Peres Calls For Peace, For Courage

President Shimon Peres addressed the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Monday with a message of courage and call for a celebration of human life.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told 3,500 GA listeners that Israel must have courage.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told 3,500 GA listeners that Israel must have courage.

Peres, speaking to the close to 3,500 attendees at the federation’s annual conference, coined “The Global Jewish Shuk,” told listeners that he remembers the days of Israel’s founding, when the people arrived to a small piece of land, which was unfriendly, with swamps in the north and desert in the south and with only the mosquitos as neighbors – the rest were enemies.

“There was no water. We had two lakes. One was dead and the other was dying. There was one river, the Jordan River, which is full of fame and short of water – not for irrigation. … We had no guns. We were outnumbered with no support,” said Peres. “But you know what we discovered? The greatest treasure in life is the human being. When you have nothing, you have people. Israel is a story of people.”

Peres said that he has heard of the debate about whether or not Israel should be – or is – more Jewish or more democratic and at the notion that there would even be such a discussion he scoffed. .

“The first democrat on earth was Moses. … Every person was born in image of the Lord, which was first declaration of democracy. When it says [in the Torah] we should not be like slaves and what fight oppressors, a second declaration. When it says love your fellow man like yourself, a third declaration,” Peres said. “Democracy is a love of people and a belief in them.”

Answering questions posed by David Horovitz, founder and editor of “Times of Israel,” Peres made clear that the strength of the Jewish people is its brains and he said it is in science and education that the Jewish state should invest. He also called on the people to stay focused on peace.

“Peace is our goal,” he said.

Though he did not indicate that there would be an easy path.

Is peace at hand? He said people have to understand, “We are negotiating not because we agree, but because we do not agree. Negotiating is to convert disagreements to agreements, to convert enemies to friends. … When we start out it is difficult, complicated, we have to change many prejudices.”

And he said sometimes the greatest prejudices lie within your own people and it is them you have to convince.

A final call to action was to the young generation.

“We are not owners of land, we are creators of ambition,” said Peres. “The ambition is to do and to make a better world and now is your time.”

He continued: “Logic has a limit, not courage.”

Find out what is happening with the Washington, D.C. delegation>> 



Netanyahu At The GA: ‘Security’

Security. This was the only message that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered to a crowd of more than 2,000 people on Sunday, Nov. 10 at the opening plenary of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people at this year's JFNA GA. The keyword: security.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people at this year’s JFNA GA. The keyword: security.

“The most important thing is to assure the security and the future of the Jewish state, the one and only Jewish state of Israel,” said Netanyahu as he launched into a more than 30-minute speech.

The PM started with Iran. He told the audience of Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders that an Iran without nuclear weapons is essential not only for Israel, but for the entire world – the U.S., Europe, the Arabs, the Chinese and the Russians.

“But for us,” said Netanyahu, “it is a matter of our existence.”

Netanyahu lashed out at the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany) for agreeing to lighten sanctions on Iran when it came to the table pleading, ready to negotiate because the sanctions are having impact. He said the P5+1 placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs that have brought Iran to its knees, why now would we want to come to a deal without Iran dismantling anything.

“Why Iran has come for a deal is obvious. It is because the sanctions are biting, are crippling that regime. They came to the table because they have to,” he said, expressing exasperation that the group would agree to lghten sanctions when “not one centrifuge is dismantled – not one.”

He said Iran can in a matter of a few weeks take the capabilities it has and produce a nuclear weapon.

“Iran does not roll back its nuclear making capacity at all, but P5+1 are rolling back sanctions? That is a bad deal, it is a dangerous deal. … That affects our survival,” said Netanyahu. “I will not be silenced – never. … When the Jewish people were silenced on matters relating to our survival you know what happened.”

Then he told the audience that Iran was not only targeting his country, but most certainly the U.S., too.

“Who is Iran targeting when it builds the ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles)? They already have rockets and missiles to reach us. They need those [ICBMs] to reach North America. And they can be nuclear tipped. That is the plan –  coming to a theater near you. Do you want that? Well, do something about it,” he charged.

He said Israel is in charge of defending itself and that is what it will do.

And not only when it comes to Iran.

The PM next turned to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and said, again, that first and foremost was the safety, security and longevity of the Jewish state.

“We need to end this conflict once and for all and to end it there is a simple principle. That principle is two nation states, two states for two peoples. Not one state for one people, for the Palestinians. And then another state for two peoples. No, two states for two peoples,” said the PM.

He told the crowd that if the Palestinians expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian state, they must recognize a Jewish state for the Jewish people. He said, “That is what peace is about.”

Netanyahu walked attendees through Israel’s painful and bloody past, through the 1921 attack on the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa, through the horrible beheading of babies in 1929 with the Hebron massacre and on through the systematic attacks by the Arabs on the Jewish community between 1936 and 1939. During World War II, he reminded, it was Haj Amin al-Husseini who partnered with Adolf Hitler and called for a final solution. He then said that in 1947 the Jews accepted a two-state solution while the Arabs refused and when the Jews established their state, they were attacked on all fronts, attacks which lasted until the 1967 war.

“For 46 years there were systemic attacks on the very nature of the Jewish state. Not on settlements,” he said. “There were not any settlement. …. Not about a Palestinian state, they rejected it. … It was about the Jewish state. They have to recognize the Jewish state. … What is their struggle for? Palestine. What is Palestine? It is Kiryat Shemona to Eilat, it is from the river to the sea.”

And so, bringing the talk back to the issue of security, Netanyahu then said that even if the Palestinians agreed to recognize Israel, “there is no durable peace that is not based on security. … A peace agreement that is not based on absolutely robust security for Israel by Israel will not stand test of time. We need a peace based on security. That is the other fundamental piece. We need security to defend the peace — and security to defend Israel in case peace unravels. And in our region, peace has a tendency to unravel.”

Next, and also connected to Israel’s peace and security, Netanyahu spoke about shalom bayit between Israel and Diaspora Jews. He claimed it his responsibility as PM of Israel to keep the peace of the Jewish people. And he said it was he who asked Natan Sharansky to head a Kotel task force and that he is confident we are on the cusp of making a final solution come to fruition.

He cited an announcement made earlier this week at the Jewish Agency for Israel conference about new plans (see “Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection>>“) to further connect young Diaspora Jews with Israel and noted that he has agreed to invest Israeli money in the endeavor.

“We are committed to it,” said Netanyahu. “We know the challenge of Jewish unity. There are the forces of assimilation and intermarriage [in the States]. … We have sponsored this initiative to work together, to think through [these things] together, and to put forward programs to solidify … a Jewish identity that is so central to our future.”

Netanyahu continued: “When I think of challenges we have overcome over the last 4,000 years – challenges to our physical survival, challenges to our spiritual survival and cohesion — I know we have that inner strength to guarantee the Jewish future. … To defend and secure the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state.”

 View Earlier Posts:
Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection>>
GA 2013: Opening Plenary at 7:15 P.M.>>

Read what’s happening with the group traveling from Washington, D.C.>>

Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection

With change there is always opportunity, said Debs Weinberg of Baltimore at a morning session run by the Jewish Agency for Israel. And Weinberg’s message was one that will become increasingly more relevant as JAFI, working with the government of Israel and nonprofits from across the world, works to better engage young (between the ages of 13 and 35) Jews with Israel and to enhance their Jewish identities.

Misha Galperin discussed a new project that will focus on Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Misha Galperin discussed a new project that will focus on Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development, told a group of about 15 people in an exclusive briefing on Sunday morning that over the course of the JAFI conference, which is currently taking place in Israel, a group of more than 100 thought leaders met to more formalize plans for a collaborative initiative that will bring Diaspora Jews to Israel and invest in Israel education on campuses outside of the Jewish state.

Galperin explained that this program was nearly a decade in the making, as it was current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who signed the legislation in the ‘90s that launched invested by the government of Israel in Birthright.

“This was the first time in history that Israeli tax payers’ money was put into a pot that funded free trips for American kids, which many thought here [in Israel] was a criminal thing to do; it was supposed to the other way around,” said Galperin.

Since then, a number of other development occurred, like the formation of MASA Israel, which was co-founded and is jointly managed by the government and the Jewish Agency.

“At this point, about $120 million a year are allocated by the government of Israel for various prorams that have to with the Jewish Diaspora and Jewish communities [outside of Israel,” said Galperin.

When Natan Sharansky left his seat in the Knesset to become head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, he started exploring what might be next – after or in conjunction with Birthright and MASA.

About one year ago, the PM empowered a team to explore that question in conjunction with leaders in the Diaspora. A late April 2013 meeting help by the PM with Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett solidified that there would need to be something done.

“The prime minister said this is important for the Jewish people – that it is in the strategic interest of the Jewish people,” noted Galperin.

Several meetings, focus groups and a white paper later, led to the Nov. 6 to 7 meetings of world thought leaders in Jerusalem’s Binyanei Ha’Uma and the revelation that the government will invest likely double what it is investing now to ramp up programming for young Diaspora Jews. That money – though an exact amount could not be named – would be expected to be matched by overseas nonprofit organizations/philanthropists and by participants’ fees.

“I was personally very anxious about what would happen and how this would work,” said Galperin. “This is a very different planning model. For the government of Israel, it is revolutionary. The government has never done this before – engaged in a collaborative planning process with Diaspora and on-governmental organizations.”

What can Galperin say on the record now?

“This effort is moving ahead,” he said, noting that between now and April when the government would have to present a resolution and ensure funding for the initiative is allocated in the fiscal budget, “exactly what we are doing, in what sequence, how it is going to be evaluated and all that, has to be worked out.”

The outcome could have a fundamental impact on the destiny of the Jewish people – not so much in terms of the types of programming but in terms of how the programming is being worked out — this new method of Jewish collaboration.

Galperin said there will likely be a series of pilot projects in the first year, but details could not be available at this time. What he could say was that while initial talks were focused on growing Diaspora Jews’ connection with Israel, and while that is still a part of it, “now we are talking about Jewish identity.”

View previous GA 2012 posts:
GA 2013: Opening Plenary at 7:15 P.M.>>
‘We Want To Hear From You’>>

Read what’s happening with the group traveling from Washington, D.C.>>

GA 2013: Opening Plenary at 7:15 P.M.

The 2013 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America starts this evening. The anticipation for an opening plenary with a talk by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a performance by Ohad Naharin and his dancers is hard to contain.

Last year, the GA was in Baltimore and thousands of people came to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to experience the magic of Charm City and the charisma of Jewish Baltimore. It was amazing to host such an event, where the agenda of the Jewish federations was discussed and moved forward.

But this year, the GA is in Jerusalem. Being in the Holy City changes the dialogue from a focus on North America to a focus on the connection between the Diaspora and Israel. And also a focus on Israel and its challenges and successes.

In a curtain raiser (see ‘We Want To Hear From You’), the JT spoke with GA Chairs Susie and Michael Gelman (who are also investors in the Baltimore Jewish Times) and with JFNA Chair Michael Siegal.

Now, the focus will be on what is heard in the hallways and the power of the plenaries and sessions.

Make sure you are following us at for daily updates and to keep your finger on the pulse of the federation and how the dialogue at the GA might impact life in Jewish Baltimore moving forward.


Read what’s happening with the group traveling from Washington, D.C.>>

Chanukah Ideas

As we approach Chanukah this year, we have an unusual occurrence: Chanuakh coincides with Thanksgiving. It is interesting to note that the Pilgrims left England for religious freedom [and that] the Maccabees fought in their own land for their religious freedom. We also know that the Pilgrims were very biblically oriented and knowledgeable; when they were preparing to celebrate their first Thanksgiving, they modeled it after what they knew. They knew about the harvest holiday mentioned in the Bible, Sukkot, so this is another connection. The biblical holiday was seven days, the Pilgrims’ three days.

In furthering my response to “Mommy Musings,” Oct. 11, young children are sensory learners. These experiences become part of their being and help not only in establishing their Jewish identity, but also in strengthening their positive Jewish experiences.

So, here are some ideas:

Talk, talk, talk about the holiday. Show children the menorah that will be used. Take the children to a temple/ synagogue gift shop to see the different kinds of menorahs. As you see these menorahs, you and your child can count the number of candle holders.

Read books about the holiday; some can be found in the public library, some in temple/synagogue gift shops. As you read books, discuss them with your child.

Prepare food for Chanukah with your child. As you do, talk about why food is being prepared. Food preparation is a wonderful sensory activity. The sights and smells of the holiday food will create memories that last a lifetime.

Sing songs about Chanukah. If your child is attending a Jewish preschool, he or she will know some songs. If not, make up your own songs; as you sing, clap your hands and move your body.

As the holiday approaches, have your child help to set up for Chanukah. Buy candles and get out the family menorah, festive napkins and tablecloths, for instance.

Each of these activities help to create lifelong memories and feelings in your child, and you will enjoy these special times together. The nightly lighting of the menorah, singing the blessings, singing the songs — all those things and activities that were done prior to the holiday will reinforce the feelings about Chanukah.

Rena Rotenberg

Into The Community

One thousand residents of Northwest Baltimore came to Cross Country Elementary School to provide their input on how to spend a projected $750,000 in slots revenue in Fiscal Year 2015  (“Take Note: NW Baltimore makes voice heard at community planning forum,” Oct. 25).

State law requires that a certain percentage of the proceeds from slots machines be spent for economic and community development in the neighborhoods surrounding Pimlico Race Course.

Senator Lisa Gladden, Delegates Jill Carter and Nathaniel Oaks and I were instrumental in drafting and enacting the provision in the gambling law that mandates such funding through Fiscal Year 2032.

The presidents of five neighborhoods — Cheswolde, Cross Country, Fallstaff, Glen and Mount Washington — have proposed how the $1.5 million for FY 2013 and 2014 should be spent.

Parking for patrons of the Reisterstown Road Enoch Pratt Library branch, improvements to Luckman and Northwest parks and construction of the Hatzalah Community Center are some of the uses to which this money will be put.
It is now the responsibility of the Baltimore City government to get these funds into the community so that we can all benefit from this process.

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg

I Know

I am among many who cheer your paper’s courage for writing so favorably about Elsa Newman (“Judaism Behind Bars,” Oct. 25). I’m a former Maryland child protective services worker. I met Elsa before the crime [conspiracy to murder] and was one of at least 13 who reported child sexual abuse [alleged against Elsa’s husband]. I’ve been in Elsa’s lovely and loved home and met her sons. I know all she was doing to change child abuse laws in Maryland at the time the crime occurred. I know Elsa Newman is innocent.

That’s another story that begs to be told.

Margaret Candler


Thank you for your article describing the plight of observant Jews in prison (“Judaism Behind Bars,” Oct. 25). I have known Elsa Newman for 12 years and have been amazed at her remarkable resilience and her commitment to Jewish values in the most trying of circumstances. There are many observers of her case, like myself, who have come to be convinced of her innocence and shocked at the miscarriage of justice that led to her conviction. I am glad your article has made readers aware of this isolated part of our Jewish community serving time in prison and yearning for deeper connections with the larger Jewish community. It is inspiring how much Elsa Newman has given to the prison community while fighting for her freedom.

Dr. Joyanna Silberg

Engaging Volunteers

110813_magat_allisonIn today’s busy, fast-paced world, in which our schedules are filled with obligations to both career and family, free time truly is a luxury. When members of our community make the choice to use their free time to give back to the community in which they live and work, they want to know that the experience will be both meaningful for them and beneficial to the well-being of Jewish Baltimore. The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore helps those volunteers find the right place to share their time and talent.

Realizing that their involvement is a gift and eager to remain respectful of our volunteers’ time, The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) ensures that we are making the most effective matches between volunteers and organizations in The Associated’s system of local agencies. Baltimore stands out among federation cities across North America for the investment made in the training and stewardship of leaders in the community. The success of our volunteer training efforts is the reason we can sustain a strong centralized fundraising and planning system that meets critical current needs and plans for the future.

CCEL strives to strengthen and enrich the Baltimore Jewish community by engaging individuals in meaningful opportunities for volunteer involvement and advancement throughout The Associated system. CCEL accomplishes this mission by engaging, training, educating and placing volunteers.

As chair of CCEL, I am able to see firsthand how inspiring a volunteer experience can be if it is thoughtfully planned. Thanks to its centralized system, The Associated is able to offer a broad scope of areas in which one can volunteer. There is truly a place for everyone who wants to get involved. CCEL’s committee of lay and professional ambassadors help make those matches both meaningful and productive. We help our volunteers turn their passion into action.

When a volunteer comes to us seeking a place to get involved, we spend the time getting to know him or her and finding areas that are a good fit. We ask prospective volunteers what excites them about Jewish Baltimore or what issue keeps them up at night. These questions enable us to get to the core of their interests and help make the best matches for them. Only by really knowing our volunteers’ areas of interest can we properly steward them to the right opportunity.

While volunteers bring their own considerable skills to their involvement in the community, they also receive extensive training from The Associated. From formal training in governance procedures to the Jewish perspectives on leadership, Associated volunteers are given access to the tools they need to be successful in their volunteer roles. They are also able to take these newly learned skills with them to the other organizations with which they are involved. A well-trained cadre of volunteers serving our community elevates the work of every organization in Jewish Baltimore and ensures a strong, healthy community for years to come.

By listening to the desires of our volunteers and understanding the needs of our community, we are able to connect our volunteers to meaningful opportunities that enable them to effect real change in The Associated system and our community. This process is critical to both the current strength and future success of our community.

Allison Magat is chair of The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and
Leadership. For information about getting involved with The Associated and its agencies, contact Mimi Rozmaryn at 410-369-9310 or

How Can I Not?

110813_laura-blackI believe we are all more the same than different. We try to be good parents, children, siblings and friends. We strive to live by good values.

We want to provide for our families. We want to see our children reach their own goals and define their own paths. We want to laugh, and we want to feel.  We want to do, and we want to experience. We yearn to learn, and we seek to teach.

We want to cherish our loved ones, and we want to cherish sacred moments. We want good health. And we want purpose. We want to feel valued, and we want strong connections.

We all just do the best that we can. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometime we just can’t.

Some of us are hungry. Some of us are lacking for shelter. Some of us cannot afford our medicines. Some of us can’t heat our homes. Some of us can’t fix our roofs.  And some of us can’t even walk to the mailbox.

Some of us live with an abusive spouse. Some of us are fighting deadly addictions. And some of us can’t afford one more moment drowning in loneliness. And some of us just need a place to grow.

As a member of this Baltimore Jewish community, we have help. We have The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

We have a place that will help take care of our needs if we are not able to do it alone. We have a place that will provide roofs over our heads and food for our children. We have a place that will open its arms and take care of its most vulnerable. And we have a place that will allow us to enjoy the greatest gift of all, the gift of giving.  Whether through our dollars or our hours, we have a place where we can make a difference.

So, how can we not help?  How can we not see the needs of our fellow Jews? And, if we see the needs, how can we not help?

Every year, we get together on Super Sunday, harnessing the incredible energy of our community to support this mission, just as we did on Oct. 27. There is something so special about a phone-a-thon where in one room, we see young and old, teens and elementary-age children, Jews of all denominations, volunteering for one great cause:  to make our Baltimore Jewish community that much better.

At Super Sunday, there was Lewis Penn, who has not missed a Super Sunday since 1955 — back when volunteers used to go door to door to ask for donations.  There were children who came with their parents for the first time, making their first calls and raising hundreds of dollars. There were longtime supporters and first-time supporters all feeding off the energy of one person talking to another person to help a third person.

We had the opportunity to experience the caring and giving of this magnificent community.  We took the chance to see that we are all the same more than we are different.

Why do I choose to give?  How can I not?

Laura Black was co-chair of The Associated’s 2013 Super Sunday with her husband, Charles Klein.