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Dan Loeb is a mathematician, publisher and genealogist. He is the publisher and founder of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Flyers Call on Ukrainian Jews to "Register"

by: Publisher

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 20:51:55 PM EDT

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.

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Kerry Said What?

by: Publisher

Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 00:00:02 AM EDT

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.

More after the jump.

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My Republican Haggadah: An oldie but goodie

by: Publisher

Sun Apr 13, 2014 at 23:34:35 PM EDT

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.)

More after the jump.

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Playing Plutocracy: McCutcheon v. FEC

by: Publisher

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 06:43:22 AM EDT

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."

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.
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Perelman Jewish Day School Bars Teachers Union

by: Publisher

Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 14:05:56 PM EDT

— 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."

More after the jump.

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Medicaid Expansion: Red States Choose Politics Over Saving Lives

by: Publisher

Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 17:16:45 PM EDT

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Women's History Month: The First Female Chair of the Fed

by: Publisher

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 20:28:31 PM EDT

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.

More after the jump.

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Flurry of Last Minute Signups Sends Obamacare Over the Top

by: Publisher

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 19:32:28 PM EDT

Health insurance waiting room, Philadelphia, PA.

Health insurance waiting room, Jacksonville, FL.

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 website buckled under the unprecedented load. The photos shown here give a flavor of what this looked like.

More after the jump.

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Why Did DCCC Endorsement Slip Away From Kevin Strouse?

by: Publisher

Sun Mar 23, 2014 at 09:30:17 AM EDT

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.

More after the jump.

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Hillary and the Hijab: Self-Degradation, or Just "House Rules"?

by: Publisher

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 09:21:48 AM EDT

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.

More after the jump.

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Remarks of Treasury Secretary Lew at AIPAC

by: Publisher

Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 17:10:42 PM EST

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.

Full transcript follows the jump.

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Secretary Kerry's Remarks at the AIPAC Policy Conference

by: Publisher

Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 21:20:07 PM EST

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.  

Full transcript follows the jump.

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America the Beautiful - אמריקה היפהפייה

by: Publisher

Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 00:59:23 AM EST

אמריקה היפהפייה

יפֵהפִיָה ללא גבולות
וּזְהב דגן גלִי
הרים סגוּלים
סְפוּגים בְּהוֹד
מישור עמוּס בִּפְרי
אמריקה אַת אֶרץ
שהאל בּרֵךְ בלי סוף
וּבְרית אחים נאמנה
תִשְׂרוֹר מחוף אל חוף

Responses from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert follow the jump.
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Mugbook or Facebook for Gun Traffickers?

by: Publisher

Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 12:56:56 PM EST

— Ellyn Grimm

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.

More after the jump.

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Lose Weight the Kosher Way

by: Publisher

Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 11:57:53 AM EST

Oct. 28, 2012 - 220 lb. Maximum weight.
Apr. 15, 2013 - 208 lb. Start Medifast.
Jul. 15, 2013 - 168 lb. Begin transition.
Aug.  5, 2013 - 164 lb. End transition.
Mar. 14, 2014 - 158 lb. Current weight.

The Medifast diet has been my key to weight-loss success. I lost over 50 pounds and I have kept it off.

As long as I can remember I have had a problem with my weight. I tried a number of diets — including Atkins and Weight Watchers — with some success, but they all required a level of self-deprivation which I could not sustain, and inevitably I would regain any weight I might have lost.

Last Spring, my daughter was pestering me to try the Medifast diet, telling me how well she was doing on it. Needless to say, I was extremely skeptical given my experiences in the past. However, Gabby is quite persistent, so I let her place an order for me figuring I would try it for a few days  and when it failed, I would give any leftover food to her since it was working for her. (She went on to lose 60 pounds or about one-third of her weight!)

Despite my half-hearted commitment to the program, I immediately saw weight loss day after day, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

More after the jump.

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Raise the Minimum Wage: Make Work Pay Once Again

by: Publisher

Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 09:46:04 AM EST

— by Mark Price, Estelle Sommeiller

The top 1 percent of Pennsylvania earners took home more than half the total increase in income over the past 30 years, and saw more than 10 times as much growth in income as the bottom 99 percent, a new report from the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN) found.

The report findings reinforce the need for a new policy direction in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. to restore broadly shared prosperity and widespread opportunity, including a much-needed increase in the minimum wage.

After the jump: Minimum wage's real value.

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Mishloach Manot For Tzahal: Offer Purim Treats To Israeli Troops

by: Publisher

Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 20:51:47 PM EST

Do you want to make an Israeli soldier smile? Do you want to help her or him feel connected to Jews here in Philly? Sponsor a Purim gift basket — Mishloach Manot!

The goodies that go in the Mishloach Manot need to be bought: $10 pays for one solder, $300 covers a unit of soldiers and $1,000 provides for an entire division of soldiers.

Students write letters of appreciation and encouragement to soldiers presently serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and Connections Israel delivers the letters on Purim together with Mishloach Manot. The letters are a way for us to feel personally involved with the soldiers, and the soldiers really appreciate knowing that they have our support and gratitude.
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Naomi Adler Picked To Lead Philadelphia Jewish Federation

by: Publisher

Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 22:33:10 PM EST

Naomi Adler

First Female CEO Takes Reins at Charity Group

— by Anne Cohen

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has reportedly appointed Naomi Adler as its first female CEO.

Adler, 47, has been selected as CEO, the Jewish Exponent reported.

The wife of a Reform rabbi, Adler left a career in law to pursue a calling in nonprofit fundraising and management. She currently serves as president and CEO of United Way in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York, a post she has held since 2008.

Though new to Philadelphia area, home to an estimated 214,000 Jews, Adler said she was honored, and excited at the idea of moving her family.

"I am extremely excited to partner with our leadership to set a vision for the future as this work is essential to so many in the community," she said in a prepared statement.

Adler will reportedly take over Federation in early May.

This article originally appeared at, February 3, 2014.
Reproduced from here by permission of the Forward.

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Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania Endorses Daylin Leach

by: Publisher

Mon Feb 03, 2014 at 21:35:50 PM EST

Update: Daylin Leach garnered the official endorsement today of the 16,000 MoveOn members in Pennsylvania's 13th district with the support of over 55% of MoveOn members.

Official campaign video.

— by David S. Broida, William Epstein, Burt Siegel and Jill Zipin (steering committee of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania)

State Senator Daylin Leach is the candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district who best reflects democratic as well as Jewish values. Senator Leach's long and unwavering record of support of women and families is well known, and he will continue to work to uphold and defend the civil rights of all people.

He supports increased funding for our public schools as he believes all children need and deserve a good education. He understands, as do we, that the path to economic prosperity lies in providing our children with the best education possible.

More after the jump.

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Jewish Dems Praise President's Visionary, Practical Address

by: Publisher

Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 21:20:15 PM EST

— by Rabbi Jack Moline

The President's agenda — environmental responsibility, protection of voting rights, educational excellence, immigration reforms and financial security for all — speaks to the proactive values the Jewish community embraces, especially providing a livable minimum wage and pursuing gender equality in the marketplace.

The National Jewish Democratic Council's will promote the values espoused by the President, with particular emphasis on promoting the landmark Affordable Care Act.

Last, but certainly not least, NJDC is grateful for the continued bi-partisan support for the State of Israel. Once again, the Administration has been explicit about supporting Israel's security and essential national character.

Complete transcript of President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address follows the jump.

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US Delegation Mourns Passing of Ariel Sharon

by: Publisher

Tue Jan 14, 2014 at 09:19:51 AM EST

— by Elanna Cahn

President Obama designated the following presidential delegation to Israel, to attend the state funeral of the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon:

  • Vice-President Joe Biden, leader of the delegation;
  • the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro;
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee;
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the Democratic National Committee chairperson; and
  • the former ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.

Statements by Biden and Engel follow the jump.
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Kerry: Sharon "Risked It All" to Live the Dream of Israel

by: Publisher

Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 07:14:19 AM EST

— by Secretary of State John Kerry

Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel's journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream.

I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country.

I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became prime minister, as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process.

He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.  

During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the U.S. had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions — and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood — you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State.  

In his final years as prime minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik's legacy and those of Israel's founding generation by working to achieve that goal.

Arik is finally at rest, and all of us in the U.S. pray along with his sons, Gilad and Omri, the Sharon family, and all the people of Israel. Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon's memory.

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Jewish Population by Congressional District

by: Publisher

Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 19:56:26 PM EST

Joshua Comenetz has broken down the American Jewish population by Congressional district.

Here are the local numbers:
PA1Robert Brady (D)17,0002.41%
PA2Chaka Fattah (D)36,0005.10%
PA6Jim Gerlach (R)19,0002.69%
PA7Pat Meehan36,0005.10%
PA8Mike Fitzpatrick (R)44,0006.24%
PA13Allyson Schwartz (D)63,0008.93%
NJ1Robert Andrews (D)35,0004.78%
DEJohn C. Carney, Jr.15,1001.68%

The estimate of the Jewish population in all Congressional Districts is 6,735,830, approximately 2.18% of the total U.S. population. This estimate is consistent with the 6.7 million Jewish persons reported in the 2013 Pew Research Center Portrait of Jewish Americans....

The American Jewish population is simultaneously more densely clustered geographically than the overall American population and very geographically diverse — at least a few Jews live in every one of the 436 CDs. Half of all American Jews live in just 37 CDs, and 93 CDs contain three-quarters of all Jews. In contrast, the 266 districts with the fewest Jews collectively have only 10% of the Jewish population. The most-Jewish district, New York's 10th, has as many Jews (197,000) as the 170 least-Jewish CDs combined.

There are 13 CDs with 100,000 or more Jews, nine in New York and two each in California and Florida — the three states with the highest total Jewish populations. In general, the most-Jewish CDs are in the northeastern states, California, Florida, and a few other large urban areas such as Chicago and Atlanta. The least-Jewish CDs are mostly in the rural parts of southern states.

Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District has the most Jews in the state and is ranked 24th nationally while the 3rd, 5th and 9th District have only 1000 Jews.

Where is the Jewish vote the most decisive?

There are 27 Congressional Districts in which the Jewish population exceeded the margin of victory in the 2012 Congressional election. Heading the list is:

  • Illinois' 10th Congressional District whose 76,500 Jews (10.73% of the population) is about 23 times the 3,326 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Brad Schneider defeated Republican incumbent Robert Dold.
  • Florida's 32th Congressional District whose 32,000 Jews (4.60% of the population) is about 17 times the 1,904 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy defeated Republican incumbent Allen West.
  • New York's 11th Congressional District whose 129,000 Jews (17.97% of the population) is about 12 times the 10,688 vote margin by which Republican incumbent Michael Grimm defeated Democratic challenger Mark Murphy.

Runners up are NY-9 (6.95x), AZ-2 (6.93x), MA-6 (6.12x), NY-18 (5.19x), CA-52 (5.08x), NY-3 (3.45x), CT-5 (3.35x), CO-6 (3.29x), UT-4 (3.26x), CA-26 (3.03x), NY-1 (2.95x), FL-22 (2.73x), NY-6 (2.03x) and IL-13 (2.00x).
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State Sen. Leach: ASA Israel Boycott Is "Misguided, Irrational"

by: Publisher

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 23:02:33 PM EST

In a letter to the president of the American Studies Association (ASA), Curtis Marez, Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery County) attacked the boycott of Israeli institutions by the Association.

In the letter, that will be publicly released tomorrow (Tuesday), Leach wrote, "you did not issue a statement criticizing a particular practice of the Jewish State; you singled out Israel for an alleged widespread systematic abuse of human rights.

"Among the countries you have not chosen to boycott are Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and even North Korea, which apparently just executed a former government official on the day of his 'trial' by feeding him to a pack of starved wild dogs."

Dear Mr. Marez,

As a former college professor and current Pennsylvania State Senator and member of the Senate Education Committee, I was disappointed (although, sadly, not surprised) to learn of the American Studies Association (ASA)'s decision to boycott academic establishments in Israel.

It is my view that this decision is misguided, irrational, and a slap in the face to the very concept of academic freedom.

Letter continues after the jump.

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A Modest Proposal to Prevent the Jewish People From Dwindling

by: Publisher

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 09:40:50 AM EST

Steven M. Cohen and Kerry Olitzky published a great suggestion in the latest issue of the Jewish Exponent, "Conversion Shouldn't Be the Only Path to Joining the Jewish People". The only fault I can find in their proposal is failing to having the vision to move more swiftly and embrace the ultimate solution to the falling Jewish population.

Cohen and Olitzky show how we can boost the Jewish population by eliminating the conversion requirement. In this way, those who are "atheists, agnostic, secular, or even committed to another faith tradition" can become members of the tribe. Instead,

Candidates would be encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization - such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel and texts - and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life.

For those who come to desire official recognition, there could be a public ceremony and a certificate of membership in the Jewish people. Jewish cultural experts ... would constitute boards that would oversee the program and would attest to the validity of the affirmation.

More after the jump.

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Voters Don't Decide Who Wins; Map Drawers Do

by: Publisher

Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 20:27:41 PM EST

( - promoted by Publisher)

Republicans control 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 Congressional Districts:Alternative map, drawn by State Senator Daylin Leach, gives Democrats control of 13 districts:
As a democracy, we are proud of our electoral system: We assume that citizens, through their vote, wield the ultimate power over our government and determine who shall represent them.

However, this is not the case in reality. Rather, legislatures, through their redistricting authority, draw electoral maps specifically engineered to re-elect themselves and their colleagues.

In 2012, the majority of Pennsylvanians (50.24%) voted for Democratic candidates for Congress while 48.74% who voted for Republicans, and 1.02% who voted for other candidates.

However, Democratic candidates prevailed in only five of the 18 congressional districts: Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah in Philadelphia, Mike Doyle in Pittsburgh, Allyson Schwartz in the Philadelphia suburbs, and Matt Cartwright in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Was this simply a matter of luck?

Packing and Cracking

The district map was designed to pack as many democrats as possible into these five districts. Fattah, for example cruised to victory with 89.28% of the votes, versus 9.37% for Robert Mansfield and 1.35% for James Foster.

By forcing the Democratic voters to "waste" votes in districts where they are a super-majority, the Republican politicians are able to construct 13 districts with sensible Republican majorities.

Conversely, Democratic seats in other Democratic strongholds such as Harrisburg and the Pittsburgh suburbs were prevented by cracking those areas into pieces and diluting them with outlying areas that lean Republican.

In other words, voters do not choose the representatives who share their values; rather, the legislators wielding their pens choose the constituents whose support they can count on in the voting booth.

The rest of the article, and TED Talk by State Sen. Daylin Leach, follow the jump.

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Do Good by Doing Well: Fight Hunger and Obesity at the Same Time

by: Publisher

Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 00:06:03 AM EST

Did you resolve to get fit and lose weight in 2014? If so, you are not alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Meanwhile, the developing world is contending with the opposite problem: malnutrition.

The holistic health guru, Deepak Chopra, created the Weightless Project to address both of these issues.

By signing up, you pledge to keep your resolution to exercise more. The program's sponsors will then contribute $1 to hunger relief for every 1,000 calories you burn, as measured by your calorie tracker device.

If you do your exercises well and keep your New Year's resolution, you will be doing good in two ways at the same time: fighting both hunger and obesity.

Best wishes for a healthy new year!

After the jump: Watch how Oklahoma City residents lost a collective 1 million pounds moving from Men's Fitness magazine's list of fattest cities to its list of fittest cities.

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Abbas Adopts Jesus as a Palestinian

by: Publisher

Wed Dec 25, 2013 at 08:44:35 AM EST

(DEBKA) Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sent this Christmas message to the world:

"In Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was born, a Palestinian messenger who would become the guiding light for millions around the world."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said:

"Abbas should check his facts, read the New Testament before spouting such nonsense. But we forgive him, for he knows not what he does."

Cartoons Courtesy of Yaakov "Dry Bones" Kirschen and The Cartoon Kronicles @

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Israeli Consulate to Remain in Philadelphia

by: Publisher

Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 21:45:38 PM EST

Mayor Michael A. Nutter received a letter from Avigdor Liberman, Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, informing him that Israel's Consulate General in Philadelphia will remain open.  

It had been reported previously that a decision to close the Consulate General was under consideration. The letter was personally delivered to Mayor Nutter by Yaron Sideman, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, at a board meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

More after the jump.

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Obama: "Mandela Showed Us the Power of Action"

by: Publisher

Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 20:43:26 PM EST

President Obama mourned today the former South African president, Nelson Mandela, at the national memorial service at First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa:

In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith. He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Mandela was right that he inherited, "a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness" from his father.

And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, "a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments... a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people," he said.

Full transcript follows the jump.

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