184 U.S. synagogues pledge to welcome, support refugees
Some 184 Jewish congregations and communities in the U.S. signed a pledge of support for refugees, promising to take action to help those seeking shelter in the country.
The “Welcome Campaign” is being organized by the refugee support and advocacy group HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which was founded in 1881 to help Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The letter — “an affirmative statement in support of welcoming refugees” to the United States — says signatories will support refugees in various ways, including through education, advocacy and fundraising, and on the local level.
“The American Jewish response to the largest refugee crisis recorded in history is really about who we want to be as American Jews,” Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, vice president of community engagement at HIAS, said in a statement.
“All across the country, local Jewish communities are acting on their values and insisting as Americans and as Jews that desperate families be given the chance to rebuild their lives in safety. Together, we are refusing to be silent bystanders at this historic moment.”
New $3 million initiative for Jewish disabled honors Itzhak Perlman
The Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network launched a $3 million matching grant program to fund an initiative to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.
The Breaking Barriers program launched Monday in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman will promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life. It echoes Perlman’s lifelong dedication to educating society about doing more to enable people with disabilities to use their strengths and realize their potential.
The funds for the program will be distributed in North America and Israel, according to the Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network.
Perlman, 70, an acclaimed violinist, educator and advocate for individuals with disabilities, was diagnosed with polio at 4 and uses a motorized cart.
When he was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem in June, Perlman pledged to use the $1 million award to benefit programs for people with disabilities. The so-called Jewish Nobel is awarded to individuals who have achieved professional success, made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspired others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.
It is the second matching grant collaboration between the Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network. The 2015 “Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families” program was established last year in honor of the 2015 Genesis Prize laureate, Michael Douglas, and generated $3.3 million in new funds.
Perlman said he was “honored” to be part of Breaking Barriers.
“And to have the opportunity to encourage other funders to join this critical initiative so that each person, regardless of his or her abilities, will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and to participate as full members of the community,” he said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity to open more doors and accept all who choose to enter.”
In November, Perlman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. He has won 16 Grammys.
The Genesis Prize is endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which endeavors to build Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first winner in 2014.
Israeli Supreme Court justices chastise lack of progress on pluralistic Western Wall
Israeli Supreme Court justices chastised the government for not implementing the government’s plan to create an ecumenical prayer section at the Western Wall.
Monday’s hearing was in response to a 3-year-old petition complaining about the treatment of egalitarian worshippers at the site. At the hearing, the justices called for the plan to be implemented. The petition, which predated the plan, was filed by Women of the Wall; Kolech, a feminist religious forum; and the Conservative and Reform movements.
The justices gave the petitioners three weeks to update their complaint to include developments at the site over the last several months.
The agreement announced in January would expand the egalitarian section at the wall and place it under the authority of a pluralist committee while solidifying Haredi Orthodox control over the site’s traditional, Orthodox section. Women of the Wall, the women’s prayer group that holds monthly services in the Orthodox section, would move to the non-Orthodox section once the deal is implemented.
The agreement was negotiated among Women of the Wall, the site’s Haredi Orthodox leadership, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israeli government and the Reform and Conservative movements. All parties praised the decision as path- breaking at the time.
Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall, attended the hearing wearing a tallit.
“We are gratified that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has accepted our long-held argument that the Western Wall cannot be held hostage by a minority sect,” Hoffman said in a statement after the hearing. “Today, the court issued a warning to the Israeli government saying that it will intervene if the government refuses to implement its own decision.”