Power Player Oren lends foreign policy bona fides to new Israeli party Kulanu

Michael Oren, former diplomat and noted historian, may be the only American-born member of the next  Israeli parliament. (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Michael Oren, former diplomat and noted historian, may be the only American-born member of the next Israeli parliament.
(Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

TEL AVIV — Michael Oren, New York-born and educated at Columbia and Princeton, begins an interview in Hebrew.

Though he quickly switches to English, Oren interrupts himself every so often to translate a word into Hebrew for his assistant. It’s a bilingual bridge he has spanned in one capacity or another for decades, first as a historian of Israel, then as an Israel Defense Forces spokesman and most recently as Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Now, Oren is aiming to strengthen American-Israeli relations in another forum. Ranked fourth on the slate of the new centrist political party Kulanu, Oren may be the Knesset’s lone American-born lawmaker after the March 17 election.

“I’ve been honored to do many types of service for the Jewish people,” Oren said. “I think that becoming a decision-maker on issues that will determine the future of Israel would be my most substantial.”

Kulanu (Hebrew for “all of us”), a party founded last year on a pledge to reform Israel’s economy, would seem a strange choice for Oren, whose expertise is in diplomacy and foreign relations. Running on the Kulanu slate saved Oren the competitive primary battle he would have faced by joining a larger party, like Labor or Likud. As Kulanu’s sole foreign policy expert, Oren believes he will have far greater influence on the peace process should Kulanu join the governing coalition.

“Would it be better running as the exclusive authority over diplomatic positions in a party like Kulanu that will be part of any coalition, or being number 20-something in one of the two large parties?” he asked. “The party itself gives its imprimatur to my position.”

That position changed since Oren joined the party. Last year, writing for CNN, Oren advocated “unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian population centers in the West Bank” if ongoing peace talks failed, which they did.

Now Oren says Israel should not withdraw. Instead he advocates freezing settlement growth outside the major settlement blocs to keep a two-state solution viable while focusing on improving conditions in the West Bank.

“To the degree that we will build in Judea and Samaria, we will build in a way that accords with a final-status solution,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “Even though there’s no Palestinian partner right now, we will always be at the table.”

Kulanu’s messaging so far has made the peace process a low priority, focusing instead on lowering Israel’s cost of living. Mitchell Barak, an Israeli public opinion expert, said Kulanu recruited Oren so the party would look well-rounded, but that the party’s economic focus may leave him a “backbencher” once elected.

“I think he may find some difficulty in adjusting to the Knesset,” Barak said. “What legislation is Michael Oren going to initiate in Knesset? There’s a lot of people focused on that issue. What’s he going to do there?”

Oren comes to Israeli politics after a career split between defending Israel and writing its history. Born Michael Bornstein in 1955, Oren was raised in New Jersey and moved to Israel in 1979, where he served as a paratrooper in the IDF. He returned to the United States to study at Princeton, where he earned a doctorate in Near Eastern Studies. He later served as an IDF spokesman.

Along the way he became a prominent historian of the Middle East, writing two best-selling books on the 1967 Six-Day War and the history of American policy in the region.

In 2009, Oren was appointed ambassador to Washington and quickly found himself at the nexus of tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. The two leaders had a rocky relationship from the start, sparring over the peace process, settlement growth and confronting Iran’s nuclear program.

Oren declined to go into detail about the period, but he acknowledged that he and Netanyahu would occasionally clash. Netanyahu, Oren said, would take principled stances on issues that Oren felt could endanger bipartisan support for Israel.

That tendency is again on display in the current flap over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next month, which has angered Democrats who see it as a Republican effort to use Netanyahu to undermine Obama’s negotiations with Iran. Oren said that the speech has heralded a “low point” in the U.S.-Israel relationship and has hurt what Oren called Israel’s “diplomatic Iron Dome,” a reference to Israel’s American-funded missile defense system.

The prime minister “has a supreme duty to protect this country against existential threats like the Iranian threat,” Oren said. “But the pursuit of that goal has to be counterbalanced with the other supreme interest of maintaining our supreme alliance in the world.”

Oren has been campaigning in English-speaking circles and holding parlor meetings at the homes of activists. Although immigrant absorption isn’t his primary issue, he says the country’s 300,000 Anglos are a constituency that deserves more attention.

That role had been filled by Dov Lipman, an American-born legislator who has pushed for reforms to ease the integration of immigrants and who polls predict will not win a second term. The election’s other American-born hopeful is Baruch Marzel, who was born in the United States and moved to Israel as a young child. Marzel is running on the far-right Yachad list, but the party may not
receive enough votes to win him a seat.

If Lipman loses, the mantle of immigrant champion may fall to Oren. As a military veteran, Oren says improving conditions for Americans who move to Israel and join the IDF is especially important to him. He also hopes becoming an effective legislator will help roll back the stigma that attends thick-accented Americans who come to Israel.

“We used to be a multi-accented country,” Oren said. “Nobody notices that [former Israeli President] Shimon Peres has a Polish accent. We need to make the American accent an Israeli accent. We aren’t there yet.”

Tough Question Where does war authorization aimed at ISIS leave Iran?

Secretary of State John Kerry is flanked by Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France at U.N. headquarters in Geneva following nuclear talks with Iran in November 2013. Some U.S. lawmakers fear that a focus on fighting ISIS will distract from preventing a nuclear Iran. (Wikimedia Commons)

Secretary of State John Kerry is flanked by Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France at U.N. headquarters in Geneva following nuclear talks with Iran in November 2013. Some U.S. lawmakers fear that a focus on fighting ISIS will distract from preventing a nuclear Iran.
(Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — Don’t make the enemy of your enemy your friend. That’s the message some lawmakers hope to convey to the Obama administration as they consider its request for a war authorization to combat ISIS.

Concerns about how best to shape such an authorization without empowering Iran — a concern shared by Israel — are emerging as a factor, as lawmakers consider President Barack Obama’s request for what is known formally as an Authorization for Use of Military Force, in this case against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in an interview said that he was wary of dedicating resources to combating ISIS because he felt Iran posed the greater threat to the U.S. and Israel.

“Iran is a much, much bigger threat to the United States than ISIL can ever be,” Nadler said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

“The only real strategic threat to the United States on the horizon today is Iran,” Nadler said. “Iran is developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. There is no purpose to an ICBM other than to carry a nuclear warhead to America.”

Moshe Maoz, professor emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, agreed with that assessment. ISIS and Iran are like “cholera and the plague,” he said. “I think Israel with the United States should fight against both. But the more grave danger is the Iranian danger.”

Although ISIS has shown competence as a fighting force with massive annexations of territory last year, it has also suffered recent defeats at the hands of well-trained Kurdish troops in the Syrian city of Kobani, Maoz said.

By some estimates, Iran, by 2020, will have perfected intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Obama administration officials have been adamant that there is no coordination between Iran and the United States as they confront their shared enemy, ISIS. But they have acknowledged that they share information and strategies with a mutual ally, Iraq, and that it likely conveys information to Iran, if only to prevent confrontations between Iran and the U.S.-led alliance.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said awkward alliances may be necessary considering the threat ISIS poses to regional stability.

“I think our first priority has to be to defeat ISIS, and I think that this fight is going to make strange bedfellows,” Murphy said. “We’re obviously talking to the Iranians on issues like their nuclear future while fighting them on other issues like their support for other terrorist organizations. You know, our partner is never perfect in the Middle East.”

The United States is part of nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the talks, saying they are heading for a deal that will leave Iran on the threshold of becoming a nuclear weapons state. Israel is especially wary of victories by two proxies for Iran combating ISIS, Lebanon-based Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria.

On Feb. 11, President Obama sent Congress a request for military
authorization. Currently, the U.S. military is operating under broad military authorizations passed during the administration of President George W. Bush. The first from 2001 authorized the president to combat al-Qaeda and its affiliates anywhere in the world. Another from 2003 authorized the use of military force in Iraq.

The administration wants to consolidate congressional backing for any expansion of military action.

“Although existing statutes provide me with the authority I need to take these actions, I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL,” Obama wrote in a letter accompanying the proposal.

Netanyahu has not discounted the ISIS threat and has said that Israel offers whatever assistance it can.

“We’re fully coordinated with the United States,” he said late last year on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We exchange all the information that needs to be exchanged and I really don’t want to go beyond that, but I will say that I think we have a global conflict here.”

Win-win would mean the defeat of Islamist extremists of all persuasions, he said.

“The militant Islamists led by al Qaeda and — and ISIS on the Sunni side, the militant Islamists led by Iran and Hezbollah on the Shiite side, we want both of them to lose,” Netanyahu said. “The last thing we want is to have any one of them get weapons of mass destruction.”

Nadler said there’s a limit to the military action Americans will support.

“We have fought two stupid wars so far: in Iraq, in Afghanistan,” he said. “We wasted lives, we wasted money and we wasted credibility with the American people. I am concerned that if we do too much with ISIL, if and when we need to really do something with Iran — which is a real threat to us potentially — there will be little patience on the part of the American people.”

Republicans generally back a war authorization targeting ISIS but add that they do not want half-hearted measures.

“We need to be assured that the White House’s strategy is to decisively win and defeat ISIL,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who served as an Army officer in Iraq and is Congress’ sole Jewish Republican. “It’s important for me to know exactly what the president’s strategy is going to be to ensure victory before I would ever hope to commit American troops to put life and limb in harm’s way. I would never support that if we were going to give it a half-hearted effort.”

dshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Investing for a Cause

Amid the seemingly ever-growing popularity of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, some in the financial and investment community are returning fire with an initiative of their own.

“It just occurred to me, as I watched the divestment campaign unfold — when the Presbyterians divested, that was kind of the final straw — I just thought it was natural,” said Daniel Braverman, founder of Ivest Israel. “The right response to this would be to invest. If people are taking money away from these companies, then people who think it’s wrong ought to be re-investing in the same companies. It just seemed really simple to me.”

Ivest Israel, which was officially launched last month by Steven Charles Capital, is a portfolio of 30 multinational companies with a history of sustained commitment to Israel. Many of the companies, such as Intel, have been targeted by the BDS movement.

In addition to Intel, other companies touted by the investment product include Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Berkshire Hathaway, Caterpillar, Google, Costco, Boeing, IBM and Johnson & Johnson. In addition to being worthy investments, said Braverman, companies also must have a tangible record of supporting Israel.

The benefit of investing in the companies featured by Ivest Israel is twofold, say representatives. First, these large companies are essential to maintaining Israel’s economy, and second, many of the multinational companies operating in Israel are leaders in their industry.

“They’re cutting-edge, leading companies,” said Braverman. “The fact that they’re in Israel is no coincidence.”

Braverman describes his strategy as “activist investing.”

“It’s sort of a way to make a statement, which I think is a statement a lot of people want to make but don’t know how,” he said, “and, at the same time, make a solid, long-term investment.”

Hands-on Learning Day school students explore history and culture of Hispaniola

Breaking out of the normal school-day routine, Krieger Schechter Day School students did some serious hands-on learning with Caribbean flair.

From Feb. 10 to Feb. 12, middle school students immersed themselves in the culture and history of the Caribbean, with a focus on Hispaniola, the island that is home to the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The effort culminated in presentations and a guest lecture by Jewish journalist Larry Luxner.

They learned about the colorful history of Jews in the Caribbean, including, yes, Jewish pirates. Students paired off to dance the merengue, created Carnival masks with Art with a Heart and learned about Haitian history, culture and art.

Project-based learning, an important part of the three-day learning festival, was achieved through dividing the students into teams that took responsibility for cooking foods from the Caribbean, building a miniature version of Hispaniola, producing a documentary-style film and learning and then teaching Carnival dances. In support of the middle school chesed project, one team visited the Esperanza Center, a Baltimore-based Catholic Charities organization that provides immigrants with health care and social and legal services.

The visit to the Esperanza Center had an impact on seventh-grader Tamara Rubin and fifth-graders Allie Cohen and Gabi Moshkatal. The staff at the center spoke to them in Spanish to give the students a taste of what it is like to be in a new place where you do not understand the language, said Moshkatal. They were given red business-card-sized pieces of paper that stated their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights in English and Spanish to emphasize the legal and social hurdles new immigrants face.

Back at school, the three girls helped their teammates decorate binders that will be donated to the center, along with school supplies and winter clothing.

Explained Cohen, “New immigrants need the binders to hold receipts for five years. The dates on the receipts help them prove that they’ve lived here.”

Rubin and Cohen decorated their binders with rainbows, flowers and notes of encouragement.

Back in the social hall, following a lunch of Caribbean-style chicken and fried plantains, students danced along to loud, pulsing merengue music, while eighth-graders Ben Bank, Natan Gamliel and Jeremy Cohen showed off their scale model of the island of Hispaniola.

As the oldest students, the trio, replete in yellow construction hats, got to take charge in building the model from scratch. After researching images of the island online, the three got to work taping out the borders, gathering supplies and assigning tasks to the younger students.

Six hours of work divided over two days culminated in a model that covered the major topography of the island all the way down to smaller details like country flags, people swimming and ocean creatures.

“What surprised me most,” said Jeremy Cohen, “was the difference between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Dominican Republic has really tall buildings and scattered richer areas. Haiti has nice parts but not as much [as the Dominican Republic] since the earthquake.”

That knowledge proved useful during the guest lecture by journalist and photographer Luxner, founder of Luxner News, Inc. and publisher of “CubaNews,” a monthly business and political newsletter. His images of Jewish life in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa were included in the coffee-table book “The Diaspora and the Lost Tribes of Israel.”

He opened his talk with a series of three questions, beginning with: “Does anybody know how many people live on the island of Hispaniola?”

Hands shot up and a student correctly replied “20 million,” which makes the island the 10th most populous island nation in the world.

“Does anybody know how many Jews live in the Dominican Republic?” he asked next. Answer: 300. And finally, “Does anybody know how many Jews live in Haiti?” About 15, “barely enough to make a minyan,” he said.

Luxner continued on for a half-hour, regaling the students with tales of his travels throughout the island. He spoke of Christopher Columbus’ Jewish interpreter, of the marranos who practiced their Judaism in secret, of the Sephardic Jews from Egypt and Syria who came toward the end of the 19th century and of the European Jews who came to the Caribbean in the late 1930s as part of former Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s policy of encouraging the “whitening” of the local population.

He gave the students a glimpse into the lives of the small and largely assimilated Jewish communities of the two nations. Luxner recalled an interview with Gilbert Bigio, leader of the tiny Jewish community of Haiti who lived in a large house in an upscale neighborhood that was wiped out by the earthquake. Bigio kept the island’s only Torah scroll in his study, a point of pride. Bigio, Luxner recalled, said he never experienced anti-Semitism in Haiti.

“On the contrary, the Haitians have a lot of respect for the Jews and a lot of admiration for Israel,” he told Luxner.

That admiration endures, Luxner told the students, in large part to the immediate response of the Israel Defense Forces following the 2010 earthquake. Many Haitians now have children with Israeli names as a sign of gratitude for the rapid response by Israel.

At the end of the talk, Luxner invited the students to ask questions. In a poignant moment amid the questions about his career highlights, one student asked, “What is tear gas?”

“You don’t want to know,” Luxner replied, before giving an age-appropriate response and a description of the circumstances when he was tear gassed in 2004 while covering anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince.

The students clapped enthusiastically and went back to listening to thumping Caribbean beats and watching their self-produced documentary.

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

Jewish Studies Non-Jews account for large portion of Baltimore Hebrew Institute students

When Trey Palmisano enrolled in Towson University’s Jewish Studies program through the Baltimore Hebrew Institute in 2012, it was a perfect fit. So what if he didn’t have a Jewish bone in his body?

“I would say that my knowledge of Judaism began and ended with the Old Testament,” said Palmisano, a master’s student in Jewish Studies, of beginning classes at BHI.

As one of a few dozen non-Jewish students studying at BHI, Palmisano represents a particularly interesting subset of Jewish scholars: non-Jews. BHI readily touts its openness to non-Jewish students, and other schools, such as American Jewish University in California, encourage non-Jewish students to enroll in their classes right on their homepage.

For Palmisano, the decision to pursue his master’s degree in Jewish Studies was the most recent step in a years-long journey to understand religion and the religious experience.

In May 2012, Palmisano attended a conference concerning the incorporation of interfaith understanding into college classes and programing. Having attended the conference with a professor who specialized in Christian-Jewish relations, he became interested in learning the story of the Jewish people.

“It’s one thing to learn about the ‘old testament’ from the Christian perspective,” he said. “It’s a completely different thing to learn about the Hebrew Bible from a Jewish person.”

In his previous religious studies, “I never really understood that, beyond the Bible, there’s a whole other set of literature that’s equally important from the Rabbinic Period,” he said. Coming from a background in which the Bible was the sole origin of all religious thought and text, he found Judaism especially interesting.

Over the past few years, Palmisano, who was raised Catholic, said his knowledge of Judaism and religion in general has grown exponentially.

“Christians tend to think of Judaism as a religion, but that’s a misperception,” he said. “It involves so much more. It’s a culture. It’s a people. It’s a state of mind. And it’s a community too.”

Between a quarter and a third of BHI’s students are not Jewish, estimates Jill Max, the school’s director. The non-Jews who enroll in BHI classes come from all walks of life, she added, and pursue the study for a variety of reasons.

“We’ve had a wide array of students who are Christian clerics,” said Max. “We have different types of students — some who are fresh out of college and some who really are doing this as a second act.”

In addition to religious leaders, the school also instructs a number of people looking to gain a better understanding of Christianity by looking to the roots of their religion.

“I think different perspectives, different life experiences … they learn from each other, and they add different perspectives to each class,” Max said.

“I think there needs to be more [interfaith exchange],” said Palmisano, “especially in Christian institutions that are ecumenical.”

hnorris@midatlanticmedia.com

Ruderman Best in Business Initiative

The Ruderman Family Foundation, long known for championing equality for disabled individuals, has partnered with The Jewish Week to recognize employers in the for-profit sector who empower and employ people with disabilities.

Seven experts in human resources and inclusion will select the top employers to be named Ruderman Best In Business. The panelists will judge each nominee based on their purported successful history of employing, training and supporting people with disabilities. Nominations will be accepted through March 27 via an online form available at thejewishweek.com/ruderman-best-in-business.

Among the panelists are Jacob Laverriere, senior director of the jobs program at Best Buddies International, Elizabeth Taub, USBLN director of business relations and strategic partnerships, and Adam Kaplan, CEO of Kaplan Executive Search and co-founder of Special Needs Caregivers Circle at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement, “The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment. People with disabilities are the most excluded members of our society because they are unemployed at the rate of 70 percent. Therefore, we must hold up as shining examples those employers who have demonstrated a commitment to hiring people with disabilities.”

Winners of the Best In Business initiative will be announced online June 17. A special feature on the winning employers will appear online and in the June 19 print editions of The Jewish Week and the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

Annapolis Day School Names New Head

Sarah White

Sarah White

The Alpert Family Aleph Bet Jewish Day School has named Sarah White the new head of school, the first such change to the Annapolis elementary school in 17 years.

White joined Aleph Bet in 2012 and teaches second-grade general studies and fourth- and fifth-grade language arts. Prior to joining the school, she was a classroom teacher and new teacher mentor in the public schools of Queen Anne’s and Prince George’s counties for 15 years. She earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education from Goucher College in 1993 and earned a Master of Science in education from McDaniel College in 2002.

“[Aleph Bet] is a great place to be a student because it allows the students to be creative, speak their minds, and at the same time they’re learning Jewish values,” said White. “I think as a teacher it allows me to be creative. I’m able to think about each individual student, how they learn and what they like to learn, and differentiate according to the student.”

Aleph Bet opened in 1989 to serve elementary school students in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. The school was awarded accreditation by the Association for Independent Maryland Schools in 2000 and earned a Certificate of Approval from the State of Maryland. The school was recertified by AIMS in 2010 and moved into a state- of-the-art $2.1 million building in 2011.

Outgoing head of school Nan Jarashow commended the appointment.

“The high standards she sets for students reflects the ones to which she holds herself,” Jarashow said in a statement released by the school. “But high standards do not equate with rigidity. She is a good listener and flexible enough to change her mind with grace when another compelling perspective is offered. She has that most important attribute, a sense of humor.”

White’s appointment will take effect July 1. She counts Jarashow as a mentor and friend, and anticipates a smooth transition aided with the help of the school staff and families.

Jarashow will be honored for her years of service at Aleph Bet’s 25th Anniversary Gala on Feb. 28.

Purim Roundup! A selection of festive events around town

Purim begins at sundown on Wednesday, March 5. The JT has put together a selection of events and megillah readings in the area. From wine-and-cheese receptions to tot Purim events, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the holiday. All events are open to the public.

 

BALTIMORE CITY AND COUNCIL

Arugas Habosem
• March 4 — Megillah reading at 6:45 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacharit in small shul (6615 Park Heighs Ave.) at 6:20 a.m. and megillah reading at 7 a.m.; shacharit in big shul (3509 Clarks Lane) at 8 a.m., megillah reading at 8:50 a.m.; mincha in small shul at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; simchas Purim 8:15 p.m., followed by maariv in small shul.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
• March 8 — “Esther and the Chocolate Factory” Purim shpiel, 10:45 a.m.; Purim Carnival, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; purchase tickets at the door.

Beth Am Synagogue
• March 4 — BYO dairy/fish dinner, maariv, 6:45 p.m., in sanctuary; megillah reading and children’s costume parade, 7 p.m. Purim shpiel to follow.
• March 8 — Morning minyan, 9 a.m.; family megillah reading, 10 a.m.; Purim carnival,  10:30 a.m.

Beth El Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $7 in advance, $10 at the door.
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 7 p.m., followed by Purim party.

Beth Israel Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 11a.m. to 1 p.m.; buy a wristband for unlimited play, $10 per preschool-aged child, $15 plus two free tickets per child for school-aged children.
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 6 p.m.; family megillah reading, 7 p.m. with storyteller and actress Katherine Lyons.

Beth Tfiloh Congregation
• March 4 — Purim un-Plugged, traditional megillah readings, 6:55 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Epstein chapel; multimedia megillah reading, 7 p.m., Dahan sanctuary, followed by Shushan Street Carnival.
• March 5 — Purim un-Plugged, shacharit and megillah reading, 7 a.m., Dahan sanctuary; women’s/girl’s tefilah and megillah reading, 8 a.m., Epstein chapel; additional megillah reading, 4:30 p.m., Epstein chapel; Purim Suedah, 5:15 p.m., auditorium featuring dueling pianos from “Howl at the Moon,” $12 for adults; $7 for children ages 3 to 15; free for children 2 and under. Reservations required; register at bethtfiloh.com/register.

B’nai Israel — The Downtown Synagogue
• March 4 — Magic show, face painting and balloons, 6 p.m.; megillah reading, 7 p.m. Special guest appearances by the characters from “Frozen.” ASL interpreters will be available throughout the event. BIYA Purim Celebration follows the megillah reading.  Co-sponsored by Jewish Advocates for Deaf Education.

Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation
• March 4 — Megillah readings, 6:44 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m.
• March 5 — Megillah readings, 7:10 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 10 a.m.

Bolton Street Synagogue
• March 8 — Purim carnival, 11 a.m.

Chabad of Owings Mills
• March 4 — Purim party, 6:30 p.m.
• March 5 — “Purim under the Sea” dinner; special performance by mentalist Alain Nu, 5 p.m., RSVP
at 410-356-5156.

Charm City Tribe
• March 5 — Wild Purim Rumpus, 8 p.m. A night of masquerade, mitzvah and mischief with Red
Ball Theatre (puppetry), music by Schmuck and Tribe Friends Muchos (aka Trace Friends Muchos), food specials and more. Hosted by the Goddess Perlman of “Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad.” Presented with
Repair the World: Baltimore and JQ Baltimore.

Chizuk Amuno Congregation
• March 4 — Purim Circus under the Big Top, megillah reading, 6:15 p.m., family megillah reading, 7 p.m. Join ringmaster Mordecai and Esther the High Wire aerialist, and enjoy cotton candy-flavored hamantashen. Come dressed as your favorite Purim character or circus performer. Services followed by Purim parties for all ages.

Congregation Beit Tikvah
• March 4 — Megillah reading and Purim Celebration, 6:30 p.m.
• March 8 — Kesher School’s Purim fundraiser, 10 a.m.

Etz Chaim Center
• March 4 — Maariv, 6:40 p.m., megillah reading, 7 p.m., followed by Purim party, $10 for party, register online.

Har Sinai Congregation
• March 8 — M&M: Megillah & More, 11:30 a.m.; Purim carnival, noon. Participants may bring boxes of unopened M&Ms or macaroni to use as noisemakers during the megillah reading. Participants may bring a bag of food for a food drive to receive five free game tickets. For more information, contact the synagogue office at 410-654-9393.

Kol HaLev Synagogue
• March 4 — Megillah reading and “Fiddler on the Roof  Purim shpiel,” 6 p.m.

Moishe House
• March 7 — Purim Shabbat dinner, 7:30 p.m.

Ner Tamid
• March 1 — 2nd annual community wide pre-Purim carnival, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., $8 per person, $30 per family. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Jewish Caring Network in Baltimore.
• March 4 — Mincha/maariv, 5:35 p.m.; megillah reading, 6:45 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacharit, 7:30 a.m.; megillah reading, 8 a.m.

Ohel Moshe
• March 6 — Megillah readings, 9:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Shomrei Emunah Congregation
• March 1 — Purim carnival, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the social hall, $5 per child.
• March 5 — Youth Motivation for Education and the Shomrei Emunah Youth Department children’s megillah reading, 11 a.m., for children 6 and under in the social hall (siblings and parents welcome).

Temple Emanuel
• March 1 — Purim carnival with Beth Israel, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• March 4 — Purim shpiel and megillah reading, 5:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m.

Temple Oheb Shalom
• Feb. 28 — Purim shpiel and dinner, complimentary wine-and-cheese reception, 6:30 p.m.; Purim shpiel “The Megillah According to The Beatles,” 7 p.m.; dinner and dancing, 7:30 p.m. RSVP online.
• March 4 — Wine-and-cheese reception, 5:45 p.m., followed by megillah reading at 6:15 p.m.

The Macks Center for Jewish Education
• March 1 — Sing and Bake with Odessa. Join friends in Baltimore in baking American and Ukrainian hamantaschen as we video chat with friends in Odessa, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., second-floor
community room; RSVP at cjebaltimore.org/bake.

Tiferes Yisroel
• March 4 — Maariv, 6:40 p.m.; megillah readings, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Purim shpiel, 8:15 p.m.
• March 5 — Shacahrit, 8 a.m.; megillah readings, 8:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; mincha 2:30 p.m.

Winands Road Synagogue
• March 4 — Megillah reading, 7 p.m.

Harford CountyChabad of Harford County
• March 4 — Purimtini, 7 p.m., $15 per person.
• March 5 — Purim at the Stadium, 5 p.m., McFaul Activities Center, $10 per person. RSVP to both at harfordchabad.org/purim.

Temple Adas Shalom,The Harford Jewish Center
• March 6 — Pasta and Purim, 6:15 p.m., $5 per person, RSVP by March 2 to wayrg@Zoominternet.net.
• March 8 — Megillah reading, 9 a.m., followed by Temple Choir Purim Shpiel and Purim Carnival.

 

HOWARD COUNTY

Beth Shalom Congregation
• March 4 — The World of Oz Purim Service and Silly Symphony, 7 p.m.; Tot Purim program at 6:30 p.m., prior to megillah reading.

Calah Congregation
• March 8 — Hosting bone marrow screening at Purim Palooza (see Jewish Federation of Howard County).

Chabad of Clarksville
• March 4 — Italian Flavored Purim Festa, megillah reading 6:30 p.m., Dinner 7 p.m. RSVP at info@ChabadClarksville.org.

Columbia Jewish Congregation
• March 4 — Megillah reading for tots, 6 p.m., megillah reading and shpiel, 7 p.m.

Jewish Federation of Howard County
• March 8 — Purim Palooza at Reservoir High School, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., $5 per person, $15 per family (includes 10 tickets).

Temple Isaiah
• Feb. 28 — Adult martini megillah, 7 p.m.
• March 6 — Purim dinner, 6 p.m. Bring your own dinner (dairy or pareve); family service, 7 p.m. RSVP at 301-498-0200.

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

 

 

BDS with a Twist California campus divestment measures target more than Israel

Demonstrators take part in a boycott, divestment and sanctions protest against Israel in Melbourne, Australia.

Demonstrators take part in a boycott, divestment and sanctions protest against Israel in Melbourne, Australia.

While two recent student resolutions initiated by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement advocates in California ultimately had different fates, the episodes share a common twist: lumping additional nations and political entities with Israel as divestment targets.

A resolution urging Stanford University to “divest from companies violating human rights in occupied Palestine” by a BDS movement-affiliated group at Stanford University was defeated Feb. 10 in a 9-5 vote, with one abstention, by the school’s undergraduate student senate. Needing 66 percent of student senators’ votes to pass, the resolution — initiated by Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine — got 64 percent. Two days earlier, the University of California Student Association passed a similar resolution to divest from Israel, in a 9-1 vote and six abstentions.

The UCSA passed a second resolution calling for divestment from companies involved with the governments of Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and the United States, accusing those countries of violating human rights. Meanwhile, the Stanford resolution targeted “companies that violate international humanitarian law by … facilitating Israel and Egypt’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians” and by “facilitating state repression against Palestinians by Israeli, Egyptian or Palestinian Authority security forces.”

Ben Limonchik, a leader of the student group Stanford Coalition for Peace, said that “to criticize Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority in one breath shows that these BDS proponents have no interest in promoting peace in the region.”

“If they did, they would instead look to encourage constructive engagement between the parties and promote a
negotiated, mutually agreeable two-state solution,” Limonchik said. “Over 1,600 members of the Stanford community did just that when they clearly stated that they stand for peace. We hope that moving forward, we as a community can echo this sentiment embracing peace and put these troublesome tactics behind us.”

The Stanford and UCSA resolutions are not the first BDS measures to include nations other than Israel. In 2012, the Arizona State University student senate passed a bill encouraging the school to “divest from and blacklist companies that continue to provide the Israel Defense Forces with weapons and militarized equipment or are complicit with the genocidal regime in Darfur.”

As many as 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict and genocide since 2004, according to United Nations estimates. The tactic of a BDS resolution grouping a massive atrocity like that of Darfur with Israel echoes a common anti-Israel strategy — analogizing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Anti-Defamation League explains on its website, “In contrast to Holocaust and more recent examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Rwanda and Kosovo, there is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to persecute, exterminate or expel the Palestinian population — nor has there ever been. Israeli policies toward the Palestinians are based on its need to defend its population and combat threats to Israel’s security, while promoting a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Andy Borans, the executive director of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish fraternity, said that grouping other countries with Israel in divestment resolutions “is a tactic to confuse others about the real anti-Israeli — and, often, anti-Semitic — motivations.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Israel education organization StandWithUs, expressed hope that academic institutions will start realizing that BDS advocates’ targeting of countries other than Israel “is the result of allowing themselves to be hijacked by anti-
Israel extremists.”

“While StandWithUs supports government accountability across the board, the UCSA’s resolution has made it clear that symbolic calls for divestment from America and other governments are a misguided overreach, and will not advance human rights or justice in any meaningful way,” said Rothstein.

Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, said that “the lumping together of Israel with the U.S. and other nations in divestment resolutions indicates a shift in the BDS movement toward even more radical positions and an attempt to create an even more radical coalition.”

Yet, despite the BDS movement’s shifting tactics, a newly released ICC report reveals that pro-Israel activity on U.S. campuses has increased in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas last summer and a rise in terrorism against Jews in Israel last fall.

The number of both anti-Israel and pro-Israel rallies on college campuses was significantly higher in the fall of 2014 than it was in the fall of 2013, according to the report. The study, which details activity trends over the last three years, also shows that the number of campus events in support of the Jewish state continue to widely outnumber anti-Israel events. There were more than 1,500 Israel-supporting activities held last fall on campuses, an increase of more than 400 from the same period in 2013. By comparison, anti-Israel events, though they also rose, remained under 800 last fall.

The primary focus of BDS groups is still Israel, and “we continue to see BDS as a fundamentally anti-Semitic movement,” said Baime.

“In our view, no group or cause should get involved with the BDS movement, which has a proven record of creating conditions for campus hate speech, bullying, and divisiveness,” he said. “Our goal is to educate every member of the campus community on what BDS represents — a movement dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish homeland.”

Israel advocacy groups working on campus have pointed to what they see as the absurdity of the second UCSA-passed resolution’s targeting of the U.S. The resolution argued that America “engaged in drone strikes that have killed over 2,400 people in Pakistan and Yemen, many of them civilians.”

“The [U.S.] government oversees, by far, the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement agencies, particularly for drug-related offenses,” the resolution stated. “Four-hundred thousand undocumented immigrants are held in detention centers every year, and millions have been deported since the current Administration took office, and the government is directly supporting and propping up numerous dictatorships around the world with weapons sales and foreign aid.”

Samantha Mandeles, editor-in-chief of CAMERAonCampus.org for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting media watchdog group, took issue with the UCSA grouping the U.S. and Israel “with some of the worst human rights abusers in the world,” calling the move “merely a smokescreen, meant to hide the true anti-Israel bigotries and aims of its proponents.”

“This amendment is an attempt to hide from legitimate critique of BDS as unfairly focused on the one Jewish state in the world — which, in large part, it is. The inclusion of several abusive governments as part of a system of worldwide human rights abuses does not excuse the counter-factual castigation of Israel,” Mandeles said.

StandWithUs’s Rothstein said, “If the principle behind BDS is truly to remove any investments that can be tied to human rights violations, then the illogic of an American university divesting from America is the only possible conclusion this movement can reach.”

Payback PLO, PA found liable; must compensate American victims of terror

A federal jury in New York found the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) liable in a civil lawsuit over terrorist attacks perpetrated in Israel during the second intifada more than a decade ago.

The jury at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan found the PLO and the PA liable to compensate the plaintiffs, American victims of Palestinian terror, $218.5 million in damages. The award will likely be tripled to $655.5 million because of the unique terrorism law under which the case was brought.

Israeli bomb experts search bus number 32 in Jerusalem's Pat junction near the neighborhood of Gilo June 18, 2002 after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 17 people and wounding many others. (GIL COHEN MAGEN/REUTERS/Newscom)

Israeli bomb experts search bus number 32 in Jerusalem’s Pat junction near the neighborhood of Gilo June 18, 2002 after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up, killing 17 people and wounding many others. (GIL COHEN MAGEN/REUTERS/Newscom)

The lawsuit before Judge George Daniels was filed in 2004 under the Antiterrorism Act of 1996 that gives American courts jurisdiction to try acts of terror that harmed Americans while they were abroad. The suit covers six specific terror attacks that killed 33 and wounded more than 450 civilians between 2002 and 2004.

After more than a decade of carrying this around with them, victims said they finally have some peace.

Jamie Sokolow, 25, was just 12 years old when a Jerusalem terrorist attack left her bloody, with shrapnel damaging her right eye.

“I am thankful that, after 13 years since our attack and 10 years since the filing of the case, we and the other plaintiffs have finally received justice in a U.S. court,” Sokolow said. “I am also grateful to our lawyers who worked so hard on our behalf.”

“This historic verdict against the defendants will not bring back these families’ loved ones nor heal the physical and psychological wounds inflicted upon them, but it truly is an important measure of justice and closure for them after their long years of tragic suffering and pain,” Nitsana Darshan Leitner, the director of Israel-based Shurat HaDin, which worked on the case, said in a response to the verdict.

Speaking for the prosecution’s legal team, Kent A. Yalowitz said, “We hope as lawyers that we have, after years of difficult and emotional effort,
secured for the families today a small measure of justice.”

Though this is a win for the victims and their families, many speculate that the defendants will appeal the verdict. Grant Rumley, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies specializing in Palestinian politics, noted that this verdict provides “one victory” in what could be a “long, drawn-out legal battle.”

The PLO and the PA’s defense lawyers argued that they did not violate the Antiterrorism Act and that they, as governing bodies, should not be held accountable for the violent actions of criminals who acted on their own accord or under the influence of more radical militia groups such as Hamas. Mark J. Rochon, one of the defense lawyers, told the jury on Feb. 19 that he did not want “the bad guys, the killers, the people who did this, to get away while the Palestinian Authority or the PLO pay for something they did not do.”

This verdict, coupled with last September’s Brooklyn federal court ruling that found Arab Bank Plc. liable for having provided material support to Hamas, could have tense implications for Arab-Israeli relations.

“There are going to be three ways this verdict impacts the Palestinians,” Rumley said.

From the standpoint of the Palestinian Authority, this blow could cause even more difficulties to their already dire financial state. “The PA is strapped for cash,” he said, alluding to the fiscal crisis brought on, in part, by Israel’s withholding of tax revenues designated for the Palestinian Authority.

Leitner offered a different view.

“If the PA and PLO have the funds to pay the families of the suicide bombers each month,” he said, referencing advertisements used in the case offering financial compensation tothe families of suicide bombers, “then they have the money to pay these victims of Palestinian terrorism.”

The verdict may put Palestinian moves to join the International Criminal Court, which had been criticized for opening Israel up to further investigations of potential war crimes in Gaza, in jeopardy.

“The PA is now responsible for actions for even some of the lowest foot soldiers,” Rumley said, pointing to what he said was a new legal precedent in the Manhattan ruling. “Are they [now] responsible for Hamas firing rockets from Gaza?”

Rachel Delia Benaim is a freelance writer based in New York.