Jewish Journal

This week in power: Biden, Lapid budget, Poland, Oklahoma cleanup

by Danny Groner

May 23, 2013 | 3:26 am

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Biden's comments
Vice President Joe Biden talked on Tuesday night at a Jewish American Heritage Month event where he highlighted American Jewish influence for helping to shape policy, including gay rights. “The truth is that Jewish heritage, Jewish culture, Jewish values are such an essential part of who we are that it’s fair to say that Jewish heritage is American heritage,” he said. Not everyone was thrilled by this characterization. "Biden’s intentions here are obviously as friendly as can be, but the execution is awkward. The civil rights movement today is so widely sanctified that mentioning the disproportionate Jewish role in it is in the same category as mentioning Einstein, Jonas Salk, and so on — look at all these wonderful things the Jews have helped bring us," pointed out Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. It's probably best not to bring it up.

Money issues
After Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid took away $100 million from yeshivas that were being paid by taxpayers, reports surfaced that wealthy Haredim would foot the bill. Some are calling it “a Lapid bypass plan." For Haredim, "Lapid and his colleagues are little more than the latest incarnation of what the halakhic literature calls minim – Jewish assimilationists whose hatred for the Jewish religion and for religious Jews has contributed to governmental decrees against Jews and Jewish practice for centuries," according to The Jerusalem Report. But he does have one thing going for him, said The Daily Beast's Emily L. Hauser: Public opinion. "He doesn’t want to be brave, or bold, or honest. Yair Lapid wants to be elected. And he’s not going to risk that for anything so inconsequential as the truth."

Attention on Poland
Poland is seen as having the "worst record on the restitution of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust," according to reports. And Jewish groups that are seeking restitution are doing everything they can to get their due. Poland sits as the only European country that does not offer private property restitution to Holocaust survivors and their families. While these groups rally to recoup at least some of the losses, others are grappling with issues of faith that came out of WWII.

New report
Discrimination is on the rise, but not just against Jews, Muslims, too, according to an annual Department of State report. Anti-Semitism in particular grows in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran. During the announcement, Secretary of State John Kerry appointed a new special envoy on anti-Semitism, Ira Foreman. The position has been around since 2004, and Foreman worked to recruit Jewish voters for President Obama ahead of the past election. "Of course it is a sad statement that in the 21st century, the United States requires a high-level post to deal officially with anti-Semitism," said a Jewish Week editorial.

Oklahoma tornado
Jewish groups were among the many organizations to volunteer with the efforts to help those displaced by the tornado in Oklahoma City this week. “We are numb with grief, and yet inspired by the heroic resilience of the people of Oklahoma,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said. Others are sending love through prayer: "You told Elijah, the prophet, that You were not in the windstorm. Please, then, be in the still, small voices of the children crying out to be found. Be in the voices of the rescuers calling out for survivors. Be in the cries of those who are lost and of those who have lost."

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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