The holiday season made for a slow time for us, and explains why we’ve skipped an update. Nonetheless, a lot has been happening — first among which is a restructuring of the CJV to enhance our profile.

Given our desire to represent common Rabbinic opinion, it is especially important that we not be perceived, as many Jewish organizations are, as essentially a one-man shop. And especially given the stature of our Rabbinic Board members, I felt the position of “Director” overly accentuates my role when making statements that reflect the consensus of the Board.

That, plus the general clumsiness of referring to each board member as “CJV Senior Rabbinic Fellow Rabbi …” led us to the following new structure, with a President and Vice-President elected to two-year terms:

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, President
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Vice-President
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, Chairman of the Rabbinic Circle
Rabbi Dov Fischer, Western Regional Vice-President
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Eastern Regional Vice-President

That, plus a change in my title to “Managing Director,” better reflects the unique contributions made by each member, establishes a hierarchy and purview, and recognizes that each Rabbinic Fellow has devoted a great deal of time to making us so successful in such a short span of time.

Speakers and Speaking Engagements:

The CJV hosted Tzipy Hotovely, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills on September 10 — the event was organized by Rabbi Lerner and Rabbi Schonfeld, and held at Rabbi Schonfeld’s synagogue. Co-sponsors were: the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills; the International Committee for Har Hazeitim; American Friends of the International Young Israel Movement, Israel Region; the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce; and the Rabbinical Alliance of America / Igud HaRabbonim. The photo shows (l-r) Minister Hotovely with Rabbi Schonfeld and Rabbi Lerner.

Minister Hotovely spoke about Israel’s recent diplomatic successes, including improved relations and increasing trade with Asian nations, especially India and China. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, recently became the first Indian PM to visit Israel, where he celebrated his friendship with Israeli PM Netanyahu and the people of Israel. But in Africa and Latin America as well, Israeli expertise in defense, cybersecurity and water preservation have all been in high demand. Hotovely, who is observant and the mother of two, also spoke about a regional solution to the Arab-Israel conflict. She praised President Trump’s statement that he is not wedded to any particular plan, and rebutted assertions of historical ties between Arabs and the Land of Israel.

Also on September 10, I spoke in Bethesda about Anti-Semitism and the Anti-Israel movement of today, as I did at the Hillel of Temple University on October 19. This multimedia presentation looks at Jewish sources that describe anti-Semitism as found in sources which predate the Holocaust, and then demonstrates that these classical signs and symptoms are found both in the positions of the Nazis and those who claim to be merely “anti-Israel” today. This talk has proven extraordinarily successful in “moving the needle” with regards to those currently on the fence about support for Israel and the rights of Jews to live, study and worship in their homeland.

On September 23, I spoke at Congregation Degel Israel of Lancaster, PA, about the Coalition for Jewish Values and our mission (we gave it a provocative title, “Is Liberalism Thretening the American Dream?” and had a good turnout despite competing with the Philadelphia Eagles). My warm thanks to Don Feldman of the Lancaster Alliance: Jews & Christians United for Israel and America, for bringing about this event. Officers from Faith & Freedom of Delaware drove over an hour to hear me and to invite me to speak for their group in the future.

These events have proven an extremely good way to promote awareness of the CJV, our positions and activities. Please reach out to me if you would like to see an event hosted in your area.

Press Releases and Notable Coverage:

The CJV joined other groups in an Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) brief submitted to the US Supreme Court concerning the legality of a Christian religious symbol in Bayview Park in Pensacola, Florida. Its presence was challenged in U.S. District Court as being a violation of the Establishment Clause. The brief argues that allowing “offended observers” to challenge religious displays would “encourage the erasure of minority religions from public life,” by, for example, preventing officials from hosting a Menorah-lighting ceremony or permitting construction of an eruv, a religious boundary around a community that permits carrying items within the demarcated area on the Sabbath. The filing of this brief was published in outlets as diverse as Israel National News and the Christian Post.

The CJV, together with the Israel-based Women For the Wall, ran a full-page advertisement (thanks to a special grant for this purpose, obtained by Rabbi Lerner) in the Israel edition of the Jerusalem Post and the New York Jewish Week on Sept. 20, the eve of the Jewish New Year. The American Jewish Conservative movement has been attempting to make changes at Israel’s Western Wall; the ad quotes a previous Chancellor of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, Cyrus Adler (who was also instrumental in the formation of the movement’s United Synagogue of America), who said that the Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) should govern “all regulations pertaining to prayer and ritual” at the Holy Site.

Jewish US Senators publicly supported the positions of their liberal rabbis, and this was the topic of our release, Rabbis Reject Senators’ “Inappropriate Intervention” in Israeli Religious Affairs, of Sept. 19.

Rabbis Welcome Trump Administration Directives on Religious Liberty and Unborn Children, Oct. 9. This release was covered by several outlets. Surprisingly, Israel National News featured our response ahead of that from a far more prominent Orthodox Jewish organization. Also thanks to our response, The Forward said that “Orthodox Jewish groups are praising the move” rather than characterizing that one other organization as a lone voice.

Rabbi Lerner was also part of a discussion on the relationship between the growing Orthodox community and the Jewish Federations in Ami Magazine’s Sukkos Issue. He pointed out that the Orthodox have acted with greater independence in many areas: “The Federations are not fighting our battles, so we’re fighting our own battles.” This article appears on page 50 of the printed issue of October 4; it is, sadly, not available online.

Op-Eds:

The Pain of the Contemporary American Orthodox Jew
Rabbi Dov Fischer in The American Spectator, Sept. 7.
One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor
Rabbi Yaakov Menken in Hamodia, Sept. 14.
Orthodoxy’s Smashing Success and Lurking Challenges
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer in Cross-Currents, Sept. 15.
Jewish Continuity Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game
Rabbi Yaakov Menken in Times of Israel, Sept. 18.

If you have read this far, you are undoubtedly interested in our survival and growth as an organization. Please be aware that we have received an extremely generous offer to match $100,000 of gifts received if received over the next few weeks. With funding, we can effectively promote our values and affect public policy via pursuit of the following:

  1. Grow our Rabbinic Circle to over 1,000 members
  2. Establish relationships with legislators, Administration officials and other DC area policy centers
  3. Advance our media presence and public relations

So we are quite urgently seeking your support! If you are able, please join us, and please reply to this email if you would consider a substantial gift to be matched as part of this special program.

Yours,

Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Managing Director, CJV

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