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March 13, 2009
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 13, 2009 Israel From page 1A Israelis considered their best friend ever in the White House helped lower expectations after Barack Obama was elected, which makes it seem sweeter now that it appears the new administration is bent on living up to its pledges to take aggres- sive action to contain Iran. The most substantive sign yet of a tough Obama policy on Iran was the recent ap- pointment of Dennis Ross as the top State Department official on the issue. Ross was among Obama's most hard-line advisers on Iran policy during the cam- paign, emphasizing to JTA in an interview at the time the sequence ofa"sticks then car- rots" policy--first enhancing Iran's isolation, then offering incentives. Accordingto aWashington Times report, the first task for Ross has been to craft the Iran "national security policy directive," the lead document defining strategy on a problem. The Obama administra- tion already appears to be taking steps toward the Ross strategy. Reports March 3 said the president offered Russia a trade: The United States would retreat from deploying a missile defense system in Europe if Russia intensified its commitment to isolate Iran. Israel had voiced sup- port for the missile defense system, a signature defense policy of the Bush adminis- tration-part of its design was to deter Iran, after all-- but pro-Israeli figures are suggesting behind the scenes that it is not worth the cost of alienating Russia, which with China is a power considered critical in effectively isolat- ing Iran. The U.S. Navy also played a key role last month in keep- ing an Iranian-leased ship from completing a delivery to Syria of weapons that Israel believed to ultimately be destined for one of its radical enemies: HezboUah in Lebanon or Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Signs of an aggressive U.S. Iran posture have given Israel the room to embrace the Obama administration's strategy of increased dip- lomatic outreach. Meridor glossed Israel's support for outreach with a sooner- rather-than-later spin: As long as such efforts were part of a strategy of containing the nuclear weapons program, it made sense to do it now. "The question is how dialogue can play a role in the limited time we have," he said. Meridor rejected argu- ments that it might be worth waiting out the June elections in Iran, which might return the presidency to Mohammad Khatami, the relative moder- ate who held the office before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent Holocaust-denying radical who has wished aloud for Israel's demise. Ultimately, Meridor said, it is the theoc- racy that controls the power in Iran, so the difference between the two is small. "This threat to America, to Israel, to the world, is in the hands of the supreme leader of Iran," he said, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khameini, "and is hardly impacted, or at least is not significantly impacted, by whoever is in the role of president." Signs of comity on Iran were sidelined last week by the pronounced commitment from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to press toward Palestinian statehood. Clinton was in the region to announce a $900 million contribution to the Palestin- ians after the Gaza Strip war. Significantly, just a third of that is going to Gaza, a sign of administration fears about dealing with a territory that is still controlled by Hamas. Addressing the funders conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where the Palestinian Au- thority hoped to raise $2.8 billion, Clinton insisted that the Palestinian Authority and the United States had installed "safeguards." The goal, she said, was to make sure the money "does not end up in the wrong hands"--a formulation that does not explicitly rule out the use of a Hamas affiliate as a conduit for disbursing the funds in the Gaza Strip. Clinton wants to use the money not just for relief but to jump-start the road to Palestinian statehood and a permanent peace agreement. That might not sit well with the incoming Israeli gov- ernment led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has played down Palestinian statehood. Clinton and Netanyahu met March 3, with the prime- minister delegate saying afterward that he and Clin- ton had "found a common language" on Iran and the Palestinian issue. Both Ne- tanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Baraksaid that in their respective meetings with Clinton, they had urged her to set a deadline for U.S. talks with Iran. In a sign that Clinton wants to create the political space for Netanyahu to accommo- date her demands, her staff leaked to the Washington Post that in meetings with an Arab leader, she agreed that Iran will likely be more receptive to pressure than outreach--repeating Ross' "sticks then carrots" formula. Arab nations are anxious as well about the prospect of a nuclear Iran. In a speech March 3 to the Arab League in Cairo, Prince Saud aI-Faisai, the Saudi foreign minister, said the top Arab priority PAGE 19A should be a unified policy on what he called Iran's nuclear "challenge." Some observers say the push for Palestinian state- hood eventually may re- quire national unity between Hamas and the P.A. moder- ates with whom Israel and the United States prefer to deal. The U.S. Congress frus- trated such an arrangement three years ago, the last time Hamas and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas tried to forge a cohabitation agree- ment. Western insistence on isolating Hamas, in part, helped bring about the col- lapse of that arrangement, which devolved into a bloody civil war--and drove moder- ates from Gaza. Some pro-Israel lawmak- ers in Washington have told JTA that Congress might not object this time if Hamas defers to Abbas on foreign policy and security issues, but Meridor said Israel would not accept any government that had Hamas in it. The idea of Hamas defer- ring to moderates is "wishful thinking," he said. "They want to take over Palestinian society." Sderot From page 1A American Jewish organiza- tions that have sent money to help his beleaguered city. As soon as Bouskila re- turned home, however, hewas dodging rockets again. In the middle of a bas- ketball trophy ceremony Sunday night, March 1, the city's alarm system sounded, warning of incoming rockets and sending the players and Bouskila scurrying for cover. "The whole world thinks there is a cease-fire," Bouskila told JTA a few days earlier, during his visit to New York. "But, practically, there isn't," While things have quieted down somewhat in Sderot since the conclusion of Israel's Museum 22-day operation in Gaza, two to three rockets a day still fall in the town of 23,000. More than 8,000 rockets have landed in Sderot since 2001, according to city officials. The city has undergone dramatic change since Bouskila's first stint as mayor, from 1989 to 1998. He was re-elected last November as Eli Moyal, dogged by corrup- tion probes in his final year or two in office, departed the mayoralty. During Bouskila's decade- long absence, Sderot saw 10 people killed in rocket attacks from Gaza and some 5,000 residents report symptoms of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. Millions of dollars in government and philanthropic investment arrived to help the residents cope with the attacks. Critics have slammed the government for being too slow in sending aid, and then sending too little of it. Bouskila, too, says the Israeli government can do more--like paying to fix city property damaged by Kassam rockets, helping build neigh- borhood parks with rocket shelters and paying for ad- ditional psychologists to work at Sderot schools--but he also lauded several key measures that Jerusalem has taken to help his city: Construction of some 1,480 reinforced rooms, out- fitting approximately a third of Sderot's single-story homes with rocket-proof units, at a cost of $75 million. Beginning the next phase of protection, outfitting some 3,300 multistory homes and apartment buildings with sheltered rooms, at a cost of $150 million. Starting to build 12 new schools in southwestern Israel, five of them in Sderot at a cost of $18 million, that are 100 percent protected against rockets and feature the latest technology for use in the classroom. In tandemwith government investment, Sderotalso has re- ceived millions of dollars from Diaspora Jews and some pro- Israel Christians, helping pay for additional rocket shelters, recreational activities outside the conflict zone for its chil- dren, protected playgrounds, extended school days, trauma treatment and the like. "For every issue you en- counter in day-to-day life in Sderot, there has been an organization that has helped," said Bouskila, whose soft-spoken manner belies his tough-guy appearance. Bouskila was born and raised in Sderot. His home was hit twice by Kassam rockets. But he refuses to leave. "We have no choice," he said. "We don't have the privilege or ability to leave Sderot. We flee Sderot today, and tomorrow the rockets hit Ashkelon or Ashdod. To flee would mean leaving the only state we have." An estimated 6,000 resi- dents have left the town since it became a locus for Palestinian rocket fire eight years ago, but some have returned as the rockets have reached their new places of residence farther afield from Gaza, Bouskila noted. Ultimately, the town's des- tiny lies in the hands of decision-makers in Jerusa- lem-and, perhaps, those of rocket crews in Gaza--not simply the Sderot mayor's office. Bouskila says his job is to help the residents of his city any way he can. That's why, Bouskila says, after years of living under Palestinian rocket fire and after a 10-year hiatus from the mayoralty, he's back. From page 3A the buildings that now house the Jewish Museum of Florida were home to the congrega- tion. Mary Barr Munroe, Miami Mary Barr Munroe worked to involve women and chil- dren in the growing effort to learn about and preserve the natural resources in Florida. Munroe and her husband settled in Coconut Grove in 1885. Her great- est commitment was in the area of conservation. She pioneered the movement to establish Royal Palm Ham- mock as a state park run by the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs (this park later became Everglades Na- tional Park). In 1915 Munroe founded the Coconut Grove Audubon Society and then founded the Miami Audubon Rosenblatt Society. Disregarding pre- vailing social customs, Mary Barr Munroe entertained African-American children with stories and cookies at her home, "The Scrububs," every Sunday. Annie Coleman, Miami When Annie Coleman came to Miami with her husband, the Rev. James E. Coleman, in 1922, she found herself in a commu- nity offering few services for African-American citizens. She spent a good portion of her life working to remedy the situation. Soon after her arrival, Coleman began working with the Christian Hospital, the only facility in the Miami area that employed African-American doctors. Under Coleman's leadership, the Friendship Garden and Civic Club, which she was among the founding mem- bers, headed the movement to integrate the police force, and brought street lights and garbage collection to "Col- ored Town," the northwest region of Miami in which a large proportion of the Af- rican-American population lived. The effort to integrate the police force faced bitter opposition and as a result, the first African-American police officer was not sworn in until 1941, six years after the proposal first came under consideration. Paulina Pedroso, Tampa Paulina Pedroso is consid- ered one of the great patriotas in the fight for Cuban inde- pendence from Spain. Born in Cuba in the early 19th century, Paulina settled with her husband, Ruperto, in Key West in the 1870s after flee- ing Spanish military forces. When Vincente MartinezYbor and other cigar manufactur- ers moved their factories to Tampa in the late 1880s, many Cuban laborers, including the Pedrosos, moved there to find work. Pedroso owned and ran a boarding house in Ybor City (the neighbor- hood that housed the cigar factories as well as the Cuban factory workers). Paulina Pedroso played a pivotal role in shaping her community's response to the revolution in Cuba. Jose Marti, leader of the fight for Cuban inde- pendence, made her home his headquarters from 1893 until the end of the revolutionary war in 1898. Marti made a point of walking through Tampa's streets arm-in-arm with Paulina, displaying the importance he placed on ra- cial unity in the fight for Cuba Libre as well as his personal admiration of her. Annie Jumper Tommie, Broward Annie Jumper Tommie was at the forefront of the attempt to integrate the Seminole In- dians into American society. Tommie was born on Horseh- ead Hammock (now North Miami) in 1856 during the Third Seminole War. In the early 1900s Tommie and her extended family moved to the North Fork of the New River, the last permanent Seminole camp in Fort Lauderdale. An- nie was a medicine woman, and thus achieved a position of authority and influence within the tribe. But Tommie also encouraged her family to establish a limited symbiosis with the small population of white settlers in Fort Lau- derdale at the time. Annie and her family were among the first Seminoles to be employed by white farmers, and her son, Tony Tommie, was the first Seminole to earn a high school diploma. The public celebration of women's history in this country began in 1978 as "Women's History Week" in Sonoma County, California, and then in 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to an annual observance each March. The Jewish Museum of Florida on South Beach is housed in two adjacent restored historic buildings that were once synagogues for Miami Beach's first Jewish congregation. The focal point of the Museum is "MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida: 1763 to the Present," its core ex- hibit, and temporary Jewish history and art exhibits that change periodically. For more information: 305-672-5044 or www.jewishmuseum.com. From page 4A immigrants able to secure white-collar jobs. (Such po- sitions were more protected than blue-collar ones, in contrast to today, when, as Ruskay points out, "industries with a high percentage of Jews--financial services and real estate, as examples--are the hardest hit by the current economic crisis.") Having found that Ameri- can Jews were able to navi- gate the delicate balance between adapting to Ameri- can society while holding on to ethnic identity, Wenger concludes her study, sober- ing as it is, on a somewhat upbeat note, writing that, "For American Jews the Great Depression was a time of creativity and innovation as well as uneasiness and frustration." There are major differ- ences between the Jewish community of the 1930s and of 2009, a period many see as only the beginning of a years-long slide into another Depression. While families remain paramount in helping victims of job loss and other economic woes, it should be noted that the community has tilted heavily toward assimilation in recent decades, with intermarriage accounting for much of the blurring between Jews and other Americans. Some see this as progress, others as a tragedy. Surely Jews have reached the highest levels of edu- cational, professional and economic status in American life, and open anti-Semitism is negligible. But as social service needs increase and funding for them diminish, we must ask ourselves how we can adjust, recreate and trans- form our Jewish institutions so that they can, once again, meet the challenge of the day. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, from which this column is reprinted with permission. Read the Jewish Week online at www. jewishweek.com.