A gridlock bypass in Congress?


A remarkable thing happened in Washington, D.C., last week. National leaders of business and labor hammered out an outline on immigration reform. This might not only give a major boost to a new immigration policy; it might also show a path around the gridlock that has driven the nation into budgetary face-offs month after month.

The key to the deal is agreement on a guest-worker program, which labor has long opposed. The idea is to create a new program of immigrant worker visas, based on estimates of labor need as determined by a federal bureau. Business accepted the concepts of a variable labor pool, and, even more important, that the workers would not be tied to a single employer. Labor was adamant that workers not be subject to deportation for not getting along with their bosses.

While the details are important, the politics, both symbolic and real, may be even more significant. Each in their own ways, both business and labor have been struggling to get back into their party’s strategic calculations, and they may have found a way to do so together.

Since President Barack Obama’s re-election, House Republicans have thrown the country into one budget crisis after another in order to derail the president’s agenda. The business community has been unhappy with threats against paying for the nation’s debt, fiscal cliffs and now the sequester. But business had been largely unsuccessful in its struggle to move the House Republicans and a number of Republican senators, most of whom represent safe conservative districts or states whose Republican primary voters favor confrontation with the president. Not surprisingly, a conservative Republican senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 22) criticizing the business role in the deal: “The chamber’s primary goal has never been to establish a lawful immigration system and secure our borders, but to get as much cheap labor as possible.” The Times article also noted, however, that Senate bipartisan negotiators were delighted with the deal, and even the No. 2 House leader, Republican Eric Cantor, was upbeat.

Labor has had its own frustrations with the Democrats. Unlike in California, organized labor is weaker in Washington, D.C., and in their dealings with the White House, labor leaders have sometimes felt like outside agitators fighting against what they see as too much conciliation toward Republicans. By helping in a big way toward a major administration goal, and by engaging with a business sector that might yet be able to have some clout with Republicans, labor has proved its value. 

Further, Democrats will need a big labor push in 2014 to avoid the off-year low turnout calamity that brought the Tea Party to Congress in 2010. The same could be said about business with its constituency. Many in business fear that the isolation of the Republican Party will eventually hurt them both economically and politically, and they have been pushing the party to be more moderate and less reflexively anti-government.

This business-labor agreement points to a larger shift in the thinking of the Obama White House about how to get a second-term agenda accomplished. For a long time, Obama has had faith that he can persuade conservative Republicans to accept his agenda because it “makes sense.” It was always hard to see why that would be a compelling argument to politicians, even those not gripped in a Tea Party ideology. And by constantly negotiating and seeking deals, he elevated the power of those who keep manufacturing the crises that seem to require negotiating. The wiser move is to isolate the recalcitrants by building a larger and larger block of interests that coalesce around the White House agenda. We are already seeing this strategy emerge, as Republican governors begin to accept Medicaid expansion under the new health care law because of pressure from hospitals in their states, and as those same governors signal to their fellow Republicans in D.C. that to go through with sequestration would have devastating consequences back home.

A better strategy has now emerged, one that meets the needs of the administration to make progress and even of conservatives to show that they are opposing him. If House Republican leaders continue to poke holes in the Hastert Rule, which dictated that nothing can be brought to the floor of the House without the support of a majority of the Republican caucus, then conservatives can still go on record in full-throated opposition without the Republican Party being blamed in full for blocking progress. Immigration may be a big test of this approach, should the combination of a bipartisan team in the Senate and the business-labor alliance create a large enough power bloc to make progress in the House inevitable. 

In any case, a business-labor agreement on anything must be seen as good news for a struggling American government.

Raphael J. Sonenshein is executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

JVS vying for $150,000 in national contest


The Great Recession is technically over, but for many job seekers — particularly in the Los Angeles area — it certainly doesn’t seem that way.

Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate stood at 10.2 percent in December, higher than California as a whole and far above the already steep 7.8 percent national average. And despite some signs of a hiring uptick at the end of last year, jobseekers nationally have, typically, been out of work for 35 weeks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, when officials at Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles (JVS) — a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people find work — heard about a nationwide fundraising contest for groups like theirs, they jumped at the chance to get involved. 

The JobRaising Challenge, organized by the Skoll Foundation, which supports social entrepreneurs; The Huffington Post; and online fundraising site Crowdrise; allows selected nonprofits to compete for $250,000 in cash prizes from the Skoll Foundation by raising as much money as they can on their own. 

As of Feb. 12, JVS had raised more than $51,000 and is in second place on the fundraising ladder out of 65 organizations across the country. The competition began Jan. 21,

The money, provided by more than 80 donors as of Feb. 11, puts the 82-year-old organization on track to win the contest’s second prize of $50,000. If JVS overtakes the current organization in the lead — New York-based Venture For America Inc. — before the contest ends on March 1, it would win $150,000.

“I’m an eternal optimist. I feel hopeful we will continue at this pace,” said Randy H. Lapin, JVS’ chief philanthropy officer. “We do have some good competition out there, but we’re doing all that we can.”

The money JVS raises, along with any prize money it secures, will be used to support its career counseling and job creation programs. It will hire more staff to network with local businesses and find employment opportunities for job seekers, Lapin said. 

JVS helps a wide variety people find work, including veterans, refugees, at-risk youth, seniors and downsized professionals. Its services include training programs that allow participants to obtain entry-level jobs in the health care and banking fields. Altogether, JVS delivers services at nearly 30 sites across Southern California and helps about 30,000 people a year. Although some programs are targeted toward Jews, JVS serves people of all faiths, Lapin said.

Fundraising through an online contest is unique for JVS, Lapin said. Even though some donations are small — just $10 or $20 — the sheer number of people pledging means the money adds up to a substantial sum. This has been supplemented by others who have donated amounts as large as $10,000. Those interested in donating to JVS through the contest can go to crowdrise.com/jobraising or jvsla.org.

Robert Wolfe, co-founder of Crowdrise, said in a video announcing the JobRaising Challenge on HuffPost Live that the contest is designed to generate more money for the cause of job creation than could be achieved with a straightforward foundation grant. 

“The idea is if [organizations are] going out to their own constituents and asking them to participate as both donors and fundraisers, that we can leverage that money and turn it into … hopefully millions of dollars so these awesome nonprofits can go out and help create jobs,” he said.

The contest has also generated publicity for JVS. Participating organizations are invited to blog on The Huffington Post’s Web site, which attracts 50 million U.S. visitors a month. Arianna Huffington herself has mentioned JVS on Twitter, Lapin said. 

With the publicity and fundraising dollars generated so far, Lapin said, JVS is already feeling like a winner.

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:

Out of Israel, back to Africa


African migrants chosen for deportation from Israel were nervously awaiting a knock on the door or a tap on the shoulder on Tuesday as immigration officials rounded up hundreds for departure flights due to begin at the weekend.

“The people are very tense. It’s pretty traumatic,” said Jacob Berri, a spokesman for the South Sudanese community of migrants, the first to be repatriated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency plan.

“There are children here who only speak Hebrew. They won’t even know the language where they’re going,” Berri said.

Africans were being stopped on the street and issued deportation orders, he added. “About 100 more have been arrested this morning.”

Many of the migrants have been working in hotels and restaurants, while others have been holding down manual jobs or working as contracted day labor. All of them were technically working illegally.

Israeli opinion is divided over plans to eventually deport some 60,000 African migrants deemed a social irritant and a threat to the Jewish character of the state. A columnist in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth called it “hysteria”. Another in the same paper said the methods may be “needlessly brutal” but it was necessary.

The first deportation flight is expected to leave Israel on Sunday for Juba, the capital of South Sudan, as part of what Israel calls Operation Returning Home.

Detentions began on Sunday in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, where Israeli television filmed weeping African women and men in handcuffs. Those detained were sent to the Saharonim detention facility in the Negev Desert, close to where they first entered Israel over the porous Sinai Desert border with Egypt.

The South Sudanese, whose country was established in 2011 after they fled civil war in Sudan five or six years ago, will be the first to be repatriated, under an agreement between South Sudan and Israel. They number only some 1,500.

“The next stage is the removal from Israel of all the infiltrators from Eritrea and Sudan, whose number comes close to 50,000 people,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

It is legally questionable whether Israel can actually remove all of the migrants and some critics have said the government’s tough rhetoric is far removed from reality.

“At the moment, we are permitted only to deport from Israel the citizens of South Sudan and the Ivory Coast,” the minister was quoted as saying.

“I hear those who say these infiltrators cannot be sent back, but this is an important mission …saying “No” is tantamount to shelving the declaration of independence, the end of the Zionist dream,” said Yishai, who heads a religious party.

CASH LEAVING GRANT

South Sudanese who agree to deportation within five days will receive a grant of 1,000 euros. Those who do not are interned until they can be forcibly repatriated.

“We have arrested about 140 infiltrators up until last night, a main portion of whom are South Sudanese,” senior immigration official Yossi Edelstein told Israel Radio.

“There is also an impressive movement in the South Sudanese community of people coming to us to leave on their own free will. About 100 people have come forward to register…”

Israel, a country of 7.8 million, has almost completed a high fence along the border to deter more would-be migrants who are brought to the frontier by Bedouin people-smugglers.

Newspaper reports said Netanyahu had asked officials to examine whether a fence should now also be built along the border with southern Jordan, in the event that migrants try to cross the narrow Gulf of Aqaba and enter Israel from the Arab kingdom.

An Eilat hotel director said the expulsions were “a terrible shame”. “Most of them are educated people who fled from a bloody war in their homeland. They speak a number of languages, most of them are Christian, and they did their job in the best way possible,” David Blum of Isrotel was quoted as saying.

Thousands of Palestinians used to come into Israel daily from the West Bank and Gaza to do mostly minimum-wage jobs. But tight security provisions to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants ended that mutually beneficial arrangement years ago.

Netanyahu says legislation to stop the illegal hiring of Africans would now be strictly enforced.

Despite claims of rampant crime in sections of south Tel Aviv where most Africans live, a senior police commander, David Gez, was quoted as saying the level of crime among the migrants was relatively low.

Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Edited by Andrew Osborn

Letters to the Editor: Job searching, Buy Israel, David Mamet, Global Warming


Job Search Process Is Ineffective, Demeaning

Even though organizations like JVS have WorkSource centers on Wilshire Boulevard and in Marina del Rey, the jobs through JVS are all online (“Still Unemployed: Out of Luck but Not Out of Hope,” Nov. 25). The process of finding jobs online is not effective.

Back in the day, faxing resumes and answering ads in the paper were more effective. Today, ads say “no phone calls please,” which is limiting.  

There are no responses from online applications (at least for me), and they make you go through more hoops of fire to get a low-paying job. For instance, Bloomingdale’s makes you answer 200 questions before you can even apply. Then you get an e-mail stating whether you are “invited” to meet with them or rejected.  

The whole process, including phone interviews, is degrading.

Diane Goodman
Los Angeles


Buy Israel, but Not From West Bank Settlements

We wholeheartedly agree with the Buy Israel Week concept. We warmly endorse products made in Israel and we do it enthusiastically, but we make a clear distinction between what is made in Israel and what is manufactured in West Bank settlements. Settlements are an obstacle to peace. They are intended to jeopardize the two-state solution. We do not buy products made in the settlements, and we hope others won’t either.

Unfortunately, the Buy Israel Week supplement (Nov. 18) ignores the important distinction between products made in Israel and ones made in the West Bank, where military occupation is hindering peace for Israel.

Buy Israel? By all means! But don’t buy into the misrepresentation of West Bank settlements as a part of Israel.

Arthur Stern and Sanford Weiner
Regional Co-chairs
David Pine, Regional Director
Americans for Peace Now


Have Compassion

David Mamet rails against excess chesed causing weakness (“Conflict, Choice and Surrender,” Nov. 18). But what about chesed deficiency?

Aside from its intrinsic value, compassion is a major source of strength; it usually engenders credibility and respect. Flexibility is an obvious strategic advantage in being able to form alliances. Even in cavemen days, the willingness to understand another point of view and ability to compromise was orders of magnitude more powerful than wielding a larger club. Don’t we all know at least someone who, despite superior talent and hard work, fails due to lack of flexibility? Regimes whose names are all too familiar may get some temporary gains from severe chesed deficiency but go down in ignominious defeat.

Mamet also tells us to look away from ulterior motives and focus on outcomes of political and economic proposals. The problem is that if we could agree on the outcomes, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place. Trickle-down economics produces prosperity. Really? As such, biases and credibility do count a great deal. This brings us back to chesed. Chesed deficiency is also a malignant process, eventually expanding beyond the adversary and turning on one’s own. Maybe this explains Mamet’s characterization of Reform Judaism.

Hyman J. Milstein
Studio City


Global Warming: It’s Science, Not Left vs. Right

Here goes Dennis Prager again (“Man-Made Global Warming: Why Many of Us Are Skeptical, Parts 1 and 2,” Oct. 28 and Nov. 11). He sees everything as left versus right, and the left is always wrong. Here he calls the serious scientific concerns over the human impact on global warming the latest “doomsday scenario” in a “long line of left-wing hysterias.”

What he ignores is that in a 2009 survey conducted by Peter Doran, University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, of 3,146 earth scientists (selected from the nonpartisan American Geological Institute’s Directory of Geoscience Departments), 90 percent agreed that mean global temperatures have risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and 82 percent agreed that human activity has been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.

Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing that humans play a role. Doran said that climatologists are “the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you’re likely to believe in global warming and humankind’s contribution to it.”

Doran concluded that “the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

If only Prager could understand “the nuances and scientific basis” of this important issue rather than force it into his obsession to demonize liberals.

Stephen Rohde
Los Angeles

Still unemployed: Out of luck but not out of hope


In July 2009, when everyone could see that the financial collapse of September 2008 was not going to be short-lived, I tracked down and interviewed for The Journal ” title=”what Jewish organizations locally were doing to help”>what Jewish organizations locally were doing to help and was heartened to find that the community had stepped up its efforts to reach out to those unable to find a job, pay bills or to put food on their tables — often middle-class people who had, for the first time in their lives, found themselves in need of help.

This month, two and half years later and three years into the economic crisis, I checked in again with those same ordinary people I had interviewed: a single mom looking for a new career when her job in the mortgage industry disappeared; a family with young children flattened by medical expenses when the mom, who didn’t have medical insurance, was injured; a former vice president in a huge entertainment firm who now couldn’t even get callbacks from her old connections as she searched for a new job; and a human-resources manager whose job had shrunk to 20 hours a week.

All but the injured mom agreed to be interviewed once more, to let readers know how things are going now. In a short conversation, however, the mom told me her injury had healed, and she is able to work again. She and her husband had gotten help from a nonprofit in getting their debt restructured, but after a few months that deal fell apart when they missed a single payment. The family had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but she is hopeful they will eventually pull out of this mess, although she is still without health insurance.

Everyone else agreed to more extensive interviews. Like many Americans over the last three years, they have endured a continuing roller coaster of optimism and stress. Unemployment statistics and social service agency budgets tell one story, but the details of the lives of these people offer a more personal look at our times and the impact of financial stress.

From underemployed to employed to unemployed

Richard Banks had a job when I talked to him in 2009, but he was only working 20 hours a week and needed more. Today, the 64-year-old human resources manager who lives in Van Nuys is even further behind. He’s been out of a job since April.

“I feel young. I’m not ready for the senior center. I just want to work — I want to get out of the house, I want the social interaction, I like the idea of solving problems, of the energy of a workplace,” he said.

It took Banks 16 months to find a full-time job to replace the part-time position that wasn’t paying enough to cover his expenses. In December 2009, he was hired as the first HR manager at a growing Internet marketing firm. By January 2011, the company was sold to a competitor, and by June of that year, the California operation was completely shut down. Most of the 120 jobs at the firm were eliminated, with only a handful of people relocated to the Texas headquarters — an option that wouldn’t have worked for Banks, who has a wife and daughter, even had it been offered.

For the last five years, Banks and his wife, an editor, have traded spots back and forth being employed and unemployed. Family income has been about a third to a quarter what it used to be over the past five years, he said.

He has kept at the job hunt, working contacts, ads, Internet leads and building connections through a networking group he helped found at Temple Judea, where he was brotherhood president for several years.

Richard Banks has been on an employment roller coaster since 2008. “When you’re interviewing with someone half your age, there are issues,” he said. Photo by Rachel Davidson

He knows his age is working against him when it comes to job interviews.

“I’ve had so many interviews, long phone interviews, where everything is peachy keen, and then you meet up a week later and everything goes ice cold,” he said. “When you’re interviewing with someone who is half your age, there are issues — they want to be comfortable in their own culture, and it almost doesn’t matter what you bring into the environment in terms of education and experience. They’re just not comfortable with somebody they perceive — rightly or wrongly — who is not going to be around, or who is not going to get it, or who is not into the technology, or whatever the misconceptions are,” Banks said.

After Banks got laid off at the Internet firm, his wife got a job in publishing that came with health insurance, which was a good thing, as Banks — whose only stay in a hospital was when he was a bone marrow donor — was turned down for individual insurance.

Twenty-two days after his wife started working, Banks’ daughter, 23, was in a serious car accident, which has required follow-up medical care. It would have bankrupted them if they hadn’t had insurance, or if the new health care law hadn’t allowed his adult daughter to be on the family’s plan.

The daughter, a student, also works two jobs — as a food server and in retail. She pays about 90 percent of her expenses, and had to take out student loans when her father became unable to pay tuition after her first semester.

“I’m supposed to be there to be her safety net, and now I’m not that safety net, and that bothers me,” Banks said.

Cuts have come from everywhere. Banks said he’s always clipped coupons and doesn’t eat a lot of meat, so food expenses are pretty low. There have been no vacations and not much going out, and he had to give up tai chi, which had been helping to keep his stress levels down. He drives a 1986 Mercedes with no air conditioning and only one working window. He is collecting unemployment, but that will run out soon.

The house, in Van Nuys, is paid off, and Banks is repaying a small line of credit he took out against the house. He said he is relying on the house as his only asset.

And what about a retirement fund?

“I’m screwed,” he said. “There is no doubt about it.”

But he is staying hopeful and keeping busy.

Recently, he started meeting with another unemployed synagogue member to explore developing a Web-based business channeling volunteers to nonprofits.

He’s been helping a friend staff a new restaurant, and he started volunteering for One LA-IAF, an advocacy organization, where he is focusing on health care reform.

“I am walking the dog in the morning. I love to cook, so I’m back to making dinner. I am repotting the succulents and the cactuses because I love to see things grow — to keep the life force going,” he said.

He has no patience for talk about “one door closing and another opening.” But he looks for bright spots.

“I made a choice many years ago that no matter what is going on, you have to pull something out of that day that is good, something that makes you smile and makes you laugh. Something that keeps you positive.”

How Occupy will end


No one knows what difference Occupy Wall Street will turn out to make. 

This could the start of something big.  Maybe the burgeoning sense that something is not right in America will reach a critical mass.  It’s already showing up in the polls.  Maybe more and more ordinary Americans will wake up and smell the plutocracy.  The consensus will grow that the only way that income distribution could have become so out-of-whack is that the power in Washington isn’t in the hands of the people we elect; it belongs to the big corporations and Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who have the country by the short hairs.  We’re at the beginning of a tectonic shift in our politics, our culture, maybe even in our governance. 

Or the movement fizzles.  The demographics of the demonstrators don’t keep expanding.  Unemployment and foreclosure turn out not to be the contemporary equivalent of the draft’s role in mobilizing broad opposition to the war in Vietnam. Winter, and shrewder policing with less blowback, take a toll on the encampments.  Occupy becomes just another tale of the fall 2011 media scrum, alongside the Conrad Murray trial.  In retrospect we realize that our political elites have grown so dependent on our predators that the whole corrupt system is immune to challenge.  Occupy goes nowhere – there’s no wave election, no campaign finance reform, no reregulation or rule of law for the financial sector, no increase of progressivity in the tax code, no infrastructure rebuilt by no jobs program, no course correction for the American dream. 
 

Since no one really knows what Occupy’s impact will be tomorrow, there’s a contest going on today, a battle for control over how the story is being told right now.  And the way it’s framed could actually determine the way it will play out in real life.

The right’s strategy is: If we don’t build it, they won’t come. So its narrative is: These people are lazy, losers, hippies, stooges, drug-takers, a mob.  They don’t know what they want.  They want to destroy capitalism.  This is no Tea Party. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. 

It’s a bit incoherent, but they’re sticking to it, and their intention is to prevent any more of their pigeons – the 99 percenters – from figuring out how deeply they’ve been shafted by Koch-era robber barons and their political puppets.

The left, on the other hand, hears the strains of “Something’s Coming” in the air. Its aspirational narrative sees the pendulum swinging the other way.  A moral confidence is stirring. Yes, the political system is dysfunctional, but the urgency of protest will not be paralyzed by pragmatic cynicism.  We really can do it.  We can reclaim our country from the oligarchs.  We can recapture what America used to be about.  These Occupy encampments spreading from city to city?  That’s what it looks like when hope shucks off the victim script.

The arena where these warring narratives are slugging it out is in the media.  Fox, which has been the publicist, cheerleader, speakers bureau and enabler of the Tea Party, is of course relentlessly dismissive of Occupy.  Over on MSNBC, police bungling fuels support, and the messages on the demonstrators’ hand-made signs provide a counter-narrative to the corporate triumphalism that has dominated public discourse for decades.  CNN’s account of Occupy is whiplashed between the false equivalence its brand requires – kabuki pundit combat, always ending the same way: “We’ll have to leave it there” – and the need to hold eyeballs during commercials, which mandates you-won’t-want-to-miss-this alarmism.  The prestige press needs to play it both ways, in an only-time-will-tell frame, though it’s always safe to go meta: “Every Movement Needs a Logo” was the title of a New York Times gallery of graphic identities proposed by designers, while New York magazine asked an ad exec and a PR pro to give letter grades to the occupiers’ protest signs.

Social media, whose importance to the Arab Spring has become a benchmark of subsequent protests, is atwitter with people talking directly to themselves; it’s an organizing tool, and a gauge of popular sentiment, that doesn’t require the dots of the story to be connected in prefab patterns.  But no matter how immersed we may be in virtual and mediated reality, Occupy is an essentially offline phenomenon.  It has required real people in real places – not viral videos or Facebook pages—to give it credibility.  It is as local, grassroots, bottom-up and non-hierarchical a movement as they come – the antithesis of billionaire-funded astroturfing by the likes of FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.  No one sleeping in those parks and plazas has a clue how this will all turn out.  But their sheer physical presence gives them a narrative authority that the media and the chattering class lack. 

Every day brings a fresh blizzard of data about the world.  But which information gets our attention, and how it acquires meaning, depends on the story-in-progress at the time.  A Congressional Budget Office study of income distribution can be the usual one-day story, like other CBO studies, or it can get massive coverage because Occupy put the topic on the nation’s front burner. Record-breaking oil company profits can be framed as just another business story, or it can be reported in the context of the industry’s climate change denial campaign, and the hold its lobbyist have over Congress, and our political system’s imbecilic failure to address our direst global problem.  Wall Street’s escape from accountability, its capacity to thwart even the most modest attempts to rein in future recklessness, can be a story about the regulatory process, or it can be a warning that there are dangers to democracy that our Founders’ checks and balances were unable to anticipate. 

“We are the 99%” could turn out to be a popgun, or it could be the shot heard round the world.  Just don’t let anyone tell you that the answer is already a foregone conclusion. 

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

Without jobs in U.S., college grads are finding opportunities in Israel


In her final months as a political science major at the University of Pittsburgh, Susanna Zlotnikov had a positive outlook about landing a job.

But as the months passed and her network of contacts led only to dead ends, Zlotnikov decided she needed a backup. Instead of spending the summer after her May graduation sending out more resumes, Zlotnikov took a pair of internships and moved to Israel.

It worked out well: In November she expects to be starting a full-time job in Israel as grants coordinator with Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli-based humanitarian organization that provides cardiac surgery for children from the developing world.

With the U.S. economy still sputtering, a growing number of college graduates are turning to Israel programs to bridge their educational and professional careers. In many cases, these young American Jews are drawn to the programs not out of Zionist sensibilities but because they’re looking for workplace experience or seeking a way to do something Jewish. Some are even finding jobs in Israel and staying.

After losing a job in Hollywood, Jessica Fass decided to go on a Birthright Israel trip and then stayed in the country for an extra month. Upon returning to the United States, Fass felt as if she were in culture shock and kept thinking about returning to Israel. She decided to do an internship through WUJS Israel Hadassah, which helps college graduates find opportunities in Israel.

“It seemed like the perfect time go,” she said.

Within six months, Fass had found a full-time job in Israel and now is working in marketing for a company in Tel Aviv, which she described as being like Los Angeles “but with Hebrew.” Fass said she was surprised to find how much more willing Israelis were to take a chance on a new hire.

“I don’t think that would have happened in the States because I had no experience in marketing,” she said.

Organizations that bring Jewish youth to Israel are trying to capitalize on the bleak job prospects for college graduates in the United States, and programs that offer internships in Israel say they have seen a spike in applicants since the recession hit in 2008.

“I remember in 2008 when our numbers skyrocketed,” said Amy Gross, the program recruiter at WUJS Israel Hadassah. “It’s mostly recent college graduates because they have trouble finding a job, but they want to experience Israel as well.”

WUJS offers five-month internships in Israel. Participants also have weekly trips to explore the country, Hebrew classes twice a week and immersion in Israeli culture.

MASA Israel, which helps place Diaspora Jews in long-term Israel programs, created a program called A Better Stimulus Plan targeted at recent college graduates looking for internship opportunities in Israel while they wait out the economic troubles in the U.S. Avi Rubel, MASA’s North American director, says about 1,800 participants are doing post-college internship experiences—double the rate of recent years.

“So many grads are at a loss because there aren’t opportunities and they need to find ways to differentiate themselves to get the jobs that are there,” Rubel told JTA. “For young Jewish students, coming to Israel gives them career development experience, which is likely more substantive than one in the States. In Israel you will end up in the mix of interesting things instead of making coffee.”

Roselle Feldman had just returned to the United States from a Birthright Israel trip before the economy collapsed. She had been scheduled to teach more than 30 hip-hop classes at dance studios in Massachusetts, but the market crashed and her gigs disappeared.

Instead of filing for unemployment, she hopped on a plane to Israel for MASA Israel’s Dance Journey, a five-month program for international dancers aged 18 to 30 in the western Galilee. She received training from the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, and at the end of the program Feldman was invited to audition for a spot with the dance company.

“I loved every second of it,” she told JTA. “There’s nothing else like it in the world. It’s such a unique experience. I would go back in a heartbeat if I could afford it.”

Now she is back in Massachusetts, teaching dance as the director of her own performance company, Intensity Dance Company. Soon she hopes to be teaching at a Jewish school—a desire she credits to her experience in Israel.

Jesse Zryb, who graduated recently from Tulane University with a master’s degree in architecture, also decided to sign up for MASA after a job he had been promised in Manhattan disappeared when his company merged with another firm. The guarantee of work experience was why he joined the program, he said. Through MASA, he was hired as an intern at Stav Architects in Ramat Gan, just outside of Tel Aviv.

Zryb said he thinks the program made him more attractive to potential employers back home. Soon after finishing the four-month program, he was hired as a designer at Pink Powered by Moss, a fabric design firm in New York.

“It kept me fresh, especially considering that back home any kind of employment was uncertain,” he said of his Israeli internship. “I think it certainly looked good that I was being proactive during the situation and that I was keeping active during the recession. Keeping yourself fresh was important at the time.”

Plus, Zryb added, “I had a great experience there.”

Jewish groups praise Obama’s jobs plan


U.S. Jewish groups praised aspects of President Obama’s jobs proposal.

“Congress should begin work on the President’s recommendations for improvements to our homes, schools, and roads without delay,” the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public policy umbrella group, said in a statement after Obama delivered his proposals to Congress in a speech Sept. 8. “These projects will both revitalize our communities and put Americans back to work. Long-term recovery will require investments across varied industries and sectors. We appreciate the President’s endorsement of support to our teachers and health care providers.”

The thrust of Obama’s proposals, which he promoted again Monday in a White House press appearance, are payroll tax cuts, tax breaks for businesses hiring veterans and public sector jobs creation.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives has said it is examining the tax cuts but has resisted further spending.

The Jewish Federations of North America praised specifics in Obama’s plan that would promote job creation in the nonprofit sector, including cuts on payroll taxes and subsidies for hiring the longterm unemployed.

The National Council of Jewish Women praised Obama for his focus on infrastructure spending, and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center singled out his appeal to extend unemployment insurance.

The Orthodox Union praised the White House for seeking to spur employment at nonprofits and including “equitable participation” of non-public schools in his modernization program.

$2.5 million grant will place young adults with disabilities in jobs


A $2.5 million grant to Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston will fund a groundbreaking program that places young adults with disabilities in jobs.

The Ruderman Family Foundation provided the grant to fund the “Young Adult Transitions to Work” program, which provides young adults with disabilities customized training, placement and ongoing support services, representing a new approach to providing work for the disabled.

The program will be run by Jewish Vocational Services as part of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ “Pathways” program for people with disabilities.

Young Adult Transitions to Work is part of a pilot project with Hebrew SeniorLife to identify jobs and develop customized training and support that match those positions. It also combines comprehensive training to fully integrate life, work readiness and vocational skills, and ongoing case management once individuals have been placed in jobs.

Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. called the program “a testament to what partnerships between the private sector, non-profit world and advocacy community can achieve, and a real breakthrough for the disability community.” He said there are some 25,000 disabled young adults between in the ages of 18 and 30 in Boston’s Jewish community who are capable of working in the proper jobs.

Hope vs. slippery slope


Communities can use High Holy Days to help ease economic angst


With the start of the High Holy Days, the pace of communal life starts to change, and our focus is on reflection, reconciliation, repentance and the annual response to new beginnings.

For too many in our community, however, this season will hold more angst than joy.

The economic situation in our country presents us with challenges unseen for nearly a generation. Too many will sit in synagogues through this season and be equally concerned with their own economic situation as they will the state of their soul. Increasingly, senior citizens on fixed or limited incomes are seeing their resources challenged. Young adults are concerned about job security. Too many of our people of all ages have lost jobs, been downsized or live on the edge of job and financial uncertainty.

This reality presents our community with a unique and necessary opportunity to become an even more meaningful “caring community.” This is a time when no one should be left to feel that they are “l’vado” (alone). This is a time for community and relationships to be enhanced and expanded, so that our congregations can be seen as responsive to and involved with those who are hurting.

In every community are untapped human resources: people who may have some time to give, who have experienced life and, if asked, might be willing to assist leadership in developing support systems for individuals and families in need. At the least, a call can be made to members who have experience in the workplace, who have counseled people in job changes and career moves.

Establishing a congregational or communal service corps with members willing to give advice and direction — or just lend a sympathetic ear to those who might be searching for new directions — is one possible course of action.

During a similar economic downturn in the early 1980s, I worked in Philadelphia and was involved in helping congregations create a communitywide job bank. It had some success helping people in our community get back to work. We simply polled the members of the community’s congregations for possible job openings and advertised those openings throughout the area so members could see what was available from those within their own community.

This could be done again. Synagogues can join other local organizations, JCCs, Jewish Family Service and others to broaden the base of opportunities to search. Even in this day of electronic and Internet job searches, personal networking and relationships go a long way in opening doors.

A difficulty in some of this may be the unwillingness on the part of many to come forward. So often we face this challenge of having people admit they may need some assistance, guidance or help in establishing goals. Transitions are tough and filled with fear. But let us not forget the power of the pulpit. The simple act of the rabbi offering a sermon on the need for this type of caring “inreach” can help worshipers see their congregation as more than a life-cycle institution.

The High Holy Days are a perfect example of a moment in time when Jews attend synagogue. Why not take a few moments at each service to launch this internal support network? Why not have in each prayer book a form that someone can fill out who has a job opening or position request, or has a willingness to give time to counsel or advise a fellow congregant on career change and possibilities?

Use your caring community committee to organize these forms and launch, right after Yom Kippur, a Sukkot of Transition so that all can feel the possibility of a “sukkat shalom.”

We soon will enter our season of possibilities. In each of our communities there are those we need to support and those with the ability to create that sense of support and caring. All we need to do is ask.

Rabbi Richard F. Address is the director of Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns (www.urj.org/jfc).

Article courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency


Kids Page


Workers of the World, Relax

Labor Day is Sept. 5. We think of all the people who work hard to feed their families. Jews have always been very involved in helping those who are in need. They have established labor unions; they have fought for fair wages; they have led movements to improve factory conditions. There is an expression in Hebrew: Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh — All of Israel is responsible for each other. Have you done something to help those in need? We want to know about it. Send your mitvah moments to abbygilad@yahoo.com.

Speaking of jobs, there are some really interesting ones out there. The following jobs are all mixed up. Put the right words together for some great ideas for your fun future.

CRUISE MAKER

FOREST DIRECTOR

PASTA INSTRUCTOR

SKI ARTIST

VOICEOVER RANGER

Riddle Me This

Q: Which Jew was the worst lawbreaker of all time?

A: Moses, because he broke all 10 commandments at once!

Remember

Don’t forget to send in your Amazing Summer Contest Entry. Send a story and a photo. The winner will get their story published and receive a gift certificate.

 

In Cantor vs. Rabbi, Synagogue Is Victim


This High Holiday season, leaders of Temple Ner Maarav want people to know that they are still open for business.

Some might have thought otherwise of the Encino synagogue, which was rocked by a battle that divided members between the shul’s rabbi of 19 years and its more recently hired cantor.

But no. Despite a two-year conflict that cost both the rabbi and the cantor their jobs, caused nearly half the members to leave the synagogue and forced the other half to take out a second mortgage on the building, those who remained want to see that the synagogue not only survives but thrives.

Many temples have weathered storms — or failed to — over personality clashes between its leaders. But Ner Maarav’s civil war was particularly bitter, also causing the departure of the religious school and preschool directors along with the rabbi and cantor.

Now with half its original members and some bad memories to overcome, leaders of this 200-member family group are working several creative angles — including hiring a new rabbi and leasing space to a private school — to rebuild the shul.

Unlike some newer synagogues that hope to expand as much as possible, Ner Maarav is not seeking exponential growth. "Our goal is to have about 350 families," said Ian Smith, current Ner Maarav president. "We can’t really cope with more than that."

Temple Ner Maarav had never been a large synagogue. It was founded about 40 years ago when a group of members desiring a smaller congregation broke off from Valley Beth Shalom (VBS). Dubbing itself Temple Maarav, the group eventually merged with Ner Tamid, and, over time, evolved into a mostly senior congregation meeting in a aging building on White Oak Avenue.

At its peak, membership hit about 400 households.

The problems began about four years ago, Smith said. Friction — most say personality clashes — between Rabbi Aaron Kriegel and Cantor Hesh Mayersdorf began building, peaking in 2000 into a full-blown battle that resulted in both men’s dismissals just prior to the High Holidays in 2001. Kriegel eventually landed a position as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Ahm in Verona, N.J. (the synagogue his father founded in 1936). Kriegel declined to comment for this story; Mayersdorf confirmed he is seeking another position.

"Still, we kept the temple going," Smith said. "Once we signed the [buyout] agreements with the rabbi and the cantor, we were able to say to the congregation last [High Holidays], ‘The world may be at war, but we at Ner Maarav, for the first time in many years, are at peace.’"

Smith and Maarav have their work cut out for them. They’ve borrowed money to buy out the contracts, "but we will have a balanced budget for the coming year and have stabilized the temple," Smith said.

One of the board’s first tasks was to choose a new rabbi. Synagogue leaders decided to go in an entirely different direction from the traditionally Conservative, somewhat left-leaning Kriegel. In April of this year, Rabbi John Crites-Borak, a convert to Judaism, whose prior careers include working as an air traffic controller in the early 1980s and heading his own public relations firm representing primarily labor unions. Whereas Kriegel was a baby-boomer idealist with a more traditional approach, similar to rabbis like VBS’ Harold Schulweis and the late Melvin Goldstine of Temple Aliyah, Crites-Borak comes across as one of those laid-back-style rabbis who would be as comfortable sitting with the congregation as on the bimah.

Crites-Borak never expected to go into the rabbinate. The idea was first planted in his head during a dinner with author and Rabbi Deborah Orenstein. "The following Shabbat, I went to shul and it was parshat Re’eh, where it says, ‘I set before you today a blessing and a curse.’ We stood for the ‘Aleinu’ and this little girl, she was about 5 or 6, came over and started pulling on my jacket. I looked down and asked, ‘Can I help you?’ And she said, ‘Are you a rabbi?’ And I said no. And she said, ‘You should be a rabbi. You look like a rabbi.’ So I called up to the University of Judaism [UJ] and looked into the program."

Crites-Borak was hired to helm Ner Maarav part time, but already is spending most of his week at the synagogue. What does he consider the greatest challenge facing the congregation? The new rabbi doesn’t mention the financial difficulties nor its struggle to reestablish itself, but a more spiritual concern.

"Ultimately, I asked myself this question: At the end of my days, when I’m standing at the very edge of my grave, what did I want to be able to say about the days of my life?

"The challenge facing the congregants here is the same one that faces Jews everywhere: How do we connect Jewish tradition with everyday life? How do we make sense of Torah, not by what it says about how Jews lived 3,500 years ago, but how we can live in the everyday world?" Crites-Borak said. "That’s my job, to help people reconnect in ways that make sense."

With a rabbi in place, Smith and the board began exploring options for improving their operations. A decision was made to limit the preschool to 15 children and work on building up the religious school until improvements could be made to the dilapidated early childhood center.

Then Ami, a religious school program aimed at Hebrew-speaking children of the Israeli emigres, reached out to the temple for help. The school had operated out of the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center (JCC) for nearly a decade but when the JCCs were faced with financial problems last December, Ami director Shula Klein began looking for a new home for the program. Ner Maarav arranged for Ami to alternate days with its own religious school if Klein would take over as director of both schools, and the families of Ami students would join the synagogue for a nominal fee. Smith said the temple board hopes the Ami families will enjoy being part of Ner Maarav and spread the word to unaffiliated friends.

Another assist arrived in the form of the Sage Academy, a private, nondenominational school run by teachers from the defunct Castlemont School in Tarzana. Sage will rent the temple’s school building during the day, running their programs through the early afternoon after which time the religious school will occupy the building.

Despite the growing population of Jewish families moving into areas like Woodland Hills, Calabasas and Agoura, and competition from nearby VBS, Smith believes Ner Maarav can find a way to fill a niche in the Encino-Sherman Oaks area.

"VBS did a geographic survey of the area, and although a lot of the younger families have moved to the west, there are still a vast number of Jewish families in this area, and because we are not looking to have a 1,700-family congregation, there are enough young people around. We can encourage people to join us if we have the programs," Smith said.

Toward that end, the shul has mailed flyers to 5,000 unaffiliated Jews in the surrounding area with the help of a list provided by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance. In addition, the synagogue is doing outreach to the Jewish Home for the Aging and is looking to create programs with the UJ.

"We don’t want it to be a separate entity, an island of its own, but to go out into the community," Smith said. "We want the community to know we’re here and want to be actively involved."

For more information about Temple Ner Maarav, call (818) 345-7833.

Trading Up


Investment banker Adlai Wertman was fed up with Wall Street — so he moved to Los Angeles, took an 85 percent pay cut and got a job on Skid Row. Two years later, he says he’s never been happier.

Wertman, 42, is the president and CEO of Chrysalis, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless people find jobs in order to become economically self-sufficient. It wasn’t a sudden revelation that changed his life. “I always felt what I should be doing was some sort of community or public service,” said Wertman, whose 18-year banking career included senior positions at Bear Stearns and Prudential Securities.

He said when his brother died six years ago, “I came to realize that if there were things I needed to do with my life, I really couldn’t put them off. I had made a bunch of money, but I didn’t make a difference in the world or in people’s lives.”

After serving on the board of directors of Chrysalis, he threw his hat into the ring when the agency’s top job became available. “I find this mission of helping people who are asking for a hand up to be unbelievably compelling,” said Wertman, who studies Torah weekly and is particularly moved by “Pirke Avot.”

“I can point to 100 spots in Torah and Talmud that tell you why the mission of Chrysalis is so compelling,” Wertman said. In addition to the tikkun olam work he does with Chrysalis, Wertman serves on the board of directors of his synagogue, Kehillat Israel, and on the board of governors for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Additionally, he is in the Wexner Fellowship Program.

Wertman isn’t asking everyone in the private sector to quit their jobs and join him — although some of his friends have. Leveraging his business connections, much of his time is spent talking to executives about hiring Chrysalis clients, making financial contributions and spreading the word. But you don’t have to be a CEO to help. “I think people will feel really good if they get involved in these issues,” he said.

Wertman likes to quote a colleague who said, “Skid Row is the rug under which L.A. sweeps its homeless problem.” Chrysalis estimates that 25,000 homeless people live within the 40 square blocks of downtown’s Skid Row. Many have not worked in years or not worked at all.

Each year, 2,000 people walk through the doors of Chrysalis’ sites in Skid Row, Pacoima and Santa Monica. About 35 percent are referred to other agencies because they don’t meet three basic requirements: sobriety, living at least in temporary housing so they can focus on employment and a willingness to take ownership over a job search. “Our best numbers show a vast majority of that 35 percent will come back later,” he says.

The people who do become clients meet with an employment specialist and enroll in a series of job preparation, job searching and interviewing classes. The agency provides computers to create resumes and search for jobs, a phone bank to call employers and receive messages and professional clothes for interviews and office work.

About 93 percent of those who completed Chrysalis’ job readiness program last year found jobs. With the agency’s retention program, 85 percent were still working six months later.

One of Wertman’s favorite parts of his work is the moment someone gets a job: They ring a bell and all work stops. Clients, staff and visitors gather in the lobby to congratulate the job-seeker, who tells his or her personal story. “That moment is worth its weight in gold for everyone here.”

Recently, four people rang the “success bell” in 30 minutes. Wertman joked that Chrysalis’ motto, “changing lives through jobs,” doesn’t really refer to the agency’s clients, “but to the people who work here.”

For more information or to get involved, contact
Chrysalis at (213) 895-7777 or visit www.chrysalisworks.org .

Career Opportunities


Even though Elizabeth Arkin joined Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in September, she’s still writing resumes and looking for work — though not for herself.

That’s because, as vocational counselor of the rehabilitation program for Los Angeles proper — the Westside, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc., it is Arkin’s occupation to help those with disadvantages land career opportunities in today’s competitive job market. At JVS, an affiliate of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, with the help of the Department of Rehabilitation, Arkin individually assists those with severe disabilities — such as blindness, mental and psychiatric illness, orthopedic problems — on the finer points of seizing employment. Part of that process involves coaching the people she works with through job preparation, resume writing and interview skills.

“My goal is to build a bridge for my client to that job,” says Arkin.

Goal is the operative word at JVS, as Arkin’s work will also include a new program getting off the ground called GOALS, an acronym for Gaining Opportunities and Life Skills, aimed at assisting people with disabilities. JVS job assistance for the disabled is absolutely free.

One such client that Arkin works for is Judy Stearn, 49, who is blind.

“We’re in contact every day,” says Stearn. “We brainstorm together about ideas. She has gone into different employers.” Stearn adds that Arkin paves the way for her before she meets with employers and gives them an idea about her personality and abilities, so that they are comfortable by the time they meet Stearn.

In Stearn’s case, Arkin explains, “She had a lot of skills to begin with. We’ve worked on her resume.”

Arkin’s collaborative relationship with Stearn began when she made a trip out to Stearn’s home.

“I was able to observe her computer which has assistive technology or adaptive equipment,” says Arkin. “I was able to see how people who were blind use a computer.”

After that initial visit, Arkin helped Stearn prepare for her desired job in customer service.

“I would go in, I would visit the employers… look at the job, see how many tasks were involved,” says Arkin of her approach. She set about finding an employer willing to accommodate Stearn’s adaptive equipment. As the JVS administrator describes it, Stearn uses voice-activated technology: “Software that speaks to you and you feel it with a Braille display.”

So far, the road to finding Stearn a job has been kind of bumpy. Among the challenges Arkin and Stearn are tackling together: finding the right hours, the right proximity from Stearn’s home, and, of course, willing employers.

“It’s very difficult for blind people to get jobs because of people’s attitude toward us,” says Stearn. “So it’s not an easy thing to break down the barriers and get jobs. Sometimes the employers flipped out. They’d ask, ‘How are they going to do this? How are they going to do that? Who’s gong to take care of them?’ Well, I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”

In fact, Stearn had worked for many years doing medical transcription, but took a break to raise her child, now nine. So her present challenge is re-entering the job market.

“She’s very positive. She’s also thorough,” says Stearn of Arkin. She says that her counselor is “interested in what she does, so that makes it even better for employers to work with her, and vice versa.”

Nevertheless, there are no guarantees of a happy ending — despite all of the efforts of Arkin and Stearn. Four months into the JVS program, Stearn has yet to find a job. Stearn remains optimistic, and she does have an interview scheduled in January. Above all, Stearn appreciates the individual attention she gets from Arkin, who also works with seven other clients on an ongoing, one-to-one basis.

“I think we work well together,” says Stearn. “My personality plus [Arkin’s] clicks. We both have a lot of vitality that allows us to be cohesive.”

Still, a helping hand from the outside would be more than appreciated, and anyone in the community with a job lead, or those interested in learning more about JVS programming, can contact Elizabeth Arkin at Jewish Vocational Service. Call (323) 761-888, ext. 163.

A Good Deal?

German companies may benefit from a proposed settlement that could shut out future restitution

By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


The $5.2 billion settlement in the works to compensate wartime slave and forced laborers is a good deal for German companies, banks and insurers, but not for a wide range of claimants who suffered under the Nazi regime, warns Barry Fisher.

Fisher is a Los Angeles human rights lawyer, who is co-counsel in numerous Holocaust restitution lawsuits and represents not only Jewish interests, but also those of the Romani people (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, the disabled and others.

The hundreds of German companies which profited from the exploitation of up to 1.5 million slave laborers, mostly Jews, and forced laborers, mostly non-Jews from central and eastern Europe, are to put up at least half of the $5.2 billion, according to the not yet finalized agreement.

But that figure is less impressive than it seems, because the companies are likely to reap a tax break making up to 50 percent of their contributions to the “humanitarian fund” deductible, says Fisher.

What upsets the attorney more is that with the final adoption of the pact, German industry, banks and insurers will be shielded from any and all future claims — with the assistance of the U.S. government.

With the “legal peace” or “legal closure” foreseen under the agreement, German banks, which profited hugely from the forced “Aryanization” of mostly Jewish businesses and property, would no longer have to worry about future claims.

German insurance companies would be similarly shielded for all time.

While the humanitarian fund is supposed to also cover outstanding Aryanization and insurance claims, Fisher is skeptical that the fund is large enough to do the job. And he is unhappy that the U.S. government would be bound to oppose any future claims, once the settlement is signed.

Always, in the background, is the ticking of the biological clock, as the supposed beneficiaries of the fund, now mostly in their 70s and 80s, die off.

Fisher notes that even the $1.25 billion Swiss banking settlement, signed well over a year ago, has not yet been legally approved.

He and other attorneys fear that any payouts by the current slave labor fund are still one year off, if all goes well.