The final Obama/Romney showdown: A note to a stiff-necked people


To those Jews planning to vote for Obama:

Are you prepared to explain to your children not the principles upon which your vote is cast, but its probable effects upon them? 

Irrespective of your endorsement of liberal sentiments, of fairness and “more equal distribution,” will you explain to your children that top-down economic policies will increasingly limit their ability to find challenging and well-paid work, and that the diminution in employment and income will decrease their opportunity to marry and raise children?

Will you explain (as you have observed) that a large part of their incomes will be used to fund programs that they may find immoral, wasteful and/or indeed absurd? And that the bulk of their taxes go to no programs at all, but merely service the debt you entailed on them? 

[Related: [Related: A note to Jewish grandparents:

One-third of Israelis are at risk of poverty, report says


One-third of Israelis are at risk of poverty, a new Israeli government report shows.

The Central Bureau of Statistics report issued Wednesday shows that some 31 percent of Israelis were at risk of poverty in 2010, compared to 27 percent 12 years ago. Some 16 percent of European Union residents fall into the category.

Being at risk of poverty means that one's household's per capita income is less than 60 percent of the median disposable income. Israel's poverty line was at $506 for 2010. The amount to be labeled at risk of poverty is anything less than $610.

Released ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the data also show that 40 percent of Israeli children were at risk of poverty, compared to 20 percent in the EU.

The report also found that 32 percent of Jewish households in Israel said they were unable to cover all monthly expenses, such as food, electricity and telephone bills, and 8 percent could not reach the end of the month without incurring debt.

“Alongside concerns about those who are living in poverty, we see that a high proportion of working Israelis are not managing to make ends meet,” Yisrael Livman, founder and director of Mekimi, a nonprofit organization that advises and assists Israelis in financial crisis, said in a statement.

“Many of the people we assist are working six days a week, serving their Reserve duty in the Army, and bringing up large families. A sudden change in circumstances, such as illness, failure of a business or unexpected unemployment, can cause a major financial crisis for the entire family.”

Survey discovers Israel’s digital divide


The higher one’s income the more likely he will be connected to the Internet, a new survey of Israelis’ Internet use has found.

Some four out of 10 respondents, or 40.7 percent, who defined their income levels as “well below average” are not connected to the Internet, but fewer than one in 10 respondents, or 8.7 percent, who defined their income levels as “well above average” are not connected to the Internet. 

In addition, as the level of religious observance increases, the number of people not connected to Internet also increased: just 7.7 percent of the secular public is not connected at all to the Internet, compared with 58 percent of the haredi Orthodox.

The survey also found that more than half of Internet users in Israel participate in a social networking service at least once a week. Some 73 percent of users aged 15-17 use a social network every day and one of every 10 users aged 65 and older use a social network each day. In addition, 100 percent of new immigrant youth aged 15 to 17 are active in social networks, which allows them to stay in touch with friends in their country of birth. 

One in four Israeli teenagers aged 15 to 17 writes a blog. In addition, 28.3 percent of the Arab public who reported that they write a blog do so each day, compared to 12 percent of older Jews who write a new blog post each day. Some 37 percent of readers of blogs from the Arab public read blogs every day, compared with 24 percent of readers of blogs from the Jewish population who read blogs every day.

The study also found that one-third of Israeli Hebrew speakers only visit Hebrew-language sites.

The study “Israel in the Digital Age 2012” was conducted by the Mahshov Institute and funded by Google Israel. The survey spoke with 1,200 respondents and examined unique segments of the population, including children (aged 12-14), teens (aged 15-17), the haredi Orthodox, Arabs and new immigrants.

How to get paid what you want


Whether you’re looking for a new job or are a recent graduate, you might be so thrilled to get a job offer — any offer — that you settle for less than you should.  Here are five strategies to get paid what you really want:

Tip 1: Don’t provide salary history. Keep your salary information to yourself as long as possible because it can be used against you in the negotiation process. Instead, write “open” or “negotiable.”

Tip 2: Never discuss your salary requirements. If an interviewer asks what salary you want or what you made at your last job, simply redirect the question by asking about the salary range of the job you’re interviewing for. Say that you don’t know what would be acceptable until you fully understand the job requirements, benefits and potential for advancement.

Tip 3: Don’t negotiate during an interview. If you’re given a verbal offer, always ask for a complete offer in writing (including benefits) so you can evaluate it thoroughly. Let the interviewer know that you’re very interested in the job and will consider any offer they make.

Tip 4: Ask questions about an offer. Once you receive a written offer, ask whether the company can be flexible. Remember that first offer is typically a low one. You might be able to get more pay, more vacation days or a higher level of expense reimbursements if you negotiate.

Tip 5: Make a counter-offer.  Let the company know you want the job but would be much happier with X amount of additional annual salary or hourly pay. Remember: They offered you the position because they consider you the best candidate. Most companies are willing to shell out a little more money or perks to get the right person for the job.


Laura Adams, host of the “Money Girl” podcast on QuickandDirtyTips.com, is the author of “Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Deal With Your Debt” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010)

Gift the Tree, Enjoy the Fruit


Most of us would give almost anything to ensure that Israel’s future is secure. But what can one person do to help Israel thrive and grow?

Plenty, as it turns out. There is a financial strategy that allows you to help Israel — and yourself. It can provide you or your loved ones with increased income for life, reduce your current tax burden and help you meet a variety of estate planning and personal goals — all while leaving a lasting legacy.

Planned giving is a way to enhance your family’s personal finances that will also benefit the charity of your choice. There are many types of planned gifts, and the type you choose will depend on your situation.

When you establish a charitable gift annuity (CGA), you transfer cash or marketable securities to a charitable organization. The charity pays you a guaranteed amount each year for your life, while using the remaining funds in the CGA toward a designation of your choosing, only upon your passing. The rates on a CGA — which depend on your age — are better than anything available in the marketplace. (The older you are, the higher the rates.) A $10,000 CGA, for example, will pay you 8 percent if you are 80 years old, and the payments are partially tax-free. You also receive an immediate tax deduction — and if you fund the CGA with appreciated securities, you’ll avoid the capital-gains tax you’d have to pay if you sold the securities outright. This is currently one of the most popular deferred giving vehicles.

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) is similar to a charitable gift annuity, but can be tailored to meet specific requirements. If, for example, you need special income payout rates, variable income, an inflation hedge payment schedule or income deferral, a CRT can meet these and other needs.

CRTs also offer great flexibility when it comes to the type of asset that funds the trust — which includes residential or commercial real estate, life insurance, or art and collectibles. Of course, you can also make outright gifts of these assets and potentially reduce your income tax liability for this year and several tax seasons to come. Save for retirement, fund a child or grandchild’s education or save for unforeseen events and long-term care. All can be accomplished with a CRT.

When the real estate is one of your primary residences or your vacation home, you may opt for retained life estate. This allows you to make a significant gift to charity while continuing to live in the house for the rest of your life without affecting your lifestyle. When you pursue this gift option, you will enjoy a charitable income tax deduction, avoiding capital gains and estate taxes later.

But the easiest way to support your organization of choice is by including it in your will. If you already have a will, your lawyer can simply add a codicil. The bequest can be in the form of a memorial or tribute to you or another individual you designate. In the codicil, you may also specify how you would like the funds to be used by the institution. In addition to the satisfaction you obtain from leaving a lasting legacy, a bequest may also significantly reduce your estate tax liability.

Organizations have different ways of recognizing those who have made bequests. At the American Technion Society, for example, we recognize bequests through induction into our Genesis Circle. Members of this prestigious group receive special recognition in their local chapter, are invited to meet with leading Technion researchers and receive regular updates of cutting-edge Technion developments in health, science and technology. Depending on the size of their gift, they’re also invited to join us on our annual missions to the Technion and Israel.

Planned gifts help meet your most important financial and estate planning needs, as well as your philanthropic goals. Often, they allow you to make an impactful, positive change in your life and the charity’s in a tax efficient manner, and they are the ultimate expression of commitment and caring concern for Israel’s future.

Mark L. Hefter is director of planned giving at the American Technion Society, a national organization headquartered in New York City that supports the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

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God, Gays and Guns: The U.S. Fault Line


About the same portion of Americans describe themselves as being liberal (19 percent) as believe that the world will come to an end in their

lifetimes (17 percent).

Right-wingers have so effectively besmirched the term (“wishy-washy liberals,” “tax-and-spend liberals,” “limousine liberals”) that only a few political martyrs and masochists publicly proclaim their allegiance to the cause once championed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The word preferred by left-of-center types in the United States is “progressive,” which harkens back to the earlier Roosevelt, Teddy, a turbocharged Republican who whipped monopolists and gleefully asserted the power of the federal government.

FDR’s robust liberalism focused on social justice at a time when one in four workers had lost their jobs in the Great Depression, and then on social solidarity, when the United States entered World War II. By now, much of that twin legacy has disappeared.

But look beneath current political labels and you find a nation still clinging to several liberal ideals. Polls show, for example, that an overwhelming majority of Americans support Social Security, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage, as well as Medicare for the elderly (courtesy of Lyndon B Johnson), strong environmental protections (Richard Nixon’s contribution, surprisingly enough) and a graduated income tax.

Most believe that government has no business snooping into people’s private lives without cause to believe that they have been involved in crime. The vast majority favor equal civil rights for blacks, women and ethnic minorities.

And George W. Bush’s swagger notwithstanding, most Americans oppose unilateral assertions of U.S. power abroad. An overwhelming majority believe we should work in close concert with our long-standing allies, including France. The shrill, right-wing rantings of radio and television talk show hosts do not reflect the views of most Americans — or the manner in which they disagree with one another.

The political fault line in modern America has become cultural. It is about religion, sex and firearms — or, in the vernacular, God, gays and guns. Since Sept. 11, the culture war has been extended to global terrorism.

On the conservative side are Americans who attend church regularly, believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, want the government to ban abortions, take offense at out-of-wedlock births and think they have a God-given right to own any gun they wish. They also want the United States to exterminate all terrorists, including anyone with terrorist leanings.

Most of the people who think this way reside in rural and southern parts of the nation, towns and small cities and outlying suburbs. They are the majority in what are now called “red states” — states that lit up bright red on the electronic TV maps late on election day 2000 and 2004, when returns showed that most of their voters had cast ballots for Bush.

They dine nightly on meat, potatoes and a vegetable, watch Fox News, shop at Wal-Mart and enjoy NASCAR races and wrestling on TV. They earn between $20,000 and $60,000 a year — straddling the middle and working classes, doing jobs ranging from mechanic to clerical worker, beautician to physical therapist and low-level managerial and technical work.

On the liberal side of the cultural divide are those whose church attendance is irregular at best, who harbor far more permissive attitudes toward sex and think government should control gun ownership and ban handguns and assault rifles. They believe terrorism is a complex problem, requiring better intelligence and more effective ways to win the hearts and minds of Muslims who now opt for suicide missions.

They tend to inhabit America’s sprawling metropolitan regions in the northeast and on the West Coast, the larger cities and the inner suburbs. They are the majority in the “blue states” that went for Al Gore in 2000 and Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

Their tastes in food tend toward varied national and ethnic cuisines. They watch the major TV networks or public television and play golf or baseball. They typically earn between $60,000 and $200,000 a year or they earn under $20,000.

Cultural liberals tend to be both richer and poorer than cultural conservatives — moderately paid professionals such as teachers, lawyers and social workers or else low-paid employees, such as hospital orderlies, retail and restaurant workers and hotel personnel. In other words, they are more cosmopolitan than cultural conservatives and more diverse.

Why God, gays and guns? They are proxies for two distinct temperaments that divide the United States like a meat ax.

On the conservative side is a moral absolutism that views the nation’s greatest challenge as holding firm to enduring values in the face of titanic economic and social changes. The common thread uniting strong religious conviction, rigid sexual norms and an insistence on owning a gun is the assertion of authority, typically by men.

The task is to apply strict discipline to those who might stray from established norms and to win what are repeatedly seen as “tests of will.” Since Sept. 11, this has also taken the form of patriotic bravado and stubborn pugnacity.

America, say cultural conservatives, must remain the strongest nation on earth. The best way to deal with terrorists is to demonstrate toughness and never waver. Better to be feared than loved; better to be consistent than appear indecisive. The tough-talking, born-again cowboy president, Bush, perfectly exemplifies this worldview. “Bring ’em on,” he says. “You’re with us or against us.”

On the liberal (progressive) side of the cultural divide is a belief in tolerance, reason and law as central tenets of democracy. Americans who hold to this view consider all public issues to be soluble with the correct and relevant information, subjected to objective analysis and full deliberation. Religion and sex fall outside the public sphere, because they are inherently private matters.

A vibrant democracy must tolerate different beliefs and personal choices. Gun ownership directly affects the public sphere and, as such, is subject to regulation if there are good reasons to limit it. (As there are.)

By extension, the battle against global terrorism requires that we be smart rather than merely tough. We have to get our facts straight (Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction), tell the public the truth (Iraq played no part in Sept. 11), apply rational analysis (our first priority must be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of potential terrorists) and respect international law (work through the United Nations and NATO, and don’t torture prisoners).

We also need to get at the causes of terrorism — the hate and hopelessness that fuel it. If you want to understand Kerry, look no further.

Cultural conservatives condemn liberals as having no strict moral compass, as being “moral relativists” and “flip-floppers.” These charges predate the 2004 presidential campaign.

Conservatives fear liberals will sell out, because they don’t know what they stand for. In fact, liberals do have strong beliefs (again: tolerance, reason, democratic debate, the rule of law), but these beliefs seem more about process than substance and do not lend themselves to 30-second sound bites.

To liberals, most issues are complicated and nuanced. This attitude drives moral absolutists nuts. American liberals, for their part, worry that the right-wing conservatives are stubborn, intolerant zealots who shoot before they think. Recent history seems to bear out these fears.

Presidential elections in modern America have been about these contrasting worldviews since at least 1964. Starting with Sen. Barry Goldwater’s failed bid in that year and continuing through Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, the new right has emphasized moral absolutes and the need for authority and discipline to enforce them. By contrast, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Gore and now Kerry have focused their campaigns on tolerance, reason and democracy.

Republican candidates repeatedly talk about toughness and resolve, while liberals talk about being correct and thinking problems through. On balance, toughness and resolve have proved the easier sell, especially when American voters are worried about something big.

What about social justice?

This part of FDR’s liberal legacy has been eclipsed by the culture wars. Odd, when the biggest thing voters worry about is their jobs and paychecks, and the paychecks (including wages and job benefits) of most Americans have been declining for two decades, adjusted for inflation.

The gulf between rich and poor in America is now wider than at any time since the robber barons of the late 19th century monopolized industry and bribed the government to do nothing about it.

Yet, in recent years, Democratic candidates have not dwelled on the subject. They have bought the conventional view that economic populism does not sell, because most Americans still want and expect to become rich one day.

That is rubbish. Upward mobility has just about ground to a halt. And it’s circular reasoning.

Economic populism would sell if Democratic politicians explained to the public what has been happening and why. To his credit, Kerry didn’t duck the issue. He promised to end the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year and use the proceeds to make health care affordable for the working class and the poor.

America is splitting into “two nations” (as Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate said), because the twin forces of globalization and technological change are rewarding the educated and well-connected, while punishing the less educated and the disconnected.

What to do about this?

There are solutions that do not require protectionism and neo-Luddism, solutions much in keeping with the liberal legacy of FDR, but too few of today’s liberals have been discussing them, and the American public doesn’t have a clue. You hear them discussed mostly in the rarefied precincts of university towns such as Cambridge, Mass., and Berkeley, whose inhabitants talk to one another and convince themselves that the rest of the nation must be saying the same things.

One hopes that the conversation will be much wider.

Robert B. Reich, former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, is professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University and the author of “Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America” (Knopf).

Material Instincts


Every day before Dina Goldstein (not her real name) leaves
the house to take her two young children to day care and herself to work, she
grabs two bagels and two boxes of orange juice. After buckling the kids into
the car, she gives them the bagels and the juice, and they eat breakfast in the
car on the way to school.

“I just don’t have time to get them ready, myself ready and
feed everyone before I leave the house,” said Goldstein, who works as a
religious day school teacher.

Like Goldstein, many women find maintaining a family and a
job overwhelming. With over 75 percent of women in the United States between
the ages of 25 and 54 working outside the home (according the International
Labor Organization), it is very likely that at some point most women will have
to do both things concurrently. While women choose to work for a variety of
reasons, for many in the Jewish community, a woman’s employment is not a matter
of personal fulfillment but of financial necessity.

With high tuition fees, synagogue dues and mortgages in the
Jewish neighborhoods, maintaining a presence in the community is difficult to
do on one income alone — meaning that the husband is no longer the sole
breadwinner in the family.

But many women find that their careers give them not one job
but two — their paid employment and their nonpaid work inside the house, which
seldom diminishes with the onset of employment. Few will say that the feminist
ideal of “having it all” is viable unless certain sacrifices are made. Finding
ways to produce calm out of the chaos requires innovation, skill, organization
and lots and lots of help.

“The ‘superwoman’ is a myth,” said Tova Hinda Siegal, a
Pico-Robertson midwife who is on-call seven days a week while raising her six
children. “It’s tremendously tricky to try to do everything.”

One of the ways that some women try to balance both job and
family is by finding careers that allow them to work from home, which gives
them close access to their family while still enabling them to bring in some
extra money. While there is not necessarily the same kind of career advancement
available to those who do not work in an office, many say that the sacrifice is
worth it.

“It’s a hugely satisfying feeling to know that I can be
there for my kids when they need me, because I know how stressful it is for a
mother in an office when her kids have an odd day off,” said Judy Gruen, a
mother of four, Journal contributor and  Pico-Robertson writer on domesticity.

Other women make sure that their husbands are picking up the
slack, and that paid help in the house is not a luxury, but a necessity. “I
think it’s more important to have part-time help in your house than to buy new
clothes,” Siegal said. “People who are working should not be fighting with each
other over who does the laundry.”

Siegal also said that it’s up to a woman to train her
husband to do his share of the work.

“I think you have to tell your husband, ‘No, it’s not a good
idea to sit while I’m in the kitchen cleaning up,'”she said.

“In our house we made a rule that whoever cooks does not
have to clean up,” she continued. “That is an equitable division of labor. I
also think it’s fine that a mother gets up in the middle of the night to nurse
her babies, but in the morning, the father should get up and take the baby out
for a few hours and let her sleep. The husband should not feel that when he
does something he is doing his wife a favor. Both need to feel that they are
contributing to the family’s welfare.”

Even with a spouse’s help, keeping your household together
requires careful organization for it to run efficiently. Esther Simon, a Santa
Monica mother of seven and a professional home organizer, said that there are a
number of things one can do to help this process.

“You need to create a clutter-free home, where everything
has a place,” she said. “You should also have a family calendar day planner
where you write down what you want to do each day and what things need to be
done during the week, and then you work out what things can only be done by you
and what things can be done by someone else. Only you can give love to your
child; someone else can wash the floor.”

Simon also suggests laying out all your children’s clothes,
preparing breakfast and putting backpacks by the door the night before to
minimize the rush in the morning.

There is one upside to trying to do everything. “Working and
taking care of a family definitely keeps you out of trouble,” Siegal said. “You
just don’t have the time for anything else.”  

The Jewish Tax


Every April 15, we are reminded that many of the things we hold dear literally don’t come cheap. Democracy demands its pound of flesh, or its 30 percent, and on Tax Day the bill comes due.

According to demographer Pini Herman, the median Jewish household income in the greater Los Angeles area for 2000 was $57,100. The median Jewish household in Los Angeles has to work until March 24 to pay its federal taxes and until May 16 to pay off other income, property and sales taxes. That median Jewish family’s estimated total tax bill this year: $21,300.

On top of this, there’s the Jewish tax. Being Jewish may be wonderful, but it isn’t necessarily a bargain. "Jewish taxes" for a small $5,100 basket of Jewish services — temple membership, minimal Jewish education and recreation, modest Jewish organizational membership and charitable gifts, Jewish ritual events and Jewish articles — will keep the median Jewish household working until June 17 to pay off this "tax."

A larger basket of Jewish services (i.e. day school and camp for two children) can easily reach $22,000 a year in Los Angeles. That figure is unaffordable for those Jewish households at or below the median income level.

Indeed, the price of engaging in Jewish communal life has become daunting. Most synagogues, day schools and camps are willing to arrange scholarships or discounts, but sticker shock or shame often scares off potential members. Institutions and individuals have begun to take the problem seriously. Synagogue 2000, an organization leading naionwide synagogue transformation efforts, has begun encouraging alternative approaches to dues structures in attracting new members. In San Francisco, Temple Emanu-El is experimenting with voluntary dues.

Jewish day schools, which budget far less money per pupil than their public counterparts, are themselves struggling with deficits. The four year-old Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education is focusing on fostering the growth of new day schools, providing grants and fundraising expertise to the schools. A number of foundations, including Avi Chai, have experimented with providing tuition subsidies to encourage people who would not be eligible for financial aid to consider day schools.

For many, these changes cannot happen fast enough. They face rising bills now, especially as the bear market extends its grip to both end-users and potential donors.

Short-term answers are to appeal to donors to continue giving, and to encourage the efforts of places where participating in Jewish life is still relatively inexpensive and richly rewarding, such as museums, libraries and the Jewish Community Centers.

But for the longer term, we need to take steps to ensure that Jewish communal life does not become solely an upper-middle class entitlement. Other wealthy and resourceful communities have explored massively-funded regional endowments for day school tuitions. An endowment structure could also be used for synagogue memberships. It just might work– and contributions would be tax-deductible.

Violence Harms Israeli Economy


With images of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip flashing across television screens around the world, it did not take long for Israel’s tourism industry to start feeling the pinch.

Hotel occupancy has plummeted, Ben-Gurion Airport is deserted and taxi drivers and tour guides have lost a big chunk of their income as cancellations of planned trips have flowed in.

Despite the impact on tourism and other industries, especially those that rely on Palestinian laborers, the crisis is unlikely to harm economic growth in the Jewish state this year because there is often a lag between political instability and economic fallout.

Since the crisis broke out at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2000, its impact on this year’s overall statistics will be limited. However, business experts say, next year could be a different story.

“The tourism industry is always the first industry to be affected all year round from the geopolitical situation, and safety and security are the main pillars for the industry,” said Abraham Rosental, chairman of the Israel Hotel Association.

“We have been in crisis before, but this time it is different, because nobody knows exactly how far it is going to go and when it will end.”

Before the crisis, Israel was on course for 3 million tourist arrivals, which Israel had promoted as part of the Christian millennial year.

It was expected to be a record year for the industry, which makes up about 3 percent of the Israeli economy. Now, at least 10,000 of the hotel industry’s 35,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs, as are many more workers in other tourism-related fields.

In the short term, Rosental’s only hope is that Jews around the world will choose to show solidarity with Israel by visiting.

But even if large numbers of Jewish tourists suddenly order solidarity packages with Israel, it will not be able to prevent the crisis affecting other areas of the economy.

Other industries already hit hard include construction and agriculture. Even though these sectors have increasingly relied on foreign labor during the past few years, Palestinians still made up a big part of the work force.

With the West Bank and Gaza Strip sealed, many kibbutzim and other settlements have no means of harvesting, and building contractors are often without enough manpower to complete projects.

All of this has happened just as the Israeli economy was finally pulling out of a four-year economic slowdown.

Gross domestic product, which measures all goods and services produced in an economy — and is the main indicator of overall economic health — has grown about 2 percent in each of the past three years. Just before the crisis broke out, the Israeli government estimated the economy would grow at a robust rate of 5.8 percent.

But late last month, the government lowered projections for economic growth in 2001 from 5 percent to between 4 and 4.5 percent.

At the same time, in anticipation of massive layoffs in tourism and other industries, it raised unemployment forecasts from 8.1 percent to 8.4 percent.

Some economic officials add that Israel should count its blessings. The economy is in better shape than ever before, with strong growth and low inflation of about 1 percent.

“This does not mean we will not be affected if the unrest continues,” said Avi Ben-Bassat, director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry. “But we are entering this period with a stronger economy than ever before, and that will enable us to endure more easily.”

According to conventional wisdom in the business sector, Israel’s high-tech industry, which has been the engine for economic growth in recent years, will have a greater ability to withstand political volatility.
The biggest sign of this came on the October day that President Clinton announced a truce in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

The same day, Marvell Technology, a communications equipment company from California, announced that it would acquire Galileo Technology of Israel for $2.7 billion in a stock deal.

However, there are already signs of weakness in the industry, which has always been considered immune to the political ups and downs of the region and more affected by the U.S. NASDAQ exchange.

“It may become much more difficult to attract foreign investors,” said one Israeli venture capitalist, speaking on condition of anonymity.

While hoping for an end to the worst violence before the economy suffers too greatly, financial analysts are assessing the potential impact of a drawn-out conflict.

“This is much more significant than high-tech,” said Jonathan Katz, chief economist at Nessuah Zannex Securities, a Tel Aviv brokerage firm. “If there is gloom and pessimism, people will certainly shop less and go less to malls and restaurants. They will also be more wary of taking on increased debt or mortgages when their future permanent income is uncertain and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Poor Jews


Morry Barak is about to celebrate the first anniversary of his new business, Masada Car Service of Chicago. He’s the sole proprietor. He’s also the dispatcher and sole driver. Masada is basically a cell phone, a Lincoln Town Car and Morry.

He’s not complaining. At 43, he’s been through a half-dozen careers: real estate, retail, singing telegrams, plus a stint on an Israeli kibbutz (where he changed his name from Berman). Last year, after four years driving cabs around his native Chicago, he decided he’d schmoozed enough doormen and concierges to guarantee a clientele, and he went solo.

It’s hard, though. “What I do is unhealthy,” Barak says. “I’ve known guys who died in their cars at 59 or 60, after sitting for 40 years, getting bounced around and yelled at, eating horrible foods. It’s not the best business to grow old in.”

Nor the best field to be Jewish in. “Let’s face it, our religion is an extremely expensive religion to participate in,” Barak says. He and his Israeli-born wife, who sells shoes at Nordstrom, gross nearly $60,000 a year between them. Their four-year-old attends a JCC nursery school — a necessity with two working parents — and at $7,000, even with a discount, “that pretty much soaks up all my Jewish dollars.” Everything else is homemade. “My older son trained for his Bar Mitzvah with the Yemenite guy who runs the kosher grocery down the block.”

What’s hardest about being a Jewish cabdriver isn’t money, though. It’s how people look at you. “A working-class Jew is like an oddity,” Barak says. “To a lot of mainstream Jews, it’s like you’re verging on homelessness or something.”

It’s the same everywhere. “People look on a limo driver and think, ‘What a loser, all he can do is drive a limo,'” says Rich Cantor, 60, who started his own New Jersey car service two years ago, after years of driving for others. “We don’t care what you’ve done before. When you drive a limo, people look at you differently.”

Cantor doesn’t believe the disdain is a Jewish trait, “any more than it’s Irish or Italian.” But Irish or Italian drivers don’t complain of exclusion from their communities. Jewish drivers do.

“You feel unworthy, like you’re in a different league,” says Robert Goldman, a New Jersey limo driver. “As a Jew, I end up feeling alien to my supposed culture.”

The Jewish cabdriver was once a familiar character, a sort of loudmouth Jewish Everyman. Even after World War II, when most American Jews moved up and out to the suburbs, Jewish cabbies remained a visible blue-collar subculture — especially in New York, where many drove the city’s fabled yellow taxis. They’ve disappeared in the past two decades, replaced by newer, more desperate immigrants.

But while the visible Jewish cabbies’ subculture is gone, Jewish drivers aren’t. Thousands still drive airport limousines in Chicago and Los Angeles, metered taxis in Boston and Miami, radio-dispatched cabs in suburbs from Long Island to Alameda County. They’re probably the largest single group of Jewish blue-collar workers. They’re simply invisible to rest of the Jewish community.

Many are Israeli and Russian immigrants, invisible because their worlds are so separate from the Jewish mainstream. “I live my life and work hard, so who cares what others think?” says Kiev-born Igor Bloom, 47, a Boston cabbie for 11 years.

Thousands more, though, are American-born Jews who were unable or unwilling to follow the standard Jewish dream.

Repeated surveys show that Jews are more affluent on average than other Americans. The median Jewish household income is a shade over $50,000 a year. For Americans overall it’s under $40,000. Still, half of all Jewish households live on less than $50,000.

Not coincidentally, those surveys also show that Jewish observance — from synagogue membership to holiday celebration — increases as income rises. A half-century ago it was the opposite: Poorer Jews were more devout. Today, unless they live within the cloistered Orthodox community, they feel unwelcome.

Richard Raines, a cabdriver in Tucson, Ariz., learned that years ago. Born into a moderately Orthodox family in the Bronx, he quit high school to join the army.

“I was the first Jewish kid I knew that went into the service,” he says. “When I got out, parents wouldn’t even let me date their daughters. I was almost like a gentile.”

There was one girl who’d waited for him to return. “Her mother said if I wanted to marry her daughter I had to go to college. They would even pay for it. But I didn’t want to. I heard she married a dentist.”

Now 59, Raines has worked as a plumber, driven a bread route, and managed health-food stores, restaurants and a bowling alley. He married a Jewish woman, raised two sons, divorced, steadily drifted further from Judaism. Both sons married non-Jews.

Ten years ago, remarried, he moved to Tucson, seeking a safer environment for his wife and infant daughter. The Jewish community is now just a vague echo.

“I know there’s a Jewish community in this town,” he says, “but they’re not people I meet. They’re more into business, lawyers, doctors and accountants. Not that they’re bad people. I just don’t run in those circles.”

Raines has no grudges. “I learned a long time ago that money ain’t the answer,” he says.

Answer, no. But money does raise questions. Rich Cantor has been part of a “tight group” of two dozen families, the core of his New Jersey temple, for 30 years. When he started driving 10 years ago, after a business venture failed, his friendships changed. “There were some that stuck by you no matter what,” he says. “Others, it was suddenly different.”

Morry Barak thinks the problem is in a changing American Jewish culture. “We produced 26 world boxing champions before World War II,” he says. “Not just Barney Ross and Benny Leonard– 26 Jewish world champions. And now look at us. It’s like a stereotype of the emasculated Jewish male.”

Partly, drivers’ problems are simply a product of the times. “The economic situation in this country is just wacky,” Barak says. “For God’s sake, my grandfather was in labor struggles to work 40 hours, and now his grandson is working 60 hours a week just to get by.”

Next month, though, Barak is interviewing with a dot.com that advertised for managers. “Like Jackie Mason says, everybody has a plan pending, and in the meanwhile we’re doing this.”


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal

Disaster Relief


 

The catastrophic earthquake and tsunami is south Asia resulted in worldwide shock and then an outpouring of aid. It wasn�(tm)t difficult to write a check, nor was it difficult to find relief agencies eager to accept donations.

Money poured in, in some cases overwhelming the beneficiaries. Doctors Without Borders announced two weeks after the tsunami that it had received all the money it could use for tsunami relief and urged donors to contribute undesignated funds to general disaster assistance. The Red Cross, although still accepting money for tsunami relief, has also set a cap for those donations.

Following the similarly catastrophic tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks, the “September 11th Fund” was quickly founded and also quickly inundated with donations. Four months after the event, in January 2002, the fund announced that it had received all it needed to accomplish its goals (more than $500 million) and encouraged future donors to give to other charities.

Our generous response to those horrifying tragedies illustrates how quickly our hearts and wallets can be opened, but it also brings into question our charitable goals when equally great – or greater – needs exist. Giving in response to catastrophe is compassionate and morally sound. But the total ethics of our charitable giving needs examination when transient, spectacular tragedies are overfunded while ongoing and endemic tragedies are often ignored.

The sudden devastation of catastrophe demands an equally quick response. Unlike poverty or hunger, we could respond to the tsunami now – but not years from now. Because the number of people affected was large, we responded generously. But because the number was small, relative to other tragedies, and limited (the tsunami would not strike again) we felt confidant that our donations would actually make a difference.

Because tragedies like war and disease are so pervasive and intractable we despair at their solution. We cope with their presence by becoming numb. Our compassion is stirred, our hearts break, but our emotional numbness prevents action. We sew up our wounded hearts and move on.

As my friends and I wrote our tsunami checks in the last few weeks, many of us expressed the concern that our donations actually reach the people in need. But what most of us didn�(tm)t pause to consider is why we were giving now, to this cause and not at other times to other causes? In the hands of an ethical charity our checks would eventually ease the pain of the tsunami victims. Yet the pain of other sufferers elsewhere in the world was no less great for them having been victims to non-catastrophic tragedies that hadn�(tm)t captured our attention.

What we need is an ethic of charity that motivates us to give to ongoing, endemic needs as much as our natural horror motivates us to give to catastrophic relief.

Biblical examples of giving see charity as automatic and constant: a spiritual act based on gratitude for our own blessings, not prompted by particular needs in the community. Abraham gives one-tenth of the spoils of war (Genesis 14:20), Jacob makes a similar vow (Genesis 28:22) and Leviticus tells us, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). Maimonides advises the ethic of giving not in response to need but to prevent need. He writes as the highest step of the golden ladder of giving, “Anticipate charity by preventing poverty” such as by teaching a trade.

Giving in response to catastrophic need will always be a spiritual urge above and beyond our regular charity. Here�(tm)s how I suggest catastrophic need doesn�(tm)t become our only impulse to charity.

• Begin by naming the core values that guide your life. If you can�(tm)t do this, examine the values revealed through your life choices: where do you work, where do you spend your free time, what stories tug your heart, what activities give you the greatest satisfaction?

• Next, name the causes you wish to fight (poverty, hunger, disease, war) or support (education, freedom, human rights). The causes should flow from your values.

• Research organizations working on these causes and select a few as beneficiaries of your charity.

• Create a personal budget by approximating your yearly income and expenses. Challenge yourself to set aside 5 to 10 percent of your income for charity and divide that amount among the organizations you�(tm)ve selected. You might designate a portion of your charitable budget as “catastrophe relief.” If it hasn�(tm)t been used by the end of the year you can write an additional check to your main charity.

When a catastrophe occurs, you can then use your budget to fit your response within a reasoned, values-based, system of giving. Instead of reacting emotionally merely to relieve your own horror you can base your response on questions such as, “Does providing this relief support my values? Will writing this check reduce the amount I give elsewhere and is that OK with me?” Following that internal discussion even a decision not to write a check can be a morally legitimate response.

All giving relieves both the giver and the receiver. Giving should make us feel good and relieving our own emotional suffering is as good a reason to give as any. But healing the world demands more than an emotional response to catastrophes; it demands a generous, considered response to all instances of suffering.

 

Jewish Earning Power


Jews are more likely than members of any other American ethnic group to purchase a hardcover book or attend a live musical performance in the coming year, but they’re much less likely to buy a car, truck, recreational vehicle or major home appliance.

Their earning power outstrips any other ethnic group, yet they continue to vote very much the way Blacks and Hispanics do.

These statistics may sound like the setup to some tired ethnic joke or chicken soup homily, but they’re actually the latest in social-science research.

They are part of an intriguing new portrait of American Jews that has emerged from a groundbreaking study of ethnic America. Conducted last winter by Zogby International in cooperation with the New Jersey Jewish News, the studies, the Zogby Culture Polls, attempt to shed new light on a variety of American ethnic groups by examining them side by side.

The study consists of a series of identical surveys administered simultaneously to six different ethnic groups: Jews, Hispanics, and Asian, African, Arab and Italian Americans. The result is perhaps the first fully rounded statistical snapshot of America’s ethnic mosaic, or an important chunk of it.

By mapping the contours of individual ethnic subcultures alongside one another, the researchers hoped to produce a sort of relief map of the broader society, as well as a more rounded profile of each individual group.

The surveys were conducted between Dec. 14, 1999 and Feb. 7, 2000. Sample sizes varied, as did margins of error. The Jewish sample numbered 589 people, with a 4.1 percent margin of error.

The portrait of American Jews that emerges from the poll is at once familiar and surprising. Jews are increasingly rooted in America, the survey confirms. Fewer than one-third are immigrants or children of immigrants, a percentage similar to that of Italian Americans, but far less than the numbers for newer arrivals such as Hispanic, Asian or Arab Americans.

Moreover, Jews have achieved an extraordinary measure of success. Six out of 10 Jewish adults have a college degree, more than any group except Asians.

More than 41 percent report a household income of $75,000 or more, far above any other group surveyed. Fewer Jews than members of any other group reported worrying about losing their jobs or going without a meal. Far more reported investing in the stock market and shopping via the Internet.

And yet Jews still view themselves as a minority, and that self-image clearly shapes their view of their world.

Close to 90 percent say their ethnic heritage is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, comparable to Blacks, Hispanics or Arab Americans but far beyond Italian Americans. And nearly 60 percent report having experienced discrimination because of their ethnic heritage, more than any other group except Blacks.

Fully half of Jews report having a “strong emotional tie” to their “country of ethnic heritage” — less than Hispanics, at 62 percent, or Arab Americans, at 56 percent, but much more than Asian Americans, at 43 percent, or Italian Americans, at 37.5 percent.

What is particularly striking is that unlike the other groups, the country to which Jews are attached is not one their grandparents came from, but Israel, one which for the most part they have only read of in newspapers or learned about in religious school.

The researchers pointed to the very distinctiveness of the Jews as an identifiable community, with its own patterns of behavior and values, as the most striking finding of the poll of Jews.

“Jews have retained their own identity,” said John Zogby, president of Zogby International.

“I’m not an expert in Judaism, and as an Arab American I wouldn’t claim to be, but the findings suggest that there’s plenty within the context of Judaism as a spiritual force that generates a commitment to community spirit and communal values.”

Zogby, who is of Lebanese Christian descent, is best known as a New York-based Republican pollster. He is the brother of Arab American lobbyist James Zogby.

“You have to look at what appear to be subtleties,” added Belio Martinez Jr., Zogby’s director of international marketing and research. “When you look at issues of persecution, or at their involvement in international affairs, it’s clear that they really don’t view themselves as part of the traditional Anglo American majority culture.”

That minority self-image may help explain why Jews remain more liberal than any of their neighbors, despite their material success and the fading of the immigrant experience.

Both Zogby and Martinez cited that liberalism as the most important finding in the Jewish survey.

“They’re more conservative than they were in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Zogby, “but within the larger context, they remain more liberal than others.”

This liberalism shows up in a variety of contexts: party identification, voting patterns and positions on issues.

Nowhere, though, is it clearer than in the simple fact that Jews are more likely to identify themselves as liberals than any other group. Some 49 percent of Jews called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal,” compared to 42 percent of Blacks and about one-third of every other group.

By contrast, about 19 percent of Jews called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative,” compared to 25 percent of Blacks and about one-third of every other group.

The lopsided liberalism is reflected in party identification: About two-thirds of Jews are registered as Democrats and 15 percent as Republicans. That makes Jews less partisan than only Blacks, who are 78 percent Democratic and 6.5 percent Republican.

Among Hispanics, 57 percent are registered Democratic and 21 percent Republican. Italian and Arab Americans, like the nation as a whole, are about 37 percent Democrat and 34 percent Republican. All the groups’ presidential votes in 1996 closely matched their party registration.

The lopsided liberalism of the Jews shows up in their responses to issues on the public agenda, particularly on abortion.

Jews are overwhelmingly pro-choice, with 61 percent saying the decision should always be left to the mother. Among other groups, the figure ranged from 40 percent of Blacks and Asian Americans to 29 percent among Italian and Arab Americans and 24 percent of Hispanics who were fully pro-choice.

Similarly, fewer than 50 percent of Jews believe in notifying parents when a minor seeks an abortion, compared with nearly 80 percent in every other group.

Jews are also the most supportive of letting the federal government set education policy, the most supportive of campaign donation limits and the least supportive of increasing the military budget. In general, Jews showed a greater faith in the power of the federal government to do good than any other group.

That good will does not spill over to the United Nations, which received lower marks from Jews than from any other group surveyed.

Given a choice between “effective peacekeeping/human rights agency” and “bloated bureaucracy that weakens U.S. sovereignty,” most groups tilted about three-to-one toward “effective peacekeeping.” Only 55.8 percent of Jews chose “effective peacekeeping,” while 18.2 percent chose neither.

For Zogby, the specific characteristics marking American Jews — attachment to Israel, distinctive political values, mistrust of the United Nations — all point to the enduring influence of Judaism on the Jews’ inner lives.

Others might dispute that conclusion. But one thing is certain — wherever it comes from, they’re not getting it in synagogue.

Jews attend worship services less regularly than any other group surveyed. That, in fact, was one of the most striking differences the survey found between Jews and the others.

Just under one-quarter of the Jews polled said they attend services at least once a week, while more than half said they attend on “special occasions only.”

In every other group those numbers were precisely reversed, with about half saying they attend services at least weekly and 25 to 30 percent saying they attend only on special occasions. (Between 9 and 20 percent of each group said they “never” attend services, with Asian Americans scoring highest.)

At the same time, Jews had the highest proportion — 5.2 percent — who attend services daily, suggesting the continuing influence of Orthodoxy. Combined with 18 percent who attend weekly and more than 6 percent who attend “once or twice a month,” a total of nearly 30 percent attend synagogue with some regularity. This matches other surveys showing that 25 to 30 percent of American Jews maintain a deep, ongoing involvement in communal Jewish practice.

What keeps the others identifiably Jewish? The Zogby Culture Poll doesn’t say. All it does is state the facts: One way or another, something is keeping them Jewish.