Obama: Lies and Consequences


We teach our kids two things about honesty: One, that “honesty is the best policy,” which means that, ultimately, it’s in one’s interest to be honest. An honest reputation is good for business, telling the truth will keep you out of trouble, and so on.

Parents who aim even higher teach a second, deeper lesson — that being honest is simply the right thing to do, whether it’s in one’s interest or not.

With the recent revelations of his false promises about his health care plan, President Barack Obama has introduced a third — and problematic — lesson on honesty: Sometimes, it’s possible that dishonesty could be the best policy.

Before you gag on that statement, consider the mindset of a president who has a staggering ambition and only a few short years to impact the world.

The biggest, most dramatic change he seeks is something no other president has been able to accomplish: Bringing universal health care to America.

His problem is that, in the midst of a stagnating economy, most of the country did not embrace his controversial plan, which aimed to take over almost a fifth of the economy and add a huge layer of government spending and bureaucracy.

With votes tight in Congress and his plan in jeopardy, the president made a fateful decision: He would say whatever he had to say to push his plan through, even things he knew were not exactly true.

Like, for example, this juicy and memorable promise: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

“This is a lie,” wrote Michael Cohen of the New York Daily News, “that is today causing the President no end of political headaches.”

He repeated it not once, but 34 times, according to the fact-checking site PolitiFact. If you’re among the millions of Americans today who are or will be forced to look for new plans and new doctors, you have every right to feel cheated and deceived.

Now, why would a president so concerned with his legacy do such a self-destructive thing? I see only one reason: Because, in his mind, it was worth it.

Since telling the truth might have put his plan in peril, he chose not to. He’s hardly the first politician, of course, to play with the truth, but for a president who campaigned on “transparency” and changing Washington’s ways, Obama’s record on this score is especially troublesome.

In fact, although it’s rarely been this blatant, Obama has had a pattern of evading the truth. This latest episode may turn out to be the tipping point that will forever hurt his legacy.

“The broken promises, false claims and tortured truths have reached a critical mass now,” Andrew Malcolm writes in Investor’s Business Daily. “Bludgeoned by Benghazi, IRS revelations, FBI probes, NSA disclosures, Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Syria’s slips and now Obamacare’s sticker shock and outright whoppers, more Americans detect the odor of betrayal, however reluctantly.”

Malcolm adds that for the first time, according to Gallup, Obama’s daily job approval has sunk below 40 percent.

If you’re the president, how do you react to this painful loss of credibility?

One way is simply to accept that it’s the price to pay for getting things done. But losing your credibility is an enormous price to pay when you’re the leader of the free world — even if your intentions are noble.

And there lies the rub: What should a leader do when honesty appears to conflict with noble ambition? When the truth becomes an annoying inconvenience?

President Obama came into office with a laptop full of dreams and a track record of great speeches. When the truth became too inconvenient, as with his health care plan, he didn’t trust that the American people could handle it. Instead, he placed his trust in what Charles Krauthammer calls his “rather bizarre belief in the unlimited power of speech.”

When his bait-and-switch eloquence finally caught up with him, his speech met the limit of its power. Even his forced and belated “apology,” which liberal writer John Dickerson of Slate called “too little, too late,” failed to take personal responsibility for blatantly false statements.

Great leaders level with the people, even when it’s not popular. Early on, Obama could have treated us like adults and told us: “Yes, this plan will cause short-term disruptions, cancellations and, in some cases, even higher premiums. So, I will be asking many of you to sacrifice a little for the greater good of our great country, for a more humane future where no sick person will ever be left behind.”

By failing to level with us in this way, Obama has made his messy, fragile and divisive health care plan that much messier– and bought himself little forgiveness. In any event, if his implicit message is that it’s OK to lie to get things done, then we deserve better.

We already live in a generation saturated by marketing hucksters who tell us only what we want to hear. I suppose it’s natural that politicians—the ultimate hucksters– would follow suit. But great leaders don’t follow, they lead. They trust the truth. They tell us what we need to hear. They appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Maybe now that our president has been caught red-handed and is suffering the consequences, we can remind our kids that even when it’s not popular, speaking the truth is the right and great thing to do. Period.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Lying for the cause


There are many admirable values. The list includes, of course, goodness, integrity and compassion.

But there is one value without which civilization cannot survive, and without which evil is inevitable: truth.

I cannot think of a 20th-century evil not predicated on lies. It was years (if not centuries) of lying about Jews that enabled the Holocaust to take place. Otherwise, “ordinary men,” to use the title of historian Christopher Browning’s work on the perpetrators of the Holocaust, would not have slaughtered Jewish men, women, not to mention children and babies, had they not been brainwashed into believing that Jews were not human and were the source of Germany’s and the world’s problems.

The same with communism. Every communist regime was totalitarian — meaning, among other things, that it controlled what was deemed true. The Soviet Communist Party newspaper was therefore named “Pravda,” the Russian word for truth. But there was no pravda in Pravda.

Given the horrors that result from lies (I am referring largely to societal lies; in personal life, there are times when truth is not the highest value, such as when maintaining shalom bayit, peace in the home, or when lying to a murderer to save an innocent’s life), one would think that more people would value it. But not many do.

And the reason is simple: Most people think that their cause is more important than telling the truth.

The most recent example occurred this past weekend when Congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was asked about his position on abortion for women who had become pregnant as a result of rape. The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Missouri responded, in part, that “from what I understand from doctors, that [pregnancy as a result of a rape] is really rare …  the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Now, if a lie is something one knows to be untrue, then, technically speaking, Rep. Akin wasn’t telling a lie. After all, he claimed that he understood this “from doctors”– and it is quite possible that someone did tell him that some doctors had made that claim.

What we have here, rather than a lie in that technical sense, are two other, more common assaults on truth:

First is the lack of desire to know the truth in order for the individual to continue to believe what he wants to believe, even when, as in the Akin claim, it is obviously absurd. Mr. Akin is undoubtedly familiar with the massive amount of rape committed by victorious armies throughout history. Does he believe that almost none of the victims got pregnant? And is he not aware of the tragedy of the women of Darfur raped by Sudanese Arab soldiers — and then abandoned by their families for getting pregnant out of wedlock?

As a member of the United States Congress, he surely knows about such things. So, what we have here is reason number one for the assault on truth: People believe what they want to believe more than they want to know, let alone assert, the truth.

And why this lack of desire to know the truth? 

The answer brings us to the second reason so many people don’t value truth: Their cause is always higher than truth telling. It’s permissible to lie on behalf of one’s noble cause (and what cause isn’t noble in the cause-holders’ eyes?)

I’ll give another conservative example: the claim that viewing pornography leads to rape. While many feminists also make this claim, it is mostly associated with religious conservatives. That the claim is patently false is easily demonstrated. First, the countries with the most lax laws governing pornography have the least rape, and many of the countries that ban pornography have the highest rates of sexual and other physical abuse of women. Second, the vast majority of men who look at pornographic images have never, and would never, commit rape. The fact that virtually all rapists have viewed porn is as meaningless as the fact that virtually all rapists are meat eaters.

But for many religious conservatives who regard pornography as a major sin against God, and feminists who regard it as major sin against women, truth telling is less important than their cause — fighting pornography.

This phenomenon is at least as common on the left. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman made up the false charge that Jared Loughner, the mentally deranged man who tried to kill former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and killed six others) did so because of Republican Party hate rhetoric. Why did Krugman write this lie? Because it served his great cause: demonizing the right.

And progressives in California’s legislature have passed laws governing what goes into history textbooks from elementary school through high school — a certain amount of space must be allotted to blacks, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. For many progressives, making students feel good about their ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation is more important than historical truth.

So, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approaching, here’s a suggestion for any rabbi searching for a High Holy Day sermon topic: The primary importance of truth telling. Lies built Auschwitz.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Begone, bygones! Green is the new blue and white


Bygones

Let Bygones (Not) Be Bygones” (Nov. 7) infuriated me. Marty Kaplan is not happy that Barack Obama was generous to his opponents and their supporters in his victory speech, because in his opinion, they are guilty of lies and character assassination for suggesting the possibility that a Chicago politician who associated with the likes of the Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers to launch his political career might not be trusted to always put the best interests of his country above his own political ambitions or the best interests of his political party.

I have never read a more mean-spirited opinion piece, and I urge The Journal to stop printing such garbage.

Steven Novom
Tarzana

The Republicans have smeared many American citizens and disrespected us as human beings, called us traitors, called us un-American, made the word “liberal” into a mocked, disrespectful term, etc.

And many of us would like some accountability. Especially of the kind that lies us into wars and gets our kids killed. Because I am not just going to “get over it.”

How do we get it? What can we do to make sure that happens, because I am behind that campaign?

Bill Davis
Secretary, Democrats Abroad
Melbourne, Australia

Marty Kaplan so eloquently expressed my own disdain for the politics of personal destruction practiced by John McCain and his campaign. We as Jews know only too well that words count and that there are people who can be whipped into committing dangerous acts when encouraged by a leader they respect.

I once had enormous regard for McCain, but it will take me a long time to forgive him after he condoned — expressly or tacitly — the ugly accusations against an honorable opponent. We can’t allow this to be excused as politics as usual. It is unacceptable, dangerous and profoundly un-American. Enough is enough!

Barbara H. Bergen
Los Angeles

It seems a bit disingenuous when Marty Kaplan writes, “Along with the privilege of living in a democracy comes the obligation to be accountable for your actions,” right after making so many unsupported accusations against John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani and President Bush.

The one quote he does supply is from McCain’s concession speech: “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him [Obama] but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together,” which surely supports the idea that McCain is indeed a class act.

Kenny Laitin
via e-mail

New Jewish Agenda

You could not be more right when you said green is the new blue and white (“A New Jewish Agenda,” Nov. 7). Our community has been slow to grasp this. AIPAC has been slow to grasp it in a meaningful way. There is a sentence or two in its annual policy document but not much by way of content in the annual conference.

The League of Conservation Voters is in the same building as AIPAC in Los Angeles, and I can’t get my friends in each to have coffee. Israel’s percentage of solar energy is 4 percent, which is 1 percent higher than California.

I encourage you to stay on this topic.

Howard Welinsky
via e-mail

Thou Shalt Not Lie

I can understand why Teresa Strasser would want to lie to her grandmother in order not to break the old woman’s heart by telling her that her Catholic husband was not Jewish (“Thou Shalt Not Lie…ish,” Oct. 31). What I cannot understand is the obvious relish she received from the ruse.

The article made me very sad. If we are lucky enough to live to our 90s, is it better to live out our last days being lied to by our loved ones? When everything else is taken away from you, do you lose the truth as well?

Pat Weiner
Los Angeles

Same-Sex Marriage

Orthodox Judaism doesn’t even recognize civil marriage for Jewish couples (Advertisement, Oct. 31). Besides, we live in a constitutional democracy, not a theocracy. Why do you care that same-sex couples wish to marry?

I am the proud, Jewish father of a wonderful girl, and I was born gay.

I will not tolerate anyone telling my daughter that her family is less legitimate than any other.

William Kaplan
Los Angeles

It is troubling that some Orthodox rabbis have joined with the Christian right to eliminate same-sex civil marriage. Banning same-sex civil marriage is about as relevant to Orthodox Judaism as banning the sale of shellfish.

Jack Rosenfeld
Los Angeles

Policy Statement

We are in complete agreement with your policy statement regarding accepting advertisements (Advertorial, Nov. 7). The Jewish Journal is a paper that speaks to the entire and marvelously diverse Jewish community in greater Los Angeles.

Middie and Richard Giesberg
Los Angeles

Larry and Me

Jews have always felt for the downtrodden and then allowed themselves to be used and abused (“Larry and Me,” Oct. 31). They seem to have short memories and choose to overlook important issues. Since Larry Greenfield disagrees with you, you consider him wrong. No, you are. You prefer to believe in fiction, not facts.

There are plenty of Jewish Republicans who see the world more clearly than you, but you ridicule them. Thank God for Greenfield, who presents the real world, not the dream world.

Robert Reyto
Los Angeles

Messianic truth in advertising


The growth of the Jews for Jesus and messianic movements in Israel, especially during Israel’s 60th anniversary, is unprecedented and an outcome of unrestrained relationships with fundamentalist Christians.

There are more than 15,000 messianic Jews residing in Israel and more than 275,000 in the Diaspora. Jews for Jesus now has an office in Tel Aviv, with a staff of 10 that includes several Israeli-born messianic Jewish couples, and they have launched a five-year crusade to proselytize Israelis. Last month they spent over $500,000 for full-page ads in four Israeli papers and ads on buses and billboards. They have already handed out more than 75,000 missionary tracts and received contact information from 850 Israelis.

Furthermore, some Israeli politicians and prominent rabbis are associating with messianic Jews, inadvertently lending them credibility. Others rabbis were outraged about a messianic Jew in the International Bible Quiz for Jewish youth and called for a boycott. Of grave concern are the actions of messianic lawyer Calev Myers, who has been fighting in the Israeli Supreme Court for messianic rights, including initiating changes in the law of return that recently enabled a dozen messianic missionaries to become Israeli citizens.

Myers and the messianic movement are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Israeli public. It is misleading for them to claim that the only difference between messianic Jews and other Jews is their belief that Jesus is the Messiah. This was highlighted by Myers’ recent quote in the Jerusalem Post comparing messianic Jews to messianic Chabadniks. In fact, messianic Jews intentionally avoid mentioning a fundamental difference. In addition to believing Jesus is the Messiah, they believe he is God in the flesh and part of a Trinity. All denominations of Judaism considered these beliefs to be idolatrous for Jews.

As early as 1980, Jews for Jesus founder Moshe Rosen in his book, “Sharing the New Life With a Jew,” advised messianic missionaries to avoid mentioning their belief in the deity of Jesus because it makes witnessing to Jews extremely difficult. Additionally, attempts by the messianic movement to prove their theology from biblical and rabbinic sources are based on misquotations and mistranslations.

Even before Christianity, Jews rejected these anti-Jewish nonmonotheistic beliefs. We also realize they were introduced into Christianity due to the influence of pagan cult gods like Osiris and Dionysus.

Obviously, there are other differences. Messianic Jews accept the Greek New Testament as divinely inspired scripture and they believe that all Jews who don’t believe in Jesus face eternal damnation in hell. However, historically it is their idolatrous beliefs that have ultimately placed “Jews who believe in Jesus” outside the pale of Judaism.

Christian friendship is appreciated; however, we must be cautious and call for truth in advertising by the messianic movement. We should also call on messianic Jews to reject these foreign beliefs and return to the pure monotheistic unity of God that defines our identity and personal relationship with God.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz is the founding director of Jews for Judaism International, which has offices in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Toronto, Jerusalem, Sydney and Johannesburg. He can be reached at RabbiKravitz@JewsForJudaism.org

First Person – Will You Be at Peace?


I always knew that it would be very difficult to stop a genocide. I just never appreciated how difficult it would be merely to demonstrate against a genocide.

I was among a group of nearly 100 Los Angeles Jews who traveled to San Francisco on Sunday, April 30, to participate in the “Day of Conscience for Darfur” rally. In addition to being accompanied by more than 30 of my congregants from Leo Baeck Temple, I was delighted to be joined by a number of colleagues, including Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive director of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and the board’s bresident, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea Congregation.

The majority of us flew into Oakland that Sunday morning, and the rally organizers had arranged for us to be transported to the rally by bus — only the bus never arrived. Forced to fend for ourselves, we quickly filled every taxi we could hail, urging the drivers to take us to the Golden Gate Bridge on the double.

As my cab began to depart from the airport, I remember being stunned when the driver indicated that he did not know how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. There was no time to lose, so I started to fetch directions for him on my mobile phone. But as I focused intently on my job as our cabbie’s navigator, I couldn’t miss the conversation that he was having with my fellow passengers.

The driver identified himself as a recent immigrant from Darfur. Incredible. When he learned we were headed to the rally, he shook his head slowly, asking, “Are you Jews?”

When we confirmed his hunch, he snickered and said, “That explains it.”

We couldn’t resist taking the bait: “What do you mean by that?”

“There is no genocide taking place in Darfur,” he replied. “I know. I lived there. This ‘genocide’ has been concocted by the Jews as a means of diverting the world’s attention from what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.”

As the conversation continued, he peppered his verbal assault with a few disparaging references to the “Israel Lobby,” insisting that the truth would soon come out.

It was a rather surreal circumstance from which to emerge on the Golden Gate Bridge with 5,000 demonstrators determined to save Darfur. The rally was filled with inspirational moments. We heard from impassioned Washington legislators. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders implored us to stop the murders. Eyewitnesses to the slaughter relayed their heartrending accounts. African musicians filled the air with glorious song. It was an extraordinary day. But the episode in the cab served as a dark reminder of just how much vigilance it will take to stop this genocide before we are left to mourn it.

The 20th century offered repeated incontrovertible proof that launching a campaign against genocide, getting it to permeate the collective consciousness and mobilizing the masses to take action is a difficult challenge.

There are many, like our cabbie, who possess personal and political reasons to deny the atrocities, and their efforts are bolstered by the very banality of genocide. That is to say, genocide is not always especially newsworthy. Nothing new happened today in Darfur that didn’t happen yesterday … and that won’t happen tomorrow.

This keeps a catastrophe like Darfur’s out of the news, fueling the lies of the deniers and the disinterest of the millions whose righteous indignation will be needed to motivate the world to take action.

With the notable exception of Nicholas Kristof’s venerable work in The New York Times, there is an embarrassing paucity of news about Darfur. Hundreds of thousands have been murdered, and millions have been displaced, but it is largely left to our imaginations to hear the cries of the victims. But if we listen closely enough, they can be heard. There are screams. Screams of women being branded and raped — right now. Screams of children being chased from their homes. Screams of men knowingly taking their final breath.

Just another day in Darfur.

Can we remain silent and live with ourselves?

We have a responsibility because we are neither the deniers nor the disinterested. There may not be enough news about Darfur, but we cannot claim that we are uninformed. Talking about the tragedy is not enough. Weeping about the tragedy is not enough. We must relentlessly urge our legislators to move the world to action. On Capitol Hill and at the White House, they count up our phone calls. That’s how they decide whether this genocide matters to us. That’s how they decide whether we want them to take life-saving action. Knowing this, calling daily isn’t too often.

As Jews, who know the scourge of genocide too well, we should each ask ourselves one question every day: “When this atrocity in Darfur is over, and the final losses are known, will I be at peace with what I did to stop it?”

During the week of the Darfur rallies in Washington and San Francisco, Jews all over the world were studying our famous command from the Holiness Code in the Book of Leviticus: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”

Five-hundred more will perish in Darfur today. When the killing is over, will you be at peace with what you did to stop it?

Ken Chasen is senior rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple in Bel Air.

From the Mouths of Babes


How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?

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•You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. — Alan, age 10

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•No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with. — Kirsten, age 10

What Do You Think Your Mom and Dad Have in Common?

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•Both don’t want any more kids. — Lori, age 8

What Is the Right Age to Get Married?

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•Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person forever by then. — Camille, age 10

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•No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married. — Freddie, age 6

How Can a Stranger Tell if Two People Are Married?

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•You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. — Derrick,

age 8

What Do Most People Do on a Date?

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•Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. — Lynnette,

age 8

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•On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. — Martin, age 10

What Would You Do on a First Date That Was Turning Sour?

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• I’d run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns. — Craig, age 9

When Is It OK to Kiss Someone?

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•When they’re rich. — Pam,

age 7

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•The law says you have to be 18, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that. — Curt, age 7

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•The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do. — Howard, age 8

Is It Better to Be Single or Married?

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•It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. — Anita, age 9

How Would You Make a Marriage Work?

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•Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck. — Ricky, age 10

Clash Over Council, School Board Seats


In the North San Fernando Valley lies District 12, which has been represented by Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson for 24 years. Bernson, 72, is retiring because of term limits, and the battle for his seat has resulted in the nastiest fight in years.

Not since "the Richards" — Katz and Alarcón — duked it out for the Assembly have there been so many accusations between two candidates. In one corner is Julie Korenstein, the longest-sitting member on the Los Angeles Board of Education, on the other is Greig Smith, Bernson’s chief deputy.

Each has a long record of public service: Korenstein has been on the Board of Education since 1987, while Smith has been Bernson’s top aide since 1980. Both are on the May 20 ballot to replace Bernson, whose district covers Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills and parts of Canoga Park, West Hills and Encino.

Both candidates have long lists of endorsements. Korenstein’s backing reflects her political links: Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles. Smith has the political support of state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), United Firefighters of Los Angeles and former Mayor Richard Riordan.

In the hotly contested battle, each has accused the other of, among other things, lying, playing dirty and being beholden to special interests. Smith says Korenstein is tied to the unions, while Korenstein says Smith is hand-in-hand with developers.

Korenstein’s main challenge in the race is to convince voters that she is City Council material. In this, she believes her Board of Education experience has served her well, noting that as a board member, she has had oversight of a $9.9 billion budget.

"Los Angeles Unified covers 28 cities or parts of cities," Korenstein said. "We have a transportation division, a construction program with 120 schools, which are going to be built in the next five to six years. So I think I’m ready [to work for the city]."

In an appeal to Jewish voters, Smith took credit for helping North Valley Jewish Community Center (NVJCC) advocates secure funding in order to begin the process of purchasing the site from the troubled Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA).

"I went in and fought to keep it open," Smith said. "I was offended by the [JCCGLA] saying there weren’t enough Jews in the area to maintain it, when there is a very large Jewish community in the area that wants to keep the center open."

Andrea Goodstein, vice president of the NVJCC board, confirmed that Smith did attend the meetings to help secure the center, either with Bernson or as Bernson’s representative. However, she said that members of the NVJCC are split on the candidates. The center has held "meet-and-greets" for both candidates, but cannot endorse either one.

"We hope whoever takes Hal’s place will continue to work to support the center," Goodstein said.

Both candidates have been vocal on many of the issues in the district, most notably the Sunshine Canyon landfill. Smith differs with both Bernson and Korenstein in his approach to the North Valley area.

"Hal’s viewpoint is more global, as far as dealing with transportation and air quality, and looking at the city as a larger entity," Smith said. "I really want to focus my attention on the street level and work with the neighborhood councils."

Korenstein said she sees land use and transportation issues as "the most frustrating to people in the northwest Valley." She is concerned about equestrian property owners who moved to the area because it was horse-friendly and now are seeing their favorite trails eaten up by development.

One development of which she would approve, however, is a freeway.

"We really need another north-south freeway, because the San Diego Freeway can’t take the traffic anymore," she said. "We also need to improve bus service and look at a light-rail system. We need to bring our public transportation into the 21st century, like San Francisco or London or any normal city."

Elsewhere, two-term Board of Education member David Tokofsky is facing a strong challenge from Nellie Rios-Parra, a Lennox schools administrator and teacher, in what has shaped up as sharply contested battle. The two are vying for the Fifth District seat, representing an area whose student population is largely Latino.

Sue Burnside, Tokofsky’s election consultant, said polls show the incumbent is ahead as Election Day nears. However, Rios-Parra has received strong support from the Coalition for Kids, a political action committee backed by Riordan and millionaire businessman Eli Broad.

"We run on things that are very David Tokofsky, like textbooks and kids graduating with reading and writing skills and fiscal oversight," Burnside said. "We’re still ahead in the polls, but if our voters don’t turn out, we lose. It’s all an issue of who’s going to be there on Election Day."