History Is Now: Youth Rescue in Israel Continues

-Carol Goodman Kaufman

The story of Youth Aliyah is one of adventure, Jewish and world history, and good versus evil, with a few heroes — and even a few miracles — thrown in for good measure.

On January 30, 1933, the very day that Adolph Hitler was named chancellor in Germany, educator and musician Recha Freier anticipated that things were going to get very bad for the Jews. Believing that it was critical to get children out of harm’s way, she founded Youth Aliyah, hoping to convince parents to send their children to relative safety in Palestine.

The Jewish Agency adopted this project and chose as its leader the inestimable Henrietta Szold, the founder of Hadassah. Even though she was already in her 70s, Szold traveled to Nazi-occupied Europe to rescue children, and she made it a point to be on the dock to meet every ship that made it to Palestine. While Szold never married and had children of her own, the thousands of children she saved called her “Ima,” the Hebrew word for mother.

Virtually none of these children ever saw their families again. But because of the care they received, they grew up to become outstanding citizens of the new nation of Israel. Among the prominent Israelis who spent time in youth villages are the late national leader Shimon Peres and the famed artist Mordechai Rosenstein. Actor and author Gila Almagor wrote of her experiences in Youth Aliyah in “Under the Domim Tree,” a novel that was made into a movie of the same name.

youth-aliyah-kids-w-goat_conv2016

Youth Aliyah Students

The job of saving children didn’t stop with the war’s end. Far from it. Since 1934, over 300,000 young people from 80 different countries have graduated from Youth Aliyah.

As difficult as it is to accept, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, almost 800,000 Israeli children, which is about 30%, lived below the poverty line in 2014. The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute reports that as of January 2015, almost 400,000 at-risk children and youth, up to age 17, in Israel were registered with municipal social services. They suffer from physical and sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse and the effects of prostitution. These youth engage in high-risk behaviors, have low educational achievements and suffer from emotional or social problems.

Almost from its inception, Youth Aliyah has received significant support from Hadassah. The three villages sponsored by Hadassah — Meir Shfeyah, Ramat Hadassah Szold and Hadassah Neurim — accept the neediest and most difficult students, ages 12 to 18.

Some children come because their parents can’t or won’t take care of them, whether because of poverty or extreme dysfunction.

Some students come on their own initiative, trying to break free of hopelessness. Eli Mentason, one of nine children of Ethiopian immigrant parents, had to drop out of school at the age of 8 in order to help support his family. After working in the Netanya open-air market for several years, he decided that he wanted a future, so he found his way to the Meir Shfeyah youth village. Eli is now a criminal defense attorney, a husband (married to a fellow student from the village) and a father. He has been “paying forward” his good fortune by finding other lost boys and bringing them to Youth Aliyah.

And then there are the “Na’ale” (“we will go up”) kids. Parents are sending their beloved children to Israel — alone — because of the increasingly difficult life for Jews in places like Russia, Ukraine and Estonia. A full 30% of our student population is made up of children from the former Soviet Union.

In addition, hundreds of day students want to study at our village schools. The parents of upper middle class Zichron Ya’akov petitioned the Ministry of Education to allow their children to attend the excellent, award-winning high school at Meir Shfeyah. These students and the boarding students both benefit from the mix of culture and social class.

Not all of our students are Jewish. Our villages also serve Arab, Bedouin and even Eritrean refugee children.

In our villages, students receive not just shelter and food, but also education, vocational training, counseling and other support services that help them develop the life skills they need to become productive members of Israeli society. The work is challenging. With some of our students, we have to teach basic life skills, ranging from personal hygiene to self-discipline and teamwork. In addition, almost 85% of the children come to us with some level of learning disability, so small classes and one-on-one tutoring are necessary.

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Youth Aliyah student harvesting grapes for wine at Meir Shfeyah

The vocational training curriculum includes courses in the culinary arts, high-tech precision tool-making and high-tech motor vehicle maintenance. From the beginning, agricultural work has also been a major part of the vocational training in the villages. The village of Meir Shfeyah, for example, has a winery under the direction of a renowned vintner. The village produces 5,000 bottles of wine a year, with the students doing everything, from tending the vines, harvesting the grapes and making the wine to designing the labels and helping with the marketing.

Finally, a huge portion of our population comes to us knowing nothing of Judaism or Jewish history. Our Joy of Judaism program addresses this enormous vacuum through small group discussions and hands-on activities that bring the richness of Jewish heritage into our students’ lives. In the 11th and 12th grades, our students, like all Israeli high schoolers, participate in a heritage mission to Poland that includes visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and several concentration camps. When they return to Israel, these children have a newly developed understanding of their place in Jewish history, and pride in their identity as Jews and Israelis.

The work of Youth Aliyah is critical. Failure is not an option. Israel needs physically and emotionally healthy adults to ensure a safe and secure future for all within her borders. By following in the inspiring footsteps of Recha Freier and Henrietta Szold, we can make real the Zionist dream.

For more information, please contact Carol Goodman Kaufman, the national chair of Youth Aliyah for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

Israeli Hospital Saves Terrorist’s Life

2012-01-emergencyMed

The Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine.

— by Barbara Sofer

Outside the Swartz Center for Emergency Medicine (CEM) at Hadassah’s hospital in Jerusalem, TV cameramen were waiting for the sirens of the ambulance. A young man who had been stabbed by a terrorist was already there.

The terrorist, allegedly associated with Islamic jihad, had driven his vehicle into a bus stop, running over 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus. When his minivan hit an obstruction, he jumped out and began stabbing her and others before a security guard shot him. The terrorist ran away after being shot, but the guard pursued him and shot him again. The terrorist was coming in the second ambulance.

The ambulance parked near the entrance of the CEM. Medics hurried around the back and carried a swarthy, bloodied man on a stretcher into the trauma center. “The terrorist,” a woman in the waiting room near ambulatory care whispered. “It must be the terrorist.”

Doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, soldiers and policemen crowded into the trauma room. Prominent trauma surgeon Avi Rivkind, internationally recognized for handling terror treatment, was orchestrating the care.

The trauma unit was built in the wake of the Second Intifada, between 2000 and 2005, when about half of the terror victims in the country were treated in Hadassah’s hospitals. A team of 10 medics, eight Jews and two Arab, was struggling together to save the lives of these patients.

The terrorist was placed in the far left bay; the man he had stabbed to the right. They received the same treatment.

The victim needed a CAT scan. The terrorist, identified as Maher Hadi a-Hashalmoun from Hebron, was suspected to have a bullet in his heart. Imaging technicians and a cardio-thoracic surgeon were summoned, and a senior orthopedic surgeon stood by.

A group of physicians hovered over the computer to interpret the tests. Would the terrorist need heart surgery? The hospital’s director phoned in a request to have operating room number eight readied, just in case.

The terror victim’s stab wounds were evaluated. One of the doctors said that the first CAT scan was different from the second.

Meanwhile, news of another possible stabbing and an injury from a stoning arrived. The empty bays of the trauma center did not need to be readied — they are always ready.

Eighteen physicians, among them Hadassah’s most experienced, surrounded the terrorist as the cardiothoracic surgeon read the test results: The bullet did not hit the terrorist’s heart. The terrorist was wheeled out as specialists began to leave.

The media reported that the terrorist’s other victim, Dalia Lemkus, died of her wounds at the site.

The TV cameras had moved to the atrium of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower. It was too cold and dark outside. The deputy’s director, Dr. Ashi Salmon, spoke before TV cameras. Patients from three other attacks are still at the hospital, he told them.

Patients were waiting for care at the ER walk-in service. Some were wearing kefiyyas, others streimels, still-others were bare-headed. Arab and Jew, religious and secular, and even terror victim and terrorist are treated the same.

A Good List To Be On: The NRA’s Blacklist

Do people still get blacklisted in America?  

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has published a list of “organizations, corporations, publications, and celebrities that have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations.” It features a lot of Jews and Jewish groups:

  • American Jewish Committee
  • American Jewish Congress
  • Jewish Labor Committee
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • Union of American Hebrew Congregations
  • B’nai B’rith
  • Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Hadassah
  • Rabbi Paul Menitaff
  • Rabbi David Saperstein
  • Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
  • Actor Ed Asner
  • Actor and Producer Mel Brooks
  • Actor Hal Linden
  • Actor Leonard Nimoy
  • Actor Jerry Seinfeld
  • Actor Henry Winkler
  • Mayor Ed Koch z’l

They have also blacklisted medical groups such as the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the National Association of Public Hospitals and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the League of Women Voters of the United States, and the National Association of Police Organizations.

Read the complete list. I think you will agree that this is the sort of “blacklist” any self-respecting organization would like to be on.

Hadasit: Taking Hadassah Hospital’s Research To The Next Level

— by Ronit Treatman

Did you know that your body can reject a bone marrow transplant?  

It happens to one out of every three transplant recipients.  This condition is called Graft-versus-host disease.  When this occurs, your transplant attacks you.  Currently, this leads to death.  Researchers at Hadassah Hospital are now conducting human clinical trials on a therapy that can help the body accept and coexist with its bone marrow transplant.  This research is being conducted by one of Hadasit Bio-Holding‘s companies called Enlivex Therapeutics.  

By bringing this therapy to the world, Hadassah is furthering its mission of commitment to “Excellence in research by which the frontiers of medicine are advanced and mankind benefits.”

Celebrating 100 Years of Giving & Contribution Oct. 12-18

— by Racheli Goldblatt

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, will mark a century of partnership with Israel with its Centennial Convention in Jerusalem. Two thousand Hadassah members arriving in Israel will celebrate Hadassah’s centennial participating in symposia, visits to Hadassah projects, a festive parade through Jerusalem, performances and gala events culminating with the dedication of the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower, a 19-story state-of-the-art medical facility, and the presentation of Hadassah’s highest award, the Henrietta Szold Prize, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Hadassah National President Marcie Natan, presentation of the award to the Prime Minister symbolizes 100-years of partnership between the women of Hadassah and Israel, a connection. “We’re marking 100 years and committing ourselves to the next 100,” said Natan.

Hadassah grew last year by 10 percent and now has 330,000 members, active in Jewish life and dedicated donors to the work of Hadassah. The organization that brought modern health care and education to Israel continues to support advances in these fields and to serve as advocates for Israel in all 50 American states and around the world. Hadassah volunteers include major donors and grass-roots activists. Several hundred of the participants belong to the group called “Keepers of the Gate” who have committed to make an annual contribution of $1000 or more.

Celebration details after the jump.

As part of the centennial celebrations a series of events will be held in honor of the donors and their families. The activities will include:

  • lectures by opinion makers and policymakers, personalized dedication ceremonies for donors in the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at the Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem; the opening of the Hadassah Heritage Center in the new Tower;
  • a ceremony to recognize Hadassah’s continued long-time support of Youth Aliyah;
  • its partnership with the Jewish National Fund and the launch of a stamp by the Israel Postal Service to honor Hadassah’s 100-year commitment to the State of Israel;
  • a parade of the organization’s volunteers from Israel and abroad through the streets of Jerusalem,
    as well as gala evenings to celebrate the organization’s century of work.

Heritage Center: On October 13 the launch of the Hadassah Heritage Center will take place in the lobby entrance to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital adjacent to the “Chagall windows.” The Heritage Center is an interactive museum utilizing advanced technology that will feature the organization’s century of achievement.

Stamp and First Day Cover: To honor the organization’s achievements and its centennial celebrations the Israel Postal Service in partnership with the Hadassah will dedicate a stamp that features symbols of Hadassah’s activities in Israel which together will form a Magen David on a blue background with emblem of Hadassah and of the Hadassah Medical Center in the upper right-hand corner.

Dedications for Hadassah Donors at the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Ein Kerem: Special ceremonies will be held to honor the Schwartz and Davidson families.

Conference — Three Day Symposium: As part of the Centennial celebration Hadassah delegates will attend discussions of major strategic issues related to Israel and Israeli society from expert speakers from the fields of academia, government and the media.

Youth Aliyah/JNF: A festive day of educational activities will recognize Hadassah’s commitment to education and immigration absorption. It will be held at the Hadassah Neurim Youth Village in partnership with the Jewish National Fund.

Gala Events: Two gala events will mark the Dedication of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower (October 16) and 100 Years of Hadassah (October 18) at Binyenei Ha’uma. President Shimon Peres will address guests at the Tower Dedication and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend the latter which will include the presentation of the Henrietta Szold Prize to the Prime Minister.

Hadassah

Hadassah was founded on March 3, 1912 in New York by a group of women headed by Henrietta Szold, to advance efforts toward practical Zionist initiatives to foster and improve health and education conditions for women and children of Palestine. In 1912 two nurses are sent to set up a small public-health and welfare station in Jerusalem to provide maternity care and treat trachoma, then rampant in the Middle East. In 1918, a delegation of 45 doctors, nurses and maintenance established hospitals in Safed, Jaffa and Tiberius in addition to renewal of the hospital in Jerusalem. In 1920, Henrietta Szold arrived in Israel to aid the group and remained in the country until her death in 1945. Hadassah nurse, Bertha Landsman, in 1921 establishes the first toddlers’ health station that was to become known as “Tipat Chalav”. The same year also saw the opening of the Hadassah Hospital in Tel Aviv. In 1939 the Mount Scopus Hadassah University Hospital was inaugurated. At that time Hadassah also focused its efforts on Youth Aliyah (immigration) as one of its central goals and served as the chief financial support of such efforts. On April 13, 1948 a convoy of doctors, nurses and staff headed to Mount Scopus was attacked by Arab terrorists and in the slaughter that followed the attack all 78 members of the convoy were killed. 1949 Hadassah saw the opening of the Ramat Hadassah Youth Village which focused on absorption of children who had survived the holocaust and children of Yemenite olim (immigrants). The Hadassah Hospital University Center at in Ein Kerem was opened in 1960. In 1970 the organization established the Hadassah College to meet the significant need of skilled manpower to the technological, industrial, scientific and economic sectors in Israel. In 1975, following the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem, the Medical Center at Mt. Scopus was re-opened. In 1983, “Hadassah International,” the international arm of Hadassah, was founded. In the same year Hadassah-Israel, a group of Hadassah women who had immigrated from the United States to Israel, was founded as the organization’s local Israeli branch.

The 330,000 members of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of American continue their legacy in Israel to this day. Hadassah continues to lead in the field of education with the operation of three youth villages (“Meir Shfeya”, “Hadassah Neurim”, and “Ramat Hadassah Szold”) for youth at risk and with the Hadassah College in Jerusalem; and in the field of health and medical care and research, it’s three world renowned medical facilities. Current research at Hadassah Medical Organization is cutting edge, including that related to stem cells and medical technology, and is a key aspect of Israel’s leading role in medical research. With the dedication of Hadassah’s Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at the Centennial Celebrations, the Hadassah women look forward to their 2nd Century continuing the Hadassah legacy of uniting advanced educational and medical technologies with the spirit of healing.

Jewish Women Leaders Endorse Barack Obama

— by Max Samis

Three prominent leaders in the Jewish community wrote an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel endorsing President Barack Obama for reelection. Nancy Ratzan, past president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Millie Sernovitz, past president of Jewish Women International, and Barbara Dobkin, founding chair of the Hadassah Foundation, made it clear that for both women and the Jewish community, Obama has proven to be the right choice.

Op/ed follows the jump.
Ratzan, Sernovitz, and Dobkin wrote:

No one doubts that the 2012 election will define the path forward for this nation and for each of us. The next president of the United   States will nominate one or two Supreme Court justices, thereby defining the balance of the Court and our fundamental rights for decades to come. He will lead us to either secure health care access as a universal right or throw those who can’t afford care under the bus. He will determine whether middle and lower-income Americans will have opportunity or whether that will be the privilege of only the exceedingly wealthy. He will lead our foreign policy agenda, including the intensity of our response to Iran and the depth of our alliance with Israel. And he will advance, or not, the fundamental rights of women to economic security, equality and reproductive rights.

The good news is that all the cards are already on the table…

President Obama’s cards are on the table too – best reflected in his record. With respect to Israel, our security assistance has increased every year, we’ve quelled attempts to isolate Israel, and Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. With respect to domestic achievements, his historic health care reform has created access to better and more affordable health care for millions of Americans. Now, being a woman is no longer a pre-exiting condition. And despite pressure, President Obama maintained his commitment to women’s health, ensuring women can have access to preventive care, regardless of where they work or if they worship.

He nominated two extraordinarily wise, judicious and universally respected women to the Supreme Court. He has devoted his presidency to restoring economic security for all, acknowledging both the need for spending cuts and new revenue.

And women’s cards are face-up too. We won’t tolerate turning back the clocks. We won’t retreat on our rights to contraception, determining for ourselves when and whether to bear children, or on non-discriminatory access to health care, including no co-pay for preventive care like mammograms and contraception. We won’t abide by a policy that cuts taxes for the rich and guts spending on student financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start and environmental protection. We won’t accept packing the Supreme Court with those who would rubber-stamp partisan policy. And we will not be persuaded by misleading sound bites from candidates about Israel, for we know this country’s and this president’s unwavering allegiance to our Jewish homeland.

We will vote for the candidate whose words and deeds reflect our values and our interests. This year, we will stand up for ourselves and vote in record numbers that will determine the outcome of this election.

All People Deserve Respect


— by David Street

Yesterday, President Barack Obama joined with the sweeping majority of American Jews in supporting marriage equality for all Americans. Leading Jewish organizations including the NJDC lauded the President’s show of support.

“To put it plainly, the vast majority of American Jews are behind the President in support of marriage equality,” commented NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris. “In recent decades, many of our community’s mainstream institutions have worked to welcome and include gays and lesbians-to the point where it is now a widely accepted norm, with certain Jewish clergy routinely performing same-sex marriages. But perhaps most notably, the recent poll released by the Public Religion Research institute found that at least 81% of American Jews support marriage equality — showing that grassroots American Jewry, our communal institutions, and now the President are united on this important civil rights issue.”

A roundup of their statements appears below.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

We enthusiastically welcome President Obama’s endorsement today of marriage equality for all couples. History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America. … Civil marriage has historically connoted social acceptance and the recognition of not just a legal relationship between two individuals, but as the Supreme Court has recognized, is ‘the most important relation in life’ (Maynard v. Hill); it is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred’ (Griswold v. Connecticut). These rights are due no less to same sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the President’s comments today acknowledge….

The support of the President on this issue is particularly meaningful to us as Jews. Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans, including civil marriage, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who are still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, and discriminated against because of who they are.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

We are gratified to know that President Obama has said publicly what so many of us have known for some time — that civil marriage is a basic civil right. It should not be denied to anyone.  We stand firm in our belief that civil marriage, which is not bound by halacha [Jewish law] but conveys many civil rights and privileges, should be open to all. That comes from our belief that human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in God’s image — and therefore have an inherent dignity.

Keshet, which works to “ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews are fully included in all parts of the Jewish community” sent the tweet on the right.

More reactions after the jump.
Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, said:

Hadassah commends President Obama for taking an important step today in showing his commitment to and respect for the LGBT community. Hadassah has long supported LGBT rights, and we firmly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans are treated equally and have equal access to the same rights. Hadassah is committed to the preservation of rights for all people and vigorously condemns discrimination of any kind. As Zionists, Hadassah members understand the dangers of bigotry.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said:

NCJW hails President Obama’s decision to express his personal support for same-sex marriage. NCJW has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and we happily welcome the president to this fight for fundamental human rights at this important time. While setbacks such as the lamentable vote yesterday in North   Carolina are unfortunate, we firmly believe that supporters of marriage equality are on the right side of history. NCJW is proud to work with the President of the United States to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected equally under the law and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The National Jewish Democratic Council‘s Chair Marc R. Stanley said:

On behalf of NJDC’s board, staff, and membership, I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality. From working to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to ending the Federal Government’s defense of the unjust Defense of Marriage Act, this President has demonstrated an unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans. I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.

Bend the Arc

: A Partnership for Justice’s Alan van Capelle said:

Tonight when I go home and look at my six month old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family. For many Americans, this is a political issue. For millions more, it’s deeply personal.

I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country who support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, including 76 percent of American Jews.

Haaretz reported that Israeli LGBT leaders lauded the President’s statement of support:

Irit Rosenblum, founder and CEO of the organization New Family, called the move extremely important. ‘It is a huge step for the enlightened world that the strongest leader publicly recognizes the new family. In doing so, he is obviously posing a challenge to the world’s religious public. I think that this is certainly a very brave act. He is creating the necessary world balance. At a time when it seems the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist and conservative, this is a liberal point of light.’

According to New Family, there are currently some 18,000 same-sex families living in Israel. Some 4,500 children are being raising in same-sex families, and that number has risen significantly in recent years….

Itay Pinkas, chairman of Tel Aviv’s gay community center, also joined in praising Obama, Pinkas further criticized the situation of the LGBT community in Israel. ‘The only two leaders to bring up the rights of the community in a congressional speech were Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama spoke of the importance of equality during his inauguration speech…he is one of the heads of state most supportive of equality for all citizens.’

Jay Michaelson explained Three Reasons Obama’s Right on Gay Marriage in The Forward:

First is the ‘who.’ Obama’s support of same-sex marriage signals that he’s not going to let a noisy religious minority dictate public policy. This is important for all religious minorities, including the Jewish one, because that same group of angry fundamentalists wants to Christianize America, support the radical settler-fringe in Israel against Israel’s own best interests (as reflected by the mainstream of Israeli public opinion), and erode the separation of church and state. … If American Jews care about maintaining our religious freedom, we must not allow sectarian religious values to dictate public policy. Period.

Second is the ‘what.’ Obama’s statement brings him in line not just with 55% of the American public, as revealed in a recent Gallup poll, but with the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist religious people as well….

Most American Jews …  know that the two obscure and unclear verses in Leviticus may be interpreted in any number of ways. And we know that the core values of our religious and social traditions are upheld, not undermined, by interpreting them narrowly, such that they apply to virtually no LGBT people today.

Which brings me to my third point, which is the religious nature of Obama’s statement itself. What the President said today means little as a statement of public policy since it has little impact ‘on the ground.’ It means more as an expression of personal conviction and conscience. What he said was that, over time, he has seen the truth of same-sex couples: that they are as capable of commitment, love, and sanctity of opposite-sex ones; and that it is an injustice to deny the benefits of marriage to gay people. Those are religious values, expressed in a personal way. It demonstrates the growth of individual conscience: he used to feel one way, but over time, in a careful and long process of discernment, he has now come to feel a different way….

Obama’s statement is thus a model for how all of us ought to evolve on issues of values and society. We grow as human beings by a combination of humility and courage: humility in the face of what we do not know, and courage to take a stand and change our minds. If that’s not a Jewish value, I don’t know what is.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Speaks To Hadassah

— by Max Samis

Last month, Democratic National Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) gave an interview to Charley J. Levine of Hadassah Magazine. Wasserman Schultz discussed a number of issues pertaining to the Jewish community including Israel, President Barack Obama’s record, and the Jewish vote.

Wasserman Schultz said regarding Obama and Israel

:[Obama] proposed more than $3 billion in aid to Israel in a very difficult economy because he recognizes how important Israel’s security is. He authorized and supported $205 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is effective against rocket attacks that have been occurring mercilessly against Israel. He authorized the sale of the bunker buster bombs, where President Bush had declined. I would argue he has been a better, more consistent friend to Israel than previous administrations.

More after the jump.
She explained regarding Jewish support of the Democratic Party:

Polling continues to show overwhelming support for Democrats and President Obama in the Jewish community. There appears to be no danger that we are going to lose the Jewish vote. Republicans are doing their best to cut into this, saying anything-regardless of the facts-because in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio there are sizable Jewish populations…

We have 20 Jewish members in the House; 19 are Democrats and 1 is a Republican. I am the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. There are zero Jewish Republicans yet several Democrats in the Senate. The natural political home for Jewish voters in America is my party, due both to our traditional, strong support for Israel and all the other issues that matter to Jews.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Republican attempts to politicize support for Israel:

There is just no daylight between both parties’ support for Israel. The Republicans…are unfortunately working overtime to create the perception that they are the more pro-Israel body…

What the Republicans are doing is dangerous. They are using Israel as a political football…. Israel’s ambassador [to the United   States], Michael Oren, has said this. If there is any perception of daylight between the parties on support for Israel, that strengthens Israel’s enemies. The president rejects what some Republican candidates have been saying, that America should review all its foreign aid commitments from zero, making each country justify the support it receives.

She spoke about one of her most memorable Israel visits:

I went with the American Jewish Committee in a young leadership program. I have always been a part of a large Jewish community, but you are always still aware that you are a minority. I was always aware I was different, and did experience some anti-Semitic incidents. So when I was walking down the street in Jerusalem it suddenly occurred to me that the bus driver is Jewish, the clerk at the supermarket is Jewish and the taxi driver is Jewish…. This helped me fully appreciate how important it is that we have the Jewish State of Israel-which is our homeland and our rightful place. We belong there and, God forbid, I remember thinking, if history repeated itself, there has to be a place for us to go.

Step Up For Israel: September 25 at Temple Beth Hillel Beth El

— by Lee Bender

This Sunday, September 25 at 10:00 am, the Israel Action Committee at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El is co-sponsoring with Sabra Hadassah the showing of the first of 4-part mini-series course from Jerusalem Online University (the
folks who produced the film Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus) called Step Up for Israel. The first film, which we will be showing on Sept 25 is entitled, Creation of a State.  This is very timely, given what is happening in the United Nations this week.

This course will be very informative, professional and educational.  Please come and bring your friends. Cost is only $5.00 and includes bagels and coffee. The next program, entitled, “Israel and the West” will be presented on Sunday October 30.