U.S. Briefs 11-15-11

The latest news in the American Jewish community. 

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(Click photo to download. Caption: Dennis Ross. Credit: PD-US.)

Veteran Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross Resigns

Dennis Ross, a Middle East adviser for five U.S. presidents and a man who many associate with America’s failure to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace over that time, will leave the White House in December.

Ross, 62, served as Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush, a Middle East envoy for President Bill Clinton, and most recently as a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia as well as the White House’s chief adviser on Middle East policy.

During a recent lunch with Jewish leaders, Ross said he promised his wife he would resign, the New York Times reported.

“Even by Middle Eastern terms, when you say two years and you’re heading into four, that’s a stretch,” Ross said in an interview with the Times.

Ross’s departure marks the second loss of an Obama administration Middle East adviser in six months, following George Mitchell’s exit.

—JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Shawn Green. Credit: PD-US.)

Former Jewish Major Leaguers Go to Bat For Israel

Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler and Brad Ausmus—three Jews who formerly graced professional baseball rosters—will help Israel organize a team for the next “World Baseball Classic” by reaching out to current Major Leaguers, the Associated Press reported.  

The retired players—who recently met in Los Angeles to discuss their plans—aren’t yet sure if they will actually take field, but are preparing to do so.

“I’m pretty confident that it wouldn’t be too huge a mountain to climb to get back and play,” Green, a two-time All Star outfielder who hits 328 career home runs, told AP. “I feel a strong connection to Israel and it would be an honor to put on the uniform.”

Israel, one of 16 countries invited to play in next year’s qualifying round, “could be a contender” if it advances to the actual tournament in 2013, Ausmus told AP.

—JointMedia News Service


Cars torched, anti-Semitic graffiti painted in Brooklyn

Several parked cars were torched and benches painted with anti-Semitic graffiti in the Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 11, the New York Times reported. This has been classified as a hate crime by New York City police.

 “The violence—I’m calling it violence when you blow up three cars—adds a sickening dimension to this type of anti-Semitism,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who lives just a few streets away from the scene of the vandalism, according to the Times. “All I could think about was my mother sitting on a bench with a swastika. She survived Auschwitz.”

Although a connection hasn’t been established, the vandalism occurred just after the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht. On Sunday, area residents participated in a peaceful march in protest of the attacks, CBS News reported. Police have not yet made any arrests.

—JointMedia News Service


BBYO Gets $1.9 Million Jewish Education Grant

The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) Jewish teen organization recently received a $1.9 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to fund three new “Jewish enrichment positions.”

BBYO said the new positions are part of its “five-year strategic plan to reverse the trend of disaffiliation among Jewish youth.”

“It is clear that teens yearn for ways to stay connected to Judaism despite their busy lives,” Estee Portnoy, Chair of the BBYO Board of Directors, said in a statement. “BBYO’s new Directors of Jewish Enrichment will provide that connection, making Judaism accessible and relevant to the lives of today’s teens.”

Al Levitt, Chair of the Jim Joseph Foundation Board of Directors, said in a statement that, “Providing BBYO the opportunity to expand on its program excellence through an infusion of talented Jewish educators is a win for the entire Jewish community.”

—JointMedia News Service


Presidential Candidates Court Israeli-American Votes

U.S. presidential candidates are courting more than a quarter-million Israelis who hold American citizenship.

Candidates in the 2012 presidential and congressional races have asked eligible Israelis to vote for them and their pro-Israel positions, almost confirming the adage that Israel is the 51st state. According to statistics provided by Congress, Israel has the fifth-largest pool of eligible voters outside the U.S.

One of the candidates wooing the Israelis’ votes is Representative Joe Heck (R.-Nev.), known for his pro-Israel views. Heck sent a letter to MK Danny Danon (Likud), with whom he has had close contact, asking him to urge eligible Israelis to vote for him.

“Anyone who supports Israel and can vote for someone in Congress who can help Israel should do so,” Danon said.

—Israel Hayom/Exlcusive to JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Barney Frank. Credit: Office of Barney Frank.)

Frank: Protesters’ Claims at Israeli Consulate ‘Inaccurate and Unfair’

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank called a recent sit-in at the Israeli Consulate in Boston “an excellent example of the fact that Americans have a First Amendment right to make statements that are inaccurate and unfair.”

According to the Boston Globe, Occupy Boston demonstrators were escorted out of the building by the Boston Police while chanting “We will be back.”

“Threatening to repeat this compounds the irresponsibility of the act,” Frank said in a statement Nov. 9.

“People in America obviously have every right to debate all aspects of Middle East policy,” Frank said. “However, I would be pleased if some of Israel’s critics on the left were to address the degree of oppression and violence imposed by Arabs on other Arabs in the Middle East, as well as a discussion of Israel’s policy.”

—JointMedia News Service


Presidential Candidates Warn Against a Nuclear Iran

Republican presidential hopefuls gathered for their tenth televised debate in Spartanburg, S.C., on Saturday, with several addressing a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities and reiterating their support for Israel.

Former Senator Rick Santorum went so far as to indicate he would support an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney said the use of force would be a last resort if sanctions fail, and Herman Cain said, “The only way we can stop [Iran] is through economic means."

Representative Michele Bachmann said, “The table is being set for worldwide nuclear war against Israel.” She said Iran’s nuclear program adds to regional players' ongoing efforts to pressure Israel, citing Syria and Hamas.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Obama: Iran Sanctions Have ‘Enormous Bite’

Defending efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, U.S. President Barack Obama said last Sunday that economic sanctions against Tehran have had “enormous bite,” and that he will consult with other nations on additional steps to ensure that Iran does not acquire an atomic weapon.

Obama expressed confidence that Russia and China in particular understand the threat a nuclear armed Iran would pose, and said their leaders agree that Iran cannot weaponize its nuclear power and trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.

The U.S. president, at a news conference that closed an Asia-Pacific economic summit, did not specifically say he would consider military action if Tehran were to persist in arming itself with a nuclear weapon. But he added: “We are not taking any options off the table. Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a threat not only to the region but also to the United States.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


National Jewish Health and MedHelp celebrate 10 years helping respiratory patients

National Jewish Health, the top respiratory hospital in the United States in Denver, CO, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary partnering with MedHelp, the world’s largest health social network for a service offering clients personal answers to specific respiratory health questions, according to a press release.

The partnership began as a way to help those afflicted with respiratory conditions in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but transitioned into a service helping patients with all kinds of respiratory issues.

“Many online health sites provide a generic overview of health information, however, people want to know how this information relates to their unique situation,” John de Souza, president and CEO of MedHelp, said in a statement.

—JointMedia News Service


‘Shoah Stories on Stage’ Seeks New Plays on the Holocaust

A new theater project in New Jersey seeks to discover and develop new plays and musicals that reflect a 21st Century understanding of the Holocaust.

Shoah Stories on Stage, a collaboration of the Holocaust Council of MetroWest and the Jewish Plays Project, is calling for scripts. The original plays—to be written by Jews with connections to the Essex, Morris, Sussex, and north Union County communities in New Jersey—will go on tour for adult and student audiences in spring 2012.

The contest (made possible by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest NJ (JCF) and the Darivoff Family Foundation) is open to artists of all backgrounds and has a submission deadline of Dec. 14. Contact the Holocaust Council at (973) 929-3067 or holocaustcouncil@ujcnj.org for more information.

—JointMedia News Service