I hope all of you have voted. If you haven’t yet, please take a few minutes and go tovotemercaz.org and vote for MERCAZ, which is slate#2. Particularly as a result of the elections in Israel, it is important that the Conservative/Masorti Movement send a large delegation to the World Zionist Congress. We want to be able to make it clear that we support an Israel that reflects our values.
Also, we encourage you to add a fifth question to your seder this year. Encourage all those at your seder to vote. THE FREEDOM TO BE ME – A FIFTH QUESTION FOR THE SEDER: Why is this year different from other years? Because a World Zionist Congress will be taking place this year, and we have the ability to cast our vote for a different kind of Israel, one that is infused more fully with the values of pluralism, democracy, egalitarianism, social justice, environmentalism and the pursuit of peace.
Click here to download the new Fifth Question for the Seder
Message from Rabbi Paul Freeman (Chair United Synagogue Israel Committee):
We’ve been encouraging you to vote MERCAZ – Slate #2 in WZC elections.
We’ve been asking you to have your members vote MERCAZ-Slate #2 in the WZC elections.
Here’s an added opportunity – a way to make new votes provide support to Israel’s Lone Soldiers!
Please pass this along to members, family and friends.
Go to www.voteMERCAZ.org, click the “Vote Now” button, follow the instructions, and vote MERCAZ, Slate #2.
Go to http://tinyurl.com/
LoneSoldierSupport and complete the form. Then ask all your friends to follow steps 1 and 2!
Registering your vote helps us raise up to $10,000! Let’s not leave that money on the table!
The deadline for participating is midnight April 30. Any synagogue having more than 50 votes can direct how to apply to help Lone Soldiers. Of course we will offer suggestions, as well.
You have a double opportunity to do good. Support MERCAZ – Slate #2 AND let these young men and women know how much you care.
Statement about the Israeli elections and tensions between the United States and Israel
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism is represented on the board of directors of the JCPA. The following statement was released by the JCPA after its meeting in March:
The aftermath of the Israeli elections has been extraordinarily difficult for supporters of Israel. There has been no shortage of partisan rancor related to the Prime Minister’s speech at a joint session of Congress, negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program, comments made during the Israeli election and the reaction to those comments.
There are strong, passionately felt, and often sharply competing narratives within the Jewish community regarding these issues. Some are critical of the American President, and others of the Israeli Prime Minister. These differences will come into play again when we hear whether a framework agreement has been reached between the P5+1 nations and Iran. Undoubtedly, there will be challenges for the Jewish community, either way. Additionally, many of us are still feeling the effects of the summer war in Gaza and are anxiously anticipating the resulting UN report, which will likely prove to be problematic. These are times that try our souls.
As community relations leaders, we must take a step back and acknowledge that the continuation and escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Israel have the potential to do harm to our historic special relationship. Now is the time to engage in respectful dialogue with all those who care about the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. While it may not be realistic to strive for unity, we must try to create a climate of civility and mutual respect for competing views, and we must help members of our community to take a deep breath and act strategically. Friends of both the American and Israeli administrations should communicate in a positive fashion with leaders in both countries to implore them to take steps to reduce tensions.
In your conversations, you should reflect the following principles:
The JCPA maintains its position: the organized American Jewish community should affirm its support for two independent, democratic and economically viable states — the Jewish State of Israel and a State of Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security.
Much as we would condemn racially-based electioneering in our own or any other country, the JCPA registers its opposition to this choice of language during the Israeli elections and similarly welcomes the apology that followed.
We hope that all parties will acknowledge two salient decisions made recently by the Israeli government: to transfer tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority and to freeze construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.
We support the unprecedented efforts by the last two Likud-led governments to augment economic development in the Arab sector, with particular emphases on increasing employment opportunities and improving access to higher education.
We are concerned by some comments made by President Obama and other administration officials in the aftermath of the elections and are specifically concerned about the prospect of diminished American diplomatic support at the United Nations. We are pleased that the President clarified: “When I said that we have to now do an evaluation of where we are, it’s not in reference to our commitment to Israel’s military edge in the region, Israel’s security, our intelligence cooperation, our military cooperation. That continues unabated.”
The differences in opinion over how to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons are real and we must have a substantive conversation about them. That conversation is best shaped in a way that addresses the serious policy issues at stake without devolving into partisan language. While we may differ on what the best tactics are, we all are united in our determination to keep Iran from obtaining the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
We have been in difficult situations before vis-à-vis Israel and its relations with the American government, but the Israeli-American alliance always emerges intact. As Congressional Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) said at a dinner arranged for Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer to connect with Democratic members of Congress: “What people need to do right now is read a little bit of history, take a deep breath and relax, because every administration has had moments of tension with Israel, and it’s always forgotten.”
We must look to those in our communities who have strong relationships with the incoming Israeli administration and/or strong relationships with the Obama administration to ask both sides to strive for a cooling-off period. We need time to heal so that Israel, America, and American Jews can rededicate ourselves to nurturing and building our historic and mutually beneficial partnership.
We ask the Israeli government to support bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution and to continue to deepen its efforts to achieve equal opportunity for all of its citizens. We are equally clear that the U.S. Administration should chart a positive course for relations with Israel; this is an essential component of all efforts to foster peace and stability in the region.
At the JCPA Task Force meetings on March 23, 2015, a panel on domestic and global anti-Semitism presented some frightening statistics. One of the speakers compared anti-Semitic attacks in France and the United Kingdom to those in the United States over the past seven years. France averaged 77 attacks/year, putting French Jews 40 times more at risk of an attack than an American Jew. The United Kingdom averaged 81 attacks/year putting British Jews 75 times more at risk of an attack than an American Jew. There was considerable discussion about the historical roots of anti-Semitism in Europe. In the US anti-Semitism is class based and political.
Part of the discussion focused on cyber hate and some of the difficulties dealing with it. The Anti-Defamation League has put together guidelines of how to deal with this kind of attack. It is clear that education is very important and that actions need to be taken on a state by state basis to get schools to deal with prejudice, the Holocaust and genocide. The guidelines can be downloaded here.
On this final day (March 20, 2015) of the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings in NY, I am sorry to report that the Commission once again adopted its annual political resolution condemning Israel on its treatment of Palestinian women. The text of the Resolution, introduced by South Africa and sponsored by the G77 and China is found by clicking here.
Nelly Shiloh, Israel’s representative to the CSW, delivered the excellent response in English and in Arabic. The US voted against the resolution. The EU and Japan made a statement and abstained. The final vote was: 27 Yes; 2 No and 13 Abstentions.
Did you know there is an International Parliament of the Jewish People that represents you?
Your ideas. Your priorities. Your vision of Israel.
There is an election right now for delegates.
MERCAZUSA is the political arm of the Conservative/Masorti movement.
A vote for MERCAZ ensures an Israel that we can all identify with and be proud of:
Vote for Mercaz, Slate #2 in the Zionist Congress Elections:
Vote now at votemercaz.org
You do not have to be a member of MERCAZUSA to vote. You must be over the age of 18 by June 30, 2015, and live in the U.S.
(Please note there is a $10 fee –$5 for those under 30. This is an AZM fee to pay for the cost of the election.)
You will also be represented.
To make sure to maximize representation in the Canadian delegation, join MERCAZ Canada now.
The strength of our delegation translates to success in affecting the allocations of the Jewish Agency and its more than $300 million annual budget. More than $2 million annually in direct allocations and indirect program subsidies helps fund Masorti institutions in Israel, represents a significant part of Masorti Olami’s budget to support congregations in South America, Europe and elsewhere, and to support Nativ, Ramah Seminar, USY Pilgrimage, and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. We encourage you to actively get family, friends, members of your sisterhood and congregation to vote.
If you have questions, please click here.
Thanks to all of you who voted in the most inclusive resolutions election we’ve ever held. We passed these six resolutions:
You can read the resolutions on the Women’s League website. Log in, go to Download WLCJ Member Materials to find 2014 resolutions. Consult these resolutions which contain recommendations for sisterhoods.
The Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healingturned 15 years old this month. First published as a full page ad surrounded by more than 800 names of leading religious leaders, today more than 4600 religious leaders from every state in the country have endorsed the Declaration. To read more about this organization and its declarations, click here.
Consistent with our resolutions insisting that women should have no restrictions on reproductive health access, together with 29 other faith based organizations, we signed onto a letter to Congress objecting to the proposed legislation House Resolution 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
The legislation would end access to abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, with some exceptions. These exceptions include risk to the life of the mother, rape and incest of a minor. However, a form showing that the rape was reported to law enforcement must be provided before the procedure could occur. There is also a paragraph stating that abortion doctors would face a fine or up to 5 years in jail for illegally performing an abortion, but the woman herself would face no such charge. The House leadership decided to forego a vote on this bill primarily because of the letters and e-mails they received in opposition to the bill.
However, immediately upon the demise of that bill, a bill left from 2014, H.R. 7No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 was submitted and passed. This bill prevents federal funds from being used for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. This includes no abortions in a federal or District of Columbia health care facility, by any physician or other employee of the federal government or District, and makes changes to the Affordable Care Act that would not allow premium assistance on any plan with abortion coverage. It would also exclude abortion coverage from any multi-state qualified plan offered in a state health care exchange. Poor women would suffer the most.
In 2014, 15 states enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. In addition, states adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections. There are states that enacted measures to expand abortion coverage. However, by 2014, 27 states had enough restrictions to be considered hostile; 18 of these can now be considered extremely hostile. The entire South is now considered hostile to abortion rights, and much of the South, along with much of the Midwest, is extremely hostile to abortion rights.
Women’s League has signed onto amicus briefs on the state level on marriage equality that assert that same sex marriage bans violate not only the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. We have indicated to the Anti-Defamation League that we will also sign onto their amicus brief on this topic coming to the Supreme Court.
In November, the White House launched the Interagency Hate Crimes Coalition. Coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council, it includes the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, tDepartment of State, Health and Human Services, and the United States Agency of International Development. This initiative will address the prevention of violent hate crimes, respond to discrimination that has not yet reached the level of a hate crime and effective responses to hate crimes. The group will meet quarterly and will seek input from community leaders during those meetings.
The first meeting was held January 30. Women’s League participates through the Hate Crimes Coalition Group convened by the Anti-Defamation League.
Executive Director Sarrae Crane and Janet Tobin (president of MERCAZUSA and former Women’s League president) attended a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at which Alan Gross was hosted. He had been arrested in Cuba in 2009 for establishing internet service for the Cuban Jewish community, and was released after serving five of a fifteen year sentence. Mr. Gross thanked the Conference leaders and members for their efforts on his behalf. Malcolm Hoenlein and other Jewish leaders had meetings with high-level American and Cuban officials starting right after his arrest that continued until his release. In addition, there were many rallies and demonstrations for his freedom. Mr. Gross indicated that knowing he had so many people advocating on his behalf sustained him.
The Mission of the United Nations Is All-Out War Against Genocide – Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs) addressed the UN General Assembly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
United Nations Vote on Palestinian Peace Plan
On December 30, the Security Council convened to vote on a draft resolution submitted by Security Council member Jordan that would have set a 12-month deadline to reach a final peace deal with Israel and pave the way to a Palestinian state.
The vote capped a three-month campaign by the Palestinians to win support for a resolution that sets a timeframe for ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. The resolution called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories to be completed no later than the end of 2017.
Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Russia voted in favor of the draft; Australia and the United States voted against; Great Britain, Lithuania, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Korea abstained.
To read more click here.
Report from Women’s League Representatives to the United Nations
In September 2014 we attended The Global Anti-Semitism, A Threat to Peace and Security conference sponsored by the Ambassador of Palau. We also heard from Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor who reported that there has been an increase in anti-Semitism worldwide. The ambassador noted that there is a 130% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. Europe’s anti-Semitism has increased by 400% and there is a 1000% increase in South America. Prosor finds little difference between the anti-Semitism of 1937 and the anti-Semitism of 2014.
Two important sessions were called in December 2014. “The Tale of Ancient Jewish Culture, the Arab Countries” was about the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were expelled almost 70 years ago and the Arab countries have not accepted responsibility for their crimes.
Ambassador Prosor called for the United Nations to establish a documentation center to prove to the world how Jews were expelled from Arab lands in which communities and synagogues were destroyed. Israel absorbed most of these refugees.
Women’s League Resolutions
Now is your last chance to vote on the Women’s League resolutions. We decided to present the resolutions to all of our members instead of just to the limited number of people at a convention.
There are six resolutions:
You can read the resolutions on this website. Log in and go to: download WLCJ Member Materials.
To vote, click here.
Voting is open until December 1, 2014.
World Zionist Congress, October 2015
The 37th World Zionist Congress will convene in October 2015 in Jerusalem. This Congress is held every four to five years and is the Parliament of the Jewish people worldwide. About 300 delegates represent Diaspora Jewry with another 200 delegates from Israel. Next to Israel, the United States is the largest delegation with 145 delegates.
Elections will determine how many delegates will represent MERCAZ USA. The election will take place from January 13, 2015 until April 30, 2015. It is critical that we maintain or increase the number of our delegates. MERCAZ was the second largest delegation, with 22% of the vote, at the last election in 2006. A direct result of the election is funding for Masorti (Conservative) institutions in Israel, South America, Europe, and elsewhere. It also supports American Conservative Movement programs such as USY’s year course, NATIV, Ramah Seminar, and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
We will be asking for your help to get out the vote in your sisterhood and congregation.
On November 6, President Barak Obama recognized the 5 year anniversary of the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. According to President Obama, this Act has “strengthened the protections” against bias motivated crimes. On the same day, a White House conference was held at which a series of initiatives were announced. To read more about this topic, click here.
Conflicts in Syria and Iraq have forced many people from their homes. At the present time, the US has a refugee admissions goal of 70,000. This petition requests that President Obama increase the ceiling for refugees in 2015 to 100,000. The petition gives a good summary of what the issues are. In addition, www.yazda.org has good information about the refugees.
Fair Trade Judaica
On the Fairtradejudaica.org website you will find information about kosher fair trade chocolate including Chanukah gelt and Passover candy. The Chanukah gelt helps support the 65,000 members of Kuapa Kokoo, a Fair Trade cooperative in Ghana who are co-owners of Divine Chocolate. Fair Trade standards prohibit child labor. The children of these farmers attend school rather than work in the fields. Besides chocolate, they offer other Judaica that meets Fair Trade guidelines.
Fairtradejudaica.org is running a trip to Guatemala in February to meet some of the artisans producing their Judaica.
Israeli Flying Aid
Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based, non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides humanitarian life saving aid and relief to communities in areas stricken by natural disaster or territorial conflicts. It was founded in 2005 by Gal Lousky to meet the needs of people suffering in disaster areas around the world.
IFA is dedicated to providing supplies and assistance for every individual in need, and to transcending political differences, prejudices, race, nationality, and creed. To read more about what this organization does, click here.
Communicating the Truth about Israel
Both during Operation Protective Edge and in its aftermath, there has been misinformation about Israel and a polarization of people in North America and throughout the world against Israel.
The Israel Action Network, a joint project of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and Jewish Federations of North America, has developed materials for you to use in talking about Israel and educating your sisterhoods about Israel.
They have also developed a messaging guide to teach you to effectively engage in talking about Israel.
Communications strategist Frank Luntz gave a presentation at an AEPi (a primarily Jewish college fraternity) conference. He asked if the students had ever encountered anti-Semitism. He documented the intimidation our students face on campus. Click here to view the full nine-minute video. Click here to watch a condensed five-minute version.
The following note was written by Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, an American-born Conservative rabbi who made aliyah and who is the retired Director of the Conservative Yeshiva at the Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem, regarding the funeral yesterday of Max Steinberg, the Los Angeles born and raised young man who made aliyah, volunteered for the IDF and was killed in Gaza on Sunday. Max is one of two US citizens in the IDF who have been killed in Gaza. A similar story took place the night before at the funeral in Haifa for his US comrade Sean Carmelli.
Ada and I attended the funeral of Max Steinberg this morning here in Jerusalem. When pulling off the Begin highway north, towards Shaare Tzedek Hospital and Har Herzl, the traffic was already jammed. Tens of thousands of people who never heard of Max Steinberg before yesterday were coming to his funeral. We parked half a mile away, illegally, and joined the crowd.
On arrival at the cemetery area, young women soldiers gave each person a piece of paper. I thought naively it would be about Max Steinberg. In fact, it was a message from the Home Front Command, “Guidelines for Protection within the Cemetery in case of a Rocket Alert.” When’s the last time you were told on attending a funeral that you have 90 seconds to take cover if there is a siren? “Lie on the ground and protect your head with your hands. Wait 10 minutes and then you may resume your routine.”
The huge crowd was all over the cemetery and it behaved very non-Israeli – there was no pushing, no cell phones range, complete silence, even during the remarks in English by Max’s parents and sister and brother. Max’s father said he had no regret that Max had decided to leave Los Angeles and come to Israel and join the IDF. Max’s brother Jake recalled their last time together, watching a film about Bob Marely, of whom Max was a big fan: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” Max had found satisfaction and meaning in Israel, Jake said. He concluded with another quote from Bob Marley: “Live for yourself and you will live in vain; Live for others, and you will live again.” Max, he said, addressing the fresh grave, “you lived for others. You will live in the hearts of all us, again.”
I recalled a statement made by our wise colleague Chaim Listfield over 35 years ago when we were learning Brachot Mishna 7:3, about enhancing the name of God in the zimun before Birkhat HaMazon. In practice we follow Rabbi Akiva, by adding “Elohenu” for any crowd over 10, but the Mishna gives Rebbi Yossi Hagalili’s view that for 100, and 1000, and even 10,000, the name of God is enlarged. And “when there are ten thousand v’hu, and one more…” it changes the invitation to bless God. “This is amazing,” Chaim said, “you can have 10,000 Jews together, and one more comes, and he/she makes a difference.” We were not close to the burial area, we couldn’t see the family (though there were speakers so we could hear), but we could feel that every Jew there made a difference. We came to pay last respects for Max Steinberg and to support his family, and we came away saddened and strengthened. Max “will live again,” but the “routine” we returned to after the funeral will never be the same. Yehi zichro baruch.
On Monday, July 21, hundreds participated in a joint JCPA-JFNA call to hear about the work of our partners on the ground in Israel aiding Israelis during this difficult time. A range of actions is being undertaken, including providing respite and psychological counseling to affected families, tailored and individual care to at-risk communities, and camps and activities for children who have been stripped of a sense of normalcy and a day-to-day routine. By the time of the call, the JFNA had already allocated millions to these groups during the current crisis, and leaders speaking on the call outlined their accomplishments and strategies. Monies collected by JFNA are being fully dedicated to programs on the ground, not to administrative overhead.
The callers heard from: Alan Hoffman, Director General of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Eliot Goldstein, Deputy Director, Global Resources of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Tali Levanon, Director of the Israel Trauma Coalition; Rakefet Ginsburg, Kehillot Development Director of the Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism; Avital Govrin Chief Development Officer of World ORT; Grace Rodnitski, Director of International Relations for the Ethiopian National Project; and Ilan Halperin, Director of Resource Development and Missions at the UJA Federation of NY.
The Jewish Agency for Israel is providing one-day respite trips for tens of thousands of children, supplying medication and emergency funds for victims of terror, and delivering psychological counseling to families and staff. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is helping at-risk communities including the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, and economically at-risk families. Caseworkers tailor aid to each individual’s specific needs, whether it is portable toilets or hot meals, and provide safe getaways to individuals and families. Israel Trauma Coalition is providing a “social Iron Dome,” including psychological care for families of soldiers fighting in Gaza and evacuees. Among other things, the group provides local counselors to the Bedouin community.
Masorti Conservative Movement in Israel has provided an opportunity for 600 children from the southern areas of Israel to go to camp in the north, where they can take emotional refuge, and has provided day camps for children so their parents can go to work. Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism is sending volunteers to community centers in the south and hosting families with special needs at kibbutzim for respite trips. World ORT is creating activities for children in shelters and families of soldiers, and the Ethiopian National Project is conducting respite camps. The UJA Federation in New York is crafting activities for residents closest to Gaza.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, New York, NY… Conference of Presidents leaders Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, urged the Federal Aviation Administration to rescind the temporary ban on commercial flights by US airlines to Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. “While we recognize the need to protect fliers from any danger, we believe this was an excessive measure that will only encourage Hamas to sustain the barrage of rockets and, specifically, to try to target the area of the airport.”
“We commend former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his demonstrative act of solidarity and confidence, flying to Israel on El Al Airlines last night. There are many missions going to Israel to show support for the people of Israel at this difficult time. The absence of travelers not only has a strong economic impact but also a psychological one. When the streets and restaurants are empty, it increases the sense of isolation. In fact, Israel’s American friends and supporters, Jews and non-Jews alike, stand with Israel in record numbers. We understand that Israel’s plight is our plight. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, but also the United States, and the values both countries share. We should not encourage them by invoking a ban on air flights,” said Sugarman and Hoenlein.
Women’s League partners with many organizations in the areas of social action and public policy. As partners, Women’s League participates in advocacy that is consonant with our resolutions and mission. In the past month we have participated in these activities.
Through our representation on the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, we signed a petition to ensure that Iraqi Jewish artifacts are returned to the Iraqi Jewish community and not to the Iraqi government in order for the artifacts to be properly cared for. To view the petition, follow this link.
As part of a diverse group of organizations, we joined an amicus brief filed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the Sevcik and Jackson cases in the 9th Circuit. According to the ADL, our collective voices emphasizing that there are many different religious views on marriage – and that no one religious understanding should be used to define marriage recognition and rights under civil law – make a real difference.
Women’s League is a member of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life(COEJL). This year has been designated a Year of Action aimed at achieving a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September 2014, the next Shmittah (sabbatical) year. COEJL launched their Jewish Energy Guide to provide resources to achieve this goal. In addition, Jewicology provides a list of actions to save energy. These resources can be used to inform your members and encourage them to work to improve our planet.
As a member of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Women’s League representataives sit on this council. JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow released the following statement on November 23, 2013 regarding the interim agreement reached in Geneva between the P5+1 countries and Iran regarding that state’s nuclear program:
Though Iran has done little to deserve our trust, diplomacy is preferable to military action. At the same time, we support President Obama when he says that no option should be taken off the table. Thus, we believe the interim agreement reached in Geneva today has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community. Such a final agreement, which should be negotiated in a tight time frame, must not leave Iran in a position to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or to be able to restart it with ease anytime in the future. The menace of a nuclear armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all.
We also believe that it is important to maintain strong economic pressures on Iran until a satisfactory final agreement is reached as well as the strict inspection and verification mechanisms to ensure compliance with today’s interim agreement. Economic pressures caused Iran to come to the negotiating table, and they will contribute to the effort to reach a final agreement. Intrusive inspections can help ensure Iran does not continue to development of nuclear weapons while negotiations for a final agreement continue.
The JCPA and Jewish Federations of North America hosted two teleconference briefings on the interim agreement. When we get the talking points from those meetings we will share them.
January 16- 23 is the 6th annual Fighting Poverty with Faith mobilization. For further information click here.
Since the Supreme Court began its session, the Justices have heard oral arguments in Americans United’s Challenge to official town board prayers in Greece, NY. At the same time, the town council in Brentwood, MD, decided to stop saying the Lord’s Prayer to open its meetings. The latest copy of Church and State from the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, can be accessed here.
The issue of availability of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act has had many challenges. The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the owners of for-profit companies can assert religious objections to deny their employees insurance coverage of contraceptive services and supplies in employer-sponsored health plans. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees that most private plans will have contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing for patients. Churches and other houses of worship are exempted from this requirement and an accommodation is in place for religious nonprofit organizations.
However, the administration has determined that private, for-profit businesses cannot claim to be religious employers and are not exempted from providing contraceptive coverage (the U.S. Senate affirmed this decision by rejecting a measure known as the Blunt amendment that would have granted for-profit corporations extensive “conscience” rights). The Court’s decision, if it were to grant for-profit corporations an exemption from covering contraception, could have significant negative effects on affected employees and their dependents – interfering with their ability to reap the well-documented health, social and economic benefits of contraceptive use.” For further information on this topic, click here.
Israel is a vital factor in the United States government’s overall policy in the Middle East. Congress has placed considerable importance on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship. The main expression of congressional support has been foreign aid. Since 1985, the US Congress has provided nearly $3 billion in grants annually to Israel.
In the past year, two pieces of legislation reflect the primary concerns of most American Jews today, regardless of their political affiliation or their agreement or disagreement with the current Israeli government. They are preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability and supporting security aid for Israel.
In February, the House introduced the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act- House Resolution 850, which authorizes the president to impose sanctions on any entity that maintains significant commercial ties to Iran and expands sanctions for Iranian human rights violations. There was full bi-partisan support for this significant and important legislationand the House passed the bill on July 31, 2013 by a vote of 400 to 20.
By a resounding vote of 99-0, in May the Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 65)declaring that: (1) prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon remains American policy; (2) it is essential to step up enforcement of sanctions against Iran; and (3) the United States will stand by Israel should the Jewish state feel compelled to take military action in its own defense against Iran. The resolution was co-authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The second piece of legislation is the request to urge members of Congress to support the US annual commitment of $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel for fiscal year 2014. This is part of a 10-year agreement to provide Israel with the resources to defend itself from rising threats in the region including a potential nuclear Iran, Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Again there is large bi-partisan support. The president has requested $220.3 million in additional funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 (H.R. 938 and S. 462)designates Israel as a “Major Strategic Partner of the United States” and seeks to strengthen the partnership between the two countries to confront threats in the Middle East and expands their cooperation in defense, intelligence, energy, trade and more.
Despite ongoing budget woes, it is vital that the United States live up to its aid commitment to Israel. As our one reliable Middle East ally, Israel serves critical national security objectives. Any reduction in that aid would send the wrong message to Israel’s – and America’s – enemies.
The Conservative (Masorti) Movement is represented at the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) by MERCAZ/Masorti Olami. At the beginning of November, the managing Vaad HaPoel of the WZO and JAFI both met.
Women’s League was represented in the delegation by past presidents Janet Tobin, (current president of MERCAZ USA), Gloria Cohen (recipient of the MERCAZ Olami award), and Evelyn Seelig (former president of MERCAZ USA) as well as Marilyn Wind, MERCAZ USA Vice President.
The strength of our delegation is directly related to the number of delegates that we elected to the last World Zionist Congress. Both meetings dealt with how to get more young people involved in Zionist leadership and how to combat the negative response that the word “Zionism” provokes.
There were two resolutions of particular interest to us. The first urged the government of Israel to adopt the Sharansky proposal for the Western Wall with these specific requests: