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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 26, 2013 Maccabiah From page 1A mitzvah ceremony for par- ticipants who never had one. "There's so much more tO [the Maccabiah] than playing sports," said Jeffrey Bukantz, Maccabi USA'6 general chair- man and a former fencing Olympian. "We really do consider it the flagship of the program. It's to the point that Israel Connect is more impor- tant than the actual sports. The kids are really impacted by tho program." On the lush grounds of a reception center in the hills west of Jerusalem, a mile beyond the Elvis Inn pub guarded by a white statue of the King, the delegation gathered in the setting sun Tuesday for the ceremony. The entry hall's long red Car- pet was lined with red, white and blue balloons and round tables in the vast garden were stacked with wrapped presents. The ceremony coincided with Tisha b'Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of both ancient Temples--a day on which celebrations are frowned upon. But as he prepared to chant the Torah portion designated, for the closing hours of many fast days, Daniel Greyber, the delega- tion's official rabbi, offered a fresh perspective. "The afternoon Of Tisha b'Av is a time of rebuilding, of looking forward," Greyber said. "The b'nai mitzvah ceremony connects us to the Jewish people--not only in this world at this time but for all of history. In that regard, it requires celebrating." Along with the U.S. team's assistant rabbi, Noam Rauch- er, Greyber led the crowd in spirited singing. And he punctuated the Torah read- ing with references to group discussions he had led the previous day covering biblical events and their relevance today. Dave Blackburn, a stand- out softball pitcher who has competed in six Maccabiah Games, recited the Birkat Hagomel traditionally recited by those who have escaped harm. In 2009, Blackburn was nearly killed in a car crash, an accident that claimed his right leg below the knee and broke 27 bones. " "I've lived to share this Maccabiah experience with you, my extended family," Blackburn said from his wheelchair. Greyber called the Macca- biah participants to the Torah in three groups, and as the last one ascended the podium, he called for attention. "Everyone," he said, "look at the miracle that is hap- pening as the sun goes down over Jerusalem, as this group that has never been to Israel and never had a bar or bat mitzvah is having an aliyah for the first time." Then Blackburn's fiephew Landon stepped forward. "My uncle," he began, struggling through tears to get the words out, "is keeping me alive, and that's all that matters." Landon Blackburn, awres- tier, said later that his uncle's participation in the games is his most cherished aspect of the trip. His own father would not have permitted him to participate without his uncle's influence, he said. A native of La Porte, Ind., Landon, 18, said he grew up celebrating Jewish holidays, but as a rebellious child opted not to have a bar mitzvah. "But all that did was make my life harder, that the weight of the world was on my shoul- ders," he said. "I didn't have anything to help me cope with the hardships-of life." Having this bar mitzvah, Landon said, makes him feel "100 percent better about my outlook on life." The final blessing chanted, Greyber led the singing of "Siman Tov" as candies were tossed onto the podium and participants wiped tears. Members of the two rugby teams leapt from their front- row chairs and posed near the stone wall overlooking the hills. Some did a jig in the seating area. ' Greyber offered another song, and then another. Tisha b'Av was just about over, but the celebration wasn't. Ath- tetes jumped onto the podium to pose with their rabbi, who offered one last thought to those milling about. ',We are blessed to be here together," Greyber said. "I have no idea what great and amazing things will come from this moment, but I am sure that within you is the infinity of God's goodness." Rosener emerged fulfilled. "I was in the moment, surrounded by other people, saying the blessing. I felt complete," he said. "Some- thing was added that had been missing from my life." Oren From page 1A Oren's Washington stint has come during a period fraught with tension be- tween two men he says he admires--Obama and Ne- tanyahu--aswell as between the Israeli government and the American Jewish com- munity. The envoy was at the forefront of-efforts to push back against rumors--some of them reportedly planted by Netanyahu's Jerusalem office--that Obama had snubbed Netanyahu on a number of occasions. Notably in March 2010, rumors swirled that Obama had snubbed Netanyahu dur- ing a visit to the White House. That was just weeks after a near-disastrous trip to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, on the eve of which Israel infuriatedthe administration by announcing new building in ~astern Jerusalem. In refuting the snubbing charge, Oren got into the gritty detail of whether Ne- tanyahu had entered through the front or the back (it was the front) and whether Obama's wife and daughters had snubbed Netanyahu dur- ing'dinner (they were in New York at a show.) . The rockiest point may have come last year during a presidential campaign in which Netanyahu was widely seen as backing Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney. Top Democrats were furious with Netanyahu for criticiz- ing Obama's Iran policy in September, just two months before the election. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chair- voman of the Democratic National Committee, cited Oren in hitting back at Re- publicans for making Israel a partisan issue. "I've heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republi- cans are doing is dangerous for Israel," Schulz said at her party's convention in Char- lotte, N.C., in September. Oren quickly released a~ statement clarifying that he had never singled out any party as guilty of making Israel a partisan issue. "I categorically deny that I ever characterized Repub- lican policies as harmful to Israel," Oren said. When Oren was able to control the agenda, he had three preferred topics: the proto-Zionism that threaded throughout American his- tory, manifest in the writings and sayings of figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson; the deep intensification of security cooperation between Israel and the United States during ~the Obama-Netanyahu era. a fact often lost in the verbal volleying on the peace process and Iran; and the touting of Israel's cultural and scientific achievements. "For a foreign ambas- sador, to be able to lecture Americans about Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman was in- credibly unique and instruc- tive in helping to represent the position of the State of Israel," said William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America. Oren, working behind the scenes, also was able to advance or~e of his own top priorities: addressing the alienation with some Is- raeli practices among Jewish Americans. He was a leading voice in making clear to Is- raeli government leaders that the perception of an erosion of women's rights in Israel was infuriatingthe Jewish lead- ership in the United States. This year he helped broker a tentative deal that would expand access for women at the Western Wall. He also advocated for ties with J Street, the liberal group pushing for more robust American involvement in advancing the peace process. The tie are limited, but none- theless notable, considering the fierce resistance to any engagement with the group in Netanyahu's camp. Oren gamely took the case for liberal Israel into whatever precinct would have him. He delivered a speech a year ago in Philadelphia's Equality Forum. noting advances in gay rights in Israel in recent decades. Oren's office declined an in- terview, saying he preferred to review his career here closer to his departure date. which has yetto be specified. But the New Jersey-borfi Oren, 58, in a 2009 interview at the outset of his ambassadorship, told JTA that trarisitioning from the truth telling of scholarship to the spin of diplomacy was like going from "free verse to writing rhymed haiku." In March, however, Oren was able to synthesize the two when he joined his U.S. counterpart in Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro, in designing Obama's first visit to Israel as president. The standard stops--Yad Vashem, the Prime Min- ister's Office would not suffice, Oren and Shapiro decided. This is where Oren the historian fused with Oren the diplomat. The Is- raeli ambassador proposed a visit to the Dead Sea Scrolls that would emphasize what many had felt was lacking frbm Obama's 2009 speech to the Arab world: recogm- tion of Israel's ancient.ties to the land. The trip was a success. Obama's culminating address to a Jerusalem hall packed with university students. laced with references to the land's Jewish heritage as well as appeals for a more accelerated peace process, earned long and thunderous applause. Off in a corner. Oren and Shapiro fell into a long hug. Yorish From page 1A is divided, her response is, "the Federation cannot do this alone, we:will-- and must bring--other Jewish organizations and synagogues together. We will build this Jewish community together." One area of particular interest to Yorish is how the JFGO works with young Jewish people, post-college through mid-30s. She is cur- rently spearheading a divi- sion for adults within this age group, in its infancy and yet to be named. This is a major. new project for the JFGO. A committee of various young and diverse individuals from differentwalks of life has been appointed. It is Yorish's belief that the JFGO's existing program uniting young people, Or Hadash, has served a great in taking the JFGO forward. purpose in connecting this As with all nonprofit and generation, however, now is the time to step up a gear and take things to a higher level, a deeper and more diverse one. This is the aim for the new project. Yorish hopes that it will give young people a platform to build upon, and through education about philanthropy, ultimately create a new future for this community; One other area that Yorish is concentrating efforts on is reinvigorating and restruc- turing the Jewish Commu- nity Relations Council of the JFGO, With responsibility for Israel advocacy and inter- faith relations, in addition to building relationships within the local Jewish community, Yorish firmly believes that this too will be significant charitable organizations, the current economic climate has affected the JFGO enor- mously. There is currently a staggering $5.8 million debt on its campus in Maitland, the heart of its Orlando operation. Cuts have been made in allocations that the JFGO gives to exterfial agencies. These organizations are now having to fundraise for money directly in order to sustain themselves. With some of them being based in Orlando. including the Jewish Community Center. Jewish Family Services and the Jewish Pavilion. it means that they are now compet- ing with the Federation for donations from members of the local community. One of Yorish's dreams is to see the JFGO being able to work more closely with these organiza- tions again by increasing the financial support it receives and h.eing able topass this onl Bear in mind that the JFGO does not just concentrate on the local community, it also provides allocations and as- sistance to organizations around the world, including Israel. It is absolutely imperative for the JFGO's success to at- tract new donors and just as important for hem to entice back those who have stopped giving. Clearly, something needs to be done and Yorish has made a start by focusing on one particular sector in the local community. Mar- ketingwill also play a key role. and the JFGO says it has made a start on this. Yorish firmly believes that the economic climate is not the only factor responsible for the JFGO receiving fewer donations than it used to. She also believes that the loss of communal decision making has played its part and that "'we must go back to supporting Jewish life in this community." One way in which this could be done. Yorish says, is by providing grants for innovative programs. This is an area tha~ she is currently in the process of formulating. When asked how she would like tobe remembered by this community, Yorish was very adamant in, her reply. "AS somebody who helped rebuild this com- munity and made it better," she said, "as somebody who helped build the Federation's reputation and made Jewish life a little better than she found it." With Yorish now at the helm of an organization that has beenin existence for more than 60 years, the JFGO looks to have a brighter future and could perhaps, one day, become a shining example to other communities. The mission of the JFGO is "to nurture a unified Jewish community that transcends generations and neighbor- hoods." Yorish certainly has the passion and sheer determi- nation to achieve this. The role that Yorish faces going forward is a long and ardu ous one. and certalnly no easy task. If she succeeds, then the legacy she will leave Orlando's Jewish community will be outstanding. Egypt Prom page 1A tian army has blocked many of these tunnels, causing shortages and price increased in Gaza. Israelacquired the vast Sinai desert in 1967 and withdrew in exchange for a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But according to a military annex in the agreement, Egypt was only allowed to place a lightly armed police force in the area, which would n )t be a threat to Israeli troops. Since then, Israel has approved several Egyptian requests t( place troops in the Sinai. "Today Egypt is ,send- ing some major forces with weapons systems that are not allowed in Sinai like tanks and Apache helicopters and they have more troops than they are allowed to," Yoram Meital, the head of the Herzog Center of Middle East Studies .at Ben Gurion University told The Media Line. "Up to this point all of this is happening with Israel's consent. Butwhat happens if the operation ends and the Egyptians decide to keep part of these forces in Sinai. This could produce tensions and disagreements in the long run." Meital says there are grow- ing voices in Egypt saying that as the Sinai is sovereign Egyp- tian territory Israel should not be allowed t6 dictate the number of Egyptian oops in Sinai. Last August. armed men attacked an Egyptian military base in Sinai, killing 16 police- men. They stole two armored vehicles and tried to use them to attack Israel. They broke through the border fence be- tween Gaza and Israel. where one of the vehicles exploded. Israeli troops then fired on the remaining vehicle killing six of the attackers. The incident showed the close connection between Israel. Egypt and Gaza. "Israel. Egypt and the Gaza S~rip meet in a triangle which is very explosive and very sensitive." Meital said. After that incident a year ago, Egypt launched a large- scale operation against the ~insurge.nts in Sinai. That did not succeed and some Egyp- tian analysts said it is not clear what more they can do. "I am not sure the army has an answer right now." Bashir Abd al-Fattah, an analyst at the AI-Ahram Center told The Media Line. "They tried air strikes last year. They have tanks there. They need a new policy and with the political problems, that won't happen any time soon." Michel Stors contributed to this report.