New Dem. Leadership in PA & MontCo

Marcel Groen

Marcel Groen

— by Tom Infield

Marcel L. Groen, elected in September as the State Democratic Chairman in Pennsylvania, stepped down from his position as leader of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee on Thursday evening, saying it was time for him to turn over the reins of the local party and to give his full attention to crucial statewide races in 2016.

He is a member of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park where he was vice-president. Over the years Marcel has held a number of other positions of leadership in our Jewish community: He was board member of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, board member of Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, president of Bucks County Jewish National, and vice-president of Solomon Schechter Day Schools.

Montgomery County Democratic Committee Officers: (Left to right) Olivia Brady, Jason Salus, Chairman Joe Foster, Jeanne Democratic Area Leader for Abington and Rockledge, Jeanne  Sorg, Veronica Hill-Milbourne, and Michael Barbiero.

Montgomery County Democratic Committee Officers: (Left to right) Olivia Brady, Jason Salus, Chairman Joe Foster, Jeanne
Democratic Area Leader for Abington and Rockledge, Jeanne Sorg, Veronica Hill-Milbourne, and Michael Barbiero.

The party’s Executive Committee, meeting in Plymouth Meeting, voted unanimously to select Joseph Foster, who had been First Vice Chairman, as the new Chairman. Foster hailed Groen for his 21 years of leadership and pledged to continue the unity and inclusiveness that enabled Democrats to achieve a historic first on November 3 by winning every county government office.

“The Montgomery County Democratic Party is large and vibrant and growing,” said Foster, who is a professor of American history at Temple University and serves on the county’s Board of Assessment.

“I have learned over time that the most important thing we do is stay in the same boat rowing in the same direction,” Foster told the Executive Committee. “Unity is our success. As long as we stay together, we will be successful.”

Jason Salus, re-elected as Montgomery County Treasurer on November 3, was unanimously selected as the party’s first vice chairman. Michael Barbiero, an attorney and Democratic Area Leader for Abington and Rockledge, was unanimously chosen to fill the position of party
Treasurer that was held by Salus.

The party’s ongoing leadership includes Jeanne Sorg, the newly elected county Recorder of Deeds, as Second Vice Chair; Veronica Hill-Milbourne as Corresponding Secretary, and Olivia Brady as Recording Secretary.

Groen, an attorney who was first chosen as party Chairman in 1994, said he was leaving with mixed emotions.

“This is really bittersweet for me,” Groen told the Executive Committee, which filled a large meeting room at the AFSCME offices on Walton Road. “You and this party have been an important part of my life.”

Two decades ago, Groen noted, Democrats were a minority in Montgomery County. The party trailed badly in voter registration, had only one Representative in the state Legislature, and held no competitive county offices. Now, the party holds a big lead in registration, has a large and growing delegation in Harrisburg, and dominates at the county level. The county has also grown into a major power base for the statewide Democratic Party, delivering large margins on November 3 for all of the statewide Democratic court nominees.

Groen praised the work of Democratic workers and volunteers at all levels of the county party, and said it was their willingness to sacrifice for the common good that made success possible. He also praised the work of the Montgomery County Democratic Party staff, led by Executive Director Dianna DiIllio and Political Director Joe Graeff.

Joe Foster

Joe Foster, the newly elected chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. Photo: Bonnie Squires

Foster earned his Ph.D. from Temple in 1989 and began full-time teaching in 2009. For two decades, he worked on a research and publication project sponsored by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the National Endowment for the Humanities that focused on the state’s early history.

He and his wife, Debby, are parents of four grown children. They live in Bala Cynwyd where they are members of Lower Merion Synagogue.

Joe “You Lie!” Wilson Imitator At Congregation Keneseth Israel

Area Jewish Dems Praise Obama’s Support  Of Israel & Jewish Values


Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent.

Last night the Jewish community came out in force to Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park for a serious discussion of politics sponsored by Jewish Americans for Obama.

As expected Pennsylvania State Representative (17th district) and former standup comic Daylin Leach had everyone’s attention with his unique blend of political analysis and satire. However, Daylin’s comedy was overshadowed by the spectacle afforded by a small group of tea party enthusiasts who were in attendance. These right-wing extremists stood up and interrupted speaker after speaker.

Representative Joe Wilson only interrupted President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address with “You lie” only once, but these protesters were comfortable shouting “It is a lie” over a dozen times during the night.

Their random outbursts seemed like a crude caricature of a rabid Tea Party member. The continual refrain of “It is a lie” punctuated the most anodyne statement of fact.

Here is one example: Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro praised Obama’s record of vetoing every anti-Israel United Nations Security Council Resolution since he took office. And the protester was rose and cried out,

“It is a lie.”

Really?!

Tell us what UNSC resolution escaped the attention of this administration? Perhaps he was thinking about UNSC #1405 which required Israel to submit to UN inspections of the Jenin refugee camp as a result of libelous accusation against Israel during Operation Defensive Shield. Actually, this happened under President George W. Bush’s watch in April 2002. That was the last time the US failed to wield its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel.

Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rod McCord quoted Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai who proudly took credit for our state’s new Voter ID law saying

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done.
First pro-life legislation — abortion facility regulations — in 22 years, done.
Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

To which our friendly protester provided comic relief by bellowing out “It is a lie” at the top of his lungs.


At the Keneseth Israel event, Rabbi Lance Sussman(second from right) addresses the crowd. Also at the podium are (from left) State Sen. Daylin Leach, Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro and county Democratic head Marcel Groen.
Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent

Spiritual leader Rabbi Lance J. Sussman welcomed the standing-room-only crowd of 1,200 members of community packing the sanctuary. He welcomed the community’s commitment to the political process and indicated that Keneseth Israel desired to hold a similar event on behalf of Governor Romney.

Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen served as master of ceremonies, he and all the members of the political panel started their remarks with their Jewish bona fides, detailing their history of commitment to Israel and the Jewish community (even if some of the panelists didn’t have very Jewish names).

Daylin Leach and Josh Shapiro echoed the sentiment that a candidates’ understanding of the unique relationship between Israel and United States was condition sine qua non to get their support. Neither had any doubt that Obama’s feels a love for the State of Israel “in his kishkes.”

Daylin Leach said he was just 20 feet away from Barack Obama at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference when the President declared that “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Rep. Leach also praised Obama for fighting anti-Semitism here and around the world.

Rep. Leach spoke about the importance of the separation of church and state. He warned that it was not so long ago that we had mandatory school prayer, and that if school prayer were to return, it would probably not be the shema. He emphasize the closely divided nature of Supreme Court on this issue. The next President will likely nominate one or more justices who will shape our understanding of law for decades to come. Romney used to hold Chief Justice John Roberts as an example of the type of judge he would nominate for the Supreme Court. Now that Roberts ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, Romney has now chosen Associate Justice Antonin Scalia as his model for a Supreme Court nominee. To understand who Obama is likely to nominate, we can look at the two judges he has nominated so far: Associate Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

United States Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) was on hand. Rep. Schwartz is the only woman and the only Jew in Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation. Her Congressional District covers much of Eastern Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. Thanks to the latest redistricting Congregation Keneseth Israel is now part of her district, and she welcomed her new constituents.


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fields questions at K.I.
Photo: Richard Chaitt / Jewish Exponent.

The highlight of the evening was Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20). She addressed the many hoaxes being circulated attacking Obama’s stand on Israel. She recommended that everyone keep a copy of the campaign’s Myths vs. Facts document and their six-page fact sheet detailing the ironclad relation with Israel that the Obama campaign has nurtured.

The crowd also heard from Obama’s Pennsylvania Jewish Outreach Coordinator Alan Fuchs, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, as well as Obama for America Montgomery County Field Director Dan Siegal. The campaign opened their county headquarters at 115 Yorktown Plaza in Elkins Park, PA. The headquarters was conveniently located at the intersection of RT 611 and Church Rd just across the street from Keneseth Israel.

Historic Montgomery County PA Inauguration

— by Bonnie Squires

For the first in 140 years, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, now has two Democratic Commissioners, making the Honorable Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards the first Democrats to hold the majority posts.  In addition, both Shapiro and Richards are Jewish, another historic first for the county seat in Norristown.  Shapiro had served for years as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, once serving as Deputy Speaker, and Richards had served as chair of the Whitemarsh Township Board of Commissioners.

More after the jump.
The third county commissioner, Bruce Castor, former District Attorney, and Shapiro and Richards have all pledged to work together cooperatively for the good of the county, reversing the former board’s often public fights and accusations.  In an era of economic downturn and tax shortfalls, the commissioners will be challenged to maintain the level of civility which they displayed during the Inauguration and celebratory luncheon which followed.  In a show of good faith, Castor, the Republican, even attended the Montgomery County Democratic Committee’s luncheon, and Castor even came to the podium when the Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen invited  him to say a few words.

Questioning the President’s commitment to Israel

Marcel Groen— by Marcel Groen

I’ve started to notice a particular sentiment return to the Jewish community in the past few months.  Maybe you remember its last iteration from 2008, when fear mongers tried to convince us that Barack Obama wouldn’t support Israel as president.  Today, we’re hearing that President Obama is soft on Iran, that he doesn’t have Israel’s true interests at heart or that he wants Israel to give up too much at too great a cost.

But that doesn’t bother me as much as that these allegations are just plain wrong.

Some Jewish leaders have opposed a political division within the Jewish community about something both parties agree upon. Maybe they aren’t wrong; we do neither Israel nor ourselves any favor when we politicize the action of an administration that stands with Israel. Nor do we do much good when we play on the fears of our own community.

We, as Jews and lovers of Zion, must recognize how blessed we are to have a leader who shares our values and commitment to the State of Israel. Our country and the President’s administration have a lasting, unshakable and undeniable commitment to Israel and its security. We shouldn’t let anyone try to tell us otherwise.

Maybe you heard about the President’s speech to the Union of Reform Judaism’s General Assembly in December, when he kvetched about the short skirts his daughter wants to wear to her friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Hysterical.  But one serious thing he did was to reassure us that he will continue, as always, to stand by Israel.

He stands by Israel, which is under attack by rockets from Gaza, which sees an Iran threatening her security, and which sees an Arab Spring that brings deep uncertainty to the region.  And the President stands by Israel not just with his words, but with his deeds.

Just look at military co-operation between our two countries – it’s never been better than it is today.  The President strongly believes that the Israeli Defense Forces should maintain a qualitative military edge over those who seek to destroy it.  That’s why he made sure Israel got the vital security funding it needed to build the Iron Dome system to shoot down rockets from Gaza.

And the President has done much more.  When others tried to isolate Israel in September, President Obama strongly declared to the United Nations that he, and the United States, would always have Israel’s back. Then he did what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “badge of honor”: He blocked Palestinian attempts to get around direct negotiation with Israel and pursue statehood unilaterally.

President Obama has always opposed attempts to delegitimize Israel. He has repeatedly supported Israel’s right to negotiate with a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and pledges to forgo violence and honor previous agreements.

The President understands that a nuclear Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel and has forcefully stated so in public and private discussions with our allies. Then he backed up those words with action, signing the toughest sanctions against Iran to date, while encouraging our allies around the world to implement tougher sanctions as well.

I’m not the only one who knows that our President stands with Israel.  Israeli ambassador Michael Oren has frequently called President Obama a true friend of Israel.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly praised the President’s efforts on behalf of Israel.  And Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed those same sentiments in his speech to Congress last year.

So next time you hear someone questioning President Obama’s commitment to Israel, tell them to look at the facts. We can’t forget how lucky we are to live in a country that institutionally shares our commitment to Israel’s safety, welfare and survival. That commitment has stayed true for decades. Today, because of President Obama, it is stronger than ever.
Marcel Groen, of Warrington, is a Philadelphia attorney and chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.