messages and working with the FBI and the State Department.

I give terrific support for our State Department for Secretary Pompeo for turning the screws even more on the Iranian regime. This is not about hurting the Iranian people. The State Department said just yesterday that they found a billion dollars from aid from the European Union countries has gone into the pockets of the people running the country so I think we need to squeeze our enemies, said Rabbi Cooper.

The rabbi also believes its important to face the coronavirus crisis through a redemptive lens.

"Be decent caring people, take care of your families and always think of the less fortunate that are around us and who would have thought a month ago that we would all be thinking about not based on how much income you have but what kind of situation youre in medically and also spiritually. so the challenge for all of us is that this could be a time to bring people closer together even though were physically separated from one another.

With Passover just weeks away, Rabbi Cooper says the biblical feast holds a universal message.

That we can all exit from it being a little bit more human, a little bit more spiritual and a little bit more concerned about our fellow human beings. If that happens then we know that God will be pleased and believe me in this season we all want very much that God will be pleased with us.

Passover commemorates the time when God saved the Jewish people from not just one but ten plagues. Its the prayer of Jews, Christians, and others around the world that this 21st-century plague will pass over too.

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As Coronavirus Has Plunged the Globe into Panic, Some Are Blaming the Jewish People - CBN News

Peace and Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Response – The Scarlet

Posted By on March 28, 2020

Monica Sager, Scarlet StaffMarch 27, 2020

On February 7, Noor Almaslamani published an article titled A Stateless State? Palestineto Where? in which she states that Palestinians have been trying to implement a peace plan with the Israelis for so long now. This claim does not account for the many decades in which the Palestinian leadership has incited violence, sponsored terrorism, and disseminated antisemitic rhetoric.

Since its founding in 1959, leaders from Fatah, the party currently in control of the Palestinian Authority, have regularly called for the destruction of the State of Israel and the expulsion of all Jews from both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Consider the words of former president and PLO co-founder, Yasser Arafat, who represented the Palestinians on the global stage until his death in 2004:

We shall never stop until we can go back home and Israel is destroyed The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations the goal of this violence is the elimination of Zionism from Palestine in all its political, economic, and military aspects We dont want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israels destruction and nothing else.

For decades under Arafats command and rhetoric, Arafat called for Palestinians to maximize death and harm. As early as 1953, Palestinian militant groups regularly targeted Jewish villages and civilian infrastructure in Israel.

In the early 1980s, we saw the rise of intifadas; years of recurring, premeditated violence and terror toward Israelis. In 2000, Israelis saw the rise of a second wave. During these reigns of terror, thousands of innocent men, women, and children were wounded or killed.

When Mahmoud Abbas took over as president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, he vowed to uphold these reprehensible schemes, adamantly defending them before the United Nations. Since his rise to power, the world has seen a rise in rogue attacks against Jews. In June of 2016, Sultan Abu al-Einein, an adviser to Abbas and a Fatah Central Committee member, said during an interview with the Palestinian news site Donia al-Watan: Wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat. A quote that complements Pay-to-Slay, a policy whereby the Palestinian Authority uses humanitarian aid to pay salaries to terrorists and their families should they be imprisoned or killed. Regrettably, widespread corruption and child abuse has encouraged Palestinians as young as 15 years of age to participate and take Israeli casualties.

When it came to the question of peace talks between Palestinian Authority and Israel, Abbas continued to say that he is against talks, negotiations, meetings, and normalization in all its forms with the Israeli occupation. Just to be clear, Israeli occupation is used by Abbass and the current Palestinian leaderships propaganda in reference to all of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

This is not the peace partner that Israel so desperately needs.

In addition to inciting violence, the Fatah party is complicit in distributing anti-Semitic propaganda through social media and does nothing to moderate the hundreds of anti-Semitic comments left by its followers. In 2019, they published a video denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Jewish tribe established ghettos on their own to separate themselves in disgust for non-Jews. The video even claimed that Jews worked together with the Nazis to burn other Jews to make a profit.

Even government websites for the Palestinian Authority are riddled with anti-Semitic propaganda. In 2016, Fatahs Information and Culture Commission website published the image of a long-nosed, ultra-Orthodox dressed Jew with an Israeli flag on his arm, lighting a bomb that contains Sunni and Shiite Muslims, in the act of lighting bombs to blow each other up. The hooked nose and idea that Jews instigate and control the world are common anti-Semitic tropes.

There has been a consistent and enduring rejection by the Palestinians of all peace initiatives with Israel. A major anti-Zionist proponent, Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, was a Holocaust-era Palestinian nationalist who backed violence against the Jews, organizing violent protests and ceaselessly calling for the expulsion of Jews in the Levant. His successor, Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat founded Fatah to fight for the liberation of Palestine, unapologetically calling for Israels destruction and the expulsion of all Jews, refusing to keep the peace-keeping and security agreements of the Oslo Accords. The current leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has continued this pattern of hate, openly refusing to acknowledge Israels existence, funding terrorism and walking away from the negotiating table, walking away in 2008 and, most recently, in 2020.

My question is: When will the Palestinian leadership accept Israels right to exist? When will they place their desire to have their own state and live in peace, over countless attempts to ethnically cleanse the Middle East of its native Jewish communities? When will they stop calling for terror and spreading harmful anti-Semitic propaganda?

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Peace and Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Response - The Scarlet

A right to vote but not to dismantle the state – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Posted By on March 28, 2020

By Jonathan S. Tobin

(JNS)It seems like a devastating argument. If Israeli Jews are willing to accept life-saving treatment from Arab doctors, why wont they give their representatives in the Knesset a seat in the countrys government?

Thats the pointThe New York TimesJerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger made last week both onTwitterand in an article that made the same point. Its been echoed elsewhere infeaturesin the Israeli press.

But the premise is false. The idea that objections to giving anti-Zionist Arab parties a role in the government of Israel is racist is more than a cheap shot aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters. The attempt to use the coronavirus pandemic as a way of chipping away at the legitimacy of a Jewish state demonstrates that Israels critics consider the catastrophic spread of a deadly disease as merely just another opportunity to take pot shots at Zionism.

Its important to separate two arguments being made here. One is about the yearlong standoff between Netanyahu and his political opponents as the two sides continue to battle over who will lead the countrys next government, and whether the votes of Knesset members who support Israels enemies should be the deciding factor. The other is a more fundamental question about whether Israel can be both a state devoted to protecting the national rights of the Jewish people while granting equal rights to non-Jewish citizens.

Of course, Jews gratefully accept treatment from Arab doctors and nurses working in the countrys hospitals. Arabsboth those who are citizens of Israel and residents of the territoriesalso accept the care they got from the far larger number of Jewish doctors and nurses that work in the same medical facilities. It should also be pointed out that even the families of hostile Palestinian terror groups based in Gaza or the West Bank have been admitted to Israeli hospitals, where they are treated with the same scrupulous devotion that any Jew gets.

So when Dr. Ahmad Tibi, a physician who also serves as a Knesset member of the Joint Arab List, which won 15 seats in the Knesset earlier this month, claims that Jews who would accept his services as a doctor, but dont want him deciding who will be prime minister, are racists and hypocrites, he isnt being honest.

Israels founding fathers agreed that the Jewish state they were striving to create would offer equal rights to the countrys Arab inhabitants. That was the position of the two ideological opponents who led the factions from which Israels current political parties draw their origins. David Ben-Gurion, the countrys first prime minister and leader of the left-wing Labor Zionist movement, believed that Israel should be both a Jewish state and a democracy. The same was true of Zeev Jabotinsky, who created the movement from which todays Likud stemmed.

Jabotinsky even theorized that the government of the Jewish state should make room for those who represented the Arabs. He even went as far as to say that if the prime minister was Jewish, then the vice premier of the country should be an Arab.

That vision of equality, however, rested on the assumption that Arab citizens would accept that the countrys basic purpose was to be the national home of the Jewish people. The rights of the non-Jewish minority were to be protected. These leaders did not accept the idea that the Arab minority would be permitted to use democracy to try to eliminate the Jewish state.

Yet that is exactly what those who are branding as racist the objections voiced by Netanyahu and his supporters about the Joint Arab List being either an active or silent partner in the creation of a new Israeli government are essentially enabling.

The Joint List wont be able to legislate the Jewish state out of existence, even if it were an active part of a new government formed by Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz. Still, depending on their 15 votes to get power and keep it would give them a potential veto over any measure of Israeli self-defense against Palestinian terror movements that the members of the Joint List cheer on from the sidelines.

The four parties that make up the Joint List have different ideologies. One is avowedly Communist. One seeks to make Israel into an Islamist state along the lines advocated by Hamas. Another wants it to become a secular, Palestinian Arab-dominated state. The fourth doesnt want an independent Palestine, though wants it to be part of a Pan Arab state encompassing the entire region. All oppose the existence of Israel as a Jewish state within any borders.

Israels Arab citizens have every right to elect anyone they like to represent them. And those Knesset members should have the same rights as those who were chosen by the Zionist parties. But to say that keeping them out of the government denigrates and disenfranchises Arab citizens is to declare that the destruction of the Jewish state is a legitimate Arab aspiration. Indeed, the unwillingness of Israeli Arabs to give up on the failed century-long war against Zionism is the single greatest obstacle to ensuring an equitable society for all of Israels citizens.

Its hard to say if the end of the long tussle between Netanyahu and his foes is in sight. The animus towards the prime minister is such that it has caused some of those who share many of his beliefs to be willing to legitimize the Joint List in order to be rid of him.

Yet opposing the Joint List has nothing to do with denying equality to Arabslet alone denigrating the work of Arab medical personnel at a time of crisis. Those who say that it is racist to want to keep the Joint List out of government are, in effect, buying into the old anti-Semitic meme that Zionism is racism. That Netanyahus critics and those of Israel are using the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to revive such a canard arent merely wrong. Theyre despicable.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNSJewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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A right to vote but not to dismantle the state - Heritage Florida Jewish News

In a pandemic, lobbies move into the home office – JTA News

Posted By on March 28, 2020

WASHINGTON (JTA) Ben Chouake is an emergency physician with a side gig: He leads NORPAC, a leading pro-Israel political action committee.

I check in occasionally with Chouake to see how the New Jersey-based PAC is doing, whats on its agenda. Its a right-leaning pro-Israel group, taking its cues from AIPAC and groups to that lobbys right. NORPAC can directly deliver only a legal maximum of $10,000 per candidate, but it has outsize influence because its endorsees are a guide for donors in the mainstream pro-Israel community.

This week, when I asked about NORPAC, Chouake wanted to talk about the coronavirus pandemic. It was a pivot typical of calls I made to other lobbyists.

The urgency that routinely attaches to political messaging in the pro-Israel sector had receded and the overwhelming tone was of deference to a legislative system that is grappling with a historic crisis. Lobbyists are holding back in part due to the fact that much of what they do involves face-to-face meeting.

The double challenge is no one is pressing the flesh, you dont want to meet in groups, Chouake said, adding that NORPAC had canceled 11 meet-and-greets due to the pandemic. And the stock market went from 29,000 to 18,000, and a lot of people are out of work.

NORPACs salons throughout the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut attract some of the pro-Israel realms most dedicated givers and allows them to schmooze with candidates, to pin them down on their views and to write checks. Recent honorees include Mikie Sherrill, the moderate New Jersey Democrat who flipped a Republican district in 2018, and Max Rose, the Jewish Staten Island Democrat who did the same, along with GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Chouake is unfailingly charming and cheery, and loves to talk about Israel, legislation and congressional races. Now the charm was laced with a grimness. I had noticed that NORPAC had canceled its annual Washington lobbying day, even though it was scheduled for May 19. Chouake was not optimistic that systems would be back to normal in two months, and his explanation stemmed more from his experience as a physician rather than as a lobbyist.

What eventually happens is hospitals get inundated in taking care of people on respirators, he said.

AIPAC and J Street chill out

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman told me that deference must be paid first to the overriding crisis of the coronavirus.

All of our actions go forward with that in mind, he said.

Dylan Williams, J Streets vice president for governmental affairs, said the liberal Jewish Middle East lobby also was holding back.

Right now our chief rule is lawmakers work to protect and provide for their constituents, and that comes first, he said.

AIPAC did send out an action alert this week urging lawmakers to sign a letter to the Trump administration asking it to press the U.N. Security Council to reauthorize its embargo on Iran. But Wittmann pointed out that the issue is time-sensitive the embargo lapses in October.

We recognize our issues continue to be important as evidenced by Iranian-backed militia attacks [on U.S. targets in Iraq] this year, Wittmann said. At the same time, we have to seek a balance in how we approach members of Congress right now.

A top Democratic official in the U.S. House of Representatives told me that he had noticed the broader pullback by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.

This is the time of year that they usually try to finalize the items of policy conference, the Democratic official said, referring to the annual AIPAC conference that was held this year at the beginning of March. And not a single person has reached out to push and pull, which I appreciate. The only AIPAC person who called reached out just to see how I was doing, which I thought was really thoughtful.

This official had seen the action alert on the Iran arms embargo, which he thought was appropriate because of the time-sensitivity, but said foreign policy simply was not on the horizon.

We are 99 percent coronavirus right now and it is absolutely impossible to have a conversation about foreign policy when youre literally trying to save peoples cars, houses, families, and I think these groups appreciate that, he said.

Williams, the J Street lobbyist, said his group has pivoted to assisting congressional offices in constituent services.

There are a number of offices that have constituents with kids overseas, on study abroad, that are working to try and get those folks home, he said. Sometimes offices are looking for help to connect to the right desk officer at State or at an embassy, and were happy to be helpful. We want to be a resource, not a nudge.

The congressional official recalled with amazement how lobbyists not affiliated with Jewish groups continued to press for issues in the first days of the retreat by congressional staffers to their home offices two weeks ago.

Were setting up telework, computers, making sure staff is safe and making sure districts get what they need, the official said. Now is not the time to talk about data privacy.

Lobbying online

The meet the expert events that lobbies have in congressional meeting rooms on the Hill are geared to educate congressional staffers and exchange contact information. For AIPAC and J Street, those have moved online. AIPAC last week launched teleconference briefings with a call on the current constitutional crisis afflicting efforts in Israel to set up a government.

Chouake said he was looking into getting the meet-and-greets online.

We have to find a way to get them back, even if its on Zoom, he said.

Still, one method of influence continues unabated, Chouake said.

We have a very tried-and-true committed group of people who realize its important, so they write the checks, he said.


Keeping up with Brenda Jones: I wrote last year about how pro-Israel political types in Detroit were considering backing a primary challenger to Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American freshman congresswoman who rejects Israels existence as a Jewish state and backs the boycott Israel movement. The likeliest candidate was Brenda Jones, a city councilor who was a congresswoman for five weeks following a special election in 2018 before narrowly losing to Tlaib in the primary for the general. The district is majority African-American and there was talk that backing a black candidate was the best way to make Tlaib a one-termer. Jones announced this week, saying a goal was uniting the district perhaps an allusion to the Tlaib controversies. But Aiden Pink at the Forward has uncovered statements by Jones supportive of Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam movement.

Two trillion little things: Jewish groups are scouring the $2 trillion stimulus passed late Wednesday by the Senate for money that could help them survive the pandemic, and also for assistance to the neediest.

Non-Zionist upset at Zionist Congress: The World Zionist Congress elections swung the U.S. contingent to the parliament of the Jewish people to the right, with Orthodox parties doubling their representation and diminishing the influence of non-Orthodox and progressive lists. What happened? A haredi Orthodox list, Eretz Hakodesh, ran for the first time, in part to stem the influence of the non-Orthodox. Its voters overcame reluctance in their community to sign onto the Jerusalem Program, which makes Zionism central to Judaism a hard pill to swallow in a community that has assimilated culturally and politically into Israel, but still rejects religious Zionism, as Jeremy Sharon reports at The Jerusalem Post.

Hate in a time of coronavirus: A white supremacist in Missouri who planned to attack a hospital as a means of weaponizing the response to the coronavirus was killed this week in a shootout with the FBI. Yahoo News last week reported other ways (saliva and a spray bottle) that white supremacists have discussed weaponizing the virus. The Anti-Defamation League lists the ways in which the spread of the virus has spurred racist and anti-Semitic tropes.


Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., arrives at the Capitol for a vote on a coronavirus bill amendment, March 18, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders was on his way to becoming the first Jewish president. And then he wasnt. At The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin break down the breakdown of the Sanders campaign. The fault, they suggest, lies not in the stars but ultimately with a candidate who was committed to his democratic socialist principles above compromise.


A group of quarantined Israelis gets into it on Twitter about which was Lin-Manuel Mirandas best score Hamilton, In The Heights or Moana and the shows creator and former star interrupts with Hey, hey, hey, whats going on here? In Hebrew. Check out the truly joyous replies.


Share your thoughts on The Tell, or suggest a topic for us. Connect with Ron Kampeas on Twitter at@kampeasor email him

The Tell is a weekly roundup of the latest Jewish political news from Ron Kampeas, the Jewish Telegraphic Agencys Washington Bureau Chief.Sign up hereto receive The Tell in your inbox on Thursday evenings.

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In a pandemic, lobbies move into the home office - JTA News

Religion,Culture, and COVID19 –

Posted By on March 28, 2020

In this edition of Reflections, Jonathan Golden, Director of Drew University's Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, addresses the implications of alarming trends to "point fingers" and assign blame for our current pandemic

The COVID-19 virus is "double blind" in the sense that it sees not who it infects nor is it seen by its victims. Still, as social beings, we humans have a hard time avoiding our tendency to put all phenomena into social categories. In doing so, how can we ensure that we don't let the search for answers and explanations lead us to bigotry and xenophobia?Crises such as these tend to bring out the best in people. It is truly amazing to see the courage and selflessness of so many healthcare workers working around the clock at their own peril to save lives. Unfortunately, we have seen some instances where this pandemic seems to have brought out people's worst. Deliberate efforts to brand it as the "Chinese Virus", for instance, have already had disastrous impact on people across America.There is a famous saying about pointing fingers: when you point one finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there was nothing Spanish about the Spanish Flu.[1] That unfortunate nomenclature was Spain's "reward" for being the first to openly report on it. The origin of that pandemic, which killed tens of millions, is still unknown today, but evidence suggests that the first cases appeared on a military base in Kansas. Similarly, the H1N1 influenza, aka the "swine flu" pandemic that infected over 1 billion people and killed over half a million, was first reported in the U.S. and may have originated in factory farmed pigs in the United States.Of course, it is vital that we do our best to trace the origins of any pandemic: this information is critical to helping us understand the current outbreak and to preventing the next one. But jumping to conclusions is unhelpful at best, and, at worst, can create a whole new set of problems.In 2015, the WHO offered clear guidelines for naming viruses, calling on scientists, national leaders and media outlets to follow "best practices in naming new human infectious diseases to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people." They point out that names such as 'swine flu' and 'Middle East Respiratory Syndrome' are dangerous in that they stigmatize certain identity groups and communities or economic sectors. As Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security, WHO, compellingly observed, "We've seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade, and trigger needless slaughtering of food animals. This can have serious consequences for peoples' lives and livelihoods."Unsurprisingly, calling the COVID-19 virus the Chinese Virus has already had a serious impact on the Asian American community. According to a review of news articles by San Francisco State University, in a one-month period (Feb. 9 and March 7) there was a 50% increase in the number of articles reporting anti-Asian discrimination related to the coronavirus. And it appears the number of incidents is growing as over 150 cases have been reported on a site set up just last week to track incidents by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council.[2] There have been reports of anti-Asian attacks in the subway, in restaurants, on the streets of America. A writer for The New Yorker was verbally assaulted in front of her own home.Coronavirus-related hate has found its way to anti-Semites as well. The Anti-Defamation League reports multiple examples of extremists using the pandemic to advance anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which have leaped from dark web exchanges to circulation on mainstream social media platforms. Some insinuate that Jews are responsible for the spread of the virus and are somehow profiting from it, while others suggest it is a Jewish media hoax/hype intended to frighten the public, and undermine the president. One message on the Telegram encrypted messaging service stated: "Finally! Science has discovered a cure for the most insidious disease of our time Jewishness." The FBI is warning Jewish organizations and offices that neo-Nazi extremists who are infected may try to intentionally spread the disease to others. They are threatening to infect police as well. Sadly, it seems things have changed little since the medieval plague known as the Black Death, where Jews of Europe were accused of spreading the disease, with brutal attacks on those who survived.The truth is, no one person or people are responsible for this nightmare. Mistakes have been made and opportunities missed. But no Asian, Jew, or anyone else should be blamed. The great irony is that across America, and around the world, Asians, Jews and people of all races and religions, are risking their lives on the front lines of the current health crisis, while working tirelessly behind the scenes in search of treatments and vaccines. It is noteworthy that even in the Middle East, a region we often associate with ethno-religious conflict, Muslims, Jews, Christian, Druze, are working together to save lives.[3]We should also stop short of reading religious meaning, some type of theodicy, into this natural disaster. The COVID-19 virus is a soulless, amoral entity that strikes at people of all ages, religious and races. Anyone suggesting that God is somehow doing this to punish people needs to reexamine their faith. All of this speaks to the human need for answers. The invisible nature of this "enemy" is one of the things that makes it so unsettling. It looms everywhere, but still we cannot point to it. And so, the pointing begins.With all of us working together, a cure for COVID-19 will someday be found, just as we have fought virtually every other biological pathogen before. But the most persistent disease humans have ever known that of bigotry and hatred is the one we have not yet succeeded in eradicating. Unlike the random replication of a biological virus which lies beyond our control, the answer to intolerance is in our hands. It resides in our human compacity for compassion and empathy. It lies in our ability to inform and educate. Knowledge is the antidote for ignorance, compassion the cure for xenophobia. We don't have a vaccine for prejudice and bigotry just yet. But we are working on it.[1]

Jonathan Golden, (@jgoldenCRCC), Director of Drew University's Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, is working on a book titled Turning Point, based on interviews with victims/survivors and ex-combatants of ethno-religious conflict.

Religion,Culture, and COVID19 -

Ashkenazi starts to wrestle with govt about Shin Bet surveillance – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on March 28, 2020

Intelligence Subcommittee chairman Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White) on Thursday started to wrestle with the government regarding oversight of the controversial surveillance by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) of citizens infected with the coronavirus.Both Ashkenazis committee and a special Coronavirus Committee chaired by Blue and White MK Ofer Shelach were pressing top officials in an extraordinary public hearing of a committee which usually does not even let the public know when it meets, let alone make the debate public.

National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabbat, Shin Bet officials, Health Ministry officials Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Sigal Sedensky and Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri were pressed for more detailed answers than they have had to give until now.

Ashkenazi got the health officials to flesh out that the Shin Bet is not merely hacking infected persons' phones to use their location history regarding where they have been, but also accessing select data related to phone conversations.

The intelligence committee chair also asked why Israel needed to invade privacy in such an extreme way, while Germany seems to be having better results and has not used intelligence surveillance of its sick citizens.

Replying, the health officials indicated that it was too soon to know whether Germany would be better off long term, and that every country had different circumstances and needed to use whatever means it had available to combat the coronavirus plague.

Sedensky pushed hard to continue the Shin Bet surveillance, saying that they had found that relying on infected persons memories without using access to their cellphones ended up missing more than 60% of the people they had contact with.

Between a persons faulty memory or people not realizing how many others they came into contact with in transition between locations, Sedensky said that Shin Bet access to cellphones was critical to halting a wave of new infections.

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS appeared to want to maintain the surveillance, if for nothing else than to better monitor and ensure that infected persons remained at home.

Meretzs Tamar Zandberg pressed Ben Shabbat about why the controversial decision to let the Shin Bet spy on infected citizens was made in the middle of the night. She implied that the timing was designed to further delay oversight and confuse the public about what was going on.

Ben Shabbat, who rarely speaks publicly, said that not every act the government has taken has been perfect, but that the reason the decision was made at nighttime was because many complex issues were being debated simultaneously during the day, but were not resolved until much later.

He also said that no one had ever coped with such a crisis, and that the government was doing its best in a situation where it was learning in real time about how to best maneuver the country.

Ashkenazi slammed Nizri and the state for failing to inform the committee a day earlier than it did, which could have given the committee time to deal with the issue already last week.

Nizri maintained that up until the last second, it was unclear what exactly the parameters would be for Shin Bet surveillance, and that he brought the issue to Ashkenazi last week as soon as the parameters were finalized.

Despite Nizris answer to Ashkenazi, the deputy attorney-general had previously told The Jerusalem Post during a press conference that preliminary work on Shin Bet surveillance started several days before the issue was brought to Ashkenazis committee.

Nizri said they were not obligated to present a policy until it was final, but he also knew that the timing of when he presented the issue to the committee gave it insufficient time to provide proper oversight before the 22nd Knesset turned over to the 23rd Knesset something which delayed oversight by a full week.

Ben Shabbat said the biggest problem was that the government still had not convinced enough Israelis to change their behavior and abide by social distancing requirements.

Shelach suggested to Ben Shabbat that many of their decisions were being made by irrational fears, and that clearer and calmer thinking would lead to better results. For example, he suggested that the current ban on outdoor exercise be lifted.

Yemina MK Ayelet Shaked said that Singapore was succeeding in fighting the coronavirus without shutting down its economy as much as Israel is, by placing further emphasis on a spectrum of tests for the coronavirus.

The idea was that there are a variety of tests for corona, some of which have generally solid if somewhat lower reliability, with the plus that they can be performed quickly and at home in order to free more people up to work by confirming they are not infected.

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Ashkenazi starts to wrestle with govt about Shin Bet surveillance - The Jerusalem Post

Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi Wont Be Part Of Flutter/Stars Executive Team –

Posted By on March 28, 2020

The Stars Group (TSG) chief executive Rafi Ashkenazi will not take up the post of COO at the combined Flutter/Stars company as planned when the two giants merge.

In a market update Friday, Stars said Ashkenazi will instead be available as a consultant to CEO Peter Jackson. Hell additionallyjoin the Board in a non-executive capacity.

The companies said they reached their decision following extensive discussions about the optimal construction of the senior executive team.

The groups also cited a number of personal considerations for Ashkenazi.

Despite the change and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Flutter said the merger rationale remains intact.

In these challenging times I am more convinced than ever of the strategic fit of these two complementary businesses, said Jackson.

The combined business will enjoy improved geographic and product diversification and allow us to advance our strategic goals. We continue to work with various competition and anti-trust authorities globally to secure the few remaining approvals required.

The deal has been approved by Australian authorities and is currently under review by UK competition regulators.

The tie-up would see Fox Bet, FanDuel, and PokerStars allunder the same ownership in the US.

There are new dangers for the deal, however, including increased leverage after completion.

The combined group was expected to have a debt burden of 3.5x earnings before synergies, but Flutter warned the ratio will be some measure higher as earnings for both companies have fallen.

The company said earlier this month the ongoing sport stoppages would cost it something like $60 million EBITDA per month.

Likewise, TSG did not provide an exact figure but said it could better withstand the stoppages. More than 62% of its 2019 revenues came from casino and poker. Both verticals have seen an uptick without sports.

The COVID-19 disruption also saw Flutter cancel a proposed $124 million dividend to shareholders ahead of the deal. Company shares were down 8% from open on Friday, with TSG down 6%.

Shareholders of both companies will vote on the transaction on April 24.

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Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi Wont Be Part Of Flutter/Stars Executive Team -

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