Now more than ever

My grandparents came to the United States well before the second world war fighting poverty and anti-Semitism. On my father’s side, my grandmother Regina for whom I am named left Hungary (she said she was from Budapest to be elegant but was from a small town) and traveled here on her own at 11 years old. Her husband, my grandfather Harry, came from Scotland. Ironically now again, many Jews are leaving Scotland. On my mother’s side, my grandfather traveled with his mother from Romania and settled in Egypt for a while before traveling to the United States. Family lore had it that there was extended family in Egypt that included a successful group of belly dancers (clearly not from a Frum crowd there). And, my mothers mother Jenny came from Poland. She always claimed she was from Warsaw to extol the strength & knowledge of her family. I do believe now the original anti-Semitism I encountered was in regards to Polish jokes most likely dating back to those caught during the Holocaust by the Germans and jokes made at their expense which were widely told decades ago in the United States.
My family sought refuge and a new life in New York City. My parents, the first of their families to go to College, sought a new life. We lived in Armonk New York for a while after my parents moved “up in the world from the Bronx to Yonkers.” And while Armonk is very Jewish now, it was very un-Jewish then and quite uncomfortable. My parents quickly moved back farther South to Scarsdale, NY to the Jewish mecca (which became quite famous due to the Scarsdale diet). At the time, there were many Jews attending the local High School.
There were many Aunts, Uncles & cousins lost in the Holocaust but this was something that wasn’t discussed as a child. With the passing of the family, I feel true sadness not being able to honor the memories of those who were not able to escape.
While College and early work life had its moments of brash anti-Semitism, I safely moved to Beverly Hills with my family. In Beverly Hills, currently all the elected officials are Jewish. The City makes a strong effort to partner with Israel and celebrate events together. And, within the City of Los Angeles, officials have been as friendly as well. In truth, we are in a warm blanket of safeness and comfort.
So, as we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, this year more than any other, I am filled with a longing and a sadness. Our blanket of safety has been taken away. The bubble has burst. The internet & media are filled with incidents of anti-Jewish hatred. While, we could hide before, now we cannot. Most of all,we cannot allow ourselves to hide. The rampant hatred of Jewish people is pervasive.
As Chairperson of Women’s International Zionist Organization in Los Angeles (WIZO), we work incredibly hard to help women & children in Israel thrive. We have made it a priority here in Los Angeles to bring forward a new generation of Jewish girls instilling a love of Israel and training them as leaders. This year and going forward, it is not enough. This year we must take a step to recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day in Los Angeles as a step to ensure our future as a Jewish people. While the official Day that notes the liberation of Auschwitz is January 27th, we will come together as a community on January 30th with a Women’s Learning Session, studying Torah and sharing prayers. We study for those who could not and study because we can.
We invite each of you to learn with us on Wednesday, January 30th at 8:30 am  with Rabbi Pini Dunner. It will take place at Young Israel of North Beverly Hills 9261 Alden Drive. Please email to join us at no cost for this special morning as we pay tribute.

My Jewish National Fund Story

During the Summer of 2016, my daughter Mia (8 at the time) and I planned a summer adventure in Jerusalem. We had planned to visit the Knesset and were invited to the Knesset dining room by our friend Minister of Science, Ofir Akunis and his Chief of International Relations at the time, Nadav Douani. I had the opportunity to meet Ambassador Michael Oren who had just been promoted to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
When told that I was active in Jewish National Fund, Ambassador Oren suggested to me to speak with Jewish National Fund CEO, Russell Robinson, to not forget the North of Israel in our efforts and not forget the City of Metula (an area that needed help).
What followed was a typical Jewish National Fund Story, I called Russell and became a member of Jewish National Fund Go North East Taskforce and quickly following became the Chair working with an amazing JNF professional team and group of donors.
I returned to Israel late Summer 2017 with Mia and we were encouraged by Russell Robinson to “touch the earth” and look at opportunities for us to transform a region as Jewish National Fund has done in its history and most recently in Beersheva. For someone who likes to look at nature (but not to interact with it) and who refers to camping as a hotel with out turn down service, this became an interesting journey.
In truth, it was life changing. Life changing for my Mia to interact with donors both Jewish and non-Jewish all with a commitment to building Israel. Life changing for me and our group to meet a group of Israeli’s committed to turning around the decline in population in the Region and build new housing & industry. Our trip to the Region as well solidified to the community our commitment to them and to improving the lives of residents. The Jewish National Fund team has been working hard over the past year and a half building our projects to transform a Region.
In 2019, we are poised for great things. Working with Lior Sercarz (the world’s leading spice maker), we will open our initial phase of The International Culinary Institute (ICI) at Kibbutz Gonen near Kiryat Shmona later this year. ICI will be the finest Culinary Institute in the world when complete. It is important in so many ways; bringing people together across cultures with food while bringing industry to the Region. It will be a degree granting institution in partnership with Tel Hai College focusing on farm to table training while providing business tools for success. I love the fact that despite owning a restaurant and Chairing an effort focused on food, I could easily be a contestant on the World’s Worst Cooks. I look forward to enrolling myself in the Institute!
Working with Erel Margalit’s in 2020 development team, we will bring Beit Asher to life which will be a state of the art food technology center. Jewish National Fund will be transforming the Region to a Culinary power house. We will also be changing lives working with the community to build the first new homes in over 30 years. Jewish National Fund is also taking a leadership role in creating a medical center long over due to provided needed health care to the communities in the north.
We will also visit Metula the site of a range of terror tunnels uncovered by the IDF. We stand strong with the community and demonstrate our commitment to the safety of Israelis.
When I return to Israel in just a month, I return to see friends and honor our commitment to them. I look forward to seeing my friend Ofir Yezekheli now Vice Mayor of Kiryat Shmona and my dear friend Erez Moshe, General Manager of the Galilion Hotel setting a standard for hospitality in the Region. I look forward to spending a week with committed donors, professionals, our famous Lior and of course our leader, Russell Robinson.
While my Mia admonishes me for not allowing her to miss school this trip, she will join me in Israel again this Summer. As we grow a Region, we demonstrate to our children the priority of Israel. Please look for my journey as it unfolds and please think about joining me back home in Los Angeles and with our team across the country as we transform a Region of Israel with the uniqueness that only Jewish National Fund can make happen.

Bringing Light to the anti-Semitism of Congresswomen Elect Ilhan Omar & Rashida Tlaib By Gina Raphael

From the inception of the State of Israel in 1948, both Democrats and Republicans announced their enthusiastic bipartisan support for the establishment of the country. However, this significant and shared support for over 50 years may be at risk with the November 2018 election of two new Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (Minnesota District 5) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan District 13). The election of these two women has now put into doubt that there will always be majority support for the State of Israel within the United States Congress.

Within their campaigns for election and immediately after their wins, both have challenged the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Ironically, both served in their State Houses prior to their election to Congress that had enacted State laws that prohibited the boycott, divestment and sanctions (also known as the “BDS movement”) against Israel. The “BDS movement” is the global campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel, attempting to link its government to the historical apartheid policies in South Africa. It is significant to note that in 2017, Minnesota became the 19th State to enact a law prohibiting any BDS actions and on New Year’s Eve 2018, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also signed two anti-BDS bills into law. To date, 26 States (including Minnesota & Michigan) have anti BDS laws on their books with pending legislation in many others.

I personally reached out to both Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for comment after their elections asking them how they can support BDS when both of their States have laws preventing such actions? Omar’s office advised me that Akolade Gbadamosi from her staff would respond after returning to the office but as of this writing, no response has followed. Tlaib’s office has provided no response as well. As Omar & Tlaib cannot uphold the laws of their State within their current State houses, both have now been elected to higher levels of government representation. It is in their national level positions as newly elected Congresswomen, where their voices may have a louder and larger negative impact on the State of Israel that concerns me and other pro Israel individuals significantly.

Moreover, Omar and Tlaib hold views which are in violation of the State Department definition of Anti-Semitism relative to Israel. The Department of State defines Anti-Semitism relative to Israel as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying the Israel the right to exist and for blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions” (with a further definition as well).

One would hope that both Omar and Tlaib would bring a unique lens of their Muslim heritage to Congress, one that brings to life the compassion noted in Islam. Sadly, this is not the case. Both are bringing forward a virulent anti-Israel narrative. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib scare me and they should scare you as well. Allowing Omar & Tlaib to be seated in Congress will provide them with a legitimacy and larger stage for their anti- Semitic views. We must hold firm that the anti -Israel bigotry that Omar and Tlaib espouse in any words or actions will not be accepted in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.

In 2012 Omar (in a Tweet) declared Israel had “hypnotized” the world and prayed Allah would help the world see the “evil doings of Israel.” In September of this year, Omar spoke at an event asking for funds to be raised for Gaza and specifically to be managed by Hamas who to date has no money to care for its population but remains able to send hundreds of rockets across its border to Israel. And while Ivanka Trump recently announced that she supported changes to allow Ilhan Omar to wear a Hijab in Congress reflecting changes after 181 years this month, Omar had only words of criticism for Ivanka Trump when she attended the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in May. Omar tweeted “@IvankaTrump smiles, as blood spills on the streets underneath her! Heartbreaking to read 52 Palestinians, including several teenagers, were dead and at least 1,700 were injured in Gaza! #IsraeliCrimes #GazaMassacre #gazaprotests #peace.” Renewed Gaza-Israel border protests that began in March 2018 consisted mainly of young men who approached the border, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and have accelerated into rolled burning tires at Israeli troops responsible for defending their border. Omar’s comments continue to fail to recognize any of the complex issues at hand other than her open hatred for the State of Israel.

Rashida Tlaib openly supports a “One-State Solution”, one that does not call for the existence of the State of Israel. Tlaib ran unopposed for John Conyer’s seat this November after he stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations. In her 2016 Twitter feed, Tlaib tweeted that “Israel is inciting Palestinian violence.” In 2017, she openly attacked California Senator Kamala Harris calling her “part of the resistance to racism” when Senator Harris met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussing joint areas of interest between Israel and the State of California. Of significant note is that the State of California & Israel have a Memorandum of Understanding on water management, cyber security and similar program initiatives. Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Senator Kamala for “America’s commitment to Israel’s security.”

Even the far left- wing lobby group J Street, withdrew its endorsement and support of Tlaib in August 2018 for being “too anti-Israel” . According to J Street, they announced that “we cannot endorse candidates who conclude that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for a two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”

Sadly, and misleadingly, Ilhan Omar was featured in a Maroon 5 “Girls Like You” video of famous women this past summer. The video features J-Lo, Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Tiffany Haddish, Millie Bobby Brown, Camila Cabello, Ashley Graham, Aly Raisman, and many more popularized role models. The ugly beliefs and truths about Ilhan Omar must be shared with these women and all woman so they understand the repercussions of such a video featuring her in it. Similarly, a picture of a smiling Tlaib is featured on her Facebook page with former President Obama as are additional pictures of her endorsed by wide range of other elected officials.

The greatest concern for all of us should be the virtual silence on the topic of BDS and Anti-Semitism from elected officials, NGO’s, media notables and other celebrities. With the Chanukah holiday quickly upon us, it is our duty and responsibility to bring light to the world and challenge any support for two virulent anti-Semites as they are sworn into Congress. Their election is not an issue of Democrat or Republican, it is an issue of decency and the values that we stand for as Americans. Where is the outrage and the call to publicly question and challenge these women are seated in our Congress on January 3, 2019? It is time for all of us to affirm that as citizens of the United States of America we will not tolerate the scourge of bigotry and racism. I ask you to join me in voice and action.