Malice at the Palace

It is traditional during the Jewish political holiday of Purim (March 11-12) to present a playful Purim shpiel. Last year in the midst of the very contentious election season, I penned A Presidential Purim Parody, with the brave Queen Esther/Hillary, the righteous Mordecai/Bernie and their divisive opponent, Haman/Donald.

Things didn’t quite work out the way many had hoped. So allow me to present an epilogue in the spirit of Purim, featuring The “Not Ready for the Presidency” Players.

King Donald roams the palace halls,
Dressed in his royal robe,
Displaying “tremendous” touchiness,
Despite being a germaphobe.
[Read more…]

Never Again!

Never again.

Since early January, over 50 JCCs have received almost 70 anonymous bomb threats, forcing the evacuation of babies, children and staff in 26 states. Proliferating anti-Semitic acts are reported on an almost daily basis, including broken synagogue windows, as well as Swastikas defacing holy places of prayer, the New York subway and private Jewish properties. In a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated, with more than 100 headstones knocked over or broken.

Screenshot from an AP video of the desecrated Jewish cemetery in Missouri.

Screenshot from an AP video of the desecrated Jewish cemetery in Missouri.

What is wrong with this picture? Is this our new “normal,” and are we simply to adjust to and accept this frighteningly unacceptable reality? [Read more…]

Trudy Rubin: Trump Further Destabilizes Middle East

Columnist Trudy Rubin. Photo: @trudirubin

Columnist Trudy Rubin. Photo: @trudirubin

Despite the cold, over 100 people came to Congregation Adath Jeshurun (AJ) in Elkins Park on a Sunday morning to hear Trudy Rubin speak about foreign policy, including the politics and prospects for the Middle East. Rubin is the well known “Worldview” columnist for “The Inquirer” and is syndicated in other newspapers across the nation. The event was sponsored by the AJ Adult Education Committee.

Coming just two days after President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim countries, Rubin had much to say. The travel ban, she pointed out, does not reach the countries from which the largest number and worst terrorists have come to the United States. (Editor: By far, the majority of U.S terrorist attacks are perpetrated by Americans!) Neither does it take into account its possible destabilizing effects. For example, she noted that Jordan is an important ally of the U.S. But it is also host to one hundred thousand Syrian refugees, and is unable to afford to house or feed them or find them jobs. The American ban sets a precedent that is bad for the situation in Jordan. The government of Jordan holds a tenuous grasp on the situation, and our action endangers it. [Read more…]

Faith Rally for Refugees and American Values

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

These are the words written on the base of the Statute of Liberty. These are the values that make America great. And today, these are the values that are threatened by Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven blacklisted countries. We must respond — and we will start today with a rally in Battery Park, New York, and a vigil at the Statue of Liberty.

Bring children; bring beautiful signs; bring musical instruments and snacks. The forecast is 45 ° and sunny, and this is a fantastic way to learn about American history and to take civic action.

This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats — it is about the soul of America. Trump’s executive action will not make Americans any safer. We all share real concerns about terrorism. That’s why our nation has rigorous screening procedures in place for all refugees. An American has never been killed in a terror attack on American soil by a person from one of the seven countries that were blacklisted today — and never by a Syrian refugee. Meanwhile, the countries from which the terrorists of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Lebanon) came from were excluded from the ban.

We must stand up against this un-American absurdity!

Schedule of Events
1:30 pm – Rally at Battery Park
3:00 pm – Vigil at the Statue of Liberty

For more information, email Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, or call him at 434-294-9414.

Common Cause: No Issue of Voter Fraud

“The facts are clear; the research has been done. Election officials, leaders of the president’s own party and other leading election experts confirm that there is no evidence of election tampering, as President Trump alone claims. There simply is no alternate fact,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots watchdog organization, working to assure government accountability and the right of all Americans to make their voices heard in the political process. [Read more…]

The Fraudulent Voter Fraud Schadenfreude

The inaugurations of  Donald Trump, 2017 (left) and Barrack Obama, 2009 (right).

The inaugurations of Donald Trump, 2017 (left) and Barrack Obama, 2009 (right).

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference centered on “alternative facts” about the attendance at Trump’s inauguration. There is no crime in having a sparsely attended inauguration. Lyndon B. Johnson had only 27 people on hand, including himself, yet that was sufficient for him to lead our country. Indeed Trump had a decent attendance at his inauguration by historical standards. However, to claim that this inauguration was the most well attended in history is simply counter-factual. Attendance was only one-third of Obama’s first inauguration. In fact, Clinton’s first inauguration, both of Obama’s inaugurations and the Women’s March on Washington all had higher attendance than Trump’s inauguration.

However, if Trump is consistent about one thing, it is inconsistency.

In the next press conference (referred to by the White House as the “first official press conference,” suggesting that the previous one somehow didn’t count), instead of re-litigating the inauguration, the administration decided to re-litigate the election. Although Trump won the electoral vote, his inability to win the popular vote remains a sore spot for him. [Read more…]

Nostalgic for Last Week’s America?

oathSo much of the America I had taken for granted as recently as last week has disappeared.

President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” feels increasingly appropriate, leading many Americans wonder if Trump will really remain President for four years of will one of the many scandals swirling around him lead to his impeachment, or if Trump’s erratic behavior and plummeting popularity will lead his cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
[Read more…]

Congressman John Lewis Protests Trump Election

If you missed the opportunity to hear Georgia Congressman John Lewis, my hero, speak out at a Senate confirmation hearing last week, explaining why he cannot vote “yes” in favor of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the nation, and why he will not participate in Donald Trump’s inauguration — well, you owe it to yourself to watch his remarkable speech in its entirety.

There is never an ounce of bitterness when John Lewis speaks, even when he talks about the vicious beating he received while peacefully marching from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, some 50 years ago, asking for voting rights. The right to participate in the democratic election process of the country he calls “home.”

But he knows all about suppression of voting rights, and he almost paid with his life when he marched peacefully in 1965 to try to gain the right to vote in Alabama. Several times I have had the privilege of being in Congressman Lewis’ company and I asked him how he could possibly avoid even a trace of bitterness when he recites his horrendous experiences in the segregated South.

His answer is always the same: He believes in non-violence.

Senator Cory Booker was also impressive on that second day of Senate hearings into the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Booker made history as the first sitting Senator to speak out against the confirmation of a colleague of his in the Senate.

But his concern, like Lewis’ concern, was for having an Attorney General who would speak up and speak out for the rights of minorities, of poor people of those without a voice.

And then there was also on the panel Congressman Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, respectfully but sadly pointed out that having an icon like John Lewis testify at the very end of the hearings was like consigning “to the back of the bus” the six African Americans who testified.

And even though Senator Sessions was not required to sit through the many hours of testimony, it was a glaring omission that he absented himself from the hearing room when John Lewis et al were testifying.

My mother could not understand why three of the people who testified were in favor of Sessions, until I explained that those three had once worked for Senator Sessions and been on his payroll when he served as Attorney General of Alabama.

Neither Booker nor Redmond nor Lewis was the slightest bit vitriolic. They were just heartbroken that the highest legal officer in the land should be someone who had never spoken up for civil rights in the decades of his service in various positions. The three of them had no expectation that Sessions would suddenly turn into a champion for civil rights, especially since Donald Trump does not seem to be interested in the rights of people of color.

Lewis announced that he would not, could not participate in the Inauguration on Friday, as he did not consider Donald Trump the “legitimate President,” with everything that has been unearthed by the Intelligence community about the role played by Russian hackers. The tension between Trump and the various intelligence agencies has both Republicans and Democrats concerned, especially in these challenging times.

Lewis is like the conscience of the Congress, and some two dozen colleagues have followed his lead and bowed out of attendance on Friday at the White House ceremony. If they follow Congressman Lewis’ lead, they are doing this not out of spite, or vengeance, but because they are saddened by the prospect of someone’s assuming the Presidency who has not shown either respect or concern for people who are heroes in American history.

Perhaps you were as fortunate as I was to have seen Congressman Lewis in person most recently at the National Constitution Center a few months ago, when he was awarded the Liberty Medal. His voice is always gentle, but he always speaks passionately about his search for justice, for equality. He does respect the Office of the President, but he just believes that illegitimate means were employed either by Donald Trump or on Trumps’ behalf in order to secure the office.

Some day we will know the extent to which Russian hacking and Vladimir Putin meddled in our democratic process. In the meantime, though, I hope that President Trump will cease vilifying heroes like Congressman John Lewis simply because they disagree with him.

And because I, too, love America and value our democracy, I am praying that Donald Trump turns into a good President and respects the rights of all Americans. If Senator Jeff Sessions does become the Attorney General, I pray that he, too, will fight for the rights of all Americans.

New Year, New Challenges

-Burt Siegel

As soon as it became obvious on Election Night that Donald Trump would become the next president of the United States, millions of us reacted in ways similar to how Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the series of emotions we feel when a loved one dies: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. We probably should add outright fear to that list. [Read more…]