A piece by our columnist, Jordana Horn, elicited a lot of response from readers last week. She argued that Jewish day school was not essential to instilling a sense of Jewish identity in children. Instead, what we need is a kind of Jewish homeschooling, Jordana said, creating a real and vibrant Jewish family life for children to emulate.
The biggest response came from people who felt that Jordana downplayed the importance of day school, that its value could not be replaced, even by the most committed and engaged Jewish parents. Take this comment from Sheppsela:
The only thing that will save the Jewish People are the day schools. All Jewish kids should attend them regardless of the level of observance. Even if the child comes from a home where only the mother is Jewish should attend them. It is not a “bulletproof system”. Some kids will still fall through the cracks. But at the end of the day the majority will be saved through education. We really need to get behind the day schools and help them as much as possible. I am glad that this woman and her sisters married Jews but my experience working in the Jewish world is the opposite. When a person is honest with themselves they will realize that the real reason they cheat their children out of a good education is because they are stingy. They are cheap at their child’s expense. I have not gone on any vacation since we started paying tuition but it is well worth the sacrifice. In my life, few things made me prouder than when my child opened up a Sefer Tehillim and began to recite these holy words written by King David. I will never forget that sweetest of moments. I could not have felt prouder and the level of happiness was beyond compare.The reason why Jews go off the path is mainly a lack of Jewish education. The afternoon horror show known as the Hebrew school cannot substitute for a real day school education.
You could probably forgive the proprietors of Nikuv for feeling slightly giddy after the final results of Zimbabwe’s election were announced this weekend.
The Israeli company’s client, President Robert G. Mugabe, romped home with 60% of the vote and his ruling ZANU-PF party grabbed more than two-thirds of the seats in the troubled southern African nation’s parliament.
Mugabe, 89, turned back a challenge from longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party, beating the former trade union leader by about 1 million votes, according to official results.
Even better, there was none of the violence or blatant intimidation that marked past elections, like the 2008 vote that Tsvanigirai won and also led to widespread chaos and international condemnation.
So how did Nikuv, a shadowy company headquartered the Israeli town of Herzliya, play such a central role in the vote in a farflung African land?
Why did Nikuv CEO Emmanuel Antebi, and top aide Ammon Peer reportedly jet into the capital of Harare for 90 minutes of valuable face time with Mugabe on Tuesday, just hours before the polls opened?
The opposition and independent watchdogs say it’s because Nikuv was a vital cog in Mugabe’s strategy to massively rig the watershed election and maintain his grip on power.
The strategy apparently succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, with Mugabe and ZANU-PF running up never before seen vote totals in some areas. In some urban constituencies, ZANU-PF increased its vote 10 and 20-fold. In rural areas, some districts recorded more votes than the adult population.
When I first saw that the faces were blurred out in a photo of two little girls in the Williamsburg Bulletin, a weekly newsletter aimed at the Satmar Hasidic community, I was not surprised. It’s not that I believe that a little girl young enough to throw a tantrum could be sexually suggestive, and therefore an alluring threat to pious male readers. It’s because the Hasidic community, and Satmar Hasidim in particular, has been on this radical trajectory for the last few decades. It’s a trajectory of intolerance and extremism without any moderation in sight — and it may lead to the social implosion of the Hasidic communities.
There is a popular Yiddish saying I grew up with, which served as the justification for new restrictions: di doyres falen, which roughly translates to: ‘the generations are in [religious] decline.’ This notion epitomizes the beliefs and practices of the Hasidim in the 21st Century. Prominent Hasidic groups in America – Satmar at the epicenter – constantly seek ways to combat this supposed decline. In order to reverse the inevitable, they engage in the Sisyphean task of raising their walls ever higher to ward off secular encroachment. They constantly add new restrictions, and tightening the loopholes that allow for this slippery slope of spiritual decline to continue.
As the world becomes more open, the Hasidim continue to raise the fences to limit that encroachment.
We cannot discuss Hasidism in America without invoking the name of the late Satmar Rebbe, Yoel Teitelbaum. He was the pioneering force of contemporary American Hasidism, and his influence is far-reaching to this day.
When Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum landed on the shores of the treifene medina (un-kosher country) after the utter destruction of European Jewry, America was nearly devoid of Hasidic life. The rebbe was well aware of the dire state of Orthodoxy, at least by ultra-Orthodox standards. And, in order to distract his people from the lures and dangers of American culture, he immediately set out to transplant a very simple, pre-modern way of life in this deeply profane city of New York.
Back in the Hungarian town of Szátmar (the place that gave Satmar its name), Rebbe Yoel fought zealously to maintain this lifestyle. This was not as difficult, since it was located in Máramaros County – the Hungarian province populated with ultra-Orthodox groups – and considered the backwater of Hungary, nothing like the urbane Budapest hub of modernity, let alone the polyglot of New York.
Forward editor Naomi Zeveloff talks about the groundbreaking series on transgender Jews in an interview with Sirius satellite radio. Click to listen.
If you habitually discard the sports section, you might have missed news of European soccer’s biggest transfer story since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid four years ago. It involves Madrid again, in fact – Tottenham Hotspur’s star winger Gareth Bale is rumoured to be on the verge of moving there for a record-breaking $129 million.
The chance to play in the Champions League for one of Europe’s most successful clubs is a huge draw for Bale. He wants to leave – or rather, Bale hasn’t denied that he wishes to.
But there’s a snag. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is said to be holding out for more money. Even though Bale was purchased for a mere $7.6 million from Southampton in 2007, Levy wishes to bide time until Madrid offer as much as $152 million, perhaps even throwing in a player as a makeweight for the loss of the most gifted player Spurs have had for years, decades even.
News of Bale’s desire to get away from north London has turned some Spurs fans against him – such is soccer, where supporters are at once tribal and fickle. But ire has also been directed at the chairman – some of it anti-Semitic. Jay Stoll, General Secretary of the London School of Economics Students’ Union, highlighted yesterday the stream of abusive tweets directed towards Levy:
Twitter is a wonderful medium, but even at the best of times to use Stoll’s words it is a “cesspit of filth,” whether that be racism, sexism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism. Only this week, feminist campaigners in the UK have been pushing for a ‘report abuse’ button to be added to twitter so that those who threaten to rape or murder women directly can be weeded out and dealt with. To this extent, the tweets directed towards Levy are unsurprising, and in that there is much to be saddened about and ashamed of.
These tweets, however, also raise an important question of whether how Levy is portrayed in the media at-large reinforces a certain image or stereotype. For, over the past several seasons, Levy has acquired a reputation as the toughest negotiator in English soccer. It has become cliché to say that Levy is hard-nosed, tough, stubborn, or uncompromising.
Please note that this week’s news quiz does not contain any Anthony Weiner references… except in one question. Come on, what did you really expect? Besides, he’s in good company, sharing this quiz with Sacha Baron Cohen and, inevitably, perhaps, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, aka, Kate Middleton.
Nick Teich is the founder and director of Camp Aranu’tiq, the first summer camp in the United States that caters to transgender and gender-variant youth (that is, children whose gender expression does not conform to conventional ideas of masculinity and femininity). The camp takes its name from an indigenous Alaskan term for a person who embodies both the male and female spirit. At Aranu’tiq, transgender campers — many of whom have been bullied, beaten up or threatened outside camp — have the opportunity to express themselves freely. They get to choose which bunk they stay in, depending on how they identify: on the “masculine spectrum” or the “feminine spectrum.”
Aranu’tiq, which serves kids between the ages of 8 and 15, began in 2009 as a weeklong summer camp in New England. (Teich doesn’t reveal its exact location, to protect the campers.) It has since added a week in Southern California; next year it plans to add a leadership camp for kids ages 16 to 18, and a family retreat in New England. “We’re outgrowing our space,” Teich said. “It’s a nice problem to have.”
Teich, a transgender Jewish man who is working on a doctorate in social policy at Brandeis University, spoke with the Forward’s Sarah Seltzer about his own camp experience, his religious background and what a typical session is like at his atypical summer camp.
Sarah Seltzer: You attended a mainstream summer camp. What was your experience like?
Nick Teich: It was a regular old camp that was about 95% Jewish. It was really important to me because it was really the only place where I felt I could be myself. I went all the way through this camp and had not yet transitioned [from female to male]. I was there for a total of 14 summers as camper, a counselor-in-training, a counselor and a member of the leadership.
It was just the place where people knew me as me. I was very tomboyish — that word doesn’t even cover it — but people were just like, “Oh that’s how you are.” I had a lot of friends and camp counselors that I looked up to. That was not what it was like at school, where [I was given the message,] “You have to conform to be more feminine.” I didn’t understand exactly what was going on with me, except I wanted to be a boy. There was no Internet at that time where I could find the words for what I felt. That has changed a lot for kids today.
Peace talks are due to properly restart today, but what lies at the end of the road if negotiators are successful?
There has been much discussion of the Israeli cabinet’s decision on Sunday to advance legislation to ensure that any peace deal is subject to a referendum. If the legislation passes Knesset, a plebiscite won’t just be required by law — it will be enshrined in a “basic law,” which is the closest thing that Israel has to a constitution.
To some this is a triumph for democratic decision-making; to others it is a further obstacle to peace, unnecessary in a representative parliamentary democracy.
The Palestinian leadership is also promising a referendum is a peace deal is reached. This has generated less discussion, but actually raises a more basic question — can it actually run a referendum?
The Palestinians are deeply divided, with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority ruling in the West Bank while the hard-line Hamas is in power in the Gaza Strip. The West Bank leadership is conducting the talks, but when it talks of a referendum, it means a vote in both the West Bank and Gaza.
But will Hamas allow a vote on a peace process that it rejects on its turf? Given that it has so-far blocked even far less controversial polling, such as last year’s local elections from taking place in Gaza, there is strong reason to suspect that it won’t.
The division between the PA and Hamas has paralyzed Palestinian voting. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was elected for a four-year term in January 2005 — but due to the frictions new presidential elections have never been held.
One cannot help but fear a scenario where a draft peace deal is reached, and its signing is held hostage by the inability of the Palestinians to hold the promised referendum.
But one never knows — Hamas has given some indication in the past that it would not want to incur the international wrath that it would face from blocking a referendum, and would allow it to take place. If this happened, it would represent the tacit acceptance by Hamas of the peace process, which though difficult to envisage at this early stage, could come about.
The tradition of English liberty which runs through the political culture is a deep one, traceable back to John Milton’s Areopagitica, published in 1644, through Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. The nub of it was best put by Mill when he wrote, “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
It is with this in mind that the recent decision by the British government to pre-emptively exclude Pamela Geller from travelling the United Kingdom should be considered. Geller, it must recalled as often as possible, is a spiteful and malicious person. Founder of Stop Islamisation of America and proprietor of the Atlas Shrugs blog, she has used her public platform to minimise the Bosnian genocide, label secular, democratic Kosovo a “militant Islamic state in the heart of Europe,” and perpetuate the myth that President Obama is the secret love child of Malcolm X.
And then there’s Islam, about which she has said so much it’s hard to filter. “There are no moderates. There are no extremists. Only Muslims,” she said. “Devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?” she enquired on another occasion.
Geller has expressed support for Geert Wilders and the thuggish English Defence League, with whom she shares concerns about the so-called Islamisation of Europe, even nefariously calling upon Jews to stand up with them in this struggle.
But even considering the foregoing, or especially considering it, withdrawing Geller’s right to speak and address a rally organised by the EDL in the London neighborhood of Woolwich violated English liberal tradition. It is precisely this sort of application of state power to silence another that Mill deemed ‘noxious’ in any circumstance, whether “exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in or opposition to it.” The state, rather, must protect against “the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them.”
Geller’s case would be especially troubling because the government not only proscribed her based on what she had said but what she might say. If she were to repeat her slurs against Muslims of the type previously exhibited, she would be “committing unacceptable behaviours”, the Home Secretary deemed. This type of prior restraint goes against the grain of English liberty. Mill questioned rightly what authority has the right to decide what words are appropriate or inappropriate, what behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable. “They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging.”
The $12.4 billion merger of Canada’s biggest grocery chain and the country’s largest pharmacy has Jewish roots.
The purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaw’s will create “a homegrown juggernaut in the face of stiffer competition from the consolidation of existing players and the entry of a major U.S. retailer,” the Globe and Mail said.
The megachain had humble beginnings as a family-owned business. When his father Leon died in 1941, Murray Koffler’s mother urged him to study pharmacy and to run the family’s two drugstores in Toronto. Koffler didn’t just take over the stores; he “revolutionized the retail drug industry” in 1962 by introducing self-serve shopping in his newly-named Shoppers Drug Mart in east Toronto. “Up to this time, drug store shoppers had to speak with a pharmacist to purchase any product – from toothpaste to bandages,” according to an online bio posted by Dalhousie University, where Koffler earned an honorary degree in 2010.
Today, according to the company’s web site, Shoppers includes more than 1,240 stores, licenses or owns 59 medical-clinic pharmacies, and operates luxury-beauty boutiques called Murale. While removed from Shoppers’ day-to-day business, the Koffler family operates Super-Pharm, Israel’s largest drugstore chain, which Murray Koffler founded in 1979. Super-pharm has also begun expanding into Poland and China.
Through far-flung philanthropy, The Kofflers have also changed the landscape of Toronto. Among the institutions that bear their name: The Koffler Centre of the Arts, part of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto; the Koffler Student Centre at the University of Toronto; the Murray Koffler Urologic Wellness Centre at the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital; and the Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill, which advocates for sustainability.
Tiana Koffler, Murray’s daughter, the head of the family’s namesake foundation, and chair of the board at Koffler Centre of the Arts, told the Forward in an e-mail that she was traveling and unavailable for comment.
A new prince was born this week, and two new chief rabbis were elected. One of them was my cousin.
The common denominator for all three? Dynasty.
Born into elite clubs, these very different individuals will serve according to some ancient human code of pedigree and privilege in which some people are worth more than others. Their roles may or may no longer have power, but their symbolism is still significant to many.
In London, the Windsors secured another heir, who will smile and wave, cut ribbons and make sure the tourist industry continues fueling an empire on which the sun has long since set.
In Jerusalem 150 people — mostly (orthodox) rabbis and including only 12 women — voted for Israel’s two chief rabbis. And though in theory the vote was about merit, this time it was also about bloodlines, politics and ugly deals that have done little to celebrate the sacred role of religion or rabbis in the public arena.
We know his gender. We know his name. Now it’s time to move on to the next critical news item from London. I speak, of course, of the newborn HRH Prince George of Cambridge, and whether or not the little royal foreskin will be snipped.
Notwithstanding that the debate about the possibility that the new heir is actually Jewish has been put to rest, we are still left with the question as to whether his parents will opt to have him circumcised. We can be sure, however, that if they do decide to snip his tip, it will likely be a mohel, or Jewish ritual circumciser, to do it.
In the last day, the British press has been filled with articles about the relationship between the House of Windsor and circumcision. “Will William and Kate call for the rabbi?” ask the tabloid headlines, unaware that a mohel need not necessarily be a rabbi.
They ask, because historically, the male offspring of the British royal family have been circumcised. The tradition dates back to the reign of George I, who brought the custom over from his native Hanover in the early 18th century.
Prince Charles lost his foreskin as an infant back in 1948. Dr. Jacob Snowman, the then-medical officer of the Initiation Society (a sort-of guild for UK mohels), wielded the blade, as he was better trusted than a regular physician to perform the minor surgery. In fact, the royal family traditionally prefers to rely on the know-how of mohels.
“There are many people outside the Jewish community who call on them for circumcision,” Maurice Levenson, the Initiation Society’s current secretary, told The Telegraph in reference to mohels. “Their experience and expertise provides parents with a considerable degree of comfort and reassurance.”
The recent suspension of Ryan Braun, the star Milwaukee Brewers outfielder known affectionately as “the Hebrew Hammer,” has brought in its wake a host of anti-Semitic tweets directed at Braun — and pretty much everyone else of Jewish heritage.
The Huffington Post reported on the Tweets in the best way they could, by compiling a top 10 ten list of the most anti-Semitic responses to Braun’s suspension. Highlights include a charming Tweet by a user named Tyler Winslett: “Of course Ryan Braun took steroids. He’s a Jew, and last I checked, sports aren’t really their thing.”
The sentiment was shared by Ryan Hicken:
Ryan Braun is a jew he was just leveling the playing field, he should get an exemption or somethingampmdash; Ryan Hiken (@Hikeman5000) July 23, 2013
Some went with an older anti-Semitic trope:
lol Ryan Braun is NOT giving back his MVP award, name me one time a jew gave something up willinglyampmdash; Michael Mc (@irishrebel311) July 23, 2013
Justin Credible, whose eloquent tweet, “NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS TO JEWS HAHAHAHAHA” was featured on Huffington Post, simply locked his account and changed his profile summary to “Living life, I am not antisemetic.” [sic]
Braun has been accused on Twitter of being a “Juicing Jew” since allegations of his performance-enhancing drug use began. Bigotry online, and particularly on Twitter, the only major social networking site which doesn’t prohibit hate speech, is rampant and doesn’t take prompting.
“The most anti-Semitic postings about Ryan Braun didn’t begin with his suspension,” says Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights director.
“The [ADL] sees [internet bigotry] as the newest trend in anti-Semitism,” said Lauter, though she noted that it’s difficult to quantify the amount of hate circulating online. Despite the decline in overt anti-Semitic incidents in 2012, as measured by the ADL, a ramp-up in online hate speech is weakening the positive trend.
Anti-Semitism directed at Jewish baseball players is nothing new, says Peter Ephross, co-editor of a new oral history of Jewish major leaguers.
“In 1918, Bob Berman, the catcher for the Washington Senators, was heckled by anti-Semites and the famous pitcher Walter Johnson stood up for him,” Ephross said.
Al Rosen, who, like Braun, won the MVP award, was known to fight anyone who dared insult his Judaism. Still, Ephross thinks the days of widescale anti-Semitism pointed at Jewish players is 30 years in the past.
“Only two types of people know who the Jewish baseball players are,” he assures me. “Jewish baseball fans and virulent anti-Semites.” And you need to search Twitter to find at least one of them.
A royal baby and Bar Refaeli — they’re both in the quiz this week and for the exact same reason, just showing up not wearing much. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun is here, too, along with Allan Sherman. That’s not a pairing you are going to find anywhere else, so take the quiz already!
The best of times has turned into the worst of times for Jewish baseball fans now that Major League Baseball has suspended slugger Ryan “Hebrew Hammer” Braun in baseball’s latest performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
The Milwaukee Brewers slugger and former National League Most Valuable Player, who is the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father and a Catholic mother, has boasted of setting a good example for Jewish children.
“I do consider myself definitely Jewish,” he has been quoted as saying. “And I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”
Oy. Some role model.
After months of denying any involvement in the doping scandal, Braun now says he is accepting his suspension — a tacit admission that he broke baseball’s rules on performance-enhancing drugs.
“I realize now that I have made some mistakes,” Braun said in a statement. “I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.”
With Braun’s acknowledgment of his links to Biogenesis, a Miami-based clinic (MLB did not specifically mention Biogenesis when it suspended Braun), those Jewish fans who defended Braun will have to change their tune. Some of his supporters once cited an arbitration panel that overturned his 2011 test because of the chain-of-custody issues in handling his urine sample, while others believed Braun’s high levels of testosterone were linked to medication they believe he took for herpes.
Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe has succeeded in staying in office for 33 years with a potent mix of populism and violence — and he may have an Israeli company to thank if he extends his rule one more time.
The 89-year-old leader faces his sternest test yet next week when he squares off in a presidential election rematch against longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
Few doubt that Mugabe, a former liberation war hero, would be trounced in anything close to a free or fair election — he has presided over the collapse of a once promising economy and engineered the billion-percent bout of hyperinflation that killed the Zimbabwe dollar.
That’s where a company called Nikuv comes in. It is working with the Zimbabwe government’s Registrar General, which among other things maintains the country’s famously corrupt electoral roll.
Investigative journalists and opposition leaders believe Nikuv’s real role is to help Mugabe’s loyalists rig the July 31 poll.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change party said it was “concerned about electoral fraud [by Nikuv] through manipulation of the voters’ roll, and the issuing of multiple national identity cards to individuals that would then allow them to vote twice.”
In past elections, turnout was suspiciously high in ZANU-PF’s rural strongholds. Widespread problems with the roll led to lower turnout in cities and towns, where the ruling party is wildly unpopular.
This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century. In September 1913, Mendel Beilis, the clerk of a brick factory, stood accused in a Kiev courtroom of murdering a 13-year-old boy to use his blood to make matzo.
Over the course of a four-week trial, the court heard allegations that Beilis stabbed Andrei Yushchinsky multiple times in order to drain his blood in an act of ritual murder. The allegations sparked an international outcry from Jewish and non-Jewish journalists, politicians, intellectuals and clergy.
Experts on Jewish history and on the Beilis trial will meet at Dartmouth College, July 22, for a one-day public conference to discuss the West European origins of the blood libel, the importance of the Beilis trial, and its relevance today.
“The Beilis case is a strange, mysteriously understudied phenomenon,” said Edmund Levin, author of A Child of Christian Blood, a book about the trial that will be published in February.
The plot thickens and the drama continues in the weird case of the Jewish lawmaker who claimed fatherhood of a bikini model — then found out he wasn’t the real dad.
A day after a DNA test proved that Rep. Steve Cohen was not genetically related to Victoria Brink, the young woman’s real father said he knew he was the dad all along and never bought the Tennessee Democrat’s original paternity claim.
In an interview with POLITICO, John Brink, ex-husband of Victoria’s mother, Texas lawyer Cynthia Sinatra, said he was not even aware that his ex-wife knew the Tennessee Democrat. He added that he holds no grudge towards Cohen and does not plan on contacting him.
“How could I get mad at him? I don’t see it as his fault, I see it as my ex-wife’s fault,” Brink, president of Houston-based Environment & Energy Group, told Politico.
Brink married Sinatra in 1985 and the couple divorced in 1989. Victoria was born in 1988. In a CNN segment that aired Thursday morning, a paternity test revealed that John Brink is the actual father, not Cohen.
Cohen and Brink first made headlines last winter when the congressman, a lifelong bachelor, Tweeted at the willowy Brink during President Obama’s State of the Union address. When reporters questioned the familiar tone of his message to the attractive younger woman, Cohen explained that he had found out a few years ago that he was Brink’s father.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Cohen stuck his foot in his mouth again.
Yesterday, RealClearPolitics reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns tweeted that when she contacted Cohen for a comment on the story, he replied: “You’re very attractive, but I’m not talking about it.”
Huey-Burns later tweeted again saying that after her initial tweet, Cohen approached her and apologized for his comment, saying that it is a “difficult and personal time” for him. Indeed.
Just asked Rep. Cohen about the paternity test developments and he told me: "You're very attractive, but I'm not talking about it."ampmdash; Caitlin Huey-Burns (@CHueyBurnsRCP) July 18, 2013
Two British members of parliament from the centrist Liberal Democratic Party seemed to be doing their utmost to dissuade Jews, friends of Israel, and generally right-minded peoples from sticking with their already-damaged party through to the next election.
First, during a debate on changes to the national curriculum, Sir Bob Russell thought it would be an opportune moment to ask the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, “On the assumption that the 20th century will include the Holocaust, will he give me an assurance that the life of Palestinians since 1948 will be given equal attention?”
Russell’s unlettered and questionably-motivated equivocation was swiftly condemned by the Jewish Leadership Council, whose chief executive Jeremy Newmark who labelled them “a shocking piece of Holocaust denigration. There is simply no comparison between the two situations.”
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added that “to try to equate the events of the Holocaust with the conflict in the Middle East is simply inaccurate as well as inappropriate.”
Then on Saturday, David Ward, another Lib-Dem MP, Tweeted: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle — how long can the apartheid State of #Israel last?”
His tenor bears a noticeable resemblance not only to the discourse of anti-Semites who use ‘Zionists’ in place of ‘Jews’ to mask their latent prejudices, but also the former Lib Dem peer Baroness Tonge. In 2012, Tonge was finally resigned the whip after saying that Israel would “not last forever” and would “reap what they have sown.”
UPDATE: David Ward has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats until September 13 in reaction to his comments about the “apartheid state of Israel.”
In a letter to Ward, the party’s chief whip Alistair Carmichael explained that his comments “questioning the continued existence of the State of Israel fails the test of language that is “proportionate and precise.’” This, in combination with remarks back in January which accused ‘the Jews’ of failing to learn the lessons of the Holocaust brought “the party into disrepute” and harmed “the interests of the party”, Carmichael said.
Ward’s suspension from the Liberal Democrats coincides with Parliament’s summer recess – although he will be suspended for almost two months, this period only accounts for a few days of parliamentary business. Jewish community organisations, therefore, while welcoming the punishment were disappointed with its toothlessness.
In a statement, Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: “There are serious questions as to whether this move came swiftly enough and whether it goes far enough.”
Israel’s rabbinical establishment has responded to a worrying survey pointing to the widespread extortion by husbands whose wives want divorces. And instead of moving to stop the phenomenon, it has simply attacked the survey — conducted by one of Israel’s largest polling firms commissioned by a major university.
For Israel’s Jewish population, all marriage-related matters run through the rabbinate. This means that if a couple wants to get divorced, they must obtain a religious divorce certificate, which the husband is able to withhold leaving the wife virtually powerless to secure a divorce. The husband’s refusal can turn the wife in to an agunah, often translated as a chained woman.
One in three women in the process of getting a divorce experiences financial extortion by their husbands, according to a survey by the Geocartography research institute for the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University.
While this figure is hard-hitting, its full significance may not be instantly clear. This isn’t one in three divorce cases initiated by women where men try to extort, but one in three of all divorce cases.
It’s unknown exactly what proportion of divorces are initiated by women and what proportion by men. However, once you factor in that a significant number are initiated by men, you are looking at a situation where extortion is the norm, or on the verges of being the norm. In short, the power to generate the get is widely viewed as a financial asset by husbands whose wife wants a divorce.
The Rabbinical Courts Management has now responded to the survey, dismissing it as based on “the subjective feelings of the sample group’s participants in regards to the rightness of the divorce’s legal proceedings.” But the survey wasn’t about how divorcee women feel but rather about what they were expected to pay — a pretty objective indicator.
To the courts’ spokesperson the survey was a “cynical attempt to create a propaganda machine against the rabbinical courts.” Yet one wonders why the courts must feel so threatened by a survey on the behavior of the male public. These statistics only reflect badly on the rabbinical courts if they want them to. If the rabbis joined forces with female activists to halt the problem, in a couple of years time when the survey is repeated and finds a sharp decline in extortion, they would be the heroes.