Will the Next Charlottesville be Here?

Jeffrey Saltz, Democratic candidate for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County

By Jeffrey Saltz

Candidates for public office frequently state that they learn the most about local issues by talking with their voters.  This may sound like a cliche, but in fact I recently learned about virulent anti-Semitism and racism lurking right in our backyard, by talking with voters who have been exposed to such hatred.

Together with my running mate Wendy Rothstein, I am a Democratic candidate for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County — the main county court located in Norristown.  As a candidate, I have traveled the length and breadth of Montgomery County, a large and diverse district, from my home in Lower Merion to close-by communities in Cheltenham and Abington, to the more rural areas farther north.  Wherever I go, I have spoken of the lessons that we have learned this year about the importance of judges in protecting individual rights and in standing up to government abuse of power.

Ever since August 12, I mention the march of neo-Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, which for me was a blaring wake-up call.  The Charlottesville march was sickening and terrifying.  And the most frightening part was that we know that we have not seen the last of these hate groups — especially with the encouragement provided by Donald Trump’s message of moral equivalency.  As I have addressed groups around the county, I have asked the question, “What if the next march is here?”  Free speech is constitutionally protected, but violence and intimidation are not.  Who do you want sitting in the courthouse if the marchers come here and bring these legal issues with them?

Audiences seemed responsive.  But in truth, I wondered whether my questions were just abstract and hypothetical.  That was until I went to the Perkiomen Valley, in the northern reaches of Montgomery County, encompassing towns like Schwenksville, Red Hill, and Pennsburg.  To a group of voters, I posed my usual question — “What would happen if the Klan were to come here?” — but the reaction was very different.  They laughed.  My question was a foolish one.  As the audience explained, “The Klan is already here.”  They told me how Klan members have lived in the community for years, including the man in their neighborhood who stands in public places dressed in a Nazi-style brownshirt.  The Klan has typically been quiet, but recently, I was told, they have become more vocal.  “They feel they have permission now,” one voter said.

White supremacist carrying a Nazi flag during Charlottesville riot. Photo courtesy: Andy Campbell

Voters in the town of East Greenville showed me flyers that they had received in the mail, anonymously, before the Charlottesville march.  I will not describe them in detail, because they were so offensive that I refuse to repeat their content.  Let me just say that they were the most vile anti-Semitic and racist materials that I have ever seen.  It was as if they had been taken right off the wall of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.  They were appalling.  I could only imagine the fear that was evoked when everyone in the neighborhood opened their mail that afternoon.

My experience with the voters of the Perkiomen Valley drove home the point that questions about where the next Charlottesville will occur are not just hypothetical.  The hate groups are already here.  More of them may be coming.  We need to be ready, so that violence and intimidation do not threaten our democratic values and individual rights. 
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Jeffrey Saltz lives in Lower Merion and is a Democratic candidate for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.  He is a past President of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne.  More information is available at www.saltzforjudge.com. 

Montgomery County HealthCare Town Hall

The Montgomery County Democratic Committee is proud to announce a Town Hall designed to take a look at what’s at stake with the future of American healthcare.

The second in a series, MCDC Town Halls are dedicated to exploring key issues that affect our lives.  The forum is free and open to the public.

The Senate’s secretive healthcare plan has finally been released, and it’s just as bad as many feared. Montgomery County won’t sit back and allow thousands of our friends and neighbors to lose their healthcare!

Whether you have questions about Washington’s health care plan itself, or want to know how you can help to stop it, join our town hall forum onJuly 18th to soak up some knowledge. We’ll have a panel of experts on hand to answer audience questions and guide discussion.

A featured panelist will be Dr. Val Arkoosh. A medical doctor by training, now Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, Val brings unique experience right at the intersection of politics, medical practice, and public health policy.

*Montgomery County Community College is not affiliated with this event and the College should not be contacted regarding the program. 

Please email zack@pennanurses.org with any questions.

Sign up here: bit.ly/MCDCHealthCare 

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.

Josh Shapiro’s Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu

Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia open. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is considering closing the consulate.

In a letter dated November 26, 2013, Shapiro wrote that the consulate “is critical to the continuance of the longstanding relationship between the people of Israel and our region.” Shapiro went on to say that the consulate “is of vital importance to our respective nations’ common interests and its continued operation will serve to enhance the mutually beneficial economic and business connection between Israel and our region in Southeastern Pennsylvania.”

In the letter, Shapiro references Netanyahu’s upbringing in Montgomery County during which the future Prime Minister graduated from Cheltenham High School. “The Greater Philadelphia region is an economic hub for Israel, processing 25 percent of Israel’s nearly $20 billion in exports to the United States each year,” Shapiro wrote, adding that the presence of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is integral in that process.

Shapiro is active is many Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the area. He has traveled to Israel six times, and has met Netanyahu twice.

Same Sex Marriage in Montgomery County

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Last week, Montgomery County’s Register of Wills Bruce Hanes announced that he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In today’s Philadelphia Daily News, State Senate Daylin Leach defends Hanes’ action:

These licenses would seem to be issued in contradiction to the Pennsylvania statute that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Mr. Hanes says that he believes that law is unconstitutional and therefore not enforceable.

Some have attacked Mr. Hanes for essentially going rogue. They say that he does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is unconstitutional, it should be a judge who makes that determination, not a county row officer. While these are reasonable points to make, they miss the true issues at stake. A more comprehensive review of relevant legal issues reveals that the actions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, correct.

In fact, Leach officiated over a Montgomery County same-sex marriage on Monday and PoliticsPA wrote a  piece about it entitled Leach Loves Gays So Much He Marries Them:

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to officiate the marriage of a wonderful, loving couple this afternoon in Montgomery County,” Leach said. “Today’s ceremony proves that little by little, we are making strides toward full equality here in Pennsylvania. Each court ruling and each supportive decision made by elected officials puts another crack in the armor of discrimination. Today’s ceremony shows that love can indeed conquer all.”

Leach has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. He introduced the first bill in the state Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010.

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.

Judaism 101 for ME


Medical Examiners (ME's) and Coroners are charged by the state to determine cause of death. In the case of an accident, sudden death, homicide or suicide, the resulting investigation can lead to conflict between secular practice and Jewish law (halacha) or tradition (minhag).

In order to help Medical Examiners navigate these issues and sensitize them to the concerns of Jewish mourners, Dr. Norman Goodman, Jeffrey Goodman, Esq. and Walter I. Hofman, M.D. have published a primer on Jewish practices Autopsy: Traditional Jewish Law and Customs “Halacha” in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. Norman Goodman is the former Chester County Chief Deputy Coroner and Walter Hofman is the Montgomery County Coroner so they both have a great deal of experience in this domain.

Chester County Chief Deputy Coroner Dr. Norman Goodman
Traditional Jewish law encourages a speedy burial and respect for the corpse, keeping it intact and covered while while members of the Jewish burial society respectfully prepare and sit with it to ensure respectful treatment in honor of the deceased. There are important exceptions. For example,

  • “burial can be delayed for the sake of honoring the dead, to procure a coffin [by tradition a simple pine box], … or to await” the speaker who will deliver the eulogy,
  • burial can be delayed to identify the deceased,
  • autopsy are allowed if this may save a life, for example to discover death related to a genetic condition.

The authors review how deaths are investigated in the modern State of Israel and give advisory guidelines for autopsies of observant Jews in the United States.


In many cases, new technologies allow the Medical Examiner to obtain the necessary information through minimally invasive procedures.

  • Virtospy: Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans now allow coroners to study a detailed 3-dimensional computer model of the decedant.
  • Laparoscopy and Thoracoscopy allow the coroner to examine internal organs through small openings in the body.

For specific situations in your personal life, be sure to consult your rabbi for directly pertinent information and assistance that can be brought to bear through rabbinic training, authority and relations with local law enforcement officials.

Jewish Democrats Win Historic Election in Montgomery County


— by Bonnie Squires

Leslie Richards and Josh Shapiro were ecstatic with the response of fellow Democrats as they announced that they had received a call from Bruce Castor conceding  the election, making the Democrats the winners of the Montgomery County Commissioner majority seats for the first time in history.  For 140 years, the Republican party had dominated the suburban Philadelphia county’s politics, but November 8, 2011, became an historic day, as the Democrats won the county-wide election with comfortable margins.

This is also a historic election in that both Shapiro and Richards are Jewish.  Preliminary figures have Shapiro with 87,965 votes and running-mate Ms. Richards at 86,014, to Bruce Castor’s 76, 635, and Jenny Brown’s 74,983.  Castor is an incumbent Republican county commissioner, and Brown is a Lower Merion Township Republican commissioner.  The top three vote-getters, Shapiro, Richards and Castor, will be sworn in January in Norristown.