Letters for Jan. 14, 2015


Slap at Jewish community
What an extraordinary couple of weeks it has been! It began with the news of Alan Gross’ release on Dec. 17 after five long years in a Cuban prison, acknowledgement by the president that same afternoon at the White House Chanukah party of the important role of his family and the Jewish community, “who never stopped working to bring him home,” and culminating with Alan and Judy Gross’ surprise visit to the offices of the JCRC and The Federation on Monday, Dec. 22 to thank everyone for their efforts.

On the day of his release, Alan himself said, “To the Washington Jewish community, Ron Halber in particular and his staff at the Jewish Community Relations Council, all of the executive directors, staff and volunteers of participating JCRCs, federations, synagogues, schools and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations nationwide, God bless you and thank you.”

There were expressions of joy and appreciation from throughout the world for the role of the Jewish community in advocating for Alan’s release.

Except in the Washington Jewish Week editorial of Dec. 25 (“Welcome home, Alan Gross”).
According WJW, we should, “make no mistake about it: The Jewish community did not ‘bring Alan home.’ ”


It is clear that Alan’s release was obtained through an extraordinarily complex set of negotiations involving the White House, the State Department, members of Congress, the Canadian government, the Vatican and the Cuban government. And for the past five years, as your editorial acknowledges, “The Jewish community, particularly the JCRC, deserves significant credit for keeping Gross’ story alive through vigils, visits and other public demonstration of support.”

I never heard anyone in the Jewish community claim to have “brought Alan home.” Why the disappointing slap at the Jewish community, in effect diminishing the work of thousands of Jews who marched, signed petitions, wrote to the president and members of Congress? Why, in the pages
of Washington’s Jewish newspaper, send the unintended, but unfortunate, message
that Jewish community advocacy doesn’t matter?

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Entitlement to the presidency
The Jan. 1 WJW article – “Dems ready for Hillary” – reinforces the perception that running for public office is not a question whether a candidate is qualified, but rather a perverse sense of entitlement. Another concern is whether a candidate should be elected because of race or gender.
Rabbi Moline effusively declares that Hillary Clinton has experience and familiarity with the job of being president. Steve Rabinowitz, a President Clinton aide, declares Hillary is qualified to be president because she worked in the White House for eight years, was a senator and a secretary of state.

While in the White House, Hillary chaired a task force for health-care reform that failed. As senator, she originated no legislation to demonstrate her grasp of national and international issues. As secretary of state, she was instrumental in “resetting the button with Russia,” presiding over the “Arab Spring” that brought turmoil to the Middle East and evaded responsibility for the Benghazi disaster, questioning sarcastically in a congressional investigation – “What difference does it make?” She deceptively claimed the Clintons were poor when they left the White House, that corporations do not make jobs and that we should sympathize and empathize with our enemies.

Is there something else in play here, for example, promoting Hillary to be the first woman president of the United States? Didn’t this nation elect a president partially based on a desire to see the first black president? How has this worked out and what were his qualifications? Martin Luther King’s famous admonition “judge not a man by the color of his skin but rather, by the content of his character” can be easily expanded to include “judge not a person by color or gender.”

Are Dems ready for that?
About “Dems ready for Hillary” (WJW, Jan. 1), those, of course, are the same Dems who were ready for Barak Obama in 2008. As president, Obama proved that America’s bond with Israel is unbreakable – indeed he tried to break it more often and in more ways than any other American president.

Now, Hillary wants her turn with an anti-Israel bat. Not satisfied with her successor as secretary of state, John Kerry, labeling Israel as an “apartheid state,” Hillary in her recently released memoir, Hard Choices, declares that the Jewish state is continuing a long-standing and brutal occupation of the West Bank. She charges that the Israeli occupation denies Palestinians living there “dignity and self-determination.” It is difficult to distinguish her anti-Israel biases from those of former President Jimmy Carter, or to distinguish her support for Palestinians who fire-bomb 11-year-old girls from Carter’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

Is this what Dems are really ready for? I certainly hope not.


Jewish Disability Network deserves credit
In the article “ABLE Act allows tax-exempt account for disabled” (WJW, Jan. 1), you state that the “JFNA and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism had advocated for the passage of the ABLE Act.” While I thank you for crediting JFNA and the RAC, I would like to clarify that credit belongs to the Jewish Disability Network (JDN), which actively sought passage of the ABLE Act. The JDN, co-chaired by the JFNA and the RAC, is a network of 28 Jewish organizations active in promoting the rights and providing for the needs of people with disabilities. Regarding the ABLE Act, the JDN held educational sessions, wrote a Jewish organizational sign-on letter, arranged Jewish advocacy visits and promoted yea votes in both Hill and local congressional offices.

From the beginning of the Jewish Disability Network, we have helped congressional leaders understand that Judaism believes that human beings are all created B’tzelem Elohim (in the Divine image), regardless of whether or not they have a disability. In fact, the larger/greater disability community credits the JDN for bringing religious voices to the fight for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities.

Senior Adviser on Disability Rights, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

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