Clinton leads Trump by 43 points among Jewish voters in Florida


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is leading Republican nominee Donald Trump by 43 points among Jewish voters in Florida, a new poll released on Friday showed.

According to the poll, conducted by Jim Gerstein from GBA Strategies, Clinton is supported by 66 percent of Jewish voters, while Trump is supported by 23 percent.

Trump’s image among Jewish voters is underwater by 50 percent. Only 21 percent view the father of Ivanka Trump and former Grand Marshal at the Israel Day Parade favorably. A whopping 71 percent have an unfavorable view of him.

Clinton is viewed favorably by 57 percent of Jewish voters and unfavorably by 33 percent.

The only group Trump is doing well is among Orthodox Jewish voters (6 percent of the Florida Jewish electorate). According to the poll, Trump leads Clinton 66-22 percent among Orthodox Jews. Among all non-Orthodox voters, Clinton leads Trump 77-22.

Jewish voters represent 3 to 6 percent of the electorate in Florida, in a state that is expected to be one of the toss-up battleground states that could determine the presidential race.

Clinton is ahead by 3.3 percentage points in Florida, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

“I think that in a situation where the race is almost certain to be as close as it will be, that, obviously, every community’s vote is going to be crucial and the Jewish community’s vote is something which could be expected to play a factor in this race, for sure,” Andrew Weinstein, an attorney and prominent Democratic donor from Coral Springs, told Jewish Insider.

The Republican Jewish Coalition highlighted the fact that Clinton is currently underperforming, polling lower than Obama’s actual portion of the vote in 2012. “This recently released poll of Jewish voters in Florida confirms again that Jews continue to flee the Democrat Party in greater and greater numbers,” Matt Brooks, RJC’s Executive Director told Jewish Insider is a statement. “Due to President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s policies, voters have seen the world fall into chaos as well as the erosion of our close alliance with Israel. Four years after President Obama received the lowest amount of support from Jewish voters in decades, Democrats should be panicked to see Hillary Clinton falling even further behind.” 

In 2012, President Obama got 68% of the Jewish vote in the Sunshine State, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney got 31 percent, according to exit polls.

A J Street exit poll also showed that 54 percent never considered voting for Romney, while only 27 percent always considered voting against Obama. Numbers from an “>interview with Jewish Insider last year, NJDC’s chairman Greg Rosenbaum boasted that Florida ended up in the Obama column in 2012 due to a concentrated effort to mobilize Jewish voters in the Sunshine State in the last weeks leading to Election Day. An exit poll conducted by Melman showed an increase of support from 59 to 71 percent – a twelve point shift in seven weeks, which was about 144,000 additional votes. The President’s margin of victory in Florida was less than 1 percent – 70,000 votes.


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If confirmed as an act of terrorism, it would be the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained hijackers crashed jetliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.

The choice of target was especially heart-wrenching for members of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida.

“Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety,” the group said in a statement. “We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger.”

In an apparently unrelated incident on Sunday, a heavily armed man from Indiana who said he was headed to a Los Angeles-area gay pride festival was arrested in nearby Santa Monica, California, where police found guns and chemicals to make explosives in his car.

How to tragedy


This is what you do when it all goes to hell again.

You casually turn the television on while the coffee water boils, but the news punches you in the gut and takes your breath away.

You instantly revise the whole history of the world in order to make the horror now unfolding the inevitable trajectory of reality.

You say out loud, even if there is no one to hear you say it, “Oh, my God.”

You do not notice that you have pulled God into the picture. You do not yet wonder what kind of God, if any, could cause or permit this nightmare to happen. 

You pray that no one you love was there, but you know that everyone who was there was loved by someone who is also praying they were not there.

You pray that whoever did this does not belong to any tribe that you do.

You do not yet wonder Whom it is you are praying to.

You text your family and friends, who are doing the same thing you are, their TV remotes in one hand and their cell phones in the other. 

You watch the president call the massacre an act of terror and an act of hate. You learn this is the fifteenth time a mass murder has required him to console us. You cannot help thinking it’s not the last time he will have to do it. 

You learn what set the shooter off: the sight of two men kissing. You wonder how anyone could live in Florida, or anywhere, without having seen that happen before. You shudder at, but gain no insight from, the proximity of love and hate.

You text a friend about going to the West Hollywood Pride Parade to show LGBTQ solidarity. He texts back, “I’m thinking it’s very dangerous No way of guarding against anything Boston marathon flashbacks.” You reply, “Vs Je suis Charlie?” He forwards an L.A. Times tweet: “Man with weapons, possible explosives arrested, said he was going to L.A. gay pride parade.” You stay put.

You hear a gay bar called a “soft target,” and you are forced to confront the inconceivability of hardening the soft targets where you live your life, like the mall you were planning to shop at this afternoon, or the café where you ate last night, which in hindsight could be the twin of the Tel Aviv café where terrorists killed four people a few days before.  

You hear that the bodies of the victims are still being identified. You see parents on the streets of Orlando showing photos of their missing kids to passers-by. You cannot begin to imagine the pain of the looming moment when they will hear their child referred to as their “loved one.”

You read a stream of I-told-you-so tweets about “radical Islamic terrorism,” prompted by a presidential candidate with zero self-control and zero capacity for empathy, and you recall that narcissism is not the description of a colorful personality trait, but the diagnosis of a psychiatric character disorder.

You watch that candidate go on to assert that the murder of 50 people by a man born in New York is manifest justification for banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., and you realize that national tragedy has lost whatever power it once possessed to impose an armistice on partisan bitterness and grace our mourning with dignity and unity.

You hear the sound a military assault rifle makes when it kills and wounds 103 people in less time, as one of the survivors put it, than it takes to play a song at a nightclub.

You read an outpouring of heartfelt grief from scores of members of Congress who have received scores of thousands of dollars from the NRA, and who have fought every gun safety bill ever brought to a vote.

You do, finally, think about God. 

You contend with the same question that gnawed at believers in a benevolent deity when the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami struck on All Saints Day of 1755, killing some 50,000 Catholics. The same question that seized the victims and descendants of the Shoah.  That ravaged the families of 9/11, and the families of all the other passengers on the other planes that have fallen like Icarus from the sky. The same question that scares every patient awaiting test results. That stalks Orlando. That haunts America.

Why? What kind of God lets tragedy happen? 

You know the answers. 

God’s ways are mysterious. God’s plan is beyond understanding. God created the world, but then withdrew from it. God gave us the free will to choose life or death. God and Satan struggle for our souls. God gives life everlasting to the good. God weeps at our plight. God is Nothing. God is Being. God is chance. God is dead.

You turn the television off. You turn your phone over. 

You are alone with your breath. 

In, out. In, out. In, out. 

You are grateful.  

God is gratitude.


Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Interview with U.S. Senate hopeful Carlos Lopez-Cantera


Eleven Republicans are seeking to succeed Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. Among them is Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Rubio hasn’t endorsed yet in the Republican primary. But on Monday, the senator suggested he may be ready to endorse the Republican he wants to see in office come January 2017. If this is to be any indication, Rubio is expected to appear Tuesday night at a Lopez-Cantera fundraiser in Washington, D.C., according to “>Quinnipac poll showed Rep. Patrick Murphy leading Lopez-Cantera by four points (38–34), while Grayson ties him 37-37 percent.

“Do you think that Trump at the top of the ticket helps you or creates a challenge?” we asked.

“The honest answer to that question is: I don’t know,” he responded. “I don’t think anybody knows what November is going look like as far as the top of the ticket. I am focused on winning the senate race.”

 

Would-be Miami synagogue bomber reportedly was Muslim convert, wanted to inspire other attacks


The South Florida man arrested for planning to bomb a Miami synagogue has been publicly identified and charged in federal court.

James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, appeared in court in Miami on Monday afternoon, several media outlets reported.

Medina, who according to court papers is a convert to Islam, was arrested on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in an attempt to blow up the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during Friday night services, the last night of Passover. The Conservative synagogue has about 800 member families and houses an early childhood center, according to its website.

Local 10 News reported that the criminal complaint also accuses Medina of planning to attack the synagogue on Yom Kippur. Medina told a confidential informant more than once that he planned to strike during Yom Kippur using AK-47 assault rifles, Local 10 said, citing the complaint. When the informant told Medina the attack might look as if it were orchestrated by the Islamic State, Medina expressed pleasure, believing it would “inspire other Muslims to attack as well.”

Asked by the FBI informant why he wanted to attack the synagogue, Medina said it was his “call of duty” and something he had to do “for the glory of Allah,” the complaint said, according to the Washington Post. Medina also told the informant he believed “Jewish people are the ones causing the world’s wars and conflicts.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, Medina tried to make a speech during his court appearance, but was stopped by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Turnoff after saying, “I’ve got a few words of my own. … My name is James Medina, aka James Mohammed.”

Prosecutor Marc Anton told the judge that Medina talked about “obtaining a bomb he could either place under a car or throw it over the wall.”

After the undercover informant provided Medina with what he said was an explosive device, the FBI arrested Medina on his way to the synagogue. The device was not real, authorities said.

Medina is being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Miami and will remain there until at least Thursday, the day of his arraignment and bond hearing.

If convicted, Medina faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison, according to the Sun Sentinel. He has not indicated whether he will plead innocent or guilty.

In a statement published in the Sun Sentinel, the synagogue said its leadership “has been briefed by law enforcement and Jewish community security officials” and been assured “that the synagogue and school were never at risk at any time during the investigation and arrest, and that there are no credible threats directed against us at the present time.”

The synagogue and an affiliated school were operating as normal Monday.

Medina has several prior arrests, including one for sending violent threats via text message. He said in court that he is out of work, divorced and has no significant assets. He was provided a court-appointed lawyer.

Israel emerges as campaign issue ahead of voting in three big Jewish states


Israel has prominently emerged as a presidential campaign issue ahead of critical primary contests in five states on Tuesday, three of which – Ohio, Illinois and Florida – have substantial Jewish communities.

Israel was the subject of a heated exchange in the Republican debate last week in Miami, with front-runner Donald Trump hammered by his opponents for saying he would be a neutral broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Trump has defended his position as essential to achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but his three remaining rivals for the Republican nomination said they would stand with Israel and that no peace agreement is possible.

“The policy Donald has outlined, I don’t know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy,” Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who desperately needs a win in his home-state primary, said at the debate. “Maybe that’s not your intent, but here’s why it is an anti-Israeli policy: There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment.”

The real-estate magnate parried the criticism by noting his love for Israel and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, the scion of another real-estate family. Trump said there was no one “on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am,” citing his role as grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel Parade in New York, which prompted some laughter in the audience. And he defended his promise of neutrality, saying it was essential to achieving a peace deal.

“If I go in, I’ll say I’m pro-Israel and I’ve told that to everybody and anybody that would listen,” Trump said. “But I would like to at least have the other side think I’m somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done.”

The Israel discussion was the most expansive one on the subject in any Republican debate this season, and it continued even after the debate concluded. Rubio’s campaign sent an email blast immediately after with the subject line “Trump Is No Ally to Israel.” The next day, surrounded by prominent Jewish backers — including Adam Hasner, a close colleague of Rubio when they were both in the Florida Legislature, and Dan Senor, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration — Rubio took aim at Trump in an appearance at a West Palm Beach synagogue.

“We are electing the next commander-in-chief, and when the one leading in the polls will not take sides, imagine if he were president?” Rubio said Friday at Temple Beth El.

“For people in the Orthodox community, and more broadly in the pro-Israel community, who have a view they are unhappy with the Obama administration because Obama’s approach has been more neutral, Trump talking in those terms is not reassuring,” said Nathan Diament, the Washington director for the Orthodox Union.

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, also needing a win in his home state on Tuesday, notably pivoted on a key Israel-related issue, saying on the Fox News Network that he now favors suspending the Iran nuclear deal. Until now Kasich, like Trump, has said the deal is a bad one, but that he would first consult with experts before suspending it. Kasich said his mind was changed by Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests.

Ted Cruz, the last of the four remaining contenders for the Republican nod, took his pro-Israel message to voters through social media, a campaign official told JTA, reminding them of his pro-Israel activism in the Senate. Cruz’s Jewish surrogates have appealed to Jewish voters whose names they compiled from synagogue membership lists and made appearances at Jewish voter events in South Florida.

Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic race, has also been reaching out to Jewish voters ahead of the Florida primary. But her message has emphasized not so much her differences with Bernie Sanders, the Independent Jewish senator from Vermont who has mounted an unexpectedly tough challenge for the nomination, but to the threat Trump poses to Israel.

Sarah Bard, Clinton’s national Jewish outreach director, said Trump’s incendiary rhetoric had helped their efforts to mobilize campaign volunteers.

“Where we had a hard time pushing volunteers out the door, he does make our job easier,” Bard said.

Clinton has been leading in Florida polls, but after last week’s upset in Michigan, she is leaving nothing to chance. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., a Clinton supporter and the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, held a conference call Monday with hundreds of rabbis across the country. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., is speaking Monday with Jewish students at Florida Atlantic University on Clinton’s behalf. And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., held a call Sunday with Jewish leaders organized by the Clinton campaign.

Another Clinton surrogate, Robert Wexler, a former congressman from Florida, in a weekend Op-Ed in the state’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, warned that neither Sanders nor Trump has the understanding necessary to handle the Middle East, though he didn’t name either candidate.

No candidate understands “the nuances and sensitivities of the Middle East as well as the former secretary of state,” Wexler wrote. “Just look at the statements we’ve heard in the campaign as of late, with one candidate saying he’d be ‘neutral’ concerning Israel and another calling to ‘normalize’ relations with Iran. Both positions are naive, betraying a lack of understanding in general and about the Middle East in particular.”

Sanders has called for the normalization of ties with Iran in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal reached last year.

Deutch said in his pitches to Jewish voters, he contrasts Trump’s “neutrality” with Clinton’s record.

“After hearing the comments that Donald Trump has made, I have found that, with Secretary Clinton’s strong support for Israel, her very clear position that the United States, both during speeches and in debates, that the United States will stand with Israel, they found these very reassuring,” he said.

Trump does have Jewish backers. Philanthropist Jacob “Hank” Sopher ran a full-page ad in the Miami Herald on Sunday calling for Jewish support for Trump, calling him “a man of integrity, a friend of the Jewish people, a friend of Israel.”

Jewish platform raises political dough for Cruz


UPDATED 11:54 a.m.

A group of Orthodox Jews supporting Ted Cruz for president have launched a 24-hour campaign to raise $1 million for Cruz's campaign on the day of crucial primary contests in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

The campaign “Million For Ted” was posted on the popular fundraising website Charidy.com, a non-partisan corporation that serves as a crowdfunding platform for non-profit charitable campaigns. The goal is to raise at least $250,000 from members of the Orthodox Jewish community sympathetic to the conservative policies of the Texas Senator, which will then be matched 75 percent by the Wilks family. “It’s all or nothing, if we don’t reach one million, all donations will be returned,” a message posted on the site read.

The organization hosting the campaign is called Reigniting the Promise, a super PAC in support of Cruz. 

The fundraising platform appears to be a for-profit business that takes a 2.9% cut of funds raised, which is legal under campaign finance laws, according to Paul S. Ryan Paul, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. Hecht told Jewish Insider that no service fee will be charged if the goal is not met by midnight (CT)

“Charidy is a bipartisan website. We are not officially endorsing. We are hosting this campaign,” Moshe Hecht, a chief fundraising specialist at Charidy, told Jewish Insider. “There are some Jewish people behind the scenes who want to promote this to the Orthodox community because they feel the community should support Ted Cruz.”

Hecht said that while certain people in the company may have contributed to Cruz's campaign, this campaign is not an endorsement, adding that this is the first political campaign out of 600 campaigns that the site has hosted so far.

The campaign raised $15,000 in the first half hour (1:30 p.m. ET).

Trump scores crucial win in Florida as five states vote


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump scored a crucial win in the Florida primary on Tuesday, striking a potentially fatal blow to rival Marco Rubio's campaign and moving closer to securing the party's nomination as five U.S. states voted.

Trump was aiming to sweep all five states on Tuesday, including Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois, and deal another setback to establishment Republicans who fear his rowdy campaign will lead the party to defeat in November.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 68, also captured the Florida primary as she aimed to put some distance between herself and rival Bernie Sanders, 74, a U.S. senator from Vermont, in primaries in the same states.

Trump, the 69-year-old billionaire businessman, was aiming to knock out his two mainstream rivals, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, who probably need to win their home states to keep their campaigns alive. His closest challenger nationally is U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, 45, a Tea Party favorite.

A Trump loss in any of the five states on Tuesday would give new hope to Republicans battling to deny the brash New Yorker the nomination and block him from capturing the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination at the party's July convention.

Hillary reaches out to Jewish voters in Florida


All eyes are on Florida. Sunshine State voters are about to play a big role in picking each party’s nominee on Tuesday. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is expected to win by a comfortable margin and pick up as many delegates as possible to solidify her lead over Senator Bernie Sanders.

Clinton enjoys a few key advantages, including strong backing from Jewish community leaders and Jewish Democrats, in the first contest where Jewish voters could determine an election. According to a recent study, 12 percent of Jewish Americans reside in Florida.

In 2008, Clinton won Florida’s Jewish voters 2-to-1 over [President] Barack Obama.

In the last few weeks, and over the weekend, Clinton’s Jewish outreach team has organized phone banks, house parties, canvasses and voter registration drives, according to a person with knowledge of the campaign’s activities.

On Sunday, Congressman Steve Israel joined a conversation with FAU Jewish Student Union and Hillel members at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton to shore up support for the former Secretary of State. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) participated in a conference call with Jewish Women for Hillary, and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) held a conference call with hundreds of rabbis and Jewish community leaders on Monday.

“My expectation is that Hillary will win by a very large margin,” Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL22), who was campaigning for Hillary over the past few weeks, told Jewish Insider in a phone interview on Sunday. “She’s very well known here in Florida. We have many New Yorkers that know her, who are here either in the winter or they’ve moved here and knew her as senator. She’s very admired.”

A Quinnipiac poll released on Monday showed Hillary with a 60–34 percentage point lead over Sanders.

According to Rep. Deutch, Clinton’s decades-long record on Israel and relationship with the Jewish community going back to the time she served as First Lady in the state of Arkansas, is what gives her the upper hand over her rival Bernie Sanders, who’s Jewish, among Jewish voters in Florida. “This is a long relationship that the community has had to know Secretary Clinton,” Deutch told Jewish Insider. “They know where she stands on these issues, and that’s why I’m confident she is going to do so well in the Jewish community.”

Frankel echoed this sentiment. “For people who are concerned about foreign affairs, there’s no question that Hillary comes with the experience that surpasses anybody – Democrat or Republican – running,” she told Jewish Insider. “But even on domestic issues, I don’t think people here really know Bernie Sanders that well.”

Sanders, who made history in New Hampshire by being the first Jewish candidate in American history to win a presidential primary, has been largely absent in southern Florida’s Miami, Palm Beach and Boca Raton counties – areas with high Jewish residential density.

Last month, former President Bill Clinton met with over hundred Jewish community leaders, rabbis, elected officials, and supporters in Palm Beach. “President Clinton and Hillary Clinton have always had a deep connection to the Jewish community – and Hillary Clinton has made clear that continuing to strengthen this partnership will be a top priority of her presidency,” the Hillary for America campaign said in a readout of the closed-press event.

Clinton is expected to address AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., next week.

Where Jeb Bush’s Jewish backers go from here


Many of Jeb Bush’s supporters and longtime friends expressed their disappointment in the outcome that caused the former Florida governor to suspend his campaign on Saturday night.

“I’m very disappointed that the rest of America didn’t agree with me, but they certainly spoke,” Fred Zeidman told Jewish Insider on Sunday. “I always felt Jeb was the best candidate to beat whoever the Democrats put up.”

“Times have changed, the country has changed, the electorate has changed,” Mel Sembler, former RNC finance chairman and board member of the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC Right to Rise, was quoted as saying by Tampa Bay Times. “I don’t understand our country anymore.”

Just one year ago, Jeb was considered by many to be a leading contender for the 2016 Republican nomination. On June 15, the son and brother of former Presidents presented himself to the American people as an accomplished conservative leader with the best experience needed to win back the White House. On August 25, the Bush campaign launched the largest ‘National Jewish Leadership Committee’ for a presidential primary contender, consisting of 71 prominent members of the Jewish community.

As Donald Trump gained in the polls and dominated the news cycle on a regular basis, Jeb’s early supporters maintained hope and confidence that their struggling candidate would perform well enough in the Iowa caucuses and then ultimately win the New Hampshire primary. Despite spending a significant amount of time and resources in the Granite State, Bush came in with a disappointing fourth-place finish, barely ahead of Marco Rubio, who days earlier surprisingly wilted under sustained attack by his rivals. On Saturday, after finishing fifth in the SC primary, Jeb told his supporters, “The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. I respect their decision. So, tonight, I am suspending my campaign.”

Jewish Insider spoke with some of Jeb’s leading Jewish supporters to hear their thoughts on Jeb’s campaign and the state of the race going forward.

“I am still very much despondent about Jeb’s unexpected departure from the race,” Thane Rosenbaum, an American novelist and law professor, told Jewish Insider via email. “I thought he was the superior candidate with the right attitude and policy proposals toward Israel, the Iran [nuclear] deal, and global anti-Semitism–issues that matter to me greatly.”

“Having been ‘Associate Jewish Coordinator ‘ for the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992, against George H.W. Bush, it was ironic that Jeb’s was the first Republican Presidential campaign in which I became engaged,” Michael Granoff explained. “Jeb’s appeal across party lines as Governor (of Florida) played a major role in my decision because I believe political polarization is eroding the country’s fabric and hampering its ability to deal with very real national security threats.”

Noam Neusner, a WH Jewish liaison in the Bush 43 administration, shared his experience in the short-lived campaign of the younger Bush. “Working for Jeb was immensely rewarding. He is a great boss — lively and upbeat,” said Neusner. “He cares deeply about ideas and governing, and public service — and his staff and volunteers all could see it in everything he did as a candidate and before that as a governor.”

Scott Arogeti, who was appointed as the White House liaison to the Jewish community in the last year of the George W. Bush administration, had only words of praise for the former Florida Governor. “Jeb Bush is a patriot that ran an honorable, substantive campaign aimed at helping millions of Americans reach their full potential,” Arogeti told Jewish Insider. “Additionally, his consistent support for reasserting and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship was genuine, and deserving of both our respect and our gratitude. I’m proud and thankful to have been a small part of his team.”

Members of the “Right to Rise USA” super PAC, took pride in their work on behalf of their candidate despite burning over $100 million in the past few months. “I’m proud to have supported Jeb,” Charlie Spies, the leading counsel to Right to Rise, related to Jewish Insider. “His campaign focusing on policy solutions and an optimistic vision that was an example of the best in our politics. It was also great to see President George W. Bush back on the trail in SC this week. Both he and Jeb have been steadfast friends of Israel and their leadership in a dangerous world is in stark contrast to the failed ‘leading from behind’ of the Obama administration.”

Jason Lyons, founder and CEO of the Wall Street Conference and a political expert, explained what went wrong for Jeb in this unpredictable political season. “We’re in a particular time right now when voters are very upset and looking for someone who says exactly what’s on their mind without thinking twice,” Lyons asserted in a phone conversation with Jewish Insider on Sunday. “Jeb is not that person. His message was not able to resonate since that is not part of his DNA. Donald Trump did an effective job painting Jeb as low energy. The irony is, knowing Jeb, he is anything but low energy.”

According to Lyons, Jeb’s physical makeup suggested the opposite. “You know, he lost a significant amount of weight going into this election and with all the traveling he’s done, one could make the argument that he actually had more energy than anyone else,” he maintained.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Jay Lefkowitz, a senior partner at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, who also served as President Bush’s Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, summed up the outcome of the recent primaries. “We’re seeing a political year in which both parties, voters are favoring fringe candidates. It could well be that the Republican Party is on its way to nominating Trump as its nominee, which a year ago was unthinkable.”

Looking forward, Ronnie Krongold, a longtime friend and supporter of the Bush family, said he’s confident Jeb “will continue to support conservative principles and the State of Israel, even though he is no longer in the presidential contest.”

“Jeb is a serious leader, who assembled a presidential policy team. I hope he stays in public life,” added Sander Gerber.

In terms of supporting any of the other candidates remaining in the race, many pointed towards Marco Rubio as their favorite. “I think Rubio is the most attractive candidate in the race. I am sure other donors will also shift their support to Rubio,” said Lefkowitz. Adding that the outcome of the Florida primary on March 15 will determine whether Rubio could beat Trump and win the nomination.

“The only one that I could foresee having the potential to build bridges is Marco Rubio,” Granoff stated. “Watching his appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations last spring, I was enormously impressed with his granular grasp of fundamentalist Islamic threats, and by his moral clarity. Likewise, I was impressed with his thoughtful response to the controversy surrounding Apple’s decision to challenge Federal authorities on the San Bernardino iPhone. It is my hope that, despite my discomfort with some of his positions on social issues, despite his young age and lack of executive experience, Senator Rubio will be able to parlay his eloquence and command of issues into an ability to inspire Americans across the political spectrum – and begin to bring them closer together.”

Former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman also announced he was shifting support to Rubio. “With Bush out, I’m clearly on Rubio’s team. I’m not sure whether that helps or hurts. I thought Jeb was the most qualified to be president,” Coleman said in a statement, according to Star Tribune. “But Rubio clearly is our best hope and most qualified to be commander in chief with Jeb out of the race.”

The rest remained undecided, saying they would need time to assess before deciding whom to back. The consensus, however, was that the Republicans must nominate a candidate who can beat the Democratic nominee in the fall. “You can put me in the undecided column,” Krongold told Jewish Insider. “Where I’m not undecided is with regards to the Democratic candidates. We must not allow either of them to end up as President.”

“We all miscalculated,” Zeidman conceded. “We need to sit back and assess who has the best chance to beat the Democrats.”

Lyons offered some deeper analysis on the state of the race. “It’s a three and a half man race,” he said. “I say three and a half because Kasich has to be still involved since Ohio is a swing state. It would be in the best interest of the remaining candidates to come together after Super Tuesday and decide who will be the nominee, the VP candidate, Secretary of State, etc. I would just add that Marco and Ted are very gifted individuals. At this stage, the remaining candidates should begin to unify the party. The Republicans have a real opportunity to recapture the White House if they stop killing each other one by one.”

If Donald Trump continues winning states in March, Lyons suggested that it would be time for the establishment “to rally around him as well and support him.” But he also offered some unsolicited advice to the Republican presidential frontrunner: “It’s time for Trump to tone down some of the rhetoric and start embracing the establishment.”

Granoff, however, said he would refuse to accept the idea of supporting Trump in the general election. Instead, he added his voice to the recent chatter around Mike Bloomberg running as an independent. “If the circus continues, and Trump prevails as the GOP nominee, then it is my conviction that it would be a moral imperative for someone richer than him to enter the race. Maybe someone richer than him who popularly governed the nation’s largest city for over a decade,” he recommended.

Florida man pleads guilty over threats to bomb two mosques


A Florida man pleaded guilty on Friday to a federal hate crime for threatening to bomb two mosques and shoot their congregants shortly after November's deadly attacks in Paris.

Martin Alan Schnitzler, 43, of Seminole, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley of the Middle District of Florida said.

Schnitzler entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie Sneed in Tampa.

The defendant faces up to 20 years in prison, but is likely to get much less under recommended federal guidelines. He remains free pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

Schnitzler admitted to having left profanity-laced voice messages with the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County on Nov. 13, 2015, and in which he threatened congregants.

Both messages referred to the Paris attacks, which had occurred the same day and killed 130 people. Schnitzler admitted that his threats were prompted by the attacks.

In one message, he threatened to “personally have a militia” show up at one of mosques, and “firebomb you, shoot whoever is there on sight in the head.”

Bryant Camareno, a lawyer for Schnitzler, in a phone interview said his client expressed remorse at his plea hearing, and was “upset at the emotional harm” he caused congregants.

He also said Schnitzler was not a credible threat, having taken no steps to carry out the harms he threatened.

Schnitzler entered his plea one day after a Connecticut man, Ted Hakey Jr, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for shooting at an empty mosque next door to his Meriden home, one day after the Paris attacks. No one was injured.

Rental properties in U.S., landlords in Israel


Three years ago, Dana Lebel, a marketer of health supplements, bought her first apartment in Rishon Lezion, a city just south of Tel Aviv. Over time, with equity in her apartment and some disposable income, Lebel became interested in purchasing investment property to leverage her capital while earning a passive income. 

But like a lot of middle-class Israelis, Lebel discovered she was priced out of other housing in her area — a problem many Angelenos can relate to. Then her mortgage broker told her about an investment opportunity in Jacksonville, a port city in northern Florida. 

Half a year ago, Lebel walked into the Ramat Gan offices of Karkaot Israel, a real estate firm that markets properties for USAHomes, an American real estate and management company. She looked at homes for sale on USAHomes’ website, and that night set in motion the process of purchasing a $60,000 single-family house, complete with renters, in Jacksonville. The transfer of ownership, conducted through a title insurance company, was completed within two months. The remote purchase was easy, orderly and had none of the red tape that accompanied the purchase of her property in Israel, Lebel said.

“I’m not going to live there, so I didn’t investigate too much,” Lebel told the Journal over the phone. She felt secure with the investment based on reports that Jacksonville is deepening its harbor to benefit from the expansion of the Panama Canal. “I know the whole area is in major development,” she said. Today, she collects about $700 a month in rent on the house, and she hopes to buy another rental property through the same process.

According to Rina Zalachin, manager of Karkaot’s U.S. department, the company has helped dozens of Israelis purchase turnkey — ready for occupancy — rentals based on photographs and detailed information about the properties and neighborhoods, reflecting a growing trend of Israelis investing in residential properties in the U.S. 

But few of Zalachin’s clients choose to travel to Jacksonville or Rochester, N.Y., another city she markets for its location, economic stability and attractive return on investment, before purchasing a property. “What will it help to see the property?” she asked. “Today you have Google Earth.” 

Several years ago, former Israeli judo Olympian Orit Bar-On Bakarski, founder of InvestOrit, purchased and flipped several single-family homes in Memphis, Tenn. Inspired by her mentor, real estate mogul Robert Shemin, Bar-On Bakarski said she has since left her previous career in high-tech to help others invest in real estate in the U.S. 

“The more people I talk to, the more I find that they already have homes in the United States, or they’re open to it,” Bar-On Bakarski said.

Memphis and Atlanta are her cities of choice because they are located in states where laws and regulations favor landlords over tenants (for example, making it relatively easy to evict unsatisfactory tenants). Generally, she purchases foreclosed properties from banks at under-market prices and sells them to Israeli investors who entrust her U.S. team to refurbish and rent the properties. On the lower economic end, investors can expect to net $450 a month in rent on a $50,000 home in Memphis; a $96,000 house can bring investors about $1,100 in rent. (Buyers must take into account additional costs such as property taxes, insurance and sundry expenses.)

“As a foreign investor, everything is very, very easy nowadays through the Internet,” Bar-On Bakarski said. “Once the sale is closed, the records get updated in a few days and you can see your name on the deed of the property.” 

Ronen Nassimov, a CPA in Israel, has recommended that several of his clients invest abroad for the simple reason that the return on investment (ROI) is higher — about 8 to 12 percent — compared with Israeli properties, which have an ROI of about 3 to 5.5 percent.

Nassimov cites one major disadvantage of investing in another country: “In the United States, the property is far from you, you have to trust the agents, whereas in Israel, you can see the property and meet the renters.”

Owning rental property anywhere is not without hassle or risk — tenants could default on rent; homes might require sudden, expensive repairs; and a local recession could hit, driving down property and rental values. To minimize the risks, Nassimov recommends visiting the property in the U.S. rather than relying on online profiles. And, although investors are commonly advised to choose a locale based on sound financial calculations rather than an emotional response to the area, Nassimov, an investor himself, would rather choose a home in a city he wouldn’t mind living in.

That may be one reason why some Israelis decide to buy in Las Vegas, even though the ROI there is about 6 to 8 percent, less than what can be made in some other parts of the U.S. 

Real estate agent Jennifer Eckmann of Choice One Properties in Las Vegas works with Israelis who have created a portfolio of properties for investment purposes. She said they often like the benefit of an Israeli network on the ground — and an excuse to visit Sin City, where Hebrew is increasingly spoken on the streets and in the casinos. 

“Vegas is always growing, always changing, and there’s always a movement of people — always people selling and buying. There’s always action.” This “action,” she believes, is appealing to Israelis. 

Las Vegas was hit particularly hard by the 2008 crash, when prices of condos plunged to $25,000. Today, those same condos start at $65,000, and can yield approximately $700 gross monthly income.

Eckmann, Bar-On Bakarski and Nassimov have noticed another trend — Israelis coming together to leverage their joint equity to produce an even larger payout. 

Among the more prominent companies specializing in crowd investing is the private investment firm Keren Hagshama. Through the firm, for amounts starting around $35,000, Israelis can join large-scale commercial and residential projects all over the world, from Brooklyn to Berlin.

“You can play with the big leagues in Manhattan,” said the firm’s founder, Avi Katz, a business mogul who is considered to have revolutionized the Israeli cafe industry by opening Cofix, a chain where each item costs 5 shekels ($1.25). Keren Hagshama provides the expertise — including lawyers and accountants — to complete the deals, offering an ROI of up to 20 percent, according to Katz. 

Katz also said that average Israelis have few real estate investment options in Israel. Israel is expensive, making large-scale developments the province of Israeli tycoons. In addition, Israel does not have a strong rental culture; Katz estimates that 68 percent of Israelis own their homes.

Still, Bar-On Bakarski was surprised to learn that Israelis are seen as joining the ranks of other foreign investors in the U.S. real estate market. 

“I was at a real estate summit in Las Vegas,” she said, “and in that summit they host real estate television personalities, and one stood on the stage and said: ‘You know it’s crazy now — the Chinese are buying, the Canadians are buying, the Israelis are buying.’ ”

Jewish mayor says Trump not welcome in his Florida city


The Jewish mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was unwelcome in his city.

“I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps,” Rick Kriseman, a Democrat, said Monday on Twitter.

Kriseman was playing on the statement earlier in the day by the real estate billionaire and reality show star. Trump is leading in polls of Republicans.

“Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” Trump said, alluding to last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, carried out by a couple apparently loyal to militant Islamists. “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

Kriseman, who was elected in 2013, is the first Jewish mayor in 30 years in the central Florida city of about 250,000.

Jewish groups have condemned Trump’s statement.

Israeli policeman given community service for beating Palestinian-American boy


An Israeli policeman was spared jail and sentenced to community service on Wednesday for beating an American teenager of Palestinian descent during Jerusalem disturbances last year, an incident that stirred U.S. concern.

Tariq Khdeir was visiting from Tampa, Florida, as protests erupted over the July 2, 2014 abduction and killing of his 16-year-old cousin, Mohammed Abu Khudeir, in Jerusalem by three Israeli suspects. 

Amateur video showed two Israeli riot policemen setting upon Tariq Khdeir, who was 15 at the time. One held the youth down while the other punched and kicked him. He was left with a black eye and swollen lip.

Police said Khdeir was among six protesters caught taking part in clashes, while he said he was only a bystander.

Israel pressed charges against one of the policeman, who was convicted of assault and battery in Jerusalem Magistrates Court.

The court on Wednesday sentenced the policeman, whose name was not released, to 45 days' community service and a suspended prison sentence of four months, a spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry's police internal affairs department told Reuters.

“We requested that he be jailed for seven months,” she said, adding that she was unable to elaborate on the sentencing. A court spokesman declined comment, saying the case was sealed.

The U.S. embassy in Israel had no immediate comment.

At the time of Khdeir's beating, the U.S. State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by reports on the incident and “strongly condemn(ed) any excessive use of force”.

Israel has charged three Jews with the murder of Khdeir's cousin, saying they had sought to avenge the abduction and killing in June 2014 of three Israeli youths by Hamas militants. 

The incidents sparked a cascade of violence culminating in the July-August war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Joe Biden, Michael Douglas headlining Reform biennial


Vice President Joe Biden and Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas are scheduled to speak at the Reform movement’s biennial in Orlando, Florida.

Biden will address the gathering of Reform Jewish leaders on Saturday, the Union for Reform Judaism announced in a news release Monday. Douglas, the winner of the 2015 Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel,” will speak on Wednesday at the conference’s opening plenary.

Douglas is the son of Jewish actor Kirk Douglas and in the past year has become an advocate for greater inclusion of intermarried families within the Jewish community. In August, the Jewish Funders Network and Genesis Prize Foundation announced a $3.3 million matching grant program in Douglas’ honor to fund an intermarried outreach initiative, and on Yom Kippur Douglas was a surprise speaker at a Reform synagogue in Bedford, New York.

The biennial, which takes place Wednesday through Sunday, is expected to draw 5,000 people from the United States and abroad, including more than 450 rabbis and 250 synagogue presidents. According to the URJ, it is the “largest religious Jewish gathering on the continent.”

Other speakers include New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, restaurateur Danny Meyer, Knesset member Stav Shaffir, and authors Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Anita Diamant.

Biden meets Jewish leaders in Florida to defend Iran deal


Vice President Joe Biden tried to reassure Jewish leaders in south Florida on Thursday that President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran would be a vital step toward making the world a safer place.

Biden, on a two-day trip to the political swing state of Florida as he explores a potential 2016 White House run, told a roundtable of more than 30 Jewish leaders he was confident the deal would halt Iran's capability to develop a nuclear bomb.

“If we can take the nuclear bomb off the table, it's better to deal with those bad guys than if we are dealing with those bad guys and the nuclear bomb is on the table,” Biden said at the meeting held in the district of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which has one of the largest Jewish populations of any U.S. congressional district.

Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has not yet staked out a position on the deal, but she had invited Biden to the meeting and introduced him to the group.

“I am not afraid to make this decision. I am never afraid to stand alone when necessary, to stand on principle,” she said.

The meeting came a day after President Barack Obama secured enough votes in the U.S. Senate to safeguard the deal between Iran and world powers. The deal would provide relief on economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran's agreement to curtail its nuclear program.

The lobbying has been fierce on both sides of the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fiercely opposes it and some U.S.-based, pro-Israel groups have spent millions of dollars on campaigns urging lawmakers to oppose it.

More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the meeting as Biden entered, holding signs reading: “Nuke the deal before they nuke us,” and “We need a better deal.”

Critics have argued the deal provides too much sanctions relief and sets weak standards for ensuring compliance.

Biden disputed both points.

“This is a good deal,” he said. “It will make us and Israel safer, not weaker.”

Reporters were ushered out of the meeting before Biden engaged in a question-and-answer session with the community leaders, who included both supporters and opponents of the deal.

Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski announced her support of the deal on Wednesday, giving the administration the 34 Senate votes it needs to sustain Obama's promised veto of any disapproval resolution passed by the Republican-controlled Congress.

The next goal for supporters is to gather at least 41 Senate votes, enough to block a disapproval resolution and keep Obama from having to wield his veto power.

Jeb Bush vows to ‘fix’ Washington as he starts White House run


Former Florida governor Jeb Bush vowed to fix a dysfunctional Washington as he began his U.S. presidential bid on Monday with an attempt to move out of the shadow of the White House legacies left by his father and brother.

Bush, 62, is seeking to be seen as his own man and break out of a crowded field for the Republican presidential nomination to run in the November 2016 election.

In a speech in Miami to announce his candidacy, he presented himself as an anti-Washington figure with a can-do spirit.

“We will take Washington – the static capital of this dynamic country – out of the business of causing problems,” he said. “I know we can fix this. Because I've done it.”

Bush made his announcement at Miami-Dade College, a school whose multicultural student population was chosen to emphasize Bush's commitment to trying to expand the appeal of the white-dominated Republican Party.

“We don't need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington. We need a president willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation's capital, he said.

He was joined by his mother Barbara Bush, 90, at the event. Former presidents George H.W. Bush, his father, and George W. Bush, his brother, did not attend.

Both men left office with low approval ratings. The legacy of Jeb's brother is particularly difficult given his 2003 invasion of Iraq and the financial crisis that erupted toward the end of his time in office.

Distancing himself from the pair, without being disloyal to his family, will be tricky for the younger Bush. His campaign logo “Jeb!” avoids using the family surname.

“I think the biggest hurdle is he is going to have to sell himself as his own person, not his brother and not his father,” said Fran Hancock, 64, from Palm Beach, a supporter at the event on Monday.

Bush's speech was briefly interrupted by pro-immigration reform protesters and he responded: “The next president will pass meaningful immigration reform.”

Bush held an early lead in opinion polls of Republican voters when he first began talking about a White House run six months ago, but that has now dissipated. He is essentially tied for the lead with a host of challengers.

Failure to deal with the Bush family legacy has already caused problems for Jeb, who fumbled a response last month to a question about whether he would have invaded Iraq.

On Monday, Bush criticized former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

“With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended, and alliances unraveling,” he said.

Democrats made sure to remind voters of the George W. Bush's record.

“We already know what to expect from a Bush presidency, because we've seen it before. Jeb Bush supported his brother's disastrous economic and foreign policies that made us weaker at home and abroad,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Committee.

Woman jailed after fleeing to avoid circumcising 4-year-old son


A Florida woman is in jail after fleeing with her 4-year-old son to keep him from being circumcised.

Heather Hironimus, 31, of Boynton Beach was arrested  last week after going into hiding with her son Chase three months ago rather than give her consent and turn the boy over for the surgery.

Hironimus and the boy’s father, Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton, had agreed to the circumcision three years ago as part of their separation deal. Hironimus backed out of the surgery and Nebus took her to court. In May, an appeals court in Florida upheld lower court rulings in favor of Nebus and the circumcision. The couple, neither of whom is Jewish, were never married.

On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge received assurances from Nebus’ attorney that the judge will receive 10 days notice prior to the procedure. Chase is in the custody of his father in an undisclosed location.

The judge, Kenneth Marra, made no ruling on an emergency request by Hironimus to put a temporary restraining order on the procedure.

Nebus has called circumcision “just the normal thing to do.”

An arrest warrant for Hironimus was issued in March after Hironimus failed to show up to hand the boy over to his father as required in the couple’s custody-sharing agreement.

Florida prisons ordered to serve kosher meals


Inmates in Florida’s prisons who request kosher meals must receive them, a federal judge in Miami ruled.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz issued the order late last week after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections on behalf of 13 inmates. The decision is the latest following years of legal wrangling.

The two sides have until Wednesday to come up with a way to implement the plan.

The Florida case dates to 2010 when a Jewish prisoner serving life for the 1995 murder of his parents, Bruce Rich, said the state’s refusal to provide him with a kosher meal violated his rights under federal law.

More than 9,500 Florida prisoners have been approved for the kosher meals, The Associated Press reported.

The department canceled its kosher meal service in 2007, citing the expense. An average of 250 inmates used the kosher meal service at that time, including Muslims. The state offers vegetarian and vegan options.

The Obama administration joined the case in support of Rich in 2012.

At least 35 states and the federal government provide kosher diets in prison.

Courting Adelson is not Jewish outreach


This weekend, a collection of GOP presidential candidates will arrive in Las Vegas for a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition. But don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that these candidates are making a real attempt to appeal to American Jewish voters. Their presence is all about winning over a single Jewish donor: Sheldon Adelson.
Obviously, these candidates are familiar with how Adelson’s largesse almost single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich’s campaign alive in 2012. But the casino magnate does not speak for the American Jewish community, and the GOP candidates’ courting of an Adelson-funded super PAC should not be mistaken for genuine outreach.
There is a reason that more than twice as many American Jews identify as Democrats than as Republicans. The Democratic Party is the party of inclusion, empowerment, justice and opportunity. These are values that are closely aligned with the values that define our Jewish faith.
Growing up, my parents taught me that tikkun olam – repairing the world – is a central tenet and one of the most important outward expressions of our faith. As Jews and as active citizens, it was our responsibility to help and advocate for others. As I grew up, I also sought to exemplify other Jewish values like tzedakah and gemilut hasadim. Like many other American Jews compelled to stand up and speak out for the causes of justice, equality and righteousness in public policy debates, I found a natural home within the Democratic Party.
It is Democrats who seek to right injustice, promote tolerance and constantly strive to move our nation toward a more perfect union. Jews overwhelmingly support women’s rights, workers’ rights, gay rights and civil rights for all Americans. We know that when we help those around us, our community and our country are stronger as a whole. We understand the importance of America as a place of new opportunities, and believe in immigration reform that will pave the path toward a better future that welcomed our ancestors when they arrived on America’s shores. These are values for which Democrats have fought and Republicans have not.
Instead of changing their positions on the issues that matter to American Jews, Republicans have chosen the dangerous strategy of politicizing Israel’s security as their strategy to win over Jewish voters. This strategy is not good for Israel or for the long-term relationship between our two great nations.
And to be clear, this strategy to try to convert Jewish Democrats to vote Republican has not worked. Democrats are proud of America’s bipartisan support for Israel, and the GOP’s attempt to undermine that relationship for political gain has backfired.
As a Jewish woman, a member of Congress and as chair of the Democratic National Committee, I am proud of the efforts made by the Obama administration to solidify the relationship with one of our nation’s closest friends and strongest allies. Under President Obama, the United States and Israel have had unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation and strong economic collaboration. President Obama continues to fight for the issues that the Jewish community prioritizes – millions of Americans have gained access to health care and he is fighting every day to secure a fair and living wage so that those who work hard are able to support themselves and make a better life for their children.
When I think of the future I want for my three beautiful children and for our country, it’s one centered on those core Jewish values that defined my childhood. I know that all Americans understand these values and wish the same for their families. As American Jews, we understand how our values demand correcting income inequality and expanding opportunity for those fighting to get into the middle class.
Unfortunately, Republicans are light years away from where we stand. When their presidential candidates court a single big Jewish donor while attempting to attract voters through fear mongering, we see straight through that. Until Republicans are prepared to change more than just their rhetoric, Jewish voters will continue to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates and policies.
(U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents Florida’s 23rd District in Congress and serves as the chair of the Democratic National Committee.)

Renaming of Fla. bridge for Henry Ford nixed over ‘dark history’ with Jews


Officials in Fort Myers City, Fla., withdrew a proposal to rename a bridge for Henry Ford after residents raised concerns about his anti-Semitic publications.

A vote on the proposal had been scheduled for Monday evening but was withdrawn, according to WZVN, the local ABC affiliate.

“He really has a very dark history as far as the Jewish community and Jews are concerned,” said Alan Isaacs, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties, told the news station.

Ford in the 1920s published Jewish conspiracy theories in the newspaper he owned, the Dearborn Independent. He later apologized.

He summered in Fort Myers and a museum occupies his one-time house.

Florida’s state Legislature had approved the name change for the Caloosahatchee Bridge, but local authorities must give their permission before it goes ahead.

State Rep. Matt Caldwell, who had proposed the name change, told WZVN that he still thinks it should be considered, but he is also sensitive to the Jewish community’s objections.

 

Sotloff lauded at Florida service as journalist committed to truth


Nearly 1,000 people including relatives, friends and prominent Florida politicians attended a memorial service on Friday for Steven Sotloff, who was killed by Islamic State militants, recalling him as a journalist committed to revealing the truth.

“I'm so proud of my son for living his dream,” Sotloff's mother, Shirley, told those in attendance at the Jewish Temple Beth Am.

“Most people live a lifetime and never find fulfillment,” she added, remembering her 31-year-old son as inquisitive and outgoing as a child.

The Islamic State released a video on Tuesday showing the killing of Sotloff, the second American journalist it has beheaded in its confrontation with the United States over American air strikes in Iraq on the militant group's forces.

“I have lost my son and my best friend, but I know his passing will change the world,” said Sotloff's father, Arthur, making his first public remarks since his son's death.

Speakers at the two-hour memorial service recalled Sotloff as a man who displayed empathy and courage. As a freelance reporter, he wrote about the hardships faced by average people caught up in Middle East conflicts, said his mourners, remembering his passion for exposing the truth.

Sotloff was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013 after he drove across the border from Turkey.

“Steven was committed to truth and revealing it,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, speaking to the crowd. “He has revealed the true nature of evil in the world today.”

Rubio sat alongside Florida Governor Rick Scott, a fellow Republican, as well as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist during the ceremony.

Sotloff first fell in love with the Middle East during trips and school in Israel, where he eventually became a citizen, according to friends and family. He spoke Arabic and traveled the region writing for magazines including Time and Foreign Policy.

Others shed light on Sotloff's more rambunctious side. Chris Castle recalled taking a shot of tequila with Sotloff after receiving his approval to marry the journalist's sister.

His uncle and godfather, Lou Bleiman, described a time he ran away from Valley Forge Military Academy and called for a ride from a telephone booth. “Steven had to march up and down in the rain and he didn't like it,” he said.

Dozens of cousins and other friends echoed a prepared statement released by the family earlier this week, calling Sotloff torn between his comfortable life in the United States and the Arab world.

Editing by Letitia Stein and Will Dunham

‘ISIS’ condo in West Palm Beach to change name


An unfortunately named luxury condo development being built in south Florida called ISIS Downtown, recalling the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has changed its title to a less controversial moniker.

The West Palm Beach complex’s name was chosen long before ISIS emerged as shorthand for the hard-line group also known as ISIL that recently rebranded itself simply as Islamic State.

“Glad they changed the name,” one local woman commented on the Facebook page for the condominium development, which as of a few days ago labels the building as 3 Thirty Three Downtown.

The complex is the first to be built in downtown West Palm Beach since the 2008 financial crisis, local media said. Deposits are being accepted for one- and two-bedroom apartments starting at more than $300,000.

Its website pitches the development as the “next generation of downtown living in West Palm Beach.” It does not say when it will open.

More than 6,500 miles away in the Middle East, Islamic State is an al Qaeda offshoot that wants to recreate a medieval-style caliphate from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and deems Shi’ite Muslims to be heretics deserving death.

Islamic State posed a video on the Internet last week showing one of its fighters beheading American journalist James Foley.

Before the emergence of the rebels, ISIS was better known as the name of a goddess in ancient Egyptian religion.

“There are so many unknowns when you’re doing a building,” one veteran local realtor, Tim Harris, told the Palm Beach Post.

“It’s good planning to cut and run with the name change now because it doesn’t sound like (the fight with ISIS) is going to get resolved anytime soon.”

Israeli woman refused service at Florida gas station; called ‘killer’ by attendant


An Israeli woman, a resident of Coral Springs, Fla., for 15 years, was recently denied service and asked not to return again to a gas station (“On the Move Texaco” owned by J&L Services of Florida Inc.) that she had frequented over the years.

On her most recent visit, a Palestinian employee of the gas station told her: “You guys are killers and your money is not welcome here.” While the employee was not on the corporate side of the company, this incident, nonetheless, is another call for alarm among the Jewish population.

Because of my concern about the statement, I called the Shell station and spoke to the store manager, Darrell Glover. He assured me that this was not normal and that this employee would be let go today.  He sends sincere apologies and assured me that this would never happen again.

Since the conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas has been at an all-time high, incidents of anti-Semitism have become more frequent around the world: Synagogues in France and Germany have been firebombed by street mobs. Even in Los Angeles, a city with a sizable Jewish population, a peaceful pro-Israel rally last month became violent as pro-Hamas protesters attacked those marching in support of the Jewish state. In Britain, a rabbi was attacked near a Jewish boarding school. In Australia, teenagers shouted “Heil Hitler” and threated to slit the throats of Jewish schoolchildren. And even though it was never officially declared a hate crime, the recent murder of Rabbi Joseph Raskin in North Miami, whose only offense was walking to shul on Shabbos, raises serious concerns about the safety of Jews wherever they may be.

One Jewish organization has claimed that incidents of anti-Semitism have increased five-fold just over the last month. Globally, reports of hate crimes against Jews have been through the roof in ways not seen publicly in decades. One European leader has suggested: “These are the worst times since the Nazi era”; another has stated that we’re experiencing “a dramatic rise in Anti-Semitism.”

Passions continue to be enflamed by social media. The number of calls for peace, calm explorations of facts, and attempts to build bridges have been far outnumbered by the virulent rhetoric, distinct lack of facts, rush to propaganda, flippant accusations, and the burning of bridges.

Diaspora Jews need to know how much they affect the reputation of the State of Israel with their actions worldwide. But the State of Israel also needs to be cognizant of how deeply they affect the global sentiment toward the Jewish people. We are deeply interconnected and must take responsibility for one another’s security. Only anti-Semites are responsible for their own hate, but our collective Jewish behavior must be so morally stellar that we don’t give them any material to work with.

The Rabbis taught that since one will be inclined to act with more kindness toward one’s own that in order to follow the ways of peace one must treat all people equally, (Gittin 61a). As Jews, we must protect ourselves and be vigilant and proactive to combat anti-Semitism. But we must also model leadership whenever we see racism, sexism, and yes, even Islamaphobia in our mist.

It is difficult, to be sure, to rise above the baseless hate that is so often flung at us simply because of our ancient heritage. But our true strength, as Jews and as Americans, is that we don’t lower ourselves to the hate of our enemies. Our actions need to transcend the accusations of those who hate us.

It is true that businesses should have zero tolerance policies for hate crimes, but it’s just as true that each of us should have zero tolerance policies for hate speech on social media or in our social circles.

The smallest actions and simplest words can alienate and strike fear in populations. Let us play our part in ridding the world of this evil.

To read more articles by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, visit his blog, Social Justice Rav

Florida State U. prof Dan Markel slain in home shooting


Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, died after being shot in his home.

Markel died Saturday morning, a day after being discovered shot in the back in his home and taken to the hospital, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. He was 41.

No suspects have been identified, the Democrat reported.

“I am deeply saddened to report that our colleague Dan Markel passed away early this morning,” FSU law school dean Donald Weidner said in a statement issued Saturday, adding that the case was still under active investigation by local authorities.

A memorial service was held Sunday at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Tallahassee. A memorial service will be held at the university in the fall when students return to campus.

Markel was a graduate of Harvard Law School and primarily taught criminal law at Florida State.

Markel’s writings have been featured in The New York Times, Slate and The Atlantic. He is the author of the 2009 book “Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties.” He also wrote a law blog called “Prawfsblawg.”

Dan Markel, legal scholar, dies at 41


Legal scholar and Florida State University College of Law professor Dan Markel died on July 19, after being fatally shot in his Florida home on July 18. Much has been said of his prominence in the legal community, which was on its way to legend. But too little has been said about my friend Danny, the man himself.

Danny was abrasive. There is hardly a friend of his (or colleague, I imagine) who can’t remember a time when Danny pushed them past the point of comfort. He used to show up in Los Angeles (where he lived for a number of years, frequenting IKAR and B’nai David-Judea) and invite himself to a Shabbat meal at my home. He’d turn up empty-handed, having just come from some legal conference or another, with an insufficiently sheepish grin and a presumptuously sprawling hug. 

This habit of his — of imposing himself on people and the world — showed itself in his legal scholarship, which was daring (he once argued for the irrationality of anti-incest laws, for example). But I remember it also as a feature of Danny’s personality, and it was one of my favorite things about him. 

For all his intellectual sophistication, Danny was a simple man (the best so often are). He seemed to proceed this way: He was a Jew; the Sabbath was upon us; therefore, he had good claim to a seat at my Sabbath table. Danny was right, of course, and he had extended me the same courtesy, back in 2005, when I was fresh out of law school and single, in need of a seat myself. 

Danny imposed himself again and again on my husband, Zach, and me first by setting us up, and then by pressing Zach to take a flight from L.A. to D.C. just to meet me. He even told Zach where to take me for dinner. The idea of a bicoastal setup was outlandish, but then, so was Danny. Though I like to think Danny respected my intellect, when he goaded Zach into meeting me, Danny focused almost entirely on my physical attributes. This irritated me (later, when I learned of it), except that it did the trick. Danny knew what he was doing.

In the near-decade of our friendship, Danny was always unalterably himself. He spoke his mind freely, never tempering his views to suit his audience. This ruffled flocks of feathers but also won him as many admirers. I remember one meal he showed up to at my home, back in 2009, when things were going very well for him but not for me. Zach and I were struggling with infertility, and Danny was unhesitatingly forthright about his prodigious familial success, his second son on the way. Those boys were everything to him, and Danny saw no reason not to celebrate every second of their existence, whatever the company.

Although he considered himself a progressive, the truth is that Danny was a throwback. A Jew who so thoroughly loved being Jewish — doing Jewish things — that his spirit lifted those around him. He didn’t believe in klal Yisra’el so much as live it. Other Jews weren’t co-religionists; we were his brothers and sisters. He would insist on borrowing your favorite sweater, but he’d also coach your career, check up on your progress, press you to be your best self. You never doubted his love.

Which, in the end, is why it’s nearly impossible to imagine life without him — that a heart so full of love could be made to stop. He had so many hopes and plans for his two little boys, Ben and Lincoln, whom he worried over with febrile intensity and loved that way too.

There’s a Jewish saying that one who arranges three shidduchim — matches that end in marriage — earns a place in the world to come. Danny like to brag that setting up Zach and me, plus another couple he knew, had nearly guaranteed his spot. He had only one match left to go. 

I like to think Danny got his spot anyway. It’s hard to imagine anyone refusing Danny — or that the Almighty could be so chary with a mensch who gave so extravagantly of himself. Zach and I owe him everything. If only he were still here to remind us.


Abigail Shrier (@abigailshrier) is a writer and graduate of Yale Law School living in Los Angeles.

Florida teen detained in Israeli-Palestinian conflict returns home


A Florida teenager who was detained in Israel and apparently beaten by police returned home on Wednesday, eager to seek medical care and put behind him a summer trip that drew renewed world attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tariq Khdeir, 15, was greeted by cheering relatives, friends and media at Tampa International Airport. He said he felt good, while bruises on his face that had spurred a probe into complaints that he was beaten while in Israeli police custody, were significantly faded.

Calling his attack by masked police “the scariest thing that has happened to me,” Khdeir told reporters he believes his story drew outrage largely because he was a U.S. citizen.

“You only know my story because I am an American,” he said. “I am only 15, but I will never think about freedom in the same way,” he added.

A high school student at a private Islamic school in Tampa, Khdeir was vacationing in Jerusalem with his parents and younger sisters on a summer trip to visit their Palestinian relatives.

He was arrested during protests after his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, was abducted and killed in early July, sparking calls from Palestinians for a new uprising against Israel.

The Maryland-born teenager's homecoming follows his release from house arrest in Israel, where an investigation into his treatment by police is continuing.

Khdeir has said he was not involved in clashes with police prior to his detention along with five other protesters.

Friends and relatives in Florida awaiting his return were anxious for him to be evaluated by U.S. doctors. Khdeir's father complained that Israeli officers denied his son proper medical treatment after they beat him.

Khdeir looks forward to returning to school and going fishing with his friends, he told reporters.

He and his mother asked supporters to remember all the children killed in recent weeks during the resurgent Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“They have names like mine,” Khdeir said. “No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way.”

Editing by David Adams and Clarence Fernandez

Gaza conflict disrupts airplane travel – in Florida


A Jewish woman was ejected from a JetBlue flight after arguing about the Israel-Hamas conflict with a Palestinian passenger.

The Jewish woman, physician Lisa Rosenberg of New York, was asked to leave the July 7 John F. Kennedy Airport-bound flight from Palm Beach International Airport not long after concluding a telephone conversation about Israel’s conduct in the conflict. Another passenger, who overheard the conversation, began arguing with Rosenberg.

“I was saying how it was good Israel found the students that killed the Palestinian teenager and how it was exemplary not making them into heroes, but seeking to publicly try them,” Rosenberg told the Palm Beach Post. “I said any other country would have made these students out to be martyrs and celebrating them.”

After the phone call concluded, Rosenberg said a woman approached her, identified herself as a Palestinian, and the two then had an “ugly, racially driven altercation” in which the other woman called her a “Zionist pig,” according to media reports.

But a commenter on the website Gothamist, who identified herself as the passenger who confronted Rosenberg, said that Rosenberg “was the only person yelling and actually said a Palestinian on the flight was a ‘danger to her’. She was removed from that flight for making a scene, refusing to sit in her seat and not complying with staff. Other passengers , if they come forward, will verify this.”

JetBlue confirmed that it asked Rosenberg to exit the plane, which was still on the ground in Florida and said that Rosenberg’s account is not accurate.

“The story presented in no way reflects the reports from our crew, whose decision to remove the customer we support,” the airline said in a statement.

A JetBlue spokeswoman told JTA that the details of the incident, including the identity of the other passenger, could not be disclosed “for privacy reasons.”

“A crew member may request a customer to deboard and be re-accommodated if the crew member feels as though the safety of the plane or customers on board is impacted, or the customer on board is unable to comply with in-flight instructions or obstructing a crew member’s duties,” corporate communications manager Morgan Johnston said.

Rosenberg flew back to New York the next day, but not on JetBlue.

“I just was completely outraged that I would be asked to leave a plane, being a Jew,” Rosenberg told ABC’s local affiliate in Palm Beach County.