Out Loud

  • Freedom

    08 May 2013

    On Monday, May 6, 2013, nine Eritrean female asylum seekers and their 10 children were released from a detention center in Israel. The asylum seekers had not committed any crime, but were facing indefinite detention for entering Israel without proper documentation.

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  • From Boston to Jerusalem

    25 April 2013

    From Boston to Jerusalem

    As everyone the world over knows, last week was a very hard week for the Boston region where we are quite unaccustomed to suffering from acts of terror. I live in Watertown, MA, ground zero for the final manhunt for the perpetrators of the bombing and other crimes. The last gun battle, essentially on Kabbalat Shabbat, was minutes from my home. The silver lining to the senseless violence and suffering is the feeling of solidarity and support Bostonians felt. We all used social media to react in real time to updates on the investigation and manhunt. I was personally touched by the outpouring from friends, family, and colleagues from around the world, including from so many of my co-workers, both Jewish and Arab, in Israel.

    However, the aftermath has left us with some issues to ponder that will not resolve quickly.

    First, our cousins in Israel, sadly, have much more experience with this sort of trauma than we do. We got a hint of this as we made the transition from the Boston Marathon bombings, which coincidentally took place on Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, to Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, the following day. Annually, Israelis make the shift between solemnity and joy, shared sacrifice and national liberation. With last Monday’s events still fresh, the shift to Yom Ha’atzmaut was particularly hard this year for Boston Jews. Will this added dimension better help us understand the Israeli experience? What will Yom Ha’atzmaut feel like next year for us?

    Second, people are beginning to question whether locking down much of the region was necessary. I personally don’t quibble with the decision. I was glad to have my family close at hand last Friday. And as one NIF board member suggested recently, Boston is really a small town. We all know each other, so it made sense that we would all, in unison, obey the call to stay out of the way as if part of a small town. However, another Watertown family interviewed in Ha’aretz suggested that they could not imagine Israel shutting down a major city to hunt down one nineteen-year-old kid. What is the right balance? Hopefully, we will not have to learn the right answer for ourselves the hard way in the future.

    Lastly, the region felt relief and joy when the surviving brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured. The accolades heaped on our first responders were gratifying and touching to listen to. A friend of mine brought his kindergarten twins to the Watertown police station to thank the police in person. A marathoner walked in at that moment to deliver her medal to show her appreciation. Now that the euphoria is dying down, what implications will last week’s events have on social policy? Will it harden our hearts or open them? Will immigration reform suffer? Will civil rights be curtailed in the name of security? Will we act in kinship with those who endure terror daily around the world?

    All of us in Boston are grateful that chapter one of this nightmare has concluded. The healing process is only beginning. As we look to move forward, it helps me to think of Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel’s words at the Boston interfaith service attended by President Obama. Ronne quoted Rabbi Nachman of Breslav who said, “The entire world is a narrow bridge, but the important principle is to transcend, somehow, your fear.”

    Stephane Acel-Green
    New England Regional Director

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  • Aloud and Clear

    11 April 2013

    April 11, 2013

    American and other overseas NIF supporters and Israeli NIF supporters share a set of values and a vision for Israel, but we don't always see all of our issues in exactly the same way. Pluralism and freedom of (and from) religion is a case in point. Some Israelis are bemused and a bit taken aback by how painful attempts by the state-sponsored rabbinical establishment to narrowly define "who is a Jew," and to enforce sexist rules about who can pray and how at the Kotel, the Western Wall, are to their American friends. Some Americans, on the other hand, do not fully appreciate how restrictive and offensive the almost total control of the same rabbinic establishment over life-cycle events -- from birth to marriage to burial -- is to their Israeli cousins.

    And sometimes something happens to remind us all that we are fighting the same fight. Last week police warned our partners at Women of the Wall that they were prepared to file charges against women for praying at the wall, including saying Kaddish, the memorial prayer for the dead, aloud.

    This is too much. It is time for all of us who care about justice in Jerusalem, wherever we live, to stand up with and for the Women of the Wall and the values of pluralism and equality that they stand for every month at the Kotel. I ask each of you to join me in signing a statement of support for these brave women, and to learn more about their struggle. Let them know that they are not alone.

    Even as I write this, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky is submitting recommendations to the prime minister on how to accommodate the rights of women – and really, all non-Orthodox Jews -- at the Wall. Now is the time to make sure our voiced are heard, in Israel, Europe, North America and Australia. Our sisters in Jerusalem need us.

    Daniel Sokatch
    CEO

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  • Women of the Wall Confernce Call

    15 April 2013

    On Friday, April 12, Anat Hoffman briefed NIF supporters who had signed this statement in support of Women of the Wall's struggle for religious freedom and equal rights.

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  • Keep Calm and Pray On

    14 March 2013

    14 March 2013

    "Keep Calm and Pray On." That was the motto this week as NIF-grantee Women of the Wall ushered in the Hebrew month of Nissan at the Western Wall with hundreds of supporters. Tamar Zandberg, Michal Rozin and Stav Shaffir, three newly elected members of Knesset, were right in front, leading the way for the entire group. Their presence helped keep the police at bay and, unlike in past months, no arrests occurred. The leadership displayed by these MKs was a true embodiment of the spirit of International Women's Day, celebrated just last week.

    And while that was happening in Jerusalem, 400 people gathered (“in the rain!” one of our staffers told me) at a solidarity event in New York, which was co-sponsored by NIF. 200 more gathered an event outside of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. This is a model of the spirit of the new Israeli-American partnership NIF and our allies are forging, one that recognizes that our struggles and our causes are connected. Activists in Israel know that their sisters and brothers in America have their back.

    The momentum displayed at these events is part of what I hope is a new trend in progress for the rights of women in Israel. The 19th Knesset has an unprecedented number of women, and many of them are courageous champions of our values. As is the custom in Israel, new members of the Knesset give speeches. Some of the speeches were terrific (check out Ruth Calderon's Talmud lesson, now something of an internet sensation), but one in particular blew me away. New Labor MK Merav Michaeli talked about her vision for Israel, and how vital it is for those who have power to stand up for those who don't. After the past three-plus years we've spent fighting scores of antidemocratic bills coming out of that very chamber, it was a beautiful thing to hear those words from the rostrum of the Knesset:

     

    Although our work is far from over, there has been significant progress in fighting for women’s rights. Our grantees are doing critical work, and not just on International Women’s Day. The new members of Knesset, coupled with the events of the past week, leave me feeling that maybe – just maybe - the tide on women’s rights in Israel is beginning to turn.


    Daniel Sokatch
    CEO

     

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Israel's dilemma: Who can be an Israeli?

By Daniel Sokatch and David N. Myers

13 January 2014