Friday, January 14, 2011

Jewish Canada Update on Ahava and The Bay


Further to the Community Alert B’nai Brith Canada issued earlier this week, and the contradictory explanations that have been given by representatives of the Bay on the Ahava issue, B’nai Brith has followed up with another letter which includes the following offer to the company:
The Bay, which is among the retail outlets being targeted by a coordinated anti-Israel campaign, appears to have underestimated the sensitivity of the situation and the need for the corporation to express one clearly enunciated position, with one consistent message, to its customers and to the public. After receiving concerned calls from individuals who witnessed products being removed while protests were taking place, we took the precaution of checking with The Bay for an explanation. A person who identified herself as a spokesperson insisted that it was a “business decision” made by The Bay. The explanation you have since circulated, which insists it was a decision by the manufacturer/distributer, contradicts the explanation you are now offering the public.
Regardless of the explanation behind The Bay’s actions, The Bay has failed to deal with the concerns of its customers in so far as it has not issued a clear statement as any effective public relations strategy would dictate. By offering contradictory explanations, the company has to take responsibility for the confusion that has ensued. Regardless of explanations offered, the fact that the removal of the Israeli-made products coincides with the bigoted anti-Israel campaign has left boycott propagandists with the public perception of a victory. For example, Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, the instigators of the boycott, and the Palestine Solidarity Network are now publicly thanking The Bay for dropping Ahava products and removing the products from its shelves. The Bay is already being held up by anti-Israel agitators as an example of what a boycott campaign can achieve.
As a way of helping you to clarify and rectify the situation, we are prepared to offer you advertising space free of charge in the largest Anglo-Jewish publication in Canada, the Jewish Tribune, so that you can promote the Israeli-made products you carry. This will indicate that The Bay firmly resists attempts to accede to the demands of boycott campaigners.
from B'nai B'rith Canada
The Bay and AHAVA: A Marketing Decision

The following is a joint press release sent out by Canada Israel Committee and HBC:

Toronto, January 13, 2011

Last week, after a regularly-scheduled review of the products it offers, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) discontinued sales of AHAVA beauty products, primarily because of sales results which had been declining for several years.

Although this decision was made by HBC solely for commercial reasons, it occurred at the same time as an aggressive campaign by several groups advocating a boycott of AHAVA products. At no point did political considerations enter into the exercise of HBC’s business judgment. HBC has made it clear that it has not “bowed to political pressure” in the past, has not done so now and will not do so in the future. HBC neither subscribes to nor endorses politically-motivated boycotts of merchandise from countries with whom Canada has open and established trading relationships, including Israel.

AHAVA products will soon be reformulated and redesigned as a totally changed brand. The new AHAVA products will be ready by mid-spring and is planned to be re-launched at HBC stores across Canada. We encourage consumers across Canada to purchase those products as soon as they are available.

Bonnie Brooks
Chief Adventurer and CEO, The Bay
Moshe Ronen
National Chair, Canada-Israel Committee

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Celebrating Trees, After the Fire

As Israel counts the cost of the devastating Carmel forest fire, work is already underway to help regenerate the forest, and teach the locals to take care of this unique reserve.

Always a time for planting in Israel, the ancient Jewish New Year for the Trees or Tu B'Shvat - this year, corresponding to the 20th of January - will serve as a symbolic start to bringing the devastated Carmel forest back to life after the early December fire that led to 44 deaths and destroyed about five million trees along with many plants and creatures.

It will take massive manpower and money to restore the nature reserve, fix damaged buildings and infrastructure, and care for residents traumatized or left homeless by the blaze. Many government ministries are working together with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to rehabilitate the forest and prevent future disasters.

The Carmel Forest blankets the coastal Carmel mountain range, the only Israeli biosphere reserve designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze towns and cities are nestled in and around its 80 square miles, including the port city of Haifa on its northern slope.

Because it is mentioned often in biblical literature - most often in relation to the prophet Elijah, who many believe lived for some years in caves found on the slopes - this mountain range has great religious significance and is home to the Carmelite Catholic order and the world headquarters of the Baha'i faith.

The biodiverse Carmel has always been a favorite spot for nature-lovers thanks to its wide variety of aromatic plants, wild flowers and forest wildlife such as songbirds, raptors, reptiles and wildcats. In addition to oak, cypress and pistachio trees, the Carmel has the only woodland forest of Aleppo pine trees on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

"We don’t know how many adult pines are left now," says Prof. Ido Izhaki, director of the Center for the Study of the Carmel, established less than two years ago by the University of Haifa in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority to supervise educational and preservation projects. "Many of them are gone. We hope we have enough to keep this species alive." -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel MFA Online

For full story, click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And farewell to... Notable Jewish deaths of 2010

From Adam Max Cohen, a literature professor, via Tony Curtis, David Kimche and J.D. Salinger, to Zelda Rubinstein, a diminutive actress.
When The New York Times Sunday Magazine published its annual list of notable 2010 deaths, there were three Jewish names: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, innovative mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot and caricaturist David Levine, who actually died on Dec. 29, 2009.

We've come up with many more notable figures, divided here by category.


Theodore "Ted" Sorensen, 82, was President John F. Kennedy's speechwriter, a longtime adviser and a ghostwriter of Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage."

Daniel "Danny the Red" Bensaid, 63, a French philosopher and former student radical who was a leader in the student revolt in Paris in 1968, was described as France's leading "Marxist public intellectual" upon his death.

Ruth Proskauer Smith, 102, was an abortion rights pioneer.

Harry Schwarz, 85, was a South African anti-apartheid activist who was his country's ambassador to the United States during the transition from apartheid to the Mandela government. He also was a leader of South Africa's Jewish Board of Deputies, and he worked with Israeli leaders to ensure the safety and future of South African Jewry. Schwarz told his own story as part of a museum exhibit of German refugees in South Africa.

David Kimche, 82, was a founding father of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and a spy who worked undercover in Africa and with the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon before Israel's 1982 war there.

Dov Shilansky, 86, was a former Speaker of the Knesset.


Tony Curtis, 85, actor and artist, was born in the Bronx as Bernard Schwartz. A major sex symbol on the big screen from the 1950s on, Curtis helped finance the rebuilding of the Great Synagogue in Budapest in honor of his Hungarian roots.

Tom Bosley, 83, was probably best known as Richie Cunningham's dad, Howard, on the sitcom "Happy Days." The Jewish Exponent published a piece on Bosley in 2006 when he appeared in a stage production of "On Golden Pond" in Philadelphia.

Zelda Rubinstein, 76, a diminutive (4-foot-3) actress who won a science fiction film award for her role in "Poltergeist" in 1982, was an activist for "little people."

Harold Gould, 86, was best known for his role as the father of Rhoda Morgenstern in the TV sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda." Gould, who held a doctorate in theater, taught for four years at the University of California, Riverside, before turning to acting. He appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies, including "The Sting." Gould was originally cast as Howard Cunningham in "Happy Days."

Maury Chaykin, 61, known for portraying detective Nero Wolfe on TV, had film roles in "Dances With Wolves," "WarGames" and "My Cousin Vinny."

Steve Landesberg, 74, an actor, comedian and voice actor, was best known for his work on TV's "Barney Miller."

Bud Greenspan, 84, who was best known for his production of documentaries about the Olympics, was called a "trailblazing filmmaker" by The Los Angeles Times.

Irvin Kershner, 87, a film director, was most noted for "The Empire Strikes Back," the 1980 sequel to the original "Star Wars" film.

Ingrid Pitt, 73, a Holocaust survivor, was an actress in horror films in the 1960s and 1970s.

Miep Gies, 100, was a non-Jewish Dutch woman who enabled Anne Frank and her family to hide, and who later discovered and preserved Frank's diary. She was honored by many organizations in later years, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial organization in Israel. -- Alan D. Abbey, JTA