Some thoughts for Rosh Hashanah: If we took a vote on what trait we human beings most value, goodness would undoubtedly win. Certainly goodness is the trait that we most want everyone else to possess. But if we say we value goodness above everything else -- and surely Judaism does -- why aren't there more good people? A big reason is that it is easier to value other things -- including, and especially, positive things -- more than goodness. So it's much easier to be just about anything rather than good. It’s easier to be religious than to be good.
Here is a truism we all already know: Jews are news. The fact is, no matter how tiny the American Jewish community might be — between 1.5 and 2 percent of the population — the battle for Jewish votes will be extensively reported and analyzed.
San Francisco-area Jewish organizations condemned a proposed ballot measure to outlaw Jewish ritual circumcision in the city.
In the first sign of a post-election struggle to set the American Jewish community's Middle East agenda, a quartet of liberal pro-Israel groups is criticizing Jerusalem's decision to launch retaliatory attacks against Gaza.
" . . . What drew me to politics was the esteem I had always felt for public service and the commitment of our religious values to justice, human and civil rights, peace and the importance of helping all people be able to realize their full potential. And, of course, the essential task for our nation to be engaged in the world as a force for good . . . "
Can fundraising success translate into Capitol Hill clout? That's the question facing J Street, the new liberal pro-Israel political action committee, which raised nearly $570,000 for 41 U.S. House and Senate candidates.
For months, polls showed Obama languishing at about 60 percent of the Jewish vote, a critical chunk short of the 75 percent or so Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) garnered in 2004. But exit polls from the Tuesday election showed Obama matching those results, garnering about 78 percent of the Jewish vote against 22 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his Republican rival.
For months there was constant talk about Obama's Jewish problem, a lingering fear -- with plenty of empirical evidence -- that an unusually high proportion of Democratic Jews were going to vote for McCain. But in the end it didn't bear out. An early exit poll from CNN concluded that Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote.
The presidential race makes the headlines, but there's lots of emotion, energy and money left for the 12 statewide propositions on the California ballot. As in McCain-Obama contest, Jewish voters are sharply split between the Democratic/liberal majority and the Republican/conservative minority.
Because of Nevada's role as a swing state, many Jews on both sides of the ticket in surrounding states are flocking to Las Vegas to help stump for their cause, including Democrats from the blue state of California and Republicans from the red state of Arizona, McCain's home state.
"This is not an election where Jews feel they can wholeheartedly embrace either candidate. I've had this conversation numerous times, particularly with older people. But at some point you have to make a decision, and I doubt Jews will sit out this election." -- Jonathan Sarna
When it comes to the Middle East and Sen. Barack Obama's Democratic Party platform, things are staying pretty much the same -- which, in this case, is the kind of change pro-Israel activists can believe in.
As the public face and founding executive director of PJA, Sokatch, 40, has been lauded by the left and loathed by the right.
Letters to the Editor.
If Barry Gordon seems to be one of the lone liberal voices on the radio (he jokes that listeners are as likely to hear Gordon Liddy as him on KCAA), he follows in a tradition that goes back to FDR.
Letters to the Editor.
It is time that we American Jewish liberals who have been left leaning about our politics regarding Israel begin to review the support we give to the organizations that have been leading us. They are proving themselves obsolete, outdated and out-of-touch.
Letters to the editor: Bush administration's failure to deal with violence in the Middle East; maintaining Jewish unity instead of deference to the Jewish Left; Torah portion by Rabbi Lisa Edwards on Leviticus; response to Michael Steinhardt on Jewish philanthropy; and more.
Gary Wexler levels the charges that Americans for Peace Now (APN), along with other organizations associated with American Jewish liberals, are obsolete. He writes that
we are ignoring the "real" threats facing Israel such as those emanating from Syria and Iran, that we are out of touch with the mainstream for questioning the efficacy of Israel's current military actions in Lebanon and Gaza, that we are wrong to believe a peace partner exists on the other side and that our "knee-jerk" reactions and inability to recognize and react to the redefining of American Jewish support for Israel will prove to be our ultimate downfall.
Democratic districts on Los Angeles' Westside and in the Valley, next week's primary will not only determine the Democratic winner but also the person who will almost certainly win in the fall's general election. And Jewish voters, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, will play a key role in the outcome.
While a student at Columbia School of Journalism, Rachel Boynton saw a film about the history of 20th century nonviolent conflict that included a segment on how American consultants had gone to Chile in 1990 to produce TV ads for a successful campaign to end Gen. Augusto Pinochet's long autocratic presidency.
You didn't see many Jews amid the sea of Mexican and American flags during the recent pro-immigrant rallies that filled city streets, but Jews and Jewish groups, in largely liberal Los Angeles, have been advocating on behalf of immigrants, mostly outside the view of television cameras.
Being a right-winger nowadays may seem like no laughing matter, but there really are conservatives with a sense of humor. Even ones who tell jokes professionally. Even Jewish ones. And some of them appear at "Right to Laugh," a comic showcase staged most recently at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills earlier this month.
Last year's big holiday debate was whether the Jews had ruined Christmas. This year, with erev Chanukah coinciding with Christmas Day, people have begun asking how we can save it.
When asked how he differs from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, Robert Greenwald deadpans, "He's taller than me. He has a beard."
For years, American Jews, including liberals, have watched in astonishment as Europe's left-wing media, academic and political elites have turned decisively against Israel and, to some extent, Jews, as well.
"What do you do?" I ask. He's in computer programming. Wonderful. Can't make too much conversation out of that answer. I try my best. It lasts all of two minutes. And then it happens: he asks the same of me.
The narrow defeat of mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg marked a signal defeat not only for Los Angeles but for the future of Jewish influence in Los Angeles.
"Come on, Mr. Davis," he said with an edge now in his voice. "You should know better. You're a journalist. That neocon crap is just as easily disproved as Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It's clear fabrication -- used by Bush and his cronies to justify an unjustifiable war. Better to check the terrorism coming out of Washington before looking elsewhere."
"Anything that moves a few hundred or a few thousand voters one way or another in any state can cause a seismic shift," said John Zogby, a pollster who says the closeness of this election is leading opinion-gatherers to focus more than ever on small groups like Jews.
The current March/April issue of Adbusters magazine features a lead-in piece by editor Kalle Lasn titled, "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?" In it, Lasn points out the fact that of the 50 or so neocons influencing United States diplomatic and defense policy either within government or in media and think tanks, about half are Jewish.
How does a Jewish community journalist cover such a non-Jewish election?
Jewish leaders continue to decry Mel Gibson's forthcoming Jesus movie for supposedly threatening to whip up anti-Semitism. Due out next April, "The Passion" identifies Jewish priests as instigators of the crucifixion.
I have tried explaining it to friends outside Los Angeles. But the Los Angles Times of Sunday, Aug. 3, cannot be explained in words alone. One must have held the paper in hand to appreciate what appeared that day.
The latest book to charge into the battle of the media, "What Liberal Media?: The Truth About 'Bias' and the News," by Nation columnist Eric Alterman, attempts to give ammunition to the liberal side.
The World Union is the umbrella organization for 1,500 Reform, Reconstructionist, Liberal and Progressive congregations in 44 countries and, Regev estimated, touches the religious, educational and social lives of approximately 2 million Jews.
Does 2 percent of the country really believe legalizing pot is the most important issue? Are 12 percent really going to vote for Lapid, a former in-your-face talk-show host whose primary goal is to secularize the country?
Arthur P. Stern's life is the stuff of young immigrant-makes-good legend. At 77, the white-thatched grandfather can look back on a brilliant engineering and business career, highlighted by path-breaking inventions and the plaudits of American and Israeli generals for his contributions to their nations' defenses.
The heart of the dispute centers on whether Sea Point must observe the standards of halacha demanded by the country's chief rabbinate in Johannesburg, or whether it can adopt looser standards.
If all those statistics are true about Jews still being one of the most liberal voting blocs in the nation, why are they increasingly estranged from the American left?
Easy: The left, ranging from the anti-globalism fringes to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to some segments of the mainstream liberal community, has adopted policies and perspectives that even many progressive Jews regard as offensive and dangerous.
Combative and fiesty, Larry Sternberg relishes the impact of his Libertarian views. When running in a congressional primary for Rep. Robert Badham's vacated District 47 seat, Sternberg advocated decriminalizing illegal drugs. Despite a lack of campaign resources, he stood out in a crowded field ultimately won by Christopher Cox. "It was fun; it was a crazy fling," said the semi-retired Tustin accountant.
The American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) has reestablished its Los Angeles-based regional office with the appointment of a new president and a new executive director.
Shirley Kotler of Los Angeles said her commitment to day schools stems from her interest in "perpetuating Judaism."
What a great week this has been for liberals. If it does nothing else, Election '98 makes it OK to use "L" word again. I love it -- it is so much more descriptive of hope and dream than the neutered word "moderate." Liberals have been abused on both the left (by multiculturalists) and right (by fundamentalists) for so long that it will take us a while to reconsider the beauty and dignity of its expression. Liberal is who we are, even if L.A. Times' columnist Bob Scheer doesn't fathom why, defining a liberal as one who votes against self-interest. Not true.