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APRIL 20 - MAY 3, 2012

FLYTILLA FLOP
THE ACTIVISTS’ PUBLICITY EFFORT IN ISRAEL FLOPPED, BUT WHY NOT AIM ELSEWHERE?
By EDGAR ASHER
ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

One could be forgiven for thinking that many of the activists who had hoped — but failed — to flood Israel with a huge

pro-Palestinian “fly-in” do not live in the real world. Scores of activists setting out from various airports in Europe were not permitted to board their flights. This is because the

At Ben-Gurion airport, an Israeli policeman checks the identity Aprili 15 of two pro-Palestinian activists trying to make a political statement during the “Flytilla”. y

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— HILLEL PHOTO

Israeli authorities had made it clear that if they arrived in Israel they would be put back on the aircraft and the airline would be responsible for taking them back at their expense. Three activists managed to evade Israeli immigration and get to Bethlehem. Thirty-one activists were detained pending OP-ED their return to Living in their country the of origin in the real world, next day or or not? two. Twelve were immediately deported, and another nine activists were held pending further investigation. But in all honesty, what on earth were they doing trying to reach Israel?

JUF to Hillel: You’re fired!
CHICAGO FEDERATION vs. U OF C HILLEL

AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR AND BOARD ARE FIRED
THE ISSUES: FINANCES, WHO’S THE BOSS?
By GILA WERTHEIMER
ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Palestinians Ban Potatoes
By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN The Palestinian Authority (PA) has started to block the sale of Israeli potatoes as part of a new policy to support local farmers and remove foreign produce in the marketplace, according to Palestinian agriculture officials. “We are doing this to protect the farmers because they can’t sell their potatoes due to the cheaper ones the Israelis are unloading on us,” said ZAKARIA SALAWDEH, a deputy director of the
THE MEDIA LINE

BAN ON ISRAELI PRODUCE IS SET TO PROTECT GROWERS
Palestinian Agriculture Ministry. He said that the ban wasn’t directed against Israel for political reasons. The major cities of Nablus and Ramallah were the first to start blocking the sale of Israeli spuds with official orders being issued on April 16 to the vegetable vendors. The

— MSC ILLUSTRATION

ban will soon encompass all of the PA areas of the West Bank. “Actually, we are implementing the decision of the government,” said ANAN ATIRA, deputy mayor of the governorate of Nablus, adding she was signing the orders even as she spoke to TML. “There is a decision from the Ministry of Agriculture to encourage national products and the livelihood of farmers,” Atira said. Agriculture is a pillar of

EXEMPLAR OF EXCELLENCE — In 2008, Daniel Libenson (right) was cited as “A Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence” for “Transforming Hillel at the University of Chicago with commitment, compassion, and conviction”. The award was presented by Wayne L. Firestone, President of Hillel International. y

ESSAY • By GIULIO MEOTTI

Why So Happy?
Israel ranked 14th in the happiness of the only the United Nations’ first UN member condemned to death and boycotted all World Happiness Report. The list is headed by over the world? Israel is much happier Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands, than all the European the paradises of political countries that experienced correctness, welfare, anti- their last war six decades war, ultra-liberal and anti- ago. The Jewish state’s population exceeds 7.5 nationalistic feelings, beamillion (nine times cons which, according OP-ED 1948, the to the Global Peace A question that of the state’s year of Index, topped the at Israel creation). list of the most Independence So for sure, Israel“peaceful” places in is are happy because the world. Day they succeeded demoSo how can we explain the happiness of Is- graphically. Considering rael — the only civilized the Diaspora’s low birth country under mortal dan- rates and high assimilation ger, the only nation with- rates, it may not be long out recognized borders, the before most of the world’s only country globally sel- Jews will be Israelis. Despite Jewish heroism ected to be an emblem of and Israeli collectivism givevil? ing way to Western individNot like other nations To people who don’t live ualism, self-criticism and frivolous hedonism, Israeli in Israel, this is a mystery. To be sure, many Isra- happiness is much more elis probably can’t figure it than the American dream of a large house and a nice out, either. How is it possible that a population living under a perpetual emotional strain, and ghettoizing itself behind new Maginot lines, is so happy? How can Jews be happy when Iran is going nuclear and threatening to wipe them off the map? How can they be happy when Arabs are firing rockets every day at civilians in Ashkelon, Beersheba, Ashdod and Sderot? What are the sources of

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A standoff over budget and governance issues between the Newberger Hillel Center at the University of Chicago and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has resulted in the dismissal of Hillel executive director DANIEL LIBENSON and the dissoNEWS lution of the Talking about group’s adan annual visory board. While $875,328 dis cussions budget between Hillel and the Federation had gone on for the last year, tensions came to a head at the end of March. On March 28, the Hillel board, under the signatures of RUTH O’BRIEN, board chair, and JAMES A. CHERNEY, past board chair, sent a letter to the Federation setting out their interest in restructuring the group’s relationship with the Federation, with the purpose of becoming independent of the Federation. It has been a department of the Federation since 2005. Its building has been owned by the Federation since 1999, in an agreement with the Newberger family, which donated funds for its repair at the time, and the Hillel executive board. All Hillels in Illinois are part of the Federation, a relationship that is unique to Illinois. While Hillels around the country may receive allocations from their local Federation, none function within a Federation structure. Seeking its autonomy, the University of Chicago Hillel board concluded its letter with its intent:

— ISRANET PHOTO

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INSIDE
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One More Celebration After Passover
A national holiday in Israel since 1966, Mimouna celebrations took place there following the conclusion of Passover (observed for seven days in Israel). The holiday — variously understood as referring to Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) or derived from an Arabic word meaning “luck” — features outdoor parties, picnics, traditional holidays cakes, and home-based hospitality. Mimouna has its origins with the Moroccan and Algerian Jewish communities, but has been adopted by many others. Above: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were welcomed at the Mimouna celebration of the Benita family in Or Yehuda, in the Tel-Aviv district, on April 14. y

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Editorial: Hillel Controversy.......4 Income Tax (1959) ...................4 DC: Jews and the GOP............5 Purchasing a State ...................6 A camp for illegal immigrants...7 Middle-class squeeze.............. 8 Books on Israel.........................9 Torah: Yom Ha’atzmaut..........11

The only American to ever win a table tennis singles title, page 11.

— PUCK (1902)

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APRIL 20 - MAY 3, 2012

CHICAGO JEWISH STAR
NEWS

eFROM THE FRONT PAGE
“If Federation maintains its current position [rejecting independence], the members of our board and our executive director will resign from our respective positions effective June 9 [the end of the academic year] ... in order to build a new organization....” The Federation’s written response came two days later. It was lengthy, but unequivocal. “I and others have importuned you not take such action: leaving and starting a competing organization, with Dan Libenson as its executive director. We urged you to stay in the system and work with us. Our efforts have been for naught .... “We are compelled to accept the resignations of all of the members of the advisory committee, effective immediately.... “We have dealt separately with our employee Dan Libenson.”

Libenson was fired by the Federation, which had hired him in 2006. The letter was signed by HARVEY BARNETT, a Federation lay leader who had been involved in discussions with Hillel board members, and an attorney. In an interview with the JEWISH STAR this week, Rabbi PAUL SAIGER, who is now interim director at Hillel, replacing Libenson, called the letters “the final volleys on each side. The advisory board knew they were throwing down the gauntlet.” While financial issues appear to have triggered the separation, in Saiger’s view “it ultimately was an issue of governance, of who the executive director works for, and is the board independent or advisory.” Saiger was with the Hillels of Illinois for 16 years, and for 22 years prior, worked for Hillel on several different campuses. AARON COHEN, the Federation’s Vice-President, Com-

Budget deficits

For the past seven years, the University of Chicago Hillel has been operating with a deficit of around $100,000 a year (with a figure as high as $150,000 being given) that has been assumed by the Federation. Both sides agree that cuts are necessary. The disagreement comes in defining the deficit and how a balanced budget can best be achieved. In brief, the Hillel board claims that if allowed its autonomy, it can lower maintenance and other service costs that it currently must purchase through the Federation’s Facilities Corporation. The Federation’s response is that the board’s calculations are flawed and that the present delivery is cost effective. Expressing disappointment in the Federation’s position, James Cherney told the JEWISH STAR that

—NEWBERGER HILLEL BUILDING, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO / CHICAGO JEWISH STAR FILE PHOTO

Federation, H illel

munications, told the JEWISH STAR that the process has been “incredibly frustrating.” Separation “is not the way forward we wanted to go.”

for the University of Chicago Hillel “is twice that of any other campus.” Hillel itself raises some funds, and according to Cherney, this amount has been increasing over the last several years. The University of Chicago has an estimated 750800 Jewish undergraduate students, and up to 1,200 students in graduate and professional schools, according to Saiger. He estimates that Hillel reaches between one-third and one-half of the undergraduates, “which is a good figure,” he said. Daniel Libenson, a native of Long Island, New York, whose father is a Conservative rabbi and who attended high school in Israel when his family made aliyah, came to the University of Chicago Hillel from a position teaching law in Minneapolis. During his tenure at Hillel, the 41-year-old with undergraduate and law training from Harvard has earned national recognition. In 2009, the Avi Chai Foundation awarded him a $225,000 fellowship, over three years, to further his innovative activities. He proposed the creation of a center for Jewish ideas, which, he told the JEWISH STAR this week, he hopes to launch this fall as the Institute for the Next Jewish Future. In 2008, he was recognized by Hillel as an “Exemplar of Excellence”. Libenson said that at Hillel, his focus has been on “student engagement”, which he described as connecting with students who would otherwise not look for or be involved in Jewish experiences. As an example he mentioned instituting “Mega Shabbat”, a highly successful monthly Shabbat dinner on campus that attracts about 200 students. “Many of them wouldn’t go to a program in the Hillel building,” he said. Such programs, he added, “are not done by an institution, but by people who know how to engage and innovate.” Cherney noted that some of these programs have been used as templates by other Hillels. His own involvement with this Hillel, he added, is because of Libenson. “I was quite taken with his ideas about young people, with energy directed to students” not already connected to Jewish life. Cherney, a past president of Temple Sholom who is also active in the Union for Reform Judaism, had not previously been involved with Hillel or the Federation. Second-year student TAYLOR SCHWIMMER, writing in The Chicago Maroon, the U. of C. newspaper, said that in firing Libenson “the JUF has deprived our campus of a powerful and capable Jewish advocate.” But most importantly, he wrote, “the decision to remove Libenson and the Board ignores the will of the very students Hillel is meant to support and serve.” y

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the Hillel board “found and documented a way to reduce [service] costs. We even had competitive bids,” which he said the Federation would not consider. For Hillel, “A balanced budget is a construct in which part [ie, maintenance and other services] is dictated by the Federation,” Cherney said. “That leaves programs and staff,” which they were not willing to cut. The Federation

employed five full-time Hillel staff for the University of Chicago. The 2011-2012 Hillel budget for the U. of C. is $875,328, with an additional $120,000 related to Birthright Israel student participation, according to Paul Saiger. The majority of funding comes from the annual Federation allocation and endowments. In his letter, Barnett says that the perstudent cost to Federation

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APRIL 20 - MAY 3, 2012

CHICAGO JEWISH STAR
EDITORIAL

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Published twice monthly by Star Media Group, Inc. (Established 1990) P.O. Box 268, Skokie, IL 60076-0268 Fax: (847) 674-0014 • Tel: (847) 674-STAR (7827) E-Mail: chicagojewishstar@comcast.net • DOUGLAS WERTHEIMER, PhD, Editor GILA WERTHEIMER, Associate Editor Contributors: DOUGLAS M. BLOOMFIELD, Washington ETHEL G. HOFMAN, Food Columnist EDGAR ASHER, Israel Correspondent SHAUL E. WERTHEIMER, Torah Columnist GIL ZOHAR, Israel Correspondent Lurie’s World is by RANAN LURIE MICHAEL FOX, Film Critic ARNOLD AGES, Special Correspondent MICHAEL WILMINGTON, VIRGINIA BOYD, Special Correspondent Special Correspondent CAGLE CARTOONS Sales: MITCH WEXLER, LS ASSOCIATES The CHICAGO JEWISH STAR is a subscriber to Isranet, Cagle Cartoons, and Cartoonews services. ISSN 1054 -1365 The first copy of each issue of this newspaper is available for free to interested readers. Taking multiple copies from newsboxes or other distribution sites is a crime and will result in prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
1959 income tax return a few years ago. How I long for the simplicity he enjoyed when he filed that year’s taxes! For 1959, my father paid a measly 5 percent in federal taxes, even though his name wasn’t Rockefeller. How did he do it? Easy.
For a year when the top income tax rate was 91 percent — President Kennedy would slash rates a few years later — deductions were many. Even middle-class people like my dad enjoyed their fair share of perks. He was a heavy smoker then — who wasn’t in those days? — and was able to deduct every penny he paid in cigarette taxes. He was able to deduct every penny he paid in gasoline taxes (if we had such a perk now, the federal government would go broke — that is, more broke than it is now). And he was able to deduct every penny he paid in state sales tax in Pennsylvania, another wonderful perk that would save the average Pennsylvanian a boatload in federal taxes every year. He took a $600 tax deduction for each of his two dependents (my sisters) — a lot of dough relative to his income. For 2011, the deduction for each dependent is $3,750. On paper that is six times what my father got in 1959 — but if properly adjusted for inflation it would be about $5,000 today. Here’s one that grabbed my attention: In 1959, he paid only 2.5 percent of his income toward FICA (then, Social Security; now, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). Now, aside from a temporary 2-percentage-point FICA tax break, the average employee pays 7.65 percent, while his or her employer kicks in another 7.65 percent. I, being self-employed, had the pleasure of paying the full 15.3 percent myself. Despite the 2-percent-

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CAGLE FEATURE SERVICE

By TOM PURCELL

STUMBLED UPON MY FATHER’S

nor did he need one. He did a test run in pencil on one copy of the form, then finalized a second in ink and mailed it in; he always got a refund. I long for the simplicity he enjoyed back then. In 1959, the federal tax code was about 15,000 pages. Today, it is more than 70,000 pages. Unlike my father, who was able to calculate his taxes quickly, I spent days getting mine in order, so I could hand them off to my CPA, so he could tell me I owed lots more than I feared I would. This year, after all my deductions for business and pain and suffering — including the agitations of owning a few rental properties and investing a boat load of dough renovating one — I paid about 25 percent of my gross income in federal, state and local taxes. Nonetheless, I consider myself extremely lucky at that rate. Still, with this year’s taxes behind me, I look back fondly on 1959. After all, in that year I didn’t pay a dime in taxes. I didn’t waste a moment getting hundreds of receipts in order. I didn’t panic when my CPA told me what I owed. Reason: I wasn’t born until 1962. y
HICH IS WHY

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Yom Ha’atzmaut 5772
Let’s celebrate 64 years of Israel’s independence
S A NATION IN THE WORLD, Israel at 64 is a youngster. But were it a human being, it would be a senior citizen, and in this country nearly ready for Medicare. It would enjoy other perks, too, for its gray-haired vintage, including reduced movie admissions, reduced rates on certain services, and the pleasure of being offered a seat on a full train. There might also be a retirement pension available, or a government Social Security check after a lifetime of work. Time to relax and enjoy life.

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come about in doubled and re-doubled measure. We do not need to count the country’s Nobel Prize winners, list its institutes of higher learning, praise its medical and scientific work, its tech start-ups, its innovative entrepreneurs and its agricultural achievements. What we do need to do is repeat them, like a mantra, to the nay-sayers. We need to acknowledge and bask in the pride that Israel gives us as Jews.
OM HA’ATZMAUT, Israel Indpendence Day is a time to reflect, but moreso a time to celebrate all that this modern-day miracle has accomplished in 64 years. There is much left to do, but the day is young and the future is bright. Happy Independence Day to Israel, and to us as well, who glory in the miracle of a revived people in its homeland.

My Dad’s 1959 Tax Return
age-point break for 2011, I wrote out a sizable check this year to bring current the more than $12,000 in FICA contributions I am on the hook for. In any event, my father had his fair share of simple deductions in 1959, which helped offset his federal taxes. That helped him keep his total federal tax tab at a measly 5 percent. Better yet, his tax form was one sheet of paper printed on both sides. He had no calculator,

in today’s world Israel doesn’t get a pass. All-too-frequently, it doesn’t even get the respect and admiration it has earned — not because of its age, but because of its achievements. The old slogans that now have the ring of clichés of “making the desert bloom” and “the ingathering of the exiles” have

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Controversy at Hillel
HE HILLELS OF ILLINOIS are part of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and given an owner’s employer-employee relationship it was entirely unremarkable for the Federation to fire any employee (and to terminate the relationship with any volunteer) at the University of Chicago Hillel who they felt was no longer fulfilling the job description (report, front page). Such actions, while not desirable, are hardly an uncommon occurrence in the corporate world. They are particularly regrettable when, as appears to be the case at the U of C, the Hillel was led by a highly-regarded, motivated, and innovative individual.

The essential issue is about finances, not governance
was) in charge. Our main concern is therefore not about governance but about finances. How has it come about that on an annual basis some $900,000 is being spent on the Jewish students served by Hillel at the University of Chicago? Even at a prestigious university with high-octane tuition, that is a stupendous amount of money by itself. Moreover, per student it is apparently double what is being spent on Jewish students served by Hillel at other campuses. When that kind of money is being allocated, one expects accountability. Whether there is any is unknown to us and, given the secrecy surrounding such organizations, is not likely to be publicly revealed. But it is a worrisome development which has now been exposed, and ought to be addressed to satisfy communal interests. y

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having become public, raises a question not so much about who is in charge, but about what is being done by whomever it is who is (or

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Flytilla
eFROM THE FRONT PAGE
If you want to do some good, why not protest about real-life problems — that was the sober advice of Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu (please see “You Be the Judge,” page 2). For example: •Syria: More than 9,000 people have been killed there during the past year by the Assad regime; •Iran: That country’s weapons of mass destruction threaten the entire world; •Lebanon, Egypt: The Hezbollah take-over has been nothing but trouble for that country and the region;

— ISRANET PHOTO

political turmoil roils Egypt; •Gaza: The Hamas government regularly fires missiles at southern Israel. (For those proposing a visit to Gaza, one hint: Activists can not fly into Gaza City, but they can enter the area via the scores of tunnels that connect Egypt to Gaza. Activists could, however, encounter delays, because urgent armaments for the peace-loving members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have priority passage).

Well done, Abba!
A soldier’s daughter runs to her father to congratulate him at the conclusion of an IDF exercise held last month by the Combat Engineering Corps and attended by family members. Upon completing the strenuous exercise, the participants are awarded their sought-after gray berets. y

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world and these activists are crazy – or are they? They are not crazy enough to be unaware that, if they come to the only democracy in the Mideast, they will not be harmed.

They may have to spend a night or more in detention before being sent back to their respective countries, but they will be fed and physically safe and sound. There are, of course, no such “flytillas” to any other country in the greater Middle East. The activists are not crazy enough to be confused about why that is. These do-gooders have their heads in the sand. Maybe they really do believe in their mission — who are we to say? — but in all probability it is a mission (or attempted mission) of misguided hate. It has no rationality or balance. It ignores and discounts history and decency. It displays a twisted logic with no attempt to understand the Israeli point of view. y

— ELDON KELLY LIFE (PD)

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