January 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup (Jonathan Weisman, Jan. 4, 2019, NY Times)

The divide between American Jews and Israeli Jews goes beyond politics. A recent law tried to reinstate the Chief Rabbinate as the only authority that can legally convert non-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, after the slaughter in Pittsburgh, refused to refer to the Conservative Tree of Life as a synagogue at all, calling it "a place with a profound Jewish flavor."

Already only Orthodox Jewish weddings are legal in Israel. Reform Jews have been roughed up when praying at the Western Wall. Promises to Jewish women that the Israeli rabbinate would become more inclusive have largely led to disappointment. Last summer, the group Women of the Wall was warned that if it did not remain confined to the small, barricaded area within the "women's section," its members would be barred from praying there altogether.  [...]

In a historical stroke with resonance today, American Jewish leaders gathered in Pittsburgh in 1885 to produce what is known as the Pittsburgh Platform, a new theology for an American Judaism, less focused on a Messianic return to the land of Israel and more on fixing a broken world, the concept of Tikkun Olam. Jews, the rabbi behind the platform urged, must achieve God's purpose by "living and working in and with the world."

For a faith that for thousands of years was insular and self-contained, its people often in mandated ghettos, praying for the Messiah to return them to the Promised Land, this was a radical notion. But for most American Jews, it is now accepted as a tenet of their religion: building a better, more equal, more tolerant world now, where they live.

Last summer, when a Conservative rabbi in Haifa was hauled in for questioning by the Israeli police after he officiated at a non-Orthodox wedding, it was too much for Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the umbrella organization of the Conservative movement in North America.

"I do not believe we can talk about a 'gap' between Israel and the Diaspora," Rabbi Wernick wrote in a letter to the Israeli government. "It is now a 'canyon.'"

My rabbi in Washington, Daniel Zemel, said in despair during Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur evening service, this fall: "For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine threat to my life in Israel. This is not an external threat. It is an internal threat from nationalists and racists."

The key to the divide is that while Americans do not reject Zionism, Israel rejects Tikkun Olam.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Wall Street Journal Edit Page Breaks With Trump, Trashes Afghanistan Mockery as 'Slander' (Olivia Messer, 01.04.19, Daily Beast)

Among his eye-opening Wednesday statements, Trump ridiculed other nations' commitment to fight alongside U.S. troops following the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

"They tell me a hundred times," Trump said. "'Oh, we sent you soldiers. We sent you soldiers.'"

The Journal's editorial called Trump's mocking words "a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died." In fact, the U.K. sent thousands of soldiers to the country between 2001 and 2014 and has--to date--lost more than 450 people in the fighting in Afghanistan.

Trump also said, during that meeting, that "the reason Russia was in Afghanistan [in 1979] was because terrorists were going into Russia" and that "they were right to be there."

In response, the opinion piece said it could not "recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American president" and noted that the Soviet Union, in fact, invaded Afghanistan "to prop up a fellow communist government."

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


House Democrats slash aid to Egypt (Bryant Harris, January 4, 2019, Al Monitor)

House Democrats sharply rebuked Egypt over its human rights record on Thursday, putting Cairo on a path to lose $300 million in military assistance this year.

As part of a spending package for the rest of the 2019 fiscal year, Democrats slashed Egypt's annual $1.3 billion in military aid, appropriating only $1 billion in a mostly party-line vote.

Cut the other billion until they restore the Brotherhood.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 AM


Why most new immigrants to Israel aren't considered Jewish (SAM SOKOL, 1/04/19, JTA)

For the first time, Israel announced that Jewish immigrants to Israel were outnumbered by non-Jewish immigrants.

The headlines might suggest that Christians and perhaps Muslims have been moving to the Jewish state in significant numbers, but the truth is more complicated: According to numbers released Monday by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, 17,700 of the 32,600 migrants who moved to Israel in 2018 came under the Law of Return but were listed as "having no religion."

Such immigrants, hailing largely from the former Soviet Union and Baltic states, count Jewish ancestry but are ineligible to marry as Jews, for example, under the state-controlled rabbinic court system. In 2017, there were 11,400 such immigrants out of a migratory population of 29,100.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP senator calls on Congress to end shutdown without border deal (ALEXANDER BOLTON, - 01/03/19, The Hill)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a potentially tough reelection in 2020, says Congress should re-open the federal government, even without a deal on funding President Trump's border wall. 

Gardner is the first Senate Republican to call for ending the partial shutdown even without a deal on Trump's demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall. 

"I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today," he said. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'They can do what they want': Trump's Iran comments defy the position of his top aides (Missy Ryan and John Hudson January 3, 2018, Washington Post)

In his first Cabinet meeting of the year, President Trump stuck a dagger in a major initiative advanced by his foreign policy team: Iran's leaders, the president said, "can do what they want" in Syria.

With a stray remark, Trump snuffed out a plan from his national security adviser, John Bolton, who this fall vowed that the United States would not leave Syria "as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders."