JUF News Express
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In this Issue:

• Gov. Rauner hosts model Seder

• Loyola student government passes Israel divestment resolution

• African-Americans and Jews share Freedom Seder

• Write On for Israel teens advocate for Israel in D.C.

• Local leaders explore values and military force in Israel

• Government Affairs Committee discusses Israel Bonds, state budget

• Voting opens for the 37th World Zionist Congress

• From JUFNews.org and around the web

 

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Gov. Rauner hosts model Seder

Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner hosted a model Seder at the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday night. About 75 legislators and executive branch officials, as well as Jewish Federation leaders from across the state, participated. 

The evening’s co-host committee included JUF board members Keith (Marci) Shapiro and Morrie Silverman (Lori Komisar) and former JUF Annual Campaign Chairman Andy (Diane) Lappin, as well as Kelly and Jeff Brincat. The service was led by Rabbi Avraham Kagan of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois.

The Governor stressed the eternal lessons that are central to the Passover story, and their enduring relevance to the challenges our world and community still face. 

JUF Executive Vice President Jay Tcath, who also attended Seders hosted by previous governors, welcomed the re-launching of the tradition, saying, "it's a treat to take time off from the usual business of pressing state governmental affairs and to share ... something as enjoyable and meaningful as a model Seder.

"Many thanks are due to the Rauners and the four co-host families, all great supporters of JUF and our Jewish community. And thanks too Richard Goldberg, Rauner's deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs for his partnership on this and on the many issues of concern to our community."

Photo: Gov. Rauner leads the model Seder (Photo from Chabad.org)

Loyola student government passes Israel divestment resolution

Tuesday evening, Loyola's student government passed a resolution demanding the university divest from companies because they do business with Israel.

The vote was 15 in favor, 15 opposed, with two abstentions. The resolution passed when the speaker of the government broke the tie by voting in favor.

With help from JUF’s Israel Education Center, Hillel student leaders fought this year's BDS campaign through education and dialogue. They spoke at student government meetings to expose the lack of intellectual rigor and moral clarity in demonizing Israel.

A statement from Metro Chicago Hillel Executive Director Seth Winberg and Loyola Hillel student leaders reads, “BDS activists try to hijack the voice of student governments to advance a radical agenda.”

The BDS agenda has no institutional support at Loyola. Current provost and incoming president Dr. John Pelissero has said that BDS activists use “the student government senate to advance an anti-Israel policy position." The Rev. Michael Garanzini, Loyola's current president, said the BDS movement “is one-sided” and that most student government resolutions “go nowhere.”

Jewish students at Loyola remain committed to fostering dialogue on campus and working toward greater understanding and peace in the Middle East.

African-Americans and Jews share Freedom Seder

Nearly 100 members of Chicago’s African-American and Jewish communities, including more than a dozen pastors and rabbis, took part in the JUF Jewish Community Relations Council’s Freedom Seder this week, where they discussed “modern plagues” including poverty, violence, anti-Semitism, racism and genocide. 

For the second year in a row, the Seder was hosted by JCRC in partnership with Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Lakeview and Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church in Bronzeville. 

Attendees experienced a mixture of traditions through the symbols of the Seder. “While we come from different communities, on different sides of the city, events like this one build our relationships,” Harris said.

Siegel implored attendees to “commit ourselves to build a stronger bond to go forward and fight for a new day of freedom, equality and acceptance for all people.”

Safari Bahanuzi, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, also shared his story of survival, comparing it to the Jews' exodus from Egypt. Safari was resettled with the help of RefugeeOne, one of 10 partner agencies funded through the statewide Refugee Social Services Program administered by the Jewish Federation. 

While attendees grappled with difficult issues, the program demonstrated the power of the communities working together. Yvette Stone, who attended the event for the first time, said, “It was truly a privilege for us to participate in such a forward-thinking project.”

Photo: Pastor Chris Harris and Rabbi Michael Siegel lead attendees at the Freedom Seder. (Photo by Robert F. Kusel)

Write On for Israel teens advocate for Israel in D.C.

Twenty-six Write On for Israel Senior Fellows visited Capitol Hill this week for an intensive two-day experience focused on issues of importance to Chicago’s pro-Israel community.

The high school students met with nearly all members of the Illinois congressional delegation or their staff members, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Robert Dold, as well as Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin. They discussed efforts to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, continued military funding for Israel, and more.

“Our meetings with policymakers and members of the Illinois congressional delegation helped us gain insight into the efforts to maintain strong bipartisan support for the unbreakable U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Alex Brandt, a senior at Glenbrook North High School. (Read Brandt’s reflection on his experience.)

The group heard different perspectives on the importance of maintaining bipartisan support for Israel, a theme explored through many of the Fellows’ meetings.

A program of JUF’s Israel Education Center, Write On for Israel trains high school upper-classmen to lead pro-Israel efforts on college campuses. Applications are currently being accepted for the next cohort of Fellows; interested sophomores and their parents can attend information sessions in Chicago and Highland Park next month.

Photo: Rep. Jan Schakowsky meets with Write On for Israel Senior Fellow Oshrat Faratci on Capitol Hill. 

Local leaders explore values and military force in Israel

Jewish values and the proper use of force by a Jewish, democratic and pluralistic state was the topic of discussion during the 2015 Israel-Diaspora structured dialogue.

Organized by the Jewish People Policy Institute, an independent professional policy planning think tank in Israel, in partnership with JUF, 30 lay and professional leaders debated actual military and ethical challenges faced by the Israel Defense Forces.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached JPPI to examine the debate in Jewish communities worldwide that was sparked by last summer’s Gaza operation – the way it was conducted and its consequences.

In the ministry’s view, “wide gaps in the reading of realities in the Middle East among Jews in Israel and around the world – gaps that should be expected in a world of diverse views – justify an ongoing exchange spanning all perspectives and streams.”

Jewish communities across the globe have been invited to hold similar discussion seminars. JPPI will analyze all community deliberations and submit a final integrative report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this summer, which then will be presented to the Israeli Cabinet and shared with major Jewish organizations and participating communities.

Chicagoans Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, Dr. Steven B. Nasatir and Alan Solow serve on JPPI's Board of Directors.

Government Affairs Committee discusses Israel Bonds, state budget

Fifty Federation Government Affairs Committee members gathered March 16 to learn about the state’s most recent investment in Israel Bonds and discuss the proposed human-service cuts in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s FY16 budget.

Speakers included, newly elected State Treasurer Michael Frerichs; Judith Gethner, executive director of Illinois Partners for Human Service; State Rep. Robyn Gabel, vice-chair of the Human Service Appropriations Committee; and State Rep. David Harris, Appropriations-General Service Committee member.

Israel Bonds have never defaulted and have been a valued investment for several decades. “By investing $10 million dollars in I-Bonds, not only is the state diversifying its investments, but promising a solid return,” Frerichs said.

Gethner outlined how the proposed FY16 budget reflects an overall cut of $6 billion and stressed the importance of working with members of the General Assembly to understand the impact that would have on Illinois residents and service providers.

Reps. Gabel and Harris also presented their views on the budget crisis, highlighting areas of impact. They encouraged committee members to educate legislators of the genuine impacts of these cuts on their respective programs. 

Voting opens for the 37th World Zionist Congress

The World Zionist Congress meets every five years to discuss issues of vital importance to the global Jewish community, including Jewish identity, peace and security, anti-Semitism, civil society in Israel, and the future of the State of Israel. Voting in the upcoming 37th WZC offers a unique opportunity for members of the community to cast their votes to send delegates to the WZC to represent their voice.

If you are at least 18 years of age, live in the U.S., and accept the Jerusalem Program, you are most likely eligible to vote. In the United States, the election is managed by the American Zionist Movement, the umbrella organization of Zionist bodies and the representative of the World Zionist Organization in the United States.

Voting is easy and ends April 30. Go to www.myvoteourisrael.com to cast your vote.  

From JUFNews.org and around the web

News

Registered Chicago voters need to register for the April 7 mayoral and select aldermanic run-off elections in advance. In-person registration will be available through April 4 at select locations. Once registered, you can vote early from through April 4. You also can vote by mail on or before April 6. For more information, visit www.juf.org/voting

Amnesty International released a report Thursday containing evidence of Palestinian groups, including Hamas, committing war crimes during last summer’s war in Gaza.

Israeli ministers denied a report Tuesday claiming that Israeli intelligence officers spied on the U.S. during closed-door nuclear negotiations with Iran.  

Two congressmen introduced the Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act this week, which would require U.S. government contractors to certify that they are not participating in any boycotts of Israel.

Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, hosted a dinner Monday to reassure congressional Democrats that the conflict between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is just a passing disagreement, according to The New York Times.

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin addresses the validity of five American Jewish worries about Israel, for Religion News Service.

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes about what he sees as the three major strains of anti-Semitism and how to fight them.

Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn are rushing to buy smoke detectors before Shabbat after seven children died in a fire in Midwood last Saturday when the family’s hot plate caught fire overnight.

The Tiferes Hamatzos bakery in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, continues to produce more than 70 tons of matzah annually despite its historical – and current – challenges.

Ahead of Passover, all notes and prayers are cleared out of the Western Wall to make way for new ones.

Oy!Chicago shares the 18 best Chicago foods for getting your grain fix before Passover.

Events

Registration for free Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim-JUF Chicago Community trips to Israel for 18- to 26-year-olds, closes at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 31. Spots are filling up, so spread the word to sign up before it's too late at israelwithisraelis.com.

Maot Chitim is looking for volunteers to pick up and deliver food packages for its annual Passover delivery between 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday, March 29, from its warehouse at 8229 N. Austin Ave., Morton Grove. Volunteers must have a car. Get more information here.

High-school students can gain the knowledge and confidence they need to face anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment on their future college campuses at an active information session and workshop run by JUF’s Israel Education Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Congregation B’nai Tikvah, 1558 Wilmot Road, Deerfield.

And the latest JUF News blogs

Rebecca Jacobs, Hillel and JUF’s Israel Education Center intern at Northern Illinois University, hosted a screening of the IDF documentary “Beneath the Helmet” for students and ROTC cadets on campus and shares what she learned.

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