Globe Briefs May 12

Globe Briefs May 12

Steve Gutow named senior political adviser for J Street arm

Rabbi Steve Gutow, a longtime Jewish communal activist who guided the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for a decade, will serve as a senior political adviser for the political arm of J Street.

In his newly announced position for the 2016 election cycle, Gutow will work with congressional candidates endorsed by JStreetPAC to guide them in outreach to the Jewish community and other like-minded constituencies, J Street announced May 5. He also will help the candidates tap into the backing that exists within the Jewish community for diplomacy-first policies toward the Middle East.

“This will be an extremely important election cycle in determining the future direction of American foreign policy,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president and founder, said in a statement. “Bringing decades of experience with progressive politics and the Jewish community, Rabbi Gutow will help JStreetPAC to demonstrate that support for  American diplomatic leadership isn’t just good policy — it’s also a major political asset.”

Gutow served as president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs from 2005 to 2015, during which time his work focused on fostering alliances among the organized Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. He was appointed recently to the President’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Gutow has been chosen as one of the 50 most influential American rabbis three times by Newsweek and the 50 most influential American Jews by The Forward. He was a Democratic Party activist and the founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

JStreetPAC has endorsed more than 100 candidates for the House and Senate in the November elections and said it plans to raise over $3 million for them.

London’s first Muslim mayor attends Yom HaShoah commemoration as initial public act

The newly elected mayor of London, the first Muslim to hold the position, attended a community program commemorating the Holocaust as his first official public engagement.

Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party joined thousands of members of the Jewish community and its supporters for the Yom HaShoah program on Sunday in a local stadium three days after his election.

The Yom HaShoah UK event included 120 sponsoring religious and political organizations under a banner of “Remember Together: We are one.” Some 5,000 people reportedly attended the community event, the Jewish News website reported.

Speakers included Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Mark Regev.

Khan said he was “honored that my first public engagement will be such a poignant one, where I will meet and hear from Jewish survivors and refugees who went through unimaginable horrors in the Holocaust,” The Guardian reported.

Khan defeated the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, winning 44 percent of the vote to 35 percent for his opponent, according to The Guardian.

A self-described moderate Muslim, Khan — the son of a Pakistan-born bus driver — is the city’s first Labour mayor in eight years. Accusations of anti-Semitism have roiled his party in recent months.

Khan, who campaigned hard in the Jewish community and has said he will be the “Muslim mayor who will be tough on extremism,” according to the Standard, has criticized his party for not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

Chabad rabbi building ‘first mikvah in West Africa’ in Nigeria

An Israeli firm and a Chabad rabbi working in Nigeria are preparing to open the first known Jewish ritual bath, or mikvah, in West Africa.

Yisroel Ozen, a prominent Chabad emissary based in Nigeria, is supervising the construction of a mikvah for women in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on land purchased for him by an Israeli firm operating in the country, the Israeli daily Maariv reported last week.

Ozen said the mikvah is the only known one in West Africa, a claim that is also stated on a Hebrew- and English-language sign announcing the project in front of the construction site.

Ozen said Nigeria has “a thriving Israeli community that nonetheless lacks basic amenities.” He said that from the point of view of the halacha, Jewish religious law, “a community cannot exist without a mikvah because it’s the key to the continuity of the Jewish people.” Some 1,200 Israelis live in Nigeria, according to the Maariv article.

Jewish law states that women should immerse themselves in the mikvah before marriage and at least once a month in a ceremony meant to purify them after menstruation.

Another mikvah is planned at a later stage for men, Maariv reported, and may be broadened after the opening this year to include a community center.

EMI Systems LTD, a security firm that is based in Abuja and is owned by the Israel-born businessman Eyal Mesika, ordered materials from Europe and the United States to build the mikvah. The article did not specify the cost of construction.