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Komen Race for the Cure to be run in Israel

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From left, Hadassah President Nancy Falchuk, Susan G. Komen lay leader Hadassah Lieberman, and Komen CEO Nancy Brinker speak with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat at a press conference in Washington on April 28. Courtesy of Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The world’s largest breast cancer organization, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is partnering with Jerusalem, Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, health advocates, and scientists for a week of breast cancer-related events.

The Komen organization is launching the Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative, a partnership with nongovernmental organizations in Israel, to enhance advocacy, awareness, screening, and treatment of breast cancer in Israel during the week of Oct. 25 to 29.

A series of events will include a think tank on breast cancer, a mission to Israel, and Komen’s famed Race for the Cure, which will be held just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.

While not an overtly Jewish charity, Komen has deep Jewish roots. Nancy Brinker started the organization in 1982 after her sister, Susan Komen, died of breast cancer. Brinker is Jewish, as was Komen.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has invested more than $27 million in funding for international breast cancer research and more than $17 million in international community education and outreach programs. Komen has partnered or funded programs in more than 50 countries.

While most of the money raised by Komen goes to general breast cancer causes, the organization has given $2 million for research in Israel through the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, Beit Natan, and Life’s Door. In the United States it has ties to Hadassah, Sharsheret, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

This will be the first time, however, that Komen has held the 5K Race for the Cure in Israel.

“This is exciting. For me it is very exciting,” said Hadassah Lieberman, who joined Komen as its global ambassador several years ago when the organization ran its first international race in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The race has since been held in countries such as Germany, Italy, and Egypt.

“We have been thinking about Jerusalem for a while,” said Lieberman, the wife of Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. “It has been one of the places where these things take a while to coordinate.”

According to Komen officials, breast cancer is the most common form of women’s cancer in Israel, accounting for nearly 30 percent of new cancer cases in the country. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel each year.

In bringing the race to Israel, Susan G. Komen for the Cure hopes to spark new collaborations with organizations such as the Israel Cancer Association and to raise awareness of breast cancer in Israel.

“Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s very first international research grant went to Israel 16 years ago, and we have enjoyed longstanding friendships and productive collaborations in Israel ever since,” Brinker said in a statement announcing the Israel project. “The new Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative takes our relationships to the next level — in partnership with the city of Jerusalem, Hadassah, government leaders, advocates, and our global partners — as we work to address the critical issues in breast cancer for the women of Israel and the world.”

This might seem a precarious time for an international fund-raising organization to broaden its ties with Israel, with the country feeling the fallout of the flotilla incident in terms of public opinion, but Lieberman says she does not believe it will be an issue for Komen’s fund-raising.

“Everyone, whether it is Jewish organizations or Christian populations, is really excited about this race because we never have had a chance to do it in Jerusalem,” she said. “It’s very been exciting and positive, particularly at times like this, when you have to understand that this illness has no border and boundary and you understand the cure has no border and boundary.”

Lieberman added, “It is very special to be able to go to the Kotel to put a note in the [Western Wall], and for some of these women to go there and have a prayer for themselves or for their sisters’ or aunts’ health, and spread awareness around Israel.”

JTA

 
 

Italy in transition

As new era begins, an uptick in anti-Semitism

Ruth Ellen GruberWorld
Published: 02 December 2011

ROME – Crowds on the streets of Rome jeered and cheered late last month when their long-serving, scandal-plagued prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, stepped down. A choir even sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in front of the presidential palace as he handed in his resignation.

Italy’s Jews do not expect Berlusconi’s ouster to have specific repercussions on their community, or on Rome’s close relations with Israel. Indeed for many, these questions are largely secondary to deep-seated concerns over the general impact of the government shake-up as Italy struggles to regain financial footing and restore a tarnished international image.

“Will something change in respect to the Jews?” asked Laura Quercioli Mincer, a Jewish intellectual and university professor. “I didn’t even ask myself this.”

The lack of concern for Jewish welfare as Berlusconi leaves political life is a sign of the relative security and stability enjoyed by Italian Jews. However, a report released in October by the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ Committee for the Inquiry into Anti-Semitism found mounting levels of anti-Semitism in the country.

The parliamentary report cited a 2008 study by Italy’s Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation that shows that 44 percent of Italians express attitudes and opinions “in some way hostile to Jews” and that 12 percent are “fully fledged anti-Semites.” Of Italians aged 18 to 29, some 22 percent were found to be hostile to Jews. The figure was even higher among males living in northern Italy, the heartland of the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

The report was the fruit of more than two years of work by the committee, which was chaired by the journalist Fiamma Nirenstein, a parliamentarian for Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. It also revealed a dramatic proliferation of anti-Semitic websites and social networks, and a level of hatred against Israel that the report says goes far beyond the limits of legitimate criticism.

The committee, instituted in 2009 by the president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, was composed of more than two dozen members of parliament from all political parties. Its work involved analyzing polls and surveys, holding hearings with experts and carrying out other investigations.

“We have been attempting to understand the new aspects of this phenomenon, which is as aggressive and genocidal as it always was, but it is presently hiding itself by assuming new forms,” said Nirenstein at the official presentation of the report.

In general, Jewish attitudes toward Berlusconi echo mainstream right-left political divisions.

“The Italian Jewish community is a mirror of the country as a whole,” said Daniele Nahum, vice president of the Milan Jewish community, which with more than 6,000 members is the country’s second largest after Rome.

Jewish political figures occupy prominent positions on both the left and right. They include Emanuele Fiano, a member of parliament for the leftist Democratic Party, and Nirenstein, a Berlusconi ally.

A flamboyant billionaire media mogul who dominated Italian politics since the mid-1990s, Berlusconi, 75, was elected in 2008 to his third (although not consecutive) term as prime minister at the head of a center-right coalition that included his People of Freedom party and the Northern League.

In a recent interview with the Israeli daily Israel Hayom and reprinted on Nirenstein’s website, Nirenstein called Berlusconi “a brilliant person.”

“In a period when Italy was entirely in the hands of the communists and the Catholics, he took Italy and ushered it into the era of modern economy,” she said. “All the rest is less important to me.”

Berlusconi has had a complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with the Jewish world. He was notorious for telling “Jewish jokes,” making tasteless references to the Shoah and committing other gaffes on Jewish matters.

His staunch support for Israel, however, won him and his center-right government backing from many of Italy’s 30,000 Jews and plaudits from groups like the Anti-Defamation League.

Still, many Italian Jews remain firmly opposed to Berlusconi and his political allies, and they deplored the backing he received from some far-right politicians and his alliance with the Northern League.

“We here in northern Italy sense the influence of the Northern League more vividly than in the south,” Venice University Prof. Shaul Bassi, an active member of the Venice Jewish community, said in an interview.

“In my opinion, it’s racist,” he said. “It’s been a surprise how Berlusconi could ally himself with a party that uses the same type of rhetoric that the Nazis used against foreigners.”

Nahum said, “Berlusconi’s relationship with Israel was positive. But then again he retained close ties with the dictatorial Arab regimes. The failure of this policy could be seen during the Arab Spring.”

Gad Lerner, an influential leftist Jewish TV host and political commentator in the national media, celebrated Berlusconi’s downfall. He described the day Berlusconi resigned as a “day of liberation” for Italy.

“What happens next is uncertain,” Lerner wrote on his widely read blog. “But the shame of being represented in the world by a man like that is now behind us.”

JTA Wire Service

 
 
 
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