Author Archives: Ebony Brown

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Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel

080114_mishmash_bookBy Joshua Muravchik
Encounter Books, 281 pages

With Israel battling both terrorists in the Gaza Strip and a sea of public opinion that more often than not casts the Jewish state as the aggressor in its conflict with the Palestinians, Joshua Muravchik’s new book couldn’t come at a more prescient time.

A fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Muravchik traces the international community’s about-face in a span of little more than 40 years, noting that after the Six Day War in 1967, the world largely viewed Israel as the biblical David opposing a regional Goliath in the surrounding Arab states. But several factors, including economic self-interest on the part of the European powers and the United States and the adoption of the Palestinian narrative in the corridors of academia, have led to Israel being castigated instead of lauded.

On the whole, this work is a refreshing dose of criticism against those who choose to ignore the existential threats Israel faces on a daily basis. That he’s no big fan of late Palestinian academic Edward Said is clear — and his attributing to Said a new academic narrative is plausible — but the dozens of pages devoted to what amounts to an academic critique of Said’s work is a bit unnecessary in a larger historical depiction of changing world attitudes to Israel.

His chapter on the election of Prime Minister Menachem Begin seems to criticize Israel for taking matters into its own hands by distancing itself from years of Labor Party rule. This is particularly odd, given that he spends the first half of the book cataloguing the dramatic shift in the west’s thinking in the years prior to Begin’s election.

Ultimately, King David showed himself in the years that followed his improbably defeat of Goliath to be much more than a pipsqueak shepherd. He was a strategist and a politician par excellence. Perhaps the best takeaway from Muravchik’s book is that, just as worldwide pro-Israel sentiment reached a crescendo in 1967 before turning inexorably toward the Arab side, the pendulum may indeed swing back. There has already been evidence of this in media reports and diplomatic embraces of Israel’s “right to self-defense” over the past several weeks.

But world attitudes, as this book demonstrates, are fickle. While not stated — Muravchik in fact seems to endorse the view that Israel ultimately needs the world on its side — one reading of the past four decades would conclude that at the end of the day, Israel must control its own destiny.

Helmsley Trust Announces $1.75 Million for Israe

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will disburse $1.75 million in grants to two Israeli institutions that help children and adults with special needs and their families, the trust announced in a press release.

Shalva, The Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel, will receive $1 million for a dining hall and events floor in the organizationís new National Childrenís Center in Jerusalem. Beit Halochem-Tel Aviv, which serves about 5,500 disabled veterans of the Israel Defense Forces, will receive $750,000 towards the creation of a professional hydrotherapy facility and renovations to existing pool facilities.

“These two grants demonstrate our belief that community-based health care services best serve the needs of families and children,” said Helmsley trustee Sandor Frankel.

Pikeville’s Bravest Hold Fundraiser

The Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company enjoyed great weather, great participation and great fun at its fourth annual golf tournament at the Suburban Club on July 21, said its president Allen Roody.

“The golf tournament is the fire company’s single biggest fundraiser other than our honorary membership fundraiser,” he noted.

Pikesville’s Volunteer Fire Company’s history dates to 1897, when it was founded by a group of local residents. It is the second-oldest volunteer fire department in Baltimore County and the only one in the county able to provide a full range of safety services, including emergency medical services, to the community.

Those not personally involved with the department or in firefighting may be unaware that volunteer firemen receive the same type of training as career firefighters, said Roody, a career firefighter who began volunteering when he was 14.

“Anyone over 16 can join,” he said. After passing a background check, drug screening, an interview and a basic agility test, the department sends volunteers for training. Some go on for training as paramedics.

In Baltimore County, he noted, there is a “combination system” where career firefighters and volunteer firefighters work interchangeably depending upon the location of the fire or emergency.

“Most people who volunteer do it because they want to help others,” Roody said. “We are always looking for new members.”

The PVFC is also looking for donations.

“We are short on space and would like to enlarge our building,” he said. “We also have to replace our ladder truck.”

For more information, call 410-486-2668.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

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Jewish Education Center to Open in Capital

Congregation Kneseth Israel

Congregation Kneseth Israel

Changes are afoot at Congregation Kneseth Israel, a 107-year-old synagogue in Annapolis. This fall, the historic synagogue will be home to the new Jewish Education Center of Anne Arundel County.

The school, founded by Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum and directed by veteran Jewish educator Ellyn Kaufman, will welcome Jewish children of every denomination, offering religious school for students in kindergarten through seventh grade and youth group programs for students in grades 8 through 12. The JEC curriculum will include Jewish holidays and customs, Hebrew language, the study of Israel, Torah, Jewish values, traditions and b’nai mitzvah instruction.

Prior to the opening of the JEC, Weisblum was providing individualized Jewish education to young members in addition to all of his other responsibilities as congregational rabbi.

“He was overwhelmed,” said Kaufman, who explained that when the rabbi first approached her about directing the fledgling religious school, she was surprised.

“I told him, ‘but I’m not Orthodox,’ and he said, ‘you don’t have to be. We are unaffiliated.’ The more we talked, the more I understood that although Kneseth Israel was once Orthodox, that is no longer the case,” she explained.

Nowadays, said Kaufman, the synagogue offers services for people of all Jewish backgrounds. For example, she said, the synagogue has a separate seating area for men and women who wish to sit separately, and a co-ed seating area for men and women who wish to sit together.

“I think he has done a great job of appeasing everyone,” said Kaufman.

Kaufman comes to the school from a local Reform congregation’s religious school, where she was principal for the past 12 years. She has another 25 years of prior experience as a Jewish educator.

“We are offering free synagogue membership for a year to families who enroll their child in the JEC,” she said.

In addition to attracting new families to the school, Kaufman and Weisblum also hope to build the synagogue’s membership base.

“We want to bring Judaism in Anne Arundel County back to life,” she said.

A family Shabbat celebration on Friday, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m. will serve as a welcome for the school, said Kaufman.

For additional information, visit knesethisrael.org.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Don’t Say Cease-Fire

Don’t Say Cease-Fire
Why all the talk about a cease-fire with Hamas (“A Loss of Credibility,” July 18)? Hamas is a terrorist organization bent on genocide, and dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Diplomatic efforts to arrange a cease-fire give Hamas undue political legitimacy, and merely postpone the inevitable resumption of rocket attacks against Israel.

The primary obligation of the government of Israel is to protect the lives of its citizens. To fulfill this obligation in a morally responsible manner, Israel must insist upon the unconditional surrender of Hamas’ entire missile arsenal and destruction of its vast system of attack tunnels before any consideration is given to a cease-fire. The international community can be helpful in this regard by providing inspectors to ensure complete elimination of Hamas’ terror infrastructure. There is obvious precedent for this type of international involvement: the recent agreement providing for the removal and elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

The earliest recorded instance of a people devoted to terror (the Amalekites) is found in Scripture. With regard to misplaced mercy for a people prone to terror, our sages teach us, “He who is merciful to the cruel will eventually be cruel to the merciful.” So, too, will Israel fail in its mission of protecting its citizenry if it settles for a meaningless cease-fire with Hamas.

Marc L. Caroff
President, Louis D. Brandeis Chapter
Zionist Organization of America
Silver Spring, Md.