March 2008

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News and Opinion

Letters to the Editor

Better Late Than Never

It's amazing that the UN managed to pass a resolution presented by the Israelis . It's interesting that all the Arab states managed to abstain. They wouldn't want to be seen voting against a resolution that is meant to help poor nations, that developed nations would share their agricultural technology with these poorer nations, now how would that look. But they just couldn't bring themselves to vote in favor of it either.

However, that doesn't change the fact that the UN has a scurrilous history of attacks against Israel, that they still refuse to allow Israel to cycle into the Security Council as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Cuba, and so on. Yet all these corrupt countries have been able to sit on the Security Council, unlike Israel. So they get no kudos from me.

Some of the same members plan to meet at Durbin to try again to make more attacks on Israel. What else is new?

Rachel Garber, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

My Jewish Story Of Barack Obama

I think it would be highly beneficial to share my story of how I met Barack Obama back in 2004 before his celebrity status took hold. I have a technology consulting company, and my first client was an amazing Jewish lady by the name of Jane Abramson in Chicago. Jane was working hard for Obama's Senate campaign and for John Edwards presidential campaign in 2004, and she actively sought my input and support for these two candidates that she saw as powerful change agents for America and the world. Jane focused many of her efforts on interfaith relations and also on fighting for the wrongfully accused who were sitting on death row in Illinois. It was her introduction of Barack Obama that made me realize Sen. Obama was and still is an amazing transformative figure. He has spoken in great length, well before every last word was monitored by the national press, on how important the Jewish community is to him and also how important it is for Israel to have real peace and not just some document that is not honored by the Palestinians. He affirmed to me that a strong and vibrant Israel is required for peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

Jane Abramson passed away in November in the midst of planning more events to support Sen. Obama's quest for the presidency. I hope that by sending this e-mail and continuing to tell this story, I can honor Jane Abramson and the hopeful vision for the Jewish people that she saw in Sen. Obama.

-- Micah Bergdale, New York City, New York

Speaking Up For Jerusalem

J.J. Goldberg's editorial If I Forget Thee… protests against Jewish groups that have spoken out on the issue of partitioning Jerusalem, Messrs. Meersheimer and Walt may consider advocacy by American Jews to be pernicious but it is surprising that the Forward would be alarmed by "national organizations forming coalitions and lobbying Congress." We had always thought that such is part of how democracies operate.

In any event,Agudath Israel considers Eretz Yisrael to be the land not of any temporal government but of the Jewish People, both metaphysically and tangibly. With regard to the latter, American Jews in general and we Orthodox Jews in particular visit Israel often, support her economy through charity, tourism and investment, send our children to study, and often settle, there. Many of us dream of one day living there ourselves. The security of Israel’s cities and the accessibility of the Holy Land’s holy places are not some distant abstraction; they directly affect our lives.

What is more, Jews fortunate to live in Israel are the brothers and sisters of Jews everywhere. To suggest that any Jew in any part of the world does not have a right – or anything less than a responsibility – to speak up when an Israeli government seems poised to do something dangerous is to deny the bond of Jews to both their homeland and to other Jews. As American citizens, we have every right and reason to advocate to our own government regarding issues important to us, especially regarding a "peace process" in which America is playing a pre-eminent role.

And so, the prospect of providing an untrustworthy enemy sovereignty over parts of the city holiest to Judaism --- and a foothold for murderous elements --- should spur each of us to speak up, to our governments and to our fellow Jews.

-- Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs, Agudath Israel of America, Staten Island, New York

A Response To The Rabbi Who Went AWOL

I wish Jason Leopold had called regarding his article about hate in the military to verify the allegations concerning me before publishing them. I have a long history of teaching about the evils of the Holocaust. As a seminarian in Philadelphia I attended and actively participated in the Philadelphia Interfaith Council on the Holocaust from 1990 to 1993.

I have a letter from Rabbi David Lapp thanking me for remembering Yom Hashoah. Having run a number of Yom Hashoah programs, Rabbi Jeffrey Goldman asked me to be the project officer at Fort Stewart, since they were not able to get much attendance the previous year. I had over 250 people at the event. I have the video of the event where I spoke along with Rabbi Goldman about the evil of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Goldman did not say that he would have to report to me. I was asked to conduct an inspection of his Unit Ministry Team. I am a soldier who had been deployed two times prior to 9/11, which was a lot back in those days. I had operational experience. I told Rabbi Goldman what I was going to inspect, but his section was not in order. He then complained to his superior that another officer of the same rank should not inspect his section and his superior supported him. When I deployed after 9/11, my section deployed with all of its equipment. Rabbi Goldman's unit deployed without their chaplain because he went AWOL. Since then, I served 16 months in Iraq while Rabbi Goldman ran away when it came to defend against the new Haman.

If you are on our base at Fort Leavenworth, you are welcome to attend and see for yourself that our Jewish servicemen participate in vibrant Sabbath services, and our Christian services are not anti-Semitic.

-- Chaplain Major Robert Nay, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Rabbis Support Health Care

Despite results of the recent Commonwealth Fund Survey that revealed large majorities believe employers should retain responsibility for providing health care benefits, our PA legislators have balked at Cover All Pennsylvanians (CAP) for the past year. Introduced in January 2007, CAP would have cut the cost of health care while improving access and affordability.

PA legislators, who apparently would have surveyed differently than the rest us, pooh-poohed the provision that would require employers to pay a fair share tax of 3% if they refused to offer health insurance to their employees. This 3% would have amounted to about $130 per employee – substantially less than the going rate.

Now, after a year of setbacks in the PA legislature, Governor Rendell has put forward an alternative form of funding health insurance for the 800,000 who currently go without. He proposes to draw on $400 million of unused funds that have accumulated in an account to help doctors pay for their malpractice insurance. In addition, a 10 cent per pack cigarette tax and taxes on smokeless tobacco would also be levied.

Orthopedic surgeons and other specialists support the plan's passage by Valentine's Day. By contrast, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R- Delaware and Chester) said they must “proceed cautiously.” Meanwhile, insurance premiums are going up, driving businesses to drop coverage for more workers.

Although the legislature has had a year to work out a plan, the problem is at least a decade old. Let's encourage our legislators to come up with a plan before Pennsylvania hits the 1 million mark of uninsured families.

-- Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
-- Rabbi Meryl Crean
-- Rabbi Jonathan Gerard
-- Rabbi Richard Hirsh
-- Rabbi Linda Holtzman
-- Rabbi Yael Levy
-- Rabbi Marc Margolius
-- Rabbi Rav A. Soloff
-- Rabbi Ira Stone
-- Rabbi Jeff Sultar
-- Rabbi Arthur Waskow
-- Rosalind Spigel, Director, Jewish Labor Committee
-- Seth Goldstein, Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee

Ron Paul Regarding Israel

I came across your article online, and I believe that Ron Paul's public comments, debate performance, and voting history speak for him better than whispers in the wind or ancient rags with which he was loosely affiliated. You are certainly welcome to your opinions on Dr. Paul , but his performance over the decades has demonstrated his integrity in regards to individuals buying votes or results from him. 

Regardless of the campaign contribution debacle, I feel that you, perhaps, didn't read enough of what Dr. Paul says about Israel. He feels Israel can defend itself militarily. We are better off cutting off funding for Israel - to spend on Americans. If you dig deeper, he justifies this action further by saying we should cut off funding for the Arab nations surrounding Israel. We spend three times more on funding Israels enemies and neighbors than we do Israel. 

Dr. Ron Paul is consistent in protecting Americans and spending on Americans first. 

I do appreciate your opinion, and I appreciate the fact that you are willing to discuss Dr. Ron Paul's ideology. In the mainstream media, Mitt Romney and John McCain received three to ten times the exposure as Ron Paul. Ron Paul's message is spreading regardless.

-- Elliot Christenson, Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice welcomes the submission of articles and letters to the editor letters @ pjvoice.com. Please include name, address and phone number for identification purposes. We cannot publish every submission we receive. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for length, clarity, grammar, accuracy, and style, though we will never intentionally distort the author's intent.

Editor-in-chief Ben Burrows editor @ pjvoice.com.

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