Second Texas nurse with Ebola had traveled by plane


A second Texas nurse who tested positive for Ebola after caring for a patient with the virus had traveled by jetliner a day before she reported symptoms, U.S. and airline officials said on Wednesday.

The worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas had taken a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Monday, the officials said.

The woman, identified to Reuters by her grandmother as Amber Vinson, 29, was isolated immediately after reporting a fever on Tuesday, Texas Department of State Health Services officials said. She had treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola and was the first patient diagnosed with the virus in the United States.

The circumstances under which Vinson traveled were not immediately known. But the latest revelation raised fresh questions about the handling of Duncan's case and its aftermath by both the hospital and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At least 4,447 people have died in West Africa in the worst Ebola outbreak since the disease was identified in 1976, but cases in the United States and Europe have been limited. The virus can cause fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, and spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

“Health officials have interviewed the latest patient to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored,” the health department said in a statement.

During the weekend, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham became the first person to be infected with Ebola in the United States. She had cared for Duncan during much of his 11 days in the hospital. He died in an isolation ward on Oct. 8.

The hospital said on Tuesday that Pham was “in good condition.”

News of the second nurse's diagnosis follows criticism of the hospital's nurses of its initial handling of the diseases, in a statement Tuesday by National Nurses United, which is both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses.

The nurses said the hospital lacked protocols to deal with an Ebola patient, offered no advance training and provided them with insufficient gear, including non-impermeable gowns, gloves with no taping around wrists and suits that left their necks exposed.

'PILED TO THE CEILING'

Basic principles of infection control were violated by both the hospital's Infectious Disease Department and CDC officials, the nurses said, with no one picking up hazardous waste “as it piled to the ceiling.”

“The nurses strongly feel unsupported, unprepared, lied to, and deserted to handle the situation on their own,” the statement said.

The hospital said in a statement it had instituted measures to create a safe working environment and it was reviewing and responding to the nurses' criticisms.

Speaking early Wednesday on CBS “This Morning,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell declined to comment on the nurses' allegations.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a news conference Wednesday that the second infected nurse lived alone and had no pets.

He said local health officials moved quickly to clean affected areas and to alert her neighbors and friends. A decontamination could be seen taking place at her residence.

EARLY WAKEUP

Residents at The Bend East in the Village apartment complex were awoken early Wednesday by text messages from property managers saying a neighbor had tested positive for Ebola, and pamphlets had been stuffed beneath doors and left under doormats, said a resident, who asked not to be named.

Other residents were concerned enough that they were limiting time spent outdoors.

“Everybody thinks this won't happen because we are in the United States. But it is happening,” said Esmeralda Lazalde, who lives about a mile from where the first nurse who contracted Ebola resides.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is doing everything it can to contain the virus, said Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which owns the hospital. “I don't think we have a systematic institutional problem,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

At the same briefing, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county's chief political officer, said authorities were anticipating additional possible Ebola cases.

“We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility,” Jenkins said.

The CDC said in a statement that it was performing confirmation testing of Texas' preliminary tests on the new patient.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Tuesday the agency was establishing a rapid-response team to help hospitals “hands on, within hours” whenever there is a confirmed case of Ebola.

Frieden has come under pressure over the response and preparedness for Ebola, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said U.S. President Barack Obama was confident of Frieden's ability to lead the public health effort.

REINFORCEMENTS

Burwell, in a series of television interviews on Wednesday, said officials were adding staff to ensure the hospital in Dallas followed procedures to prevent transmission of the virus.

She said there would be round-the-clock site managers to oversee how healthcare workers put on and remove the protective gear used when treating Ebola patients.

In addition to extra CDC staff on site, two nurses from Emory University, in Atlanta, which has a specialized hospital that has treated other Ebola patients flown in from West Africa, were in Dallas to train staff.

Obama was due to hold a video conference Wednesday with British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss Ebola and other international issues, the White House said.

Prospects for a quick end to the contagion diminished as the World Health Organization predicted that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three worst-hit countries, could produce as many as 10,000 new cases a week by early December.

Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington D.C. and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Curtis Skinner; Editing by Mohammad Zargham, Doina Chiacu, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis

U.S. authorities issue Sukkot advisories


U.S. authorities released travel guidelines for Sukkot.

“TSA’s screening procedures do not prohibit the carrying of the four plants used during Sukkot – a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron – in airports, through or security checkpoints, or on airplanes,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement, noting the dates of this year’s Sukkot holiday, from Sept. 18-25.

The TSA notice said, however, that all passengers undergo security screening at checkpoints.

In a separate statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection also noted that the four species were allowed entry, but noted a number of restrictions subject to inspection.

“Travelers will be asked to open the container with the ethrog and unwrap it,” its advisory stated. “The agriculture specialist will inspect the ethrog. If either insect stings or pests are found, the ethrog will be prohibited from entering the United States. If neither is found, the traveler will be allowed to rewrap and re-box the ethrog for entry into the United States.”

Twigs of willow from Europe are banned, it continued, and any sign of pests or disease will mean confiscation of the product.

In a press statement noting the allowances, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, also urged observant Jews to cooperate airline staff and authorities, for instance when praying aboard aircraft.

“Particularly, one should let flight attendants know if they will be davening in flight BEFORE they begin, and understand the implications, as well as potential prosecution, for ignoring requests to sit down when requested, etc.,” said Shemtov, who consulted with Rabbi Abba Cohen, the director of the Washington office for Agudath Israel of America, in setting out the guidelines. “For example, flight attendants do not usually understand ‘nu,’ ‘uh,’ and hand signals, etc. especially when you are already in tallis and tefillin.”

Shemtov told JTA that religious Jews should appreciate the efforts of travel authorities to facilitate their travel.

“We in the Jewish community are fortunate to live with an unprecedented level of personal liberty,” he said. “I hope everyone will appreciate that cooperation with authorities that are so sympathetic to our traditions is the least we can do in return.”

Israeli military downs drone over Negev


The Israeli Air Force shot down a drone that entered Israeli airspace.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, was intercepted and shot down over the northern Negev on Saturday morning in an unpopulated area, according to the Israel Defense Forces. It had entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean.

IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said the aircraft was identified before entering Israeli airspace and was downed in accordance with a decision of the IDF's top leaders.

The drone flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate from there, the IDF said. The Israeli media reported that it could have originated in Lebanon, which in previous years has sent drones into Israeli airspace.

The UAV reportedly was not carrying explosives and may have been a surveillance drone.

Israeli soldiers were searching for the debris in order to identify from where the drone originated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night praised the IDF.

Israeli planes bomb Gaza weapons sites


Israel’s Air Force bombed a weapons manufacturing site and a weapons storage facility in the northern Gaza Strip.

The early Tuesday morning strikes were in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Three Kassam rockets struck Sderot and its environs on Monday, one as schoolchildren were arriving at school for the first day of classes. On Sunday, three rockets were fired at southern Israel, hitting two factories, one in Sderot and one in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Both were damaged.

The fundamentalist Salafi organization Jamiat ul-Mujahedin Bayt al-Maqdis late on Sunday claimed responsibility for the three rockets fired that day. The organization is affiliated with al-Qaida and is believed to be operating in the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF will not tolerate any attempt by terrorist groups to target Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate against those who use terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement.

Egypt’s first Sinai air strike since ’73 war kills 20 terrorists


Egyptian troops have launched the largest operation in the Sinai desert peninsula since the 1972 war with Israel, killing at least 20 terrorists believed to be responsible for Sunday’s attack on an Egyptian border post that left 16 soldiers dead. Six of the attackers died when they drove across the Israeli border in a commandeered armored car and were hit by Israeli air missiles.

The attack has been seen as a reminder to both Israel and Egypt that despite cold relations bordering on frigid, the large Sinai Peninsula that borders both countries as well as Gaza, has the potential to destabilize the area. While no group has taken responsibility for the attack, both Egyptian and Israeli officials believe that Islamists are responsible.

Israeli officials say there has been intensive security cooperation with Egyptian officials since the incident began. The Israelis hope that the cooperation will serve to deepen ties with the new government headed by Mohamed Morsi. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, won Egypt’s presidential elections earlier this year after Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down following mass protests. The Muslim Brotherhood had been outlawed during Mubarak’s 30-year reign.

“This attack on Egyptian soldiers has shaken some strong beliefs and tenets of many Egyptians including the new politicians,” a senior Israeli official told The Media Line. “Most of them now understand that determined action needs to be taken in Sinai for the sake of Egyptian security and sovereignty, and not as a favor to Israel. Before our very eyes a new Egypt is emerging and this new Egypt needs to redefine its relations with Israel.”

At the same time, the new Egyptian government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Islamic religious, political and social movement, does not want to be seen as cozying up to the Israelis.

“Israel and Egypt share the same interests and this highlighted it,” Nadim Shehadi, an analyst at Chatham House told The Media Line. “It is a challenge to (Egyptian President) Mohamed Morsi and the army will require them to collaborate. They depend on each other.”

One of Morsi’s first acts in office was to assure the world that Egypt would abide by all of its international commitments including the historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Public opinion in Egypt is squarely against the treaty, one of only two that Israel has with Arab countries. The other country is Jordan.

Last year, dozens of angry Egyptians attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and took six members of the embassy staff hostage. Egyptian commandos stormed the building after personal intervention by President Obama.

“The fundamental interest of Morsi and his movement is to freeze the close connections with Israel as much as possible,” Yoram Schweitzer, the director of the terror project at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv told The Media Line. “He can’t ignore the peace treaty but he wants a low key relationship. At the same time, he needs to cooperate with Israel to defeat the threat that is posed by Islamists against Israel and Egypt. The military and security establishments want close relations with Israel while the political echelon is doing it with a sour smile.”

It is also possible that the attack will exacerbate tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood between those who reject any cooperation with Israel and those who see it as a necessary evil.

Israel has long worried that the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace treaty, has become a center for radical Islamist terrorists and smugglers. Weapons for Hamas in the Gaza Strip are routinely smuggled through the area. In the wake of the attack, Egypt stepped up its forces in Sinai but many in Israel expect more attacks.

“There’s still a threat to the borders and also to Israelis in the Sinai,” Colonel Avital Leibovich told The Media Line. “This is why we are deployed where we are and why we are building the border fence between Israel and Egypt.”

That fence, a steel barrier which will include cameras and radar, is due to be completed by the end of the year.

The attack is also raising questions about ties between Egypt and the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza. Egyptian officials have said that at least some of the attackers may have come from Gaza. Egypt had promised to open its border with Gaza and allow for greater freedom of movement for the 1.6 million Palestinians who live there. But after the attack, the border remained closed until future notice.

Egypt also pushed Hamas to shut down the smuggling tunnels that run from Egypt into Gaza. Hamas has allowed the hundreds of tunnels to function, creating an entire tunnel-based economy, bringing-in everything from weapons to car parts, charging taxes on goods coming through. Now, many tunnels have been shut down and prices in Gaza are starting to rise.

Syrian minister: Thought downed Turkish plane was Israeli


Syria shot down a Turkish plane believing it was an Israeli plane, a Syrian government minister said.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi told a Turkish news channel Wednesday that the confusion stemmed from the fact that both Israeli and Syrian fighter planes largely are American-made.

The plane was downed last week; a second Turkish plane was downed several days later on June 22.

“As you know there is a country called Israel there and as you know this Zionism country’s planes are very similar and because they both are from the same factory, from the U.S., maybe Syria thought it was an Israeli plane,” Zoebi told the Turkish A Haber channel on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. He said his government did not want to spark a crisis with Syria.

Turkey said its entrance into Syrian air space was an error and apologized, CNN reported.

Jewish institutions reassess security following bomb attempt


Jewish institutions throughout the United States are reassessing their security following last Friday’s mail bombing attempt of two Jewish institutions in Chicago.

On Tuesday, some 200 representatives of Jewish community institutions took part in a conference call with FBI experts on security measures.

“The situation with bombs this weekend certainly reminded us that all our institutions can be vulnerable to threats of this type,” said Bonnie Michelman, the community security chairwoman of the Anti-Defamation League, which organized the call.

Michelman, the security director at Massachusetts General Hospital, went on to outline specific signs that people should look for to identify suspicious packages.

The FBI announced Tuesday that no synagogues exist at the addresses on the two bomb packages but urged the need for continued community vigilance.

“Terrorists will continue and diversify their attacks,” a representative from the FBI’s Washington field office said during the conference call.

Senior leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were set to begin holding teleconferences on the same topic with senior Jewish organizational leaders across the country beginning Wednesday afternoon.

Security experts are still trying to determine the actual targets of the two explosive-packed printer cartridges intercepted last Friday. It was unclear whether they were meant for the planes carrying the packages or the Jewish institutions to which the packages were addressed. U.S. authorities have refused to confirm the identities of the institutions targeted.

One of the packages was intercepted in Dubai and another in London. Al-Qaida is believed to be behind the two bombs.

After the bombs were discovered, a Homeland Security team arrived Sunday in Chicago, according to Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, the national agency for Jewish communal security. SCN operates under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The Homeland Security representatives are contacting Chicago Jewish institutions for security training in conjunction with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. SCN will notify other communities in advance of the Homeland Security calls, which will extend through the week.

“They’re providing training and resources to ensure the community feels safe and has the tools it needs,” Goldenberg said.

Of particular concern in this case, Goldenberg noted, is that the package bombs were addressed to American Jewish institutions, indicating that terrorists are treating them as proxies for Israel and thus legitimate targets.

“We don’t know when the bombs were intended to go off, but the fact remains they were going after American Jews, not Israeli consulates,” he said. “They targeted American synagogues. That was the message.”

Last Friday, SCN sent out two e-mail notifications to its national network outlining how to handle suspicious packages and alerting people to key addresses and other signs of a potential terrorist mail threat. The Orthodox Union and Union for Reform Judaism, both members of the SCN network, also sent out security alerts to their member congregations.

The SCN notification advised Jewish organizations to watch for large packages, particularly coming from abroad.

“Organizations that believe they have received a suspicious package should not open it, [should] evacuate the area and call 911 immediately,” it said.

Steve Sheinberg, who oversees the ADL’s Jewish community security program, said now that the first wave of emergency information has gone out, it’s time to regroup and engage in a careful, ongoing reassessment of each institution’s security measures.

“Our security messages are very measured,” he said. “Our goal is to inform, not panic. There is no need for panic. This is an occasion to look at security measures in place, make adjustments as necessary and move forward.”

In Chicago, Jews are calm but wary following the bomb threat.

“The schools are all being very vigilant, without getting everyone nervous,” said Rolly Cohen, education director of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago.  “They’re stepping things up a bit, making sure doors are locked, checking to see who’s there before opening them, putting security measures back in places they might have become more lax about.”

“The need to take security precautions is not new,” said JUF Executive Vice President Michael Kotzin, who praised national and local security agencies for their professionalism and alacrity in responding to this incident. “This was a very traumatic example of that. There’s generally been a sense of calm, not fear and panic but a kind of resignation that we need to be alert—as Americans, and as Jews in particular.”

The Chicago federation and the ADL scheduled a security conference for Thursday in Chicago bringing together heads of local Jewish institutions with representatives of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service and local law enforcement.

Comparing this week’s efforts to those following the shooting of six people at the Seattle Jewish federation three years ago, Goldenberg distinguished between the actions of “a lone wolf” like the Seattle shooter and the current situation.

“Now we are dealing with the potential of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world targeting Jewish institutions,” he said.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, said operations at his synagogue “continued as usual” last Shabbat, although security was enhanced and worshipers were instructed to be extra vigilant.

“We had a bar mitzvah and no one was afraid to come to shul. I think it even drummed up business—one man told me his wife said, ‘You have to go to shul,’ ” Lopatin said.

“You think Chicago is under the radar screen, then you realize no one is immune if you are a part of a community,” the rabbi added.

(For detailed information on recommended security precautions, visit http://www.scnus.org or http://www.adl.org/security. The Chicago Jewish News contributed to this report.)

Ex-treme Takeoff


You always see him one more time. It’s inevitable. And it’s always on a bad hair day.

I’m flying home from a Chi-town visit with the Davis fam. Sporting yoga pants, glasses and a tired green hoodie, I grab my backpack, my book, “Midlife Crisis at 30” (required airplane reading), and board the plane.

I spot him immediately. Or at least the back of his head. He’s 25 feet ahead of me, but it’s a whole “back of his head like the back of my hand” thing. I know it’s him. I just don’t know how to react.

Ben and I had an on again, off again, on (me) again five-month stint about four years ago. Haven’t seen him since. There was no heated argument or “we need to talk.” The relationship just ran out of ink, faded away. OK, fine — he stopped calling. After he pulled the Elijah, I kept hoping for one more chance, one more call, one more date, when he’d see me and realize he’d made a huge mistake.

But this was not the moment I imagined. This was not the outfit I saw myself wearing. This was not the book I wanted to be caught reading.

With Ben’s noggin in clear view, I analyze my options and do what any self-sufficient woman would do. I duck behind the tall dude in front of me. Chances are, I’ll be seated rows in front of Ben and he’ll never know I’m here. I’m short. I’m blonde. I can blend.

As I inch down the aisle, I realize blending’s not an option. Because sitting right next to me, assigned to the aisle seat across from mine, is my ex, Ben. The stewardess asks that I return my jaw to the upright position, because we’re ready for takeoff.

I throw my frozen deep dish in the overhead, my JanSport under the seat, and hear, “Carin?”

“Ben, hey…. Wow. How funny is this? How are you?”

This should make for good in-flight entertainment. I frantically sit on my book, pull the scrunchie from my hair, and pray my glasses scream sexy librarian. In the movies, the ex run-in always occurs in a great dress on a fun date with a new guy. In real life, no such thing.

My friend, Angel, ran into her ex while walking home from pottery class covered in clay. My friend Jen saw her former beau at the gym. I bumped into an ex at the Pavilions checkout. I was buying wine, ice cream and a 12 pack — of toilet paper. Not exactly the stuff of a Meg Ryan rom-com. And now I’m trapped on a 4 1/2 hour, 1,749-mile friendly skies reunion with no place to go but aisle. And I thought the worst thing about this flight was going to be my kosher meal.

“This is so great, Carin. What’s going on with you? What are you up to?”

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the fasten your seat belt sign, we are about to experience turbulence.

It’s not that I didn’t want to see Ben; I just didn’t want to see him like this. Ben’s supposed to think I’m cute and successful and happy. I’m supposed to wow him with my impossible beauty and enviable career. I want him to think I’m stunning and funny and the one that got away. But with the way I look right now, he’s probably thinking, thank God he got away.

I know, I know — why do I care what a boyfriend from six boyfriends ago thinks? I guess it’s an ego thing. A whole “I Want You to Want Me,” “I Will Survive,” “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride” remix. The look on his face when he grasps that he was right — it wasn’t me, it was him — is the ultimate “I told you so, your loss buddy, I still got it” confidence booster.

Two bags of free pretzels later, Ben and I move beyond “what’s a five-letter word for awkward” and talk careers, life, even current dating sitches. I don’t feel a thing. And not just because I pounded two mid-flight mini-vodkas. I no longer have feelings for Ben. Not a yearning, a pulled heartstring or a mile-high urge. Guess my emotional baggage shifted during flight. Ben’s a great guy, a smart guy, but not everything I built him up to be. This run-in made me realize his opinion doesn’t matter. Bad travel clothes aside, I’m doing just fine on my own.

Besides it’s not like he’s doing that well. He is flying coach.

Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Wellstone — One of the ‘Frozen Chosen’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armageddon


Early Tuesday morning, my wife and I stared dumbly at the television, mumbling words like hijacked, explosion, collapse. My daughter, 5, looked up from her cereal, confused and frustrated. What language are you speaking? she asked. They were words almost unspoken in American living rooms. But no longer.

Along with untold lives, Tuesday’s terror attacks destroyed much that we cherish.

What we know has died is our sense of security, our feeling of confident invulner-ability from the violence that wracks others in faraway lands. It has all come home.

Reports of victims filter in; they do not yet flow. It’s 10 p.m. on Tuesday, and we don’t have an inkling of how crushed we will feel tomorrow, and next week, when the innocent faces behind the smoke and flames become known to us. Any hour now, we can expect to be even more devastated.

Those of us who follow the events in the Middle East can only be surprised by the enormity of the attack. Suicide missions have murdered and maimed Israeli civilians for years now. The weapon hasn’t shifted — only its aim. Such attacks are the end result of a process of cruel miseducation and propaganda, abetted by governments that provide shelter for terrorists and spew justifications for their murder. These terrorists, the governments that protect them, and the civilians who cheer them on, can only pray that America’s retaliation is as targeted as Israel’s has been.

For years, terrorism experts have been warning us that the danger to America lay not in conventional war, but in acts of terror. Their worst-case scenarios hardly measure up to what has happened, but it is a fair question for American citizens to wonder how its government failed in its primary responsibility: to protect its citizens. Now it must turn its failed defensive into a massive offensive.

Already, some people are suggesting that terrorists attacked America because of its support of Israel. Of course, we know this is not the case. Israel cannot be held responsible — even indirectly — for the recent desecration of our country. Because terror is not against Israel supporters. It is against democracy, against humanity.

That should have been obvious by now: The people who died Tuesday were Jews, Christians and Muslims. They were all colors, all creeds, rich and poor, and many different nationalities. It will take a similar coalition of peoples and nations to band together to extirpate these terrorists. America must lead the way. America may not be invulnerable, but it is hardly vanquished.

The Jewish community of Los Angeles, unfortunately, is familiar with coping with tragedy.

Many community centers and day schools took the brave and reassuring step of remaining open. Our focus, as a community, turned as if by reflex from feeling shock to giving aid and comfort. There is still much we can do: to get help, to give blood or to donate money, see our listings on page 14.

By Tuesday afternoon, synagogues throughout the Southland started to open their doors to congregants, offering a place for solace and communal prayer. Hundreds, if not thousands of Jews, chose to attend. They recited Psalms and heard prayers for peace. Some voiced demands for retribution. Most important, they had a place to go to share their grief and disbelief.

And come next week, Rosh Hashana 5762, they will have a place to return to, to pray for a sweeter year.

Shana Tova.

Deja vu


September 11, 2001.

This morning, America woke up to the same nightmare that my parents did on February 6, 1985. On that morning, my parents in Los Angeles heard the news that a suicide bomber had attacked an Israel Defense Forces convoy in Southern Lebanon. Reports of casualties varied from 50 injured to 100 killed. My parent’s ultimate nightmare was that their son, who had enlisted in the IDF seven months earlier, was a part of the convoy that had been attacked.

I was, in fact, part of that convoy, as were 13 of my friends and officers. Our lieutenant was hurt, as were 10 other soldiers, some of whom were hospitalized for up to 13 months. Nobody was killed, and I was fortunate enough to be among the few who escaped without injury, although friends seated to my immediate right and left were badly wounded. The memory of a 220-pound blast of dynamite exploding in our faces, together with the gruesome injuries and the pandemonium it created, all flashed back to me this morning as I turned on CNN.

A few months after my discharge from the IDF, Israeli intelligence announced on Israeli radio that they had discovered a videotaping of this incident, and that they would broadcast it on the evening news. My friends and I gathered that evening and watched in horror as we relived the most horrible moments of our young lives. This morning, watching the reports from New York and Washington, D.C., brought me back to that evening in my friend’s living room.

Ever since that day, when I was miraculously saved from the hands of terror, I have watched terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism grow and expand globally.

During the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, I was in the last year of my rabbinical studies in New York. My wife Peni, whom I had married just a few months earlier, was working on the 67th floor of the Empire State Building. I will never forget how frightened I was when the split screen on television showed the World Trade Center bombing on one side, and the Empire State Building, with my wife inside, on the other. I felt like my parents did back in 1985. This morning, I felt the same way all over again.

This past Shabbat, I delivered a sermon deploring the use and abuse of Islamic houses of worship as centers of incitement towards violence and terrorism. Under the guise of religion, Muslim clerics around the world, including right under our noses here in the United States, continue to use their pulpits as a platform for encouraging the worst forms of hatred. I warned that to continue to allow this under the pretense of “freedom of speech” would ultimately come to haunt us.

This morning, as I watched the horrifying images on television, some of my congregants called me, commenting on the timeliness and accuracy of my sermon. In this instance, I cannot say that I am happy to have delivered a timely message.

Today, my children could not attend their Jewish day school, because it was closed. Today, I had to make the decision to cancel the opening day of classes in my synagogue’s Hebrew school. Today, I had to hire three armed security guards to patrol my synagogue on a 24-hour basis. I keep having to remind myself that I am actually in America, not the Middle East. Hard to believe.

When all is said and done, no political or military analysis can calm the nerves of the families whose relatives are victims of terror. I vividly remember the tears of fear being shrieked over the phone when I was first able to speak with my parents after coming home from Lebanon. I remember the fear and apprehension I felt in New York during the first World Trade Center bombing. And this morning, it all flashed back in my mind again, as I watched the faces etched in fear and confusion running amidst the flames and rubble of yet another act of terror.

Yes, this is what we all woke up to — but when will the world really wake up?