Tough Start to 2017

Happy new year! I hope you enjoyed Chanukah and (hopefully) had some time off. 

I am excited to report that for the first time in the history of the Jewish Federation, our community raised in excess of $3 million in just 100 days! This is quite a success story and something our community should be proud of. Thank you to those who made their commitments prior to December 31. 

Our campaign, however, does not conclude until June 2017. There is no reason to wait. If you have yet to do so, please make your pledge today! This will help with our planning and allocations process to make earlier and more informed decisions in support of our community and agencies. 

While away over winter break, news about Israel certainly made major headlines with UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and Secretary of State John Kerry’s outline of a peace plan. I am confident you all saw it in the news. 

Following the UN vote, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) put out the following statement

It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of Jewish organizations in the United States made similar statements following the vote, while a minority of groups were in support.  

Several days following, JFNA held a teleconference with David Makovsky, Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, to discuss and analyze U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech about Israel and its implications. You can listen to this very informative teleconference here.  

And just yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a motion (342-80) repudiating the UN resolution on Israel. House Resolution 11 declared the UN motion a “one-sided” effort that is an obstacle to peace, placing disproportionate blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict and discouraging the Palestinians from engaging in direct, bilateral negotiations. The House was firmly against President Obama’s decision to withhold the US veto power from shielding Israel against the censure. 

Let me just say this – I fully recognize and accept there are multiple perspectives (personal, organizational and governmental) on these issues. Everyone will draw their own conclusions and have their own thoughts -- some we may like and others we may disagree with. Without delving into my own views, I believe we need to spend less time “talking Israel” and spend more effort “listening Israel.” As I have stated before, stepping out of our “echo chambers” is how we broaden and deepen our understanding. But, too often, our minds are set, we talk/listen to only those we agree with, or are solely focused on convincing the other person “My view is right.” This month’s Oregon Jewish Life has an excellent article about this very issue. 

One fact we should all recognize is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where the rule of law prevails. An example of this was the verdict on Wednesday where Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who fatally shot an unarmed and injured Palestinian assailant, was found guilty of manslaughter. 

The three judges unanimously concluded that Azaria had not acted in the throes of a split-second dilemma. Rather, he had the judges determined, acted deliberately, motivated by a sense of revenge and the conviction that terrorists deserve to die. 

Following the verdict, there was much debate and discussions within Israel. As the Washington Post reported, “To some, the 20-year-old Azaria was a brave soldier facing danger in the West Bank town of Hebron in March. To others, he represented a worrisome disregard for military codes and human rights during a time of increased violence and hardening views among Israelis and Palestinians, with peace efforts effectively shelved.” 

Many government officials stated “the court has spoken.” Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have called for a pardon for the soldier. We will see what happens.

Beyond the news about Israel, there has been a rash of anti-Semitic attacks across the United States. Just this past week, a swastika was painted on a sign near the entrance to the Reform movement's rabbinical school, Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two bomb threats were called in the Orlando-area impacting the local Jewish day school and Chabad. And police are investigating about ten instances of vandalism where symbols resembling swastikas were drawn on buildings and street signs around Palo Alto and the Stanford University campus. And this is not even a full list. 

And then we have the awful and frightening situation for Jews in Whitefish, Montana. The man who runs the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, has announced an armed march later in January by white supremacists in an effort to harass the small Montana Jewish community. “My guys say we will put together about 200 people to participate in the march, which will be against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either." Whitefish is home to the so-called alt-right leader Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank.

The Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation has written about this issue and developed an interesting strategy that may make the neo-Nazis less likely to succeed in their potential effort. 

I want to be clear -- the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and all of our Jewish communal organizations remain vigilant in monitoring these types of events in our own community and across the country. We are prepared and will respond!

Not the way I envisioned starting the new year. Let us hope that 2017 will be a year of good health, happiness, great success, peace, and security for you, your family, and the Jewish (and all) people.

Shabbat shalom.


Copyright (C) 2016 Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. All rights reserved.


Add Comment