Gordon Robertson to Speak at Birthright Alum Event

CBN chief promoted Messianic Judaism, which Birthright claims to reject


Alumni of the Birthright Israel program, which brings young American Jews on free trips to the Jewish State, are in for an unusual keynote speaker at Birthright NEXT event set to be held in two weeks: Gordon Robertson, son of the Rev. Pat Robertson and CEO of his father’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Robertson is a prominent evangelical leader, and the event is titled, “Are Evangelical Christians More Fervent Zionists than American Jews?” But on a July 2008 CBN program, Robertson praised the growth of the Messianic Jewish community in Israel. “You can still be Jewish and believe in Jesus as the messiah,” he said on the show. Last year, Birthright said it wouldn’t permit Messianic Jews to take advantage of its free trips. “There is unanimity in Jewish life that individualswho choose the Messianic path have chosen a path that separates them from the accepted parameters of Jewishness in contemporary Jewish society,” Birthright’s CEO, Gidi Mark, said at the time. The alumni network says it’s not troubled by that disconnect. “We’re not asking him to come and talk about Christianity or Jews trying to get Jews to believe in Christianity. It’s not the topic,” a Birthright NEXT official told the Jewish Week.

Birthright NEXT Hosts Evangelical Leader Who Promotes Messianic Judaism [JewishWeek]

Goldstone, Gold Debate Report at Brandeis

Investigator, former Israeli diplomat take on Gaza War report

Goldstone and Gold at Brandeis yesterday.(

The United Nations General Assembly yesterday afternoon approved the Goldstone report, which alleges that both the IDF and Hamas committed war crimes in Gaza last winter, but the debate over the report started up again almost immediately at Brandeis University, where jurist Richard Goldstone and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, argued over whether the report was fair to Israel. it was the first public confrontation between Goldstone and a former representative of the Israeli government, and hundreds of students, professors, and community members packed a Brandeis auditorium, the Boston Globe reported

Goldstone argued that Israel was entitled, under international law, to defend its citizens against Hamas rocket fire, Ynet reports. But, he said, “the strategy adopted by the Defense Ministry”—which involved attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure—“is against international law…. Why did they have to bomb the mosque? Why did they have to bomb the American school? Why did they have to attack the [United Nations] compound?” Gold countered that civilians and their infrastructure were not intentionally targeted; rather, he said, because Hamas infiltrates the civilian population, attacks on that population were not disproportionate. “There’s no question there was enormous damage in Gaza,” he said, according to the Globe. “But why doesn’t Hamas appear as a responsible party for what happened? Who booby-trapped the buildings in Gaza? Who launched an eight-year war against Israel?”

The crowd was respectful, clapping for both debaters, the Globe said, and laughter broke out when Goldstone recalled the nightmares he had before entering Gaza to conduct the report, in which “Hamas would kidnap me, and the Israelis would rejoice.”

Goldstone Defends U.N. Report on Gaza [Boston Globe]
Goldstone: I Was Afraid of Being Abducted in Gaza [Ynet]

Today on Tablet

Raunch and reverance


Continuing her illustrated memoir, cartoonist Vanessa Davis looks at her artistic influences, including R. Crumb. Liel Leibovitz ties this week’s haftorah, a Jewish take on the story of Lazarus, who rose from the dead, to his baseball disappointments. And stay tuned for much more here on The Scroll.

U.N. Endorses Goldstone Report

And Israel claims a moral victory, of sorts

(Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

After two days of debate, the United Nations General Assembly voted last night to endorse the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, the much-contested inquiry commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council that accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during last winter’s fighting in Gaza. The resolution, which urges the Security Council to consider referring the allegations to the International Criminal Court if neither side conducts independent investigations, passed 114-18, with 44 nations abstaining and 16 not voting at all.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinians envoy to the United Nations congratulated the supporting nations for “fighting against impunity and seeking accountability,” while the Israelis, having initially rejected the result as “deeply flawed, one-sided, and prejudiced,” changed their minds overnight and are now calling the whole affair a victory of sorts. “We are neither surprised nor disappointed with the vote,” Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said today in Jerusalem. The nays, mainly from Western democracies—including the United States, following a Congressional resolution urging the Obama Administration to contest the report—actually constitute a “moral majority” for Israel that proves the country “is succeeding in getting across the message that the report is one-sided and not serious,” Lieberman argued. And now what will happen? Well, probably nothing: the United States is unlikely to let the matter go before the Security Council, and neither Israel nor Hamas are likely, at this point, to respond with any degree of seriousness to the report itself. So, in other words, everyone can say they won, and maybe now we can all talk about something else for a change.

U.N. Assembly Votes for Probes of Gaza War Charges [Reuters]
U.S. House Condemns Goldstone Report

Daybreak: Fort Hood Shooter Condoned Suicide Bombers

Plus a tough year ahead for JCCs, tough words from Israel, and more in the news


• Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who opened fire at Fort Hood army base in Texas, killing 13 and wounding at least 30, had written a blog post: “If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory.” [Times (London)]
• Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, told a British news station that his country is not “bluffing” when it comes to the prospect of attacking Iran. [JPost]
• Allan Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, said that 2010 will likely be more challenging for Jewish organizations than 2009, but he sees hope in challenging the “Foundation system” of gathering revenue; rather, he proposes a “concept of the Jewish community as an integrated organism and not as many separate entities.” [JPost]
• Yesterday the U.N. General Assembly voted to approve a report by Arab countries calling for Israel and the Palestinians to conduct independent investigations of the Gaza War; Israel has rejected the motion, which is an offshoot of the Goldstone Report. [AP]

Sundown: Rabbis Protest James Cameron, Richard Dawkins

Plus another scary move by Iran, Federation fundraising, and more


• Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich of the Roma Rights Network has joined Hindu groups in requesting a disclaimer on James Cameron’s upcoming 3D sci-fi flick Avatar, as the title is also “a Sanskrit term meaning descent or incarnation,” and “the central theme in Hinduism.” [All Headline News]
• British Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is more concerned that “neo-Darwinians” are contributing to a decreased birthrate in Europe. “Europe is dying,” he said in a lecture at a theology think tank. “We are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.” [Telegraph]
• Iran’s new deputy culture minister, in charge of media and communications, is Mohammad-Ali Ramin, who has been called “the brain” behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust. Who knew there even was one? [National Post]
• Recession, schmession: Federation of New York raised $43 million at its annual campaign kickoff last week, equal to the 2008 total. [JPost]
• Entirely unsurprisingly, Hezbollah objects to the distribution of the new, Arabic translation of Anne Frank’s diary in Lebanon. [Haaretz]
• Five finalists were announced in Jewish Community Hero Awards. [NYBlueprint]
• And a study of the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa got one writer thinking about his own tragedy-laden cultural heritage: “Have we not had enough telling of stories of Jewish history’s disasters? Is there not one director or screenwriter that can chronicle the triumphs of Jewish history?” [JPost]

Abbas Won’t Seek Reelection, He Says

Palestinian president won’t run in election called for January

Abbas at a meeting of the Fatah executive committee today.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced today that he won’t seek a new term in the president election he has called for January. “This is not a bargain or maneuver,” he said, although it’s unlikely the election will actually be held in January—they won’t happen until there’s a political reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, allowing them to go forward—which means he won’t be leaving the presidency anytime soon. “A top aide to Mr. Abbas said a large part of the ‘despondency and frustration’ felt by Mr. Abbas and the entire Palestinian leadership was due to President Obama’s unrealized promises to the region,” reports Ethan Bronner in the New York Times. “He said he feared that without a stop to settlements, Islamist rivals in Hamas could triumph and violence could break out.”

Palestinian President Says He Won’t Seek Reelection [NYT]

Israel’s ‘Tech Miracle’ Explained

Credit the IDF, say authors of ‘Start-Up Nation’


What’s behind Israel’s tremendous success in the tech sector? In their book Start-Up Nation, which came out yesterday, Dan Senor, a former foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush, and Saul Singer, a Jerusalem Post columnist, argue that a culture of innovation has grown from the relatively non-hierarchical structure of the IDF—unusual among militaries. It’s “the fact that when you’re being promoted in the Israeli military, your subordinates have input, or can have input, in those decisions,” Senor said in an interview with Atlantic correspondent Jeff Goldberg. “It’s a very entrepreneurial, start-up military. There are very few bosses.” That’s allowed for an economy dominated by small, creative businesses rather than huge, top-heavy ones—exactly the kind of economy, Singer argues, that survives best in a recession, and one that should be copied by developing economies around the world.

Indeed, even (or especially) Arab businessmen are getting curious, Singer said: “Whenever I go to the Gulf, it’s all they want to talk about, they’re so intrigued by the Israeli model. But everything about the economic strategy of these Gulf countries is about spending money.” American Jews, too, are starting to catch on. “For the longest time, American Jews would not invest in Israeli start-ups. They would give to UJA and they’d give to all these philanthropic organizations, but they kept a firewall up between their business activities and their philanthropic activities. I think for the last three to five years you are, for the first time, really seeing American Jewish investors investing in Israel.”

The Origins of Israel’s Tech Miracle [Atlantic]

‘Forward’: Jewish Charities Keep Glass Ceiling Intact

Few women in top posts, significant pay gaps


The glass ceiling, regrettably intact at philanthropic institutions across the country, is even harder to break for women at Jewish organizations. That’s according to an alarming story in the Forward, which reports that while three-quarters of the workforce at 75 major Jewish social service agencies, educational and religious institutions, and federations are women, women hold only 11, or roughly 14 percent, of the top positions at the organizations. The discrepancy is worse than the gap that exists among charities generally; the paper cites a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy study that found nearly 19 percent of the nation’s charities are headed by women. What’s more, top women at Jewish organizations earn just 61 cents for every dollar their male counterparts take home—for men the median income is $287,702; for women it’s $175,211.

Speculation varies as to why women generally are so conspicuously absent from leadership posts; some believe it has to do with the fact that women more often than men take off time from their careers to raise families and that they may be less aggressive about professional advancement and pay hikes. But why Jewish organizations seem to demonstrate an even larger gender disparity is unclear. One factor, write Jane Eisner and Devra Ferst, is “what communal insiders describe as the familial, sometimes paternalistic nature of Jewish organizations.” In other words—good old-fashioned, father-knows-best sexism.

Jewish Women Lag Behind Men in Promotion and Pay [Forward]

Agriprocessors Trial: Rubashkin Was Incompetent, Fraudster

An unpretty portrait of kosher meat-processor owner


The federal fraud trial of Sholem Rubashkin, the former CEO of the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse, isn’t painting a very flattering portrait of the kosher butcher, who faces a maximum 1,280-year prison sentence on fraud charges—plus another potential 715 years for hiring hundreds of undocumented workers, in a second trial that will begin after this one concludes. It is, however, complicating the by-now-standard story of the slaughterhouse as a place abusive to both workers and animals. (Long story short, after years of accusations against what had been the nation’s largest kosher meat processor, a federal immigration raid in May 2008 led to its bankruptcy later that year.) Rubashkin, former employees and undercover government agents say, was a personally generous boss who lent money to employees and threw company water-skiing parties on the Mississippi River, but he was also incompetent and engaged in massive fraud. They allege that the company “survived on poor record-keeping, under-the-table deals, inflated salaries for top executives, and leadership that tried to expand the kosher meat producer beyond its means,” according to the Des Moines Register. One sales coordinator reported that Rubashkin came to her—at first, a couple times a week, but after the raid, several times a day—with fake invoices to process, like the one that claimed Eleazer Meyer, a Rubashkin family friend, had bought $44,325 worth of meat—but Meyer wasn’t a butcher, he owned a clothing store. A purchasing manager, meanwhile, reported constant fights between Rubashkin and his brother Heshy: “You would rarely see half a minute pass before you’d hear shouting. It was painful to watch.” Rubashkin’s lawyers motioned for a mistrial last week, on the grounds that evidence currently being admitted about undocumented workers at the plant is biasing the jury against Rubashkin on the only semi-related fraud charges. The judge rejected the plea.

Witnesses Say Fraud in Postville Occurred for Years [Des Moines Register]
Slaughterhouse Worker: Manager Was Incompetent [AP]
Judge in Rubashkin Case Refuses to Order Mistrial [Des Moines Register]

Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls Come to L.A.

Thanks to Jewish ‘Top Chef’ winner


Ilan Hall, the Long Island-born Jewish chef who won season two of Bravo’s Top Chef, a serving bacon-wrapped matzoh balls at his just-opened Los Angeles restaurant, The Gorbals. That’s really about all there is to say on the matter, though the Los Angeles Jewish Journal has another 1,000 words on it—plus a video!—if you’re desperate for more.

Bacon-Wrapped Matzvah [Sic] Balls With Top Chef Ilan Hall [LAJJ]

Today on Tablet

What America owes to Moses and more


Jenna Weissman Joselit explores the new book by Bruce Feiler that illustrates the prominence of Moses as an influence on America’s founders and ideals. And as usual, stay tuned to The Scroll for updates on stories that matter (and entertain) throughout the day.

Ringtones Rock Ramallah

West Bank gets second cell carrier, providing musical choices

(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

After months of delay, Al-Watania, the West Bank’s second cell-phone carrier, began its operations this week, offering its customers the latest in telephone technology. And while the company’s customers won’t be able to pick up their new flip phones and call Israel—bureaucratic restrictions and mutual resentments make communications between the Jewish state and its Palestinian neighbor nearly impossible—they will be able to download ringtones of their favorite songs. The most popular option, by far, is “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is great” and a common phrase in Muslim prayer. It is followed closely by pop tunes from around the Arab world, such as the Egyptian singer Saad el Soughayar’s hit, “She Loves You, You Donkey.” Meanwhile, plagued by what it perceived as lack of cell phone etiquette, the Egyptian government took the unusual step of releasing a 16-point guide to properly using the popular technology. Among the document’s most pressing recommendations: “Don’t pick an annoying ringtone.”

The Most Popular Ringtone in the West Bank: Allahu Akbar [Haaretz, in Hebrew]

Daybreak: It’s a Man’s World at Jewish Orgs

Plus Obama’s alleged Israel blunders, Iran warns Germany, and more in the news


• Women make up 75 percent of the workforce but only hold 14 percent of the leadership positions at Jewish communal organizations, according to a study by the Forward, and in those jobs, they are paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to male counterparts, due in part to the “familial, sometimes paternalistic nature” of the organizations, the paper says. [Forward]
• Analysts argue that President Barack Obama’s miscalculations in the Israel-Palestinian conflict—including “an excess of zeal at first”—have set the effort back. [WPost]
• The story of the Iranian arms ship seized by the Israeli army has been complicated by Hezbollah’s denial that the shipment was headed its way and Israel’s release of the ship; the Foreign Ministry is still determined to use the incident to draw attention to the Iranian threat. [Haaretz]
• Meanwhile, Iran “warned” Germany to beware of insidious Zionist forces after Chancellor Angela Merkel told the U.S. Congress, “Whoever threatens Israel also threatens us.” [Haaretz]

Sundown: Obama’s Jewish Brother

Plus Ponzi fatigue, mother tongues, and a strange souvenir


• Although President Barack Obama is not actually Jewish, it turns out his half-brother is; in a new novel, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo presents a fictionalized account of his (and Barack’s) father’s abuse of his Jewish American mother, Ruth Nidesand. [WPost]
• The House of Representatives can have its official condemnation of the Goldstone Report—the Palestinian owner of the President Arafat souvenir shop in Gaza has found an entrepreneurial way to show his support: “Today we put out 50 keffiyehs made of white fabric with the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the name ‘Goldstone’ embroidered on them, to honour his work.” [AFP]
• The Forward explains that everywhere in the Diaspora, “prior to the late 19th century, Jews who put the Jewish dialects or languages that they spoke into writing did so in Hebrew characters.” [Forward]
• South Floridian Jews must be pretty fed up with the phrase “alleged Ponzi-schemer,” but they’re going to have to put up with it a bit longer; their local Chabad center is named for conman du jour Scott Rothstein, who once called himself the “Jewish Avenger.” [New Times]
• For those who can’t take it, there’s a new getaway option: Crystal Cruises is now offering tours to cities worldwide, including Dublin, Odessa, and Stockholm, that focus on their destinations’ Jewish heritage. [Reuters]

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