Monday, November 12, 2018

Another Gaza Flare up - 200 rockets fired at Israel in one day

Our national Jewish Federations’ Israel office has prepared this update on the significant escalation that has occurred in the last few hours along the border with Gaza.

Over 200 rockets have been fired at Israel since just before 5pm Israel time today (10am ET), 60 of which were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. Sirens have sounded multiple times in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot. Footage of incoming rockets being intercepted can be seen here and here. One Israeli teen was seriously injured when a bus he was standing near was hit by what appears to be an anti-tank weapon in Sha’ar HaNegev, and another person was moderately wounded when a rocket struck a factory in Sderot. At least 19 light injuries have also been reported.

Residents of the Gaza area have been ordered to stay close to shelters, and public gatherings have been banned in the region. Schools and other educational institutions will be closed tomorrow; and the IDF is currently considering a similar order for Be’er Sheva. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are currently meeting with the IDF’s top command.

In response to the rockets, the Israel Air Force has so far attacked at least 70 Hamas military sites in the Gaza Strip, as well as three terror tunnels, reportedly killing 3 Palestinians. The IDF is also strengthening the numbers of tank and infantry units in the area.

The attacks in recent hours follow days of calm, with many reports indicating that a Hamas – Israel ceasefire deal was close. However, matters escalated overnight during an apparent intelligence operation. Around 9:30 pm last night there were a number of reports of fighting and explosions over the border in Gaza. While the IDF has not said what exactly occurred, the picture emerging is that a number of Israeli special forces fighters were conducting an intelligence gathering mission inside Gaza (a fairly common occurrence) when something went wrong. A firefight broke out, during which an unnamed Israeli Lieutenant Colonel was killed, and a second Israeli fighter injured. The fallen soldier, known only as Lieut Col. M (due to the sensitive nature of his position) is being hailed as a hero in Israel. During his funeral early today, which was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, it was stated that “It is possible that the story of his heroic mission may never be told.” At least seven Hamas operatives were also killed during the fight. According to Hamas, among the dead was the commander of its Khan Younis Area Battalion. It seems that Israeli air strikes were then called in to provide cover as the other Israeli fighters retreated back across the border.

This incident was followed by a series of at least 17 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza. During the heat of the fighting, flight routes into and out of Ben Gurion Airport were temporarily altered. Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Paris when last night’s fighting took place but cut short his trip and returned to Israel.

As of this writing, rockets continue to be fired into Israel. Despite the continued fighting, both Hamas and Israeli leadership have said that they do not want the situation to escalate. Israeli emergency services are responding to multiple rocket landing sites, including numerous fires. 

Jewish Federation partners, including The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) have operatives on the ground and are currently assessing needs. The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror will meet tomorrow morning with those who have been injured to offer immediate assistance. They will also offer aid to the family whose house was struck by a rocket and heavily damaged a short time ago. The Agency’s absorption centers are operating on an emergency footing. Meanwhile JDC is opening its Virtual CIL (Center for Independent Living) which serves people with various types of disabilities. The website offers advice, resources, and hosts virtual chats with professional staff.  The site will provide 24-7 support for the duration of the emergency. At the same time, ITC has activated its emergency protocols. Their resilience centers have opened hot lines, that have so far received over a hundred calls.

Our national Jewish Federations’ Israel office is in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.

I am grateful for their efforts and dedication. We send our love and appreciation to our friends, families and partners on the ground, and pray for their safety and security.



Dov Ben-ShimonExecutive VP/CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ

901 Route 10 | Whippany, NJ 07981
(973) 929-2939 | fax (973) 884-7361

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sermon on the Tree of Life Synagogue Massacre

Sermon on the Tree of Life synagogue Massacre
Parshat Chayei Sarah, 2018
Rabbi Robert Tobin
Bnai Shalom
West Orange NJ

Shabbat Shalom

Daniel Stein, 71,
Joyce Fienberg, 75,
Richard Gottfried, 65,
Rose Mallinger, 97,
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66,
brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59 and David Rosenthal, 54,
husband and wife Bernice Simon, 84 and Sylvan Simon, 86,
Melvin Wax, 88 and
Irving Younger, 69.

They are who we are. A conservative synagogue in an aging community, where shabbat morning is the heartbeat of the community. A peaceful synagogue of people fully integrated with the general American community, with a love of their neighborhood, their local sports teams, their town and their families.  A tight knit circle of people, who devotedly come to pray, hear the Torah, learn from the rabbi, find God and be with each other in life’s happiest and most sad moments. A minyan that knew the lessons of history, the importance of Israel, and the need to welcome the stranger as both a core conclusion of our own history and a basic value of America.

It is not the first time a rabbi has stood in front of a congregation to name the dead, murdered by those who hate Jews more than they hate or love anything else in life.  There are people who hate us, and want to kill us.  How do we live with that and what do we do?

Our parshah begins this morning with Avraham burying his beloved dead.  It ends with the continuation of the generations that live on.  How do we live on, and always remember our dead?

First, we must support the community in Pittsburgh to heal, recover and rebuild.  You have the websites I have sent you. Every one of us must give to that cause.

But then, we must know what this is.  This is not “unthinkable” or “incomprehensible.”  We have been talking about this for over a year.  This is what I have been talking about.

Understand Anti-Semitism.  It can take so many forms.  It is Hitler, and Nazi racism that will never be happy until every Jew has been taken to the gas.  It is White Supremacist, whose vision of a great America would segregate lunch counters, expel foreigners, and kill the Jew.  It is Hamas, who would throw out or kill every Jew in the Land of Israel to establish an intolerant form of shariah-based state in its wake.  It is the followers of Farakand who speak Jew conspiracy against the Black Man in America. If they are rich, that hate us for being communists.  If they are poor, they hate us for being bankers.  If they are ignorant, we are the educated elite.  If they are racists, we are the mongrel horde.

This one was a specific breed of Anti-Semite that I talked about a year ago on the High Holidays.  This one is related to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, with their chants of Blood and Soil and Jews will not replace us.  This one believes that only the white blood is the legitimate heir of American history.  It is called Nativism.  This one believes that a great global Jewish cabal is conspiring to invade Europe and America with Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians in order to not only weaken and take over white nations, but to cause intermarriage, interbreeding and destruction of the white genetic human.  This is called White Genocide.  This one holds tight to the phrase Nationalist, to accuse Globalists of being the Jewish international conspiracy spoken of in Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Hamas Covenant.  He is a white Nationalist.  This combination, White Genocide, Nativism and White Nationalism is a deadly trio, because the Jew is the cause of every evil in the world and in this country.  He may hate the black, but he fears the Jew.  “Jews will not replace us,” indeed. Every form of hate out there includes the Jew as a target. We are the canary in the mine.

These beliefs are not new, but they have transformed themselves into an American movement, alive on the internet, with a literature of books, blogs and music found across the country.

Now, at the risk of entering a political fight and distraction that will stop any of us from getting anything done for another year, we need to be very clear.  There is a large part of the messaging from the Trump campaign and white house that resonates with white supremacists.  This is not to say that Trump or the white house believes in white supremacism or is anti-Semitic.  But we need to listen to the anti-Semite when they talk. They will tell you that they resonate with certain words and ideas.  When Trump says, Make America Great Again, the Pittsburgh attacker buys into the idea but has his own analysis of the program. He posts, “there will be no #MAGA” as long as the “infestation” [i.e. Jews and Immigrants] continues.  To MAGA, he believes that White Genocide must be stopped, and America needs to be given back to the Nativists, and taken away from the Globalists.  It is all code language for Nazi propaganda.  When Trump says, “we need more immigrants from Norway,” it resonates with the anti-black, anti-brown, anti-Semitic agenda.  When he says he is a Nationalist, not a globalist, it resonates with the anti-Semitic Jewish conspiracy theories of the far right. The pipe bomber attacks the Globalists.  The Pittsburgh shooter kills the Jews.  How much Trump is aware of the resonance, and if it is or is not intentional is for you to discuss and for you to decide.  But you have to listen to the haters and believe what they say. They are resonating with what they are hearing, and they are posting and proclaiming it publicly.

Second, this was an act of terrorism.  Terrorism is the use or threat of violence, outside of legal parameters, to effect political change, usually against symbolic or innocent civilian targets. 
 There is a difference between a terrorist and a criminal.  A criminal will lie, and hide.  A Terrorist will tell you the truth, as long as they are not trying to hide their fellows from the authorities.  Once a lone wolf commits an attack, he will sing like a canary.  And this is terrorism.  It is not being called that enough, as if somehow Anti-Semitism or Racism can not be terrorism.  This is Domestic Terrorism.  

Third, violence – and high powered gun violence – against minorities has become a regular tool of this form of hatred.  This form of white supremacist in America can be anti-Black, anti-Gay, anti-Jew, anti-Muslim and more.  The attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, an AME church in Charleston or most recently at a supermarket in Kentucky after trying to get into a black church and failing… they are a pattern.  But they are not Parkland, or Sandy Hook or Columbine or Las Vegas.  They are different.  The firepower brought to bear is a common topic. But the hate that we are facing will not be stopped by a gun law. That is not to say we shouldn’t have gun laws, just that it won’t stop this hate from killing. This hatred is becoming more and more not just words, but violence.

Our answer to this hate, to this terror, to this murder is clear.

First, we will strengthen our Jewish lives, and live as Jews in joyful and defiant ways. We will not ignore our synagogue. We will not drift away. They died because they needed a shul in their lives.  We will not give hate the victory of our own apathy.

Second, we will strengthen the fabric of our diverse society in every way.  This week I received hugs, tears and hands from the whole spectrum of people in this neighborhood.  They are all with us. Welcome that, make that even more real.  The spectrum of clergy at town hall, the political support of our elected officials, the neighbors who affirm your Judaism at this time.  They are our best weapons against this hate.

Third, we will strengthen our synagogue physically as well as spiritually.  We are already ahead of most with blast proof glass, cameras, panic buttons. Now we have an armed Essex County Sherriff on Saturday mornings.  We will have community education and training here on Shabbat morning, December 1. We will not be victims. We will not be sitting ducks.

If I had 1.2 million dollars to give away at this time, I hope that I would have done what the Weinberg foundation in Baltimore just did.  In brilliant and defiant fashion, they are spoken powerfully to each and every aspect of this act of hate, murder and terror.

[Read Weinberg Press Release]

In this week’s parshah, it begins with death. But by the end, Avraham even in old age has found love again in Keturah, with generations of children and grandchildren to know.  This is our story. We will go on.

We will do this because it is who we are. We have seen you, purveyor of hate.  We know that the swastika on the sidewalk, if left unopposed, ends up in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.  We will name you, oppose you, stop you. We will do it with our spirit, with our souls, with our hearts, with our money, with our bodies. We will do it with our friendships, with our democracy with the force of law. We will do it on college campus and in Israel We will live as Jews and you will not stop us, slow us or divide us. Are we your enemy? You have chosen that on false pretense, but so be it. We will live.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Military on our Southern Border

President Trump's orders to deploy troops to the souther border raises not just policy questions, but historical legal questions.  It is not surprising that this is not the first time a sitting president needed to militarize the Mexican border.  So it is also not surprising that there is a strong U.S. legal history defining the military's role in civilian affairs.  The following information come from the Military Times:

The Posse Comitatus Act
All active duty forces dispatched to the border are governed by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids troops from carrying out law enforcement duties inside United States territory unless Congress grants an exemption.
Under the act, federal military forces are prohibited from engaging in direct law enforcement, which includes making arrests, conducting searches, seizures, apprehension, evidence collection, interrogations, security patrols, seizures, stop and frisks, surveillance, crowd and traffic control, enforcement of a quarantine or isolation, or other similar police functions.
Congress has amended that act some to increase the authorized level of support the military may provide for drug interdiction and to support border patrol.
According to the Congressional Research Service, under the extended support, the military may provide "assistance in maintenance or upgrade of equipment; transportation of personnel; establishment and operation of operations or training bases; training of law enforcement personnel; detecting and monitoring traffic within 25 miles of the border; road and fence construction; light installation along smuggling corridors; the establishment of command and control centers and computer networks; the provision of linguist and intelligence analysis services; and aerial and ground reconnaissance.”