Sanders supporters banned from Tinder after campaigning on dating app

Stumping for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Tinder is getting some women banned from the online dating app after sending campaign messages to prospective matches.

Two women – one from Iowa and the other from New Jersey – confirmed to Reuters on Friday that they received notices from Tinder in the previous 24 hours that their accounts were locked because they had been reported too many times for peppering men on the site with messages promoting Sanders' candidacy.

Robyn Gedrich, 23, said she sent messages to 60 people a day for the past two weeks trying to convince them to support the U.S. senator from Vermont in his race for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Do you feel the bern?” her message to other Tinder users read, parroting a Sanders campaign slogan. “Please text WORK to 82623 for me. Thanks.”

Gedrich, an assistant store manager at retailer Elie Tahari who lives in Brick, New Jersey, said a text would prompt people to start receiving updates from the Sanders campaign, as well as a link where they could sign up and volunteer. She has been unable to sign back into Tinder since logging off on Thursday.

Haley Lent, 22, a photographer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told Reuters in a Twitter message that she also got locked out of the app on Thursday night after sending messages trying to convince people to vote for Sanders the previous night.

Lent, who is married, said she talked to 50 to 100 people on the app. She had even bought a Tinder premium membership, which allows users to change their location, for a month so that she could reach people in New Hampshire and promote Sanders.  

“I would ask them if they were going to vote in their upcoming primaries,” she said. “If they said no or were on the fence, I would try to talk to them and persuade them to vote.”

A spokeswoman for Tinder, which is part of Match Group Inc, owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, said in an email on Friday afternoon, “We whole-heartedly support people sharing their political views on Tinder, but we don't allow spamming. So feel free to spread the Bern, just don't spam.”


The two women are not the only ones making unusual use of Tinder, better known as a “hook-up” app, as a campaign tool. A Facebook  group “Bernie Sanders Dank Tinder Convos” has 782 members.

On Yahoo Inc's Tumblr microblogging site, a thread titled “Tinder Campaigning, The adventures of a perpetual right-swiper in the efforts of electing Bernie Sanders” has dozens of conversations referencing Sanders pulled from Tinder. “Swiping right” is a colloquial reference to approving of a potential match on Tinder.

Gedrich said she got mixed responses from the 300 Tinder users who replied. “Some people would ask what is this for, and I would kind of explain,” she said. “Some of them would unmatch me or report me as a bot.” A bot (or robot) account is a scam profile used to send spam messages.

Some responses simply read, “Trump2016,” expressing support for Republican candidate Donald Trump, the real estate tycoon. “It was really alarming to see that a lot of people don't know what's going on in the world,” she said.

None of her matches resulted in an actual date, she said.

Think American, Not Mexican on Antonio


As Antonio Villaraigosa campaigns for mayor in the Jewish community, he will face the same big question asked by all non-Latino voters: Are you too Mexican?

The question is especially important to Jews, because our community’s long-time relationship with Latino and African American Los Angeles has been a powerful force in the city’s history.

Actually, it’s doubtful anyone will ask Villaraigosa this question outright at a public meeting. The question will be voiced in the comparative anonymity of talk radio and the blogosphere. But, if past election campaigns mean anything, Villaraigosa’s ethnicity will be lingering somewhere in the back of the minds of even those who don’t follow the blogs or listen to talk shows.

His opponent, Mayor James Hahn, turned Villaraigosa’s ethnicity against him four years ago with a television ad that made him out to be an associate of south-of-the-border drug dealers. Since then, Hahn has compiled a record to campaign on: beating Valley secession; hiring our excellent police chief, William Bratton; and standing up for the impoverished, politically weak, largely Latino, immigrant victims of the brutal Rampart- scandal cops. However, with his reputation damaged by allegations of misdeeds by associates, the fear of losing may persuade the mayor to return to the same questionable tactics he used against Villaraigosa in 2001.

If he does, he’ll be hoping a majority of voters share a misconception of Los Angeles life in general and take a gloomy, narrow view of race relations here.

Being a glass-half-full kind of person, I take a hopeful view. Despite having covered two riots and innumerable dustups, I know that various ethnicities in Los Angeles can find common ground and share common American values.

A reminder of that occurred last week with the death of the famous African American attorney, Johnnie Cochran, graduate of Los Angeles High School, which was then almost all-white. He grew up, as Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten wrote, in a city where, despite residential racial segregation, “interracial contacts and friendships flourished…. [Cochran’s] closest personal friends were white and Jewish. It simply never occurred to him that those friendships were in any way precluded by his abiding concern for the African American community.”

Another reminder was at a March 19 dinner, where the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research honored Larry Aubry, an African American community leader who, in many roles, has been a fighter for civil rights and for collaboration among Los Angeles’ ethnicities. I remember him particularly from the tough days before, during and after the ’92 riot, when, as a member of the Los Angeles Human Relations staff, he courageously hit the streets day and night, a peacemaker in an incredibly tangled and explosive situation.

The library itself is an example of multiethnic cooperation on the left. It was founded during the McCarthy era by Emil Freed to house his and others’ collections of leftist political material. Its files tell the story of Jewish-Latino-African American cooperation in battles for civil rights and labor rights from the Great Depression onward.

But cooperation does not occur only on the left. The most important cooperation, as I was reminded last week, occurs in the broad center.

I was in Sacramento, participating in a Latino Legislative Caucus’ academy for elected officials. The program was conceived by one of Los Angeles’ most unappreciated politicians, Richard Polanco, who represented the city in the state Assembly and state Senate for many years.

Polanco came up with a political strategy that elected so many Latinos to the Legislature in the 1990s that the Assembly got a Latino speaker, Cruz Bustamante, in 1997. Villaraigosa was also speaker, and the office is now occupied by Fabian Nunez. Polanco himself was Senate majority leader before term limits retired him.

I followed the strategy when I was at The Times, and it was a real education in the nature of Latino California.

California had been fed news stories of Latino gang members, illegal immigrants storming the border, school dropouts and impoverished, broken families. Polanco understood that large numbers of Latinos were as he was — middle-class Californians with strong family values and educational and economic drive. They had the same interests as the rest of California: better schools, safe neighborhoods, good jobs.

He and his colleagues recruited Latino candidates from the middle class. They delivered this message and won in predominantly Anglo districts.

It was, and is, a very American story, familiar to anyone with immigrant roots. Upsetting as it may be to ethnic nationalists or leftist theorists, most people aspire to the good old American middle-class dream.

That was Villaraigosa’s dream as he moved up the economic and professional scale. No, he’s not too Mexican. If you were a left-wing radical, you’d say he’s too American.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at


Conflicting Schools of Thought


You don’t have to go far to hear complaints about the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD), the city’s beleaguered public school system, nor very far to catch grumbling about Mayor James K. Hahn. But linking the two is a stretch for many, because Los Angeles’ mayor has no authority over the city’s schools — none at all.

Yet one challenger in particular, Bob Hertzberg, has made LAUSD the centerpiece of his campaign by pledging, somehow, to break up the nation’s second-largest school system. Politically, the strategy isn’t off the wall.

Education polls at the top of voter interest in Los Angeles, and, for that matter, it’s also a prime focus of the Jewish community. A 1997 study commissioned by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles found that 64 percent of the region’s school-age Jews attend public schools.

Hahn’s allegedly thin profile on education, therefore, could count a great deal on Election Day. But you won’t hear many complaints about Hahn from the L.A. Unified bureaucracy, which, to paraphrase Greta Garbo, mostly wants to be left alone. In that respect, Hahn has complied magnificently.

To be sure, city school officials could easily assemble a wish list for Hahn. They’d love the financial support that Santa Monica showers on its schools — more than $450 per student, plus additional taxes that sock property owners at $331 per parcel.

L.A. school officials also wouldn’t mind more help finding places to build classrooms and playgrounds — LAUSD is pushing to complete 159 new construction projects, including 79 entirely new schools, over the next six years.

More help fighting truancy — and preventing vandalism and other crimes near schools — would be nice. And then there’s the pernicious gang problem, which sometimes determines which children from a particular neighborhood can safely attend certain schools. It also leads to occasional campus brawls.

But many district officials would happily trade all the potential upsides for a mayor who keeps his distance. Educrats and unions prefer to call the shots themselves, even when the results displease parents and students.

That sort of stasis was upended when Richard Riordan served as mayor from 1993 to 2001. Drawing on the example of Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, Riordan led campaigns that threw out four incumbent school board members. His handpicked school board majority unceremoniously dumped Supt. Ruben Zacarias and other top bureaucrats who’d spent entire careers rising to their positions.

Ask Hahn and he’ll dismiss the entire Riordan era as turmoil to no avail.

“Look, he made no impact,” said Hahn in an interview with The Journal. “The previous mayor spent a lot of time and effort raising money to rearrange the members of the school board. One of them, I think, still remains of the people that he elected to office.”

Hahn acknowledged schools’ importance, but also insists it’s not his role to manhandle L.A. Unified, saying, “I want to be a partner with the school district.”

As mayor, he performed a substantial and overlooked favor for Roy Romer, the current schools superintendent. He unflinchingly supported Romer’s ongoing desire to resurrect the Belmont Learning Complex project, which will likely go down as the nation’s most expensive high school, whether or not it opens.

Romer’s own school board has been squeamish about the safety of the Belmont site, an old oil field. But as Hahn pointed out, much of Los Angeles — not just the unfinished school — sits above old oil fields, so any hazards should be surmountable.

Mostly, Hahn’s education agenda has been to expand a city-led, after-school program through grants and private donations.

“I’m making an impact in thousands of kids’ lives every day by having an after-school program,” Hahn said. “They’re doing better in school. They’re getting better grades. They’re getting better attendance. And they’re staying out of trouble.”

Riordan partisans, in turn, counter that Riordan catalyzed more sweeping reforms. For one thing, it’s almost certain that former Colorado governor Romer would never have become superintendent, except for the chain of events that Riordan set in motion, despite the former mayor’s political missteps, philosophical inconsistencies and occasionally ham-handed meddling. Under Romer’s leadership, the district has made gains in academic achievement and pressed forward unrelentingly on the country’s largest school repair and construction effort.

But Romer doesn’t want a mayor telling him what to do any more than did Zacarias. Romer betrayed initial concern, in fact, when Riordan became Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointed education secretary — when Riordan appeared ready to pry into L.A. Unified’s affairs again.

More recently, Romer got downright testy over Hertzberg’s platform in the mayor’s race. Hertzberg contends that LAUSD needs to be shattered into pieces because it’s just too large, too ineffective. Hertzberg, a former state Assembly speaker, cites an alarmingly high dropout rate — in the range of 50 percent — as all the justification he needs.

Romer, who’s in his 70s, doesn’t want the distraction of a complex and years-long breakup process when he’s already got a full agenda to accomplish before he leaves town. It includes his massive bond-funded construction program, which would be a challenge to divvy into pieces, especially if it means dismantling a school construction division that Romer spent several years putting together.

Of course, there’s plenty of middle ground between Hahn’s separation-of-powers approach and Hertzberg’s atomic bomb, and that’s about where Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, a third major contender in next week’s primary, tries to position himself. Villaraigosa, a former union organizer, has the backing of the vocal and powerful teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

Riordan openly opposed UTLA’s influence over school board elections. For his part, Villaraigosa appreciates UTLA’s support, while also wanting to avoid the label of union partisan.

Riordan backed Villaraigosa’s unsuccessful bid for mayor against Hahn in 2001. This time around, Riordan’s supporting Hertzberg, who didn’t run in 2001.

In the state Legislature, both Hertzberg and Villaraigosa, another former Assembly speaker, pushed successfully for school construction funds and made education central to their profiles as lawmakers.

More recently, Villaraigosa, in his brief tenure as an Eastside councilman, has helped clear the bureaucratic path for the opening of a well-regarded charter school. He’s also participated in planning a new high school whose development could incorporate public park space, neighborhood child care, new housing and a transit station.

Hertzberg also fully embraces such efforts to make new schools into centers of community service and neighborhood revitalization.

Such aggressive collaboration may be logical and sensible, but it’s not a political given. It’s been more typical for council members — and sometimes mayors — to treat the school district as an alien force to be thwarted as a competitor for land and resources.

Mayor Tom Bradley, for all his accomplishments, opposed building a school at the Ambassador Hotel site, siding with commercial developers. Hahn, as well as his challengers, accepts that the health of the city politic is married to that of the city’s schools.

But Hahn also insists that Hertzberg won’t — can’t — accomplish district breakup — end of story.

Hahn may be correct. Yet the right leader at the right time can mightily influence events for better or worse. Romer, for one, is politically shrewd enough to understand that, as do district officials who remember when Riordan was mayor.


Tough Job


The faint of heart should not apply for this job: Needed, a sensitive but thick-skinned person who can get along with a combative mixture

of Los Angeles’ Jews, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims, students, retired people, lawyers, doctors, homeless and many, many more.

Karen Bass, an African American community leader, figured she could take the heat. It couldn’t be more difficult than her time as a physician’s assistant in the high-pressure County-USC Medical Center emergency ward, or the years she spent leading the Community Coalition, uniting often-feuding South Central L.A. blacks and Latinos in a campaign to improve neglected schools and stop drug-dealing, prostitution and a proliferation of liquor stores.

She got the job, which is representing the 47th District in the state Assembly. Bass, a Democrat, was elected to the Legislature in November’s election.

Her district is a multiethnic mélange that extends from affluent, predominantly white Westwood Village to working-class, mostly black and Latino Southwestern Los Angeles. She’s also got Crenshaw, Culver City, Koreatown, the well-off, mainly black neighborhoods of View Park and Windsor Hills and the Westside communities of Rancho Park, West Los Angeles, Mar Vista and Palms, with their substantial Jewish population. European Americans comprise 31 percent of the population, African Americans 29 percent, Latinos 25 percent and Asian Pacific Islanders just over 10 percent.

Journal readers were introduced to Bass by my fellow columnist, Raphael J. Sonnenshein, after she won the Democratic primary in March, which assured her of victory in November in the heavily Democratic district. He said her win seemed to herald a revival of the black-Jewish coalition that elected Tom Bradley mayor in 1973 and, a few years later, collapsed in circumstances too complicated to explain in a column of this size.

I don’t know whether Bass, even with her medical training, can resuscitate that long-dead coalition. But her immediate task may be just as difficult, balancing the interests of the Ethiopians, Koreans, Mexicans, blacks, Jews and others she now represents and harnessing the energy in her district’s dynamic neighborhoods to get some action out of Sacramento.

I visited her last week in her campaign office in the rear of a medical building at Jefferson and La Cienega boulevards. Bass, 51, the divorced mother of a daughter who attends Loyola Marymount University, was the same, friendly yet determined person that I first met on the streets of South Central Los Angeles in the early ’90s, when she was leading a Community Coalition demonstration against a liquor store.

The neighborhood was rapidly changing from solidly African American to a mixture of blacks and Latinos. Many of the old-time black residents didn’t like the newcomers. The feeling was often mutual. Journalists and other habitual skeptics doubted that the African Americans and Latinos could work together.

The Community Coalition understood that differences could be put aside in the face of a common enemy. And everyone agreed that a liquor store owner tolerating parking lots filled with drug dealers and prostitutes was an enemy. Nobody wanted their kids walking past that mess on their way to school.

“It was a lot easier to cross ethnic lines at the community level, when everyone is working on a project together,” she said

It will be much more difficult to find common interests in Bass’ 47th Assembly District. It is a gerrymandered product of political technicians who, using computer analysis, searched out every Democratic household in a broad area to create a foolproof but odd-looking Democratic district. A rich homeowner near Westwood Village doesn’t have much in common with a working-class apartment dweller in Southwestern L.A., except that they are both Democrats.

Trying to find common interests, Bass held meetings throughout the district. Everyone expressed their local concerns. Some loved the idea of an Exposition Boulevard rapid transit line, while others hated it. But she found a common concern about the public schools.

“People were adamant,” she said. “They were willing to increase taxes to improve education.”

As part of her effort to mobilize her diverse community, Bass intends to appoint a full-time staff member to represent her in the Jewish community. It will be someone “who is knowledgeable and will focus on the problems of the community,” Bass said. Her girlhood home was around Fairfax Avenue and Venice Boulevard.

“I grew up exposed to the Jewish community since I was a small child,” she said.

Bass faces a intimidating challenge. The Democratic-controlled Legislature has a do-nothing reputation and still seems intimidated by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The gerrymandered districts, drawn for the convenience of Democratic and Republican political bosses, split communities with common interests. There is a huge turnover of Assemblymembers, limited to three two-year terms. In that atmosphere, making changes in Sacramento will be difficult. But from demonstrating in the neighborhoods of South L.A. to charming rich people in Westwood, Bass has shown an ability to forge common bonds in a diverse city.

Bill Boyarsky’s column on Jews and civic life appears on the first Friday of each month. Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at

Putin Targets Human Rights Workers

Twenty years ago, who could have thought that in 2004, the president of Russia would be attending a meeting of the leaders of industrialized democracies in the United States? Vladimir Putin’s presence at the Group of Eight summit on Sea Island, Ga., in June could be seen as a sign of mind-boggling progress. Unfortunately, the rollback of democracy in Russia continues apace with more and more signs of a climate that bears some chilling similarities to that of 20 years ago.

One such danger sign is a Soviet-style campaign of attacks on human rights activists coming from Putin himself. Putin’s May 26 annual message to the Duma, Russia’s equivalent of the State of the Union address, contained a passage about independent citizens’ organizations in Russia. While many of these groups "work constructively," Putin said, many are less concerned with "the real needs of people" than with "getting funding from influential foreign and domestic foundations" or "serving dubious group and commercial interests." These organizations, he added, often have nothing to say about real violations of basic human rights: "And indeed, that is hardly surprising. They cannot bite the hand that feeds them."

A few days later, activists from human rights and environmentalist groups, among them Elena Bonner — the widow of the great dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov and now chairwoman of the Sakharov Foundation — noted Soviet-era dissidents Lev Ponomarev and the Rev. Gleb Yakunin issued a response to these rather ominous comments. They pointed out that Putin’s attack on "bad" independent organizations was clearly directed at critics of his increasingly authoritarian domestic policies and of the brutal war in Chechnya. The attempt to depict critics of the state as lackeys of foreign powers, the statement noted, had a distinct communist-era odor.

On June 5, a commentary on Putin’s quarrel with the human rights activists aired on "Postscriptum," a popular news analysis program on one of Russia’s government-run nationwide television channels.

"For some reason," host Alexei Pushkov sneered, "we’ve got this habit if you say anything against human rights activists, you’re immediately classified as a reactionary and an enemy of democracy. Now, too, the statement by 15 human rights organizations, signed by Bonner and her colleagues, speaks of a new campaign of attacks on the democratic opposition and civil society. However, Bonner, who lives mostly in America, hasn’t had anything to do with civil society or life in Russia for a long time." He went on to accuse Bonner of composing anti-Russian libels "solely because Bonner herself is no longer tolerated in Russia."

Bonner, an 81-year-old World War II veteran who has had several coronary bypasses, does spend most of her time in the Boston area to be near her daughter and grandchildren. (She is currently at work preparing Sakharov’s diaries for publication in Russia.) She has never applied for permanent resident status in the United States, forgoing considerable financial benefits precisely, she told me, because she feels she must remain a Russian citizen in order to have the "moral right" to speak out about events in her country.

The "Postscriptum" commentary was concluded by shamelessly spitting at a woman who is one of the living heroes of Russia’s fight for freedom: "Elena Bonner, you lie when … you say that your position is based on universal concepts of human rights and freedoms. What humanism, what universality? You are always against Russia. And always on the side of the U.S. and NATO."

The odor of the bad old days is stronger and fouler than ever. Of course, the bad old days are not really back at least, not yet. The print media in Russia still have a considerable amount of leeway to criticize the government and to give a platform to dissenting voices such as Bonner’s. On the other hand, one of the last remaining independent voices on Russian television is no more: a highly rated current affairs program hosted by esteemed journalist Leonid Parfyonov was shut down for broadcasting an interview with the widow of a Chechen separatist leader.

In the old days, verbal attacks on dissidents went in tandem with arrests and jailings. So far, that has not happened. Or has it? The director of the Sakharov Museum in Moscow, Yuri Samodurov, is now on trial on charges of "inciting religious hatred" for hosting an exhibition about religious intolerance and authoritarianism. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

Once again, being a dissident in Russia is not safe.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe.

Eighth-Graders to Chart Own Course

Allowing students to chose what they want to study in religious school is sure to loosen a standardized curriculum. But such an exercise in democracy potentially can also instill commitment by its participants.

The O.C. Bureau of Jewish Education is counting on the latter. At the Eighth-Grade Jewish Values Weekend, May 14-16 at Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, students will vote on the course content for their ninth-grade Adat Noar year. "This is what makes it one of the most popular weekend programs," said Robyn Faintich, the bureau’s youth programs director. "By choosing what they will study, these teens are beginning the process of making adult Jewish choices."

The students are divided into subgroups that examine one of 10 possible topics. After exploring a topic, each group creates a campaign skit to "sell" their subject for the 5765-5766 school year to their peers. Previous topics have ranged from "Relationships" and "Confronting Anti-Semitism, Bias and Hate" to "Shmirat haGuf: Guarding the Mind, Body & Soul" and "The American Jewish Teen." After the presentations, students vote for the minicourses that they think most apply to their lives and their concerns.

The weekend emphasizes icebreakers and mixers that help each teen make new friends and nurtures a youth community.

"I think getting ready for Shabbat is a favorite part of the weekend" said Romy Haase, a bureau alumna who has worked at the last two eighth-grade weekends.

"Students choose activities such as baking challah, Israeli dancing, and Shabbat z’mirot [songs]. They are also encouraged to write Shabbat-o-Grams [welcome messages] to each other — these notes are collected and then distributed at Shabbat dinner."

The weekend is open to all Jewish eighth-graders from Orange County and Long Beach. To register, download an application at or call (714) 755-4000.

Applications are due by May 3.

Arnold’s Choice

If there was a presidential candidate whose father accused "the Jew media" and "Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles" of beating the drums for war, and said he had no problem with harassing and punishing the Jews — but such things shouldn’t be done in "a loud clamor" — would you vote for that candidate?

The answer, of course, is that most Jews already did back in 1960. Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of John F. Kennedy, made his anti-Semitic views abundantly clear while serving as ambassador to the Court of St. James in the run-up to World War II. Germany’s ambassador to England at the time, Herbert von Dirksen, called Joseph Kennedy, "Germany’s best friend in London."

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s people would probably love to throw that example back at journalists who pepper him with questions about his father’s Nazi membership and his own inordinate affection for former Nazi Kurt Waldheim. But somehow, I don’t see Arnold pointing to his wife, Kennedy family member Maria Shriver, and saying, "You think my family’s got problems, look at hers."

More and more, it seems, candidates run as much against their pasts as they do against other candidates. They mount campaigns within campaigns to race not against opponents but against disclosure. The recall election for governor exaggerates the extent to which politics has become a form of forensic archaeology, with operatives and the press digging up skeletons as fast as the other candidate’s team can heap dirt on the bones.

Take Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. The Democratic candidate for governor once belonged to a Latino group called MEChA when he was a student at Fresno State in the 1970s. MEChA called for the revolutionary and radical return of California to the Mexicans, from whom Anglos took it (though it stopped short of calling for the Mexicans to return it to the pure-blood Indians from whom it was first stolen).

Extremist Latinos still exist out there — one of their Web sites is particularly noxious and anti-Semitic — but clearly Bustamante is not one of them, and a thousand e-mails "exposing" him as otherwise doesn’t make it true.

Bustamante didn’t help matters by not directly refuting what the MEChA manifesto professed and discussing openly his involvement. The past is ever present in campaigns these days, but still candidates see it as a problem to be handled, rather than faced. We the voters have to decide what history matters and how much.

Arnold’s opponents want voters to hold his 1977 Oui magazine interview describing illicit drugs and explicit sex against him. Voters I’ve spoken with will give him a pass. What happened in the ’70s stays in the ’70s.

But Waldheim is different, and it sticks in my craw.

According to "Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Kurt Waldheim Investigation and Cover-Up," by Eli M. Rosenbaum and William Hoffer, Waldheim was an intelligence officer in Germany’s Army Group E when it committed mass murder in the Kozara region of western Bosnia. In 1944, Waldheim oversaw the dropping of anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets behind Russian lines.

One leaflet read, "Enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over." For these activities, the U.S. Justice Department put Waldheim on its watch list in 1987 and denied him entry.

In 1986, the Wiesenthal Center, according to its Web site, launched a massive campaign to urge the Reagan administration to bar Waldheim from entering the United States after reviewing the archival material dealing with his role in German atrocities in Yugoslavia and Greece during World War II. The center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier testified at the Waldheim hearings in Washington, D.C.

Just as the Waldheim controversy was heating up, Arnold invited Waldheim to his wedding. Waldheim declined, but sent a gift, and Arnold toasted the ex-Nazi at his celebration. He has never retracted or explained his affectionate statements or the support he demonstrated for Waldheim by allowing his name to appear on Waldheim’s campaign posters.

Hier recently told The Journal that there is no reason to hold Schwarzenegger responsible for the actions of his father and that the actor, a major financial donor to the center, has worked tirelessly for Holocaust awareness and tolerance. Still, even Hier said he would like to see Arnold publicly clarify his views about Waldheim.

Whatever our political or moral leanings, I think most of us can safely agree that a man doesn’t get a pass for saluting a war criminal. Toasting Nazis should not be anyone’s big issue in this race, but character does count. If in the past Arnold refused to distance himself from Waldheim because, as some critics have suggested, he wanted to keep his options open for electoral office in Austria, his behavior reeks of the kind of opportunism that already stinks up Sacramento.

A Republican strategist told me that Arnold’s Waldheim issue probably won’t matter "to anyone under 70 years old." That may be largely true. It may not be expedient for Arnold to come clean on Waldheim, but it’s right.

Mission to Argentina

Last month, seven Los Angeles rabbis and five community leaders traveled to Argentina for a whirlwind 72-hour trip. The mission, organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, helped them gain firsthand knowledge of the crisis in Argentina. Upon their return to Los Angeles, the leaders have begun promoting the Federation’s Lifeline to Argentina campaign, a $1 million challenge grant matching every dollar raised. Below are some of their thoughts and photos of the trip.

“We all promised this Jewish family of ours that we in Los Angeles — whose lives are so blessed — would not forget them. At our final meeting we were able to visit the now-abandoned Jewish community center (one of several that has had to close) that is currently used for only one purpose — a unique “community pharmacy” that the Tzedaka Foundation and JDC run to provide free medicine for those in need. We watched in awe as a combination of paid and volunteer pharmacists showed us how they process 16,000 prescriptions a month that literally are keeping the Jewish people alive.” — Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation

“One of our most memorable experiences was a visit to a nonsectarian soup kitchen sponsored by the JDC. Downstairs, JDC staff and volunteers serve a hot meal each day to children who live in the local shantytown. Upstairs, their mothers learn to weave colorful fabrics into clothing to provide a meager income for their families. Amid the pain and suffering, the JDC brings a message of hope as it carries out its mission of tikkun olam.” — Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president, Board of Rabbis

“I was most moved by the unity and cooperation between the various movements and denominations within the Argentine Jewish community. I did not feel the polarity that exists here between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy. The Argentine community is a great example of how crisis brings people together and breeds innovation and fosters unity. There is a lot we can learn and emulate from the Argentine Jewish community.” — Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardic Temple Tifererth Israel

“For me, the highlight of the trip was to see the creativity the Jewish community has used to address the problem of decreasing enrollment in Jewish schools because of the poverty. They responded by building afternoon schools where they feed children a hot lunch and then offer a variety of Jewish and secular programs in a Jewish environment. Such a program is Morasha, organized by the Orthodox community of Buenos Aires. It serves 1,200 students and reaches out to the entire spectrum of Jews.” — Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Young Israel of Century City

Democrats Facing Fight For Jewish Soul

The Democratic Party may be about to experience a battle for
its Jewish soul. Less than a year before the first primary, the field for the
2004 Democratic presidential nomination has turned into a crowd, but two names
have special significance for Jewish voters and the politicians who woo them:
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton — the cautious,
conservative lawmaker and the rhetorical bomb thrower.

Sharpton’s presence could trigger the long-predicted
reevaluation of the Democrats by many Jewish voters, said Johns Hopkins University
political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg — especially if the civil rights leader
does better than expected in the polls and primaries. And since expectations
for Sharpton are minimal, any kind of positive showing during the primary
season could drive more Jewish voters and contributors into the GOP orbit.

Sharpton “reminds a lot of Jewish voters about what they’ve
come to dislike about the Democratic Party,” Ginsberg said. “It will sharpen
longstanding concerns.”

Any success by Sharpton could have an especially significant
impact on Jewish campaign contributors, he added.

“That will be “a real problem for party leaders; without
Jews there isn’t much of a Democratic Party, and they’d better start saving
their nickels and dimes, because they’re not going to get as many Jewish
dollars,” Ginsberg said.

But Republicans shouldn’t start celebrating yet, Ginsberg
warned. A strong showing by Lieberman, and the prospect of the first major
party nominee for president, could “cement Jewish ties to the Democrats.” Most
analysts predict a Lieberman candidacy would draw a record Jewish vote.

But it’s not just the Jews. The Lieberman-Sharpton dynamic
is critical for Democratic leaders whose fractious party will face a mostly
unified GOP.

“The relationship between Lieberman and his backers and
Sharpton and his backers may well determine whether the Democratic Party
remains united for the fall ’04 campaign or suffers grievous wounds that make
its victory impossible,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry

On the surface, it’s an unequal contest in every respect.
Lieberman starts the race with high national name recognition, a sophisticated
fundraising machine and few negatives. The party’s 2000 vice presidential
nominee, he worked his way up to the nomination battle the traditional way:
through years of elective office and efforts to craft a reputation of sober

Last week, a Time-CNN poll put Lieberman at the top of the
heap, with 16 percent of the Democratic voters; Sharpton was at seven percent.
But the civil rights activist came in ahead of Florida Sen. Bob Graham, former
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich — all more “mainstream”

 Sharpton has never won an election and has little
connection with the party hierarchy. He has huge negatives, the result of
high-profile controversies like the Tawana Brawley affair and his actions
during the Crown Heights riots in 1991, a particular sore point with Jews.

But there is also a huge expectations gap. Lieberman has to
win some big primaries to remain competitive, whereas Sharpton only has to do
well enough to keep his low-budget campaign sputtering along. That leads to the
nightmare scenario for Jewish Democrats: an early end to the Lieberman
campaign, along with a continuing Sharpton presence right up to the convention.

“There’s a tremendous amount at stake here,” said University
of Richmond political scientist Akiba Covitz.

Sharpton is the “public face” of rising black anti-Semitism,
he said. “American Jews continue to see anti-Semitism as the most pressing
issue facing them today; to many, Sharpton represents that.”

Images of Sharpton sharing platforms with the other
candidates will “put a sharp and clear face on those concerns,” he said. Any
concessions the party is forced to make to Sharpton will reinforce the growing
feeling that the party is more interested in appeasing black voters than
holding on to the Jews.

And Sharpton, unlike the frontrunners, doesn’t have to
actually win any primaries to hang on.

“Because he’s such a nontraditional candidate, he’s
positioned to fight to the bitter end,” Covitz said. “You can probably look
forward to him giving a speech at the Democratic convention.”

Covitz said there are many “ifs” to this scenario. Sharpton
could do so poorly in the early primaries that he fades from view, if not from
the primary ballots. The recent entry of former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of
Illinois into the race could split the black vote, hurting Sharpton’s chances
in key southern primaries and in northern cities.

And of course, there’s the Lieberman factor. A very strong
showing by the veteran senator would offset Sharpton’s negatives among Jewish
voters, Covitz said. But at the very least, Sharpton’s presence in the campaign
will shake loose “some Jews who are sitting on the fence, and perhaps a
significant number of resources,” he said.

In private, few Democrats believe Sharpton will just fade
away. He is the most colorful candidate in a drab lineup; nobody expects him to
win the nomination, but there is an almost universal belief he will be
successful in attracting just the kind of attention the party doesn’t want as
it tries to galvanize black voters without losing Jewish votes and money.

The Sharpton-Lieberman matchup comes at a time when some
studies suggest the Jewish electorate could be riper than ever for a shift to
the GOP — although even Jewish Republicans agree that past predictions of a big
shift have proven wildly inaccurate.

According to a recent survey by sociologist Steven M. Cohen,
younger Jews are likelier than their leaders to call themselves Republicans.
Cohen also points to a growing tendency of more affluent Jews to claim GOP
identification. And almost half of the Jewish voters who supported Vice
President Al Gore in 2000 say they’re not sure they would make the same choice

A recent study by Gary Tobin suggested there is more
anti-Semitism now in the Democratic Party than on the GOP side, reflecting both
changing attitudes among African Americans and anti-Israel bias in some liberal

“It’s hard to miss the fact that when Congress passed a
resolution strongly supporting Israel last year, almost all the opposition came
from the Democratic side of the aisle,” said a leading pro-Israel activist.
“And you take notice when Black Caucus members provide a forum for someone like
Louis Farrakhan.”

Al Sharpton is positioned to highlight those fears for many
Jewish voters in 2004.

“Taking all the currents together, you have a real
opportunity for a Republican breakthrough,” said Murray Friedman, a longtime
Jewish conservative activist and former member of the U.S. Civil Rights

But he conceded that Sharpton is unlikely to stand Jewish
partisan behavior on its ear. A “‘breakthrough’ means anywhere from 35 percent
to a majority,” he said. And he agreed that past predictions — including that
Jesse Jackson would drive Jews into the arms of the Republicans in the 1980s —
were followed by disappointment on voting day.

Sharpton’s presence in the campaign, he said, is “one of
many factors that has to align in the proper configuration for there to be any
real shift.”

But as 2004 approaches, he said, there is greater
receptivity to the Republican domestic agenda among Jewish voters, and a
growing feeling among voters who put Israel at the top of their political
agenda that the Republicans have been much more supportive of the current
Israeli government.

Republicans interested in Jewish outreach are licking their
chops over the prospect Sharpton will do well in a few early primaries and
thereby tear the party apart and drive Jews to the GOP side of the aisle. But
GOP strategists say they will approach the fight gingerly.

“I don’t think we want to get involved in talking about the
Democrat’s Sharpton problem,” said a top Jewish Republican activist recently.
“Sharpton’s record and his character will speak for themselves.”

That reflects the likeliest strategy for the Republicans:
let the Sharpton-Lieberman dynamic play itself out without comment.

“If the Republicans are smart, and I believe on this they
will be, they’ll stay out of the Sharpton candidacy issue,” said University of
Virginia’s Sabato. “Behind the scenes, they may encourage reporters to cover
his past controversies and scandals, but the GOP benefits simply by Sharpton’s
presence in the contest.”

A lot depends on Sharpton and Lieberman themselves in the
next 12 months.

“It remains to be seen what kind of campaign Sharpton runs,”
said presidential prognosticator Allan J. Lichtman of American University.
“This may be a candidacy that goes nowhere at all, even among black voters. He
doesn’t’ have the kind of reputation Jesse Jackson had when he was running for
the presidency.”

Other factors, including President Bush’s perceived shift to
the right on domestic matters, could also “blunt any Jewish shift to the
right,” Lichtman said.

“What we don’t know yet is whether the push of Sharpton will
be greater than the pull of Lieberman for Jewish voters,” he said, adding that
the big danger for the Democrats is “if Sharpton is successful getting into the
debates. Then the media has to cover him.”

“The other candidates,” he continued, “are not that far
apart on the issues; the others are bland, so he’ll really stand out. There’s
no Hillary in the race.”  

Wellstone — One of the ‘Frozen Chosen’

As Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) began campaigning for a third term, some pro-Israel activists tried to generate support for his opponent by whispering that the two-term incumbent was insufficiently supportive of Israel. But in almost every respect Wellstone, who died in the crash of his campaign plane in remote northern Minnesota last week en route to a funeral, was more representative of the Jewish political tradition than almost anyone else in political life.

Wellstone, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, was a bleeding-heart liberal in the best sense of the phrase. He genuinely cared about the nation’s most vulnerable citizens; he put social justice and civil rights ahead of almost every other consideration during his 12 years in the Senate.

Defying the anti-government mood that has even crept into Democratic circles, he made the case for active, creative, compassionate government intervention to elevate the poor, treat the sick and protect the vulnerable. Many Democratic colleagues had come to fear the taint of the liberal label; Wellstone wore it as a badge of honor. He did it with humor and grace and a lack of the humbug that seems to infect even politicians who come to Washington as self-proclaimed populists.

He often appeared at public events in a dark T-shirt, not the camera-ready jacket-and-tie ensembles chosen with the TV lights in mind. He was forever rumpled, forever looking like an energetic-but-distracted college professor who had consumed too much caffeine and too many ideas.

He looked — there’s no other way to put this — totally Jewish. Wellstone looked like a guy at the corner deli in Brooklyn, arguing politics with a thoroughly Jewish zest. His unabashed ethnicity was all the more amazing because he represented the land of Garrison Keillor’s Norwegian bachelor farmers — an overwhelmingly Lutheran state where the Jewish population is a measly .4 percent and the favored political style is Scandinavian deadpan.

He used to refer to himself as one of the "Frozen Chosen."

He was one of the most regular attendees of the Capitol Hill events sponsored by American Friends of Lubavitch.

"Disagreement never led to disrespect with Paul," said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the group’s Washington director. "He and I agreed on very little, politically, but he was always extremely polite, courteous and respectful. He had a real respect for Jewish things. He was a real mensch."

Wellstone’s office even looked like the office of a quirky, widely read college professor — which is what he was before his quixotic Senate victory in 1990. His inner office looked like a used bookstore; it smelled of musty pages, not political testosterone.

Wellstone did not wear his religion on his sleeve, but he made it clear to friends over the years that his Judaism was an essential element in his compassionate liberalism.

"He was motivated by fundamental values and was a brilliant advocate for his beliefs, " said Hannah Rosenthal, executive vice-chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. As a Midwest political activist and then an official of the Clinton administration, Rosenthal worked with Wellstone throughout his Senate career. "He was proud that those beliefs were motivated by the prophetic values of Judaism. As the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he believed in the strength and beauty of American democracy."

When he came back to Washington more than a decade ago — he was raised in suburban Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac — he sometimes seemed more interested in being a liberal gadfly than in leaving his imprint on legislation, a process that requires compromise and ability to forge bipartisan coalitions.

But even political detractors say Wellstone quickly shifted gears, reaching out across partisan and ideological lines to make a difference on the issues he cared about: health care, the environment, abortion, gay and civil rights.

His consistency was impressive in a city where deeply held views often last only until the next public opinion survey. He voted against the 1991 Gulf War resolution, and he voted against a similar resolution a few weeks ago, despite predictions that it would hurt his re-election bid against former St. Paul Mayor Norman Coleman — another Jew.

It didn’t; polls showed that his stand was part of the reason he had reclaimed the lead in the tight race. But that didn’t seem to matter to Wellstone; he was against a preemptive, unilateral war, case closed.

He remained a reliable supporter of Israel, but he didn’t vote the straight party line — just as he didn’t vote the straight party line when it came to domestic matters. He strongly supported an active U.S. role in Mideast peacemaking, something that didn’t always endear him to pro-Israel lobbyists, but was consistent with mainstream Jewish thinking. He supported a congressional resolution of solidarity with Israel earlier this year but insisted that, "I don’t think it should be viewed as an open-ended endorsement of the policies of the Sharon government."

He was passionate about the issues that drove him into politics, and he was passionate about his job — so much so that he violated his promise to seek only two terms.

Wellstone was buried as a Jew this week; he will be remembered for living a life that reflected the best in Jewish political activism.

Withholding Our Funds From Territories

Like so many of us across the United States, I have been giving to the annual campaign of the United Jewish Communities (UJC). Through our annual gifts to our local Jewish Federation, a significant portion of our money goes to the UJC, which then distributes funds in Israel for social services and throughout the world for assistance programs.

This spring — with Israel deeply mired in a war unlike any other conflict in its history — the UJC embarked upon an emergency campaign to assist the economically beleaguered country.

The $311 million campaign was successful beyond expectations. My Atlanta Jewish community’s response best represented the kind of response the emergency campaign generated. We had a $6 million quota — and we ended up raising some $10.5 million — from a Jewish community numbering 86,000.

It came as a great surprise to me, and many others, that with the campaign near completion, the UJC changed its 36-year policy of not distributing funds in the disputed territories taken in the 1967 Six-Day War.

This policy of not distributing funds beyond the Green Line (the West Bank and Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Greater Israel, Occupied Territory — take your pick) was based on two premises.

The first concern was possible tax consequences.

There has been a notion that the nonprofit tax status of the United Jewish Appeal (UJC in its first incarnation) could be jeopardized by distributing funds into this part of disputed Israel.

Of equal concern was the idea of creating an uneasy truce between the left and right wings of the American Jewish community.

The right always claimed, with some validity, that Jews should be assisted anywhere in the world. The left asserted, with equal authority, that we should not play a role in forming Israeli policy with regard to these territories. If the Israeli government wanted to assist settlers, said the left, it could easily do so with the fungible dollars we were creating through our giving.

Indeed, the Israeli government has been extremely generous to the settlers in the territories. For example, a young couple could look at an apartment in the Modiin area, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and choke on the mortgage. Or they could move into a comparable apartment, a mere 20 minutes into the territories, for a substantial discount — courtesy of the Israeli government.

This compromise, which was arrived at 36 years ago, has been an important feature of the annual campaign, because it created avenues for Jewish unity and minimized division. Now, with this sudden — and publicly unannounced — change of policy, all bets in the unity department are off.

What makes the UJC decision even more puzzling is that the Reform movement had just decided to roll its own Israel emergency effort into the UJC’s campaign.

Imagine getting the support of such a key organization and not having the courtesy to inform its leaders of such a momentous change. The absence of such notification can only lead to the conclusion that there are leaders within the UJC who knew this decision would be controversial and decided to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

Any Israeli public opinion poll taken these days shows a solid majority acknowledging that a large number of settlements will need to be abandoned in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Any demographic survey will also show that any dreams of holding onto the West Bank and Gaza through territorial annexation will lead to an apartheid Jewish state within 10 to 20 short years. If this is the future political map, why would the UJC invest our dollars in a black hole?

So the UJC, the primary fundraising body in the United States, breaks with a 36-year-old policy that unified American Jewry without telling one of its largest constituent groups.

I encourage local Jewish Federations’ boards of trustees to engage the leadership of the UJC on this most important matter and to withhold our funds from the emergency campaign until this inappropriate decision is changed.

Steve Berman serves on the boards of New Atlanta Jewish High School and the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce. He is a columnist for the Atlanta Jewish Times, where this column originally appeared.

Leah’s Legacy

After Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated five years ago this month, his wife Leah cast herself as the unforgiving scourge of the Israeli right, which she blamed for fostering the atmosphere in which a Jewish radical, Yigal Amir, pulled the trigger.

She constantly chastised the West Bank settlers and other opponents of the Oslo peace agreement for hounding her husband as a “traitor” and “murderer.” As Eitan Haber, Rabin’s devoted aide, wrote after her death last Sunday, “Leah Rabin was not looking for approval. She wanted to utter her truth, and she did.”When young peace campaigners went to her Tel Aviv flat to comfort her after the murder, she asked them accusingly why they hadn’t come during the long months when Rabin’s abusers picketed them there every weekend. She refused to shake hands with the Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had spoken at a Jerusalem rally in which demonstrators brandished photo-montages of Rabin in Nazi uniform.

Hours after Rabin’s state funeral, Leah told an Israeli television interviewer, “There definitely was incitement, which was strongly absorbed and which found itself a murderer, who did this because he had the support of a broad public.” Earlier, when Rabin was lying in state, she frostily told an opposition politician, who came to pay his respects, “It’s too late.”

Along with Shimon Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Yasser Arafat, she saw herself as the custodian of the Oslo process. In one of her last interviews, when she was dying of cancer, she reproached Ehud Barak for abandoning the gradualist strategy of the 1993 accords and trying to solve all the problems in the century-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict before completing the necessary foundation of mutual trust. Only last week, she lobbied the prime minister to let Peres meet Arafat and seek a cease-fire.

Leah Rabin was born in the Prussian city of Koenigsberg in 1928 to a family markedly different from her future husband’s. Her father, Fima Schlossberg, was a German Jewish businessman. Her Danish-born mother, Gusta, was a celebrated beauty. They settled in what was then British-ruled Palestine immediately after Hitler came to power in 1933. Unlike Yitzhak’s family, blue-collared pioneers of Labor Zionism, they were pillars of the German-speaking, concert-going Tel Aviv middle class. Her father opened a hotel there and later traded in farm machinery.

In her teens, Leah was a striking, assertive activist in the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair movement. In a rare romantic passage in his memoirs, the dour Yitzhak wrote of their first, chance encounter in a Tel Aviv street: “A glance, a word, a stirring within, and then a further meeting …”

The writer Shabtai Teveth, who knew them both, remembered their courtship differently from Rabin’s reminiscence. “He just followed her step by step,” he once told me, “until he gathered enough courage to make himself known to her. It was very typical of Yitzhak. On the one hand, he was very tenacious, persistent. On the other hand, he was very shy. I think Leah was the first girl he ever dated.”

Later, when Rabin was a commander in the Palmach, the professional core of the nascent Jewish army, Leah served in his battalion. “It was,” he wrote, “one of the rare occasions in our life together when she was under my command.” At their society wedding during a truce in the 1948 War of Independence, Rabin’s patience was tried by the rabbi, who arrived half an hour late. Guests heard a familiar bass voice promising his bride: “This is the last time I’m getting married.”

Leah’s cousin, Uri Kelner, said after her death: “She was a character from the day she was born.” With her high-combed black hair and emphatic makeup, she was stylish, well-groomed, well-read. She adored and she hated, in equal measure.

Yet like others in her generation of Israeli service and political wives, she was content to be her husband’s consort. Although she studied to be a teacher, she had no separate career, and friends say she never missed one. She was Rabin’s hostess, his attentive sounding board, his doubles partner on the tennis court, his loyal widow. She introduced him to an alien world of symphonies and art galleries.

She came to the attention of a wider public during Rabin’s first term as prime minister in the mid-seventies. An Israeli reporter discovered that the couple had retained a dollar account in Washington, where Rabin had served as Israel’s ambassador. At that time, the law barred Israelis from holding foreign currency.

Rabin stood down as leader of the Labor Party on the eve of the 1977 elections, which brought Menachem Begin’s Likud to power for the first time. Leah took the rap and paid a fine of 250,000 Israeli pounds (the equivalent of $27,000).

If anything, the scandal brought them closer. Together, they patiently reassembled his career, first as a Knesset member, then as defense minister and finally as his party’s successful candidate for prime minister.Yitzhak Rabin’s last recorded words as he left the podium at the fateful Tel Aviv peace rally on November 4, 1995, were “Where’s Leah?” Five years later, her doctor predicted (correctly) that she would hold on until after Rabin’s memorial day. She died, taking phone calls almost to the end, in the hospital that bears his name.