Orthodox groups mum on Arizona religious exemption bill


Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer yesterday vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses to refuse service to gays if doing so would violate their religious convictions.

The Anti-Defamation League commended her for the veto, and the Jewish Community Relations Council in southern Arizona advocated against the bill. From the JCRC release earlier this week:

While we fully support the constitutionally protected rights of every citizen to adhere to religious beliefs and convictions as they see fit, as Jews, this kind of legislation raises deep and unsettling resonances to our history of persecution. The implicit permission granted by legislation like this, to allow citizens to discriminate against others based on their own religious convictions and beliefs, has historically been the decisive moment which leads to horrifying and destructive outcomes for our People and others.

Absent from the debate over the law, however, were the voices of  leading national Orthodox Jewish groups, which is interesting because they have opposed same-sex marriage and warned that religious freedom faces threats stemming from gay marriage’s advance. More broadly, Orthodox groups have advocated against legislation that would impinge on beliefs they have nothing to do with (the smoking of peyote) and even those that they theologically oppose (denial of contraception coverage).

So what gave in Arizona? Agudah declined to comment to JTA. Contacted by JTA, Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, said that he had not closely reviewed the Arizona legislation.

But speaking broadly, he noted Orthodox advocacy in the past for the federal Workplace Religious Freedom Act, legislation initiated, incidentally, by John Kerry when he was a Massachusetts senator. That legislation seeks to protect individuals on both sides of a business equation: The client seeking a service and employees who may have a religious objection to providing it.

The act has never passed Congress, although legislation with similar provisions has been adopted in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The federal legislation does not mandate accommodation of a worker’s religious beliefs but requires a balancing test. If, say, an employer needed to staff a business on Christmas Day, he would need to show that he canvassed employees to find out whether there were any who were ready to work on the holiday. If the employer could not identify such an employee, it could require those who objected to work the day.

As an example, Diament mentioned one of the cases cited by Arizona lawmakers who backed the recent bill: A New Mexico photo studio that was sued for not shooting a gay wedding.

“What you would have had was not a situation in which the New Mexico photography company would have gotten to say ‘We won’t provide photographs for your wedding,’ but if there was an individual photographer, he might be able to bow out and a different photographer with the same company would have taken the pictures,” Diament said.

He noted that such accommodations were written into Oregon’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide. “If you are a pharmacist and you object to physician assisted suicide, the pharmacist does not have to dispense those drugs, they pass it off to another pharmacist,” he said.

There were no objections to that proviso, he said, because it was more “politically correct” to oppose euthanasia than same-sex marriage.

“The balancing should be that the people who are entitled to lawful services, whether they are a same-sex couple or a woman seeking contraceptives from a pharmacy, they should receive the services they are legally entitled to, but the person on the other side of the counter who has a conscientious objection should have their concerns accommodated as well,” he said.

“If people are more interested in a practical solution that is respectful of conscience concerns on both sides, a more commendable approach is to have individuals on both sides be accommodated as much as possible.”

Arizona governor vetoes bill widely criticized as anti-gay


Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill on Wednesday that has been derided by critics as a license to discriminate against gays in the name of religion, saying the measure could result in “unintended and negative consequences.”

The measure, passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week, would have allowed business owners to cite personal religious beliefs as legal grounds for refusing to serve same-sex couples or any other prospective customers.

But a number of major business organizations and some fellow Republican politicians, including the state's two U.S. senators, had urged Brewer to veto the legislation, dubbed Senate Bill 1062.

“Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” Brewer said in a brief statement from her office at the state capitol announcing her decision, to cheers from gay-rights activists rallying outside the capitol.

“I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated,” she said. “The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago.”

The announcement came hours after Major League Baseball and the National Football League joined a growing chorus of business organizations denouncing or expressing strong reservations about the legislation.

Echoing calls for Arizona boycotts previously stirred by Brewer's support for tough measures to clamp down on illegal immigration, the Hispanic National Bar Association also said on Wednesday that its board had voted unanimously to pull its annual convention from Phoenix in light of last week's passage of 1062.

The measure gained final approval from the Republican-controlled state legislature last week, putting Brewer at the center of a contentious political debate at a time when she has sought to ease partisan discord while focusing on efforts to revive Arizona's economy.

Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Gunna Dickson, Jan Paschal and Eric Walsh

Firefighters’ families share the language of loss


Bat-Sheva and Hofit Hayat, mother and wife of deceased Israeli firefighter Danny Hayat, shared their story and grief with the families of the 19 Hotshot firefighters who died on June 30 in the Yarnell, Ariz., wildfire. The two women relayed their experience in Arizona when visiting Los Angeles as a last stop before returning to Israel. As native Hebrew speakers, Hofit and Bat-Sheva struggled to express themselves in English as tears streamed down their faces and sorrow filled their voices when talking about Danny in Los Angeles. They said a similar scene took place in Arizona, however, the Hayats were speaking a universal language families in Arizona understood: the language of loss.

The Hayats lost Danny to the Mount Carmel forest fire in Israel in December 2010, as the 44th and final victim. He died rescuing Israeli Prison Service and police officers from a bus near the fire. Bat-Sheva initially reached out in writing to the 19 families of the firefighters in Arizona to send her condolences and share her personal and very similar tragedy.

After the letter, Keren Hayesod, an Israeli nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the priorities of the State of Israel, paid for the Hayats to travel to Arizona. According to Bat-Sheva, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also blessed the trip.

The Hayats said they felt they had to support the families of the fallen firefighters in Arizona. In sharing their pain and suffering, they hoped to bring power and solidarity to the community.

“I came here to strengthen the families and the American people, but they strengthened me,” Bat-Sheva said.

With this newfound strength came uncommon emotion. In Israel, Bat-Sheva said, she tried not to cry to avoid looking weak. In Arizona however, it was a different story. 

“I look at the families and I see myself. I cry for them and I cry for myself,” Bat-Sheva said with tears in her eyes.

Bat-Sheva mourned with the community in Prescott, Ariz., at the memorial service for the firefighters and was joined by Hofit at a commemoration organized by the Jewish Community Association on July 9. 

Hofit, Danny’s wife of nine years and significant other for 13, said she uses Judaism to deal with her loss. She tells her three children that “everything happens for a reason.” 

“I think this is the destiny of Danny. I think God brought him to that road because that was his mission in life,” Hofit said. 

Bat-Sheva remembers her son as a dedicated, loving and selfless individual. She and her daughter-in-law still marvel at his constant choice, in his career and in life, to serve others before himself. 

“Danny was the hero of the fire, a firefighter hero. But for us, Danny was a hero every day, every hour,” Bat-Sheva said. “He was our hero.”

Family-owned Jewish News of Phoenix is sold


The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, which has been owned by the same family for more than half a century, was sold.

Florence and Paul Eckstein, the weekly's owners since 1981, announced in an email to readers and advertisers that their publishing company was sold to Dr. Jeff and Jaime Stern. Along with the newspaper, the company includes the annual community directory and the jewishaz.com website.

Jamie Stern was named the publisher, while Florence Eckstein will serve as publisher emeritus, working as a consultant to the publisher through the transition period, according to the newspaper.

“The sale represents the transfer of the reins of our weekly newspaper, website and community directory from a family of longtime owners ready to retire to a young, energetic family representing the next generation of readers,” according to the email.

The Ecksteins bought the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix from Florence Eckstein's father, Cecil Newmark, who bought the newspaper and became its editor in 1961.

Loughner’s parents acted on signs of danger before Giffords attack


The parents of Jared Loughner, concerned by his erratic behavior, confiscated a gun and disabled his car in the months before the killing spree that critically wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Documents released Wednesday by the Pima County Sheriff's office in Arizona and reported in the media detail measures taken by Randy and Amy Loughner in the months after their son was asked to leave a community college because of his behavior.

They confiscated Jared Loughner's shotgun, counseled him to receive psychological treatment and had him tested for drugs. Randy Loughner would surreptitiously disable his son's Chevy Nova each evening to keep him from going out.

The morning of the Jan. 8, 2011 attack in a Tucson strip mall, Loughner came home after purchasing ammunition for another gun.

When Randy Loughner asked his son what was in his backpack, Jared Loughner ran into the woods. Within hours he had killed six people and wounded 13 at a constituent meeting in the mall parking lot held by Giffords, then a freshly reelected Democratic congresswoman from the area.

Loughner, 24, a diagnosed schizophrenic, confessed to the shootings and is serving life without the possibility of parole.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected to federal office from Arizona, retired a year later and remains in recovery while she leads a gun control initiative with her husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords launches gun-control initiative


Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded two years ago in an Arizona shooting, is launching a group aimed at curbing gun violence and raising enough money to challenge the well-funded gun lobby.

Giffords, starting the effort called Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly, told ABC News that Congress must do more to prevent gun violence.

The two are gun owners, but in the wake of a string of recent mass shootings, they said more must be done to push common-sense efforts to reduce such violence.

“Enough,” Giffords, who was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona, told ABC in an interview aired on Tuesday.

The initiative aims to “encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership,” the group said on its website, americansforresponsiblesolutions.org.

It will push for background checks for private gun sales and look at ways to better address mental illness, among other efforts, Kelly told ABC.

Gifford's group is set to take on the National Rifle Association, which in 2011 spent over eleven times more on lobbying than all gun control lobbyists combined.

Her group has set up a political action committee for donations to “raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby,” it said on its website.

“Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer,” Giffords wrote in an opinion piece published Tuesday in USA Today

She added: “winning even the most common-sense reforms will require a fight … Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources.”

The announcement comes just days after Giffords visited Newtown, Connecticut, and met with families of the victims of last month's Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in which 20 children and six teachers were killed.

Giffords also recently met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who heads his own mayors' initiative that is also pushing for what he calls “reasonable” gun controls.

In the wake of the Dec. 14 Connecticut shooting, President Barack Obama has pledged to take swift action to reduce gun violence and has tapped a task force due to report later this month with possible measures.

The task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, is reportedly weighing action beyond reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to include universal background checks and a national gun sales database, among other steps.

The wave of shootings and the threat of tighter gun restrictions has spurred intense reaction on both sides.

Consumer demand for guns appears to have soared in recent weeks, according to FBI data.

Gun control supporters worry that other looming issues such as the nation's debt crisis could hamper efforts in Congress to push through new legislation.

Bloomberg's group launched its own new ad on Tuesday with the mother of child who was killed in the Arizona shooting.

Giffords meets with Newtown officials to talk gun control


Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords traveled to Newtown, Conn., to discuss gun control with local and state officials.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke with the officials last Friday about such issues as gun control legislation and identifying and treating the mentally ill, according to several news accounts of the 45-minute meeting. They also talked about the many forces in the United States that can desensitize people to violence.

The meeting came just days before the second anniversary of the attack on a constituents' event that critically injured Giffords, who had represented Arizona in the House of Representatives, and killed six people.

Attending the meeting were several Newtown selectmen and officials, as well as newly elected U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, according to USA Today.

Newtown is home to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman last month killed 26 people, including 20 children, before turning the gun on himself. The gunman, Adam Lanza, had killed his mother before the school rampage.

Since Giffords was shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery on Jan. 8, 2011, in an attack that left her partially blind with a paralyzed arm and a brain injury, Kelly has been speaking out for gun control. Nineteen people were shot at the Tucson event.

Giffords stepped down from the Congress to continue her rehabilitation.

Iranian TV interview blames Israel for Sandy Hook massacre


An Iranian state-run media outlet reported on an Arizona businessman's claim that Israel is behind the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

PressTV, Iran's 24-hour English language news network, cited an interview with Michael Harris, who said that the massacre was an Israeli mission to teach President Obama a lesson. Adam Lanza, the man police have identified as the killer, was made the “fall guy.”

Harris, who PressTV identified as a former GOP candidate for governor of Arizona, publicly associates with neo-Nazi groups, according to the Washington Post.

In the interview, Harris cites what PressTV calls inconsistencies in the “cover story” of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., calling it a “terrorist attack.”

PressTV quotes Harris as saying: “The facts are now becoming obvious. This is another case where Israel has chosen violence and terrorism where their bullying in Washington has failed. Israel believes the U.S. 'threw them under the bus,' particularly after the recent Gaza war, allowing Israel to be humiliated in the United Nations. Their response was to stage a terror attack, targeting America in the most hideous and brutal way possible, in fact, an Israeli 'signature attack,' one that butchers children, one reminiscent of the attacks that killed so many children in Gaza?”

Harris also pinned other massacres by lone gunmen on Israel: “This is exactly what Israel did in Norway; the political party that voted sanctions against Israel was retaliated against by a 'lone gunman' who killed 77 children. This is what Israel always does, they go after the children. It is what they do in Gaza every day. It is what was done in Norway. It is what happened at Sandy Hook. Nobody buys the 'lone gunman' story anymore, not with the Gabby Giffords’ shooting, not with the Aurora 'Batman' shooting, certainly not with Breveik, and certainly not in Connecticut.”

Gabby Giffords faces Tucson assailant as he is sentenced to life


Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.

Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a plea deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed – one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords – represented the individuality of the victims.

“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.

Giffords suffered a head wound in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.

Loughner, who sat through the proceedings without addressing the court, showed no visible emotion as his sentence was pronounced or during statements delivered earlier in court by several survivors.

Giffords did not speak. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf.

“You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly told him, with Giffords standing at his side as she impassively faced her assailant.

Loughner, seated next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, appeared to gaze back at them without expression.

“Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible,” Kelly told Loughner in a clear, ringing voice. “You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recuperation.

GUN CONTROL

Kelly also used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticizing her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.

“Jan Brewer said it had nothing to do with the size of the magazine. … She said this just one week after you used a high-capacity magazine,” Kelly said, also noting that she named a “state gun” weeks later instead of “fixing the education system.”

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined comment on the criticism leveled against the governor.

“On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn't interested in engaging in politics,” he said in a statement. “This is a day of justice and peace. Governor Brewer wishes both for the victims and their families.”

The proceedings marked a dramatic epilogue to a rampage of gun violence that shocked many Americans, added to the long-running debate over gun control and cut short the political career of Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.

He admitted going to Giffords' “Congress On Your Corner” event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill the Arizona Democrat.

Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

Court-appointed experts later said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was declared unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.

Loughner was ruled mentally competent three months ago after being treated for psychosis at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.

Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. Prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the 9-year-old girl's death.

His calm, quiet demeanor in court on Thursday contrasted sharply with the wild-eyed image of Loughner from an early mug shot that captured the then-bald defendant grinning maniacally into the camera.

Asked at the outset of the hearing by the judge if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, Loughner answered in a low voice, “That's true.”

He was otherwise silent through the hearing, and made no attempt to avert the gazes of victims who testified before he was sentenced.

One of them was Giffords' former congressional aide Ron Barber, who also was wounded and ended up serving out the rest of her term after winning a special election.

Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created U.S. congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.

Speaking to Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, who were seated in the front row of the courtroom, Barber said, “Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you, and that I can appreciate how devastating the acts of your son were.”

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry and David Schwartz; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Will Dunham

Tucson gunman Loughner pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder


A 23-year-old college dropout pleaded guilty on Tuesday to killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in an Arizona shooting rampage last year, and will be spared the death penalty in exchange.

Jared Loughner entered his guilty pleas in federal court in Tucson shortly after he was ruled mentally competent to stand trial on charges, including first degree murder, by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.

“I plead guilty,” Loughner, dressed in a khaki prison jumpsuit, said to each of the 19 counts read in court by Burns.

Giffords, a U.S. representative from Arizona who was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, was meeting constituents at a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8 last year when she was shot through the head at close range. The six people killed include a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors, who originally charged Loughner with 49 criminal counts, have agreed not to seek the death penalty against him. Burns will sentence Loughner on Nov. 15, and he could face multiple terms of life in prison.

The 19 counts he pleaded guilty to include murder, attempted murder and the attempted assassination of Giffords.

During an exchange with the judge before formally entering his plea, Loughner admitted going to the Congress-on-your-corner event hosted by Giffords armed with a Glock pistol with a plan to kill the congresswoman.

He also admitted shooting other people there with the intention to kill them because they had attended the event.

GIFFORDS SATISFIED WITH PLEA ARRANGEMENT

Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, said in a statement before the hearing that the couple had been in touch with federal prosecutors and were “satisfied” with the plea agreement.

“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives,” Kelly said.

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, won a special election to fill her seat in June and will face re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Geneva on July 25. Photo by REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Barber was in court for the hearing but Giffords did not attend.

“It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pre-trial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement following the hearing.

“In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law,” Holder said.

Loughner was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom. Court-appointed experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

He has since been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he has been forcibly medicated to treat psychosis and restore his fitness to face proceedings in his prosecution.

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry, Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom

Jared Loughner to plead guilty in Arizona shooting spree


Jared Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, is set to plead guilty in a Tucson court on Tuesday, a person familiar with the case said.

The source confirmed that the federal government believed Loughner was now competent to stand trial and will argue that in court on Tuesday. Loughner is willing to change his plea to guilty at the previously scheduled hearing, the source said.

Psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner were scheduled to testify in a mental competency hearing on Tuesday that he was competent to stand trial and understood the 49 charges against him, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix said he could “neither confirm nor deny” whether Loughner would plead guilty.

The team of four attorneys representing Loughner had not responded to emailed requests for comment.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat seen as a rising star in the party, was holding one of her regular “Congress On Your Corner” events at a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot through the head at close range by a gunman who killed six other people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Loughner, 23, is charged with 49 criminal offenses including first-degree murder over the shooting rampage, which wounded 13 people. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last year.

The Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Loughner would plead guilty, said Tuesday’s mental status hearing had been changed to a change-of-plea hearing, citing an official familiar with the case.

If U.S. District Judge Larry Burns were to determine at Tuesday’s hearing that he was fit for trial, Loughner – who is being forcibly medicated to treat his psychosis – could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The Los Angeles Times said it was unclear on the details of the plea arrangement, or whether Loughner would plead guilty to all or just some of the charges in exchange for prison time rather than risk being sentenced to death at trial.

Tuesday’s hearing was to be Loughner’s fourth to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency.

The college dropout was determined unfit for trial in May 2011 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

Loughner has been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he is forcibly medicated against his will to treat psychosis and make him fit for trial.

Giffords resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide Ron Barber won a special election to fill her seat and will have to win re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Karen Brooks in Austin and David Ingram in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jackie Frank and Anthony Boadle

In Supreme Court’s immigration ruling, Jewish groups see progress but have concerns


Most Jewish groups who have weighed in on Arizona’s controversial immigration law saw progress in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to repeal three of the law’s four parts, but had concerns that law enforcement officials would still be allowed to check the legal immigration status of people they detain.

The high court on Monday invalidated the provisions authorizing police to arrest illegal immigrants without warrant if there was probable cause that they committed an offense that made them eligible for deportation; making it an Arizona state crime if immigrants did not carry registration papers or some sort of government identification; and forbidding immigrants unauthorized to work in the country to apply, solicit or perform work.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was among the groups that welcomed the repeals but had reservations with the court’s decision.

“Though we view the positive part of this ruling as another step in the advancement of immigrant rights—forwarded recently by President Obama’s executive order halting deportations of Dream Act eligible individuals—we remain extremely concerned about the potential for racial profiling as a result of today’s decision,” Mark Hetfield, the interim president and CEO of HIAS, said in a news statement.

The law, passed in April 2010, was meant primarily to deal with illegal immigrants coming from Mexico, according to proponents of the measure at the time of its passage. They also noted that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had issued an executive order establishing a training program on how to avoid racial profiling when implementing the new rules.

In April, HIAS coordinated a letter to Brewer, a Republican, and also joined more than 100 other faith-based organizations and civil rights groups in submitting an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to strike down Arizona’s law.

Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman and national chair Robert Sugarman in a news statement called the ruling a “mixed outcome.”

“One of our primary concerns has been that Arizona’s law would exacerbate fear in immigrant communities and, in particular, make victims and witnesses of hate crimes reluctant to speak with police,” they wrote.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted in a statement that RAC welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn most provisions in the law, but called on Arizona to urge caution on the remaining part.

“We urge Arizona and the lower courts to endorse the principle that all women, men and children deserve equal protection under the law, as appearance offers no grounds on which to assume the legal status of an individual,” Saperstein wrote. “Engaging in racial profiling only jeopardizes the safety of entire communities, as members of immigrant communities fearful of being profiled are discouraged from cooperating with law enforcement on issues.”

Nancy Kaufman, the CEO of the National Council for Jewish Women, wrote in a news statement that the high court’s ruling “is a welcome step toward ending the efforts by state legislatures to superimpose their own vindictive legislative regime on federal immigration law.”

Ron Barber, aide to Giffords, wins his ex-boss’ seat


Ron Barber, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, won her seat in a special election.

Barber, who decided to run after Giffords formerly resigned her seat earlier this year to recover from a shooting in January 2011, defeated Jesse Kelly, a Republican who suffered a narrow defeat to Giffords in the 2010 election for the swing district in Arizona.

Barber was wounded in the assassination attempt on Giffords, a Jewish Democrat. Jared Loughner, the acknowledged shooter now on trial, killed six others attending a meet-and-greet at a strip mall in Tucson.

Giffords, still recovering from her head wound, campaigned for Barber and appeared with him Tuesday night at his victory rally, kissing him on the forehead.

Barber and Kelly will face each other again in November.

In other elections Tuesday, George Allen won the nod from Virginia Republicans to run for his old U.S. Senate seat in November. Allen and his opponent, Tim Kaine, are former governors of the state.

Allen was the incumbent U.S. senator when he was narrowly defeated by Jim Webb in 2006 after he used a slur, “macaca,” to describe a videographer for the Webb campaign. The odd slur—used by French North Africans to deride people of color—led the media to discover that Allen’s mother was a Tunisian Jew.

At first, Allen vehemently denied that his mother was Jewish, compounding his image problem. After his defeat, he studied Judaism and his mother’s history and has reached out to the Jewish community.

The seat is open because Webb is retiring after one term.

In Nevada, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) easily won the primary and will face Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) in November. Berkley is a stalwart of the pro-Israel community, having served in a number of Jewish groups before beginning her political career.

Heller, named to the seat after John Ensign resigned in a scandal, has reached out intensively to pro-Israel groups in the last year.

Nevada, with its substantial Jewish population, is seen as a swing state in the November election.

Family murder-suicide devastates Arizona Jewish community


Following a businessman’s destruction of his family, the Jewish community of Tempe, Ariz., has “no answers,” according to a local rabbi.

Sometime during the early hours Shabbat, June 1-2, James Butwin murdered his 40-year-old wife, Yafit, and their three children—Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7. Then, he killed himself.

“There are no answers for something this tragic,” Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel, where James Butwin was a member of the synagogue board, told mourners during a June 6 service. “It is time to come together, to be together in our shock and horror and fear… Expect no answers tonight.”

Although in the process of divorce, Yafit had celebrated her husband’s birthday, posting a photo and a message—“Happy Birthday Jim, I am so proud of my three children :) and they know why”—on Facebook.  Hours later, in the middle of the desert, all were dead. Pinal County officers found the burned SUV holding their five unrecognizable corpses June 2.

The Butwin family was an active part of the Jewish community in Tempe, Ariz. Rabbi Shapiro said the family had a “circle of friends full to bursting.” Only friends mourned the Butwin family; no relatives had yet arrived from Israel, Yafit’s homeland, or from New Jersey, where James is from. JointMedia News Service spoke with Temple Emanuel member Paul White June 6, just prior to a “service of grief.” More than 600 attended “a very brief service, bringing the community, the schools together,” White said.

The service was not a funeral. In the tradition of placing a stone on a grave, for more than 20 minutes the 600 mourners filed past five holders, placing symbolic glass beads.

Temple Emanuel board member Steven Gotfried has been designated as the congregation’s spokesperson, a role he called “very challenging and difficult.” In an interview with JointMedia News Service, he said “the word that comes to mind is shock.” “Disbelief and a sort of a numbness…We are trying to grasp this, to get an understanding…sad,” he said.

Gotfried said a Butwin neighbor had commented that “this was not the Jim that we know. There was something going on that caused this—something physically going on with his brain and his mind. The Jim we knew and loved and played with was not the Jim that did this.” James Butwin, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, was described by Gotfried as having been a “warm, personable person… just a nice guy, kind, very laid-back, a man who listened more than he spoke.” 

“There was a profound sense of shock and grief when the news was known,” said Gotfried. “A need for people to get together, to comfort each other.”

JointMedia News Service asked Gotfried, whose daughter had shared a Hebrew school class with Daniel Butwin, the older boy, if anyone in the family had sought help, either from the rabbi or any other community resource. “Even if so,” he said, “they were private conversations, not to be shared.”

Now, after the tragedy, Jewish Family Services of Phoenix has responded very publicly, providing counselors for adults and children and helping form a Jewish community crisis group, offering advice to staff and lay leaders “trying to make sense of it,” and providing “advice on how to talk to your children,” Gotfried said. 

Gotfried noted that the investigation is revealing “more and more information” about the Butwins’ once private lives. Court records confirm the divorce proceedings, but with no history of domestic violence. Jim Butwin’s divorce lawyer, Bill Bishop, told the Arizona Republic that domestic and financial issues “were being handled professionally,” and that “there was no indication whatsoever that he was upset or anything.” He said “this is one of the most cowardly acts that anybody could ever do.”

Cowardly, but not unplanned. Tempe police revealed that during the week before the devastating murder-suicide, James Butwin had sent a key to the family’s Corona Estates home and a letter to his business partner. Sgt. Jeff Glover of the Tempe Police Department on June 7 said a police inspection of the home revealed “suspicious and concerning evidence” including blood and shell casings in bedrooms and two guns inside the torched SUV found in the Sonoran desert June 2. A second suicide letter has also been found.

Steven Wolfson, Yafit’s attorney, confirmed that the Butwins’ continued to share their home during the divorce proceedings. An order issued by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Polk charged that “both parties shall be cordial to each other in the marital residence and respect each other’s privacy.” 

“This is out of the blue as far as we’re concerned,” said Wolfson.

James Butwin was involved in commercial-property deals. Yafit Butwin, a devoted mother, had recently graduated from Northern Arizona University and started an interior design business.

Neighbor Robert Kempton, speaking to the Associated Press, called the tragedy “totally unexpected to the point of almost being unbelievable.”

Tempe family died of gunshot wounds, medical examiner determines


The Tempe, Ariz., family found burned to death in the family’s SUV died of gunshot wounds.

Police believe that James Butwin died of a gunshot wound that was likely self-inflicted, according to the Arizona Republic. His wife, Yafit, 40, and their three children—Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7—also died of gunshot wounds, according to the Pima County chief medical examiner.

Police also found two detailed suicide notes, which has convinced them that the deaths were a murder-suicide, according to the newspaper.

The bodies were found in a burning SUV on June 2 that was registered to the Butwins but had been missing from the family home, Tempe Police said.

Butwin and his wife were going through divorce proceedings but still lived together with their children.

The Associated Press reported that James Butwin had sent his business partner detailed instructions on how to run the business without him. AP also reported that the couple was fighting in court over their assets, which caused tension. Neighbors of the Butwins also said that James had a brain tumor, according to reports.

Romney wins in Michigan, Arizona


Mitt Romney won Republican primary contests in Arizona and Michigan, maintaining his front-runner status.

In Michigan, the state his father governed and where he was raised, Romney beat back a challenge Tuesday by Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, 41 percent to 38 percent, with nearly all of the vote counted.

But Santorum’s strong challenge forecasts a long and difficult fight for Romney to win the nomination for president. The former Massachusetts governor had to outspend Santorum in a state that just weeks ago he had been expected to win handily.

Romney won handily in Arizona, defeating Santorum by 47 percent to 27 percent.

Michigan, with its battered automaker-based economy and its status as a large Midwestern hub, was considered a critical test.

The candidates now will focus on Super Tuesday, when 10 states vote on March 6.

Santorum has surged to become the likeliest conservative contender to beat Romney by playing up his blue-collar roots and emphasizing social conservatism on issues such as birth control, abortion and gay rights.

Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of representatives speaker, scored 6.5 percent in Michigan and 16 percent in Arizona, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) scored 12 percent in Michigan and 8 percent in Arizona.

Giffords announces resignation from Congress


U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in January, announced that she will resign from Congress.

In a two-minute video released Sunday, Giffords (D-Ariz.) said she will step down as she continues her recovery.

“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” she said. “I’m getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.”

Speaking slowly but clearly, Giffords thanked viewers for their prayers and said that she will always remember the trust her constitutents placed in her.

Giffords, who is Jewish and has been a mamber of a local synagogue, was shot in the head at a Jan. 8, 2011 meet-the-constituents event outside a supermarket in Tucson. The gunman, Jared Loughner, who suffers from mental illness, killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Giffords.

In the video, Giffords said she didn’t “remember much from that horrible day.”

Giffords attends vigil marking attack anniversary


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance at a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of an attack on the congresswoman and her constituents at a political event.

Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, attended the candlelight vigil Sunday night at the University of Arizona to mark the attack. Bells at churches and private homes rang out throughout Tucson at 10:11 a.m. Sunday morning, the time that the attack took place one year ago.

The commemoration also included an interfaith prayer service at a local church, during which a shofar was blown by a rabbi.

During the day, Giffords and Kelly also walked a short way on a trail in nearby Davidson Canyon named for one of the victims, Gabe Zimmerman, a former aide to Giffords.

Six people were killed and a dozen injured in the attack in Tucson by alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected to the Congress from Arizona, was shot in the head and continues to undergo intensive therapy. The three-term Democrat is planning to run again if her health permits it, according to reports.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges connected with the shooting. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but was found fit to stand trial.

Giffords learns identities of shooting victims


U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) has learned the identities of those killed in a shooting attack during a meet-the-constituents event at which she was also shot.

Jared Loughner allegedly opened fire Jan. 8 at the event in Tucson, killing 6, including a long-time Giffords aide and a nine-year-old girl. Giffords was shot in the head.

Giffords had not been deemed strong enough following her own traumatic injury to learn more details about the attack.

She was informed of the identities of the victims late last month, just before she returned to Congress for the first time to vote on raising the federal debt ceiling, the Arizona Republic reported over the weekend.

A Giffords aid told the newspaper that the congresswoman was “deeply saddened” by the information.

Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected from her state to a federal office, has been rehabilitating since the shooting. She was released from the hospital in June but returns every day for speech, music, physical and occupational therapy. Her neurosurgeon has cleared her for a reelection bid.

Giffords’ doctor OKs her run


Gabrielle Giffords’ neurosurgeon says that the Arizona congresswoman could run for re-election.

Peter Rhee, the doctor who operated on Giffords’ brain after she was shot in January, told the NBC affiliate KVOA Tuesday that Giffords’ mental faculties had fully recovered.

““There’s no real reason she wouldn’t be able to hold office,” Rhee said. “It’s not about her capabilities. It’s purely [a decision] that is personal and what her desires are. I’ll support her in whichever way she goes.”

Speculation over a possibly re-election campaign by Giffords has risen since the Tucson-area congresswoman appeared on the U.S. House of Representatives floor this week to vote on the contentious deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Giffords’ spokesman, C.J. Karmargin, told KVOA that no decision had been made yet. The deadline to file for a re-election campaign is in May.

Giffords, a Democrat and the first Jewish woman elected to statewide office in Arizona, would be running for her fourth term in Congress.

Gabrielle Giffords returns to House, votes for debt limit deal [VIDEO]


From CBS.com:

Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona made a surprise return to Washington Monday to vote in favor of an agreement to raise the debt limit.

“Gabrielle has returned to Washington to support a bipartisan bill to prevent economic crisis,” her office said in a Tweet.

Lawmakers offered Giffords a standing ovation on the House floor when she showed up in the chamber.

Read more at CBSNews.com.

Supreme Court upholds state tuition tax credit program


The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to an Arizona tuition tax credit program that benefits parochial schools, with all three Jewish justices dissenting.

The court on Monday threw out a lawsuit against the program, which provides tax credits to those who donate to “school tuition organizations” that grant scholarships to private schools, including religious schools.

The decision prompted the first written dissent by Jewish Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, who said the 5-4 ruling “threatens to eliminate all occasions for a taxpayer to contest the government’s monetary support of religion.”

Kagan used a hypothetical case relating to Jews in her dissenting opinion, writing: “Suppose a State desires to reward Jews—by, say, $500 per year—for their religious devotion. Should the nature of taxpayers’ concern vary if the State allows Jews to claim the aid on their tax returns, in lieu of receiving an annual stipend?”

She was joined in her dissent by the other two Jewish justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

The Anti-Defamation League called the court’s decision “a significant setback for religious liberty in America.”

“The Supreme Court has dramatically undercut the ability of taxpayers to protect religion and government by intervening when government money is improperly spent,” Robert Sugarman and Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national chair and national director, respectively, said in a statement.

The Orthodox Union, which supports educational vouchers for parochial schools, applauded the decision. The OU had joined several other faith-community representatives in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the constitutionality of the program.

“The high court upheld school choice today,” said Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Orthodox Union. “The principles of government respect for private choices in education and government neutrality in programs which can aid and support such private choices is a critical issue for the Orthodox Jewish community and other American faith communities.”

Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critical after being shot in the head


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was in critical condition after being shot in the head.

Giffords was outside one of her signature “Congress at your corner” events outside a Safeway in Tucson, the district she represented, when a gunman approached and shot her in the head.

The gunman, identified by media as Jared Lee Loughner, shot 17 people, killing six of them, including a 9-year old girl and a federal judge, John Roll. The gunman was tackled and arrested.

Doctors said Giffords was expected to survive, although it was not yet known what her condition would be.

Giffords was elected to Congress in the Democratic sweep in 2006. The first Jewish woman elected to Congress from the state, she made her Jewish identity part of her campaign.

“If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” said Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time. “Jewish women — by our tradition and by the way we were raised — have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done and pull people together to be successful.”

Giffords, 40, was raised “mixed” by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said that after a visit to Israel in 2001, she had decided she was Jewish only. She attended services at a local Reform synagogue.

In one of her last photos, she posed with the new U.S. House of Representatives speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) at her swearing in; her hand is on the “Five Books of Moses.”

Giffords fought a hard election this year, against the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic mood. She tacked to the right of her party on immigration, saying border security was of primary consideration.

The election was called in her favor weeks after the vote.

Giffords’ office had been vandalized in March, after she voted for health care reform. Friends said she had received threats for her positions on health care and for opposing her state’s new law allowing police to arrest undocumented immigrants during routine stops.

The National Jewish Democratic Council suggested that the heated rhetoric of the last year contributed to the climate that led to the attack.

“One suspect, now in custody, may be directly responsible for this crime,” the group said in a statement. “But it is fair to say—in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric—that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Memo notes Giffords’ Judaism in motives of alleged attacker


A U.S. Department of Homeland Security memo reportedly notes that Gabriel Giffords is Jewish in describing the motives of the Arizona congresswoman’s alleged assailant.

The memo, obtained by Fox News Channel, says that Jared Lee Loughner mentioned American Renaissance, an extremist anti-immigrant group, in some of his own postings.

“The group’s ideology is anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” says the memo sent to law enforcement, which also notes that Giffords, a Democrat, was the first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona.

Loughner was arrested after Giffords and at least 16 others were shot Saturday at a meet-your-lawmaker event at a Tucson shopping mall. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, John Roll. Loughner was tackled and arrested. Giffords, a Democrat in her third term, remains in critical condition after being shot in the head.

Loughner, who is being held by the FBI and has been described by authorities as “unstable,” reportedly listed “Mein Kampf” and the “Communist Manifesto” as two of his favorite books on his MySpace page. Several hours before the shooting he reportedly left a “Goodbye friends” message, which also said “Please don’t be mad at me.”

Giffords was outside one of her signature “Congress at your corner” events outside a Safeway in Tucson, part of her congressional district, when the gunman approached and shot her. A Giffords staff member, Gabe Zimmerman, 30, the organizer of the event, was among the six casualties.

A suspected accomplice whose image was captured on a surveillance video camera outside the shopping center also is being sought, according to reports.

Dr. Michael Lemole a surgeon at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz. said Sunday morning at a news conference that Giffords was responding to doctors’ commands. During a two-hour surgery on Saturday, doctors removed bone fragments from her brain in order to help reduce swelling. The bullet went through the left side of her head, he said.

Giffords was elected to Congress in the Democratic sweep in 2006. She made her Jewish identity part of her campaign.

“If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time. “Jewish women—by our tradition and by the way we were raised—have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done, and pull people together to be successful.”

Giffords, 40, was raised “mixed” by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said she decided she was Jewish only following a visit to Israel in 2001. She attended services at a local Reform synagogue.

In a recent photo, she posed with the new U.S. House of Representatives speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), at her swearing-in with her hand on the Five Books of Moses.

Giffords fought a hard re-election battle last year against the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic mood. She tacked to the right of her party on immigration, saying border security was of primary consideration.

The election was called in her favor weeks after the vote.

Giffords’ office had been vandalized in March after she voted for health care reform. Friends said she had received threats for her positions on health care and for opposing her state’s new law allowing police to arrest undocumented immigrants during routine stops.

The National Jewish Democratic Council suggested that the heated rhetoric of the last year contributed to the climate that led to the attack.

“One suspect, now in custody, may be directly responsible for this crime,” the group said in a statement. “But it is fair to say—in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric—that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head


A gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in the head.

Giffords was shot outside one of her signature “Congress at your corner” events outside a Safeway in Tucson, the district she represented, when a gunman approached and shot her in the head, according to NPR.

The network, quoting its local affiliate, KJZZ, said she and another six other people were killed before the assailant was tackled and arrested. Other news services quoted hospital officials as saying that Giffords was still alive.

Giffords was elected to Congress in the Democratic sweep in 2006. The first Jewish woman elected to Congress from the state, she made her Jewish identity part of her campaign.

“If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” said Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time. “Jewish women — by our tradition and by the way we were raised — have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done and pull people together to be successful.”

Giffords, 40, was raised “mixed” by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said that after a visit to Israel in 2001, she had decided she was Jewish only. She attended services at a local Reform synagogue.

In one of her last photos, she posed with the new U.S. House of Representatives speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) at her swearing in; her hand is on the “Five Books of Moses.”

Giffords fought a hard election this year, against the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic mood. She tacked to the right of her party on immigration, saying border security was of primary consideration. The election was called in her favor weeks after the vote.

Groups press Senate on legalizing undocumented migrants


Jewish groups urged the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that would legalize undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the DREAM Act, which offers a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States before they were 16 and have remained at least five years.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, has said passing the bill is a priority before the Congress ends its session this month.

“This long overdue legislation is a just response to the needs of young adults who wish to continue to make a positive contribution to our nation,” the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center said in a statement. “It will make it possible for them to serve our nation in the military and by furthering their education, eventually attaining legal residency and citizenship.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the National Council of Jewish Women also are are pressing for passage.

Republicans will assume the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives in the next Congress, making it much less likely for a similar bill to pass. President Obama has urged passage, saying the bill would help address the immigration reform he promised and also pledged by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Jewish groups slam Arizona immigration law


An array of Jewish groups expressed their dismay at the passage of Arizona’s restrictive new immigration enforcement law.

“The Jewish community has long called on our national leaders to reform our immigration laws to ‘welcome the stranger’ and to create an effective federal immigration system characterized by the rule of law and the humane treatment of newcomers,” the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society said in a statement after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law Friday afternoon.

HIAS went on to say that the governor’s signing of the measure “not only threatens the necessary trust between police and their communities, but the decision also betrays the proud history of a nation built by immigrants.”

The new law requires that police check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Civil liberties groups, including many Jewish groups, say the law effectively mandates racial profiling.

Other Jewish groups registering their protests included the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Rabbis from five Reform congregations in Arizona also joined to write to Brewer.