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ADL hosts key Iran players at centennial meeting

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

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the ADL’s Abe Foxman, and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta all spoke at the ADL’s centennial. ADL/David Karp

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.

Mr. Hagel used the opportunity to announce that the United States is providing Israel with six new V-22 Osprey aircraft in an “historic agreement” that will enhance the range of Israel’s military.

“The Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen,” he said, noting that he ordered the shipment be expedited.

Mr. Hagel went on to introduce his predecessor, Mr. Panetta, who received the ADL’s William & Naomi Gorowitz Service Award. Mr. Panetta, also a former CIA director, called for negotiations to determine Iran’s seriousness, while maintaining “healthy skepticism.” The Iranians are unlikely to give up on uranium enrichment so the United States must be ready to use military force to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons, he said.

Mr. Panetta urged caution not only toward Iran, but also toward such rising powers as China; he also warned about the possible re-emergence of Russia. He also predicted that cyber warfare could be the “Pearl Harbor of the future.”

“This is a time when we must maintain our military strength and our role in the world as a world leader,” he said. “We cannot retreat from the responsibilities the United States has in the world today.”

Political gridlock in Washington, however, is the biggest threat to U.S. security today, Mr. Panetta added. Government shutdowns send messages of weakness to the rest of the world, creating “self-inflicted wounds” that can be avoided.

“Our leaders have to be willing to take risks,” he said. “The real strength of America lies in the American people; it lies in those men and women in uniform who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to protect us.”

Ms. Power, speaking earlier in the day, praised the ADL’s mission, calling National Director Abe Foxman, who lives in Bergen County, “a fearless advocate of fairness and an outspoken defender of truth — and by outspoken, I mean breaking-the-sound-barrier outspoken.

“When most leaders speak, people listen. When Abe Foxman speaks — what other choice do we have?”

Turning to the crisis in Syria, Ms. Power said that the United States seeks an end to the killings and a new Syria that is representative of all religions, opinions, and political affiliations.

She emphasized that President Obama is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. She credited the international support the president has garnered for multilateral sanctions on Iran for pressuring Iran to change its tactics about nuclear negotiations.

The level of mistrust between America and Iran is deep, she said, and she understands skepticism of diplomatic efforts. America is not “engaging Iran for the sake of engaging Iran,” she said, and “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

“By engaging, by probing, by negotiating, we are striving to secure an unambiguous and verifiable guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful one and that its government will not build or acquire a nuclear weapon,” Ms. Power said. “We must get this done and, if we do, the world will be safer and prospects for stability throughout the region will improve.”

The ADL released its latest poll on anti-Semitic attitudes in America, which showed that 12 percent of Americans harbor anti-Semitic feelings. That is down 3 percent from the 2011 poll. The poll measured Americans’ agreement with various statements of anti-Semitic rhetoric, from Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus to how much control Jews have of the media. When the ADL began its poll in 1964, it found that 29 percent of Americans held anti-Semitic views.

“It is heartening that attitudes toward Jews have improved over the last few years,” Mr. Foxman said. “The poll shows that while we have made great progress in promoting understanding in American society, the most enduring anti-Semitic canards continue to hold sway among some segments of the American public.”

Modern anti-Semitism has transformed from Nazis and Skinheads to the demonization of Israel, said Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy tasked with monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, during a session on global anti-Semitism. The U.S. government does not believe Israel is above criticism, and it should be treated like any other state, Mr. Forman said.

“When that criticism goes to the three Ds: delegitimization, demonization or double standards on Israel — that’s when that criticism crosses the line from a U.S. government perspective,” he added.

The U.S. Jewish community has to mobilize against anti-Semitism as it did for Soviet Jewry in the 1980s, Mr. Forman said, but this fight doesn’t have visible, concrete results, as that one did.

The U.S. government has to be involved as well, he said; that is why the position he now holds was created in 2004. Finally, he urged the Jewish community to be open to allies in the Christian and Muslim communities.

“These voices are important allies we will need to mobilize if we’re going to fight anti-Semitism,” Mr. Forman said.

Anti-Semitism: Behind the numbers

The Anti-Defamation League survey of the American people found that 12 percent of Americans harbor deeply entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes. Specifically:

14% — agreed with the statement “Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.”

15% — believe Jews are “more willing to use shady practices.”

17% — say Jews have too much control on Wall Street.

18% — say Jews have too much influence over American news media.

19% — believe Jews have too much power in the business world.

24% — agreed the movie and television industries are run by Jews.

26% — believe “Jews were responsible for the death of Christ.”

30% — continue to say American Jews are “more loyal to Israel” than to their own country.

Overall, the poll found a 3 percent decline in anti-Semitic attitudes since the ADL’s last survey in 2011.

Source: Anti-Defamation League

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‘A do-it-yourself disease’

Before Saddle Brook walk, families of ALS patients talk about the disease’s impact

In early 2014, just shy of his 12th birthday, Eitan David Jacobi of Teaneck told his parents he was having trouble raising his arms. It was particularly hard for him to shoot basketballs.

This was a first for the youngster, said his mother, Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, who described her son as an active, funny, and very social kid.

In fact, she said, he had spent the previous summer as a camper at Ramah Nyack. And when he fell off a horse in early November, “we told him to get back on.” Usually that’s good advice. But Eitan did not have the strength to stay on the horse.

“We didn’t have a clue,” Rabbi Forman-Jacobi, a past vice-principal of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies. “It took us until Thanksgiving to get to a neurologist.” By that time, Eitan was “unable to reach to get to the microwave or to open cabinets.”


News from a Jersey girl

CNN’s Dana Bash talks at a benefit for the Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School

Dana Bash is CNN’s chief congressional correspondent.

At 43, she has more than a decade of high-visibility work for the network behind her, and she will provide its coverage of the almost ludicrously crowded Republican field, as more than two dozen candidates compete for camera time and voter approval.

Ms. Bash is also a graduate of Pascack Hills High School, a self-proclaimed Jersey girl, and a deeply committed Jew.

Ms. Bash will speak on Sunday, May 3, at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, to benefit the Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland. Laurie Nahum and Rick Krieger will be honored that evening for their service to the school as well.


Gap year alternative

Teaneck native offers new gap year option for boys

At the end of the summer, hundreds of recently graduated yeshiva high school students from North Jersey will board planes bound for Israel, where they will spend a “gap year” of intensive Jewish studies before starting college.

Many of them will thrive and mature. But many others will skip classes and flirt dangerously with newfound freedom far from home, wasting their potential and the money their parents spent on tuition for a program that probably wasn’t a good fit for them from the start.

“On any Thursday night in Jerusalem, you can go to the center of town and see hundreds of young people involved in chaotic behavior — drinking, drugs, and violence. And the overwhelming majority of these kids are from America or England on one-year programs,” said Dr. Simcha Chesner, director of two Jerusalem high schools for boys with severe educational and emotional challenges: Yeshivat Bnei Chayil for Israelis and Matara Therapeutic Boarding School for English-speakers.



Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would launch an international campaign to cancel the Goldstone Report after its author, ex-South African Judge Richard Goldstone, wrote in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post that Israel did not intentionally target civilians as a policy during the Gaza War, withdrawing a critical allegation in the report.

Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.


Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”


Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

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