JUF News Express
Friday, June 27, 2014Forward this message  Forward this message

In this Issue:

• Chicago rallies for kidnapped Israeli teens

• Local congressman introduces resolution calling for teens' release

• Presbyterian Church approves Israel divestment measure

• Congress takes action on Middle East issues, awards Gold Medal to Israeli President Peres

• Expanded Jewish education grants target engaging programs

• From JUFNews.org and around the web


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Chicago rallies for kidnapped Israeli teens

More than 500 Chicagoans gathered in downtown Chicago Monday to pray for the safe return of the three kidnapped Israeli teens -- Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 -- and show their support for their families and Israel. The teens were kidnapped June 12 by Hamas terrorists.

JUF organized the vigil, which was held at the Thompson Center downtown and spearheaded by the 2014 JUF Lewis Summer Interns, who are only a few years older than the three kidnapped teens. (Watch a video of the vigil and see photos from the program.)

JUF Chairman David T. Brown offered opening remarks, expressing his and the Federation’s solidarity with Israel and citing the kidnapping as an example of “the obstacles that remain to achieving the peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians that we all seek.”

Other speakers included Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beth Din (chief of rabbinic court) of the Chicago Rabbinical Council; Presbyterian Rev. Robert Cathey from the McCormick Seminary; Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest; Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council; and Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom. Cantor Alberto Mizrahi of Anshe Emet Synagogue chanted a psalm and led the singing of “HaTikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and “Am Yisrael Chai.”

Also in attendance were Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Illinois State Sen. Ira Silverstein; Illinois Rep. Scott Drury; and Ald. Debra Silverstein.

Statements of support from congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. also were read, as was a letter from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, stating: “I see my children in the faces of these three Israeli boys, and like any parent, my heart goes out to their families. No child should have to live in fear that one day they may not return home and I offer my full support to Israel and its search for these missing teens.”

Photo by Steve Donisch

Local congressman introduces resolution calling for teens' release

U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider of Illinois and Randy Weber of Texas introduced a measure Wednesday calling for the immediate, unconditional release of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers held captive in the West Bank.

“As a father of two young boys, I can’t fathom the anguish of the parents,” Schneider said. “I join my colleagues today in solidarity with the families, as well as the people and the government of Israel, as they seek to bring the young students home. Let us all keep these captive boys, their families and their communities in our thoughts and prayers, and may we soon celebrate their safe reunification with their families.” 

Read the full text of the resolution here.

The resolution was presented just a day after Rachel Frenkel, mother of missing teen Naftali, who is both an American and Israeli citizen, spoke before the United Nations asking for more international help to find and return her son.

Presbyterian Church approves Israel divestment measure

In protest of Israeli policies toward Palestinians, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a divestment measure last Friday by voting to sell its church stock in three companies – Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The organization objects to Israel's use of the companies' products.

Passed by a margin of 310-303, the PC(USA) General Assembly vote was denounced as "outrageous” in a statement from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and “shameful” by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the decision.

Although members of PC(USA) state that the decision was not part of the larger Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Jewish leaders insist otherwise. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, presented a letter at the PC(USA) General Assembly in Detroit last week. In it he pointed out that any divestment measure bolsters the BDS movement, while Rabbi David Sandmel, director of interfaith relations for the Anti-Defamation League, noted in a statement the “open hostility to Israel within the church” that has existed for several years.

Earlier this year, the church released a study guide entitled “Zionism Unsettled,” implying Zionism as the root of the conflict in the Middle East. Although PC(USA) declared the document does not represent the church, a Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription required) points out the vote is still a victory for the anti-Israel voice within the church.

There is great concern about the impact the vote will have on Jewish-Presbyterian relations.

Congress takes action on Middle East issues, awards Gold Medal to Israeli President Peres

Congress has acted on a number of important proposals the last two weeks, starting with the Senate Appropriations Committee including amendments to State and Foreign Relations programs with the leadership of Senator Mark Kirk. These will provide $3.1 billion in U.S. military assistance to Israel, promote democracy and human rights in Iran, reduce aid to the Palestinian Authority proportional to their payouts to imprisoned or dead terrorists, and require the State Department to report the number of Palestinians who lived in 1946–1948 Palestine.

In the House, the Defense Appropriations bill, which includes $351 million for the Iron Dome anti-missile system, passed with support from a majority of the Illinois delegation. This was $175 million more than requested by President Obama in his 2015 budget and funded at $131 million more than in fiscal year 2014.

The House also collected signatures for a letter from 230 members of Congress – including eight from the Illinois delegation – stressing the need for greater cooperation between the President and Congress, given any permanent sanctions relief requires congressional approval.

Finally, at the Capitol yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres received the Congressional Gold Medal. Present at the ceremony were JUF Chairman David T. Brown, JUF Government Affairs Vice Chair David Golder and Board member Alan Solow. Watch the ceremony here.

Photo: Peres shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid upon receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Expanded Jewish education grants target engaging programs

Last December, nearly 600 students studying Hebrew in public high schools throughout the city and suburbs practiced their skills with contestants from Israel’s version of the hit TV show The Voice. The free concert and cultural exchange luncheon, coordinated by Shorashim and the iCenter, was one of many projects funded last year by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Community Foundation for Jewish Education.

JUF and CFJE provide millions of dollars annually to support a wide range of Jewish educational programming at all levels. This year, beyond the broader funding, JUF/Federation is awarding $250,000 in expanded grants to boost participation and inspire excellence in targeted priority areas.

“We hope these grants will stimulate innovation and focus our priorities in the areas of early childhood, supplementary education, teen programming and adult education,” said Andrea Yablon, JUF/Federation board member and chair of CFJE’s Board of Directors.

Read the full list of grant recipients here.

From JUFNews.org and around the web

Israel’s security and defense forces have identified two Palestinian men affiliated with Hamas as the likely abductors of the Israeli teens. Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, who live in Hebron, have been missing since the day of the kidnapping.

A Chicago Tribune editorial notes the major implications of the West Bank kidnapping on the Palestinian unity government.

Thirteen-year-old Israeli Mohammed Karaka was killed in an explosion Sunday near the Syrian border, in what was believed to be an intentional attack. Israel retaliated Monday morning by striking Syrian military headquarters and several rocket-launching sites.

Israeli firefighters battled a large forest fire on Wednesday afternoon that nearly reached the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum before it was extinguished several hours later.

In response to historic immigration numbers to Israel from France in 2014 and continued turmoil in Ukraine, a $17 million plan initiated by the Jewish Agency for Israel and others has been approved to encourage aliyah from France and Ukraine.

A 105-year-old synagogue in the Chinese city of Harbin has reopened to the public after a 12-month restoration. The Main Synagogue resembles its original form, but has been repurposed as a concert hall.

An exhibition titled Charlotte Salomon: “Life? or Theater?” has opened at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, featuring almost 300 paintings from the young German artist who perished in the Holocaust.

And the latest JUF News blog posts:  

Freshly back from Israel where he attended the first Jewish Media Summit, Aaron Cohen looks at the ever-challenging task the Jewish media must undertake to truly convey the State of Israel to Jews all over the world.

Rabbi Yehiel Poupko dusts off a 20-year-old JUF News column in honor of the 20th yahrzeit of “the Rebbe,” Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

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