Could a politician who almost disappeared in to obscurity be poised to take up one of the most powerful positions in Israel?
It is safe to say that as chairman of the Kadima party Shaul Mofaz hasn’t been the greatest of successes. It’s hard to believe but Kadima was actually the biggest party in Knesset after the last election, yet in the poll 16 days ago it almost failed to pass the electoral threshold, and in the final reckoning scraped in with two seats.
To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is busy building his coalition, every mandate counts, and ever since the election he has apparently been keen to get Kadima on board. Now, with US President Barack Obama set to visit Israel and focus attention on the peace process, wooing Kadima has become more attractive for Netanyahu — and he may well be prepared to make him Defense Minister.
Kadima has a reputation as centrist and pro-peace, and can help with the challenge of giving international credibility to his government on issues of peace. Though the party only has two lawmakers, it’s a pro-peace name on the list of coalition parties, which will allow him to present his government as more centrist. If he also persuades the six-seat Tzipi Livni Party to join, as expected, he will have notched up two pro-peace factions in his coalition — despite the fact that their smallness would compromise their ability to promote a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Is Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel going to turn into a Yair Lapid love-in?
The Israeli daily Yedioth Araronoth, suggested in its editorial yesterday that Obama decided to come because Netanyahu is currently weak — because of the staggering success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. The administration is working on the premise that “Netanyahu won, but he really lost, and therefore, he will do what is demanded of him,” Yedioth estimated.
So, as a result of Lapid-the-centrist’s success “Obama is coming to press Netanyahu’s weak point after the Israeli people have had their say and partly disproved the American concern over an Israeli lurch to the right.”
For a further Yair Lapid-related aspect of the trip, some are suggesting that it will compel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party in his coalition. Take, for example, this Haaretz article which reports:
One [Israeli] source even argued that Obama’s visit, scheduled for late March, is so close on the heels of the Israeli election as to constitute “inappropriate interference” in local politics, and that it would pave the way for Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid into the Israeli coalition.
The Forward’s new Yiddish site has certainly taken off with a bang.
In the days since the launch of the yiddish.forward.com site was announced, several major media outlets have run stories on it, and what it means for the future of the Yiddish language.
We hoped the new site might get a lot of attention in the U.S. But we had no idea there would be interest from the four corners of the globe.
As proof, we offer a link to the French news site l’Express, which ran an article in French on the Yiddish site from the Agence France Presse wire service.
Read it and enjoy, nos amis!
The death of Ed Koch reminded us that in our archives we have a couple of poems about the mayor by the late, great poet of the Forward, Stanley Siegelman.
These are too charming not to share again, so without further ado, we offer a special reissue of Siegelmania’s greatest Koch hits.
Ed Koch’s Grave Decision
The mayor thoughtfully explains
He wants his bodily remains
To rest within the burg he loves.
Should we extend him Mazel Tovs?
In past, both shul and church he shunned,
But looking toward the moribund
It’s all the same, the lines get blurred
The moment that one is interred!
With thought the mayor chose his spot,
A carefully considered plot,
A plot that’s deep (for what it’s worth)
And seriously down-to-earth.
This latest news has cast a pall
On not-too-distant City Hall.
Detractors there, who wished him ill,
Assumed of him they’d had their fill.
But now his spirit will be free
To haunt them for eternity.
His fans, who number more than few,
Applaud this brash, no-nonsense Jew.
But what got into Koch’s head
To mingle thus with goyish dead?
We’ll term his future burial
A triumph ecumenical!
Let’s all salute, on his behalf,
His “How’m I doin?” epitaph.
I held my seven month old daughter Ravi on my lap as we watched the video of Ophir Ben-Shetreet sing. The 17 year old alto gave a soulful performance on Israel’s The Voice, garnering the judge’s acclaim, and inducing some leg bopping on Ravi’s part. Recently, Ben-Shetreet has been the center of much controversy as the religious all-girl school she attends in Ashdod has temporarily suspended her for singing in public.
As a husband, father, feminist and Modern Orthodox rabbinical student, I am appalled. How can a religious school punish its students for their God given talents? How can its strict adherence to kol isha, the challenging prohibition of listening to a woman’s singing voice, blind the school leadership to the obvious kiddush haShem, the sanctification of God’s name, that took place in having a religious student talk openly about her faith to a largely secular Israeli audience and world?
A year ago, the Jewish community was discussing the attacks young Modern Orthodox girls faced as they walked to school in Ramat Beit Shemesh getting spit on by Haredi miscreants. Rabbi Dov Linzer, the dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, wrote then in The New York Times that: “The Talmud tells the religious man, in effect: If you have a problem, you deal with it. It is the male gaze — the way men look at women — that needs to be desexualized, not women in public.” A year later, the quest for religious tolerance lives on, as modesty patrol committees run rampant in Borough Park and Women of the Wall continue their uphill battle.
Last December, as we at the Forward were putting the finishing touches on our fourth annual salary survey of Jewish communal leadership, the Chronicle of Philanthropy asked me to write about why I have become so committed to reporting and writing about the gender imbalance in nonprofit leadership.
The short answer: Because it persists!
The longer answer is described in this essay which was published in print last month and was widely distributed online last week. In it, I explain how stunned I was when, in assuming my position at the Forward in 2008, I encountered only men running major Jewish organizations. So eager was I to meet other women leaders that I literally wrote notes to women I saw quoted in articles and asked to meet with them. (Some, happily, have become good friends.)
My personal query became a journalistic assignment: To find out who is running our communal organizations, men or women. And what do they earn?
As devoted readers know, our now-annual survey shows a persistent gap in the number of women leading the largest federations and educational, advocacy and religious institutions across the country, and a gap in what those women earn compared to men in leadership positions. This sorry situation extends from the legacy organizations that experience very little turnover to the newer progressive groups that have sprung up in the last couple of decades. And, of course, the federation system, where only one woman currently runs any of the 18 largest federations in the United States.
What mazel! Last week, Yiddishists round the world woke up to find an article by Joseph Berger about the Forverts — in the New York Times, no less — entitled: “For Yiddish A Fresh Presence Online”.
The next day, a Hebrew translation of the article appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, with a slightly different headline: “Will Yiddish be Revived through the Internet?” Basically the same story, but with a more skeptical twist.
So what’s the big deal? After all, the Forverts has had a website since 1999. In fact, the Yiddish language has felt very much at home on the web for years, coining new terms for the electronic revolution (e.g. blitspost for email). Even Hasidic users have set up a haymish Yiddish-language community on the internet.
In other words, the virtual world has been hearing Yiddish for quite some time.
On the other hand, let’s enjoy this moment in the limelight — especially since discussions about Yiddish tend too often to veer towards eulogies. For the past 60 years, Yiddish writers have had to contend with the cliched question: “So how long do you think that Yiddish will survive?”
Often, these are the same people whose knowledge of Yiddish literature extends to just two or three writers, and their fluency in the language to roughly five or six words, like latkes, gefilte fish and … schmuck.
Israeli news media are citing a London Sunday Times report that claims Israel is considering establishing a security zone along its border with Syria to protect itself against attacks by jihadist forces following the expected fall of the Assad regime. The zone would extend 10 miles into Syria and would have two infantry brigades and a tank battalion patrolling it.
The territory to be protected, the Golan Heights, was seized from Syria in June 1967 and has been declared an essential asset since then because it serves as a security zone to protect Israel from Syrian attacks. The new security zone is apparently intended to protect the old security zone. Israeli military sources told the Times it will be modeled after the security zone Israel maintained in south Lebanon between 1985 and 2000.
The anomalous role of the Golan has been a source of tension since the mid-1970s between Israel’s politicians and military strategists. Politicians from across the map see the heights as inseparable from Israel and promote civilian settlement there. Military planners complain that Golan civilian settlements undercut its value as a security buffer by adding a new vulnerability. This first arose during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel lost valuable time evacuating civilians before it could mount an effective counterattack against Syria’s armored advance into the Golan.
The Assad regime has kept border quiet since the 1975 Israeli-Syrian separation of forces agreement, but the civil war threatens to loosen the regime’s hold.
When Ed Koch died this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement. “I will miss his friendship,” the 55-year-old governor said.
Ed Koch thought that Andrew Cuomo was a schmuck.
He said so on election night in 2010, in a conversation preserved in a new documentary about Koch’s life.
Koch said what he meant. That’s not to say he always meant what he said.
Back in July, Koch said he had plans to organize a rally of 50,000 people against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.
“We’re going to turn City Hall Park into Tiananmen Square, Tahrir Square, and Moscow Square,” the 88-year-old former mayor told me, citing three iconic uprisings.
That didn’t quite happen.
The first thing I learned about Ed Koch is how unusually accessible he was.
It was September, 1977, and I was a new, eager student at the Columbia School of Journalism, passionate about city news and interested in learning photography. The school published a weekly newspaper at the time, and I wanted to be the one to photograph Ed Koch during his mayoral campaign. He seemed to be the most interesting candidate, and the one most likely to win.
I figured the best way to get the assignment was to prove that I already had an established relationship with the Koch campaign. Which I didn’t. So I needed to create one, quick.
Koch was a member of Congress then, and his phone number was listed in the phone book (an ancient precursor to online directories, for those who weren’t alive then.) So I called him. He picked up after a few rings, and with only a little irritation in his voice told me the address of his campaign office. No handlers or press representatives. And he was in line to run the biggest city in America? Who was this guy?
When traditional Jewish law, or Halacha, hampers observance for congregants with disabilities, rabbis face tough questions. At a recent conference, Orthodox rabbinical students in Manhattan grappled with disability-related dilemmas.
What would you decide? Step into the rabbi’s shoes and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Question 1 Your impoverished and shrinking synagogue has 10 steps up to the entrance. You don’t know that you have any congregants who can’t climb steps, and you’ve already taken a pay cut of 10% this year after Hurricane Sandy damaged the building. You’re the rabbi; what do you do?
The leader of Israel’s Labor party, Shelly Yachimovich, met with President Shimon Peres, and reiterated her resolve to sit in opposition. “Our commitment to the national interest comes before all else, we are thinking of the good of the country and re-starting the peace process,” she told Peres, adding: “That support we will be able to provide from the opposition, and without being in the coalition.”
And so, as Labor settles down for a stint in opposition, it is worth asking whether Labor has succeeded in this election or not. It never expected to win, but the question is whether it came out of election season well or badly.
Some of the polls ahead of the election predicted that Labor would win far more than the 15 Knesset seats it ended up with — and so it should have. It emerged from the last election in 2009 with 13 seats and everyone said it was dismal, and yet four years on only has two more seats. These were four years, it should be added, in which the national agenda played into Labor’s hands — the social protests were the perfect chance for the party to make itself relevant again.
Yachimovich actually did quite well at branding Labor as the party taking up the agenda of social justice that brought people out on to the streets. But she simply couldn’t compete with Yair Lapid., leader of Yesh Atid. She is viewed as prickly and aloof while he is seen as smooth and approachable. And he managed to steal her thunder when it came to the frustrations raised by the social protests. Lapid doesn’t want the far-reaching welfare changes that Labor wants and has far gentler demands, yet he managed to harness the momentum from the movement more effectively than Yachimovich.
Chuck Hagel will step into the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning to face what is expected to be the toughest grilling any Obama nomination has yet to encounter.
It will be long, grueling, and could easily draw some sweat from the Vietnam veteran sitting across the room from his former Senate colleagues. But at the end of the day, if Democrats have done their math right, Hagel will be confirmed by the committee, and later by the entire Senate. Democrats believe they’ll have all of their caucus on board, which will provide for 55 votes, and some more votes from the Republican side, to make sure filibuster attempts, like the one suggested by Senator Lindsey Graham, do not succeed.
Here are few things to watch for as the Senate Arms Services Committee begins the confirmation process.
There are two of them on the committee: chairman Carl Levin from Michigan and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and both have made clear they back Hagel. As chairman, Levin gets to ask the first round of questions and he could use this privilege to defuse the contentious Israel-related issues by throwing Hagel some soft balls. Hagel’s critics will, of course, get their chance to pose tough questions on these issues, but Levin could help set the tone at the outset of the hearing.
Zvi Barel, Haaretz’s impeccably cautious Middle East commentator, reports (might be paywall; here is the Hebrew original) that Hamas secretary general Khaled Meshaal has agreed to accept a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state alongside Israel based on the 1967 borders. This follows talks in Amman this week between Meshaal King Abdullah of Jordan. Barel cites a Saudi newspaper, A-Sharq, which in turn cited “Jordanian sources.”
He said Meshaal had authorized Abdullah to pass the new Hamas position along to President Obama.
The report continues:
The meeting is also said to have covered Palestinian reconciliation and relations with Jordan. So far neither Hamas nor Jordan has officially verified the Saudi report, but Meshal’s public statement after the meeting, in which he said, “Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine, and any talks about relations between a Palestinian state and Jordan will only be held after the establishment of a Palestinian state,” more than hint at an essential change in Hamas’ position.
To date, Hamas has rejected the two-state solution, although it welcomed the Arab peace initiative whose core was the existence of two states based on the 1967 borders. In the past, however, Meshal has stressed that the 1967 borders are only a first step in the ultimate liberation of all of Palestine. This change in position is an extension of a previous shift in orientation in which Hamas, after fierce opposition, decided to support Mahmoud Abbas’ effort to gain international acceptance of Palestine as a non-member observer nation in the United Nations.
No official confirmation from Jordan or Hamas, but Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator with Israel, seems to take the report very seriously:
When it comes to cartoons, it’s usually Muslim fundamentalists that throw hissy fits. But, in a turn of events, some of our storied communal defenders, Abraham Foxman and Marvin Hier among them, have been taking the lead. Indiscriminately tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism, our fearless leaders have attacked at least three editorial cartoonists over the past few months on charges that they have defamed the Jewish people.
Representing important institutions, you’d think that Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and Hier, who represents the Simon Wiesenthal Center, might have figured out how to differentiate an anti-Semitic cartoon from an editorial cartoon that criticizes Israeli policy. Although both are undoubtedly experts on anti-Semitism, they both seem to take leave of their senses when it comes to criticism of Israel. And yet both claim to be ardent supporters of free speech. Except when it comes to that one thing, that Israel thing.
So when the London Times published a cartoon showing Benjamin Netanyahu cementing Palestinians between bricks of a wall, it was a perfect opportunity for Foxman to pipe up, accusing the cartoonist of evoking the blood libel. Britain’s Chief Rabbi opined that the cartoon caused “immense pain to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world.” The Israeli ambassador to Britain, who also chimed in on behalf of the International Jewry, argued that the cartoon added insult to injury, as it was published on European Holocaust Memorial Day.
Okay, so the cartoon and its timing were a bit ham-handed, for which Acting Editor of The Sunday Times Martin Ivens apologized. Gerald Scarfe, who has been visually excoriating British politicians since the late 1960s, was the artist behind Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. It appears, walls are, when all else fails, his fallback metaphor.
Sure, his cartoon wall dripping with Palestinian blood references the separation wall, which incidentally, isn’t particularly newsworthy right now, so it doubles as a symbol of Netanyahu’s recalcitrance vis-à-vis the peace process and how it crushes Palestinian life. Netanyahu comes in for some harsh criticism here, but so do all the other public figures Scarfe has drawn over the years. In fact, compared to Margaret Thatcher, Bibi gets off easy. It’s an obnoxious cartoon, but it’s not anti-Semitic. It’s also been removed from the Times website.
Prior to Holocaust Memorial Day — officially commemorated across Europe on Sunday — a Book of Commitment was placed in the British House of Commons for Members of Parliament to sign. The purpose of this simple act is to “publicly commit both to remembering the Holocaust and to working towards a future in which prejudice and hatred are never again allowed to gain a foothold in society.”
After placing his name in the Book, however, David Ward (MP for Bradford East) felt it necessary to issue an addendum of sorts on his website. His postlude could hardly have been more opposite to the spirit of his earlier dedication to tolerance and reflection, replicating as they did what Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks calls one of the “great slanders of our time: that Jews, victims of the Holocaust, are now perpetrators of a similar crime.” Here is what Ward wrote:
Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the hours following the public dissemination of his comments, instead of showing the sort of shame and penitence such barefaced bigotry demands, Ward reached for his shovel, thumping and scratching at the scarred earth beneath him. Initially, Ward attempted to utilise a quote from Elie Wiesel in his defence.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” he cited in part. Wiesel did not much care for this: “Although he quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel.”
Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year, and the party kicks off February 1 with celebrity appearances, musical entertainment and vendor promotions, including vintage 1913 prices at selected shops in the terminal.
But six-cent loaves of rye bread at Zaro’s aren’t the only Jewish connection to the famed station.
Here are five Jewish things to know about one of the world’s busiest transit hubs.
• It’s been called the gateway to a million lives, but for some, Grand Central Terminal provides a place to transcend worldly concerns. Orthodox Jews gather in a corner near Eddie’s Shoe Shine and Repair to pray at 1:40PM on weekdays.
• In the 1980s, Grand Central functioned as a de-facto homeless shelter, with hundreds taking refuge in the terminal. Mayor Ed Koch drew fire from homeless advocates for cracking down on loitering, particularly after the death of an elderly homeless woman on Christmas Day 1985.
More questions are raised than answered with an Israeli government official’s letter on the birth control scandal in the country’s Ethiopian community.
Health Ministry Director General Ron Gamzu has instructed HMOs to stop injecting women of Ethiopian-born women with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera. The background is that last month an Israeli television report alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and continue to receive the shots in Israel.
Gamzu has not confirmed in so many words that women have been coerced to take the contraceptive, but has indicated that there are Ethiopian women who don’t understand exactly what they’re taking and why. His letter instructs gynecologists “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.” (To be clear, Gamzu did not indicate that the government is responsible for the situation, but just that it must stop.)
This is a step forward from the previous situation that saw everyone, in Israel and the Diaspora, denying knowledge of a problem, but it’s far from the comprehensive investigation needed in to such a serious matter.
Sitting in my living room wearing pajamas on an especially frigid night watching a live stream of the Yuri Foreman fight, I could not help but marvel at the ability to watch a non-title boxing match in such a small arena (a Times Square blues club!) live over the Internet. Truly, we are in the golden age of the micro-broadcast.
Yuri Foreman stood in the center of the ring wrapped in an Israeli flag with the referee holding Foreman’s right glove awaiting the results. After a scheduled six round fight that went the full six rounds it was now up to the judges to declare a winner.
A loss for Foreman would most likely abort his nascent comeback. A win for Foreman would be a small step closer to his goal of reclaiming a middleweight championship belt.
Foreman fought a well-defended fight and displayed his trademark blistering lateral movement throughout the entire six rounds. Foreman did show the expected rust after a two-year layoff in terms of offense and lack of rhythm. He landed plenty of left-hand straight jabs at will, but multiple punch combinations rarely materialized. Though Foreman was never considered a power puncher, he did seem to hold back on setting his feet and throwing a strong right a little more than usual.
A delegation of American senators met earlier this month in Cairo with a spokesperson for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, according to the New York Times. The spokesperson clarified press accounts of Mr. Morsi’s recent description of Jews as “bloodsuckers,” “pigs” and “dogs.” The remarks, he explained, were “taken out of context.” The senators left the meeting “feeling as if Mr Morsi had addressed the issue,” according to the report.
In order to place the Egyptian spokesperson’s remarks in context, a ramble across past and present might be in order so as to uncover other examples of remarks being similarly “taken out of context.”
• Meeting on the beach outside besieged Troy with Greek bards, a spokesperson for mythical hero Achilles discussed a recent exchange he had with King Agamemnon over a war prize. Forced by Agamemnon to turn over the booty, god-like Achilles informed his commander that he was “a dog-faced, staggering drunk who was the most shameless, cowardly and grasping man alive.” He quit the army and retired to his tent.
When a bard asked for a clarification of the swift-footed warrior’s remarks, the spokesperson grabbed a spear and ran him through as rosy-fingered dawn appeared over the wine dark sea. The other bards felt as if Achilles had addressed the issue. (The prize, Chryseis, whose father was employed by Apollo as his priest, had no say in the matter.)
• Meeting with a single English reporter on the god-forsaken volcanic rock called Saint Helena, Napoleon Bonaparte, the recently retired Emperor of the French, was asked to clarify a remark he made about his former minister Charles Talleyrand, describing him as a “serving of s— in a silk stocking.”