Volume 3, Number 141
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"

Today's Postings:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

{Click on a link to jump to the corresponding story.}


President Obama's news conference: Iran, economy, health

Moderate dictators are better than radical Islamists ... by Barry Rubin in Herzliya, Israel
A reader asks: Do we really want to promot{e} the making of deals with "moderate dictators" or are we better urging them to turn their countries into liberal democracies?

While keeping watch on Iran, U.S. should not take its eyes off either North Korea or the Palestinians ... by Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.
Following the latest North Korean missile test, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned Pyongyang. READ MORE

Tracking Jewish news and Jewish public officials

State Dept. spokesman reacts to latest Israeli settlement news READ MORE
Lautenberg: FBI unable to to stop weapon sales to known terrorists READ MORE
Sanders charges Republicans with protecting oil speculators READ MORE
Cardin seeks increased federal funding for biomedical research READ MORE

National/ International News Roundup

Wiesenthal Center seeks U.N. emergency session on Iran READ MORE
Reform Judaism unit applauds court decision on voting rights READ MORE
Neo-Nazis 'adopt' highway, Missouri retalliates by naming it for Abraham Joshua Heschel READ MORE
Lithuania delays Shoah compensation to 2012 READ MORE
Federal judge rules religious groups can't be barred from library meeting rooms READ MORE
SEC brings complaints against alleged Madoff helpers READ MORE

International Feature Stories

Tour organizing to meet Uganda's Jews, go on safari ... by Laura Wetzler in Cummington, Massachusetts

In Search of the Partisans of Vilna: Part V ...
by Laurel Corona in Vilna, Lithuania
In the afternoon we go to the Yiddish Institute of Vilnius University to pick up Fania Yocheles Brancovski, who, along with Michael’s parents, had been a member of the Avengers, the legendary poet activist Abba Kovner’s partisan group in the Rudniki Forest.READ MORE

The Jews Down Under .... Roundup of Australian Jewish News by Garry Fabian

Australians react to Netanyahu's speech READ MORE
Adelaide Rabbi Engel and wife charged over school funding READ MORE
Shule body facing crisis READ MORE
Fix this mess ... by Yossi Aron READ MORE
Unions tone down Israel policy READ MORE
A Better Way Than Slogans ... by Geoffrey Winn and Manny Waks READ MORE
New lead in Holocaust survivor murder READ MORE


IDF training stresses teamwork, 'klal Yisroel' ... by Yeshia Braverman in Santa Monica, California
I have been back from the Israeli army for half a year already but still the whole experience is fresh on my mind. The thrills, and excitement, the ups and downs, everyday is nothing like the previous.READ MOR


The seventh day, Genesis 2:2 VIEW IMAGE

Go to top of right column



SDJA Class of 2009 ... READ MORE
Cyber -Referral —READ MORE
Howard Wayne may run for City Council, 6th Dist. READ MORE

Mark Twain, unknown and uncensored, is one-man show ... by Cynthia Citron in Pacific Palisades, California
Every once in a while an actor will come along who can capture and define a specific role so uniquely as to make that character his own forever---or at least for that generation. I’m thinking particularly of Jose Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins. And Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.READ MORE

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History

New Mizrachi Group Presents N.Y. Rabbi READ MORE
Hadassah Holds 12th Donor June 3 READ MORE
An Explanation {Editorial} READ MORE
Linda’s Lookout ... by Linda Solof READ MORE
Borrego Desert Resort Offers New Plan READ MORE

Left 1: President Obama, Barry Rubin, Shoshana Bryen
Left 2: Ian Kelly, Frank Lautenberg, Bernie Sanders, Benjamin Cardin
Left 3: Laura Wetzler, Laurel Corona, Garry Fabian
Right 1: SDJA Class of 2009
Right 2: Cynthia Citron

America's Vacation Center
Balloon Utopia
Congregation Beth Israel
Jewish Family Service; Car Mitzvah
Lawrence Family JCC
Math Is Easy
Ohr Shalom Synagogue
Ronald Reagan Diaries
San Diego Community Colleges
San Diego County Library
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


We are indebted to two organizations: Kulanu, which seeks out stories about Jews in remote places and shares them with our readership, and Jews for Judaism, which has kindly shared the essays and poems of its student contest winners. Furthermore, we tip our hats to the Australian Jewish Press and to other media in Australia, which share their stories with our bureau chief Garry Fabian.

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.

To receive San Diego Jewish World's daily or weekly headlines, click the blue box below:





President Obama's news conference: Iran, economy, health

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Following is a transcript of President Barack Obama's news conference at the White House on Tuesday. We have highlighted questions dealing with the Middle East, as well as the names of Jewish officeholders.

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Good afternoon, everybody. Today, I want to start by addressing three issues, and then I'll take your questions.

First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.

I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election. These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose.

The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That's precisely what's happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests [sic] of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing.

This is what we've witnessed. We've seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We've seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard. Above all, we've seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.

Now, the second issue I want to address is our ongoing effort to build a clean energy economy.

This week, the House of Representatives is moving ahead on historic legislation that will transform the way we produce and use energy in America. This legislation will spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.

This energy bill will create a set of incentives that will spur the development of new sources of energy, including wind, solar, and geothermal power. It will also spur new energy savings, like efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.

These incentives will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. And that will lead to the development of new technologies that lead to new industries that could create millions of new jobs in America -- jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air that we breathe. It also provides assistance to businesses and communities as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies.

So I believe that this legislation is extraordinarily important for our country; it's taken great effort on the part of many over the course of the past several months. And I want to thank the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman; his colleagues on that committee, including Congressmen Dingell, Ed Markey, and Rick Boucher. I also want to thank Charlie Rangel, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Collin Peterson, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, for their many and ongoing contributions to this process. And I want to express my appreciation to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer for their leadership.

We all know why this is so important. The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century's global economy. That's what this legislation seeks to achieve -- it's a bill that will open the door to a better future for this nation. And that's why I urge members of Congress to come together and pass it.

The last issue I'd like to address is health care.

Right now, Congress is debating various health care reform proposals. This is obviously a complicated issue, but I am very optimistic about the progress that they're making.

Like energy, this is legislation that must and will be paid for. It will not add to our deficits over the next decade. We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the health care system -- some of which we've already announced.

We will also ensure that the reform we pass brings down the crushing cost of health care. We simply can't have a system where we throw good money after bad habits. We need to control the skyrocketing costs that are driving families, businesses, and our government into greater and greater debt.

There's no doubt that we must preserve what's best about our health care system, and that means allowing Americans who like their doctors and their health care plans to keep them. But unless we fix what's broken in our current system, everyone's health care will be in jeopardy. Unless we act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of the uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans. Unless we act, one out of every five dollars that we earn will be spent on health care within a decade. And the amount our government spends on Medicare and Medicaid will eventually grow larger than what our government spends on everything else today.

When it comes to health care, the status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. So reform is not a luxury, it's a necessity. And I hope that Congress will continue to make significant progress on this issue in the weeks ahead.

So let me open it up for questions, and I'll start with you, Jennifer.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your administration has said that the offer to talk to Iran's leaders remains open. Can you say if that's still so, even with all the violence that has been committed by the government against the peaceful protesters? And if it is, is there any red line that your administration won't cross where that offer will be shut off?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously what's happened in Iran is profound. And we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out. My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders.

We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms. It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path. What we've been seeing over the last several days, the last couple of weeks, obviously is not encouraging, in terms of the path that this regime may choose to take. And the fact that they are now in the midst of an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran may end up coloring how they respond to the international community as a whole.

We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed. But just to reiterate, there is a path available to Iran in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which they are part of a larger community that has responsibilities and operates according to norms and international rules that are universal. We don't know how they're going to respond yet, and that's what we're waiting to see.

Q So should there be consequences for what's happened so far?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that the international community is, as I said before, bearing witness to what's taking place. And the Iranian government should understand that how they handle the dissent within their own country, generated indigenously, internally, from the Iranian people, will help shape the tone not only for Iran's future but also its relationship to other countries.

Since we're on Iran, I know Nico Pitney is here from Huffington Post.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Nico, I know that you, and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?

Q Yes, I did, I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian. We solicited questions last night from people who are still courageous enough to be communicating online, and one of them wanted to ask you this: Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, we didn't have international observers on the ground. We can't say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country. What we know is that a sizeable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It's not an isolated instance -- a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.

And so ultimately the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States. And that's why I've been very clear: Ultimately, this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government.

What we can do is to say unequivocally that there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with peaceful dissent, that spans cultures, spans borders. And what we've been seeing over the Internet and what we've been seeing in news reports violates those norms and violates those principles.

I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it.

Jeff Mason of Reuters.

Q Right here, sir. Switching gears slightly, in light of the financial regulation and reform that you have made, how do you rate the performance of the Fed in handling the financial crisis? And more specifically, how do you rate the performance of Ben Bernanke, and would you like him to stay on when his term ends in January?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to make news about Ben Bernanke -- (laughter) -- although I think he has done a fine job under very difficult circumstances.

I would say that all financial regulators didn't do everything that needed to be done to prevent the crisis from happening. And that's why we've put forward the boldest set of reforms in financial regulation in 75 years, because there were too many gaps where there were laws on the books that would have brought about a prevention of the crisis; the enforcement wasn't there. In some cases, there just weren't sufficient laws on the books -- for example, with the non-banking sector.

I think that the Fed probably performed better than most other regulators prior to the crisis taking place, but I think they'd be the first to acknowledge that in dealing with systemic risk and anticipating systemic risk, they didn't do everything that needed to be done.

I think since the crisis has occurred, Ben Bernanke has performed very well. And one of the central concepts behind our financial regulatory reform is that there's got to be somebody who is responsible not just for monitoring the health of individual institutions, but somebody who's monitoring the systemic risks of the system as a whole. And we believe that the Fed has the most technical expertise and the best track record in terms of doing that.

But that's not the only part of financial regulation. One of the things that we're putting a huge amount of emphasis on is the issue of consumer protection -- whether it's subprime loans that were given out because nobody was paying attention to what was being peddled to consumers, whether it's how credit cards are handled, how annuities are dealt with, what people can expect in terms of understanding their 401(k)s. There's a whole bunch of financial transactions out there where consumers are not protected the way they should, and that's why we said we're going to put forward a consumer financial protection agency whose only job it is to focus on those issues.

Now, the Fed was one of the regulators that had some of those consumer responsibilities. We actually think that they're better off focusing on issues of broad systemic risk, and we have just one agency that's focused on the consumer protection side.

Q But is the Fed getting too powerful?

THE PRESIDENT: If you look at what we've proposed, we are not so much expanding the Fed's power as we are focusing what the Fed needs to do to prevent the kinds of crises that are happening again. Another good example is the issue of resolution authority. I think it wasn't that long ago where everybody was properly outraged about AIG, and the enormous amounts of money the taxpayers had to put into AIG in order to prevent it from dragging the entire financial system down with it.

Had we had the kinds of resolution authority, the kinds of laws that were in place that would allow a orderly winding down of AIG, then potentially taxpayers could have saved a huge amount of money. We want that power to be available so that taxpayers aren't on the hook.

All right? Major Garrett. Where's Major?

Q Right here, sir. In your opening remarks, sir, you were -- you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long to say those words?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that's accurate. Track what I've been saying. Right after the election, I said that we had profound concerns about the nature of the election, but that it was not up to us to determine what the outcome was. As soon as violence broke out -- in fact, in anticipation of potential violence -- we were very clear in saying that violence was unacceptable, that that was not how governments operate with respect to their people.

So we've been entirely consistent, Major, in terms of how we've approached this. My role has been to say the United States is not going to be a foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what's happening on the streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House; that this is an issue that is led by and given voice to the frustrations of the Iranian people. And so we've been very consistent the first day, and we're going to continue to be consistent in saying this is not an issue about the United States; this is about an issue of the Iranian people.

What we've also been consistent about is saying that there are some universal principles, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, making sure that governments are not using coercion and violence and repression in terms of how they interact with peaceful demonstrators. And we have been speaking out very clearly about that fact.

Q Are Iranian diplomats still welcome at the embassy on the Fourth of July, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think as you're aware, Major, we don't have formal diplomatic relations with -- we don't have formal diplomatic relations with Iran. I think that we have said that if Iran chooses a path that abides by international norms and principles, then we are interested in healing some of the wounds of 30 years, in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations. But that is a choice that the Iranians are going to have to make.

Q But the offer still stands?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a choice the Iranians are going to have to make.

David Jackson.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Two of the key players in the insurance industry, America's Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross-Blue Shield, sent a letter to the Senate this morning saying that a government health insurance plan would "dismantle" private insurers. Why are they wrong? And secondly, this public plan, is this non-negotiable? Would you sign a health care bill without it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's talk first of all about health care reform more broadly.

I think in this debate there's been some notion that if we just stand pat we're okay. And that's just not true. You know, there are polls out that show that 70 or 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with the health insurance that they currently have. The only problem is that premiums have been doubling every nine years, going up three times faster than wages. The U.S. government is not going to be able to afford Medicare and Medicaid on its current trajectory. Businesses are having to make very tough decisions about whether we drop coverage or we further restrict coverage.

So the notion that somehow we can just keep on doing what we're doing and that's okay, that's just not true. We have a longstanding critical problem in our health care system that is pulling down our economy, it's burdening families, it's burdening businesses, and it is the primary driver of our federal deficits. All right?

So if we start from the premise that the status quo is unacceptable, then that means we're going to have to bring about some serious changes. What I've said is, our top priority has to be to control costs. And that means not just tinkering around the edges. It doesn't mean just lopping off reimbursements for doctors in any given year because we're trying to fix our budget. It means that we look at the kinds of incentives that exist, what our delivery system is like, why it is that some communities are spending 30 percent less than other communities but getting better health care outcomes, and figuring out how can we make sure that everybody is benefiting from lower costs and better quality by improving practices. It means health IT. It means prevention.

So all these things are the starting point, I think, for reform. And I've said very clearly: If any bill arrives from Congress that is not controlling costs, that's not a bill I can support. It's going to have to control costs. It's going to have to be paid for. So there's been a lot of talk about, well, a trillion-dollar price tag. What I've said is, if we're going to spend that much money, then it's going to be largely funded through reallocating dollars that are already in the health care system but aren't being spent well. If we're spending $177 billion over 10 years to subsidize insurance companies under Medicare Advantage, when there's no showing that people are healthier using that program than the regular Medicare program, well, that's not a good deal for taxpayers. And we're going to take that money and we're going to use it to provide better care at a cheaper cost to the American people. So that's point number one.

Number two, while we are in the process of dealing with the cost issue, I think it's also wise policy and the right thing to do to start providing coverage for people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured, are paying a lot of money for high deductibles. I get letters -- two, three letters a day -- that I read of families who don't have health insurance, are going bankrupt, are on the brink of losing their insurance; have deductibles that are so high that even with insurance they end up with $50,000, $100,000 worth of debt; are at risk of losing their homes.

And that has to be part of reform, making sure that even if you've got health insurance now, you are not worried that when you lose your job or your employer decides to change policies that somehow you're going to be out of luck. I think about the woman who was in Wisconsin that I was with, who introduced me up in Green Bay -- 36 years old, double mastectomy; breast cancer has now moved to her bones and she's got two little kids, a husband with a job. They had health insurance, but they're still $50,000 in debt, and she's thinking, my main legacy, if I don't survive this thing, is going to be leaving $100,000 worth of debt. So those are the things that I'm prioritizing.

Now, the public plan I think is a important tool to discipline insurance companies. What we've said is, under our proposal, let's have a system the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do, where -- we call it an "exchange," or you can call it a "marketplace" -- where essentially you've got a whole bunch of different plans. If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing. You keep your plan. You keep your doctor. If your employer is providing you good health insurance, terrific, we're not going to mess with it.

But if you're a small business person, if the insurance that's being offered is something you can't afford, if you want to shop for a better price, then you can go to this exchange, this marketplace, and you can look: Okay, this is how much this plan costs, this is how much that plan costs, this is what the coverage is like, this is what fits for my family. As one of those options, for us to be able to say, here's a public option that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price -- as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.

Q Won't that drive private insurers out of business?

THE PRESIDENT: Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.

Now, I think that there's going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers thatif any public plan is simply being subsidized by

taxpayers endlessly, that over time they can't compete with the government just printing money.

So there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to behad about how this private plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, that they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal. That defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan. All right?

Q Is that non-negotiable?


Q Thank you, Mr. President. Following up on Major's question, some republicans on Capitol Hill -- John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for example -- have said that up to this point, your response on Iran has been timid and weak. Today, it sounded a lot stronger. It sounded like the kind of speech John McCain has been urging you to give, saying that those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history, referring to an iron fist in Iran -- "deplore," "appalled," "outraged." Were you influenced at all by John McCain and Lindsey Graham accusing you of being timid and weak?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you think? (Laughter.) Look, the -- I think John McCain has genuine passion about many of these international issues, and I think that all of us share a belief that we want justice to prevail. But only I'm the President of the United States, and I've got responsibilities in making certain that we are continually advancing our national security interests and that we are not used as a tool to be exploited by other countries.

I mean, you guys must have seen the reports. They've got some of the comments that I've made being mistranslated in Iran, suggesting that I'm telling rioters to go out and riot some more. There are reports suggesting that the CIA is behind all this -- all of which are patently false. But it gives you a sense of the narrative that the Iranian government would love to play into. So the -- members of Congress, they've got their constitutional duties, and I'm sure they will carry them out in the way that they think is appropriate. I'm President of the United States, and I'll carry out my duties as I think are appropriate. All right?

Q By speaking so strongly today, aren't you giving the leadership in Iran the fodder to make those arguments that it is about the United States?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I mean, I think that -- we can parse this as much as we want. I think if you look at the statements that I've made, they've been very consistent. I just made a statement on Saturday in which we said we deplore the violence. And so I think that in the hothouse of Washington, there may be all kinds of stuff going back and forth in terms of Republican critics versus the administration. That's not what is relevant to the Iranian people. What's relevant to them right now is, are they going to have their voices heard?

And, frankly, a lot of them aren't paying a lot of attention to what's being said on Capitol Hill, and probably aren't spending a lot of time thinking about what's being said here. They're trying to figure out how can they make sure justice is served in Iran.

Q So there's no news in your statement today?


Q Mr. President, I want to follow up on Iran. You have avoided twice spelling out consequences. You've hinted that there would be, from the international community, if they continue to violate -- you said violate these norms. You seem to hint that there are human rights violations taking place.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not hinting. I think that when a young woman gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car, that's a problem.

Q Then why won't you spell out the consequences that the Iranian --

THE PRESIDENT: Because I think, Chuck, that we don't know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I'm not.

Q But shouldn't -- I mean, shouldn't the world and Iran --

THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, I answered --

Q -- but shouldn't the Iranian regime know that there are consequences?

THE PRESIDENT: I answered the question, Chuck, which is that we don't yet know how this is going to play out.

Jake Tapper.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Before I ask my question, I'm wondering if you could actually answer David's. Is the public plan non-negotiable?

THE PRESIDENT: That's your question. (Laughter.)

Q Well, you didn't answer --

THE PRESIDENT: You think you're going to -- are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps? (Laughter.) What's your -- is that your question? (Laughter.)

Q Then I have a two-part question. (Laughter.) Is the public plan non-negotiable? And while I appreciate your Spock-like language about the logic of the health care plan, the public plan, it does seem logical to a lot of people that if the government is offering a cheaper health care plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for profit, unlike private plans, and may possibly benefit from some government subsidies, who knows. And then their employees would be signed up for this public plan, which would violate what you're promising the American people, that they will not have to change health care plans if they like the plan they have.

THE PRESIDENT: I got you. You're pitching, I'm catching. I got the question. First of all, was the reference to Spock -- is that a crack on my ears? (Laughter.) All right, I just want to make sure. No? {Editor's Note: Spock was a character in "Star Trek" played by the Jewish actor Leonard Nimoy}

Q I would never make fun of your ears, sir. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: In answer to David's question, which you co-opted, we are still early in this process, so we have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured. Those are the broad parameters that we've discussed.

There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It's too early to say that. Right now I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.

Now, let me go to the broader question you made about the public plan. As I said before, I think that there is a legitimate concern if the public plan was simply eating off the taxpayer trough, that it would be hard for private insurers to complete. If, on the other hand, the public plan is structured in such a way where they've got to collect premiums and they've got to provide good services, then if what the insurance companies are saying is true, that they're doing their best to serve their customers, that they're in the business of keeping people well and giving them security when they get sick, they should be able to compete.

Now, if it turns out that the public plan, for example, is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what? I'd like insurance companies to take note and say, hey, if the public plan can do that, why can't we? And that's good for everybody in the system. And I don't think there should be any objection to that.

Now, by the way, I should point out that part of the reform that we've suggested is that if you want to be a private insurer as part of the exchange, as part of this marketplace, this menu of options that people can choose from, we're going to have some different rules for all insurance companies -- one of them being that you can't preclude people from getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, you can't cherry pick and just take the healthiest people.

So there are going to be some ground rules that are going to apply to all insurance companies, because I think the American people understand that, too often, insurance companies have been spending more time thinking about how to take premiums and then avoid providing people coverage than they have been thinking about how can we make sure that insurance is there, health care is there when families need it.

But I'm confident that if -- I take those advocates of the free market to heart when they say that the free market is innovative and is going to compete on service and is going to compete on their ability to deliver good care to families. And if that's the case then this just becomes one more option. If it's not the case then I think that that's something that the American people should know.

Q I'm sorry, but what about keeping your promise to the American people that they won't have to change plans even if employers --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, no, no, I mean -- when I say if you have your plan and you like it and your doctor has a plan, or you have a doctor and you like your doctor that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform.

Now, are there going to be employers right now -- assuming we don't do anything -- let's say that we take the advice of some folks who are out there and say, oh, this is not the time to do health care, we can't afford it, it's too complicated, let's take our time, et cetera. So let's assume that nothing happened. I can guarantee you that there's a possibility for a whole lot of Americans out there that they're not going to end up having the same health care they have, because what's going to happen is, as costs keep on going up, employers are going to start making decisions: We've got to raise premiums on our employees; in some cases, we can't provide health insurance at all.

And so there are going to be a whole set of changes out there. That's exactly why health reform is so important.

Margaret, from McClatchy. Where's Margaret? There you are.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting. But with the new law that you signed yesterday regulating the tobacco industry, I'd like to ask you a few questions. How many cigarettes a day --

THE PRESIDENT: A few questions? (Laughter.)

Q How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people? And do you believe the new law would help you to quit? If so, why?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the new law that was put in place is not about me, it's about the next generation of kids coming up. So I think it's fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. (Laughter.) But that's fine, I understand. It's an interesting human -- it's an interesting human interest story.

But I've said before that, as a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I don't do it in front of my kids, I don't do it in front of my family, and I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where -- (laughter) -- there are times where I mess up. And, I mean, I've said this before. I get this question about once every month or so, and I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact that, like folks who go to AA, once you've gone down this path, then it's something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don't want is kids going down that path in the first place. Okay?

Macarena Vidal?

Q Mr. President, you're meeting today with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. You're meeting next week with Alvaro Uribe from Colombia. Two months ago in Trinidad at the Summit of the Americas, you said that -- you called on Latin American countries to help you with deeds, not words, particularly towards less democratic countries. Have you noticed any particular progress in these two months, and can you give us examples?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I'm very much looking forward to seeing President Bachelet. I think she's one of the finest leaders in Latin America, a very capable person. If you look at how Chile has handled the recession, they've handled it very well in part because the surpluses that they got when copper prices were high they set aside. And so they had the resources to deal with the downturn. It's a good lesson for the United States. When we had surpluses, they got dissipated.

We think that there's enormous possibilities of making progress in Latin America generally. One of the things that I'll be talking about with President Bachelet is the coordination and cooperation between the United State and Chile on clean energy. We'll have an announcement when we do our press conference after my bilateral meeting on some important clean energy partnerships. We're making important progress when it comes to exchanges on cancer research. We continue to have a robust trade regime with Chile. And, by the way, Chile has actually entered into some very interesting partnerships not just with the federal government, but also with state governments like California.

So I think the relationship that we have with Chile -- which, by the way, does not fall in line with U.S. foreign policy on every single issue -- but it's a respectful policy. Chile is an important partner. I think that's the model that we want: partnership. The United States doesn't dictate how Chile should view its own interests, but in fact we've achieved great cooperation. And I will be looking at President Bachelet giving us further advice in terms of how we can take the kind of relationship we have with Chile and expand that to our relationships throughout Latin America.

Q But my question is not only about that -- Chile, but about Latin American countries giving you a hand on -- against less democratic countries.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the point is, is that I think Chile is leading by example. So I'm using Chile as an example. But the same is true in Brazil, for example. I mean, President Lula came in, and he's got a very different political orientation than most Americans do. He came up through the trade union movement. He was perceived as a strong leftist. It turns out that he was a very practical person, who although maintains relationships across the political spectrum in Latin America, has instituted all sorts of smart market reforms that have made Brazil prosper.

And so if you take a Bachelet or a Lula, and the United States has a good working relationship with them, then I think that points the way for other countries that may be where the democratic tradition is not as deeply embedded as we'd like it to be. And we can make common cause in showing those countries that, in fact, democracy, respect for property rights, respects for market-based economies, rule of law -- that all those things can in fact lead to greater prosperity, that that's not just a U.S. agenda, but that's a smart way to increase the prosperity of your own people.

Okay, Hans Nichols. Hans.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. If I can just return to the economy more generally. When you were selling the economic stimulus package, you talked and your advisors and economists talked about keeping unemployment below 8 percent. Last week you acknowledged that unemployment is likely to reach double digits, being 10 percent. Do you think you need a second stimulus package?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, not yet, because I think it's important to see how the economy evolves and how effective the first stimulus is. I think it's fair to say that -- keep in mind the stimulus package was the first thing we did, and we did it a couple of weeks after inauguration. At that point nobody understood what the depths of this recession were going to look like. If you recall, it was only significantly later that we suddenly get a report that the economy had tanked.

And so it's not surprising then that we missed the mark in terms of our estimates of where unemployment would go. I think it's pretty clear now that unemployment will end up going over 10 percent, if you just look at the pattern, because of the fact that even after employers and businesses start investing again and start hiring again, typically it takes a while for that employment number to catch up with economic recovery. And we're still not at actual recovery yet.

So I anticipate that this is going to be a difficult -- difficult year, a difficult period.

Q What's the high water mark, then, for unemployment? Eleven percent?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not suggesting that I have a crystal ball. Since you just threw back at us our last prognosis, let's not -- let's not engage in another one.

Q Does that mean you won't be making predictions ever? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: But what I am saying is that -- here are some things I know for certain. In the absence of the stimulus, I think our recession would be much worse. It would have declined -- without the Recovery Act -- we know for a fact that states, for example, would have laid off a lot more teachers, a lot more police officers, a lot more firefighters, every single one of those individuals whose jobs were saved. As a consequence, they are still making their mortgage payments, they are still shopping. So we know that the Recovery Act has had an impact.

Now, what we also know is this was the worst recession since the Great Depression, and people are going through a very tough time right now. And I don't expect them to be satisfied. I mean, one thing that -- as I sometimes glance at the various news outlets represented here, I know that they're sometimes reporting of, oh, the administration is worried about this, or their poll numbers are going down there -- look, the American people have a right to feel like this is a tough time right now. What's incredible to me is how resilient the American people have been and how they are still more optimistic than the facts alone would justify, because this is a tough, tough period.

And I don't feel satisfied with the progress that we've made. We've got to get our Recovery Act money out faster. We've got to make sure that the programs that we've put in place are working the way they're supposed to. I think, for example, our mortgage program has actually helped to modify mortgages for a lot of people, but it hasn't been keeping pace with all the foreclosures that are taking place. I get letters every day from people who say, you know, I appreciate that you put out this mortgage program, but the bank is still not letting me modify my mortgage and I'm about to lose my home. And then I've got to call my staff and team and find out why isn't it working for these folks, and can we adjust it, can we tweak it, can we make it more aggressive?

This is a very, very difficult process. And what I've got to do is to make sure that we're focused both on the short term, how can we provide families immediate relief and jumpstart the economy as quickly as possible; and I've got to keep my eye on the long term, and the long term is making sure that by reforming our health care system, by passing serious energy legislation that makes us a clean energy economy, by revamping our education system, by finally getting the financial regulatory reforms in place that are necessary for the 21st century -- by doing all those things, we've got a foundation for long-term economic growth, and we don't end up having to juice up the economy artificially through the kinds of bubble strategies that helped to get us in the situation that we're in today.

Okay. I've got time for two more questions. April. Where's April?

Q Right here. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: There you are. How are you?

Q I'm fine. Back on the economy, Mr. President, people are criticizing this road to recovery plan. Specifically, there are reports in The Washington Post that say that the African America unemployment rate will go to 20 percent by the end of this year. And then you had your Chairman of Economic Advisers say the target intervention may come next year if nothing changes. Why not target intervention now to stop the bloodletting in the black unemployment rate?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, first of all, we know that the African American unemployment rate, the Latino unemployment rate, are consistently higher than the national average. And so, if the economy as a whole is doing poorly, then you know that the African American community is going to be doing poorly, and they're going to be hit even harder. And the best thing that I can do for the African American community or the Latino community or the Asian community, whatever community, is to get the economy as a whole moving. If I don't -- hold on one second, let me answer the question -- if I don't do that, then I'm not going to be able to help anybody. So that's priority number one.

It is true that in certain inner-city communities, the unemployment rate is -- was already sky high even before this recession. The ladders available for people to enter into the job market are even worse. And so we are interested in looking at proven programs that help people on a pathway to jobs.

There was a reason why right before Father's Day I went to a program here locally in Washington called Year Up, which has a proven track record of taking young, mostly minority people, some of whom have graduated from high school, some maybe who've just gotten their GED, and trained them on computers and provide them other technical skills, but also train them on how to carry themselves in an office, how to write an e-mail -- some of the social skills that will allow them to be more employable. They've got a terrific placement rate after this one-year program. If there are ways that we can potentially duplicate some of those programs, then we're going to do so.

So part of what we want to do is to find tools that will give people more opportunity, but the most important thing I can do is to lift the economy overall. And that's what my strategy is focused on.

All right. Last question. Suzanne.

Q Thank you. Back to Iran, putting a human face on this. Over the weekend, we saw a shocking video of this woman, Neda, who had been shot in the chest and bled to death. Have you seen this video?


Q What's your reaction?

THE PRESIDENT: It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking. And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something fundamentally unjust about that.

Q We also have people on the ground who have been saying that the streets are quieter now and that is because they feel that they're paralyzed by fear -- fear of people gone missing, fear of violence, that perhaps this is a movement that's gone underground or perhaps is dying. Do you have any concern over that?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I have concern about how peaceful demonstrators and people who want their votes counted may be stifled from expressing those concerns. I think, as I said before, there are certain international norms of freedom of speech, freedom of expression --

Q Then why won't you allow the photos --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, Helen. That's a different question. (Laughter.) And I think it's important for us to make sure that we let the Iranian people know that we are watching what's happening, that they are not alone in this process. Ultimately, though, what's going to be most important is what happens in Iran. And we've all been struck by the courage of people. And I mentioned this I think in a statement that I made a couple of days ago. Some of you who had been covering my campaigns know this is one of my favorite expressions, was Dr. King's expression that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." We have to believe that ultimately justice will prevail.

All right. Thank you, guys.


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Moderate dictators are better than radical Islamists

By Barry Rubin

HERZLIYA, Israel— A reader asks: Do we really want to promot{e} the making of deals with "moderate dictators" or are we better urging them to turn their countries into liberal democracies?

This writer answers:

What we “really want” to do is not the issue here. Political reality is what is important.

Under normal and current conditions we—meaning North America and Europe--are better off making deals with relatively moderate dictators while supporting liberal forces to make them stronger so they can play a role some day. The same principle applies for Israel.

Today—except for Lebanon—there is no real liberal democratic alternative in the Arabic-speaking world regarding real political power. If you want to understand why this is true, read my book The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East. 

The main threats to the West, to Israel, and even to the Arabs themselves are radical Islamists (Iran’s regime, Hamas, Hizballah, Muslim Brotherhoods, al-Qaida) and their radical nationalist allies (Syria particularly).

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and—most problematically given its pro-Tehran stance—Qatar are on the same side of this battle as we are--despite all their problems, shortcomings, and appeasement behavior--in this battle.

Let's take the worst-case eample on the above list, Saudi Arabia. Is the Saudi regime relatively moderate? Yes it is...compared to Iran and Syria.

And yes it is compared to what Saudi Arabia would look like if governed by the most likely alternative....Usama bin Ladin.

And yes it is when you keep in mind that the Saudis have played a very positive role in Lebanon by supporting March 14 against Hizballah. In addition, the original Arab plan for peace with Israel proposed by the Saudis--before the Syrians amended it to make it far worse--might actually have been a starting point for serious negotiation.

None of this is to underestimate the terrible things the Saudis do: antisemitic propaganda, an educational system that produces extreme Islamists, individuals funding terrorist groups, an extremely repressive version of Islam at home, an eagerness to appease Iran (especially if the Saudi regime doesn't trust the West to protect it).

All those points are real and should be very much kept in mind. But is Saudi Arabia's government preferable to a bin Ladin or Ahmadinejad type regime in power? Definitely yes. And is there any other alternative at present? Definitely no.

If you want to understand why the current dictatorships are holding onto power and will be removed only by radical Islamists in the foreseeable future, read my book The Tragedy of the Middle East.

Against the fascists, the US and UK had to ally with Stalin; against the Communists with many dictators. Those who are going to engage seriously in politics must deal with this reality.

At present, there is no serious prospect of turning these countries into liberal democracies, certainly not from the outside. Liberal forces are simply too weak. Democratic institutions don’t exist. Anti-democratic Islamists would win elections and never bother to hold them again. This situation has been clearly seen in the events of recent years.

When a democratic upsurge does come along, as currently can be seen in non-Arab Iran, it deserves support from Westerners and verbal encouragement from Western governments. There is certainly a huge difference between the Iranian demonstrators and the current regime. True, there is far less difference between the opposition candidates and the current rulers. But that margin is important.

Would a less extreme Islamist ruling Iran get better public relations’ advantages in the West while developing nuclear weapons? Sure. But so what. The West isn’t going to take on the current regime any way. Public relations are not going to affect Iran getting nuclear weapons at this point.

It would certainly be better to have a leadership less eager to engage in war, less likely to use nuclear weapons, and more cautious in its international behavior. Equally, it would be preferable to have a regime which had a wider gap between a radical ideology and a more pragmatic practice. Finally, it would be nicer to have a regime that had to devote more of its time and attention to improving its domestic living standards than to foreign adventures.

Unfortunately, such options are not very available in the Arabic-speaking world. They may be, today, in Iran.
But again that is Iran, not the Arabic-speaking world.

Is Egypt’s President Husni Mubarak or Jordan’s King Abdallah preferable to Islamist states ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood? Is Iraq’s current regime preferable to a radical Islamist state under Iranian patronage? Is Lebanon under the March 14 Sunni-Christian-Druze alliance preferable to Lebanon under Hizballah? Is the Palestinian Authority preferable to Hamas?

How many milliseconds did it take you to answer that list of questions?

Working with the dictatorships does not mean supporting them when they repress genuine liberal democrats. That’s where the line must be drawn. Yet why should the West help bring anti-Western Islamist groups to power that would create even worse dictatorships and set off bloody wars?

Nor does working with the dictatorships mean being naïve about them and their policies. Of course, the Palestinian Authority is going to incite violence against Israel—though it will also stop many of the resulting terrorists—but won’t make a lasting comprehensive peace with Israel. Certainly, Mubarak’s government will take American money and then order its media to preach anti-Americanism.

All of these points must be taken into account. We are talking about necessary cooperation for mutual survival, not nominations for sainthood, abandoning any criticism, or writing blank checks.

In contrast, the problem with much of Western strategy today is that while claiming to be realistic, it is dangerously romantic. It often seems more concerned in conciliating with the worst extremists than in preserving and strengthening the less dangerous and repressive—though admittedly corrupt and incompetent—incumbents.

Incidentally, this is precisely the conclusion reached by the overwhelming majority of genuine Arab liberals. They hate the existing governments and are all too aware of their flaws. But they prefer the current rulers to bringing into their own homes the nightmare of Islamist Iran, Taliban Afghanistan, or Hamas Gaza. Who can blame them for reaching this conclusion? They prefer staying in the frying pan to leaping into the fire.

In contrast, in the West, the prevalent current thinking often urges jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Of course, it is easier to advocate such a step for those whose feet won’t be the ones getting burnt.

There are good reasons why there are so many sayings about making a distinction between the horrible and the less objectionable though hardly ideal choice: The best is the enemy of the good. The lesser of two evils is preferable.

Politics is the art of the possible. Bad strategy is the vandalism of the dangerously ignorant.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Clicking the ad above will take you to the website of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, which operates his presidential library in Simi Valley, California

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Tracking Jewish news and Jewish public officials

State Dept. spokesman reacts
to latest Israeli settlement news

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Here is an excerpt from a briefing on Tuesday by Ian Kelly, State Department spokesman:

QUESTION: On Israel, I think there were reports that Israel has authorized – I guess, building of an additional 240 settlements in the West Bank. Looking for comment on that. I think the number was 300, but I --
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Just give me a second here. Well, I mean, I’ll reiterate our – what we always say or what I always say and what others say: We oppose continued settlement activity. All parties have the responsibility to help create the context that will support renewed, meaningful negotiations that can be concluded quickly. The bottom line is that we expect all parties to honor their commitments. Our position is that settlement activity has to stop consistent with the Roadmap.
We continue to hold discussions with the Israeli Government. As far as Jerusalem is concerned, our policy in Jerusalem has not changed. Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve this status during negotiations.
QUESTION: And does Mr. Mitchell still intend to meet with Mr. Netanyahu tomorrow?
MR. KELLY: I think as – you’ve probably seen press reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Special Envoy Mitchell jointly decided to postpone their meeting. This meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Paris. This was done because we want to give Special Envoy Mitchell a chance to meet with Defense Minister Barak, and that visit will take place on Monday where we hope to advance discussions on a range of issues.
QUESTION: That’s Monday here in Washington?
MR. KELLY: Monday here in Washington.
QUESTION: And do you know why it was – why it was felt necessary that Defense Minister Barak should first meet with Senator Mitchell?
MR. KELLY: I think it was – they saw it as a matter of steps – first, meet with Defense Minister Barak and then with the prime minister.
QUESTION: I get that. I’m just wondering why. I mean, Barak obviously has – you know, is directly responsible for what goes on in the West Bank and so on. And I wonder, for example, if it is related to movement and access issues that Senator Mitchell wants to discuss with him, or more broadly to settlements and the Israeli Government’s refusal thus far to adhere to the U.S. call for --
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I really don’t have any information on that. But we’ll find out on Monday, I hope.

Preceding from State Department Transcript

Lautenberg: FBI unable to to stop weapon sales to known terrorists

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (Democrat, New Jersey) and Democratic Congressmen John Conyers of Michigan and Bobby Scott of Virginia on Monday released a new GAO report finding that, from February 2004 to February 2009, there were 963 cases in which a known or suspected terrorist attempted to buy a gun. In 90 percent of those cases – a total of 865 times – they were cleared to proceed with that purchase. One of those cases involved the purchase of explosives.

“The special interest gun lobby has so twisted our nation’s laws that the rights of terrorists are placed above the safety of everyday Americans. The current law simply defies common sense. This new report is proof positive that known and suspected terrorists are exploiting a major loophole in our law, threatening our families and our communities. This ‘terror gap’ has been open too long and our national security demands that we shut it down,” Senator Lautenberg said.

Congressman Robert C.” Bobby” Scott, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security said, “This report is disturbing and certainly warrants consideration by Congress and the Administration. One might reasonably ask what the purpose of a Terrorist Watch List is if those on it are free to acquire firearms and explosives.”

In response to this report, Senator Lautenberg is introducing legislation to close the “terror gap” in the nation’s gun laws by giving the Attorney General authority to stop the sale of guns or explosives to terrorists. Under current federal law, there is no legal way to stop someone on the Terrorist Watch List from buying guns and explosives.

According to the new GAO report released on Monda, which the lawmakers requested in July 2008, only ten percent of the time were terrorists suspects denied weapons because of disqualifying factors, such as a felony conviction or illegal immigrant status. Being on the Terrorist Watch List is currently not a disqualifying factor for buying firearms.

In January 2005, a previous GAO report requested by Senator Lautenberg found that from February 3 to June 30, 2004, a total of 44 firearm purchase attempts were made by individuals designated as known or suspected terrorists by the federal government. In 35 cases, the FBI authorized the transactions to proceed because FBI field agents were unable to find any disqualifying information (such as felony convictions or illegal immigrant status) within the federally prescribed three business days. Today’s report shows an alarming increase in these numbers.

Under the federal Brady Act, a licensed firearms dealer must request a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before an unlicensed individual may purchase a weapon. However, even if a NICS check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected

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terrorist, nothing in current law prevents that person from purchasing a gun unless he or she meets one of the other disqualifying factors, such as felony conviction, illegal status, or domestic violence convictions.

Preceding provided by Senator Lautenberg

Sanders charges Republicans with protecting oil speculators

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Relase)– Senate Republicans on Monday blocked consideration of an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) to require federal regulators to use emergency powers to curb oil price speculation.

“What are they afraid of? Who are they trying to protect?” Sanders asked.

“There is mounting evidence that the run-up in oil prices has little to do with the fundamentals of supply and demand and everything to do with excessive speculation by some of the same Wall Street firms that received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world,” Sanders said. “They're back,” he warned.

“Not having caused enough damage driving our country and much of the world into a deep recession, now they're back into their speculation games jacking-up oil prices which are having an enormously negative impact on consumers all over our country,” he added.

The amendment would require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to use emergency powers to prevent the manipulation of oil prices.

Among the Wall Street firms that stand to benefit by unregulated speculation is Goldman Sachs, the leading trader of oil and gas derivatives in the United States. The Guardian reported on Sunday that “staff at Goldman Sachs can look forward to the biggest bonus payouts in the firm's 140-year history after a spectacular first half of the year.”

Sanders’ amendment was cosponsored by Sens. Bill Nelson (Democrat, Florida ) and Mark Begich (Democrat, Alaska). The House of Representatives last July passed an identical bill by a vote of 402 to 19, but it did not become law.

Sanders thanked Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada) for trying to work out a compromise with the Republicans. Under a proposed agreement, Republicans would have been able to offer as many as five amendments if they agreed to a single roll call vote on the Sanders-Begich-Bill Nelson amendment. “That's not fair. It's not reasonable. It's only an excuse for Republicans to, again, stymie legislation,” Reid said of the Republican stalling tactics.

Preceding provided by Senator Sanders

Cardin seeks increased federal funding for biomedical research

ROCKVILLE, Maryland (Press Release) – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, M.D. (Democrat, Maryland), chaired a field hearing Monday of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in Rockville, MD, entitled “Missed Opportunities: The ARRA and the NIH/SBIR exclusion.”

During the hearing, local and national experts in biotechnology testified about the important research and development projects that could be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, creating jobs and helping to stimulate the economy in Maryland and across the country. Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards (both Democrats, Maryland), who both represent Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, home to numerous biotech and health-related small businesses, participated in the hearing with Senator Cardin.

“With our nation’s economy in crisis, Congress moved quickly to enact The American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 to stimulate our economy to create jobs. One such investment that I strongly supported was additional funding for the National Institutes of Health to conduct biomedical research in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stem cell research. I was sorely disappointed though when this NIH funding was exempted from mandatory participation in the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. As a result, small businesses across the country are being denied the opportunity to receive upwards of $200 million in SBIR and STTR grants.

“The SBIR program is exactly the type of jumpstart that our economy needs during these tough times. Small firms employ 41% of the nation’s high-tech workers and generate 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large firms. The SBIR program alone has generated more than 84,000 patents and millions of jobs. However, despite repeated inquiries, the NIH has yet to provide an adequate response as to how they will ensure that small businesses can receive their fair share of these grants. The SBIR program is especially important because innovation spurs growth and job creation and leads to advanced technology, including life-saving therapies and devices.”

The field hearing comes just days after the Senate Committee on Small Business voted to reauthorize the SBIR and STTR programs, which fund more than $2 billion annually in early-stage research and development projects at small technology companies. Eleven federal departments participate in the SBIR program – including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and National Science Foundation – allocating 2.5 percent of their external research and development dollars to the program. Maryland has approximately 440,000 small businesses.

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National/ International News Roundup

Wiesenthal Center seeks U.N. emergency session on Iran

LOS ANGELES (Press Release)--Officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center are urging world leaders including the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and the Organization Islamic Conference to call for an immediate emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on the brutal suppression of the Iranian people following the sham elections in Iran.

“The brave citizens of Iran, have against all odds, sent a clarion call to the world that they want freedom and democracy but so far the world has turned their back as innocents have been killed on the streets of Tehran and other cities,” Rabbi Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, (founder and dean and associate dean respectively) of the Jewish Human Rights NGO said in a statement from Los Angeles .

“The UN cannot be open for business only to condemn Israel. It is unbelievable that to date, not a single country has called for UN agencies to act. Now is the time for world leaders to call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to send the mullahs a clear message that any further violence against their own citizens will be met with swift sanctions,” the Wiesenthal Center statement concluded.

Read Chatham House analysis of the 2009 Iranian elections by clicking here

Preceding provided by Simon Wiesenthal Center

Reform Judaism unit applauds court decision on voting rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)– In response to the Wednesday, June 17, Supreme Court decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

"Today’s Supreme Court decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder is a measured victory in the ongoing fight for equal rights. In a narrow ruling, the Supreme Court preserved Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states and districts with a history of discrimination at the polls to get approval (or “pre-clearance”) from the federal government before making any changes in their election practices or procedures. Section 5 has long protected members of minority communities in states and districts across the country that have a history of discriminatory voting practices.

"While our nation has made many strides toward equality, discrimination at the polls remains a real and insidious problem across the country, threatening to the integrity and vibrancy of our deliberative government. It is that problem that Section 5 seeks, and will continue to seek, to eradicate. Congress included Section 5 in the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act after hours of testimony made extraordinarily clear that discrimination remains a problem and that pre-clearance is essential to ensuring that minority communities do not encounter unnecessary barriers when attempting to vote.

"Today, the Supreme Court recognized Congress’s due diligence and affirmed the continued need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. They kept this essential provision intact with a strong 8-1 majority. Voting discrimination remains a continued problem for our nation, and we are grateful that the Supreme Court preserved the core element of our democracy: full and equal voting rights for all people."

Preceding provided by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Neo-Nazis 'adopt' highway, Missouri retalliates by naming it for Abraham Joshua Heschel

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri (WJC)—A neo-Nazi group has adopted a section of a highway in the US state of Missouri as part of a trash prevention scheme. State said it was unable to reject the group's application as membership could not be denied because of a group's political beliefs, but said the section of the highway would be renamed after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who narrowly escaped the Nazis in the World War II and was a supporter of Martin Luther King.

The half-mile section of road was renamed "Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Memorial Highway" as a reaction to the Springfield unit of the National Socialist Movement's move to clean up trash along the section of Missouri Highway 160, near the city limits of Springfield.

Heschel's daughter Susannah, a professor of Jewish history at Dartmouth College, criticized the move. She told the British newspaper 'Daily Telegraph': "I don't want Nazis stomping on a highway named for my father. What are they going to do then if they don't pick up the litter? The whole thing is disgusting. It may be an attempt to teach the neo-Nazis a lesson but I think it's an affront to my father's dignity to attach his name to a neo-Nazi highway."

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Lithuania delays Shoah compensation to 2012

VILNA, Lithuania (WJC)—Lithuania is to delay payments from a compensation fund for Jewish property seized by the Nazis during World War II and kept by the state during the Soviet era, a government spokesman has said. "The government has decided that compensation payouts will begin in 2012, because of the economic crisis, and will continue for ten years," Ridas Jasulionis told the news agency AFP after a Cabinet meeting. Under rules drawn up in March, and yet to be approved by the country's parliament, Lithuania decided to start payouts in 2011 in an attempt to settle the issue of compensation for property seized from the Jewish community before the Holocaust. The government has been slashing public spending in the face of a crisis which is expected to see the economy shrink by 18.2 percent this year.

Under the compensation plan, the state pledged to pay out 113 million litas (US$ 46 million from a government fund until 2021. Lithuania's Jewish community, which the government asked for feedback, had in April said the fund's role was unclear and also complained that the package allowed only for fiscal compensation for confiscated property and not for the return of buildings. Jasulionis said the government was still looking for ways to have buildings returned in kind.

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Federal judge rules religious groups can't be barred from
library meeting rooms

SAN FRANCISCO (Press Release)— A federal judge ruled Friday, June 19, that Contra Costa County officials can no longer prohibit a Christian ministry from accessing Antioch Branch Library public meeting rooms just because government employees consider its scheduled activities to be “religious services.”

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit against county officials in 2004 on behalf of the ministry, arguing that the library’s ban was unconstitutional.

“Christian groups shouldn’t be excluded and discriminated against for their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler. “Christians have a First Amendment right to control the content of their own meetings. The court correctly ruled that the government has no business interfering in what religious groups say.”

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After agreeing to allow Hattie Hopkins, the leader of Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries, to hold meetings at the Antioch Branch Library on two dates in 2004, Contra Costa Library officials told her toward the end of the first meeting that she could no longer hold meetings there because the county’s policy stated that “library meeting rooms shall not be used for religious purposes.” The library later narrowed the policy to only prohibit meetings it deemed to be “religious services.”

The court determined that allowing library employees to distinguish between what constitutes religious services versus other religious activities amounts to an excessive entanglement of government with religion: “Echoing the Supreme Court in Widmar, the Ninth Circuit determined that the distinction ‘is one that the government and the courts are not competent to make...,’” the district court wrote.

“The Supreme Court said almost 30 years ago that the government is not competent to distinguish between religious services and other types of religious speech. The court here is simply reaffirming that principle,” said Chandler. “This case reflects the true meaning of what Thomas Jefferson meant about a wall of separation between church and state: it is intended to protect the church from government interference.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release) The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday charged a New York-based broker-dealer and four individuals with securities fraud, alleging that they collectively raised billions of dollars from investors for Bernard L. Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the SEC charged Cohmad Securities Corporation as well as its chairman Maurice J. Cohn, chief operating officer Marcia B. Cohn, and registered representative Robert M. Jaffe for actively marketing investment opportunities with Madoff while knowingly or recklessly disregarding facts indicating that Madoff was operating a fraud. In a separate complaint filed in the same court, the SEC charged California-based investment adviser Stanley Chais, who oversaw three funds that invested all of their assets with Madoff. When the Ponzi scheme collapsed, Chais investors' accounts were valued at nearly $1 billion.

The SEC previously charged Madoff and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS) as well as their auditors with committing securities fraud through a Ponzi scheme perpetrated on advisory and brokerage customers of BMIS.

"Madoff cultivated an air of exclusivity by pretending that he was too successful to trouble himself with marketing to new investors," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "In fact, he needed a constant in-flow of funds to sustain his fraud, and used his secret control of Cohmad to obtain them."

James Clarkson, Acting Director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, added, "These Madoff solicitors collectively received several hundred million dollars in fees over the past few decades while Madoff ruined the finances of countless investors."

The Cohmad Complaint
The SEC's complaint against the Cohmad defendants alleges that while bringing investors to Madoff, they ignored and even participated in many suspicious practices that clearly indicated Madoff was engaged in fraud. For example, the SEC's complaint alleges that the Cohns and Cohmad filed false Forms BD and FOCUS reports that concealed Cohmad's primary business of bringing in investors for BMIS. This referral business comprised as much as 90 percent of Cohmad's revenue in some years, brought in more than 800 accounts, and billions of dollars into BMIS' advisory business, for which BMIS paid them more than $100 million.

The SEC's complaint also alleges that the compensation arrangement between BMIS and Cohmad indicated fraudulent conduct at BMIS. Cohmad was paid an annual percentage of the funds its representatives (except Jaffe) brought into BMIS offset by any withdrawals from those investor accounts. This compensation arrangement indicated to Cohmad and the Cohns that BMIS was not providing any real returns to investors. For example, where the client's principal investment had been $10,000, Cohmad stopped receiving fees if a client withdrew $15,000 from an account, even if under BMIS' management the account had purportedly grown to $100,000. In Cohmad's internal records, such an account was designated with a negative $5,000 number.

The SEC alleges that Jaffe also participated in Madoff's fraud by soliciting investors and bringing more than $1 billion into BMIS. The SEC's complaint alleges, among other things, that Madoff compensated Jaffe with outsized returns in Jaffe's personal accounts that he knew, or was reckless in not knowing, were manufactured by BMIS employees entering fictitious, backdated trades onto trade confirmations and account statements for his personal accounts at BMIS.

The Chais Complaint
The SEC's complaint alleges that Chais committed fraud by misrepresenting his role in managing the funds' assets and for distributing account statements that he should have known were false.

According to the SEC's complaint, for the last 40 years, Chais has held himself out as an investing wizard who managed hundreds of millions of dollars of investor funds in three partnerships, the Lambeth, Popham and Brighton Companies (the Funds). Chais made a number of misrepresentations over the years to the Funds' investors indicating that he formulated and executed the Funds' trading strategy. In reality, Chais was an unsophisticated investor who did nothing more than turn all of the Funds' assets over to Madoff, while charging the Funds more than $250 million in fees for his purported "services." Although Madoff managed all of the Funds' assets, many of the Funds' investors had never heard of Madoff before the collapse of his Ponzi scheme, and had not known that Chais invested with Madoff until Chais informed them after Madoff's arrest.

The SEC also alleges that Chais ignored red flags indicating that Madoff's reported returns were false. For example, Chais told Madoff that Chais did not want there to be any losses on any of the Funds' trades. Madoff complied with Chais's request, and from 1999 to 2008, despite reportedly executing thousands of trades on behalf of the Funds, Madoff did not report a loss on a single equities trade. Chais however, with the assistance of his accountant, prepared account statements for the Funds' investors based upon the Madoff statements, and continued to distribute them to the Funds' investors even though he should have known they were false.

According to the SEC's complaint, Chais also opened and exercised control over approximately 60 other accounts at Madoff's firm on behalf of his family members and related entities. Taking all of these accounts collectively, between 1995 and 2008, Chais and his family members and related entities withdrew more than $500 million more than they actually invested with Madoff.

Both SEC's complaints seek injunctions, financial penalties and court orders requiring Cohmad, the Cohns, Jaffe and Chais to disgorge their ill-gotten gains.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Trustee for the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The SEC's investigation is continuing.

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While keeping watch on Iran, U.S. should not take
its eyes off either North Korea or the Palestinians

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following the latest North Korean missile test, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned Pyongyang. Furthermore, hoping to prevent additional North Korean exports of missile technology and missile-related equipment and parts, the Security Council resolution provided for "Member States to inspect and destroy all banned cargo to and from that country - on the high seas, at seaports and airports - if they have reasonable grounds to suspect a violation." Unfortunately, it did not give UN member states authority to board the ships. The United States and its allies are permitted only "to ask permission."

A suspected arms ship, the Kang Nam, has sailed from North Korea and is being monitored by U.S. and allied navies but, without permission to board, it appears that we will have to wait until the ship docks somewhere and hope that the host country will impound it. Originally thought to be headed for Singapore - not a friendly port for North Korea - it may now be headed for Myanmar, a place notably disinterested in what the UN or the rest of the international community wants.

In addition, Japanese intelligence suggests that North Korea will launch a missile toward Hawaii around the Fourth of July. They tried an Independence Day launch three years ago, but the missile failed seconds after liftoff. The assumption on all sides is that the North Koreans have made progress in missile technology since then, though American officials think it is unlikely that the missile will have enough range to actually hit the island. Nonetheless, said one military official, "past failure should not be considered a predictor," and defenses added to Hawaii include a ground-based mobile missile system and the X-Band seaborne radar.

"We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile ... in the direction of Hawaii," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, but, "We are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect Americans and American territory."

We wonder if he - and the residents of Hawaii - will think to thank President Reagan who said, as he announced the opening of the missile defense program, "We can't afford to think that we will never be threatened." Or thank President G.W. Bush for withdrawing from the outdated ABM Treaty and ordering the deployment of missile defenses in 2002, allowing us to confront non-Russian threats.

And we are concerned that President Obama is moving backward; missile defense is slated to take a $1.2 billion hit in the next budget. Out are $120 million to continue fielding 44 missile interceptors in Alaska; $500 million for long-range missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic; and the entire Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) Booster, Airborne Laser and Transformational Satellite Programs. The last three are technologies that will have an impact on future defense capabilities, necessary if our adversaries continue testing and improving their offensive capabilities.

We are fortunate that previous Presidents and Congresses pushed forward with missile defense in its early and unproven stages. In view of the demonstrated hostility of North Korea (and Iran) the current President and Congress should move forward on current and future technologies to keep pace as the threats proliferate.

* *

JINSA has frequently expressed concern that the United States is training Palestinian security forces without a clear picture of:

a) To whom the force will, ultimately, be loyal - as the Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority (PA) government is overdue for elections and his popularity is in the low single digits; and

b) What the disposition of any future Palestinian government will be toward America's friend and ally Israel.

Frankly, we are concerned that Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton and his people may be giving Palestinians skills that will be turned against Israeli citizens. While the PA is currently working with the Government of Israel in a variety of ways, both Hamas and Fatah believe the creation of Israel was a mistake by the international community and restitution for the "European Holocaust" - a misconception to which President Obama's speech in Cairo gave credence. And remember that Abu Mazen is a Holocaust denier from way, way back.

Nevertheless, included in the FY2009 Supplemental Appropriations Bill is $109 million for training Palestinian Security Forces, and Congress is considering an administration request for an additional $100 million to continue and expand the training in 2010. There is no indication of what would happen to the troops, training or money if Hamas wins the next Palestinian election, or if Hamas doesn't wait for an election to take power, or if Hamas has infiltrated Fatah forces and/or if Palestinian security forces are "sharing" their training with others.

According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources, one reason the

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Fatah military force collapsed so quickly in the Hamas-Fatah civil war of 2007 was widespread Hamas infiltration into Fatah units. Gen. Dayton himself has said that the failure of his predecessors to properly vet recruits to the Palestinian Security Forces was the reason many of them used their U.S.-supplied training against Israel during the so-called "second intifada."

Keeping in mind his assurances that things are better now, last week, Palestinian security sources announced that they had arrested an officer from Fatah's National Guard unit caught training Hamas cells on the West Bank. We are skeptical of statements by the PA government, including its security forces, knowing that they often settle private scores under the guise of public policy. These are the forces Gen. Dayton has vetted and in whom he appears to have confidence, however. We are not reassured at any level.

And when we are not supplying money to Palestinian "soldiers," we are supplying UNRWA - which has employed members of Hamas and serves as a shill for Palestinian radicalism while imprisoning multiple generations of Palestinians in "refugee camps" in various Arab countries (In April, the U.S. supplied $311,500 to replace a clinic providing services to 19,000 Palestine refugees living in a camp in Syria.) In 2008, the U.S. government provided $185 million to UNRWA; in 2009 the figure thus far is $154.5 million - separate from the additional $900 million the U.S. is planning to provide to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza largely through the corrupt Fatah government in the West Bank and UNRWA.

Somewhere in that welter of money, the Obama Administration and Congress should be asking the fundamental question - what are the Palestinians doing with American taxpayer dollars that American taxpayers would actually want done? None of our largesse has produced the slightest indication on the part of Palestinian leadership - loosely defined - that there are civic, social, cultural and security requirements incumbent upon them when they take money we are increasingly hard-pressed to hand out.

"Change we can believe in" is clearly called for here.

Bryen is special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (JINSA). Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.


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Tour organizing to meet Uganda's Jews, go on safari

By Laura Wetzler
Kulanu Coordinator for Uganda

CUMMINGTON, Massachusetts— You are cordially invited to join us on Kulanu’s 2010 “Jewish Life in Uganda Mitzvah Tour and Wildlife Safari.” The date has not yet been set, but it is important to let me know of your potential interest as soon as possible (laura@laurawetzler.com). This annual tour to visit the Abayudaya is very popular and fills up fast.

We thank Rabbi Bruce Elder and 10 wonderful members of Congregation Hakafa in Chicago for joining our most recent mitzvah tour and safari, which included some exciting sightings of zebra and hippos from beautiful Mihingo and Mweya safari lodges. Believe me, it was fun traveling through Uganda with a group from Chicago right after President Obama’s election, as all East Africans were taking pride in our new President. It was a great point of connection.

This fantastic congregational delegation, including 13-year-old Melanie and 15-year-old Jack, “walked the walk” of mitzvot, and spent a cultural exchange learning day in Namutumba village, sharing art and math enrichment workshops with the children and a child development and Torah study discussion with Namutumba parents and youth. Many thanks to Laura and Howard Klapman for seeing the need and making a donation to our Namutumba microfinance project, and to the commitment of the entire congregation and Rabbi Bruce Elder, for helping us purchase much needed beds for children at the primary school dorm.

All agreed that the Abayudaya community music and dance festival was particularly fun since there was the added joy of three Abayudaya weddings being celebrated under the huppah at the festival.

This tourism project brings employment but more importantly helps celebrate and preserve Ugandan Jewish culture. It makes possible a rare, all-village Abayudaya community gathering and

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the dancing and music are absolutely fabulous. Please try and join us on our 2010 tour for the time of your life.

Laura Wetzler has served for sevem years as Kulanu.org Coordinator forUganda (volunteer) co-creating many successful sustainable developmentprojects with the Abayudaya Jewish community, including the "Delicious
Peace" interfaith coffee project. Laura is a professional singer and songwriter, touring internationally in 150 concerts and lectures each year.

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In Search of the Partisans of Vilna: Part V

This is the fifth of eight installments of a journal by author Laurel Corona describing her 2004 research trip to Vilna in connection with the award-winning book Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance (St. Martin’s Press, 2008). While writing the book, Corona traveled to Lithuania with coauthor Michael Bart to gather information about his parents, whose activities in the Jewish resistance form a major element in the book. 

By Laurel Corona

VILNA, Lithuania—In the afternoon we go to the Yiddish Institute of Vilnius University to pick up Fania Yocheles Brancovski, who, along with Michael’s parents, had been a member of the Avengers, the legendary poet activist Abba Kovner’s partisan group in the Rudniki Forest.

A tiny woman with steel gray hair and still nearly unlined skin greets us all warmly, pausing for a moment to search Michael’s face. 

“Do I look like my dad?” he asks with a confident smile, since he’s often been told that he does.  Fania says “Yes,” in a way that says the case is closed, emphasizing the monosyllable with a wave of her hand that slices the air in front of her.

We go to lunch in a restaurant overlooking the old city.  We’re all anxious to ask questions, but when Michael hands her an alphabetical list of all the partisans in the Rudnicki Forest, we are off down memory lane.  Beginning with A, she tells us about at least a quarter of them.  Most are dead, but a few live in Israel and a few more in the United States.  She asks if we want addresses and tells us what their children have been up to. 

She tells us she met her husband in the forest and married him only a few days after the liberation of Vilna. She must have bowled him over. Fania was often sent out as a spy because with a hat on she looked like a boy, and because, unlike the men, women would not be revealed as Jews by the command to drop their trousers. Unlike dainty and flirtatious Zenia, who served as a camp cook and occasional courier between partisan units in the Rudnicki forest, Fania was one of the fighters sent on sabotage missions.  She recalls with undisguised pride that in Abba Kovner’s wife’s memoir she is called “heroic Fania.”

Michael asks her a question and rather than answering it, she points to another name on the list and tells Regina in excited Russian what she remembers about that person.  We exchange glances.  They are talking about people we don’t know, and even though Regina translates, we are learning nothing about Michael’s parents. We order lunch and wait.  Eventually Fania is ready, and the stories flow. 

We learn about an overweight partisan they nicknamed Tolstoy because of its similarity to the Russian word “tolsti,” which means fat.  We learn that she not only served in the same unit as Leizer and Zenia, but slept in the same hut. She describes how, when they got wet in the swamps around their hideout, they sometimes put their feet so close to the campfire they would realize only when the soles of their

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boots began to smolder that they were about to set their feet on fire.  Michael asks what she remembers about his parents’ personalities in the camp.  Were they somber and withdrawn?  Cheerful and sociable?  Fania replies simply, “We were all always happy.” 

I lose track of the conversation as I sit pondering what she has just said.  Thin, malnourished, cold, and threatened, they were nevertheless happy.  They were free and they were fighting back. 

We talk until we all are hiding yawns behind our hands, and then we take Fania home. Our driver, Victor, jumps from the front seat to help her out of the car.  She waves him off.  “I don’t need help,” she says.  “I’m only eighty-two.”  She walks away from the car with the pace and the sureness of a teenager.

“She is quite a woman,” Regina says. “I think even today she could go out and blow up a train.”

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The Jews Down Under ....
Roundup of Australian Jewish News by Garry Fabian

Australians react to
Netanyahu's speech

CANBERRA, June 19- Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's
Government has welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's support for an independent Palestinian state.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said on Monday that Netanyahu's speech meant there was now a starting point for peace.

"What Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech reflects today is [that] there is now a basis for a peace process for negotiations to commence," he told the ABC.

"We welcome the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has, for the first occasion, indicated that peace in the Middle East has to be based on a two-state solution."

A spokesman from Smith's office said that while the ministry was still studying the detail of Netanyahu's speech, "Australia also believes that the final characteristics of these states [should not be pre-conditional and] need to be addressed in negotiations."

The Jewish community expressed support for Netanyahu, while acknowledging the complexity of the issues and the long road ahead.

Here is reacti0n from various organizations:

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council: "AIJAC welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement clarifying Israeli's approach to peace and hopes it will be a step toward renewed negotiations with the Palestinians.
We view his statement as very much within the Israeli consensus, stressing both that Israelis support a two-state resolution, but that Israel also has needs from the peace process in the form of both security guarantees and genuine
recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State."—
Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry:"I thought it was a very important statement of principle. It put Israel's position in the correct historical context. In that respect, it
rectified the impression created by President Obama in Cairo that the creation of the State was a function of the Holocaust. And importantly, it sets in clear terms the parameters of the two-state solution and the requirement for
Israeli settlements to accommodate natural growth in their existing land footprint."—Robert Goot, president

Zionist Council of Victoria
:"Netanyahu's statement, which is welcomed by the Zionist Council of Victoria, is both fair and balanced. Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly wants
a two state solution that really works to bring peace and stability. [The connection of the] Jewish people to the land is religious, historical and continuing since time immemorial."—Sam Salcman, acting president

Australian Jewish Democratic Society—"We feel that Netanyahu's speech in response to [Obama's speech] is a grudging admission that Israel needs to change. Nonetheless, it's a welcome one that Netanyahu realises the reality
of the changed US government and the influence it has in the region.But we feel that he could have been more explicit
about the intentions regarding the settlements ... We'll wait and see what develops further. We are encouraged by the fact that he has uttered the formerly suppressed statement about Palestinian statehood. We feel that is a forward development."—Les Rosenblatt, spokesperson

Australian Friends of Palestine—"[Netanyahu's] acceptance of a Palestinian state was immediately undermined by his repeating the same positions he has held before, which were unacceptable.His views on Jerusalem, the Palestinian right of return, compensation and the settlements - in addition to his demand for a Palestinian state, which is not in control of its own defence, borders and airspace - were all unacceptable." Paul Heywood-Smith, chairperson

Adelaide Rabbi Engel and wife charged over school funding

ADELAIDE, June 18—Rabbi Yossi Engel and his wife Rebbetzin Chana Engel have been jointly charged with 39 counts of dishonestly dealing with documents in relation to a school they founded in the South Australian capital.

The couple is due to appear before the Adelaide Magistrates Court on July 30.

A spokesperson for Adelaide's Criminal Investigation Branch said the charges relate to allegations of faked report cards and other documents of the school, which was set up by the former Adelaide Hebrew Congregation (AHC) rabbi and his wife.

Rabbi Engel and his wife are believed to be in Adelaide and sources said the couple is likely to plead not guilty to the charges.

During the July 30 appearance, the court is expected to set a trial date.

Police prosecutors said the Engels were charged under section 140 of South Australia's Criminal Law Consolidation Act.

The charges relate to applications for funding that the Engels allegedly made to South Australia's Ethnic Schools Board in 2001 and 2003.

When police in Adelaide personally delivered summonses to the Engels' solicitors on Monday, June 16, it was the culmination of a long-running investigation by South Australian police into the Engels' business affairs relating to the Spirit of David Adelaide Hebrew School, which has been disbanded.

During the probe, Adelaide CIB interviewed more than 50 people, including parents of children allegedly enrolled in the Engels' school.

US-born Rabbi Engel was the rabbi of AHC from 1998 until 2006 when he was informed his contract would not be renewed at the end of the year triggering an acrimonious dispute between the rabbi and AHC, which landed in the South Australian courts.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of South Australia ruled that Rabbi Engel's contract with AHC had ended.

Rabbi Engel first came to Australia from the US as a Chabad shaliach in the 1980s and worked in Sydney's Chabad community before returning home. He arrived back in Australia to begin his job as the AHC's rabbi in 1998.

Shule body facing crisis

MELBOURNE, June 18 —A number of Melbourne's most important Jewish community structures are in danger of crumbling due to a funding dispute in the Orthodox community.

According to the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV), unless synagogues pay their full fees to the body very soon, the future of Melbourne's eruv and beth din are in doubt.

There are a number of reasons why COSV fees, set at $25 per congregational member, are in jeopardy.

Firstly, one of the largest congregations, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), has said it can still not afford to pay its fees, believed to about $25,000 per year.

And COSV facilities are being used by congregants at synagogues who do not pay COSV fees -- the user-pay system is failing.

St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, which has traditionally always paid in full, is not completing payment of its required fees for 2008/9, saying it will withdraw from the COSV
unless the "inequitable" system is rectified.

CHC president Gary Frydman said despite recognising the value of the COSV and its work, financial problems have seen the shul pay a much-reduced fee to the COSV.

"We realised we owed a responsibility to the community and even in our darkest hour we've been paying something," Frydman said.

"We've increased that recently and we plan to increase it over the next three years, so much so that in three years we hope to be in a position where we can pay the full fees."

Speculation that the shul is flush with money and has been able to make high profile appointments -- Rabbi Ralph Genende and chazan Dov Farkas -- are incorrect, Frydman said.

Appointments, including a proposed youth director, are being funded by private donations, he said.

But Stephen Pinch, president of St Kilda shul, said his board would withdraw from the COSV by December 31, if large shuls such as CHC, as well as smaller shtiebels, fail to pay the full fee to maintain vital facilities.

"We have always been supportive of the COSV and we will continue to be, however, we just cannot accept that only a handful of synagogues provide all the funding," Pinch said.

Romy Leibler, former president of the COSV and now president of Melbourne Beth Din and Melbourne eruv, said it would be a black day for the community if these institutions were left to wither.

He put the blame squarely on CHC's shoulders.

"The bottom line is Caulfield runs the risk that instead of being recognised as revitalising the shul, they'll be remembered for having destroyed essential communal service," Leibler said.

If the COSV collapses, Leibler said the beth din would likely revert to the control of Melbourne's rabbis. He warned that costs would go up, so much so, that a gett, which currently costs about $1300, may triple in price.

Current COSV president Moshe Trebish also spoke of a real threat to the eruv if funding was not pledged and secured.

"Thank the almighty God, since the eruv has started, there has not been one Shabbat or one Yom Kippur when the eruv has not operated," Trebish said.

"The community should be very proud of that and it may be that until we can find people who are prepared to contribute ... the eruv may have to close down."

A meeting will be held with synagogue presidents and rabbis shortly to discuss funding options.

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"If we don't get unanimous support from all our members to agree to funding ... then the board will have to see if it has any alternatives," Trebish said.

"But it is a very strong possibility, very likely, that we will not be in a position to fund Melbourne eruv and the beth din."

Fix this mess

By Yossi Aron

MELBOURNE -- There are various ways to fund communal services such as Melbourne's eruv and beth din.

The current model is through the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria (COSV), which collects its funds from synagogue members.

The council's future appears to be in danger, but given that the COSV plays such a major role in the life of the Orthodox community what matters most is that the current impasse is resolved as quickly as possible and that service provision continues.

The eruv has become such an important part of life in Jewish Melbourne because it enables Orthodox Jews to push prams and wheelchairs, carry essential items such as house keys and generally get out and about on Shabbat.

Older members of the community would well remember just how restrictive Orthodox life was in pre-eruv Melbourne.

And as for the beth din, COSV involvement, including funding its administration, also ensures we have corporate governance and accountability two elements that were sadly
lacking in past models run purely by the rabbis.

What is clear is that as it stands, the COSV does not run on a user-pay system and there are a significant number of people who enjoy the benefits of the COSV without contributing to its administration.

Whatever is decided over the next few weeks, this is one aspect of the COSV that has to change.

Yossi Aron is The religious affairs editor of the
Australian Jewish News, the Jewish community's
newspaper, and has been professionally involved with the COSV for many years.

Unions tone down Israel policy

MELBOURNE, June 22- The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has amended its policy on Israel and the Palestinians.

In Brisbane earlier this month, the ACTU called on the labour  movement to look at the impact of the ongoing Middle East conflict on all workers in the region: Israelis, Palestinians and others.  The previous policy had only mentioned Palestinian workers.

Paul Howes, vice-president of the ACTU welcomed the change. "The ACTU's new international policy position was adopted unanimously at the congress and importantly swims against the perceived tide of trade union support for boycotting Israel," Howes said.

Howes is also the president of the Australian Workers Union and co-foundern of the international group Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine.

A Better Way Than Slogans

By Geoffrey Winn and Manny Waks

Canberra Times, June 19, 2009

It is hard to know which dark cranny should be explored first in response to Joseph Wakim's attack on the forthcoming visit to Israel by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard ("Dangers of G'day visit to Israel" Canberra Times 17/6/09).

Resemblances between Israel and Nazi Germany? Israel as an apartheid State? Local opinion polls twisted into global propaganda? Apart from the obvious ancient canards, one is left with the impression of a rant in pursuit of nothing.

Has existential hatred of the State of Israel reached the point that a sovereign democratic nation with strong diplomatic ties to our country should not be entitled to host a delegation of politicians, businesspersons, academics and artists?  Gillard will also visit Ramallah and meet leaders of the Palestinian Authority during her stay, and despite the dismal record of failure of that leadership on behalf of its
people, no one suggests that such a meeting is unwarranted. This brand of opprobrium is reserved for Israel alone.

Like so many uninterested in the substantive dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians, Wakim cannot resist the appeal of a tired anti-Zionist tirade that adds nothing but rancour to the debate. He claims that Australians largely
sympathise with the Palestinian cause, but in truth most Australians, like all reasonable people, simply want realistic responses to an issue that has plagued the Middle East for
decades. What do polemicists against every aspect
of Israeli life expect to achieve for their efforts? Surely not the ear of a public frustrated by ideological opponents who appear more concerned to justify their position in the
commentariat than allow for a rapprochement that may put them out of business.

In the last week we have seen the results of this type of mindset. A group of anti-Israel activists and academics urged all parliamentarians to oppose the Gillard visit and rejected "the oft-touted cliché that Israel is a democracy like
Australia." The test is simple enough - voters get to vote and every vote counts. Just as important are the institutions that marshal democracy. Trade unions, journalism, secular
education, artistic expression, a thirst for knowledge and the means to fulfill it. Let Gillard and her delegation look for themselves and judge for themselves Israel's adherence to
these fundamental principles. Israelis clearly prefer to meet their critics on the ground, face to face and in the full light of scrutiny, and if judged harshly are prepared to argue with
visiting delegates as diplomacy properly requires. This is how progress is made, not through cheap allegations launched from half a world away.

At the same time we see the beginnings of dissent against theocratic Iran following the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. Whether voter fraud was rife or not, clearly the elections had at best the appearance of democracy, and even the so-called moderate Hossein Moussavi had similar views as the incumbent on nuclear weaponry and the legitimacy of Israel. Nevertheless the critics of Gillard's delegation do not petition an end to Australia's diplomatic efforts in Iran, nor the interruption of a substantial trade.

Instead they attack the one country in the region that is manifestly democratic.

Wakim has a catalogue of allegations stated as facts, but nothing to say about the value of dialogue and discourse in a region that cries out for both. It seems that Israel is in fact to be punished for its success as an economic and cultural beacon in a region that rarely rewards such enterprise. Gillard has a clearer view. "I know from my previous visit the intensity and diversity of Israel's people, how their situation encourages innovation, commitment and lively democratic discussion of the issues facing the country and the world," she said.

Gillard is aware that political, business and cultural delegations enhance not only co-operative enterprise, but also a familiarity that will allow her to candidly express the Government's policies for a just Israeli-Palestinian resolution. Those who oppose this type of exchange keep solutions at bay and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in an endless quagmire. Bigoted anti-Israel sloganeering has surely outlived its usefulness, unless the intention is to make Israel the mythic pariah that will forever excuse its enemies of any reasonableness.

It is easy enough to trade blow for blow in a bout that never ends and leaves no footprint, but much harder to search for solutions in the world of pragmatic policy making and negotiating outcomes. Gillard should be applauded for her willingness to seek a better way. Pity her critics prefer to see a world without change.

New lead in Holocaust
survivor murder

SYDNEY,June 22-- Detectives are set to identify a person of interest in the murder of Katherine Schweitzer, whose body was found stuffed in a wheelie bin at her Sydney home on Boxing Day in 2006.

An inquest is expected to start next month into the killing of Mrs Schweitzer, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor dumped in a fire escape at her apartment block in Bellevue Hill.

Homicide police will reveal at least one "person of interest" in evidence presented before the State Coroner, although a motive for the widow's murder still eludes investigators.

Detectives will not confirm if the person in their sights is a resident in Mrs Schweitzer's apartment block, or a passerby who managed to gain entry to the secure complex.

Police are in the final stages of preparing a brief with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.

A date for the inquest is yet to be announced, but the hearing is pencilled in for July.

The Hungarian-born Mrs Schweitzer was found strangled on December 27. She was dressed in her nightie.

Her body was in a plastic bin left outside the front door of her fifth-floor Bellevue Hill Road unit possibly because the killer was disturbed when trying to move her body.

Officers from Strike Force Miriam concluded she
had been murdered in her bed some time in the afternoon.

Mrs Schweitzer, an accountant, moved to Australia
with her husband Paul in the 1950s. He has died.

Jewish charity groups had been made beneficiaries
of her will because she had no family.

Apart from interviewing 40 neighbours and asking them to give DNA and fingerprint samples, police also looked at the possibility her killer may have been seeking money and been unaware that while she was asset rich, she kept little cash.

Mrs Schweitzer's life centred around Bellevue Hill. She rarely left her neighbourhood except to do her banking, post letters and go shopping.

Police have speculated that her killer may have entered her unit after she left the door unlocked while waiting for her doctor to visit.

Mrs Schweitzer called her doctor at 2.15pm. Neighbours told police they called on her between 3pm and 4pm with no response.

Police believe her killer strangled her then took the lift to the basement, where he found the wheelie bin.

Fabian, our Australia bureau chief, may be contacted at fabiang@sandiegojewishworld.com

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IDF training stresses teamwork, 'klal Yisroel'

Editor's Note: Jews for Judaism, based in Los Angeles, recently sponsored a nationwide Be-True writing contest in three divisions: middle school, high school and college, in which contestants were asked to write about their pride in being Jewish. Jews for Judaism, headed by Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, was formed in 1985 to combat efforts on campuses by representatives of other religions to proselytize Jewish students. In this nine-part series, we will bring the top three winners in each division, courtesy of Jews for Judaism.

By Yeshia Braverman
Sophomore, Santa Monica (California) College
2nd Place, College Division

SANTA MONICA, California—I have been back from the Israeli army for half a year already but still the whole experience is fresh on my mind. The thrills, and excitement, the ups and downs, everyday is nothing like the previous.

Throughout high school I wanted to join the American army. I was a patriot; the" Star Spangled Banner" always brought
a tear to my eye. My parents were not too excited about the idea. After many talks, I had an epiphany. I'm a Jew and
by joining the Israeli army, I'd be defending my people in our homeland. No matter what type of Jew you are, we are
all part of the great Jewish nation. We are family, brothers in arms, and this is truly the land of the free and the home
of the brave.

So I joined the IDF in March 2007, and I was completely unprepared. How could I be? All the movies and TV shows
I've seen about what happens in the American army portray a very intense and abusive lifestyle, so that's what I was
expecting. Luckily my experience was far from that.
With the support of your fellow soldier you could do a lot; with the support of your commanders and officers you could
do anything.

Our commanders and officers sat us down on the first day and told us all that the only way we would succeed was to love and respect one another. With the support of your fellow soldier you could do a lot; hop the wall, crawl under barbed wire, and climb up and down roofs. But with the support of your commanders and officers you could do anything; bust smugglers, capture escapees, and arrest terrorists.

Training was hell. There was the obstacle course, the weeks spent in the field, learning how to shoot, where to hide, where the enemy hides, you get the drill. There were the 3AM wake-up calls, especially torturous after not being allowed to go to sleep until 1:30AM. There was the tear gas tent where you were forced to run half a kilometer, do 30 push ups while wearing a

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mask, then enter a tent filled with tear gas and remove the mask to see how long you could last, while being detained inside by the officer inside (who is wearing a mask).

We had many, many, many hikes. We covered many, many, many kilometers. But they weren't just simple hikes; we
would walk 20 kilometers over mountainous terrain before pulling out three or four stretchers, loading the lucky few on
top (somehow it was always the same people), hoisting a couple more upon our shoulders and continuing on. All the
time getting yelled at by our commanders -- about how we were weak, and have to continue and no giving up.

But back to that support and love. Everyone was working as a team although every once in a while we had races and
competitions to see who was better and where everyone was health wise. One of the races was to complete 86 sit ups followed by 75 pushups, after which you had to run two kilometers in under nine minutes. If you didn't pass, youwere embarrassed and would have to take it again until you succeeded.

During one of the runs I witnessed one of the most beautiful, unselfish acts. We had just finished the first circle and were
coming around for the second when I noticed a couple of people falling back, exhausted. I thought to myself, “What a
shame. They're going to have to do it again.” Then I saw the lead runner and his best friend stop, turn around, and start
running in the opposite direction. They had gone back for the laggers and started running alongside them, cheering them
on and basically luring them back into the race. They didn't end up passing but they didn't mind -- they had achieved
something else: they had showed everyone else what's truly important. That's when we started creating a loving friendship between all of us. And that's what got us through all the training.

The day before we were released for a short vacation for the High Holidays, one of our main officers called the entire
company together for a talk. This was in the middle of training and there is this sort of distance between you and your commander. You are not allowed to talk to him without his permission, and even then only with great respect, you have to always remember that you are just a private and he is a first or second lieutenant. He told us to have a good holiday and then he said something which no one could believe. On behalf of all the officers and commanders, he asked us for forgiveness. He told us that all the times they had yelled at us or talked down was just for our benefit and was never anything personal. If any of us had been insulted he just wanted to say sorry and to clarify that it came from the heart, for our own good. He made it clear that we were all in this together -- as Jews, as brothers, as part of KlalYisrael, the Jewish people. And then he wished us "Good Yom Tov.”

I was beginning to realize this really is an army like no other.

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Bible in Pop Culture: ... The seventh day

Genesis 2:2

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

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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San Diego County Jewish news and publicity

SDJA Class of 2009

SAN DIEGO JEWISH ACADEMY GRADUATES—Fourth row (l-r): Dr. Jeff Davis, Dean Steve Kahn, Dean Brian Kissell, Robert (Bob) Jackson-Fantel, Ilan Bielas, Jordan Light, Michele Goldfarb-Shapiro, Andrew Retzer, Kevin Sherman, Rabbi Leslie Lipson, Coach Charlie Wund. Third row (l-r): Joshua Fechter, Benjamin Adelman, Ori Samuel, Asher Wittenberg, David Ilko, Leal Naim, Jack deTar, Sarah Abelsohn, Alexa Katz, Hunter Spiegel. Second row (l-r): Ronit Hakakha, Tamar Lifton, Haley Epstine, Michelle Efter, Arianna Contardo, Seth Weinstein, Micah Frank, Ilan Dock, Aaron Berkovich, Jacob Lerner First row (l-r): Helen Kornfeld, Marissa Ostroff, Shiri Bogomolny, Gabrielle (Gaby) Maio, Alana Michaels, Brenna Decker, Rebecca Rudin, Aliza Grossman, Jackie Gaylis
(Herff Jones photography}


Hillel Mazansky of San Diego forwards this video, from Christian evangelist Pat Robinson's 700 Club, about the Islamization of Malmo, Sweden. Here is the link.

Howard Wayne may run
for City Council, 6th Dist.

SAN DIEGO -- Former State Assembly member Howard Wayne, a Democrat who served a maximum six years in California's lower House, has filed a declaration of intent to be a candidate for the San Diego City Council--a first step in the process to get on the municipal ballot.

Wayne, a member of the Jewish community, seeks to succeed City Councilmember Donna Frye, who will be "termed out" upon completing her second four-year term. As of Monday, June 22, only one other candidate officially had indicated interest in the seat: Steven Hadley, who has been serving as Frye's chief of staff.

The primary election will be held June 8, 2010, with anyone able to capture more than 50 percent of the vote winning. If no one does, there will be a runoff in the November 2, 2010 general election. Here is a link to the City Clerk's form indicating candidates for the other three that will be up in the same election.

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Mark Twain, unknown and uncensored, is one-man show

By Cynthia Citron

PACIFIC PALISADES, California—Every once in a while an actor will come along who can capture and define a specific role so uniquely as to make that character his own forever---or at least for that generation. I’m thinking particularly of Jose Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins. And Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.

You can imagine that it would take some chutzpah then for a little-known actor to take the stage in a one-man show called The Mark Twain You Don’t Know. But surprisingly, an American-born actor from Australia does it---and damn well, at that!

Chris Wallace does not attempt to BE Mark Twain, instead he uses Twain’s many voices to tell stories that Twain intended never to publish, or stories that he stipulated should be published after his death. And in the case of his “Letters from the Earth,” some 500 years after his death!

These “Letters” are Twain’s take on religion down through the ages, and the stories from the Old Testament in particular. They are told in a dialogue between God and his archangels: Gabriel, Michael, and Satan. Stipulating that “the law of God is the law of nature,” God begins by defining the immutable natures of animals and man and noting that these creatures are just a divine “experiment.” Satan, who refutes God’s explanations, comments that, as far as “reasoning” goes, “nobody uses it where religion is concerned.” And, noting various contradictions in God’s behavior, Satan adds, “God always was unstable---except in his advertising.” Twain was virulent in his opposition to the dogmas and hypocrisies of religion, and one can well understand why he didn’t want this treatise published until he had been dead 500 years!

In his next sequence, Wallace depicts a ribald conversation from the year 1601 between a high-pitched, imperious Queen Elizabeth I and some of her contemporaries, including Sir Walter Raleigh, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, et al. The piece revolves around the question of who had let go with a monstrous fart, with the Queen questioning each one in turn and receiving elaborate responses from all those present. A supposedly hilarious spoof of the times and manners of the period (it doesn’t hold up well 400 years later), it is titled “1601. A Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors,” and Twain had intended for it never to be published.

The highlight of the evening, however, is Wallace’s version of Huckleberry Finn, a mini-play in many voices, with a little singing and dancing to boot. Condensed though it is, it

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captures the essence and the humor of Twain’s greatest work, with Wallace’s songs well in keeping with Twain’s intent.

Finally, Act I and Act II each end with dramatically moving paeans to the dead. First “The War Prayer,” in which a somber stranger interrupts the festivities celebrating the young men about to go off to the Civil War to fight for the Confederacy with a recitation of the horrors that will ensue for both sides. And, at the last, an entry from his diary in which Twain expresses his inconsolable grief at the loss of his daughter Jean.

Wallace, who is a charming performer, has done well by Twain. He is no competition for the title-holder, Hal Holbrook, but then, he doesn’t try to be. His interpretations of Twain’s “unknown” writings carry the evening.

Chris Wallace’s one-man show was presented for three nights, June 22-24 at the Pierson Playhouse in Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades.

Los Angeles bureau chief Citron may be reached at citronc@sandiegojewishworld.com

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

New Mizrachi Group
Presents N.Y. Rabbi

Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 1

The newly formed San Diego Branch of the Mizrachi Organization of America is happy to announce its first public meeting on Monday, June 1, at 8:30 p.m. at the Beth Jacob Center.

Rabbi Israel Friedmann, national Mizrachi director, will address the meeting.  Rabbi Friedmann of New York City, is very popular both as orator and expounder of Mizrachi ideology.
Mizrachi is the organization of religious-minded Zionists, believing in “The Land of Israel to the people of Israel, in accordance with the Torah of Israel.”

Mizrachi in San Diego has signed up as members the people who were present at the first formative meeting, and is issuing an invitation to all Jews in San Diego interested in Israel.
Temporary officers are:  Mr. Alvin Garber, Thomas Garber, and I. Lebb.

Hadassah Holds 12th Donor June 3
Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 1

The 12th Annual Hadassah Donor Luncheon will be held on Wednesday noon, June 3, in the Don Room of the El Cortez Hotel.  Mrs. Edward Kitaen is general chairman and Mrs. Harry Felson is co-chairman.

“The Desert Unfolds” is the theme and spectacular decorations will show the return of the birds to the land of Israel after 2000 years.  Mrs. George Wixen and Mrs. Alfred Bobrof have created a blossoming desert fantasy.  Assisting them on the decorations committee are Mmes. Ray Smith, Joseph Kaplan, William Lipin, Harry Mallen.

Many highlights are planned for the event, most noteworthy which is the first appearance here oif Mrs. Jacob Karp, a national vice president of Hadassah.

Eli Levenson will install Mrs. Robert S. Strauss as president for a 2nd term of office.  Also on the 1953-54 roster as incoming officers  are Mmes. Harry Felson, Edward Kitaen, William Podoloff, Leonard Zlotoff, Leon Solomon, Burton Ross, John Ruskin, Fred Leonard, Albert Krasnow, Morton Thaler, and Arnold Margulies.

A delightful entertaining program has been promised by Mrs. David Block and Mrs. Gabriel Berg.

Further information may be obtained from Mrs. Kitaen or Mrs. Felson and all members are urged to make their reservations.

An Explanation {Editorial}
Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 2

Recently we received a letter from a subscriber which after much thought we decided not to print.  Not that the letter was a complaint about the Jewish Press, but rather it took to task a segment of the community and its leaders.  We feel that we owe an explanation to those people who feel aggrieved by our action.
Sitting in this spot we were in the position to judge what affect this letter would have on the entire community.  Above and beyond the different group opinions and interests, we perforce must keep in mind the greater good for all of us.  I am sure that all segments of the Jewish community recognize the need for unity.  If we can achieve this at the expense of overlooking the mistakes (intentional or not) of some leaders we must try to do so.

It is probably true that certain irritants will continue to exist but this must be borne in order to avoid a major operation.  If a major operation should become necessary we assure you readers that we will not hesitate to aid in the surgery.

Linda’s Lookout
Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 2

By Linda Solof

Hi gals ‘n guys!

Happy birthday to Sherry Newman who recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday.  Sherry and a large group of her girl friends

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had a delicious luncheon at Valle’s followed by an exciting bingo game.  All the gals had a fabulous time!

Party time!  This time the gang met at Esther and Anita Weinstock’s home for an evening of luscious food, dancing, and fun.  The party was given in honor of Dora and George Schlesinger.  Everyone reported that it was a terrific party.
The guys and gals of the confirmation class of Temple Beth Israel had an unforgettable evening.  Each confirmant with a date enjoyed a wonderful coke-tail party at Rochelle Goodrich’s home before a terrific dinner and dance at the Officer’s Club. “It was wonderful” they sigh, thinking back.

The Confirmation Class of Tifereth Israel enjoyed a delightful evening with dinner and dancing at the officers club .   Each confirmant had a terrific time.

The “Temple Teens” formal dance proved to be a tremendous success.  This dance ended the round of activities for this year.  Congrats to the officers for a job well done.

Congrats to Paul Kaufman who received the State College award for the best newspaper editorials.  Good work.

So long!

Editor’s Note:  Linda was too modest to mention that she was voted “Girl of the Month” at San Diego High School.

Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 2

If you buy tickets to any show, affair, or concert and find you can’t go, don’t waste the tickets—give them to the U.S.O. 521 B. St.  Some serviceman will thank you.

Borrego Desert Resort
Offers New Plan
Southwestern Jewish Press May 29, 1953, page 2

The Jewish community of San Diego and environs will welcome with interest news that Borrego Desert Resort (formerly Hoberg’s) is now under Jewish ownership, and all vestiges of former policies of discrimination have been eliminated.  The Borrego Springs resort  is the most fashionable in the area, and a source of pride to San Diego county residents.

Most recent announcement of interest to vacationers is the new week-day “Economy Package” plan which includes a choice room, three deluxe meals, Olympic size swimming pool, tennis, hiking, handball, shuffleboard, badminton, and children’s playground for $13.00 per day per person on American plan with two in a room.  Regular winter rates for the accommodations are $18.50.

Ideal location of Borrego Desert Resort, nestled in the foothills of a mountain range in Anza State Park, insures pleasant, dry, healthful year round climate.  Latest news of interest to golf enthusiasts is the recent construction of one of Southern California’s driving ranges.

“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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