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January 12, 2018

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 12, 2018 PAGE 5A By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein JNS President Donald Trump's recent announcement recog- nizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and declaring that the U.S. will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem did not happen in a vacuum or come out of nowhere. It did not happen solely because of Jewish influence, either. It happened because millions of good Christians in America urged the president to do so. But where did this ground- swell of Christian support come from? It was exactly 40 years ago when I initiated some of the earliest dialogues ever be- tween evangelical Christians and Jews. Little did I realize then that these Christians, whom most people never even heard of, would grow in numbers and influence both in America and around the world, and would become such a crucial base of support for Israel and the Jewish people. Five years later, in 1983, I founded the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), with the goal of building bridges of cooperation and under- standing between evangelical Christians and Jews as well as broad, grassroots support for the State of Israel. The notion of changing 2,000 years of bitter history and replacing it with a part- nership marked by friendship and acts of unconditional love (without missionary activity) was regarded at the time as an unattainable pipe dream. But I went ahead nonetheless, de- spite the criticism, skepticism and attacks. I began bringing evangelical leaders to Israel to meet various prime ministers, startingwithMenachem Begin, and to the White House to press for pro-Israel policies. Later, we launched the "Christian tourism to Israel" industry, in partnership with the National Religious Broadcasters, the umbrella organization of all those involved in evangelical Christian media. Today, more than 1 million Christians visit Israel each year. From there we proceeded to grow broad-based political support for Israel among evan- gelicals, opening an office in Washington, D.C and a Stand for Israel advocacy program that today reaches millions of people around the world every day. Finally, 20 years ago, we began raising funds from Christians, primarily through TV and direct response mar- keting, to help Jews immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union, feed and care for needy Jews in Israel and around the world, and provide security for Israel and Jewish institutions worldwide. It would take four decades of hard work as well as the financial support of just a few hundred Jews in the earlier years, and later of 1.7 million Christians, to reach the point where we are today--the larg- est global source of Christian support for Israel. Over the years The Fellow- ship often came under attack, initially by Reform and liberal Jews and establishment Jew- ish groups, and later mostly by extremist haredi Jewish leaders and rabbis who even refused our overtures of help because the funds came from Christians. Some still refuse to accept our help even today. But eventually The Fel- lowship was, in the words of former Sen. Joe Lieberman, "vindicated." Today, The Fel- lowship helps roughly 1.4 million people each year, in Israel and around the world. Our $140 million annual budget supports the most vulnerable segments of Israeli society--the poor, the elderly, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, immigrants, minorities, terror victims, veterans and others. Indeed, The Fellowship is today the largest philanthropic welfare organization in Israel. In addition, we provide $30 million a year from Christians to help the world's most destitute Jews in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere with basic needs such as food, medicine and heating fuel. We've brought more than 750,000 Jews on aliyah from 28 countries where they were threatened by anti-Semitism, terror and economic despair, and helped found the U.S. aliyah organization Nefesh B'Nefesh. We provide millions of dollars in security assis- tance to more than 100 Jewish communities worldwide. Over the years our Chris- tian partners have contrib- uted more than $1.4 bil- lion-mostly with an average sacrificial donation of $76 per person--to help Israel and the Jewish people. These are not wealthy mega donors, but people who care wholeheart- edly for Israel and relate to her and the Jewish people with unconditional love. I am recounting this not to herald our organization's impact, but to remind us all of how the growth of Christian support for Israel and the Jewish community during the past four decades contributed to President Trump's historic announcement on Jerusalem. Today, phrases like "Jews and evangelical Christians supporting Israel" barely raise an eyebrow; as if it were a given. But Christians' faithful support for Israel was never a given. Nor is it today--espe- cially ifwe measure it in terms of the dwindling level of sup- port for Israel from the next generation of evangelicals. We owe these Christians a debt ofgratitude--of"hakarat hatov" (Hebrew for the recog- nition of good). There are an estimated 100 million Pentecostal Chris- tians in China alone, and hundreds of millions more in Latin America, the Far East and other regions. Most of them are where the evan- gelical community inAmerica was 40 years ago, when I first began working with them. They have not yet been taught that it is their biblical duty to stand with Israel and to bless the Jewish people. It is imperative that the Jewish community invests in educating them, reaching out to them, and rallying their continued support--and that of their children--in the years ahead. Much more needs to be done if we seek to rely on evan- gelical support in the future. Evangelical Christians re- main an essential, steadfast, strategic partner for Israel, both in the U.S. and around the world. But their contin- ued friendship is not a given. We need to invest in their burgeoning communities and in the next generation of evangelicals to ensure that they too stand with Israel and that their support grows rather than diminishes in the Thank you on page 4A By Rachel Minkowsky (Kveller via JTA)--My fam- ily joined a synagogue a few months ago, and overall it's been wonderful for us. But after our first family Shab- bat service, I realized I had a lot to learn. And I wanted to learn. I wanted to be a good example for both my children, but especially my 7-year-old, who was thriving in Hebrew school. Somewhere during a fran- tic, late-night Google search for Jewish classes and semi- nars, I stumbled upon a group called Jinspire. It was linked with the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, a group that offers trips to Israel for Jewish mothers. The trip is a different concept than Birth- right. Participants in JWRP trips are expected to regu- larly engage with the group that accepts them. There are challah bakes, workshops, even Mommy and Me events. It sounded amazing. My hus- band completely supported my desire to apply. I interviewed with three women and liked them in- stantly. I told a few friends about the trip. "Come with me!" I said. "It'll be fun!" One friend shrugged her shoulders. "That's not really my thing," she started. "And you're more Jewish than me." I resisted the urge to scream. That wasn't the first or last time I've heard "more Jewish." As a writer and a counselor, I have been trained to respect the power of words. And this phrase has a weird sort of power over me. Each time I hear it, I'm overwhelmed by a mix of frustration, irritation and embarrassment. Because re- ally, what does "more Jewish" even mean? Am I more Jewish because my family belongs to a local synagogue? Am I less Jewish because, at 37, I am still learn- ing how to daven? Am I more Jewish if I join a group of Jewish mothers on a trip to Israel? Am I less Jewish if I opted to stay home? Am I more Jewish because I married a Jewish man? Would I be less Jewish if I fell in love with someone who practiced a different faith? Am I more Jewish because I bake challah, light candles and sing songs with my chil- dren on Friday nights? Am I less Jewish because I use my Mr. Coffee on Saturday mornings? Am I more Jewish because I eschew pictures with Santa, a Chanukah bush and a Mensch on a Bench? Am I less Jewish because I send out winter-themed greeting cards adorned with my children's pictures? I don't adhere to every single Jewish law. I appreciate tradition, but realize there are times that I need to do my own thing. But my con- nection to Judaism is not like playing a sport, where victory goes to the person that's ac- crued the most points. Being Jewish is my identity. It's my family. It's my history. It's my future. It's how I know I'm not alone. Last month, as Jews cel- ebrated Chanukah, millions of menorahs were lit simulta- neously. We'll forgo healthier dinner options and eat foods fried in oil. We'll celebrate the fact that we're Jews, and that despite thousands of years of adversity, we're still here. That is a miracle, too. A Jewish life, like a miracle, cannot be weighed and mea- sured. We are Jewish. Just Jewish. No more, no less. Rachel Minkowsky works as a school counselor in New York City. She is mar- ried and the mother of two daughters. Kveller is a thriving com- munity of women and parents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens. Visit lS ters By Jonathan Marks JNS On Dec. 14, the star singer- songwriter Lorde tweeted, not uncharacteristically, "my cutie tour mate covered the heart song." Aweek later, she was taking a crash course on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. By Christmas Eve, she had acquired enough knowledge of Middle East politics to cancel her June concert in Tel Aviv in accordance with the cultural wing of the BDS movement, which seeks to make Israel a pariah state by encouraging musical and Other artists to boycott it. Elvis Costello is among the best-known entertain- ers to refuse to perform in Israel, and Roger Waters, who co-founded Pink Floyd, is a prominent figure in the BDS movement. The Rolling Stones and Radiohead, on the other hand, have pointedly re- fused to give in to pressure to cancel concerts there. Lorde offered no reason for her cancellation apart from hav- ing "received an overwhelm- ing number of messages & letters" and having "had a lot of discussions with people holding many views." Lorde's decision was in- spired by an open letter from New Zealand-based activists Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab. Observing that 11 Palestinians have been killed since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, without ob- serving that the killing took place amidst violent protests featuring the use of Molotov cocktails, the writers claimed that "playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government." That argument is disin- genuous for two reasons. First, BDS is opposed to much more than the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration. The 2005 "Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS," which is said to have launched the present boycott movement, demands an end to Israeli "occupation and coloniza- tion of all Arab lands," and its proponents have studi- ously avoided clarity on the question of whether all or just part of Israel is oc- cupied Arab land. Second, if performing in Israel were to be seen as giving support to the Israeli government, that would be only because BDS has politicized an oth- erwise apolitical act. Nobody sees playing in Russia, for example, as a political act. That is because there is not at present an international campaign to turn Russia into a pariah state. Come to think of it, did I mention that Lorde has not cancelled her plans to per- form in St. Petersburg and Moscow? That's odd because the Russian government has been credibly accused not only of abetting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government as it slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, but also of itselftargeting hos- pitals in Aleppo. The Aleppo campaign was merelyan up- date of Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutal, civilian-targeting campaign in Chechnya. If Lorde accepts the logic of Sachs and Abu- Shanab, then her concerts in Russia will support all these actions, not to speak of Rus- sian aggression in Ukraine. They will also support Rus- sian authoritarianism, which the Freedom House am- ply documents in its assess- ment of Russia as "not free." The Putin administration has almost no regard for political freedom, civil liberties or freedom of the press. But we won't think Lorde's concerts are pro-Putin because the logic Lorde has accepted is a sort of magic logic that-- what luck!--applies only to Jewish states. The singling out of Israel by the BDS movement, the United Nations and others as the country most deserving of reproach is anti-Semitic on its face. Nonetheless, that Lorde was hoodwinked by BDS reflects not per- sonal anti-Jewish bias, but something worse--the in- filtration of such bias into the terms of our ordinary political discourse. Lorde, like many others more or less honestly trying to do the right thing, is swimming in polluted waters. Jonathan Marks is a pro- fessor of politics at Ursinus College.