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Josh Lipowsky
 
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‘American democracy at work’

Norpac mission brings 1,000 pro-Israel advocates to Washington

Local | WorldPublished: 09 May 2014

WASHINGTON — Torrential rain didn’t stop the hundreds of Norpac members who trekked to Washington, D.C., last week to advocate on behalf of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

Roughly 1,000 people on 24 buses from across the New York metropolitan area, including Teaneck, Englewood, the Oranges, Highland Park, Manhattan, and Long Island, joined Norpac’s annual Mission to Washington on April 30. Armed with a set of talking points emphasizing foreign aid to Israel and Iranian sanctions, members of the Englewood-based pro-Israel political action committee met with 98 senators and more than 70 percent of the House to advocate for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. (In some cases, where congressional leaders were in voting sessions, members of their legislative staffs met with the Norpac groups.)

“Each of you is here because you stand for the critical, unshakeable alliance between Israel and the United States of America,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at the beginning of Wednesday’s plenary session, where he, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) praised Norpac’s members for their participation in the advocacy process and extolled the U.S.-Israel relationship.

 
 

The politics of recognition

Is Israel’s ‘Jewish state’ demand a dead end?

GeneralPublished: 25 April 2014

Can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be solved without the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state?

Is it enough for a future state of Palestine to recognize the reality of Israel but not the Jewish character of Israel?

The issue of recognition has been a sticking point throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the time of its creation in 1964, until Yasser Arafat’s 1988 declaration renouncing terrorism and calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the PLO refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy. The declaration paved the way to mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO and 20 years of on-and-off negotiations. When the sides resumed negotiations last year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a new demand: that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has steadfastly refused, arguing that the PLO already recognized the fact of Israel and it’s not up to the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s character.

 
 

Of terrorism and politics

A look back at the evolution of the PLO and Hamas

GeneralPublished: 18 April 2014

In light of the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations last week, prospects for a peace settlement seem increasingly bleak.

Add to the equation that the Palestinians remain a house divided, with Gaza’s Hamas government estranged from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the situation appears even grimmer. But it wasn’t that long ago that the Palestine Liberation Organization also was seen as a deadly terrorist group with which Israel refused to speak. As Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans try to figure out how to move forward in the crumbling peace process, it is worthwhile to take a step back and examine how the present situation came about.

The PLO emerges

“The main goal of the PLO over the years has been to insert itself whenever the Palestinian issue is discussed,” said Khaled Elgindy, who worked as an adviser to the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit in Ramallah from 2004 to 2009. “What they refused to accept was for others to deal with the Palestinian question without their involvement.”

 
 

Israel’s bridge to Hamas

Local | WorldPublished: 07 March 2014

For five years, Hamas held Sgt. Gilad Shalit in captivity in the Gaza Strip, and the global Jewish community prayed and lobbied for his freedom.

In 2011, back-channel negotiations between Israel and Hamas secured Sgt. Shalit’s release in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

At the center of those talks was Dr. Gershon Baskin, co-founder and chair of the Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, who for several years has held quiet talks with contacts in the Gaza Strip while reporting back to the Israeli government. Dr. Baskin will speak Sunday at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes about his role in the negotiations and their aftermath. The talk is co-sponsored by Barnert Temple and the American Jewish Committee’s New Jersey chapter.

 
 

ADL hosts key Iran players at centennial meeting

Bergen County’s Abe Foxman leads discussion on foreign policy, anti-Semitism

Local | WorldPublished: 08 November 2013

NEW YORK — The United States is testing Iran’s diplomatic intentions, but remains “clear-eyed” on Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror and exporter of extremism, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said.

“But foreign policy is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “If we can find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, we are wise to explore them.”

Secretary Hagel’s comments on Iranian nuclear negotiations came last week at the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial meeting in Manhattan, which attracted some 600 people. It also attracted American policy heavyweights as speakers, including Mr. Hagel, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Discussion centered on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

 
 

Running for Blue Card

LocalPublished: 18 October 2013

As Jews, we are responsible for one another. And we have a special responsibility to our brothers and sisters who survived one of humanity’s darkest chapters.

Of the approximately 75,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, about one-third live below the poverty line, on an average annual income of only $15,000. Thanks to organizations like the Blue Card, they are able to put food on the table, keep their heat and lights on, and get necessary medications.

Blue Card provides emergency aid to 2,000 Nazi victims across the country who live in poverty. My grandparents, who survived the horrors of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, rebuilt their lives in America after the war with the help of organizations like Blue Card.

 
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Christie: ‘Time to bring competition to education’

Governor presses for school choice during OU breakfast speech in Teaneck

LocalPublished: 11 October 2013

New Jersey has failed in its commitment to education, Gov. Chris Christie said during a visit to a Teaneck synagogue Sunday morning.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 500 people at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s second Legislative Breakfast at Congregation Keter Torah, Christie called for more competition in the state’s educational system. The governor long has been a supporter of vouchers to allow for school choice, and he brought that message to an audience that largely pays into the public school system with its taxes on top of paying tuition for private religious day-school education. Christie, however, focused his message on the need to provide options for families in failing public school districts, without specifically addressing vouchers as an option for day-school affordability.

 
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Little unemployment insurance at shuls

WorldPublished: 08 September 2013

When Manya Monson was laid off in 2010, she knew she wouldn’t receive unemployment benefits, but she figured she could manage.

A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant.

“It made things very tough at that point,” Monson said.

Had she been employed at the local pharmacy, Monson would have been entitled to several months of unemployment insurance payments to help tide her over until she found a new job.

But Monson was the youth director at Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a Conservative synagogue in Elkins Park, Pa., and under federal law and the laws of most states, religious organizations are exempt from unemployment insurance taxes.

 
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Jewish groups ramping up response to sex trafficking

WorldPublished: 16 August 2013

It started when she was 13.

“Sarah” became involved with a man 10 years her elder. He began setting her up with his friends for sex. She knew they would sometimes pay him, but she always thought she could trust him. He became her world.

Even though he would beat her, Sarah internalized it as affection. When she tried to leave, threats to her family kept her coming back.

“I didn’t realize I was a sex-trafficking victim until I got out,” said Sarah, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home and is now in her 20s. “I thought he cared about me. I started distancing myself from my family and he was the only support I had.”

While Sarah’s is not a typical story for an American Jewish girl, neither is it unique.

 
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Cloning the oak?

As historic Teaneck tree goes down, scientists hope to propagate new ones

LocalPublished: 14 June 2013

As the rain poured from the sky like teardrops on Monday, the roar of chainsaws echoed around Teaneck as more than 250 years of history came to an end as workers cut down the massive red oak tree overlooking Cedar Lane.

The tree, estimated to have been between 250 and 350 years old and thought to have been the fourth largest red oak in New Jersey, stood on the property of the modern Orthodox synagogue Netivot Shalom, but thanks to a Puffin Foundation grant, Bergen County had taken responsibility for the tree’s maintenance since 2011. Last month, county inspectors declared that the tree had become a danger to passersby and had to go.

 
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