My 72 hours started on the afternoon of Nov. 8, when I wrote my bimonthly email: “Thank G-d for the Jewish Federation.” This was said to me by a woman at one of the National Solidarity Shabbats, organized by our federation and The Jewish Federations of North America in response to the horrific attack on the Tree of Life synagogue. It detailed the work of our Community Security Initiative (CSI), as we ensure the safety, security and vibrancy of our Jewish community. It covered the hours after the attack and calls I received from our mayor, chief of police and sheriff.
Soon after, I received word about the start of the Woolsey Fire. CSI immediately began monitoring the fires and sending updates to Jewish organizations in the affected areas. I woke up in the middle of the night, saw that the fire was already impacting the Jewish community, and began plans to convene our staff the next morning.
On Nov. 9, our Chief Program Officer Becky Sobelman-Stern turned her program staff retreat into a crisis response session. We reached out to every organizational leader and rabbi in the area. We set up a hotline — (323) 761-8100 — staffed by a professional from our Caring for Jews in Need strategic initiative. The platforms we have in place, CSI and the Ezra Network, provided the infrastructure to do what was needed. I rewrote my e-mail to let the community know that we were directing our full attention and staff resources to address the immediate and long-term impact of the fires. I began to contact political leaders. Numerous calls offering help and support poured in from many national colleagues.
We immediately created our L.A. Wildfire Relief Campaign to raise funds for impacted individuals and organizations.
Rabbi Jon Hanish invited me to speak at Kol Tikvah’s Friday night services, shared with another impacted congregation, Valley Outreach Synagogue. I expressed our readiness to help in any and every way possible.
The night of Nov. 9 I kept waking up to add items to my to-do list and monitor the fires. Very early on the morning of Nov. 10, it became clear that the fire was moving toward three of our cherished summer camps: the Wilshire Boulevard Camps Hilltop, Hess Kramer and Camp JCA Shalom/Shalom Institute. I couldn’t go back to sleep.
On the morning of Nov. 10, I received another flurry of emails from Israel, detailing a barrage of rockets from Gaza hitting southern Israel. I contacted partners and colleagues there to ask how we could help. Our partners at the Israel Trauma Coalition said they were already engaged, thanks to work we did together in 2012 and 2014.
“A man came up to me and said the words that made all of our work worthwhile: ‘Thank you and the federation.’”
At 8 a.m., I began a series of in-person meetings with representatives from the organizations most impacted by the fires. I spent the rest of the day and night on conference and individual calls with the leaders in the impacted areas.
After another sleepless night, it became clear that the three camps had been destroyed by the fires.
At 8 a.m. on Nov. 11, I began a series of meetings with people from Jewish organizations. I spent hours supporting and strategizing with Camp JCA/Shalom Institute’s Rabbi Bill Kaplan and his staff. I joined a now daily conference call with rabbis, leaders of organizations and individuals.
At 1 p.m., I attended the memorial service our federation organized for the family of Bernice and Sylvan Simon, the couple murdered at the Pittsburgh synagogue. I spoke about how their lives truly were a blessing. Afterward, I offered support to Rabbi Steve Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The federation then created a crisis center at our offices in Tarzana and offered space to any organization or synagogue that needed a place to call home.
At 7 p.m., I addressed more than 500 campers and alumni of Camp JCA Shalom at de Toledo High School in West Hills. I shared our commitment to rebuild what was lost and told them what I truly believed: The power of camp and our community was in that room.
As I left, a man came up to me and said the words that made all of our work worthwhile: “Thank you and the federation.”
He then gave me just what I needed after everything I’d experienced in those 72 hours — a hug.
Jay Sanderson is CEO and president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.