Jews Should Be Last to Turn Away Refugees

Anne Frank in 1941 (left)  tried to escape Naziism but was denied refugee status. A terrified 4-year old girl (right) is among Syrians seeking refugee status.

Anne Frank in 1941 (left) tried to escape Naziism but was denied refugee status. A terrified 4-year old girl (right) is among Syrians seeking refugee status.

Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill 289-137 making it virtually impossible for Syrian refugees to get asylum in the United States and escape slaughter at the hands of ISIL.

Many of our parents and grandparents were German refugees seeking asylum in America while isolationists in America used the logic of fear to turned Jews away. If “Never Again” is not to be a mere slogan, the Jewish community needs to stand up against xenophobia.

HR Bill 643 Vote, November 19, 2015

HR Bill 643 Vote, November 19, 2015

American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act goes far beyond the already stringent screening process for refugees. (See graphic at the end of this article.) President Obama, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of the FBl all oppose this bill. Next week, this bill goes to the Senate.

Forty-seven House Democrats voted for the bill including local Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ) and 135 voted against. Of the 19 Jewish Representatives in the House, 16 stood up against fear, but Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Steve Israel (D-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) voted for the bill.
[Read more…]

Redistricting Reform Bill Does Not Go Far Enough

Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District

Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District

Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. Under Republican control, the Pennsylvania legislature crammed as many Democrats as possible into a small number of districts in the redistricting following the 2010 census. Accordingly, in the following Congressional election, despite winning the support of a majority of voters statewide, the Democrats lost a seat leaving themselves with only 5 seats while the Republicans retained 13 seats.
[Read more…]

Local Senators Ensure Approval of Iran Deal

Projected JCPOA Voting in the Senate as of September 2. (Washington Post)

JCPOA Voting in the Senate (Washington Post’s Sep. 2 projection).

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has announced her intention to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the “Iran Deal,” guaranteeing President Obama the 34 votes he needs to sustain a veto.

Short before, Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) have announced that they will vote in favor of the Deal. (The full statement by Casey can be found below.)

On Tuesday, the Senate will return from its summer break, and its first order of business is a resolution to keep the U.S. out of the JCPOA.

Stop the Iran Deal Rally speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz

“Stop the Iran Deal Rally” speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz.

On Wednesday, the Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and Zionist Organization of America will weigh in with their Stop the Iran Deal Rally with keynote speakers Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Eleven more Senators are either neutral or leaning toward supporting the deal:

  • Neutral: Senators Susan Collins (ME), Michael Bennet (CO), Benjamin Cardin (CO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Cory Booker (NJ), Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Gary Peters (MI).
  • Leaning toward: Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV).

[Read more…]

Penn. Voting Technology Enters 21st Century

votePennsylvanians are now able to register to vote online, thanks to the efforts of Governor Tom Wolf’s administration. This is not a misprint!

The process is relatively straightforward, as the diagram to the right shows.

*October 5 is the registration deadline for the November 3, 2015 general election.*

This crucial election will determine not only control of city councils, county commissioners and school boards, but also the all-important Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The upcoming state redistricting will largely determine the balance of control in the state’s legislature and Congressional delegation, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will surely be called upon to settle disputes regarding this redistricting just as they have done in the past.

The new online process can be used by individuals registering for the first time, or for individuals who are already registered but have moved, changed their name, or want to change their party affiliation. Pennsylvanians can still use paper forms to register or change their registration info, if they prefer.

To register to vote for the first time in Pennsylvania, a person must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Pennsylvania district in which they want to vote for at least one month before the next election. They also must be at least 18 years of age on or before the day of the next primary, special, municipal, or general election.

DNC national director of voter expansion, Pratt Wiley, applauded Governor Wolf’s initiative:

Every day, Americans go online to pay bills, trade stocks, and even adjust the temperature in their homes – there’s no reason why Americans shouldn’t be able to use these tools to register to vote.

Democrats believe our nation and our democracy are stronger when more people participate, not less. That’s why we advocate for commonsense solutions like online voter registration and why we remain committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to register, every registered voter is able to vote, and every vote is counted.

Pennsylvania now joins 27 other states currently offering or implementing online voter registration.

Please share this information with others, particularly new residents in your neighborhood and younger people who will be turning 18 this fall. More details are available online.

JDate Swipes at Competitors

phone[1] JDate is suing its non-profit competitor for its use of the letter “J” and the idea of using a smartphone application to match people anonymously.

JSwipe is a new free Jewish dating application for smartphones. JDate’s parent company, Spark Networks (NYSE: LOV), takes in more than $50 million a year in fees from their online dating network, including JDate, ChristianMingle, and BlackSingles. JSwipe, on the other hand, is a small team based out of a factory in Brooklyn, and “motivated by passion, inspired by impact, and committed to making love free” according to JSwipe’s founder, David Yarus.

Of course the letter “J” was not invented by JDate. It was introduced as a letter in its own right by the Italians around 1524. And online dating was not invented by JDate either. It was invented in 1965 by Harvard students Jeff Tarr and Dave Crump who founded Compatibility Research.

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“From a Judaic ethics standpoint this lawsuit is inappropriate,” argues Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law. “Here we are talking about creating Jewish families that will have Jewish children. All the more so that we should encourage competition if the aggregate number of matches increases.”

Jonathan Loeb

Jonathan Loeb.

My smart, eligible, handsome, son Jonathan uses both JDate and JSwipe. However, he has found that JDate is oriented more toward older singles (Jonathan is 21) while my tech-savvy son really enjoys JSwipe and has had an excellent experience with the application.

While JSwipe is a literally a free gift of love, I have paid the Spark Network $72 per quarter for more than a year to pay for Jonathan’s JDate membership. However, given Jonathan’s success on JSwipe, and JDate’s abuse of their position as market leader, I will now cancel Jonathan’s membership at JDate and contribute $180 of my future savings to JSwipe’s legal defense fund.

Perhaps JDate hopes to win this lawsuit not by the force of its legal arguments but by JSwipe’s lack of resources. If they can intimidate JSwipe then other Jewish dating sites such as Simontov, The JMom and My Jewish Matches are likely to fair no better.

To help Jewish singles, please contribute generously via Indiegogo to help crowd-fund the legal battle to keep JSwipe alive. (If you happen to be a lawyer interested in providing pro-bono legal support, you can contact JSwipe at [email protected])

Jewish Community Must Join the Fight for $15 Minimum Wage

Jaq Basilis and Julie Dancis of Camp Galil and Habonim Dror calling for $15 minimum wage at rally in Rittenhouse Square.  Photo by Sophie Haeuber (April 2014).

Jaq Basilis and Julie Dancis of Camp Galil and Habonim Dror calling for $15 minimum wage at rally in Rittenhouse Square. Photo by Sophie Haeuber (April 2014).

— by Stuart Applebaum

Jewish law and tradition are clear about our duty to fight for the basic rights of all working people.

Shantel Walker makes $9 per hour at the Papa John’s restaurant in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood where she’s worked for the for the last 15 years, almost half her life. Because her wages are so low, she often has to choose between eating lunch or buying a Metrocard to get to work. She shares a one-bedroom apartment with family members, but still worries about making ends meet every month.

But Ms. Walker is not staying silent and letting her challenges get her down. She is standing up and joining with other fast-food workers across the country in calling for fairness and respect on the job. Since late 2012, fast-food workers have been walking off the job as part of regular one-day strikes and their ranks have recently been supported by home health care aides, adjunct professors, airport baggage handlers and other low-wage workers. Their demand? $15 per hour and a union.

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is nothing close to a living wage. If someone earning the minimum wage is fortunate enough to be able to work full-time hours (and many are not), they would earn only $15,080 per year, which is under the poverty line for a family of two. At the current minimum wage, workers struggle paycheck-to-paycheck, and if they are able to pay all their bills at the end of the month, they are not able to save anything for an emergency, let alone for their retirement.

Rising wages will allow millions of people across the country to lift their heads up and look towards the future with hope. But it will also benefit our economy at-large. A $15 per hour minimum wage will inject billions of dollars into local economies as many are finally able to buy new clothing for their children and other basic necessities. It will also ease state budgets, as millions who currently rely on state assistance will finally be able to afford groceries and rent.

The history of American Jewry demands that we join with workers in their struggle for justice. When many of our ancestors first came to the United States, they worked low-wage jobs in the garment sector and other industries. Their experiences of struggle and pain encouraged many to organize and form unions that then fought for and won many of the basic wage and safety standards that we now take for granted. These gains enabled our families to raise their standards of living to where they are now, but we must never forget what it took to get here.
[Read more…]

The Real Reason for Netanyahu’s Iran Deal Criticism

A recent DEBKA article suggested that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had a change of heart regarding President Obama and the Iran nuclear deal:

Netanyahu has switched tactics for his struggle against the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers… Instead of an all-out effort to block the deal’s passage through Congress, Netanyahu will propose to Congress new laws to specify the issues on which Iranian violations would make US administration penalties mandatory. In Tehran, the Guards chief has rejected the UN resolution as “crossing Iran’s red lines.”

july-22-2015-bibi-and-obama

Cartoon courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles: http://cartoonkronicles.com/

It looks like Netanyahu only wants to criticize the plan. By doing so during the negotiations he increased the leverage the allies had over the Iranian and by doing so now he decreases the probability that Iranians will reject it as a concession to the “Little Satan.”

However, now he sees a possibility that Congress might actually do what ostensibly he had been asking them to do — reject the treaty — and even Netanyahu does not want that. (I cannot avoid thinking of the analogy of a dog chasing after a car. The dog would not know what to do if it actually “caught” the car.)

Those who prefer how things were last month with sanctions to how things will be in the future with a treaty are just engaging in wishful thinking. We cannot turn back the clock. International sanctions are already scheduled to expire if Congress rejects the treaty. The coalition we formed included countries like Russia and China who are basically sympathetic to Iran and would feel betrayed by the U.S. Any new sanctions would have to be unilateral and would likely be no more effective in bringing Iran back to the table than the unilateral Cuban sanctions were in toppling Fidel Castro.

In short, rejecting the treaty would undo all of the progress we have made in recent years in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, and it would deny the us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to require Iran to turn over 97% of its existing stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, as well as its most effective means of generating more while putting the remainder of both under the constant monitoring of the inspectors, like those who successfully kept Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from getting a bomb. Despite his earlier rhetoric, it seems that Netanyahu knows this and is now acting accordingly.

Pennsylvania’s “Champion of Change”

Yesterday, the White House recognized Emily Kramer-Golinkoff of Bala Cynwyd, PA among nine individuals as “Champions of Change” for precision medicine who are making a difference in transforming the way we improve health and treat disease. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, a 30 year old with advanced stage cystic fibrosis and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, is co-founder of Emily’s Entourage, a 501(c)3 that raises funds and awareness to accelerate new treatments and a cure for rare (nonsense) mutations of Cystic Fibrosis (CF). She is also Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Operations at the Penn Medicine Social Media and Health Innovation Lab. Energized by recent breakthroughs for other CF mutations, Emily and her Entourage have raised over $1.5 million since the organization’s founding in 2011, and led worldwide efforts to fast track research on rare nonsense CF mutations through research grants, scientific symposia, and collaboration among leading scientists in this area. With only 35 percent lung function, Emily spends over 3–4 hours a day on treatments, injects multiple insulin shots, and takes countless pills to slow progression of her disease.

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Emily has reached out especially to fellow members of the Jewish community. Indeed, the Ashkenazi Jewish population is “as vulnerable to cystic fibrosis as to Tay-Sachs.”

All nine “champions of change” embody the promise of the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which was launched earlier this year to enable a new era of medicine through research and technology that empowers patients, researchers, and providers to work together toward development of individualized treatments.

Biographies of the other laureates follow below. [Read more…]

Drexel Can Build It, But Will Jews Come?

In the film Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella is inspired by voices and surprisingly is able to attract a crowd to a baseball field he built in his Iowa cornfield. Similarly, while Drexel’s Jewish community is dwarfed by that of its neighbor and rival, the University of Pennsylvania, hopes to compete for bright Jewish students by building the Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life. “Our goal at Drexel is to make the University a greater school of choice for Jewish students from our region and across the nation,” said Drexel President John Fry.

The Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life at Drexel University

The Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life at Drexel University

This three-story, 14,000-square-foot facility is well in excess of the needs of Drexel’s current Jewish community.

A Tale of Two Hillels Hillel at Drexel University University of Pennsylvania Hillel
National Rank #25 #7
Jewish Undergraduates 900 / 16,616
5%
2,500 / 9,712
26%
Jewish Studies 5 classes offered.
Minor available
50 classes offered.
Minor and major offered.

However, what is Drexel doing to attract the Jewish students they need to fill it?

Over the last year Israel has been removed from Drexel’s list of recommended countries for international students and internships, and Drexel students and faculty must seek special permission to study or work in Israel.

However, a new, more troubling controversy has recently arisen.

Drexel Hillel Rabbi Isabel de Koninck (Left), with Noam Chomsky (center) and Drexel President John A. Fry (2nd from Right) Photo Credit: Facebook

Drexel Hillel Rabbi Isabel de Koninck (Left), with Noam Chomsky (center) and Drexel President John A. Fry (2nd from Right). Photo Credit: Facebook.

Most of Drexel’s Jewish community members were surprised to learn that Noam Chomsky was among the people to be given an honorary degree at the University’s commencement ceremony earlier this month.

The inclusion of “Noam Chomsky: Professor emeritus at MIT, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician and political commentator” on the list of laureats on Drexel’s website escaped the attention of many when it was uploaded on April 20.

However late in coming, the Jewish community is beginning to react. Lori Lowenthal Marcus recalled in The Jewish Press that “Chomsky is one of the best known and most outspoken American critics of Israel”:

He has called the Jewish State such a consistent and extreme violator of human rights “that you hardly have to argue about it.” For that reason, he claims, U.S. military aid to Israel is in direct violation of U.S. Law. At least Chomsky rejects (sometimes) the claim that Israel is an Apartheid state. But that’s because he thinks Apartheid is too gentle a term for Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

“To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse.”

Perhaps a case could be made for the Department of Computer Science to honor Chomsky for his technical contributions to their field, but her mention is specifically made of Chomsky’s “political commentary”. In the Jewish Exponent, Prof. Abraham H. Miller pointed out that this “political commentary” is wedded to bizarre:

Chomsky seemed to be wedded to ideas of moral equivalence, which the steel trap of his syllogisms ensnared America with some of the most brutal regimes to ever desecrate the meaning of human decency.

Chomsky saw a moral equivalence between the genocidal, fanatical regime of Pol Pot and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. To Chomsky, America was to be indicted for selective outrage at Pol Pot but not at Indonesia, which was an ally….

When the tragedy of 9/11 fell upon America, and while the nation was still consumed with shock and grief, Chomsky once again found a lesson for America in moral equivalence. Ever playing the role of the dispassionate intellectual, Chomsky made a frigid comparison of 9/11 to President Bill Clinton’s cynical bombing of a civilian pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum in August 1988.

Marcus quoted one former Hillel member who took Drexel Hillel’s Rabbi Isabel de Koninck to task for appearing on stage with Chomsky:

It is a bit disturbing that a figurehead of the Jewish community would allow herself to be next to him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some students felt alienated and more hesitant to be involved in the organization after seeing such a photo.

The Rabbi declined to comment on this controversy. However, Drexel President John Fry defended Chomsky’s actions:

I believe Drexel’s decision to award him a degree was justified. Chomsky was among 15 people honored by Drexel at this year’s commencement ceremonies. The decision to include him among this group is consistent with academia’s tradition of recognizing those from a wide variety of fields — with a broad spectrum of perspectives — who have made significant contributions to education, business, science, and civic and cultural institutions. The awarding of honorary degrees does not in any way indicate endorsement of a recipient’s opinions.

As a scientist, Chomsky’s work is at the forefront of his discipline, and he is often described as the “father of modern linguistics.” As a political philosopher and activist, he is widely read and debated, especially with regard to U.S. and Israeli foreign policy.

Furthermore, Fry vaunted his support of The Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life at Drexel University. However, if Drexel is seen as lending its support to those who slander Israel, then will the needed Jewish students come, or will this beautiful new facility sadly become a reminder of the vibrant Jewish community which Drexel could have had?

Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Inspiration for us all.

The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) just hosted its 28th Annual Conference May in Philadelphia. Humor and laughter professionals and enthusiasts from around the world gathered to learn the latest applications and benefits of therapeutic humor presented by field experts, share best practices and network.

Beth Usher

Beth Usher

The conference coincided with the graduation of AATH’s Humor Academy. Graduate Beth Usher gave a moving keynote speech on her experience of having gone through a hemispherectomy. In 1985, when she was five-years old her family learned that her brain was dying of Rasmussen’s Encephalitis. Two years later, suffering from hundreds of epileptic seizures per day, doctors proposed a bold solution to save her life: the removal of the entire left side of her brain!


The operation was done at Johns Hopkins University Hospital by the “Gifted Hands” of neurosurgeon Ben Carson.


Bly32bWIgAAw-Gm[1]Beth’s path to recovery was long. After a two-month coma, she underwent spinal fusion, loss of function in the right side of her body, loss of vision, and then years of physical therapy.

One wonders how a child could enjoy life after such an ordeal? [Read more…]