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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Delaware Valley's Progressive Alternative

Volume 1 - Number 2 - August 2005

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Around Our Community

Cancer of Anti-Semitism in North Jersey

"All she cared about is the Jewish women of Bergen County. Well, damn it, we've got African-American and Latino women here in Newark, New Jersey, in the county of Essex, that are dying every day."

With these words, Yvette Abdullah, an aide to Newark Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins, exploited a Jewish state assemblywoman's heritage to divert attention from her boss's shenanigans in wresting a $10,000 grant from a major New Jersey medical university for a breast-cancer support group that was not legally entitled to the grant.

Carolyn Kelley Shabazz, a supporter of the councilwoman, attacked the Latino background of the university's acting board chairwoman, saying, "We're ashamed of you and we really sorry for you because as a woman you, too, may someday be sitting in a doctor's office and he says, 'Delgado, you have breast cancer.' I'm sure your white counterparts understand and recognize who you are and what you are."

In a column in the daily newspaper The Record, which mainly covers Bergen County, James Ahearn recounted that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey illegally issued the $10,000 grant to the councilwoman's group, Women with Hats for the Cure; Chaneyfield-Jenkins founded the organization. Ahearn wrote, "The group was not a registered charity and, even if it were, the money came in part from the state treasury, and the university had no authority to reroute tax funds to recipients not specified by the legislature and governor."

The board chairwoman, Sonia Delgado, directed the university to stop all donations pending investigation.

The councilwoman was ready for Delgado at a subsequent university board meeting in late April, when she declared, "To say, Miss Chairwoman, that UMDNJ would issue a moratorium based on misinformation from the media is sad, because there's no moratorium going on right now for the black women and Latino women who are dying in our streets as we speak."

As Delgado tried to return to the agenda, the councilwoman's two friends shouted down the board chairwoman and uttered their bigoted remarks.

The assemblywoman, Democrat Loretta Weinberg from Teaneck, was singled out because she criticized the Women with Hats grant and other university missteps.

Weinberg said in response, "I represent women all over the state of New Jersey, of all racial and religious groups, and I happen to be the widow of a cancer victim. I think the remarks of that aide are completely inappropriate and she should be taken to task."

Delgado said, "I'm not going to dignify the remarks with a comment."

Acting Gov. Codey, who happens to live in West Orange where there is a large Jewish community, said the day after the meeting, "Right now, people should be focused on making UMDNJ the best institution it can be. The despicable and divisive remarks made about two very honorable women committed to public service only serve as an impediment to that goal. And, as the husband of a breast cancer survivor, I am personally offended."

- Bruce S. Ticker

Dedicated to Vigilance

While some folks may demonstrate monthly or a few times per years, Bubbes & Zaydes for Peace in the Middle East has consistently sponsored peace vigils at noon each Friday across the street from the Israeli consulate on South 15th Street just north of Locust Street. They are still at it as they distribute information on peace-making efforts and the United States' role as a fair broker, according to Cy and Lois Swartz. Their group is an affiliate of the Philadelphia Jewish Peace Network. Interested persons can e-mail them at Pjpn@verizon.net, write them at P. O. Box 4030, Philadelphia, PA 19118 or just show up at the vigil.

Snowbird Alert: Beloved Boca Rabbi Retires

Reform Jews who winter in Boca Raton may recognize the name of Rabbi Merle Singer, who became spiritual leader of Temple Beth El 27 years ago. He retired in June and became Rabbi Emeritus.

Rabbi Singer is widely respected not only by his own congregants and the Jewish community there but by just about everyone in Boca Raton. He once headed the local United Way and, as a result of his interfaith activities, is known as "Saint Merle" at St. Joan of Arc Church across the street from Temple Beth El.

Temple Beth El was founded in 1967 as Boca Raton's first Jewish house of worship, when Jews were a tiny minority there, and has since grown to become the largest Jewish congregation between Miami and Washington, D.C. The Jewish population in Boca Raton is now close to 100,000, one-fifth of south Florida's Jewish population. Rabbi Singer was a major force in building the Jewish community. He helped to found the local Jewish Federation and establish a Holocaust chair and the Judaic Studies Program at Florida Atlantic University.

During a tribute dinner reported by The Boca Raton News, Bill Gralnick of the American Jewish Committee said, "In many ways, he is the archetypal rabbi for this area. There's an unwritten rule that say to be successful in the South (Palm Beach) County rabbinate, you have to follow the Merle Singer model."

Rabbi Singer told his friends, "I have stood witness to – and have been privileged to be a part of – a the building of one of the world's largest and most dynamic Jewish communities. From a community that began with just one synagogue – this one – serving just one branch of Judaism, I have seen Boca Raton become filled with vigorous institutions…and dotted with synagogues serving every branch of the religion."

Among many honors, his synagogue biography shows that he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Gwynedd-Mercy College in Springhouse, Pennsylvania.

- Bruce S. Ticker

70th Birthday Bash Planned for Social Security

Celebrate the 70th anniversary of the creation of Social Security while we still have a Social Security program as we know it.

With the system under assault from the Bush administration, a birthday picnic will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14, at historic Fort Washington State Park at the Pavilion of the Flourtown Day Use Area, said Ben Burrows of Elkins Park.

The picnic is expected to draw former U.S. Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, who was defeated by Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate race last November, and other political leaders, including state Sen. LeAnna Washington and state Rep. Mark B. Cohen. The picnic is jointly sponsored by Montgomery County Democracy for America (Montco DFA) and Philly for Change. The picnic area is on West Mill Road between Stenton Avenue and Bethlehem Pike.

Montco DFA representative Lee Nelson explained, "On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the most successful longterm social program ever instituted in the United States of America. Social Security turns 70 this August and we, along with other grateful citizens around the country, are celebrating."

Hoeffel said, "Social Security remains the essential foundation of the American retirement system and we must continue to oppose conservative attempts to privatize this critically important public pension. We must keep Social Security a defined benefit, guaranteed retirement program for all Americans."

All present can share personal stories about the role Social Security has played in their lives.

The event will include traditional picnic games and food. A $5 per person donation is suggested. Attendees are asked to RSVP at PA for Democracy or phone Nelson at 215 233-0173. The sponsoring groups, affiliated with Democracy for America, actively support socially progressive and fiscally responsible candidates at all levels of public office.

- Bruce S. Ticker

Pennsylvania GOP Moderates in Uphill Struggle

In the spirit of fair play, we are alerting readers to the plight of nice but at best naive Republicans …er, make that moderate and liberal Republicans…in need of money to boost candidacies of Republicans who favor abortion rights.

The newly-named Republican Majority for Choice, Pennsylvania chapter, previously known as the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition of Pennsylvania, leaves us with more questions than answers as it bemoans right-wing domination of their party in a mailing dated June 24. Former state Sen. Ed Howard of Bucks County is the group's state chairperson.

"We do not have to remind you how many threats to women's reproductive freedom exist in our nation, and maybe soon in our state," Howard and other Majority leaders wrote.

So far, they are right. They do not need to remind anyone.

"Our beloved Republican Party," the letter continues, "has been gripped by a goodly number of extremely conservative candidates and forces. Forty of our fellow Republicans in the Senate have a 100 percent approval rating from the Moral Majority.

"In some quarters it seems that there is no longer any traditional Republican agenda, just vociferous efforts to outlaw all abortions, dismantle civil rights for gays and lesbians, and flat out opposition to any stem cell research."

(It seems that there is no longer any traditional Republican agenda?)

The letter adds, "We have made contributions from our PAC over the past two years to Pennsylvania Republicans who believe in a woman's right to choose. But, as people like Barbara Hafer, Jim Greenwood and Thacher Longstreth either leave the GOP or leave office, our ranks are seriously dwindling"…and that's no exaggeration.

"We flat out need more pro-choice Republican candidates and officeholders," the letter proclaims.

Maybe they flat out need to stick a fork in it. Moderate Republicanism is just about done.

- Bruce S. Ticker

Anti-Semitic Vandalism in New York

On April 10, I visited New York City and took an hour-long subway ride to attend a social event at the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox synagogue in the northeastern Bronx. By coincidence, it turned out that the synagogue was targeted in a vandalism spree.

Jewish Philadelphians are aware that anti-Semitic vandals struck at two suburban schools in recent months, but I learned of comparable incidents not far from the Philadelphia region, mostly around New York. Green swastikas were spray-painted at the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, the Morris Park Hebrew Center and the Temple Judea at the Community Center of Israel in Allerton sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning April 8. The buildings were also marked with the letters WP and WW, for White Power and White World, The New York Daily News reported.

A week later, community leaders gathered in front of Temple Judea to denounce these actions. They included not only politicians and Jewish leaders but also an NAACP official and representatives of the Catholic church and the Lutheran church.

In the Fresh Meadows section of northeast Queens, the intersection of Jewel Avenue and 164th Street was the center of a vandalism spree on May 18 in which 18 parked vehicles were scrawled with the message "Kill all the Jews" and other anti-Semitic slurs. The Queens episode prodded two news conferences in which local political figures denounced the car vandalisms.
Interestingly, an anti-Semitic slur was scrawled on a car owned by a non-Jewish family. Theresa Manzo told the weekly Fresh Meadows Times that her surprised daughter said, "We're not even Jewish." Manzo said, "I had to explain to her what it meant and that unfortunately some people say mean things to people they don't even know."

In Brooklyn's Midwood section, swastikas were drawn on 11 parked cars near East 24th Street and Avenue J at 3:20 a.m. on June 10, police told The New York Post. This followed the drawing of a swastika discovered spray-painted on the roof of a Gravesend building on Avenue S the day before.

Closer to home, a red swastika was observed scrawled on the concrete support underneath a bridge that crosses over the New Jersey Transit River Line tracks several yards south of the Bordentown train station in northern Burlington County. The swastika is on the east side of the tracks. The River Line, which was launched just more than a year ago, links Trenton to Camden in a 34-mile stretch.

In Bow, N.H., a suburb of Concord, a couple on June 22 found their new cedar fence covered in spray-painted anti-Semitic and racist symbols, including a swastika, according to the online edition of The Concord Monitor, the state capitol newspaper. Police said the words "KKK" and "I am racist" were also painted in the fence in red letters.

The woman of the house said she is not sure if the vandalism was a random act, if it was a form of racism or if it was meant to imply that they are racist. The couple is white, and the woman said her husband employs African-Americans and Haitians in his construction business who often work around the yard in front of their home, the Monitor reported.Noting that poison ivy lines the edge of the property where her husband built the fence, the woman added, "We're hoping whoever did (the vandalism) had shorts and is highly allergic to poison ivy."

- Bruce S. Ticker

The Coffee Cup Nazi

"Seinfeld"'s "Soup Nazi" never showed signs of being anti-Semitic, but the "Coffee Cup Nazi" who disparaged an orthodox rabbi could really qualify as a Nazi.

"No disposable cup for you!!!!" he might have told Rabbi Israel Steinberg back in 1992. Well, those were not his exact words.

It began when the Coffee Cup Nazi refused to accommodate the Rabbi Steinberg's religious needs, trashed him for being Jewish, and kicked him out. The rabbi, from Brooklyn's Borough Park section, filed a complaint with a New York state anti-discrimination agency and finally got justice after nearly 13 years.

Interestingly, a spokeswoman for the Pataki-run state Division of Human Rights blamed former Gov. Cuomo, who left office in 1995, for the delay.

The flap started when Rabbi Steinberg asked for a cup of java at the Nations Café at 875 First Ave. in Manhattan. He told The New York Post, "I asked the counterman to give me coffee in a disposable cup rather than a china cup. He asked me why and I explained that I observed the Jewish dietary laws (which prohibit the use of non-kosher dishware). He said I would have to drink my coffee outside the shop if I wanted a disposable cup."

After further argument, the counterman "embarrassed and ridiculed me in front of customers sitting at the counter. He called me a four-letter word for Jew and told me to "get out of here.'"

The rabbi filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights - yes, it was Mario Cuomo's responsibility then - and the dummy counterman did it a second time when a yarmulke-wearing DHR investigator tested Rabbi Steinberg's story. A pre-hearing conference was held the following November – remember, Cuomo was still governor – and nothing happened since.

In 2002, when Cuomo was no longer governor, Rabbi Steinberg sought the help of attorney Robert Miller and DHR ultimately ruled in the rabbi's favor…on June 3, 2005. Credit George Pataki, who is now governor? The DHR ordered the restaurant, now under new and more enlightened management, to pay Rabbi Steinberg $500 for the mental anguish which the incident caused him.

The restaurant's new general manager, Mike Aronis, told the Post, "If someone asks for coffee in a container, we give it to them. We prefer not to do it because it doesn't look good in the restaurant, but if that's what they want, we comply."

Asked to explain the 13-year delay, DHR spokeswoman Denise Ellison zoomed in on Mario Cuomo: "We inherited 17,000 cases from the Cuomo administration."

Since Bill and Hillary Clinton moved to New York, shouldn't they share the blame along with Cuomo?

- Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce TickerAround Our Community

This column strives to concentrate on geographical regions or demographic segments of our community overlooked in the Exponent.

Send your comments and suggestions to Around Our Community editor Bruce Ticker community @ pjvoice.com.

Bruce Ticker is the editor of Crisis: Israel. A Voice for diverse commentary.

Last month Around Our Community featured "The Mensch Who Saved Rosh Hashanah", " Disengagement Plan for Manhattan Tenant Dashed" and "Commissioners Race Between Exponent Watch Members".

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