Forward Thinking

Netanyahu's Speech Just Raised the Stakes for All

By Jane Eisner

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Benjamin Netanyahu dramatically, effectively — and perhaps, dangerously — raised the stakes in his speech to Congress today.

The Israeli prime minister employed his considerable rhetorical skills to command the room, describing Iran in terms designed to frighten and excite, painting a ferocious picture of a nation hell bent on exporting its vicious brand of revolutionary terror and “gobbling up” nations all around its volatile region. And he did a masterful job of critiquing what he said are the current terms of an agreement being negotiated by the United States and other Western powers to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a deal that he claimed would “all but guarantee” that Iran would, sooner or later, become an atomic power with evil intentions.

Netanyahu may have accomplished what his Congressional patron, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, intended: To make it difficult, if not impossible, for lawmakers to approve the deal so ardently sought by President Obama. Netanyahu may well have also accomplished his main political motive in Washington: To secure his own reelection, by delivering a stirring speech laced with Jewish themes and a touch of Hebrew, beamed to prime-time Israel just weeks before it goes to the polls.

But this high stakes gamble also entails its own risks to the prime minister and the nation he wishes to continue to lead, and to the United States.

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READ: Transcript of Netanyahu's Speech to Congress

By JTA

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Speaker of the House John Boehner,

President Pro Tem Senator Orrin Hatch,

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,

And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,

I also want to acknowledge Senator, Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Harry, it’s good to see you back on your feet. I guess it’s true what they say, you can’t keep a good man down.

My friends, I’m deeply humbled by the opportunity to speak for a third time before the most important legislative body in the world, the U.S. Congress. I want to thank you all for being here today. I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy. I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.

I want to thank you, Democrats and Republicans, for your common support for Israel, year after year, decade after decade. I know that no matter on which side of the aisle you sit, you stand with Israel. The remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States has always been above politics. It must always remain above politics. Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel. Now, some of that is widely known. Some of that is widely known, like strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing, opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N.

Some of what the president has done for Israel is less well-known. I called him in 2010 when we had the Carmel forest fire, and he immediately agreed to respond to my request for urgent aid. In 2011, we had our embassy in Cairo under siege, and again, he provided vital assistance at the crucial moment. Or his support for more missile interceptors during our operation last summer when we took on Hamas terrorists. In each of those moments, I called the president, and he was there.

And some of what the president has done for Israel might never be known, because it touches on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. But I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.

And Israel is grateful to you, the American Congress, for your support, for supporting us in so many ways, especially in generous military assistance and missile defense, including Iron Dome. Last summer, millions of Israelis were protected from thousands of Hamas rockets because this capital dome helped build our Iron Dome.

Thank you, America. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Israel.

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The Real Existential Threat Is Not Iran. It’s Bibi.

By Lisa Goldman

Getty Images / Lior Zaltzman

On the eve of his departure to Washington this week, Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli press assembled on the airport tarmac that he had a “sacred duty” to do everything in his power to protect Israel and the Jewish people from existential threats. As Netanyahu has said nearly every time he’s made a public address over the last decade or so, he believes that Iran is out to destroy the state of Israel. More recently, the Israeli prime minister has amped up his fear message with his frequent insistence that the only safe place for Jews to live is the state of Israel. In reality, Israel is a far more dangerous place for a Jew to live — just look at the relative casualty counts. And Netanyahu has not only made Israel a more dangerous place for Jews, but he has made them more vulnerable in the Diaspora as well.

In fact, you could argue that Netanyahu’s policies have made Jews — in Israel and around the world — more vulnerable than they have been at any time since 1948.

On Netanyahu’s watch, the Israeli military launched two military campaigns against Gaza in as many years. On both occasions, hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians came under rocket fire from Gaza. Children spent their summers in bomb shelters, while parents living on the Gaza border tried to keep from panicking every time an air raid siren caught them more than 30 seconds from the nearest safe room. Seventy-one Israelis were killed in last summer’s war, and another six were killed in the 2013 operation called Pillar of Defense. The media and military experts credited the air defense system known as Iron Dome with minimizing Israeli civilian casualties, with the Israeli foreign ministry even presenting a Hanukkah menorah designed like a mini Iron Dome to U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro.

Iron Dome is, as most people know, funded by the United States, with emergency additional funding approved by Congress during last summer’s war. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was among the leaders of the initiative to expedite emergency help to Israel. But on Sunday she said on CNN’s Face the Nation that Netanyahu was “arrogant” and “did not represent” her as a Jewish American. Will she be as quick to support Israel in the future, now that Netanyahu has so openly insulted President Obama and the Democrats? It’s hard to say, but certainly dividing American support for Israel, which for years was unswerving and bipartisan, makes Israel look vulnerable in the international arena.

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Bibi Should Speak to Congress — and We Should Listen!

By David Hazony

Getty Images / Lior Zaltzman

Despite all the chatter to the contrary, it’s important for Netanyahu to speak before Congress tomorrow — and we should all hear him out.

For those of us who don’t yet see why — who focus too much on protocol and politics and L’Affaire Boehner and so may have missed some of the key substantive questions along the way — allow me to make the case for Bibi in a nutshell.

For months now, America’s most important allies in the Middle East have been deeply troubled by the negotiations taking place between the P5+1 states and Iran over the latter’s nuclear weapons program. Maybe it’s the fact that the Administration stopped using the word “dismantle” when describing its demands. Or maybe they think the whole idea of turning the world’s biggest terror supporter and destabilizing force into a “successful regional power” isn’t very wise. Or maybe it was Tehran’s decision to blow up a mock American aircraft carrier just when you’d expect them to be conditioning their public for a great reconciliation. For whatever reason, the very allies who have the most to lose by a bad deal — Saudis, Egyptians, Israelis and more — are highly concerned. They’re really clamoring to be included and to have their voice heard before it’s too late.

That’s reason enough to hear another opinion other than that of the Administration.

In the last few weeks, however, the Netanyahu speech has also been mischaracterized in at least two big ways.

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4 Questions for Benjamin Netanyahu

By Gideon Aronoff and Dan Fleshler

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(JTA) — Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

As American Jewish progressive Zionists, we are deeply worried about the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel. We know you would like pro-Israel Jews to publicly defend your positions on Iran and your plans to speak to Congress next week. But we need some clarifications:

1) Is there any outcome you would endorse that Iran could conceivably accept?

You have made clear that you want Iran to be stripped of its nuclear capacity, without even a limited ability to enrich uranium. But people involved in the negotiations say the zero enrichment demand cannot be achieved because Iran would never accept it. If that is your demand, aren’t you precluding any possibility of a negotiated deal?

You are reportedly going to call for tougher sanctions on Iran. If they are imposed, do you expect that any Iranian leader would survive if he proposed relinquishing all nuclear research and development, which has been a national priority since the days of the shah? We’ve searched hard and can’t find any experts on Iran who believe that will be possible.

2) If you won’t accept any agreement that could in fact be reached with Iranian leaders, what alternatives do you propose and how do you expect us to defend them?

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Thank You, Hillel, for Opening the Door

By Ben Winter


More than a year ago, Hillel President Eric Fingerhut declared that “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.” That statement came in response to the decision by Jewish students at Swarthmore College to open their doors to speakers and groups that oppose Israel’s occupation and those who support the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.

This past week, Hillel International dramatically changed its position. Hillel International explicitly endorsed an event at Harvard’s Hillel that included a speaker who supported BDS, recognizing that the conversation taking place was part of a critical conversation in the American Jewish community. Open Hillel is proud to see that its campaign has made a positive impact on the nature of discourse at Harvard’s Hillel — and we hope that these types of conversations continue to take place at Hillel’s across the nation.

As Open Hillel has repeatedly emphasized, we do not support BDS — or any other political position. Open Hillel was founded with the sole purpose of advocating for open dialogue at college campuses across the country. The campaign has repeatedly refused to endorse any political positions relating to the Israel and Palestine conflict, and we have assiduously made attempts to engage all different members of the political spectrum. At Open Hillel we believe that only way to resolve the crisis in the Middle East is by resolving the crisis at home: we must respectfully listen to the other side, despite harsh ideological disagreements.

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One More Charity Scandal on Loeb & Troper's Watch

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Illustration by Forward staff

Earlier this week, the Forward ran my story on a small New York accounting firm that audits a ton of Jewish charities — including two that have faced recent scandals.

A tipster called today to tell me about a third scandal-wracked Loeb & Troper client: YAI, a tremendous New York charity that provides housing and other services to the developmentally disabled.

In 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan accused YAI of filing false fiscal reports with New York state as part of a eleven year Medicaid fraud. YAI agreed to pay $18 million to New York and the federal government but did not admit wrongdoing.

Loeb & Troper audited YAI during the period covered by the allegations, according to state and federal filings. YAI’s most recent financial report was audited by the accounting firm Grassi & Co.

An expose published by the New York Times seven months after the settlement found that the two most senior executives at YAI, brothers Philip and Joel Levy, earned exorbinant salaries and billed personal expenses to the group. Among other things, the Times reported that Philip Levy had YAI pay $50,400 to help his daughter, a graduate student, buy a Greenwhich Village apartment.

Both brothers left the organization shortly before the Times story was published.

My original Forward report missed YAI, in part, because it’s not a Jewish organization. Aware of any other Loeb & Troper clients I should know about? Send me an email: nathankazis@forward.com.


What’s Eric Fingerhut Doing at a Jerusalem U Event?

By Dorri Olds

Eric Fingerhut speaks at Jerusalem U film screening / Dorri Olds

Trying to get an unbiased education about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a never-ending conundrum. It’s like the parable of the blind men and the elephant — one blind man grabs the tail and says, “An elephant is like a rope,” another feels the trunk and says, “An elephant is like a snake.” Depending on where you go for information, you may get the tail or the trunk, but never the whole elephant.

On the evening of February 25, Manhattan’s 92nd Street Y hosted a screening of Jerusalem U’s documentary, “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus.” After the movie there was a panel discussion featuring Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, and three student activists, Justin Hayet from Binghamton University, Chloe Valdary from the University of New Orleans and Daniel Mael from Brandeis University. The moderator was Andy Borans, executive director of AEPi International.

For those who don’t know, Jerusalem U is a far-right, pro-Israel online organization. Don’t be fooled by the name: they aren’t a real university. But if you Google “Jerusalem University,” you get to their website.

I asked Jerusalem U founder and CEO Rabbi Raphael Shore to explain the U in the organization’s name. “Have you ever looked at iTunes U? Hello?” he said. “It’s a very common thing these days. If we had said ‘University’ people would say, ‘Wait, what’s going on?’ but when we say ‘Jerusalem U’ it indicates we are an Internet place of learning.”

Three student activists speak at Jerusalem U film screening / Dorri Olds

When I asked if Jerusalem U offers a balanced education on Israel, Shore said, “We don’t feel we have to have 50% of Palestinian voices, just as the Palestinians don’t present 50% of Israeli voices.” When I asked if he felt that Jerusalem U offers a non-biased view of Israel, he said, “There is no such thing as a non-biased view on anything. That’s life.” When asked if educators about Israel should give equal time to Palestinian voices, he contradicted his earlier statement by saying, “We give 50% to Palestinian voices. That’s balanced.”

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You Want To Give Every European Jew a Gun — Really?

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler

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In an article originally titled “Why Every Jewish Man, Woman, and Child in Europe Should Get a Gun,” Liel Leibovitz claims that European Jews need guns because they can’t trust their governments to protect them from anti-Semitic “savages.”

Leibovitz chides those trusting in “reasonable measures,” arguing instead that, “European Jews with guns can make a difference.” Kudos for correctly identifying guns as the opposite of reasonable measures — but every other element of this claim bears debunking.

“In Europe, Jews are seen at best as a foreign element exercising undue influence,” Leibovitz claims. Really? “At best”? He then contradictorily cites French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as genuinely caring about Jews — before slamming him for not doing enough for their security.

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Banksy Goes to Gaza

By Naomi Zeveloff

Banksy’s street art in Gaza.

The elusive English street artist Banksy has produced four new works in the Gaza Strip, taking wry aim at the human toll of last summer’s conflict.

Six months to the day after the end of the Gaza war, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians — including hundreds of children — and 72 Israelis, Banksy published photographs of the four pieces on his web site. The images were confirmed as real Bansky productions by his publicist, Jo Brooks, according to press reports.

Gaza’s rubble is the canvas for Banksy’s new paintings, done in his iconic stenciled style.

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How Ancient Circumcision Rite Sparked Modern Schism

By Elon Gilad (Haaretz)

Galen and Hippocrates depicted in a 12th century mural/ Wikimedia Commons.

The tradition of metzitzah b’peh goes back to biblical times but has created a modern-day dilemma for religiously observant Jews.

New York City officials linked the practice to 17 cases of infant herpes since 2000, of whom two died. In the latest development, the city will stop requiring mohels who use oral suction to have parents sign consent forms, which many hadn’t complied with anyway. Instead the city will focus its efforts on educating members of the ultra-Orthodox community about the risks and dangers of the practice.

But why do some Jews practice oral suction circumcision, or metzitzah b’peh, and where does the rite come from?

Though to a small number of observant communities, the practice is routine and normal, to cosmopolitan sophisticates it may seem pretty gruesome. After the mohel cuts off the foreskin, he uses his mouth – oral suction, rather than say a sponge - to effectively clear the wound on the baby’s penis of blood, lest it clot and decay.

As for where it arose, metzitzah b’peh is a time-honored tradition codified in the most important Jewish scripts, much like circumcision itself.

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How My High School Predicts Israel's Elections

By Lior Zaltzman

All photos courtesy of Blich High School

Blich High School is as ordinary as they come. I know, because I went there for four years. It’s located on Ramat Chen street, in a sleepy Ramat Gan suburb, next to a quiet local elementary school.

But around election season, Blich becomes something else, something important, as a flock of the best and brightest politicians use its auditorium to hone their speeches.

Why do they do this? Well, Blich is a sort of election weathervane. Every year, a month or so before the real election, the school stages a simulation. Students split into parties and become responsible for bringing politicians from those parties’ real-world equivalents to speak at the school. The real-world leaders are usually quite keen, because the fake elections at Blich have often predicted certain trends in Israeli politics.

Just two years ago, for example, Yesh Atid did stunningly well in Blich, winning the #2 spot in the school — and predicting its astronomical victory in the real elections, where it succeeded in bringing to power 18 MKs. That was more than any analysts or pollsters had anticipated.

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Can Yoga Fix the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

By Batya Ungar-Sargon

Farashe

(JTA) — Inhale your arms up into warrior one. Exhale and extend your arms into warrior two.

I followed the instructor’s soft but firm voice as she led me and five other women through the yoga poses, and the deep breathing helped to calm my nerves. The large tiled room was gently lit through white curtains that masked the busy city life outside Farashe Yoga.

Farashe is Arabic for butterfly, and the busy city outside the studio’s walls is Ramallah.

Exhale into your reverse warrior, the instructor guided us. I complied, letting out a long-held breath.

Ramallah is just six miles north of Jerusalem. But to get there from Jerusalem requires passing through the Kalandia checkpoint, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours. A red sign outside the checkpoint reads “This Road leads To Area ‘A’ Under The Palestinian Authority/ The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Is Against The Israeli Law.”

Area A is under Palestinian jurisdiction. Cars like the one I was in, rented in Israel, are not insured there. But my American passport pacified the Israeli soldier manning the checkpoint and we were waved through without delay.

Farashe is near the center of Ramallah, through a lively marketplace, where fruit and vegetable vendors shout out the prices of persimmons, dates and the largest cabbages I have ever seen. Past the famous stone lions of the Al Manara Square and across the street from the Stars & Bucks Cafe (its motto, according to a server, is “Let Starbucks come to Ramallah and sue us”) sits the stone building that is home to the studio. Behind a green door, up a stairway littered with cigarette butts and fast food wrappers, is the yoga studio. The class cost 20 shekels, or about $5.

When I initially reached out to Farashe, I was told by a man named Ibrahim that I would be “more than welcome to attend.” But when I told them I was a journalist from a Jewish publication, Ibrahim responded, “Farashe has a very strict policy about which media channels to talk (sic), as we are an organization that abides by BDS regulations,” referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which attempts to place political pressure on and economically isolate Israel.

My request for an interview, he told me, had been denied.

Farashe

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Is It Even Possible to Vote Against Israeli Occupation?

By Jonathan Katz

Getty Images

In the latest news to come out of this already-strange Israeli election, the Jewish Press stated on Sunday that the ballots for the upcoming election will be printed in Karnei Shomron by Yisrapot, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank considered illegal under international law. The pro-settler writer at that publication claimed that leftists who want to “stay true” to the boycott should therefore avoid the ballots on March 17 — with a specific barb aimed at the Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On.

What is interesting — and to me, as an anti-occupation Jew, terrifying — is the way this contract shows just how entwined Israel is in its occupation of the West Bank, and how “normal” the settlements have become in Israeli administration.

First, the fact that this contract was awarded to a settlement company shows how entrenched Israeli rule over the West Bank is. The system allows for ballots to be printed in an area not technically part of the state; what’s more, it signals that there is no desire to end the occupation anytime soon. In a way, the simple act of printing the ballots is a political act: it indirectly declares governance over the area.

For Palestinians who cannot vote in the elections, it also adds insult to injury: the ballots allowing Israelis a choice in their state’s rule over another people will be printed on land that that people did not choose to have occupied.

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Why Young British Jews Are Hiring a West Bank Lawyer

By Jessica Belle Weiss

Israeli soldiers arrest a young Palestinian boy following clashes in Hebron / Getty Images

I am part of a group of 30 young Zionist leaders from the British Jewish community. As people who love Israel, we want to see it thrive as a sanctuary for the Jewish people, one that stays true to the democratic, tolerant and peaceful ideals it was founded on.

That’s why we launched the Kids Court In Conflict Campaign. Our goal is to raise £26,000 to fund a lawyer to represent Palestinian youths in the IDF military court system in the West Bank. We believe that all people, guilty or not, deserve access to due legal process. So far, our campaign — only a little over two weeks old — has raised just over £11,000.

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Changing My Mind On Same-Sex Ceremonies

By Philip Scheim

Josh and Mark on the day of their commitment ceremony / Danielle Perelman

On a recent Sunday night, I did something that in the past I never thought I would do.

Nine years ago, I voted “no” on the most well-known Conservative Movement responsum on homosexuality, the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah on “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah.” At the time, I would not have envisioned myself — this past week, or ever — officiating at a same-sex commitment ceremony. How I ended up doing just that is, I believe, reflective of the great strengths of the Rabbinical Assembly and of our Conservative movement.

About a year ago, two young lawyers, Josh and Mark, requested that I officiate at their commitment ceremony. It was not something that I had ever been asked to do previously, so I had not given the possibility much thought, even though my 2006 vote would have suggested my declining the request.

But that was before I met with the two young men, both of whom impressed me deeply with their senses of humor and personal warmth, their depth of Jewish learning and commitment. Both coming from Conservative backgrounds, they wanted a kosher simcha, a ceremony held in a synagogue (contrary to today’s overwhelming trend of hotel and wedding-hall venues), and a commitment ceremony such as those they had already found on the Rabbinical Assembly website.

Danielle Perelman
It’s Official: Josh and Mark on the happy day.

After meeting with these two men, I knew I wanted to say yes. With the support of my leadership, I agreed to the ceremony, recognizing that my theoretical opposition to such an event a decade earlier had melted once confronted by two real live human beings who loved each other, and similarly cherished every aspect of their Jewish identities.

I told them that it would not be a marriage service, would not include the classic sheva berakhot, and would not use a standard ketubah, all of which accorded with their wishes as well. They wanted to work as closely as possible within the confines of a halakhic environment, in other words, to be groundbreaking while holding sacred the Jewish legal framework of the Conservative movement in which they had been raised.

Then came the ceremony with 300 people, representing a cross-section of the community, the vast majority heterosexual, the vast majority Jewish, including a significant number of young Modern Orthodox Jews who danced with the joy and enthusiasm seen most often at frum weddings. I would not have imagined, nine years ago, when I voted against the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah, that I would come to view this ceremony as one of the true spiritual highlights of my rabbinic career.

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How Norwegian Muslim 'Peace Ring' Changed Me

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler

All photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

After four years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a photojournalist, I’m not used to covering good news. Even before my recent relocation to Norway, land of the Peace Prize and Oslo Accords, it’s been easy to be cynical about institutionalized efforts to promote coexistence.

But a recent grassroots effort by Norwegian Muslims surprised me. Not because they were Muslim, but because their relatively simple gesture — surrounding an Oslo synagogue with a “Ring of Peace” — achieved the kind of international attention typically reserved for, well, terrorist attacks.

“We thought that we as Muslims needed to show by action that the majority of us, and especially the youth, take a strong stand against anti-Semitism,” said Mudassar Muddi Mehmood, one of the event’s organizers. “We stand 100% with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the battle against hatred and extremism. If anyone wants to commit violence in the name of Islam, you have to go through us Muslims first.”

The response to their invitation amazed locals as well. The Times of Israel reported earlier in the week that Ervin Kohn, a leader of Norway’s Jewish community, had said that if fewer than 30 people would show up, he didn’t want to have the vigil. Saturday night, more than 1,000 supporters of all faiths flooded Bergstien Street in front of Oslo Synagogue in an overwhelming show of support — their number nearly equaling that of the entire Jewish population of Norway.

Waqas Sarwar, who also attended the vigil, noted another motivation for the show of solidarity: “The terrorist attack in Norway [by Anders Breivik on July 22, 2011] is still fresh in mind, and we as Muslims are also witnessing rising Islamophobia, which makes it easier for us to sympathize. No one should be killed or hurt solely based on their religious or political affiliations.”

“We hope that the event will strengthen our continuing good relations between our Jewish community and the Norwegian Muslim community,” said Marty Bashevkin, vice president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, who was “especially impressed by the fact that it has been arranged by Muslim young people, and with such a positive response.”

“Imagine,” added Bashevkin, “if events like this could be repeated around the world.”

This sentiment was echoed by Ikrame Chriqui, a Kurdish Norwegian in attendance: “I’m glad this is happening and I hope it happens in other countries too. I want to show people that not all Muslims hate Jews. We are all brothers and sisters, whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist or an atheist.”

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is a freelance photojournalist living in Oslo, Norway.


Let's Get Over Our Non-Orthodox Inferiority Complex

By Amram Altzman


When I was in high school, I stopped wearing my kippah.

I felt myself drifting away from the ultra-Orthodox community of my childhood and the Modern Orthodoxy my parents tried to model for me at home. I stopped wearing my kippah because I wanted to disaffiliate from the Orthodox Jews that filled New York City — I wanted to be anonymous. Faced with the sudden realization that I didn’t want to be Orthodox, I made the decision to ensure that, unless I was in school or with my family, I would try and pass as not Jewish — or, at the very least, as not Orthodox. I did not want to be associated with the people who made fun of my cousins at my bar mitzvah for not wearing kippot, who made fun of me for attending a coeducational high school, or who looked down upon other Jews as lesser.

Thus began my first experience with the Non-Orthodox Inferiority Complex: the connection that I, and so many other Jews, make between traditional observance and the negatives in Orthodoxy. For many non-Orthodox Jews, to be observant is to be Orthodox, so observance also carries with it the negative associations that people have with Orthodoxy.

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Why Was Muslim Graduation Banned from Hasidic Montreal?

By Michael Kaminer


Officials in the Montreal borough of Outremont — which includes a sizeable Orthodox Jewish population — are defending a last-minute decision this weekend to nix a reception hosted by a Muslim organization at a city-owned community center.

According to the Montreal Gazette, borough mayor Marie Cinq-Mars told reporters the event was presented as a graduation ceremony for a language school.

But Quebec’s French-language TVA News reported on Friday that Minnesota-based Mishkah University — aka the North American Sharia Academy — was behind the event, and that “two imams with fundamentalist views, Salah Assawy and Omar Shahin, would host.” Imam Assawy, an Egyptian, is secretary-general of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America, “an organization known for its radical religious views,” according to TVA.

In a statement to media, Mayor Cinq-Mars said she asked borough managers to cancel the reservation because the presence of the “controversial leaders” was “unacceptable” and could lead to conflicts, the Gazette said. Mishkah’s name did not appear on the booking, she said; regardless of the type of group, the borough “shouldn’t ever rent out space for religious or political events,” Cinq-Mars told the paper.

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Why We Need Birthright in Reverse

By Jay Ruderman

Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to accept an invitation to speak before the U.S. Congress about Iran has ignited a rancorous debate within the American Jewish community. Some argue that the speech will alienate Democrats and undermine bipartisan support for Israel. Others say that a potential U.S. deal with Iran leaving the mullahs’ nuclear capacity intact so threatens Israel’s security that it justifies the risk of alienating President Obama.

But no matter what side of the debate American Jewish protagonists come down on, they have a clear appreciation for what’s at stake. They know that many American Jews feel caught in between support for Israel’s right to advocate its position on Iran to the world and deference to the president’s prerogative to define American foreign policy. They are well aware that American Jewish support for Israel can be complicated by Israel’s conduct, real and perceived, toward American political leaders.

Most Israelis, by contrast, have little awareness of the complexity of American Jewish support for Israel, according to a poll of Israeli attitudes recently commissioned by our foundation. Such lack of awareness can have severe consequences for Israel’s relationship with the U.S. and, by extension, Israel’s security.

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