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Mubarak, King Abdullah invited to help launch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Following is a transcript of the news conference at which Secretary of STate Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell outlined the agreement between Palestinians and Israelis to directly negotiate for peace.  The news conference was moderated by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley:

MR. CROWLEY: Good morning and welcome to the Department of State. We have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here along with our Special Envoy George Mitchell to tell you about the most recent developments in our pursuit of Middle East peace. The Secretary will begin with a brief statement. George Mitchell will stay behind to answer your questions. And we are joined today by your colleagues in the White House Press Corps up in Martha’s Vineyard and we’ll be sharing the – they’ll be sharing the Q&A duties with you.

But we’ll start with Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: I don’t like that idea. They’re in Martha’s Vineyard. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will appoint a negotiator to deal with that. (Laughter.)

Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.

President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.

As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.

As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.

George. Thank you all.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you traveling to Pakistan (inaudible) concern, Madam? Thank you, Madam.

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll be pleased to respond to any of your questions.

QUESTION: As tempted as I am to ask you about Roger Clemens, I’d rather – or P.J. perhaps. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: I predicted that.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what was the turning point here? What was it that got the – that overcame the final snags to get them to come back to direct talks?

MR. MITCHELL: We believe it’s the recognition by the parties themselves, by their leaders – Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – that the best outcome is an agreement which results in two states living side by side in peace and security, and that the only way that can be achieved is through direct negotiations between the parties in which the United States will be an active and sustained participant, and with the full support of our many friends and allies around the world, including, of course, specifically, the Quartet.

QUESTION: But what was it that got them to – I mean, you’ve been trying to do this for months now.

MR. MITCHELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: And why – so why – how is it that today, you’ve gotten to this point, whereas three days ago, you weren’t at this point?

MR. MITCHELL: Yeah. I think it’s the cumulative result of the efforts made over that time and the recognition by the parties that this is the right time. We will be active participants and there is broad support, as you know, by members of the Quartet and others around the world. But in the end, these decisions will be made by the parties themselves.

MR. CROWLEY: And (inaudible) Senator Mitchell —

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, could you —

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll let – why don’t I let P.J. —

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: All permanent status issues will be on the table. It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which they should be addressed.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell —

QUESTION: Yes. Madam Secretary mentioned without doubt there will be more – without doubt, there will be more obstacles. What will these obstacles be? What are the main sticking points that are going to be going forward?

MR. MITCHELL: We are all well aware that there remains mistrust between the parties, a residue of hostility developed over many decades of conflict, many previous efforts that have been made to resolve the conflict that had not succeeded, all of which takes a very heavy toll on both societies and their leaders. In addition, we all know that, as with all societies, there are differences of opinion on both sides on how best to proceed, and as a result, this conflict has remained unresolved over many decades and through many efforts. We don’t expect all of those differences to disappear when talks begin. Indeed, we expect that they will be presented, debated, discussed, and that differences are not going to be resolved immediately.

But we do believe that peace in the Middle East, comprehensive peace, including, but not limited to, an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, is very much in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, of all people in the region; it’s in the national security interests of the United States, and therefore, we are going to continue to pursue that objective with patience, perseverance, and determination. We know that will be difficult. We know, as the Secretary said, there will be obstacles. But we’re going to proceed, as I said, with patience, perseverance, and determination.

MR. CROWLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, sir, the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the United States have been down that road many times before. Now, what is in your opinion, sir, this time around that engenders – or should engender hope and optimism to get these talks into its intended end? And what kind of incentive did you offer President Abbas to entice him into the direct talks?

MR. MITCHELL: I don’t want to repeat everything I said in response to prior questions, but I will say that I believe that it is very much in the interest of people in both societies that there be an end to this conflict enabling both to live in peace and security. And I believe that their leaders believe and understand that, and therefore, notwithstanding the many difficulties that they face – and we recognize those difficulties – this is the best course for them.

On the question of past efforts in failing and succeeding, I’ll return, if I might, to my experience in Northern Ireland. I chaired three separate sets of discussions in Northern Ireland, spanning a period overall of five years. The main negotiation lasted for 22 months. During that time, the effort was repeatedly branded a failure. I was asked at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times when I was leaving because the effort had failed.

And of course, if the objective is to achieve a peace agreement, until you do achieve one, you have failed to do so. In a sense, in Northern Ireland, we had about 700 days of failure and one day of success. And we approach this task with the same determination to succeed notwithstanding the difficulties and notwithstanding the inability to get a final result so far, including past efforts. But past efforts at peace that did not succeed cannot deter us from trying again, because the cause is noble and just and right for all concerned.

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s take Michele and then Kirit and then we’ll go up to Martha’s Vineyard and come back.

Michele.

QUESTION: I wanted to get a sense of this timeline, this 12 months that the Secretary talked about. Do you see that as a deadline or is that – or is it looser than that? And also, just following up on this other question. I mean, what makes this peace process any different from all other peace processes?

MR. MITCHELL: We will only know the answer to your second question when it is completed. But I believe that, as I said in response to the previous question, that the cause is so important, so right, so just, that our continued effort is the right thing to do, and we are going to pursue it with determination. I believe that the two leaders themselves, President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, are sincere and serious and believe that it can be done, and we will do everything humanly possible to help them see that it is done.

With respect to your first question, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a public appearance in this country on his most recent visit to Washington that he believed it could be done within a year. President Abbas has expressed similar sentiments to me, and I hold strongly to that belief, having now been involved for some time in the region. So, we believe it can be done within a year and that is our objective.

QUESTION: But it’s not a deadline then?

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, one more and then we’ll go up to Martha’s Vineyard.

QUESTION: It took you about nine months to get to the point where these guys were willing to sit down and talk to each other. What makes you think that you can get them to agree to peace in one year? At what point during this process is the U.S. willing to put its own ideas on the table to help move this forward? And after the initial set of talks here in D.C., where do you expect the talks to take place?

MR. MITCHELL: I’ll take your questions in reverse order. One of the subjects to be discussed in the meeting on September 1st and 2nd, and also in preparatory meetings that have been occurring on a regular basis and will continue between now and then, will be the timing and location of subsequent meetings, and we certainly expect some of those meetings to occur in the region.

With respect to the timing and nature, how long it took to get here and how long will it take to get in, I don’t think one is a necessary determinant of the other. It’s – I liken it to the first time I owned a house and had it painted. It took the painters seemingly forever to prime the building and the walls. I kept asking myself, “When are they going to start painting? We’re paying by the hour and we want some progress.” (Laughter.) And after this seemingly endless priming, they painted it very quickly.

Now, I don’t want to suggest one year is quickly, but I don’t think that events leading up to the negotiations are themselves decisive in terms of the negotiations themselves. We believe that the statements by the prime minister regarding within one year are credible and appropriate. We believe that President Abbas shares a similar view, as do we. And that’s what we’re going to pursue.

QUESTION: And at what point does the U.S. put its own ideas on the table in this process?

MR. MITCHELL: We will be active and sustained partners, although we recognize that this is a bilateral negotiation and we have indicated to both parties that, as necessary and appropriate, we will offer bridging proposals. But I repeat: This is a direct bilateral negotiation between the parties with our assistance and with the assistance of our friends and allies. And although nobody has asked it, I do want to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize the enormous support and assistance we have received from many of our friends and allies: Egypt, under President Mubarak; Jordan, under King Abdullah; many of the other Arab states; the other members of the Quartet; the United Nations under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has been extremely helpful in this process; the European Union, with Lady Ashton as the foreign minister; and the – Russia, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, have all been active and very helpful along with other European states.

So it’s important to understand that while the United States is playing an important and active and sustained role, we do so with full participation, full input, full consultation, full discussion, and we hope full support, from a wide variety of allies whose efforts have been extremely important getting us to this phase and will be extremely important in reaching a conclusion. 

MR. CROWLEY: Operator, we’ll go to take two or three questions from White House press corps.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our first question comes from Philip Hartley with Washington Today. Please ask one question.

QUESTION: Good morning. Actually, it’s two; I apologize. Have all the invited parties accepted the United States’ invitation to weigh in next month? And the Secretary had mentioned references to peace in the world, and as an envoy of peace, I wanted to know what your thoughts are on whether the proposed mosque be built at the Ground Zero site.

MR. MITCHELL: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.

MR. CROWLEY: We’re not here to talk about that latter subject. We’ll take the next question. What was the question?

QUESTION: Wait —

QUESTION: The first part was —

MR. CROWLEY: Have they accepted.

MR. MITCHELL: What was the first question?

MR. CROWLEY: Have they accepted the invitation?

MR. MITCHELL: We have been in consultation with both. We expect to hear from them shortly, but it will be their decisions on whether to accept.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take the next question, Operator.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Jonathan Broder with Congressional Quarterly.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do both parties have to ask for the U.S. to step in with its bridging proposals, or is it enough for one party to ask for that bridging proposal?

MR. MITCHELL: We’re getting a little bit ahead of the game now to be speculating on what may or may not occur well into the process. As I stated earlier, this is a direct bilateral negotiation with the active and sustained support of the United States. And we will make bridging proposals at such time as we deem necessary and appropriate. But I don’t want anyone to have the impression that we are somehow going to supplant or displace the roles of the parties themselves, nor do we have any view other than that this must, in the end, be an agreement by the parties themselves.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more, Operator, then we’ll come back here to this.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ron Kampeas with JTA.

QUESTION: Thank you. One technical question and then a real question. On September the 2nd – is that – are they actually – are you actually launching direct talks on September the 2nd, or are the leaders getting together with the Secretary to discuss the re-launching of direct talks? And the other thing: What role, if any, does Hamas have in this process?

MR. MITCHELL: The first question is yes, we are launching direct negotiations beginning on September 2nd. And the second question is: None.

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. As you know, both we and the Quartet have previously said that the negotiations should be without preconditions.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? And the second question is whether Israel is expected to continue the freeze. Do you think that they’ll continue the freeze? Do you think the Palestinians will continue their boycott of settler goods?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions, in response to your first question. In response to the second, our position on settlements is well-known and remains unchanged. We’ve always made clear that the parties should promote an environment that is conducive to negotiations. And as the Secretary said in her statement a few moments ago, it’s important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.

MR. CROWLEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: Senator, just to follow up on that and a previous question, your position is well-known on settlements, but the Israelis, when they’ve chosen to, have ignored it and gone ahead with settlement construction as they’ve seen fit to do. Do you have any understanding from them that they will not do that this time?

And referring to the earlier question on Hamas and your quick answer that they will have no role, how do you get around the fact, even in the best of all circumstances that you negotiate an agreement, how do you get around the fact that Hamas is playing a huge role in Gaza?

MR. MITCHELL: With respect to the first question, let’s be clear that the declaration of the moratorium itself last November was a significant action, which has had a significant effect on new housing construction starts in the West Bank. And as I said, our position on settlements is well-known, remains unchanged, and we expect both parties to promote an environment conducive to negotiations.

With respect to Hamas, let’s be clear. Hamas won a legislative election. They acknowledge the continued executive authority of President Abbas and his team, and it is entirely appropriate that we negotiate with the executive head of that government. When Democrats regained control of the Congress in 2006, that didn’t end President Bush’s tenure as president, and others who wanted to negotiate with the United States negotiated with the legally elected and then-chief of our executive branch of government. And that is the situation here.

QUESTION: So you expect Hamas to accept any decision made by President Abbas at these negotiations?

MR. MITCHELL: It is not for me to make decisions for others.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more here, then we’ll go back up to the phones.

QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, is it your understanding that this would be a shelf agreement, something to take effect at a later date when political conditions in the Palestinian territories allow, or is it your understanding that this is something that would take effect in a very short period after it was agreed?

MR. MITCHELL: That’s obviously subject to the results of the negotiations. We are not creating limitations or restraints upon what the parties may agree to. Our hope is that there will be an agreement that will end the conflict for all time and will result in the establishment of a viable, democratic, and independent state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

MR. CROWLEY: Operator, we’ll take one or two more from the phones.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question on the phone is Margaret Talev with McClatchy newspapers.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for taking our questions. The Palestinian press has reported that the U.S. put the harshest pressure to date on the Palestinians to get them into the talks. What I want to know is why did the U.S. feel that this was the time, in the Palestinians’ view, to bully the Palestinians into talking, considering the politics of the Israeli administration right now?

MR. MITCHELL: The United States position has been well-known from the time that this administration entered office. We have and we do favor direct negotiation between the parties to resolve the conflict and to produce an agreement that results in two states living side by side in peace and security. We have encouraged the two parties to enter into such negotiations and they have now agreed. And we are – we believe it’s the right thing to do, we think that both of the leaders believe it’s the right thing to do, and we believe it’s in the best interests of the people they represent.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take one more, Operator, from the phone.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Susan Garraty with News Talk Radio.

QUESTION: Hello, Senator Mitchell. You harkened back to the Northern Ireland peace process, and as you certainly recall, the President then played a very intimate role in that. Considering that many Americans themselves are even confused about President Obama’s religious affiliation, do you feel like the people of the Middle East on both sides of this issue will see President Obama as an honest broker and someone that they can actually reach out to in that same intimate fashion?

MR. MITCHELL: Yes, I do believe that they do and will continue to regard President Obama in that fashion. I will say that from the outset, both he and the Secretary of State have played an important, indeed critical, role in this effort. Both are deeply involved on a regular basis and deeply, personally committed to the cause of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I think that is not only widely recognized throughout the region and the world, but very much appreciated, and in particular, throughout the region.

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll take a couple of wrap-ups. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Senator Mitchell.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: The total settlement freeze never happened, so I was wondering, how can these talks be considered authentic in the region when that demand was never met?

MR. MITCHELL: We believe that there is a basis for proceeding and achieving a successful result, and we’re going to pursue that. We do not take the position that if you don’t get everything you want the first time you ask for it, you pack up your bags and go home. If that had been the standard applied in South Africa, there would never have been peace there; in Northern Ireland, there would never have been peace there; in Bosnia, there would never have been peace there.

It takes patience, persistence, a willingness to go back again and again, to not take the first no as a final no, to not take the 50th no as the final no or the 100th no. We are patient, we are persevering, and we are determined, and we believe there is a basis for concluding a peace agreement in the region, and that’s what we’re going to pursue.

MR. CROWLEY: Samir.

QUESTION: Senator, do you understand that – you expect Abbas to accept entering these talks without preconditions?

MR. MITCHELL: Both the United States and the Quartet have said that we believe there should be direct talks without preconditions. And we also have said many times that we think that these talks should be conducted in a positive atmosphere in which the parties refrain from taking any steps that are not conducive to making progress in the discussions, that negotiate seriously and in good faith. And in all of these respects, we think that there is a basis for making progress.

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Senator, so many Palestinians, as you know, and Arabs believe peace with the actual Israeli Government is practically impossible because of its nature, past statement regarding refugees, Jerusalem, et cetera. Aren’t you concerned that by setting this one-year deadline, you’ll probably be raising expectations just like a la Camp David and all what happened after that?

MR. MITCHELL: The reality is, of course, that there are some in both societies who do not believe that the other side is serious, who do not trust the other side, who do not wish to proceed with the other side. And if we accept the premise that because some in one or both societies hold these views that we cannot proceed, then of course, what we are doing is consigning all of those people to never-ending conflict, never-ending difficulties. We simply don’t believe that’s a proper basis for any country, and certainly not ours, the United States, on which to base its policy.

We believe that the best course of action is the direct negotiations that result in a peace agreement ending this conflict and resulting in two states living side by side in peace and security. We believe the only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations. We believe that if those negotiations are conducted seriously and in good faith, they can produce such an agreement within 12 months. And that is our objective. We acknowledge, we recognize, as you have just stated, that there are many who don’t believe that, many who don’t want that, many who will act to prevent that.

But their lack of belief, their contrary views, their contrary actions cannot serve to prevent us from trying to deal with this conflict, nor can it prevent the leaders of those countries who both recognize that the interests of their people, the future of their societies rests upon resolving this conflict and achieving the kind of peace and stability and security from which they will all benefit.

MR. CROWLEY: Last question, Mark Landler.

QUESTION: Senator, this Administration believed from the early days that its Middle East strategy and its Iran strategy were linked in the sense that if you could make progress in one, you might help make progress in another and vice versa. You now are moving into a period of less engagement and more confrontation with Iran. I’m wondering whether you think that is an added hurdle to a peace agreement or is it something that could actually help in the sense that the Israelis may feel that the U.S. is going to be tough on Iran and it allays their fears somewhat in that regard.

MR. MITCHELL: That extends somewhat beyond the area of my involvement in this process, and so I would defer for a more full and thoughtful answer to those who are directly engaged on the broader issues. I will simply say that if you look at the Middle East and review its history over just the past half century, never mind several millennia, you will conclude that there is no really, quote, “right time” to do this, that there always have been and always will be issues external to the immediate parties that have an effect upon what is occurring.

And in my judgment, what is occurring in the – throughout the region, not just in Iran but in other areas, all add compelling, cumulative evidence to the need to act with respect to this conflict. That is to say, whether or not the circumstance you describe produces the result you describe, it still remains a compelling argument that it is very much in the national security interest of the United States, in terms of dealing with other conflicts, to assist, to do all we can with the help and support of our allies, to bring about a resolution of this conflict. It helps in so many ways, and most importantly, it’s the best thing for the Palestinian people and for the people of Israel. And it is in our national security interest and in that of others.

Thank you all very much. It’s been a pleasure to be with you.

*

Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department

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The Jews Down Under~News of the Jews of Australia and New Zealand

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

By Garry Fabian

New Zealand Jewish Community goes to court

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, 10 August– The following announcement was released by the  New Zealand Jewish Community:

As we informed the community last week, we filed  legal proceedings against the Minister of
Agriculture, seeking a restoration of the right  to practise shechitain New Zealand.  We are  pleased to report that an interim agreement has
now been reached with the Minister, which will  enable the continued practice of shechita in the  period up to trial (which is likely to take place during 2011).

Court orders were made by consent in the  Wellington High Court this morning, giving legal effect to that agreement. Every effort is being
made to get chicken and local lamb”back on the table”as soon as possible.

The community would like to acknowledge the  tremendous contribution the legal team at Russell McVeagh have made in putting together our
case to achieve this positive outcome in such a short period.

The memorandum was signed by Jewish community leaders Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny and Geoff Levy.

*
Church resolution reveals failure of interfaith

MELBOURNE, 13 August -The National Council of  Churches of Australia’s resolution encouraging a  boycott of Israel is absolutely indefensible, and  makes a mockery of both mutual tolerance and  “interfaith” dialogue. It is abundantly clear in  the case of Israel, as in countless instances in Jewish history, an exception has been made of Jews.

If the churches were fair  about their  human rights concerns they would have boycotted  Sudan, Saudi Arabia and so many other Islamic
countries for their real human rights abuses and  treatment and discrimination of non-Muslim minorities.

No mainstream church group has ever openly sided  with Jews, publicly criticising Iran’s President  Amadinajad over his promotion of Holocaust denial and anti Semitic rhetoric or criticising Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism. There are so many other examples of the church’s hypocrisy in singling out the Jewish state as their ‘pet’ cause. Even some Christians who have seen the NCAA statement find it incomprehensible that it
does not mention Palestinian/Hamas discrimination of Christians in Gaza.

Jewish interfaith advocates should start  insisting on some reciprocity and public support for the Jewish narrative in the Israel/
Palestinian, Arab Muslim conflict otherwise they are wasting their time

*

Contemporary Antisemitism: What We Can Do

Contemporary antisemitism turns Israel into a collective Jew among the nations, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Irwin Cotler
defines its expression in the genocidal antisemitism of Ahmadinejad’s Iran; the political antisemitism  that denies Jews the right to national selfdetermination; the racialised antisemitism that defines Zionism as racism; the legalized antisemitism that makes a mockery of the UN Human  Rights procedures, and the “new protocols of the elders of Zion”, which blames Israel for  everything from 9/11 to swine flu.

But, Cotler argues, we can act. We have  opportunities through Holocaust memory and education, through pressuring for the implementation of the  legal procedures of the Genocide Convention,
through reforming the UN, through government  initiatives and through working to reframe the narrative that blames Israel and Jews for all
Middle East conflict and ignores human rights abuses in other parts of the world..

The Hon. Professor Irwin Cotler MP is an eminent  human rights lawyer and Canadian statesman. A former Canadian Attorney-General and sitting  member of the Canadian Parliament, he has been outspoken on issues of human rights in the  former Soviet Union, South Africa and Rwanda.

The ADC was honoured to host him recently as our ADC Gandel Orator. This special report is an edited transcript of his Oration.

*
Australian Foreign Minister charts positive Israel course

CANBERRA,  13 August – The diplomatic relationship  between Australia and Israel has resumed on its normal course, less than three months after Stephen Smith expelled an Israeli diplomat from Canberra.

And despite a frosty few months, the two  countries – which both share a desire to see Iran’s nuclear weapons program halted immediately
– never ceased to share intelligence on the rogue state.

In a wide-ranging interview during a campaign  stop in Melbourne, Smith spoke about the resumption of that relationship. He made no
pledges about the foreign policy direction a  future Gillard government would take, but spoke in depth about some of the decisions made over the past almost three years.

“I am now very confident that things are now back to business as usual,” he said of the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.

“Often when you have a difficult issue that you’ve got to manage, your capacity to manage that and then to move reasonably quickly off it,
reflects the strength of the relationship.

“Yes it was a difficult time and I obviously  thought very carefully about all of the issues and came to the decision that, as I said
publicly, we could not turn a blind eye to what had occurred.

“I’m very confident now that in terms of agency-to-agency relationship,
government-to-government, nation-to-nation, it is business as usual.”

He added that at no time during the diplomatic impasse, did the two countries stop cooperating to quash the rogue Iranian regime.

“One area [of the Australia-Israel relationship] we did not want to see disturbed was the ongoing cooperation and exchange of information on Iran,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the forthcoming direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians means that the time for peace is right, Smith showed some trademark diplomacy.

“I think your attitude has got to be that it is always right,” he said. “You always have to try and take the opportunity and often when things
appear to be at their worst is often a time when you can move forward.”

“We’re very supportive of President [Barack] Obama’s efforts, we’re very supportive of  Ambassador [George] Mitchell’s efforts and we
make the point to all of the players in the Middle East that it is absolutely essential that we get long-term enduring peace.

“The issues are complex, complicated and there are strong views respectively on both sides, but we can’t give up because solving these Middle East issues is very important to peace and security, peace and stability throughout the entire world,” he said.

*
Jewish Music Festival hits Sydney

SYDNEY, 16 August – SHIR Madness, Sydney’s first  large-scale Jewish music festival, brought Bondi Beach to life with more than 40 performers from Australia and around the world, eclectic food stalls, kids activities and an art exhibition centred around Bondi Pavilion on Sunday, August 15.

The festival is the brainchild of Gary Holzman, who has dreamed of staging a music festival for many years.

“I’ve always felt there would be somebody better  equipped to put it on than myself, but as it never eventuated, I finally decided to do
something about it,” says Holzman, who is the festival director.

The festival will feature four stages, with musical styles covering klezmer, choral, Latino, Chassidic, Israeli, jazz, cabaret, folk, blues, pop, rock, funk, reggae and rap.

Among the local performers are Deborah Conway, Monsieur Camem­bert, The Mark Ginsburg Band,  Alana Bruce, Joanna Weinberg, the Emanuel choirs and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society.

Leading the line-up of international performers are Israeli singer Ido Lederman, Alex Jacobowitz from New York and the Jew Brothers Band from New Zealand.

Lederman began his music career as lead singer of Israeli rock band Amstaf, and was bass player for the reggae group Hatikvah 6. He will also perform in Melbourne on August 21.

Holzman says: “It’s just going to be an amazing atmosphere and an absolute smorgasbord – what I would call a ‘mixed salad’ of musical delight.

“People should come to appreciate the amazing variety of musical talent within the Jewish community, both from Sydney and from other places as well.

“With the incredible variety of music on offer, a food court full of tempting delights, market stalls, kids entertainment and an exhibition of
Jewish art, this is going to be a fantastic festival for the whole family to come and enjoy.”

Holzman hopes the festival will be an annual event.

“We certainly want to make sure that it’s not going to be a one-off, but will become a highlight of the Sydney cultural calendar.”

One of the international performers from upstate New York is  Jacobowitz, a master of the marimba who has plied his trade across the world, most notably in Germany. An Orthodox Jew, he focuses
on the traditional klezmer music of his ancestors.

“My music is spiritual, natural, totally  unexpected and riveting,” he says. “It brings European music, African sound and Jewish geist together.”

Jacobowitz says his Jewish identity is an integral part of his music.

“Judaism is my spirit, and my spirit energises and breathes life into my music. Whether I’m playing Bach, flamenco or klezmer, my music is 100 per cent kosher.”

Jacobowitz is thrilled to be in Australia and taking part in Shir Madness.

“To be part of the first Jewish music festival in Sydney makes me proud and humble at the same time, and I hope that the music finds a special echo there.”

For AJN Ghetto Blasterz competition winner Shannon Gaitz, Shir Madness is the highlight of her fledgling music career so far.

“I’m extremely excited, especially to be able to get my name and my songs out there,” says Gaitz, 17, from Bondi, who describes her music as country pop.

“It’s very honest – it’s all based on personal experience and very emotional.”
Gaitz is grabbing the opportunity to perform at Shir Madness with both hands.

“It’s just a huge opportunity of being able to get performance experience, especially with my original songs, and I’m going to be playing with
Philip Foxman, he’s my mentor and that’s also a really big honour.”

Gaitz will also spend a day recording tracks at  the Green Sound Music studios in Sydney’s Castle Cove as part of her prize.Sydney band The Naked Parade has been causing quite a stir with its  infectious brand of alternative pop-rock.

Singer Talya Rabinovitz explains with a laugh: “We’ve been told that we are the love child of Jeff Buckley and No Doubt if they went travelling
though Eastern Europe and South America.”

“We definitely have a Middle Eastern vibe to our music, with the violin, melodies and the drumbeats.”

Rabinovitz is excited to be performing at Shir Madness.

“It just looks like an amazing music festival,” she says. “This will be a different age group for us as well –

I know that a lot of my family like my aunts and uncles are coming and they don’t usually come to our gigs. I’m excited to see their reaction and put on a show.”

Local singer Natan Kuchar has spent the past four years plying his trade in the United States.

Kuchar has performed solo at Carnegie Hall, but the humble performer speaks more enthusiastically about his recent album release at a small Surry Hills venue in Sydney.

“It made me feel like people really dig what I have and were really interested in me,” he says. “It was a really great confidence booster and it
helped propel me to apply for Shir Madness.”

Kuchar describes his music as “a really raw sound, merging pop music and soul music.”

“I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people like Stevie Wonder and Regina Spektor for their  melodies and for their storytelling within their music,” he says.

“I really love to subtly add melodies from synagogue services or from High Holy Days or just lyrics that are found in certain religious texts
that help to support some other kind of contemporary story that I’m trying to tell in my songs.”

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

The Jews Down Under~News of the Jews of Australia and New Zealand

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Jewish congregation prepares to sue New Zealand government over shechita

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 23 July 2010 (Press Release)–The Working Group on shechita of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation has tried to engage further with theMinister of Agriculture.

The Minister is firm in his resolve to preserve his position, which does not give the Jewishcommunity a secure continuing supply of kosher meat, and only offered an unacceptable short term option. Accordingly agreement could not be reached. This is disappointing and has meant turning to progress the work on a legal action.

A leading law firm has been engaged and has prepared draft proceedings. These are currently being reviewed by a QC and a final decision will
be made following receipt of his advice.

Resources are being put in place to fund this course of action. We will continue to keep you informed of progress.

Garth Cohen, Michael Stiassny, Geoff Levy respectively,  President AHC, Chair AHCTB, Chair NZJC

B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand has taken a  lead donating A$ 5000 to the New Zealand Jewish  Community to assist in financing the legal  challenge, which is estimated to costs in excess of NZ$350,000

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Israel a marker in Australian elections

SYDNEY, 28 July –  Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed his “unequivocal support” for Israel at a New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies plenum on Tuesday night.

Turnbull, the incumbent, presented his credentials for the upcoming federal election, alongside his fellow candidates in Wentworth, the ALP’s Steven Lewis and the Greens’ Matthew Robertson.

The men did not debate each other, rather each was given an opportunity to address the gathering, which also included a question and answer session.

Turnbull said there may be occasions when “we may not agree with the tactics” of the IDF, but stressed there was a big distinction between the
strategic issues Israel faces and tactics used by the IDF.

“It is not realistic for us sitting here in  Sydney in the safety of Australia to try and second guess and critique how the IDF handles a particular mission,” he said.

“Where Israel needs our support is in the fundamental strategic question, and that is in ensuring that Israel’s security is protected.”

Turnbull slammed the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record on Israel, singling out Australia’s abstention at a United Nations vote on war crimes in Gaza.

Turning his attention to local issues, Turnbull criticised Labor for its failure to introduce an emissions trading scheme, its bungled insulation program and “the billions wasted” in the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program.

In response, Lewis outlined the many benefits that the BER brought to Sydney’s Jewish schools, while defending the Labor Party’s record on Israel.

“The Australian Labor Party has been and remains a friend and strong ally of Israel,” he said, pointing out Australia diplomat “Doc” Evatt’s role in the establishment of Israel and the Government’s resolution last year in
congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary.

Lewis also pointed out Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s efforts, as education minister, in getting Holocaust studies included in the draft national school curriculum.

He warned the meeting that a vote for Turnbull was really a vote for Abbott. “I have a genuine fear that this country, led by Tony Abbott, will take a path down a conservative road that will not be in the interest of all of us,” he said. “I ask that you vote for me and ensure that Julia Gillard can return and continue the good work that she has started.”

Greens candidate Matthew Robertson expressed his gratitude at being given the opportunity toaddress the forum before outlining the need for
“urgent action” on climate change.

Conspicuously, Robertson did not mention Israel. When asked during question time about the Greens’ policy in light of their frequent criticism of
Israel, Robertson said the Greens supported “the right of the Israeli people to live within safe and secure UN-mandated borders”.

“The Greens take support from the core principle of peace and nonviolence, and we wish to see a safe and secure resolution to the conflict in the Middle East,” he said

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Jewish Veterans at mainstream venue

MELBOURNE, 29 July –  Victoria’s Jewish ex-servicemen and women will find their diaries filling quickly, as the organisation representing
them tries for a new lease on life.

To set the ball rolling, the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (VAJEX) is planning its first ever military “pilgrimage” service at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on August 1.

“It’s to commemorate the Jewish dead who fell in war. The thinking is that VAJEX, in its 81 years, has never, as far as we know, had a service at
the Shrine. We’ve taken a step forward with this, and it has been in the planning for a year,” VAJEX president Ben Hirsh told The AJN.

Addressing the initiatives that will hopefully inject new vigour into the association, Hirsh said: “To keep going, we’ve changed the rules to
admit non-service members, and we’re hoping many more who had relatives in the forces will join. It’s to keep alive a Jewish organisation that’s being going since 1929.”

The service will feature a shofar-blowing ceremony by Rabbi Phillip Heilbrunn, and will include VAJEX patron Major General Jeffrey
Rosenfeld and chaplain Rabbi Dovid Gutnick. The gathering will take place beneath a VAJEX flag, which will fly from dawn to sundown, and the organisation’s banner.

Other events planned in the coming months include a commemoration at the graveside of Sergeant Issy Smith of the Imperial Army’s Manchester Regiment in Fawkner Cemetery on September 12, and a gathering at Brighton Cemetery on October 8 to honour the memory of Australia’s greatest
military figure, Sir John Monash, 79 years after his death.

The organisation will also be taking part in the annual Monash commemoration at State Parliament on August 6.

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Church vs State

CANBERRA, 30 July – As the roof body of Australian churches urges its members to consider A boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements,
tensions have flared  between Christian and Jewish leaders. Are interfaith relations heading to a new low?

Australia’s roof Christian body is urging Australian churches to boycott goods produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The motion, which also calls for a end to the blockade of Gaza, was passed by the National Council of
Churches in Australia (NCAA) in Canberra last week. Affirming the solidarity of the NCAA with Palestinian Christians, the resolution states that the NCAA will advocate and act for the end of the occupation of the Palestinian people.
It also “calls on the member-churches of the NCAA and the wider Australian community to consider a boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements
in the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot said in a letter to the NCAA that the motion came “as a complete and most unpleasant surprise.”

“We feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought as our friends”, Goot said. ECAJ vice-president and president of the ACT Jewish Community, Dr Anita Shroot had addressed the forum on behalf of the ECAJ.  “I felt welcomed when I was there and then I was shocked and reeling when I got a note from Robert about what happened”, she said. “Frankly I have
quite a few real friends who were there, but there is obviously an element that swung the motion”.

NCAA general secretary Reverend Tara Curlewis said this motion does not mean the NCAA  supports theboycott. “We were asked to consider this by the
heads of the churches of the Middle East, so we are asking our churches to consider the proposal by looking at the positives and negatives of it”, Rev Curlewis said.

The Australian Christians Supporting Israel is one organisation that was not happy with the motion.

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Opposition Leader criticises Government policy on Israel

MELBOURNE, 30 July –   Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne lastt week Opposition Leader Tony
Abbott took the opportunity to criticise the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record towards Israel.

“I have to say that it’s a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian people and the Israeli people that the current Australian Government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel,” Abbott said before the crowd of more than 1000 businesspeople and Liberal Party faithful.

“I want to reiterate here today, the Coalition’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and I want to assure you that a Coalition government
would never support a one-sided United Nations resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly,” he said.

He continued: “And we would never overreact to any international incident, because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way
that almost no other country in the world is.”

He told guests, including dozens of the nation’s finest journalists, who were following Abbott’s campaign trail, that Australia needs to appreciate that “a diminished Israel diminishes the West”.

The Opposition Leader also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of the local Jewish community. He commented that Australia is
the only country in the world, apart from Israel, where Jewish people have occupied the highest offices, including as the governor-general.

Among guests at the Crown Casino lunch were Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance Andrew Robb, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu and former treasurer Peter Costello.

Costello, who travelled with Julia Gillard to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, delivered the vote of thanks, endorsing his former cabinet colleague’s tilt at the top job.

“Tony Abbott is a man of commitment and a man of drive,” Costello said. “I know he was party of a very successful government, I don’t know that about Julia Gillard.”

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Major boost for school security

CANBERRA, 2 August – The $20 million fund for school security has been topped up with another $15 million, much of it likely to be given to Jewish schools.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor announced the program extension at Melbourne’s Beth Rivkah Ladies College on Tuesday.

Joining him for the announcement were ALP incumbent in Melbourne Ports Michael Danby, and fellow Jewish Labor MP Mark Dreyfus, who is re-contesting the seat of Isaacs.

The announcement received bipartisan support, ensuring it would be a done deal whoever becomes prime minister.

“The Government must intervene where necessary to assist schools that have more danger or more risk associated with them,” O’Connor told a school
assembly of senior Beth Rivkah girls. “It ensures that those schools are able to dedicate more resources to the primary purpose of education.”

A Liberal party spokesperson confirmed that a formal announcement regarding its own promise will be made by the Coalition in coming weeks.

Like the previous rounds of funding distributed over the past two years, the program will continue to support those schools at risk of racist or religiously motivated attacks.

“This will allow our schools to use education funding for education purposes,” co-chair of the Australian Council for Jewish Schools Nechama Bendet told the minister. For Jewish schools, she emphasised, spending money on protecting students was “not as a matter of a choice, but of necessity”.

Danby personally thanked the minister for his assistance and praised his party for its commitment to education.

“Brendan, I really appreciate the seriousness with which you and your advisers address this issue,” he remarked.

“If you were looking objectively at the amount of resources either in building classrooms, beautifying playgrounds, funding for some of these schools that didn’t get their correct allocation, like Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah, or
programs like the security funding, you’d have to say this was a golden period of government support for all schools in Australia, including Jewish schools.”

Dreyfus commented that a week earlier had been the anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina, which killed 85 people in 1994.

“I wish that had never happened, but having been to Buenos Aires since then, I can say that I don’t want to see in Australia the kind of security arrangements that every single communal facility – every school, every synagogue, everymeeting place – of that very large Jewish community has, I never want to see that in Australia.

“One way in which we can deal with that is the kind of additional expenditure met by the Government for security arrangements in our schools.”

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Habonim celebrates seven decades

MELBOURNE–Habonim Dror will commemorate 70 years in Australia next month with celebrations planned for Melbourne and Sydney.

Melbourne’s reunion event at the Glen Eira Town Hall on August 7 will feature a show and light supper, while Sydney will be treated to dinner
and dancing on August 28 at a yet-to-be-decided venue.

Melbourne organiser Robyn Davis said the event is for people who have attended Habonim anywhere in the world.

“It will be an opportunity for all past members of Habonim to get together, talk, dance, celebrate and talk about their time at Habonim,” she said. “It’s a very special event to signify the role that Habonim [has] played within the
Jewish community – it also has demonstrated that it has been a community in itself.”

Head of Sydney’s Parents and Friends of Habonim Peter Royal said the initial venue chosen for the gala reunion is now too small.

“We have been bowled over by the level of response from people,” he said.

He said around 300 people are expected to attend, adding that absolutely anyone who has been involved with Habonim worldwide, including in
South Africa and South America are welcome to join the celebration.

“The idea is to try and have anyone who had any association with the movement participate in the Habonim 70th, to have a fun time and to get
together, and get to know other people who were in the past movement or in the present movement,” he said.

Royal said it is important for all Jewish children to belong to a youth movement, whether or not it is Habonim.

“The whole idea is synagogues give you a reason for why you’re Jewish, schools teach you the history of the Jewish people and the youth
movements teach you how to have fun and be proud to be Jewish.”

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, September 17, 1954, Part 4

July 16, 2010 Leave a comment
Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

Since 1854: A Noted Historian Views American Jewry’s Last Century
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 17, 1954, pages 6, 7

By Dr Salo W. Baron, president, American Jewish Historical Society

When one looks back on the past 100 years, one finds that that period started as a period of divisiveness in the American Jewish community. We were an internally divided community—a community divided by groups—and as time went on the divisions increased rather than diminished.

That was not always so. Most of the 300 years that we have been in this country we had been a united community.  Up to the Revolution and into the 19th century every city which had a Jewish community had one congregation only. Even New York, the oldest of the3m which now celebrates its 300th anniversary, did not have a second congregation until 1825.  In other words, for nearly 175 years—or 171 years, anyway – there was only one congregation and any Jew belonging to a congregation at all belonged to the Spanish-Portuguese group and there were no divisions.,

It is a matter of record that when the Spanish-Portuguese congregation in New York built its first structure, its first synagogue—back in 1730—the majority of the members were already Ashkenazim, German and Polish Jews, even though the ritual was Sephardic.

This went on until, in the 19th century, there began a division between Spanish-Portuguese and German communities. It was then we began having more and more communal groups. This was the period of division; between Sephardic and Ashkenazic; between the German Jews, coming in the first part of the 19th century and the East European Jews; divisions between the Russian Jews and Polish Jews; Rumanian Jews and Hungarian Jews – and what not.

These divisions, at the beginning of this century, assumed an almost catastrophic character. It is unbelievable when we hear it today, but it was true, that for a Russian Jew to marry a Galician Jewess—or vice versa—amounted almost to intermarriage.

What is even more tragic is that you needed, at that time, an FEPC among Jews, because one group of Jews discriminated, on principle, in employment – certainly in communal employment, but even in private employ8ment—against Jews of another country of origin.  What made it even more tragic is the fact that these divisions were so artificial and devoid of historic background.

It is true the Sephardim and Ashkenazim have been divided for a thousand years. There are distinct Sephardic rituals and Ashkenazic rituals and the differences, right or wrong, are explainable on grounds of principle. But the divisions between German Jews, Polish Jews and Russian Jews are artificial divisions only a few generations old.

To be sure, there were vital differences between orthodoxy and reform and conservatism. There were differences between religious Jews and non-religious or even unthinking religious Jews. Those differences were not artificial. Those were based upon ideology, upon conviction, upon belief or disbelief.

The divisiveness of the late 19th century—or orthodoxy, militant orthodoxy, soon militant reform and before very long, militant Zionism and militant anti-Zionism—all are based on ideology. That divisiveness was fully justified—but it was here that this community became a house divided against itself. Early in the century it looked as if people couldn’t get together around one table.

It is against this background that we can understand the great services rendered by the Jewish Community Center movement which started  exactly a century ago. There were antecedents to it a few years earlier. Those German Jews who were coming here in the 1830’s and 1840’s came from a country and area in Europe which still deserved at that time – unfortunately not much longer thereafter – the name of a nation of poets and thinkers.  When they arrived in this country they found that the civilization was not as high as it was in the country which they left.  But they realized that was only a temporary shortcoming and that this country was making great strides forward. They were looking forward to the next generation or two in which America would far outstrip the old lands of Europe in its cultural achievements and its civilization.

It was that group of German Jewish immigrants who organized back in 1850—even before ’54—the first “Young Men’s Hebrew Literary Association.” It was founded in Philadelphia in 1850. The first Young Men’s Christian Association was established late in 1851—a whole year later!  The name is not borrowed from the Christian group, but, if you want to say so, the Christians borrowed it from the Jews – although the connection is not fully established.,

But it was a literary association – to read books.  Social contacts were outlawed. You couldn’t dance in the quarters of such a society, for example, and certainly you couldn’t gamble.  In 1854, however, came the first regular YMHA and its principle was – let’s get together on an informal basis regardless of ideology, regardless of economic or social background, regardless of whether they were Orthodox, Reform, German, Galician or anything else. It was thought “Jews should get together.”  They should cultivate their social contacts, cultivate an informal type of education and bridge the chasms which existed between one group and another.

It is difficult for us to imagine how vital a function such a Jewish Center performed in that sharply divided community.  No other placed served as such a neutral meeting ground for Jews of all groups.

This informal type of Jewish meeting ground, this informal type of adult and adolescent education was a distinct American contribution.  It is one of those forms of American Jewish pioneering which covers many areas in American life.

Here was a disorganized community, a militantly divided community which needed a neutral meeting place. They explored the new possibilities and found the answer in the Jewish Community Center movement. That Center movement grew into such tremendous proportions that it now has not only 350 groups in this country but is spreading into the Old World. Even Jerusalem is now building a Jewish Center!  I was in Johannesburg a few years ago and they were deeply involved in planning for a Jewish Center.  In other words, a purely American pattern has been taken over and adjusted to local needs in different communities because it is an advanced form of Jewish co-existence—of Jewish communal cooperation – which meets the needs of emancipators everywhere.  Has the Jewish Community Center already fulfilled all its historic functions or can it look forward to a second century of great contribution?  There is no question in my mind that the American Jewish community has grown more and more cohesive in the last generation.

With the stoppage of immigration in 1924—with a trickle thereafter – the vast majority of American Jews now living in this country have been born and bred here. For the first time in a century and a quarter, this is an American-born generation, a generation which has gone through two world wars—together with its non-Jewish fellow citizens.  It is a generation which went through American schools, American theatre, movies, sports. That generation has forgotten much of those old divisive lines of the Old World.

They are not so much interested in ancestry. They are not so much interested even in the old type of ideologies. There is, of course, a difference between Orthodox and Reform today, too, but even the Orthodox is more and more an American type of Orthodoxy. Reform has its particular American coloring and its German origin is n longer in its bones.  In this American community the divisive forces have been losing ground, whereas the uniting forces have been gaining from year to year.

An additional element of cohesion has been the fact of Jewry being under attack in the last twenty years or more. Unfortunately, it is true that anti-Semitism has often helped cement Jewish unity. Under pressure from the outside Jews often united – and they had been divided without that pressure.  Certainly, Hitler united this American Jewish community more than any individual factor could have.

Whatever the reason, here is a much more united cohesive community, however, which is still searching for its rationale –for its peculiar characteristics. We are in greatest need, practically as well as ideologically of developing a real feeling for the American Jewish heritage.

Until now we have been accustomed to being nurtured I our thinking by ideologies developed elsewhere. The orthodoxy that came to this country was either the East European type or the Frankfurt type. Reform was a direct continuation of Geiger and Holdheim, with minor variations – or for a long time Zionism was, of course, the Zionism of Pinsker, Hess, Nordau, Smolenskin, Ahad Haam and Herzl, with some minor modifications. Even our Jewish Socialism was an importation from the outside.

We have been much too long nurtured in our lifeblood by a perennial stream from the Old World but with relatively few creative additions of our own.  In this united community the need of cultivating an American Jewish heritage has become increasingly imperative, particularly with the stoppage of immigration, the destruction of the great centers of Jewish learning and thinking in the Old World and the rise of the State of Israel. Because it is a state and a nation, Israel has, by its very nature, a different approach to life, a different approach to culture, and a different approach to language. Hebrew is a daily language there.

In order to preserve their identity in a fruitful, creative way, American Jews must develop something new.  Because of that, it is doubly imperative for them to try to reconstruct their own great heritage.  The failure  of our ancestors to preserve records, the failure of scholars for generations to keep that heritage alive is, therefore, not merely a matter to be deplored by some specialists or scholars.  It is a vital concern to the community at large.

The JWB was and is on the right track when it developed such peculiar institutions as Jewish Book Month, Jewish Music Month, Jewish History Week-=-with emphasis on American Jewish history – when it is cultivating that  heritage creatively, beneficently for a future community which, I for one, believe may yet achieve  creative compound of American and Jewish culture – of an American Jewish culture which may rival and perhaps even outshine some day the great creative cultures of Hellenistic Alexandria or the golden age of Spain.

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“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.  To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box. 

 

Immigration: Our family’s three-continent trek

July 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Franklin Gaylis 

SAN DIEGO — Several thousand years of Jewish history has been extremely well documented. What about our personal family’s history over the past few hundred years?

This is the question I asked myself when our children were born in the USA after my wife Jean, and I emigrated  in 1982 from South Africa. Suddenly the importance of knowing our family’s history became  a priority in my life. A visit to the Kotel in Jerusalem made me think more about our family’s history in the diaspora, over the past 2000 years. That is when the following questions evolved:

Where did the family live prior to their emigration to South Africa? How did they get to South Africa? Who came first and why? What would I tell our children about their family’s past?

I knew so little, however, I quickly learned that most of my family, even the seniors whom I questioned, knew little more than I did.

All that was known were a few names of the shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia where our family had once lived. My grandmother’s sister, Aunti Cilla, attempted in vain when I was a young medical student to tell me the family’s history in Lithuania. The memories of how she had saved her sisters from the eventual annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry suddenly resurfaced in my mind.  This amazing woman who lived to 102 years of age saved many members of our family and in doing so paved the path to South Africa. She also selflessly returned to the family’s shtetl Kruk, in Lithuania to save her sisters, including my grandmother.  How I wished that someone had listened to her stories and acknowledged her courageous actions during her lifetime. Was it possible there were any family members remaining, I asked? Fortunately, we hadn’t lost any family in the Holocaust, or so we thought.

My quest for information prompted extensive research on the Jews of Lithuania and together with family we planned a  trip to the old country. Jean and I together with four cousins (Lorraine, Richard, Uncle Dave and Jill) visited the family shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia hoping to find any relic from our family’s past: a home of one of our great grandparents, a tombstone or anything that could possibly connect us to our past. Lithuanian and Latvian Jews had migrated to these areas 700 years prior and we knew absolutely nothing about our family’s history in these countries,  other than the names of a few shtetls.

During our week visiting the shtetls with the help of local and national guides, we were fortunate to find surviving family in Ludza (Latvia), which had been my great grandfather’s home. It was  currently inhabited by Mrs Lotzov ( my grandfather was Frank Lotzof). A family tree from the Riga archives detailed seven generations starting in the early 1800s. I learned that I had been named Franklin after my grandfather Frank Lotzof, however, it was clear from the family tree that his name originally was  Afroim and this Yiddish name must have been changed to Frank in South Africa ( My Hebrew name is Ephraim). In Ludza we found a desecrated shul, a shtiebl, with an Aron Kodesh, a Bimah, hundreds of rotting machzorim, a shofar, and breast plate from a Torah as well as many other religious artifacts.

In the Ludza forest we saw the memorial to the 833 Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and local accomplices in August 1941. A prominent memorial to six Lotzof cousins, murdered and buried in the Jewish Cemetery answered this question: about whether we had lost family in the Shoah.

In Kruk we learned that one of the five sisters, Sossa, had never left for South Africa and had been killed with her five daughters. I was greatly saddened to learn of these members of our family who have never had the Kaddish prayer recited for them. They had never been remembered. We were fortunate that Aunty Cilla and my grandfather Frank Lotzof returned  to bring out many of the family prior to the Second World War. I felt some comfort that we were finally piecing together some of the family’s recent history.

Our parents, the next generation were born in South Africa. They lived good lives, were successful professionals (doctors, lawyers, businessmen….) in contrast with their parents who had acquired little formal education. My grandmother Mina who spoke only German, was chaperoned to South Hampton in England at the age of 16 or 17 years. Then she was sent to South Africa by boat never to see or speak to her parents again. What prompted them to send a young daughter on her own to a distant land never to see her again? I could only imagine how difficult life must have been for Jews in the Baltics. They obviously envisaged a better life for her in South Africa.

Several years later during  a trip back to South Africa with my parents, I was again impressed how little knowledge we had of our family’s past: Anti-Semitism was rife in Heilbron where my mother Rhoda Gaylis  (nee Lotzof) was born. Afrikaners who  were supporters of the Nazis in the war, created similar fascist groups like the  Ossewa Brandwag and Greyshirts. They had every intent in doing the same as the Nazis to the Jews of South Africa when Hitler prevailed in Europe. The fact that none of the family were aware of details of our past was perplexing  to me. When interviewing my mother who was a gifted pianist and musician, she recalled an Afrikaner family who were fond of her as she played songs for the Christians in their church. At the age of six they told her, “Rhoda, when Hitler comes we will hide you in that little chest” When she replied with “ What about my mammie and pappie?” they said “Only you Rhoda.”

How fortunate we are as a family that Frank and Cilla and their parents had the foresight to do what they did. Similarly,  my parents encouraged my wife and I to emigrate to the USA in our early 20s to provide a safer future for our children. What will be the future of our children? Will  there be a fourth continent that we move to in just over 100 years? At present we are fortunate to have almost 70 family members living here in San Diego. We meet regularly once a year for Shabbat at the La Jolla Cove. The valiant efforts of some family members to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our family indicates an ongoing  core commitment to Judaic values and principles. The same values and principles continue to maintain the family bonds here in San Diego.

This experience researching our family’s past has given me a greater appreciation for:

  • the secular and religious freedoms we have in the USA
  • the importance of family
  •  the need as Jews to be ever vigilant
  •  the central role Israel plays in our lives.

I believe the freedom and  prosperity  that we Jews have enjoyed over the past 60 years is directly related to the establishment of the state of Israel.

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Gaylis is a physician based in San Diego.  He will tell about his travels and genealogical research in a presentation called “From Shtetl to Shtetl” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, in the Astor Judaica Library at the Lawrence Family JCC.

Imagine what hypocrites would do without Israel to condemn

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Ben Kamin

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO–Sometimes one wonders what the media, the pundits, the leftists, the Presbyterians, and most of Europe would all do if they did have not the Jews to examine and excoriate.  Certainly it’s a collective straight line away from their own inexhaustible layers of racial hypocrisies, inquisitions, crusades, slave-trading, and discarding-all-principles-for-oil that comes with their parlor anti-Semitism.

Since BP (then the Anglo-Persian Oil Company) first raped that land, now called Iran, for oil in 1908, there has been a love-hate liaison with the Arabs that has manipulated the American consumer, cost the lives of the thousands of American soldiers in several business war adventures [Kuwait-Iraq-Saudi Arabia], while conveniently stonewalling our finest ally in the region, Israel, as the scapegoat for any and troubles.

For us, world history has been an oil leak, from betrayal to BP. 

The current, essentially unchecked gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig, and the attendant destruction now wrought upon the waters, coast, wildlife, environment—not to mention the hard-working people, economy, and the future of a significant portion of the United States—remains a toxic allegory of this entire duplicity.

Millions of words of analysis and somber reflection, if not steaming chastisement, fill the pages and testimonies of the world’s press and legislative records about Israel’s bungled incident with the cynically presented “peace” flotilla.  Not a lot of parallel consideration has been given to Egypt’s quiet cooperation with Israel’s arms blockade of the Hamas-locked Gaza, or to the fact that Turkey’s sudden and overwrought concern for the Palestinians does not seem to extend to their refugee camps in Lebanon, or to the fact that Jordan massacred manifold times more Palestinians in 1970 deliberately than Israel ever has in defense of its borders, or that the United Kingdom (whose academic centers practically offer anti-Semitism as a curriculum item) invented white colonialism.

Moreover, while it is invigorating that South Africa is hosting the World Cup, it is also beyond any realm of pretense for that nation to join in the knee-jerk labeling of Israel as an “apartheid” state.  Such a libelous claim was again obviated when one of fourteen Arab members of the Israeli Parliament, Azmi Bishara, who was on board the raided flotilla but then addressed her fellow legislators in Jerusalem two days later (I’m not saying she wasn’t heckled).  Try that same scenario in Teheran, Cairo, Damascus, or even Istanbul.

The Israeli people, feisty, democratic, weary, filled with self-awareness, though unwilling to ever give up their remarkable country, are undergoing a thorough and painful period of introspection in the wake of recent events and the larger question of this 43-year occupation of territory that followed the 1967 war forced upon them.  Jews all over the world join with them in contemplation and reflection, hope and prayer.

We are not doing it because the chorus of anti-Semitism is getting louder and uglier.  We are not going to suddenly capitulate on anything, however.  For us, world history has been an oil leak, from betrayal to BP.  So you see, it’s just that we are not going to be marched to the gas chambers ever again.

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Rabbi Kamin is based in San Diego.  This article also appeared on examiner.com

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.