Reflections on Terror at Emanuel AME Church

Six weeks before falling victim himself to gun violence, the pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church made remarks on the Senate floor on May 9, 2015 regarding the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott by a police officer, together with South Carolina state legislator Clementa C. Pinckey:

On Wednesday, the racist gunman Dylann Roof opened fire at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church’s weekly bible study killing AME’s pastor South Carolina State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney along with eight congregants attending the bible study.

TPM:Cafe has published a history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, its place in the history of Charleston, the anti-slavery movement, and the creation of what came to be known as the Citadel, the crown jewel of Southern militarism, which was born from white fears of slave rebellion triggered by this church.

Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) denouncing the shooting as terrorism.

Nine of our fellow Americans were murdered while praying in a historic church because of the color of their skin. This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust, and a deep, deep sadness.

This hateful killing is a horrific reminder that, while we have made important progress in civil rights for all of our people, we are far from eradicating racism.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one that has been attacked, burned, and rebuilt throughout its 200-year history. While their community mourns now, they will rebuild, and they will emerge stronger than before.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Jelani Cobb connects the violence in Charleston with other horrors our country is facing:

We have, quite likely, found at 110 Calhoun Street in Charleston, South Carolina, the place where Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown cross with Baltimore, Ferguson, and Sanford. We periodically mourn the deaths of a group of Americans who die at the hands of another armed American. We periodically witness racial injustices that inspire anger in the streets. And sometimes we witness both. This is, quite simply, how we now live.

However, the New York Times noted an odd lack of calls from liberal lawmakers from more gun legislation:

Lawmakers, weary from the emotional fight and ultimate failure to get a bill to enhance background checks for gun sales off the Senate floor two years ago, seem resigned to the view that if 20 small children killed at a school cannot move Congress, then nine black men and women shot dead by a white man during Bible study will not, either.

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House. Ironically, it is the one flag which is not flying at half-mast today. How long will that flag continue to fly there? Clearly, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was being naive when she claimed "“But we really kind of fixed all that [racism] when you elected the first Indian-American female governor."

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House.

The Confederate Battle Flag

A confederate battle flag flies over the South Carolina State House. Ironically, that is the one flag which is not flying at half-mast today.

How long will that flag continue to fly there?

Clearly, Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) was being naive when she claimed during a debate that the flag didn’t represent an “image problem” because she never had “one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate [battle] flag,” adding that “we really kind of fixed all that [racism] when you elected the first Indian-American female governor.” Today, Governor Haley told ABC News that “In South Carolina, the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag. Only the General Assembly can do that.”

Several Jewish and local organizations commented on the event:

Remarks from Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice:

As fellow people of faith, we cannot imagine the horror that the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have had to endure as this evil act ripped through their congregation during a moment of peace and love. All the members of Bend the Arc are sending our prayers and deepest condolences to the congregants of Emanuel AME Church and the people of Charleston. We honor the legacy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a fierce advocate for a justice and equality. And we join the nationwide call for a swift investigation that will bring the perpetrator of this abhorrent hate crime to justice. — Stosh Cotler

Remarks from CeaseFirePA: Taking a Stand Against Gun Violence:

Jonathan A. Neufeld ‏@jneuf: Accentuating the irrationality of the Charleston news, the paper puts an ad for a gun shop on the front page.  "$30 gets you everything."

Jonathan A. Neufeld
‏@jneuf: Accentuating the irrationality of the Charleston news, the paper puts an ad for a gun shop on the front page. “$30 gets you everything.”

We are saddened and horrified at the shooting last night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. This heinous crime targeted victims because of their race and was perpetrated against those who came together in a house of worship. No one should be afraid to go to church or to gather in their communities.

Easy access to firearms empowers those who are driven by hate and fear. We work together every day to keep our communities safer and to empower those who are motivated by hope, love and dreams of peace. We stand with our brothers and sisters in Charleston, and pledge to honor the victims and survivors by continuing the fight to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Remarks from Agudath Israel of America:

The deaths of nine people at the hand of a gunman at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is not only a personal tragedy for the relatives and friends of those who were killed, but yet another in the long list of murderous acts born of religious or racial hatred.

Agudath Israel of America extends its condolences to the families of the worshippers killed, and condemns all such evil acts and the attitudes that lead to them.

Ours is a community that has a long history of having suffered violence against worshippers, most recently in the case of the murderous terrorist attack on the Har Nof, Israel synagogue last November. That makes us all the more sensitive to the pain that was caused in Charleston today.

Remarks from the Shawn Evenhaim, Chairman of the Israel-American Council

Israeli Americans across the country are heartbroken and horrified at the mass killings in Charleston. This despicable act struck especially deeply because it violated a house of peace and worship. We stand with the Charleston community, the people of South Carolina and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences and prayers and condemn such senseless acts of violence.

The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among the world's developed countries. However, for African-Americans the situation is far graver.

The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among the world’s developed countries. However, for African-Americans the situation is far graver.

Your “Dark” Chocolate Might Contain Milk


We do not know whether any of these bars were among the the "non-dairy" chocolate bars that the FDA found to contain milk.

What do Observant Jews, vegans and certain allergy suffers have in common?

They all need to know whether there are dairy products in their food.

  • Vegans avoid milk as an animal product for ethical or health reasons.
  • Some allergy suffers are lactose-intolerant.
  • After eating meat or poultry, Observant Jews wait a period of time (e.g. 6 hours for most Sephardic Jews and Chabad, 3 hours for German Jews and 1 hour for Dutch Jews) before consuming dairy products. (The rule for meat after dairy is much more lenient.)

Many people assume that the list of ingredients is complete and will make their food choices accordingly.

However, that is not the case. according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 11% of the reports of food likely to “cause serious adverse health consequences” between 2009 and 2013 “were attributed to undeclared allergens in chocolates and other confections”, so in the case of severe allergies, putting your faith in the list of ingredients may be extremely dangerous.

The FDA recently surveyed 94 dark chocolate products for the presence of milk. Only 6 indicated milk as an ingredient, but an additional 54 chocolates were found to contain milk. Many of those had some sort of warning such as “may contain milk”. Others didn’t say anything about milk and about one-third of those were found to contain milk. Some explicitly said that they were “dairy-free” or “lactose-free” yet they actually did contain milk. In one case (identified only as sample “F12” in the FDA survey, the chocolate was marked “Lactose-free; Vegan” but was found to consist of milk with a concentration of 0.39% by the Morinaga Milk Protein ELISA Test.

Observant Jews as well as vegans and the lactose-intolerant can get further guidance by looking for the product’s kosher certification:

  • A symbol like this or is used for Parve products containing neither meat nor dairy.
  • A symbol like this is used for dairy products.
  • A symbol like this indicates that while there were no dairy ingredients per say, the food was prepared with equipment that had also been used for dairy products.

Nevertheless, even rabbinical supervision has its limits. According to the Orthodox Union:

“The trace nuts and dairy disclaimer that is now printed on many products is there to warn consumers that although there are no nuts or dairy in the ingredients of the product itself, there is a possibility of parts per millions floating in the air and ‘contaminating’ the product.”

The ‘contamination’ would only affect consumers with extremely severe allergies who can detect even the most trace amounts of the substance that they are reacting to. A product that is labeled OU (and thereby certified kosher parve) is halachically (by Jewish Law) parve. The parts per million does not affect the status of a product, because parts per million are negligible and have no halachic significance.

As an example, a factory might produce dairy and parve products on two separate production lines. Nonetheless, air-born particles of milk or whey powder might float onto the parve production line. Though a person might suffer an allergic reaction, the product is still halachically parve.

Companies have been especially cautious in the past few years to publicize this information as the public’s knowledge of allergens has grown.

Following My Family Tree to Biblical Days

This article is an abridged and updated version of “The History of LoebTree.Com” by Daniel E. Loeb, which appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of The Stammbaum. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is grateful to The Leo Baeck Institute and The Stammbaum’s editor Werner L. Frank for the permission to reuse this material.

Wherever we travel, we play Jewish Geography and find kinship with Jews around the world. The flourishing study of Jewish Genealogy takes this form of Jewish networking to the logical extreme. We present here a brief overview of which is one of the larger family trees available on the Web. It has over 28,000 names listed in it, mostly descendants of one of the ancestors of my wife Helen and myself, including several branches purportedly going back to biblical times. In this article, I will discuss the origins of my family tree and describe how it has grown over the years. I will highlight some of the better known people listed in the family tree, and describe some interesting stories about how the family tree has helped people find long lost relatives.

Dokow Family Tree 1900

Dokow family tree, 1900

My father’s cousin Al Oppenheimer, shortly before his death in 1985, introduced me to the family tree prepared by Samuel Dokow of Hemsbach in 1900 which shows how this branch of the Oppenheimer family descended from Rabbi Simeon Oppenheimer (d. 1753), son of Juda Loeb Oppenheimer and Chawa Bachrach. At this juncture, the ancestry splits in two important directions: the paternal branch passes up through the famous banking Oppenheimer family, while the maternal branch reaches back to the Chavas Yoir and The Maharal of Prague (1525-1609).

The Maharal of Prague 

The Maharal was the Chief Rabbi of Prague, Talmudist, moralist, theologian, mathematician, and mystic. According to legend, the Maharal created the Golem at the Altneuschul Synagogue in Prague to serve the Jewish community. This creature was brought to life from out of the dust by the insertion of God’s name under its tongue, obeying Rabbi Judah’s commands to help Jews survive anti-Jewish measures and blood libel accusations, and serving as a shabbos goi. Eventually it had to be destroyed and returned to dust because it ran amok on a Friday afternoon during Kabbalat Shabbat when Rabbi Judah forgot to remove the divine name from the mouth of the Golem. The remains of the Golem were sealed in the attic of the Altneu Synagogue in Prague. (This legend had been associated with Rabbi Elijah of Prague until the late 18th century.)

Click on a branch of the family tree for more information
Branch Aleph of the Berdugo family tree 

The Berdugo tree

My wife’s great uncle Rabbi Raphael Berdugo prepared in 1977 a series of three hand-drawn family trees as the culmination of decades of research. These trees detail all of the male descendants of the Berdugo family in Morocco starting from Rabbi Moshe Berdugo shortly after the Inquisition and the resulting exile from Spain and Portugal.

Organizing my Family Data

With the development of the Internet in the early 1990s, I decided to put all of this data online. I completed entry of the extensive Dokow and Berdugo family trees by 1994. Recently, I acquired the domain name, so that the address should be permanently valid.
In 1994, the tree only included a few hundred names from the Dokow and Berdugo family trees together with interviews of family members. Since then the tree has grown exponentially in size. Interestingly, the growth has not come as a result of traditional genealogical research techniques, but rather from the Internet itself. Once my tree was online, people found the Website either by following a link from another site, or more commonly by using a search engine to look up their name, or the names of other members of their family. I am indebted to these countless individuals many with large family trees of their own who have contacted me and contributed information to my Website.

One of the most gratifying results in maintaining the family tree is to learn the surprising ways in which the tree has had a positive impact in other people’s lives. Here are two such amazing stories:

Loeb-Williams Family: The mother of David Mark (Loeb) Williams died in a car wreck in 1952. Her doctor arranged David’s adoption at birth. He discovered the identity of his natural family through

Dentai-Gomperz Family: Oskar Dentai-Gomperz had children before and after immigrating to the US. His children and grandchildren were living near each other but did not know of each other’s existence until recently. They plan to get together soon!

Krause Family: This story involves Noah Kleiman a Jewish boy and his apparently non-Jewish girlfriend Nicole Edson. Nicole discovered the death certificate of her grandmother Manon Krause. At the suggestion of Noah’s mother Shawna Klieman (who is an avid genealogist) she entered into Google the name of her great-grandmother Margarethe Von Gutmann which appeared on Manon’s death certificate. Google directed her to my website where she was surprised to discover her ancestry and that her maternal grandmother was Jewish which of course made her Jewish. Nicole’s mother and grandmother died when Nicole was 13 and 12. While she knew that her grandmother had fled Austria during World War II, she never guessed that she was Jewish.

Nicole’s great-grandmother Margarethe Von Gutmann prepared a birthday celebration for Nicole’s great-grandfather Otto Krause featuring the famous opera singer Lotte Lehman. Otto fell in love with Lotte Lehman, and divorced Margarethe so that he could marry Lotte and follow her around the world while his children remained in Vienna with Margarethe. The children were barely able to escape the Nazis with help from Lotte Lehman. Otto Kraus died soon after they escaped. 

The story ends happily as Nicole has reclaimed her Jewish heritage, and married Noah Kleiman on August 14, 2004.

Biblical Connections

Document claiming David descent of Berdugo family 

According to Raphael Berdugo, the name Berdugo is a variation of Verge di Oro, the golden scepter or sharbit hazahav, in Portuguese. According to family tradition the family descends from Rabbi Boustani Gaon, descendant of King David and the High Priests. (One of his books was entitled The Golden Scepter). According to David Kelley, Boustani means sprout in Persian, just as does the name Berdugo in Portuguese, for Boustani was believed to be the last surviving branch of the royal family of Judah.
This claim is supported by an official document. 

Other Famous People

In addition to the famous rabbis and biblical figures alluded to above, my family tree mentions many famous people such as the physicists Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Moroccan cabinet minister Shlomo Berdugo, Royal Jeweler Samuel Cohen-Scali, Israeli President Zalman Shazar, Minister of Religious Affairs Jacob Moses Toledano, Moroccan Senator Maitre Salomon Sebbag, General Secretary of Histadrut Uri Sebbag, Court Jew Samuel Oppenheimer, baseball player and owner Bill Starr, Financiers Joseph Sebbag-Montefiore and his uncle Sir Moses Montefiore, violinist Yehuda Menuhin, fashion designer Ralph Lauren, film producer Raphael Berdugo, and Anne Frank, author of The Diary of a Young Girl.


For more details on topics discussed, please visit the website, or contact the author.  I hope that you will enjoy perusing my family tree and perhaps find your place within it. If you do, please tell me, so that I can update the tree accordingly. It is thanks to my visitors that I have been able to expand my tree.

If you agree how helpful it is to put your tree on the web, I encourage you to do so with your own website or on the Jewishgen’s Family Tree of the Jewish People or some other site. Good luck!

The Case for Fast Track Authority

tpp-fast-track-1[1]The Senate Democrats feel that President Obama’s “fast track authority” for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which is being currently negotiated, erodes the safeguards necessary to “prevent future financial crises.”

However, such opposition is disingenuous; trade promotion authority should be considered on its own merits as a useful tool in making good international agreements without significantly undermining Congressional oversight. It should not be dispensed on an ad hoc basis depending on how you feel about the treaty in question.

“Fast track” or trade promotion authority (TPA) as contemplated would require Congress to introduce the bill into committee once they are in session. Congress would then have up to 90 days to work the bill through the relevant committees and vote in both chambers.

The treaty in question has already been signed by the President and the leaders of the other nations in the agreement. Congress is not required to ratify the treaty, but our negotiating partners deserve that any signed agreement come up for a vote at some foreseeable point, and not be held in limbo by obscure parliamentary maneuvers.

The TPA process allows 45 days of debate in committee, 20 hours on the floor of the House and 20 hours on the floor of the Senate. It is hard to imagine that this would not be sufficient for all sides to argue their case for or against any foreseeable international trade treaty.

Most controversially, TPA forbids the introduction of amendments to the treaty. However, as opposed to typical legislation, a treaty is a multinational agreement. Were Congress to make any amendment whatsoever to a treaty, whether it is to lower a carbon emission standard by one part per million, or forbid the use of foreign aid for family planning, any change in the terms of the treaty sends all the parties back to the drawing boards, nullifying the signatures of the various heads of state who were party to the agreement, and any ratifications made by foreign legislatures.

Any amendment – even a “friendly” one intended to improve the agreement – would surely torpedo the treaty and require negotiations to begin again. Furthermore, our negotiating partners will view us as negotiating in bad faith, and would meet our new terms with new demands of their own.

Even if a legislator likes a treaty but believes it needs improvement, he should not seek to amend it. Rather he should consider how long it would take to renegotiate the treaty, and how likely the new negotiations would settle on the desired outcome. On the basis of these questions, the legislator may either decide to vote against the treaty, or to “hold his nose” and ratify the treaty as-is.

Legislators who strive to kill a treaty with a seemingly “friendly” amendment are being extremely deceptive. If a treaty is unfair (and perhaps this is the case with the Trans-Pacific Partnership) let it come up for a vote and explain why it should not be ratified. If your arguments are strong, the treaty will fail, but don’t disguise your motives by preventing the treaty as signed from even being considered.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice Celebrates 10 Years

Many thanks to everyone who came to our 10th anniversary celebration. Philadelphia Jewish Voice President Bonnie Squires welcomed the sell-out crowd, served as M.C., thanked our gracious hosts Mark and Judi Aronchick for opening up their beautiful home to us, and praised David and Debra Magerman of Six Points Kosher Events for their generous donation of the lavish buffet. They even sent along Jim, their wonderful staff person, to arrange all the platters.

The event raised $12,000 to support our paper. Founder and publisher Dan Loeb spoke about his inspiration ten years ago in creating our community all-volunteer newspaper. (His remarks are below the photo.) Dan then made a presentation on behalf of our board of directors to our immediate past president Ronit Treatman for her devotion and leadership.

Ronit gave a gracious acceptance, loved the silver Menorah which Dan had presented, and her parents and many family members among the crowd were beaming.

Dan Rottenberg, the legendary editor, author and publisher, read from one of his opinion pieces, published years before the founding of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, calling for a Jewish community publication which would be diverse in nature and opinion. He proved to have been clairvoyant.

State Senator Daylin Leach then gave the keynote address, analyzing various legislative issues in the state capital, including medical marijuana and marriage equality, while commenting on gerrymandering and urging reform. He peppered his comments with his usual wit.

Montgomery County Coroner Walter Hofman, M.D., and Lower Merion Township Commissioners President Liz Rogan were among the luminaries who enjoyed the evening.

PJVoice board

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice board of directors. Left to right: Lisa Grunberger, Dan Loeb (secretary), Bonnie Squires (president), Ronit Treatman, Jessica Weingarten, Daylin Leach, Charlie Smolover (former board member), Perry Dane, Ken Myers (vice-president). Not shown but present: Eric Smolen (treasurer), Debbie Rosan. Photo by Helen Loeb.

Remarks by the Publisher

Ten years ago, we were simply members of the Philadelphia Jewish community who sought a paper which would give voice to all parts of our community, and address its critical issues in a spirit of intellectual honesty and diversity. We called ourselves The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

In 2010, we moved from a monthly webzine format to “blog” format that could be updated daily. All of our writing is done by our team of exceptional “citizen journalists.” Our volunteers allow us to stay on top of the day’s news with analysis from a wide range of viewpoints, from writers like Rabbi Arthur Waskow to Lori Lowenthal Marcus.

We highlight various groups in order to advance worthy endeavors in our community and encourage networking. We interview prominent politicians, candidates and leaders, letting them speak directly to our readers on issues of concern to the Jewish community while keeping a permanent record of their promises to our community. Other regular columns focus on our community, food, Israel, Jewish thought, parenting, teen issues and arts & culture.

Our readership base is in the Philadelphia area, but we are read each month by thousands of subscribers around the world. Our interview of Elie Wiesel was even translated into Portuguese.

Indeed, we have so much material that we strive to bring to you, our readers while the news is still relevant. This is where your support is so helpful. We only have one paid staffer: our webmaster Amir Shoam. He works from Israel and does a great job keeping up with The Philadelphia Jewish Voice during what is for us in Philadelphia the wee hours of the morning.

Dan R Ronit Bonnie Daylin Dan Loeb

Left to right: Dan Rottenberg, author and guest speaker; Ronit Treatman, honoree; Bonnie Squires, president of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice; Senator Daylin Leach, keynote address; and Dan Loeb, founder and publisher of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice. Photo by Helen Loeb.

Tonight we have raised about $12,000 in our 10th anniversary reception. This support will allow the Philadelphia Jewish Voice to continue to provide the level of journalism which we strive for.

Meanwhile, remember that while this reception is a once-in-a-decade celebration, our expenses are an ongoing engagement. Comparable publications get significant ad revenue and ask for $36 per year or more from their readers. We have almost no advertising and provide our content for free. So your continuing generosity is greatly appreciated.

Your feedback and support will fuel us to continue to improve our work as we adventure into a second decade of citizen journalism.

Liz Rogan Mark Aronchick Daylin Leach Ronit Treatman

Left to right: Liz Rogan, president of Lower Merion Board of Commissioners; host Mark Aronchick, Esq.; Senator Daylin Leach, keynote speaker; and honoree Ronit Treatman. Photo by Bonnie Squires.

Talking About Chamberlain

Disagree with the Iran talks? Then use informed 2015 arguments, not the 1938 Munich analogy! (Courtesy of Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @

Disagree with the Iran talks? Then use informed 2015 arguments, not the 1938 Munich analogy! (Courtesy of Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @

Many politicians and advocates use the specter of Nazi appeasement to scuttle an Iran deal.

Certainly Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement handed over the Sudetenland in exchange for empty promises and paved the path towards World War II.

However, what would have happened if the Munich Agreement had resembled the currently proposed agreement with Iran?

Imagine if Germany had not be given control of any new territory, but only allowed normal trade with the rest of the world. Suppose further if Germany had agreed to:

  • Destroy or sell abroad 97% of their tanks, armored transports and aircraft – just as Iran agrees to dispose of 97% of their enriched uranium.
  • Destroy or sell abroad 60% of their guns including all of their machine guns and high caliber weapons – just as Iran agrees to dispose of 60% of their centrifuges leaving only the most primitive ones based on 1970s technology.
  • Allow international observers to be stationed permanently at all military bases, weapon warehouses and weapon factories – just as Iran agrees to allow monitors of their nuclear program from the mines, to the processing, and the storage.
  • Place tracking devices on all military officers – just as Iran agrees to have GPS tracking of their nuclear scientists.
  • Allow international observers to be sent to any location based on any intelligence found – including information from these tracking devices – just as Iran agrees to do.
  • Immediate and verifiable halt to the rocket program being researched by Werner von Braun and others – just as Iran agrees to halt their research into a possible plutonium weapon, now being undertaken at Arak heavy-water reactor.

If Germany had made all of these agreements, Europe would likely have remained at peace and perhaps there would never have been a World War II.

Such an agreement would not have been a panacea. Such an agreement would not have improved the prospects of life for the Jews in Germany itself no more than a nuclear deal with Iran is likely to turn that country into a Western-style democracy tolerant of all religions and sexual orientations.

Nevertheless the deal is a step forward, and I hope it is signed, ratified and implemented by both countries.

10 Parties Vie for Your Vote in World Zionist Congress Election

masthead[1]The election in Israel is over, but World Zionist Congress (WZC) is holding its 37th elections online until April 30, with 10 parties participating.

What Is the World Zionist Congress?

Established in 1897, the World Zionist Congress (WZC) meets every five years to discuss issues of vital importance to the global Jewish community, such as Jewish identity, peace and security, ant-Semitism, civil society in Israel, and the future of the State of Israel.

Who Can Vote?

Anyone who is Jewish, is over the age of 18 and who signs the “Jerusalem Program”:

Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.

The foundations of Zionism are:

  • the unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, (The Land of Israel) and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation;
  • aliyah to Israel from all countries and the effective integration of all immigrants into Israeli society;
  • strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world;
  • ensuring the future and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people by furthering Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education, fostering spiritual and cultural values and teaching Hebrew as the national language;
  • nurturing mutual Jewish responsibility, defending the rights of Jews as individuals and as a nation, representing the national Zionist interests of the Jewish people, and struggling against all manifestations of anti-Semitism; and
  • settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.

Why Should I Vote? Shouldn’t We Leave Israeli Politics to Israelis?

The WZC vote is not an Israeli election. The vote does not effect Knesset or internal Israeli political affairs.

Think of it as World Jewish elections. All Jewish issues are addressed. This is the only democratic congress of all Jews. Additionally, the WZC and Jewish Agency are the legally recognized representative of World Jewry.

Do you support Israel? Donate money? Where do you think it goes? This is your chance to get a say in where the money goes. The Congress of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) sets the agenda and gives orders to the Jewish Agency, its executive branch.

Your vote will influence how many delegates are assigned to the party you choose, thereby giving it more influence in choosing the Congress’ resolutions.

Resolutions are of three varieties: financial (how much money should go in particular directions), political/social (i.e. policies) and operational (how the WZO and Jewish Agency should operate and who should be elected to governing boards).

What Difference Will My One Vote Make?

Five-hundred delegates are elected to the WZC. In 2015, Israel will send about 200 delegates, (38%) and U.S. will send 145 (29%), as the largest Diaspora community out of 40; those 145 will be divided among 10 different parties.

Fewer than 90,000 Americans voted in either 2002 and 2006 for the 34th and 35th Congresses. That means that it takes less than 600 people’s votes to be elected a delegate.

Who Is Running?

  • springZionist Spring: Restoring Vision to World Zionism (platform, slate)


  • mercazMercaz USA: The Zionist Arm of the Conservative Movement (platform, slate)



  • afiAmerican Forum for Israel. Affiliated with the American Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry (platform, slate)


  • wszoWorld Sephardic Zionist Organization – Ohavei Zion (platform, slate)



  • hnaHerut North America – The Jabotinsky Movement (platform, slate)



  • greenGreen Israel: Aytzim/Green Zionist Alliance/Jewcology (platform, slate)


  • religiousReligious Zionists: Vote Torah for the Soul of Israel (platform, slate)


  • zoaZionist Organization of America/ZOA: Defend Jews & Israeli Rights (platform, slate)

How Do I Vote?

  1. Visit the election website.
  2. Complete the registration form.
  3. Pay the registration fee by personal check, credit card or PayPal. (The fee is $5 for people from 18 to 30 years old and $10 for people over 30.)
  4. Vote for the party of your choice.
  5. Add your comments below and encourage your friends to do the same. Feel free to add polite comments in support of your favorite party.

Why Should I Have to Pay to Vote? That Doesn’t Sound Very Democratic!

Elections cost money. Here in the U.S., our yearly state and federal taxes provide the funds for all elections. For the WZO Congress, our registration fees cover the costs of the election.

Prices are affordable, so that hopefully everyone will be able to participate. Better to fund these elections with voter fees than to divert community funds to cover these costs.

I’ve Voted. Why Not You?

Iran Foreign Minister: Senators’ Letter “Mostly Propaganda Ploy”

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said that the 47 Republican Senators’ open letter threatening to cancel any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program after President Obama’s term “has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy”:

It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.

Senate[1]In the letter the Senators wrote, “Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.”

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

(Full text below.)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “Republicans are undermining our commander in chief while empowering the ayatollahs.” Obama said that he found it “somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.”

Senator John McCain said to Politico, “I saw the letter, I saw that it looked reasonable to me and I signed it, that’s all. I sign lots of letters.”

However, Amanda Taub found that “McCain’s decision to sign the letter is more disturbing if he thinks it was merely a minor act.”

 It’s one thing to decide to actively and publicly undermine the president’s conduct of foreign affairs, not just in this treaty negotiation but potentially in all other future negotiations, with all other countries, who will now also be able to point to this same letter as evidence that the president cannot be trusted to negotiate agreements on behalf of the United States. But at least take that seriously. At least treat it as a weighty decision that carries significant, far-reaching consequences. Don’t act like it’s just more boring paperwork!

Several Republicans refused to sign the letter: Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dan Coats (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Senator Flake explained, “These are tough enough negotiations as it is. I just didn’t think it was useful.” [Read more…]

Do We Want Our Judges Picked by the Luck of the Draw?

I recall sometimes going directly from morning services to the polling station on election day. On election day, we recite the Psalm for Tuesday (מזמור שֶׁל יוֹם שלישי) — Psalm 82, which praises G-d who “pronounces judgement over judges.”

The irony is palpable as I am then compelled to pass judgement on Pennsylvania’s judges, and vote on who will be retained as judge and who will pass on to retirement (a veritable judicial ונתנה תוקף).

Most voters are probably like me, without legal training and with no familiarity with any of these judges. In fact, as State Rep. Brian Sims mentioned, the single most determinant factor in predicting the winner of a judicial election is the ballot placement:

It’s time to remove partisan politics and campaign contributions from selecting our judiciary and implement a merit-based system for choosing Pennsylvania’s statewide judges. As you can see from the folks backing this effort, merit selection transcends party lines and geographical divides and pursues just one, clear goal: placing the most qualified and competent jurists in the courtroom.

Do we want our judges picked by the luck of the draw? And do we really want our judges pandering to special interests in order to raise campaign money and create a public name for themselves?

I would rather have judges who interpret the law fairly and protect the rights of minorities against the vagaries of whim of the majority.

Netanyahu Declines to Meet Democratic Senators Before Congressional Speech

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

Biden (left) and Boehner (right) look on as Netanyahu speaks before Congress.

DEBKA reported that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declined an invitation for a closed-door meeting with Democratic Senators next week in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein:

Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation, I believe that accepting it at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.

DEBKA added that National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the latest U.S. administration official to attack Netanyahu, sharply called his forthcoming speech on Iran to Congress “destructive to the relationship between the two countries” in an interview with Charlie Rose Tuesday night:

What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there have been injected some degree of partisanship.

It is not only unfortunate but it is also destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan and we want to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics, that’s a problem.

Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry said in reference to the prime minister that “anybody running around right now jumping in to say, ‘Well we don’t like the deal,’ or this, or that, doesn’t know what the deal is.”

Previously, Netanyahu remarked on his upcoming speech:

This agreement, if signed, will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state – meaning that, with the powers’ consent, Iran will get a license to develop atom bombs – and this is a country which openly declares its intention to destroy the state of Israel. That is why I will go to Washington to speak before the US Congress, because the U.S. Congress may be the last defense before it is signed.