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June 15, 2007

WJC Election Was Free Of Backroom Intrigue

I am not an uncritical supporter of billionaires, as a June 8 editorial on the World Jewish Congress implies (“Our Ownership Society”). But Ronald Lauder’s generous sponsorship of Jewish education in Eastern Europe and his immense contributions to Israel make him more than just another billionaire.

Contrary to allegations of backroom intrigues, I was completely up front in supporting Lauder from January 2007 — the day he informed journalists at the Herzliya Conference of his intention to run for WJC president, and months before Edgar Bronfman’s announced resignation.

My reasons were utterly transparent. I believed Lauder was the sole available candidate capable of saving the WJC in the wake of the scandals of the past three years. His opponent, Mendel Kaplan, had headed the pack in the vindictive assaults on all who sought to reform the WJC. Had he been elected, the WJC would have imploded.

I regret that Forward readers were not informed that the extracts from my personal emails which were quoted in the article were illegally extracted from my computer.

Ironically, we have come full circle. The same elements who hacked into my computer three years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to divert attention from the financial irregularities have resorted to the same sordid tactics to discredit and undermine the very persons whose stated goals are to clean up the organization. Now, as then, they fortunately did not succeed.

To suggest that my attempts to reform the WJC were motivated by a right-wing agenda is disingenuous, especially since it is common knowledge that my closest allies throughout my struggle to introduce governance and transparency were on the left of the political spectrum. A breakdown of supporters and opponents of each of the candidates clearly demonstrate that political inclinations were irrelevant.

Besides, who could seriously entertain that I would go through the personal pain and struggle of the last three years, the intimidation and vindictive assaults on my character — not to mention being sued for $6 million — for politics?

Isi Leibler
Jerusalem, Israel

Acknowledge Sacrifices Made by American Olim

As a resident of Neve Daniel, I was tremendously offended at the way in which my neighbors were portrayed in a June 8 article (“Suburbia Sells Settlers on the West Bank”). Money hungry, mansion loving, materialistic — nothing could be further from the truth.

As a new citizen of Israel myself, I was shocked by the way in which the Forward chose to portray the choices and sacrifices that olim make in order to return to the Jewish homeland. The dream my neighbors and I share differs in no way from the dream of Abraham, Moses and all of the Jewish people who have yearned to live in the land God has chosen for the Jewish people. Please contrast the dream my community shares in with the dream that drives Jews to settle greater New York and Florida.

As a politically aware Israeli citizen, I was disappointed by the language used by the author to label residents and communities: settlers, West Bank, surrounded by Arab villages.

Are we not Jews? Is this not Israel? Are Beitar, Alon Shvut, Efrat and Elazar Arab villages?

As a Jew, I was disgusted by this attempt to portray aliya in a negative light. What was the point of this article? To help American Jewry continually justify its arguments against making the choice so obvious to us here?

There is a beautiful, economically stable, flourishing Jewish country here given to us by God, waiting to absorb every Jew from every corner of the earth. And if it is a large home you are looking for, then yes, we have that too.

Bridgitte Raven
Neve Daniel, West Bank

This past July my husband and I made aliya from Teaneck, N.J. We do not live an “American” lifestyle. We are proud to confess that we are idealists and that we truly believe in our beautiful, blessed Israel — with all her greatness and not so greatness.

Whichever way one chooses to make aliya is the right way, if it is Israel you have come for and have come to. Wanting and needing to be here must always be your focus. You can replicate an American lifestyle here in the Holy Land, that’s for sure, but just know that many of us Americans choose to create a simpler, organic and culturally meaningful life here in our homeland.

Whether it is a mansion in Neve Daniel or an apartment in Yerucham, just do it any way that suits you. Israel needs you.

Joanne Simanowitz
Elazar, West Bank


The Forward seems to suggest that we in Neve Daniel are a bunch of rich snobs looking for a great real estate deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We left Boca Raton, Fla., and its green, manicured, country club-like atmosphere for something real. We left what was physical and material for something genuine and spiritual. We left what had merely been our home to create a new life in our homeland.

Once we chose to make the big move to Israel, choosing where to live was huge. We made several pre-aliya trips, and did a lot of research. In the end we chose Gush Etzion for one main reason that was neither materialistic nor political in nature: We chose the Gush for its excellent education.

Having brought four kids with us, from 7th grade down to kindergarten, we wanted to make sure to meet their needs. So we chose Gush Etzion. As for Neve Daniel, we chose it for the weather, the amazing people and the truly unbelievable 360 degree views.

Laura Ben-David
Neve Daniel, West Bank


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