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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 rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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Israel launching drive to void Goldstone Report

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Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

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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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