Why Presbyterian Divestment Feels Like Anti-Semitism


From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn’t look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.

This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.

— by Jane Eisner

In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.

But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.

[Read more…]

Naomi Adler Picked To Lead Philadelphia Jewish Federation


Naomi Adler

First Female CEO Takes Reins at Charity Group

— by Anne Cohen

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has reportedly appointed Naomi Adler as its first female CEO.

Adler, 47, has been selected as CEO, the Jewish Exponent reported.

The wife of a Reform rabbi, Adler left a career in law to pursue a calling in nonprofit fundraising and management. She currently serves as president and CEO of United Way in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York, a post she has held since 2008.

Though new to Philadelphia area, home to an estimated 214,000 Jews, Adler said she was honored, and excited at the idea of moving her family.

“I am extremely excited to partner with our leadership to set a vision for the future as this work is essential to so many in the community,” she said in a prepared statement.

Adler will reportedly take over Federation in early May.

This article originally appeared at forward.com, February 3, 2014.
Reproduced from here by permission of the Forward.

The Forward and the Jewish Journal of Boston Launch Partnership


Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner has strong ties to the Philadelphia Jewish community. Before 2008 when she became the first woman to edit The Forward, she was vice president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, held a variety of positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer including editorial page editor, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. Her TV program The Salon continues to air locally on TJC.

Collaboration Will Enhance Jewish Journalism in Greater Boston

The Jewish Daily Forward and The Jewish Journal, two of the American Jewish community’s leading news sources, are working together to expand their coverage and entice more readers to connect with the Jewish community in Greater Boston, nationwide and around the world.

Beginning in August, the Journal’s print edition will include a selection of news, interviews,  features and arts coverage from the Forward’s correspondents worldwide. And the Journal will launch a new website, hosted by the Forward, to provide a rich online experience worthy of the Jewish Journal’s in-depth coverage of the metropolitan Boston Jewish community.

Forward president and publisher Samuel Norich:

This is another step on a road we have been traveling for a century, toward providing the most comprehensive and credible coverage of American Jewry and the Jewish world. Because we believe a robust Jewish press is essential to the health of our communities, the Forward is pleased to work with the Jewish Journal to better serve Boston’s Jewish community, and we look forward to extending this collaborative model to publications in other localities.

In this partnership, each organization will retain its editorial and financial independence. The Forward, by working with the Journal, will extend its exposure in the Boston area and benefit from the Journal’s thorough knowledge of its community. The Journal will gain access to the Forward’s extensive experience in national and international journalism, digital media and marketing.

Barbara Schneider, publisher of the Jewish Journal:

We’re laying the groundwork to expand beyond our traditional base on the North Shore. By partnering with the Forward, the Jewish Journal can maintain its hyper-local approach to covering communal news and provide a more valuable service to the Greater Boston community. We will also be able to offer our community a more comprehensive and up-to-the minute website.

Everyone wins. The Jewish Journal benefits, the Forward benefits, and — more importantly — our readers and web users benefit from our ability to do more for them together than we can separately.

About The Forward

The Forward is a legendary name in journalism, chronicling the American Jewish story for 116 years. As a nonprofit, user-supported media organization, it remains committed today to serving the Jewish community and society’s greater good with a national, Jewish perspective, strengthening Jewish engagement with independent reporting and diverse commentary on current issues and the arts, in English and Yiddish, that meet the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.

Its news, analysis, features and arts coverage reach an audience of millions through the Internet at forward.com, as well as its newspapers published in both English and Yiddish. Forward journalists are regularly seen and heard on CNN, MSNBC and NPR, and its coverage is regularly cited by major outlets such as the New York Times, Israeli media and international wire services. The Forward’s excellence has been recognized with numerous professional journalism awards for reporting, editorials, design and web content.

About The Jewish Journal

The Jewish Journal is a nonprofit, independent, local paper that shines a light on all aspects of Jewish communal life in the Greater Boston area, while offering a broad spectrum of opinion on its op-ed pages.

Founded in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1977, the Jewish Journal is now based in Salem. Its mission is to inform, engage, educate and connect the Jewish community in the Greater Boston region. The newspaper is distributed free to families in more than 60 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts, and mailed to subscribers in other states.  

For Samantha Power, Support for Israel Is Deeply Personal & Proven

— by Jason Berger

On Saturday, The Jewish Daily Forward‘s Nathan Guttman published an article on Samantha Power, President Obama’s nominee for U.N. Ambassador, and her commitment to Israel. Guttman’s piece opened with a story from 2009 in which Power is meeting with Israeli officials. In the middle of their discussion, she pulled out a picture of her son and described how her husband Cass Sustein is a descendent of the, “Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the 18th-century Jewish sage who is considered the greatest talmudic scholar of his time.”

Guttman concluded that while this might partially explain Power’s commitment to Israel, it is not the only reason. Former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. Dan Arbel explains that for as long as he has known Power, her strong sentiment towards Israel has always been second nature. He states, “Her starting point has always been, ‘How do we work together to overcome obstacles and to ensure that both the United States and Israel get out of these U.N. situations with the least damage?”

Guttman also discussed how Power dealt with almost every Israel-related issue at the U.N. during Ambassador Susan Rice’s tenure. According to an Administration official, “She was involved in any brush fire at the United Nations. After [U.N. Ambassador] Susan Rice, she was the most influential person on U.N. issues.”

More after the jump.
Most impressively, though, are the Israelis who are praising the Power selection. Guttman noted:

Israeli officials noted Power’s leadership role in getting the administration to pull out of the 2009 Durban II anti-racism conference because of its anti-Israel bias. They also applauded her work in defeating the P.A.’s 2011 drive to achieve recognition for Palestine as an independent state through the United Nations Security Council. Power’s strong profile on these two issues, said Jarrod Bernstein, who served until recently as liaison to the Jewish community at the White House, shows “two instances in which she distinguished herself as being on the right side of the community.”

Power also participated in discussions that sought to dissipate the difficulties that Israel faced as a result of the 2009 Goldstone Report, which alleged that Israel had committed war crimes during its military campaign in Gaza the previous year.

Power was instrumental, too, in protecting Israel following the widespread condemnation it faced in 2010 for its attack on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that sought to deliver a shipment of humanitarian goods to Gaza in violation of the blockade that Israel had imposed on the territory. Before leaving her NSC post, Power, according to an official involved in those talks, worked on strategies for preventing Israel’s adversaries in this episode from pursuing their case at the International Criminal Court in Hague.

Forward: Philly Federation Faces Crisis as Schwartz Abruptly Leaves

The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis broke an important story on the abrupt resignation of Ira Schwartz, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Continuity Elusive at Top of Nation’s No. 6 Community
Ira Schwartz, departed abruptly in early May, marking the fourth time the federation has lost its top professional leader since the early 1990s. That’s unusual among big-city federations, where successful executives often last decades….

Philadelphia’s federation announced Schwartz’s departure late on May 3, a Friday afternoon. A statement and story published in the federation-owned Jewish Exponent disclosed no details about why Schwartz was leaving, saying only that the separation was effective immediately.

Counting Down From Destruction, Looking Forward to Redemption


(photo and description of Ketubah graciously provided by Mary Raz from the “Greek Jews” group on Facebook)

— by Joel S.W. Davidi

Corfu ketuboth are distinguished for using double dating, the year since creation and the year since the destruction of the Temple. The two dates on this ketubah read at the wedding of Yani, the son of Raphael De Osmo, and Esther, daughter of David De Mordo, are 5573 and 1745. The decoration is calligraphic, inscribing verses from the Books of Isaiah and Ruth which speak of bridegroom, bride, rejoicing, and blessings, (Ketubah, Corfu, 3 Heshvan, 5573 (1812), Hebraic Section, Library of Congress Photo).

The custom of calculating the years since the destruction of the Temple seems to have been a widespread one across the Balkans. Both Sephardim and Romaniotes prided themselves on their roots from the exiles of Jerusalem (Sephardim would often refer to ‘The exiles from Jerusalem that is in Sepharad‘, mentioned in Obadiah, while Romaniotes and Italkim [like De Rossi, for instance] cited oral tradition that they arrived in the area as Titus’ slaves after the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth in 70 CE).

More after the jump.
When Eliezer ben Yehuda began his Zionist project of reviving Hebrew as a spoken language, he encountered strong Sephardic support. This community, which people like A. Papo in his Sephardim in the United States, dubbed ‘zionist in nature’, was enthusiastic about such a project.

Philologos writing in the Forward newspaper:

…Yet when Ben-Yehuda began publishing his weekly Hebrew newspaper Hatsvi in Jerusalem in the autumn of 1884, the date on its first issue was, “Friday, 5 Heshvan, 1816 years since the destruction of the Temple, 5645.” (There was no Gregorian date at all.) This formula was followed in the first seven issues of Hatsvi, after which “5645” was dropped. From then on, the only year on the masthead referred to the destruction of the Second Temple, which Ben-Yehuda chose to date to the beginning of the Romans’ siege of Jerusalem in 68 C.E. rather than to their final victory in 70. In everything else that he published, including his monumental 16-volume dictionary, he followed the same system.

Ben-Yehuda was an ardently nationalistic Zionist and an equally ardently anti-religious secularist, and his method of dating served both ideologies, replacing a chronology that started with God’s creation of the world with one that started with the loss of Jewish political independence in antiquity. And yet, just as he was always looking for justifications in Hebrew sources for his many linguistic innovations, so was his dating rooted in the past. Counting the years from the destruction of the Temple was actually quite common among Jews in the early centuries of the Christian era and was a system used in many ancient Hebrew documents and contracts. Although its year zero was eventually replaced by that of Creation, traces of it can still be found in Sephardic and Yemenite prayer books. Thus, for example, in some Sephardic liturgies for the fast day of the Ninth of Av, the day of mourning for the Temple, there is the passage:

“Alas for the destruction of the Temple! Alas for the burning of the Torah! Alas for the murder of righteous Jews! Alas for the sorrow of the Messiah [in having his coming delayed]! Today is ____ number of years since the destruction of our holy shrine.”

Note: Catriel Cellabos from the Western Sephardic Debate group points out:

We say something like this after ‘arbith of 9 de Ab (the traditional date that commemorates the destruction of both Temples), in Spanish: “Nuestros hermanos hijos de Israel, por nuestros pecados etc.” with the number of years.

Joel S.W. Davidi, a historian, is the creator of Romaniote Jews and Italkim/Bene Roma.  This site “Studies the indigenous Jewish communities of Southern Europe and the Balkans.”

Jack Lew’s Shabbat Helper

— by Nathan Guttman

Reprinted courtesy of The Forward

When Jack Lew was appointed chief of staff to President Obama in January, many in the Jewish community wondered how he could observe Shabbat in such a demanding position.

Luckily, Lew has the most powerful man in the world to keep track of time as the sun starts to dip low in the sky on Friday afternoons.

“I saw the president on many occasions on Friday afternoons look at his watch, and ask: ‘Isn’t it time for you to get going?'” Lew said, “or, ‘Why are you still here?’ The president was not checking the clock “because he doesn’t think I can keep time,” Lew said. Rather, the extra care on this issue reflects the President’s wish “to remind me that it’s important to him, not just to me, that I be able to make that balance.”

Lew, who is Orthodox, revealed the details about his keeping Shabbat in an extraordinary interview with the Forward that touched on his need to observe the Jewish holy day.

“And he’s respected that time and again,” the chief of staff said of Obama.

The chief of staff noted it was Obama who brought up the issue of Shabbat when first offering Lew the job.

“He raised it with me saying: ‘I know that things are going to come up where there’s an emergency on Saturday or that you need to be here. I know you well enough to know that this is not an issue. I want you to know that I’m never going to ask you to work on Saturday if it’s not really necessary. It’s important for me that you know that.'”

On his behalf, Lew provided the President with his own assurances.

More after the jump.
“I’ve made it clear,” Lew said, “that you don’t have to wonder if there’s a crisis whether I’m available. If you need me, I don’t even consider it a violation of my faith to be doing the things I need to do to make sure people are not in harm’s way.”

In practice, this arrangement has worked out well. On Fridays, Lew leaves the White House before Shabbat begins and he is off on Saturdays. In the cases where his presence was needed on Shabbat, the chief of staff usually walked to the White House and back.

Rabbis he consulted with assured Lew that when there is a real necessity, Jewish tradition approves of working on the Sabbath. The number of times Lew actually had to work in Saturday has been “limited,” he said.

Lew had dealt with the potential conflicts between observing Shabbat and working in top level positions under President Bill Clinton, when he served as the White House budget director. Clinton made sure not to have his top budget adviser busy from sundown Friday to the end of Saturday, and Lew made himself available when emergencies occurred.

“I have found that if you are true to your own beliefs, people respect it,” Lew said. “I’ve found that President Obama considers it a sign of strength and value that there is something in my life that reflects principles that I adhere to.”

Reprinted courtesy of The Forward.

Romney’s GOP Baggage

— by David Streeter

The Forward‘s J.J. Goldberg wrote this week about the extra “GOP baggage” that would come along with a Mitt Romney presidency. Goldberg wrote:

It’s a wise old rule of the heart, too often forgotten: When you choose a spouse, remember that you’re not just marrying a mate – you’re also marrying into a family.

There’s a corollary that’s worth remembering when you enter the voting booth in November: You’re not just electing a president. You’re electing an administration and the party that will staff it up….

You’ll be choosing a head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to police Wall Street unless it decides to close its eyes and let the gamblers run the table. You’re choosing a head of the U.S. Forest Service, which protects national forests from developers, unless it’s headed by developers, and of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, whose scientists keep track of the terrifying trends in the earth’s climate while dodging the anti-science bullies of the Republican Congress.

You’re choosing the head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which was led at a key point during the last Republican administration by one Michael ‘Brownie’ Brown, whose professional background was in show-horses, a pursuit that seems to have quite a following among Republican politicians.

You’re choosing a pool of Supreme Court nominees. The next president will likely decide whether the court’s pro-life faction is enlarged to the point where it can overturn Roe v. Wade. Ironically, this is the same pro-life faction that would rather risk executing an innocent man than risk setting a murderer free.

And you’ll probably be choosing a foreign policy team that yearns to resurrect the cowboy diplomacy of the George W. Bush administration, which did so much to discredit American leadership in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere….

Just look at Romney’s leadership field. In the GOP-led House of Representatives, Space, Science and Technology Committee Chair Ralph Hall of Texas believes human activity can’t impact the global climate because ‘I don’t think we can control what God controls.’ Science investigations and oversight subcommittee chair Paul Broun of Georgia said in a September 27 speech that he believes ‘the earth is about 9,000 years old’ and ‘was created in six days as we know them,’ and that ‘evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.’

The farm team is even weirder. In Arkansas, the GOP-led legislature has a pair of members, Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch, who are openly nostalgic for African-American slavery (you read that right), and a former member running for his old seat, Charles Fuqua, who favors enacting the biblical law of executing ‘rebellious’ children by stoning.

This, then, is the crux of the choice this November: Whether to entrust our government to a party that believes in sensible governance or one that doesn’t. It would be better if we had two parties with two rational approaches to governing, rather than one that’s for it and one that’s against it. Competition is a good thing. But that’s not on offer.

Click here to read Goldberg’s full piece.  

Limmud Philly 2012: You don’t want to miss it!

Limmud Philly 2012, Friday April 27 through Sunday, April 29! PhillyLimmud is a widely acclaimed festival of Jewish learning and culture where 70 amazing presentations are scheduled this year.

Be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice table in the Hall of Community Organizations to express your Jewish media needs and views to members of our editorial team, and to receive a free Philadelphia Jewish Voice bumper sticker. You will also have the opportunity to buy autographed copies of Rabbi Milgram’s new book Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, and just-released decks to Mitzvah Cards, in support of LimmudPhilly and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Judaism Editor, will be teaching, among more than 70 amazing presentations scheduled:
Mark your calendars for

  • A cooking demonstration by a James Beard Award-winning chef who will talk about Jewish food around the world
  • A talk on the future of democracy in Israel by a past Deputy Speaker of the Knesset
  • A presentation on the Arab Spring by a media maven and co-author with Dennis Ross of a book on America and the Middle East

More after the jump.

  • A play about the history and absurdity of prejudice and the power of diversity performed by two very funny guys, one Jewish and one black
  • A discussion about the role of Jews in the 2012 presidential election led by the former editor of the Forward and the Jewish Exponent
  • A tap dance lesson set to Jewish themes taught by an artist who trained with Savion Glover and performed with Matisyahu
  • A screening of testimonies from the survivors of Rwanda presented by an Emmy Award-winning producer who trained under Ken Burns
  • An opportunity to hear and sing the new Jewish “soul” music with a local cantor who lived in both Austin, Texas, and Israel

It will all begin on Friday evening with Shabbat dinner and services. Havdalah begins at 8:30 Saturday evening, followed by a concert with the always delightful Maccabeats. There will  be multiple non-stop, simultaneous sessions, so you will have to make some tough choices.

Visit the LimmudPhilly website for further information and to register.

We look forward to learning with you!