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‘Birthright for Jewish moms’ reaches out to Spanish-speakers

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 17:13

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — The first Cuban delegation will participate in the “Birthright for Jewish moms” trip to Israel, as the sponsoring group works to expand its reach in Latin America.

Sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, the participants in Momentum Israel, as the trip is actually called, will visit the country from May 9 to May 18, and will observe Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day.

“The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project is investing in expanding our partnerships in Latin America, engaging Spanish-speaking translators, teachers and trip leaders,” Lori Palatnik, founding director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, told JTA.

The trip will be the first made up only of Spanish-speaking participants. Groups from all over Latin American will join the participants in Israel, including 10 people from Cancun, Mexico; 10 from Cuba; nine from Cordoba, Argentina; 56 from Mexico City; 23 from Panama City, and 20 from Santiago, Chile. A second Spanish-speaking group arriving on May 16 will include 28 participants from Mexico, 26 from Buenos Aires; 11 from Miami, and 10 from Madrid.

“In the synagogue in Havana, I saw four yartzeit boards with 200 plaques, remembering those from past generations. There were no bulbs beside the names, because you cannot buy them there. I took pictures of the socket, thinking I would buy bulbs in the U.S. and bring them back. But then I realized, those who founded the community are not asking for bulbs to be remembered, they are crying out for us to save their grandchildren and great-grandchildren from further assimilation,” Palatnik told JTA.

Since 2009, more than 7,300 women from 150 partner organizations in 26 countries have participated in Momentum Israel, according to the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

Galia Rubinstein, who oversees the group’s Latin American partnerships, underlined that growth in the region is an integral piece of this effort. “Our goal is to engage as many Jews as possible — where many are disconnected to Jewish values. We want to increase our presence in Latin America, as well as our impact,” Rubinstein told JTA.

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is partnering with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project in bringing Jewish women on trips to Israel. The ministry announced in March a $12.5 million expansion of the program during the AIPAC policy conference in Washington. The Israeli government will provide $5.1 million and the group will raise the rest.

 

Gaza terror tunnel into Israel discovered

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 08:21

A previously discovered underground tunnel built by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Aug. 4, 2014. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Hamas-built tunnel from Gaza into Israel aimed at executing terror attacks has been discovered, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday.

The concrete-lined tunnel is the first to be found since Operation Protective Edge, the summer 2014 Gaza war, according to the IDF, which worked in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service in discovering the tunnel. The IDF said it has destroyed the tunnel openings on both the Israeli and Gazan sides.

In a statement Monday, the IDF said the tunnel was built by the terrorist organization Hamas “in order to infiltrate Israel and execute terror attacks against the people of the southern communities.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is “investing considerable capital” in countering the tunnels, and that the effort “will not end overnight.”

“Israel will respond strongly to any attempt to attack its soldiers and civilians,” he said in his own statement Monday. “I am certain that Hamas understands this very well.”

But Hamas vowed that the destruction of this tunnel did not signal an end to conflict, according to the Times of Israel.

“What the enemy has discovered is only a drop in the sea from what the resistance has prepared to defend its people, to liberate the holy places, its prisoners and land,” Hamas’s military wing said in a statement Monday.

The 2014 war, which saw more than 2,100 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis killed, was fought largely over the tunnels. Following several attempted infiltrations into Israel, the IDF invaded Gaza hoping to root out the tunnel network, resulting in brutal battles across the coastal territory. Israel withdrew after destroying or otherwise eliminating the threat of some three dozen tunnels.

The tunnel discovered Monday began in a southern Gaza residential neighborhood, according to Haaretz. On the Israel side it is located between the border fence Kibbutz Holit, as well as several Israeli military bases near the Gaza border, and was dug about 100 feet below ground. It is also hundreds of yards long, according to unnamed military sources quoted in the Israeli media.

It is not known when the tunnel was constructed and how many branches it has. Hamas officials reportedly said the tunnel was constructed before the 2014 war.

Claim that Elton John was asked to pledge loyalty ‘delusional,’ Israel says

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 09:53

British singer Elton John is scheduled to make his fourth concert in Israel this May. (Flash 90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel denied a claim by Elton John’s local concert organizer that the British rocker was asked to sign a pledge of loyalty to get a visa.

The ministry threatened to sue producer Shuki Weiss over the claim he made Monday at a conference about issues surrounding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel

“Only two weeks ago Elton John was asked to sign a declaration of loyalty. That insane idea has been dropped,” he said, according to Israeli media reports.

The Interior Ministry spokeswoman told Haaretz the claim was “delusional.”

“This is a blatant lie aimed at grabbing headlines at the expense of a government ministry,” Sabin Hadad said. “Never has any artist been asked to sign such a declaration. We are considering a libel suit against Weiss.”

A line on Israel’s standard entry visa application reads in part, “I have not committed any criminal offense or any act directed against the Jewish people or the security of the state of Israel.”

Weiss’ office pointed to the language to back his claim.

Speaking at the conference, sponsored by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Weis said John refused to sign the form, and was not the first artist to do so. John is slated to perform in Tel Aviv on May 26. He has held three previous concerts in Israel, the most recent in 2010.

 

NY State Senate says it will cut CUNY funding over inaction on anti-Semitism charges

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 17:23

The East Quad at Brooklyn College (Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The New York State Senate approved a resolution to cut $485 million in funds for the City University of New York system, saying it was to “send a message” that the colleges were not taking enough action in response to campus anti-Semitism.

Last week’s vote, following a two-hour debate, came despite objections from numerous state senators who questioned whether the allegations of anti-Semitism are accurate and whether cutting funds was an appropriate response.

The alleged anti-Semitism came to the Senate’s attention in late February, when the Zionist Organization of America sent CUNY Chancellor James Milliken a lengthy letter detailing Jewish students’ complaints of anti-Semitism and warning that they violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires that federally funded universities ensure that Jewish students and others suffer no discrimination on campus.

CUNY launched an investigation into the allegations and the university says it is assembling a task force to promote a more respectful environment on campus.

Politico New York’s coverage of the March 14 vote suggested, however, that anti-Semitism might not have been the only reason the Senate favored the funding cut.

The resolution was accepting a proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “shift $485 million in annual operating costs” from the state to New York City. Cuomo had not mentioned anti-Semitism in his proposal, according to Politico, instead explaining the move as in response to the city’s financial stability and efforts to make the system more efficient.

Sen. Liz Krueger, who represents Manhattan’s Upper East Side, argued against the resolution.

“The language in the resolution says that because CUNY has had a few anti-Semitic incidents, we should cut funding for higher education for 500,000 students in the City of New York,” she said, according to Politico New York. “None of us endorse anti-Semitism, racism … unfortunately we live in a society were those incidents occasionally happen everywhere.”

However, State Sen. Ken LaValle, who chairs the body’s committee on higher education, said the cost shift would “send a message” to CUNY’s administration, Politico reported.

At the City University of New York, Jewish students at four campuses — Brooklyn College, Hunter College, the College of Staten Island and John Jay College — have complained of being harassed, slurred and silenced by hostile pro-Palestinian students. On Feb. 16, students at Brooklyn College disrupted a faculty meeting to demand that “Zionists” leave campus and called one professor a “Zionist pig.”

At a panel discussion at Hunter held earlier this month as part of Israel Apartheid Week and International Women’s Day, Students for Justice in Palestine student leader Nerdeen Kiswani accused Israel of using “mass rapes of Palestinian women” as part of a campaign to “perpetrate genocide” on the Palestinian people.

“Israel is a state that is built on murder and mass rape of Palestinian women,” said Kiswani, a statement that neither the panel moderator nor any audience members questioned.

Mort Klein, the president of ZOA, praised the move to defund, the Forward reported.

However, according to The Jerusalem Post, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ leader, Malcolm Hoenlein, questioned the approach.

“There are other ways to address this,” Hoenlein told the Post on Monday. “Cutting the budget is, I think, an expression of the frustration on the part of some of the legislators about the history of the past few months.”

Donald Trump to speak at AIPAC confab

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 16:05

Donald Trump participating in a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, March 3, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Donald Trump will speak at AIPAC’s annual conference.

The real estate magnate and front-runner among Republican aspirants to the presidency on Friday became the second candidate to confirm his attendance at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, taking place March 20-22 in Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, confirmed her participation two days earlier.

AIPAC has invited all major party presidential candidates to speak.

Trump has drawn criticism from his rivals for the Republican nod for saying he would remain neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace and for saying both Israelis and Palestinians are responsible for the collapse of the peace process.