Israel is under attack. Not across the ocean but right here in New York. The mayor of New York has been roundly criticized by some major figures in our community for his embrace of AIPAC, the Israel lobbying group whose politics have always been in sync with Israel’s democratically elected government, left or right. This was a challenge not to any Israeli policy but to AIPAC itself. As Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie countered, “A Washington without AIPAC would not mean an Israel at peace; it would mean an Israel isolated and vulnerable”
It may turn out to be more flash than substance, but the World Jewry Joint Initiative, or what Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett describes as “a Jewish crowd-source brainstorming jam session,” taking place over three days this week, signals a major and much-needed shift in the Israel-diaspora relationship. Namely, the strategic initiative, sponsored by Bennett’s ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency, reflects “a sea change” in the way that Israel views the diaspora, Bennett told us in a phone interview this week.
In the wake of recent economic and academic attacks on Israel comes a resumption on the theological front.
Last week, the Palestine Mission Network, an advisory group to the Presbyterian Church in this country, released “Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide,” a 74-page illustrated booklet that the liberal Protestant denomination describes as a resource for leaders and laity with an interest in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The publication appeared ahead of the church’s biennial General Assembly, a national gathering that will take place in June in Detroit.
Isolated diplomatically by its Arab neighbors since its creation in 1948 and shunned economically by some anti-Israel nations and corporations in recent decades, Israel now stands at the precipice of a wide-scale economic boycott.
Let’s face it. John Ruskay is a tough act to follow.
The CEO and executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York, the largest local charity in the world, is stepping down at the end of June, after 15 years in his post, having built and solidified a reputation as a leader in his field. He has successfully combined intellect, passion, compassion, managerial skills, innovation and a strong Jewish sense of peoplehood and collective responsibility. Those qualities define his vision and the institution he has led.
Some major shifts in Jewish life happen in dramatic fashion, others less so.
In recent days details are slowly emerging about a major initiative being undertaken by the government of Israel, in consultation with American Jewish leaders, to invest more than $1 billion over the next two decades to strengthen Jewish identity among young people in the diaspora between the ages of 12 and 35.
Gary Rosenblatt’s column last week focused on the disturbing effort by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to monopolize and centralize its power, and the passive response of its partner in North America, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), with more than 1,000 member Orthodox rabbis (“Time To Stand Up To The Chief Rabbis,” Jan. 10).