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February 8, 2019     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 8, 2019

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 8, 2019 New g to m (JNS)--Amid the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic Party, a new group has launched to counter that narrative that will be led by prominent party members. "The Democratic Party has a long and strong track record of support for Israel," said Democratic Majority for Is- rael CEO and president Mark Mellman, a longtime Demo- cratic strategist. "Our mis- sion at Democratic Majority for Israel is to strengthen the pro-Israel tradition of the Democratic Party, fight for Democratic values and work within the progressive move- ment to advance policies that ensure a,strong U.S.-Israel relationship." The organization's co- chairs will be veteran Demo- cratic strategist Ann Lewis, and acclaimed Democratic fundraiser and activist Todd Richman. Other board members include, but are not limited to, Democratic strategist and Clinton alum Paul Begala; former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros; and former Demo- cratic Michigan Gov. Jen- nifer Granholm. Lewis, who served as White House communications di- rector under U.S. President Bill Clinton, told JNS this month that anti-Israel Demo- crats-such as Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was recently appointed to the influential House ForeignAf- fairs Committee despite her past anti-Israel statements, and Michigan's Rashida Tlaib, who questioned the dual loyalty of Republicans, in addition to meeting with a Palestinian activist that called Israel a "terrorist en- tity"--are "dominating the press, the media. And they aren't going to be able to get anything done." Added Lewis: "I'm a lot less concerned about them than I [am] about the agenda we have. Let's use these two years to show that we can really make a difference in people's lives." Both Omar and Tlaib sup- port the BDS movement, in which Mellman told The New York Times that his group is "strongly opposed to using Israel and BDS as some kind of partisan wedge." In a statement released by Democratic Majority for Israel, Lewis said that "Demo- crats across the country understand the importance of America's relationship with Israel. We are launch- ing Democratic Majority for Israel to represent the major- ity of Democrats in our party, serve as the voice of pro-Israel Democrats everywhere, and advocate for policies that ensure our party's and our country's long-term global leadership." The organization will focus its efforts on the 2020 presi- dential and congressional campaigns. The group plans to interact with grassroots activists, elected officials and Democratic candidates who support liberal values to vouch for continued back- ing of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship based on both shared values and interests. Members of Congress have already voiced support for the new initiative. "Democrats understand a strong U.S.-Israel relation- ship is vital for our country and a key element of our party's agenda," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "Knowing the lead- ership of Democratic Majority for Israel, I'm confident they will play a central role in ensuring our party remains steadfast in its support for our ally and fellow democracy, Israel." Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D- N.Y.), who is also the chair- man of the House Democratic Caucus, said "the relation- ship between the United States and Israel is a special one that is rooted in shared values, an important strate- gic partnership in the Middle East--perhaps the world's toughest neighborhood-- and a mutual commitment to a lasting two-state solution. I look forward to working with the Democratic Majority for Israel as it advances the unbreakable U.S.-Israel bond into the future." Freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said "we must maintain the enduring bond between the United States and Israel. Our shared values of democracy, se- curity and self-reliance set our partnership apart, so I am thrilled the Democratic Majority for Israel formed to make sure our alliance remains strong." The share of progressive Democrats who sympathized more with Israel than Pales- tinians has declined from 33 percent to 19 percent in just three years, according to a Pew Research survey released in 2018. D he 's George R.R. Martin (1) shown with "Finding Your Roots" host Henry Louis Gates, Jr was shocked by his DNA test. By Curt Schleier (JTA)--PBS' celebrity ge- nealogy show "Finding Your Roots" has had plenty of Jew- ish guests--Bernie Sanders, Larry David, Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson : and the occasional guest, like Paul Ryan, who learn they have a Jewish ancestor on their family tree. But the season five pre- miere, which airs Jan. 8, contains the most dramatic Jewish story the show has unearthed so far: "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin discovers he's nearly a quarter Jewish. Martin, 70, grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey. His mother was part Irish, and his father was half Italian. Martin was very close to his paternal grandmother, Grace, whose Italian husband, Louis, left her and started a new family without a divorce (Grace was a devout Catholic). Martin believed he was at least a little Italian, genetically, but a test of his genetic makeup revealed he actually has no Italian DNA at all. However, the test also showed that he is 22.4 percent Ashkenazi Jew-- about the equivalent of having one Jewish grandparent. To check their results, re- searchers located one of Louis' sons from the second family and tested him. If Louis was George's grandfather, there should have been a partial match--about 6 percent. But there was none. A test of Martin's maternal grandparents showed only Irish ancestry, so the show's researchers speculated that Louis left Grace after discov- ering she had an affair with a Jewish man. All a stunned Martin can say on the show is: "You've uprooted my worldview." Also featured in the season premiere is Andy Samberg, the goofy Jewish "Saturday Night Live" alumnus and star of the NBC sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." Samberg's DNA test revealed about 75 percent Jewish ancestry, but the story behind the other 25 percent proved to be interesting. Samberg's mother, Mar- jorie, an elementary school teacher, was adopted. Over the years she had made numerous unsuccessful attempts to find her birth parents. Samberg, who grew up in Berkeley, California, hoped host Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his opera- tives would have better luck. They didn't have much to go on. The adoption agency was not allowed to release information that could reveal her birth parents' identities. But in response to a late 1980s plea from Marjorie, they did say that her mom was a highly intelligent 24-year-old Jewish woman who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1938 at age 16. This wasn't helpful, since roughly 85,000 Jews entered the country from Germany that year. In 2015, following a second request, Marjorie received a more helpful reply. She learned that her biological grandfather had three sisters, one of whom was a successful musician who lived in India, which led the show's research- ers to an obituary in the Jew- ish Advocate of Bombay--a paper whose name Samberg finds amusing--of opera singer Gerda Philipsborn, who came to India from Germany. Subsequent investigation revealed that a brother, Artur Philipsborn, entered the U.S. in 1938 with three daughters. The youngest of them, Ellen, was born in 1922, meaning she was 16 years old and fit the small profile the adop- tion agency provided. Ellen died without leaving heirs, but her older sister had a daughter willing to be geneti- cally tested. If this daughter turned out to be Marjorie's first cousin, the two would. share about 6 percent genetic material. And they did--so Ellen was Marjorie's mother. But how to find her father? In a surreal feat of sleuthing, the "Finding Your Roots" team was able to isolate about half of Marjorie's DNA to a small town called Alimena, in Sicily. Further, they were able to find a Maida family that came to the U.S. around that time and settled in Phila- delphia. Ellen had no Philly roots, and around the time she became pregnant, she was a graduate student at Berkeley, studying child psychology. But Gates found a connec- tion. Salvatore Maida was in the Navy and stationed near Berkeley at this time. Beyond the genetic match, Gates was even able to unearth a photo of the couple apparently out on a date. "When you walked in here you were a Jewish American," Gates said to Samberg. "Now will you say you are an Italian Jewish American?" "I guess so," Samberg said. "It works for me." 3 5 7 8 9 2 5 4 6 7 1 3 8 6 2 1 4 9 1846972 4239615 6715384 8963721 2481593 9527846 5194237 7358469 3672158 From page 1A The task force researched potential areas in which The Roth Family JCC and JFGO could consolidate operations while maximizing the effec- tiveness of their respective missions and having the greatest impact on behalf of the Central Florida Jewish community. The task force identified key commonalities in the two organizations' missions, namely community outreach and programming. Those areas became linchpins of the new alliance and helped the group to determine the most advantageous avenues for collaboration. Under the JFed Alliance agreement: Functional departments that merged Feb. 1 include Marketing, Facilities Manage- ment, Security, Administra- tion, Community Relations activity, and some areas of Family and Young Adult pro- gramming. Each organization will continue to have staff focused on execution in each area. Remaining departments for phased consolidation include Development and Accounting Services. A joint search for a chief development officer is under way. The organizations will continue to have separate and autonomous Boards of Directors, governance, and fiduciary accounts and re- sponsibility. As the alliance moves for- ward, there are several areas-- including Israel and overseas philanthropy, educational programming (all age groups), leadership development and senior programming--that will require ongoing research and collaboration. Leaders emphasized that the goals of the alliance extend well beyond leveraging cost savings, staff and resources on the Maitland Jewish Com- munity Campus, where both organizations are located. "This alliance is truly a testament to the power of collaboration," Dvorchik said. "Both The Roth Family JCC and The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando have key roles to play in our community. Together we can maximize our impact and work with the other critical agencies in our community to ensure a growing and vibrant Jewish life in Central Florida." JFGO President Brad Ja- cobs said the alliance will strengthen both organiza- tions' ability to connect with their constituents and will eliminate duplication of efforts in connecting with key groups, especially young adults. "By working as partners and not competitors, both the Federation and JCC will be much better positioned to accommodate the next gen- eration of Jewish Orlando," he said. Todd Haber, president of The Roth Family JCC board, concurred. "The JFed Alliance will lead to stronger Jewish reach into our community through synergies of two organizations with similar mission state- ments who will benefit the Greater Orlando area in their own unique way," Haber said. Appelbaum's involvement with the task force, which Dvorchik said was pivotal to its success, was equal parts coincidence and providence. Appelbaum had just com- pleted working out at the JCC Fitness Center with his wife, Dottie, when he looked in the window of a conference room and saw a nascent version of the JFed task force brain- storming. Dvorchik invited him to join the discussion. Twenty minutes later, Ap- pelbaum was the newly ap- pointed JFed Task Force chair. "Keith said to me, 'If this group can convince you, we can convince anyone,'" Appelbaum recalled. Appelbaum said it was especially rewarding that the alliance was conceived and executed by a group of Jew- ish leaders that transcended generations. "I saw people on different sides of the table with an interest in accomplishing a common goal, and it was a delight for me to see young people with the brains and the conviction and the fortitude to work together and make it happen," he said. "I'm very proud to have been a part of this process. I think this partnership will be a catalyst for great things in our community."