Social justice-y Israel fellowships

Three good fellowships for young people interested in social justice in Israel (or broaching those issues here at home), two in Israel and one in the Bay Area:

New Israel Fund’s Facilitation Fellowship is proud to invite Bay Area Jews in their 20s and 30s to apply for its second year. The Fellowship will train a cohort of 8-10 leaders to foster meaningful, direct conversations on Israel and social justice for the Bay Area’s Jewish community. Israel remains one of the most polarizing issues in the American Jewish community, and NIF’s New Generations aims to address the need for meaningful dialogue and deliberation by cultivating safe spaces throughout the Bay Area’s young Jewish community where honest and inclusive public conversation on Israel is not only welcome, but celebrated. Applications are due on January 12 by 5 pm.

New Israel Fund/SHATIL Social Justice Fellowships send 6-8 post‐college Jewish young adults to spend 10 months immersed in the movement for social change in Israel. Fellows receive a modest stipend and work for a year in Israeli NGO. Additionally, the fellowship includes monthly enrichment programs, professional development  and site visits to further develop their understanding of Israeli activism and their role as activists both in Israel and at home. Successful applicants must have excellent Hebrew language skills, or good Hebrew with strong Arabic skills. Deadline: January 20, 2014.

The Abe and Gert Nutkis Scholarship seeks to enable high-school graduates and other young adults to study full-time for an entire academic year in Israel. Recipients will receive up to $5,000 for study in a co-educational institution committed to Zionist engagement while volunteering a minimum of four hours a week with ATZUM or an organization approved by ATZUM. Priority will be given to applicants with financial need and those who have little or no previous experience in Israel. The application deadline is March 15, 2014.

Eli Valley airs our dirty laundry on MSNBC

Eli Valley, comic artist and official satirist on behalf of progressive Jewry, explained his hilarious and irascible comics on MSNBC’s talk show “The Cycle” last week, airing for all America our dirty, smelly, intermarried laundry. Kol hakavod, Eli.

Obama makes Thanksgivingukah statement

Whether you love it or hate it, “Thanksgivingukah” has reached the highest political echelon of America: President Barak Obama issued a Thanksgivingukah best wishes. Complete with recipes for the dual holiday by Susan Barocas of DC-based Jewish Food Experience! Full message pasted below the fold.

Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah.

For the first time since the late 1800s – and for the last time until some 70,000 years from now – the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving. It’s an event so rare some have even coined it “Thanksgivukkah.” As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small.

Like the Pilgrims, the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story made tremendous sacrifices so they could practice their religion in peace. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, they reclaimed their historic homeland. But the true miracle of Hanukkah was what came after those victories almost 2200 years ago – the Jewish Temple was cleansed and consecrated, and the oil that was sufficient for only one day lasted for eight. As the first Hanukkah candle is lit, we are reminded that our task is not only to secure the blessing of freedom, but to make the most of that blessing once it is secure.

In that spirit Michelle and I look forward to joining members of the Jewish community in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world as we work together to build a future that is bright and full of hope. From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

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Action alert: Tell Israel to halt bill to imprison African refugees

I’ll never understand why Israeli leaders — who annually welcome some 150,000+ migrant workers into the country from Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe — are continually trying to deport, imprison and make life difficult for a African refugees from genocide.

These Africans are not recognized yet as refugees before any authority, who are seeking that recognition as they flee horrible war in Sudan and nearby countries. They have often been trafficked into Israel, tortured and raped, and owe thousands of dollars to criminal ransomers in the Sinai Peninsula. Instead of granting them the quarter that Jews wanted and did not find in Europe or America in the 1940s, they are refused any status or work permissions, and treated as criminals.

Recently, Israel’s supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law allowing their mass arrest and incarceration. Now, the Knesset is going to pass another law that tries to flout the ruling. Instead of mass arrests and imprisonment without trial with a jail sentence of 3 years, now it will just be 1 year. The prison in the Negev will further cost the Israeli public 440 million shekels and necessary firing 560 public sector jobs.

The alternative is easy — grant them work visas just as Filipinos and Ukrainians are, grant them the same Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process as in other western countries, and work with the international community to repatriate those that Israel cannot handle itself. But until Israel offers a RSD process, no country will allow Israel to flout the international refugee system that the Jewish state itself fought to create in the 1950s.

It’s an ongoing shonde against the Netanyahu government that we would treat survivors of genocide so heartlessly. Action alert [by Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel] beneath the fold.  More »

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Fear-mongering on Iran meets LOLcatz

They say mockery is highest form of flattery, right? A web commentator (who prefers to remain anonymous) forwarded around this graffitied explanation of The Israel Project’s latest infographic. This is the same pro-settler advocacy group that brought you faked hundreds signatures on their last Iran petition and teaches their advocates to accuse Obama of “ethnically cleansing” Jews from Israel while arguing that settlements were necessary for Israeli security. After the Pew study on American Jews’ views of settlements (news flash: we’re not fans), you have to wonder whether this group is still within the mainstream.

But the Israel Project nevertheless wants you to help them undermine President Obama’s current success with Iranian negotiations. You know, only the first President in, oh, 40 years to reopen diplomatic relations with that country, halt several Israeli strikes that would have cost Israeli and American lives, and put a permanent, peaceful solution within reach. So yeah, infographic notwithstanding, I think I’ll support Secretary of State Kerry’s amazing accomplishments in the region.

Young American Jews arrested in Hebron on Shabbat Hayei Sarah

This just in, just in time for this year’s Project Hayei Sarah:

Members of All That’s Left, a collective of activists committed to ending the occupation, marked the eve of ‘Shabbat Chayei Sarah’ by staging a protest against segregation in the city of Hebron. During Shabbat Chayei Sarah, thousands of Jews gather in Hebron to celebrate the reading of the biblical passage in which Abraham purchases the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site located in the center of modern-day Hebron.

The activists intended to erect a tent on the city’s segregated Shuhada Street, adorned with signs reading, “Segregation is not my Judaism,” and to hold an alternative study session examining the Chayei Sarah text. The tent was to resemble Abraham’s Tent, which according to traditional Jewish exegesis was open on all four sides so that any passing stranger would know s/he was welcome.

Police prevented them from erecting the tent and confiscated their signs but allowed them to continue a discussion of the parsha for an hour and a half. The activists were then arrested.  +972 Mag reported that Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On intervened for their release later that night with all charges dropped.

All That’s Left member Talia Krevsky said, “Our signs are a direct response to counter some of the appalling graffiti we have seen in and around Hebron, with images of Jewish stars alongside racist statements such as ‘Death to Arabs.’ That is not our Judaism.”

 

This event would be hilarious, if Sheldon Adelson weren’t totally serious

Israel mishegas: Tel Aviv’s gay Shoah memorial, new fellowships, and fascists

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Anthony Weiner and angry Jewish voter discuss forgiveness

This via our friends at HEEB, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, an exchange on the nature of forgiveness, leadership, judgement and God between an angry Jewish voter and New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.

Two Prayers for Syria (and updated with more)

What can we pray about Syria? As the United States looks to enter the fray of a Syrian civil war, concerned American Jews and Israelis are penning responses in prayer. Shared here are two recent liturgical creations, by very different authors: The first is by Rabbi Barenblat, a Renewal rabbi at of Congregation Beth Israel in Massachusetts and the author of The Velveteen Rabbi. The second is by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement and head of the Petach Tikvah hesder yeshiva.

Both rabbis ask for both sides to display compassion, mercy, humanity and brotherhood to forestall further loss of innocent life and unnecessary revenge upon the other. That said, the Cherlow prayer leaves me a mite uncomfortable by invoking Number 35:33, that killers be killed. Nevertheless, his draft is reportedly being read by the Bnei Akiva youth movement across the religious-national world. Movement secretary-general Danny Hirshberg said on settler media, “The Israeli public needs to look beyond the screen of hate and enmity to see the pain of those civilians being hurt by the Syrian tyrant.”

Read both below the fold… More »

This is Not an Ulpan

While I deeply love learning Hebrew, ulpan often hurts my heart. I can’t help but bristle at prejudicial Israeli attitudes that go against the anti-oppression work that bring many of us there. Be they prejudices against Arabs, Jewish religion, President Obama or anything else, most of ulpan classmates take on those prejudices without question. Sadly, even enthusiastically.

Truthfully, the successful Hebrew ulpan model began under the need to assimilate huge numbers of immigrants and forge collective identity. Its very purpose was to be doctrinaire. But today, it’s apparent that parts of this model are inappropriate for the needs of some. American Jewry especially has the highest failed emigration rate, due in part to the values and worldview gap between how Israelis and Americans see society. Better dialogue between Israelis and American Jewry is crucial these days, so why would we want to enter a learning environment aimed at assimilation and affinity-building instead of engagement and equal exchange?

That is why this past year a group of American and Canadian learners banded together in Tel Aviv to launch This is Not an Ulpan, the first explicitly lefty Hebrew learning community. More »

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Naftali Bennett interrupted at MASA bash by anti-annexation chants

Thirty young MASA participants and other young Diaspora Jews stood up at their program’s end-year bash to interrupt the address of Minister of Knesset Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. The participants chanted “Diaspora Jews say ‘end the occupation,’ Diaspora Jews say ‘no to annexation.’” After being removed from the event, they distributed flyers and answered questions by other participants.

This was the first protest by a new activist group dubbing themselves “All That’s Left” comprised of North American young Jews united against the occupation. According to All That’s Left member Joshua Leifer, “The dialogue following the action led to frank and open discussions that aren’t being held enough in Diaspora Jewish communities.”

From a statement, the group wanted to draw attention to Bennett’s central leadership in the settlement movement, opposition to a Palestinian state, proposal to annex 60% of the West Bank, and racist statements against Arabs. “MASA’s choice to invite Naftali Bennett as a keynote speaker to the event does not reflect my Zionism and reasons for coming to Israel,” remarked demonstrator Isabel Frey. “It was necessary to make clear that there also are young Zionists that do not support the occupation, Bennett and his position.” More »

Service learning programs in Israel will widen the generation gap — thankfully

Spotted in Jerusalem, advertising for human rights tours for North American Jews

At the Forward, Repair the World and the Jewish Agency present their new study of service learning opportunities for young North American Jews. They argue that addressing societal needs in Israel — a context of service to others in a Jewish place with other Jews — is “unparalleled” in successfully attracting young people to visit Israel for longer than ten days, feel Jewish, and get involved back at home in North America.

But after eight years working at the intersection of the Jewish social justice sector and pro-Israel organizations, allow me to issue the Jewish community a warning: Social justice trips to Israel will widen the generation gap. So please, continue straight away. More »

A Newly Feminist Knesset — Sort Of (Updated)

Updated: New ministerial positions were appointed since time of publishing, including two more women.

There are 53 new faces in the 19th Knesset — 16 of them women. With the 11 women who retained their seats, this is one of the highest women’s representation in Israel’s parliament at 27 MKs. But it’s not just because four more women got elected than last time. Former lawmaker Naomi Chazan was wont to lament last Knesset that barely a tenth of MKs were female and even fewer were feminist. Not the case any longer. Just a week ago, all but one banded together in a new women’s lobby.

The inaugural speeches of Ruth Calderon and Merav Michaelli went viral in Israel. Other new faces include the first female Ethiopian MK, a leader of the 2011 social protests, the former CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, a city council woman from Tel Aviv, the former mayor of Herzliya, professors, print journalists and famous TV hosts.

But the road to a more feminist-friendly legislation isn’t assured as only four will hold ministries and key leaders sit in the opposition. To boot, Netanyahu didn’t attend their inaugural event.

Which is the most feminist party?

MKs will have time to prove their feminist credentials, but as far as numbers go, seven parties have female representatives. Yesh Atid has both the highest number and the second-greatest proportion with 8 all-new women among 19 total party seats.

But we can’t rely on just quantity over quality: could Likud Beiteinu’s 7 reelected women MKs possibly be more pro-women than the life-long women’s activists on Labor’s 4 MKs? Don’t be ridiculous, Labor includes both party chairwoman Shelly Yachamovich, feminist crusader Merav Michaelli, pluralism pioneer Dr. Ruth Calderon, and the leader of the 2011 social protests Stav Shaffir. Together, they’ve already submitted 18 women’s interest bills for discussion.

Meanwhile, half of unabashedly lefty Meretz’s six seats are held by women and Zahava Gal-On is reigning party chairwoman. And what about the HaTnua party, widely regarded as a one-woman party of former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with five (male) coat tail riders?And last but not least, we shouldn’t forget the Arab public’s loudest voice, Balad party firebrand Hanin Zoabi.

Who are the most powerful women?

Power can be in the eyes of the beholder, but here’s where matters are least ideal. The new cabinet was reduced to 20 ministers and 8 deputy ministers — only 4 are women when there should proportionally be at least 6-7. The four ministers are Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni (HaTnua), Minister of Health Yael German (Yesh Atid), Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu), and Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud).

[Update: Final results since yesterday show that two more women received secondary ministries -- Fania Kirshenbaum and Tzipi Hotovely, both of Likud, who will be Deputy Ministers of Interior and Transportation, respectively. That certainly gives Likud Beiteinu's slate of four women them most formal power, even if only the Ministry of the Interior is a key agency.]

This is disappointing given Israel’s below-average track record in women governmental leaders. As Ynet detailed, the country’s Equal Employment Opportunities Commission called on International Women’s Day for the government to appoint more women. Women have never chaired any of the most important committees like defense or economics, usually comprise barely 7% – 16% of committee members, and only one woman has ever been Speaker of Knesset.

And we’re left wondering how effective the most familiar of our heroines will be from the opposition, where both Labor chairwoman Shelley Yachamovich and Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On sit. Hopefully, the new women’s caucus will allow them to work collaboratively beyond their outsider positions.

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Ultra-orthodox call for protest rally against Women of the Wall; support rallies organized all over Jewish America

This weekend, a poster appeared all over ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem against Women of the Wall‘s fight for gender equality at holy sites in Israel. The poster calls for ultra-Orthodox opposition to rally at the Western Wall tomorrow Monday, March 11 at 7 am.

And in Jerusalem and cities across America, Jews are rallying to support WoW:

Monday, March 11

  • Washington DC Friends of Women of the Wall’s solidarity service and program will be across from the Embassy of Israel on Monday, March 11. Sponsors include Am Kolel, Ameinu, New Israel Fund, Eizor Moshava-Habonim Dror, Temple Shalom Chevy Chase, Temple Micah, and Washington Friends of Women of the Wall.
  • Seal Beach, California: Rabbi Galit Levy-Slater is holding a congregational solidarity event.

Tuesday, March 12

  • Join Women of the Wall at the Kotel in Jerusalem: A mini-bus (one way) leaves from Gan Hapaamon at 6:30 AM. (RSVP required at wowhebrew@gmail.com.)
  • New York’s Wake up for Religious Tolerance! solidarity minyan at 9 am on the north side of Union Square Park. Sponsors include Mechon Hadar, Romemu, Kolot Chayeinu, New Israel Fund, Bnai Jeshurun, Lillith Magazine, Town & Village Synagogue, Ansche Chesed, Society for the Advancement of Judaism, East End Temple, Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Jewish Women, and many more. (See flyer here.)

Sunday, March 19

  • San Francisco Friends of WOW will meet for a sing-in outside of their Israeli consulate at 11 am. RSVP to sdembitz@gmail.com.

Action alert: Eritrean asylum seekers to be deported

From the young activists in Israel with Amnesty International, an urgent appeal to Diaspora Jews who remember the times when we were refugees:

STOP THE DEPORTATION OF 25 ERITREAN ASLYUM SEEKERS FROM ISRAEL TO ERITREA OR UGANDA

“Your Only Way Out of the Israeli Prison is to Uganda or Eritrea” — Immigration Authorities to Eritrean Asylum Seekers detained in Saharonim Prison

25 Eritrean asylum seekers are in imminent danger of being deported back to Eritrea from Saharonim detention center in Israel. Israeli authorities in the facility told the asylum seekers that the only way they would ever get of the Israeli prison would be to go to Eritrea or Uganda. These individuals are currently being held under the Anti-Infiltration Law which mandates their automatic detention for a minimum of three years without trial.

Being released as an asylum seeker or refugee is impossible as prisoners lack access to the forms the Ministry of Interior requires to begin the RSD process. Therefore, after months of detention, many individuals have signed forms saying they want to go to Uganda and a very few have signed saying they want to go to Eritrea.

News reaching human rights groups over the last few days make it seem that even individuals who had signed to go to Uganda are now in the process of being deported to Eritrea. We are unsure exactly when/if the deportations will take place, but we do fear that it could happen over the next week. More »

“Liberating” the Western Wall — again

This morning in Jerusalem, the Women of the Wall brought heavy Israeli symbolism along with 150 participants to their monthly peaceful protest — three of the IDF veterans who captured the wall in the 1967 war. All went uninterrupted for the first time in 22 months until they departed through security, where nine women were separated and detained. Those included Anat Hoffman, Rabbi Susan Silverman (sister of comedian Sarah Silverman), and Rabbi Silverman’s daughter Hallel, and eight-month pregnant rabbinical student Lior Nevo.

Quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Ilon Bar-Tov, a paratrooper who fought in the Old City battles, “It’s unacceptable that the police are stopping women from wearing tallitot, it’s like Iran. I can’t believe they are stopping people from praying one way or another.”

Although the term “liberating” the Western Wall is hard to borrow, the symbolism is obviously aimed at Israeli mainstream ears. The iconic faces of these paratroopers grace every postcard stand and Jerusalem Day poster since the event itself. Their names are nearly household. Petitions submitted to the Supreme Court are challenging the all-haredi representation on the board of the plaza’s governing body, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. All denominations and the secular public should be able to participate in the decisions affecting the plaza, they argue.

And it’s working to force the Israeli government to pay attention. In late December, Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time acknowledged the unsustainable status quo at the plaza. The American Reform and Conservative movements, along other diaspora women’s groups, have stood solidly behind Women of the Wall. The most previous arrests of Anat Hoffman pushed even the Jewish Agency board to demand a change. The Prime Minister asked Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky to “look into the matter” and report back after the elections. Hearing that, ultra-orthodox extremist groups deplored the presence of “Zionist occupation” and “whores” at the Wall.

Do the government utterances of “unsustainable status quo” and “look into the matter” strike you as similar to another conflict in the region?

Apply for the 2013 Hollander Social Justice Fellowship — due Thursday

Do you have a social justice cause you are passionate about and want to pursue with the NHC Summer Institute community? Apply for the Hollander Social Justice Fellowship! You will receive a scholarship for Institute tuition, room, and board, and up to $100 for materials or preparation, in exchange for planning social justice oriented programming for the NHC Summer Institute community.

We expect that the strongest applications will come from people with at least three to five years of professional or volunteer experience in their area. Preference will be given to people involved in an ongoing social justice campaign (or launching a campaign) who wish to bring it to the NHC Summer Institute community. Submit an application by January 21, 2013 to hollanderfellow@havurah.org.