Under the heading “Evolving Politics of the Jewish Community,” J Street presented a panel discussion about Jewish politics and, in addition, about how the perception of J Street has changed. The panelists were David Axelrod, Peter Beinart, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D – Brooklyn) and Jim Gerstein. The speakers set out some of the important shifts in the beliefs and values of the American Jewish community. [Read more…]
Before they make this important decision, it is important to make sure they have the facts straight. StandWithUs has created this educational fact sheet about Jerusalem to distribute to members of the platform committee as well as to other convention delegates and key policymakers:
Editor’s Note: The NFTY-EIE High School in Israel is an accredited semester or summer-long program for Reform Jewish high school students in grades 10-12. EIE offers an opportunity to be immersed in the richness of the land, culture, people and history of Israel, while earning high school and college credit. Part of the Union for Reform Judaism family of camps and programs in North America and Israel, NFTY-EIE is based at Kibbutz Tzuba, approximately 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem. With very small class sizes, students take advanced Jewish History and Hebrew classes and their regular general studies courses to fulfill their home high schools’ requirements. There are numerous week-long trips, including a trip to Poland to study the Holocaust and a week in Gadna (a simulated Israeli army training experience).
— by Amber Soffer, EIE participant 2016
I came to EIE with my own thoughts, ideas, and values, and I had never thought to question them. However, the main thing I learned on EIE is to question everything. Nothing is as simple as we think. This goes for something as intense as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to something as simple as ripping toilet paper on Shabbat. One of the main focuses of our Jewish history class is talking about the meaning of Am Yisrael (people of Israel). This is quite a loaded topic, because there are so many different ways to be Jewish. For example, some people consider one to only be Jewish if one’s mother is Jewish. As a Reform Jew, I do not believe that. I’m still trying to figure out what makes one a Jew: something I had never thought to question before EIE.
Along with many of the cool aspects of the program, one of the best is learning something in the exact place where it happened.For example, if we were learning about the Bar Kochba revolts, we explored the tunnels in which they hid. Being immersed in Israeli culture and society allowed me to absorb so much of it. I picked up Hebrew phrases, and am now able to follow conversations in Hebrew: something I had never thought possible.
I learned that in Israeli society, it is customary to only know how to be aggressive. On the first day of Jewish history class our teacher told us, “There is no passive-aggressive in Israel, only aggressive.” But, even after the Israelis are done yelling at each other, they just go back to normal conversation.
On a personal growth level, I learned how to live away from home, advocate for myself, and be a part of a most amazing community. All of these skills and experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life.
It is almost impossible to pick just one experience that was my favorite. There are so many different categories to “favorite”. There is favorite in the sense I learned the most, had the most fun, and the most important experience to me. My favorite thing that I learned was Hebrew. I had the most fun trying to use my Hebrew to bargain with shop owners, order pizza, and ask for directions. It was the most exciting feel that I not only could say what I want, but understand their reply, too. On EIE, the fun basically never stops because you are always surrounded by your best friends. But, if I had to pick only one favorite experience, it would be Yam L’Yam. This was our Sea to Sea hike (from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea). This was filled with new experiences for me and finishing the five day hike was so satisfying. My favorite aspects of Yam L’Yam were sleeping under the stars, adventuring through the different terrains of Israel, and taking in the amazing views and scenery that were around every corner. My most important experience was our trip to Poland. Although it was very sad, it compares to the Muslim obligation to have to go to Mecca once in their life. I feel as though every Jewish person should go to Poland and see the horrible sights in remembrance of WW2. Each concentration camp, ghetto, and other place where the Jewish people were oppressed provided a sense of reality for the entirety of the Holocaust.
As much as people say that you will change over this experience, I feel like it is hard to see it in yourself, especially while you are still in Israel. Once home, I am sure that I will be aware of the little differences in myself more. However, one of the things I outright is the way I view my Judaism. In Israel, it is so easy to lead a Jewish life, because you are always surrounded by the little things. But, back in America these little things will cease to surround me at all times. I want to keep the little things around me, so being Jewish is not a conscious choice I sometimes make, but always envelops me. Also, I feel as though I am way more of an independent person, and I can tackle almost any challenge after being here. I know at home I will not struggle with the trivial issues, like too much homework anymore, because here I had double as long of a day with the same amount of homework; yet, I learned to successfully deal with it here. Since being here, I feel as though when I return home it will be my duty to correctly be able to answer people’s question about Israel. And when they see something in the news and ask me about it because they know I am Jewish, I will be able to explain to them what happened and why. I hope this ends up turning into Israel advocacy, and help people be more educated about Israel. The biggest change I will make is adapt myself to fit the Israeli style of living by making the most of each moment. Israelis definitely know how to live life to the fullest, and I hope to bring that change home with me as well.
For more information about NFTY-EIE, please to go its website, www.nftyeie.org
The Wings Program for Lone Soldiers, run by the Merage Foundation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, was represented last week in a caucus for lone soldiers in the Israeli Knesset. The caucus convened to discuss the issue of lone immigrant soldiers and their integration into Israeli society after their release from the IDF. [Read more…]
The Jews are a people and Judaism is their religion. The Land of Israel is their ancestral homeland, with an unbroken history of 3,500 years. The Jews in Israel are a modern nation, having gained their independence from Great Briton in 1948.
Israeli Jews as indigenous people have native rights which they should assert. Israel has the deepest, most abundant roots of any people in the land, whether the mainstream media, UN, EU, NGOs, Arabs, Muslims, Anti-Zionists or Anti-Semites want to believe it or not.
So, where do Jews get their title deed to the Land of Israel? From the Bible, archeological proof, and even the Qu’ran. And from modern international law via the San Remo Conference in 1920, and subsequently the United Nations in 1947. Many Arab nations were also created around this time to give expression to their indigenous rights.
Interestingly, the Supreme Muslim Council — led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husayni, Hitler’s ally and one of the Arab world’s most vicious anti-Semites — published yearly guide books from 1924 to 1950 stating that the Temple Mount’s al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”
Despite being persecuted, tormented, conquered and dispersed from their nation-state numerous times throughout history by many, including Greeks, Romans and Ottoman Turks, there were always Jews living in the land of Israel. Israel was never ruled even one day by an Arab state.
In January 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the Levy Commission to study the legal status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria (i.e., “the West Bank”). In sum, it found: “Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, the classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.”
However, this Commission’s work has been marginalized by the Israeli government in an appeasement to the sensitivities of the “international community” who do not recognize the sovereignty of Israel over the land. This, of course, includes the areas to which Jews are told they have no rightful claim and yet are in the cradle of Jewish history: the Old City of Jerusalem, The Temple Mount and Kotel; Hebron, where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located; Shilo, where the Tabernacle stood; Joseph’s Tomb; and Rachel’s Tomb among many other sites.
Who are the “Palestinian Arabs?” The vast majority are not native to the land, and in fact cannot even trace their lineage back more than four or five generations. Most came from foreign regions only when the Jews started to rebuild and reclaim the land and make it flourish as an economic powerhouse starting at the turn of the 20th century. Until the formation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) in 1964, those Arabs who lived in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria (i.e., the “West Bank” which was illegally annexed by Jordan in 1950) referred to themselves not as “Palestinians” but as Syrians or merely Arabs. These Arabs are little different in culture, religion and language than those from neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The term “Palestinian” to them and the world, before the re-establishment of the State of Israel, meant “Jews.” In fact, the Arabs of the Palestine Mandate already have a state: Jordan. Jordan comprises 78% of the Palestine Mandate, which was designated by the international community to be the nation-state of the Jewish People. Jordan has a population which is 2/3 Palestinian Arab. Moreover, the Arabs have rejected a state of their own, with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, the “West Bank” and Gaza six times since 1937.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things which should be evident to us. Ryan Bellerose is a gentile from Canada. He is of mixed Native and European ancestry. He is an advocate for indigenous people, including the original inhabitants of Canada from whom he is descended. And he is also an advocate for Jewish Israelis, the indigenous people of Israel. He is the co-founder of Calgary United with Israel. According to him: “Everything that makes Jews Jewish — their spirituality, their traditions, their culture, their language, everything — it stems from Israel.” He elaborated further (“Unassailable” in Israellycool, Feb 14, 2016):
The reason Jewish identity is so integral to this struggle is simple – the other side is claiming that Israelis are not indigenous, that they are “white colonizers” who stole “Arab ancestral lands.” Now this claim is patently ridiculous to anyone with a 3rd grade education and a commensurate reading level, but sadly often the Jewish people’s own actions and reactions suggest that they themselves are not quite decolonized enough to claim their birthright and heritage. Many of them still see their identity through a white European lens, rather than a Middle Eastern lens, and this leads not only to massive confusion but lost opportunities such as at the Temple Mount and now in Judea and Samaria.
I have documented Jewish indigenous status beyond any reasonable doubt. I have given you the language and hopefully the knowledge to defend the position, but YOU must internalize your identity. YOU must decide to decolonize and then YOU must decide what that means to YOU and your people.
It’s really simple – you are Jews, your culture is ancient, your traditions date back three thousand years and your spirituality is intertwined with both. Only you can decide what you should be keeping and what you need to lose, but ask yourself, what would my ancestors say? Would they say ‘You needed those things in diaspora, but now you are home again and it’s time to evolve and become who you are meant to be’ or would they say ‘Stay as the diaspora made you out of necessity?’ I believe you are meant to be a ‘Light unto the Nations,’ to show us the way that indigenous people are supposed to evolve while maintaining the core of your identity. You have fought so hard to stay Jewish – literally hundreds of generations have lived and died to bring you to this point. Your ancestors fought, bled and died for you to remain Jews and even more recently for you to be able to go home as Jews to your ancestral lands. They didn’t do that so that you could be the end of it. They did it so that you could be the beginning, the beginning of a brave new world, one that is unassailable.
Now be invulnerable in your identity, then be invincible. THAT is your birthright. Unassailable.
As Ryan has noted, this is about our very identity, not merely about religion and spirituality. And it is a powerful story and example to all indigenous people.
We should be proud and act proud of the nation-state of the Jewish People and all its accomplishments, as it shares with the world its humanitarianism and high-tech know-how in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and water reclamation. Israel is our ancestral homeland. We do ourselves no favors if we don’t treat ourselves with respect and instead, act wishy-washy and laissez-faire with regard to our rights. If we forfeit the language, we forfeit our heritage and our history—and deserve to.
Note: Ryan Bellerose will be speaking in Philadelphia on June 20.
The conflict between Israel and the Arab world must be redefined, British author Melanie Phillips told a gathering at a Maple Glen synagogue sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America.
There is no solution because the problem is misstated. The two-state solution is not axiomatic. Why are they fighting? It is not because of the absence of a Palestinian Arab state. The Arab world wishes Israel’s destruction, which is why this is the conflict that never seems to end.
— by Lee S. Bender and Jerome R. Verlin
Media coverage of Israel is laced with toxic terms that delegitimize the Jewish State. The good news is that these misleading terms weren’t written in stone 3,300 years ago, but are post-Israel independence creations. The bad news is how extensively anti-Israel imbalance has permeated Mideast reporting in recent decades.
Israel’s enemies appreciate the power of anti-Israel word choices to shape public perceptions. We Jewish supporters of Israel unthinkingly use these poisoned pejoratives — “West Bank … East Jerusalem … 1967 borders … Jewish settlements … etc, etc” – ourselves. This article is a plea to individually and institutionally take the lead in challenging the media’s loaded lexicon of toxic terms, first by our own pro-Israel pundits and advocates, and then by the media and public at large.
Here’s what’s at stake: Scholars say “history is what historians say it is,” but the reality is that history is what the bulk of the world’s ordinary people believe that it is. If we forfeit the Arab-Israeli conflict’s public perception-forming word choices, we forfeit our people’s history.
So here’s a baker’s dozen of poisoned pejoratives in the mainstream media’s loaded lexicon for Arab-Israeli conflict reporting. Cease using these terms. Badger pro-Israel writers and advocates to cease using them. And then, together, let’s lean on the mainstream Western media to clean up its language of Mideast reporting.
- “West Bank”
Too often, Israeli spokesmen believe that “West Bank” is merely shorthand for what we all know is really Judea and Samaria. It is not. Media claims that “Judea and Samaria” is simply the “biblical name for the West Bank” stand history on its head. The Hebrew-origin names “Judea” and “Samaria” were used through 1950, when invading [Trans]Jordan renamed them “the West Bank” in order to disassociate these areas of the Jewish homeland from Jews. This term is not shorthand for “Judea and Samaria.” Under this formulation, Jordan is the “East Bank” of the original Palestine Mandate, which was designated as the homeland for the Jewish People.
- “East” Jerusalem or “traditionally Arab East” Jerusalem
From the city’s second millennium BCE origins until 1947 CE, there was no such place as “East” Jerusalem. The 19 year period between when invading Jordan captured part of the city in 1948 and was ousted by Israel in 1967 was the only time in history, except between 638 and 1099, when Arabs ruled any part of Jerusalem. Palestinian Arabs have not ruled an inch of it for one day in history. In the past three millennia, Jerusalem has been the capital of three native states – Judah, Judæa, and modern Israel – and has had a renewed Jewish majority since 19th century Turkish rule. Eastern Jerusalem is just an area of the city that Israel reunified in 1967. Use the term “eastern” Jerusalem, to designate that it is a neighborhood of an undivided city. Of course, this is the area at the heart of the Jewish ancient homeland, the Old City and Temple Mount.
- “The UN sought to create Jewish and Palestinian States”
A benchmark clearly revealing the extent of this language deterioration is the United Nations’ own Palestine partition resolution of 1947. The U.N. there didn’t refer to “the West Bank,” but to “the hill country of Samaria and Judea,” the Hebrew-origin names by which the land of Israel’s hill country had been known from ancient times to the mid-twentieth century. The U.N. didn’t attempt to divide Palestine between Jews and “Palestinians,” as the media sometimes puts it – akin to dividing Pennsylvania between Jews and “Pennsylvanians,” but, in terms used over and over, into “the Jewish State” and “the Arab State.” And that 1947 U.N. resolution didn’t call Palestinian Arabs “the Palestinians,” but referred to Palestine’s Jews and its Arabs as “the two Palestinian peoples.”
- 1948 was the “Creation and Founding of Israel” and “The War that Followed Israel’s Creation”
Israel wasn’t “created” and “founded” in 1948, artificially and out-of-the-blue. Israel attained independence that year as the natural fruition into renewed statehood of a people that had twice before been independent in that land, after centuries of hard work to re-establish a Jewish State in this historic homeland. Israel did not choose its 1948 War of Independence (not “of Creation and Founding”). War was forced upon it by the Arab states, which rejected UN partition and tried to push the Jews of Israel into the sea. It was a homeland Jewish army, Haganah, which became the IDF, that threw back that multi-nation foreign invasion.
- “Palestinian Militants”
No they’re not. They’re mass murderers and terrorists who prey on civilians using rockets,missiles, mortars, bombs, guns, knives, car rammings , etc.
- “Palestinian Refugees of the war that followed Israel’s creation”
The invading Arab states bent on Israel’s destruction encouraged the Arabs (472,000 – 650,000) who fled tiny Israel to leave temporarily while they drove the Jews into the sea. The media constantly ignores the indigenous Middle Eastern Jews (c 850,000) who were expelled from vast Arab lands and Iran, with barely the clothes on their backs and were forced to leave behind property and businesses for which they were never compensated. Many had family roots dating back hundreds, even thousands of years. That Israel absorbed the bulk of these Jews, while Arab “hosts,” including in Arab-administered areas of Palestine itself, isolate the Arab refugees’ descendants in Western-supported “refugee camps” does not convert the Arab-Israeli conflict’s two-sided refugee issue into a “Palestinian” refugee issue. Had the Arabs accepted the UN partition plan that included a western Palestine Arab state, instead of conducting war to destroy the Jewish one, there would have been no “Palestinian” refugees. If there is going to ever be any settlement of this issue, the plight of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands must be taken into account.
- Israel “Seized” Arab Lands in 1967
It did not. The 1967 war, like its predecessors, was a defensive war forced upon Israel. Israel’s neighbors did not want to compromise; they simply wanted to destroy the Jewish State. The newly obtained Israeli territory was meant to provide a security barrier and ensure this could never happen. Moreover, these parts of the Palestine Mandate were not “Arab lands” to which Jews had no historical or legal claim.
- Israel’s “1967 Borders”
The 1949 Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement expressly declared the “green line” it drew between the two sides’ ceasefire positions as a military ceasefire line only, without prejudice to either side’s political border claims. The post-’67 war UN Resolution 242 pointedly did not demand Israel retreat back to the 1949 ceasefire lines.
- “Israeli-Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem” and Gaza
That the media insistently calls Israeli presence in the heart of Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” does not make it so. Israel has strong legal grounds for its presence there. “Occupation” is an international law term referencing foreign presence in the sovereign territory of another state. The land of Israel’s last sovereign native state before modern Israel was Jewish Judæa. The land ratio of Arab lands to Israel is 625-1, and 22 states to one. The vast majority of Arabs in Judea and Samaria are ruled by their own government, the Palestinian Authority. Gaza is also bordered by Egypt, and not one Jew or Israeli lives in that territory, which is ruled by Hamas.
- “Jewish Settlers and Settlements” vs. “Palestinian Residents of Neighborhoods and Villages”
A favorite media news article contrast is referencing in the same sentence to “Jewish settlers” in “settlements” and “Palestinian residents” of nearby “neighborhoods” and “villages.” Jews are not alien “settlers” in a Jerusalem that has had a Jewish majority since 19th century times or in the Jewish historical heartland of Judea and Samaria. Where Jews live are towns, villages and cities, not “Jewish settlements.” Palestinian Authority President Abbas has repeatedly stated that no Jews will be permitted to live in a future Palestinian state on these lands: that is racist and apartheid. Yet, Arabs live in Israel and participate in its democratic culture, serve in the Knesset, Supreme Court and other institutions, enjoying the same rights as citizens as all Israelis, including health care and education.
- Israel’s insistence on “Jewish State” recognition is “a new stumbling block”
New since Moses’ time! The Jewish homeland of Israel, including continuous homeland-claiming Jewish presence, has always been central to Jewish peoplehood. In 1947, British Foreign Secretary Bevin told Parliament that the Jews’ “essential point of principle” was a sovereign Jewish Palestine state (and that Arabs’ “essential point of principle” was to prevent it). Prime Minister Netanyahu has enunciated a fair formula: Israel is prepared to recognized a Palestinian Arab state if they will recognize that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People.
- “Palestinians accept and Israel rejects a Two-State Solution”
Wrong on both counts. Both the U.S. and Israel define “Two States” as two states for two peoples – Jews and Arabs. The Arabs insistently reject two states for two peoples. Many Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, support that plan – conditioned on an end to Palestinian terror. The Arabs continuously and consistently deny Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish People, no matter where its borders are drawn. The Arabs have rejected a state of their own, living side-by-side with Israel, six times since 1937.
- “The Palestinians”
The United Nations’ 1947 partition resolution called Palestine’s Arabs and Jews “the two Palestinian peoples.” Nothing is more self-delegitimizing and counter-productive to achieving peace based on Arab recognition of Jews’ right to be there, than that Jews should go around calling Palestinian Arabs “The Palestinians.” In 1947, the U.N. called Palestine’s Jews and its Arabs “the two Palestinian peoples,” and even the Associated Press has acknowledged that during the Mandate Muslims, Christians and Jews living there were all called Palestinians. Arabs living there abhorred being called “Palestinians” as that term was commonly meant for the Jews. The P.L.O. was not even formed until 1964. Palestinian Arabs have no distinguishing language, religion, or culture from neighboring Arabs, and have never been sovereign in Palestine, whereas the Jews, with a presence stretching back three millennia, have had three states there, all Jerusalem-based. During the 1948-67 period that Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria, Arabs could have established a state in that territory. But that was not their intention, which was to destroy Israel. Instead, always refer to them as “Palestinian Arabs.”
Finally, and very significantly, it is our duty collectively and individually to be ambassadors for the truth, and to help win our future by helping win back our past. It should go without saying that the safety and security of the Jewish community is bound inextricably to a strong Israel. Emphasize Israel’s positives as it strives to engage in tikkun olam (repairing the world). Israel is “the Start Up Nation,” a small nation that has made a huge difference, sharing with the world its accomplishments and inventions in high-tech, bio-medicine, and agriculture. It engages in humanitarian missions worldwide as a first responder, is a beacon of Judeo-Christian values, is a democracy that respects civil rights, women’s rights, minority rights, gay rights, is an asset and ally of the U.S., and an oasis in a hostile, totalitarian Arab desert. These, in short, reflect our Jewish values. Remember: if you forfeit the language, you forfeit our heritage and history.
Lee S. Bender, co-President of ZOA’s Greater Philadelphia District, and Jerome R. Verlin, a recent vice-president, are co-authors of Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-to-Z, Pavilion Press (Philadelphia) 2012. They have written numerous articles and are launching a Facts on Israel website and app devoted to countering anti-Israel media bias.
Ready to fix the world? The magic begins on April 6 with Shaboom! – the brand new Jewish kids’ series from G‑dcast that combines the best of children’s TV and Jewish tradition to make learning fun.
When magical “sparks” Gabi and Rafael discover the Plony family doing something silly, they slide down the rainbow to help out. Watch what happens when they try to use magic (Shaboom!) to make things right in this exciting new Jewish kids show complete with silly songs, new Hebrew words and great ideas for the family.
Shaboom! is a free, web-based Jewish kids show for 4-7 year olds and their parents learning about:
Mini-Season One: Spring 2016
- Episode #01. Welcoming Guests (Hachnasat Orchim) Release 04/06/16
- Episode #02. Gratitude (Hakarat Hatov) Release 04/13/16
- Episode #03. Visiting the Sick (Bikur Cholim) Release 04/20/16
- Episode #04. Giving (Tzedakah) Release 04/27/16
- Episode #05. Honor or Respect (Kavod) Release 05/04/16
Mini-Season Two: Fall 2016
- Episode #06. Taking Care of Nature (Bal Taschit) Release 09/07/16
- Episode #07. Courage of the Heart (Ometz Lev) Release 09/14/16
- Episode #08. Peace in the Home (Shalom Bayit) Release 09/21/16
- Episode #09. Returning Lost Objects (Hashavat Aveidah) Release 09/28/16
- Episode #10. Saying I’m Sorry (Slicha) Release 10/05/16
Each of episode is accompanied by a separate video for parents that delves into each episode’s value, explaining “what’s Jewish” and instilling in parents the knowledge and confidence to model the values for their children. The 10-part series launches April 6, 2016 with the theme of “Hachnasat Orchim” – Welcoming Guests.
“Shaboom! is a jolt of energy into Jewish family education, and it’s an especially major step forward for Jewish media content,” says Cathy Rolland, Director of Engaging Families with Young Children at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), which is helping to promote Shaboom! through its strong network of Early Childhood Professionals who will be sharing it across hundreds of ECE centers throughout North America. “This is a phenomenal vehicle to reach our youngest learners and their families and positively influence their behaviors and attitudes.”
Along with the URJ, other major partners from the Jewish world include the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), JCC Association, Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the PJ Library Alliance, and InterfaithFamily, among many others. They are all helping to share and build upon the series. G-dcast also is working with Jewish organizations around the country to organize local screenings of Shaboom! episodes for families.
The videos for children and the matching clips for their parents were designed in consultation with individuals from leading children’s education and tech organizations and companies including Sesame Workshop, Amazon Studios, Electronic Arts et al, Pixar, and experts from the research and academic world who study learning and media.
Throughout a 40 year career at Sesame Street, Dr. Lewis Bernstein has led efforts to improve the intellectual, social, emotional, and moral lives of children through media. His approach has been to entertain children while educating them, so that their attention can be captured with joy.
“Shaboom! is doing the same,” Bernstein says, “making timeless Jewish values new again, engaging, and fun for children and their parents alike. Shaboom! is designed as a learning adventure for the entire family. There are imaginative episodes for kids and corresponding resources like videos, downloads and curated follow-up reading for parents. And when parents and children co-engage in learning, virtually and long after the screen dims, the impact is always greater.”
Shaboom! is written by kids’ TV veteran Robert Pincombe and directed by staffer Jeremy Shuback. It was inspired by impactful, research-backed shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Super WHY! and Sesame Street. The series was tested by children’s media evaluators Rockman Et Al to help shape the programming to most effectively achieve learning and engagement outcomes with families.
G-dcast recently began focusing on on entry-level materials for kids, families and adults. Shaboom! is the centerpiece for families, especially those raising Jewish children ages 0-8. Since its founding, the nonprofit has created over 200 animated videos and apps tailored to meet the interests of people curious about the basics of Judaism. Accessible for free on platforms like Youtube, iTunes and Facebook, G-dcast’s goal is to create a comprehensive free multimedia introduction to Judaism with zero barriers to entry.
Adds Lefton, “Shaboom! is as entertaining as something you’d see on Nick Jr or PBS Kids, but it’s packed with Jewish ideas rather than math or reading help. This is where our biggest impact is – bringing people in the door that they’re hanging out in front of anyway, aka, their smartphones.”
The Shaboom! early childhood initiative has been generously funded by leading Jewish philanthropists and foundations, including Peleh Fund, two anonymous foundations, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the PJ Library Alliance, Bernstein Family Foundation (DC), and the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. As part of this initiative, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah is supporting the Shaboom! parent videos.
Forbes called G-dcast “the Schoolhouse Rock for Jews,” and its approach and products been featured on NPR, in the Wall Street Journal and CNN.com. The studio is a five-time-selected participant in Slingshot, an annual compilation resource guide to Jewish Innovation.
Lefton, who founded the organization in 2008, is a recipient of the Joshua Venture Group fellowship for Jewish social entrepreneurs. She was named a 2012 recipient of the Pomegranate Prize for exceptional young Jewish educators and was named one of the “Forward 50” most influential Jews by the Forward newspaper. Prior to founding G-dcast, Lefton produced projects for The New York Times on the Web, the Village Voice, Princess Cruises, and several robotics companies; she also started the brand JewishFashionConspiracy.com, best known for the YO SEMITE tee shirt.
View a sample parenting resource video:
“Who asked you to boycott Israeli companies?” questions Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist. It may be surprising to those unfamiliar with the on-the-ground economic conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank to hear him say, “We Palestinians are not boycotting them, so what do we need you to boycott them for?”
Bassem Eid was born in the Jordanian controlled part of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, and grew up in the Shuafat refugee camp. He became a journalist, and worked for B’Tselem, an Israeli non-profit organization whose goal was to document Israel’s human rights violations in the West Bank. In 1996, he founded the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, whose mission is to monitor human rights violations by both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. Bassem Eid has spent twenty-six years studying the United Nations organization that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. He told me that his family’s experience was “of Arab leaders promising Palestinians short-term suffering for long-term benefit, since 1948. All we saw was long-term suffering. Everybody is using the Palestinians for their own gain. The United Nations, the Palestinian Authority, and others all make money by keeping us poor and dependent. For them, we are a business.” Mr. Eid is a vocal critic of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. About the BDS activists he observed, “They are trying to survive on the conflict, attaching themselves to it in order to remain relevant. Most of them have no idea what the conflict is about, how Palestinians live with Israelis, or about coexistence.” He has come to believe that economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, even where it involves Israeli-owned enterprises in the West bank, is a key to improving the economic situation of Palestinians and of forging the bonds of economic inter-dependence and trust required the create peace.
Eid’s emphasis on improving the economic conditions of Palestinians, and his willingness to see Palestinians partner with Israelis to achieve this, is exemplified by his current speaking tour. Eid is on a tour of the United States, sponsored by StandWithUs, a pro-Israel solidarity group, with Erez Zadok. Zadok, the Israeli CEO of Aviv Fund Management, invests in Israeli factories that employ Palestinians. Like Mr. Eid, he wonders why the BDS movement would want to deprive Palestinians of their livelihoods.
Erez Zadok invested in SodaStream three years ago. The company’s mission, through its location in the West Bank, was “to make peace, and to also make soda.” Israeli companies located in the West Bank must comply with Israeli law. “Palestinians working for Israeli companies in this region earn five times more than the Palestinians who work for Palestinians’ factories,” he explained. “This money enters the Palestinian economy and goes to private consumption, to buy food, clothes, shoes and other needs. These Palestinians support their families and other circles of Palestinians working to provide them with the goods and services they need,” he added.
Last September, SodaStream shut down its West Bank factory due to pressure from the BDS movement. It relocated to a new factory in the Negev, next to the Bedouin city of Rahat. Three hundred Bedouins now work for SodaStream. The Palestinians who lost those jobs will have a hard time finding a new source of livelihood in a region with 23% unemployment.
The new SodaStream factory is within Israel’s 1948 borders. The BDS movement is still promoting a boycott of its products. When SodaStream was in the West Bank, Palestinians and Israelis worked together under the same conditions, receiving the same benefits, and the same opportunities. Some of them befriended each other, trusted each other, and respected each other. According to Mr. Zadok, “SodaStream manufactured peace, co-existence and normalization between the peoples.”
Bassem Eid and Erez Zadok are working together to achieve peace. They don’t believe that boycotting Israel is the way to get there. Bassem Eid is finding a very receptive audience in the United States. “People are thirsty for first hand information,” he said. “My message is probably upsetting and provoking to many of them.” From his perspective, it’s time to stop blaming Israel for the problems of the Palestinians. “Refugees from every other country have rebuilt their lives after one generation. It’s time for the Palestinians to also pull themselves up and develop,” he concluded.
Most of the contenders for president gave speeches at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and expressed strong support for the defense of Israel. Links to videos and written transcripts of the speeches are provided. [Read more…]