Spotlight on the JDC Entwine: Exposing Young Jewish Leaders to the Diaspora and World

In communities from South America to New Zealand, local Jews are faced with a mounting wave of anti-Semitism, spilling into the streets, online media, sports fields and learning institutions. As the scourge of Jew hatred intensifies, our leadership has been paralyzed, unable to adapt from decades of relative calm to today’s eruptions of bigotry and anti-Jewish attacks. What we need are new leaders to invigorate our communal institutions, and who best to accomplish this other than our youngest and brightest? I am glad to report that the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has made developing future leaders a prime priority and I want to highlight a small part of their work.

The JDC was founded in 1914 and is today the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. One of its core missions is grooming future community leaders. With programs like Entwine, JDC gives North American young adults exposure to the wider Jewish Diaspora and its affairs. Through the Global Jewish Service Corps Fellowship, JDC Entwine provides young Jewish influencers and advocates a fully paid, year-long service experience in Jewish communities in locations like India, Argentina, Turkey, Hungary, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Israel and more. Once there, fellows create “innovative programs that respond to specific needs [of local communities], gain an understanding of pressing global challenges, and explore Jewish values underlying their service”. Herehttp://www.jdcentwine.org/jsc you can learn more about some of the past and current accomplished Jewish Service Corps fellows and the amazing activities they’ve been involved with at home and around the globe. Understanding that many young leaders have commitments preventing them from embarking on the year-long fellowship, JDC Entwine also offers shorter trips for young professional to travel to global Jewish communists for 10 days and expose themselves to the lives and trials of other diaspora Jewry.

Through JDC Entwine foreign service trips, our communities’ future leaders are gaining first hand familiarity with the greater Jewish world. Participants will take these experiences along with them as they rise through the ranks of our Jewish intuitions and engage North American Jewish society. Connecting with other Diaspora Jews reinforces our shared sense of klal Yisrael, Jewish peoplehood. We are all facing the growing threat of anti-Semitism together, and the more we know about one another, the better we can all work to protect our respective communities and each other.

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“All Israel is responsible for one another”

(Shavuot, Psehamim 39a)

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EL PROBLEMA DEL ANTISEMITISMO EN EL ÁMBITO DEL FÚTBOL EN EL REINO UNIDO DEBERÍA ABORDARSE SERIAMENTE

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El ámbito futbolero del Reino Unido desde hace tiempo que está contaminado de antisemitismo. Cada tantas semanas tiene lugar algún episodio en el que se refleja el arraigado sentimiento antisemita o en el que están implicados actos de violencia física.

En septiembre, el club Liverpool FC tuiteó un saludo de Rosh Hashaná a sus fans judíos. El tuit fue borrado rápidamente después de que generó miles de comentarios antisemitas. En el mismo mes, el famoso jugador irlandés, Tommy McGuigan, fue sometido a una investigación por haber alentado a sus fans a “darles a los judíos un puñetazo en la nariz”.

Tan solo un mes después, un equipo de la liga juvenil (Manchester’s Maccabi) fue obligado a abandonar la cancha debido a interminables provocaciones antisemitas por parte del equipo contrario. El director del equipo agresor se negó a pedir disculpas. Y quién puede olvidarse de aquel episodio cuando fans del equipo West Ham United publicaron comentarios antisemitas alusivos a Hitler y las cámaras de gas después del partido contra Tottehnahm.

El último escándalo fue protagonizado por Dave Whelan, presidente del Wigan Athletic F.C. cuando, durante una entrevista con el periódico The Guardian, dijo que los judíos sentían “amor por el dinero”. Posteriormente, se disculpó a medias, explicando que no fue una ofensiva intencional y que tiene muchos amigos judíos. Sinceramente, no parece que entendiera las severas implicancias de actitudes antisemitas.

Esta entrevista se llevó a cabo después de que Whelan contrató a Malky Mackay como técnico del equipo a pesar de estar bajo investigación por enviar mensajes de texto antisemitas y racistas. Un eslabón más en la cadena de hechos dennigrantes protagonizados por Whelan.

El Comité Representativo de las Instituciones Judías de Gran Bretaña (BOD) publicó un comunicado explicando que consideraba que la respuesta de Whelan no era adecuada y demandando una disculpa como corresponde. También afirmaban que presentarían el caso en la Asociación de Fútbol para poner fin a este tipo de situaciones, pero eso está aún por verse.

Desafortunadamente, como la mayoría de los esfuerzos del BOD, no creo que con este comunicado fuese suficiente.

El antisemitismo en el fútbol es un asunto serio y desde hace tiempo que se viene arraigando. Por tal motivo, debería afrontarse de manera contundente por parte de la Asociación de Fútbol, así como por los mismos equipos y organizaciones de fans.

La respuesta más proactiva que observé últimamente fue la de dos patrocinadores de Wigan, de iPro, una bebida para deportistas, y de una remera, quienes finalizaron sus respectivos contratos con el club de fútbol.

El comunicado de iPro decía: “iPro Sport promueve relaciones laborales positivas sin distinción de color, raza, nacionalidad, creencias religiosas, orientación sexual o edad, y no tolera el racismo, sexismo o homofobia.

Para lograr un cambio a largo plazo, el BOD debería hablar con los patrocinadores, así como con los medios y con webs de fans. Creo que para lograr su objetivo, el BOD debería  tener una actitud más categórica. Ya vimos que comunicados y  denuncias no alcanza.

Le Congrès Juif Européen passe à l’action

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(Photo via eurojewcong)

Le Congrès Juif Européen (CJE) a commencé non seulement à demander aux autorités européennes de renforcer la protection des communautés juives, mais il s’est également engagé dans une série de rencontres avec des entités diplomatiques. La récente augmentation de leur activité vient soulager les communautés juives d’Europe, en grande souffrance après une montée de l’antisémitisme qui n’obtenait que peu de réponse de la part des responsables juifs.

En réponse à l’agression effroyable d’un rabbin qui rentrait chez lui à Anvers, le président du CJE, Moshe Kantor, a appelé “les autorités européennes à former un organisme pan-européen spécialement dédié à l’antisémitisme et à la menace islamiste radicale qui menace les juifs ainsi que le continent européen. Cela nécessitera la mise en place de ressources supplémentaires afin de mettre en commun les renseignements, de coopérer dans l’application des lois et des peines plus sévères, pour garantir la sécurité de nos communautés”

En tant que citoyens européens, la sécurité des juifs d’Europe est sous la responsabilité des autorités européennes. Dans le courant de l’année passée, des synagogues ont été attaquées à la bombe et des juifs ont été agressés alors qu’ils marchaient simplement dans la rue.

Certes, il y a une certaine importance à condamner et à lancer des appels à l’action; mais toutes ces déclarations doivent être accompagnées de rencontres avec des diplomates, de manifestations, et d’autres évènements organisés.

Cela vient donc comme un soulagement, et non des moindres, de voir le CJE envoyer trois délégués afin de rencontrer le président du parlement européen Martin Schulz à Bruxelles. Le but était de discuter des “récentes attaques contre des juifs et les institutions juives en Europe, de la montée de l’antisémitisme à travers tout le continent, des questions de sécurité et de politique ainsi que les inquiétudes des communautés juives”.

Cette rencontre est la première que le CJE a organisé depuis quelques mois. Elle montre, espérons-le, que le CJE a pris a cœur les critiques faites à son égard, et qu’il est prêt à prendre des mesures importantes pour faire face aux problèmes rencontrés par les communautés juives à travers le vieux continent.

European Parliament Rejects Anti-Semitism Task Force

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In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, allow me to inform you: Europe has a serious anti-Semitism problem. I mean massive, violent, large-scale anti-Semitism. Masses chanting “Jews to the gas” throughout Belgium, Germany and France. “Jewish-looking” citizens attacked in the streets, synagogues firebombed, and the horrific murders at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

In the current European climate, Jews have immigrated to Israel in record numbers. The director of the BBC, who is Jewish, is quoted saying “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. …You’ve seen the number of attacks rise, you’ve seen murders in France, you’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually…Having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”

If the picture is not clear enough, here’s one final detail: Children have often been the target of this reckless violence.

So you can understand why it seemed, if only for a moment, like a boon for European Jews when the European Parliament expressed great initial support for a task force on anti-Semitism. Preliminary reports stated that over 100 MEPs had expressed support for the potential task force—evidently something became warped in the process. The task force was ultimately voted down, leaving the Jewish community in a sore predicament.

The EU Parliament seems to be treating the need to combat increasing anti-Semitism with complete disregard. At this point in time, the safety of the Jewish community is more than a question—it is a priority. The situation currently stands like this: the next opportunity for the EU Parliament to create a similar task force will not arrive for several year, until new elections.

Let me remind you that after the Brussels museum attack and other attacks across Europe, European leaders pledged to deal with anti-Semitism with Europe-wide cooperation.  The promise has yet to be kept.

I believe that Stephan Kramer of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on anti-Semitism explained the situation best.

He said “Anti-Semitism is an abomination which has been around for a very long time. It has its specific roots and specific driving forces, not to mention the horrible results it produced in Europe – more so than anywhere else…Therefore, combating anti-Semitism in as efficient a way as possible would have been aided by a special framework designed to do just this. I think that most of those who voted the proposal down realize this. Therefore we have to assume that they succumbed to a warped political correctness which frowns upon calling anti-Semites anti-Semites. This is a terribly wrong signal. I am afraid that it will be interpreted by more than just a handful of people as a wink that hating Jews is, sort of, acceptable.”

I sincerely hope that European Jewish organizations will take a similar line. The time for making vague statements condemning anti-Semitism is over. Europe must take action.

Ending Poland’s Ban on Ritual Slaughter: Jews Working Together for a Common Cause

In early December, Poland rescinded a ban on ritual slaughter that threatened Polish Jewry’s ability to freely practice their religion. The ban had meant that the traditional shechita practice, a procedure of animal slaughter according Jewish law, could not be adequately observed, denying Polish Jewry access to local meat and severely curtailing their religious freedom. Fortunately, Jewish groups from across the country, continent and world, rallied together to protect Jews’ religious expression. Together, they forced a reversal of the law through legal means and set an example for the Jewish world that even the most difficult issues facing us as a people can be fought off if we work together for a common cause.

On the 10th of December, the Polish Constitutional Court struck down a law banning animal slaughter without prior stunning of the animal. The law had held exceptions for Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, but in January 2013, the Supreme Court struck down this measure. This effectively ended the production of kosher Polish meat, as the law prohibited the shechita practice, a form of slaughter mandated by traditional Judaism that is believed to be the most human and requires animals being healthy and uninjured at the time of their slaughter, precluding the use stunning methods. The law also endangered Poland’s nearly $400 million kosher meat exporting industry.  In a country that has been practicing schechita for centuries, Polish Jews were not about to take this infringement on their rights lightly and banded together to fight this law and the precedent it could set for other countries across the continent.

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(photo via Joy of Kosher)

Representatives from the European Jewish Congress (EJC), the Polish Jewish community and the Conference of European Rabbis continuously lobbied the Polish government and MPs, expressing the concerns of the Jewish community, while the European Jewish Association EJA) launched a pan-European campaign against the ban. Petitioning the Polish Constitutional Court, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (UJRCP), along among several entities appealed the ban, claiming it violated the European Convention on Human Rights and led to “discrimination in social and economic life of Jews in Poland”. The court agreed in a 5-4 decision, and today, shechita and the production of kosher meat in Poland can once again continue.

As countries like the UK debate banning ritual slaughter, and others, like Denmark, outlaw the practice, the Polish court’s decision comes at an opportune time. The campaign against the ban by Jewish organizations in Poland, Europe and the greater Diaspora, serve as a fine example of how threats to the Jewish way of life can be successfully combated by working together. I encourage future cooperation by Jews all across the world in all matters of Jewish life, and especially in combating the mounting existential threats that the world’s Jewish population is facing.

This should send a clear signal to all governments across the European Union that our communities will not allow their basic religious rights to be trampled on in contravention of the letter and intention of EU law

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor

Luxembourg Forum Takes on Nuclear Proliferation

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(photo via moshekantor.com)

I think everyone can agree that P5 +1 Iran nuclear negotiations seem to have gotten…nowhere. As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said, there’s a “less than even shot” of a nuclear deal with Iran. The dispute (and sanctions) has lasted 12 years without Iran’s willingness to make the necessary concessions. Every half a year we see the nuclear negotiations deadline fly past without achieving any agreement, only to be renewed time and time again.

It has almost become farcical to see the way negotiations play out.

Even the major Jewish lobby groups, which have been so vocal up till now, have been strangely silent of late. This comes as a surprise; the issue uniquely affects the Jewish community, as Iran’s principal target is Israel.

It does seem that some philanthropic Jewish individuals have been, at the very least, generating some discussion around the issue. Such as Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who organized the International Luxembourg Forum on the Prospects of Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation that was held on December 2nd.

According to their website, “The Forum was established pursuant to a decision of the International Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe held in Luxembourg on May 24-25, 2007.” They have been held 18 times since then. The last of these forums was held in Geneva on June 10-11, 2014.

Since its start, the forum has been headed by Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who also heads the European Jewish Congress.

The forum does not appear to provide any direct political action, but is indeed a step in the right direction. It stands as an “independent” discussion predominantly among scientists. The aim of these scientists is to mitigate nuclear threat through promoting peace among nations, and facilitating “the process of arms limitation and reduction.” The scientists come from nations worldwide, predominantly Russia and the U.S.

Their aim is noble, though with limited implication. I wish them the best and hope to see other Jewish leaders and organizations get involved in similar projects.

Central Council of Jews in Germany Elects New President

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(photo via Thoman Good)

The German Jewish community marked a major shift in December with the resignation of Dieter Graumann from his position as head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Graumann is replaced by Josef Schuster, the son of two Holocaust survivors and a physician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg who previously served as the group’s vice-president. Schuster is a bit of a controversial leader–his focus appears to primarily be uniting orthodox and liberal Jewish communities. This is, of course, a positive goal for the community, but German Jews are currently grappling with levels of anti-Semitism that must take precedence.

In his final statements as president, Graumann told the newspaper “BILD”: “For a while I noticed that anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly public and is no longer hidden. We often receive anti-Semitic messages sent according to name and address…Some people are no longer ashamed and no longer hide their hostility to Jews.”

In response to raised anti-Semitism in Germany, Dieter Graumann organized the highly publicized September rally against anti-Semitism that took place in Berlin and was attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel. His four years as head of the Central Council were highlighted by “by campaigns to stop Germany from banning circumcision, and sharp criticism of societal and political indifference toward rising hatred of Jews and Israel in the Federal Republic.”

Graumann ultimately stepped down from the position due to the immense responsibility and demanding schedule. New leader, Josef Schuster, is quite optimistic that the position will not alter his schedule and he will be able to balance it with his physician’s practice. Schuster has big shoes to fill, and doesn’t seem to be as concerned with anti-Semitism as the leader he succeeds. Let’s ensure he’s up to the task.