March 7, 2024

The Latest

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

I’m deeply proud to let you know that Beth El Memorial Park Foundation, a supporting organization of our Jewish Community Foundation (JCF), closed last week on the sale of a small parcel of empty land on McClellan Avenue in Newark. This was a two-year negotiation and process, requiring a great deal of patience, but a journey which will ensure that those who founded the Greater MetroWest Jewish community so many years ago have final resting places of the utmost dignity. This transaction is particularly meaningful as we celebrate Federation’s Centennial, connecting our present community with the past and the future – ensuring dignity for the final resting places of our predecessors, and alleviating the burden on the next generation to raise funds for this purpose. Today, Beth El Memorial Park Foundation finally has enough funds to achieve its mission of maintaining and preserving the approximately 60,000 graves in the old Jewish cemeteries of Greater Essex County! I’m deeply grateful for the efforts of my colleague General Counsel Tamar Warburg, and JCF President Steve Levy for supporting and cheerleading this deal from the beginning all the way to closing. In recent years, Federation’s Board of Directors has stepped up again and again to meet the needs of the cemeteries: removing trees, lifting hundreds of fallen headstones, repairing damaged fencing, and repairing dangerous brick overhangs.

Thanks to this new transaction, maintenance and preservation of the cemeteries is secured now and for the future. I know, it’s not Israel emergency, or rescuing Jews from Ukraine. But it is, in a special way, a hesed shel emet, a true act of grace and kindness, and it moves me deeply to know that we’re fulfilling our commitment to our past, and to our values.

I love this: some 650 people took part last week in the Jewish Advocacy Disability Day (JDAD), which was geared toward support of the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would increase the SSI asset limit for the first time since 1989, thereby increasing the income of millions of older adults and people with disabilities. To view the recording, click here. To read more, click here.

I’ve been focused this week on local legislators and policies. Yesterday, I met with congressional candidate Sue Altman (the presumptive democratic candidate for CD7), along with my colleagues Linda Scherzer, our JCRC Director, Harris Laufer, our NJ Jewish Federations Director, and our JCRC Chair Jody Hurwitz Caplan. We had a good exchange of views, and – like we do with every major candidate in our community – we’ll keep in touch and offer opportunities for community meetings.

These meetings are critically important; they afford us the opportunity to talk about issues and priorities which are important to the Jewish community and learn about candidates’ positions on issues – both global and domestic – of deepest concern to us.  These opportunities reflect the diversity and vibrancy of public service and civic engagement and I’m always mindful of our responsibility and commitment to promoting our shared goals and priorities.

So. Here we are. The media is reporting that the US has so far sent over 100 shipments of weapons to Israel since fighting began. The deliveries have included ammunition for Israel’s artillery and armored corps, “bunker busters” (earth-penetrating ordnance), and light weapons. However, some reports also suggest that the Biden Administration is considering a ban on any of its equipment’s being used in an IDF attack on Rafah. Rafah remains the last bastion of significant Hamas power, but is also the city where hundreds of thousands of Gazans who have fled the fighting in other parts of the Gaza Strip are currently located. According to the IDF, 25 airdrop missions have been deployed over Gaza to parachute aid into the Strip since fighting began on October 7th. Some 750 containers of relief have been dropped into the enclave by the US, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and France. Most of the drops have been made in northern Gaza, where it has been hardest to deliver aid. On Tuesday, Jordan said 43 planes had flown aid missions over the Strip.


In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets, triggering significant Israeli retaliations. Hezbollah-backed media are reporting that Israel has set a March 15deadline for a diplomatic deal that would see the group’s forces redeploy from the border area. Without this troop withdrawal, media reports suggest, Israel would escalate the current skirmishes into a full-blown war with the terrorist group. Yesterday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US special envoy to the region Amos Hochstein that Hezbollah’s continued attacks on Israel are bringing the country closer to a decision regarding military action in Lebanon. The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains very low (less than one per day on average), due to Hamas’ significantly diminished capabilities. In the Red Sea, the US, the UK and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. Similarly, the US military continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq. Yesterday, a Houthi missile attack killed three sailors on a Red Sea merchant ship, marking the first fatalities reported since the group began strikes against international shipping. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, which set the Greek-owned, Barbados-flagged ship True Confidence ablaze in the Red Sea.


Despite hope for a temporary truce to pause the fighting in Gaza alongside a hostage release before the start of Ramadan next week, no further concrete progress in negotiations has been made. Egypt, Qatar and the US have been pushing hard for an agreement before the Muslim fasting month begins on Sunday, and has called on Hamas to accept the terms of a framework worked out in Paris last month that would put in place a six-week pause in fighting and free some 40 hostages, including women, children, female soldiers and the elderly—in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners.

Reports suggest that while Israel has accepted the proposed framework, Hamas has delayedproviding information, such as a list of hostages it is holding, that would allow a deal to progress.

International Response

Israel’s Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the War Cabinet, traveled to the US and to Britain, in defiance of requests by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for him not to travel. Yesterday, Gantz met with UK Foreign Minister David Cameron and others. During one of the meetings, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “dropped in” and joined the discussions. Gantz reportedly took the opportunity to ask the UK government to increase its pressure on Hamas to release all Israeli hostages.

Despite months of evidence presented by Israel on both the direct affiliation of UNRWA staff with Hamas and systematic sexual violence committed against Israeli women, there have been widespread efforts to deny these reports.  Yesterday, Israel revealed further evidence of the involvement of UNRWA workers in the October 7massacres. Also, the UN published a 23-page report substantiating the systematic rape and sexual violence committed against Israeli women both on and after October 7. Details:

On Tuesday, Israel declassified an intercepted conversation between UNRWA  teacher Yusef Zidan Suleiman Al-Hawajara, boasting about kidnapping an Israeli woman on October 7.  Israel also released the names of additional UNRWA teachers and health workers who are Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists, all of whom had direct involvement in the October 7 massacres.  The IDF has revealed that over 450 UNRWA employees are military operatives in terrorist groups in Gaza.

In January, the New York Times detailed the terror activities of 12 UNRWA employees, which included kidnapping a woman, handing out ammunition, and taking part in the Kibbutz Be’eri massacre where 97 people were brutally murdered. The employees included teachers and a social worker who received UNRWA salaries.

On Tuesday, the UN released a report detailing findings from a mission to Israel to gather, analyze and verify allegations of sexual violence committed against Israeli women. The mission team found “clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment has been committed against hostages and has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing against those still held in captivity.” The mission team also found “reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations during the 7 October attacks, including rape and gang-rape in at least three locations: the Nova music festival site and its surroundings, Road 232, and Kibbutz Re’im.”  According to the report, in most of these incidents, victims were first subjected to rape and then killed. At least two incidents relate to the rape of women’s corpses. In response to the report, President Isaac Herzog urged the international community to condemn these acts and punish Hamas. He said, “Hamas and its allies are trying to discredit the report, to escape from this horrific shame. They will not succeed as the testimonies are shocking indeed. Therefore, now the world must react strongly by condemning and punishing Hamas.”

Interesting Stuff 

What happens when Israel runs out of ammo?

Read this analysis by MIT professor of political science Barry R. Posen on why urban wars in recent history have resulted in terrible destruction, and why the IDF has faced unprecedented challenges fighting Hamas in Gaza.

David Horovitz: We’re living in the most worrying period for Jews since World War II

See this story of 22-year-old German-Israeli Shani Louk, an art and culture lover who spent the early hours of October 7 dancing with her boyfriend at the Nova music festival before the two were brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists. Described as “a pure angel” who cared deeply for humanity, Shani was seen in a video lying lifeless in the back of a truck and being paraded around the streets of Gaza after she was kidnapped from the festival.  A piece of Shani’s skull was found, indicating that terrorists beheaded her in Gaza, where her body is still being held. After her death, Shani’s family organized an art exhibition in Tel Aviv called “Forever Young Forever Art” to celebrate her creative soul.

Read about ‘Fight for life,’ by mothers whose daughters are still hostages in Gaza