Posted Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
How should the American people treat a population which only has a marginal economic impact yet still manages to stimulate job growth and consumption in the country? The presumed answer is sadly far from the reality of how America behaves towards “illegal immigrants.” They often work 10 – 16 hours a day for minimal if not nominal pay without legal protection, risking imprisonment and deportation, and have no footholds which could lead to a more productive life. Constantly being treated as the “other” has significant social implications for these workers often leading to deep alienation.
Jews can empathize with those who suffer from governmental and societal discrimination. Throughout history, Jews were consistently considered strangers and outsiders, whether from Egypt, Spain, or the Former Soviet Union, and we have on an international scale lived lives in fear due to geo-political and socio-economic discrimination.
Currently, many Jews mistakenly perceive undocumented workers in the United States to be an alien, (“the other”) as if our own immigration status were a relic of the distant past. In fact, thousands of illegal Jewish immigrants - from Israel, Latin America, and the Former Soviet Union - live in America today at risk without documentation as well. If not for our historic past, then for our religious teachings we must address the grave injustice and mistreatment of undocumented workers in America. The Torah teaches, “You shall have one law for the stranger and the citizens alike” (Leviticus 24:22). We may not treat the citizen and the stranger differently according to Jewish law.
Judaism places the highest emphasis on the freedom and dignity of the human. The strictness of national borders that places nationalism over individualism is a religiously flawed stance. The Rabbis taught that “God gathered the dust (of the first human) from the four corners of the world. Why from the four corners of the earth? So that if one comes from the east to the west and arrives at the end of his life as he near departing from the world, it will not be said to him, ‘This land is not the dust of your body, it’s of mine. Go back to where you were created.’ Rather, every place that a person walks, from there he was created and from there he will return.” The Torah stresses that nationality is not a part of human essence and thus we can never allow for discrimination.
The dawn of globalization has enabled the possibility for a free flow of money, products, and labor. However, while we continue to knock down barriers for the flow of money and products, we are erecting higher walls preventing the most underprivileged people from migrating naturally.
Non-Jews and Jews alike should reverse the cruel punitive practices in the U.S. because the undocumented population has a marginal economic impact, and in fact stimulates job growth and consumption. Currently about eleven million people work in the US illegally, and their net economic impact on Americans is relatively small. The most conservative estimates show that undocumented workers only contribute around .03 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. This is approximately equivalent to the net cost of government services given to this immigrant population. While this overall impact is small, many sectors in the American economy, such as construction and agriculture, would suffer greatly without the labor of undocumented workers.
Second, even the Chamber of Commerce is in support of those “already contributing to our economy” becoming legalized. A 2010 report demonstrated that across US industries, the net effect of immigration has actually created more jobs for American citizens, including low-skilled workers. Contrary to public perception, immigrants do not take jobs away from American laborers; rather, they take jobs that would otherwise be sent abroad.
Finally, studies show not only that these workers tend to increase productivity, but that they also naturally support the local economy as consumers.
Therefore, the result is that undocumented workers actually support the American economy as productive members of society, and yet suffer at the hands of that same society. The American Jewish community must be at the forefront to resolve this inequality. Some of the smallest adjustments can ensure the largest impact. For instance, all workers, including those undocumented, must receive a living wage and this will strengthen the overall economy through a decrease in unemployment. Raising wages and benefits, perhaps counter intuitively, decreases unemployment because it has been shown that those who are happier at their work stay longer and are more productive.
For the welfare of this country, write to your Representatives in government to begin supporting a sector of America’s workforce and to end the oppression of undocumented workers.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the senior Jewish educator at the UCLA Hillel. He is also founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek and a fifth-year doctoral candidate in moral psychology and epistemology at Columbia University. He is also on faculty at Shalhevet High School.
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July 28, 2011 | 2:11 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Confirming Wednesday’s tentative ruling, a San Francisco judge ruled on Thursday to strike from the city’s Nov. 2011 ballot a controversial measure that aimed to prohibit circumcision of males under 18.
The proposition attempts to regulate a medical procedure, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi wrote in her decision, and is therefore “expressly preempted” by existing California State law. Such propositions must be removed from the ballot, Giorgi wrote.
According to the Associated Press, the ballot measure’s proponent, Lloyd Schofield, is considering an appeal.
The judge’s decision was welcomed by the families and groups who brought the lawsuit aiming to have the measure removed from the ballot before it reached voters.
“While we are confident that the overwhelming majority of San Franciscans would have voted to defeat this extreme measure and are grateful for the outpouring of support from every sector of the community, we believe the right decision was made in the right venue,” Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council, said in a statement.
July 27, 2011 | 4:30 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In a tentative ruling published this afternoon, a San Francisco Court ruled in favor of removing a controversial proposition that would have prohibited circumcision of males under 18 from the city’s November 2011 ballot.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi found that because the proposition aims to enact an ordinance that “attempts to regulate a medical procedure, the proposed ordinance is expressly preempted” by an existing California State Law.
Giorgi issued her tentative ruling in advance of an already scheduled hearing for Thursday, July 28, which will go ahead as planned.
The decision was welcomed by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, even as they acknowledged that the tentative ruling wasn’t likely to be the end of the court battle over the ballot measure.
“We expect that the other side will appeal, so we’re in this for the long haul, but this is extremely good news and will make tomorrow’s court hearing less of a nail biter,” Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), wrote in an email.
The JCRC led a group of plaintiffs in bringing the lawsuit, which included Jewish and Muslim families, doctors and Jewish ritual circumcisers.
Lloyd Schofield, the ballot measure’s proponent, defended it against the lawsuit. Schofield notified the plaintiffs Wednedsay afternoon that he will appear in court on Thursday morning to oppose the ruling.
According to documents filed with the court, Schofield is acting as his own attorney. He could not be reached for comment.
“It’s a great win for San Francisco parents,” Nicole Aeschleman, an attorney representing three of the plaintiffs in the case, said of the tentative ruling. “Parents will continue to have the ability to make decisions about the health and well-being of their children in consultation with the medical professionals who will actually be performing those procedures.”
Schofield submitted over 12,000 signatures on behalf of the measure, which was certified in May to appear on the ballot in November.
Aeschleman said she believed that the language of the ballot measure had not been finalized before Wednesday’s ruling, nor had any ballot materials been printed.
“We brought this motion when we did so that it could be decided before any costs would be expended on the ballot,” she said.
Though much of the discussion—particularly in the Jewish community—has centered around the ballot measure’s lack of a religious exemption, Wednesday’s tentative ruling made no mention of religion.
The text of the ruling is below:
Case Title:JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL OF SAN et al VS. JOHN ARNTZ, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR et al
Court Date: Jul-28-2011 09:30 AM
Calendar Matter: Notice Of Motion And Motion To Grant Writ Of Mandate And Injuinctive Relief; Compilation
Rulings: Set for hearing on Thursday, July 28, 2011, line 8, PETITIONERS JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE PENINSULA, MARIN, SONOMA, ALAMEDA AND CONTRA COSTA COUNTIES, THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE, JEREMY BENJAMIN, JENNY BENJAMIN, LEO FUCHS, JONATHAN JAFFE, YAEL FRENKEL-JAFFE, SHEILA BARI, LETICIA PREZA, KASHIF ABDULLAH, BRIAN MCBETH, ERIC TABAS, Motion To Grant Writ Of Mandate And Injunctive Relief.
The Court finds that the proposed ballot Initiative is expressly preempted by California Business and Professions §460(b). The evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure. California Business and Professions Code §460 (b) applies to medical services provided by a wide range of health care professionals. The statute speaks directly to the issue of local regulation of medical procedures and leaves no room for localities to regulate in this area. In fact, the legislative history of §460(b) confirms that the legislature intended to prevent cities and counties from regulating medical services which is a matter statewide concern. Because the proposed ballot initiative attempts to regulate a medical procedure, the proposed ordinance is expressly preempted. Moreover, it serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made. City of San Diego v. Dunkl, (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 384, 389 Accordingly, the Court issues a Writ of Mandate Ordering the Director of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco to remove the measure from the ballot in its entirety. The applications to file a brief as amicus curiae, to file a brief in excess of the maximum number of pages, and for pro hac vice admission by the Doctors Opposing Circumcision are denied. These motions were filed two days before hearing and courtesy copies were not provided until the day before hearing, which is extremely untimely.
July 26, 2011 | 2:47 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
When the towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, wreckage was strewn across Lower Manhattan. Papers from offices fluttered all the way into Brooklyn. And as cities across the country prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the remnants of the towers are traveling even farther from Ground Zero.
On Tuesday morning, July 26, construction workers installed the centerpiece of the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden, a piece of twisted steel salvaged from the World Trade Center.
“The first time I saw it I said a ‘Hail Mary’ it was so powerful,” Reggie Sully of McCoy Construction said of the beam, which is about 30 feet high and weighs approximately 1,800 pounds.
The memorial garden is being constructed on the grounds of the Beverly Hills Fire Department at the intersection of Rexford Drive and South Santa Monica Boulevard.
Sully estimated the cost of the project at around $400,000, all of which is being covered by private monetary and in-kind donations. Sully, who has been overseeing the work at the site on a daily basis since April, has had his time donated by his construction company’s owner, Peter McCoy.
The beam will stand upright on a base shaped like the Pentagon, which will be inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the coordinated terrorist attacks ten years ago. Beside then beam will stand two towers shaped like those of the World Trade Center.
The twisted piece of metal is but a small section of the 13,000 feet of steel that remained of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced in 2010 that it would make the relics available—free of charge—to any organization that promised to exhibit them publicly (and could pay the cost of shipping), over 1,500 local governments, fire and police departments and other nonprofit groups submitted requests.
The curators of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, now being built at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, got first pick from the remains, which were stored for years in an abandoned hangar at the John F. Kennedy International airport in New York. A cross-shaped section of steel was moved into place at the museum last week.
The remaining relics were all allocated to groups in all 50 states and entities in seven foreign countries—more than 1,100 groups in all—on a first-come, first-served basis. Fifty-three of the pieces are set to be installed as memorials around California.
In Beverly Hills, work is proceeding on schedule for the memorial’s scheduled dedication on September 11, 2011.
July 26, 2011 | 1:27 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
When the second issue of “Foreskin Man” became public, the anti-circumcision comic book’s portrayal of a villainous Jewish ritual circumciser, Monster Mohel, generated accusations of anti-Semitism against the comic book’s creator and against the entire anti-circumcision—or intactivist—movement.
A new online comic strip, “Smegma Man Gets Circumcised,” recently entered the fray, aiming, in the words of its creator, to parody “Foreskin Man” and argue the case for circumcision’s health benefits.
“We point out the hypocrisy of the people who use cartoons and other methods to defame the Jewish people,” Ed Margolis, one of the creators of “Smegma Man,” said.
Together with his nephew, Noah Crissey, Margolis, a Jewish lawyer based in Chicago, has been creating editorial cartoons on a freelance basis.
Most of Margolis and Crissey’s work has focused on the Middle East, but on July 25, Margolis, 67, posted the first two of six planned chapters of “Smegma Man Gets Circumcised.”
If “Foreskin Man” looked like an action comic—think Spider-Man, Superman or Daredevil—the style of “Smegma Man” is much more similar to cartoons that appear in newspapers.
Margolis and Crissey’s parody, which is named for the substance that collects on the tip of an uncircumcised penis, is at times confusing and convoluted. Its plot jumps quickly through place and time and its first two chapters do not include discussion of the implications of circumcision on a person’s health. Its narrative is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle references to Nazis and Nazism, in an effort to draw attention to what Margolis sees as the anti-Semitic goals of intactivists.
“The efforts to suppress circumcision go back to the Romans,” Margolis said. Speaking of the current effort to ban circumcision in San Francisco with an initiative set to be included on the November 2011 ballot, Margolis said, “It’s definitely directed at destroying the Jewish community. That’s what it is. There’s no health basis for being an opponent of circumcision.”
As has been covered in the Jewish Journal and elsewhere, intactivists say circumcision has no medical benefits, puts patients at risk of complications and can cause a reduction of sensitivity in the penis.
In its 1999 Circumcision Policy Statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that although there were potential benefits to infant circumcision, the data were not sufficient to recommend that the procedure be carried out on a routine basis.
“Foreskin Man” was written by Matthew Hess, who also wrote the San Francisco ballot measure that aims to prohibit circumcision of all male minors in the city for any reason other than medical emergency. The comic has been entered as evidence in a lawsuit being brought by Jewish community groups and interested parents in an effort to have the measure removed from the ballot. That lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in a San Francisco courtroom on July 28.
“Smegma Man,” by contrast, has been seen by very few people and is still a work in progress.
In the first two chapters of “Smegma Man,” the strip’s hero, a blond boy named Helmut, moves from Brazil, where his parents live in “a close-knit expatriate German Enclave,” to Detroit to live with his Uncle Max. When Helmut’s girlfriend, Delilah, discovers, to her horror, that he has not been circumcised, Helmut decides to consult with a sports medicine doctor, Hans Mengele, who uses growth hormones and steroids to buff Helmut up.
“Every word in that comic has a reference,” Margolis said, explaining that Brazil was a country where Nazi officers were known to have emigrated after World War II. Detroit, Margolis said, was the city where he thought John Demjanjuk, a notorious prisoner-guard who was convicted by a German court in May 2011 as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in two Nazi death camps, lived in the United States. (Demjanjuk actually lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.)
Crissey works for the United States Postal Service and lives in Seattle, Wash. He is, Margolis said, working to complete the remaining four chapters of “Smegma Man.”
Margolis has already written the rest of the story, in which the newly muscular Helmut returns to the United States, reconnects with his childhood sweetheart and—at her urging—undergoes an adult circumcision.
In the comic’s subsequent chapters, Margolis said, Helmut meets “Foreskin Man” creator Hess at a party. But, Margolis explained, in his book, the anti-circumcision superhero is always referred to as “Smegma Man.”
“We didn’t want to have any trademark problems,” Margolis said.
In the comic’s dénouement, Margolis said, Helmut, after being mistaken for “Smegma Man,” denies that he is the intactivist superhero in a TV interview with Larry King. He then prevails in a fight against Warrior, a long-haired character with a Swastika tattooed across his chest that Margolis said he plucked directly from the pages of “Foreskin Man.”
“His is the enforcer for an organization called the Intactivist Underground,” Margolis explained.
On www.foreskinman.com, Warrior has no tattoo, and Hess has repeatedly denied that he or his comic is motivated by anti-Semitism, saying that his efforts are “pro-human rights.”
Margolis is not convinced. “I think that his work is anti-Semitic, and the images that he has created are anti-Semitic and have foundations in traditional anti-Semitic drawings, which he seems to be very familiar with,” he said.
The conclusion of “Smegma Man” can already be seen on the comic’s website. One panel shows Warrior sliding down a deli counter—groin first—directly toward a meat slicer.
Asked whether he thought his comic—which is replete with Nazi imagery and references, and concludes with a man being unwillingly circumcised by spinning metal blades—would advance the cause of those looking to preserve the rights of Jewish parents and others to circumcise their sons, Margolis said he wasn’t concerned.
“This guy is getting his balls cut off. It’s poetic justice. I never thought of it like that,” he said. “I still like the ending.”
July 25, 2011 | 7:08 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
For anyone who has been to Downtown Culver City lately, the large-scale photos of local swimmers hanging from the lampposts are almost impossible to miss.
“The Secret Life of Swimmers” is a project by Judy Starkman, a Jewish photographer who frequents the Culver City Plunge the city’s only public pool. Starkman spent a year shooting portraits of some of her fellow swimmers, and asked each of them to pose for her twice—once poolside in a swimsuit, a second time somewhere else in everyday clothing.
Starkman documented the process over the course of the year on her blog, and the final portraits went up earlier this month along Culver Boulevard.
Like many swimmers, Starkman clearly feels at home and very comfortable in the water. But in following her subjects to their home turfs, Starkman had to get a bit further out of her comfort zone.
Such was the case when Starkman followed Barry Shore to his Orthodox synagogue.
Shore, Starkman writes on her blog, was paralyzed by a rare disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack part of the nervous system. Shore was able to recover from his paralysis through swimming.
Barry arrives at the pool walking with the aid of walker or a walking stick. He still has trouble moving, his nerves did not make a full recovery, but he is walking and not in a wheelchair. As he tells me all the time, “beats a wheelchair, kiddo!” He has a full time health worker who has to wait three hours for him at the pool because Barry swims three hours a day, six days a week. Of course, he takes the Sabbath off. He swims rain or shine, wind, or snow, as the case was last week. He’s now up to three miles a day. He swims mainly on his back with the aid of two floatation devices on his withered legs, but he is swimming. He listens to religious tapes and never stops moving. Swimming has transformed his life.
Starkman’s blog entry about Shore includes her account of meeting the rabbi of his synagogue. “[W]hen I met the Rabbi,” Starkman writes, “and I went to shake his hand, he skillfully retracted it and with some floundering told me, ‘I..I don’t touch women.’”
The complete series can be found here.
July 23, 2011 | 1:49 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
July 23, 2011 | 11:02 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Anders Behring Breivik is not an anti-Semite. That’s what makes my head spin. If the translations of his writings that I’ve read are accurate, he might even be a pro-Israel, philo-Semitic racist Nazi.
With his atrocious massacre of over 90 innocent Norwegian children and adults, Breivik has redefined the stereotype of the European right-wing Christian fundamentalist. Norway once had plenty of them: it’s World War II era prime minister, Quisling, even gave his name to the English language as a word meaning one who toadies to power.
Back then, thousands of blue eyed blond Norwegians joined the SS, helped round up and deport the country’s Jews. Of the country’s 2100 Jews then, 758 were murdered in death camps. The country’s leading author at the time, Knut Hamsun, became a Nazi sympathizer who wrote a glowing obituary for Hitler.
Today there is still a problematic approach to Jews and Israel among some Norwegians. In a July 2009 report entitled, “Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway,”
Manfred Gerstenfeld wrote, “Again over this past year there were significant anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents in Norway. Among these were anti-Semitic television satire programs, an act of the Nazification of Israel by a Norwegian diplomat, physical attacks on a pro-Israeli demonstration, death threats against Jews and a desecration of a Jewish cemetery.”
Gerstenfeld pointd out that some of the anti-semitism is generated in the country’s growing Muslim community.
But Breivik was not party to that. In his twisted ideology, the struggle was not between Christians and Jews, but Christians and Jews versus Muslims. Jews, and especially Israel, formed the bulwark against Muslim domination of Europe.
There are many web sites where adherents of this particular brand of racism connect, stew and brew with one another. Islamversuseurope.com (“Where Islam Spreads, Freedom Dies”) even now posts an apologia for the child-killer, essentially blaming Muslims for Breivik’s massacre of Christian children.
“These are Google translations of comments Anders Behring Breivik made on the website document.no.” the author writes. “There is very little that he said that I would disagree with. It is clear that he is a Counterjihadist and visits the same sites that most of us do, Gates of Vienna, Jihadwatch, Atlas Shrugs, etc. He cites Fjordman’s “Defeating Eurabia” many times.”
Here is a taste of Breivik: “When did multiculturalism cease to be an ideology designed to deconstruct European culture, traditions, identity and nation-states?” said one entry, “According to two studies, 13 percent of young British Muslims aged between 15 and 25 support al-Qaida ideology.”
“… Europe’s Muslim population of 15 million will become 30 million by 2015, while Europeans will shrink by 4 per cent,” he writes. “Princeton academic and Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis famously said, ‘Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century.’ If Friday’s bombings in Oslo is a dark harbinger of troubled times, soon, Muslims will be the new Jews of Europe. For all the old Jews are dead: murdered by fellow Europeans in Auschwitz, Riga, Buchenwald and so many other “anus mundis.”
“Anti-semitism has strong roots in Europe going back centuries; in the Dark Ages, Venetians preferred to trust Arabs as trade partners and equals while Jewish merchants were exiled to ghettos or deported at will.
“Europeans today hate America for its Jewish gestalt, distrusts US Israel policy which they argue is driven by a powerful Jewish financial lobby in America; much like how the Rothschilds financed wars in 18th century Europe. An interesting 1980s study about why Europe has been more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause until the late 1990s and hostile to Israel puts it down to simple neighborhood deprivation: the postwar generation of Europeans grew up without Jewish neighbors, Jewish classmates, Jewish friends. Hence, they had no natural empathy with Jews.
“Now the reverse is happening in Europe. It is the presence of Muslims in Europe that is the source of social panic and anger. The fear of being overwhelmed and alienated in their own country by outsiders who they think will breed terrorists. All this makes a fertile breeding ground for anti-Islamic neo-Nazism…What happened in Oslo Friday may be the early beginning of a new civil war ‑ Europeans fighting each other, both Muslim and Christian. In this scenario, the horrifying irony could be that Islamist terrorism may become redundant. “
The Jewish reaction to all this should be strong and clear: take your hate elsewhere. To paraphrase our prophet Groucho Marx, we don’t want to be part of any club that would have us as a member.
These racists see Judaism as a tribe with which they can make a strategic anti-Islam alliance. That is a misconception. Judaism has a tribal aspect, but it is more than just a tribe. It is a set of laws and values that Jews believe God set before that tribe, and which they must adhere to (with room for argumentation and interpretation, thank God).
Those values pretty much preclude the murder of innocents, baseless hatred, and the death penalty for people whom you fear. And that is why a person like Breivik’s head would spin to know that Muslims in Israel have greater rights to free speech than they do in most Muslim countries, as well as the freedom to practice their religion. Israel’s record on Arab minority rights isn’t perfect (standard disclaimer), but it reflects the values of Judaism that supersede those of pure tribalism.
In other words, against the Muslims and the Brieviks, I side with the Muslims.