The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, better known as the Claims Conference, has been responding to calls for more openness and transparency of late in exactly the wrong way. As the organization believed to be the wealthiest in the Jewish world, and with the sacred responsibility of using the billions of dollars at its disposal to care for survivors of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference should be operating in a manner beyond reproach. But the recent scandal related to more than $57 million stolen by a number of employees over a period of 16 years has gone from bad to worse in recent days.
Shimon Peres celebrated his birthday in grand style last week in Jerusalem with an estimated 5,000 of his closest friends, though he doesn’t turn 90 until August. (He clearly does not believe in “the evil eye,” or tempting fate.)
For pop singer Alicia Keys, who will soon visit Israel in defiance of a personal appeal to boycott from noted author Alice Walker, the decision to visit Israel, while worthy of our gratitude and applause, was made from a position of strength. After all, Keys is successful, confident and wealthy enough to do as she pleases. On the other end of the spectrum is a Syrian doctor and his patient, 28, in the throes of a civil war whose decision to go to Israel was made in the ultimate weakness, with a bullet in his gut and life slipping away.
The recent start of the busy season for Birthright Israel, the program that has brought hundreds of thousands of young Jews closer to the Jewish community by bringing them to Israel for 10 free days of tours and lectures, also marked the end of another cultural program that has attracted the same age group.
At first glance, the “Special Report on Poverty,” the third and final part of the 2011 population study of the Greater New York Jewish community that was commissioned by UJA-Federation in consultation with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, holds no surprises.
While no one will mistake the nearby day school or synagogue for the Google headquarters anytime soon, the Jewish educational world is starting to accelerate from the digital superhighway’s on- ramp to the middle lane.
The death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg this week is a loss for his family, for the nation and for the Jewish community. A member of the Senate for nearly three decades, an unapologetic liberal, a gruff legislator who was nonetheless described by his colleagues as a gentleman in an era when civility among partisans is increasingly becoming an anachronism, Sen. Lautenberg — at 89 the oldest member of the Senate — represented a historical memory that is hard to replace.
Strange, how so many Israelites could witness the miracles of the Exodus and yet have been disillusioned enough to want to return to Egypt. How could they not have been in a constant state of joy and optimism, realizing their place in sacred history?
Secretary of State John Kerry’s appointment this week of Ira Forman as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism is a welcome and timely move as religious bigotry is increasing around the globe.
Of course it is a sad statement that in the 21st century, the United States requires a high-level post to deal officially with anti-Semitism. But the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom, just released, underscores the need for a more assertive effort in countering the decline in religious freedom as well as the increase in Holocaust denial and a violent brand of anti-Semitism that is often couched as opposition to Israeli policy.