JNF responds: Mike Huckabee not speaking; Negev Dinner to focus on autism research in Israel

By Lynda Taller-Wakter
Jewish National Fund of Ottawa

This year marks the 58th year since the first Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Ottawa Negev Dinner. Throughout its history, the Dinner has celebrated a who’s who of founding community matriarchs and patriarchs, recognized philanthropists of many different backgrounds and attracted a cross-section of donors to celebrate community members who cherish Jewish continuity and vitality. The values and beliefs of JNF and its professional staff are simple: 100 per cent support of Israel. Our intentions are to help. We are motivated by solid Jewish values and believe in the existence of a strong and vibrant democratic Jewish state open to all.

Through the diligence, devotion and hard work of volunteers, dinner chairs, corporate sponsors and donors, JNF Ottawa has employed thousands of Israelis in a plethora of initiatives, including water harvesting methodologies in Israel; treatment plants for brackish water to augment Israel’s water supply for agriculture; agriculture research and development to help farmers efficiently grow sweet peppers and flowers; nanotechnology; medical research; therapeutic gardens for autistic youth villages, parks and picnic areas; forest restoration; and playgrounds for disabled children open to all Israelis.

We are grateful for the unprecedented response to this year’s Dinner. So many community stalwarts are coming forward to help us raise funds for autism research in Israel. These leaders understand the big picture of what JNF is all about. In February, JNF’s partner for this project, ALUT – the Israeli Society for Autistic Children – was chosen by the United Nations to be its exclusive adviser on autism.

JNF’s slogan is “100% Israel” and Israel, as we know, boasts one of the largest Pride festivals in the world. To suggest that JNF does not embrace all communities is to admit ignorance of our organization and the work we do in Israel, at the United Nations and with those countries who accept our help.

According to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “polls indicate that support for Israel is highly related to adherence to evangelical beliefs and frequency of church attendance. By one estimate, 20-25 million Americans define themselves as evangelical Christians, representing a tremendous pool of potential pro-Israel advocates.” Michael Lipka of the Pew Research Center wrote, in February 2014, that the 2013 Pew Report found that “similar shares of Christians (29 per cent) and Jews (31 per cent) say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel. Among white evangelical Protestants, nearly half (46 per cent) say that the U.S. is not providing enough support for Israel.”

Lipka further wrote that “when asked whether God gave Israel to the Jewish people, more Christians (55 per cent) than Jews (40 per cent) say yes (although virtually all of the discrepancy is explained by Jews’ lower levels of belief in God overall). And the share of white evangelicals saying that God gave Israel to the Jews (82 per cent) is on par with the percentage of Orthodox Jews who believe this (84 per cent).”

While Mike Huckabee represents the important support for Israel by evangelical Christians, he will not be speaking at this year’s JNF Ottawa Negev Dinner.

The 2015 Negev Dinner in Ottawa will be a unique opportunity to both showcase the diversity of Canadian values and to strengthen our support for Israel. JNF Ottawa looks forward to celebrating with the Baker family and Dinner Chairs Sunny and John Tavel on October 15 and focusing on the importance of autism research in Israel.

See also:

Values, Ethics, Community by Mira Sucharov: Scratching my head over the choice of Mike Huckabee as Negev Dinner speaker

From the Editor by Michael Regenstreif: Mike Huckabee incident raises interesting questions on how speakers are chosen

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