Hamas terror cell planning attack arrested in West Bank

Forty members of a Hamas terror cell said to be planning an attack in the West Bank were arrested.

The arrests took place over the past several months, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Wednesday in a statement. The Israel Defense Forces issued a similar statement.

Indictments will be submitted to a military court in the next few days, according to the IDF.

Among the operatives arrested were Hamas officials who have been jailed in the past for their involvement in terror activities, according to the Shin Bet.

Cell leaders established a headquarters in Nablus and made “intensive efforts” to reestablish Hamas terror activities in the West Bank, the Shin Bet said. The cell was directed from Qatar, and orders were sent to Hamas operatives via email.

The IDF and Shin Bet investigation revealed detailed information regarding another Hamas terror cell planning a terror attack that was thwarted during the course of the operation.

The announcement of the arrests comes after several days of terror attacks on Israeli targets and calls by the Israeli public to crack down on Palestinian terror groups.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz statement: ‘Netanyahu does not speak for the Jewish people!’

Los Angeles, Calif. – While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out his case against the nuclear deal with Iran, Rabbi Mark Borovitz of Beit T'Shuvah expressed disappointment regarding the timing of the speech and believes it was ultimately disrespectful to an ally.

“Netanyahu would not stand for the same happening in his country,” explained Rabbi Borovitz.  “He does not speak for the Jewish People!  No one does.

“My issue with this speech isn't that he has a different opinion of this nuclear deal.  My concern is that he's walking over the powerful and positive relationship between Israel and the United States by publicly undermining the decisions our leaders have made.

“I have grave concerns regarding Iran. They, like Russia and others, cannot be trusted. Mr. Netanyahu's position is understandable, his methods are not. As Jews, we know that ends never justify the means.

“A speech to Congress without notifying the White House is disrespectful to an ally and gives ammunition to those who would prefer to minimize the relationship between our two countries,” says Borovitz.

Founder of Beit T'Shuvah, Harriet Rossetto, adds that by focusing on the politics of the situation Prime Minister Netanyahu is distracting attention from the real issue at hand. “By splitting people here and in Israel he diminished our ability to address the primary issue, which is the danger posed by Iran,” says Rossetto.

Rabbi Mark Borovitz is the CEO of Beit T'Shuvah.

Kerry to Israel and Palestinians: Comply completely with cease-fire

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Israel and the Palestinians to “fully and completely” comply with the terms of their latest cease-fire.

Kerry issued a statement Tuesday evening after the open-ended truce went into effect at 7 p.m. Israel time.

Meanwhile, a second man who was critically injured in a mortar attack from Gaza on the Eshkol Region shortly before the start of the cease-fire died of his injuries. Some 182 rockets were fired at Israel on Tuesday before the cease-fire.

In his statement, Kerry said, “We hope very much that this cease-fire will prove to be durable and sustainable, that it will put an end to rocket and mortar attacks, and that it will help to bring about an enduring end to the conflict in Gaza.”

Kerry called for the acceleration of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

He commended the Egyptians “for their role in hosting the negotiations in Cairo and for continuing to work to reach agreement on a cease-fire.”

According to reports, the open-ended cease-fire would see the immediate opening of border crossings from Gaza into Israel and Egypt, and the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone. The second phase would begin in a month, with discussion of the construction of a Gaza seaport and the Israeli release of Hamas prisoners.

The sides have agreed to numerous cease-fires since Israel launched its military operation in Gaza early last month to stop rocket fire from the coastal strip.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank flooded the streets and gunmen fired into the air to celebrate the cease-fire agreement; Hamas claimed victory. Several senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders surfaced in public shortly after the start of the cease-fire for the first time since the start of Israel’s Gaza operation about seven weeks ago.

Six civilians in Israel, including one foreign worker, and 64 soldiers were killed in the operation known as Protective Edge. The Palestinian death toll stood at least 2,127, the Palestinian Health Ministry told an Israeli television station.

RCC: Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater

This past Pesach week has been a horrible one for the Los Angeles Jewish Community.  The butcher it relied on for decades violated his moral, ethical and religious obligations to the public by surreptitiously bringing meat or poultry that was not supervised into his store.  His was a monumental breach of trust and the community should not forgive him for his deceit.

While certainly not a culprit in the scheme, the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) was responsible to certify the delivery to Doheny of approved meat and poultry.  We failed to do this and we let the community down.  As President of the RCC, I apologize to the community for this monumental failure.

There is no way to sugarcoat this fiasco.  But let’s be certain of the facts, too!  All Pesach long people have asked me, “What did you know and when did you know it?” Here are the facts. 

I was informed at 1:00pm on Sunday March 24, a day and a half before Pesach, that there was credible and damning video surveillance of Doheny’s owner.  I immediately left my office on Pico Blvd. and sped to Fairfax to see the video along with a number of other prominent rabbis.  That Sunday was the first time any RCC Rabbi was informed of the deceit.   Within two hours we studied the material and came to the conclusion that the RCC approval (hechsher) should be summarily removed!

Thus, at 3:00pm, RCC rabbis asked the on-site Mashgiach to remove the official RCC Kashruth seal from the store and stand outside to advise shoppers that the store was no longer under RCC supervision.  Later that afternoon, a larger group of rabbis and some highly respected communal lay-leaders were shown the video and reinforced our decision to remove our hechsher.  We also gave Doheny’s owner an opportunity to come clean or explain the apparent deception. RCC rabbis then called Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah V'Daas and legal authority for the OU Kashrut Division, to help us rule on the complex Halachic (Jewish Law) matter.  Rabbi Belsky unequivocally permitted any meat or poultry that was purchased up until 3pm that day, the time we removed our hechsher. 

The rabbis of the RCC’s immediate and only concern was the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the community.  Consider the weight of the problem we confronted.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands of families had already cooked their entire Pesach meat and poultry menus.  Pesach programs and caterers were serving thousands of customers in a day’s time.  At stake were the possible disposal of all that meat and poultry and the koshering of dishes and pots!  I don’t wish the burden of that decision on any one! 

Thankfully, the permitting ruling was issued based on complex Jewish Law principles relating to the concept of majority kosher vs. a minority of unsupervised products.  Those knowledgeable of the “Halachic Universe” could get their arms around that concept.  Unfortunately, for the average layperson the ruling was mystifying, almost hocus pocus — for instance, how could the same piece of meat be kosher at 2:59pm but no longer edible at 3:00pm?  Yet, the end of the day, despite the difficult rationale of the ruling, all were able to enjoy the delicious food that was prepared.

So how bad is the RCC and what is the RCC?  The RCC is made up of our community’s pulpit rabbis, heads of yeshivot, community kollels and community outreach organizations.  These distinguished Orthodox rabbis, almost 100 of them, joined the RCC because it serves them and the community.  The RCC supervises the community Eruv, has a highly respected Beit Din dealing with monetary disputes and family law.  The RCC insures that patients at Cedars Sinai Hospital enjoy fresh kosher food.  The RCC partnered with local agencies to create the nationally respected protocol to deal with school and communal pedophiles.  The RCC supervises a local hospice care provider advising on the complex end-of-life issues.

None of these RCC rabbis are paid!  Some of my colleagues are on-call to the community 24/7 and are busy with the weightiest issues of the community for hundreds of hours each year.  I am proud to work along side them and to glean from their wisdom and dedication.  Yes, there are committed and hard-working salaried professional staff members, who give their heart and soul to their supervision duties, but they do not receive one penny more or less based on the volume of work they solicit or supervise.  This is the beauty of and impetus for a community kashruth not vulnerable to any profit motive. 

To be sure, numerous RCC rabbis and administrators have not rested from the moment we were notified about this subterfuge.  While numerous complaints previously leveled at Doheny, mainly by competitors, were thoroughly investigated and found to be false, this time he was caught in violation of our protocols and we were caught flat-footed! 

And so, we know, that our work is just beginning.  Soon after Pesach, we will undergo a top to bottom review of every aspect of our operation to ensure that we not fail in the future.  We will invite disinterested parties to join the review. 

But, please do not confuse Doheny’s owner with the RCC rabbis and the sophisticated kashruth systems in place.  Please, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. 

What the community needs is an even stronger and improved RCC.  The Rabbis of RCC need community support now more than ever.  Let’s learn from this together and go forward for our community’s betterment.

Statement from the Rabbinical Council of California on Doheny Meats

On Sunday March 24th, the RCC received video footage alleging kashrus violations at Doheny Kosher Meats, a store under its supervision. Within hours of receiving the information including time stamped surveillance videos, leading members of the Vaad Hakashrus met and, assessing the evidence of policy violations as compelling, ordered the immediate removal of our certification. Later that afternoon, a large group of community Rabbis and lay leaders met to review the known facts and to question the owner of Doheny. After initially denying any wrongdoing, he admitted to bringing unauthorized products to the store on two to three occasions.

After discussion, the meeting’s participants unanimously confirmed the decision to remove the RCC certification from Doheny Kosher Meats. In implementing that decision and determining to immediately publicize the RCC’s decision before Pesach, the Rabbinical authorities for the RCC consulted with Rav Yisroel Belsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah V’Daas and Posek for the OU Kashrut Division, and a nationally recognized kashrus authority. At 8pm Pacific time, Rabbi Belsky issued his ruling, based on the application of normative Halachic principles, permitting the use of products purchased from the store prior to the suspension of the certification. This ruling was immediately disseminated to the public.

In recent days, many allegations have surfaced which are factually incorrect. Over past years, the RCC received complaints from competitors of Doheny accusing Doheny of kashrus violations. The RCC investigated each and every one of these complaints at the time they were made but found no evidence of wrongdoing. To the contrary, each investigation showed Doheny in full compliance. In addition to asking these competitors to provide evidence of violations, the RCC took a number of steps to augment the security systems in place, in addition to the Mashgiach Temidi (full-time kosher supervisor) at Doheny.

Among them:

  • The RCC implemented a system whereby all boxes of meat and poultry from Doheny were numbered and logged by the on-site Mashgiach.
  • We also painstakingly reviewed invoices of product received and sold.
  • Only the Mashgiach had keys to the establishment, which were Mul-T-Lock industrial keys that cannot be duplicated.

There are allegations that Doheny possessed fraudulent Agri labels which the RCC is currently investigating. The serious lapse we did discover in the RCC supervisory system was the human error of an otherwise dedicated Mashgiach who absented himself for prayers, contrary toexplicit protocols. The Mashgiach has been suspended and the RCC is exploring ways to ensure this mistake does not repeat itself including better protocols to monitor Mashgiach compliance.

The RCC deeply regrets this circumvention of its kashrus standards. Unfortunately, even the most sophisticated systems can be breeched. The RCC’s dedicated Kashrus staff and full Rabbinic membership share the public’s outrage and sense of betrayal that a vendor schemed to subvert our policies and abused the community’s trust. Legal action is now being considered.

The RCC, a non-profit community kashrus organization, will continue to work diligently to provide our community with quality kashrus.

Suspect in custody in bomb threat investigation, says Wilshire Blvd. Temple statement

Statement to Wilshire Blvd. Temple congregants from Executive Director Howard Kaplan:

We have an update on the bomb threat at the Temple’s Mid-Wilshire campus today.  The LAPD blew up the suspicious package left in a car adjacent to the Temple and determined it did NOT contain any explosives.  The LAPD also has a suspect in custody.  The arrest was based largely on video footage supplied by our security team from the Temple’s surveillance cameras.  Moments ago, the LAPD gave the “all clear” after thoroughly investigating the entire Temple campus, including searches by four bomb-sniffing dogs.

We are pleased to have a successful resolution and will re-open a safe and secure campus tomorrow morning for all of our programs.  We are grateful to the Temple’s terrific internal security team, and to the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies who responded so quickly and thoroughly.

Howard Kaplan
Executive Director
Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Hotel Shangri-La, ZOA find common ground

On Aug. 21, on the heels of a jury decision that found the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, along with one of its part-owners, had discriminated against a group of Jews during an incident in 2010, the Western Region of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent out a notice that it was planning a protest in front of the Hotel Shangri-La on Aug. 26, to “express outrage.”

Then, on Aug. 24, the ZOA announced that it had canceled the rally after coming to an agreement with the hotel and its owner.

In a statement released on Aug. 24, Hotel Shangri-La President, CEO and part-owner Tehmina Adaya condemned anti-Semitism and declared her support for Israel, even as she reaffirmed her intent to appeal the jury’s decision and maintained that she had never made any discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs who had brought the lawsuit.

[For more on the Hotel Shangri-La case, visit jewishjournal.com/thenon-prophet]

In the case in question, Adaya and the hotel were found to have violated the civil rights of 18 Jewish and non-Jewish plaintiffs when members of the hotel’s staff, allegedly acting on Adaya’s instructions, disrupted a pool party that had been organized by a pro-Israel group.

At the conclusion of their deliberations, the jury in California Superior Court ordered the hotel and Adaya to pay the plaintiffs a combined $1.65 million in damages, statutory payments and punitive damages.

The hotel’s press release — which made no mention of the ZOA’s planned protest — also announced donations from Adaya of $3,600 each to two Israeli foundations, the Koby Mandell Foundation, which supports Israeli victims of terror, and the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, which supports wounded Israeli soldiers.

The ZOA announced the cancellation of the protest in a separate release, circulated just moments after the hotel’s statement was sent out.

“The mere fear of a protest evoked these concessions,” Steve Goldberg, chairman of the ZOA’s Los Angeles region and its national vice chair, said in an interview. “We actually got something tangible, as opposed to a group of people walking in front of a hotel.”

“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro-Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism,” Adaya is quoted as saying in Friday’s statement. “I welcome diversity and never made disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here.”

However, one point in the hotel’s statement — an invitation from Adaya to “leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community” to attend a private event sometime in the next 12 months to be coordinated with the ZOA and hosted by the Shangri-La — has provoked criticism from one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Lou Sokolovskiy, who was awarded more than $115,000 by the jury, said in an interview that while he hadn’t intended to attend the canceled ZOA’s protest, he was “quite disappointed” that ZOA had agreed to host a pro-Israel event at the Shangri-La and had not demanded that Adaya apologize for her actions.

“That’s basically playing along with a public relations campaign that Ms. Adaya is trying to build and becoming a puppet in her hand,” Sokolovskiy said. 

ZOA’s Goldberg countered that the “vast majority of feedback” his group had received about the agreement with the hotel had been positive, and he called Sokolovskiy “one of fewer than a handful of malcontents.”

“We’re not giving her [Adaya] any cover,” Goldberg said. “We’re simply taking her money and giving it to pro-Israel charities.”

James Turken, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in their successful lawsuit, declined to comment specifically on the hotel’s agreement with ZOA, but called the hotel’s statement “clearly an effort at damage control” and “spin control.”

As an example, Turken pointed to the statement’s interpretation of the jury’s verdict. “While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place,” the statement read, “they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs.”

Yet the jury unanimously decided in the cases of each of the 18 plaintiffs that the hotel and Adaya had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and further found that in most cases, the hotel and its owner had acted maliciously.

The verdict made no comment about the hotel’s business protocols, Turken said, and he called the hotel’s portrayal, “100 percent false.”

“There’s no way to spin the verdict as anything other than what it was,” Turken said. “All that one needs to do is look at the court record. This isn’t something you can hide.”

Asked how the hotel had come to that interpretation of the verdict, Miles Lozano, the hotel’s director of PR/Marketing, wrote in an e-mail, “None of the plaintiffs claimed to have heard any discriminatory comments, it was based on hearsay from a former disgruntled employee who did not show up in court to testify.”

Sworn testimony from a deposition of that former employee, Nathan Codrey, was read into the court record for the jury during the trial. In addition, a number of plaintiffs who testified during the trial said under oath that while they had not heard Adaya make discriminatory comments, Codrey had reported to them on the day of the event in 2010 that Adaya had instructed him to “Get the [expletive] Jews out of the hotel.” At the time, Codrey was serving as the hotel’s assistant food and beverage manager. He was terminated from his position shortly after the event.

The complete text of both statements is below.

The Hotel Shangri-La’s:

Hotel Shangri-­La Owner Reaches Out to Jewish Community Makes Donation and Invites Pro-Israel Groups to Hotel

August 24, 2012, Santa Monica, CA -­‐-­‐-­‐ Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Hotel Shangri‐La, today publicly voiced her sensitivity to Jewish groups and Israel by announcing a plan that supports Israel, condemns anti-Semitism and embraces cultural understanding.

Ms. Adaya, who has always supported diversity, announced an equal donation of $3,600
to both the Koby Mandell Foundation (www.kobymandell.org) and Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (www.zdvo.org) to reinforce her commitment to supporting Israel and appreciating diversity.

In addition, she extended a personal invitation to leaders of the Jewish and pro-Israel community to attend a private event, hosted by the Shangri‐La, to be led by and coordinated with the Zionist Organization of America in Los Angeles within the next 12 months.

Ms. Adaya, a longtime Santa Monica resident and board member of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, is eager to clarify misinformation and improve relationships with Jewish leaders following a recent jury decision alleging discriminatory remarks.

“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro‐Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism. I welcome diversity and never made disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here,” said Ms. Adaya. “I pride myself on having close Jewish friends and senior staff, employees representing 12 countries, and we welcome guests from around the world. While I regret I didn’t publicly address this sooner given my belief in my innocence, I support Israel and seek to enhance relationships with people of all backgrounds.”

Ms. Adaya plans to appeal the jury decision based on plaintiffs who attended an event for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish supporters. She believes the claims were based on false information from a disgruntled former employee who did not show up in court to testify. While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place, they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs.

Opened in 1939, the 70-room oceanfront Hotel Shangri-­‐La has been a destination for international visitors throughout its long history.


The ZOA’s:

Protest in front of Hotel Shangri La CANCELLED!

August 24, 2012 – In response to Ms. Tehmina Adaya’s public statement today condemning anti-Semitism and expressing support for Israel, the ZOA is cancelling the community-wide protest that it had planned for Sunday, August 26, 2012, 11 am. Please alert everyone you know who was planning to attend the protest.

The ZOA has made this decision in light of a public statement (which can be found here) in which Ms. Adaya and Hotel Shangri La have expressed support for Israel and a condemnation of anti-Semitism; a pledge to give to charities that assist Israeli victims of terror and IDF war veterans; and a pledge to host an event for the Jewish and pro-Israel community of Los Angeles to be coordinated with the ZOA.

In the wake of the ZOA’s announcement on August 20, 2012 that it was leading a community-wide protest with regard to the civil rights violations against a group of Jewish young professionals at Hotel Shangri La, the ZOA was approached by Hotel Shangri La to achieve reconciliation.

Although, based on a finding of clear and convincing evidence, the jury held that Ms. Adaya and the Hotel acted with malicious intent in evicting the group of Jewish young professionals, we believe that her statement exhibits the Jewish value of teshuva, repentance. Thus, the main purpose of the protest, which was to express outrage at anti-Semitism as well as Jewish pride, has been sufficiently addressed. We look forward to working with the Hotel to hold a Jewish community event that also expresses Jewish pride and support for Israel.

We at the ZOA greatly admire the 18 plaintiffs, “the Santa Monica Chai,” who refused to be victims of anti-Semitism and who had the courage and determination to seek justice. They are true Jewish heroes. We at the ZOA are also grateful to all those whose willingness to join the ZOA in the planned protest led to the satisfying resolution we have reached with Hotel Shangri La. We are proud to have demonstrated that Jewish activism is alive and kicking on the West Coast and that anti-Semitism will never again be quietly tolerated.

Shabbat Shalom to the entire House of Israel,


Gaza Attack Points to Shared Struggle

If the world needed yet another sign that the United States and Israel were engaged in the same struggle against international terrorism, it was given a cruel one Wednesday, Oct. 15, when Palestinian terrorists killed three American security agents and wounded a junior official from the U.S. Embassy in a roadside attack in Gaza.

If the Jewish community in America needed more proof that the Bush administration was committed to fighting this battle side by side with Israel, the president’s words and actions after the incident should alleviate any of those apprehensions.

In a strongly worded condemnation, the president stated that the Palestinian authorities should have "acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms." He pointed out that the failure to create effective Palestinian security forces dedicated to fighting terror continues to cost lives.

It is clear, that both Ariel Sharon and President Bush fully understand that under Yasser Arafat’s autocratic regime, terrorists continue to find safe haven, and both have refused to deal with the disgraced leader, who continually undermines any attempt at peace.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the roadside bombing that killed U.S. embassy employees on their way to help Palestinians build a better future, interviewing potential students who were candidates for an academic Fulbright scholarship. President Bush stated that the attack was "another example of how the terrorists are enemies of progress and opportunity for the Palestinian people."

The attack possesses all the trademarks of Palestinian terrorist bombings by Hamas against Israeli vehicles throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Finding the specific group that perpetrated the attack is important, but more importantly the bombing underscores the fact that the Palestinian Authority allows terrorism to exist and fosters an environment that is filled with vile anti-Americanism.

Despite the Bush administration’s sincere efforts in brokering a fair peace via the "road map," a document that spells out a lucid and achievable way for the Palestinians to gain statehood, hatred and distrust for Americans permeates the Palestinian territories.

In a recent survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed 97 percent of Palestinians polled believe U.S. policy in the region favors the Israeli side. It also found 96 percent think the American commitment to establishing a Palestinian state is insincere.

The Palestinian Authority could not even muster the energy to help fallen Americans on Wednesday, as the Israeli army had to send in tanks and armored vehicles and a helicopter gunship to help the Americans evacuate the wounded man and the bodies of the victims. U.S. investigators at the site also were attacked several hours later by a mob of Palestinian stone-throwers and had to retreat as their cars were pelted by rocks.

"There must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces," President Bush said after the bombing. "Reforms that continue to be blocked by Yasser Arafat. The failure to undertake these reforms and dismantle the terrorist organizations constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people’s dream of statehood."

After the attack, Israeli officials have been instructed to hand over all intelligence information on the attack to the Americans and for security forces to fully cooperate with the FBI and other U.S. investigators. Arafat gave no such instructions.

While most of the media claim this attack sets a new precedent for Palestinian violence against Americans, the reality is quite different. For 30 years, Arafat’s PLO, Fatah and various other Palestinian terrorist organizations have ordered or condoned terror against American citizens. Close to 50 Americans have been murdered, and more than 100 wounded, by Palestinian terrorists since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

The Bush administration clearly understands that their fight is Israel’s fight. After the attacks, Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, stated that his country fully recognized "Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens" and "associate ourselves with that right."

Conversely, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz echoed this sentiment when he said that Israel views the attack "as if it were committed against IDF soldiers or Israeli citizens."

After the attacks, Sharon adviser Ra’anan Gissin said he believes that the United States "stands for life, for liberty, for democracy here, for pursuing peace."

President Bush is still waiting for a Palestinian partner willing to pursue that peace with him.

Prepping Campuses for Anti-Israel Surge

When Ross Neihaus exited his chemistry class three days after the start of UCLA’s fall quarter, he saw the words “Anti-Zionist and Proud” scrawled in chalk on the wall of an adjacent building. Such a statement coming so early in the quarter was a surprise to the fourth-year biology major, but not a shock.

“I expect this to be my toughest year in college,” said Neihaus, the president of Bruins for Israel, UCLA’s pro-Israel group. “We are concerned that what will be said this year will be nastier, more radical and essentially more anti-Semitic.”

Like Neihaus, many pro-Israel students and organizations are bracing themselves for a torrent of anti-Israel activity this year. While the war in Iraq brought a lessening of anti-Israel rhetoric on campus during the 2002-2003 school year, many experts believe that the anti-Israel movement will gain momentum during 2003-2004.

“This year, a confluence of political dynamics and an escalation of violence in and around Israel will set parameters for a tremendous upsurge of anti-Israel campus activity,” said Jonathan Kessler, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leadership development director, during a Sept. 11 briefing.

Pro-Israel campus organizations are taking precautionary measures and making sure that students are prepared.

Many Jewish organizations are focusing on education as their primary weapon in the battle on campus. While positive Israel programming, such as Israel Week, was last year’s tactic of choice, Jewish organizations speculate that students will need to address some difficult and complex questions this year.

The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) brought Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, to speak at 13 East Coast campuses in September to debunk myths that Israel is a violator of human rights. (Sharansky is scheduled to appear at West Coast campuses in the near future.)

“It’s difficult for Jewish students and people who are involved in organizations that promote human rights to hear allegations made against Israel and not know how the respond,” ICC Director Wayne Firestone said.

Locally, the pro-Israel grass-roots organization StandWithUs launched two campaigns to provide students with accurate information. The first, United For Freedom (united4freedom.com), is a multicultural panel of speakers that tours campuses speaking about Israel from different perspectives. The second, Stand4fact.org, which is expected to launch this semester, is a Web site that looks at speeches given by anti-Israel speakers and deconstructs them with facts.

StandWithUs is also planning an advocacy conference on Nov. 16 in partnership with the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles to teach students how to respond to anti-Israel activity.

“It’s just not enough anymore for students to say ‘I’m Jewish and I’m proud of Israel,’ because it’s hard to feel that way in the current campus climate without knowing the facts,” said Esther Renzer, president of StandWithUs. “Students need content material to fight this battle.”&’9;

In addition to educating students locally, many Jewish organizations plan to encourage the education of students in Israel.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life will launch a pilot leadership mission to Israel in December that will focus on 360 students chosen from across the country who have been to the Jewish state previously.

The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles also plans to send local students on a leadership mission to Israel in December.

While education is the main push, the proactive activities of last year have not completely gone out of style. In fact, students at Rutgers University Hillel chose to respond to the third annual National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, originally scheduled to take place on their campus this month. Named Israel Inspires, the campaign is a yearlong effort to “show that Israel is more than just politics and conflict,” but rather “the land and the people who inspire it all the time”

Since Hillel students began planning their campaign, however, the pro-Palestinian conference has been making headlines across the country, ever since New Jersey Solidarity, the original host of the conference, branched off to form their own conference at Rutgers — a split that some believe is due to the fact that New Jersey Solidarity is too militant for the Palestine Solidarity Movement.

In the meantime, the Ohio State University Committee for Justice in Palestine offered to host the national conference on their campus while New Jersey Solidarity held their conference at Rutgers from Oct. 9-12, even though university administrators canceled the conference claiming that organizers had missed a paperwork deadline. Despite the controversy, Israel Inspires kicked off their campaign with a rally of pro-Israel speakers, live music and free food from Oct. 9-12.

Locally, student campus groups plan to continue doing positive Israel programming as well. Both UCLA’s Bruins for Israel and USC’s SC Students for Israel are planning Israel Weeks in an effort to start school off on a pro-Israel tone and make Jewish students feel at home.

“We want to make people feel good about Israel before they experience what I think is going to happen the rest of the year,” Neihaus said.

Closed Chapter

"One People, Two Worlds" (Schocken Books, $26) the title of the current book by a Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi exploring the issues that divide them, proved to be all too accurate this month when the Orthodox author, Yosef Reinman — under pressure from religious leaders in his Charedi community — canceled a 17-day, 17-city book tour that was to begin Sunday with co-author Ammiel Hirsch.

The news is more disappointing than surprising, given the intense resistance in the Charedi world to any hint of legitimizing Reform ideology. It also speaks to the level of fear of ostracism within the Charedi community, where rabbinic hierarchy is strong and widely revered.

Sadly, this is but the latest case of a prominent Orthodox rabbi bending to pressure from the religious right. Just last month, a book by the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, was labeled as heresy by several Orthodox rabbis in Manchester because it espouses the belief that Judaism does not hold the only religious truth. One of the offending passages in "The Dignity of Difference" states that "no one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth."

After meeting with some of his critics, Sacks agreed to make "appropriate amendments in the next possible edition."

What is particularly upsetting about such incidents is the readiness of some rabbinic leaders to submit to coercion rather than defend their views, the palpable sense of imposed isolation that hovers like a dark cloud over the alleged offenders and the dubious assumption that the critics will find new respect for those who give in to their demands.

In explaining why he is withdrawing from the promotional book tour, Reinman, a Talmudic scholar who lives in Lakewood, N.J., issued a brief statement this week saying he has acted "lesheim shamayim [in Heaven’s name] and on the advice of people older and wiser than I am."

"I accept the declaration of the Moetzes [Council] … without reservation," Reinman said, referring to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the Council of Torah Sages.

A distraught official at Schocken Books, faced with notifying sponsors of Jewish Community Center book fairs across the country that the two authors will not be appearing this month, explained Reinman’s action less elegantly.

"He caved," the official said Tuesday, speculating that the rabbi feared he would be "put in cherem [a form of excommunication]," if he went ahead with the tour.

Meanwhile, Altie Karper, editorial director at Schocken, said the publisher would not have signed the deal for the book had Reinman not "had in hand all the necessary rabbinic approvals that would enable him to go forward with the publication of the book and to participate in the publicity campaign after the book was published."

She noted that from the outset of the project, Shocken had been sensitive to Reinman’s requests made of him by rabbinic authorities. Chief among them, she said, was not referring to either author as "rabbi" on the jacket or title page of the book "because the Charedi community does not refer to members of the Reform clergy as ‘rabbi.’"

"We fulfilled every request made of us," she said, "so I’m having a hard time explaining to my colleagues why a book that was rabbinically acceptable six months ago is now not acceptable."

For his part, Hirsch, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, expressed extreme disappointment with Reinman’s action, calling it "a victory for those seeking to kill this dialogue, which we have been struggling to sustain in an unprecedented way."

Indeed, the book, which consists of an 18-month e-mail correspondence between the two men on a range of religious issues — from the authenticity of the Torah to the role of women — offers a refreshingly candid look not only at differing ideologies but the personalities of the authors, who gradually move from suspicion of each other to friendship.

Perhaps in retrospect, the surprise is not that the project appears to have failed but that it ever got off the ground. That happened, Hirsch said, when Reinman received permission from rabbinic scholars in his community to go ahead with the book, which was published in late August. In his acknowledgments in the book, Reinman thanks Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky and his father, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who reviewed material in the book, and two rabbis in Israel: Noach Weinberg and Dr. Shalom Srebrenik of Arachim Institute.

It was unclear this week just who initiated the pressure on Reinman to pull out of the book tour, but it began in Lakewood, a strong Charedi community, when posters critical of the book appeared in the halls of the yeshiva there, one of the largest in the world.

The Jewish Press, the Orthodox newspaper in Brooklyn, published two editorials this month disapproving of the book as breaching a long-standing Orthodox ban on engaging Reform Jews in "public discourse on religious issues" out of concern for legitimizing the movement.

"We at The Jewish Press hasten to do our part to disseminate this delegitimization of the book," one editorial said. (Such thinking did not stop the newspaper’s sales staff from soliciting ads from the book’s publisher, though, according to Schocken officials.)

The six-member Moetzes, including Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, issued a strong statement against the book, asserting that it "represents a blurring of boundaries between darkness and light, and an undermining of Jewish religious tradition. That tradition, handed down to us from Sinai, is distorted in the pages of the book through the words of one who falsifies Torah."

"What is more," the statement continues, "the general impression left by the book promotes the unacceptable notion that there is some parity between two legitimate approaches to Judaism, as if to say, ‘Here, dear reader, are two ways of seeing the world. Feel free to choose as you wish.’ Such is a debasement of the essence of the Jewish faith."

Kamenetsky, rosh yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment regarding what appears to be a change of heart about the book, but sources say he signed the Moetzes statement under duress.

As for the thin line between the positive goal of kiruv (religious outreach to Jews who are not Orthodox) and concern about legitimizing non-Orthodox movements and their leaders, Rabbi Avi Shafran, a spokesman for Agudath Israel, which follows the rulings of the Moetzes, said that "in our zeal we have to be careful how we present things" in a manner that is dignified and "in keeping with the mesorah [tradition]."

One wonders if the sages are mindful of, or care, that the perception many non-Orthodox Jews have is that their Orthodox brethren look down on and fear any social contact between the two groups. Misunderstanding, resentment and anger would seem to be a natural byproduct.

That’s part of what led to the motivation for the Hirsch-Reinman book in the first place, no doubt.

For now, Schocken’s Karper says Jewish book fair coordinators will have "a hard time explaining to the thousands of unaffiliated Jews who would have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Yosef [Reinman] — who is a brilliant and articulate scholar, who radiates love for his fellow Jews and who makes a kiddush Hashem [blessing of God] wherever he goes — why they have suddenly had that opportunity taken away from them."

It is more than a shame that this noble effort to close the denominational gap between Jews has only resulted in its growing wider.