‘Occupy’ New Third Rail For Jewish Mainstream

Two months into protests at Zuccotti Park, above, even left-wing Jewish organizations remain largely silent and noncommittal.

Center, left groups wrestling with how to approach the growing movement.

The organized Jewish community’s largest annual gathering — the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly — took place this week at the Sheraton Denver, less than a mile from the park where Occupy Denver protesters have gathered.

But the distance between the Jewish establishment and this fall’s grass-roots protests against banks, growing economic inequalities and unemployment, was, arguably, infinitely greater.

Two months into the protests, despite a fledgling, bottom-up Occupy Judaism movement taking hold within Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots around the country, mainstream Jewish organizations, even left-wing ones like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women, have remained largely silent and noncommittal about the Occupy movement.

The GA’s packed roster of lectures, discussions and meetings not only contained nothing addressing Occupy Wall Street, but nary a session on even the broader social justice, political or economic issues raised by the protests.

And beyond specific discussions about Occupy Judaism and potential anti-Semitism in the protests, the broader topic of the movement and its concerns has not — at least yet — surfaced much on rabbinic listservs or in sermons.

The irony is that, according to Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary, the “issue of extreme wealth inequality is something Judaism has been concerned with from biblical times,” with various laws, such as regular forgiveness of debts and a commandment to “return every 50 years to the land you began with” meant to prevent long-term accumulation of wealth.

Most public Jewish discussions so far about Occupy have been limited to the question of whether or not the movement is anti-Semitic. (The general consensus, since the Anti-Defamation League weighed in a few weeks ago, is that it is not.)

Nonetheless, progressive rabbis and leaders are beginning to weigh in cautiously, with many saying they share many of the social movement’s concerns but are unsure as to whether its focus and tactics are productive to bringing about political or social changes.

“Usually if you’re in an organization and want to make a decision about whether to support a project or event, you look at what other organizations are involved and what your relationship is with those organizations, said Mik Moore, a consultant to nonprofits and former chief strategy officer of Jewish Funds for Justice, one of the few Jewish groups that has issued a formal statement on Occupy Wall Street. (That statement notes that “we are thrilled to see the issues we talk about every day — the need for good jobs, affordable housing and fair lending practices — appear on sign after sign” and that the Occupy protests are €œa hopeful sign that, regardless of whether one agrees with any one particular issue or demand, Americans are expressing their right to be heard … when Americans engage in the public sphere to create a better future, this presents us with an opportunity to make history by expanding opportunity for all.”)

The Occupy movement’s non-hierarchical leadership and lack of formal structures, Moore said, “makes not just Jewish organizations, but lots of organizations nervous that they could be attaching themselves to something they have no control over, and that it could go in a direction they’re not comfortable with.”

To be sure, many individual Jews are participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests and its offshoots around the country, and a number have involved themselves in â€Occupy Judaism” events — including Yom Kippur services, a sukkah and celebrations of Simchat Torah. The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, while not taking a position on Occupy Wall Street itself, supplied organizers with copies of “Lev Shalem,†its new High Holiday prayer book for the service.

âFrom our point of view, wherever there are Jews looking to address contemporary issues and bring more justice into the world, we want to be there to help,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

“This is an interesting example of where larger networked organizations can be part of innovative and grass-roots things taking place,” she said, adding that, while the prayer book had been developed for use in a synagogue setting, she was excited to see how the Occupy holiday services had “brought in a lot of Jews” who might not have gone to a traditional service.

The question of Occupy Wall Street’s anti-Semitism or lack thereof has been fueled in part by a controversial commercial aired by the Israel Emergency Committee, one the ADL criticized as being overblown.

Last week, 15 prominent Jewish politicians and organization leaders, including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and directors of the left-wing Israel lobbying group J Street and Rabbis for Human Rights, issued a statement saying they “support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear the movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.â€

Some Jewish activists privately speculate that donors and lay leaders — many of them so-called “1 percenters,” with fortunes earned on Wall Street €” are intimidating Jewish communal professionals who might otherwise support Occupy Wall Street. However, The Jewish Week was unable to find anyone, on or off the record, who could identify a donor or lay leader explicitly speaking out against Occupy Wall Street or threatening to pull funding from anyone supporting the movement.

Adding to the nervousness, a rumor briefly circulated in late October claiming that UJA-Federation of New York had distributed a memo forbidding employees from participating. Federation officials (and several employees interviewed off the record) said the rumor was baseless and that UJA has taken no position on Occupy Wall Street.

“We have not put out anything saying employees cannot attend Occupy Wall Street,” said Levi Fishman, a federation spokesman. €œIf anybody from UJA is attending or involved, they€™re doing it as private individuals, not representing UJA.”

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of North American Programs at Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, told The Jewish Week that most Jewish leaders are still trying to determine their opinion about the Occupy movement.

“Does endorsing Occupy Wall Street mean that we endorse the overall goals of economic justice or that we endorse every single person who has a sign? I am not sure people know what to make of them yet.”

A number of Jewish leaders who sympathize with the concerns driving Occupy Wall Street are nonetheless uncomfortable with much of the rhetoric emerging, particularly what some see as a tendency to demonize wealthy individuals.

“I think Wall Street is often unfairly maligned; and I think the key changes I’d like to see are more complex than the public focus of the protests,” said Nigel Savage, who worked in finance before becoming the founder and director of the Jewish environmental group Hazon, in an e-mail interview. “But I nevertheless broadly support Occupy Wall Street, and went down and spent some time in the sukkah there, because in the broadest sense I think that it’s pushing public conversation towards what I think of as a sort of teshuvah — aiming to get America to return to its best.”

Rabbi Liebling, who served as executive vice president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and Jewish Funds for Justice before joining the RRC faculty, said that the reticence about the Occupy movement stems in part from Jews’ complicated history with money, whether they are being accused of being bloodthirsty capitalists or rabble-rousing socialists.

“Jews historically don’t like to speak out about” economic inequalities “because no matter what you say could spark some anti-Semitism somewhere.

And taking a position on the Occupy movement is risky, said the consultant Mik Moore, because “most groups don’t want to be on record saying it’s great if in a month it devolves.”

The commercials accusing Occupy protests of anti-Semitism “can be effective as a warning shot,” he said, noting that while they “may be inaccurate as a characterization of whatâ€s going on in the movement, they show a willingness to go after people for supporting it.”

Despite the reluctance to become officially involved, many Jewish leaders — when asked about the Occupy movement — said they are heartened to see people speaking up about the issues.

“I actually celebrate Occupy Wall Street, because the question has been in my mind, €˜When is America going to wake up and see what’s going on here?’” said Rabbi Sid Schwarz, founder of Panim, a Jewish leadership/advocacy training program for teens and author of the 2006 book “Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World.” 

While the movement so far is “inchoate” and lacking in specific policy demands, he is hopeful that its energy will be channeled into something more productive.

“If all this stays in the street, it’s not going anywhere,” he said, adding, it “will take more organizing know-how and savvy to make it something constructive.”

But Rabbi Daniel Smokler, director of Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educators Program and a former union organizer, said the Occupy movement is â€an essential voice in the conversation right now in the U.S.,” and that he is “very much unconcerned by the analysis that they have no clear mission.

âThe purpose of it is not to issue Power Point presentations or policy papers,” he said. “It’s to generate a sense of urgency to address the big questions about the future of our society.”

“I think itâs a really great thing,” he added. “I think itâs ridiculous that we presume business needs to go on unchecked, that government is always inefficient and bad, that taxes can never be increased.”

But not all left-wing rabbis agree. Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, who has been outspoken in support of many progressive causes, including implementing a “Living Wage” law, wrote a blog post recently entitled “Occupy Wall Street? No Thanks.”

“Wall Street is not what’s wrong with America,” he argued, adding that “consumerism, run-away self-aggrandizement, an eviscerated core ethic of national service, and a radically digitized, virtual world where we can be who we want, when we want, how we want” are as much to blame.

Meanwhile, the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports Boycott, Delegitimization and Sanctions (BDS) efforts against Israel, drew parallels between the Occupy Wall Street movement and its own mission this week, by disrupting a Birthright Israel Alumni Community Wall Street Series speaker and issuing a statement called â€Occupy the Occupiers.” The statement calls for “young Jews and allies” to “join in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and with our Palestinian siblings living under their own from of occupation. Let us stand up to the 1 percent in our own community – the powerful institutions that support Israel’s corporate-backed military control of the Palestinian people and act as the gatekeepers for our community.”

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Obama’s Real Jewish Problem

Will liberal voters, disillusioned with President Obama, stay home next November. getty images

Progressives, pro-business voters may be more in play than expected, as GOP presses Israel issue.

President Barack Obama may have a Jewish problem when he runs for a second term a year from now, but it™s not the one most pundits identify and it has nothing to do with Israel.

While single-issue pro-Israel voters and Jewish Republicans continue to slam his administration’s erratic handling of relations with Israel, most analysts argue that the issue, like most foreign policy matters, will be peripheral in the election. In 2012, Jewish voters, mirroring the broader electorate, will focus with unusual intensity on one issue: the sputtering economy and the president’s inability to turn it around after the vertiginous plunge that brought him to the White House in 2008.

The fact that Israel policy will be a sideshow in an election shadowed by the Occupy Wall Street surge and the Tea Party movement, political opposites driven by shared concerns about dimmed economic prospects, might sound like good news for Jewish Democrats — but it may not be. 

Two disparate groups of Jewish voters may be more in play than the Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach campaign cares to admit: centrist, business-focused voters who are frustrated by Obama’s seeming inability to carve out effective economic policies, and disillusioned Jewish progressives angry at a president they see as unwilling to confront the root causes of the economic meltdown and stand up for traditional Democratic ideals.

Most mainstream political scientists insist there’s still little partisan swing in the Jewish vote — maybe even less in 2012 than in recent elections because of the rise of candidates like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“No one knows 12 months in advance what the election of 2012 will really look like, but Id be willing to make a major bet that Obama will do far better with Jewish voters once again than with the general population,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Partisan leanings take over as Election Day approaches, and many people who had been considering straying return to the fold. The more conservative the GOP nominee, the more likely this is to happen — sooner rather than later.”

But there could be just enough of a swing to have an impact in key states if the election is close enough. And that swing is likely to be the product of domestic factors, not the concerted campaign by highly partisan conservative groups such as the Emergency Committee for Israel to depict Obama as a mortal danger to the Jewish state.

It is far from clear whether the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots across the country are capable of producing a viable political movement. Given the widespread distrust its activists seem to have toward both parties, some analysts say it is less likely to have an impact on policy and electoral politics than a Tea Party movement that has worked through — and in many ways changed — the GOP.

But there’s little doubt the OWS phenomenon reflects significant erosion in Obama’s progressive base, an electoral slice that includes a disproportionate number of Jews. Several polls in the past few weeks show continuing slippage in that base — a shift reflected in a more limited way in the Jewish electorate.

Last month I spoke to a high-ranking Democratic Party official who mirrored some of these concerns.

“Many liberals are disappointed with President Obama, and that includes a lot of Jewish liberals,” he told me. “There’s no risk these voters will vote Republican, but there’s a danger some of them — maybe more than some — will simply stay home next November, or even opt for a third-party candidate.”

Progressive excitement about the election of the first African-American president has given way to a widespread sense that his administration reflects little more than old politics in a new package, with a president who seems to advance a policy of preemptive surrender on core economic issues, including bank regulation, Wall Street and the widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else.

A big drop in progressive turnout a year from now could prove disastrous for the Obama campaign — and a disproportionate part of that faction is comprised of Jewish Democrats.

The Democratic official I spoke to was worried but confident that in the end, Jewish voters will not stay home. Especially if, as expected, the GOP contenders steer to the right throughout the primaries, and even more so if the 2012 Republican ticket includes any of the Tea Party favorites.

“Put Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry on the ticket, and the problem goes away,” he said.

Frustrated Jewish liberals may just stay home next November, but another group of Jewish voters could give the GOP a second look, if the party’s nominee comes across as a sober, experienced manager with solid economic ideas.

Which is why leading Jewish Republicans lined up behind former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney more than a year ago.

As the Herman Cain comet flares out in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, and as Rick Perry struggles to regain the short-lived buzz surrounding his campaign, a growing number of analysts believe Romney, once seen as unlikely to survive a primary process skewed to the Tea Party right, may be the only contender left standing when the Republican convention convenes in Tampa next August.

Even some Democratic activists privately concede that to anxious Jewish business-focused voters, Romney may emerge as an acceptable alternative to a Democratic president who has failed to reverse the economic tailspin.

I haven’t encountered a single independent analyst who believes any GOP candidate, Romney included, is likely to match Ronald Reagan’s 39 percent of the Jewish vote in 1980 against the hapless President Jimmy Carter. But I€™ve met a few who believe that if Romney is the nominee and he runs toward the political center in the general election, he could win 30 or even 35 percent of the Jewish vote. That would likely be enough to make a difference under some Election Day scenarios.

And Romney’s appeal is unlikely to be based on GOP slogans portraying Obama as a danger to Israel, although that won’t stop him from trying as he dials for Jewish dollars.

A few months ago I asked a staunch Romney backer about his candidate’s appeal to Jewish voters.

“He understands business, he’s a grown-up on economics” was his response. “Sure, Jews continue to trend Democratic, but this administration hasn™t been good for Jewish business people, and these are the ones who are reaching into their wallets and giving to Mitt.”

The word “Israel” never came up in our conversation.

But this activist also conceded that Romney’s chances with Jewish voters could be hurt by the positions he may take to survive a slew of GOP primaries in which Tea Party and conservative Christian activists will play a huge role. And his Jewish totals could suffer if he is forced to take a vice presidential partner from the ranks of those two factions, just as John McCain was hurt by his selection of Sarah Palin as his 2008 running mate.

So why the huge emphasis on Israel in GOP Jewish outreach? The simple answer: money.

My guess is that the breakdown of Jewish money is much more even than the typical breakdown of the Jewish vote — there are some very wealthy conservative Jews out there who give lots of money to Republican candidates,” said Alan I. Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.

And Jewish campaign giving is much more Israel-focused than Jewish voting. So while the economy will be the overwhelming priority for a strong majority of Jewish voters, the Republicans are making the not unreasonable bet that in yet another presidential campaign certain to shatter spending records, playing the Israel card early and aggressively will pay significant dividends on their campaign balance sheets.

Obama is almost certain to win a substantial majority of the Jewish vote, and a Tea Party ticket could turn “substantial€ into “overwhelming.”

But he could face losses among centrist, business-oriented Jews if the Republican nominee runs a more centrist campaign in the general election and is able to offer solid economic credentials.  As the OWS movement spreads, with polls showing surprising popular support for its core arguments, the president also faces the danger disillusioned progressives — including many Jews — may opt out of Election 2012.

And the Israel card will still pack some punch in campaign finance — which is why the Democratic Party continues to pour resources into fighting the claim their standard bearer is anti-Israel. 

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As UN Push Fizzles, Abbas’ Path Ahead Unclear

PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speculation that something dramatic is in the works.

Jerusalem — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ statehood push at the United Nations may be fizzling, but his supporters insist that he can find a way out of the impasse.

“Abu Mazen is a powerful leader and is very persuasive,” said Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. “He has managed to convince the majority of the Palestinian people that the way to reach statehood is through nonviolent means.

“The problem is that Abu Mazen does not see this Israeli government as a partner to peace. He believes they are anti-peace.”

Some in the Israeli government have no great love for the Palestinian leader either, particularly since he took the Palestinians’ case to the United Nations in September. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last month that Abbas is the main impediment to peace.

“If there is one obstacle that should be removed immediately, it is [Abbas],” he told reporters. “If he were to return the keys and resign, it would not be a threat but a blessing.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres, however, responded the next day that Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “are serious leaders that want peace and are working to prevent violence and extremism in our region.”

Abbas now faces a daunting set of challenges, including strained relations with Israel and the United States, which are angry over the UN bid, and a Hamas movement waiting in the wings to seize on his stumbles. Abbas has insisted that he will not resume negotiations with Israel in the absence of a settlement freeze, so the way forward remains uncertain.

“The Palestinian leadership is now in the process of discussing the future and where it wants to go, what options there are on the table and the current status quo with Israel,” said Tibi, who was a special guest of Abbas during his September trip to New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly.

With the peace process in a stalemate, Tibi said, “It is possible we could see some dramatic developments [from Abbas] in the near future.

Since Abbas’ Sept. 23 address at the UN General Assembly, when the PA leader told the world that it was time for a “Palestinian Spring” and to see an end to “63 years of suffering,” the Palestinians have faced serious setbacks. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Palestinians will not be able to line up the hoped-for nine Security Council member states — the number needed to give a green light for UN membership, though the U.S. has vowed a veto in any case.

In addition, Abbas’ Fatah party took a hit last month as a result of the prisoner swap that won captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit his freedom. Its rival, Hamas, managed to negotiate the release of 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners from Israel. On the day of the prisoner exchange, there were reports describing green Hamas flags flying high over the West Bank.

In response to recent developments, and with statehood looking increasingly unlikely in the near future, Abbas has threatened to disband the Palestinian Authority.

“Of course Abbas is continuing on with his UN bid, but if it fails, he could decide to return the keys to Bibi and go back to occupation,” said Tibi, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

Tibi added, however, that Abbas also might decide to call for Palestinian elections in the near future. The latter path has been hinted at in recent months, with senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh suggesting that elections could happen as soon as January.

Hillel Frisch, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said he believes that the threat to dismantle the PA is little more than a scare tactic.

€œI doubt that someone would really dismantle an authority that commands some $3.1 billion directly or indirectly,” he said. “It would be very difficult because there has been so much invested in the PA. I think these are merely threats to put pressure on the U.S., to put pressure on Israel to dismantle the settlements.”

Frisch said that Abbas faces challenges to his authority both from Hamas and from younger Fatah activists.

“He is scared of factions within his own people, which could become a threat,” Frisch said.

âHe is not a strong leader, and as the situation deteriorates, there needs to be a strong person in charge,” he said, adding that former Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat “was a strong leader, but he did not have willingness. Abbas has a willingness but not the strength.”

Isaac Herzog, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee representing the Labor Party, sees the situation a bit differently.

“Abbas has been successful in uniting the Palestinian people and he has the overwhelming support in the West Bank,” he said.

Herzog said that Israel erred in not being more receptive to Abbas†statehood push.

“We should have run with it because at the end of the day, him and Fayyad are the best partners we can get,” he said. “I’m not saying Abbas is irreplaceable, but he is committed to preserving security and stopping terror, and he has achieved major success in building a political system that works.

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ADL: Anti-Semitism Up Slightly

 

Anti-Semitism in the United States has increased slightly since 2009, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey.

Results of the 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America released Thursday showed that 15 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views, an increase of 3 percent since 2009 but matching levels in 2007 and 2005.

The survey also found a 5 percent increase, to 19 percent, of Americans who believe that “Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street.” Other anti-Semitic views remained constant, with 31 percent believing that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and 30 percent that Jews were more loyal to Israel then America.

“The sterotypes about Jews and money endure, and the fact that more Americans are now accepting these statements about Jews as true suggests that the downturn in the economy, along with the changing demographics of our society, may have contributed to the rise in anti-Semitic sentiments,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement. “Once again, the old anti-Semitic stand-bys about Jewish loyalty, the death of Jesus and Jewish power remain strong.”

The poll of 1,754 adults also found a stark correlation between anti-Semitic views and education levels, with 9 percent of college graduates holding some negative feelings toward Jews versus 13 percent of those who completed some college and 22 percent who graduated or completed some high school.

The survey was conducted Oct. 13-23 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.

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Christian Zionist Hagee Gives Nearly $1 Million To Nefesh B’Nefesh

John Hagee Ministries distributed $6 million to Israeli charities, with the largest chunk going to Nefesh B’Nefesh, a group that encourages immigration to Israel from English-speaking countries.

Nefesh B’Nefesh received $900,000 in the awards announced after the 30th annual Night to Honor Israel held at Hagee’s Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio, Texas. Organizers said the event drew 7,000 people.

Other major awardees included hospitals, with the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem and the Western Galilee Hospital receiving $250,000 each.

Groups that assist immigrants and Holocaust survivors received awards, as did educational foundations. A number of smaller awards went to groups associated with the settler movement.

Hagee founded Christians United for Israel, a lobbying and grass-roots group.

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Mini-Flotilla Stopped By Israel Off Gaza Shore

The Israeli navy intercepted two boats bound for Gaza on Friday.

The Israeli military said that the boarding was conducted peacefully and without any injuries.

The two boats, one Canadian, the other Irish, carried a total of 27 passengers and reportedly carried medical supplies and letters of solidarity for Gazans.

The boats are being taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

According to a statement released by the Israeli military, the order to board came after numerous attempts urging the boats to leave. While they did halt their progress, the boats refused to turn around.

Israeli authorities claimed this attempt to break the Gaza blockade is no more than an effort to embarrass Israel and undermine her security.

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Peace Now Offices Evacuated After Bomb Threat

The Jerusalem offices of Peace Now were threatened.

The building was evacuated Sunday evening after a bomb threat. A man speaking into the building’s intercom system reportedly said that the building would soon blow up. Police evacuated the two-story building.

The words “price tag” were discovered spray painted on the side of the building Sunday evening. A Star of David had been spray painted on the building a few days ago.

The threat comes several weeks after threatening graffiti, including “price tag” and “death to traitors,” was sprayed on the apartment building of Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

“We have warned, including in a petition to the Police Commissioner, that Peace Now is being threatened,” Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer told Haaretz. “The political leadership backs up these incidents. Even if, on the face of it, there is condemnation, in practice the hooliganism of the right has support in the Knesset.”

On Monday, three structures at a settlement outpost near Beit El were razed. Police and soldiers reportedly met with resistance, leading to the arrest of 12 people, including seven teenagers and a newly married couple. 

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U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Jerusalem Passport Case

(JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments in a case that would allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to have their birthplace listed as Israel on their passports. 

Arguments in the case of Zivotofsky v. Clinton were set to be heard Monday. The case involves 9-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky, whose American-Israeli parents, Ari and Naomi, want the birth country on his passport listed as Israel. They cite a law passed by Congress in 2002 that directs the secretary of state, “upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, [to] record the place of birth as Israel. The George W. Bush and Obama administrations have ignored the law and the State Department manual allows that the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem must say “Jerusalem” as the place of birth and not include Israel, reflecting officialU.S. government policy regarding the unresolved status of Jerusalem. Eleven major Jewish American groups in August filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Zivotofsky’s request. Last month, Americans for Peace Now filed a brief supporting the secretary of state.

The American Jewish Committee has opted not to weigh in, in part because it does not regard the Supreme Court as the appropriate forum to decide foreign policy.

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Yeshiva Teens From Flatbush Killed In Conn. Accident

 

Two Brooklyn teenagers were killed on their way to their Connecticut yeshiva when the van in which they were riding flipped on the highway.

Eli Shonbron, 16, and Dani King, 15, died at the scene, according to a Connecticut State Police report, after their 썎 Ford Club Wagon slid into the embankment on I-84 near Danbury early Monday. The van was filled with 11 students traveling to Yeshiva Ateres Shmuel in Waterbury, about 35 miles from the accident scene.

The nine survivors were hospitalized with what was described as “non-life-threatening injuries.”

The students were returning to school after being sent home to Brooklyn because their the yeshiva lost power during last week’s freakish snowstorm.

 

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Swastikas Painted At Shul And Two Libraries In Queens

(JTA) — Swastikas were painted on two public libraries and a synagogue in Queens.

The vandalism, which occurred on the night of Nov. 3, targeted the East Elmhurst Library, the Jackson Heights Library and Congregation Tifereth Israel in Corona.

The swastikas were removed from the libraries and covered up at the synagogue by the next afternoon. Police are reported to be investigating the vandalism as hate crimes.

On Nov. 4, elected officials held a rally against hate and bias crimes at one of the vandalized libraries.

Swastikas had been painted in the area before, most recently in July.

“We had swastikas painted on houses of worship in Flushing and in Bayside and we fought it,” State Sen. Toby Stavisky told CBS New York. “The perpetrators were arrested and the tips led to arrest and convictions.”

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