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March 9, 2018     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 9, 2018 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- When candidate Donald Trump spoke at AIPAC's Policy Conference in 2016 and said Barack Obama may be the worst thing that ever happened to Israel, many cheered, many choked and the organization apologized. The fallout from that event will haunt the proceedings when 18,000 activists, includ- ing 3,500 students, attend the American Israel PublicAffairs Committee conference here this week. Navigating an increasingly polarized political landscape is the new reality for the lobby, which remains pre-eminent among pro-Israel groups and has long banked on biparti- sanship. Trump, on the one hand, has delivered on much of AIPAC's agenda: He is moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; he is pushing Congress and America's allies to toughen up the Iran nuclear deal; he is cutting funds to the Palestin- iansas ameans of forcing them to align more with Israel and the West; and he has spoken forcefully against United Na- tions members who go against the United States on its Israel policies. AIPAC has advocated all of these policies in recent years. At the same time, much of the Jewish community reviles Trump for his perceived bigot- ries and postures on a range of issues, including immigration, minority and women's rights, and funding for social safety net programs. His approval ratings among Jewish voters remain bargain-basement 1ow--28 percent according to Gallup in January, "signifi- cantly below the national aver- age," the pollster said. That was after Trump had announced the embassy move and made clear his positions on the other issues that AIPAC favors. AIPAC also has always claimed to speak for the American Jewish community on matters relating to Israel. But can the center hold when its delegates are so deeply divided, sometimes against themselves? "It's a real delicate balance," said Neal Sher, who helmed AIPAC as executive director for a period in the mid-1990s before Howard Kohr assumed the post he still holds. Sher said the pro-Israel credibility that Trump ac- cumulated over his first year in office would guarantee a hearty reception for those representing his administra- ) / LilyPaigeRebar, daugh- tar of Darien and Tracy "Rebar of Orlando, will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah on Saturday, March 10, 2018, at Con- gregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland, Fla. Lily is in the seventh grade at Lake Highland Prep where she is a mem- ber of the dance team. Her hobbies and interests include dance, being with friends, going to the beach, big hair bows and spending time with family. Sharing in the family's simcha will be Lily's brother, Marshall; grandparents, Carol and Gene Rintels, Joyce Thompson, and Skip and Judy Rebar. tion, including Vice President Mike Pence, U.N. envoy Nikki Haley and the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. "The conference this year, they're going to be going nuts, it's going to be like Trump at CPAC," Sher said, referring to the ecstatic reception afforded the president earlier this month when he addressed the annual conference for political conservatives. "That's going to be a problem when you look at Jewish demographics," he said, referring to Jewish disaf- fection with Trump. Some Jewish Democrats who once relished attending AIPAC now describe it as hostile territory. "I feel the right wing has taken over the organization and there is no respect for other opinions," said a for- mer board member who is a major Democraticdonor and once reached high enough in AIPAC's ranks to chair apolicy conference. "It's just not a place for me anymore." The dilemma facing AIPAC was in evidence in March 2016, the day after Trump, then close to clinching the Repub- lican presidential nomination, earned a round of cheers for saying Obama, then the in- cumbent president, "may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me." The following morning, the AIPAC brass appeared on stage to apologize for Trump's behavior and the reaction. "There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night and for that we are deeply sorry," said Lillian Pinkus, the iobby's president, her voice choking. "We are deeply disappointed that so many people applauded a sen- timent that we neither agree with or condone." It was a sequence of events that pleased no one: Demo- crats despaired of the robust cheers Trump earned, Trump enthusiasts were shocked at the apology. (Reportedly so was Trump, and his displea- sure was conveyed to AIPAC by a senior aide.) %voyears later the sequence still smarts--for both sides. "They boo the president at the policy conference and it takes them 24 hours to apologize?" the former board member said. Morton Klein, who heads the Zionist Organization of America and has emerged as a Jewish leaderwith some of the closest Trump administration ties, said an AIPAC apology was overdue. "The first thing AIPAC should do is apologize for two years ago, for having the au- dacity to apologize for Trump's speech," he said. Significantly, both the former board member Klein-- along with multiple others-- cited that moment without prompting as representing AIPAC's crisis point. It's critical for AIPAC to figure out how to navigate those rough waters, said Tom Dine, Sher's predecessor as executive director, if only to sustain the broad bipartisan support Israel has accrued over the decades. "At this deeply divided and poisonous period in our poli- tics and policy debate, AIPAC is needed now more than ever," he said. An AIPAC official said the path to bipartisanship ran through Congress. "Bipartisanship is part of our DNA because it is the only proven way to secure the U.S.- Israel relationship for the long term," the official said in an email. "At a time of polariza- tion, our Policy Conference is an oasis of bipartisanship where we are united in the single goal of strengthening that relationship." An AIPAC insider said the focus on Congress would promote bipartisanship in an arena where the divisiveness Trump tends to elicit is not so apparent. "AIPAC has always been about Congress; Congress is 90 percent of the relationship," said the insider, who acknowl- edged that there was more AIPAC could do to cultivate the Democratic grassroots. The problem with that strategy is that Republicans in Congress are increasingly identified with Trump. Indeed, some of AIPAC's best Repub- lican advocates in Congress, who were always careful to partner with Democrats in advancing pro-Israel legisla- tion, are retiring this year in part because they can no longer abide Trump's GOP. Among them are Ed Royce of California and Ileana Ros- Lehtinen of Florida--both leave behind influential for- eign policy spots. The seeds of partisan divi- sion over Israel precede the Trump presidency. The deep divide between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government over Iran policy and settlements drove some Democrats away from reflexive support for Israel. AIPAC took Israel's side more often than not in those disputes. "When IjoinedAIPAC, itwas a safe space for Democrats," said Steve Sheffey, a pro-Israel and Democratic activist from the Chicago area. "It has be- come increasingly rightwing, and not where the American Jewish community is, and in the age of Trump it's become increasingly embarrassing." Last month, a Pew poll showed that the gap be- tween how Republicans and Democrats view Israel is widening, "with 79 percent of Republicans saying they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, com- pared with just 27 percent of Democrats." Although some criticized its methodology, the poll reflected concern that Israel could rapidly become as politically divisive as abortion or gun control. AIPAC is not ready to give up the fight. Members of Congress speaking at the conference are evenly divided between the parties and, in a let-bygones-be-bygones sign, include many Democrats who voted for the Iran deal. (Most backers of the Iran deal were absent from the last two conferences.) AIPAC is endeav- oring to reconcile Democratic and Republican agendas on key legislative actions, in- cluding the Taylor Force Act, named for an American slain in 2016 by a Palestinian terror- ist. It would cut funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops payments to Palestinian attackers. Democrats want some carve-outs for humani- tarian purposes, Republicans are resisting them. Ann Lewis, formerly a com- munications director for the Clinton White House, is lead- ing two sessions on reaching out to progressives. Lewis said progressives were a critical constituency to cultivate because America was at a point where political positions are being set in stone for subsequent generations. "From all the data I have seen, decisions about political identity is being decided now for years to come; we're look- ing at a generational shift," she said."It is really important that support for the U.S.-Israel relationship be included." Then there was the point of view that AIPAC may as well cut its losses with one party and embrace the more natural fit. Of course, what the natural fit is for a pro-Israel lobby de- pends on where you sit. "The impact of Jews in politics is mostly in campaign contributions," said Steve Rosen, a former AIPAC foreign policy chief who now works for conservative pro-Israel groups. And, he pointed out, the natural constituency for Israel's policies increasingly is politically conservative Jews. "If the future of AIPAC depends on becoming an orga- nization of donors, that means looking to the Orthodox over time, who also happen to be more conservative politically," Rosen said. Jeremy BenAmi, who heads J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that at times has positioned itself as AIPAC's rival, said catering to the Trump and Netanyahu governments would be a death sentence considering the American Jewish commu- nity's political trends. "The alliance between two leaderships that three-quar- ters of American Jews disagree with makes it hard to back an organization that exists only to support the Israeli government," he said. "We're in an era where the majority of American Jews want to be in opposition." JCat ryn 'J(at,'e' - ose J-Jo/win Kathryn "Katie" Rose Botwinik, the daughter of Steven and Nikki Bot- winik, will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at Congregation Beth Am in Longwood. Katie has been home- schooled since kinder- garten, and is in sev- enth grade. She is an avid reader and aspiring writer. She wrote an original musical called "The Bad Apple," which she then produced, directed, and performed with her friends. At the moment she is editing her first book, a fantasy story for middle grades. Katie loves to sing and to perform with Magic Curtain Productions' Junior Troupe, a theater competition troupe that has performed at Disney and in statewide competitions. Like her older sister, Anne, she is a longtime Girl Scout who loves community service projects, camping, and hanging out with her friends. She is also a brown belt in Seido Karate with her younger brother, Aaron. Katie's goal is to publish her current book and eventually become a best-selling author. Jewish National Fund is celebrating Women's Month in March and highlighting the remarkable women who have taken on leadership roles within the organization. JNF Women's Month coincides with National Women's His- tory Month, as well as Inter- national Women's Day, which has been observed since the early 1900s. Throughout the month of March, JNF is hosting over 30 events across the country to bring women together to share their personal stories and highlight the important work that Jewish National Fund accomplishes through the women who give their time and financial support to the nonprofit. Thanks to the generous donations of Theresa Lungwitz of Scottsdale, Ariz and Polly Levine of Paradise Valley, Ariz donations to JNF's Women for Israel campaign from March 8th to March 31, 2018, will be matched up to a total of $1,000,000. "Women raise money with their heart," said JNFuture National Chair Stephanie Kelman of Portland, Oreg. "I'm not saying men don't, but women are able to reach other women on a more emotional level and relate to some of the issues that we're working toward a bit more personally. Jewish National Fund is going to be a 'women-run' organi- zation in the next 20 years, for sure." This year alone, the num- ber of women on JNF's na- tional board doubled and more women are stepping up to fill roles on local boards and committees.Almosthalfofthe leadership positions at Jewish National Fund across the U.S. are held bywomen--including 22 national board members and 19 local board presidents and 150 task force members. "In 2013, women contrib- uted alittle more than $11 mil- lion to our annual campaign," said JNF's National Vice Presi- dent of Women for Israel and San Diego Board President Myra Chack Fleischer. "In just four short years, that number has ballooned to more than $22 million--an incredible 100 percent increase." In 1999, Jewish National Fund's Women for Israel was founded with the creation of the Sapphire Society under the leadership of Terry L. Katz, of Philadelphia, Pa. In less than two decades, JNF's Women for Israel has become a powerhouse within the or- ganization with over 50,000 donors across the country contributing more than 25 percent of the dollars raised each year to improve the quality of life in Israel for all who call it home. In fact, one of JNF's largest and most suc- cessful initiatives started out as an idea that was developed through Women for Israel. "The town of Zukim in the Arava [located in the Negev Desert] was a brainchild of JNF women," said JNF's Na- tional President of Women for Israel Nina Paul of Cincinnati, Ohio. "Where there were once only sand dunes a new com- munity has developed that is both entrepreneurial and a great tourist destination. That vision helped to inspire JNF's Blueprint Negev campaign to develop the Negev and bring to life Ben Gurion's dream." Jewish National Fund Women for Israel is a dynamic group of female philanthro- pists who share a passion for building a prosperous future for the land and people of Israel. Through this society, women connect with each other on many levels--pro- fessional, emotional and ideological--with the com- mon goal of changing lives in Israel and supporting the ongoing development of the Jewish homeland. Throughout March, JNF's website, blog, and social media channels will call attention to the incredible women involved with the organization. Fol- low along using the hashtag #JNFWomen. To learn more about Jewish National Fund's Women for Israel, please visit jnf.org/women.