House of Representatives candidates: Lois Murphy (D) and
Jim Gerlach (R-incumbant).
Open Sukkah In the Sixth District
Murphy and Gerlach speak at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El..
-- Dan Loeb
During the recent holiday of Sukkot, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El opened its
Sukkah on consecutive nights to Jim Gerlach and Lois Murphy, Congressional candidates in
Pennsylvania's sixth congressional district. These open sukkah events entitled
"Race for the House" were sponsored jointly by the Temple Beth
Hillel-Beth El Men's Club and
As part of our In The Own Words series, we present extracts of
the conversation to get a glimpse of the candidates' views on Israel
and a wide range of other issues.
Lois Murphy lives in the community and attends Beth Am
Israel services occasionally with her husband Ben Eisner. Rabbi Neil
Cooper was impressed with Lois's knowledge when he first met her
last year at the national AIPAC conference in Washington DC.
Cooper praised Jim Gerlach equally the following evening. Over
the four years the Congressman has been representing our district,
Rabbi Cooper had several occasions to be in touch with him, usually on issues of Jewish interest. Rabbi Cooper
found Gerlach to be generally supportive of Israel and expressed his
gratitude to the Congressman for this support.
Murphy spoke of her husband's recent trip to Israel with Mark
Aronchick to participate in the bikeathon from Jerusalem to Eilat to
help raise money for the Arava Institute. Lois and Ben learned to
appreciate Israel's complex cultural, religious, environmental and
The security of Israel and the violence in Gaza
was already in her mind, but as violence escalated these grave
concerns developed into an existential threat to the State of
She vowed that the United States "must support
Israel in its quest for security" commenting that the nuclear
proliferation threat from North Korea compounds the problems posed
by Hamas, Hezbullah and Iran. "We must not let Iran have a
nuclear weapon," declared Murphy, lamenting that "the
sanctions appear to be advancing much more slowly than Iran's quest
for nuclear weapons.... Too much energy was spent on Iraq, and not
enough on Iran, Al Qaeda and North Korea."
many questions posed by Congregants about his stand on Israel and
the Middle-East in general.
First, the Congressman was asked
to speak about his recent trip to Israel and its meaning to him.
Gerlach replied, "I had a strong inkling to support Israel
[beforehand] but actually meeting the folks there was an eye opening
experience... A homemade rocket hit a target one-quarter mile from
us, and our security team turned us around. This reinforced my
desire to help Israel remain strong. Our support [of Israel]
is money well spent. There is strong support [for Israel] in the
House and Senate and obvious in this administration. We have to
support her in her time of need. Getting shot at changes your
perspective. Imagine if we got shot at by missiles from
Philadelphia; we would want to do something about it."
Another questioner asked Gerlach about certain
"independence movements" in Iran which are classified by
the administration as terrorist organizations and as such are not
eligible for financial aid from Americans. (Editor's note: This
includes the Baluchistan Liberation Army which aims to establish an
independent nation encompassing the Baluch dominated areas of
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.) Gerlach answered "I do not
know anything about this, but I will look into it. You are onto
something. We need to move moderate elements into the fore in
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice asked both candidates
about the Lautenberg amendment to prevent American companies like Halliburton
from doing business with Iran as they now do through their sham
foreign affiliates. This amendment was defeated by Senator Rick
Santorum. (See related article.)
The candidates were asked how they would vote were such an amendment
to be brought up for a vote in the House. Lois Murphy said she
supported the Lautenberg amendment. Gerlach was "not familiar
with the Lautenberg" but promised to "look very
seriously" at the proposal adding that we need some sort of
Iranian accountability legislation to "prevent delivery of
Lois Murphy called on
Congress to insist that the White House provide "a plan to
change course in Iraq in light of our recent National Intelligence
Assessment concluding that our enterprise in Iraq is making us 'less
safe' not 'safer'." She added that she had read two Republican
Senators quoted as saying "We need to change course, but I
cannot say anything until after the [midterm] election."
Lois Murphy was outraged: "If they believe our troops and our
country require change, then it is irresponsible to delay."
Gerlach echoed Lois Murphy's sentiments: "Congress must be more
assertive to determine what is going on on the ground in Iraq. We
are appropriating the money, but we need to ask more questions in a
formalized basis and debate what our next step is.
National Intelligence Estimate's assertion that the war in Iraq is
making us less secure, Gerlach cited "key judgments"
which are in the classified portions of the NIE and conclude that
"our presence has fueled the Jihadist movement, but if we
succeed it will defuel them." Gerlach emphasized "defuel
is the term I read. The air will come out of them because it
will be seen as a defeat for Al Qaeda and its terrorist
Gerlach added that Iraq's "unity government
has no sence of urgency. They feel that they have a blank check in
terms of American time, lives and dollars. We do not need a
timetable but a benchmark of success specifying certain troop levels
by certain times."
Mitch Clair co-president of the Men's Club
asked whether "a Democratic Congress might do a better job of
holding the Administrations foot to the fire." Gerlach thought
for a minute and concluded "I don't know. I haven't heard heard
anything from them on this."
candidates underlined the wide variety of other issues facing this district stretching
from Lower Merion to Reading whose diversity emulates that of our
Commonwealth including affluent Main Line suburbs, Amish farmland,
Industrial communities, and so on.
Congressman Gerlach's committee
assignments includes the Energy, Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee where he overseas the Transportation Safety Administration
(TSA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army
Corp of Engineers; as well as the Financial Services Committee.
Gerlach noted that this is "a good fit for our district"
as the Financial provider Vanguard is the largest employer in the
district with 10,000 employees.
- Land Development: Gerlach supports challenge grants for
farmland preservation where the Federal government will match
state and local funds to preserve farmland. Gerlach also hopes
to obtain private funding to extend the SEPTA corridor in hopes
of minimizing traffic congestion and spurring economic
development in the area.
- Energy Independence: Three dollar plus gasoline raised
Gerlach's concerns about what our future. Gerlach wishes to
"move in the next ten years to more domestic petroleum
production, and in the meantime [support] more hybrid and
flexible fuel vehicles" adding that "the President
ought to announce an [energy] initiative like Kennedy's 'Man on
the Moon' program."
- Health Care: Lois Murphy lamented that "too many
people do not have coverage. People change jobs 5 or 6 times in
their career, and it is hard for people to get coverage on their
own between jobs. We need to provide health care for all
Americans. We need a responsible bipartisan
dialogue to provide health care for all Americans."
Jim Gerlach was asked what to do about the failure of Medicare's
Part D. Gerlach admitted that "there is no panacea".
He added that "Congressmen need to keep working on the
program, but a lot of people are getting benefit who previously
Gerlach supports the Medical Liability Legislation currently
stalled in the Senate as a means to avoid defensive medicine.
Gerlach spoke about his earlier experience in the State government.
The Department of Transportation "DOT had trouble getting
driver's licenses out in time, so I shudder to think what would
happen if the Federal government was ever in the position of
approving life or death decisions."
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: Lois Murphy
characterized FEMA as having been "a tight ship before
Michael Brown and other cronies came along, and you can see
where we are now."
Gerlach felt FEMA had been "unfairly criticized" when
it was doing a good job protecting the lives of Americans. He
felt that "bad decisions were being made in New Orleans and
Louisiana, but the Federal government should have come in anyway
since decisions were not being made" adding that FEMA
"did OK in Mississippi."
- Budget: Lois Murphy: "Long term structural debt has not been
addressed in any meaningful way" as record surpluses have
turned into record deficits." Although the problem has been
allowed to become quite deep, she proposed several ideas. First,
restore "pay-as-you-go fiscal discipline". Next, cut
waste such as no defense and homeland security contracts. In her
career, Lois Murphy worked on cutting waste at the Department of
Justice and is appalled at the nine billion dollars unaccounted
for in Iraq. Furthermore, Murphy called for the repeal of 170
billion dollars in tax loopholes and tax giveaways to the
wealthy. Finally, regarding Medicare which she characterized as
being a more urgent problem than Social Security), Murphy was
amazed that Congress specifically prohibitted Medicare from
negotiating drug prices like the Veterans Administration does
and private insurers do. Lois Murphy cited studies showing this
alone could result in savings of 580 billion dollars over eight
- Immigration: Lois Murphy: "We are a country of
laws and is is appropriate for us to expect people to obey laws.
It is appropriate for us to expected secure borders, and it is
appropriate for us to expect companies to help enforce
laws." Given the growing problem with immigration up 56%
over the last six years, Murphy called for "intelligence
and resources necessary to guarantee secure borders and
ports" adding that we would have to arrive at an
"economically viable compromise which would allow companies
to hire the help they need."
Gerlach wants to dealt with the "13 million illegal
immigrants already here, one-third of whom came legally and
overstayed their visas. They like it here and melted into the
community." Gerlach proposed "Ellis Island
Centers" in their home countries. Illegal immigrants would
have to return home to these "Ellis Island Centers."
They would then be given priority to have their visa
regularized. Gerlach does not feel we should "reward people
who came here illegally with amnesty" although exceptions
would be made for illegal immigrants with American children or
whose health did not permit them to return to their home
Rabbi Cooper concluded the evenings by thanking each candidate
for visiting our sukkah and sharing their "candor, wisdom and
perceptive comments," and urging the congregants to vote.
- October 2006: Patrick Murphy, who
is running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th district.
- September 2006: Alan
Schlesinger, Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut.
- August 2006: Peter Edelman,
President of the New Israel Fund
- July 2006: Joe Sestak,
who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 7th district.
- June 2006: Rep. Steve Israel,
from New York's 2nd district.
- May 2006: Charles Smolover,
Vice-President of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice
- April 2006: Ira Forman,
Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Committee
- March 2006: Alan Sandals,
candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate
- February 2006: Matthew Brooks,
Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition
- January 2006: Rep. Chaka Fattah
from Pennsylvania's 2nd district
- December 2005: Rep. Jim Gerlach
who is running for reelection in Pennsylvania's 6th district.
- November 2005: Gov. Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
- October 2005: Bob Casey
candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.
- September 2005: Pennsylvania State Representative Daylin
- August 2005: Lois Murphy who is
running for Congress in Pennsylvania's 6th district.
- July 2005: Chuck Pennacchio
candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.