Thursday, January 26, 2012
Sunday, December 04, 2011
By Dovid Efune
When attending the annual conference of Chabad emissaries in New York, I am frequently tempted to contrast it with similar conventions whose attendees are mandated with securing the Jewish future. Particularly the Jewish Federations' General Assembly comes to mind as it often takes place around the same time.
Last year, following the Chabad conference, in an article entitled 'Why Donors like Chabad,' I pointed to a structure that secures almost immediate ROI for venture philanthropists free from red tape and bureaucracy. This year, surrounded by over 4000 emissaries at the grand banquet, I was inspired to expand on this idea from a different angle.
Chabad's rapid growth and unbridled success is undeniable, as Britain's Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks expressed in his keynote address to the gathering, "You, the Shluchim (emissaries) are among the most important people in the Jewish world today." Even for many of the other successful Jewish outreach groups that have emerged since the era of Chabad dominance, admittedly or not, it has been through a borrowed page from Chabad's book. So what is the secret to Chabad's success?
Since as early as the Israelite slavery in Egypt, the greatest threat to Jewish continuity hasn't been physical, but spiritual. Today, it is well known that far more Jews are lost to assimilation and out-marriage than to Islamic terror or any other threat.
In dealing with this crisis, two divergent groups emerged among activists. One group, pioneered by the founders of the Haskala movement argued that Judaism had to be brought to the people. The laws needed to be loosened, and the rituals modified to suit the more cosmopolitan zeitgeist. For the Orthodox, the opposite was true. The only way to secure the Jewish future they argued was to double down, expel all external influences and distractions, and create closed communities of Jewish observance and tradition.
The founders of the Chabad movement recognized the strengths and weaknesses in both schools of thought combing the ideologies in a winning formula. The Jewish principles of faith could never be diluted; after all, the process of dilution never ends. As such, Chabad maintains absolutist principles of authentic Jewish traditionalism. For some adherents they are practical, for others aspirational, but the core ideals are sacrosanct.
However, Chabad vigorously opposes isolationism, and endeavors to hand-deliver its messages to every single Jew on whatever level of practice they are comfortable with. The flexibility is within the Jew, not within Judaism.
Chabad has got it. Chabad has categorically answered all the questions and has understood the secret to guaranteeing the Jewish future. Now, their only focus is on the task at hand, getting the job done.
It is interesting to note, that at most grand Jewish conventions, the vast majority of attendees are donors. Conferences and banquets are peppered with organization staff. At the Shluchim convention however, donors are by far in the minority, illustrating the centrality in Chabad of the mission over the means.
Last Friday, commemorating three years since the horrific attacks on Mumbai that left a Chabad emissary and his wife dead, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by Warren Kozak. He wrote, "In another community, the violent deaths of such a young and promising couple might have sent shivers through the leadership, prompting them to pull other emissaries from the field. But Chabad's leadership did the opposite, immediately sending another couple to take their place," This bold act demonstrated yet again the degree of commitment and dedication that the movement's followers have ascribed to their mission.
Investor Warren Buffett famously said, "Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing." Chabad donors understand exactly what they are doing.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.algemeiner.com for more information.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Paul's positions on Israel have been almost uniformly derided. Whilst claiming to be non-interventionist on the issue, he has routinely adopted Arab talking points on Israel, even comparing Gaza to 'a concentration camp.' His Isolationist mantra may appeal to fiscal conservatives, but in the real world its implementation would create a global power vacuum that would likely be filled by supporters of Israel's enemies.
Although highly critical of Obama administration policies toward Israel, in a recent National Review article, he explained the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood, saying that "when Israel lost confidence in its ally (the United States), their position understandably hardened. This led to the Palestinian Authority also losing hope in the peace process." While sympathetic, Huntsman blames PA actions on Israeli positions, representing a fundamental misunderstanding of Israel's predicament.
At a recent New York fundraiser I heard Herman Cain firmly proclaim "if you're messing with Israel you're messing with the U.S.A." While his sentiments seem to be in the right place, his lack of experience and knowledge of the intricacies may mean that he will leave major decisions in the hands of others, which could prove more risky for Israel. This unfamiliarity was demonstrated when he was recently asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace about the Palestinian Arab 'right of return' claim, where he responded "Yes, they should have a right to come back if that is a decision that Israel wants to make."
At a press conference in New York and earlier Jerusalem Post column, Perry outlined his positions on Israel. He strongly opposed the Obama induced settlement freeze, and called on Palestinian Arab leaders to "publicly affirm Israel's right to exist, and to exist as a Jewish state." Like Romney, Perry favors 'Negotiated Settlement,' and in the absence of Arab compliance, would refrain from placing the onus of the blame on Israel.
Famously accusing President Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus," in his book 'No Apology' Romney shows sympathy for and understanding of Israel's challenges. While still favoring and pledging to support a negotiated two state settlement, based on a position paper posted on his website and his comments in a recent National Review Online article, he would allow Israel to take the lead on security issues and he would fight against unilateral Arab actions and anti-Semitic attacks on the State. At Tuesday's televised foreign policy debate Romney was the first candidate to pledge that his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel. His policies would likely be most similar to those of George W. Bush.
"No country can be expected to conduct peace negotiations with a terrorist organization, or with a Palestinian Governmental Authority that joins forces with such a terrorist organization," declared Gingrich at a Republican Jewish Coalition event. Like many of the other candidates, he supports the status of Jerusalem as the "undivided capital of the Jewish state." Widely viewed as the smartest candidate, his views translate into nuanced and comprehensive pro-Israel policy.
A video posted on Bachmann's website demonstrates a notable understanding on Middle East issues. Her first trip to the Holy Land was in 1974, when, at age 17 she joined a group of Minnesota teens to spend a summer in Israel. At a recent dinner for the Zionist Organization of America she said "if I am President, not one inch of Israel will ever be on the chopping block," uniquely expressing the view that any territorial concessions are dangerous for Israel.
In a recent off the cuff campaign trail interview, Santorum broke ranks when he schooled a reporter on Israeli history. Regarding development in the territories of Judea and Samaria, he said, "the bottom line is that that is legitimately Israeli country. And they have a right to do within their country just like we have a right to do within our country." He also denied the existence of 'Palestinians' as a distinct people, thus dismissing calls for the establishment of another hostile Arab state on Israel's border. He did not clarify what the legal status of West Bank Arabs should be.
Monday, October 10, 2011
God is Doing Well in the Polls These Days”: Over 1000 Watch Senator Joseph Lieberman Deliver 6th Annual Gershon Jacobson Lecture
"God is Doing Well in the Polls These Days": Over 1000 Watch Senator Joseph Lieberman Deliver 6th Annual Gershon Jacobson Lecture
New York - Senator Joseph Lieberman was warmly welcomed by over 1000 people as the featured speaker at the Sixth Annual Gershon Jacobson Lecture, held on October 3rd in Manhattan's famed Park East Synagogue. Sponsored by Shefa Yamim, Senator Lieberman's historic lecture on "the two subjects banned from most families' dinner tables" – Religion and Politics – was hosted by the Gershon Jacobson Foundation and The Algemeiner.
And for that, the Senator said, "God Bless America," going on to note that in 5772 years of Jewish history, Jews have had more freedom, success and opportunity in America than anywhere except Israel. In the Senator's opinion, the only stumbling block to Jewish success in America is the limitations Jews place on themselves: "Fear of anti-Semitism among Jews is much greater than the reality of anti-Semitism among Christians," he said. When a hand lettered sign reading "Viva Chutzpa" appeared at an Hispanic presidential rally, said the Senator, it represented to him the "basic sense of opportunity that America provided…a ticket with a Jewish American got a half million votes more than the other ticket – an objective indicator of the religious tolerance that was the dream of our founders."
Commenting on the upcoming 2012 Presidential election, Lieberman said he "does not share the anxiety about candidates' open professions of faith…Jews get nervous, remembering that such discussions are often a precursor to bad times," he said, but quickly advised, "Keep in mind the extraordinary history of religious freedom, tolerance and acceptance, and the constitutional framework that protects us." Further, said the legislator, we are living in a "remarkable time when the relationship between Christians and Jews is at an unprecedented good level." He gave special recognition to the "great movement of change" among Christian Evangelicals.
"It's a tough time in American life," Senator Lieberman acknowledged as he wrapped up his speech. "Hundreds of millions of Americans are pessimistic about America's future. I don't buy this pessimism. This century will be another great century for America. Don't ever sell such a nation short!"
This annual lecture is a program of the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Foundation (GJCF), established in 2005 after the death of Gershon Jacobson, the long-time editor and publisher of the The Algemeiner. Jacobson, one of the most respected and influential Jewish journalists of recent history, was described by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as a "warrior for truth." He served as a courageous, independent advocate for the most important issues facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The GJCF, which bears Jacobson's name, is dedicated to perpetuate his pioneering spirit by serving as a valiant media voice addressing the most compelling issues of our time, with vision, integrity and moral clarity, informed by the power of 4000 years of Jewish experience and wisdom. The organization is directed by Simon Jacobson and Dovid Efune, and is overseen by a highly prestigious tribute committee. The GJCF is responsible for publishing the weekly Algemeiner and has recently been referred to by Fox News as the fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America. For a comprehensive description of Algemeiner and GJCF activities, please visit www.gjcf.com or www.algemeiner.com.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
The Ultimate New Year Greeting
By Dovid Efune
For many Jews this time of year provides an opportunity, not just for personal renewal, but for the revival of thinning bonds and the reestablishment of relationships that have withered. A pervasive mood of collectivism descends upon Jewish communities around the world and a numerous variety of well-wishing expressions are mutually exchanged.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Dovid Efune
Following the Holocaust, two phrases stand out above all others as concrete universal Jewish resolutions. The first, 'Zachor' (to remember), is to ensure that the past will never be forgotten and its memory will always serve as a guide for the future. The second, 'Never Again,' is not limited to the horrors of a particular time or place, nor by extent or methods, but rather it symbolizes the Jewish people's collective resolve to never stand by the blood of their brethren and to never allow innocents to be brutalized for the crime of being Jewish. Yet it was only days ago that communities around the world were devastated once again by news emanating from Israel, that five innocent souls were murdered in cold blood.
Holocaust remembrance has been a commitment that the Jewish community has consistently lived up to, but what of securing a safe Jewish future? What is the purpose of a moving memorial or museum, if not to serve as a stark reminder of what human beings are capable of and what is likely to occur if the guardians of moral justice are not vigilant in their duties?
Whilst mindful of a history of tragedy, Jews must not be defined by their victimhood but by the strength of their moral resolve. It is the Jewish ability to act as the vocal moral conscience of the world that will ensure that 'Never Again' is not just a slogan, but a universal clarion call to concrete action.
Today, the Israel Defense Forces stand at the forefront of this battle, and one can have no doubt that they will spare little effort in capturing the killers and bringing them to justice. Their ongoing efforts to ensure the safety and security of Israel's citizens will be intensified as the gravity of what they are fighting for has become more real.
But Israel is not only defended by its brave soldiers; everyone can take action – specifically within the US – where silent or active facilitators, excusers, and those who seek to misdirect the blame abound. It is crucial that they are held responsible and accountable for their public positions and statements and are never allowed to embolden the wretched hand of terror.
In this particular case there are two specific morally perverse agendas that many are working to propagate. The first is the myth that Jewish development in Judea and Samaria is the motivating force behind Arab barbarism. The second is that this attack was an isolated incident with no context or responsible party beyond the direct perpetrators.
The first and obvious culprits are the Palestinian Arab Authority, who, with a statement by Mahmoud Abbas on Israeli radio, denied outright that incitement is rampant. Even as the Itamar victims were buried on Sunday, Fatah named a square in El-Bireh after the leader of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre.
There is much that can be done to combat Arab incitement. First and foremost, a concerted domestic political effort to keep this issue at the forefront of all Arab-Israeli discussions, and support those groups that monitor and bring attention to the daily fever pitch vitriolic anti-Semitism rampant in state-sponsored Palestinian Arab media.
The News Media reporting was atrocious, with various networks using neutral terms to describe the killers whilst other generally buried the story.
The BBC of course was worst of all, as was pointed out by honestreporting.com:
"The BBC, however, virtually buried the Fogel family's massacre, once again demonstrating its obsession with the settlement issue above all other issues relating to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. No dedicated reportage of the brutal attack was featured elsewhere on the site. Instead, subsumed in a story of settlements, it warrants only a few lines. The BBC does, however, report that the attack "has shocked many Palestinians". Of course, the BBC failed to mention that Hamas described the attack as a "heroic operation" while sweets and candies were handed out in Gaza in celebration. The BBC has exercised its own moral judgment that says that the issuing of building permits in settlements is the cause of terror. Otherwise, the story may have included statements from Israel's Prime Minister Netanyah u attributing the terror attack to Palestinian incitement."
Many have partaken in letter writing campaigns to various media outlets, but what is far more effective is an active campaign to discourage advertisers from using these platforms. Protesting to companies that support CNN and the BBC with their advertising by explaining the moral implications of their activities may go a long way. When businesses are made aware that the overwhelming majority of Americans are favorable to Israel, they may think twice about establishing affiliations with the guilty networks.
What was most disturbing of all was the statement issued by the White House that to the untrained eye may have appeared appropriate. However, statements of this significance are very carefully crafted and every word is expertly positioned; it opened by saying: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of five Israelis in a terrorist attack in the northern West Bank, and we offer our condolences to their loved ones and to the Israeli people," and concluded with this troubling statement, "we call on the Palestinian Authority to unequivocally condemn this terrorist attack and for the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be held accountable."
By juxtaposing the request for Palestinian condemnation with the desire for the perpetrators to be held accountable, the Obama administration effectively exonerated the PA from Netanyahu's accusation of incitement.
It will take constant vigilance and courage on the part of Jews around the world to combat the tide of injustice and to impart the narrative of truth to misguided decision makers. Over time this is a feat that can be achieved, and is crucial to fulfilling the eternal Jewish promise of 'Never Again.'