Congressional Candidate Forum

Since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Men’s Club, Sisterhood and Israel Action Committee have jointly organized candidate forums to provide the community an opportunity to discuss issues with our Congressman and his challengers during each Congressional election.

This year we welcome the four Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate vying in the primary for Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District.

  • 7:00-7:30: Dwight Evans (D) – Pennsylvania State Representative, 203rd district (Philadelphia), since 1980.
  • 7:35-8:05: Chaka Fattah (D) – Congressman, 2nd district (Philadelphia, Lower Merion, Narberth), since 1995.
  • 8:10-8:40: Brian Gordon (D) – Lower Merion Township Commissioner, 12th ward (Merion), since 2008.
  • 8:45-9:15: Dan Muroff (D) – Democratic Ward Leader, Philadelphia’s 9th ward
  • 9:20-9:50: James Jones (R) – businessman, ran for Congress in 2010

Please come and engage the candidates on the issues.

The forum is free and open to the community. Please tell us if you are interested in attending. (RSVP suggested but not required.)

Rethinking Plans to Close Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia

Among the wonderful aspects of our Jewish community in Philadelphia is the close relationship we have with the State of Israel. We do not take that relationship for granted. It comes as the product of hard work, constant communication and, perhaps most importantly, personal contact. The close personal contact we have with Israel in Philadelphia comes from the warm relationship which we have with the Israel Consulate and, specifically, the Consul General.

I was saddened to receive the news that the government in Israel is considering closing our Consulate. Understanding the financial burdens which weigh on the State of Israel, I am sympathetic to the need to cut costs in many programs.  At the same time, the work of the Consul General and the Consulate creates the close and warm bond which we feel toward Israel, ultimately impacting positively on Israel’s economy through our support. We benefit from the Consul and his office through his personal presence at so many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions. He provides a friendly and knowledgeable voice for the State when he speaks, contributing strong support for Israel when she is attacked, a voice of reason, warmth and encouragement for those of us who work to support Israel. [Read more…]

Israel at 65: How and Why to Support It

— by Lee Bender

Israel has turned 65 last May, and it is worth reflecting on what the modern State of Israel has done to create a strong and vibrant home for many Jews around the world.

At 65, Israel is clearly no “senior citizen” about getting on Social Security, and on the road to the golden years of retirement. On the contrary, Israel is vibrant, young, and alive. Even for those of us who do not live there, Israel resonates in our hearts as our historic homeland, as the focal point of the Jewish people, as a spiritual center, and as a continuing source of wonder, pride and joy.

More after the jump.
No matter what political stripe you are from, we all have a far larger mission and commonality that binds us. Because quite simply, whether we appreciate it or not, recognize it or not, like it or not, the fate and safety of the Jewish community, even here in America, is inextricably linked to the strength and security of the State of Israel.

Make no mistake: the loss of Israel, or even a crippled Israel, would fundamentally alter American Jewry, and would arrest the revival of Jewish life in Europe, Canada, South America. Most of us do not know what it was like to have lived in a world without the State of Israel, where Jews were paralyzed, persecuted, and powerless, with no refuge to escape to, and no Israel Defense Force to protect us.

As Rabbi Daniel Gordis has observed, the simple but overlooked truth is that what has made the difference for Jews all over the world is the State of Israel. The world finally saw the Jews as people who would shape their own destiny, unlike the poor, stateless Tibetans, Chechnyans, Basques, and Kurds, to name a few. Jews no longer have to tiptoe around the world, waiting to see what the world had in store for them.

The miraculous rebirth of the Jewish state has also changed how we see ourselves. The days of “We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves and so we appeared to them” (Numbers 13:33) are gone. This is why the security of Israel is not optional for us.

A little geography lesson is always instructive for perspective. Israel is one of the tiniest nations on the planet:

  • It is 260 miles long, with a coastline of 112 miles;
  • It is 9 to 71 miles wide;
  • Israel’s land mass, 8019 square miles, is about the size of New Jersey’s, and is only 1/625 (1/6%) of the size of the Arab world’s;
  • Israel is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab/Islamic dictatorships — even with this so-called Arab Spring — including some very nasty and murderous Arab Islamic terrorist organizations, such as Hizbollah and Hamas, whose charter unabashedly calls for global jihad against Jews and the destruction of Israel.
  • There are 56 Islamic nations, and 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide. The total population of the Arab states plus Iran is 350 million. By comparison, only 5.9 million Jews live in Israel, yielding a regional population ratio of 56:1 in the middle east.
  • Israel has 1.2 million Arabs living as full citizens with equal rights — which are also far more than their brethren have in Arab/Muslim countries.
  • Israel is the only place in the Middle East where the Christian population is not oppressed, and is in fact growing.
  • The world’s Jewish population is a mere 13.5 million, which sadly is 5 million fewer than in 1939. It is so small, that it is the margin of error of the population of China.

It is little Israel who is the “David,” fending against the Arab/Muslim world’s “Goliath.” And yet, it is always Israel that is expected to shrink even more.

What accounts for the key to Israel’s survival? We showed an amazing film this lat year as part of the JerusalemOnlineU.com’s mini-course, Step Up for Israel, entitled: Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference. The film very effectively identified the elusive core characteristics that make modern Israel a nation unlike all others: Chutzpah, transforming adversity to advantage, powerful family links, the Israeli unwavering determination to “get things done,” challenging the status quo, looking for ways to do and make things better, and rejecting and ignoring the naysayers.

Israel is not merely the “start up nation” — it is the “innovation nation.” But we dare not take this for granted, despite the incredible accomplishments that no sane, level-headed person could have possibly imagined 65 years ago: A language brought back to life; an economic engine that is the envy of many far more established countries; a burgeoning haven for scientific innovation and high-tech, communications, computers, medical equipment and agricultural know-how that is shared throughout the world — and top-notch medical treatment provided to all citizens, including Arabs, and terrorists and terror victims alike. In Israel, biology trumps ideology.  

Can you imagine this occurring in Arab or Muslim dominated countries? Israel’s neighbors, unfortunately, tragically, do not share this ethos of tolerance and tikkun olam (help repair the world). Could the sane person 65 years ago imagine a thriving robust democracy composed of immigrants from around the world of all different colors and backgrounds, including Muslim refugees escaping tyranny from Sudan, Eritrea and the Ivory Coast? And it all takes place in an arid land of desert and harsh climate.

The Jewish ethic, that life is sacred and paramount, and shall be cherished, was recognized by a Syrian citizen who recently tweeted, “I envy the Israeli government because it cares for its citizens; their government is prepared to pay the ultimate price for one citizen, while our government kills us like we are animals, and our Arab neighbors say that it is an internal matter.”  

And thank Hashem that Israel possesses a citizen army that keeps it so safe, that we tend  to take for granted that its enemies will be contained and defeated. That includes the murderous and genocidal mullah regime in Iran, that denies the Holocaust, denies that the Jewish people have any historic connection to the Land of Israel, is the largest state sponsor of terror, defies international sanctions in an unrelenting quest to achieve nuclear breakout capability, and vows to wipe Israel off the map — and we better believe them. In case you have forgotten, Israel is the “Little Satan,” and America is still the “Great Satan,” according to Iran.

And yet, despite the efforts to de-legitimize and demonize it from a multitude of fronts, including the mainstream media, anti-Israel NGOs, the U.N., European Union, and Arab states, Israel is one of the happiest nations in the world, according to a recent annual survey. Israel came 11th out of 156; most of the top ten were North European countries. Mexico was #16, the U.S. was #17, and most Arab countries trailed well behind. This is a tribute to the Israeli spirit, the ruach.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu said that his late father, the great historian and professor Benzion, on his 100th Birthday taught him that “Those who are unfamiliar with the past cannot understand the present, and those who cannot understand the present cannot see what lies ahead.” Well, if you could take a time-machine back to the early 1930’s, you would scream from the rooftops about the threats on the horizon. Today we have total clarity about what we are facing with a potentially nuclear Iran, the surrounding Arab Spring, especially in Egypt and Syria, which is becoming more like an Islamist nightmare. Those countries are closing in on tiny Israel, circling like sharks sensing blood in the water, and we must scream from the 21st Century rooftops.  

In today’s world, without a strong Israel, there is no Jewish people. We cannot allow a second Holocaust to happen within 80 years — it is our responsibility to give Israel the tools, means and ability to defend itself.  

By every measure, Israel should be praised and admired. Instead, Israel is treated by most of the world as a pariah. Overt Antisemitism is being replaced by anti-Zionism.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Islamo-fascism, incitement, military threats and de-legitimization campaign against Israel, is the seeming inability to help. Israel yearns for and offers peace. It has in fact made painful concessions for it, including returning Sinai to Egypt; and Gaza, and civilian control of large areas of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. But its Arab neighbors refuse to negotiate for a co-equal, co-existence and peaceful settlement, and instead consistently wallow in a culture of hatred, and call for Israel’s destruction.  

While we may not be able to stop the terrorists or rocket attacks, we can combat the lies about Israel, and can educate others and take action to lift the spirit of Israelis. In Kabbalistic terms, we may not see the immediate results of our actions, but every action we take makes a difference, and could indeed be the “tipping point.”

So what is your charge — what can you do? Let me suggest six ways:

  1. visit Israel
  2. Challenge bias in the media. And do not be deceived — words do matter. My new book, co-written with my good friend Jerome Verlin from Elkins Park, entitled: Pressing Israel exposes the hidden agenda behind this language, and addresses the challenge to call things what they are — because surrendering the language forfeits our narrative and our story, and puts Israel’s very existence at risk. This past year we have spoken at over 20 synagogues, churches, schools, and Federation and other civic and Jewish organizations.  

  3. Stay current on the news on what is happening in Israel in the Middle East. Be an ambassador for the truth and our people, and speak out.
  4. Lobby our elected officials. Vote — and take Israel into the voting booth with you. You must remind everyone of the importance of a mutually beneficial U.S.-Israel relationship, emphasize that Israel is an asset to the U.S. militarily, diplomatically and scientifically, with shared cultural values and ethics. Israel has been described as “the equivalent of 5 CIAs,” and due to its ability to be America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” thousands of U.S. troops need not be stationed in the Middle East to protect America’s interests.  
  5. Buy Israeli products and services. Go out of your way to support Israel’s export trade, and act locally here at the grocery store.
  6. And, of course, buy an Israel Bond. Even at these difficult financial times, Israel’s flawless record for debt repayment has been applauded by financial agencies, and for a good reason — since the first bonds were issued 61 years ago, every payment of principal and interest has been met on time, and in full. And while a purchase seems to be an act of tzedakah, it is really an investment. And it has proven to be a very good one, paying better than most others today. The Israel Bonds program is a positive, proactive, non-political expression of our attachment to Israel. The funds generated by every purchase serve people — not political parties, helping to create strong Israeli businesses, industries, infrastructure and economy. Through the purchase of an Israel Bond, we are making a direct connection to our Israeli brothers and sisters.

It is hard to think about Israel Bonds, when nobody is standing before you making the annual Israel Bonds Appeal. Seven years ago, when my wife Jane and I were on our first bar mitzvah circuit with our boys, and were going to affairs virtually every week, we decided to not perfunctorily write gift checks, but instead purchase far more meaningful gifts: Israel Bonds.

I would make weekly trips to the Israel Bonds office at 1500 Walnut Street during lunch hour, to purchase the Bonds in person, and got to make some good friends there. Most people do not do this, and you do not have to, of course. It is now much easier than ever before to purchase the Bonds online, and they make incredibly moving gifts. So do not be lazy, and simply write that $36, $50, $100, $200 check for that bar mitzvah or special affair. That same money can purchase a lot, and be put to work for the State of Israel. Make the affirmative effort to buy Israel Bonds. You would be amazed how quickly these seemingly small sums add up, and you can also designate the local Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El for credit too.

This is your wake-up call. It is no exaggeration that Israel needs our unwavering support now. Israel is a miracle. Hashem has given us the tools and means to defend ourselves. Investing in an Israel Bond now is the best way to show that.

Lee Bender gave this speech to Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El before Kol Nidre on Erev Yom Kippur 2013. He spoke not in his role as the Israel Action Committee Chairman at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El or as the co-President of the Greater Philadelphia District of the Zionist Organization of America, but simply in support of Israel Bonds as a Jew, a proud Zionist, and fellow congregant.

Boston Bombing: We are All Targets

As I reflect on the events of the past 24 hours, my thoughts and prayers are with the 130 people who have been injured, to greater or lesser degrees, by the bombs that exploded in Boston. May they be granted speedy and complete recoveries. May G-d strengthen the hands of those who tend to their injuries and wounds. May those in need be granted healing, both physical and spiritual. I know that you join me in extending heartfelt sympathy and prayers for comfort to the families of the three victims who died from their wounds. I pray that those whose job it is to find and apprehend those responsible are successful in their work. May those who are guilty be brought to justice and be held accountable for these heinous crimes. [Read more…]

The Outpost: Jake Tapper on Colbert and at TBHBE


Jake Tapper. Photo by Richard Chaitt.

CNN anchor and chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper talked about his new book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor at Temple Beth Hillel Beth El. At 5:58 AM on October 3rd, 2009, Compound Outpost Keating, located in frighteningly vulnerable terrain in Afghanistan just 14 miles from the Pakistani border, was viciously attacked. Though the 53 Americans there prevailed against nearly 400 Taliban fighters, their casualties made it the deadliest fight of the war for the U.S. that year. Four months after the battle, a Pentagon review revealed that there was no reason for the troops at Keating to have been there in the first place.

In The Outpost, Jake Tapper gives us the powerful saga of COP Keating, from its establishment to eventual destruction, introducing us to an unforgettable cast of soldiers and their families, and to a place and war that has remained profoundly distant to most Americans. A runaway bestseller, it makes a savage war real, and American courage manifest.

Tapper exposed the origins of this tragic and confounding story. He explored the history of the camp and detailed the stories of the heroic and doomed soldiers. After his presentation he took questions from the audience and signed copies of his book. He was introduced by his father Temple Beth Hillel Beth El member and founding member of Philadelphia Jewish Voice Dr. Ted Tapper.

It was announced December 20, 2012 that Jake Tapper will join CNN and anchor a new weekday program and serve as the network’s chief Washington correspondent

Video of Jake Tapper on the Colbert Report follows the jump.

Veterans Day: Honoring Red Ball Express Death Camp Liberators


Alexandra Bochova with Jewish War Veteran Paul Ouslander. Photo: Dan Benau.

Veterans Day Program Honoring African American Liberators of the Concentration Camps and the Special Unit Called “The Red Ball Express”

— by Lee Bender

It was an amazing contrast: a beautiful, mild Sunday afternoon outside on Veterans Day, November 11, 2012. But inside Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Wynnewood, was honoring some special heroes of World War II who liberated concentration camps in Europe and witnessed some of the most heinous crimes in human history. In an incredibly moving program, before an audience of 225, including many students and scouts, tribute was paid to the African American soldiers of the U.S. Army who liberated the camps, many of whom were members of a segregated unit known as The Red Ball Express. This program, as in past years, was the brainchild of Ed “The Sage” Snyder of TBH-BE, and co-sponsored with the Israel Advocacy Committee and Mens Club. Special guests in attendance were from the neighboring Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore, and many survivors, liberators and prisoner of war, war veterans, Jewish war veterans and American Legion.

More after the jump.


Photo: Dan Benau.

The program began with Cantor Eugene Rosner leading the audience in the National Anthem. The Zion Baptist Church Choir then led a soulful rendering of the America The Beautiful.

Acting as M.C., Ed began by remarking how important it was that the students and youth, especially, learn and appreciate this important history- which is not being taught and has all but been forgotten. He also stated, almost incredibly, how much resistence he received from various groups and organizations in trying to put this program together.

Rabbi Neil Cooper next gave warm welcoming remarks to the veterans, liberators and the sizeable audience from the African American community, stressing the historic relationship and kinship with the Jewish community, both of whom emerged from slavery into freedom. Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El President Pam Feld Randel then thanked the community for coming together at the synagogue to celebrate this special occasion.

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Alexandra Bochova. Photo: Richard Chaitt.

The first guest speaker was Alexandra Bochova, who joined the Russian Army at age 15, fighting through Eastern Europe and eventually liberating concentration camps with the Red Army. Her story was fascinating, and she wished she had more time to tell it. She came dressed in her splendid army uniform chocked full of medals. She spoke in Russian, which was translated by Marina Furman, a former refusenik and the current director of the Jewish National Fund in Philadelphia.

The Reverend James Pollard of Zion Baptist Church then spoke grandly and eloquently about honor and duty, and that this history is not only not being forgotten, but in fact his church has established a library and resource center about it. He also praised the connection and shared history of the Jewish and African American communities.

A short section of the film, Red Ball Express was then shown and introduced by Dan Benau, the son of a survivor. Dan is a movie and history buff on the Holocaust.

Arthur Seltzer, a veteran with the U.S. Army, who received innumerable medals and awards, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was a liberator who spoke at last year’s program, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Leon Bass, a robust man of 87. It was very clear when Dr. Bass spoke that the audience was enraptured, by his cadence, confidence, and message. He was a young man from West Philadelphia, enlisted in the army, went down south for training and was shocked at the segregation and disdain of the African American soldiers, but he stood tall. He came to realize that his superiors and the culture deemed that he, an African American, was “not good enough” but yet expendable to fight for America. He was sent to Europe and told his story of fighting his way in the segregated African American units, and surviving while seeing death and destruction all around him. One day while they were in Germany, he was suddenly told by a superior officer to come with him to a concentration camp. He had never heard of such a thing, and was wholly unprepared for what they were to all see when they arrived to open Buchenwald. The most horrendous scene he could ever have imagined, he was an eyewitness to it all: the decrepit camp, the stench, the “walking dead”- nothing but skin and bones in pajamas, people who were barely alive, the crematoriums and gas chambers. It occurred to him that these innocent people were considered by the Germans to also “not be good enough to live.” It haunts him to this very day. Ultimately, he came home, finished his education, became a principal of Benjamin Franklin High School. One day in the early 1970s, a woman survivor came to school, and he was encouraged and inspired from then on to speak, speak out, and tell his story, which he has been doing ever since and vows to continue until his last days. The audience was spellbound. He is a real treasure.

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Rabbi Neil Cooper. Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Ed then introduced the veterans and liberators in attendance, and paid respects to those from the community who had died in the past year. Unfortunately, too many of these heroes are dying with greater frequency, leaving fewer live eyewitnesses.

My son, Noah Bender, a high school student, then concluded the program at our synagogue by playing taps.

Many in the audience from the two communities stayed late afterwards to enjoy refreshments, meet and interact.

The program was videotaped for future preservation.

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Keynote speaker, Dr. Leon Bass. Photo: Richard Chaitt.

The B Team: PA’s 2nd Congressional District Candidate Forum

Since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Men’s Club, Sisterhood and Israel Action Committee have jointly organized candidate forums to provide the community an opportunity to discuss issues with our Congressman and his challenger during each Congressional election. Until the recent redistricting, our township Lower Merion was located in Rep. Jim Gerlach’s 6th district. The 6th District was one of the most competitive districts in the country. While the Republican incumbent was always reelected it was usually by small margins and the district was carried by the Democratic Presidential candidate.

Year PA 6th Congressional District Presidential Race
2002: 51.4% Jim Gerlach, 48.6% Dan Wofford
2004: 51.0% Jim Gerlach, 49.0% Lois Murphy, 48% George W. Bush, 52% John F. Kerry
2006: 50.6% Jim Gerlach, 49.4% Lois Murphy
2008: 52.1% Jim Gerlach, 47.9% Bob Roggio, 41% John McCain, 58% Barack Obama
2010: 57.1% Jim Gerlach, 42.9% Manan Trivedi

Since the redistricting, Gerlach has replaced Democratic leaning Lower Merion with Republican leaning parts of Berks county in order to give himself some breathing room. Lower Merion is now part of the heavily Democratic 2nd Congressional District. The 2nd District is represented by Chaka Fattah who has been elected and reelected by enormous margins.

Year PA 2nd Congressional District
1994: 86% Chaka Fattah, 14% Lawrence Watson (R)
1996: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Larry Murphy (R)
1998: 86% Chaka Fattah, 14% Anne Marie Mulligan (R)
2000: 98% Chaka Fattah,  2% Ken Krawchuk (L)
2002: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Tom Dougherty (R)
2004: 88% Chaka Fattah, 12% Stewart Bolno (R)
2006: 89% Chaka Fattah,  9% Michael Gessner (R)
2008: 89% Chaka Fattah, 11% Chris Kunc (R)
2010: 89% Chaka Fattah, 11% Rick Hellberg (R)

The lopsided demographics in this district lead to insurmoutable odds which discourage any serious challengers. In fact, the Republicans did not even bother fielding a candidate in 2000. (Ken Krawchuk was the Libertarian party’s candidate.) I have long argued that redistricting should be nonpartisan and have the goals of eliminating such non-competitive districts and creating a state map that reflects the partisan balance of the state.

The country is best served when both parties field the best candidates they have to offer and provide the voters with a real choice. This year Rep. Fattah is facing a pair of political neophytes: the Republican Robert Mansfield and Independent candidate Jim Foster. According to the Federal Election Commission, Fattah has raised over a half-million dollars while Mansfield has raised about ten thousand, and Foster has not reported any campaign contributions.


Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Rep. Chaka Fattah

A fair crowd was on hand to get acquainted with our new Congressman. However, due to a couple of simultaneous events at the synagogue and the lack of a competitive contest the attendance fell short of the previous candidate forums organized at the synagogue. Rep. Fattah spoke first and a sizable fraction of audience excused themselves after his remarks.

Rep. Fattah described the annexation of Lower Merion by his district as “a shotgun wedding arranged by the Pennsylvania Republicans” but he was happy to meet his new constitents. His first political campaign was to represent the Overbrook neighborhood (in Philadelphia about one mile from our synagogue) in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He won that 1982 primary by a mere 58 votes out of over 10,000 votes cast, so he is well aware of the value of every vote.

AIPAC has described Chaka Fattah as one of the most reliable and stalwart pro-Israel members of Congress. His chief of staff has just returned from a mission to Israel, and the Congressmen will soon embarking on his first trip to Israel. As the ranking member of the Appropriation Committee’s Science Subcommittee, he will be leading a delegation from the National Science Foundation to launch new collaborations between the US and Israel in the field of Neuroscience. Fattah has spearheaded this funding which is destined to improve our understanding of age-related degenerative diseases of the brain and traumatic brain injuries. The leadership of the local Hadassah chapter was on hand and encouraged the Congressman to visit Hadassah Hospital which is a pioneer in medical research and an example of how Arab and Jewish doctors can cooperate to improve the health of patients of all races, religions and nationalities.

Chaka Fattah is married to NBC10 anchorwoman Renee Chenault-Fattah and has four children. He is now running for his 10th term in Congress and emphasized the value to the district of having a senior member of Congress on the Appropriations Committee. The Congressman was happy to get acquainted with his new constituents and promised to return after the election and continue the conversation at greater length.


Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Sgt. Robert Mansfield

The Republican challenger Robert Mansfield is a combat veteran having served thirteen years in the US Army and National Guard. His service was ended by trauma from an I.E.D. explosion. In a spirit of true bipartisanship he thanked Rep. Fattah for his dedication to funding research on traumatic brain injuries.

Mansfield has been a champion of adversity:

  • At birth he had to overcome a dependance on heroin he had acquired from his mother who used drugs during her pregnancy.
  • He  endured a tumultuous childhood in foster care.
  • He overcame kidney cancer.
  • And he suffered from the homelessness all too common to our returning veterans.

As a fervent member of the Episcopal Church, he expressed dismay at Christian groups boycotting Israel. For Sgt. Mansfield support for Israel is founded in the teachings of the Bible.

He fears that Obama is not taking the Iranian nuclear threat seriously and that Obama has agreed to negotiations with Iran. He says Iran is “four years closer” to making a bomb. He says that the US has sat idly by with ineffective sanctions. He recommended imposing “real sanctions like we had against South Africa”.

During the Question & Answer session, I commented that the sanctions are having a real economic effect on Iran, with the Iranian Rial losing 80% of its value in recent months with strikes and real unrest in the streets. I added that I didn’t remember the sanctions against South Africa as being so universal and so effective. (The biggest annual drop in the South African Rand was a drop of 34% in 1985.)

While Iran was said to be “months” away from a bomb when Obama took office, his administration is clearly responsible for the CIA working hand-in-hand with the Israeli Mossad to sabotage Iranian centrifuges, missiles and most recently computers. Meanwhile, Iranian physicists are dying in the streets of Tehran and this is not from the common cold. I concluded by asking specifically what additional steps would Mansfield recommend if he was in Congress? If he were Congressman or President, would he recommend an immediate tactical nuclear strike on the underground bunkers where the Iranian enrichment facilities are hidden?

Sgt. Mansfield pondered my question for fifteen seconds and then gave a one-word response: “Yes.”

Some of Mansfield’s other remarks ran afoul of the truth:

  • He repeated the discredited meme about Obama’s “apology tour”.
  • He warned that the bridge from Yemen to Somalia “to be completed by 2020” would strengthen al Qaeda. While such a bridge (The Bridge of Horns) was proposed, it is not under construction and has not been funded. The fanciful bridge would be 18 miles long and in order to avoid disrupting navigation it would have the longest suspension span in the world (3 miles long). The Saudi and Yemen government oppose the African refugees that such a bridge might bring to the region. Moreover, Yemen and Somalia are two of the poorest countries in the world, so a bridge connecting them would not be “a bridge to nowhere” but rather “a bridge from nowhere to nowhere”.

Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Jim Foster

Jim Foster is running as an independent although he had to win a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Election Commission in order to do so. He has published the Germantown Chronicle since 2009.

He spoke entirely about Philadelphia issues such as broken schools, cronyism, and pay-to-play. During the Question & Answer period several people tried to redirect the conversation towards questions of foreign policy or national domestic policy. He gave only the most general of answers, for example, “some extremists want no taxes at all, and some want a 97% tax rate for the wealthy. Whatever rate we pick, I just say I want accountability.”

He also mentioned that he “saw Israel as self-supporting and honest with a legitimate government, and Iran and others without one.”

He said he “would use all means to keep Iran from getting the means to make a bomb.”

He would then steer back to local Philadelphia politics. I almost got the impression that Foster was running for Mayor Nutter’s job, not Representative Fattah’s job.

Ask Me Why… Even On Shabbat… Or Not…

Last Shabbat I was wearing the button on the right at the kiddush after shul. Over kiddush people will be talking about sports, their children, the weather and even politics. To me, the button is an invitation to political dialog and quite a few people took me up on the implicit offer and asked me about polls, Keynesian economies, the debates, Iran and Israel.

This button was making my life easier since people interested in my opinion would approach me, and I could leave those who would rather not speak about politics alone.

All was going well until a fellow congregant yelled me out for wearing the button. He said “What are you doing?” I didn’t know what he was talking about so he continued. “How dare you wear that in the synagogue.” I saw he was referring to my button and said I didn’t see any problem with that. He raised his volume and threatened me, “If you don’t take this off right now. I am going to tell the Rabbi on you.”

I’m pretty sure the Rabbi was aware that I was wearing the button since it was reasonably obvious attached to my lapel, so I had nothing to hide. I was conflicted since I believe that freedom of speech and association allows me to express my political opinions. On the other hand, I didn’t want to cause a scene with a fellow congregant.

In the end, I backed down and removed the button, but after asking a number of my friends about this situation, I think he was wrong to ask me to remove the button, and I think I was wrong to comply with his request.

This congregant is actually the organizer and moderator of our synagogue’s bi-annual candidate forum where our Congressmen and his opponent answer questions of interest to our community. Thus, he certainly has no problem with politics within the walls of the synagogue

More after the jump.
I read information across the political spectrum in part because of the duties of my work in finance and my work for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, in part because of my research interest in the mathematics of voting, and in part because of my passion for politics and tikkun olam. Accordingly, I have information at my fingertips to respond to many of the questions people raise. Occasionally, someone stumps me on a fine detail of policy or some new event that I haven’t researched yet. I especially enjoy the chance to research these new issues and get back to people after Shabbat.

In the past, I may have overstepped my bounds. For example, in 2000, I distributed a note in the sanctuary about how Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed a law preventing synagogues and other places of worship from prohibiting people from bringing concealed handguns onto their premises. However, I have mellowed out over the years, and think that my display of a small button during the kiddush in the social hall after services were over would not interfere with anyone’s devotion.

On the contrary, compared to the “Oy Vey Obama” buttons I see worn by members of the RJC, I think my button opened the door to a positive exchange of ideas.

A positive exchange of ideas that unfortunately at least one congregant is trying to stomp out.

I hope he is not successful.

The issues facing our country, Israel and the world are important, so discussion of them is important. I would rather “lose the debate” than not have it in the first place. That would be the real shanda.

Why Does The United States Persist In Funding UNWRA?

The Israel Advocacy Committee of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El sponsored a program with Israeli investigative journalist and former Philadelphian David Bedein, who for the past nine years has been sounding the alarm that the US has been funding an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American educational curriculum in UN-run Palestinian refugee camps. Bedein and his colleague Dr. Arnon Groiss presented to an audience of 50 the same program they had presented to U.S. Congress staff and committee members earlier that week, including a film showing the horrendous pervasive misstatements in textbooks provided by $250 million of US yearly funding to 500,000 students. There is apparently no oversight regarding these funds to UNWRA. Thus, we are funding a curriculum of violence, terrorism, jihad, and war. This is directly counter to any possible, reasonable attempt at a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A generation of children are being brainwashed and poisoned. Bedein said however that his work is finally bearing fruit: Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) will be holding hearings. And he encouraged us all to contact Sen. Bob Casey especially, who is chairman of the senate subcommittee pertaining to the Middle East to hold similar hearings. Clearly, it is incumbent upon us to contact our legislators and get them on-board; it is hard to imagine that they want US taxpayers to be complicit in this sham.

More after the jump.
Dr. Arnon Groiss, David Bedein and Lee Bender. Photo: Richard Chaitt.

Israel Behind The News
Funds Needed to Continue Proactive News Investigations

  • Dangers of Further US Aid to the PLO Army
  • Threat of Planned PLO Army Deployment in Hebron and Jerusalem
  • UNRWA and PA for War Curriculum, financed by US and the West
  • Conflicts of Interests of Israeli businesses invested in the Palestinian Authority

The Anti-Israel Movement: BDS On Campus

This weekend, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, a conference will be held. The gathering, which the University is hosting, has been arranged by a group which is identified by the acronym BDS. BDS refers to the movement dedicated to punishing, vilifying and delegitimizing the State of Israel in three ways.

  • First, this group encourages “B”, boycotting Israeli products.
  • Second, the group advocates “D”, divesting from companies which do business in and with Israel.
  • And third is “S”, the efforts to convince governments around the world to impose sanctions against Israel.

[Read more…]