Forward Thinking

Madiba, Zayde of Our Rainbow Nation

By Shana Beinart

Getty Images

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the iconic leader of our nation, has died. To South Africans — including Jews — he will always be much more than merely the first democratically elected president. He will be forever remembered as the “father of the nation” as he was truly the architect of the inclusive South Africa we know today.

‘Tata’ Madiba, as he was universally known, was an iconic figure to young South Africans, black and white, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. He was a man who exemplifies strength, compassion and kindness. He had an unshakeable will to right a most profound injustice and bring equality to his fellow countrymen. He became mythic within his own lifetime, something few people ever accomplish, however distinguished and gifted they may be.

I could not comprehend the magnitude and meaning of his release from prison in February 1990 for I was only three and a half years old. But my parents imparted to me a sense of the joy, importance and history of the occasion.

To this day, I still remember my excitement as we watched on television the triumphant figure of Madiba greeting the crowds, arms raised, radiant smile across his face. My heart beat fast and I felt the sense of a grandfatherly figure.

But I also knew this man was not like other men. I was too young to fully understand the step our country was taking but even then I knew it was something incredibly important I was witnessing.

Four years later in April 1994, when the first democratic elections took place in South Africa, I had an awareness of South Africa’s terrible past and how it mirrored the Jews’ persecution through the ages. It was a thrilling thing to know I would see those elections firsthand and although I was not eight years old, my fervent wish was that I too could vote with everyone else.

I counted the days to 2004 when I would turn 18 and be able to vote myself for the first time. The excitement as the votes were counted and what we all knew in our hearts was finally confirmed — Madiba was our president!

South Africa was born anew and the man we all loved was at last where he was meant to be. After 27 years imprisoned in appalling conditions, he was free, we were free and he was leading us into the future.

It was an exhilarating time and he was central to our joy.

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Client 9 vs. Mr. Clean

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer returned from political exile Sunday night, throwing New York City Democrats into a frenzy as he announced an ultra-late entry into the race for New York City Comptroller.

Spitzer will face Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who was running uncontested in the Democratic primary.

Both candidates are Jewish, but that’s where the similarities stop. Where Stringer is an earnest progressive with a young baby, Spitzer is a hard-charging disgraced governor dragging a long trail of scandals. Yet while Spitzer, thanks to his prostitution scandal and short-lived governorship, is one of the best-known political figures in the state, Stringer has a low profile.

Spitzer is a “well known, well-defined candidate running against a well-liked but generally not well-defined candidate,” said Evan Stavisky, a New York-based Democratic political consultant. Stringer, Stavisky said, is “all of a sudden in a war, when he was expecting to spend quiet summer with his newborn child.”

Spitzer served as Attorney General from 1999 until 2006, when he was elected governor on a good government platform. He resigned as governor after just over a year amidst revelations that he had hired high-priced hookers while in office, breaking New York State law.

Stringer, a former New York State assemblyman and current Manhattan Borough President, is a longtime city politician with a strong base on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Stringer comes from an Manhattan Jewish political family: his cousin was Jewish feminist Congresswoman Bella Abzug, his mother was a member of the New York City Council. He enjoys close ties to Upper West Side Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who he worked for in the 1980s, and whose Assembly seat he won after Nadler was elected to Congress.

In his months running unopposed for Comptroller, Stringer has swept up institutional support, with endorsements from unions and elected officials. A New York Observer article in February referred to Stringer’s “endless endorsement pile.”

Yet Stringer is famously unimpressive on the stump. An October 2011 profile in Capital New York, written before he dropped a plan to run for mayor, described Stringer as “a short, doughy, 51-year-old with the affect of a hall monitor.”

Spitzer, meanwhile, has name recognition that Stringer can’t hope to match. That could make a difference in a race that will appear on the bottom of the primary ballot in September.

“Time will tell whether institutional support for Scott Stringer will overcome the fact that Eliot Spitzer is universally known,” said Stavisky.


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Ultra-Orthodox Win Race to the Kotel

By Nathan Jeffay

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Today, Haredi activists headed en masse to the women’s section of the Western Wall before the interdenominational feminist group Women of the Wall (WOW) were due to assemble for their monthly prayer service. Citing concern for the women’s’ “personal safety” police said that the high concentration of Haredi opponents to the group assembled by the Kotel meant that WOW had to be kept away, and conduct their prayer service further than normal from the Wall.

Essentially, Haredim have taken advantage of the police ethos which, last month, worked against them. A month ago WOW got to the Wall first, and police kept other women, mostly Haredi women away, as we discussed here. The Haredim learned last month that the police’s attitude to the Wall is, simply put, first come first served. So this time, they decided to get there first, and wait for the police to exclude WOW.

Now, both sides, WOW and their opponents, have taken a turn at getting there first and excluding the other. What now?

It’s not sustainable that each month there will be a race to the Wall. Will women start pitching tents the night before like kids lining up for concert tickets? The police will inevitably need to find a way of managing tensions by the Wall and allowing both groups of women to approach at the same time.

Beyond this, today’s events will reinvigorate the lobby that wants to see the Sharansky plan for an egalitarian prayer section at the Wall reinvigorated. Last month, when all was rosy with the WOW prayer, there was some speculation that the need for an egalitarian section was fading — after all liberal women had successfully held prayers by the Wall with police help. The scene today was a reminded that WOW is making headway, but its achievements are a work in progress.

As the Forward has reported, there are differences in the priorities of WOW and the Reform/Conservative mainstream Jews. WOW is an activist group that is game for a monthly battle of the wills, but most Reform and Conservative Jews just want to pray-and-go. And to progress that desire, they have the Sharansky plan.


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Sheryl Sandberg's Plane Crash Narrow Escape

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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Facebook COO and bestselling “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg and her family narrowly avoided having been on the Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning.

Two people were killed and 49 seriously injured when Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a Boeing 777, slammed in to the ground just short of the runway on landing. There were “many burns, fractures and internal injuries,” according to a spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital, where six people were in critical condition. The remaining 307 passengers and crew members escaped unscathed or with minor injuries.

Sandberg took to her own Facebook page early Saturday afternoon to thank friends and followers who had been concerned for her and her family, and to explain that they had changed flights out of Seoul, South Korea at the last minute.

“Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened,” she wrote. “My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed. We switched to United so we could use miles for my family’s tickets. Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash. Our friend Dave David Eun was on the Asiana flight and he is fine.”

Frost, Gholson and Hoffman are Facebook employees. Eun, is a Samsung Electronics’ executive VP and head of its Open Innovation Center. He was one of the first people to send tweets from the crashed plane.

“Thank you to everyone who is reaching out - and sorry if we worried anyone. Serious moment to give thanks,” Sandberg added.

Sandberg’s prior Facebook posts were of photos of her in Seoul on her tour promoting “Lean In,” a manifesto of sorts explaining why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, and offering possible solutions for empowering more women, especially working mothers. Sandberg herself is the mother of two children together with her husband David Goldberg.


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Camp Tawonga and the Truth

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Annais Rittenberg

Camp Tawonga’s leadership faced a difficult decision last week when 21-year-old art counselor Annaïs Rittenberg, was killed by a falling tree. They needed to decide what to tell the campers.

The camp decided not to tell the children that Rittenberg had died — a decision that angers Rittenberg’s father.

“It’s a tragedy,” Mark Rittenberg wrote on Camp Tawonga’s Facebook page. “Everyone needs to know and everyone needs to embrace it.”

Upset at the praise shown for how the camp administration handled the situation, Rittenberg pointed out the anguish it caused her family.

“The love and prayers should go to Annaïs Maya Rittenberg. She is the one who died. Where are her pictures on your Facebook page?” he asked. “Where is the Shabbat service to honor her? This would mean that everyone at camp including the campers would know that their beloved art teacher was killed. “

Rittenberg died on July 3 when a 70-foot-tall black oak tree toppled on her outside the dining hall at the Jewish camp near Yosemite National Park in northern California.

Although it was widely reported within hours that Rittenberg had died, the campers at the sprawling camp did not know the extent of the tragedy. And officials decided to keep them in the dark, in part because the camp session ended at the end of the week.

On the evening of July 4, a day and a half after the tragic accident, executive director Ken Kramarz sent an email to parents explaining the decision to tell the campers only that a tree had fallen and that some staff members had been injured.

“We concluded that you, their parents, have the right to determine what to share about the incident based on your own assessment of how your child is doing and in accordance with your personal beliefs about death,” he wrote. “We feel strongly that you — the parents — should be able to decide when and in what way to discuss this with your children.”

The email also included some suggestions from the camp’s therapeutic team on how parents could speak with their children when they arrived home at the end of the session on July 5.

Some people, from within the Tawonga community and from outside it, agree that glossing over the truth was the correct way to handle the issue.

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Fighting Anti-Refugee Tide in Canada

By Michael Kaminer

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Roma protesters march in Hungary against discrimination.

Progressive laws and generous benefits have long made Canada a haven for refugees. But the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been raising the drawbridge with laws that strip new immigrants of health-care benefits – and restrict immigration from countries that are supposedly “safe” to stay in.

Jewish leaders have formed an advocacy group to pressure Harper and his controversial Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, to scrap the restrictive legislation, known as Bill C-31. Founding members of the Toronto-based Jewish Refugee Action Network include a who’s-who of Canadian Jewry in its ranks, including former Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber.

The laws result in part from the Harper government’s “bizarre” fixation on Roma refugees from Hungary, Farber told the Forward. “For reasons that remain a mystery to most people.” Kenney has repeatedly characterized many Roma refugees as “bogus”, according to news site Canadian Dimension.

He also points out that Jews have a vested interest in speaking out against injustice and stereotypes.

“I’m the son of Holocaust survivors,” Farber said. “What I’m hearing are similar drumbeats to what it was like for Jews trying to come to North America in the early 20th century – that they’re thieves, they’re going to bring down the economy. The same language once used to describe Jews is being used to describe the Roma. And we felt real need to stand up and as my late father used to say ‘open a mouth’.”

Access to health care is the primary issue in the crosshairs because Harper’s team believes benefits are important drawing cards north of the border. Once, refugees were guaranteed the same health care as other Canadians. Now they receive “the barest minimum,: with no access to sspecialist care or other extras, Farber said.

“That, to us, is unfathomable. It’s unimaginable,” Farber said. “It’s not acceptable in a free and democratic society.”

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News Quiz: Satmars Out West, Jon Stewart in Egypt

By Lenore Skenazy

Burgers, Bibles, Bernie Madoff: There is little news that this week’s quiz doesn’t touch on, except, perhaps, for brisket.

Oh wait! That’s here, too, courtesy of Rick Moranis. Go forth!

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Norman Lamm, the Truth — and Me

By Paul Berger

yeshiva university

Norman Lamm has retired as chancellor of Yeshiva University. The exit of one of the most revered figures in Modern Orthodoxy has been tarnished, perhaps indelibly, by Lamm’s admission to me last year that he covered up sexual abuse of students during his tenure as president of Y.U. between 1976 and 2003.

Since I first reported Lamm’s admission there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the circumstances of our interview. I have been accused of knowingly taking advantage of a man with a deteriorating mental state while his daughter was terminally ill. There is even a version of our interview circulating in which Lamm’s wife turns me away from his apartment door, so that I have to lurk outside until she leaves before I can sneak back in and take advantage of Lamm.

None of the above is true.

Prior to my interview with Lamm, I was unaware of rumors that Lamm or his daughter, Sara Lamm Dratch, were ill. All I knew was that a handful of former students had told me painful stories of their sexual abuse at Y.U.’s Manhattan high school for boys and that, according to them, the person who knew the most about it was Lamm.

So I did what any reporter would do. I looked up Lamm’s address and, one morning, I showed up at his apartment door. I told Lamm who I was.

I told him why I was there. At first, he appeared unwilling to talk. He went back inside his apartment and had a brief conversation — with his wife, I believe — and then he invited me inside.

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Jane Eisner Talks to The Marker

By Yermi Brenner

Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner discusses the paper’s coverage of political and socio-economic events in Israel, and about the future of journalism in the digital age in a video interview with The Marker, a Tel-Aviv-based economic news outlet that is distributed as a supplement of Haaretz.

The interview touches on important issues in Israeli society, including the conflict with the Palestinians, the financial crisis, and how the Jewish state is perceived in the U.S. and Europe.


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Norman Lamm Deserves Better

By Allan Nadler

yeshiva university

Among the people who enter our lives, enrich our minds and inspire our hearts are at times those we barely, if at all, know personally. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, who has just announced his retirement as chancellor of Yeshiva University after a remarkably distinguished career, has for decades played such a role in my life.

His scholarship inspired me during my very first year of graduate school, when I read his path-breaking book on the thought of the Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin, Torah Lishmah. Hayyim of Volozhin was the most important disciple of the Gaon of Vilna and his writings and, even more so, the great yeshiva he established in the Belorussian town of Volozhin shaped the faction within Orthodox Judaism known as the Mitnagdim, who opposed the Hasidic movement.

Lamm’s work had a lasting impact, ultimately leading me to choose the Mitnagdim as the focus of my doctoral dissertation and subsequent book on the subject. And yet, I never studied at Yeshiva University, nor had I yet met, or even laid eyes on, Rabbi Lamm.

Over the subsequent years, Lamm’s essays and books on the ideology of Modern Orthodoxy — embodied in the motto Torah u-Mada (Torah and science, or secular knowledge) were largely responsible for allowing me to remain within the Orthodox camp, despite my increasing struggles with the increasingly right-leaning, insular and intolerant tendencies of Orthodox Judaism that ultimately led to my own break with it. I still had never met this magnificent man, and uncommonly eloquent spokesman for a truly modern iteration of traditional, halakhic Judaism.

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The Chabad Rabbi and NBC's Abuse 'Smear'

By Eliyahu Federman

nbc
Avraham Berkowitz

Did NBC smear a prominent Chabad rabbi over his position on reporting child abuse to the police?

The Peacock Network’s ‘Rock Center’ show on June 21 ran a story about Judy Brown, who has written for the Forward and whose bestselling book, ‘Hush,’ chronicles her spiritual journey away from the Hasidic world and discusses sexual abuse in the deeply insular Hasidic community.

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, a well-known figure in the Chabad movement, was interviewed for the story. Although Berkowitz supports reporting suspected abuse directly to police, NBC edited his comments to make it seem that he believes they should only be reported only to rabbis, a controversial position that has divided the Jewish community.

The transcript of the unedited interview shows that Berkowitz said “the rabbis work together hand-in-hand with the authorities,” “deviants must be punished,” and “they’ll be caught.” The full un-aired interview demonstrates that Berkowitz was discussing educational initiatives on abuse prevention, not the reporting of sexual abuse — and makes clear that he believes rabbis should work hand-in-hand with the authorities.

But NBC apparently decided that Berkowitz’s views did not fit the storyline of Orthodox sexual abuse cover-ups. So it selectively edited his quotes and added grossly misleading voice-overs that implied he believes sex abuse crimes should be handled only by rabbis.

“Avraham Berkowitz is a local rabbi in the community and he says people are now acknowledging that sexual abuse is happening and insists that they can handle the problem themselves,” Dr. Nancy Snyderman, of NBC says on the show.

NBC never directly asked Berkowitz whether he thinks abuse should be reported directly to the police. Yet they superimposed his unrelated quotes over a discussion the case of Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed Satmar “therapist” who was convicted of sexually abusing a young girl. The Weberman case, a narrator intones, “was a rare instance of a Hasid going to outside authorities to report a crime.”

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Ethiopians and Birth Control — Culture or Chemicals?

By Nathan Jeffay

What is bringing down the birth rates of Israel’s Ethiopian immigrants — culture or chemicals?

A new study by the nonpartisan Knesset Research and Information Center found that while Ethiopian Jews traditionally have large families, by 2010 those who arrived in the preceding decade were actually having fewer kids than other Israelis. They were having 1.78, which is 38 percent below the average for Israeli-born women, 2.88.

This study follows a television report last year that alleged that Ethiopian immigrant women were coerced into taking contraceptive shots in transit camps in Ethiopia when waiting to move to Israel, and that they continued to receive the shots in Israel. The Health Ministry wrote to HMOs inferring that there are some Ethiopian women who receive the shots in Israel without fully understanding what they contain — and urged 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.”

Gal Gabbay, the documentary-maker who made produced the television report on the contraceptive shots, says that following the new Knesset report she feels vindicated. “The numbers speak for themselves,” she told Forward Thinking, saying that she is “sure” that the contraceptive shots are behind the drop in birth rates.

But the authors of the study found themselves unable to substantiate the claims of her report, and left the matter of the contraceptive shots as something of an open question. Of course, there are many who say that a reduction in birth rates is expected among an immigrant population encountering completely new, Western cultural norms — especially when it’s one of the poorest segments of society.

This reading of the figures isn’t only coming from outside the Ethiopian community. Shai Sium, a 34-year-old resident of the Southern Israel town of Kiryat Malachi and an Ethiopian-born activist for Ethiopian rights, says that young parents like him “don’t want to have a lot of children in Israel and can’t afford a lot of children.”

He holds himself up as an example. “I have two kids and I decided to have three kids because I want to raise them well.”


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Video: A Day at the Kotel

By Jane Eisner


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Andrew Pochter Is Killed — as Egypt Burns

By Abdallah Schleifer

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The first Egyptian police report described Andrew Driscoll Pochter as an American and a photojournalist.

The 21-year-old student from suburban Maryland was not identified as being Jewish because we Americans, unlike Egyptians, do not carry government IDs that identify our religion. That in itself is a great relief and advantage when living or visiting countries wracked by sectarianism and bigotry like Egypt is today.

The fact that Pochter was taken for a journalist does offer an important clue as to who killed him and why.

He was reportedly killed during an anti-government rally that surged toward the headquarters of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party in the port city of Alexandria.

Over the past few months, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) militants and at times their allies from the Salifi sect have badly beaten up suspected journalists and in particular photojournalists. They have been particularly aggressive in defending various MB headquarters or MB demonstrations backing Morsi from attacks. They have expressed particular hatred for the passionately anti-Morsi privately owned Cairo press as well as a longer history of deep paranoia about the global press corps.

So it is important to note that Pochter was killed as anti-Morsi protesters were trying to storm MB headquarters in Alexandria and were being beaten back by MB militants defending their headquarters. That suggests they might have been involved.

As time passes, this sort of street violence escalates on both sides in Egypt. Clubs replace stones, knives come into play alongside clubs, and in time pistols and shotguns also surface, army steel helmets replace motorcyclist helmets and killing at times trumps beatings.

Those who killed Pochter , whoever they were, would not have known he was Jewish, even if they realized he was an American. In the Cairo street, particularly, the average demonstrator on either side of the fence would not jump to the conclusion that an American tourist could be Jewish. Quite the contrary, they would tend to associate the Jew with the hooked nose, and payus and long beard that they have likely come across in anti-Semitic screeds that circulate widely here.

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Brazil Grapples With Crisis of Expectations

By Andrea Palatnik

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Peering in from the outside, it may be tricky to understand what’s going on in Brazil right now

Unlike Tunisians and Egyptians, Brazilians did not take to the streets in historic demonstrations last week to overthrow an authoritarian government. After enduring a two-decade-long dictatorship, we’ve been living under democratic rule since the mid-1980s, and those who still carry the wounds of the dark days are the first to say: never again.

Nor, like many Europeans, are we reacting to an economic crisis per se, even though most reports in the international press about our economic boom are rather far-fetched, and the cost of living has risen sharply in the past 10 years

The generation behind the mass protests that took place in over a hundred Brazilian cities this month never knew the pains of hyperinflation or the fear of political prisons. What they know very well is the corruption that plagues every level of government; the chronic lack of investment in education; the lavish spending of public funds to build soccer stadiums for the World Cup while hospitals and roads crumble away.

So now this generation is saying: enough is enough.

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Family of the Wall

By Harvey Stein

Comedian Sarah Silverman is known for her outrageous shtick. But her sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, and niece, Hallel, have become leading members of the Israeli activist group Women of the Wall, which fights for women’s rights to pray as they see fit at the Western Wall.

The Silvermans are well known for their involvement in the Kotel protests. But Susan Silverman’s husband, Yosef, is himself an activist for green solar technology in Israel.

Recently, videographer Harvey Stein travelled with the family to the monthly prayer protests under threats of violence.


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'Jewish' Archbishop of Canterbury at Yad Vashem

By Nathan Jeffay

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Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is half-Jewish.

There was an unusual moment at Yad Vashem today. As virtually all foreign dignitaries do, the head of the Anglican church went to Yad Vashem during his visit to Jerusalem. And there, he encountered his own Jewish heritage in a stark and poignant way.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, enthroned in March, Justin Welby leads the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide. He also happens to be half-Jewish — his father was born Jewish.

The staff of Yad Vashem had dug out a Page of Testimony and archival information regarding a young Holocaust victim who was most one of his distant relatives. When he entered the Hall of Names, where the Pages of Testimony of Jewish victims of the Holocaust are housed, they gave it to him.

The Archbishop was visibly moved — he had tears in his eyes, and asked to be alone for a few moments before continuing his tour. The fact that he was there with his wife Caroline and son Peter added to the personal weight of the moment.

On a lighter side, Welby’s Jewish heritage makes him eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. It’s clear that he has a soft spot for Jerusalem — he revealed today that he was here on honeymoon 33 years ago. So perhaps he could stick around. Quick Nefesh B’Nefesh — catch him before he leaves.


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Anti-Israel Gay Group Stirs Toronto Controversy

By Lorne Opler

wikicommons

They’re back! And just in time for Toronto’s Gay Pride parade on Sunday, June 30.

Who’s back? None other than Canada’s most high profile anti-Zionist gay organization — Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).

Formed by Toronto LGBT activists on the platform that Israel exists as an apartheid state and oppresses Palestinians — including LGBT Palestinians — QuAIA has fomented controversy every year since 2008 when it first announced its intent to participate in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. Despite pleas from the Jewish community to stop QuAIA from marching, and despite efforts by some city councillors to withhold grant money to Pride Toronto organizers unless they keep the agitators out, QuAIA has managed to participate in the city’s Pride Parade four out of the last five years. Pending any extraordinary and highly unlikely intervention from Toronto City Hall, they’ll be marching again on June 30.

Ongoing efforts by QuAIA opponents to halt the group’s inclusion on the basis that the term “Israeli apartheid” violates Toronto’s human rights policy and Ontario’s Human Rights Code, have been unsuccessful.

And a recent statement by Toronto’s chief lawyer which acknowledges that the words “Israeli Apartheid” violate neither the city’s human rights policy, nor appear to violate the province’s human rights policy, all but guarantees that QuAIA will again be part of the festivities.

Opponents of QuAIA, like myself, are not pleased. Its supporters, however, certainly are. Tony Souza, a member of QuAIA, was quoted in the May 27 Toronto Star saying, “Every single report that comes out says we don’t violate any hate laws…. we certainly don’t ‘hate’ anybody. We just want justice in Palestine.”

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'We Can Marry for Love'

By Yermi Brenner

yermi Brenner
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum

Big smiles and excited eyes were all around at one Greenwich Village synagogue on Wednesday noon. Members of Beit Simchat Torah, a congregation that has been a strong advocate for LGBT rights for four decades, were stopping by to congratulate each other and celebrate the historic moment.

Two hours earlier, the Supreme Court delivered landmark victories for gay rights, forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage for the first time and striking down California’s effort to ban it.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who is a lesbian and leader of the Simchat Torah congregation, said the importance of the Supreme Court ruling could not be overstated.

“It is saying that the highest court in our land will not stand for discrimination,” said Kleinbaum. “It is saying that’s not OK.”

Beit Simchat Torah was established in 1973 at the heart of Greenwich Village, a neighborhood that serves as a hub for New York’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual community. The synagogue is located a few blocks away from Stonewall, the site of the 1969 riots, a monumental event that launched the fight for LGBT rights in the U.S. The congregation includes members from different ages and backgrounds.

A few of them agreed to go on camera to share their feelings following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.


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Echoes of Justice in Corners of American Life

By Ellen Lippmann

Ellen Lippmann

The shouting for joy over this morning’s Supreme Court decisions had barely subsided when a long ago memory flashed into my mind. Twenty-two years ago, my partner and I were on vacation in Pennsylvania with our daughter. My partner became ill and I took her to a nearby emergency room.

In this smalltown hospital. they were terrific about taking her right in to be seen by the doctor before any talk of payment or insurance. But when they came out to begin those conversations, they asked me, “Does she have any family members here?”

We had been together seven years. I said, somewhat facetiously, “Well, her daughter is here.” “Oh, so may I speak to her daughter?” asked the nurse. “Sure,” I said. “She’s 10.” And only then did the nurse, well-meaning, not really understanding, agreed to speak to me.

My prayer is that along with same-sex marriage in California and federal benefits for those married in other states, today’s Supreme Court decisions will begin to create a broad atmosphere of justice in the small, crucial places of our lives: hospital rooms and funeral homes, synagogues, churches and mosques, the school principal’s office, the neighborhood cookout.

The other memory that came along unbidden was that of Matthew Shepard, beaten, tortured, and left to die on a fence. I remember crying along with many others during a prayer for him at the synagogue where I am serve as a rabbi, Kolot Chayeinu. Today I also pray that the expanding atmosphere of justice prevent killings of LGBTQ people because they are, whether in Montana way back then or in the Village last month. May children grow up in confidence or in acceptance, knowing that some law is on their side.

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  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • from-cache

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