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October 18, 2013

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. •7: i •~ " • ~ : • • HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS;~OCTOBER 18, 2013 PAGE 13A By Ben Sales JERUSALEM (JTA) I didn't need to ask directions.- Stepping out of the Jeru- salem Central Bus station, I saw them, men in hats and coats walking together slowly, a steady stream mov- ing east along one of Jerusa- lem's central thoroughfares to the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. At 5 p.m., an hour before the funeral, the streets were already closed to cars, the capital's rush-hour rigmarole giving way to foot traffic that was softer but no less intense. From a distance it looked homogenous. Aerial photo- graphs would later show a sea of black choking the broad avenues of haredi Orthodox northern Jerusalem. But as the group coalesced, men in polo shirts mixed with boys in sweatshirts and soldiers in full uniform, some still holding their guns. Knit l~ip- pot bobbed in the crowd with black hats. Sephardi haredim in wide fedoras walked with Ashkenazi hasidim in bowlers. A man in a black coat made conversation with another in short sleeves. Women, almost all in modest dress and vastly outnumbered, mostly stood to the side. Everyone in Israel knew Ovadia Yosef's name, but in public his followers hardly used it, opting instead to call him Maran, our master. On the sidewalk, a half- dozen men stood at a long table offering a sugary orange drink. Behindthem, aspeaker blared a recording on loop, quoting a common blessing: '"To give life to every living soul!' Come say a blessing over a cold drink to benefit the soul of Maran, may his holy righteous memory be blessed!" The faithful heeded the call, crowding around a spigot, holding cheap plastic cups that formed a growing pile on the ground once the mitzvah was fulfilled. As the sun began to set, a traditional Sephardic chant pierced the air. Itwas not the funeral itself; we saw, min- utes later, that we would not come close to the ceremony, blocked by the throngs that had arrived an hour. two hours before us. Even the loudspeaker that broadcast the service seemed almost out of sight. Some men began to strategize, to find anywhere to sit or stand in peace. Doz- ens of boys climbed onto a ledge a story above the street. sitting in a row like fans on a bleacher. The rest of us pressed on, most trying to draw as close as possible to the body, the remainder swept along with the horde. The small space between individuals evaporated as the thousands behind us pushed forward, packing •us in a unified mass and forcing us on, past a row of ambulances, past a soldier standing straight on the roof of a van, almost at attention. Was heon duty, orwas he one of the many just trying to get- a better view? We settled into place, some by squeezing off into a side street, others using their elbows to create an inch of .breathing room. With our view limited to the thousands surrounding us, only vaguely aware of the hundreds of thousands beyond, most of us turned our attention to the songs that coursed through the air, prayers of repen- tance usually sung ahead of the High Holidays. Many of us a~nurmured a traditional call-and-response. Others whispered silently. With the crowd, we said the Shema. Over and over, we declared that God is the true God. We screamed the 13 at- tributes of mercy. We begged for forgiveness. A few of us began" to cry, but the soft tears were soon outmatched by the screams Yaakov Naumi/Flash90 Hundreds of thousands of mourners attended the funeral procession of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who was buried at the Sanhedriya cemetery on Oct. 7, 2013. amplified by the speakers. Rabbi after rabbi repeated the same biblical phrases. "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" So began many of the eulogies, invoking the prophet Elisha's mourning of Elijah, spoken now not only by Ovadia Yosef's sons. but by colleagues, students, chief rabbis, politicians. Two and a half hours after the funeral began; the sky dark and the air cold, the streets were still massed with people spilling out of alleyways, side streets, bou- levards, houses. Only an hour later did the crowds begin to disperse, leaving behind streets freckled with trash. Myriads dissolved back into Jerusalem's maze-like haredi district. The rest of us walked back to the bus station. Only then, catching the news, did I hear that 800,000 people had come to pay respects to Ova- diaYosef. Itwas 10 percent of the country.- But one thing didn't change. As soon as they were separated from the grief and the prayers, passengers began to scream, push and curse trying to board the bus as if it were any other night at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Only then did it seem that things would, before long, return to normal. By Jacob Kamaras In a story of "what goes around, comes around" in the pro-Israel world. Jacob Baime wiU seek to empower Jewish students throughagroup that empowered him. Baime credits a $2,500 grant from the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC)-- enabling him to charter a bus of fellow Brandeis University students to Washington. DC, to lobby some 25 members of Congress from 12 states with helping to launch his pro-Israel career. After work- ing in multiple capacities for the American Israel Public Affairs Comrriittee (AIPAC), the 28-year-old Baime was recently named the ICC's new executive director. "One of our roles is to be catalytic and not proprietary," Baime says of the ICC, which was founded in 2002 as a partnership between Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Fam-. ily Foundation, and is now an independent organization that works closely with Hillel as well as the national spec- trum of pro-Israel campus ~roups. "In other words, we identify specific challenges and opportunities and match both our own resources, and the resources of our partner organizations, to those chal- lenges and opportunities." Asked what pro-lsrael stu- dents need the most from Jewish organizations. Baime tells, "In one word. they need to be empowered. in any number of ways." Students need the tools to address the anti-Israel Boycott. Divestment and Sanctions (BDSI movement "before, during, and after a BDS campaign comes to -campus," he says. "We've got to prevent anti- Israel forces from making inroads with campus leaders," Baime says."We'ye gotto deny Israel's detractors the oppor- tunity to set the parameters of the campus conversation about Israel, and at the same time, we've got to fortify the confidence of the pro-Israel members of the campus com- munity. Because in my view, the greatest threat of BDS is the erosion of confidence of the pro-Israel students and others on campus." While Israel's detractors "'are constantly seeking to drive a wedge between the college campus and the state of Israel," the ICC's response is to "forge new ties between key constituencies on those campuses and their Israeli counterparts," Baime says. For example, the ICC works closely with the Israel invest- ment group Tamid. "Tamid is doing incred- ible work to expose business students and people who are interested in entrepreneur- ship with their Israeli coun- terparts, and to bring the whole idea of 'start-up nation' to the campus." Baime says. "I think there are a number of areas where we can do similar work. and I think we can see Tamid as a shining example and a model of what works in terms of forging those new ties." The ICC's strategy also includes what Baime calls a "whole campus approach" to pro,Israel advocacy, through the engagement of not just undergraduates, but also graduate students, professors. administrators, alumni, and boards of directors. , "It's woefully insufficient to ask the undergraduates-- the constituency that's on campus for the least amount of time--to make the cam- pus safe for themselves." he says. While Baime's under-gradu- ate years were spent on the heavily Jewish campus of Brandeis. where Jewish stu- dents would presumably feel" safe, he-says that situation presented unique challenges. ."Students [at campuses like Brandeis with large Jew- ish populations] feel they're in an inherently pro-Israel environment, and they aren't necessarily motivated to get involved," Baime says. An- other challenge on campus was "overextension," he says, explaining that students can be involved in so many dif- ferent activities that they are unable "to really commit to Israel activism." As the national field di- rector of AIPAC, Baime su- pervised a national team of professional campus organiz- ers, oversaw strategic c~impus initiatives, and managed 10 national training platforms for college and high school students. Most recently, he served as area director for AIPAC's New England Region. - "AIPAC's campus program is one of its crown jewels. and the training I received from AIPAC gave me a re- ally firm grasp on how the campus works. [and on] the various players." Baime says. "I think that as a result of my work with AIPAC on campus. I understand how to identify, • develop, and mobilize campus resources in support of Israel." At the ICC. Baime will oversee the group's close part- nership with Hillel, the North American network of campus centers. He calls Hillel "a key player in the Israel campus network, if not the key player." Hillel, which has grown to more than 550 locations across North America.-also recently hireda new executive, forrher Ohio congressman Eric Fingerhut. The organb zation has been faced with the question of which groups belong under its "big tent," one that according to Hillel policy welcomes students of every Jewish background and denomination. At the same time, Hillel also has official ISrael Guidelines that state it will not "partner with. house or ho~t organizations, groups or speakers that delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel." Fingerhut told when he was hired in July that he is "certainly aware" of how Hillel's commitment to Israel "is challenged from time to Mashup From page IA tion is what does the Jewish community do in response. Our approach is to bring those people close, not to push them away, not to judge them. Eisen: They want a new notion of what being Jewish is--we haven't really respond- ed to that... We fleed tohave options... Stop trying to make Judaism only about religion. There are substantive ways to be a Jew beyond religion. Prager: This study should diminish anyone's confidence in a smorgasbord approach to building enduring Jewish commitment. Lots of efforts have beentried and seem not to have worked. Jacobs: Demographics give you a slice of reality. They time on campuses." But Hil- lel's board of directors "made absolutely clear" that it was seeking a president and CEO who would ensure the orga- nization lives up to its Israel Guidelines, and that was pai:t of what persuaded Fingerhut to take the job, he said. The ICC has the policy of supporting the democrati- cally elected government of Israel, and only partners with organizations who share that policy,• Baime says. lie also believes in the "big tent" ap- proach. "The Jewish community is and always has been radically pluralistic, and I don't see any sign of that changing in the future." he says. "I think that as a starting point, that's something to embrace." Baime believes an impor- tant decision for the Jewish community revolves around Taglit-Birthright Israel trip participants who return to campus 'with difficult ques- tions, about human rights, about the conduct 0fthe state of Israel." "I think that we can push those stttlents away, and say, 'we're doze with you,' or we can embrace them, we can have the conversation, we can find intelligentways to answer their questions, and hopefully bring then to a better place," he says. "Ithink it's important to focus the latter, and I do thinkit's important that every student on campus w.ho wants to mild a personal re- lationshi! with Israel has the opportunty to do so." In tha vein, Baime says Hillel is "doing incredible and vital work at campuses all across the country to sup- port Israel. and to help every student build that personal relationship with Israel, and I think that's the key." don't tell you whatto do; they don't tell you what's possible. That's the challenge of Jewish leadership. MiChael Steinhardt, Jewish mega-philanthropist: The leadership in the community is atrocious. Charendoff: People felt that if everyone does their part maybe we'll get there organi- cally. I think this study shows if everybody does their part we're not going to get there. Cardin: There's no silver bullet [but] there's reason to be optimistic that we can. as a community, come together and address those issues and concerns. Spokoiny: Organizational models need to adapt. They need to be able to operate more as a network than as a traditioaal pyramidal, top- down orgmization... Organi- zations ttat have fundraising as their nain, core task, like federatiols, should really be investingi lot in engagement in differelt ways. Silvernan: There definitely will need b really be a conven-o ing ofre~/thought leaders and thinkers b really look at this from a sease of implications and strate[y going forward; it's not going:o happen at the G.A. Steinh~rdt: I don't see the commurity thoughtfully dealing with it... So much of this was obvious a long time ago, and the worthwhile question is not so much about the Pew study but about the community itself, to ask why the community is so lame in dealing with change.