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Rabbi David M. Glickman

Legendary campaign manager James Carville coined the phrase “The economy, stupid,” in the war room of Clinton’s 1992 campaign reminding his team of the only issue that mattered to their staff.

On the left and the right, in the White House and in the Knesset, we have all become distracted.  

One may falsely think the largest foreign policy issue is whether or not Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking before Congress. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}This is not the real issue.

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I would like to respond to Rabbi Nemitoff’s open letter to “Bibi,” published in the Feb. 19 edition of The Chronicle. 

The rabbi is very concerned about the investigation of Israeli corrupt politicians. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}The country is a democracy and holds its leaders accountable for their behavior. Those actions have been publicized in Israeli and world media. As investigations are either underway or have not been concluded, it is inappropriate for any of us to arrive at conclusions, let alone casting aspersions on the country’s prime minister.

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Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff

Mr. Prime Minister:

I just returned from eight days in Israel. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}As always, it was a remarkable time, made even more incredible when I awoke each day knowing that I was in a place in which my ancestors (literally ... my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my great-great grandfather) lived, a place that hundreds of generations of my ancestors prayed for and prayed to see, a place that percolates with new and ancient ideas side by side, figuring out how to make this spit of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean a place worthy to be called “ha-tikvah” (the hope).

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“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share it.” Tolstoy

One strikingly poignant article, and an opposing view to the Page 1 article published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (Feb. 12, 2015) entitled “Analyzing the high-stakes game of Netanyahu’s Congress speech,” is a commentary by Ruthie Blum. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}(“Right from Wrong: Anti-Semitism denial and smug Jews,” Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2015)

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Netanyahu will speak to Congress, and the front page of the Chronicle reports that some Jewish organizations and Jewish members of Congress are in a snit. The White House is outraged. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}Really? Does this mean the president has veto power over whom Congress may listen to? Yes, the normal diplomatic minuet was circumvented, but if Obama had been approached first, his response would have been negative. Then Israel would be denied the opportunity to make its case to Congress and the American people.

A question. When the current deadline passes, as all Obama’s deadlines seem to do, what do we get? Another deadline? And when that one also is ignored, has Obama said what he will do? Not that it really matters. In foreign affairs, the whole world knows what Obama says is meaningless.

America is uniquely positioned to impose truly effective sanctions that will crush Iran’s economy if they continue developing the bomb. Iran has been sponsoring terrorism throughout the Middle East. This doesn’t come cheap. And now oil prices have dropped in half. Iran’s economy is shaky. Now is the time for decisive action. I doubt if they can weave enough of their Persian rugs to make up for the shortfall.

Obama is letting Iran off the hook at the very time it is most vulnerable. Hopefully, Netanyahu will point this out, along with, more importantly, making Israel’s case on a platform that will permit his message to be heard by millions.

If Obama’s feelings are hurt, it is worth the price. The stakes are far too high to let his thin skin be the decisive issue. Congress is poised to act on tough new sanctions. Obama says he will use his veto. Israel’s destiny is on the line. Meanwhile, that humming sound you hear is thousands of Iranian centrifuges spinning, spinning, spinning.{/mprestriction}

 

 

Valentine’s Day — much like Halloween — is a holiday that has begun taking over our stores for more and more time each year. As it looms larger in our cultural landscape — and many of us are decades removed from premade valentine cards and candy hearts — it is worth looking at how Valentine’s day is in sync (or out of sync) with our Jewish values. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}The holiday itself has its roots, as its name implies, in the history of the medieval Christian martyr, Valentinus. It is still on a number of church calendars, and Jewishly you can make an argument in either direction whether or not Jews should — according to a strict interpretation of Jewish law — celebrate the holiday at all.

Instead of focusing on this aspect, I’d like to focus on the type of love that the holiday celebrates in our culture and if this vision of love is compatible with Judaism. What I think is positive about promoting “Valentine’s” love is a reminder that romance is a necessary ingredient to a loving relationship. This is a very Jewish idea. The sheva berachot read under the chuppah describe the couple as re-im ahuvim, “beloved companions.” The images of Song of Songs describe a passionate love that is sensual, emotional and physical. The Jewish wedding ceremony includes a public religious ceremony under the chuppah, but it also includes a very private, intimate moment called “yichud” where the couple has private time together after the public ceremony.

There is a negative aspect about the American Valentinization of love. It creates a false picture that love should be romantic, passionate, roses and love letters — all the time. This is, quite frankly, unrealistic. Ask any couple who has been married for more than 50 or 60 years. The language of the ketubah is decidedly unromantic. It speaks to the day in and day out obligations that provide a safe home for both partners. It is not unlike the love from “Fiddler on the Roof’s” song “Do you Love Me?” written by lyricist Sheldon Harnick. (After 25 years, “And I suppose I love you, too.”) Passion and security. Romance and tedium. Valentine’s day and “Fiddler.” We need it all.

Rabbi David Glickman is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom.{/mprestriction}

 

Nikki Multer

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 7, 20 students from KU Hillel travelled to Israel through KU Hillel’s Israel Leadership Mission (ILM). ILM is a high-level immersive experience in Israel for students that demonstrate a commitment to serving a leadership role within the Jewish community upon their return. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}The trip is intended to help students gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s economic and social issues that it faces on a daily basis. The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City has been funding ILM for the past seven years. Throughout the trip, students interacted with Jewish community leaders, peers and children while volunteering at many of the projects that the Jewish Federation supports. ILM is a way for students to see the issues first hand that Israeli’s are facing and then bring back what they have learned to KU.

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The Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation recently received a grant from the Community Legacy Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City to help implement and improve its facility safety and security plan. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}This grant will be utilized to address such issues as improved interior and exterior security measures; tornado emergency improvements and planning; fire safety improvements and development of an enhanced safety and security plan.

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The White House’s announcement of its conference on “Countering Violent Extremism” names Boston as one of the pilot cities where law enforcement officials have developed partnerships with Muslim community leaders. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}Unfortunately, to counter “violent extremism,” federal agencies are working with the Islamic Society of Boston and its political arm, the Muslim American Society.

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Did you know that volunteers for the Audio-Reader Network read The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle every week? Your local newspaper is available for free, in audible format, via a closed circuit radio and on the Internet to anyone who has difficulty reading print due to a disability. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}My mother, Petey Cerf, started Audio-Reader 43 years ago. She was dedicated to providing the visually impaired and print disabled with free access to printed material. Four decades later, Audio-Reader now has 350 volunteers who provide 24 hours of programming each day to thousands of listeners in Kansas, Missouri and beyond.

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Beginning on Page 1 of the of The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle of Jan. 29, 2015, Ron Kampeas criticizes Speaker John Boehner for his invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}He expresses distaste for the Israeli leader’s acceptance. Nothing in the Constitution of the U.S. prohibits such an invitation, but the White House has strongly denounced it. Mr. Obama has refused to meet with Mr. Netanyahu, but Mr. Cameron of the U.K. has recently lobbied in favor of prolongation of still more talks with the Iranians at Mr. Obama’s apparent behest. The White House seems to ignore the heavy water program in Iran, which the U.N. has not been allowed to inspect. Talks with Iran have been delayed again for reasons left unclear, at least to me. Iran has repeatedly expressed an intention to wipe Israel off the map. 

Does President Obama intend to kick the can down the road until Iran nukes and destroys Israel and kills another six million Jews? Mr. Netanyanu is desperate to save his people from the flames of a nuclear holocaust.

Do you think that a more balanced review would better serve the readers of the Chronicle?{/mprestriction}

 

 

Many of you know that from 1998 to 2003 I served as chair of the Committee on Conversion for the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the international association of all Reform rabbis). {mprestriction ids="1,3"}As chair of that committee, I oversaw the creation of a document to provide guidance for Reform rabbis who work with prospective converts. During the past 30 years I have spoken frequently on the topic of conversion to Judaism, as well as lead many workshops for prospective converts and their families. As I have renewed my work in this area here in Kansas City, I have been reminded of many facts and perceptions that I believe are important to keep before us.

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