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14 Jun

#PrayForOrlando smaller Jun2015


The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is outraged and saddened by the tragic and horrific mass shooting this weekend at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. This act of terror and hate, inspired by radical Islamic views, has left 49 people confirmed killed and at least 53 more severely injured. We were dismayed to learn of this horrifying attack on the LGBTQ community while Jews around the world were celebrating the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the anniversary of the day G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.

A key tenet of the Torah is that humankind was created in G-d’s image, and therefore we must treat one another with compassion and respect. The Jewish Federation strongly condemns those who target a particular community. We will not stand idly by and let terrorists and those who espouse hatred win.  Instead we as the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish community pledge our devotion and loyalty to all communities who are subject to hatred and discrimination. We will work together to fight back and stand in solidarity together.

The rising tide of extremism and violence, around the world and here in the United States, is profoundly disturbing and reiterates the threat of terrorism to the entire free world. We mourn for those murdered, offer our condolences to their families and pray for a swift recovery of the injured. All Americans were attacked, but the LGBT community was targeted.

We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ and entire Orlando community.

Howard Tevlowitz
Executive Director


Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses? (repost)

6 May

*The following is a repost of an article that originally appeared in the Huffington Post on May 5th, 2016. To read the original please follow this link 


by Michael Sitver

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression. All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias.

When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own. A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”. It was uncivil, and unproductive, but the council-members did not once that day condemn the personal nature of these attacks, or defend the rights of the opposition to make their case.

At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish Civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government. Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged. The representatives never even brought the issue up.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”. The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

On the very next slide, the presenters shared a series of maps which MSNBC once famously referred to as deceptive, and “completely wrong“. The maps (inaccurately) depict border changes between Israelis and Palestinians from 1946-200. What’s most striking is the label though: “Jewish land versus Palestinian land over time”. Not one representative questioned the label. Not one representative questioned the map. The only thing they were willing to question was the right for some state of Israel to exist, and the right to Jewish self-determination.


There were about 500,000 Jews in Israel in 1948, but if you saw this map you would never guess that. This also uses “Jewish” in place of “Israeli”.

Student after student at that first meeting stood to explain to representatives how political and contentious the BDS movement was. They pointed out the movement’s ties to terror and anti-semitism. Some suggested the representatives compromise and call for divestment, but drop the explicit ties to the BDS movement. On this issue, finally, our representatives spoke out.

“As a voting member, I don’t think it’s my job to appease people who don’t support BDS”.

On the China resolution, representatives were quick to point out that it “minimize[d] this issue into a political ploy”. When it came to Israel though, the Council was happy to attempt to speak for its 5,000 constituents without hearing from the other side. They even violated procedure to shut out student voices one meeting, to expedite the vote. The one student they allowed to speak at the meeting was an activist in favor of the resolution.

One representative pointed out to the council that “this [BDS resolution] is being passed a week after a presentation for 15 minutes from one side of the debate, and the opposition … was never formally given time before College Council”. Another pointed out that “it is disingenuous to say that we have moral voice to represent the students and speak on this issue”. That didn’t stop the same representative who seemed so concerned about minimizing the struggles of the Chinese people as a political ploy, from voting for another political ploy.

Their coldness in minimizing the struggles of Jews, living with a legacy of being expelled and exterminated, was mind-boggling to me.

Then again, these biases, and suppressions of speech shouldn’t surprise me, given the system that these Representatives work in. They control $2 million in funding for events and clubs, and they wield that power to silence dissenting voices.

When SJP held events in support of the divest resolution, one of the sponsors was University of Chicago’s own Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This week is Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. On this day of remembrance, we say “Never forget. Never again”. Yom Hashoah also commemorates an international commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sadly, fifty-three years after this day was first honored, we seem to be forgetting those lessons. As a campus we’re remarkably tolerant of gender, race, and sexuality in general. Why is it that we’re so uncaring about this one, very real form of racism?

Update (4/05): One thing I didn’t originally emphasize enough is how grateful I am to the 4-5 representatives on the council who genuinely recognized what this resolution was, and spoke and stood against it. I’ve tried my best throughout this article not to name names, but I do want thank those representatives.



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

Mensch of the Month – Ros Mazur

1 May

ros mazurWhile participating in The Jewish Federation of North America’s Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission to Odessa, Ukraine, and Israel during July 2012, Ros Mazur was deeply moved by a visit with an elderly widow and Holocaust survivor who lives alone in Odessa for whom a luxury item is toilet paper. She also met “at-risk children and teens” attending a Jewish camp, discovering for the first time that they are Jewish. “While we can’t help every needy woman and child, we must continue to strive to help as many people as possible,” said Ros after she returned to Sarasota.

She vowed to find a way to make her dollars count to provide support for Jews in need worldwide. With Karen Bernstein, she founded and co-chaired Ma’agal Nashim, the Women’s Giving Circle, which would raise money to help women and children. Members of Ma’agal Nashim choose the beneficiaries of the funds. That dream came to fruition in March when Ma’agal Nashim granted $18,000 to organizations in Israel which will truly feel the impact of those dollars.

Ros is a member of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors. She is also the co-chair of Nashim L’Tovah, Federation’s women’s division, and serves on the Overseas Granting Committee. She has co-chaired the Jewish Book Festival and Women’s Passover Celebration, and has volunteered at many Federation events.

For these reasons and many more, we are thrilled to honor Ros as our Mensch of the Month for May.

How Anti-Semitism Ended a Mayor’s Career

23 Apr

At around 2 PM Eastern Time the day before Passover started a tragic event occurred at a Kansas City Jewish Community Center.   Frazier Glenn Cross, also known as Frazier Miller, shot five people, killing three and wounding two others at the community center and a neighboring senior living facility. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Underwood, 69 and 14 years of age respectively were both killed at the Jewish Community Center. Terri LaManno, a mother of three, was killed while going to Village Shalom, the neighboring senior facility. This horrify event was something that sent shock waves not only throughout the Jewish community, but also various other communities across the nation. An outcry of support for those affected by the tragedy could be seen; however, some showed little to no empathy for the victims and outrage at Miller’s actions. One such man is Marionville, Missouri Mayor Dan Clevenger.

Dan Clevenger has received a fair amount of criticism from locals and people from around the country for the comments he made on Miller. Clevenger knew Miller as he came to his store numerous times and even went so far as to call Miller a friend. Clevenger was quoted as saying about Miller that, “He respected his elders greatly as long as they were the same color as him.” Furthermore, Clevenger said, “Kind of agreed with him on some things, but I don’t like to express that too much.” These comments made by Clevenger shocked me. The fact that he doesn’t express much anger with Miller’s actions is enough to make me angry; however, Clevenger’s previous writings and current comments about his beliefs enter a whole different level. About ten years ago Clevenger wrote an editorial for the Aurora newspaper in which he wrote, ”The Jew-run medical industry succeeded in destroying the United States’ workforce.” and how the medical industry, “Made a few Jews rich by killin’ us off.” He then switched focus and talked about how he believed that the Jewish people ran the banking industry and put the U.S. into debt.  He also said the Federal Reserve just handed out money and in his words, “The people that run the Federal Reserve, they’re Jewish.” However, with his ignorant beliefs Clevenger believes that Miller had no right to do what he did.

Anti-Semitism is something that I hoped was nearly nonexistent, at least in the United States. However, these recent events have proven that it is anything but extinct. People like Miller and Clevenger unfortunately live throughout the United States. Their beliefs still thrive in the present day. Clevenger blaming most of the United States’ issues on the Jewish people is exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany. The sort of beliefs that Clevenger holds truly frightens me. I strive to understand all people’s beliefs, but with Clevenger that is amongst the hardest challenges. When events like this happen it only strengthens my desire to hold onto the traditions and cultures of the Jewish people. The continuance of Anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination is unfortunate but something that can be stopped. We as Jewish people must continue to not only further support and stop hatred for other Jews but any people discriminated against. With Passover at a close, we must reflect as to the events of Passover and the reason we celebrate it, as the reason still holds very true today.

Editor’s Note: Dan Clevenger has since resigned from his position as Mayor.

*All quotes from Mayor Clevenger can be found in the following links: and

Written by Grant C., Heller Israel Advocacy Intern for The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee


Celebrating the Trees

21 Jan

Federation’s Young Ambassadors planting trees in Israel, June 2013

This past Thursday, January 16th, we celebrated the birthday of the trees, or Tu B’Shevat. This minor Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of Shevat to rejoice in the “New Year of the Trees” and enhance our ecological awareness. Modern-day celebrations in Israel have morphed into quasi “Earth Day” festivities akin to how Americans celebrate Mother Nature on April 22nd.

Why exactly do we celebrate Tu B’Shevat and how do we honor the trees? American tradition holds that we have several “New Year” celebrations including January 1st, the start of the student school year and the start of the fiscal year for a business. Similarly, Judaic traditions don’t just stop at the 1st of the year (Rosh Hashanah). The writings say that we celebrate Tu B’Shevat to mark a day to calculate the ages of trees. No matter when the tree was planted, it has aged one year, according to tradition, by the time Tu B’Shevat rolls around the subsequent year. The 16th century Kabbalists began holding a seder on this day. Their seder highlighted the significance of both fruit and the shivat haminim (Seven Species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) in our faith. Modern-day celebrations include a seder and/or a more literal celebration of the trees with physical planting (or collecting donations to plant trees in Israel).

While this holiday is not mentioned in the Torah and is categorized as a “minor” holiday, it is still custom to take this day to honor our environment and the sustenance with which Mother Nature provides us.


Sammy Robbins is the Joseph J. Edlin Journalism Intern at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.