Rubio Yom Kippur Fundraiser Venue Features Hitler’s Art

Personal library of Dallas business tycoon Harlan Crow.

Personal library of Dallas business tycoon Harlan Crow.

Today, as the sun is setting for Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement and the most holy day on the Jewish calendar – Senator Marco Rubio will hold a fundraiser in a Highland Park, Texas home that features two paintings by Adolf Hitler, a signed copy of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, and a cabinet full of place settings and linens used by the Nazi leader.

Statues of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong in Crow's "Gallery of Fallen Dictators".

Statue in Crow’s “Gallery of Fallen Dictators” of a 1949 meeting of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong.

Dallas business tycoon Harlan Crow has an enormous collection of war memorabilia including “a ‘garden of tyrants’ that includes busts and statues of such notorious dictators as former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.”

According to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

An event at a home with items like these is appalling at any time of the year. Adding insult to injury, Rubio is holding this event on the eve of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Holding an event in a house featuring the artwork and signed autobiography of a man who dedicated his life to extinguishing the Jewish people is the height of insensitivity and indifference. There’s really no excuse for such a gross act of disrespect. Mr. Rubio, who by the way, represents a sizable Jewish population in our home state of Florida, should cancel this tasteless fundraiser. It is astounding that the presence of these items that represent horror for millions of Jews the world over, would not stop Mr. Rubio or anyone on his team in their tracks when planning this event.

The Republican National Committee’s national press secretary Allison Moore attempted to switch the subject by attacking the messenger:

rather than manufacture a false controversy over a collection of historic memorabilia … Debbie Wasserman Schultz should have opposed the weak Clinton-Obama Iran deal that puts Israel’s safety in jeopardy.

Obama, Congresspersons Call for Justice System Reform at Local NAACP Convention

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

The thousands of NAACP delegates, alternates and supporters who descended on the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 106th national convention of the NAACP were rewarded for their travels and loyalty. Many members of Congress spoke at the plenary sessions and themed workshops.

President Barack Obama, just on the heels of the successful negotiation with Iran, flew from Washington to Philadelphia to address the NAACP convention. His speech focused on domestic priorities, with no mention of the Iran deal, but the news spread and no one needed to be reminded that the President has had a couple of really good weeks.

Speakers like Congressman James Clyburn (SC-6) and U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, spoke passionately about the need to reform the criminal justice system, to root out discrimination and profiling and unequal sentencing for African Americans.

President Obama, in his speech, explained why he commuted sentences for dozens of prisoners who, if they had been charged and sentenced today, would have received far less severe prison terms for non-violent drug offenses or possession of drugs like marijuana. He gave examples of ex-offenders he had just met, who had served their sentences and then redeemed their lives. They are now tax-paying citizens.

Right before I came out here, I met with four former prisoners, four ex-offenders. Two of them were African American, one of them was Latino, one of them was white. All of them had amazing stories. One of them dropped out of school when he was a young kid. Now he’s making film about his experience in the prison system.

One of them served 10 years in prison, then got a job at Five Guys — which is a tasty burger — and they gave him an opportunity, and he rose up and became a general manager there, and now is doing anti-violence work here in the community.

It was a treat to watch the NAACP session on resolutions, the debates from the floor, the challenges to the chair, the re-counts, the urging of the NAACP member from Georgia to pass a resolution requiring the removal of ALL Confederate flags from every single state’s public grounds. This amended resolution, or “game-changer,” as the NAACP calls them, passed overwhelmingly.

And it was heartening on the day of the first plenary session to hear Cornell Brooks, the national president of the NAACP, tell a story about a baby born down south who weighed only three pounds and was not expected to survive until night-time. But the doctor who delivered the baby told the mother to pray, if she believed in God. Brooks said the woman called for a chaplain in the hospital, but no preacher or minister was available. But here was a rabbi serving as chaplain, and he came and prayed with the mother.

Senator Bob Casey was featured at the NAACP Convention opening plenary session.  He urged the 8000 attendees from around the country to contact their members of Congress and push for Casey's funding bill for universal early education.

At the NAACP Convention opening plenary session, Senator Bob Casey urged the 8000 attendees to contact their members of Congress around the country and push for his universal early education funding bill.

Then Brooks delivered the punch-line: “And that is why I am standing here today!”

Although I did not hear a mention of the three martyred civil rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, I thought about them often as I traveled the halls of the Philadelphia Convention Center from plenary session to workshops. Listening to heroes like Congressman Jim Clyburn, Senator Bob Casey (PA), Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Senator Corey Booker (NJ), was inspirational.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Wasserman Schultz, from Florida, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, focused on voting rights reform in her address to the entire corps of NAACP members. She told me about the unfairness of the voter ID laws in many states and of her intention to increase registration and voting patterns of African Americans.

I bumped into Joyce Kravitz, the president of Tikvah/AJMI, the Philadelphia region’s nonprofit agency for families with members dealing with mental illness. Kravitz, a social work professor, has been an NAACP member for many years, and she attended this year’s convention with her former student, an African American social worker.

Pennsylvania state Representative Jim Roebuck, who has been advocating for Governor Tom Wolf’s budget which restores funding for pre-K and public education, was in attendance. Congressmen Chaka Fattah (PA-2) and Brendan Boyle (PA-13) accompanied President Obama on Air Force One from D.C. to the convention.

NAACP has made national news every day of the convention, and President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the closing day of the convention memorable.

Photo credit: Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia to Host 2016 Democratic National Convention

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. They went on to defeat Vice-President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in the 2000 Presidential Election.

Mayor Nutter commented on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) decision, that Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention the week of July 25, 2016:

We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC.

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas  Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The DNC’s technical advisory group evaluated cities across the country, looking at factors such as hotel capacity, transportation, security, financing and logistics.

The DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, said that “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”

Additional details on the convention structure, host committee, and staff, will be made available in the coming weeks.

US Delegation Mourns Passing of Ariel Sharon

— by Elanna Cahn

President Obama designated the following presidential delegation to Israel, to attend the state funeral of the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon:

  • Vice-President Joe Biden, leader of the delegation;
  • the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro;
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee;
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the Democratic National Committee chairperson; and
  • the former ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.

Statements by Biden and Engel follow the jump.
Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden:

When a close-knit country like Israel, a country that has been tested as much as Israel, loses a man like Prime Minister Sharon, it doesn’t just feel like the loss of a leader, it feels like a death in the family.  And many of my fellow Americans, some of whom are here, feel that same sense of loss.

I say to Prime Minister Sharon’s beloved and devoted sons, Omri and Gilad, and the entire family, particularly the sons who spent so much time caring for their father in the last few years, it’s a great honor you’ve afforded me on behalf of my country to bring the sympathies of the President of the United States and the American people on this occasion.

To you, to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government of Israel, to President Peres, and to the grieving men and women of the nation of Israel, but most particularly to his beloved IDF, his fellow warriors, I fear an attempt to capture him and what he stood for is beyond my capabilities. I knew him for over 30 years.  He was not only a powerful man, he was a powerfully built man.  And as a young senator, when you first met him you could not help but understand, as they say in the military, this man had a command presence.  He filled the room.

The first time I was invited to his office, he said to me — and I remember thinking, is he serious? — he said, Senator, you are mostly welcome.  I didn’t know if it was a matter of something being lost in translation or whether he was pulling my leg, as we say in the States, until I spent a few moments with him and realized how incredible his hospitality was.  But when the topic of Israel’s security arose, which it always, always, always did in my many meetings over the years with him, you immediately understood how he acquired, as the speakers referenced, the nickname “Bulldozer.”  He was indomitable.

Like all historic leaders, Prime Minister Sharon was a complex man about whom, as you’ve already heard from his colleagues, who engendered strong opinions from everyone.  But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a North Star that guided him — a North Star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated.  His North Star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, wherever they resided.

In talking about his spiritual attachment to the land of Israel back in an interview in the late ’90s, he said, and I quote, “Before and above all else, I am a Jew.  My thinking is dominated by the Jews’ future in 30 years, in 300 years, in a thousand years.  That’s what preoccupies and interests me first and foremost.”  And because he possessed such incredible physical courage — and I would add political courage — he never, never, never deviated from that preoccupation and interest, as he referred to it.  It was his life’s work that even someone on the shores hundreds of — thousands of miles from here could see, could smell, could taste, could feel, and when you were in his presence there was never, never any doubt about it.

The physical courage he had to lead men straight into enemy lines and deep behind them.  I remember, as a young senator, that iconic picture of him with that bandage around his head, standing there after a decisive victory, which seemed to symbolize, as Bibi — as the Prime Minister said, an Israel that had reclaimed its roots of standing up and fighting, needing no help, standing on its own.  The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza in order, from his perspective, to strengthen Israel.  I can’t think of much more controversial; as a student of the Jewish state, I can’t think of a much more difficult and controversial decision that’s been made.  But he believed it and he did it.

The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission, an unbreakable commitment to the future of Jews, whether 30 years or 300 years from now.  We have an expression in the States:  never in doubt.  Arik was never uncertain from my observation.  I don’t know him nearly as well as the Israeli people and his colleagues, but he seemed never in doubt.  But there were times when he acted, and those actions earned him controversy and even condemnation.  And in certain instances, American leaders — American Presidents — had profound differences with him, and they were never shy about stating them nor was he ever shy about stating his position.  As I said, from my observation he was a complex man, but to understand him better I think it’s important history will judge he also lived in complex times, in a very complex neighborhood.

Since he passed away, in the days ahead, there will be much written about the Prime Minister.  And it’s right for the Israeli people to reflect on all aspects of his life — the triumphs as well as the mistakes, taking full measure of the man, the arc of his life.  For I would argue the arc of his life traced the journey of the State of Israel.

And through it all, the United States whether we agreed or disagreed with a specific policy has been unflagging in its commitment to the State of Israel.  We have never stepped away.  We have never diminished our support.  We have never failed to make Israel’s case around the world.  We have never failed to defend Israel’s legitimacy.

And no one in any corner of this world has any doubt about where America stands with regard to Israeli security, the independent State of Israel that is the ultimate refuge for Jews wherever they are in the world.  And that will never change.

As President Obama said when he was here in Jerusalem last year, and I quote, “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above because Israel is not going anywhere.  So long as there is a United States of America, you are not alone.”

For his part, Arik Sharon greatly valued that close friendship between the United States and Israel, and particularly during his years as prime minister, he worked hard to deepen our relationship.

I find it fascinating, maybe it’s I’m getting older — I find it fascinating how some look at Israel today and say its success was inevitable.  Why didn’t everyone understand this was just inevitable?  But at the outset it was anything but inevitable.  It was the opposite of inevitable.  Israel’s very survival was against all odds.  But thankfully Israel was blessed with a founding generation that understood exactly what it took to overcome those odds.  So many of that generation, because of the people of the United States, I have the great honor of personally meeting and getting to know.  I did not know David Ben Gurion, but I knew all but one — every Prime Minister since that time.

President Peres, you and Prime Minister Sharon are part of one of the most remarkable founding generations in the history not of this nation, but of any nation.  Historians will look back and say, but for — but for — the rare and unique men and women at that moment, but for that it’s hard to see how we’d be standing here on this day — leaders like David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, the list goes on, and you, Mr. President, you all had one thing in common from an outside observer’s perspective, despite your political differences, it was that you knew in your bones, as one Israeli Prime Minister told me over 35 years ago when I was opining of the difficulty Israel faced surrounded by hostile neighbors at the time, looked at me and said, Senator, don’t worry.  We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle in the region.  We have nowhere else to go.

That realization, it seems to me, is what energized your entire generation of leadership.  I believe that’s one of the reasons by Arik Sharon and so many others fought so hard their whole lives.

Prime Minister Sharon was not only loved by the Jewish people, he not only loved them — the Jewish people — but he loved the land of Israel.  Not just the idea of it, but the actual land itself.  Born on a farm, about to be buried on a farm, a ranch, I remember one of the meetings I had with him.  It was a somewhat heated, and he had his maps.  And he spread them out in his office again.  And I somewhat irreverently said, Mr. Prime Minister — I said, do you want me to do it, or are you going to do it?  Because I had heard his presentation many times.  And in the midst of it, he looked at me, and he said, let me tell you about the new calf that I just got on my ranch.  And he started talking about a calf.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Book of Genesis says, “Arise and walk the length and breadth of the land.”  Arik Sharon did just that.  He tilled it as a farmer.  He fought for it as a soldier.  He knew every hilltop and valley — every inch of the land.  As I said, he loved his maps.  He used to come to the meetings with maps of the land rolled up under each arm.  They were always maps.

I’m reminded — my mother’s blessed memory, I’m reminded of — if you’ll forgive me — an Irish poet, an Irish writer.  I’m sure Prime Minister Blair will forgive me.  That Irish writer was James Joyce.  And he said, “When I die, Dublin will be written on my heart.”  I am absolutely sure the land of Israel, the Negev is etched in Arik Sharon’s soul as it was written on Joyce’s heart.

And the defining attributes of this great man’s character — passion for the Jewish people, physical and political courage, and love of this land — they have all played out on the canvas of the State of Israel’s historic trajectory.

Arik Sharon’s journey and the journey of the State of Israel are inseparable.  They are woven together, in war, in politics, in diplomacy.

Toward the end of his life, he said, I’ve been everywhere.  I’ve met kings, queens, presidents.  “I’ve been around the world. I have one thing that I would like to do:  to try to reach peace.”  

We’ll never know what the ultimate arc of Arik Sharon’s life would have been had he been physically able to pursue his stated goal.  That will be for historians to speculate and debate.  But we do know this:  As prime minister, he surprised many.  I’ve been told that, in reflecting on the difference between how he viewed things as a general and as prime minister, he would paraphrase an Israeli song lyric that said, things you see from here, look different from over there.  What would have — what would they have looked like had he lived in good health and led those eight years?

He left us too soon, but the work of trying to reach peace continues.  And to quote Shakespeare:  He was a man, take him all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.

May the bond between Israel and the United States never, ever be broken.


Remarks by Rep. Eliot L. Engel:

The world has lost one of the strongest defenders of Israel-a man who fought in nearly every one of Israel’s wars and devoted his public life to ensuring that the Jewish state be able to defend itself against those committed to its destruction.

I was fortunate enough to receive his counsel on a number of occasions regarding our shared goals of strengthening the bonds between the United States and Israel. He was as committed to the U.S.-Israel relationship as he was to promoting Israel’s own security.  His passing marks the end of a unique and important chapter in Israel’s history.

Congressmen Affirm Israel’s Right to Self-Defense

— by Sari Weintraub

Jewish Democratic members of Congress today addressed the rocket attacks on Israel, affirming their support for Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) tweeted:

“Israel has right & responsibility to defend itself from Hamas attacks. Must be no doubt such terrorism will never be tolerated.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) tweeted:

“Terrorists have fired 250 rockets at Israelis civilians in 24 hours. Heading to House floor to stand for Israel’s right to defend herself.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted:

“I strongly condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel. This is not the route to peace & security for anyone.”

He also released a statement:

I condemn in the strongest terms the current aggression by Hamas against the civilian population in southern Israel.  These attacks are entirely without justification and amount to murderous provocations by a terrorist regime which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and which refuses to work toward a peaceful coexistence for both sides.  Israel has every right to defend its borders, to repel such attacks, and to target those responsible.  I applaud President Obama for his leadership and strong condemnation of these attacks.  And I am gratified to see that the Iron Dome missile defense system has worked so well to prevent further bloodshed and destruction in Israel.

In his statement on the floor of the House, Rep. Deutch said,

Imagine 250 rockets raining down in one day on your community… We would expect our government to act to protect our citizens. Israel is acting to protect her citizens; Israel has the right to protect her citizens from terrorist attacks… The United States mourns the loss of life at the hands of Hamas terrorists. We will not waver in our support of Israel’s right to defend herself against these and other attacks… At this challenging time for our great ally, the United States stands with Israel.

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) tweeted:

“With our deepest concern and strongest support, the U.S. stands firm with our ally Israel.”

She released a statement as well:

With our deepest concern and strongest support, the United States stands firm with our ally Israel, currently under fire from an onslaught of Hamas rockets.  I reject Hamas’s relentless violence, and commend President Obama’s unwavering commitment to our ally, including his fundamental support for the Iron Dome missile defense system. As the days unfold, we remain united in our support of Israel’s sovereign right to self-defense and ever hopeful for a return to calm and peace. My thoughts and prayers remain with the people of Israel in these uncertain times.

Reflections on Yom Kippur

— by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Jewish families across America and around the world will begin their observance of Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the year for the Jewish community.  Yom Kippur is a holy day of fasting, prayer, and atonement – bringing to a close a period of our calendar dedicated to reflection and forgiveness.  During these ten days, we give ourselves once again to values at the core of the ancient Jewish faith: justice, community, and repairing the world.  As we emerge from these Days of Awe, we move forward, committing ourselves to the good we will do in the year ahead.

On Wednesday morning, we read from the Book of Isaiah:

This is the fast I desire: to unlock the shackles of wrongdoing, to untie the bonds of those burdened, to let the oppressed go free.  It is to share your bread with the hungry, welcome the poor into your home.  When you see the naked you must clothe him and never ignore your neighbors.

This passage, espousing values so firmly at the heart of our religious tradition, represents the ideals of our great country that we cannot forget.  At the core of the American spirit is the imperative to improve our communities, work with our neighbors, and never abandon those in need.

There is a clear connection between this sacred fast and the words found on the Statue of Liberty, written by Jewish American Emma Lazarus.  Together, we heed the call of Lady Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

From the call of Isaiah to the dreams of our forefathers that we still work to fulfill, these Jewish and American values reflect an innate vision to support one another and build a better world.  In 5773, my hope is that we can continue to support one another and together build a more peaceful and just society.  I wish you a meaningful fast – and that you and your loved ones may be signed and sealed in the Book of Life.
Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen
drybonesblog.blogspot.com

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.

Obama Proclaims May 2012 Jewish American Heritage Month

— by David Streeter

President Barack Obama proclaimed May 2012 to be Jewish American Heritage Month.

Obama’s proclamation and remarks by DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz follow the jump.
Proclamation by President Barack Obama

Three hundred and fifty-eight years ago, a band of 23 Jewish refugees fled Recife, Brazil, beset by bigotry and oppression.  For them, receding shores marked the end of another chapter of persecution for a people that had been tested from the moment they came together and professed their faith.  Yet, they also marked a new beginning.  When those men, women, and children landed in New Amsterdam-what later became New York City-they found not only safe haven, but early threads of a tradition of freedom and opportunity that would forever bind their story to the American story.

Those 23 believers led the way for millions to follow.  During the next three centuries, Jews around the world set out to build new lives in America-a land where prosperity was possible, where parents could give their children more than they had, where families would no longer fear the specter of violence or exile, but live their faith openly and honestly.  Even here, Jewish Americans bore the pains of hardship and hostility; yet, through every obstacle, generations carried with them the deep conviction that a better future was within their reach.  In adversity and in success, they turned to one another, renewing the tradition of community, moral purpose, and shared struggle so integral to their identity.

Their history of unbroken perseverance and their belief in tomorrow’s promise offers a lesson not only to Jewish Americans, but to all Americans.  Generations of Jewish Americans have brought to bear some of our country’s greatest achievements and forever enriched our national life.  As a product of heritage and faith, they have helped open our eyes to injustice, to people in need, and to the simple idea that we might recognize ourselves in the struggles of our fellow men and women.  These principles led Jewish advocates to fight for women’s equality and workers’ rights, and to preach against racism from the bimah; they inspired many to lead congregants on marches to stop segregation, help forge unbreakable bonds with the State of Israel, and uphold the ideal of “tikkun olam”-our obligation to repair the world.  Jewish Americans have served heroically in battle and inspired us to pursue peace, and today, they stand as leaders in communities across our Nation.

More than 300 years after those refugees first set foot in New Amsterdam, we celebrate the enduring legacy of Jewish Americans-of the millions who crossed the Atlantic to seek out a better life, of their children and grandchildren, and of all whose belief and dedication inspires them to achieve what their forebears could only imagine.  Our country is stronger for their contributions, and this month, we commemorate the myriad ways they have enriched the American experience.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2012 as Jewish American Heritage Month.  I call upon all Americans to visit http://www.JewishHeritageMonth… to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) released the statement below to mark the beginning of Jewish American Heritage Month. Wasserman Schultz-one of the official sponsors of legislation establishing the celebration-said:

This May, as we celebrate the seventh annual Jewish American Heritage Month, we recognize the many contributions of the Jewish community to our great nation. The American Jewish community has a longstanding history of active involvement in policy and politics, as our tradition guides us on issues ranging from foreign policy, to energy and climate change, to our support for the health and social safety net. Our community’s values like tzedakah and tikkun olam have become a natural extension of our civic lives.

It is this enduring commitment to social justice that makes the Democratic Party the political home of the American Jewish community. As Democrats and as Jews, we have much to be proud of in President Obama, who honors our community’s historic contributions to America’s cultural fabric as he prioritizes and embodies the values and policies we hold dear. From passing the Affordable Care Act and ardently protecting a woman’s right to choose; to standing up for women’s equality with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; to tirelessly advocating for student loan reform to invest in our children’s future; to bolstering America’s special bond with Israel through diplomatic, financial, and military support – President Obama’s priorities are our priorities, too.

This May, as we celebrate and honor all our community has contributed to our national story, we rededicate ourselves to making the world a better place.

Jewish Organizations Push To Protect Women

— by Max Samis

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act — which has been passed and reauthorized with bipartisan support several times since it’s inception in 1994 — prominent Democrats marked April 17 as “Equal Pay Day,” recognizing the importance of continuing to fight for gender equality in the workplace. Several leading Democrats issued statements and penned op-eds in order to raise awareness of the issue, as well as the larger fight for women’s rights.

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

President Obama and Democrats understand that equal pay is so important for women and their families that one of the first pieces of legislation Democrats passed in 2009 and the first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensures that women can fight for equal pay for equal work, and on National Equal Pay Day we celebrate our continued fight for economic equality, regardless of gender.

The President’s commitment to women is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and the GOP’s attitude toward equal pay for women. While Democrats and the President were making equal pay for equal work a priority, nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Mitt Romney has called a ‘hero,’ recently repealed that state’s fair pay law; and Mitt Romney refuses to say if he would have signed Lilly Ledbetter had he been president at the time. His campaign on a conference call last week couldn’t even articulate a response when asked his position on the law….

On Equal Pay Day women can rest assured that Democrats and President Obama will continue the fight for equal pay for equal work and will fight for their right to make health care choices for themselves and their families. It’s a shame that Mitt Romney and Republicans can’t say the same thing.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the first female speaker in American history — also said:

I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Democratic-led Congress on behalf of equal pay and fairness. The Lilly Ledbetter Act-the first bill President Obama signed into law-restored the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay in court. Further, under the Affordable Care Act, soon women will no longer be charged higher premiums than men for the same coverage and no longer will being a woman be treated as a pre-existing condition.  

On Equal Pay Day, we honor all of our nation’s women, who through their labor – at home and in the workplace – have made our country strong. And we recommit to opening the doors of opportunity for the next generation of women.

Graph of pay gap by profession, a map of pay gap by state, and op/eds by Senators Gillibrand and Boxer follow the jump.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post, discussing the importance of pay equity not just to women, but to the national economy as a whole. Gillibrand wrote:

…[T]he issue of pay equity is not merely one of fairness. Equal pay for equal work is vital for our economic growth and middle class financial security. With more and more women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle class working families-men and children included. In New York alone, women head more than 1,000,000 households. It’s estimated that because of the wage gap, New York families are deprived of $8600 a year. Nationwide, it’s been estimated that if women were paid a dollar on the dollar for equal work, the U.S. GDP could grow up to 9 percent.

Gillibrand also discussed pay equity in regards to women’s health. She wrote:

In addition to being an economic security issue, the failure to pay women a salary that’s equal to men for equal work is also a women’s health issue. The fact is that the salary women are paid directly impacts the type of health care services they are able to access for both themselves and their families. For example, if we closed the wage gap, a working woman in New York would be able to afford more than 2 years worth of additional family health insurance premiums. At a time when women’s health services are increasingly vulnerable to budget cuts, it’s more important than ever that women have financial security to maintain access to basic care for them and their families.

In Politico, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an op-ed asserting that contrary to what Republicans may have you believe, the “war on women” is very real:

Suppose it’s the championship basketball game and one player is committing foul after foul. Each time, he denies he’s committed any offense.

Eventually, he fouls out. But even as he heads to the bench, he’s protesting that he did nothing wrong.

That’s what we’re seeing today from Republicans who claim there is no ‘war on women.’ The Republican National Committee chairman likened it to a ‘war on caterpillars.’ The Senate Republican leader claims it’s all manufactured – even as female members of his caucus warn about the growing backlash against the GOP from women.

House Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills that would restrict a woman’s reproductive health care. Those same Republicans, who decry an all-too-powerful government, have no problem deciding what health care is right for our daughters, or sisters or mothers….

Here in Congress, 116 Republicans in the House and 19 Republicans in the Senate are co-sponsors of ‘personhood’ legislation, which would criminalize abortion with no exceptions for the mother’s life or health. … It could even bar doctors from providing life-saving care to women with dangerous ectopic pregnancies.

It doesn’t end there. Republicans in Congress blocked an international treaty – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – even though the only other nations refusing to ratify it are Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

They also oppose increasing the minimum wage – when women make up about two-thirds of all workers now earning minimum wage or less. Not one Republican is a cosponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which helps protect women from domestic violence, when the bill was in the Senate Judiciary Committee. They voted to repeal the health care law – including the part that says no more gender discrimination in the pricing of health insurance policies and the part that offers free preventive services like mammograms, STD screening, well-woman visits and birth control.

The facts are the facts. The Republicans have launched a war on women. Despite all the denials, women get it – and so do the men who care about them.

In addition to the fight for pay equality, Democrats have pushed for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Led by Vice President Joe Biden – who originally wrote and sponsored the bill as a Senator from Delaware in 1994 – a group of lawmakers and private citizens spoke today about the importance of passing the bill with bipartisan support. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown wrote:

‘The idea we’re still fighting about this in Congress, that this is even a debatable issue, is truly sad,’ Biden said during remarks at the Eisenhower Office Building. ‘It’s not a reflection on the law. It is a reflection on our inability in this town to deal with something that by now should just be over in terms of debate about it.’

‘No one should question whether this is needed,’ Biden said at the end of his remarks. ‘It would have been bad if the law had never been passed. But imagine now, the message it sends if it is not reauthorized. Just ask what message it would send to every one of our daughters, every woman imprisoned in their home.’

Several prominent Jewish organizations have also spoken out in favor of VAWA’s reauthorization. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Hadassah have all urged their supporters to contact their local Congressional delegations and urge that they vote to pass the reauthorization of VAWA immediately. This is too important to wait.

  • Click here to read Senator Gillibrand’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read Senator Boxer’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read about how President Barack Obama’s actions have reflected Jewish values, including his accomplishments on women’s rights.

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Speaks To Hadassah

— by Max Samis

Last month, Democratic National Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) gave an interview to Charley J. Levine of Hadassah Magazine. Wasserman Schultz discussed a number of issues pertaining to the Jewish community including Israel, President Barack Obama’s record, and the Jewish vote.

Wasserman Schultz said regarding Obama and Israel

:[Obama] proposed more than $3 billion in aid to Israel in a very difficult economy because he recognizes how important Israel’s security is. He authorized and supported $205 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is effective against rocket attacks that have been occurring mercilessly against Israel. He authorized the sale of the bunker buster bombs, where President Bush had declined. I would argue he has been a better, more consistent friend to Israel than previous administrations.

More after the jump.
She explained regarding Jewish support of the Democratic Party:

Polling continues to show overwhelming support for Democrats and President Obama in the Jewish community. There appears to be no danger that we are going to lose the Jewish vote. Republicans are doing their best to cut into this, saying anything-regardless of the facts-because in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio there are sizable Jewish populations…

We have 20 Jewish members in the House; 19 are Democrats and 1 is a Republican. I am the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. There are zero Jewish Republicans yet several Democrats in the Senate. The natural political home for Jewish voters in America is my party, due both to our traditional, strong support for Israel and all the other issues that matter to Jews.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Republican attempts to politicize support for Israel:

There is just no daylight between both parties’ support for Israel. The Republicans…are unfortunately working overtime to create the perception that they are the more pro-Israel body…

What the Republicans are doing is dangerous. They are using Israel as a political football…. Israel’s ambassador [to the United   States], Michael Oren, has said this. If there is any perception of daylight between the parties on support for Israel, that strengthens Israel’s enemies. The president rejects what some Republican candidates have been saying, that America should review all its foreign aid commitments from zero, making each country justify the support it receives.

She spoke about one of her most memorable Israel visits:

I went with the American Jewish Committee in a young leadership program. I have always been a part of a large Jewish community, but you are always still aware that you are a minority. I was always aware I was different, and did experience some anti-Semitic incidents. So when I was walking down the street in Jerusalem it suddenly occurred to me that the bus driver is Jewish, the clerk at the supermarket is Jewish and the taxi driver is Jewish…. This helped me fully appreciate how important it is that we have the Jewish State of Israel-which is our homeland and our rightful place. We belong there and, God forbid, I remember thinking, if history repeated itself, there has to be a place for us to go.