Volume 3, Number 131
 
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"
 

Today's Postings:

Sunday-Monday, June 7-8, 2009

{Click on a link to jump to the corresponding story. Or, you may scroll leisurely through our report}

INTERNATIONAL
What Obama, Merkel and Wiesel said at Buchenwald... White House transcript READ MORE

President Obama's post-speech press conference in Cairo ... White House transcript READ MORE

Varying reactions to President Obama's address to Muslims
Turkish FM, Secretary Clinton agree speech hit the right notes READ MORE
ZOA says Obama hostile to Israel READ MORE
Cardin and Hastings compliment human rights message in speech READ MORE
Feingold and Kaufman offer opinions on Obama's speech READ MORE
Americans for Peace Now says now is time for action READ MORE
Evangelical Lutheran's bishop says Obama speech 'foundational'READ MORE
Freedom House applauds Obama's emphasis on value of democracyREAD MORE
Interfaith Alliance commends Obama's outreach to Muslim world READ MORE
National Council of Churches pledges to work with Muslims READ MORE

Too Pro-Arab, Too Pro Israeli—No unanimity on Obama ... by Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem
Barack Obama's Cairo speech touched so many buttons that the breadth of responses should be no surprise. READ MORE

SD County reactions to President Obama's Cairo speech

From Sheila Orysiek, San Diego: Citations and commentary READ MORE
From Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Chabad of La Costa READ MORE
From Donald H. Harrison, editor, San Diego Jewish World READ MORE

Editor's Mailbox: national, international Jewish news
Feinstein says National Marine Fisheries report means California needs new water system READ MORE
Wyden and other senators seek moratorium on new wireless taxes READ MORE
Congressmen Israel and colleagues want national hate Crimes hotline READ MORE
Wexler wants trade restrictions lifted for Azerbaijan READ MORE
Republicans want Boxer to schedule full hearings on House-adopted global warming bill READ MORE
Congressman Cohen wants NBA to permit 18-year-olds to play READ MORE


JUDAISM/ RELIGION
The greater meaning of Judaism's three-fold blessing ... by Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego
Parashat Naso contains one of the most beautiful blessings in the Torah: Birkat Kohanim:READ MORE

A modern father whose will matched that of a Nazir ... by Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego
A Nazir takes a vow to abstain from physical distractions and focus on an intense program of spirituality. Those who even attempt to be a Nazir are few. Those who succeed are even fewer. READ MORE

The Bible in Pop Culture

Fill the waters in the seas, Genesis 1:22 SEE IMAGE


LIFESTYLES
After forty-seven years – I am looking sideways ... by Sheila Orysiek in San Diego
After our wedding ceremony, many people told me how moved they were by the words spoken by the rabbi who married us.  I don’t remember a word he said.  My only thought was “what do I do now?”  READ MORE

SAN DIEGO
County fair illustrates 'there's a Jewish story everywhere' ... by Donald H. Harrison in Del Mar, California
Every year the San Diego County Fair hosts a pre-opening party for the media so reporters can pass on to their readers, viewers and listeners what’s at the fair of interest.   READ MORE

San Diego County news and publicity of Jewish interest
Poverty's changing face topic for June 25 panel READ MORE
JFS has free transportation programs for those 60 and up READ MORE
Sunday evenings are barbecue and bounce house time at Chabad READ MORE


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County library hosts summer reading clubs and programsREAD MORE
'Cat in Hat' helps celebrate library branch's 44th anniversary READ MORE

SPORTS
A bissel Jewish sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt .. in Oldsmar, Florida
Q: Who is believed to be the first Jewish pitcher in major-league baseball?READ MORE

BOOK SERIALIZATION
I'm Still Here ... by Laura Simon in San Diego
Diphtheria READ MORE
Bubbe Nashuma READ MORE


JEWISH HISTORY
Adventures in San Diego Jewish History

May 1, 1953, Southwestern Jewish Press
60% of Goal Reached; UJF Pleased; Workers Urged On READ MORE
Saint Or Villain? {Editorial}READ MORE
J.W.V. Gets Warm Thanks READ MORE

JEWISH INTERNET FAVORITES

We continue our examination of Jewish entertainers

Jonah Bobo is accused of cheating in "Zathura" VIEW VIDEO
Flora Cross is a nominee, but loses to Dakota Fanning, in best young actress competion VIEW VIDEO
Hallie Kate Eisenberg, a la Godfather, insists on her Pepsi VIEW VIDEO
Carter Jenkins (plaid shirt) in "Aliens in the Attic"VIEW VIDEO

INSIDERS' SDJW

Our growing international and national coverage needs sponsors. Receive regular recognition with your name or that of your business listed as sponsoring one of our columns. For an example see the column postscript on "Adventures in Jewish History" on this page. Inquire of editor Don Harrison at (619) 265-0808, or email him at editor@sandiegojewishworld.com

TODAY'S ADVERTISERS
America's Vacation Center
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Congregation Beth Israel
Jewish Community Foundation
Jewish Family Service
Lawrence Family JCC
Math Is Easy
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San Diego Community Colleges
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San Diego Jewish Arts Festival
San Diego Jewish Chamber
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School
Therapy in Motion Inc.
Tifereth Israel Synagogue
United Jewish Federation
XLNC-1 Radio



DEDICATIONS
Each day's issue may be dedicated by readers—or by the publisher—in other people's honor or memory. Past dedications may be found at the bottom of the index for the "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" page.



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What Obama, Merkel and Wiesel said at Buchenwald

WEIMAR, Germany (Press Release)—Following is the White House transcript of comments made at the former Buchenwald Concentration Camp by Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel on June 5.

CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As translated.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Here in this place a concentration camp was established in 1937. Not far from here lies Weimar, a place where Germans created wonderful works of art, thereby contributing to European culture and civilization. Not far from that place where once artists, poets, and great minds met, terror, violence, and tyranny reigned over this camp.

At the beginning of our joint visit to the Buchenwald memorial the American President and I stood in front of a plaque commemorating all the victims. When you put your hand on the memorial you can feel that it has warmed up -- it is kept at a temperature of 37 degrees, the body temperature of a living human being. This, however, was not a place for living, but a place for dying.

Unimaginable horror, shock -- there are no words to adequately describe what we feel when we look at the suffering inflicted so cruelly upon so many people here and in other concentration and extermination camps under National Socialist terror. I bow my head before the victims.

We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question how and why -- how could this happen? How could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and the world? It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakeable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again.

On the 25th of January, the presidents of the associations of former inmates at the concentration camps presented their request to the public, and this request closes with the following words: "The last eyewitness appeal to Germany, to all European states, and to the international community to continue preserving and honoring the human gift of remembrance and commemoration into the future. We ask young people to carry on our struggle against Nazi ideology, and for a just, peaceful and tolerant world; a world that has no place for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and right-wing extremism."

This appeal of the survivors clearly defines the very special responsibility we Germans have to shoulder with regard to our history. And for me, therefore, there are three messages that are important today. First, let me emphasize, we Germans see it as past of our country's raison d'être to keep the everlasting memory alive of the break with civilization that was the Shoah. Only in this way will we be able to shape our future.

I am therefore very grateful that the Buchenwald memorial has always placed great emphasis on the dialogue with younger people, to conversations with eyewitnesses, to documentation, and a broad-based educational program.

Second, it is most important to keep the memory of the great sacrifices alive that had to be made to put an end to the terror of National Socialism and to liberate its victims and to rid all people of its yoke.

This is why I want to say a particular word of gratitude to the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, for visiting this particular memorial. It gives me an opportunity to align yet again that we Germans shall never forget, and we owe the fact that we were given the opportunity after the war to start anew, to enjoy peace and freedom to the resolve, the strenuous efforts, and indeed to a sacrifice made in blood of the United States of America and of all those who stood by your side as allies or fighters in the resistance.

We were able to find our place again as members of the international community through a forward-looking partnership. And this partnership was finally key to enabling us to overcome the painful division of our country in 1989, and the division also of our continent. Today we remember the victims of this place. This includes remembering the victims of the so-called Special Camp 2, a detention camp run by the Soviet military administration from 1945 to 1950. Thousands of people perished due to the inhumane conditions of their detention.

Third, here in Buchenwald I would like to highlight an obligation placed on us Germans as a consequence of our past: to stand up for human rights, to stand up for rule of law, and for democracy. We shall fight against terror, extremism, and anti-Semitism. And in the awareness of our responsibility we shall strive for peace and freedom, together with our friends and partners in the United States and all over the world.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Chancellor Merkel and I have just finished our tour here at Buchenwald. I want to thank Dr. Volkhard Knigge, who gave an outstanding account of what we were witnessing. I am particularly grateful to be accompanied by my friend Elie Wiesel, as well as Mr. Bertrand Herz, both of whom are survivors of this place.

We saw the area known as Little Camp where Elie and Bertrand were sent as boys. In fact, at the place that commemorates this camp, there is a photograph in which we can see a 16-year-old Elie in one of the bunks along with the others. We saw the ovens of the crematorium, the guard towers, the barbed wire fences, the foundations of barracks that once held people in the most unimaginable conditions.

We saw the memorial to all the survivors -- a steel plate, as Chancellor Merkel said, that is heated to 37 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the human body; a reminder -- where people were deemed inhuman because of their differences -- of the mark that we all share.

Now these sights have not lost their horror with the passage of time. As we were walking up, Elie said, "if these trees could talk." And there's a certain irony about the beauty of the landscape and the horror that took place here.

More than half a century later, our grief and our outrage over what happened have not diminished. I will not forget what I've seen here today.

I've known about this place since I was a boy, hearing stories about my great uncle, who was a very young man serving in World War II. He was part of the 89th Infantry Division, the first Americans to reach a concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, one of Buchenwald's sub-camps.

And I told this story, he returned from his service in a state of shock saying little and isolating himself for months on end from family and friends, alone with the painful memories that would not leave his head. And as we see -- as we saw some of the images here, it's understandable that someone who witnessed what had taken place here would be in a state of shock.

My great uncle's commander, General Eisenhower, understood this impulse to silence. He had seen the piles of bodies and starving survivors and deplorable conditions that the American soldiers found when they arrived, and he knew that those who witnessed these things might be too stunned to speak about them or be able -- be unable to find the words to describe them; that they might be rendered mute in the way my great uncle had. And he knew that what had happened here was so unthinkable that after the bodies had been taken away, that perhaps no one would believe it.

And that's why he ordered American troops and Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp. He invited congressmen and journalists to bear witness and ordered photographs and films to be made. And he insisted on viewing every corner of these camps so that -- and I quote -- he could "be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever in the future there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda."

We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened -- a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts; a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.

These individuals never could have known the world would one day speak of this place. They could not have known that some of them would live to have children and

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BUCHENWALD TRIBUTE--U.S. President Barack Obama puts a flower besides the crematoria at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Behind him, carrying flowers are German Chanceloor Angela Merkel and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. White House photo by Pete Souza

grandchildren who would grow up hearing their stories and would return here so many years later to find a museum and memorials and the clock tower set permanently to 3:15, the moment of liberation.

Also to this day, there are those who perpetuate every form of intolerance -- racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and more -- hatred that degrades its victims and diminishes us all. In this century, we've seen genocide. We've seen mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground; children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war. This places teaches us that we must be ever vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others' suffering is not our problem and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.

But as we reflect today on the human capacity for evil and our shared obligation to defy it, we're also reminded of the human capacity for good. For amidst the countless acts of cruelty that took place here, we know that there were many acts of courage and kindness, as well. The Jews who insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur. The camp cook who hid potatoes in the lining of his prison uniform and distributed them to his fellow inmates, risking his own life to help save theirs. The prisoners who organized a special effort to protect the children here, sheltering them from work and giving them extra food. They set up secret classrooms, some of the inmates, and taught history and math and urged the children to think about their future professions. And we were just hearing about the resistance that formed and the irony that the base for the resistance was in the latrine areas because the guards found it so offensive that they wouldn't go there. And so out of the filth, that became a space in which small freedoms could thrive.

When the American GIs arrived they were astonished to find more than 900 children still alive, and the youngest was just three years old. And I'm told that a couple of the prisoners even wrote a Buchenwald song that many here sang. Among the lyrics were these: "...whatever our fate, we will say yes to life, for the day will come when we are free...in our blood we carry the will to live and in our hearts, in our hearts -- faith."

They could not have known how the nation of Israel would rise out of the destruction of the Holocaust and the strong, enduring bonds between that great nation and my own. And they could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them and that he would do so standing side by side with the German Chancellor in a Germany that is now a vibrant democracy and a valued American ally.

They could not have known these things. But still surrounded by death they willed themselves to hold fast to life. In their hearts they still had faith that evil would not triumph in the end, that while history is unknowable it arches towards progress, and that the world would one day remember them. And it is now up to us, the living, in our work, wherever we are, to resist injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take, and ensure that those who were lost here did not go in vain. It is up to us to redeem that faith. It is up to us to bear witness; to ensure that the world continues to note what happened here; to remember all those who survived and all those who perished, and to remember them not just as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed just like us.

And just as we identify with the victims, it's also important for us I think to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves. And I want to express particular thanks to Chancellor Merkel and the German people, because it's not easy to look into the past in this way and acknowledge it and make something of it, make a determination that they will stand guard against acts like this happening again.

Rather than have me end with my remarks I thought it was appropriate to have Elie Wiesel provide some reflection and some thought as he returns here so many years later to the place where his father died.

MR. WIESEL: Mr. President, Chancellor Merkel, Bertrand, ladies and gentlemen. As I came here today it was actually a way of coming and visit my father's grave -- but he had no grave. His grave is somewhere in the sky. This has become in those years the largest cemetery of the Jewish people.

The day he died was one of the darkest in my life. He became sick, weak, and I was there. I was there when he suffered. I was there when he asked for help, for water. I was there to receive his last words. But I was not there when he called for me, although we were in the same block; he on the upper bed and I on the lower bed. He called my name, and I was too afraid to move. All of us were. And then he died. I was there, but I was not there.

And I thought one day I will come back and speak to him, and tell him of the world that has become mine. I speak to him of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of good will -- in America, where I live, or in Europe or in Germany, where you, Chancellor Merkel, are a leader with great courage and moral aspirations.

What can I tell him that the world has learned? I am not so sure. Mr. President, we have such high hopes for you because you, with your moral vision of history, will be able and compelled to change this world into a better place, where people will stop waging war -- every war is absurd and meaningless; where people will stop hating one another; where people will hate the otherness of the other rather than respect it.

But the world hasn't learned. When I was liberated in 1945, April 11, by the American army, somehow many of us were convinced that at least one lesson will have been learned -- that never again will there be war; that hatred is not an option, that racism is stupid; and the will to conquer other people's minds or territories or aspirations, that will is meaningless.

I was so hopeful. Paradoxically, I was so hopeful then. Many of us were, although we had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one's life with dignity in a world that has no place for dignity.

We rejected that possibility and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future, because the world has learned. But again, the world hasn't. Had the world learned, there would have been no Cambodia and no Rwanda and no Darfur and no Bosnia.

Will the world ever learn? I think that is why Buchenwald is so important -- as important, of course, but differently as Auschwitz. It's important because here the large -- the big camp was a kind of international community. People came there from all horizons -- political, economic, culture. The first globalization essay, experiment, were made in Buchenwald. And all that was meant to diminish the humanity of human beings.

You spoke of humanity, Mr. President. Though unto us, in those times, it was human to be inhuman. And now the world has learned, I hope. And of course this hope includes so many of what now would be your vision for the future, Mr. President. A sense of security for Israel, a sense of security for its neighbors, to bring peace in that place. The time must come. It's enough -- enough to go to cemeteries, enough to weep for oceans. It's enough. There must come a moment -- a moment of bringing people together.

And therefore we say anyone who comes here should go back with that resolution. Memory must bring people together rather than set them apart. Memories here not to sow anger in our hearts, but on the contrary, a sense of solidarity that all those who need us. What else can we do except invoke that memory so that people everywhere who say the 21st century is a century of new beginnings, filled with promise and infinite hope, and at times profound gratitude to all those who believe in our task, which is to improve the human condition.

A great man, Camus, wrote at the end of his marvelous novel, The Plague: "After all," he said, "after the tragedy, never the rest...there is more in the human being to celebrate than to denigrate." Even that can be found as truth -- painful as it is -- in Buchenwald.

Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to come back to my father's grave, which is still in my heart.

Preceding transcript provided by the White House

 



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Media question Obama on his speech to world's Muslims

CAIRO, Egypt (Press Release)—Here is the transcript of President Obama's news conference in Cairo following his speech to the Muslim world on June 4. To read the speech itself, which we ran in the previous edition, please click here.

THE PRESIDENT:  So I know that we only have half an hour and I want to make sure that everybody has time for questions.  So I'm not going to make an opening statement -- I just made a long one in the auditorium, and I'll just open it up and maybe if you want we'll just go around the room.  Is that okay?  And we'll start with you, Wafa.

Q  Well, thank you for your speech.  I'm sure that the Palestinians are overwhelmed by some of the things that you have said regarding the Palestinian issue, specifically about the settlements.  We have not heard a U.S. President, or any U.S. official before, saying the United States does not recognize the legitimacy of settlements.

However, the Palestinians want to see -- want you to show them how different you are from other Presidents.  Are there measures that the United States will take in order to ensure that settlement expansion is --

(Interruption to interview.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I think you pressed play instead of record -- you're getting somebody's interview on that.

Q  I'm so sorry.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  Go ahead.

Q  Anyway, so if the Israelis do not stop the settlements as specified in phase one of the road map, are there measures that you plan to take in order to enforce that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it's premature for me to go beyond the principles that I've laid out in the speech.  And let me explain why.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has only been in office now for a month, month-and-a-half.  President Abbas I just met with two weeks ago.  I'm still in the process of consulting with Arab states throughout the region.

And so I think it's very important for all the parties to listen, to take measure of what they can do, how far they're willing to go, before I make any reactions or pre-judge what direction the negotiations should go in.

The one thing I know is this:  This is a difficult issue across the board.  I don't think we should underestimate the difficulties; passions are very high on both sides; the politics are very difficult on both sides.  But one of the things that I committed to during my campaign was that I would not wait until my sixth or seventh or eighth year in office -- or, if I only get four, my third or fourth year in office, but that I was going to start right away.  And I think that's what's required, is serious, long-term U.S. engagement.

I've assigned a special envoy, George Mitchell, who is traveling back and forth between all the various interested parties.  And we've set out some clear parameters in terms of how we are going to approach the problem.  And my hope and expectation is that there is going to be some difficulties; but ultimately both the Israelis and Palestinians are going to recognize this is in their interests.

That's the main thing that I wanted to emphasize in the speech:  The United States cannot impose a solution; but perhaps because we're not immediately in the heat of the passions involved, perhaps we can see why it's so important for both Israelis and Palestinians to resolve this and resolve this soon, and not continue to let it fester.  And that's what I'm committed to.

Q  Is there a timeline or time frame for U.S. --

THE PRESIDENT:  I don't want to impose an artificial timeline, but I think that all of us probably had a sense in our gut of, "Are things moving forward?" or "Have they stalled?"  There's historically been a rhythm to negotiations in the region.  And when things stall, everybody knows it.  People may say a lot of words, but everybody knows that nothing is happening.  Right now things have been stalled for quite some time.  When things are moving, people also know that.

And so what I want to -- I want to have a sense of movement and progress.  And I think that can be achieved.

Okay.  Magdy -- and I'll listen to my translation.

Q  (As translated.)  I think your speech was wonderful and more -- above and beyond everybody was expecting.  And you have talked about the Middle East and the future of this region.  You also spoke about the commitment of the United States towards achieving progress towards special issues.  I also believe there are some difficulties.  I might want to be much more precise.

I have one question:  How is your administration going to deal with the current Israeli government and with Hamas as a part and parcel of the Palestinian portfolio?  And I think so many believe that Hamas is a difficult question that the previous administration did not deal with.  What is your vision and your view in dealing with Hamas and dealing with the hawks in the current Israeli government?

The other issue is your clarity and your vision makes me want to ask you, who are your partners in the region that you can rely on to achieve your objectives -- either on the Palestinian issue or the Iraqi issue or the Afghanistan issue?  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I tried to make clear in my speech that when it comes to Hamas, there is no doubt that Hamas has some support among Palestinians -- that was shown in the last election; that cannot be denied.  What I also said is that Hamas has responsibilities to those people it represents to have a responsible approach to actually delivering a Palestinian state.

If Hamas's approach is based on the idea that Israel will cease to exist, that's an illusion.  And what that means is that they are more interested in talk than in results.  If they are serious about delivering a Palestinian state, then they should renounce violence, accept the framework provided by the previous agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.  That still leaves enormous room for them to negotiate on a whole host of issues.

But at minimum they can't provide the results for the people they claim to represent if they're not acknowledging reality.  So, you know, this is really a decision for Hamas to make.

Now, with respect to the Israeli government, I've had three meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  The first two was while I was a United States senator, and one in the White House just recently.  In each case I found him to be a very intelligent, very engaging person, a excellent communicator.  And I think because this is the second time that he's serving as Prime Minister, I think he feels a very real historic sense about the task before him.

Obviously it was a very close election in Israel.  It took some time to put that coalition together.  That means that politics are complicated.  And I think that just as so many Palestinians have lost confidence and faith that the process can move forward, I think there are a lot of Israelis who have lost confidence and faith that they will ever be recognized by Arab states, or that there will be security that is meaningful -- where rockets aren't fired into Israel.

And so I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu will recognize the strategic need to deal with this issue.  And that in some ways he may have an opportunity that a labor or more left leader might not have.  There's the famous example of Richard Nixon going to China.  A Democrat couldn't have gone to China.  A liberal couldn't have gone to China.  But a big, anti-communist like Richard Nixon could open that door.

Now, it's conceivable that Prime Minister Netanyahu can play that same role.  But it's going to be difficult -- and I don't want to diminish the difficulties for any of the parties involved in making these decisions because, as I said, there are a lot of passions in the people.  But part of leadership is being able to push beyond immediate politics to get to where, ultimately, the people need to go.

And in terms of partners more broadly, my attitude at this point is I want to work with everybody I can to get things done.

Nahum.

Q  First of all, Mr. President, I want to congratulate you for a great speech.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q  I believe that everybody in the region listened to it, including in my country.

One question which really worries the Israelis is Iran.  In your speech you didn't indicate whether at certain point you -- or whether -- to stop the nuclearization of Iran is an American national goal which has to be fulfilled.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind that I've been very clear on this in the past, and I will continue to be clear on the fact that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be profoundly destabilizing for the entire region.  It is strongly in America's interest to prevent such a scenario.

But I believe it's in the interest of everybody in the region -- indeed, I actually think it's in Iran's interest to prevent such a scenario, because it would be a very dangerous place if everybody decides that they need to have a nuclear weapon in the neighborhood, particularly given the conflicts that exist not just between -- the tensions between Israel and Iran, but there are a wide set of conflicts that would be affected.

So my approach, as I've said, is to reach out to Iran to suggest talks without preconditions, but also to -- and as I said in my speech, to have a wide range of issues to discuss.  But the issue that is time-sensitive, where we have to make progress because we are reaching a critical point, is on the issue of nuclear weapons.  And so one of the things that I want to do is to put this in a broader context.  I want this not just to be an American effort, or an Israeli concern, but I think it's an international concern.  And as committed as I am to diplomacy, as I said in the White House just a few weeks ago, I'm not just going to talk just for talking sake.  If I don't see meaningful progress in these talks, then that will indicate to me that the Islamic Republic is not serious.

Q  If I may --

THE PRESIDENT:  Please.

Q  Sorry.  You didn't mention the word "normalization" between Israel and the Arab world in your speech.  Is it -- does it indicate something? 

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn't indicate anything.  I think the working assumption -- and that's why I added the issue of Arab state responsibilities, not just Israeli and Palestinian responsibilities.  I added that paragraph because I thought it was very important to reinforce the notion that the region as a whole has to take responsibility for solving this issue.  And I think from Israel's perspective, the importance of knowing that as a consequence of making the necessary compromises to achieve a two-state solution they are not only making peace and doing what is just with respect to the Palestinians, but that they are also securing -- that they are also meeting their own security needs, and broader threats that might come from beyond Gaza or the West Bank -- that's a very important element.

It also, by the way, would allow I think the entire region to prosper much more effectively.  If you think about the possibilities of commerce and trade in the Middle East if a country like Israel, as powerful as it is, were able to have normalized commercial relations with Gulf states, with a Palestinian state that is full of talent, and you suddenly have all the Palestinian diaspora coming back and investing, and businesspeople throughout the region, you could see huge economic benefits, as well as security benefits.

But we're very far from that vision, so right now I just want us to start taking that step down the road.  You know, there's the well-known saying that the hardest step on any journey is always the first one.

Yes.

Q  Thank you, President Obama.  Of course, as an Indonesian, my first question would be when will you come to Indonesia?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I need to come to Indonesia soon.  I expect to be traveling to Asia at some point within the next year and I would be surprised if when I came to Asia I did not stop by my old home town of Jakarta.  And I'll go visit Menteng Dalam and have some bakso -- nasi goreng.  These are some special dishes here that I used to eat when I was a kid.

Q  Actually I live only 300 meters from your old house.

THE PRESIDENT:  Is that right?

Q  Yes, Menteng Dalam.

THE PRESIDENT:  Except now it's all paved. 

Q  Yes, it's all paved.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, see, when I was there it was all dirt,
so when the rains came it would all be mud.  And all the cars would get stuck.

Q  And your school is much better now.

THE PRESIDENT:  It's nicer now, yes.  (Laughter.)  Okay.

Q  That would be November, APEC maybe?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don't want to make any -- (laughter) -- firm commitments.

Q  Okay.  And the second is, you know, I read your book, "The Audacity of Hope," and I had a very great hope that you can reach the Muslim community because it seemed to me your understanding of a relationship between faith and politics, especially in black churches is very much -- I can imagine someone who is a Hamas or, you know, maybe radical Islamist would probably, if you take away the word "Islam" and change it with, you know, "black Christian," it's exactly the same.  Do you feel that way also?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I think it's interesting -- obviously I'm a person of faith, and as a Christian, but also as somebody who believes very strongly in democracy and human rights and I'm a constitutional law professor, so I have some very strong ideas about how a pluralistic society lives together -- these are things that I do spend time thinking about.

What I tried to communicate in the speech and what I believe very strongly is that in an interdependent world like ours, where the world has shrunk and different peoples with different faiths and different ideas are constantly having to coexist, that we have to have a mature faith that says "I believe with all my heart and all my soul in what I believe, but I respect the fact that somebody else believes their beliefs just as strongly."  And so the only way that we are going to live together, or operate in a political system that can work for everybody is if we have certain rules about how we relate to each other.

I can't force my religion on you.  I can't try to organize a majority to discriminate against you because you're a religious minority.  I can't simply take what's in my religious beliefs and say you have to believe and abide by these same things.  Now, that doesn't mean that I can't make arguments that are based on my belief and my faith -- right?  If I'm a Christian, I believe in the Ten Commandments.  And it says, Thou Shalt Not Kill.  If I'm a politician and I say I'm going to pass a law against murdering somebody, that's not me practicing my religious

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faith; that's me practicing morality that may be based in religious faith, but that's a universal principle -- or at least one that can translate into a principle that people of various faiths can agree on.

I think it's very important for Islam to wrestle with these issues.  Now, I recognize that not all religious beliefs are going to be exactly the same in how they think about politics.  And so in Islam there's a debate about sharia and how strict an interpretation or how moderate an interpretation of that should be; or should that be something that is not part of the secular law.  I don't presume to make that decision for any country or any groups of people.  But I do think that if you start having rules that guarantee other faiths and other groups, or in the case of the United States, people with no faith at all, are somehow forced to abide by somebody else's faith, I think that is a violation of the spirit of democracy and I think that over the long term, that's going to breed conflict in some way.  It will lead to some sort of instability and destructiveness in that society.

But, as I said, I think this is a important debate that has to take place inside Islam.  I think in the meantime, the one thing I can say for certain is that people who justify killing other people based on faith are misreading their sacred texts.  And I think they are out of alignment with God.  Now, that's my belief.  And that, I think, is a debate that I think is settled for the vast majority of Muslims, but we have a very small minority that can be very destructive, and that's part of what I tried to discuss in my speech.

Q  Mr. President, why have you chosen -- why did you choose Cairo as the venue for the speech?  Because the Arab population, after all, make up only about 20 percent of the Muslim population, and Indonesia --

THE PRESIDENT:  I should have gone to Kuala Lumpur.  (Laughter.)

Q  Or Indonesia, which is the biggest country.  And also -- I mean, the expectations on you are really, really high doing something to heal the rift.  Do you find that a burden at all?  And what would be your yardstick of success in mending ties in your first year -- first term of office?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, I thought it was important to come to Cairo because I think, if we're honest, the greatest tension when it comes to the relationship between the Muslim world and the United States in recent years has centered around the Middle East.  In some ways, going to Indonesia would almost be cheating -- (laughter) -- because I would have a home court advantage.  Not only am I personally close to the culture and have a sister who's half Indonesian, but I think that, frankly, the relationship between the United States and Indonesia has generally been strong.  It was weakened for a time immediately after the Iraqi invasion, but generally speaking, there have been strong lines of communication.

And so, my tendency is to go to the source of the problem and not try to avoid the problem.  And I think that the source of the problem in this situation has to do with the United States and countries in the Middle East not communicating effectively.

And in terms of expectations, I tried to be very clear that one speech alone does not solve all these problems.  What I wanted to do was simply to start a conversation, not just between me and the Muslim world, but within the Muslim world and within America and the West about how do we finally start being honest about some of these problems.  And that -- once you diagnose a problem, it still may take a long time to actually cure the problem.  But you're never going to cure it unless you diagnose it.  And so what I was trying to do was at least to get us to start thinking about what are the real three, four, five, six things that are at the heart of the argument.  And let's go ahead and look at those directly and see are there ways where we can at least agree to what the nature of the problem is.  That's how we can begin to solve it.

But it's going to take a long time to solve many of these issues, and I don't expect that some of these problems will ever go away completely.

Q  Mr. President, first, thank you for your excellent speech.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q  Second, I would like to ask you a question about American policy.  I go often to the United States in my work, and I meet a lot of people.  And my last trip -- and it was after your inauguration, a few weeks -- you met with the key members of your party in the Congress at that time.  And we read in the papers that what you did is you convinced them of your approach to the peace in the Middle East.  And everybody was -- then the expectation rose in the Arab world and in the Muslim world.

When they saw Mr. Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, "refusing" a two-state solution, "refusing" the freeze of the settlements, and the not talking about this issue, and then when we saw this letter of 300 members of the Congress, some of the Arabs thought that maybe it was AIPAC again, which is trying to influence the Congress.  So my question is, do you feel that, as an administration, can you pressure Mr. Netanyahu, if need be, domestically and can you -- do you think that also Mr. Netanyahu can endanger the historic alliance and relation between his country and the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I tried to make very clear in the speech, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable.  It transcends party; it will be there if there's a Democratic President or a Republican President, if there is a Democratic Congress or a Republican Congress.  The ties are just very deep.  They're cultural, they're historic, they're familial.  I mean, I think Nahum would be the first one to acknowledge, I don't know what number of American-born Jews are now Israeli citizens, but it's a pretty high number.  There's constant -- I mean, there's constant flow back and forth.  So there's just -- they're very close ties.

So expecting a break between the United States and Israel is I think not something that people should anticipate.

I think that -- the second thing I want to emphasize is, it's only been four months -- five months.  Netanyahu has only been in office, what is it, a month and a half?  I mean, since the government formed.  I mean, he was elected April 1st.  So, two months.  We've been waiting 60 years.  So we maybe might just want to try a few more months before everybody starts looking at doomsday scenarios.

This is difficult, and it's going to take some time.  Now, it's going to take time for Palestinian leadership.  We just discussed the issue of how Palestinians unify around some core principles that could facilitate talks from going forward.  That's not an easy task.  There are some very deep-seated arguments between Hamas and Abbas and Fatah.  And I think we would be naive to think that somehow overnight those problems are going to be solved.

If Hamas wants to participate, it's going to have its own political problems internal to Hamas, because there are some who will never agree to recognizing Israel, in part because they would prefer being in the role that they're in now, which is in opposition and obtaining financing and support and living in Damascus and doing what they do to governing.  And I think that's going to have to be tested.  They're going to have to make some decisions.  That's going to be difficult.

For Israel, these are also difficult decisions.  I believe that, as I said in the speech, these settlements are an impediment to peace.  But that's not to deny the fact that there are people who are already living in some of these settlements; that there is a momentum to some of these settlements.  Turning back those settlements involves very tough choices. 

So all these things are going to take time.  But this is why I say America can't -- we cannot do this for the parties.  I mean, I do think that sometimes there is a schizophrenic view in the Middle East of America.  On the one hand, everybody wants America to stop meddling, don't interfere, don't be imperialist.  And then, on the other hand, when is America going to solve the Palestinian crisis?  Why haven't they done this?  Why haven't they created democracy and human rights in -- throughout the Muslim world?  Well, you can't have it both ways, right?  We can't, on the one hand, be the respectful partner who's listening to other countries, and on the other hand you expect us to solve every problem, and nobody else makes an effort.  And part of what I've tried to do today is to instead say, we will be a partner, we will work with you, but everybody is going to have to carry their own weight on this thing.

Q  Are the Arabs who are now the allies of the United States of America, are they ready to be real partners?  Because in the past, some of them were not partners, real partners, especially --

THE PRESIDENT:  Give me an example.

Q  For example, in the time of Yasser Arafat and the meetings between President Clinton, I think, and Mr. Arafat and maybe Mr. Barak.  Most of the Americans I met said, well, it was Arafat who backed off, although some people say, no, this is not the story -- but this is what I heard.  And when I asked some of my friends in the States, they said, well, the Arabs, which means at that time Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who were the allies of Yasser Arafat and allies of the United States, did not force him or did not try to convince him just to accept what was the parameter of solution, which was at that time offered and I don't think described something better.

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just say this.  One of the things I've learned about being President is I always read about things that I don't remember happening, even though I was in the room -- probably because they didn't happen.  So I don't try to guess or speculate on what happened a decade ago with respect to why a peace deal was not completed.  What's more important from my perspective is how do we now move forward.

And I think that all the parties involved are going to have to seize this moment.  And it's going to require some risks.  And part of the reason that I tried to emphasize this in a public speech is leaders have to have followers and it's important for the publics in Muslim communities to be supportive of the efforts of Arab states to solve this problem and ultimately help to create a two-state solution and better -- or normalized relations with Israel; just as it's important for the Israeli population to provide space for their leadership to make difficult decisions; and it's important for the Palestinian people to provide an atmosphere in which the Palestinian leadership can make difficult decisions.

You know, politicians, they lead but ultimately they can't be so far ahead of their people that those bonds between the leader and the people are ruptured.  And so if we're going to be serious about this, then the people have to at least try to keep pace with what I hope will be leadership across the board.

Jamal, last question.

Q  All right, Mr. President.  In your speech, you made a reference to the conflicts which are poisoning the relations between the Muslim world and the West, and America in particular.  You just came from a partner country, a strategic partner, Saudi Arabia.  In your effort to resolve conflicts in Iraq, in Afghanistan -- maybe you have noticed that Saudi Arabia keep its distance with the previous administration from those two countries.  Did you develop any plans with King Abdullah, who will share the same views as you so you would work together, in your work in Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I certainly discussed these issues with His Majesty.  I try not to disclose the contents of private meetings unless there's been a joint decision that we will discuss them, because I want to always have frank conversations with these leaders.  But I can say this.  Saudi Arabia is obviously absolutely critical to solving a range of problems in the Middle East.  It is an economic leader because of not only its oil wealth but its broad-based development strategies.  It is a thought leader and a religious leader because of Mecca and Medina.

And so if we are talking about Iraq, for example, I think normalizing relations and exchanging ambassadors between Saudi Arabia and Iraq will be helpful to Iraq and its stabilization.  With respect to Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, we're seeing a lot of displaced people.  Making sure that there are resources that are put in place so that those displaced persons don't experience enormous suffering, but also so that you don't have further radicalization of an entire population that has been uprooted because of conflict, Saudi Arabia is going to be critical.

So on all these issues, I think Saudi leadership is something that is desirable.  I also happen to have what I consider, and I hope he considers as well, a very good and warm relationship with His Majesty.  I think he is a very wise man and he is a very honest man, and I have great respect for him.

Q  A question about the other audience who were not here at the gathering.  You spoke to a very receptive, cheerful -- they declared their love to you, also.  But the radicals, whom we need to address, Osama bin Laden is alive.  They have their influence, they have --

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, of course, yes, absolutely.

Q -- but they have their influence.  What are you going to do about that?  And a king like King Abdullah and others --

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, al Qaeda we will defeat because they kill innocent people.  And so I hope I've made that very clear.  I am a strong believer in dialogue, but I don't think that any nation should tolerate an international network that is willing to murder men and women and children who have done nothing. 

That can't be the basis for justice.  That can't be the basis for any governing ideology.  I mean, who would live like that -- that I decide somebody lives with a different religion or has a different skin color or looks like somebody that I don't like, and I'm just going to go ahead and target them, deliberately?  That philosophy is bankrupt. And so we will go after them.

Now, that's not easy, obviously.  And part of the reason it's not easy is because they are adept at exploiting the very real tensions that exist that I discussed today.

So my audience is not them.  I don't expect to change their minds, obviously.  My audience is, though, say, the 20-year-old young man in Cairo in maybe one of the poorer sections of Cairo or in Gaza or in Damascus or in Tripoli who is still searching, is still looking for a way.  And my message to that young man or that young woman would be, it is possible for you to be true to your faith, true to your traditions, but instead of destroying you can build.  And if you see injustice, then the way to achieve the changes you seek is not through violence, but is through persuasion.  And if I reach a few of those 20-year-olds or I reach their parents and maybe they have a conversation and debate with those young men and women, then perhaps that can make a difference when somebody tries to recruit that person to join an extremist organization.

Q  Any quick solutions to Gaza?

THE PRESIDENT:  No quick solutions to Gaza, but by the end of this year my country will have invested $900 million, almost a billion dollars, in humanitarian relief in Gaza.  I think it's very important that we find ways to loosen the borders so that more supplies, more medicine, more infrastructure development, can get into Gaza for rebuilding.  I think part of that is the international community working to ensure that the smuggling of weapons that are then fired into Israel are no longer taking place.  That's going to be a difficult task, but it's one that we're going to have to work on, because in the absence of that we're not going to solve it.

Okay, everybody, I have to go see the Pyramids.  (Laughter.)
Transcript provided by the White House


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Editor's Mailbox

World reacts to President Obama's Muslim speech

Editor's Note: In our last edition, we carried reactions from the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and the Republican Jewish Coalition. Here's the link


Turkish FM, Secretary Clinton agree speech hit the right notes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met June 5 with the media following their private meeting at the State Department. Here is a partial transcript provided by the State Department:


QUESTION: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, how do you evaluate President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo? And Secretary Clinton, after President Obama’s visit to Turkey, what is the state of Turkish-American relations?

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you very much. President Obama’s speech yesterday in Cairo is a speech of wisdom, a speech of vision, and a speech of peace. And we share the insight with Secretary Clinton as well. We share this vision and we are ready to cooperate. I am sure you remember President Obama’s visit and his speech in Turkish parliament. And when you look at the substance of two speeches, you can see an integrated approach, the continuation and follow-up of many issues that are very important principles for regional issues as well as global order in general. And it is a good message, clear message to the Muslim world that the future relations between the United States and the Muslim world, as well as between different cultures will be bright, based on a mutual understanding of coexistence, living together, sharing all human values in all fronts. And therefore, we share that vision and we will continue to work to realize this vision as a program and project together.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I appreciate the minister’s perceptive remarks about President Obama’s speech yesterday. Clearly, the President is laying out a vision, and it is a vision that invites all people of good faith to come together, to work together, to recognize that we may have differences of experience, differences of background, of religion and race, but that we are all part of common humanity. And we have an opportunity in the 21st century to work toward realizing that vision. And I applaud the Turkish Government for taking a practical, hands-on approach to solving problems, to clear away the obstacles that prevent people from living up to their own God-given potential, of countries breaking the bounds of the past so that they can have a better future.

And I think the relationship between Turkey and the United States is extremely strong. We have a durable bond that goes back many decades, but we’re exploring new ways of expanding and deepening that strong relationship. And that was the purpose of our meeting today is to begin to look at how we can take our shared vision of what Turkey and the United States can do to further humanity’s quest for peace and prosperity and progress, recognizing and respecting our legitimate differences of culture and religion, but making it clear that we’re going to share this increasingly interdependent world. And we can either have positive or negative interdependence. And Turkey and the United States believe in a positive future.
So I could not be happier and more optimistic about the relationships and what we together can do for the future.

Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department


ZOA says Obama hostile to Israel

NEW YORK (Press Release)—Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein has made the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s President Barack Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo.

“President Obama made some positive comments about Israel, stating that the U.S.-Israel bond is ‘unbreakable’ and criticized those who threaten Israel’s destruction and repeat vile stereotypes about Jews – without, however, naming those who do so like Iran, Syria, and Abbas’ Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) (through the Fatah Constitution, PA-controlled publications, curricula, media, mosques, schools and youth camps).

“Overall, however, this was primarily a strongly biased speech, inimical to Israel, supportive of false Palestinian and Arab claims against Israel, blatantly factually inaccurate – inaccuracies that always benefited the anti-Israel Palestinian, Arab and Muslim cause.

“For example, Obama falsely claimed the Palestinian Arabs were ‘displaced’ by Israel in 1948; falsely claimed the Palestinian Arabs have been suffering trying to establish their state for 60 years (they could have had a state in 1937, 1948 or in 2000, but turned down each opportunity). Obama also bizarrely claimed that he longs for the day Jerusalem is secure for Jews, Muslims and Christians even though this has been precisely the case since Israel reunited the city under its control in 1967.

“Just as egregious, Obama claimed there are 7 million Muslims in America when major studies show there are between 1.3 and 2.7 million Muslims. He strongly implied that Palestinian suffering was equivalent to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. He also seemed to equate the Palestinian situation to that of U.S. Blacks during slavery and Blacks during South African apartheid.  The assumption, just barely left unsaid, is that Israeli Jews are the oppressors. 

“The President even claimed the Muslim country of Morocco was the first to recognize the United States when in fact, it was the Netherlands; and that Muslim Cordoba and Anadulus were shining examples of Islamic tolerance, when a cursory examination of historical scholarship on the subject shows them to have been nothing of the kind: Jews and Christians lived under religiously-sanctioned discrimination, could not worship in public or build new synagogues and churches and had to pay the jizya poll tax because they were not Muslims.

“Despite the fact that President Obama declared that he would be totally ‘honest’ in discussing Mideast issues, he said nothing about Palestinian Arab and Saudi Arabian persecution of Christians. (Even the Pope recently expressed dismay by the huge numbers of Christians who have left the Muslim countries.) And while speaking of the slaughter in Darfur, he didn’t even hint that Egypt and other Arab states have for years been blocking international action to end it. President Obama used the Palestinian apologetic term of ‘resistance’ to discuss Palestinian terrorism, implying a legitimate basis for violence. He also never asked the Arab countries or the PA to put Israel on their maps – something which none of them do.

“President Obama recently declared that the U.S. won’t ‘dictate’ to other countries, yet he strongly dictated to Israel to support the dangerous Arab so-called Peace Initiative and to stop Jewish construction in the territories, thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian suffering is due to Israel and the settlements. He praised the Arab Peace Initiative, which requires Israel to go back to the indefensible 1967 borders and allow Arab refugees and their millions of descendents to move into Israel. He made no demand to abrogate this refugee issue which, if implemented, would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian statehood remains a repeated demand by Obama for Israel to accept even though Hamas controls Gaza. Also, Abbas doesn’t fight terrorism in any serious way, which makes it likely that this would become another terrorist state. He also claimed that Israel’s creation was rooted in a tragic history of the Jews and the Holocaust. Incorrect - firstly, for Bible-believers, it was G-d who promised this land to the Jews; and the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1922 League of Nations mandated the creation of a Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan River – before the Holocaust occurred. 

“Most frighteningly, he said virtually nothing about stopping Iran’s rush to develop nuclear weapons, even though he strongly promised this during his election the campaign.

“President Obama claimed it was illegal for Jews to build homes in Judea and Samaria or East Jerusalem, ignoring the fact that this area was no one’s sovereign or legal territory since 1948.  Jordan occupied this territory illegally, without UN recognition, from 1948 until 1967 when Israel captured it in a defensive war. In 1967, Israel even offered to return it for peace treaties. The Arab nations, including Jordan, refused.

“Finally, President Obama ended his talk with quotes from the Holy Koran, and the Holy Bible, but when he quoted the Jewish Talmud, he omitted the term ‘Holy.’  We were perplexed and concerned about that. 

“Taken together, the President’s remarks in this speech may well signal the beginning of a renunciation of America’s strategic alliance with Israel. It was also a clarion call to all American supporters of Israel, both Christian and Jewish, to make clear to President Obama that strongly supporting the democratic, human-rights loving state of Israel is in America’s interest, especially when the truth of the Arab war against Israel in on Israel’s side.

Preceding provided by the Zionist Organization of America


Cardin and Hastings compliment
human rights message in speech

WASHINGTON—Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (Democrat, Maryland), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (Democrat, Florida) released the following statements after President Barack Obama’s address in Cairo, Egypt.

“President Barack Obama’s speech today took an historic step in attempting to bridge the enormous, dangerous gulf of misunderstanding between the United States and the Muslim world. His intention, to reach out an open and peaceful hand to the Muslim community, is necessary and worthy. As the United States unambiguously renews its commitment to human rights – not as a personal belief of any political leader or simply an Administration policy, but as an obligation of our country towards international law and universal principles – I will continue to press President Obama and his administration to unabashedly press for the cause of human rights in the countries he visits, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region,” Chairman Cardin said.

“The President’s remarks calling for broader respect for women in the Middle East were commendable and send a supportive message to Muslim women who envision a life of greater opportunity for themselves. As the leading members of the Helsinki Commission, we have worked to make the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe more inclusive of Muslim nations. We will convey the President’s message to the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation through our engagement with the OSCE and work to ensure that countries, like Egypt and other Mediterranean Partners, are committed to living up to international economic, security and human rights standards,” Co-Chairman Hastings said.


Feingold and Kaufman offer
opinions on Obama's speech


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)—Here are statements issued by members of the U.S. Senate in the wake of President Obama's speech to th Muslim world in Cairo:

Senator Russell Feingold (Democrat, Wisconsin), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "The president's historic speech was delivered with the kind of honesty and boldness needed to help secure a more peaceful and secure future. Though it emphasized broader themes more than specific steps, it was precisely the kind of public diplomacy that must be a greater part of our national security strategy. He offered ideas to isolate and combat extremism through democracy, dialogue, education and respect for human rights. Rather than ignore the difficult issues that have blocked the road to peace, he met them head on and clearly stated that despite our many differences, there is much we have in common, and that is where a renewed effort to bring peace to the Middle East must begin. The president was right when he said it is time to act and I stand ready to work with him and leaders around the world to ensure people throughout the Middle East, and the world, live in peace and security."

Senator Ted Kaufman (Democrat, Delaware): "I applaud President Obama's historic speech ... in Cairo, which signaled that America is ready to begin a new era of mutual respect, understanding, and dialogue with the Muslim world. In his speech, President Obama reaffirmed America's commitment to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, and

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reminded regional leaders of their responsibilities to cultivate an atmosphere of greater tolerance, security, and peace. The speech underscored what I witnessed last week in my trip to Israel, Syria, and Turkey - an unprecedented moment of opportunity exists to bring peace to the Middle East. The growing threat posed by Iran has also created a confluence of interests among Arab states. It was clear in all of my meetings that leaders welcome the Administration's pursuit of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, as well as its policy of engagement with Iran.Still, words alone will not bring peace and security to the Middle East, and we must begin to see a constructive dialogue that is results driven. Israelis, Palestinians, and Arab states all have obligations to fulfill to move the process forward, and I am hopeful that leaders will respond to President Obama's speech with a sense of responsibility surrounding their role in shaping the future of the region."

"President Obama took an important step today to reaffirm U.S. support for democracy and human rights," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "He clearly and forcefully asserted that all people yearn to speak freely and choose governments that are transparent, accountable and ‘govern with respect for all their people.'"

Obama delivered Thursday's speech before a crowd that included democracy activists from a broad cross-section of Egyptian society. He was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who held a side meeting with human rights activists. Last week, Clinton also held frank discussions about U.S. commitment to democracy with a group of young Egyptian activists who were visiting Washington as part of Freedom House’s New Generation exchange program. 

Freedom House has been concerned by the administration’s initial reluctance to openly support democracy and human rights around the world, including recently announced cuts in USAID support for democracy activists in Egypt. 

"This speech and Secretary Clinton's willingness to meet with activists are promising signs that the Obama administration is finding its own voice and approach to the longstanding American commitment to advancing freedom and human rights," said Windsor. "We hope the administration will take further steps to manifest the important commitments made by President Obama today."

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties worldwide since 1972

Preceding provided by Freedom House



Interfaith Alliance commends Obama's outreach to Muslim world

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) - Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, issued the following statement on Thursday in response to the President's remarks to the Muslim world. Earlier this year, Rev. Gaddy participated in the U.S. Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He is also a past member of the Council of 100 Leaders, a group created by the World Economic Forum to improve dialogue and understanding between the Western and Islamic worlds.

"President Obama is to be commended for reaching out to the Muslim world with a message that makes clear they are not the enemy. I was particularly pleased to hear the president speak about the centrality of the need for religious freedom both in the Muslim world and here at home.

"It is also clear the president understands that powerful words need to be backed up by meaningful action if we are to achieve real change. Working towards finding common ground seems to be a reasonable goal for all of us involved in the search for improved relationships with the Muslim world."

Preceding provided by Interfaith Alliance


National Council of Churches
pledges to work with Muslims

NEW YORK (Press Release)– Senior staff of the National Council of Churches praised President Obama's address to the Muslim world on Thursday, and renewed the Council's commitment to friendship and dialogue with Muslim people of faith.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, and Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, Senior Program Director for Interfaith Relations, said they were gratified by the President's declaration in Cairo that Muslims share with all Americans common principles of "justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

In a letter to Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America, and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, ISNA's national director of interfaith and community alliances, the NCC leaders said they were "moved to contact you old friends to express a similar recommitment to friendship and dialogue."

"The 35 member communions of the National Council of Churches, representing millions whose devotion to God is expressed through their faith in Jesus Christ, have long recognized the commonalities we share as children of Abraham with Muslims and Jews," the NCC letter said. "As President Obama said today, God’s vision is that the people of the world can live together in peace. Allow us to respond by declaring that we share his view, and we echo his sense of calling: 'Now, that must be our work here on earth.'

Preceding provided by National Council of Churches




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LETTER FROM JERUSALEM

Too Pro-Arab, Too Pro Israeli—No unanimity on Obama


By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM—Barack Obama's Cairo speech touched so many buttons that the breadth of responses should be no surprise.

The next day's Ha'aretz devoted nine of twenty-six pages in its main section to commentaries about the speech. Israelis and overseas Jews welcomed the comments about the Holocaust, but some criticized what they perceived as its equivalence to Palestinian suffering. While appreciating his comments about the Holocaust at Buchenwald, some are bothered by his endorsement of German commemoration of the Holocaust. In this view, nothing the Germans do will make up for the murders of six million. One Jewish writer challenged what he saw as Obama's justification of Israel's existence by the suffering of Jews and not by the Almighty's grant of the Land to the Jews. Some Jews applaud Obama's linkage of progress to a halt of settlement activity, and hope the Israeli government will give peace a chance. Yet others, centrists as well as rightists in Israel, see little hope in shrill American demands for a total freeze of settlement activity in the context of the right wing Israeli government, widespread distrust of Palestinians among Israelis and of Israelis among Palestinians.

A survey of responses to the speech in Arab media also finds divergent and contrasting comments: it was too pro-Israeli; it represented a promising new departure; its success will depend on strong follow up by the American administration as well as the support of Israeli and Arab governments. See: www.memri.org Special Dispatch #2384, June 5, 2009.

Israel is a democracy, and the population is divided on Obama's issues. Polls show support, but not overwhelming, for a "freeze" on settlements if by that is meant no expansion of existing communities. There is opposition to freezing construction within existing settlements.

It is a political platitude that the only poll which counts is that at the ballot box. The most recent election returned a right wing government, whose Knesset majority is dead set against freezing construction within settlements, and may oppose freezing the expansion of settlements.

None of the Arab countries are democracies, but none can ignore the passions of their populations that reflect more than 60 years of anti-Israel rhetoric, reinforced by religious sentiments of much longer standing.

Numerous commentators see the Obama strategy as one that views a freezing of settlements as the best way, and perhaps the only way, to unfreeze the Israel/Palestinian peace process and provide what the United States needs to deal with Iraq and Iran. On this point, one journalist writes that the "president sees himself in an almost messianic role."
Reference to a messiah will not help the president in Jerusalem.

The operative questions are, How hard can Obama press the Israeli government? and What will the Israeli government do in order to protect what it views as its vital interests?

One should not assume that Obama has a blank check, either from himself or from Congress and others in the United States who provide him with essential support. His comments in Cairo and Buchenwald reveal an empathy toward the Jewish narrative. Numerous members of Congress and other Americans (Jews as well as Gentiles) support the beginning of work on the Middle East via Israeli settlements. What is not clear is how sure is the President himself, and others, that pressing hard against the Israelis will get what is necessary from Palestinians, other Arabs, and Iran. If the president has a streak of messianicism, he also has one of pragmatism.

Likewise, it is not clear how far Israelis in power will go to accommodate the president, against their views that the settlements are less important than Arab enmity, the fanaticism of Iran and its nuclear program.

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Prominent in the uncertainty is a comment in Russia by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that Israel will not attack Iran. Was he departing from his view that Iran's nuclear program is an intolerable threat against Israel? At about the same time, Defense Minister Ehud Barack was reiterating a conventional message that Israel was not taking any options off the table.

One view of those comments is that the Israeli government is divided, and will continue to debate its options about Iran. One should also expect debates about settlements. Involved in those debates will be the support or hostility expected from the Obama administration, and the prospects of Arab and Iranian compliance with those portions of the Obama program meant for them.

It is also possible that Lieberman was doing his part to disseminate disinformation. If preparations for an attack are going forward, it is too early to know.

For those who cannot tolerate uncertainty, there may be options in Norway, New Zealand, and other distant places.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of poltical science at Hebrew University. Email: msira@mscc.huji.ac.il


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SD County reactions to President Obama's Cairo speech


From Sheila Orysiek, San Diego
: Citations and commentary
:

Citation from the text of President Obama's speech:

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)

Commentary: "On the other hand..." Really? Is it possible there is a moral equivalence between the intentional genocide of six million people and the "pursuit of a homeland" or "daily humiliations" of the Palestinians? This homeland which could have been achieved as a result of accepting Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David under President Clinton - but was rejected.

On the one hand the Palestinians have been offered a state of their own. On the other hand they have declared Israel has no right to exist and they intend to wipe Israel off the map.

Citation: They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation.

Commentary: On the one hand there is no "occupation" of Gaza. On the other hand rockets continue to come from Gaza.

On the one hand it is interesting to note that there was no applause after the first paragraph. On the other hand there was applause for the second paragraph.


From Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Chabad of La Costa:

The President is trying mightily to achieve closer relations with Muslim countries. I for one am alarmed at this trend. I have not yet seen a Muslim country that values the same things that we Americans do. Our basic freedoms, for the most part, do not exist in Moslem countries. I do not know of a Moslem Government that isn’t rife with corruption. Truth be told, I find the Moslem countries backwards and repulsive. I don’t want closer relations with them! I don’t want to feel their influence here. Even when given the gift of Democracy they abuse this right in the must hateful and deplorable manner possible by electing cold-blooded murderers. Their actions are an embarrassment to human kind.

The President dramatically overstated the contributions of the Moslem world to civilization as we understand it. But even if those contributions would all be true (and some of them clearly are not), that does not negate the fact that America has given much more to Moslems than Moslems have given to America. Blaming America on Iranian intransigence and Saudi perfidy is like blaming Jews for Nazi atrocities.

Islam is either a religion of intolerance and violence or it has been hijacked by those who make it such. In any event violence perpetrated against innocents by Islamists is unarguably rampant and growing. The silence is deafening from Moslem Governments, and by Moslem Communities, on this disease.

President Obama has called on Israelis and Palestinians to make painful concessions to move forward. While he has been quick to articulate what the Israeli concessions should be (right now a settlement freeze), what concessions does he call upon from the Palestinians? Recognizing Israel’s ‘right to exist?’ Israel exists; to heck with their recognition. They already recognized it. How many times does Israel have to pay for the same magic carpet? Even if they say they recognize I am not impressed...

Even when Israel has made painful concessions (like giving away the Sinai to Egypt) what practical benefits has Israel accrued? Egypt is not Israel’s friend. Egypt works daily to undermine and destroy the Jewish state. They are just not doing by shooting guns at the Israelis any more. Instead they are letting others do the shooting for them. Anyone who tells you differently is lying.

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Anyone who wants peace and stability in the Middle East must be against any Israeli land concessions to their sworn enemies. Peace for peace is the only possible formula that can work. And the Palestinians and Moslem Governments are not interested in peace for peace. They want Israel. All of Israel. They find the existence of a Jewish State in their midst an affront to their religious beliefs. Unless they change their religious beliefs there can be no peace.

There are no two ways about it. Israel will not go away. The Palestinians must be absorbed into their coreligionists' lands. The whole Muslim obsession with Israel is most unhealthy (and disingenuous). The US and EU most stop trying to mollify the Moslems for their own benefit as well as Israel’s. The attempts at appeasing the insatiable Islamist beast will only whet its appetite for more. Enough is enough already.

If President Obama wants to have an honest dialogue, as he claims, it must start with an honest premise. The recent history of Islam has not been beneficial to civilization. It is the course of Islam, not the US or Israel, that must change for there to be a true and lasting peace.


From Donald H. Harrison, editor
San Diego Jewish World
:

In the 61 years since Israel's creation, there have been two major breakthroughs negotiated between Israel and its neighbors with the help of American presidents. The first came when Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, tired of war, made a momentous trip to Jerusalem and began a peace process that culminated with the Camp David accord brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

While some have complained that relations between Egypt and Israel are not warm, relations are far better than the continuous and hot warfare that characterized their relations in the preceding period.

The next peace agreement, between Israel and Jordan, was achieved with the help of U.S. President Bill Clinton. Relationships between Israel and Jordan's Hashemite dynasty, both under King Hussein and later under his son King Abdullah II have been warmer than those between Israel and Egypt.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama seeks a more comprehensive Middle East peace, one that ends the strife not only between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between Israel and other Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations. His speech in Cairo was the beginning of an effort in which Obama seeks the normalization of relations between Israel and the entire Islamic world--stretching from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia.

President Obama understands that the Muslim world is not monolithic, but rather is populated with people who have differing national aspirations and varying interpretations of their Islamic faith.

He understands that to lump all Muslims together as enemies of Israel and of the United States--as some people ill-advisedly seem to do--not only is factually wrong and a disservice to good intercultural relationships, but also gives unwitting aid to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who are trying to persuade Muslims that the Islamic world and America are unalterably at odds.

I believe that Israel should cooperate with President Obama in his efforts. When he called for an end to new Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank, he simply reiterated what has been official American policy in theory--if not always practice-- since the 1967 Six Day War.

Final borders betwen the Palestinians and the Israelis must be negotiated by the two peoples. Creating new "facts on the ground" in the disputed, post-1967 territories only makes those final status negotiations more difficult. They provide excuses for the parties not to enter into serious discussions and to keep the Middle East in a permanent state of instability.

Some Israelis who are willing to put an end to new settlements are arguing strenuously for the continued right of the already established West Bank cities and towns to grow within established boundaries. They argue that infilling these areas allows for natural growth, without changing maps.

There is merit to this argument. At the same time, we in San Diego County's Jewish community--who have a partnership relationship with the municipality of Sha'ar Hanegev--know how important it is for Israel to increase its population and develop infrastructure in such pre-1967 war areas of Israel as the Galilee and the Negev.

Rather than spend more money on towns and settlements that may in the future--through negotiation--have to be conceded to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government should consider putting greater emphasis on the development of the Galilee and the Negev. In the interest of peace, the United States should consider subsidizing the voluntary move of Israeli residents on the West Bank to new townships in either of these areas.


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Editor's Mailbox: national, international Jewish news


Feinstein says National Marine Fisheries report means California needs new water system

WASHINGTON, D.C.—"Yesterday, the National Marine Fisheries Service released a biological opinion on the impact of Federal and State water projects in California’s Bay Delta.," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California) noted in a statement on Friday.

"What the Agency found is that additional endangered species – including salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead – are jeopardized by the current water projects. The Agency concluded that to avoid the extinction of these endangered species, further restrictions on pumping next spring will be needed, along with a number of changes to the long-term operations of the Delta infrastructure. 

"What this underscores is the absolute urgency to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan that restores the Delta ecosystem, includes Delta communities, and provides a stable water supply – and that affected parties need to come to an agreement on a preferred alternative solution this year.

"I believe this plan should include new conveyance, along with more storage, water recycling and conservation mandates, groundwater management, desalination, and a robust habitat restoration plan. At the same time, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan needs to expedite its work on the multi-species habitat conservation plan and the State needs to resolve the issues of governance, conservation, and financing as soon as possible.

"Bottom line: the longer we wait, the worse the crisis gets. So, I firmly believe the solution must be agreed to this year, and I offer to help in any way that I can.”

Preceding provided by Senator Feinstein


Wyden and other senators seek moratorium on new wireless taxes

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)– Working to ensure American telecommunications networks remain on the cutting edge of wireless technology and keep pace with foreign competitors, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon) and Olympia Snowe (Repubican,Maine) have introduced the Mobile Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2009 to enact a five-year moratorium on new or increased taxes on wireless telecommunications infrastructure and services.

Supported by a bipartisan coalition of Senators including Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Patty Murray (D- Wash.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the legislation will keep taxes on telecommunication products and services – which are already on par with the “vice taxes” of tobacco and alcohol – from spiraling out of control.

“Wireless technology is becoming faster, more reliable, and able to get into the hands of more and more Americans,” Wyden said. “This legislation will keep American companies competitive by putting the brakes on unfair wireless tax increases -- allowing American companies to remain leaders in innovation and making it easier for Americans to afford these services. We can’t allow the cell phone to be the next bare necessity that simply becomes too expensive to own.”

“While the telecommunications industry has emerged as one of the most vital and innovative sectors of the 21st century, American consumers are increasingly getting hit with excessive and discriminatory taxes to have access to wireless services in their day-to-day lives,” said Senator Snowe, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee. “By banning these burdensome taxes, this legislation will equalize the taxation of the wireless industry with that of other goods and services and protect the wireless consumer from the weight of fees, surcharges, and general business taxes.”

While the average tax rate for goods and services is 7.07 percent, the typical consumer pays 15.9 percent of their total wireless bill in federal, state and local taxes. The effective rate of taxation on wireless services increased four times faster than the rate on other taxable goods and services between January 2003 and January 2007. The Mobile Wireless Tax Fairness Act will prohibit state or local governments from imposing any new discriminatory taxes on wireless services or products that is not applied to other products or services for a period of five years.

This legislation will allow American telecommunications companies to keep pace with foreign competitors and provide better services and products to consumers. Currently, the industry is in the midst of upgrading to the 4G network standard, which would provide the bandwidth necessary to offer true high speed access in rural areas.

Senator Menendez said: “Cell phones and wireless devices are increasingly a necessity for our personal and business uses. We want to ensure that the costs to families and businesses don’t spiral out of control and that there is no slow-down in delivering the most advanced technology that allows us to communicate easier and for less. We should not allow excessive taxes on technology to slow innovation.”

Senator Wyden is a long-time advocate of the expansion of internet and telecommunications infrastructure development. Working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Wyden has four times protected Internet providers from content-related litigation. He has also fought to protect the Internet from being hit with multiple discriminatory taxes from thousands of state and local tax authorities – and has worked to extend that protection.

Preceding provided by Senator Wyden


Congressmen Israel and colleagues
want national hate Crimes hotline


WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)– Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), José E. Serrano (D-NY) and Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) on Thursdayannounced the introduction of the National Hate Crimes Hotline Act of 2009.

“When a hate crime occurs, it’s not simply an offense against an individual, but an offense against an entire community. And all too often, victims are so intimidated that they don’t report these heinous crimes,” said Rep. Israel. “Today, we are introducing the National Hate Crimes Hotline Act. Our goal is to give victims a safe way to report hate crimes and get help. With better reporting, we can provide a better response.” 

“Today we take a step toward guaranteeing that hate crimes do not go unreported and unpunished,” said Rep. Serrano. “Our bill will help ensure that all victims of hate crimes feel comfortable in reporting them, and will provide new resources to combat and respond to hate crimes in communities across the nation.  These new tools will help make our communities safer, and will continue the fight against these atrocious crimes.”

“Far too many victims silently bear the burden of the crimes committed against them, which is why we are taking steps to provide a place for them to be heard.  A National Hate Crimes Hotline would allow New Yorkers and victims across the country to safely report to the police and find vital assistance.   In addition, accurate reporting will improve local responsiveness, increase prevention efforts and help bring an end to these heinous acts,” said Rep. Velázquez.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community experiences hate-crimes far too often, and CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers stands in full support of implementing this initiative to help all of our communities. This legislation will provide the vital mechanisms to help support victims of hate-crimes, facilitate reporting, and ensure that linkages to services are provided to all victims,” said Guido A. Sanchez, National Manager of Membership & Development for CenterLink.

The hotline is modeled after the National Domestic Violence Hotline, with a goal of increasing both the reporting of and local responsiveness to hate crimes. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has fielded more than 2 million calls since its launch in 1996.

Preceding provided by Congressman Israel


Wexler wants trade restrictions
lifted for Azerbaijan

Washington, DC— Congressman Robert Wexler (Democrat, Florida), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Bill Shuster (Republican, Pennsylvania), Co-Chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, introduced legislation on Thursday that would repeal Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions on Azerbaijan.

Passage of the legislation would lead to normal trade relations with Azerbaijan, which fell under the restriction of Jackson-Vanik as a post Soviet succesor state.   Wexler and Shuster believe that Azerbaijan, which is a strategic security and energy partner of the United States, has long met its obligations to comply with freedom of emigration requirements and that Congress should remove Jackson-Vanik requirements for Azerbaijan.
 
According to the 1974 Trade Act of the United States, the Jackson-Vanik amendment denied most favored nation to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted emigration rights.
 
“I strongly support repealing Jackson-Vanik for Azerbaijan, one of America’s most important strategic allies in the Caucasus region, which has met all obligations to comply with freedom of emigration requirements and continues to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled,” Congressman Wexler said. “Passage of this legislation would send a strong signal to Azerbaijan about American intention to enhance relations and cooperation in a number of key areas, including energy security, counter-terrorism cooperation and trade.”

“As the Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Azerbaijan, I look forward to working with Chairman Wexler to improve our strategic relationship with Azerbaijan,” Shuster said. “Azerbaijan is an

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indispensable ally in the fight against terrorism. Additionally, Azerbaijan is bordered by Russia to the north and Iran to          the south, which makes it an essential strategic ally.  Azerbaijan also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and will continue to play an important role as a trade partner in the Caucuses.  This legislation is critical to allowing our relationship to prosper and grow.”

Preceding provided by Congressman Wexler



Republicans want Boxer to schedule full hearings on House-adopted global warming bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) -U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined with Republican Committee members today to send a letter to the chairman of the Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), calling on the Committee to conduct a thorough review of any global warming legislation that moves through the Senate as not to “deprive the American people and their elected representatives a public, transparent, and thorough review.”

The letter, addressed to Chairman Boxer, said:

"On Thursday, May 21, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted H.R. 2454, “America’s Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” out of Committee by a vote of 33-25. The legislation poses sweeping changes to our nation’s energy and environmental laws, and involves complex issues of state equities, federalism, and consumer choice, among others. The magnitude of this legislation was reflected by the lengthy Committee process, including nine hearings this year alone, eight of which were focused exclusively on legislative design and policy. The legislation was also subject to nearly 40 hours of debate during a four day markup the week of May 18th.

"Recently, in your efforts to craft a Senate companion bill, you have begun to hold a series of workshops to review this legislation. While we commend you for your commitment to this issue, and look forward to continuing to participate, we have concerns that this informal process alone will deprive the American people and their elected representatives a public, transparent, and thorough review. We also do not want this process to be used to circumvent regular order in the Committee. As you know, regular order helps to preserve the jurisdiction of this Committee; to recognize the rights of the minority; and to invite witnesses and ask questions on the record in order for all sides to be heard.

"The Committee on Environment and Public Works, on which we all proudly serve, has exclusive jurisdiction over air pollution and environmental policy in general. While we may disagree under these circumstances on various aspects of climate policy, we should all agree on preserving the jurisdiction of this Committee. For example, in the 111th Congress, four other Senate Committees have already held six hearings exclusively on climate policy and related matters, and more are scheduled. Topics being discussed at these hearings include essential design elements of a cap and trade system, which all greatly impact the cost to consumers and the environmental integrity of the proposed program. Certainly you will agree that such a challenging and technical environmental issue as climate change --affecting so many different people, at different income levels, in different lines of work in different parts of the country--deserves a thorough, on the record, review and vetting by this Committee. The credibility of our Committee requires no less.

"While this Committee has indeed held several hearings on the need for climate change legislation in both the 110th and this Congress, it has not held any hearings on the specific legislative design measures that such a policy will entail, including understanding the costs and benefits of auctioning versus allocating emission allowances, offset integrity, cost containment, and emission reduction targets, all of which will play a vital role in any functioning program. We ask that you ensure a sufficient number of public hearings and witnesses on both sides to review any specific legislative provisions that may be included in your bill and the many fundamental issues they involve.

"Again, we acknowledge your commitment, as well as that of other very well-respected Members of the Senate, to this issue. It is our hope in the weeks ahead that you will commit to a fair, open, and transparent process that allows for maximum debate and discussion on the complexities associated with climate change legislation."

The preceding letter was signed by Republican Senators Inhofe, Voinovich, Vitter, Barrasso, Crapo, Alexander and Bond


Congressman Cohen wants NBA
to permit 18-year-olds to play

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)– On the eve of the National Championship Tournament, Congressman Steve Cohen (Democrat, Tennessee) called on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its Players Association to reconsider the ban on allowing 18-year olds to enter the league.

Congressman Cohen, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, sent letters to NBA Commissioner Daniel Stern and Players Association Executive Director, G. William Hunter outlining his concerns.

The full-text of the letter follows.

"I am writing to express my deep concern over the policy of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to bar athletes from playing in the league on the basis of their age. The “19 plus 1” policy, which requires American players to be at least 19 years of age and one year removed from their high school graduating class, is an unfair restriction on the rights of these young men to pursue their intended career. I also believe that it has played an important role in several recent scandals involving college students who were prevented from entering the NBA upon high school graduation. I ask that this policy be repealed when the NBA completes its new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Player’s Association.

"I firmly believe in the value of a college education, but I do not believe that the 19 plus 1 policy has benefited those students who briefly attend college solely because they are not permitted to join the NBA. Instead, a “one-and-done” system has developed, whereby athletes attend college only for the mandatory year and then join the NBA as soon as they are eligible. This system does far more to serve the financial interests of the universities at which the students play than the educational interests of the students themselves. I am also concerned that the 19 plus 1 policy contributed to the recent spate of scandals involving college athletes, like Derek Rose and O.J. Mayo, which have particular resonance in my own community of Memphis.

"Numerous publications, including the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN.com, and USA Today, have published editorials or articles critical of the policy. For example, the Commercial Appeal wrote that the policy’s effect on college basketball “looks dubious” and serves mostly to harm the true student-athletes. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports questions points out that “[t]here is no statistical evidence that players are better on or off the court after a stint on campus.” These articles are just a small sample of the growing public opinion that this rule serves no value to the players who are subject to its restraints.

"Few other professional sports leagues prohibit adults from entering their league on the basis of age. The Major League Baseball Association, the National Hockey League, the Professional Golf Association, the United States Tennis Association, NASCAR, and Major League Soccer, not to mention several European professional basketball leagues all permit 18 year-olds to join. Some of these leagues even allow athletes as young as 14. While I do not believe teams should be required to sign players aged, I also do not believe they should be prevented from doing so, especially if such a player has reached the age of majority.

"The NBA has many examples of players who successfully entered the league at age 18 before the current policy went into effect. This list includes Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard, all of whom have led their teams deep into this year’s playoffs. Several of them also proudly represented our country in leading the 2008 Men’s Olympic Basketball team to a gold medal. There is no reason to think that today’s young athletes would be unable to succeed as well, if given the chance.

"I ask that you remove this unfair provision when the NBA completes its new collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association. I appreciate your taking the time to consider this matter and would be happy to provide you with any additional information you may require. I look forward to hearing from you."

 

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TORAH ON ONE FOOT

The greater meaning of Judaism's three-fold blessing

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

JERUSALEM—Parashat Naso contains one of the most beautiful blessings in the Torah: Birkat Kohanim:

"May Adonai bless you and protect you!
May Adonai deal kindly and graciously with you!
May Adonai bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!"

This three-fold blessing is used on many special occasions, but never more often than on Fridays evenings when parents bless their children before Kiddush.

Midrash Rabbah on the book of Numbers says that the last verse of the blessing, the blessing of peace, is a three-fold blessing in and of itself: "Peace when you enter, peace when you depart, peace with every human being." (Midrash Rabbah Chapter 11).

The Ketav Sofer (Rabbi Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer, 1815-1871) wrote that it is possible to understand Midrash Rabbah in light of the Talmud. The Talmud says there are three types of peace: "The one who dreams of a dish sees peace. The one who dreams of a river sees peace. The one who dreams of a bird sees peace." (T.B. Berachot, Perek Haroeh)

The Talmud tells us that there are three types of peace: household peace, national peace, and international peace.

The dish is a symbol of household peace because everyone in the home serves themselves from the same dish. The river is a symbol of national peace because rivers travel through countries but not the entire world. A bird, however, can fly all over the world and therefore symbolizes international peace.

Midrash Rabbah alludes to these three types of peace: "Peace when you enter" - this is household peace. "Peace when you depart" - this is national peace. "Peace with every human being" - this is international peace.

I would like to add an additional lesson that we can learn from our sages: peace is not only a goal but a process. When

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we strive for peace the place to begin is in our homes and then our country. Only after we accomplish these goals should we turn our attention to the rest of the world.

Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue (Conservative). He may be contacted at rabbi@tiferethisrael.com


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AMAZING STORIES OF JUDAISM

A modern father whose will matched that of a Nazir

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO—A Nazir takes a vow to abstain from physical distractions and focus on an intense program of spirituality. Those who even attempt to be a Nazir are few. Those who succeed are even fewer. The Nazir may be motivated by seeing the sad immoral state of the world (haro'eh sotah b'kilkulah); or may be motivated by a strong desire to achieve sublime holiness. One thing we see clearly is that when one has the motivation, one can attain amazing accomplishments thought to be impossible as the following true story, related by Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated feature columnist, illustrates:

Strongest Dad in the World: Eighty-five times Dick Hoyt has pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day. Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike.

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life. This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. ``He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyt's weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts
University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick says he was told. ``There's nothing going on in his brain.'' "Tell him a joke,'' Dick
countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want to do that.'' Yeah, right.

How was Dick, who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. ``Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. ``I was sore for two
weeks.'' That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he
typed, ``when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!'' And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could.

He got into such shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon. ``No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they
weren't quite wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?'' How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through
a triathlon? Still, Dick tried. Now they've done 212

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triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own?

``No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for ``the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time. `No question about it,'' Rick types. ``My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. ``If you hadn't
been in such great shape,'' one doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.'' So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Dedicated by Morris & Julie Abrams in honor of their wedding anniversary.

Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah (Orthodox) in San Diego


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Bible in Pop Culture: Fill the waters in the seas


Genesis 1:22

God blessed them, saying "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; but the fowl shall increase on the earth."

Do you have a photo that you think illustrates how a biblical verse has worked its way into pop culture. Please send it to us for possible publication in this series, "The Bible in Pop Culture."

You may send your jpg photo for posting online to us at San Diego Jewish World, emailing it to editor@sandiegojewishheritage.com. If possible, please send it at 72dpi resolution and 400 pixels wide. Please include the name of the photographer, the date and place the photo was taken, and any other relevant caption information.

For our growing "Pop Bible" collection please see
Bible in pop culture index

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REFLECTIONS


After forty-seven years – I am looking sideways

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO—After our wedding ceremony, many people told me how moved they were by the words spoken by the rabbi who married us.  I don’t remember a word he said.  My only thought was “what do I do now?”  As the years have passed - with more behind than before - another question has arisen – “where do I look now?” 

Were I to look backward I would see that we have walked many long miles together.  The excitement of creating a home – albeit in a small apartment.  Our flight across the country to land in the sun-filled city of San Diego – so different from the old city of our birth and young growth – Philadelphia.   Doors of a new career after college graduation opened for you and for me other doors opened of which I never could have foreseen – a life of dance.  Both those roads have now reached their cul de sac and only circle around in the fond memories we share.

Now that it is evening, we move more slowly.  In what direction shall I look as we go?  Shall I look back and see the tempestuousness of youth and young love?  That has mellowed now and deepened.  Gone, too, is the bustle and burly of setting up a life and a home together. 

Also looking back I would hear a newborn’s cry that added zest to the small hours of our nights.  Then came the parental decisions and duties we shared.  Our reward was adding a new soul to the human quotient.  As we continue our travels along the road and reap the rewards of a lifelong investment in each other; we are as comfortable as nestled spoons.

Yet, I am not quite ready to look ahead.  What hides there I am not sure.  Our culture does not celebrate the beauty of age, nor do I relish its coming infirmities.  Perhaps loneliness lurks

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around a dark corner.  So after a quick look back and a timid peek forward I think I shall choose to look sideways.  And what I see there is you, still walking beside me – these 47 years.

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HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW—With bronze musicians, drum sets and, oh yeah, lots of flowers.

THE JEWISH CITIZEN


County fair illustrates 'there's a Jewish story everywhere'


By Donald H. Harrison

DEL MAR, California – Every year the San Diego County Fair hosts a pre-opening party for the media so reporters can pass on to their readers, viewers and listeners what’s at the fair of interest.   Many of the food and drink concessions along the midway provide free fair fare for the reporters and editors, and there also are prizes, entertainment and even a few of the exhibits to be sampled.

It’s a big freebee bash, in other words. 

Whenever I go, I feel under pressure to find something Jewish to tell you about.  That way I feel like I’m working and not simply freeloading.   Some years can be harder than others. On June 5, however, with the theme of the week-away, June 12-July 5 county fair being “Music Mania,” I didn’t have to look very far beyond the fairground’s front entrance.  Just inside and to the left, in the Paul Ecke Pavilion, a landscapers' competition is taking form — their assignment this year being “Rhapsody in Bloom,” an obvious word play on “Rhapsody in Blue,” the hybrid classical-jazz piece by Jewish composer George Gershwin.

I saw one garden that combined plants and sculptures of Mexican musicians; another imaginatively placed a variety of musical instruments among the plantings.

This made me feel very smug.  Even if I saw nothing else of specific Jewish interest, I had achieved my objective within the first five minutes.  Now I could party on.

But wait a minute, there was an Elvis look-alike strolling down the midway.  What was that I remembered reading on a website about Elvis?  Oh yeah, that his great-great grandmother was Jewish.  I checked it online later, and sure enough, Nancy (Burdine) Tackett was Jewish.  She had a daughter, Martha (Tackett) Mansell, who in turn had a daughter Octavia “Doll” (Mansell) Love; whose daughter was Gladys (Love) Presley – Elvis’s mom.   So it was a straight maternal line from Elvis to his Jewish great-great grandmother meaning—uh, huh, huh, oh yeah – that Elvis as a matter of halakha could be considered Jewish.

In the latter part of his career, according to the website, Elvis wore a chai pendant around his neck – today they’d call it his bling—and when his mother died, he placed on her grave (under a big cross) a small Star of David, just to keep both religious bases covered.


THE KING AND HIS COURT—Elvis lookalike is joined by Edward Zeiden and Nancy Harrison

I caught up with my wife Nancy, father-in-law Sam Zeiden, and nephew Edward Zeiden at the large Chicken Charlie’s stand where among fried foods and other cuisines, they also offered a plate of hummus, pita, tabouli and chicken kabob, which was so good that when I closed my eyes, I thought I had been transported to the Middle East.  I mean in this vision there was a camel and everything.

In truth that was neither a vision nor a case of indigestion. There was indeed a camel named “Clyde” greeting fairgoers on the midway to acquaint them with the Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona, where owners Nancy and Gil Riegler manufacture camel milk soap, which they say contain wonderful moisturizing agents that are good for the skin.  

Clyde is a friendly animal, whose long eyelashes were immediately noticed by my friend Marsha Sutton, a reporter for the Carmel Valley News and a member of Congregation Beth El. She and husband, Rocky Smolin, are looking forward to the bar mitzvah of their second and youngest son, Noah.


I heard my name called as I strolled down the midway and standing there was Barry Nussbaum, the vice president of the San Diego County Fair board, along with his daughter Aliya, 10, a student at San Diego Jewish Academy.

In keeping with the  ‘Music Mania theme,” the 22-day  county


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WHAT BIG EYES YOU HAVE—Clyde the camel and reporter Marsha Sutton have a tête a tête.

fair will have numerous concerts featuring singers like Smokey Robinson for people whose memories go back a long way and
Kelly Clarkson for younger-generation fans.  Additionally, said Nussbaum, there is an ongoing amateur MusicPalooza competition with the winner, à la American Idol, promised a professional concert date and $25,000 prize money.   This brings to mind the fact that, Adam Lambert, the San Diego County resident who was television's runner up American Idol this year, is a member of the Jewish community.

Nussbaum normally is a happy, smiling kind of mensch, but nowadays the mere mention of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can make him frown.  The govern-ator, trying to find a way to balance the state’s completely whacked-out budget, has suggested selling off some of the state’s real estate, including the San Diego County Fairgrounds.  

“Nu, Nussbaum, you don’t think that’s a good idea?”

“The fair grounds are a national treasure,” he decided to answer seriously.  “These are desperate times, but there has to be another way to do it.”


FAIR VICE PRESIDENT AND ONE WHO'S FAIRER—Barry Nussbaum, vice president of the San Diego County Fair board, with daughter Aliya, sample the local cuisine.

A while later I ran into the fair’s general manager, Tim Fennell, who was schmoozing with former State Senator Dede Alpert about the very same issue.  Alpert’s husband, Michael, a retired attorney, is also a member of the fair’s board of directors.   Before sale of the fairgrounds would be possible, the former legislator said, the state Legislature would have to agree—not a very likely prospect. She suggested that the federal government should consider bailing out California the way it is financially rescuing General Motors.    Typically, she noted, California sends far more money in taxes to the national government than it ever receives in federal projects.  Clearly it would be a good investment.

I noted that “The Mediterranean” food stand nearby listed falafel among its delicacies.   The idea of anyone selling the old fairgrounds and turning the area into a housing or condo development would just make me falafel—er, feel awful.  Especially if that meant no more media parties.

Harrison's email: editor@sandiegojewishworld.com



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San Diego County news and publicity of Jewish interest


Poverty's changing face
topic for June 25 panel

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) -- A panel of experts will describe the changing face of poverty in San Diego and address key needs of the region at a seminar from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, June 25, cosponsored by the Jewish Community Foundation and San Diego Grantmakers.

Opportunities for philanthropists to create change, and how our community can best leverage economic stimulus funding coming to San Diego will be among the topics covered by panelists Mark Cafferty, President and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership; Donald Cohen, President and Executive Director
Center on Policy Initiatives; John Ohanian, Chief Executive Officer
2-1-1 of San Diego; and Tom Scott, Executive Director, San Diego Housing Federation.

To RSVP and information on the meeting place, contact Alexandra Davis at alexandra@jcfsandiego.org or (858)279-2740

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)—Individuals age 60 years and older represent the fastest growing segment of San Diego County’s population, with the number of residents expected to more than double by 2030. The lack of easy, accessible, and affordable transportation available to older adults is a problem recognized at the national, state, and local levels. In a 2003 San Diego County survey, close to 30% of older adults age 85 and older said that transportation was a problem for them.

A program of the Jewish Senior Services Council delivered by Jewish Family Service, On the Go is more than a ride—it’s independence, community connection, mobility, and dignity.

On the Go consists of three components offering both group and individual transportation. Through the Rides & Smiles® program, volunteer drivers provide individual transportation for older adults to medical and personal appointments. On the Go Shuttles provide group transportation to Jewish Family Service's Older Adult Centers, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, synagogues, religious events, shopping centers, and other cultural outings and events. On the Go also offers exciting organized excursions to locations throughout San Diego County and surrounding areas

Reserve Your Ride Today 1-877-63-GO-JFS (1-877-634-6537)

Preceding provided by Jewish Family Service


Sunday evenings are barbecue
and bounce house time at Chabad

CARLSBAD, California (Press Release)—On Sunday evenings throughout the summer, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Chabad of La Costa is hosting community barbecues.

The All-You-Can-Eat affairs will only cost $15 per adult (13+) and $5 per child and include a feast of unprecedented proportions! Reservations are highly recommended.

For the children there will be terrific bounce house and ball pit (in addition to the yummy food). Please reserve your place by responding to this email or calling the shul at 760-943-8891. You can also reserve your place online by going to our Reservations Page.

Preceding provided by Chabad of La Costa


County library hosts summer reading clubs and programs

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) -- The San Diego County Library will launch its annual Summer Reading Clubs and Programs in June at its 33 branches and two mobile libraries. Children, teens, adults, and even babies, can spend the summer reading (and being read to) for pleasure and prizes.

Participants can read books, magazines, graphic novels or even listen to audio books. Children and adults can “Be Creative @ Your Library” and for teens, the theme is “Express Yourself @ Your Library!” The program at mostbranches will begin in mid-June and continue until early August.

For kids and teens, the number of hours reading will count toward the goal. Adults will receive a Be Creative card with 35 squares that can be stamped for each County Library branch visited, each book read or listened to, and/or every event attended.

Each library branch has a schedule and guidelines. The annual Read for a Reason partnership with the Department of Animal


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Services, SNAP (Spay and Neuter Animal Project) and Hills Science Diet gives readers an opportunity to help feed pets for clients of the San Diego Food Bank and the Pet Food Bank.
The Group Summer Reading Club offers a way for children to participate who are in group settings and can’t get to a library.

For library locations and phone numbers, consult the County Library website.

Preceding provided by San Diego County Library


'Cat in Hat' helps celebrate library branch's 44th anniversary


KIBBITZER—Dr. Seuss's favorite feline kept watch yesterday while San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald read "The Cat in the Hat" at the 44th anniversary celebration of the Edwin O. Benjamin branch of the San Diego City Library. The branch in the Allied Gardens area of San Diego, is named for a local Jewish philanthropist, who helped fund the library. BELOW: Linda Moskovics, library branch manager, stands by the refreshment table as Sky Masori, 2, conducts an inspection. {SDJW photos by Nancy E. Harrison}





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A bissel Jewish sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt


OLDSMAR, Florida —Q: Who is believed to be the first Jewish pitcher in major-league baseball?

(a)    Sandy Koufax
(b)   Izzy Goldstein
(c)    Jake Pitler
(d)   Leo Fishel

 
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Background: He also was the first Columbia University graduate to make it to the majors. On May 3, 1899, he made his debut with the New York Giants and pitched a complete game. Unfortunately he gave up seven runs on nine hits to the Phillies. It also was his last game in the majors.

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I'm still here ... Memoirs of Laura Simon, 103


Editor's Note: Today San Diego Jewish World continues the-every-Monday serialization of I'm Still Here by Laura Simon, a San Diego resident who is still going strong at 103. She wrote this book to mark her 100th birthday.

We will maintain a list of links to the installments of her story on Laura Simon's archive page, which can be accessed any day of the week through the "authors" pulldown tab below our masthead. Laura, who once painted canvases in vivid colors, today is legally blind, so she is unable to read e-mail. However, she says anyone who wishes to contact her may do so through the e-mail of her son, New York playwright Mayo Simon at mayosimon@aol.com The book may be purchased via its publisher's website, www.montezumapublishing.com or via Amazon or Barnes & Noble's websites.

Diphtheria

My father always appeared when I was sick, and there he was at my bedroom window. My mother went out to meet him. He took it as a good welcome until she pointed to the sign on the
door “Diphtheria. Contagious.” I stood at my closed window as he opened a big box, wondering anxiously, never expecting to see such a beautiful big doll, purple lace dress and purple hat. Her smiling pink face close to mine at the other side of the window.

“See, Laura, she’s for you,” giving it to my mother for me.

“Did you bring the five dollars or did you forget it?” shouting. “Every week I have to go to the court. Can’t you bring it? It’s the law.”

“Then go to court and get it if it’s the law.”

“At least,” she said, “I taught you a good lesson,” turning angrily away from him and slammed the door.

It was a chilly fall day and she was already thinking of getting wood from the shed for the stove. I held the doll up at the window to his face that lit up seeing my pleasure, singing “Sabbath, Sabbath, Sabbath Queen, Baruch, Atah, Adonai, Alohenu,” lifting an imaginary glass filled with wine. Then throwing kisses to me and the doll, he turned and walked wearily away.

Very tired I fell asleep with the doll next to me. When I awoke it was night. So many stars out that window, moon bright orange. I held the doll high over my head and danced her to “School
days, school days, old and golden rule days, reading and writing and ‘rithmetic, played to the tune of a hickory stick, you were my beau in calico and I loved you so.” The purple lace dress smelled of lilacs.

Then why suddenly had I changed? Why didn’t I like her? Maybe because she was barefoot. The touch of her toes cold as I danced her overhead. My mother in the dark came looking in at me to make sure I was covered, soon hearing the cackling of wood in the stove, the glows of orange like moons in the druggist’s window, that changed colors every time I came by to look at them, purple, emerald green, even the orange moon sometimes. But not at the sign on the door so that my father
could come in to see me. I was slow to recover, and so was my father with the five dollars.


Bubbe Nashuma

“You’ll never forget the good time you’ll have at Bubbe Nashuma’s, the good soul,” mymother said, admiring me in the new dress she made out of the lucky damaged remnant from Cheap John. “And the good supper she’ll give you and all the hugs and kisses…”

“I don’t like this dress,” I cried. “It’s for an old bubbe and I’m only seven.”

“But Papa already bragged to you about Bubbe’s half-castle, the good things you’ll see, the Chinese laundry in the basement, and the restaurant on the first floor with white tablecloths and vinegar bottles on every table that looks like wine. She’s on the top floor in a butler’s pantry, and your Papa wears a star because he comes from a Walchok family, and married me the queen because he’s in his right mind, and I live in a castle too, he brags, on the five dollars he never gives me. She’ll give you fish, roast chicken, honey cake. You want to go to the milk farm to put on weight? And remember to say on this side you have Rosenfelds -- Bubbe-Machle, Zadie-Hersch, Uncles Usher, Sam, Avrum, a lot of aunts -- Sara, Rosie, Bessie, Jennie.”

“The dress is too big. I don’t want to go.”

“You never know who you will need in life. What if something happens to me? You’ll have a father. And you will grow into it.”

Nashuma, the good soul, is preparing for the Sabbath. Still time for my father to show me his star. It was in a box in the bottom of a trunk that had a room of its own. And as I recall so manytimes, he let me hold it. At dusk we are at the table, Nashuma the good soul saying the blessings over the candles, my father standing saying the Kiddish over the wine.

I am overcome with loneliness and can’t bear to touch the fish that was put before me. I didn’t want fish that was chopped for



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hours in a wooden bowl. I didn’t want fish that had its skin
taken off and put back on again. I didn’t want a star from a nice policeman. Policemen are scary and so were the shimmering candles, and the stillness that was like a ghost over that table.

They looked at each other and then at me. Who did I look like anyway? Not this son, a tear already in the other eye for her other son, the wanderer who went looking for his star, and will yet bring her back a baby to raise, blond, no less, to disgrace the Walchoks.

Her star was in himmel shining back into her heart as she looked devotedly to her son, my father.

“Then, Laura,” my father is saying, “eat your soup before it gets cold.”

I felt strange in that house as if I didn't know these people and couldn’t say, “I can’t eat muddy soup.”

“It’s mushroom,” my father said.

“Shwaimen,” my grandmother Nashuma said. “From Russia, like your mother.” Saying to my father in half Yiddish: “Her with that one together meir darfen put them on a ship and let them swim back to vasser auf kasha or your queen can go back to the Rosenfelds and eat ganz day and night. Such rich people they gave you a bone zum lechen. She came to you all, a whole naked one without clothes, a naked one, without a parana to keep you warm in bed, a feather quilt.”

“So what would you like to eat?” my father asked me.

I shrugged my shoulders.

Then in the bedroom, afraid of the dark, I pulled on a tooth and started to cry. My father opened the door. “What's the matter? Are you hungry? I’ll bring you something.”

Thinking quickly of Max the butcher cutting up a frankfurter for us kids.

“We’re not starving,” I said, dancing around like on stage, grabbing those pieces and passing them around to those kids and swiping a few slices of salami when his back was turned.
“They didn’t take anything,” I said, like a good actress. “Could we have another frankfurter?”

“I got a toothache,” answering my father, never expecting him to ask me to open my mouth and show him which one. I couldn’t find it. He’s dragging in two chairs and pillows.

“This bed will be better for you. Sleep here on the chairs. In the morning I’ll take you to a dentist.”

In the morning, instead of getting my tooth fixed, I sat on a lopsided bench outside the Chinese laundry with my grandmother and her girlfriends busy talking about me as if I didn't know, jingling her coin purse – “watch your money here.”

“Do re mi fa so la ti do. My mother plays the piano.”

“That klotz,” my grandmother said, turning her back to me and whispering. “In the divorce court she played the piano too, that one we should bury her.” Some swirling dust from a passing streetcar had her choking and coughing, “Easier to pull a horse and wagon than live with her.”

“You should be glad she divorced him,” one of them said.

“Aw,” my grandmother sighed. “A pain in me right here,” her chest. “She gave him a klop-in face, a scar. He still has it.”

“Shows you she didn’t want him. She wanted to get rid of him.”

“So she spoke in a high-tone accent and got this one here as you see on the witness stand and he is still a devoted father, takes her every other day to a doctor and doesn’t see daylight. I told him take her to Rachela and maybe there she will learn with the other children how you treat a father, and you don’t let anybody drag you to a divorce court -- and find yourself a new family. This time not a Galitzianer, with a special accent.”

“Children have a way of separating their parents. They know what buttons to press,” one of them said.

Bubbe Nashuma continues. “Your sister, I say to him, sings and does a good job thank God with good health and happiness. You have your sister.”

The tactful one is saying, “Chaya didn’t want the child in court. She cried, the lawyer is saying ‘You want a divorce you need witnesses.’ A woman needs strong evidence to divorce her husband.”

“So they made mud and ashes out of him.” My grandmother angry at the peddler stopping at the curb, his horse taking advantage of the situation.

“Nashuma, you’re a gentle nashuma,” they all agreed. I started to laugh. To this day I don’t know why.

“Life is funny,” said the silent one. “You can’t figure it out. It plays tricks on you.”

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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History
With thanks to Gail Umeham for the transcription


60% of Goal Reached; UJF
Pleased; Workers Urged On

Southwestern Jewish Press May 1, 1953, page 1

“The United Jewish Fund Campaign is today at its height.  Now all of us—contributors and workers—have got to really push to finish the job which has so ably been started.”

This was the appeal sounded this week by Carl M. Esenoff and Milton Y. Roberts, Chairmen of the Fund’s current drive in a statement to workers and those contributors who have not as yet made their pledge.

Their call to shoulder responsibility came as workers in all areas of the drive, intensified their efforts, inspired by “C” Week, which brought in over $40,000 to bring the total of pledges made to the campaign to $148,500.

The Christian Division Luncheon, headed by Chairman Graydon Hoffman, the very successful testimonial Women’s Division Luncheon in honor of Ida Nasatir; the workers’ breakfast for captains and workers to start “C” Week; and the outstanding Liquor Division Luncheon led by Jerry Freedman and Julius Schwitkis were highlights of the inspiring week.

“However,” the chairmen said, “hundreds of prospect cards still are in the hands of solicitors.  Prospects must be contacted as quickly as possible in order to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.”

" We are ahead of last year at this time,” they concluded, and have made splendid strides since the beginning of the campaign, but the effort must be intensified if we are to achieve our needs of $231,000 which is a realistic minimum goal. It means at least 30% increases from those gifts which are still unmade.”

Campaign leaders promised an intensive, inspiring push in the next three weeks before the campaign closes.  With the women’s division’s “W” Day to take place on Monday, May 4th, and   Magic Carpet Day on Sunday, Sunday, May 17th, a great deal of campaign activity is promised freom now until May 17th.

Activity will be at a high level for the next three weeks, according to the chairmen, as the Women’s division planned a “W” Day on Monday, May 4th, which will be a house-to-house solicitation of all women who have not as yet given.  Magic Carpet Day, traditional one day clean-up campaign in San Diego, in which all of the organizations and their members participate, will be held on Sunday, May 17th.

Workers are again urged to contact all of their prospects immediately, and contributors who have not as yet been contacted are urged to mail their gifts to the United Jewish Fund, 333 Plaza, keeping in mind that an increase is necessary in 1953.


Saint Or Villain? {Editorial}
Southwestern Jewish Press May 1, 1953, page 2

H. R. Trevor-Roper, in an Atlantic Monthly Magazine article, has exposed what may well be one of the most fabulous hoaxes perpetrated during the World War II era.  The writer is an historian and scholar now teaching at Christ Church, Oxford, and has made a name for himself as a recognized authority on the closing months of the Nazi regime with his book, The Last Days of Hitler.

Trevor-Roper’s belief is that there may have been some justification for the murder of Sweden’s count Folke Bernadotte while he served on the United Nations Partition Commission in

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Palestine.  According to Trevor-Roper, the idealization of Bernadotte as a great humanitarian, as a man who was interested in saving Jews from the cauldrons and gas chambers of the third Reich and as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize is the result of mistaken identity. The Atlantic Monthly article indicates that the Swedish nobleman was merely a liaison officer between the Dutch Dr. Felix Kersten and the Nazi SS Heinrich Himmler.  Dr. Kersten is alleged to have been the only physician who could successfully deal with Himmmler’s illness and that he secretly demanded favors from the notorious anti-Semite in payment for his services.

These favors included meetings between Norbert Masur, president of the world Jewish Organization in Stockholm, and Himmler during which the Nazi became a party to saving some 60,000 Jews from German concentration camps.  Trevor-Roper reports that Count Bernadotte opposed the entrance of the Jews to Sweden on the grounds that “he understood the Jewish peril and the necessity of the German fight against world Jewry.”

It seems to us that if Trevor-Roper’s report is true a terrible mistake may soon be rectified.  This is by no means an irresponsible effort to excuse Count Bernadotte’s murder—an act that may now appear to be at least partially justified.  But it will serve to give Dr. Kersten his just reward of public acclaim and to remove from virtual sainthood a man who consorted with the theories of the enemy.

If on the other hand, Trevor-Roper’s account is not accurate then a frightfully libelous situation seems certainly to be in the offing.  We feel that it most assuredly deserves further study.


J.W.V. Gets Warm Thanks
Southwestern Jewish Press May 1, 1953, page 2

Mrs. Marco Ratner
9225 Dillon Drive
La Mesa, California

Dear Mrs. Ratner:

This is a big “Thank You”for your many kindnesses in the past few months, and we want you to know that we appreciate your visits and those of your co-workers.

Will you please express out appreciation to the members of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary for their generosity in supplying the ice cream treats to the children.  We would also like for them to know that the deep freeze is in constant use and enjoyed by all of the classes.

Last year the children all called you “The Ice Cream Lady,” but this year it is a real pleasure to hear them call you by your own name.  I do not know which they enjoy more, the ice cream or the beautiful flowers which you always seem to be able to bring to decorate our cafeteria.  Maybe they enjoy both equally.
Our best wishes to you and all of the members of the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary.

Sincerely,

Eva L. Ritchie
Principal, Sunshine School



“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History" series
will be a daily feature until we run out of history.


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Jewish Internet Favorites ... featuring notable Jewish community members*
Visit our Jewish Internet Favorites index to find links to other videos


Jonah Bobo is accused of cheating in "Zathura"




Flora Cross is a nominee, but loses to Dakota Fanning, in best young actress competion






Hallie Kate Eisenberg, a la Godfather, insists on her Pepsi





Carter Jenkins (plaid shirt) in "Aliens in the Attic"


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Jewish Sports Trivia answer: (d) Leo Fishel

*As Jewish community members, we include those with at least one Jewish parent and those who have converted to Judaism

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