Anti-Israel ad can be barred from Seattle buses, appeals court rules


County officials in Seattle can prohibit an advertisement criticizing Israeli policies toward Palestinians from appearing on local buses without violating constitutional protections on free speech, a U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that King County acted reasonably when it barred the ad, which sparked threats of vandalism and violence that could have endangered passengers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which helped challenge the ban, is disappointed in the ruling, Executive Director Kathleen Taylor said.

“The government should not be able to suppress speech because it arouses passionate debate,” Taylor said in a statement. “Sadly, King County allowed its fear of controversy to trump a commitment to free speech.”

Harold Taniguchi, director of the county transportation department, said in a statement that the county was “pleased the court found that our actions to ensure the safety of our passengers were reasonable.”

In 2010, a non-profit group opposed to U.S. support for Israel proposed a bus ad that read: “ISRAELI WAR CRIMES YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK,” along with a website address. The county originally flagged the ad as controversial, but decided it did not violate bus advertising policy and approved it.

After a local news broadcast about the impending ad, officials faced a public furor. Photos depicting dead or injured bus passengers appeared under the door of a transportation authority service center, the ruling said.

The county eventually rejected that ad, along with others proposed by pro-Israel groups. The pro-Palestinian Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign sued, and a judge in a lower court sided with the county.

“Because the county simultaneously rejected all of the proposed ads on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – from opposing viewpoints – no reasonable jury could find that it engaged in viewpoint discrimination,” 9th Circuit Judge Paul Watford wrote on Wednesday.

In dissent, Judge Morgan Christen said that while safety is a concern, “it also may be that the county inappropriately bowed to a 'heckler's veto' and suppressed speech that should have been protected.”

She said the case should have been sent back to the lower court for more fact-finding.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign vs. King County, 11-35914.

Seattle’s Jewish population soared 70 percent since 2001


A study found that Seattle’s Jewish population has increased by 70 percent since 2001.

The newly released Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study, which was conducted by a research team from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Jewish Studies, tallied the region’s Jewish population at 63,400. It also found that 89 percent of Jews in the area are college graduates.

“Given how Seattle has developed economically, it makes sense,” Leonard Saxe, one of the study’s authors and a Brandeis professor, told The Seattle Times.

Saxe said that the region’s advances in the technology, science and engineering fields has fueled the rapid growth. The study found that more than half of Seattle’s Jews have an advanced degree.

Among other study findings, more than half (56 percent) of married Seattle Jews are intermarried; two-thirds of the region’s Jewish population identified as “religious,” as opposed to culturally or ethnically Jewish; and more than half of the area’s Jews do not feel very connected to the local Jewish community.

The study was commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

Marysville-Pilchuck rampage baffles Native American community


Members of a tight-knit Native American community in Washington state were struggling on Sunday to comprehend how a life-long friendship among cousins ended with one of them gunning down the other two, along with three friends, in a high school cafeteria.

The shooter and one girl, identified by a family friend as Zoe Galasso, were killed, while the other freshmen students were gravely wounded in the Friday morning shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, an hour's drive north of Seattle.

Another victim, 14-year-old Gia Soriano, died on Sunday evening, an area hospital said.

“We are devastated by this senseless tragedy. Gia is our beautiful daughter and words cannot express how much we will miss her,” Soriano's family said in a brief statement.

The rampage, the latest in a string of violent incidents that have prompted national debate about school safety and gun control, sent shock waves through the Tulalip Tribes, a Native American organization that operates two casinos and an outlet mall, and beyond to Marysville, a town of about 63,000.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of students and their families packed a campus gym for speeches by school and area leaders in a mood marked by somber reflection, nagging questions, and a desire for solidarity between the neighboring but interwoven communities.

“Our community has taken a real hard kick in the belly,” said Tony Hatch, a relative of one of the victims. “Our kids have all grown up together. Our communities are building that bond together. We're really damaged right now.”

After he spoke, the crowd stood in unison as some two dozen tribal members, one beating a hand-held drum, sang a traditional honor song for the victims.

While police have not officially identified the gunman or discussed possible motives, family members told Reuters 14-year-old Jaylen Fryberg was the shooter, and the two male victims were his cousins, Nate Hatch, 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15.

Hatch, in serious condition with a gunshot to the jaw, improved on Sunday, while Andrew Fryberg was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, hospital officials said.

Female victim Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, remained in critical condition at a different hospital, officials said. The shooter carried a .40 caliber handgun which he used to kill himself, police said.

Family and tribal members recalled that the boys, especially Jaylen Fryberg and Hatch, seemed like best friends, growing up doors away from each other near Marysville.

They rode four-wheelers along back roads near the Puget Sound just months ago, played video games after school, went to the movies and played basketball and football together, family members said.

The boys also were often together with the victims, attending the ceremonial First Salmon festival in June and, on the Saturday before the shooting, Jaylen Fryberg and all the victims went to a high school dance together.

Formally attired, they went out for dinner and posed for photos near the swimming pool at a tribe casino, said Don Hatch, Nate's grandfather.

“You would think there was some animosity that caused it, but they were the best of friends, they were like brothers,” he told Reuters. “All of us wonder why, but we are trying to pray together and heal and forge on.”

SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

Details about the shooting are still emerging, including the heroics of Megan Silberberger, a young, first-year social studies teacher named.

According to a statement provided by her union, Silberberger said she rushed into the cafeteria when she heard gunfire and “confronted the shooter” and “did everything possible to protect students” until on-campus security arrived.

The school will be closed on Monday.

“For our generation, we couldn't have even fathomed something like this,” said Marysville resident Frank Ripley, standing near a makeshift memorial of flowers and notes near the school. “For some of these kids, they've now heard about it so many times … they almost in a way are desensitized to it.”

Jaylen Fryberg, from a prominent Tulalip Indian Reservation family, was described by classmates and parents as a popular member of the football team who was also homecoming prince.

“Jaylen was always outgoing, an athlete,” Brandon Hatch, a 26-year-old cousin, said, adding that there was no indication of trouble between the cousins before the incident. “He was a funny guy at times, too, a jokester.”

Others saw some troubling signs. Classmates and parents said Jaylen Fryberg had recently been in a fight with another high school football player over a disparaging remark made during practice.

And Jaylen Fryberg himself hinted on social media at a disappointment of some sort, with messages suggesting heartbreak and anger.

“There is a disconnect,” said Jay Napeahi, executive director of Tulalip Housing. “We're trying to make sense of it.” (Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Chris Michaud, Jason Neely, Frank McGurty, Eric Walsh; Paul Simao and Michael Perry)

Three dead, including gunman, in shooting at Washington high school


UPDATE 10/27: Another victim, 14-year-old Gia Soriano, died on Sunday evening, an area hospital said.


 

A student opened fire at his Washington state high school on Friday, killing one person, wounding at least four others and spreading panic among students who scrambled across fields and parking lots to safety, police and hospital officials said.

The shooter at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, about 30 miles north of Seattle, acted alone and was now dead, Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux told reporters.

“We are confident that there was only one shooter and that the shooter is deceased but we do need to clear each building and make sure that was the case,” Lamoureux said.

Authorities said they did not yet know what may have motivated the assailant and declined to release the suspect's identity.

Local television station KIRO showed images of students running from school buildings, crossing a sports field with their hands in the air as officers with rifles ran across the school yard.

Police and hospital officials said at least four, all “young people,” were wounded, three of them critically and were in surgery.

A spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said the hospital was expecting to receive one patient from the shooting but had no word on that person's condition.

The school district said students were being sent to a nearby church from where buses would take them home after the school was put on lockdown.

Parent Jerry Holston told CNN that his two children had contacted him by phone following the gunfire and were not wounded.

Holston said son, Adam, called him immediately following the shooting, yelling: “Dad, dad, hurry, someone is shooting. Please come.”

NBC News reported that President Barack Obama had been briefed about of the situation.

“Like all of WA, Trudi and I have everyone at #MPHS in our hearts and prayers. Please take care of each other,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a tweet.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

U. of Washington Hillel evacuated after fired worker’s explosive threat


Hillel at the University of Washington was evacuated after a fired employee allegedly threatened to cause an explosion in the building.

Police shut down streets in Seattle’s University District Monday afternoon after receiving a call from employees about the threats. No one was injured.

Police believe the suspect was a custodian who had just been given notice of his termination and threatened to blow up the Jewish student building at the corner.

Rabbi Oren Hayon, the Hillel’s executive director, would not identify the suspect, but he told JTNews that “there was a credible enough threat that… a number of our staff knew to respond quickly.”

“We got emergency first responders on the scene immediately,” he said.

According to the Seattle Police Department, an employee followed the custodian into the building’s basement at approximately 1:45 p.m. after he suspected there may be a threat, saw the custodian begin to mix ammonia and bleach together, then evacuated the building.

Witt said she does not believe the threats had any anti-Semitic connotations, and the suspect apparently has a history of threatening suicide.

“I’m not concerned about anti-Israel or anti-Semitic overtones of the threat,” Hayon said.

According to the Seattle police blotter, the SWAT team found the suspect in Hillel’s basement and put him under arrest at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Police did not initially release the suspect’s name. The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment of chemical inhalation and was under observation for mental health issues.

Hillel staff returned to the building around 4 p.m. Monday.

Seattle county does not have to run Israel ‘war crimes’ ad, judge rules


A federal judge in Seattle ruled that King County, Wash., did not violate the First Amendment rights of a pro-Palestinian group when it refused to run an Israel ‘War Crimes’ ad campaign.

Judge Richard Jones on Feb. 18 denied a request to force the Metro Transit system to run the ads.

“Because King County’s policy and practice indicates that it consistently applied content restrictions on advertising to further its purpose of using its property to provide orderly and safe public transportation, the forum at issue is a limited public forum,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Because it is a limited public forum, the acceptance of ads by the Metro Transit system is not subject to First Amendment protections, according to the ruling.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle in January charging that King County violated the campaign’s First Amendment rights. The suit asked the court to order the county to place the ad for four weeks on the sides of 12 buses, as the Metro Transit system and its ad agency originally agreed to do.

The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign had paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning last Dec. 27—the second anniversary of the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities. The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

Three days before the ad was supposed to start running, King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered the Metro Transit system to reject the ad as well as any other new noncommercial advertising.

The acceptance of the ad had generated thousands of responses by phone, fax and e-mail, many from out of the county and state, according to reports.

Counter ads for Seattle buses submitted


The American Freedom Defense Initiative has submitted two advertisements to the Seattle transit company to counter an anti-Israel advertising campaign on the city’s buses.

The ads from the group’s Stop Islamization of America program come in response to a campaign by the Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign, which is placing ads on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27—the day that Israel entered Gaza two years ago in a bid to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities.

The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

One of the counter ads reads, “One Billion Dollars to Hamas: Your Taxpayer dollars at Work” and shows scenes of Hamas’ anti-Israel and U.S. rallies.

According to Seattle’s King 5 News, the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign paid $1,794 to run the ads. However, King County Metro Transit would not offer the same price for the counter ads, according to Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Geller said King County Metro Transit quoted her organization a price $1,000 higher than the Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign ads. 

Meanwhile, the transit authority told King-TV that that the agency had received more than 1,200 e-mails about the anti-Israel ad as of Tuesday, mostly against it. Most of the comments came from outside the Seattle area, according to the report.

Seattle buses to carry ‘Israeli war crimes’ ads


Buses in downtown Seattle will carry advertisements about “Israeli war crimes” to mark the second year since the Gaza war.

The Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign has paid $1,794 to place the advertisements on 12 buses beginning Dec. 27, the day Israel entered Gaza to stop rocket attacks on its southern communities, according to Seattle’s King 5 News.

The ads feature a group of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

Advertisements are accepted for Seattle buses as long as they do not publicize pornography, alcohol and tobacco, and as long as the images and material used don’t interfere with public safety or incite a riot.

“As a government, we are mindful of the provisions in state and federal constitutions to protect freedom of speech,” King County Metro Transit spokesperson Linda Thielke told King 5 News. “So we can’t object these campaigns simply because they offend some people.”

Vandals attack Seattle-area Jewish high school


A Jewish high school in Washington State was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The epithets in orange, blue and gray paint on the Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island included swastikas and references to gas chambers, the Seattle Times reported. The attack occurred late on Sept. 16 and was discovered the following morning, on the eve of Yom Kippur.

The graffiti covered most of the building’s outer wall, including on the second floor. Neighborhood residents helped the school to clean off the graffiti before Yom Kippur services were held in the school’s sanctuary.

Police took the school’s security tapes in an attempt to identify the vandals.

“It’s a kick in the gut,” Rabbi Yechezkel Kornfeld told the Seattle Times. “I’ve been here for 35 years, and … we’ve never had an incident like this. Whoever it is, I hope they eventually realize what they did and change their ways.”

Seattle synagogues defaced with swastikas


Unknown vandals painted red swastikas on two Seattle-area synagogues.

The swastikas and the phrase “4th Riech” (sic) were painted late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, police and synagogue members told the Seattle Times.

The word Nazi and at least eight other swastikas also were painted on a sidewalk and driveway in the area, Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath member Sarah Rivkin told the newspaper.

Congregants at Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath and the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation were attending Selichot services during the incident.

Judge declares mistrial in Seattle Jewish Federation shooting case


SEATTLE (JTA)—A judge declared a mistrial in the case of the gunman who shot up the offices of this city’s Jewish federation.

The King County prosecutor vowed to retry Naveed Haq, 32, who claimed he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury said it could not agree on all but one of the 15 counts of murder and attempted murder against Haq, whose July 2006 shooting spree at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle left one woman dead and seriously injured five.

Jurors deliberated for eight days after a six-week trial that featured testimony from 32 prosecution witnesses and 16 for the defense.

“Substantial justice cannot be done,” Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas told a packed Seattle courtroom Wednesday. “There is no reasonable probability of the jury reaching an agreement. I declare a mistrial.”

Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg said he hopes to try the case again in six months. A hearing to select a new trial date is scheduled for June 12.

In a news conference following the mistrial announcement, Satterberg told reporters that the mistrial would not seriously harm the prosecution’s core arguments and emphasized his continued commitment to the case.

“The attack by Naveed Haq upon the women inside the offices of the Jewish federation remains one of the most serious crimes ever committed in this city,” Satterberg said.

Haq kidnapped a 14-year-old girl to gain entrance into the building and began shooting as he reached the federation’s second-floor reception area.

He spewed anti-Israel and anti-Jewish slurs during the attack while decrying the Iraq war and Israel’s 2006 conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Haq made similar comments on a video shown in the courtroom prior to the trial’s start.

According to a court memorandum, Haq told a 911 operator during his shooting rampage, “I’m not upset at the people, I’m upset at your foreign policy. These are Jews. I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.”

A self-proclaimed Muslim of Pakistani ancestry, Haq had driven 227 miles from his home in eastern Washington to Seattle, stopping to test-fire his two handguns along the way. Two weeks before the shooting he had researched Jewish organizations via the Internet to choose his target. He went on Mapquest for directions to the building.

After the shooting, Haq was coaxed into speaking with 911 operators by a pregnant Dayna Klein, who covered her abdomen with her arm to protect her unborn child. The wound left her without use of the arm.

“He said nothing,” Klein testified during the trial. “He shot at his first opportunity. He was aiming for me and I put my arm in front of my abdomen.”

Haq surrendered to police without further incident and complied with directions from police while in custody, officers testified in court.

Federation CEO Richard Fruchter expressed disappointment at the jury’s inability to reach a verdict on all but one of the 15 counts against Haq.

“We are extremely disappointed in this hung jury,” Fruchter said. “He made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements, but somehow this was not enough.”

During deliberations, the six men and six women of the jury told the judge they did not understand the legal meaning of concepts like “right from wrong” and whether Haq knew the “nature and quality” of his acts.

Prosecution witness Robert Wheeler defined the terms for the jury under direct questioning from prosecutor Donald Raz.

The terms “nature and quality,” testified Wheeler, “is when he acts with an objective or purpose to accomplish a result that constitutes a crime.”

To determine whether Haq understood right and wrong, Wheeler said one must ask, “Was he capable of understanding the consequences of his actions? Can they perceive risks to themselves and to others? Did he know where he was, who he was, and what he was doing at the time? Could he follow directions?”

Jurors made five requests to Kallas during their deliberations, but none were to clarify language or for a review of the 20-minute surveillance video from security cameras at the Jewish federation recorded the afternoon of the shooting.

Haq initially was charged with nine felonies, including aggravated first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder, all with the use of a firearm. Other charges included kidnapping and burglary for taking Kelsey Burkum hostage and unlawfully entering the federation building.

Haq also was charged with malicious harassment under the state’s hate crimes law.

Jurors found Haq not guilty on first-degree attempted murder for the shooting of Carol Goldman. The charge is expected to be lowered to second-degree attempted murder for the next trial.

According to doctors who treated him for a decade, Haq suffers from Bipolar 1 disorder with psychotic features including schizoaffective disorder, delusions, hallucinations and depression.

Once a promising student at the University of Pennsylvania—he has degrees in biology and electrical engineering – Haq became withdrawn and moody shortly after enrolling in graduate school, according to the medical experts.

The defense’s central medical expert, Dr. James Missett, a Yale University-trained addiction and forensic psychiatrist, told the court that Haq was and is severely mentally ill, and was exhibiting manic and aggressive behaviors as well as deep depression on the day of the shootings.

However, two counselors who evaluated Haq three days before the shootings testified that he was having no side effects from his medications and seemed to be feeling well. They said he was even looking for work.

Haq was on six prescription drugs, including lithium, for his mental disorders. Defense attorneys had hoped to convince the jury that the combination was toxic and that a change in medications before the shootings had induced side effects that spurred his rampage.

Two shooting victims, Goldman and Cheryl Stumbo, who were in court nearly every day voiced disappointment and shock at the verdict. Still, they said they would be back when the next trial starts.

“I’m ashamed that I live in a society where the seriously and chronically mentally ill can legally purchase handguns,” Stumbo said after the mistrial. “How can it not be obvious to our elected representatives that the right to live and work in a safe environment trumps the right of dangerous people to buy and use deadly weapons?”

Should charity for the homeless begin at home?


Among Jews and Christians, there is much confusion about the Bible’s preferred course for addressing the needs of poor Americans, the dominant assumption being that support for the impoverished is a public responsibility.

Recently, the issue came up in the Seattle suburb where I live. Our local weekly newspaper reported that a tent city for the homeless was to be set up in a church parking lot. In the article, a representative of the city government explained preemptively that the church had every right to do this and so, like it or not, the rest of us had no grounds for complaint.

Apart from the legal question, an implicit moral challenge was being issued: Anyone who did grumble couldn’t be a very good Christian, or Jew.

In a subsequent issue of the paper, a letter to the editor appeared making a wonderfully biblical point. I was proud that this lone voice of protest belonged to a Jewish woman. Given the modern Jewish weakness for socialism, I was also surprised.

Would it not be better, she asked, if instead of setting up the tent city, members of the church invited individual homeless people to live with them? That would be so much more personal and loving. It would also provide these needy individuals with role models: functional, successful families, a setting they may never have experienced, perhaps accounting for the dysfunction in their own lives that resulted in their being homeless. Graciously, the writer did not mention that this would not impose an unwanted cost on the rest of us who do not belong to the church and who may feel very ill at ease having an encampment of transients as neighbors.

This personal approach is exactly what the Bible commends to us. I can find nowhere in Scripture where the nation or the city is directed to compel generosity to the impoverished. Nor is a city like ours commanded to assume the responsibility (and dangers) created by someone else’s generosity.

While society in general is indeed obliged, it is understood that the society is composed of individuals, bearing individual moral responsibility.

The book of Leviticus turns this ethos of charity into legislation: “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him — proselyte or resident — so that he can live with you” (25:35). Live with you, it says — not in a tent city, nor in shelters funded by money taken by the government from other people.

The prophet Isaiah was echoing the Pentateuch when he told the Jews living in his time, “Surely you should break your bread for the hungry, and bring the moaning poor [to your] home; when you see a naked person, clothe him and do not hide from your kin” (58:7). The emphasis on a personal relationship with the poor is unmistakable, not a pole’s-length interaction as in the model of charity through taxation — or of inviting the poor to camp out in a parking lot adjacent to other people’s homes.

I anticipate a couple of objections. The first might reasonably be raised from Jewish tradition, based on a different verse in Isaiah (32:17). A conventional translation reads, “The product of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quiet and security forever.” That sounds like a nice, if somewhat vague, sentiment.

At first glance, the meaning of the verse in Hebrew is quite ambiguous. Having considered a grammatical fine point, however, the Talmud (Baba Batra 9a) interprets Isaiah as offering a comparison between an individual who causes others to give charity and another individual who gives charity on his own without being compelled.

The verse is understood to mean, “The reward of he who causes [others to do] righteousness is peace, and the reward of he who does righteousness is quiet and security, forever.” Since the Talmud assumes that peace is the greater reward, the Bible is seen as indicating the superior merit of causing charity to be given over simply giving it yourself.

With this in mind, Jewish communities from ancient times would appoint a communal officer in every locality where Jews lived to collect charity from community members, compelling them to give, if necessary, according to their means. Rabbinic law deemed the merit of this individual to exceed that of the Jews from whom he collected.

Isn’t that a pretty good indication that the Bible favors using the power of the government to coerce the citizenry to be charitable over relying on private generosity? Actually, not at all.

For the model of the communal charity collector is a communal, not a city, state, or national one. Specifically, it applies to a religious community, from which at any time you can disassociate yourself. Membership in such an association is voluntary, a free-will act.

All Isaiah is saying is that the person who undertakes the difficult role of pressuring his fellow community members to give money to support the poor deserves an even bigger pat on the back than the householder who writes out his check and voluntarily hands it over.

This Hebrew prophetic approach to poverty is, you might say, the diametric opposite of socialism. In the latter, the burden of your generosity is imposed on other people, with government acting as the enforcer.

The members of my neighborhood church, while being a voluntary community themselves, force the burden of their generosity on me. The city guarantees their right to do so. Church members may live a half hour away, but we who live right here have to deal with having a homeless encampment next door.

A second objection would cast doubt on the sincerity of the Jewish letter-writer who advocated, as a solution to homelessness, not parking-lot camping but home hospitality. Is the solution a remotely serious one?

For some homeless, no. For others, yes. Who are the homeless, exactly? It depends on what part of the country you’re talking about.

Communities on Alert After Seattle Shootings


Jewish communities are being urged to remain vigilant, be in touch with police and other law enforcement agencies and review their security arrangements after a fatal shooting at Seattle’s Jewish federation offices. The alleged gunman, identified by police as Naveed Afzal Haq, said he was an American Muslim upset about what was going on in Israel.

But leaders of national Jewish organizations report that their institutions are operating as usual, without panic.

“There’s obviously increased anxiety, but I think people feel safe here,” said Deborah Dragon, spokeswoman for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which held a staff meeting Monday morning to assuage workers’ fears. “As Jewish people, we’re aware that we’re potential targets for hate crime regardless of what’s happening in the Middle East.”

The Los Angeles federation’s security detail remains, as always, vigilant and constantly reassesses its tactics for ensuring worker safety, Dragon added.
Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Sgt. Lee Sands said the LAPD is aware of what happened in Seattle and has taken steps to increase police visibility in certain areas.

“In light of events in the Middle East, the department has already increased patrols in possible high-risk locations, which could include synagogues,” Sands said.

Aaron Rosenthal, spokesman for the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, said that while Friday’s shooting, which left one person dead and five injured, has raised alarms.

“We’ve taken our cue from the Seattle police, that this was an isolated incident by one individual,” he said. “But it’s certainly created a heightened sense of awareness.”

The San Francisco JCC has been in touch with other local Jewish agencies, including the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Community Relations Council “to keep tabs on the community,” and the facility’s security director has “been talking to police about whether there’s a need to step up our security,” Rosenthal said.

The Seattle attack occurred on July 28, when Haq allegedly took a teenage girl hostage, forced his way through the Seattle federation’s first-floor security door and walked upstairs to the federation reception desk, where he began shooting.

Pam Waechter, 58, the director of the federation’s community campaign, was shot and killed at the scene.

Many Jewish groups around the country reached out to local police, but in some places, police acted first.

Rabbi Daniel Isaak of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Ore., arrived for services that night to see two police cars in the parking lot.

They were “checking someone out,” he reported.

The incident turned out to be nothing, but Neveh Shalom hired a private security firm for Shabbat and much of this week.

“The federation building in Seattle was pretty secure,” Isaak noted. “How do you prevent someone who comes with a gun and holds it to the head of a 13-year-old? I’m not sure in practical terms how much we can do. Maybe this is in large part for our own mental health.”

Soon after the Seattle attac
k, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations put its Secure Community Network (SCN) into action for the first time since it was created 18 months ago, sending out a bulletin to member organizations, urging them to implement pre-arranged security measures.

Those groups forwarded the alert to their constituents, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist houses of worship in North America.
Since last Friday, SCN’s national director, Paul Goldenberg, has been in contact with the heads of all 155 Jewish federations, Jewish camps and synagogue movements, and has been getting regular updates from the FBI and law enforcement around the country.

“I can assure you that this is not an overreaction,” said Goldenberg, who has 20 years of experience in law enforcement, including a stint as chief of the attorney general’s hate crime unit for New Jersey. “Almost every time there’s an escalation in the Middle East, there are attacks against Jewish communities in the United States and Europe.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, the Conference of Presidents’ executive vice chairman, said teleconferences were planned throughout the day Monday with groups that wanted to discuss security procedures.

The day before the Seattle attack, SCN organized a teleconference with heads of security for every major Jewish federation and senior representatives from eight law enforcement agencies to discuss concerns in the wake of the escalation of violence in Israel and Lebanon.

They specifically discussed the danger of a “lone wolf” attack, which is what happened the following day in Seattle.

“People may say it’s just one person, and I am not saying that Hezbollah or Al-Qaida are coming after Jewish institutions, but there are people out there influenced by what they see and hear, who act on it,” Goldenberg said. “It’s very difficult to track these people.”

In 1999, one such “lone wolf,” white supremacist Buford Furrow, shot and wounded seven people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills. In 2002, Egyptian-born terrorist Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot and killed 25-year-old ticket agent Victora Hen and 46-year-old diamond importer Yaakov Aminov at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport.

Last month in Nashville, an Iraqi national was convicted of buying weapons “so he could shoot and kill Jews,” Goldenberg pointed out.

He emphasized “there is no intelligence of any imminent threat,” and the Jewish community should “be vigilant” without panicking.

“The most important weapon we have is education,” Goldenberg said. “The Jewish community needs to be training its professional staff in security awareness.”
Many such programs are free, and are offered by law enforcement agencies. The SCN can “help you navigate the process,” Goldenberg said.

Seattle was one of 18 cities that has received $14 million from the Department of Homeland Security’s 2005 budget to provide security for at-risk nonprofit groups. Virtually all the money is earmarked for enhanced security at Jewish organizations.

An additional $11 million from that budget went to non-Jewish nonprofit groups, $25 million promised for 2006 has not yet been disbursed, and the 2007 budget is still being decided.

William Daroff, vice president for public policy at the United Jewish Communities and the group’s top Washington lobbyist, said that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff pledged three weeks ago to release the 2006 funds, but nothing has happened yet.

Daroff’s office also has asked for a $25 million increase to the 2007 budget, citing the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“What the Seattle murder brings home is exactly what I’ve been talking about,” he said. “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that Jewish institutions are front and center on terrorist lists.”

On Saturday, a synagogue in Sydney was attacked with concrete blocks being used to smash car windows, and other projectiles were hurled at the synagogue roof.
Some Jewish organizations already have spent some of their homeland security funding. Jewish day schools in Chicago, for example, installed materials on their windows to prevent shattered glass in case of a bombing.

The Atlanta Jewish federation has used its funding for what security director Richard Raisler calls “target hardening,” meaning physical security measures such as access control, cameras and other upgrades.

Other communities haven’t yet put the money to work, particularly those in the West, the last to submit their grant applications.

San Francisco’s JCC, for example, “has a plan in place to enhance security in the front of our building,” Rosenthal said, but it’s “still in the conceptual stage.”

Monday afternoon, the Orthodox Union urged its synagogues to create a standing “security committee” that would have “ready access to law enforcement and security contacts,” and to let their local police know the times of services and other planned gatherings.

Ultimately, there’s only so much that security barriers can accomplish.
“If we have to build walls around our JCCs and camps, then the people who want to harm us have succeeded,” Goldenberg said. “Creating a secure culture can be done in other ways — learning how to see threats and protecting against them.”

The Journal’s senior writer Marc Ballon contributed to this report.

Create a Bridal Look That’s Made for You


The ornately beaded gown spent decades wrapped in a sheet from the time grandma was a bride until her granddaughter walked down the aisle.

Both brides were beautiful and the dress was a focal point each time, thanks to the loving restoration work by dressmaker Camila Sigelmann, who made it possible for Amee Huppin Sherer to be married in Grandma Marian Huppin’s 1925 wedding gown.

It took Sigelmann about 40 hours and a lot of luck to find beads to match the originals, to repair and reinforce the gown, to make some modifications and to create a matching head piece.

“It was a real honor for me to work on the dress,” Sigelmann said. “I understood that not only was I working on a dress for a very important occasion but that it had a lot of family history. That gives the project a whole other dimension.”

Sigelmann, who teaches apparel design at Seattle Central Community College, has run her own dressmaking business for about six years. She is one of a number of seamstresses across the country who restore antique wedding dresses and create new, custom gowns for brides. Amee found her in the Yellow Pages.

It is a special and honorable profession for the dressmakers who have the opportunity to participate in some of the most joyous moments of family life. They speak of their work with pride and enthusiasm.

Victoria’s Bridal has been in the business for more than 20 years, making everything from contemporary to traditional gowns to theme weddings.

Choosing to have a custom-made wedding dress is more a matter of style and personal service than of price, said Denise Mahmood, store manager of designer Victoria Glenn’s shop Mahmood. She said formal gowns from Victoria’s start at $1,000 and tea length dresses start at $600. Prices vary considerably, however, based on fabric and style. The cost of a custom-made gown includes fittings and alterations, which can cost up to $200 extra when buying a manufactured dress.

Another dressmaker, Laure Rancich-Flem, cautions brides not to look at custom-made gowns as a way to save money.

“If someone comes to me and has found a dress in a magazine … I cannot make it cheaper,” Rancich-Flem said, unless the bride wants to make changes in the dress such as using satin instead of silk.

The dressmaker said the best reason to call a seamstress is because you want a special gown tailored to your body and your taste.

“If you’re going to do custom work it’s usually because you cannot find what you want in ready-to-wear. Maybe you don’t want a traditional gown, or you’re hard to fit … or you just want something very untraditional in fabrics, colors or styling,” Rancich-Flem said.

She recommended trying on some manufactured gowns and looking at bridal magazines before deciding to talk to a dressmaker. A trip to a bridal store will give a woman a chance find out what dress details she likes and what looks good on her.

All three women agreed on suggestions about how to find a custom dressmaker. The first thing to do is ask for recommendations from friends who have had custom gowns made or who have hired a seamstress to create other clothing. Brides without personal recommendations can ask at a fabric store for a list of dressmakers who specialize in bridal gowns.

The next step is to call some dressmakers, talk to them about their experience and see some of their work. This process should start about six months before the wedding.

Mahmood said brides should ask a dressmaker how long she has been in business, how many dresses she averages a month, if she’s overloaded with work and if there are other seamstresses working for her on contract. Ask to see the dressmaker’s portfolio book and some actual dresses she made and request a list of references.

Rancich-Flem said that once you and a dressmaker have talked about the details of your actual project, you should request a bid, including creation and design time and materials cost.

Sigelmann said the dressmaker and the bride, and possibly her mother, need to be able to forge a good personal relationship because they may be working together for up to six months.

Her clients tend to be working women and mature brides who have clear ideas about wanting something a little different in a wedding dress.

The dressmaker found the Huppin gown an interesting challenge; it was also an emotionally and intellectually intriguing project.

“It was a very special dress,” Sigelmann said. “I found myself wondering what her grandma was like and how did she feel when she wore the dress.”

Donna Gordon Blankinship is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

Jack Spitzer


Jack Spitzer, an international Jewish leader and prominent Mercer Island banker and philanthropist, died Saturday, July 31) after suffering a cardiac arrest several days earlier. He was 86.

An Israeli university, King County libraries, black South Africans who wanted to become doctors — all benefited greatly from Spitzer’s generosity.

He served four years as international president of B’nai B’rith, the Jewish cultural and service organization. He led the first delegation of international Jewish leaders to visit Egypt. He was the only Jew in the U.S. delegation to Rome when Pope John Paul II was inaugurated. He served as a public delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

Spitzer consorted with presidents. But he also washed dishes at Seattle hospitals on Christmas so Christian workers could take the day off.

“I have a philosophy very compatible with being a banker,” he told a Seattle Times reporter in 1994. “I believe that people should pay their debts. My debt to society is so great that if I were to live 100 years I could not completely begin to repay it.”

He was born in New York City and moved to California with his family during the Depression. He graduated from high school when he was 15 and from UCLA when he was 18. While in college, he joined Aleph Zadik Aleph, the young men’s arm of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. Four years later, he was elected the group’s international president.

Spitzer worked as a field director for B’nai B’rith, then served as an Army finance officer in India during World War II. After the war he was associate director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, then joined his father in the commercial real-estate business in California in the early 1950s.

He also served as first vice chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee.

Spitzer, who moved to Seattle in 1972 and purchaed, Security Savings and Loan. Over the next few years he restored the troubled institution to profitability. He served on the board of United Way and quickly became a fixture in Seattle’s Jewish community. He helped Seattle and Beer Sheva, Israel, become sister cities.

A lifetime of service to B’nai B’rith culminated in Mr. Spitzer’s election to the international organization’s presidency in 1978. He sold Security Savings, relocated to Washington, D.C., and traveled extensively over the next four years, promoting both a strong Israel and peace in the Middle East.

He was a guest when leaders of Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace agreement on the White House lawn in 1979. He developed a warm relationship with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat; when B’nai B’rith honored Mr. Spitzer at a Seattle dinner in 1998, Sadat’s widow was the keynote speaker.

When Spitzer stepped down from the B’nai B’rith presidency in 1982, the organization named him honorary president for life.

After his stint at B’nai B’rith, Mr. Spitzer returned to the Seattle area and started Covenant Mortgage of Mercer Island. He served on the board of the King County Library System Foundation.

He was a major benefactor of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, serving on its board of governors. He co-founded Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB), the largest source of private aid for students of color preparing for health-care careers in South Africa.

He also became a fiercely competitive table-tennis player.

This year, Spitzer and his wife, Charlotte, were among the state’s top 10 political contributors.

“I have no budget,” Spitzer said last month when asked about the contributions. “I give in response to people. Perhaps more than I should.”

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte; and son, Rob; daughter, Jil Spitzer-Fox; and seven grandchildren.

The family suggests gifts to a favorite cause, or to the B’nai B’rith Foundation of the U.S., American Friends of Ben-Gurion University, re: Spitzer School of Social Work, or the King County Library System Foundation. — Seattle Times

Seattle Reform Camp Gets L.A. Support


Reform Jewish parents from the Pacific Northwest who are not willing to put their children on an airplane or drive 15 hours to California so they can go to camp will have an alternative by summer 2005, thanks to the generosity of a Los Angeles family.

The Kalsman-Levy family has donated $5 million to the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to buy the property for a new camp in Washington state. Camp Kalsman, named for grandparents Lee and Irving “Red” Kalsman, will become the movement’s 13th camp in North America.

Mark Levy, who along with wife, Peachy, donated the money to buy the camp, says the idea of helping build a new camp in the Pacific Northwest was very appealing to the family.

“As we grew more and more involved in Jewish life, we become convinced that the most important things to keep Jewish kids involved in a Jewish life are Jewish camps and trips to Israel,” Levy said. Their children and all their grandchildren, including one family living near Seattle, have been to Jewish summer camp when they were old enough and Levy adds that Peachy’s parents were also sold on the importance of Jewish camping.

Irving Kalsman and Levy were both real estate developers and Peachy Levy is a Jewish textile artist. The family has made numerous generous gifts to Jewish causes, including a naming gift for the new UCLA Hillel, and a $3 million gift to establish the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health under the auspices of the Union for Reform Judaism. The institute operates on Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Los Angeles campus.

More than 10 years ago, the family set up the Levy Youth Fund to distribute hundreds of scholarships to enable teenagers to participate in youth conclave weekends, summer camp and high school programs in Israel. The family also has set up a program to enable teens with various physical challenges — mobility and visual impairments as well as autism and other disabilities — to enjoy summer camp at one of the union camps. At last fall’s annual meeting of the URJ in Minneapolis, Mark and Peachy Levy were awarded one of the movements highest honors, the Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award for work in service to the Reform movement.

Levy said he knew the movement was hoping to build two new camps in the near future. They were attracted to help build the camp near Seattle because they have a number of connections to the Pacific Northwest, including their daughter, Janet Levy Pauli, who lives with her family on Bainbridge Island and is involved in both the Bainbridge Reform synagogue, Congregation Kol Shalom, and a Conservative shul in Seattle, Congregation Beth Shalom.

Pauli, who grew up in Los Angeles but has lived in Washington for 25 years, has not put her kids on a plane to attend camp in California. Both her boys have attended the Conservative movement camp near Olympia, Wash., Camp Solomon Schechter, but her family has participated in Reform family camps both in California and Washington.

She is looking forward to having a new place for both kids and families to go to camp in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s exciting because I so believe in camp. That’s something that has been passed on to me and my generation and I’ve passed it on to my kids,” Pauli said, adding that she also enjoyed hearing at the Reform biennial in Minnesota last fall how excited Jews from Alaska were to have a camp a few states closer to them.

For 10 years, Rabbi David Fine, URJ regional director, and others have been pushing for a new Reform camp in the Pacific Northwest. During that decade, the region has grown from 20 to 33 congregations, with two more due to affiliate within the next year. The number of children and families interested in Reform Jewish camping has grown along with the congregations, Fine says, noting that two Seattle synagogues run their own 10- or 11-day summer camps and 200 people attend a Seattle family camp outside of the city every Labor Day weekend.

“Eric Yoffe, president of the URJ, has expressed a desire for increased camping beds,” Fine said. “Camp is where our young leaders are nurtured and grown. The majority of rabbinical, educator, cantorial and communal service workers grew up in the camping movements.”

The URJ runs 12 camps across the country, including two in Northern California, which attract some young people from Washington, Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Fine said he looked at 35 properties over the past three years before a bankruptcy sale made the beautiful and spacious Love Israel property a bargain the movement could not refuse.

The new camp will be about 60 miles northeast of Seattle, between the towns of Arlington and Granite Falls in Snohomish County, on the western foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There’s a natural lake on the property and it’s less than a mile from a river.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a wonderful place for reflection,” Fine said. Surrounded mostly by farms and government property, the camp will also be a great place for kids to make noise and have fun during the summer.

Pauli is the only member of the Kalsman-Levy family to have seen the new camp property and gives the site rave reviews.

“It is just spectacular. The group that’s been there — the Love Israel — people have clearly loved the property, their gardens, the fruit trees, the grape arbors,” she said. “When I left I had this feeling not in the people that I met, but in the physicality of it, that the property was kibbutz-like.”

The URJ paid $4.2 million for the 300-acre property as part of Love Israel’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan to pay off a $5.2 million debt. The alternative Christian community, called a cult or commune by some, has nothing to do with the Jewish state or the Jewish people, but rather is a different way of saying the phrase, “love is real,” which is the group’s founding vision. Their beliefs are tied to the 1960s counterculture and the Bible.

The leader of the Love Israel family, who is also called Love Israel, was the only person willing to say anything amusing about the coincidence of the organization’s name and the new owners of the property. When asked by a local newspaper, The Everett Herald, where the group would be going when they left their bucolic Arlington, Wash., ranch after living there for 20 years, he replied, “It’ll be an orderly retreat, an exodus, leaving Egypt for the country. I’ve been able to live in a park. Now I’ve got to park myself somewhere else.”

Rabbi A. James Rudin, the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser, wrote in a Jan. 2 column distributed the by Religion News Service that there is nothing very amusing about the Love Israel family. He calls the group a cult and describes them as a “bizarre combination of Christian beliefs and New Age ideology, with a charismatic, dictatorial leader.” He expressed his pleasure that the beautiful camp property would now come under the stewardship of the real “Children of Israel.”


Donna Gordon Blankinship is a free-lance writer living in Seattle.