Tony Blair set the stage for the schmaltzy, over-the-top, joyful and endearing tribute Tuesday night to Israeli President Shimon Peres on his 90th birthday. “We in Britain have our Queen,” the former British prime minister said, “and you have your Shimon.”
Indeed, it felt like a coronation of sorts, an odd mixture of loving familiarity and the sort of fancy production that would have made the founding generation of the state of Israel cringe. The thousands of invited guests — mostly Israelis, lots of Americans, and a sprinkling of others — were dressed to impress, reflecting the newly acquired wealth in the start-up nation. One of the only men I saw without a suit was an American rabbi. The days of kibbutz-style gatherings are clearly over.
The program was nationally televised, featuring popular singers like Eyal Golan and Shlomo Artzi, lots and lots of adorable children, videos from near and far, recorded birthday messages from the leaders of France, Germany, Spain, Russia, the United Nations, and more. Barack Obama sent his regards. So did Bono.
And it was all about Peres. The length of his extraordinary career has allowed him to reinvent himself again and again — much to his critics’ dismay — and on this occasion it was Peres the peacemaker who was celebrated. A rousing chorus of “Give Peace a Chance” sung by hundreds of young Israelis made that point, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an otherwise touching tribute, made sure to emphasize the need for a strong defense.
The National Rifle Association compiled a list of its enemies and it reads like a Jewish who’s who list. The list, prepared by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action includes 506 individuals, organizations, media outlets and corporations that “have lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to anti-gun organizations.”
The groups listed by the NRA as enemies of the gun-rights cause could easily populate a Conference of Presidents meeting room. They include major Jewish national organizations, including the Anti Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, and the Jewish Labor Committee; two major Jewish women organizations: Hadassah and National Council of Jewish Women; and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm.
Reform Jews, the list suggests, are among the NRA’s worst adversaries. The list includes not only their national rabbinical group but also names specifically the Union for Reform Judaism’s former president Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein, director of the group’s Religious Action Center, as individuals fighting for gun control laws.
First, they bagged Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg. Now Jewish Democrats are crowing over their biggest catch yet: Barbra Steisand.
In a video produced by the National Jewish Democratic Council, Babs go through all the Jewish-voter outreach talking points: economy, women’s rights, LGBT equality, Medicare and of course, Israel and Iran.
“Mitt Romney does not share our values,” she says, “I know Barack Obama does.”
The Streisand appeal was also sent out to Jewish voters in swing states via robo-calls this week.