Sestak Tells Jewish Leaders Of His Passion For Israel

The event in a private home was very heimesche with live Klezmer music by hostess Irene Glickman on the piano and Ken Ulansey and Stan Slotter on the clarinet playing as community leaders awaited Sestak’s discussion of foreign and domestic issues. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Joe Sestak (D PA-7) met with Jewish Community leaders recently in Center City Philadelphia, York and Lower Merion recently to discuss a range of issues, including his passionate and longstanding support for the State of Israel.

Sestak is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania. Supporters of his opponent, Pat Toomey, along with Tea Party activists, neo-conservatives and other elements of the far right, have attempted to paint him as anti-Israel. This outreach effort by Sestak was designed to respond directly to those attempts.

Sestak was invited to appear in Lower Merion by the Orthodox Union, an organization best known for its kashrut supervision and youth movement, but which also provides forums where candidates speak on issues of importance to the Orthodox Jewish Community. The forum was held in the home of Joel and Irene Glickman.

Morrie Litwack, Deputy Director of Orthodox Union; Rep. Joe Sestak (D PA-7); and Howie Beigelman, Deputy Director of Orthodox Union. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Sestak was introduced by State Senator Daylin Leach, who had just returned from his own trip to Israel. He told the crowd that after donning tefilin at the Western Wall, Israel was the most important issue to him, and he would never support a candidate without being confident of that candidate’s strong support for Israel. He praised Sestak’s support for Israel through his votes and advocacy in Congress, and through his actions in defense of Israel on six different occasions during his 31-year Naval career.

Sestak spoke passionately of his experience. He spent Hannukah with Israel’s Chief of Naval Operations when Israel was being denied American-made littoral combat ships. Sestak successively lobbied Washington to give Israel this important defense system. Sestak oversaw the first joint military maneuvers between Israel and an Arab nation (Turkey).

The first vacation he was given from the Navy was a two-week leave which he spent in Israel. He still cherishes the “Never Again Masada” t-shirt he acquired at that occasion.

In 2003, Sestak commanded a carrier battle group in the Mediterranean Sea. When war with Iraq broke out, Sestak stationed one of his Aegis cruisers off the coast of Israel and integrated its radar system into Israel’s air defense system before moving the rest of his fleet to the Gulf.

Sestak also took credit for switching plans for a U.S. and European missle defense system based in Poland and the Ukraine to one based on Aegis cruisers. The Aegis system is cheaper, will be online by 2011, and would be able to protect Isreal whereas the land-based system would not be able to protect Israel and would not be functional at all until 2017.

Tom Wiener, Joe Sestak, Felice Wiener, and host Irene Glickman at the meeting with Senate candidate Sestak convened by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. (Photo: Bonnie Squires)

Sestak then took questions from the all of the participants. One participant questioned Sestak’s voting record. Sestak replied that he has a 100% pro-Israel voting record, whereas his opponent Pat Toomey voted against funding for Israel on seven different occasions and refused to sign a Congressional letter calling for the PLO to be defunded if they did not implement the Oslo Accords.

Sestak was incensed by political attacks claiming that he was “raising funds for terrorism” when he spoke at CAIR in 2007. Sestak was the head of the Navy’s anti-Terrorism unit after 9/11, and some of his friends were killed when the Pentagon was attacked. Indeed, the message he delivered to CAIR was that “it is our just duty to condemn not just terrorism but also the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice asked when he thought Iran would get a nuclear weapon and what the United States and Israel should do about it. Sestak said that he has been well briefed on this subject through his career in the military, and his position on the Armed Services Committee, and he believed that Iran was still a couple of years away from a nuclear weapon.

Sestak was adamant that a nuclear armed Iran was unacceptable. Not only would it pose an existential threat to Israel, but it would be in a position to blackmail all of the countries in the region. Saudia Arabia would want a weapon of its own leading to a regional nuclear arms race.

Sestak said “the military option should remain on the table, but on the far side of the table.” He was skeptical of our ability to eliminate weapon systems buried deep underground. Perhaps we would only be able to close the doors to the bunker for a while merely delaying the deployment of Iran’s nuclear missles. He criticized former President George W. Bush who left all the diplomatic work in the hands of the European Union, saying that our enemies do not take overtures seriously if the United States is not fully on-board.

Sestak sees himself as a leader in the spirit of Sam Nunn (D-GA). “It is pretty easy to send kids into harm’s way when you have no experience with war. My experience comes from 31 years in the military.” Rising to the rank of 3-star Admiral, Sestak is the highest ranking military officer in Congress.

Through his career he visited over eighty countries and found America was “respected for our power, and admired for our principles”. He is a firm believer in Engagement, saying that “we accomplish nothing by not talking to our enemies”. As proof that he does not only speak with people he agrees with, he mentioned that he would soon be appearing for the eighth time on Fox News with Sean Hannity.  

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Campaigns for Dr. Manan Trivedi

Dr. Manan Trivedi, Congressional candidate for the 6th district; Bonnie Squires, board member of Philadelphia Jewish Voice; and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Bonnie Squires

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz  appeared on behalf of Dr. Manan Trivedi at a morning fundraiser in Merion at the new Town Hall Coffee Company coffee shop.  Wasserman Schultz said that she was there because she and the Democraitc Congressional Campaign Comittee believe that Trivedi can topple Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach in the November election.  Wasserman focused on the need to create jobs and support President Obama’s initiatives, something that her Republican colleagues have refused to do.

The Congresswoman and Lower Merion Democratic and Narberth Democratic Committee co-Chairs Jill Stein and Bill Leopold all turned to their Yiddish roots in search of a suitable words to express their praise for Dr. Manan Trivedi. Wasserman-Schultz recounted how Trivedi proved he was a real mensch when they first met at a Washington DC reception, and Trivedi used his skills as a physician and battalion medical commander to fix up her daughter’s injured foot before introducing himself to her as the candidate here in the 6th district.

She said she looks forward to being our Congresswoman when we retire to her Florida district twenty years from now. In the meantime, she looks forward to saying Mazel Tov to Trivedi on November 3 when he is elected our next Congressman.

Bill Leopold’s eloquent introduction follows the jump.

Dr. Manan Trivedi, Congressional candidate; Bill Leoold, co-chair of the Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee; Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Joanne Fischer; and Jill Stein, co-chair Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee, at the Trivedi fundraiser at the Town Hall Coffee Company.

Bill Leopold:

I want to provide a little bit of local history today, about what has happened since
Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District was gerrimandered by the Republicans in Harrisburg into the bizarre district it still is today. Even the Wikopedia still describes it as being in the shape of a pterodactyl!

In 2002, Dan Wofford ran against Jim Gerlach in a district fashioned specifically for Gerlach… and lost by the incredibly thin margin of 51.4 to 48.6 %. Lois Murphy then lost by two percent in 2004, and by only 1.2% in 2006, and Bob Roggio had a competitive race in 2006.

Now we come to 2010. Debbie Wasserman Shultz is here to support Dr. Manan Trivedi in his race. Like Dr Trivedi, she is a passionate advocate for health care. Her Awareness Requires Learning Young Act was included in the Affordable Healthcare Act for America signed in March 2010. It encourages national education about breast cancer. She was instrumental in passage of the Protect our Children Act, and in passage of the Virginia Graeme Pool & Spa Safety Act, to combat childhood drowning. Also like Manan, she is passionate about providing all needed resources for first responders and for our men and women in uniform.

Dr. Manan Trivedi listens as Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz discusses issues.

And now, as I introduce Manan, I get the right to embarrass him by a few personal words. Manan is personable and friendly while also also being firm and resolute. He is very sharp on all the issues but is actually able to speak in simple English sentences. He has served our country in uniform and learned valuable lessons from the experience. He is a physician and healer, who wants to use his knowledge to improve the system of care as we go forward with implementation of health care reform.

Finally, Manan, I want to provide you with education about a Yiddish word. The

word is mensch. It means “a nice guy,” and also means a person of integrity and honor. Quoting the great sage Leo Rosten in his book The Joys of Yiddish, the word means you are “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character, someone with character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Manan Trivedi…a real mensch.

Sen. Bob Casey Reports on Middle East Trip

Bonnie Squires

Senator Robert Casey held a conference call Tuesday, July 13 to report on his recent nine-day trip to the Middle East.  Casey said that he held 56 meetings in nine days, meeting with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the West Bank.
In Saudi Arabia, he delivered the message that one of the best things the Saudis can do for the peace process is to make their payments promised to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Casey said that at this time last year the Saudis had given $200 million.  This year, they have only given $15 million. Casey said he urged them to make the payments to the PA.  

There are positive developments in the West Bank because of Saudi Prime Minister Fayad who has worked hard to build the economy.  If the PA can’t make payroll, it will injure their ability to continue momentum and progress.  The Saudis can be a huge help on that.

Casey said he had some good briefings about Saudi efforts to stamp out terrorism.  He recalled that about 7 years ago the Saudis had a horrific experience with terrorism.  They asserted they have dismissed 2000 imams involved with extremism.

The next visit was to Kuwait where Casey met with the Foreign Minister.  The Senator raised the issue of the American hikers being held hostage by Iran, asking Kuwait to make sure this was on the table when they have dialogue with Iran.

Casey spent the Fourth of July in an American military camp in Kuwait, and he saw how complicated it is for our troops to move vehicles and supplies to Iraq.

As for Iraq – what will happen to their government? Casey commented that the vote was so close that they have to reach an accommodation.  He saw some good indicators that they recognize they have to come together.  Vice President Biden met with Casey and his delegation, saying the same thing.

Casey raised the hikers issue when he met with Iraqi leaders, asking them to keep this issue on the table when speaking with the Iranian regime.

As for Israel and the West Bank, Casey commented that the peace process has been the subject of intense discussion in the last week to ten days. He sees positive momentum, even in the aftermath of the controversy regarding the flotilla incident.  He observed that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had a good meeting in Washington, DC while the Senator was in Israel. He reiterated his commitment to the two-state solution.  

Casey said he spent some time on border issues, and he praised the 7% economic growth in 2009 in the West Bank, crediting Prime Minister Fayad for the growth. In Ramallah, he said, it is visually evident that the economy is more vibrant, more successful.  The Prime Minister spoke about almost 1500 entities which had received $150,000 grants – mini economic development packages, all the more reason why the Saudis – and any other country that has not paid its pledge – should pay up and fulfill their commitment. America has fulfilled its obligation, he added.

In Lebanon – until recently, a country  paralyzed by the terror campaign of Hezbollah – Casey chaired a hearing on the threat posed by Hezbollah.  Government officials there are afraid to speak out because of threats by Hezbollah.

Recently, Lebanon has been able to build up the Lebanese armed forces because of American assistance.  Casey said that the American people have paid for training of thousands of police in Lebanon and also helped with education and economic development. Lebanon has a smaller population than Massacusetts.

Casey said his visit of Egypt went well. The Egyptians are very grateful for the billions of dollars America has provided. They spoke of cracking down on smuggling on the Gaza border, mentioned helping the PA to help them build up their economy. Casey raised the question of Egypt’s human rights problems. Casey praised our  close relationship with this country which has a strong presence in the Arab world.

I asked Senator Casey whom he met with in Israel, and whether he Israeli officials or the general public was suspicious of President Obama’s level of his commitment to Israel. Senator Casey replied that he had met with Israeli leaders Ehud Barak, Mrs. Livni (the head of the Kadimah Party), and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, whom he has known for years.  

Casey said that Israeli leaders appreciate President Obamas’ commitment to move the peace process forward. In the very first hours of his presidency, he called leaders in the Middle East.

“I think the record is very clear when it comes to the basic and most important issue. For Israel, it’s the country’s security.  The administration is putting dollars on the table helping with missile defense, to put the dollars in place to make sure people of Israel are safe and secure.  Couple the military assistance plus constant focus on the peace process and assigning George Mitchell to do this full time, add Secretary of State Clinton, Vice President Biden, the whole team, and I don’t think more could be done.”