Daily Archives: 01/28/2012
NYT: Prohibition presented a dilemma. “Should Jews insist on ‘special rights’ for the sake of their own historical continuity, or break with the past for the sake of assimilation?” That dilemma, [Marni] Davis writes, meant that “in the years leading up to and during national Prohibition, Jews who made a living selling liquor, or who defended alcohol’s legal availability, unwittingly acted as flash points for American anxieties about immigration and capitalism.”
But the more scholarly challenge Davis faces is making a case for Jewish exceptionalism when it comes to the temperance movement and America’s response to it. She prudently avoids conclusive findings, gingerly pointing out that while Jews generally opposed Prohibition, class, cultural and denominational divides reflected a profound ambivalence.
Jews usually defended their exemption for sacramental wine, but so did Roman Catholics (although she aptly notes that Catholics consumed their wine in church, while Jews were allowed to drink at home, leaving a lot more latitude for bootleggers). Anti-Semites like Henry Ford blamed Jewish distillers for poisoning the flower of American youth, but, Davis writes, “the populist movement cannot conclusively be described as either indifferent or hostile toward Jews.” Similarly, “while many regarded Jewish bootlegging as proof that Jews were incapable of conforming to American values,” she adds that “one might instead regard it as evidence of Jewish acculturation, since the flouting of Prohibition law was practically a national pastime.”
We do learn that there were disproportionately large numbers of Jewish saloonkeepers in many cities, particularly in immigrant and black neighborhoods (and that their occupation was rooted in Eastern Europe, where it also provoked divisions). But when it comes to comparing customers, is it fair, or accurate, to equate German immigrant saloongoers with Jewish cafe habitués? The temperance movement held Jews up as models of moderation at the same time that Jews (and German immigrants, among others) viewed Prohibition as a potential infringement on their religious and civil liberties in a nonsectarian state.
JPost Reports: The scandal-plagued bloggers at the US think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) were blamed for triggering last week an outbreak of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment by asserting that Orthodox Jews in Israel are responsible for a film denigrating Muslims.
After the blog post appeared on the think tank’s website, ThinkProgress, an employee scrubbed the anti-Jewish language from the post without citing an explanation for the deletion.
CAP is affiliated with the Democratic party, and seeks to influence the Obama administration’s policies toward Israel.
CAP’s decision to attack religious Jews in Israel comes on the heels of an almost two-month scandal, prompting in January a White House official, who coordinates outreach to the American Jewish community, to reject CAP’s anti- Israel policies.
Last week, CAP bloggers Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib, who have been accused by prominent Jewish American and Israeli NGOs of fomenting anti- Semitism, wrote a CAP ThinkProgress blog accusing the Clarion Fund, the team behind the film The Third Jihad, of supporting a Jewish right-wing agenda.
Gharib and Clifton wrote, “Clarion was started by Israeli- Canadian Raphael Shore, who, along with other early Clarion employees, is tied to the Israeli Orthodox evangelist organization Aish Hatorah, which works within Israel’s right-wing and settler movements.”
Writing on The Weekly Standard’s blog, editor Daniel Halper criticized on Thursday Clifton and Gharib for embracing intemperate language against Jews.
Halper wrote, “a group [the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress] with a suspected Jewish problem is creating an international conspiracy theory — starring Jews, naturally — of shady folks who have disproportionate influence over others.”
Sun Times Reports: After visiting U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk on Saturday, a Democratic colleague, Joe Manchin, noted that Kirk was “getting more irritated at being in the hospital” after suffering a stroke last weekend.
Manchin’s conclusion? Kirk’s demeanor “means he’s definitely getting better,” the Democratic senator from West Virginia said.
The visit comes after Kirk survived what was probably the roughest week of his life, when he had an eight-inch-by-four-inch section of his skull removed because of brain swelling after the stroke.
His doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital give him a good chance at recovery, though he may have limited use of his left limbs and some facial paralysis.
Kirk is one of the most bipartisan, moderate Republicans in the Senate and Manchin is one of the most conservative Democrats, and the two have worked together on several initiatives. Manchin left a chair open for Kirk at last week’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama.
Forward Reports: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the failure of the latest round of exploratory peace talks in Amman on Saturday.
Abbas made the comments to reporters in Ramallah on Saturday after a meeting with visiting Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore. He claimed that during talks mediated by Jordan in recent weeks, Israel had presented an unclear position on security matters and on the question of borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Palestinian sources said Israel’s border proposal would have prevented the establishment a Palestinian state.
Palestinian officials said on Friday that the Israeli delegation’s proposal would in practice have created borders based on the route of Israel’s security fence. They said Israel was also demanding the right to retain East Jerusalem and Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank. The Palestinian sources said this would divide Palestinian territory into cantons and deprive a future state of territorial contiguity.
The Palestinian delegation was headed by Saeb Erekat, and Israel’s delegation was led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy Isaac Molho.
Capital J Reports: Ahead of Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – is collaborating with its member synagogues in South Florida to host community forums with the leading candidates’ campaigns.
On Sunday evening, a forum will be held at the Young Israel of Hollywood with leading supporters of Gov. Mitt Romney — former U.S. Senators Norm Coleman and Jim Talent.
On Monday morning, a forum will be held at the Boca Raton Synagogue with candidate former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.
(An event with former Speaker Gingrich is pending confirmation.)
The Orthodox Union, and its member synagogues are non-partisan charitable organizations that neither endorse candidates for office nor contribute to political campaigns. These forums are an opportunity for members of the Orthodox Jewish community to hear from candidates and to express their views to the candidates. The Orthodox Union has a long history of hosting such forums for incumbents and candidates on a bipartisan basis.
Colin Campbell at Politicker Reports: Recently elected GOP Congressman Bob Turner reported a relatively modest campaign haul today, showing just $76,000 raised with $71,000 cash on hand since the last reporting period. This is not an especially large pot of money to to proceed forward in what could be a tough reelection environment for him. For comparison, New York City’s other Republican Congressman, Michael Grimm, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars this cycle and has over a million dollars in the bank.
Opinion: Gingrich Gets Behind Israel, but Fails to Impress Florida’s Jewish Voters After Friday Event
The Republican Jewish audience lapped it up. But Gingrich, as grateful as he is for all the support he can get in Tuesday’s primary election in Florida, was also courting a very different audience – one that is not Jewish and which worries many who are.
Florida has a relatively large Jewish population, accounting for more than 6% of the state’s electorate given that nine out of ten are registered to vote. A few hundred turned out to see Gingrich address the Republican Jewish Coalition in Boca Raton on Friday afternoon.
Many were enthusiasts, including Rick Roth, a farmer.
“He actually has a well thought out policy on the economy. He’s not talking in sound bites,” he said. “I vote for who is the best candidate, not the one who can win. This electability issue is hogwash.”
Roth also liked what he heard from Gingrich about Israel. The Republican candidate said the Palestinians are entitled to self-government – making no mention of a state or independence – only when they recognise Israel’s right to exist, abandon a right of return to what is now Israel for Palestinian refugees and abandon hate speech against Jews.
Gingrich warned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon it could lead to a second Holocaust, and he chided Obama for not confronting Tehran sufficiently strongly. He also said that the Arab spring is turning into an “Arab nightmare” which is only strengthening the threat from “radical Islam”.
The Jewish voters in the room seemed happy enough to hear it but Roth said Gingrich’s Israel policy made little difference to his decision to support him. Others agreed. They can hear much the same thing from any of the candidates with the exception of Ron Paul, who would cut off all foreign aid – including to the Jewish state.
NYT Reports: Soon after he began running for Congress in 2009, Michael G. Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, needed to convince party leaders in Washington that he could raise enough money to become a viable candidate. Seeking help, he turned to an unlikely source: followers of an Orthodox rabbi and mystic from Israel.
Mr. Grimm, a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a Roman Catholic who regularly attends Sunday Mass, traveled around the New York region with one of the rabbi’s top aides, Ofer Biton, to raise campaign money from the rabbi’s followers. In all, the Grimm campaign collected more than $500,000 from the followers, according to numerous interviews and an analysis of Mr. Grimm’s campaign records.
That money — more than half of the total that Mr. Grimm raised from individuals — proved instrumental in his upset of the Democratic incumbent in November 2010. Since then, Mr. Grimm has established a profile as a rising Republican star.
But now, Mr. Biton, an Israeli citizen, is being investigated by the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn over accusations that he embezzled millions of dollars from the rabbi’s congregation. And an examination by The New York Times has highlighted Mr. Biton’s unusual role in the Grimm campaign — as well as questionable donations that the rabbi’s followers said Mr. Grimm had accepted.
The examination of Mr. Grimm’s fund-raising was based on more than 15 interviews with followers and associates of the rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who divides his time between Israel and Manhattan, where he has a large congregation.