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Don’t Trust Republicans When it Comes to Fighting Anti-Semitism and Racism

By Joshua Runyan

“Proud Boys, stand back, and stand by.”

As president of the United States, Donald J. Trump had one job to do: Call out racism and anti-Semitism for what it is and to tell the modern incarnation of the Nazi Party in America that the hatred that they spew has no place in what passes for proper discourse in the greatest nation that the world has ever known.
President Trump failed at that task, the latest in a long string of failures that have plagued 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the rest of this great nation since Jan. 20, 2017.

Make no mistake: For all the talk that Republicans give the scourge of racism and anti-Jewish hatred over the past four years, the Grand Old Party, in actuality, cares not about hatred, about ethnic identities, about common decency. The president who gave you “decent people on both sides” when faced with the image of torch-bearing neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., is the same president who cannot, when teed up for the easiest putt the Northern hemisphere has ever known, call out hatred for what it is.

“There is blame on both sides!” he fumed, when challenged years ago. And again, when Fox News journalist Christ Wallace invited Trump Tuesday night to denounce hatred from the podium of the first presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, the president prevaricated.

This is nothing new.

Two weeks ago, when the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2574, the social media world was treated to the headline, “162 Democrats Vote Against Amendment to Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School.” The smear was spread against Democratic politicians from Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-4) to Rep. Susan Wild (PA-7). In truth, the vast majority of Democratic congressmen and congresswomen voted against a Republican-backed amendment that would have included “anti-Semitism” as among the types of discrimination prohibited under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The problem is, the actual story is much more complex, and much more inapposite to the partisan hatchet job that voters, including in the Jewish community in southeastern Pennsylvania, were treated to. With H.R. 2574, the Democratic-led House attempted to create a new private cause of action for discrimination faced in education. Republicans, who by and large, opposed the measure, sought to stick it to Democrats, trying to send up an anti-Semitism amendment via a “motion-to-recommit.”
As legislation, the amendment was poorly drafted, neglecting to contain a definition of “anti-Semitism.” But as a necessity, it was suspect, considering that since at least the Obama and second Bush administrations, the Justice Department – who is tasked with enforcing the Civil Rights Act – has always considered anti-Jewish discrimination to be prohibited under Title VI.
Nevertheless, Republicans saw fit to introduce what they later claimed was groundbreaking legislation under a legislative provision that when fronted by a minority party in the House is always defeated by the majority party in power. And that’s what happened: Democrats, including Dean and Wild,voted against the amendment.

But the amendment passed. And the now-amended legislation passed by overwhelming numbers, with Dean and Wild, and countless other Democrats, supporting it. Republicans? Joined by the sponsor of the anti-Semitism amendment, 187 other GOP representatives voted against the legislation that they later claimed was a strong statement against “anti-Semitism in education.”

An equally truthful headline would have been, “188 Republicans Vote Against Legislation to Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School.”

The fact is, if the Republican Party really cared about anti-Semitism, they wouldn’t have empowered their social media minions to smear Democrats in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The fact is, if the White House really cared about racism and hatred, and about uniting this great country instead of dividing it, the president wouldn’t have been so timid when invited to denounce the Proud Boys.

As a Jewish American, and, more importantly, as an Orthodox rabbi who has experienced his fair share of anti-Semitism, I care more about the party and the candidate who will actually do something about the hatred that has been the hallmark of the last few years of American life. Time and again, President Trump and the Republican Party have ignored the opportunity to denounce anti-Semitism for what it is, and to commit this country upon a path of understanding and peace.

President Trump has failed at his task, and the Republican leadership in Congress has enabled him. It’s time to transfer the reins of power.

Rabbi Joshua Runyan is an Orthodox rabbi and former editor of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. He is an attorney in Philadelphia.

Trump and Mass Shootings

Dr. Alon Ben Meir is a professor and Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute.

Assault Rifle. From Wikipedia.
Assault Rifle. From Wikipedia.

Within 13 hours, two mass shooting took place — in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio — killing 31 innocent people and injuring twice as many. We normally hear about these horrifying incidents, express sorrow and bewilderment, talk about gun control, and move on. Politicians, including Trump, dispatch their old and tired expressions of condolences and offer prayers to console the bereaved families of the victims. But then we go about our daily routine, knowing that the next mass shooting looms as if it were a natural phenomenon like a thunderstorm, in the face of which we can do nothing. And tragically, the vicious cycle continues.

[Read more…]

Sen. John Sidney McCain III (1936-2018)


The Last Stop on the Maverick Express

— by Michael Bihovsky

If the past is any indication, some of my fellow liberals will take issue with the nice things I’m about to say about Senator John McCain, but today we lost a hero in an age where heroes are so very hard to find…especially, let’s be frank, on the Right.

But John McCain was a hero. For starters, he risked his life time and again to defend our country, and was tortured beyond most of our comprehension for doing so. I honor him for that.

In an age of nearly unanimous hate and vitriol, McCain called for civility and respect in our discourse. I honor him for that as well.

And for most of his career, McCain acted – and voted – like a true moderate. Moderation has become a toxic word on both sides of the aisle, but not to me. Life, and government, is often about compromise – and although McCain recently voted with Trump on a lot more issues than I’d care for, he never did so out of cowardice or to fall into his party line. He voted what was, to him, his conscience – and even if I disagree with the specifics, I respect the integrity.

Which leads me to the main issue I will remember and praise John McCain for: he – along with Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – defeated the repeal of the the Affordable Care Act, which has literally saved the lives of so many people I know and love. Why? Because his fellow Republicans had provided no alternative, and because it had been pushed through without any Democratic consultation (let alone support). Therefore, according to McCain, supporting the repeal would be utter negligence and hypocrisy, and since it would lead to tens of millions of people losing health insurance, he voted no. If he had voted yes, a lot of people who are alive right now would not be.

I think that I, even more than most Republicans, long to see a day when the Republican Party is restored to some semblance of honor, conscience, and integrity. To me, John McCain represented those admirable traits. Was he perfect? Far from it. But I will take an imperfect official doing his best over someone who is perfectly corrupt and self-interested any day.

Thank you for your service, Senator McCain, and for your example. Rest in peace.

The post Rest In Peace, John McCain. And Thank You. appeared first on Michael Bihovsky’s Blog.

Gerrymandering is not a game… Except when it is

Board Game Invented by Austin Siblings Takes on the Supreme Court, 32 Governors, and 37 State Legislatures

Three Austin siblings, Josh, Louis, and Rebecca Lafair, invented a board game, Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, after growing up in a gerrymandered district (Texas Congressional District 10). They want to spread the word about gerrymandering in a fun, hands-on way. Moreover, they want to remind politicians that gerrymandering is not a game.

The Lafair siblings launched Mapmaker on Kickstarter on July 10th. They reached their funding goal in only 6 hours, with support from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lawrence Lessig, David Daley, and other big voices in the anti-gerrymandering movement. The Kickstarter runs until August 8th. As part of the campaign, backers can buy games for themselves; their state legislators, who draw maps in 37 states; their governors, who veto maps in 32 of these states; and Supreme Court Justices, who rule on maps. Inside every box, the siblings are including a “Gerrymandering is Not a Game” proclamation.

High school senior Josh Lafair explains,

The more I learned about gerrymandering, the more I realized how terrible it is for our country. Today’s partisan divide can be traced back to gerrymandering. Non-competitive districts take away the incentive to compromise, so politicians don’t need to reach across the aisle.

“We’ve noticed that halfway through their first game, players often comment, ‘I finally get how packing and cracking works.’ Then they have deeper conversations about gerrymandering afterwards,” reveals Louis Lafair, who graduated last month from Stanford University.

Rebecca Lafair, a senior at Northeastern University, says, “Before 2021 redistricting, which will affect elections for the next decade, we hope to add momentum to the anti-gerrymandering movement.”

Mapmaker is not just a teaching tool or political gimmick. It is also a really fun game. Like real gerrymandering, it is full of scheming and strategizing, maneuvers and outmaneuvers. Steve Jackson, inventor of Munchkin and founder of Steve Jackson Games, describes his experience playing as “engrossing.” Aaron Schimmoller, a Settlers of Catan addict, calls Mapmaker “better than Catan.” Over one hundred people have playtested and helped the Lafair siblings improve Mapmaker.

This is not their first game. At age 11, Louis invented his first board game, which was subsequently published by Go! Games. The Austin area publisher is partnering with them for their Kickstarter campaign to ensure high quality production and seamless fulfillment.

You can support Mapmaker on Kickstarter, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. For more information about the board game, please contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Riding the Redistricting Reform Roller Coaster in the Pa. General Assembly

The national census will take place in 2020. And then, the process of redrawing congressional and state legislative maps will go on in states across the country in 2021. Redistricting reform advocates had hoped for some guidance in this process from the U.S. Supreme Court, but in two recent cases, the court failed to opine on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering — the practice of drawing voting districts to benefit a particular political party — and instead, issued rulings on procedural grounds.

Just how the 2021 redistricting process will take place in Pennsylvania now depends on what happens in the state’s General Assembly within the next 10 days or so. In fact, advocates for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania have been riding a legislative roller coaster for months — and it continues to be a very bumpy ride. [Read more…]

What’s Happening in Philly’s Jewish Young Professional Scene

Rachel Abramowitz. Photo: Tribe 12.

By Rachel Abramowitz

In a person’s life, the longest time between Jewish rituals is the duration from bar/bat mitzvah to marriage. For Millenials today, that gap is only getting wider.

So what does Judaism look like for young professionals when there isn’t a ritual in sight to connect them? What does Jewish community look like outside the bounds of traditional rituals? As the engagement associate for Tribe 12, a non-profit that connects 20s/30s in Philadelphia to the Jewish community, it’s my job to “mind this gap” of the young professional experience. In this interim of milestones, I create programming that not only fosters community, but also connects 20s/30s with all the  Jewish Philly happenings and opportunities.

[Read more…]

Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit

Alan Weisleder, Nelson Diaz, and Wayne Kimmel at theLatino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit. Photo: AJC

American Jewish Committee and its Latino Jewish Coalition hosted a Latino Jewish Entrepreneurial Summit at Temple University’s Fox School of Business on May 15th. Established in 2013, the coalition works in a collaborative manner to expand interactions and works in areas, such as immigration reform, economic empowerment, civic engagement and homeland/diaspora relations.

[Read more…]

Following the Money: Congress 2018

Money Bag. Photo By Barbara Lock [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Barbara Lock

There used to be an immutable law about campaign finances: more money always beats less money, unless candidates self-fund, which rarely works out well. WOW! Things have changed!

There are still some rules about campaign money that hold true. First, if, as a candidate, you can get a local voter to give you money, even $5, they are going to vote for you because they’re invested in you. Granted, if you do something incredibly stupid, that could change, although it may not. For example, there are people who fund candidates who still vote for said candidate even if the election falls between conviction and sentencing. (I am not making this up!) Contrary, if you, the candidate, sleep with a donor’s underage child that donor probably will withdraw support, although sadly, not always. (Again, not making this up!) [Read more…]

Basic Guide to Voting in the PA Primary

PA Primary 2018 Sample Ballot

PA Primary 2018 Sample Ballot

When is the Pennsylvania Primary? Tuesday, May 15th, from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Who can vote in the Primary? In Pennsylvania, only voters who are registered members of the Republican or the Democratic parties can vote in the Primary. Republicans only vote for Republican candidates and Democrats only vote for Democratic candidates. (In the November general election, every registered voter can vote for candidates of any party.)

How do I know if I am registered? You can check your voter registration status.

Can I register or change my registration from Independent to Democrat or Republican? No, it is too late. In Pennsylvania it has to be at least 30 days before an election for you to register or change your party affiliation.

 

There is an official voter’s guide from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Unofficial candidate information and photos are available.

Other sources of information:

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

Indivisible Chester County.

Local Philadelphia Newspapers.