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July 3, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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July 3, 2009

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HE FLORIDA JEWISH Editorials ................................ 4A Op-00.d ..................................... 5A -4oooeooooeooooooo 0.0000000000000 7A ................ 8A ooeoeoooooooeoo ................. 2B Brian Hendler/Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky addresses Jewish Agency Board of Governors in Jerusalem on June 25 after being elected chairman of the executive, with Richard Pearlstone, chair of the Board of Governors, looking on. Jewish Agency elects Sharansky By Jacob Berkman (JTA)--The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel voted unani- mously to elect former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky as its chairman of the executive June 25, in Jerusalem. In accepting his new role as chairman, Sharansky spoke of the connection of Jews abroad, especially young Jews, with the State of Israel, a connection which he said should be a source of pride and strength for Jews around the world. Sharansky said the Jewish Agency must remain committed to aliyah, and that this would come through strengthening Jewish identity. He also spoke of the role of the Jewish Agency in building on the notion of Jewish peoplehood. The Jewish Agency has been caught in something of a political pickle in recent weeks after Benjamin Netanyahu publicly endorsed Sharansky, his political ally. In years past that would have made Sharansky a shoo-in, and Netanyahu and his backers clearly expected the same thing this time, too. But in recent months, agency officials jockeying to assert the right to choose their own professional leader had ex- pressed public dismay that Netanyahu would impose achairman of his choosing. Meanwhile, backers of Netanyahu and Sharansky in the Israeli government threatened that if the agency resisted ap- pointing Sharansky as chairman, it could lose millions of dollars in government funding. The agency, which receives $140 million to $180 million annually from the North American Jewish federation system, has an exclusive relationship with the Israeli government in some areas, such as immigrant absorption. Israel's minister for Diaspora affairs and information, Yuli Edelstein, told the Jerusalem Post last month that if the JewishAgency did not accept Sharansky as chairman, the government could sever the special ties. "If the Jewish Agency wants to become just another NGO, cutting its connec- tions with the Israeli government, that's their right," Edelstein said. "The immedi- ate result will be to find more efficient partners to advance our programs and interests in the Diaspora." The agency long has been a target of critics who say it is fraught with politi- cal h0rse-trading: Politicians hand out appointments on the basis of political allegiances, and the agency has devel- oped a culture of cronyism as a result, according to critics. Philanthropists over the years have cited such problems as reasons for end- ing their support of the agency, and the allegations have provided an impetus Agency on page 22A Despite Iran flux, groups hold to tough line By James D. Besser Washington Correspondent New York Jewish Week On Monday, June 22, AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby group that has been at the forefront of efforts to im- pose and stiffen sanctions on Iran, distributed to re- porters an interview with an Iranian demonstrator calling on the international community to apply "much more sanctions" on the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the fight for sanctions and other tough actions against Iran is getting more complicated by the day as demonstrators continue to protest what they say was a stolen presidential election and the Obama administra- tion seeks policies to encour- age change in Iran without risking abacklash triggered by overt meddling. 6UlI!!!!!II!!!!!IIII Mir Hossein Mousavi, shown here in a picture from the Facebook page directed to his supporters, is the challenger who lost to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the country's disputed June 12 election. Jewish leaders are "stuck" on the Iran issue, said Shosha- na Bryen, senior director for security policy for the Jewish Institute for National Secu- rity Affairs (JINSA). "Have you heard one shred of new thinking coming out of Jewish groups on Iran?" Sanctions and vague calls for "tougher" action on Iran dominate Jewish rhetoric on the subject, said Bryen, whose group is close to the U. S. and Israeli security establish- ments and generally takes a hard line on foreign policy issues. But sanctions have proven largely ineffective, she said, and the current situa- tion points to a situation far more complex than simplistic slogans suggest. Early indications suggest that most Jewish groups aren't changing their hard-hitting approach to stopping Iran's accelerating nuclearweapons program. "Sure, there needs to be a reconsideration of policy as this process unfolds," said Laura Kam, senior adviser for The Israel Project, a group that has been at the forefront of the Jewish community's call for tougher action on Iran. "How- ever, in terms of sanctions, we do not believe there should be any letup. The reason is simple: the centrifuges are still running; the nuclear weapons program is still forging ahead, full speed ahead." Stopping that program, not fostering a democratic rebellion, should remain the top goal of the Jewish commu- nity, she said. And carefully calibrated sanctionswill likely increase popular discontent with the government of the clerics, not drive a restive public into their embrace. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Is- raeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the current unrest and the government response "unmasked" the repressive Tehran regime for the world to see. The official Israeli line is that the repres- sion featured in news clips and videos flashed across the planet may make it easier to line up international support for tougher sanctions and other actions to curb Iran's nuclear weapons program. Even if opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi were to wrest control of the presi- lran on page 22A Barak: No truth to Shalit release reports JERUSALEM (JTA)--There is no truth to recent reports that a deal over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is imminent, Ehud Barak said. "The reports on the release of Shalit are incorrect and even damaging," the Israeli defense minister said during Sunday's Cabinet meeting. Following Barak's com- ments, an Egyptian source involved in the negotiations told Haaretz Sunday that while efforts to obtain Sha- lit's release are continuing, it is too soon to speak of an imminent release. A senior Israeli official did acknowledge Saturday that, "Egypt has presented us with a plan and we are now discussing it." European diplomats and Arab officials have been saying since last week that Shalit was set to be moved to Egypt as part of a prisoner swap with Hamas that would also involve the lifting of the Gaza blockade. Also Sunday, Osama Muze- ini, the Hamas official in charge of negotiations over Shalom Gilad Shalit has been held by the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza since June 25, 2006. Shalit, said the recent reports had no basis in fact. Haaretz reported that Muzeini said the last Israeli proposal for a deal to secure the soldier's release was made at the end of former prime minister Ehud Olmert's tenure. Shalit was captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid on June 25, 2006. Orlando looks for newcomers For the past few years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has sponsored the Shalom Orlando Welcome to Orlando Program. This event has been effective in welcom- ing hundreds of newcomers to Central Florida. This year's Shalom Orlando Summer Program will take place on Tuesday, July 14, 2009, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Harrier & Hymen Lake Auditorium at the Roth JCC of Greater Orlando. All newcomers to Orlando, or even old-timers who are interested in learning about what the Jewish community has to offer, are invited to meet other Jewish families and individuals. There will be representatives from Central Florida's Jewish organiza- tions, synagogues and agen- cies that will have informa- tional tables and be available to answer questions. As an added bonus, the first 50 people to register for Sha- lom Orlando will be welcome to attend the Splash Party at the JCC pool. Spaces are limited. To register contact Lo Silverman at 407-645- 5933, ext. 236 or go to www. Lyn Payne Young Hebrew Day School students sang at the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando "s annual Community Celebra- tion in May. The Federation now plans to host a Shalom Orlando program to get newcomers connected with Federation activities, synagogues and community agencies like HDS.