From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn't look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.
This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.
— by Jane Eisner
In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran's nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.
But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.
Last March, the school board of the Perelman Jewish Day School held a meeting at which they decided to dissolve the teachers' union. This was done with no negotiation, no discussion and no participation of the people whose lives this would most directly affect: the teachers.
The board decided unilaterally to have each teacher negotiate his or her own contract, with tenure and seniority being eliminated and a general clause in the new handbook stating that any teacher could be terminated at will, with no due cause.
Perhaps one of the troubling aspects of this non-negotiation termination of the union is in what has happened to the once-warm and caring relationship that the teachers shared with parents and board members. People who once had close friendships are now avoiding each other and do not even make eye contact.
Virginia 7th District
28,898 44.45% Rep. Eric I. Cantor
36,110 55.55% Prof. David A. Brat
Cantor calls Anti-Semitism the "darker side" of the Republican caucus, April 2012.
Cantor calls Jewish tendency to vote Republican the bane of his existence and reveals the Republican version of tikkun olam (CBS 60 Minutes, January 2001).
When Eric Cantor (VA) was elected to Congress in 2000, he and Benjamin Gilman (NY) were the only two Jewish Congressmen caucusing as Republicans in the House of Representatives. Gilman retired in 2003 after his district was dispersed, leaving Cantor as the only Jewish Republican in the House.
At the time, two Jewish Republicans served in the Senate: Norm Coleman (MN) and Arlen Specter (PA). However, Coleman was unseated in a close election by Jewish comedian Al Franken (MN) in 2008, and Specter switched parties in 2009 and then was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary by Admiral Joe Sestak.
Cantor has risen to great prominence. He was elected House Majority Leader in 2011, and was widely seen as the likely successor to John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
Accordingly, as the House's second-ranked Republican, Cantor would have had no problem winning the general election yet again this year. His only danger was being defeated in the Republican primary. Even that seemed extremely unlikely: Cantor is ranked in the most conservative fifth of Congress by the DW-Nominate Scores based on his voting record, so he seemed like a good fit for his district.
Cantor spent $5,700,000 in the primary against his opponent David Brat, a Tea Party activist and obscure economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, with a mere $231,000 at his campaign's disposal. In the final public polls before the election, Cantor led by 13%. In fact, Cantor's internal polling projected he would win in a 34% landslide. Accordingly, he spent election day raising money for other Republicans rather than campaigning for himself.
Nevertheless, with the light turnout for the primary, Cantor was perhaps not sufficiently extreme: He was upset by Brat, 55.55% to 45.45%.
The good news is that according to the latest IPCC report, if we enact aggressive emissions limits now, we could hold the warming to 2°C. That's only half an ice age unit, which is probably no big deal.
What if Americans spent two minutes in silence, to honor their nation's veterans?
The World, produced by Andrea Crossan (PRI).
On Yom Hazikaron a 2-minute siren is played on the air-raid system. The custom that has developed is that during those two minutes everyone stops what they are doing and stands still.
Michael and Daniel Bendetson saw how Israelis honor their veterans on Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and wondered why we couldn't do the same.
The Bendetsons were standing with their father, Peter, on a Tel Aviv sidewalk in 2010 when the sirens sounded before 120 seconds of reflection.
"At 11 a.m., a siren sounded throughout the entire country," explained Daniel Bendetson, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Michigan. "Hundreds of people at a busy intersection got out of their cars and stood at attention for two minutes to pay respects to those who really make the ultimate sacrifice."
So the Bendetsons set out to have Veterans' Day in the US include two minutes of silence.
The proposal passed the US House of Representatives last week as part of the annual defense bill. Under the House bill, the moment would be observed at 2:11 p.m. on Veterans Day on the East Coast and simultaneously across the country: 1:11 p.m. in Chicago, 11:11 a.m. in Los Angeles, and 9:11 a.m. in Honolulu.
The Federal Communication Commission is allowing public input on their new internet regulations which would allow internet providers like Verizon and Comcast to dictate what kind of content would be easily accessible over the internet.
Without the requirement to treat all data equally, big internet providers would be allowed to block or slow down access to any website whose ideas they do not like, or simply whose owners do not pay extra to be part of the "fast lane."
Websites like the Philadelphia Jewish Voice could be silenced if they express views not in line with the company's management. Please join the over 50,000 Americans who have heeded John Oliver's call and shared their thoughts on the matter with the FCC via email or the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System.
Do you value your continued access to alternative sources of information? Learn what you can do after the jump.
As the proud father of four children who have all graduated from or currently attend the Perelman Jewish Day School, I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your unilateral decision to no longer recognize the union which has represented your teachers since 1976.
You assert that the relevant labor laws would otherwise impair your freedom of religion. I am not a lawyer, so I will not argue the legal basis for such a claim. However, I have serious reservations about the halachic, moral and social basis for your action.
This claim that union-busting is part and parcel of our exercise of religion sadly plays into the hands of those anti-Semites to whom the word "Jew" is a verb with a negative connotation.
In fact, exactly the opposite is true; our religion deplores strong arm tactics in employer-employee relations. The Perelman Jewish Day School is affiliated with the Conservative Movement whose Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) on Jewish labor law: Conservative day schools and other institutions must pay a living wage to their workers and "may not interfere in any way with organizing drives."
Waiting for Climate Change an exhibit by Isaac Cordal, Berlin, Germany. 2011.
"Politicians debating our planet's global crisis with the waters lapping at their lapels, filling their mouths and covering them completely."
— Dr. John Holdren
Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Today, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment, the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information to date about climate-change impacts across all U.S. regions and on critical sectors of the economy.
The report, a key deliverable of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, confirms that climate change is not a distant threat — it's affecting us now.
Based on four years of work by hundreds of experts from government, academia, corporations, and public-interest organizations, the Assessment confirms abundant data and examples that climate change isn't some distant threat — it's affecting us now.
Not only are the planet and the nation warming on average, but a number of types of extreme weather events linked to climate change have become more frequent or intense in many regions, including heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours, floods, and some kinds of destructive storms.
The good news is that there are sensible steps that we can take to protect this country and the planet.
Those steps include, importantly, the three sets of actions making up the Climate Action Plan that President Obama announced last June: cutting carbon pollution in America; increasing preparedness for and resilience to the changes in climate that already are ongoing; and leading the international response to the climate change challenge.
Proclamation on Jewish American Heritage Month 2014 — President of the United States of America Barack Obama
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, persevering in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought multitudes to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish Americans. This month, let us honor their tremendous contributions-as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. And let all of us find inspiration in a story that speaks to the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and all of its salvation.
The Jewish month of Iyar is a time of pride for American Jews. We take special satisfaction in the remarkable endeavor that is the State of Israel, this year celebrating its sixty-sixth Independence Day. And we are grateful to be acknowledged by Jewish American Heritage Month, lifting up the role that our community has played in the history and success of the United States.
The United States and Israel are the only two countries that have been democracies without interruption from their inception. It's not an easy record to maintain given the challenges from without and within that have plagued every nation in the world, particularly in the last half-century. As Jews, we have thrived in genuine democracies. But there are two different kinds of democracies in which we thrive.
Previous Franklin Laureates included: • 1889, 1899, 1915: Thomas Alva Edison. For the telephone, electricity, phonograph and more inventions.
• 1894: Nikola Tesla. For high-frequency alternating electrical current.
• 1909: Marie and Pierre Curie. For the discovery of radium.
• 1912: Alexander Graham Bell: For the electrical transmission of articulate speech.
• 1914, 1933: Orville Wright. For the arts and science of aviation.
• 1918: Guglielmo Marconi. For the application of radio waves to communication.
• 1935: Albert Einstein. For work on relativity and the photo-electric effect.
• 1939: Edwin Hubble. For studies of extra-galactic nebulae.
• 1953: Frank Lloyd Wright. For contributions to architecture including Philadelphia's Beth Shalom Congregation.
• 1970: Jacques Cousteau. For placing man in the sea as a free agent.
• 1981: Stephen Hawking. For contributions to the theory of general relativity and black holes.
• 1999: Noam Chomsky. For contributions to linguistics and computer science, and insight into human thought processes.
• 2003: Jane Goodall. For pioneering studies with chimpanzees.
• 2008: Judea Pearl (father of Daniel Pearl) for work in computers and cognitive science.
UCLA professor Judea Pearl created the first general algorithms for computing and reasoning with uncertain evidence, allowing computers to uncover associations and causal connections hidden within millions of observations.
Philadelphia's Franklin Institute has been presenting the Benjamin Franklin Medal to leaders in science and engineering since 1824. It is the longest running science award in the United States; its history eclipses the Nobel Prize which was first awarded in 1901. This year's distinguished laureates join the ranks of some of the most celebrated scientists and engineers in history who have come to Philadelphia to receive the Franklin Institute Award. (See sidebar on the right.)
As master of ceremonies for the fifth consecutive year, Bob Schieffer pointed out past laureates who were in attendance before the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute. Schieffer is the moderator of CBS's Face the Nation and has interviewed every US President since Richard Nixon. He enjoyed the chance to return to Philadelphia:
I interview people in Washington. Not much happens there anymore. [But] these [scientists] are people who get things done.... As Franklin said: "An investment is knowledge pays the best dividends."
Daniel Kleppner is one of the great Jewish minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He designed the precision hydrogen maser clocks which made today's global positioning system (GPS) possible. He invented these clocks for an entirely different reason — to prove that time is slowed down by gravity as predicted by Franklin Award laureate Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.
Kleppner also devised techniques to create and manipulate Rydberg atoms. In recent years, Kleppner was indispensable in the creation of the long-sought Bose-Einstein condensate predicted by Einstein nearly a century ago. This is a rare and curious state of matter that is possible only at extremely low temperatures and may be instrumental to work in quantum computing.
Mechanical Engineering Award
Ali Hasan Nayfeh (VPI — Univ. Jordan) had a surprising journey to academic acclaim. He was born to illiterate parents in the Arab village of Tulkarm (טולכרם) during the British mandate of Palestine. (10 miles East of Netanya between Tel Aviv and Haifa). He quipped that if his father had listened to the local wise men he "would have been a camel driver" instead of a leading mechanical engineer. However, his mother encouraged him to study in the United States saying "Go ahead, but do not come back without earning the highest degrees." He started at San Mateo Community College but followed his mother's advice, earning his BS, MS and Ph.D. from Stanford University in four and a half years. He returned to the Middle East and founded the engineering school at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan.
In a broad sense, Nayfeh's specialty is about finding some kind of order and predictability in seeming chaos, whether in the form of vibrations and sounds occurring in jet and rocket engines, the movement of water around ships, or the oscillations of huge structures such as cranes and skyscrapers. Unless well modeled, dangerous consequences may result: A bridge may collapse; a ship may break apart; a building may fall; a plane may crash. Nayfeh's developed new analytic methods using multiple time scales in perturbation analysis for the solution of the nonlinear differential equations at the heart of these phenomena.
The Maccabeats sing the story of Passover in a perfectly adapted medley based on Les Miserables.
"Look down, look down. You'll always be a slave..." Wait for the grand finale as they continue with "Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums, It is future that they bring when tomorrow comes." The Maccabeats are unbeatabe on their new album - One Day More. Just sit back and enjoy!
The House Judiciary Committee tabled Republican Rep. Krieger's bill (HB 921) to eliminate Pennsylvania's background check system for gun purchasing and leave a less comprehensive system behind. Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA credited the deluge of calls, letters and visits they organized with thwarting this bill.
However, Rep. M. K. Keller's bill (HB 2011) giving special legal standing to gun owners and organizations of gun owners to sue towns and cities was passed out of the committee. Nevertheless, Ms. Goodman vowed that CeaseFirePA would continue its work to defeat HB 2011 as it moves to the floor of Pennsylvania's General Assembly:
And you know what our callers heard repeatedly yesterday — for the first time, the contacts from folks on our side of the issue — the side of gun violence prevention and safety — were far outnumbering the calls from the other side. That passion gap we always hear about — destroyed!
An average of 100,000 people are shot each year in the United States. Now is not the time to rally for weaker background check laws. Now is the time to fight for stronger gun laws that help prevent violence and promote responsible firearm ownership.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America combined forces to create the video "Scenes from Everytown: 4:08 pm" as part of their "Everytown for Gun Safety" series highlighting key gun violence issues.
Leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine, calls for all Jewish people over age 16 to register as Jews. (Photo: The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism)
Translation from NCSJ: Dear citizens of Jewish nationality! Due to the fact that leaders of the Jewish Community of Ukraine support the Bandera junta in Kiev and are hostile to the Orthodox Donetsk Republic and its citizens, the main headquarters of the Donetsk Republic declares the following:
Every citizen of Jewish nationality older than 16 years, residing in the territory of a sovereign Donetsk Republic has to go to Donetsk Regional Administrator to see the Nationalities Commissioner, Office 514, for registration. The registration fee is $50.
Persons should have with them with cash in the amount of $50 for registration, a passport to mark their religion, and documents of family members, as well as ownership documents for their properties and vehicles.
In case of failure to register, the perpetrators will lose their citizenship and will be deported outside the republic, with their property confiscated.
— by Elka Looks, Jewish Community Relations Council
The Jewish Community Relations Council was appalled to learn that flyers were distributed in the Ukrainian City of Donetsk calling on Jews to "register" their household with the local Nationalities Commission Office.
The flyers required Jews to bring a $50 fee to cover the placement of a "religious nationality" mark in passports, and to register their property and possessions with local authorities. Jews who failed to comply would face deportation. The flyers were signed in the name of Denis Pushilin, the leader of Donetsk's pro-Russian separatists, who led the takeover of several government buildings and claimed the city as the Donetsk Republic.
According to the National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia (NCSJ), which has been in direct contact with Donetsk Jewish community leaders, authorities have rejected any association with the flyers, and Pushlin has denied authorship. The origin of the flyers, which were distributed by three individuals wearing ski masks and the flag of the Russian Federation near the Donetsk synagogue, remains unknown.
According to the NCSJ's statement on this deplorable matter, they are "continuing to work with local Jewish leaders and national officials to do everything possible to find those responsible for this outrageous and reprehensible act, and to hold them accountable."
JCRC commends Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, both of whom swiftly and unequivocally condemned the flyers. We were also pleased to see the local, national and even international media coverage this heinous act received; we and the world cannot stand idly by.
Kerry from 0:55:00 to 1:00:00 is not portraying Israel as the villain; in fact, he goes out of his way to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu.
— Steve Sheffey
Secretary of State John Kerry, a strong supporter of Israel, testified last week that both parties — Israel and the Palestinians — have recently taken unhelpful steps, but he continues to work to bring the two sides together, as he should.
Don't want to deal with the implications of climate change? Deny it! Don't like the Obamacare sign up numbers? Make up your own! Don't want Israel to give up the West Bank? Wish away the demographic facts! Don't like how your candidate is doing in the polls? Invent your own numbers! (No link — just ask President Romney how to do it.)
Experiencing cognitive dissonance because contrary to everything you were told or secretly wished to believe, President Obama has turned out to be a strong friend of Israel? Then invent a conflict!
During President Obama's first term, we were treated to rumors about a snub of Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House that turned out to be completely false and headlines about forcing Israel to return to the 1967 borders that turned out to be utter nonsense. Last week, the Republican Jewish Coalition and others claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel for the latest impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.
Editor's Note: This "Republican Haggadah" first appeared in the Huffington Post in 2012. However, except for the references to the 2012 Presidential election the humor is timeless. Enjoy!
— by Steve Sheffey
Jewish history is littered with sects, groups of people kind of like Jews who celebrate the same holidays and have many of the same customs, yet are somehow different.
Today's sect is known as "Jewish Republicans," few in number but very loud. Like most Jews, they celebrate Pesach, but they've got their own Haggadah. The differences between their Haggadah and ours are instructive.
After drinking the first cup of wine, most Jews wash their hands, but the Republicans stay seated and wait for the water to trickle down.
Most Jews then eat a green vegetable, but the Republican Haggadah follows the ruling of Rabbi Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be. (Reagan does have this in common with Moses: Neither ever set foot in the land of Israel.)
The Supreme Court's partisan 5 to 4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission opens the door for the richest Americans to buy support as many Congressmen and Senators as they see fit. Miles Lofgren writes:
The Roberts court, or five of its nine members, adopted the misanthrope's faux-naïve pose in ruling that private money in politics, far from promoting corruption, causes democracy to thrive because, money being speech, the more speech, the freer the politics. Anatole France mocked this kind of legal casuistry by saying "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
— by Lynne Fox, Chairperson, Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee
The Perelman Jewish Day School board has unilaterally withdrawn its recognition of the union which has represented their teachers without interruption since 1976 and refuses to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee stands firmly with the teachers, their union and the parents and community leaders who have reached out to us as the board violates the rights of the school's teachers to bargain collectively.
Although the school claims a religious exception to the relevant labor laws, it is the teachers' concerns which are in alignment with tenets of Conservative Judaism. By dismantling the union and denying employees the power of collective bargaining, the Perelman Jewish Day School is acting in opposition both to major halakhic authorities and to the official position of the Conservative Movement. In 2008, the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) which obliges institutions affiliated with the movement to comply with a series of Jewish labor laws. Among these, employers must pay a living wage and "may not interfere in any way with organizing drives."
Janet Yellen (center) watching a welding student yesterday as she toured City Colleges of Chicago, College to Careers Program in Advanced Manufacturing. (John Gress/Reuters)
And she is Jewish too!
— by Elanna Cahn
Janet L. Yellen took office as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 3, 2014, for a four-year term ending February 3, 2018. Dr. Yellen also serves as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the System's principal monetary policy-making body. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Dr. Yellen served as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors, taking office in October 2010, when she simultaneously began a 14-year term as a member of the Board that will expire January 31, 2024.
Dr. Yellen is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley where she was the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics and has been a faculty member since 1980.
Yesterday, March 31, was the last day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare"). Those who have begun the signup process have two weeks to complete the process. Everyone else must now wait until November 15 to sign up unless they are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, or experience a "qualifying life event."
Typical qualifying life events include: moving out of state, certain changes in income, getting married or divorced, or having a baby.
Also, those who were unable to apply due to factors beyond their control (e.g. "Natural disasters. Domestic abuse. Website malfunctions. Errors by insurance companies. Mistakes by application counselors." etc.) can call 1-800-318-2596 and explain their situation in order to get a 60-day extension.
Many people procrastinated and had to rush in order to avoid a financial penalty and be covered before January 2015.
In states across the nation — red and blue — people lined up to apply for health insurance in person, call centers were swamped, and the healthcare.gov website buckled under the unprecedented load. The photos shown here give a flavor of what this looked like.
Former Army Ranger Kevin Strouse was named last May as the The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) "jumpstart candidate" to take on Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in PA-8.
However, this month his name was absent from the DCCC biennial Red to Blue program highlighting the congressional districts they hope to pick up and naming the candidates they have recruited.
PA-8 Candidates: Democratic challengers Shaughnessy Naughton and Kevin Strouse and Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick.
Strouse's campaign was dismissive of the importance of being dropped from the DCCC list. They told Philadelphia Jewish Voice that while the DCCC is not openly raising money for their campaign, they still "got a lot of support" in other ways. They suggested that staying on the list was an intricate process, and the campaign had concentrated instead on obtaining the signatures required to get on the ballot.
We have heard that the campaign needed to scramble to get sufficient signatures on time, since for most of the nomination period the Strouse campaign had circulated invalid petitions listing the address of Strouse's future home in the district, which he is purchasing but in which he does not yet reside.
Last Friday's Dry Bones is a belated attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for wearing a headscarf on a state visit to Islamic countries where women traditionally wear a ḥijāb.
Perhaps we have simply forgotten manners?
There is such a thing as "house rules". When you are invited to someone's home, you are a guest and you are expected to follow local rules and customs.
I don't take off my shoes at home or at my synagogue. But some of my friends remove their shoes when they enter the front door, and I have no problem doing likewise. Similarly, the Tomb of the Patriarchs (The Cave of Machpelah) in Hebron can only be accessed via the Ibrahimi Mosque, so I remove my shoes for the occasion in deference to Muslim tradition.
When gentiles visit my synagogue, they don a yarmulkah in respect for our customs. This is simple politeness.
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew at the 2014 American Israel Public Affair Committee Policy Conference
The reason we are all here is because for more than 40 years, AIPAC has been the indispensable leader in keeping the alliance between the United States and Israel unbreakable. And you have done that through your powerful example of advocacy and activism-you make your voices heard, you take your case to your representatives here in Washington, and you stand up for what you believe in. This is not just your right as Americans. It is your responsibility. It is the essence of our democratic system.
And as everyone here recognizes, the future of the United States is tied to the future of Israel. This is something that every President since Harry Truman has understood.
Secretary of State John Kerry at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference
Today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side.
I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama — and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it's a matter of fact — there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel's security. The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled. And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel's right to be able to do so. That is what we've done.
Security. Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to. And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel: preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Earlier this week, undercover police in northwestern Iowa busted a man for illegally trying to get a handgun on Facebook.
As a convicted felon, the suspect wasn't allowed to own or buy guns. And Iowa law blocked him from buying handguns without getting a background check and a purchase permit. So he turned to his next best option — Facebook — where users can buy and trade guns with zero oversight.
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