Likud President of the Knesset Wants to Strengthen the bond between Jews and Arabs

Israel President Reuven Rivlin has long been a strong supporter of minority rights in Israel. Under Israel’s parliamentary system, Rivlin heads the Knesset, or the county’s parliament. In that role, Rivlin is the official head of state and the chief executive. However, most of those powers are largely ceremonial, as the Prime Minister holds most of the real power. Nevertheless, the President is an important symbolic role, one that Rivlin has used to champion many causes that he personally values.

Throughout his career, Rivlin has defended the rights of Arab-Israelis and other minorities. Though a member of Likud, Israel’s right wing party often known in the west for its hawkish views, Rivlin has used his position to reach out to Muslims and strengthen the bond between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. In 2010, as Speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin even made an official visit to a largely Arab Israeli city of Umm el-Fahm, viewed by many in Israel as the epicenter of anti-Jewish agitation.

During a recent and highly publicized burning and killing of a Palestinian toddler in the West Bank, Rivlin led the charge in denouncing the attack. He issued a statement in both Arabic and Hebrew proclaiming that terrorism from either side will not be allowed to triumph.  Furthermore, he acknowledged that Israel often takes a lax approach to treating Jewish terrorists, and sometimes encourages extremism to flourish. Sadly, shortly after, Rivlin received numerous death threats from right wing extremists. One Facebook post read “You bloody loser, your end will be worse than Ariel Sharon’s, you will see. I pray that another ‘Yigal Amir’ [referring to the killer of Yitzhak Rabin] will rise to cleanse you and the Arabs from our Jewish country, and so I wish you ill health and any other suffering.”

Reuven Rivlin’s highly publicized views, along with his high ranking membership in Likud, are somewhat of an enigma to western observers. Afterall, Likud is often denounced in the west by human rights champions and international observers for encouraging settlements and promoting the occupation of territory in the West Bank.

However, to those familiar with Israeli politics, Rivlin’s positions are not at all surprising. Israel’s political parties are weak and rarely unified. Likud, or “consolidation” in English, is itself a coalition party of various factions. Its founders former Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir famously headed pro-Zionist military groups Irgun and Lehi during Israel’s formation, but the party was only able to come to power through an alliance with leaders like the former Minister of Foreign Affairs David Levy, a champion of union rights and blue collar workers, typically from the Sephardic community. By merging Ashkenazi Zionist elements with the bread and butter economic concerns key to winning over blue-collar Sephardim, who are often discriminated by the ruling elite, Likud established itself as uniquely capable of forming a governing coalition.

Rivlin himself is a staunch supporter of settlements in the West Bank and proponent of a one state solution, declaring that the “West Bank settlements are as Israeli as Tel Aviv.” At the same time, his Sephardim support makes him, and other Likud leaders, more qualified to do the kind of bridge building and fence mending that he has championed throughout his career.

Fox News Contributor Echoes Carson, Blames Jews for the Holocaust

Last week, in response to the latest mass shooting in America, Republican 2016 Presidential candidate Ben Carson blamed the Holocaust on Nazi gun control. Carson, echoing what he wrote in a section of his book A More Perfect Union, said I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.There’s a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first.”

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that monitors anti-Semitism statements, quickly and swiftly condemned Carson. The group has long opposed such comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany. National Director Abraham Foxman stated “The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

Though a 1938 Nazi law did ban Jews from owning guns, the small number of personal weapons in the hands of a relatively small minority group in Germany, about 214,000 people, would not have the ability to stop the rise of the Nazis. Furthermore, in instances where there was Jewish resistance to the Nazi war advances, Jewish death quickly followed, in some cases in a more rapid and more brutal fashion. In the Belarus capital of Minsk, for example, Nazi soldiers murdered and hanged Jewish resistance fighters with signs warning others not to follow their lead. In the Warsaw ghetto, 13,000 Jews were instantly murdered after an uprising that killed 20 Nazis. The rest were sent to extermination camps.

Notwithstanding, Fox News contributor and resident anti-semite Dr. Keith Ablow defended Ben Carson. Ablow did not dispute The Anti-Defamation League’s assertion that the few guns possessed by a few Jewish people would have done nothing to stop the Nazi genocide. Instead, he claimed that fiercer Jewish resistance would have preserved a “more courageous mindset” for the Jews. “The mindset that Jews surrendered with their guns is far more important than the hardware they turned over: They surrendered the demonstrated intention, at all costs, to resist being deprived of liberty.” said Ablow. Apparently, if Jews only signalled to the Nazis that they were ready to fight, Hitler would have decided not to commit genocide against them.

Ablow’s and Carson’s statements are the latest in a long and historic revision by conservative pundits to paint Jews as weak and passive, and therefore partially responsible for their own death at the hands of the Nazis. Now, coupled with gun fetishism and fantasy survivalism commonly part of the white nationalist movement, the statements are reaching an entirely new level of hate. 2016 Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz recently said that the Second Amendment provides “the ultimate check against government tyranny.” With the statement, Cruz, a sitting Senator, has openly declared that he is arming in preparation for an insurgency against the US government.

The radical right is too unhinged to be part of a serious discussion on control control. Mass shootings no longer matter. Regardless of the merit of gun legislation, guns cannot be regulated for the sole reason that they are necessary to either perpetuate an armed rebellion, or prevent a Holocaust at the hands of our government.

The Fight Over Jewish Identity in Israel

Jewish identity has been deliberated by Jews for centuries. A recent movement in Israel is giving this debate new life in an age of increasing Jewish intermarriage and growing secularization.

In 1948, when tasked with establishing a new set of rules for the young republic, Israel’s leadership turned what they deemed matters of religion over to the government rabbinate. Questions like who is a Jew and who is not a Jew were to be determined by the country’s Jewish elders. Over the years, however, the rabbinate has become increasing insular and out of touch from the realities of daily life. Though the vast majority of Israelis do not consider themselves Orthodox or Haredi, many decisions, including those relating to Jewish identity, are decided with the strictest adherence to the halakha, or ancient Jewish law. This has led to some absurd outcomes and increasing calls for an alternative method of Jewish conversion.

Ira and Claire Silverstein married 44 years ago in New Jersey. Prior to marriage, Claire, who was raised Episcopalian, converted to Judaism by Ira’s family rabbi in their conservative congregation. Since then, the family has kept kosher in the home, lit Shabbat candles, and held themselves out as Jewish. Their three children attended Hebrew school affiliated with their conservative congregation. Two of their children have since married Jewish partners themselves. When the older son, Jacob, went to Israel with his Jewish wife, he learned that although his mother converted at a relatively young age, he is not recognized as a Jew. “It’s really shocking and insulting” said Jacob. “I grew up more Jewish than most of my Jewish friends. It’s like they spit in my face.”

Secular Jews in Israel joke that the synagogue they do not attend is Orthodox. In a recent survey, only 23% of Israeli Jews responded that they always attend Shabbat services, and over half responded that they sometimes or always perform work in public. Jews that do attend services regularly often do so in a more modern, secularized, tradition-oriented version of Orthodox that mirrors the Conservative and Reform traditions in North America and Europe.

Nevertheless, individuals that are converted by an Orthodox rabbi are recognized as Jews by the rabbinate, but Jews converted by a Conservative or Reform rabbi are not, irrespective of their adherence to the halakha or commitment to the religion and people.

Furthermore, the system is ripe with fraud. Adopted children and converts alike often refuse to adhere to the Orthodoxy’s strict demands, choosing instead to lie about their adherence to the converting rabbi. Stories of bribes to rabbis are not unheard of in a society where Jewish recognition is often tied to economic opportunity.

In the case of Israel’s many immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe where records are sparse, many simply embellish their Jewish linear connection, or pay their hometown rabbi to vouch for their Jewish identity. The system “punishes and insults the honest, and rewards the dishonest – those that pay the rabbi,” said Jacob Silverstein.

Silverstein who does marketing for online pawn shops says the pawn dealers he works with are more honest than some of the rabbis he knows.

Now, an Orthodox rabbi is promoting an alternative to the traditionally recognized conversion process. Rabbi Seth Farber describes the project as a direct challenge to what he sees as an overly restrictive and unnecessarily harsh system. Farber believes that the current approach is turning people off and undermining the unity of the country. Citizens sometimes must serve in the military, but cannot officially consider themselves Jewish. The alternative conversion court setup by Farber began working this summer and has since approved over 50 conversions. Farber hopes to convert 2,000 people in his first year, a number he believes he will have no trouble reaching.

The alternative conversion process requires candidates to show knowledge of Judaism and a commitment to living a Jewish life. The panel of Orthodox rabbis subjects the candidates to a test prior to granting a conversion. “It is led by Orthodox rabbis, who, like the ultra-Orthodox led rabbinate, follow halakha. But it is not as rigid in measuring Judaism through behavior” says Farber. Rather, it “aims to open doors.”

Alternative conversion courts are still not officially recognized, but proponents believe that the tide is turning and it is only a matter of time before the Israeli government breaks up the rabbinate monopoly on conversion. That won’t end the debate of who is Jewish, but it will no longer keep converts in limbo.


5 Companies You Could Start Today

Are you trying to make money apart from your day job? Are you out of work and considering starting your own company rather than look for employment again? You don’t have to be a worker, you could be a founder. Consider these potential companies that are easy to start and maintain, as long as you have the skills and the drive to make them a success.


These days, it might seem like everyone has an opinion on everything. Blogging is no longer the unique pursuit it once was, simply because there are so many. But if you believe in your writing skills and your ability to make your point or spread valuableinformation, you could start a blog easily and quickly make an impact in your niche. Through the use of affiliate marketing and AdSense, your blog could grow to be a steady source of side income or even full-time income for you.

You could use your blog as leverage to become a freelancer. Freelance as a blog creator, a social media expert or a writer. There are many who are willing to pay for these skills. The benefit? Your commute to work is short, as in, non-existent. Just power on your computer and start your day.

House Cleaning

Do you like to organize? Do you like to leave places looking better than when you arrived? Consider becoming a house cleaner. You can make a significant hourly wage. And if you do good work, you are invited back every week. A consistent client can become dependable income for you. You may not even have to purchase your own cleaning supplies – just use your client’s as part of the deal. While it is a labor intensive pursuit, it can be supremely satisfying as well.

Interior or Exterior Painting

If you are good with a paintbrush, wield it to make cash. Many people would love to have the interior or exterior of their homes painted, they just simply don’t have the time. With word of mouth and local advertising, you can become the town’s go-to when a homeowner wants a room painted quickly and without having to do it themselves. This company would take some research to start if you have no experience. You need to be able to estimate the amount and price of paint before offering a quote, but maybe conduct a few trial runs for family and friends to get your feet wet.


You can watch children in your home if you are kid-friendly, fun-loving and responsible. Parents love at-home daycare because of the one-on-one attention their child may not receive at a facility. Beware, you’ll have to get licensing from the state and you may be subject to inspections, but the joy of having cute kids around and getting paid for it may be worth it.

Pet Care

There is a myriad of options when it comes to taking care of people’s pets. You can become a dog-walker and find regular clients on a daily basis. You could be a pet sitter and only watch pets when their owners are away. You could become a pet waste cleaner, regularly cleaning up pet owners’ yards so they can avoid the mess themselves. You could combine pet sitting with house sitting and expand your business as you go. You could become a dog groomer. If you love animals, consider caring for pets – its a big business, with many opportunities.

The Jewish Futures Conference

November 7th in Denver, Colorado
The Jewish Prosumer: The Move from Consumer to Producer in Jewish Life and Learning

Rarely, does an opportunity present itself for emerging voices to take center stage before the movers and shakers of an entire community. This competition provides you with the opportunity to share your ideas about how to shape the Jewish educational landscape of the 21st century. We encourage you to seize this moment to be bold, brave and visionary as we stand at the crossroads of what many have claimed to be a new era of Jewish life.

The 2nd Jewish Futures Competition is part of the Jewish Futures Conference being held on Monday November 7th from 12:45 to 3:30pm at the Jewish Federation of North America’s annual General Assembly in Denver, Colorado.

Last year’s winners, Patrick Aleph, Russel Neiss, Michael Sabani, and Charles Schwartz have all gone on to receive accolades and major communal grants since their appearance at last year’s conference.

Sponsored by the Jewish Education Project and JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute, and hosted by Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Futures Competition invites your thinking on how to create a dynamic Jewish future.

The Jewish Futures Conference will bring together visionary thinkers, passionate individuals, and inspiring presentations in a conference designed to shift the horizon of our thinking in Jewish education.

Advances in media and technology are propelling rapid changes in the ways we live and learn that extend far beyond the technologies themselves. The Jewish Futures Conference will provide a space to imagine, learn and engage in purposeful and courageous conversation about the future of Jewish education and how it can thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

The theme for this year’s Jewish Futures Conference and the focus of the Competition is: The Jewish Prosumer: The Move from Consumer to Producer in Jewish Life, Living, and Learning.

How will Jewish life, living, and learning change as we move to a society in which individuals are not only consumers of information and culture, but also producers of their own and others’ experiences?

We invite you to share your answers to these questions in a way that is engaging, provocative, thoughtful, and perhaps even inspirational. Click here to read more about the video competition.

The Jewish Futures Conference

Ideas, Inspirations and Visions.

Dare to dream big for Jewish education. The first-ever Jewish Futures Conference – November 8th in New Orleans – is the place where it will happen and is the place to be.

Communal leaders, educators, and educational entrepreneurs and forecasters will convene at this extraordinary program – during the 2010 General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America – to chart a course for the future of Jewish learning and education into the 21st century and examine social, economic, technological and community forces and trends.

As professionals, educators, and forward-looking thinkers making an impact on the Jewish future, we will be inspired, challenged and energized to be agents of change within Jewish education and our greater community.

The Jewish Futures Conference, 8:00 to 10:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8th in New Orleans. Breakfast will be available from 7:30 a.m.

Jewish Futures Competition

How Do You Envision the Future of Jewish Education?

In a national competition this summer, forward-looking thinkers produced four-minute videos presenting views of the future shape and scope of Jewish education. The best of these – judged by a respected panel of Jewish educators and communal professionals – will be showcased at the Jewish Futures Conference, Nov. 8 in New Orleans.

The winners will be at the conference to present their ideas live and to engage with attendees.

“The competition ensures that emerging voices are given the space they deserve,” said David Bryfman, director of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership of BJENY-SAJES, co-sponsor of the conference. “Ideas can and should come from all angles and sources – established organizations and new and young people alike.”

The winners of the Jewish Futures Competition will be announced and showcased here in late-September.