First Read For Feb. 3


Boy, that was fast — Donald Trump’s love affair with Israel, that is.

During his successful campaign for the presidency, Trump repeatedly said he was in favor of Israel continuing to build settlements on the West Bank – contrary to the Obama administration, which considered the settlements harmful to the Middle East peace process.

It appears that Trump has done an about-face.

JTA reports that a White House statement yesterday said that settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace. The Trump administration’s first pronouncement on an issue that has for confounded U.S.-Israel relations for decades came a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced major settlement building initiatives in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” the statement said.

Most of the announcements Netanyahu’s government authorized are in existing settlements, but there are patches that would expand settlements, and cabinet ministers to Netanyahu’s right want to seize on the new friendliness of the Trump administration to expand settlements further and to annex territory.

The Trump White House statement does not call for a stop on building in existing settlements, an activity that troubled Obama, and it does not call settlements an impediment to peace. That suggests a return to the approach of President George W. Bush who for a period said he could tolerate “natural growth” within existing settlement boundaries.


On the field, the small (by NFL standards) but tough wide receiver Julian Edelman is known as one of the favorite targets of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Off the field, he’s one of the few self-identified Jewish players in the National Football League.

“The best active Jewish player in the NFL,” according to JTA, on the eve of Sunday’s Super Bowl showdown between the Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

JTA highlights Edelman’s “5 most Jewish moments.”


In the spirit of young Muslims who formed a “ring of peace” around Oslo’s main synagogue in 2015 after anti-Semitic attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, a rabbi at Toronto’s most prominent synagogue has called upon the city’s Jewish community to take a similar action at Toronto mosques following the recent attack at a mosque in Quebec City.

Rabbi Yael Splansky of Holy Blossom Temple, has urged Jews, Christians and Moslems to form rings of peace around several Toronto mosques during prayer services on Friday, the Canadian Jewish News reports.


The future of Ukraine’s Jewish community “doesn’t look very bright” and is in danger of disappearing altogether, according to the Jerusalem Post.

One of its leaders, who ended a four-day visit to Israel on Thursday. Eduard Dolinsky, executive director of the Kiev-based Ukrainian Jewish Committee, on a trip to Israel hosted by the Israeli-Jewish Congress, declared that “The Ukrainian Jewish community is in crisis,” citing the ongoing war in Donbass and the country’s dire economic situation.


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, spiritual leader of The National Synagogue in Washington, has come up with a unique way to combat the rising anti-Muslim feelings in the United States caused by the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies — invite a Muslim to a Shabbat dinner.

“A Shabbat dinner is a powerful opportunity to connect while breaking bread together,” he writes in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. “We must simply demonstrate that we are embracing and giving respect to our Muslim neighbors. In this specific case, our goal would be to tell this Muslim child that there are people in this country who are not Muslims but who care very deeply about him and his well-being.

‘The Midrash (Bereishit 11:4) tells of the time that the Roman ruler, Antoninus went to visit the great sage of the Mishnah, Rebbe for a Shabbat meal,” Rabbi Herzfeld writes. “He was so impressed with the lukewarm Shabbat food that was served that he returned during the week for another meal. But this time the food was served piping hot and it wasn’t good. He asked Rebbe what was missing. Rebbe said, “We are missing one spice. The spice of Shabbat!”

“We should all follow Rebbe’s lead and share the spice of Shabbat.”