U.S. Briefs 11-8-11

The latest news in the American Jewish community. 

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(Click on the photo to download. Caption: Ronald Reagan and Natan Sharansky in 1986. Credit: PD-US.)

Sharansky at GA: Many Organizations ‘Take Credit’ for My Release

DENVER—Twenty-five years after his release from prison in the former Soviet Union, Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) head Natan Sharansky says many organizations still “take credit” for his freedom.

“When it came to the KGB, all of these organizations were on one list of my accomplices,” Sharansky joked at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly on Monday.

In particular, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries were the first Jews who came to the former Soviet Union when nobody else in the community did, Sharansky said.

The contemporary challenge for the Jewish world, he said, is how Jewish organizations can “maximize one another.” Every group plays a unique role, Sharansky said, noting how AIPAC mobilizes politically active Jews.

The key to ensuring Jewish survival and preventing erosion of Jewish identity, he said, was to focus on cultivating young leadership. Of the 7 million Jews in the Diaspora, at least 100,000 need to be “young leaders,” Sharansky said.

--JointMedia News Service


Netanyahu Touts Jewish Unity in GA Message

DENVER—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the power of unity in his message to the Jewish Federations of North American General Assembly on Monday, noting how Jews around the world celebrated the return of Gilad Shalit to Israel.

“While others celebrate the cult of death, we celebrate life,” Netanyahu, who canceled his GA appearance, said through a video broadcast at Monday’s plenary.

On the topic of the Arab Spring, Netanyahu said nothing would be better for Israel than to be surrounded by liberal democratic states, but that he couldn’t guarantee that outcome by any means.

“No one can say in exact what the future holds for the Middle East,” he said.

Netanyahu praised the Federations’ work to make Israel central to Jewish life in the Diaspora.

“For decades, you’ve been true partners in the rebirth and rebuilding of the one and only Jewish state,” he said.

--JointMedia News Service

(Click on the photo to download. Caption: Nigerian Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye. Credit: PD.)


World Renowned Nigerian Pastor Calls for Pollard’s Release

The influential Nigerian pastor, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, added his voice to the list of international figures calling for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard. Adeboye, whom Newsweek named as one of the 50 most powerful people in the world, wrote to President Obama asking him to commute Pollard’s life sentence to time served, reported the Jerusalem Post.

“I humbly request that the remainder of Jonathan Pollard’s sentence is commuted in the interest of justice,” he wrote.

Adeboye’s involvement is part of a trend of leaders in the African and African-American community joining the effort to call for Pollard’s release, according to the Jerusalem Post. Others who have joined the effort include former New York City mayor David Dinkins, former executive director of the NAACP Benjamin Hooks, Harvard Law professor and friend of the Obamas, Charles Ogletree, and Michelle Obama’s first cousin—Rabbi Capers Funnye.

November 21st will mark the 26th anniversary of Pollard’s arrest for espionage.

--JointMedia News Service


US to transfer funding to Palestinians despite push for statehood

Despite the Palestinians' continued efforts to seek unilateral recognition of statehood at the U.N., the U.S. has decided to transfer some $200 million in security assistance after a top House Republican who had worked to freeze funding said she would no longer block the transfer.

House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told the Obama administration in recent weeks that she would not block $50 million in economic support for Palestinian security forces and $148 million in other aid.

In separate letters to the State Department and to governmental humanitarian assistance agency USAID, Ros-Lehtinen cited certification by U.S. President Barack Obama that the aid was in the U.S.’s national security interests, as well as word from the government of Israel that it did not object. 

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the administration had reached out to Israel -- which has an interest in maintaining Palestinian security aid -- to persuade Congress to support assistance.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

(Click on the photo to download. Caption: National Director of Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman. Credit: Justin Hoch.)

Anti-Semitism slightly on the rise in the US, new ADL survey shows

A nationwide survey in the U.S. released on Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League found a slight rise in anti-Semitic attitudes, demonstrating that "anti-Semitic beliefs continue to hold a vise-like grip" on a small, but not insignificant, segment of the American population.

The survey found that 15 percent of Americans -- nearly 35 million adults -- hold anti-Semitic views, an increase of 3% from a similar poll conducted in 2009, but the same amount as in the 2005 and 2007 polls. Over the last decade, the highest level of anti-Semitic attitudes was reported in 2002, when an ADL poll found that 17% of Americans harbored anti-Jewish feelings.

The 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews in America, a national telephone survey of 1,754 adults, was conducted from Oct. 13 to 23 by Marttila Strategies of Washington, D.C., and Boston. The margin of error is +/-2.8%.

Among other results, the survey also showed that in the current climate of economic strife, with high unemployment and economic uncertainty, classic myths about Jews, money and Jewish power in business persist. 

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


US provides training to Islamist political parties in Egypt

The U.S. is committed to democratic elections in Egypt, so much so that it is willing to train any political party, even those with Islamic, anti-Western ideologies, Foreign Policy magazine has reported.

The State Department, under the auspices of a new office called Middle East Transitions, is providing aid and instruction in polling and campaign training to all interested political parties in Egypt. Any party is eligible for the support and guidance, regardless of their platform, said William Taylor, director of the Middle East Transitions office.

"We don't do party support. What we do is party training.... And we do it to whoever comes," he told Foreign Policy. 

Taylor also told the magazine that the U.S. is considering allowing Egypt to default on previous loans worth about $1 billion if it agrees to spend the same amount on securing a successful transition to democracy.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Israel and U.S. to Conduct Largest Joint Operation Next Year

A joint exercise involving 5,000 U.S. and Israeli forces will be the “largest” and “most significant” in the allies’ history, according to Andrew Shapiro, U.S. assistant secretary for political-military affairs. The exercise will simulate Israel’s ballistic defense system.

Shapiro spoke to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a talk titled "Ensuring Israel's Qualitative Military Edge", Haaretz reported, and emphasized the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel.

He highlighted that the $3 billion in security assistance that the U.S. provides to Israel actually benefit the American economy, as the majority of the funds given to Israel are spent on American goods and services.

"We don’t provide assistance out of charity. We provide assistance because it benefits our security," he said according toHaaretz.

Shapiro also disclosed that Israel will soon join NATO members, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, “as a country subject to an expedited Congressional Notification process,” reported Globes: Israel’s Business Arena. This will allow for smaller routine sales and purchases between the United States and Israel to happen more quickly.

--JointMedia News Service


Two Muslim Men Save Jewish Bagel Shop

Zafaryab Ali and his business partner Peerada Shah, two Pakistani Muslims currently living in Brooklyn, were the saviors of the oldest Bialy store in the city, CNN reported.

Coney Island Bialys Bakers Co. was due to close when its previous owner, Steve Ross, the founder’s grandson, decided it “wasn’t worth keeping” in the difficult economic climate.

Ali, who had been employed by the bakery for 10 years in the 1990's, re-opened the shop in mid-September, keeping all of the original practices the same, including ingredients, equipment, and recipes. Ali even intends to keep the store kosher, and is currently seeking a Rabbi to give the store the proper certification.

According to CNN, Ross is happy the store lives on. "I've got no problem whether they're black, white, purple, green, yellow. They came in, wanted to keep the business open and wanted to keep the industry going. ... I'm glad it's still there. I'm happy," he said.

--JointMedia News Service


Case of boy born in Jerusalem reaches the Supreme Court

The family of nine-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky recently brought his case before the supreme court. Zivotofsky’s passport does not list Israel as his country of birth, only including the city, Jerusalem. The United States and many other countries do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for fear of stirring up trouble in the Middle East.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers representing Zivtofsky do not give weight to the foreign policy concerns, citing a provision in a 2002 law that allows Israel to be listed as the birthplace for Americans born in Jerusalem. Thirty-nine lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come out in support of the boy and his parents.

So far, Federal courts have labeled the issue as a political dispute and have said that it is best suited for the executive and legislative branches of the government.

--JointMedia News Service