Look at those names. Look at them again. Now put a face to a name, perhaps a child you know. Now imagine that as the parent of one of these kids, you sent her off to school one sunny December day — and you never saw her alive again. That’s what happened to 20 sets of parents in Newtown, Connecticut, who lost their children one year ago this Saturday in one of the biggest mass murders in American history.
Now think about the day after. And the day after that. Maybe, just possibly, that will put you into the heads of these parents — parents who have woken up every morning for the past year to a house that’s just a little bit quieter, and much, much emptier than it should be.
Did something change in America that day? For many people, the Sandy Hook shooting lit a spark that allowed them to raise their voices and say they weren’t going to take it anymore. It took 26 caskets to allow them to stand up and demand change, and despite strong pushback, they continue to move forward.
In some cases that change has been heard loud and clear. The shooting pushed Connecticut to enact the most stringent gun-control laws in the nation. It has brought conversations to the highest levels of government in other states, though not in ours — at least not meaningfully. That absence of conversation will result in more gun deaths. Given how many thousands of shootings have occurred since Sandy Hook, it’s almost guaranteed.
When I first saw the picture of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest of the children to fall to those bullets a year ago, one thing came to mind: He looks just like my son. That hit far too close to home.
Do you know what else hit close to home? That a gunman launched a killing spree in what should have been a place of safety for Noah, his school. Sound familiar? It has been seven years since an armed, criminally insane man burst into my workplace in the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot a half-dozen women. Every morning I let myself into the building is a reminder of some of the innocence everyone in this community lost that day. Thankfully, we didn’t hold nearly as many funerals as they did in Newtown. But one was still too many.
At the grassroots, change is happening. Cheryl Stumbo, my former colleague who underwent more surgeries than we can count to fix what that gunman took from her has finally found her voice. So has Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, who was present following the Federation shootings, and at the mass murder at a house party on Capitol Hill a few months before that. With Stumbo, Weiner has been at the forefront in Washington State to keep guns out of the hands of people too mentally ill or criminal to be allowed access to them. Seventeen local Jewish organizations and counting stand behind them. We should follow their light, not the darkness that also emerged from Sandy Hook.
The idea that Sandy Hook could have been prevented by posting an armed guard at the door of a fortified school is incorrect, and it misses the point. We shouldn’t accept a lesson that militarization can be the solution to school shootings. We shouldn’t accept that the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in security “enhancements” would come at the expense of children whose only hot meal comes from the cafeteria, that armed guards mean another year or two of outdated, disintegrating textbooks. For some districts, those are the choices they must make.
At the same time, of course, we shouldn’t be so naïve to think that just anyone can be allowed to waltz into a school with a Bushmaster semi-automatic and blast away. Schools need to be safe, but they also need to be welcoming spaces to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning. There’s a place in between that can allow for both.
Today, however, we need to remember these kids from Sandy Hook. Look at those names again. Remember them. These are children who died needlessly. Don’t let their deaths be in vain.
I can remember the moment marriage equality became important to me. More than eight years ago I sat down with a member of our local clergy, David Serkin-Poole, a man who with his partner Michael had adopted and raised three children with special needs. Why, I wondered, was I allowed to marry the woman I loved? I hadn’t done anything particularly special or important by the time I walked down the aisle, and I took that right for granted. Yet here was someone who has done this much good — and continues to do good things for his congregation and his community — and he doesn’t get the same right to marry the man he loves?
Since then, this newspaper has expressed support for marriage equality. With a measure on our ballots to uphold same-sex marriage in Washington State, I ask today that you do the same and vote to approve Ref. 74.
While I don’t mean to put the Serkin-Pooles on a pedestal — after all, they deal with the same ups and downs and mundanities of life as any other couple — it was the opportunity to understand their lives and the indignity of being denied something as fundamental as a marriage certificate that made me understand how this family was considered less than equal in the eyes of the law.
As Jews, many of us have known what it is like to be shut out of certain areas of society, whether it was in health clubs, colleges, neighborhoods, or, as we remember far too well, civilization as a whole. Many of us cite past discrimination as a reason to prevent it further today.
When we wrote an editorial in 2009 in support of Referendum 71, which gave same-sex couples “everything but marriage,” we said this:
It’s an issue of fairness. As Jews, whether it’s because we have experienced unequal rights so many times in the past, or because we live in the belief of loving thy neighbor as thyself, it should be of utmost importance to ensure that our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow synagogue members have the same rights as everyone else.
That holds true today. We said at the same time that the issue then wasn’t about marriage, but about those rights that married couples often take for granted. What has become clear is that “everything but marriage” is not enough. There are still times when a couple during a crisis must pull out a card proving a domestic partnership. That partnership is recognized here, but not necessarily everywhere else. And is anyone renting a tux and booking a DJ after heading down to Olympia to pick up a domestic partnership registration card?
Opponents of this measure say Ref. 74 redefines marriage. This law would redefine who can get married, but for those of you married already, I have one simple question: How does it redefine your marriage?
Think about that. For two people who love each other to be able to walk down the aisle and stand in front of a rabbi and declare to their community that they are joined in marriage both before God and before the state is a very powerful thing. How can we justify that such a right shouldn’t be available to everyone?
What’s interesting is how the marriage issue transcends party lines. According to a poll released earlier this year by the Public Religion Research Institute, fully 81 percent of Jews support same-sex marriage. Taking a closer look, of the people who identified as Democrat, 89 percent approved of marriage equality. That’s most, but not all. Fully half of Jews who consider themselves Republican — 48 percent, plus the margin of error —also approve. The study also noted the trend of support is heading in one direction: Up.
We are well aware that not everyone agrees or will agree on this issue. That’s okay. Passage of the referendum doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop, and the law is explicit in stating that clergy who do not wish to perform such marriages cannot be obliged to do so.
Many halachic Jews, those who live strictly by the laws set forth by the Torah, see the idea of two men or two women getting married as a problem due to the prohibition of them lying together. But marriage is about far more than consummation. We all know this — it’s about teamwork, it’s getting through the night when a partner is sick, it’s watching TV together, it’s getting the kids to school on time. It’s loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
As a newspaper that serves our entire Jewish community, we must welcome in as much of our community as we can, regardless of anyone’s place on the spectrum of observance.
Over the last couple decades, more and more synagogues and Jewish agencies have become welcome homes to gay, lesbian and transgendered Jews. A coalition of 28 Jewish organizations across the state are leading the charge to approve Ref. 74 because they too see the need to seek justice for everyone who comes through their doors. We are proud to be a part of that coalition.
So please vote to approve Ref. 74. You can do it for Cantor Serkin-Poole. Or your neighbor. Or your sister. All things being equal, we all should be equal.
As we begin our new year and reflect on the one drawing to a close, we often use this as a time to think about how we can better support our Jewish community. One way to support your community, and at the same time help to sustain the resource that lets you know what’s happening in your community, is by making a donation to JTNews. Your donation, whether it’s $36, $100, $500 or $1,000, though not tax deductible, will help us improve upon everything we do, in the name of better informing and educating you. We will thank all of our donors on our honorary masthead this coming October.
Simply visit the “Subscribe” page at www.jtnews.net or contact Becky at 206-774-2238 to make your gift.
Thank you, and shana tova from all of us at JTNews.
I have been paying close attention to the recent news about gay and lesbian teens who could no longer take the incessant bullying they received at the hands of their high school peers — and ended their lives. An initiative by local sex-advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner first brought my attention to the matter. This initiative is called the “It Gets Better” project, in which they and hundreds of others have created short video testimonials to let these teens know that their lives can and do improve once high school ends. The videos are honest, simple, and very affecting.
But this issue, I should point out, is not just about being gay. It’s about what we do in the face of injustice against other people, whether it’s bullying or something far worse.
And it appears this issue is gaining traction: More than 3,000 Jews across the country have signed a pledge, created by the Jewish gay and lesbian group Keshet but sponsored by a massive list of national Jewish organizations, to “send a message to everyone in our communities that we will not stand by in the face of suffering and injustice.”
But there was also the counterpunch. On Oct. 4, a firestorm was being unleashed at the offices of one of our East Coast counterparts: A few days before, the Jewish Standard of northern New Jersey ran a lifecycles listing announcing the engagement of two men. Then, following what the editor described as having “caused pain and consternation” to the Orthodox community, she posted an apology with a statement that the Standard would no longer run such announcements.
I was stunned. But I was not alone.
Two days after the Standard’s apology, following an outcry heard across the country and as far away as Jerusalem, the paper retreated — somewhat — to the point of saying it would hold discussions with community leaders. But it did not, as of that time, reverse its decision.
Why should we be upset, and given that the Jewish Standard serves an audience 3,000 miles away, why should it matter here in Washington State? Simple. We are a community newspaper. We serve our community. It should not be incumbent upon JTNews or any similar publication to decide who within this community should or should not be included. Even if doing so may hurt the feelings or not fully adhere to the beliefs of others, it is up to us to stand up and let the disenfranchised in. We must err on the side of inclusion. This goes for all members and segments of our community.
It is an issue far bigger than a wedding announcement, but given the outcry on both sides, the JTNews editorial committee agreed that now would be a good time to bring up our own policy regarding such announcements for same-sex couples, which we adopted in 2004:
JTNews Editorial policy – Lifecycle announcements
The mission of JTNews is to be inclusive of the entire Jewish community. Therefore, the policy of the JTNews is to accept marriage, commitment ceremonies, engagement, B’nai Mitzvah, birth and obituary announcements from all couples — including interfaith and same-sex couples — as long as at least one of the members of the couple is Jewish.
While it is JTNews’ mission to be inclusive of all members of Washington State’s Jewish community, this does not include so-called “Messianic Jews,” or any others who claim to be Jewish while embracing Jesus Christ.
As of this time, JTNews has never run an announcement for a same-sex couple — because nobody has ever submitted one. So let us indulge in being a little self-serving to note that the lifecycles section as a whole has been looking a bit anemic of late. Whether you’ve got a wedding announcement — gay or straight — a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a birth, a conversion — yes, we accept submissions but have yet to run one of those, either — or, because it too is a part of life, death notices, visit the lifecycles page on our Web site, where you can download the appropriate form. And of course if you’ve got something to say about this policy, we would love to hear from you about that as well.
Referendum 71, which if passed will enact into law Senate Bill 5688, giving same-sex couples and domestic partners over the age of 62 the same benefits given to married couples, is supported by a large number of Jewish institutions. It’s a list that includes many synagogues and individual rabbis across the state, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center — among many others. We urge approval of R-71 as well.
It’s an issue of fairness. As Jews, whether it’s because we have experienced unequal rights so many times in the past, or because we live in the belief of loving thy neighbor as thyself, it should be of utmost importance to ensure that our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow synagogue members have the same rights as everyone else.
While we recognize that many people in the Jewish community do not support same-sex marriage rights, we must emphasize that R-71 is not about marriage. It is about the rights of some family members who do not have the necessary access to their loved ones in times of crisis. It is about conferring those rights that people who can legally be married may take for granted — hospital visitation, state pension and death benefits, guardianship, even dissolution of the relationship — to those who do not have them even though they have loving partners and families.
R-71 also allows seniors who, whether because of economic or familial reasons, find living with a partner best for their health and well-being, and give that partner the ability to act in the event of an emergency or death but does not strip away benefits conferred upon them by a former spouse. We do have concerns about ethical issues surrounding what could be construed as “double dipping” from pensions or the ability to continue receiving alimony or other spousal support, and whether this aspect of SB5688, as often happens with any new law, could result in unintended consequences. It’s an aspect of the law that may need to be revisited by the Legislature in the future.
While we think it is absurd that the happiness and rights of others must be subject to popular vote, it is the situation in which we find ourselves. And it is because of that we urge voters to approve passage of Referendum 71.
On a tragic night a little over two and a half years ago, when Seattle’s Jewish community was in shock following the murder of one woman and the wounding of five others, we also learned that we had a friend, and an important one at that. Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle’s police chief, spent a good part of the night at the Harborview Trauma Center on July 28, 2006, and he’s been particularly responsive to the needs of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish community at large since.
Chief Kerlikowske will soon depart Seattle for the “other” Washington, pending Senate confirmation, to join the nascent Obama administration as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. His departure will leave a hole that we can only hope will be filled with as conscientious a leader in law enforcement. It’s not every police chief who visits and surveys the scene of a crime, even one as horrendous as what happened at the Federation; it is certainly not every police chief who keeps lines of communication open with members and leaders of the affected community more than two years after the fact; it’s most definitely not every police chief who calls on survivors, on his own time and with his wife, for social and well-being visits, as Kerlikowske did.
So as he packs his belongings, wraps up his business here, and prepares for his confirmation and new life in Washington, D.C., we would simply like to give a sendoff to Gil Kerlikowske with these words: Thanks, Chief. We appreciate all you’ve done.
We can’t escape the bad news about our economy. It’s on television, it’s in the newspapers — this one being no exception — and for many of us, it stares us in the face when we look in the mirror. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel good at least some of the time, especially during Hanukkah, when giving gifts is at the front of our minds.
In the spirit of our commandment to perform tikkun olam, repairing the world, we should take the time to try to give something that can be meaningful to our friends and loved ones. Even better, take this exercise in tikkun olam as an opportunity to teach your children about helping others.
Here are some examples of items or gestures that can be gratifying for you as well as the recipient:
• If you have kids in their pre-teens or teens, give them a set amount of money, perhaps $20, and ask them to do the research to find a charity or person in need to which they can donate the money.
• Volunteer at a food bank — our state has many, including one that fulfills the kashrut needs in our community. But don’t just do it right now. Make it a year-round effort. Food banks and delivery services need helpers just as much in July as they do this time of the year, when most people decide to lend a helping hand. And be sure to bring a few extra cans or boxes with you when you go!
• Help an elderly neighbor or resident in a nearby retirement or nursing home with basic tasks or house cleaning. Shopping for their groceries is also amazingly helpful. What you get back is a grateful new friend and likely some telling stories about what things were like in the old days.
• Check in regularly with friends and family that have fallen on hard times. Chances are we all know somebody. For them, a gift might be food on the table, but it’s just as important that they know you care.
• If you are dealing with job loss, foreclosure, family issues or anything like that, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people and organizations both within and outside of the Jewish community willing, and hopefully able, to help.
We could go on and on, but most of us can see people hurting all around us. If we plan to help, we need to start somewhere. Studies have shown that even during a recession, those of us experiencing financial difficulties can see others who are worse off and step up to the plate to help in any way they can. The Jewish community has been no different.
Make this Hanukkah a memorable one by giving of yourself.
JTNews runs editorials with the backing of its editorial committee on an ongoing basis. If you would like to comment on this editorial, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sparked by reaction to an editorial cartoon appearing in the last issue of JTNews, our editorial committee met for a lively conversation. We discussed the cartoon specifically, and the larger issues we consider when developing content for our “Page 3” (and beyond) Viewpoints section.
How can we serve as “The Voice of Jewish Washington” when the voices are so numerous and varied? How, particularly in this compressed, emotionally charged political season, can the voice of Jewish Washington fairly represent our diverse constituency?
This week, our editorial committee developed a set of guidelines for Page 3. Because we want you to understand our position and the thinking behind it, we are sharing the guidelines here.
As always, we invite you to participate in the conversation. Whenever you have an opinion to share with our community, please send letters to the editor and contribute frequently to our citizen’s blog, The Transcript, online at jtnews.net.
We wish you a happy and insightful High Holiday season.
VIEWPOINTS PAGE GUIDELINES
The Viewpoints section of the JTNews includes contributed columns, editorial cartoons, signed editorials by the JTNews editor, and unsigned editorials by the JTNews Editorial Committee. The Editorial Committee of the JTNews has adopted new guidelines on editorial content of the Viewpoints section.
1. The JTNews is the voice of “Jewish Washington,” representing a broad range of
religious, cultural, economic, social and political views.
2. The editor will make a best effort at fairly balancing viewpoints. Such balance need
not necessarily occur within the same issue of the JTNews, but should
occur in a time frame that is appropriate for the matter being addressed.
3. Families of public figures — meaning local or national officeholders or candidates for office, celebrities, clergy, organizational heads, and other newsmakers determined
by the editor to be public figures — shall not be addressed editorially unless they are
substantively involved in an issue that is the subject of the editorial.
This may not always hold true for reporting.
4. Content should be of interest to the Jewish community of Washington state, whether
directly or tangentially, and consistent with the mission statement of the JTNews.
5. The Editorial Committee may add or modify these guidelines at any time, and, through
its normal process, may make exceptions at any time.
Upon hearing of the break-in at Havurat Ee Shalom, the heart of Vashon and Maury Islands’ small Jewish community, the editor at the island’s local paper, The Beachcomber, decided to do something more than report on the incident.
If you travel the roads of the town of Vashon today, which serves as the center of the island’s community, you’ll see many of the storefronts and cars with Stars of David taped to their windows. In an editorial immediately following the vandalism, with a graphic of the Magen David printed on the same page, Beachcomber editor Leslie Brown wrote: “This act doesn’t hurt only Vashon’s Jewish community. It affects all of us who live here. It affects the fabric of our civic life. And how we respond says something about who we are as a community.”
The paper modeled its response after an attack in Billings, Mont., 15 years ago, when more than 6,000 households put pictures of menorahs in their front windows after a vandal threw a brick through a window of the home of a family that had been proudly displaying their burning Hanukkah candles.
“We at The Beachcomber are determined to play a similar role on Vashon, to do what we can to support our Jewish community and to encourage others to stand up in solidarity with our Jewish friends and neighbors,” noted the Beachcomber’s editorial.
It is a show of solidarity that could not have come from this or any other Jewish newspaper; the message would not have had the same meaning. It should mean a lot to all of us that a small community paper is willing to stand up with such courage (though we would hope the paper would do the same for any minority community that experienced a similar incident) — and that the community it represents is willing to stand up and show its support for its local Jewish population.
So for that, Vashon Beachcomber, we say thank you.
Rising health care costs are putting financial pressure on middle-class families
Well, it’s official. The cost to insure my family now exceeds the size of my wife’s paycheck. To many of you who are in the unenviable position of having to self-insure your families, this comes as no surprise. Keeping covered is very expensive. To those of us whose health care is dependent upon our jobs — and really, that’s most of us with jobs — insuring ourselves has not been a big deal. When it comes to our families, however, that’s often a different story.
Many of us who work in the Jewish community think of it as a calling. There’s a certain amount of pride and a sense of belonging in furthering the goals of the Jewish community — we take it personally. At the same time, we enter this world knowing we could get paid much better in the for-profit sector, and historically the benefits — both the kind provided by our employers and the kind of knowing the work we do makes a difference — have been pretty good. Until recently.
The JTNews staff is insured under the health plan of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, meaning the rates for employees is next to nothing — and it’s great. But to add my family to that plan would cost me over $1,000 per month. No thanks. Insuring families with other Jewish agencies isn’t much better — and in some cases it’s worse.
But because we made a choice — for my wife to work part-time so she can be home with our child — that would seem like the obvious way to get my family covered. The alternative, that she get coverage with a full-time job, would be nearly negated by what it would cost us to put our son in day care.
So we found another alternative, private insurance, nearly the same plan at a third of the cost of what the Federation would be able to provide. And for a couple of years that was fine — not cheap, but manageable. Then last year, the rates jumped. This month, they’re jumping again. And when we have our second child this October, they’ll jump even more. So through next July, unless there’s some miracle of modern health care, we’ll be shelling out 700 bucks a month — more than double what we were paying 14 months ago.
And we’re not alone. I know plenty of other people who, though they may have decent jobs or consider themselves contractors or self-employed (even if they have a place of work), have to insure themselves. They too are feeling the sting of the ever-increasing insurance policy.
Our state’s insurance commissioner made a big deal about gaining authority on approving insurers’ rate increases when the governor signed Senate Bill 5261 earlier this year.
“Consumers who purchase their own health insurance can rest easier today knowing someone is watching over the shoulder of the health plans,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement in April on his office’s Web site. “For eight years, anyone who purchased their own health insurance had to take the word of the health insurers on blind faith. Under the new law, consumers will know that someone took a careful look and made sure that the rate they’re charged is justified.”
But who’s watching over the shoulder of the insurance commissioner? Kreidler last month approved a 17.8 percent increase for Regence-Blue Shield, according to a June 12 report by the Seattle Times. Regence, incidentally, reported a nearly $900 million surplus in its most recent financial statement filed with the state. And they want more? That sits on the backs of a middle class that is already being pressured by increases in gasoline, food prices, and, coming soon, even bus fare. At what point do we say we’ve had enough?
I say that time is now. If my family, which is stuck in the middle class in the Bush economy, needs to choose between health insurance — a necessity that provides for the present — and preparing for retirement and college — a necessity that provides for the future — what’s the first to go? It’s not going to be the health insurance. Add on top of that our other necessities: groceries, mortgage, utilities, nursery school, the occasional movie and dinner out. Something has to give.
I’ve got friends at places like Microsoft who don’t have to think about this stuff. Their families are fully covered at no charge. And to hear people who work in the Seattle-area technology sector say it, even the small startups recognize that to gain the best employees they need to offer family-friendly benefits even greater than the Redmond behemoth. That’s a lesson local agencies must learn if they want to draw in and retain talented, committed employees to truly do the important work they need to do.
I know that our local agencies have their hands tied in what they can afford to provide their employees while providing for our community’s needs. They’re just as stuck as I am, but maybe bringing several smaller organizations under Federation’s umbrella could increase buying power and bring down rates. As the de facto lobbying organization for the Jewish community, shouldn’t Federation also make affordable health care a priority on its legislative agenda? The newly created Sound Alliance has already announced its intention to do so.
Both presidential candidates have detailed plans to improve health care nationwide, but I’m not holding my breath that we’ll see anything happen anytime in the near future. Smart policy requires then that the states will have to ensure their citizens are covered by at Both presidential candidates have detailed plans to improve health care nationwide, but I’m not holding my breath that we’ll see anything happen anytime in the near future. Smart policy requires then that the states will have to ensure their citizens are covered by at least a basic health care plan. Kreidler, Washington’s insurance commissioner, has a plan he’d like to see passed in next year’s legislative session, and while it’s not going to take the burden off of my own situation — it truly is a basic plan that covers catastrophic care more than anything else — it’s a start. And, more importantly, with the tighter squeeze that the majority of us are beginning to experience (if we haven’t been feeling it already), it’s time to let our health insurers know that enough is enough.
Some Seattle citizens have reached back to 1967 in crafting an initiative they hope to put before the City Council. Initiative 97, which is sponsored by a local group called Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, uses broad strokes in its call to have the city’s retirement investment board discontinue investing in any business that “prohibits investment in corporations that do business in or with certain Israeli settlements or in disputed territories,” as well as in Iraq.
This initiative is an affront to anyone who believes that Israel has the right to defend itself, in particular from repeated attacks in the 41 years since the end of the Six Day War. We believe the language (even after a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Israel advocacy organization prevailed in getting its title changed) is troublesome, in large part because it reduces Israel, a complex and multi-faceted democracy, to a single issue: its status as an occupying power.
Seattle Divest’s initiative language names two specific companies: Defense contractor Halliburton and Caterpillar, the manufacturer of bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian houses. No public American companies that we know of have set up shop in Israel specifically to profit from warfare.
To explain why Boeing is not a target of divestment, Seattle Divest says on its Web site: “[I-97] has a narrow scope, and is meant to target companies that have a direct presence in illegally occupied land.” We note that Caterpillar has dealers in Israel and the Palestinian territories — but Coca-Cola sells its products in both areas as well. Because of this, the group’s intentions appear nefarious to us.
We recognize the divisions in the community over Israel’s presence in the West Bank and, until nearly three years ago, the Gaza Strip. We also sympathize with Palestinians’ need for a homeland and a cessation of the hardships of army checkpoints and refugee camps. Jewish activists in Seattle, more than most communities in this country, have sought to create a peace in the region that would be fair for both sides. By ignoring the work of those activists who might otherwise agree with Seattle Divest’s position on Iraq, this proposed legislation undermines those efforts as well.
To use the city’s retirement funds as a battle ax in this group’s fight against occupation — funds that invest millions, if not billions, of dollars each year using several different fund managers — is not only wrongheaded, it would likely be an administrative nightmare.
It would also be 180 degrees from what the state’s investment board has done in directing its own fund managers to divest from Iran’s energy sector, as was reported by JTNews on March 21 of this year — an effort promoted by the same players who are most vocal in opposing I-97.
We urge Seattle residents to not sign the I-97 petition.
JTNews runs editorials with the backing of its editorial committee on an ongoing basis.
Is it a religious imperative or a matter of convenience? Though Jewish Democratic activists are claiming victory in the rescheduling of the party’s county conventions from the morning of the first evening of Passover, we believe that it’s a hollow victory.
An online petition drafted by these activists garnered more than 800 signatures and flooded the phone lines of the party’s office, resulting in Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz’s announcement that the conventions would be moved to as-yet-undetermined dates and times. But the campaign and subsequent capitulation by Democratic leaders should make Jews of all political persuasion stop and think about the ramifications of this accommodation.
The statement on the Move the Convention Web site created to protest the convention date read, in part: “On Passover, Jewish families all across our state gather for a traditional seder dinner. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, it is a time of family togetherness, and it is a time when many Jews are out of town or are hosting visitors. The Party doesn’t hold meetings, much less county conventions, during the weeks before Christmas, the week of Thanksgiving, nor on Easter weekend, and it should not hold these important county meetings on the morning of the day Passover begins.”
The meeting was scheduled for Saturday, April 19 at 9 a.m. Passover doesn’t begin until sundown that evening.
If the issue were of the conventions being held on the Sabbath, which was cited in 2006 by state party chairman Dwight Pelz as a reason not to schedule events on Saturdays in general, then we could understand a call by local Jewish Democrats to move events that happen on any Shabbat to Saturday evening, after Shabbat ends, or a weeknight. If, however, the issue is solely about Passover, then changing the event is more about convenience — not religious imperative. This is because the convention will end before the holiday of Passover actually begins. Opposing a convention on the day of the eve of Passover would be like opposing any event that occurs on a Friday (before sundown).
We should note that activists have been working for years to move party events from Saturdays to allow any Jewish Democrats to observe Shabbat, and we would have supported the petition had it been based on that premise.
The date of the convention was unfortunate, especially in light of the 2004 convention, when activists at the King County event forced anti-Israel language onto the party’s platform. But to protest an inconvenience in which place settings would trump political action is not an infringement on religious observance, and past experience has shown that such protestations have resulted in embarrassment and unintended consequences.
Here are a few tips and features we hope you’ll start to use on a regular basis
After months of building and designing, the new jtnews.net Web site is now live! We encourage you to visit the site, but here are a few tips and features we hope you’ll start to use on a regular basis.
You may notice that you now have the option of registering to become a member of our site. Registration is free, and you can rest assured that we do not share your information with anyone. With the exception of lifecycles and calendar submissions, we currently do not require users to be logged in, but in the next few months some sections of the site will be available only to registered users.
Community and World News: While our regular news items will continue to be updated on our publication date every two weeks, we will post breaking news items throughout the week, so be sure to check back. Also, we are now posting regular news updates and daily news briefs from JTA on the World News section of our site. Arts stories can be found in the arts section, along with any upcoming arts events.
Viewpoints and Columnists: Opinion pieces, letters, Rabbi’s Turn, and our regular columnists that you know and love are now online, including past articles! Navigating to any of these is simple — just click on the navigation menu on your left.
The Calendar: Our new calendar is one of the parts of the site we’re most excited about. On the bottom of our front page, view any day’s event during the current month by simply clicking on the date. Once you get into the calendar itself, however, your options open wide!
You can choose to see everything available for the day, or by using the dropdown menu under the full month view, you can break down events by type. We’ve got adult education events, arts events, Israeli dancing and more. If you think there’s a type that’s missing, let us know and we can consider adding it to the list.
Our goal with the new JTNews calendar is to become a central source in our local community to find anything going on, whether it’s Torah study, a concert, youth group meetings or a tot Shabbat service.
While our online events listings are expansive, keep in mind that we have limited space in the newspaper, so we will have to be selective about what goes into print. Daily events and most religious services will not be printed in the paper, but we will strive to ensure that every single-occurring event does make it into print.
For the first time, you can now submit your own listings to JTNews online. Simply click on the Calendar link at the left side of the screen, then click on “Submit Calendar Event.”
Fill out the form, submit, and you’re done! You can submit once-occurring events and daily or weekly events — we just ask that the event be Jewish in nature. The event will appear online pending approval from our calendar editor.
Remember, regular deadlines still apply — 10 days before publication date — if the event is to be printed in the paper.
Lifecycles: Catch up on weddings, births, B’nai Mitzvah and obituaries, updated each Friday we publish the paper version of JTNews. Submit your own event by clicking on the submit link on the right side of the page. You can even upload a digital photo! You may also download a form and send it in via e-mail or regular mail. Also new — we will now begin accepting conversions as a lifecycle event, though only via downloadable form. Publication deadlines apply for lifecycles as well.
Archives: You’ve asked for them, and they’re back! Click on the Archives link and search by section or keyword. The rebuilding of our archives is still in process, but if you would like to help us with this effort, we’re looking for a few volunteers. Just send an e-mail to email@example.com or call us at 206-441-4553.
Professional Services Directory: View providers of all types of services offered from our sponsors.
Additional Web necessities: Deadlines, contact information, and advertising information can be found running across the top of each page of the site. And if you’re interested in advertising online, contact our publisher Karen Chachkes at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Now that the trees have gone back up at SeaTac Airport, what lingers is anger and sadness in the Jewish community — and not much warm feeling at this time of year.
Nobody comes out of this episode looking good.
The whole situation could have been dismissed as another salvo in this ridiculous so-called war on Christmas, but for one thing: the resentment exhibited toward all Jews for the actions of one.
Should Chabad Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky have threatened a lawsuit, if that is indeed what his attorney did? Probably not. Should the Port of Seattle have pulled down the Christmas trees? Most definitely not. Should the phone calls and e-mails to more than a dozen Jewish organizations, and Web postings on local media sites from people with nothing better to do but rant and threaten — oftentimes based upon false or incomplete information — have been so hateful? Absolutely not. But here we are.
The noisy voices who have finally found a tangible scapegoat for this war on Christmas are having a field day, and will continue to do so until the next travesty to complain about comes along. Whatever collateral damage in their quest for a good story, facts be damned, now lies ravaged by the side of the road.
I don’t for a second believe that Rabbi Bogomilsky intended to cause damage — and whether it’s by him (and by extension, Chabad) or the Port of Seattle is certainly up for debate. It appears, though, that hiring an attorney was the only way to get the airport to do something. And while the rabbi has said he is appalled by the action the Port took in removing the trees, he was naïve in allowing things to go as far as they did.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that the rabbi has received hundreds of angry and in some cases threatening calls. Letters sent to JTNews have been just as anger-filled (some are printed below). From one man, who wrote, “I hope you are quite pleased with yourselves,” as if we are all responsible for this debacle, to the woman who tells the rabbi that he has “stolen a reminder to the countless numbers of people that pass through those doors that do not know God” — and is therefore in need of healing, these letters were ugly, spiteful, and woefully misinformed. And they’re calling the rabbi a Grinch?
That people can devote so much time and anger to what is, ultimately, an issue of incredible unimportance is beyond me, particularly at a time when there’s much more to be worried about. Iran’s president, for instance, made headlines by hosting a conference on Holocaust denial. Why not take their misplaced anger and direct it there?
This whole mess makes me think that this can be a moment where members of our Jewish community, whether or not they agree with Rabbi Bogomilsky on this or any other issue, can educate the general public on who the Jewish community is. We can demonstrate the many different voices, beliefs and backgrounds that define us, and the futility of attaching one man’s opinion to that of the entire population.
So again this becomes a call to action, and there couldn’t be a better time to remind you of two events coming up before the end of the year that show how the Jewish community can unite to help others in need.
The first is this coming Sunday, December 17, when Rabbi Jim Mirel, Matzoh Momma Catering, and a host of others (including JTNews) host the annual fundraising dinner in support of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. This organization has been operating for years to help provide meals to the hungry — an endeavor that provides for not just Jews. JTNews — and I mean its staff, not just the paper you hold in your hands — support this event each year with advertising and editorial space because we believe in its mission and we think of it as an event that can bring the community together.
While the meal is free, the organizers are asking for a per-person donation of $50 at the door, all of which will go directly to MAZON. The event takes place at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill (1520 E Union St.) at 5 p.m. Please join us!
Also, an ad we printed in last week’s issue of JTNews mistakenly gave the date for the event as Dec. 12. For any of you who mistakenly showed up at the synagogue hoping for a meal, we apologize profusely, and implore you to please come back for the Sunday event!
The second thing going on is the community-wide Mitzvah Day volunteer effort. You may recall, in August, immediately following the shooting at the Jewish Federation, I issued a call to action to create a day of volunteering based upon a conversation that Pam Waechter, who died in the shooting, and I had had a few weeks before that terrible day.
Plans for such an event are quickly coming to fruition, and on December 25 the Federation’s Young Leadership Division is organizing its Mitzvah Day to help organizations both in and out of the Jewish community with any help they may need.
Though the event is being put together by YLD, it is open to anyone and everyone — and that means you. You have to sign up in advance (forms are available on the Federation’s Web site at www.jewishinseattle.org), but once you’re registered, you will be placed on a team of volunteers on projects that range from painting and cleaning to visiting the elderly or serving dinner to homeless people. You can also contact 206-774-2216 or yld@JewishInSeattle.org to get more information.
We may not all be comfortable wearing our Judaism on our sleeves by asking for a menorah on a public space, but we can show the world that as a community, we are more than willing to help where help is needed most.
We’re taking a couple of weeks off, so we’ll see you next year.
As supermarkets and coffee shops struggle to keep up, the march of eastward development is moving at full speed. New neighborhoods and even new highway exits have popped up in Issaquah in just the past couple years. The town of Snoqualmie is growing by leaps and bounds and plenty of Jewish families are filling those homes. So where?s the outreach?
One answer is Chabad. As can be easily judged from the large list of individuals and families that Chabad of the Central Cascades has built and programmed for over the past two years, there is certainly a demand for something Jewish, whether it be religious or cultural. But Chabad is one voice. There should be a chorus of many that are available to Jewish residents who live as far east as North Bend ? without having to drive eight, 10 or even 20 miles for Shabbat services or religious education (though some currently do). As many of the Seward Park neighborhood?s Jewish residents can attest, they live there because it is walking distance to the three synagogues that serve the area.
Granted, Seward Park serves a largely Orthodox community, but why shouldn?t observant families who are new to town or want to live in new homes with easy access to Microsoft and other Eastside workplaces be precluded from getting it, just because they can?t walk to shul on Shabbat? If churches in these outer rings of the exurbs can pop up to serve the population, can?t synagogues or small havurot explore expanding to those areas as well?
There are currently no publicly announced plans for any kind of Jewish cultural center beyond Bellevue. Federation has not been attempting to connect with Seattle?s farthest reaches. As the Stroum Jewish Community Center gears up for a capital campaign, perhaps it could consider taking the lead: rather than update its 40-year-old Mercer Island facility, the campaign could be structured so the JCC invests more in Seattle?s Northend, where it has long been looking for space to expand services, and also develop another center in the Issaquah Highlands, where space is cheaper and a new hub for culture, prayer and education can be established.
Spiritually, while we certainly wouldn?t advocate for families to leave one congregation for another, if some people are willing to drive 20 miles for Shabbat services, how many are not? Bellevue has four synagogues, and Mercer Island two, but they don?t bring in everyone. Woodinville saw a need and filled it. West Seattle has done the same. So who will stand up for Fall City?
JTNews runs editorials with the backing of its editorial committee on an ongoing basis. If you would like to comment on this editorial, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
As American citizens, it is your right, your privilege, and your duty to vote in the election next week. This election, more than almost any other in our lifetimes, could be the most important in deciding the direction our country will take over the next generation.
With the American Jewish community’s rich history of actively taking part in the democratic process, this year will certainly be no different. Jewish voters often bring their Judaism into the voting booth, but the definition of Judaism is different to each Jew, and several issues will drive the direction of how those votes take place: Israel and faith-based initiatives are among the more volatile subjects that may tip the balance in this particular election.
But while voters may bring their Judaism with them to the polling place, they don’t always know if the beliefs and agenda of the lesser-known candidates are synchronized with their own. It is often these candidates that could affect our day-to-day lives more than the big-name contenders.
Nearly everyone who steps into the voting booth this Tuesday will know who they want for President, Congress, Senate, and some of the various statewide initiatives. Most people who have ever voted will probably be able to recall a time when they chose an unfamiliar name and did not think twice about it.
Don’t do it again! You have your faith when you enter that voting both, but you also have a choice - to not vote at all. At a time where organizations from the right to the middle to the left are spending millions of dollars to get us to the polling places, it is irresponsible to not have at least some knowledge about a candidate or issue before making a choice.
If you feel that you must vote for someone, educate yourself first. Read the voter’s manual that should have by now arrived in your mailbox. Look up the positions on issues on the candidates’ Web sites. Listen to the candidates when they campaign.
Learning the issues is time consuming, but it is also your democracy in action. Part of the American Jewish electoral history is to know what and whom you are voting for. Don’t forget our history.
JTNews, with the backing of its editorial board, prints occasional editorials that affect the local Jewish community. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.