A Synopsis of the BDS/SJP Situation at USF

3 Sep

University-of-South-Florida-logoThe Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a proud supporter of our Hillel here in New College and Ringling College, providing funds for an Outreach and Engagement Professional on the New College Campus as well as underwriting the costs associated with Hillel’s programming.


A Synopsis of the BDS/SJP Situation at USF
By Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Executive Director, Hillels of the Suncoast

This past year saw an incredibly vociferous BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Campaign at the University of South Florida by the USF Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Group. They had very visible programs including a petition with what they claimed had 10,000 names calling on the USF Foundation to Divest from Israel.

SJP protest at USF

SJP protest at USF

Our students did an incredible job, behind the scenes, thwarting the efforts of SJP. We did not organize any open demonstrations against their programs which left them poorly attended and, without any conflict, came and went without even making a ripple. While SJP was busy getting signatures on their petition, our students prepared a brief for the USF Foundation Board showing how the signatures on the petition were not all valid, thereby drawing the entire petition into question. They then showed how students were not informed about the specific content of the petition, only that it was in support of human rights. Or that students were given free pizza if they signed the petition, and some students were actually badgered into signing. In addition, there was an online option which said, “if you are not a student at USF, you can sign the petition and use “U1234567” as an id number. This in addition to one-on-one meetings with Jewish trustees led to a unanimous rejection of the SJP motion for the USF Foundation to divest from Israel.

In light of the current conflict in Gaza and the fact that Tariq Khdeir (the American teenager who was beaten by Israeli police during a riot in Jerusalem) is from Tampa, we anticipate a much more vicious anti-Israel campaign this year.

SJP had sponsored a fundraising event for Gaza in the Marshall Student Center, which featured Tariq Khdeir and Sheikh Monzer Taleb. However, TruthRevolt.org posted an article which exposed Taleb as a fundraiser for Hamas. With this, SJP withdrew their sponsorship and the program was moved from the Marshall Student Center to the Embassy Suites Hotel on Campus. We are waiting for more about this from Truth Revolt.

Pro-Palestinian Protest in South Florida

Pro-Palestinian Protest in South Florida

We have added an Israel Fellow to our staff and, with the help of several outside agencies, anticipate bringing speakers to campus and raising the pro-Israel profile at USF. For the past couple years, our students have been working quietly behind the scenes building alliances with other student organizations and getting involved with student government in order to thwart the efforts of SJP. This year, they are taking a much more open and visible approach to providing pro-Israel programs and educational events on campus.

It’s going to be a busy and difficult year, but we are certain that our USF Israel Activists will do a wonderful job of presenting Israel in the positive light that she deserves across the campus.

We Stand With Israel (a billboard)

22 Aug

JFSM Billboard - We Stand With Israel 1

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee purchased billboard space on North US 41, just north of the Sarasota Airport (SRQ). On the border of Sarasota and Manatee counties, the sign clearly says “We Stand with Israel” along with the Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative logo, (a Star of David that incorporates elements of the American flag). The sign serves to show our unwavering commitment to the the State of Israel and her people – in the face of the ongoing crisis and global anti-Semitism currently happening in Europe, the Middle East and here in the United States. For more about the Heller IAI, visit www.SarasotaLovesIsrael.com

JFSM Billboard - We Stand with Israel 2

Israel’s Social Iron Dome

23 Jul

An Open Letter to the Sarasota-Manatee Community


Israel is hurting today, as is, the entire Jewish world. To our beloved State of Israel – we at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee stand with you and embrace you.

As soon as Israel’s ground operation began, the Egyptian foreign minister strongly criticized Hamas, saying the terrorist organization could have saved dozens of lives had its leadership agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. His concern, in particular, was for the innocent children who have been killed during this operation. A child’s life, any child, is sacred. Children deserve to live in safe, loving and nurturing environments. It is so unfortunate that children pay the price for terror, cruelty and are cynically used as human shields and as propaganda tools.  And don’t forget Hamas was DEMOCRATICALLY elected…. ISRAEL-GAZA-CONFLICT

We hope that the children of Gaza will be able to live their dreams and to grow up in respectful, human conditions. We have no quarrel with them or their people. Soldiers have repeatedly seen young children in Gaza sent out into the streets with guns to try to attack IDF troops. One parent reported that terrorists had run at IDF soldiers with a gun in one hand and a baby in the other. If soldiers fired, the parent added, the child’s death could be used as propaganda against Israel. They are not our enemies, they are victims of a harsh reality and further evidence that Hamas is cavalier with human life, including our Israeli children, who spend their days huddled in bomb shelters.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the goings on in Israel and the Gaza Strip over the last week. Hundreds are dying – and all because of Hamas. There is no need to mince words about it.   Since early July, 2,040 rockets have been shot from Gaza into Israel. How many were intercepted by Iron Dome? It’s irrelevant, because we now have a generation of traumatized Israelis.  No photo ops of dead bodies like in the streets of Gaza.  But then again, photo ops won’t show the internal scaring.  Rockets don’t have to hit the ground to leave a lasting and painful memory of round-the-clock sirens.

139 rockets were fired from Gaza, yesterday alone. One hit next to a school in Ashdod. Another struck an empty kindergarten in the Shaar HaNegev region. A house was hit in Yehud and a rocket landed 1 mile from Ben-Gurion Airport causing international fear and cancelling all flights in and out of Israel. We’ve lost 32 brave soldiers while they were Operation Pillar of Defenseuncovering and destroying tunnels built by Hamas with international aid money that was meant to feed, clothe and house Palestinians.

Let’s pull back for a larger world view. Almost every major foreign leader has spoken up against Hamas aggression and for the right of Israel to defend herself – even the notoriously anti-Israel, Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations.  Yet still, the news of violent and anti-Jewish protests are being reported in Paris, Melbourne, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, London and even Boston and New York. It’s a venom, a stench, yes… an absolute vitriol that we have not seen for 7-decades. Synagogues and Jewish owned shops are being looted and destroyed by pro-Palestinian rioters. Old fashion Jew Hatred/Anti-Semitism at its absolute worse.  It has gotten so bad that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has stated “to attack a synagogue and a kosher grocery store is quite simply anti-Semitism and racism.”

So there it is – this Federation – The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee – supports Israel unequivocally. We are part of Israel’s “Social Iron Dome”. If one day, not too far in the future we see that there is no safe haven for world Jewry to thrive and flourish, our children and grandchildren will look back to those who were silent and ask “Why?” Let us not be silent. If we don’t stand up for Israel and Jewish communities wherever they are, no one else will.



1. DONATE: One-hundred percent of money raised goes directly to our overseas partners to support the most vulnerable populations in Israel. DONATE HERE

2. STAY INFORMED: Our Israel Emergency page will be continuously updated and includes additional news links. Also visit www.SarasotaLovesIsrael.com for Israel-related content.

3. SHARE: Share information to your social networks via E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. The Federation is using the hashtags: #IsraelUnderFire #StopTheSirens #jfedsrq.

4. LOBBY: your elected officials. Visit our Political Advocating page for state and national contact information as well as tips for properly formatting your communications.

5. SOLIDARITY: Tell the IDF soldiers you support them via the website: Friends Of The Israel Defense Forces

6.  SUPPORT: Buy Israeli products locally:
– A Taste of Europe, 2212 Gulf Gate Drive: Pickles, Olives, Couscous & Coffee
– Bed, Bath & Beyond, 6567 S Tamiami Trail or 111 N Cattlemen Rd: Ahava Beauty Products, SodaStream Home Carbonation Systems
– Comfort Shoes Siesta Key, 5128 Ocean Blvd: Naot Sandals – Garden Argosy, 361 St Armand’s Circle: Ayala Bar Jewelry
– Katy Rose Olive Oils, Lakewood Dr, Lakewood Ranch: Olive Oil – Galilee & Golan Heights
– Publix, Various locations: Kosher section with Israeli products
– Reasons Shoe Store, 20 N Lemon Ave or 57 Boulevard of the Presidents: Israeli shoes
– Total Wine, Cooper Creek Blvd, University Park: Israeli wine
– Ulta, 103 N Cattlemen Rd or 6515 S Tamiami Trail: Ahava Beauty Products
– The Walking Company, 3501 S Tamiami Trail or 380 St Armands Circle: Naot Sandals
– Israeli products are also available at your local Temple!

- For the price of dinner for two—$53—we can provide a critical day of relief for children living closest to the line of fire. A day away from the front lines—in summer camps, youth villages and enrichment classes—is more than a day in the country. It is a respite from the confines of the indoor playgrounds that, for more than 13 years, have become their “normal” play spaces.

- In normal times, Federation-supported senior centers provide thousands of seniors living in poverty—many of them Holocaust survivors—with food and comfort. Today, it’s too dangerous for them to travel, and many are living within the walls of their apartment bunkers. Our partners are deploying more caseworkers to bring food, medicine and comfort to the elderly—and other vulnerable groups like the disabled—in their homes.

- When sirens blare, tens of thousands of Israelis take cover. But when the all-clear sounds, many continue to suffer from trauma that may not be as visible as a physical injury, but is just as real. Partner programs are providing psychological assistance to help 15,000 civilians and first responders weather the current storm.

- Local municipalities are at the forefront of managing community services and responses to attacks. Targeted local assistance helps bridge the gap between government aid and needs, enhancing the resilience of individual communities.

Questions? Contact Jessi Sheslow at 941.343.2109 or jsheslow@jfedsrq.org


Download this graphic to use on your social media profile:

I am Israel's Social Iron Dome


Sarasota shows solidarity for Israel

18 Jul
A Night of Solidarity for Israel

A Night of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014 at JD Hamel Park, Sarasota

More than 350 people gathered on July 15 at J.D. Hamel Park in downtown Sarasota for a Night of Solidarity for Israel.  Dr. Lewis Hanan, co-chair of Federation’s Israel Emergency Committee, described Israel’s defensive efforts against Hamas and the events leading up to it.  Amber Ikeman and Jeremy Dictor opened the program in song and the audience was addressed by Rev. Dr. Tom Pfaff, Chairman of the Sarasota Ministerial Association; Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Chabad of Sarasota; and Rabbi Michael Werbow, Temple Beth Sholom. Past Federation President Ian Black had returned from Israel the day before. He shared the experience of hearing a siren and having 15 seconds to run to a bomb shelter.  Black saw the Iron Dome take down a rocket sent by Hamas.


A Night of Solidarity for Israel Speakers

Left-to-right: Rev. Dr. Tom Pfaff, Chairman of the Sarasota Ministerial Association; Dr. Lewis Hanan, co-chair of Federation’s Israel Emergency Committee; Past Federation President Ian Black; Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Chabad of Sarasota; and Rabbi Michael Werbow, Temple Beth Sholom.


The Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Gospel Choir closed the program which was followed by a candlelit march along the bayfront.

The Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Gospel Choir performs at A Nigt of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014

The Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Gospel Choir performs at A Night of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014


Supporters of Israel walk along the bayfront of Sarasota during A Night of Solidarity for Israel

Supporters of Israel walk along the bayfront of Sarasota during A Night of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014


A supporter of Israel looks on during A Night of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014

A supporter of Israel looks on during A Night of Solidarity for Israel on July 15, 2014


The event was coordinated by The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (http://www.thejewishfederation.org) and The Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative (http://www.sarasotalovesisrael.com). Special thanks to the event speakers, performers & volunteers; the City of Sarasota; the Sarasota Police Department; and everyone who attended.


Israel launches Operation Protective Edge

8 Jul

Israel Under Fire

Israel has launched Operation Protective Edge in retaliation of ongoing rocket fire. The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee will continue to monitor the situation in coordination with partner agencies.

Operation Protective Edge


Israel’s response to the intense rocket fire from Gaza over the past month, which has been dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” (“Tzuk Eitan” in Hebrew), launched last night. Since Monday morning, over 100 rockets have been fired at Israel. Hamas terrorists in Gaza have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks which are activating “Code Red” sirens deep into central Israel.


More than 240 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since June 12, the day on which the three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered. A nursery school was hit (July 3), two factories in Sderot were razed (June 28) and a number of homes and cars have been damaged by other rockets striking open areas. In addition, a terrorist armed with a grenade tried to enter an Israeli village (June 22) and there have been several cross-border attacks.

The projectiles being fired at Israel include a combination of military-grade Grad missiles, locally-made “Kassam” rockets and mortars. Rockets fired can reach over 50 km affecting more than a million Israelis. Here is a map illustrating areas within rocket range and detailing the maximum time available for finding shelter in each location.

Yesterday, Monday, July 7, a farm was destroyed, and staff at the Soroka Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Beer Sheva rushed newborns to a protected area (click links to watch eyewitness video footage of these events). A retirement home in Yavne was also hit, and a large fire broke out in Ashdod when a rocket hit an empty house.

Last night, two Ashdod residents were out sailing when rockets were fired in their direction. This video shows the rockets, the Iron Dome response and their reactions. This short clip shows children running out of a swimming pool to shelter, leaving no room to question the impact of life under fire.

Once again, the preventative measures in place are helping mitigate the situation. As disconcerting as the sound of sirens wailing can be, residents in southern Israel are used to the need to move quickly and have been following the instructions of the military and civilian authorities, rushing to protected rooms and safe areas whenever needed.

These measures, together with the deployment of the highly effective Iron Dome defense system, have kept physical injuries to a minimum (primarily shrapnel wounds and shock), even as psychological and social support services are seeing a big spike in calls to help lines and other requests for assistance. In future updates, we will provide more information on the disruption of daily civilian and economic life.


School vacation started last week. Yet in some locations, children are returning to schools with protected space to which camp programs and other activities have been relocated. The situation for preschoolers is more complicated, as few daycare centers have sheltered space and facilities between 7 and 40 kilometers from Gaza have been closed under orders from the Home Front Command. Farmers tilling fields on the Gaza border have been ordered to stop work due to the threat of sniper fire. Additionally, the Home Front Command has prohibited gatherings of more than 500 people across the affected zone.

Needless to say, all citizens have been instructed to remain close to a shelter at all times. This means intercity traffic is very light and is having a significant impact on local business.


The Israel Air Force struck over 50 targets Monday night across the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchers, a weapon storage facility, training bases, terror tunnels and other key objectives. Some 1,500 IDF reservists were called up for duty yesterday, with breaking news of a further draft of some 40,000 now approved.

Israel continues to deploy the Iron Dome defense system, which is reported to have an 85% success rate against incoming rockets.

Many Israelis across the country, including those living outside the immediate range of the rockets, and Israel supporters abroad have downloaded the ‘tzeva adom’ phone app, which alerts users when a rocket is being fired at Israel. Supporters of Israel are being encouraged to download the app to raise awareness. Social media reports are trending under #israelunderfire and #protectiveedge.


Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, from the IDF Spokesman’s Bureau, released a statement saying, “In the past weeks, residents of southern Israel were forced into an unbearable reality – a situation they haven’t encountered in these scales since November 2012. In light of these circumstances, the IDF commenced Operation Protective Edge. We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas’ terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region. Terrorists perpetrating the aggression against Israel have a personal price to pay and will bear the consequences of their actions.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “This operation will not be over in a matter of days….We will not tolerate rocket fire over Israel and we are prepared to expand the campaign with every means at our disposal to continue to strike against Hamas. I would like to reinforce the southern residents, mayors and councils who demonstrate leadership and responsibility, helping us to continue the offensive effort.”

As Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar said “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of rockets at Tel Aviv.”

For more information:




YouTube: 15 Seconds: Not Enough Time

15 seconds

Murder is murder

7 Jul

Jewish Federation of Sarasota - Memorial ServiceThis weekend has been an emotional one for American Jews. We thank the more than 500 members of our Sarasota-Manatee community who came out to our Community-Wide Memorial Service on Thursday night. It was extremely meaningful and brought many of us a sense of comfort in such a fulfilling way. The following day was the Fourth of July, a holiday in which Americans celebrate freedom and the founding of our nation. For many of us it was a day of reflection in the wake of the horrible violence over the past 3 weeks in a place we call our second home. How lucky we are to live in a country where we can protect our borders and retaliate against acts of war without being called violators of human rights. Then, the worst news of all, that the young Arab boy who was murdered in East Jerusalem was, in fact, murdered by Israelis.

Over the weekend The Jewish Federations of North American released the following statement that we agree with to the fullest.

“The Jewish Federations of North America condemn the brutal murder of 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and is appalled by the heinous nature of this crime. We commend the Israeli Police for the swift arrests, and have full confidence that the Israeli justice system will ensure that those responsible will be punished to the full extent of the law.”

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-KIDNAPPING-FUNERAL“Jewish Federations endorse the sentiments expressed by Israel’s leaders rejecting all forms of violence and calling for new efforts at achieving peaceful coexistence. We echo the strong words of Rachel Frankel, mother of murdered Israeli teen, Naftali, who said: “If a young Arab really was murdered for nationalist reasons, this is a horrifying and shocking act. There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder. There is no justification, no pardon and no atonement for murder.”

At The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee we condemn the senseless murders of all 4-boys over the past 3-weeks in Israel. We cannot forget that all of these boys should still be alive today. Murder is Murder.

Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee condemns murder of Arab youth

2 Jul

jerusalem-palestinian-terror-fire-protest-violenceThe Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee condemns the murder of an Arab youth whose body was found in Jerusalem today. “Such incidents must not be tolerated and the perpetrators must be pursued and apprehended. We are confident that Israel, a country where the rule of law prevails, will pursue this case aggressively and that justice will be done – no matter who committed the crime,” said Howard Tevlowitz, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for law enforcement to work as quickly as possible to find the perpetrators and motives behind the “reprehensible” murder of an Arab youth whose body was found today in Jerusalem, according to the Jerusalem Post. According to the New York Times, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, condemned the killing of the teenager in a statement. “This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn,” he said. “This is not our way and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice. I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”

Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of one of the three slain Israeli teenagers, told Ynet, a news site, “There is no difference between blood and blood.” He was quoted as saying, “Murder is murder…Whatever the nationality or age are, there is no justification, no forgiveness or penance for any murder.”



Jerusalem Post: Hundreds of Arabs riot across Jerusalem after Palestinian teen found murdered

New York Times: Possible Revenge Killing Adds to Tension in Israel

Ynet: Abbas: Netanyahu must condemn boy’s death like we condemned kidnapping


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