Yeshiva U search committee to propose ex-NYC pulpit rabbi as president


Rabbi Ari Berman has emerged as the search committee’s top candidate to be the next president of Yeshiva University, a source familiar with the process told JTA.

A product of both Y.U.’s college and its affiliated rabbinical seminary, Berman served for 14 years as a rabbi at The Jewish Center, a prominent modern Orthodox congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, until immigrating to Israel in 2008. He taught Talmud at Y.U. beginning in 1998.

Berman was promoted from assistant rabbi to lead The Jewish Center in 2000. The congregation, which has been home to many Y.U. donors and lay leaders, is something of a leadership farm team for the school. A previous rabbi of the synagogue, Norman Lamm, left to become Y.U. president and head of yeshiva in 1976. Another, Rabbi J.J. Schachter, is now a professor at Y.U. and a senior scholar at its Center for the Jewish Future.

Yeshiva University’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs would not comment on matters relating to the presidential search. JTA was unable to immediately reach Berman in Israel.

Whoever succeeds Richard Joel as president will face a host of challenges. Y.U. lost money in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme in 2008 and ran an operating deficit for seven straight years. Last year, it offloaded the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to the Montefiore Health System, losing half of its endowment in the deal.

Y.U. has also been rocked in recent years by a series of accusations of physical and sexual abuse that took place at its affiliated boys’ high school in the 1970s and ’80s. The cases could not be prosecuted because they exceeded the statute of limitations.

Berman was pegged by many modern Orthodox insiders as a possible Y.U. president due to his prominent perch at The Jewish Center, his intellectual capabilities and political savvy. After he moved to Israel and kept a relatively low profile in Israel, however, much of the chatter died down.

But during his time in Israel, Berman earned a doctorate in Jewish thought at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He now serves as rosh hamerkaz, or head of the center, at Hechal Shlomo, The Jewish Heritage Center in Jerusalem. He is also an instructor at Herzog College, a teachers’ college in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, outside Jerusalem.

Like Joel, who served as president of Hillel International before coming to Y.U., Berman is not well established in general academic circles. And unlike Joel, he lacks significant fundraising experience and has never managed a sizable entity. But he is well connected in the modern Orthodox world, maintaining good relations with the school’s leading rabbis and demonstrating an ability to forge relationships with its alumni and donors.

Though plucked from a major Jewish organization, Joel was seen as a departure, given that he was not a rabbi or Torah scholar. And in looking for his successor, the search committee again seemed to be looking beyond rabbinical circles. In July, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former president of George Washington University who is heading the search, suggested to JTA that it was time to reevaluate what is most important in a Y.U. president, prioritizing a nuts-and-bolts candidate over an innovative modern Orthodox philosopher.

Trachtenberg questioned whether Lamm would have been selected had he applied under today’s circumstances.

“I said to the committee, to the faculty, to the rabbis and the board of trustees that they needed to learn from past experiences and be more flexible,” Trachtenberg said. “What you want to do is open yourself up to a greater definition of what it means to be a scholarly person.”

Trachtenberg said that today Y.U.s financial health is “sufficient,” but that its future stability demands “a creative person who knows what they’re doing.”

“The financial side is a very big challenge,” he said. “The challenges are those of money. Running a university is a labor-intensive enterprise. Jewish philanthropy is being drawn in all directions.”

While the shift away from the rabbi-scholar model was seen as a move toward enhanced fundraising and management, things didn’t work out as planned. In fact, Y.U. was in desperate financial straights when Lamm assumed the post in 1976 — by the time he stepped down as president, however, the university was on strong financial footing. During Joel’s tenure, the school’s fortunes plunged again.

Before zeroing in on Berman, the search committee was considering another departure form the tradition of hiring rabbis and Jewish communal leaders. Nick Muzin, the deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, met the head of the search committee multiple times as part of the search. In July, Y.U. announced that Muzin was no longer being considered.

As it turns out, Berman fits Lamm’s profile far more closely, though he lacks the same scholarly standing that Lamm had upon being plucked from the pulpit. That said, Lamm lavished praised on Berman upon his becoming a Talmud instructor at Y.U. According to a 1998 article in the Commentator, a Y.U. student newspaper, Lamm, then Y.U.’s president, called Berman “a rising star in the firmament of Talmudic scholars and rabbis. His talents are enhanced by an attractive personality and a sterling character, and we, therefore, are delighted with this appointment.”

Though the consummate Y.U. and modern Orthodox insider, Berman also has displayed a willingness to engage in discussion and debate with those across the political and denominational spectrum. In recent years, he has returned to The Jewish Center to debate journalist Peter Beinart, who calls for a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, and engage in conversation with Ruth Calderon, a secular Israeli Talmud scholar and former Knesset member with Yesh Atid, a party that prioritized reforming the country’s policy on religious affairs.

At The Jewish Center, Berman avoided being sucked into many of the prominent feuds and ideological battles between modern Orthodoxy’s ideological camps. Similarly, on Israel, Berman balanced many competing constituencies, managing to be an unabashed supporter of Israeli security and settlements without being seen as an opponent of Israeli territorial concessions.

Burkini ban is great for business, says Israeli-French maker of modest swimsuits


According to the latest tally, at least 30 French municipalities have banned the product that the Paris-born businesswoman Yardena G. sells for a living.

Yardena, a haredi Orthodox mother of nine from Jerusalem, owns the Sea Secret fashion label of modest swimwear for devoutly religious women. And she regards the bans on full-body bathing suits for Muslim women, or burkinis, as “the best commercial ever for modest swimwear.”

In fact, Yardena said in an interview Thursday with JTA, she predicts the controversial bans will “end up boosting sales in a big way.” (Citing privacy issues, she asked that her last name not be mentioned in the article.)

Yardena, who immigrated to Israel 14 years ago, sells various models of “full-body” swimsuits that leave little more than the hands and feet exposed.

The bans on the distinctive Muslim swimwear have ignited a polarizing debate in a divided France, which is struggling to balance freedom of worship with its attachment to other liberal values — including the fight against radical Islam and the oppression of women.

Defended by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as a countermeasure against “a political project … to perpetuate female servitude,” the burkini ban and its enforcement have angered millions of Frenchmen who regard it as a gross infringement into the private realm and unwarranted discrimination toward Muslims.

It also dismayed Yardena, 45, who started her line of modest swimwear with a female business partner “to empower women” who adhere to religious laws, common to Muslims and Jews, that demand women cover up to various degrees.

“It’s like someone turned the world on its head in France,” she said. “Instead of promoting modesty and good measures like leaders and figures of authority ought to, they’re telling women to take it off.

“I don’t understand what’s happened, but I do know that as a person who keeps modest clothing, such measures will do nothing to discourage other women like me.”

Sea Secret’s dozen or so sales agents in France have reported to Yardena that French Jewish women, who constitute the lion’s share of the firm’s clientele, are worried they may be affected by the ban.

“It’s creating a problem for Jewish women because it’s poisoning the atmosphere for everyone – Muslims, Christians and anyone who doesn’t want a police officer making wardrobe decisions for them,” Yardena said.

Some suits in the  Sea Secret line could be classified as a burkini, she said. Yardena noted one model featuring an elastic shawl that can be used both as a hijab and a traditional head cover of the sort favored by haredi and modern Orthodox women.

One of several Jewish-owned businesses offering modest swimwear for women, Sea Secret does have some Muslim clients. But many Muslim women refrain from buying its products because it is known to be Jewish-owned and Israel based.

“They perceive it as political,” Yardena said.

Christian women, however, account for a third of sales.

“I believe women who observe modesty observe the sanctity of God no matter what their own faith happens to be,” Yardena said. “I think our brand is truly a light onto the nations.”

The mainstream representative organs of French Jewry, which are normally quick to offer their take on current affairs — especially on religious issues — have remained conspicuously silent on this issue even as the Board of Deputies of British Jews complained Wednesday about reports of “police harassment” of Muslim swimmers in Nice. It was an unusual move for the board, which rarely comments on foreign issues without consulting the relevant Jewish communities.

A senior rabbi, Moshe Sebbag of the Grand Synagogue of Paris, acknowledged in an interview with JTA on Tuesday the reluctance of other French Jewish leaders to speak out on the issue.

“It’s a complicated subject and both sides have compelling arguments,” Sebbag said, adding that the French state is a “secular country with freedom of religion.”

But Sebbag ultimately defended the bans, whose supporters, he said, “understand today there’s a religious war, a takeover of the secular establishment of the French republic, and this is what they find unacceptable.” Asked if he agrees with the burkini bans, he said: “Yes, because you see that going with it [a burkini] is not innocent, it’s sending a message.”

The burkini ban is turning France away from its own core values, according to David Isaac Haziza, a French-Jewish columnist for La Regle du Jeu, the commentary and news site edited by the philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.

Haziza is critical of those who wear the burkini, which he described as a sign of radicalization at the expense of integration. Nonetheless, Haziza argued against fighting it through legislation and regulations. The fight, he said, should be “on a moral level.”

Ehud Olmert requests early prison release


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially submitted a request for early release from prison, where he is serving a 19-month sentence on a corruption conviction.

An attorney for Olmert, the first Israeli prime minister to serve jail time, submitted the request on Wednesday. A hearing on the request to shorten his sentence by six months was scheduled for Dec. 25.

Olmert went on his first 48-hour furlough from prison last month.

He resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted in multiple corruption scandals.

In December, Israel’s Supreme Court cut Olmert’s prison term in the Holyland corruption case to 18 months from six years after acquitting him of receiving the larger of the two bribes for which he was convicted. The Jerusalem District Court then extended the sentence by a month.

The Holyland affair, what is being called the largest corruption scandal in Israel, involved the payment of bribes to government officials by the developers of a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Jerusalem.

In May, Olmert was sentenced to eight months in prison after being convicted for accepting cash-filled envelopes from an American-Jewish businessman, Morris Talansky, and using it for personal and not political expenses. The case is under appeal to the Supreme Court.

JTS sells $96 million in real estate, will use proceeds to finance redevelopment


The Jewish Theological Seminary announced it has sold $96 million worth of real estate assets and will use the proceeds to upgrade its New York facility.

The seminary said Monday that it sold a parcel of land at the eastern end of its campus at 3080 Broadway in Manhattan, limited rights to develop that land and an off-campus residence hall to the New York real estate investment firm Savanna. With the proceeds, the seminary said it plans to build a state-of-the-art library, auditorium and conference facilities, and a new 150-bed residence hall at its main campus.

“Our new campus will facilitate a deeper collaboration with our neighbors, our city, and with individuals and communities around the world,” Chancellor Arnold Eisen said in a statement. 
“It will provide multiple new opportunities for dialogue around the most critical issues of our time. This is the beginning of a new chapter in our long history as a world class educational institution, dedicated to training the leaders of tomorrow.”

The seminary, founded in 1886 and considered the flagship institution of the Conservative movement, first announced plans to sell off some assets a year ago to finance a major redevelopment of its Morningside Heights campus, on the outskirts of Harlem and the Upper West Side. Seminary officials said the process of “reimagining” the campus had been conducted through a broadly based process with extensive input from students, faculty and other stakeholders.

In an interview with JTA, Eisen said the property sale was unrelated to the financial challenges the seminary faced several years ago, when it went through several rounds of layoffs, including the elimination of the position of cantorial school dean. Eisen personally took a 10 percent pay cut.

“I have to say that since then, the position of JTS financially has grown quite strong,” Eisen said. “We are not embarking on this process from a position of financial weakness, but from a position of great strength.”

The announcement comes amid continuing anxiety over the diminished fortunes of the Conservative movement, which has seen a decline in affiliated members over the past three decades. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm, announced last year it was selling its Manhattan offices for $15.9 million, in part to pay down its debt.

Eisen acknowledged those challenges, but said he doesn’t share the pessimism about the movement’s future. The sale and reinvestment, he said, is a reflection of that.

“This is a bet on the future,” Eisen said.

David Landau, Haaretz editor and JTA’s longtime Israel bureau chief, dies at 67


David Landau, a British-born Israeli journalist who held top positions at several English-language publications, including JTA, has died.

Landau died of brain cancer in Jerusalem on Tuesday. He was 67.

Landau, who made aliyah in 1970, served part time as JTA’s Israel bureau chief for many years while also working as a diplomatic correspondent at The Jerusalem Post. He later was promoted to managing editor of the Post. In 1997 he founded Haaretz’s English-language edition and served as the newspaper’s editor in chief from 2004 to 2008. He wrote columns for Haaretz until last year.

In choosing to work for JTA, Landau “demonstrated his strong commitment to educating Diaspora Jewry about the intricacies of Israeli politics and Israeli life,” said Lisa Hostein, JTA’s editor from 1994 to 2008.

“Top Israeli journalists in Israel would respond with disbelief when they discovered I had the audacity to edit and even challenge David, who was known as a tough journalist and editor in his own right,” said Hostein, who now serves as executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

“He was an Orthodox Jew whose commitment to an open and moral democracy in Israel drove his work as a journalist,” she said. “May his memory be a blessing.”

Landau wrote and ghost-wrote several books, including “Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism” (1992), about Israel’s haredi Orthodox community, and a biography of Ariel Sharon published last year.

“David Landau’s untimely death is a very great loss, not just for his family and his many friends, but also for Haaretz and for journalism in general,” said Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken in an obituary  published in that newspaper. “As a Haaretz staffer for many years, and especially during his tenure as editor-in-chief, David made an enormous contribution to the paper as an enlightened Zionist intellectual, a liberal in the full sense of the word and a believing Jew, and he demonstrated that there is no inherent contradiction in these things.”

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who collaborated with Landau on two memoirs, told Haaretz that Landau was “a rare combination of an individual – religious in depth and liberal in breadth.”

Landau will be buried at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon.

He is survived by his wife, Jackie, their three children and eight grandchildren.

Sanctions support grows


More than half the U.S. Senate has signed on to a bill that would intensify sanctions against Iran. But in a sign of the so-far successful effort by the White House to keep the bill from reaching a veto-busting 67 supporters, only 16 Democrats are on board.

The number of senators co-sponsoring the bill, introduced by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), reached 59 this week, up from just 33 before the Christmas holiday break.

Notably only one of the 25 who signed up in recent days — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — is a Democrat, a sign of intense White House lobbying among Democrats to oppose the bill.

Backers of the bill say it would strengthen the U.S. hand at the negotiations. But President Barack Obama has said he would veto the bill because it could upend talks now under way between the major powers and Iran aimed at keeping the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear bomb. A similar bill passed this summer by the U.S. House of Representatives had a veto-proof majority.

On Jan. 9, the White House said backers of the bill should be upfront about the fact that it puts the United States on the path to war.

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement posted by The Huffington Post. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

A number of pro-Israel groups, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are leading a full-court press for the bill’s passage, with prominent Jewish leaders in a number of states, making calls and writing letters to holdouts. Dovish Jewish groups such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now oppose the bill.

The bill would expand sanctions in part by broadening existing definitions targeting energy and banking sectors to all “strategic sectors,” including engineering, mining and construction. It would also tighten the definition of entities eligible for exceptions and broaden the definition of targeted individuals who assist Iran in evading sanctions.

The National Jewish Democratic Council, in an effort to back a Democratic president while not expressly opposing intensified sanctions, issued a mixed verdict on the bill, saying it does not support its passage at present though the option of intensified sanctions should remain open down the road if the president seeks it.

“We encourage Congress to support the president’s foreign policy initiative by making stronger measures available should they be required,” the statement said. “Final action on the legislation should be dependent upon Iran’s full compliance with its obligations.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, the NJDC’s executive director, accused AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of “strong-arm tactics, essentially threatening people that if they don’t vote a particular way, that somehow that makes them anti-Israel or means the abandonment of the Jewish community.”

David Harris, the AJC’s executive director, said he was “shocked” by Moline’s allegations.

“We support the Iran sanctions bill, as do a bipartisan majority of U.S. senators,” he said. “Can a group differ with him on a critically important issue like Iran, where potentially existential issues are at stake, without being maligned or misrepresented, or is that the price we’re supposed to pay for honest disagreement?”

A spokesman for AIPAC declined to comment. Moline subsequently apologized to the AJC, telling JTA that his understanding now is that the pressure had been exerted in the organization’s name — not by its employees. 

Despite its majority, the law faces significant Senate opposition. Ten committee chairmen in the Democratic-led Senate have pushed back against new legislation in a letter to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader. One of the committee chairman, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) of the banking committee, has the parliamentary power to hold the bill.

Among the other committee chairs opposed to advancing the bill now are four Jewish senators: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee; Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Environment Committee; and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Energy Committee. 

Technology leading the way to lower-cost day school education


The nondenominational Pre-Collegiate Learning Center of New Jersey doesn’t have a math teacher. The East Brunswick school instead relies on experienced math tutors who help students work through an online math curriculum relying on outside sources.

At Baltimore’s Ohr Chadash, a Modern Orthodox primary school in its first year, students receive iPads beginning in the fourth grade to do more online and group work.

“The things the teachers ask us to do for work are fun,” said 9-year-old Nili Hefetz, a fourth-grader at the school. For example, using Adobe Ideas, Nili and other students draw pictures on the iPads inspired by the Chumash (Bible) lessons.

“The idea was to incorporate technology into the school in a seamless way,” said the school’s president, Saul Weinreb. “It became a way of doing things both in education and administration.”

It’s also a way to save money.

With tuition that can reach $30,000 or more per student, the day school tuition crisis has spurred a search for new options and given rise to a new breed of day schools where technology and blended learning—mixing traditional classroom learning with online education—are reducing costs.

“In the general world, online and blended learning is becoming a wave of the future,” said Rachel Mohl Abrahams, a program officer at the Avi Chai Foundation in New York.

PCLC opened in the fall with 20 students in grades 8 to 11. Its director, Lauren Ariev Gellman, predicts that in 10 to 15 years, all schools—public and private—will have an online component.

“Everybody is going to move in this direction,” Gellman said. “It would serve Jewish schools well to get ahead of the curve. And bring the costs way down.”

Tuition is just $5,000 at the PCLC. The blended learning style has allowed the school to save in a big area: faculty. It employs only two full-time administrators and only part-time teachers. Teachers assign lessons from online curricula, such as math and science lessons from Khan Academy or language lessons from Rosetta Stone, and then provide individual help while students work at their own pace.

The Judaic studies curriculum is more traditional—simply because the resources are not there yet. Two of the classes, however, are run over Skype with a teacher in Israel and students participating from four or five other yeshivas.

Volunteering is also helping to keep down costs at the new schools. At Ohr Chadash, where tuition is $8,400 this year, each family is required to volunteer 25 hours per year. Nili’s mother, Shayna, is co-president of the school’s PTA and volunteers as an art teacher. Other parents have volunteered with office work, on field trips and as lunchtime supervisors.

“We try to utilize parent volunteers as much as possible,” Shayna Hefetz said.

Going paperless also has meant major cost savings, which Weinreb estimates at a few hundred dollars per student. And a budget oversight committee comprised of people otherwise unaffiliated with the school first approves every expense and ensures that budgets are planned around only existing money, not future fundraising. The methods can frustrate administrators, Weinreb acknowledged, but keep the budget in check.

Volunteerism is the main model for keeping down costs at The Jewish Cooperative School in Hollywood, Fla., where 2011-12 tuition ran $7,500. Technology does not play as central a role in the Modern Orthodox school, but as at Ohr Chadash, the administration requires the parents of its 23 students in kindergarten through second grade to volunteer several hours a month.

“I’ve found parents really enjoy being involved in the education of their kids,” said Janessa Wasserman, one of the school’s founders and a parent of two students there. “And the kids really love it.”

Hannah Shapiro, whose 7-year-old daughter, Aliyah, attends second grade at the school, volunteers by putting out a weekly newsletter for each grade, as well as helping once a week in the classroom.

“I love to be involved with my kids’ education, so I try in any way possible to get involved,” she said.

Shapiro says that since Hannah started at The Jewish Cooperative School this year, she jumps out of bed in the morning excited about school.

“It’s like a home for them,” Shapiro said. “It’s something special.”

Avi Chai has provided grants to three of the blended learning schools, including PCLC and Ohr Chadash. The other school is Yeshivat He’Atid in Bergenfield, N.J. Overall, Avi Chai is aware of eight blended learning schools that either opened this year or plan to open next year, from California and Texas to Maryland and Massachusetts.

The concept has started drawing attention from other funders, too.

Determined to figure out new, sustainable ways to ensure that all Jewish parents have the ability to send their children to affordable, high-quality day schools, a group of philanthropists in the New York area formed the Affordable Jewish Education Project, or AJE, earlier this year. The group began with an open mind but honed in on the concept of low-cost day schools, said its executive director, Jeff Kiderman.

“There’s more to them than just their low cost,” he told JTA. “We saw this as a tremendous opportunity to innovate in the world of Jewish education by promoting educational improvements and affordability improvements at a time when our community really needs both.”

AJE discovered several low-cost schools throughout the United States that either recently opened or are in development, but Kiderman noted that there was little connecting them to each other. That’s the role AJE hopes to fill, he said, by creating a network for the schools to share best practices and resources.

Tuition savings at the lower-cost schools can range from 30 percent to 40 percent on the elementary level and 50 percent or more in high school, according to Kiderman. The schools focus on a mix of technology and volunteerism to keep costs down.

Kiderman calls PCLC a “classic example of a school trying to find available, innovative educational models that they can share with the rest of the country.”

The school is “constantly re-examining what they are doing and constantly trying to improve it. That’s what everybody should be doing,” he said.

“This is absolutely the future of education,” said Rebecca Coen, founder and head of Yeshiva High Tech, a Modern Orthodox Los Angeles high school scheduled to open in August with 40 students in ninth through 11th grade and tuition set at $8,500.

Distance learning has been around for years and Jewish schools are actually playing catch-up in online education, Coen said, noting that advances in non-Jewish education often take several years to filter down to the Jewish educational world.

While the students work on online lessons, teachers will rotate from group to group to provide support when needed.

“It’s possible in the same classroom to have ninth-grade students working on ninth-grade English, 10th-grade students working on 10th-grade English,” Coen said. “You can have AP in the classroom, and they can all be working simultaneously with the same teacher because the teacher is no longer the primary source for curriculum delivery.”

This may result in larger class sizes, Coen said, but teachers will “actually spend more time with each student than if they’re standing in front of the classroom.”

Cantor advises Weiner to ‘come clean’ in Twitter flap


Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Republican majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, called on Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to “come clean” about a controversy over a lewd photo.

Cantor made his comments in a television interview on Thursday, as Weiner endured a fourth day on the receiving end of questions about a photo of a man in his underwear that was sent from his Twitter account. The photo was sent to a 21-year-old female college student who is a Twitter follower of Weiner’s.

Weiner says that he did not send the photo and that his Twitter account had been hacked. However, he has said that he “cannot say with certitude” that the photo isn’t of him. He says he asked a law firm specializing in hacking to investigate, but will not refer the matter to law enforcement, explaining that it would be a waste of taxpayer money for what he calls a prank.

The recipient says she never received the photo and does not have any relationship with Weiner.

Cantor, the most senior Jewish lawmaker in congressional history, told the Fox News Channel that his “advice would be to come clean and clear it up, I know there’s been a lot of explaining going on without a lot of clarity.”

Canadian Jewish Congress head running for office


The head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, announced he is running for public office.

Farber, who worked for the CJC for 27 years and has been its CEO since 2005, announced he is taking a leave of absence to run as a Liberal candidate in October’s provincial elections in Ontario.

Farber is running in the heavily Jewish district of Thornhill, north of Toronto, where he will face the Progressive Conservative party’s incumbent, Peter Shurman, a Jewish one-time broadcast executive.

Farber already has been criticized for allying himself with the ruling Liberals, who are steadfastly against any public funding of private and religious schools in Ontario.

Over the years, Farber and CJC have become synonymous with vigorous calls for funding of Jewish schools. The previous Conservative government provided a historic tax credit for parents of children in faith-based schools, which Ontario’s current Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled upon coming to office.

Funding is “probably something the premier and I don’t agree on, but on virtually everything else we are in agreement,” Farber said. “I will try to march on those issues where
we are in full agreement and continue to advocate on those issues I still feel strongly about.”

Shurman told the Canadian Jewish News he thought Farber is “a good guy” and wished him luck, but said he wasn’t concerned “in the slightest” by his rival’s entry into politics.

Senate confirms Shapiro as U.S. ambassador to Israel


The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to confirm Daniel Shapiro as America’s next ambassador to Israel.

Shapiro was nominated to the post in March by President Obama. At the time he was serving as senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council. He had coordinated Jewish outreach for the Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

The president’s nomination of Shapiro was praised by a wide range of Jewish groups.

Military attache in Russia has been warned


Israel’s military attaché to Russia was expelled after three warnings, according to a Russian newspaper.

Vadim Leiderman, expelled earlier this month on suspicion of spying, continued to contact Russian military officials without coordinating with the Russian Foreign Ministry, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported, according to Israeli media reports.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Leiderman of violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in its warnings. The warnings are reported to have been issued in November 2009, April 2010, and December 2010.

Leiderman reportedly was arrested at a coffee shop in Moscow, where he was meeting with a Russian military officer. He and his family were given 24 hours to leave the country.

Leiderman was investigated by the Shin Bet security service and the Defense Ministry and submitted to a lie detector test before Israeli officials declared that Russian accusations of espionage were unfounded.

Russia’s security service told reporters in Moscow that Leiderman had attempted to glean information on secret military sales to Arab states and that he had attempted to recruit Russian civilians as spies for Israel. He has also been accused of lobbying on behalf of an Israeli defense company.

AIPAC likes Obama’s clarification on ‘67 lines [VIDEO]


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it “appreciated” President Obama’s clarification that he did not expect Israel to return to its 1967 lines. 

“In particular, we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six-Day War,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement released after Obama delivered a speech Sunday to its annual policy conference.

In a speech three days earlier outlining his Middle East policy, Obama had said that negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians should be on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed-upon land swaps. He also criticized the recent pact between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist group, and rejected attempts to achieve recognition of Palestinian statehood absent negotiations.

Story continues after the jump.