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The Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper is the only recognized source of Jewish news in Houston, Texas, the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, in print and online. Distinguished as being the oldest (since 1908) Jewish newspaper in the Southwest.
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ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival rolls out Feb. 19

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 11:11am
ReelAbilities Film and Arts Festival returns to Houston for its fifth year, Sunday through Thursday, Feb. 19-23, with an award-winning film festival, live jam session, art exhibit, educational tours to local schools and seminars at offices around Houston. Events use the arts as a vehicle to educate and change perceptions about individuals with varying levels of abilities, all at no cost to participants and attendees. "The impact that ReelAbilities Houston has on the lives of Houstonians is immeasurable," said Vikki Evans, event chair. "Even if you don't live with a disability yourself, you've probably interacted with someone dealing with a disability you may not fully understand or know how to interact with. It is our mission at ReelAbilities to challenge the way people think about disabilities, and to encourage Houstonians to take action ... treating each other with more respect and compassion than ever before." ReelAbilities was founded in New York in 2007 and is presented in 15 cities. It generates and nurtures awareness of those living with disabilities of all types by showcasing their lives and stories through art, film, music and inspirational talks. The film portion takes place Sunday through Thursday, Feb. 19-23, at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St., where 15 movies will be shown, followed by interactive panels for audience discussion. Read the full story right now in our e-edition. Lots of stories and special features are only available in the print and E-editions of the Jewish Herald-Voice. To make sure you are not missing out, subscribe to the print edition or subscribe to and read the E-edition right now.

Pro-Israel supporters convene in Austin

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 2:40pm
More than 250 pro-Israel supporters convened in Austin last week to advocate for HB 89 and SB 134, anti-BDS Israel legislation. The groups included AIPAC; American Jewish Committee, Stand with US, Christians United for Israel, The Israel Project; Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah, and high school students from Robert M. Beren Academy, Bellaire, Austin and Elkins high schools. The Houston delegation met with more than 40 legislative offices. AJC Houston also met with the consuls general of Ireland and Mexico to discuss the Trump administration and foreign policy-related issues. Members of the AJC Dallas and Houston delegations concluded their day in Austin with a discussion at the Texas General Land Office with Comm. George P. Bush. Bush outlined his recent trip to Israel, that included briefings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the late President Shimon Peres and technology-related companies. Bush discussed the technologies, from water to medical, that have dramatic impact on everyday life.

Emery senior signs letter to play football on collegiate level

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 4:01pm
A very small percentage of high school athletes have the opportunity to play a sport on the collegiate level. For Emery High School senior Michael Ran, the biggest challenge was picking which sport he would play. On Friday, Feb. 3, Ran made his decision official, signing a letter of intent to play football for Pomona College in California. Ran celebrated the accomplishment in front of more than 100 family, friends, coaches and classmates at Emery. "Rarely have we had as talented an athlete as Michael," Emery Head of School Stuart Dow said. "The opportunity to play at the next level is unique, but he's not only a great athlete, he's a terrific student and person." Ran was a two-time all-state and all-district receiver and defensive back for the Jaguars. He was a key piece to the Jaguars 2015 state championship and caught 81 passes for 1,601 yards and 34 touchdowns in two seasons with the Jaguars. He was also a key part of Emery's baseball and basketball programs, but decided to further pursue his football career during his junior season. "I just really like the fast-paced action, brotherhood and community aspect of football," Ran said. "It's just something that clicked with me and I look forward to doing it the next four years." Emery football and baseball coach Adrian Adams has see Ran grow since his freshman year. Adams did have to do a little convincing for Ran's parents, however, who weren't completely sold on their son playing football in high school. "Dynamic is the best word for what he can do on the field," Adams said. "If the ball is in the air, he is going to make a play. He has helped us out tremendous and won a championship. "He's really grown as a player, but also as a person. It couldn't have happened to a better young man." Ran has also overcome his share of injuries. He broke his arm his freshman year and played through a torn labrum his senior year, only missing one game. "He never complained and always wanted to be on the field," Adams said. Ran will report to Pomona in late July/early August for football and battle for a spot to play as a freshman. Right now, he will finish out the basketball season, before moving to shortstop on the baseball team. "Emery is a great place for sports," Ran said. "You can play any sport you want and the coaches really care about you on and off the field."

At least 17 bomb threats called in to JCCs nationwide in third wave of harassment

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 3:02pm
At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats in the third wave of such mass disruption this month. Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks - an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security - said the threats were called in late Tuesday morning. Some of the messages were live, he confirmed. "[I]n the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially," he said, adding that perpetrators have been "leveraging technologies to make mass calls." Goldenberg confirmed that threats had been called into JCCs in Albany, New York; Syracuse, New York; West Orange, New Jersey; Milwaukee, San Diego and Salt Lake City. The JCC in New Haven, Connecticut received a live call at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday threatening violence. The JCC is housed in several locations following a Dec. 5 fire, and evacuated about 100 people from those places following the call. After law enforcement determined that the threat was not credible, the evacuees returned. The New Haven JCC was also targeted in a wave of bomb threats about two weeks ago. "We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe," said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. "While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this." Diamondstein said the JCC has drilled safety protocols extensively in order to be prepared for a situation like this. Diamondstein had a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with an FBI officer to sharpen procedures for dealing with an active shooter. "We have been diligent in looking at our security for a while now," she said. Goldenberg said his organization was instructing the JCCs to be in touch with local police to determine if they should evacuate. The JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey announced an evacuation at 11:42 a.m. "In light of the newest bomb threats, we must remain a resilient community, and we need to ensure that we are back at our JCCs as soon as local police advise the all-clear," Goldenberg said. He added: "Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I'm confident that our institutions are taking security seriously - and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public." On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.

Agreement reached to fast-track Brays Bayou flood relief

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:38pm
According to a Jan. 24 email from Houston City Council, District C, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen have announced an agreement involving the federal, state and county levels of government, which will fast-track long-awaited flood relief for Houston families along the Brays Bayou watershed. The new intergovernmental funding agreement seeks to solve cash-flow challenges that have delayed the Harris County Flood Control District's ability to complete Project Brays, a series of planned improvements including channel-widening, bridge replacements and new storm water detention basins. With the city of Houston's assistance, these expedited upgrades will remove hundreds of homes and businesses from the 100-year flood plain on an accelerated timeline. Known for his skill in coalition building, Mayor Turner's leadership on this issue has led to unprecedented cooperation between federal, state, city and county governments, which will lead to reduced flooding in District C's Meyerland, Marilyn Estates, Braeswood Place and other neighborhoods along Brays Bayou. At the mayor's behest to expedite these needed drainage improvements, the Texas Water Development Board has agreed to loan the city of Houston $46 million. If approved by City Council, the city will then advance the funding to the HCFCD to assist in construction to improve Brays Bayou. Once the project is complete, the HCFCD will be reimbursed this funding by the federal government and, will in turn, repay the loan to the city of Houston. Similar funding agreements are planned to promote upgrades for White Oak Bayou and Hunting Bayou, at an estimated cost of $130 million in total for all three bayous. Since 2010, when voters approved the ReBuild Houston Program, the city's drainage improvement efforts have focused on long-term projects to improve the conveyance of storm water from rooftops to bayous. Last week's introduction of the SWAT Program and the new agreement for expedited bayou funding represent a major shift in the city of Houston's approach to addressing drainage issues, emphasizing Mayor Turner's commitment to improving drainage at the local, neighborhood and regional levels. City Council is expected to vote Wednesday, Jan. 25, on the proposal to receive the $46 million loan from the TWDB and to advance this funding to the HCFCD for the Project Brays improvements.

10,000 activists march on Houston City Hall

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 4:10pm
More than 10,000 women's rights and equal rights activists marched on Houston City Hall Jan. 21, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Similar marches were held in cities across the U.S. Read the full story and see more photos in the JHV's next print edition.

10,000 activits march on Houston City Hall

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 3:12pm
More than 10,000 women's rights and equal rights activists marched on Houston City Hall Jan. 21, following the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Similar marches were held in cities across the U.S. Read the full story and see more photos in the JHV's next print edition.

Amb. Dennis Ross sketches Middle East landscape Trump administration will face

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 5:18pm
The program Amb. Dennis Ross planned on Thursday night, Jan. 12, at Congregation Beth Yeshurun didn't happen. Billed as "The Trump Administration's Foreign Policy Agenda," the topic changed when Ross approached the bimah and began speaking to an audience of approximately 900. He opened saying, "I'd love to be able to do that [speak on the foreign policy agenda]. But, I'd need to know what the Donald Trump foreign policy agenda is. I'm not sure at this point that anybody can say, with any competence, that they know what it is." Instead, Ross said he would speak about the Middle East that the incoming president will face. With more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ross served two years as special assistant to President Barack Obama. He was the U.S. point man on the Middle East peace process in the both the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. Ross' presentation was sponsored by American Jewish Committee Houston and Congregation Beth Yeshurun. Referring to the current Middle East landscape, Ross began by telling the audience, "It would be easy for me to tell you everything is terrible. You'd go home depressed. The landscape that Donald Trump's administration is going to face in the Middle East is more daunting than any of his predecessors." Ross enumerated six points of war and/or crisis: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Israel and the Palestinians. Ross described Syria as a nation where 12 million people have been displaced and an entire generation has no hope of a future. To reconstruct Syria would cost around $300 billion. "The Russians assisted Assad in retaking Aleppo using a scorched-earth approach, where every school, hospital and bakery was a target," said Ross. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved almost everything he wanted in Syria, he continued. That includes an airbase and a naval facility. Simultaneously, Russia has empowered Iran, due of their use of Shi'a militias to augment government forces. In Syria and Iraq, where Shi'a militias are engaged, sectarianism has increased, warned Ross. Even if ISIS is defeated, the sectarianism that excluded the Sunnis and allowed ISIS to grow will be re-created. If ISIS is removed, who then governs? And, who is responsible for reconstruction? "In Mosul and Raqqua, there has to be a plan to defeat ISIS, to reconstruct and to include Sunnis," said Ross. "Those are a set of challenges as serious as any president has to face. But, there's more." Ross described the conflict in Yemen as a proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran. "Iranians aren't dying in these proxy wars," said Ross, "although the price the Shi'a militias are paying is a high one." Stressing Egypt is a country of 93 million people, Ross warned that Egyptian citizens are facing shortages of cooking oil, sugar and rice. "Does that make you feel comfortable?" he asked. "The Trump administration has a stake in seeing that Egypt doesn't become a failed state. If Egypt were to become a failed state, the flow of refugees [out of Egypt] would become a major problem for Europe. There has to be, at minimum, a plan to see that Egypt doesn't become a failing or a failed state." Ross categorized Libya as a landscape of competing militias, not a state. He cautioned the incoming administration to understand the changing balance of power in the region and who the American allies are. "And, it's important to understand whenever there's a vacuum in the region, the worst forces fill [that vacuum]," he added. But, it's not all hopeless, said Ross. He described two hopeful developments that could become game changers in the Middle East: 1) the convergence of strategic interests between Israel and the Sunni states; and 2) internal changes in Saudi Arabia. An alignment between Israel and the Sunni Arab states became possible after both identified Iran as a major threat, said Ross. "It doesn't mean the cooperation in intelligence is broadcast. But, what they're doing together is profoundly real. And, this convergence is an asset to the United States." Ross stressed this convergence occurred despite President Obama's policy, which saw Iran as a source of solving problems, instead of a source of creating problems in the region. The Trump administration could build on this convergence as a means of countering Iran and the Shi'a militias, suggested Ross. Applying this asset to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ross suggested that the traditional model of relations between the two sides must change. "Today, the Palestinians are too weak, too divided and too preoccupied with the succession of [Palestinian Prime Minister] Abu Mazen. There is a competition [for leadership]. Do they compete to see who is more reasonable? No, they compete to see who is more pure. Simply coming to the table is considered a concession. To talk is considered a concession. The Palestinians can't deal with the Israelis, unless they have a cover. And, the cover would be the Arabs." Ross then spoke about Vision 2030, the comprehensive Saudi reform plan. Calling the Saudi restructuring plan "a revolution in the guise of economic change," Ross argued the reform process would lead to outcomes, such as political transparency, an overhaul of the educational system and a decrease in the power of the religious police. "What's driving these changes is completely internal. It's not us," said Ross. "We have a stake in their success because there's never been a successful model of development in the Arab world. "Everything I say requires that the new administration gets this. See what's going on in Saudi Arabia. Understand the priorities of Arab leaders." Ross warned that three assumptions have governed American political policy in the Middle East since the Eisenhower administration: 1) If the U.S. distances itself from Israel, we will gain from the Arabs; 2) If we cooperate with the Israelis, we will lose with the Arabs; 3) If we want to transform the region, we have to solve the Palestinian issue. The Obama administration focused on the settlements because Obama thought it wouldn't harm Israeli security while simultaneously distancing the U.S. from Israel to get closer to the Arabs, said Ross. "[Obama] went to Cairo to reach out to the Muslim Arabs and he didn't go to Israel afterwards," said Ross. "I told President Obama: If you don't go to Israel afterwards, all you're going to do is convince the Israeli public that [all concessions] would come at their expense. And, when he didn't go, he created a deficit of trust with the Israelis that he never recovered from." The priorities of the Arab states have always been their security and their survival. Said Ross, "They are never going to base their relationship on what we do with Israel because they need us. It's not that they're unconcerned about ISIS. It's just that they see Iran and the Shi'ite militias as a greater threat to them. "If the Moshiach comes tomorrow, and we had peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the one thing we know is it wouldn't end the war in Syria. It wouldn't end the war in Iraq. It wouldn't stop the war in Yemen. It wouldn't change Egypt's situation. It wouldn't alter Iran's aspirations in the region. Because, it was never the sole source of conflict in the region. "Why do I care about this issue?" Ross asked. "Because I care about Israel. I don't want it to become a bi-national state. Do I think we can produce two states anytime soon? I don't. The Palestinians are too divided, too weak, too consumed by a sense of grievance, too preoccupied with who will succeed Abu Mazen. The level of disbelief between Israelis and Palestinians is the worst it's ever been. "What is needed is a set of objectives that we can actually do. Focus on what you can do. What steps can be actually taken that would reflect the building of two states? We don't need more failed initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians."

Couple dedicates new sefer Torah in son's memory

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 11:14am
A new sefer Torah was written in Houston on Dec. 28, commissioned by Rabbi Daniel and Eta Cotlar, in memory of their son, Mendel, who passed away three weeks after his Bar Mitzvah in 2014. The Cotlars chose sofer (scribe) Heshy Benshimon, based on his reputation as one of the world's leading scribes. Along with members of the community, Benshimon, who writes in the style of the Alte Rebbe, completed the last words of Torah scroll he'd been working on for almost a year. "Writing a Torah, the last of the 613 mitzvot, is a great mitzvah that brings blessings to all those who contribute to it. It's one of the most joyous and beautiful mitzvos," Rabbi Daniel and Eta Cotlar wrote in a letter that was included in Mendel's Torah Dedication and Celebration program. The ceremony took place on the fifth night of Chanukah. The program began with the lighting of the Chanukah candles and singing the blessings, followed by a procession. Leading the community were children carrying a banner - "Mendel's Torah Dedication & Celebration, Chanukah 2016" - which featured Mendel's picture. A car, with a large chanukiah on top, blared festive Jewish music, while torchbearers and children carrying neon glow sticks lit the way. As many as 300 celebrants made their way, walking and dancing, along Candle, Kitty Brook and Portal lanes in Fondren Southwest to the Chabad Lubavitch Center. The event was timed to coincide with Chanukah and winter break, allowing all the Cotlar family from Toronto, North Carolina, Boston, Pittsburgh and New Haven, Conn., to attend, honoring Mendel's life and commitment to Torah and mitzvot. Community members from near and far were honored by carrying the Torah and holding the chuppah along the way. "It means everything to us that you're here," Rabbi Daniel Cotlar said. Outside the Chabad synagogue, those holding Torahs lined both sides of the stairway leading up to the building, as the Torah was brought inside the sanctuary. Everyone followed, and the celebration continued with singing and dancing with all the Torah scrolls. Many of Mendel's friends were there. Mendel Lazaroff played his version of Modeh Ani, written more than a year ago, in memory of his dear friend. Yoeli Donin, another friend, said: "Cool to see how you can take such sadness and pain and make such a happy and joyous event from it! [It's] amazing that the Cotlars are helping us live Mendel's legacy in such an inspirational way." "What does one say at an event like this?" Rabbi Cotlar addressed the crowd "At an event where Eta and I, and all of us, feel such strong emotions, such confusing emotions. You can't go on the Internet and look up 'siyum speeches for people who've lost a child.' All Eta and I can do is speak from the heart and tell you what's on our mind. "In general, we found it uplifting to learn and think about the eternal presence of a neshama's actions in the world," he continued. "In the book of Tanya, it describes the spiritual connections we make as 'yichud zeh nitzchi l'olam' lasting forever. Each memory we have, each mitzvah done by Mendel or for Mendel ... lasts forever. "And, more than just lasting forever, it increases. A few months ago, on Mendel's yahrzeit, Eta and I discovered a speech from the Rebbe from that same day, the 13th of Tishrei, which is also the yartzeit of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe." Rabbi Cotlar shared the Rebbe's remarks: "The Rebbe explained that in the world at large, people think that as time passes all matters tend to grow weaker; but the truth is, that while physical things do fade, spiritual things strengthen. A person's neshama, their soul, and the influence that the neshama has on the world gets stronger with each passing minute, hour and day after leaving the body. The passage of time brings about an elevation and its impact on the world continues. ... Thanks to you and thousands of others, Mendel's theme of kindness and gratitude continues to spread. So now, with this siyum, with this new Torah, Mendel has one more tool, one more way to act in the world." The event culminated with a video that followed the words of the soundtrack of a modern Hebrew song about gratitude, "Modeh Ani," by Omer Adam, and inspirational remarks by Mendel's mother, Eta, as images of Mendel and his family flashed across the screen. "A few weeks ago, I read a quote describing child loss: 'Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried,' " said Eta Cotlar. "How true are those words. I read it and I immediately felt my shoulders get heavy. There are certain things a person cannot be expected to carry ... carrying something doesn't have to be a burden. We all carry so many things throughout our lives that should feel heavy, but they don't, because we don't simply carry them, we hold them and keep them safe, we lift them up and share them with others. ... We carry these things out of love, excitement, curiosity and pride. It was staring me in the face - Mendel's Torah. A Torah scroll is so heavy, but holding it is the greatest honor. "Keeping Torah is a challenge," she continued, "but it lifts us up. It gives us strength. Torah never ends. It epitomizes continuity. Just as it appears to be ending it begins again. ... This sefer Torah will forever be a reminder that the end is just another kind of a beginning, a reminder that you are here as long as we remember to live life as you did, helping others and bringing simcha [joy] to others, as long as we remember the fun, happy, loving times we shared as a family and community, you will always be here. "... Mendel, as we hold and carry you, you are carrying us, lifting us up and continuing to bring us nachas," Eta continued. "... Torah protects people. It brings people together, it shines light on dark places, just as you always did, Mendel. ..." Friends and family were visibly moved by the service. "It was beyond beautiful and very moving for me," said Miriam Fishman, a long-time family friend. "I could never understand the Rebbe's urgency to bring Moshiach until now. He felt our pain and wanted it to end. It was also so uplifting to be part of such a happy time, celebrating the life of a superb neshama." The Torah will be used in a way Mendel would have wanted, "to lift people up who are down, to make people feel special and appreciated, and to bring out the very best in people," said Rabbi Cotlar. The family hopes it will eventually be used for a children's and beginner's minyan but, until that that time, the Torah will be used regularly in the Chabad House in Cary, N.C., where Mendel's uncle, Rabbi Yisrael Cotlar, is rabbi. "We're grateful that we've found it a home so connected to us and Mendel," said Rabbi Daniel Cotlar.

Carrie Fisher, 'Star Wars' actress, dies at 60

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 12:43pm
Carrie Fisher, the actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" films, has died days after suffering a heart attack. She was 60. Fisher's family spokesman Simon Halls confirmed to multiple publications that she passed away Tuesday morning. Fisher had been in intensive care at UCLA's medical center after suffering a heart attack on Friday during a flight from London to Los Angeles. Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California in 1956 to star parents: singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. After only one major film role - in the comedy "Shampoo," alongside Warren Beatty and Julie Christie - Fisher was cast as Princess Leia in George Lucas' 1977 blockbuster "Star Wars." She reprised the memorable role in the next two "Star Wars" films and in 2015's franchise reboot, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Also a prolific writer, Fisher wrote four novels and three memoirs. Her last film appearance will be "Star Wars: Episode VIII," set to be released in 2017. Fisher told J., the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, in 2008 that she frequently attended Friday night services and shared Shabbat meals with Orthodox friends.

UN passes anti-settlement resolution, US abstains

Fri, 12/23/2016 - 5:16pm
(JTA) - The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, with the United States abstaining. The resolution was adopted Friday afternoon with 14 votes in favor and only the U.S. abstention. It called Israeli settlements "a flagrant violation of international law" that damage the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sustained applause greeted the passage of the resolution. American presidents have long protected Israel from extreme censure at the United Nations. As recently as 2011, Obama vetoed a similar resolution on settlements that like this one was adamantly opposed by Israel. Samantha Power, the American U.N. envoy, in a lengthy explanation of the American vote, said the resolution is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy opposing Israeli settlements and accurately reflects the facts on the ground. "The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for for decades," Power said. "Our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how presidents have approached this issue." Power said the United States could not support the resolution outright because it ignores other relevant issues and because Israel is often mistreated at the United Nations. She talked at length about the latter sentiment. "The simple truth is for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other members of the United Nations," the ambassador said. Power emphasized that the abstention did not reflect any change in the American commitment to Israeli security. "Our commitment to that security has never wavered and never will," she said. Israel was defiant in its reaction to the resolution and the U.S. vote. "Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms," a statement from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall 'occupied territory.' "The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes. Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution. Speaking to the Security Council, Israel's U.N. envoy, Danny Danon, described the resolution as "evil" and likened it to condemning Americans for building in Washington or the French for building in Paris. "This resolution today will be added to the long and shameful list of anti-Israel U.N. resolutions," Danon said. "Instead of charting a course forward, you are sending a message to the Palestinians that they should continue on the path of terrorism and incitement, that they should continue to hold people hostage, that they should continue to seek meaningless statements from the international community." The resolution was introduced by New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal after a similar resolution, introduced by Egypt in coordination with the Palestinians, was withdrawn on Thursday amid intense pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump. On Facebook, Trump wrote that the resolution was "extremely unfair." "As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis," he wrote. Several U.S. lawmakers also criticized the American abstention. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey, both New York Democrats, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., all issued statements criticizing the Obama administration. "It is extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the Administration has failed to veto this resolution," said Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader. "Whatever one's views are on settlements, the U.N. is the wrong forum to settle these issues." The resolution and the U.S. vote drew differing reactions from American Jewish groups. The American Jewish Committee in a statement said it was "deeply disappointed that the United States chose to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution today which singled out Israel for condemnation." The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish community's foreign policy umbrella group, issued a scathing denunciation of the resolution and the American vote. "There is no justification or explanation that validates the United States failure to veto the one-sided, offensive resolution adopted by the Security Council today," said a statement attributed from the Presidents Conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. "The United States vote will be seen as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship that will nevertheless continue to mark the close ties between the peoples of the two countries." Liberal Jewish groups issued statements supporting the vote and the American acquiescence in its passage. J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby, welcomed the resolution, as did the New Israel Fund. The progressive Zionist group Ameinu called it a "reasonable response" to the situation on the ground. "The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions," J Street said.

AABGU kickoff features fine Israeli wines

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 12:47pm
A kickoff reception for American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Gourmet Kosher Extravaganza was held on Dec. 6 at the home of Barbara and Jonathan Baliff. The 16th-annual fine-dining event will take place on Feb. 20 at the Westin Galleria Hotel. Featured presentations will focus on cyber security research and BGU's 2020 Vision. Extravaganza co-chairs, Dr. Riva Collins and Shira Yoshor, led the kickoff program, which was for those patrons who contributed a certain amount toward the dinner. The evening featured an Israeli fine wines tasting and remarks by Joshua Greenstein, executive vice president of Israeli Wine Producers Association, and Josh Feldman, Royal Wines regional sales manager for the Gulf Coast area. Greenstein's goal is to become the voice of the Israeli wine industry in the U.S. Feldman desires to move Israeli wines from niche establishments to the mainstream marketplace. Kickoff guests included Amb. Eitan Levon, consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States, and his wife Nava; Jason Goldstein, owner and chef of Genesis Restaurant and Wine Bar; and Congregation Beth Yeshurun Senior Rabbi David Rosen and his wife, Marcie. Rabbi Rosen, who goes to Israel every summer with his wife, suggested that visitors rent a car and tour the wineries, which "seem to always be in these magnificent picturesque settings," he said. Over the years, the rabbi has seen Ben-Gurion University grow. From his summer 2016 visit, he said, "There's a lot that's new. But, what's most impressive is that Ben-Gurion University looks and feels like the university of the future. ..." Rabbi Rosen enthusiastically described a part of the campus that is being dedicated to building the world of the future. He asked, "How many universities have such a place? ... You walk into this building, and it's like something out of science fiction. Because, as you walk through, you've got people in all the different rooms and they're all acting out these possible scenarios for how we will live in the future; how we will eat in the future; how we will educate our children in the future. How we will innovate science, technology into the mainstream into the future. "This facet of Ben-Gurion University," he continued, "is in partnership with 22 private corporations from all over the world, that are hoping to help Ben-Gurion create these ideas and initiatives and then to commercialize them at some point. ... And, all these young people - and smart! They're so smart. It's just so impressive. If I'm looking for a place in the world where we are going to see our future born, I think it is Ben-Gurion University," Rabbi Rosen said. The rabbi also described BGU's robust Department of Jewish Studies. "... there is this entire study of Judaism at the most serious level," said Rabbi Rosen. "They're having international conferences on Jewish studies. ... They've got a brilliant faculty, which is exploring everything Jewish you can think of and teaching it to these young people." For more information on BGU or next year's Extravaganza, contact Deborah Bergeron, 713-522-8284 or

Netanyahu to the Jewish world: A great change is taking place

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 2:44pm
For three days in early December, 50 editors, correspondents and publishers from the world's top Jewish media outlets gathered in Jerusalem for the second Jewish Media Summit. Several other Israel-based writers and I attended, along with participants from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, Turkey and many European countries. A highlight of the Summit was our meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Right from the start, the prime minister was impatient. It was clear that he had something important that he wanted to tell the Jewish world. He interrupted the very first question put to him by moderator Jane Eisner (editor of The Forward), asking "Is this a speech or a question?" (It was, in fact, a question, concerning anti-Semitism and the soon-to-be Trump administration. Netanyahu answered by saying that "Anti-Semitism is a fringe phenomenon in the United States of America," though it should be opposed wherever it does appear.)  And, before Eisner could formulate her next question, Netanyahu again interrupted the proceedings and said (playfully, as we were soon to realize), "What about Israel's growing isolation in the world?  You've got to ask me about that. If you don't, I'm going to ask it."   Before Eisner took the bait and asked about Israel's isolation, there were a few questions about other issues. Asked about the failure to implement his own government's decision to provide for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, Netanyahu said that Israel's political system "works in fits and starts." And so, while on the one hand, he declared firmly, "When I say that the Kotel is the Wall for all the Jews. I mean it." On the other hand, he said, "It's going to take time. It's not so easy to do. I think we'll resolve it, I hope."   Concerning Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said, "It was never and it's still not about a Palestinian state. It's always been about the Jewish state, and the fact that there is a challenge to the Balfour Declaration 100 years latertells you that we haven't come very far."   And then, Netanyahu finally got the question that he wanted. In answering, he proudly told us that, rather than any "growing isolation," the situation, today, is that "The great powers of Asia, the countries of Africa, the countries of Latin America are all coming to Israel, and it's happening at an unbelievable pace." Netanyahu said that his work schedule is so jam-packed with prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers that "I wish we had a little isolation, because I could use the time."   To explain Israel's growing popularity, Netanyahu used the following acronym: TTP: Terror: Netanyahu said that militant Islam is a concern throughout the world, and that "countries want to defend themselves, and Israel has a vast capability, especially an intelligence capability." Technology: In any area of technology, Netanayahu said, "Israel is at the nexus of the great change that is taking place." Netanyahu pointed, especially to the fields of cyber security (in 2016, Israel received more than 20 percent of global private investment in this area) and driverless vehicles (Israel has 400 startups in this field alone). He said that world leaders want to meet with him "not only to protect themselves against terrorism, but to seize the future. And, the future is technology, and Israel is a global force in technology." Peace: Netanyahu said that he tells all the foreign leaders with whom he meets, that Israel is willing "to negotiate peace immediately without any preconditions." The fact that this hasn't happened, he said, is because the Palestinians are not ready to negotiate. And yet, Netanyahu said that the Middle East is growing a lot friendlier to Israel because "many countries in the region understand that Israel is not their enemy, but their ally in fighting militant Islam ... in this indispensable battle for the future."   The bottom line, said Netanyahu, is that "Israel's situation in the world is changing at a dazzling pace. Ultimately," he said, "this will be reflected in the way countries vote in the U.N. You mark my words. It will happen. ... It's coming in a big way." He jokingly added, "I hate to be the bearer of good news about Israel. But, this is great news."   Netanyahu ended the meeting: "If you are a country in Africa, or in Asia, or in Latin America, and you want to increase your dairy production, or your water usage, or your solar energy, or your public health, or your IT sector, or your cyber security, Israel is the place."   He left us with the following: "People understand that Israel is a great force for good. ... We can improve the lives of many in the region and in the world. I think this is a tremendous source for hope and a tremendous source for the hope for peace."   Copyright 2016, Teddy Weinberger

Shma Koleinu Latkepalooza

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:15am
A latke-frying demonstration by George Mattiuzzi was among the festivities at Congregation Shma Koleinu's Latkepalooza at the Merfish Teen Center on Sunday, Dec. 11. Mark Arnold and Lauren Mattiuzzi served up latke samples to hungry children and adults.

New kosher kitchen prepped to open

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 10:06am
Artie Alexander traveled with a group from Celebration Company to Chabad Lubavitch Texas Regional Headquarters on Dec. 1 to use its mikvah to toivel cookware and dishes for Celebration Company's new kosher kitchen. The social entrepreneurial program for adults with disabilities, run by Jewish Family Service of Houston, will utilize its new kitchen to teach job skills, while also making the kitchen available for rent to kosher caterers.

Program prompts discussion of mental heath, suicide prevention

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 11:24am
A suicide-prevention program led by young adults fostered a safe environment for open discussion about mental health, addiction and death by suicide. "Mental Health: Let's Talk About It" took place Nov. 20 and featured a panel discussion by Jewish community members who shared personal experiences of losing family and friends to suicide, as well as stories of their own struggles with depression and other mental health conditions. More than 100 people from across the spectrum of Houston's Jewish community attended the program, which included smaller breakout sessions following the panel discussion. Led by local clergy and mental health professionals, the breakout groups allowed program participants to share their own stories and learn about different coping strategies and available resources for suicide prevention and mental health care. For those in need of specific advice and answers, participants were invited to text in their questions, anonymously. "Creating an opportunity for those that feel so lost to have a chance to be heard and supported is one of the biggest mitzvahs we can do," said Eugene Tunitsky, one of many young adult leaders who helped make the program possible. "I felt like this event did exactly that and is the beginning of creating something much bigger - change in the perspective of mental difficulties. "To me, it really felt like we stamped out stigma," he said. Rabbi Johnny Ouzzan was among several young adult clergy members whose presence greatly was appreciated by others during the program. "I was very touched by the pain that so many people in our community are experiencing," Rabbi Ouzzan told the JHV. "I was inspired at the courage the panelists had to speak up and express themselves openly, so that we could better understand the challenges involved. "More than anything, I was inspired and encouraged by what the future holds for us - that we were/are able to come together, all ages and all denominations, and commit to tackling this issue head on and together as one Jewish community," he said. "May Hashem grant us the divine assistance to successfully address this issue, and bring joy and peace to all, amen!" "Mental Health: Let's Talk About It" was a product of a collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's Jerome Robinson Family Young Adult Division, Jewish Family Service of Houston and the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC's Get Cultured. According to organizers, the program sought to start conversations in the Jewish community about mental health, to help overcome the stigma associated with mental health issues and to offer community support to those facing mental health challenges. The program is part of a new, community-wide initiative, aimed at stemming the tide of suicide in Greater Houston's Jewish community that acutely has impacted the young adult population. Over the past 18 months, nine Jewish Houstonians, all under the age of 36, died by suicide, prompting concerns of an epidemic. "This is a tough, but a very important conversation and as we look out across the room, I'm very happy to see so many of us, here, to help our community begin to talk openly, to better understand one another and ultimately change the stigma surrounding mental health, depression and grief," said Jared Dubin, event co-chair, in his welcome to participants. Evan David, who also co-chaired the event, added, "Most of us in this room have been touched in some way by one of the recent deaths, and we believe this was an important conversation to have in a safe, open forum to discuss the many emotions we have been feeling." Rabbi Joshua Herman told participants that Judaism places great value on the need to seek medical help to heal both the body and the mind. "When there are imperfections in the world, like disease, like illness, it's our job to try to act like agents of G-d in the healing process," Rabbi Herman said. He added that program participants are fulfilling two mitzvot: the obligation to save a life, and to provide comfort and consolation to mourners. Panelist Sarah Reinetz, a licensed clinical social worker, who manages the Psychiatric Response Team of Memorial Hermann Health System, spoke of the importance of overcoming stigma in order to prevent future suicide deaths, which have become the second leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 34. "This is a topic that's worth being vulnerable for," Reinetz said, "because a topic like this has the ability to save lives." Jennifer Cohen lost a brother to suicide earlier this year and, herself, made a suicide attempt 12 years ago. She shared advice through a letter read by JFS CEO Linda Burger. "It's important not to judge," Cohen wrote. "To continue to treat [someone with a mental illness] as you normally would anyone else, and to be there as someone they can really trust. "Trust is key," she emphasized. "Keeping the lines of communication open and safe for them is crucial. My support system allows me to be me, flaws and all, and never lets my diagnoses of PTSD or depression define me." Barbara and Al Marcus lost a son to suicide in 2002. They shared advice on how to comfort grieving families. "Be direct and be a friend and don't be afraid," Barbara said. "Don't act like it didn't happen. It happened." Al said the worst thing to say to someone who lost a loved one to suicide is: "How are you?" "You know the answer to that question - you know how they are feeling," he said. "Instead, say something like: 'It's so good to see you.' 'Can I give you a hug?' 'Is there anything I can do to help?' " Al noted that happiness is a conscience decision. "You have to decide to be happy and you have to work on it," he said. "A hole in your heart and having a wonderful life can coexist together." During a Q&A with the panel, the Marcuses, in their experience, agreed that it's impossible to prevent someone from dying by suicide if s/he is determined to do so. Some participants in the room agreed with that experience, while others strongly objected, noting that data shows suicide can be preventable. Stephanie Wittels Wachs said losing her brother to a drugs overdose in 2015 led her to want to die, as well. The grief she felt wiped out who she was as a person, she noted, but it also made room for the person she now has become. "Grief is truly a form of mental illness in of itself," Wachs said. She credited her own recovery, in large part, to her decision to ultimately seek mental health care. "I couldn't go back to who I was, so I had to reinvent myself," Wachs said. "Had I ended it all, I would have never met this new person." * * * Updated Nov. 24, 2016, 7:50 a.m.

As wildfires rage across Israel, firefighting efforts diverted from Haifa to Jerusalem

Fri, 11/25/2016 - 5:06pm
(JTA) - An Israeli village west of Jerusalem was evacuated due to fires raging on its margins, as some firefighting efforts were being diverted from Israel's north to its center. The flames nearing the village of Nataf were among three fires reported in the Jerusalem area Friday - the fourth day in which emergency services were battling multiple blazes across Israel, some of which were started by arsonist "terrorists," according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Whereas fires were largely contained Friday in the northern city of Haifa, new blazes burned in the Jerusalem area - including a forest fire at Ma'aleh Hahamisha, which police traced back to a firebomb, and another fire at Mevo Horon in the West Bank. On Friday, police arrested 13 people on suspicion of involvement in the fires, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio. Several people have been treated for smoke inhalation but no serious injuries have been reported due to the fires. During a visit to Hazor Airbase south of Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said of the fire starters: "These are people who are very hostile to the State of Israel. We're seeing them operating in small teams and who knows whether they intercommunicate, which they don't necessarily need to be doing" to keep causing fires. The fires have been fanned by hot, dry weather and high winds, but some - including in Zichron Ya'akov, near Haifa - were started by arsonists, the head of local firefighting force said following an investigation. Netanyahu, who on Thursday vowed to punish arsonists, has accepted offers of assistance from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan, who on Friday joined Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Russia and the United States in offering to help with firefighting equipment and personnel. Egypt will send two helicopters, Jordan will send several trucks and the Palestinian Authority will dispatch four firefighting trucks as well. Yona Yahav, the mayor of Haifa, which was one of the cities most heavily hit by the fires, said he was shocked to see the damage during a tour of the affected areas Friday. "I had a difficult emotional experience," he told Army Radio. "We take pride in how green our city is, but now everything is painted black." Some 80,000 people were briefly evacuated from some neighborhoods of Haifa but they were allowed to return to their homes Friday. Yahav added he had no information on the people who have been arrested on suspicion of arson, but wished to remind listeners that "there wasn't a single Arab town in the country that didn't contact me to offer its help."

CHALLAH ON THE RISE: Community baking event prepares women for Shabbat

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 9:41am
The Great Big Houston Challah Bake braided together 400 women, teens and preteens for an evening of spirituality, kneading and dancing on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at United Orthodox Synagogues. Like Houston's Mega Challah Bake in October 2014, which was hosted by the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, UOS' social hall was full of multigenerational women, friends and colleagues. The social hall was transformed into a sea of pink pastels - pink tablecloths with pink aprons draped over each chair, awaiting individual challah bakers. At each place was a large bowl containing premeasured ingredients, assembled with great care by a dedicated team of volunteers. Read the full story right now in our e-edition. Lots of stories and special features are only available in the print and E-editions of the Jewish Herald-Voice. To make sure you are not missing out, subscribe to the print edition or subscribe to and read the E-edition right now.

Donald Trump elected 45th U.S. president

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 7:10am
WASHINGTON (JTA) - Donald Trump is the next U.S. president, having swept to victory in at least 29 states with 288 electoral votes and jolted a Jewish community made increasingly anxious as his rough-edged nativist rhetoric emboldened the far right and amplified a strain of anti-Semitic invective not heard in decades. Trump called on all Americans to "heal the wounds of our nation" and "come together as one united people," during his victory speech shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday at the New York Hilton Midtown, blocks from his iconic Trump Tower. He was surrounded by family, including his Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who helped guide his unlikely path to victory. In his victory speech, the real estate developer turned reality star turned insurgent politician asserted he would be a "president for all Americans." "We will deal fairly with everyone - all people and all countries," he said. Trump said he had congratulated his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her family on a "very hard-fought campaign," and told his supporters: "We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country." The mainstream pro-Israel community will likely take solace from Trump's pivot away from his cool stance on many of its issues during the primaries to a more full-throated support of defense assistance to Israel and investing in the defense alliance. As the Republican nominee, Trump aligned with right-wing Israel advocacy in supporting a retreat from U.S. insistence on a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pledging to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Other Jewish groups will be rattled by the election as the world's most powerful leader of a man who appealed to an anti-immigrant strain among voters. Critics noted that in speeches and in a campaign commercial, Trump embraced the notion of a secretive power cabal that to many observers echoed classic anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews. Trump's insular posture on foreign policy was also likely to stoke concerns, despite his pro-Israel pronouncements, particularly his apparent closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is allied with the Assad regime in Syria, an implacable enemy of Israel. Clinton's campaign director, John Podesta, after 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning indicated to her supporters that she would not speak until later in the day, saying, "Go home, get some sleep. We will have more to say tomorrow." CNN reported at 2:40 a.m. that Clinton called Trump to concede.

New Trump ad features prominent Jews in deriding 'global power structure'

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 7:39pm
WASHINGTON (JTA) - The Donald Trump campaign has released a campaign ad promising to defeat an international global power structure featuring several prominent Jews in the financial world. The ad, the final Trump campaign ad before voters go to the polls Tuesday, has been criticized on liberal news websites and Democrats for what they describe as its use of anti-Semitic tropes. "The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election," Trump says at the beginning of the ad. "For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind." As he talks about the "levers of power in Washington" and the "global special interests," images of billionaire George Soros, a Jewish hedge fund tycoon, philanthropist, and a major backer of liberal causes, and Janet Yellen, the Jewish chairman of the Federal Reserve, appear on the video. In addition, an image of the Jewish CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, also appears when Trump talks about the "global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities." The speech from which the two-minute ad was excerpted, and which Trump is shown delivering as the ad winds to a close, was given at a rally last month in West Palm Beach, Florida. That speech had already been condemned for what critics described as drawing on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the global control of Jewish bankers and its echoes of the 19th century anti-Semitic tract "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Neither Trump's original speech nor the recent ad make any specific mention of Jews. Trump's campaign and his defenders have rejected claims that the candidate or the campaign are engaging in anti-Semitism. Defenders note Trump's support for Israel, his employment of Jews and the fact that his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism before marrying a Jewish man, Jared Kushner. Meanwhile, rumors circulated on the internet at the start of the weekend that Trump is considering appointing his campaign finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, as Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin was formerly a partner at Goldman Sachs, and previously worked at Soros Fund Management in its Private Equity division. The ad also attacks Hillary Clinton, her husband former President Bill Clinton, current President Barack Obama, Congress and other world leaders as "corrupt" and a "machine." The Anti-Defamation League criticized the imagery in the ad and called for a halt to anti-Semitic rhetoric in the final days of the campaign. "Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. "This needs to stop. In the final days before the election, tensions are extremely high. It's a time when all candidates need to be especially responsible and bid for votes by offering sincere ideas and policy proposals, not by conjuring painful stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories," The campaign has tweeted and retweeted images echoing anti-Semitic themes throughout the election season, including a July 2 tweet depicting Clinton, against a pile of cash and a six-pointed star, as the "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" The tweet was deleted the same day, but Trump was furious at his staff for deleting it, and at accusations that the tweet was anti-Semitic, although the image originated on an anti-Semitic website. In an interview, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who directs the Reform movement's Religious Action Center, said the ad was "almost a replay, a modern interpretation, of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the notorious Russian forgery alleging mass Jewish control of Jewish affairs and used for decades to stoke anti-Semitic violence. Pesner said it was no longer possible to attribute such signals in the Trump campaign to ignorance, noting the multiple controversies. "Once, done in ignorance, you could say it's an opportunity for education," he said. "This pattern of behavior, the amplification of anti-Semitic tropes on twitter, the failure to condemn anti-Semitism in his rallies, what does this all add up to?" In a response to the ADL statement, the Trump campaign issued a statement from Jason Greenblatt, a longtime lawyer for Trump's real estate business and a top Jewish surrogate. "The ADL should focus on real anti-Semitism and hatred, and not try to find any where none exist," Greenblatt said. "I am offended and concerned that an institution such as the ADL would involve itself in partisan politics instead of focusing on its important mission. Mr. Trump and his campaign have laid out important ideas, a vision and critical policies for our country. The suggestion that the ad is anything else is completely false and uncalled for. Mr. Trump's message and all of the behavior that I have witnessed over the two decades that I have known him have consistently been pro-Jewish and pro-Israel and accusations otherwise are completely off-base." Replying on Twitter to Jason Greenblatt's statement, Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL CEO, said his organization "doesn't take sides in elections. For 100 plus years, we have called out #Antisemitism when we see it- no matter who's behind it." Another top Trump lawyer and Jewish surrogate, David Friedman, said it was absurd to point to the inclusion of Soros, a billionaire hedge funder and backer of liberal causes whose sharp criticism of Israel in the past has placed him at odds with the centrist pro-Israel community, as a marker of anti-Semitism. "Mr. Soros, whose name is not recognizably Jewish and who has done nothing to positively identify with the Jewish people, has been behind countless efforts to vilify the State of Israel and encourage punitive sanctions against the Jewish State," Friedman said in an email to JTA. "Only the Trump campaign has had the courage to call out Mr. Soros and his allies for their disgraceful behavior." The National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement that: "Trump's casual use of anti-Semitic memes and stereotypes in this campaign has been shocking and dangerous. What has becoming increasingly clear as the election is coming to a close, especially with this latest ad, is that Trump has made a strategic choice to continue employing themes long used by anti-Semites." "If this is how Trump campaigns, when still faced with the possibility of turning off swing voters, imagine what a Trump White House would look like. Every undecided voter - especially in the Jewish community, but not only in the Jewish community - must take a close look at this ad and internalize what it means," the NJDC statement concluded. Bend the Arc, a social justice action group that has targeted Trump through an affiliated political action committee, said the ad should spur other Jewish groups to denounce the candidate. "It has long since proved pointless to demand an apology from Donald Trump," the group's PAC, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, said in a statement. "But it is not too late for Jewish organizations, such as the Republican Jewish Coalition, who have supported or tolerated Trump's candidacy to get on the right side of history. Trump's campaign has been deeply antithetical to Jewish values since it began, and the continued silence of these institutions is an unacceptable assent to hate." J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group backed by Soros since its inception, also condemned the ad. "It is hard to miss the implication that a cabal of wealthy and powerful Jews is an enemy that the people of the United States must defeat," J Street's president, Jeremy Ben Ami, said in a statement. "Trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes is just one aspect of the appalling bigotry that has characterized the Trump campaign and that makes clear Trump is unfit to be President." J Street also has an affiliated PAC that this year has backed Democrats in congressional campaigns. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., appearing Sunday morning on CNN's State of the Union, told host Jake Tapper that when he saw the ad "I thought this was something of a German Shepherd whistle, a dog whistle," he said, "to sort of a certain group in the United States" Franken, who is Jewish, said the ad "clearly had a sort of Elders of Zion feel to it" and called it "an appeal to some of the worst elements in our country as a closing argument."