In what could be a first, Orthodox synagogue elects all-female board


An  Ohio congregation has become what is perhaps the first Orthodox synagogue to elect an all-female slate of officers.

At their annual meeting on June 26, the Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue in Lyndhurst, Ohio elected five women to their board.

Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, executive director of the New York-based Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, told the Cleveland Jewish News that to the best of her knowledge, there has never been an all-female board in the Orthodox community in the United States.

The Modern Orthodox synagogue elected its first female president, Murial Weber, in 2013. Weber will now serve as the temple’s treasurer while Arlene Holz Smith will take over as president. The others elected to the board are Alanna Cooper as vice president, Gloria Jacobson as vice president and Ellen Worthington as secretary.

“What drew me to Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai was the fact that it’s a place where we were able to balance real inclusivity with traditional Orthodoxy,” Smith said. “The environment created by Rabbi [Zachary] Truboff is one that welcomed, encouraged, nurtured and mentored our daughter, and he has created a home at Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai.”

Truboff was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox seminary in New York. The Smiths’ daughter, Ramie, recently was ordained at Yeshivat Maharat in New York– the first yeshiva to ordain women as Orthodox Jewish clergy. Both institutions were founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, New York, a long-time advocate for expanding women’s roles in Orthodox congregations.

Ohio Israeli eatery to close following February machete attack


An Israeli restaurant owner from Ohio whose eatery was targeted by a knife-wielding assailant said the incident has caused him losses requiring him to declare bankruptcy.

Hany Baransi, the Christian Israeli Arab whose Nazareth Restaurant & Deli in Columbus was attacked in February, reopened shortly after the attack but has been unable to stay afloat, The Times of Israel reported Monday. The restaurant has been open for 27 years.

“Business bounced back once we reopened. Customers were coming, but we just couldn’t make it work,” said Baransi, 50. “I’m going to be filing for bankruptcy.”

He blamed his financial woes on not receiving any compensation from local, state or federal governments following the attack. Baransi said he personally footed the bill for the expensive cleanup.

“I fell $12,000 behind on payroll and tried to work out a deal with my employees so I could keep the doors open, but it didn’t work out,” the restaurateur told The Times of Israel by phone Sunday, only three weeks after returning to Columbus from a vacation in his native Haifa.

Mohamed Bary, a West African Muslim with a history of making radical Islamist statements, wounded four people in the attack before he was shot dead by police. Baransi said he believes Bary targeted the restaurant because Baransi is Israeli and has Israeli flags there.

In late February, The Associated Press reported the FBI had not found any evidence to suggest that the assault was an orchestrated terror attack.

Earlier this month, Baransi hung a large Israeli flag given him by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and held an Israel Independence Day celebration at the Nazareth for the first time. He has also posed with customers in front of the flag for photos posted to social media.

On May 10, Baransi attended and gave testimony at an Ohio House of Representatives Government Oversight and Accountability hearing on a bill that would prohibit a state agency from contracting with a company that is boycotting Israel or divesting from Israel.

“I am Israeli and I am sick and tired of all of this cutting Israel out and boycotting us. Israel is the safest place in the world for me as a Christian Arab,” he told The Times of Israel.

Republican candidate John Kasich confirms AIPAC appearance


Fresh off his first victory in a primary, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich will speak at the upcoming AIPAC policy conference.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee announced Thursday that Kasich, the governor of Ohio, had confirmed his appearance at the conference, which is being held Sunday-Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Kasich won his state’s primary last week.

Another Republican candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, confirmed his appearance a day earlier.

Other presidential candidates scheduled to speak at the conference include Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican and Democratic front-runners, respectively.

AIPAC invited all the presidential candidates to speak.

Other politicians scheduled to speak are Vice President Joe Biden; the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; the majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the minority whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

A Fox News debate scheduled for Sunday night was canceled after Trump announced he would skip the debate due to his AIPAC address, leading Kasich to back out. It would have been the 13th GOP debate of the election cycle.

Israel emerges as campaign issue ahead of voting in three big Jewish states


Israel has prominently emerged as a presidential campaign issue ahead of critical primary contests in five states on Tuesday, three of which – Ohio, Illinois and Florida – have substantial Jewish communities.

Israel was the subject of a heated exchange in the Republican debate last week in Miami, with front-runner Donald Trump hammered by his opponents for saying he would be a neutral broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Trump has defended his position as essential to achieving a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but his three remaining rivals for the Republican nomination said they would stand with Israel and that no peace agreement is possible.

“The policy Donald has outlined, I don’t know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy,” Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who desperately needs a win in his home-state primary, said at the debate. “Maybe that’s not your intent, but here’s why it is an anti-Israeli policy: There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment.”

The real-estate magnate parried the criticism by noting his love for Israel and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, the scion of another real-estate family. Trump said there was no one “on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am,” citing his role as grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel Parade in New York, which prompted some laughter in the audience. And he defended his promise of neutrality, saying it was essential to achieving a peace deal.

“If I go in, I’ll say I’m pro-Israel and I’ve told that to everybody and anybody that would listen,” Trump said. “But I would like to at least have the other side think I’m somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done.”

The Israel discussion was the most expansive one on the subject in any Republican debate this season, and it continued even after the debate concluded. Rubio’s campaign sent an email blast immediately after with the subject line “Trump Is No Ally to Israel.” The next day, surrounded by prominent Jewish backers — including Adam Hasner, a close colleague of Rubio when they were both in the Florida Legislature, and Dan Senor, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration — Rubio took aim at Trump in an appearance at a West Palm Beach synagogue.

“We are electing the next commander-in-chief, and when the one leading in the polls will not take sides, imagine if he were president?” Rubio said Friday at Temple Beth El.

“For people in the Orthodox community, and more broadly in the pro-Israel community, who have a view they are unhappy with the Obama administration because Obama’s approach has been more neutral, Trump talking in those terms is not reassuring,” said Nathan Diament, the Washington director for the Orthodox Union.

On Sunday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, also needing a win in his home state on Tuesday, notably pivoted on a key Israel-related issue, saying on the Fox News Network that he now favors suspending the Iran nuclear deal. Until now Kasich, like Trump, has said the deal is a bad one, but that he would first consult with experts before suspending it. Kasich said his mind was changed by Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests.

Ted Cruz, the last of the four remaining contenders for the Republican nod, took his pro-Israel message to voters through social media, a campaign official told JTA, reminding them of his pro-Israel activism in the Senate. Cruz’s Jewish surrogates have appealed to Jewish voters whose names they compiled from synagogue membership lists and made appearances at Jewish voter events in South Florida.

Hillary Clinton, the front-runner in the Democratic race, has also been reaching out to Jewish voters ahead of the Florida primary. But her message has emphasized not so much her differences with Bernie Sanders, the Independent Jewish senator from Vermont who has mounted an unexpectedly tough challenge for the nomination, but to the threat Trump poses to Israel.

Sarah Bard, Clinton’s national Jewish outreach director, said Trump’s incendiary rhetoric had helped their efforts to mobilize campaign volunteers.

“Where we had a hard time pushing volunteers out the door, he does make our job easier,” Bard said.

Clinton has been leading in Florida polls, but after last week’s upset in Michigan, she is leaving nothing to chance. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., a Clinton supporter and the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, held a conference call Monday with hundreds of rabbis across the country. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., is speaking Monday with Jewish students at Florida Atlantic University on Clinton’s behalf. And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., held a call Sunday with Jewish leaders organized by the Clinton campaign.

Another Clinton surrogate, Robert Wexler, a former congressman from Florida, in a weekend Op-Ed in the state’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, warned that neither Sanders nor Trump has the understanding necessary to handle the Middle East, though he didn’t name either candidate.

No candidate understands “the nuances and sensitivities of the Middle East as well as the former secretary of state,” Wexler wrote. “Just look at the statements we’ve heard in the campaign as of late, with one candidate saying he’d be ‘neutral’ concerning Israel and another calling to ‘normalize’ relations with Iran. Both positions are naive, betraying a lack of understanding in general and about the Middle East in particular.”

Sanders has called for the normalization of ties with Iran in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal reached last year.

Deutch said in his pitches to Jewish voters, he contrasts Trump’s “neutrality” with Clinton’s record.

“After hearing the comments that Donald Trump has made, I have found that, with Secretary Clinton’s strong support for Israel, her very clear position that the United States, both during speeches and in debates, that the United States will stand with Israel, they found these very reassuring,” he said.

Trump does have Jewish backers. Philanthropist Jacob “Hank” Sopher ran a full-page ad in the Miami Herald on Sunday calling for Jewish support for Trump, calling him “a man of integrity, a friend of the Jewish people, a friend of Israel.”

Jewish platform raises political dough for Cruz


UPDATED 11:54 a.m.

A group of Orthodox Jews supporting Ted Cruz for president have launched a 24-hour campaign to raise $1 million for Cruz's campaign on the day of crucial primary contests in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

The campaign “Million For Ted” was posted on the popular fundraising website Charidy.com, a non-partisan corporation that serves as a crowdfunding platform for non-profit charitable campaigns. The goal is to raise at least $250,000 from members of the Orthodox Jewish community sympathetic to the conservative policies of the Texas Senator, which will then be matched 75 percent by the Wilks family. “It’s all or nothing, if we don’t reach one million, all donations will be returned,” a message posted on the site read.

The organization hosting the campaign is called Reigniting the Promise, a super PAC in support of Cruz. 

The fundraising platform appears to be a for-profit business that takes a 2.9% cut of funds raised, which is legal under campaign finance laws, according to Paul S. Ryan Paul, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. Hecht told Jewish Insider that no service fee will be charged if the goal is not met by midnight (CT)

“Charidy is a bipartisan website. We are not officially endorsing. We are hosting this campaign,” Moshe Hecht, a chief fundraising specialist at Charidy, told Jewish Insider. “There are some Jewish people behind the scenes who want to promote this to the Orthodox community because they feel the community should support Ted Cruz.”

Hecht said that while certain people in the company may have contributed to Cruz's campaign, this campaign is not an endorsement, adding that this is the first political campaign out of 600 campaigns that the site has hosted so far.

The campaign raised $15,000 in the first half hour (1:30 p.m. ET).

Trump scores crucial win in Florida as five states vote


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump scored a crucial win in the Florida primary on Tuesday, striking a potentially fatal blow to rival Marco Rubio's campaign and moving closer to securing the party's nomination as five U.S. states voted.

Trump was aiming to sweep all five states on Tuesday, including Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois, and deal another setback to establishment Republicans who fear his rowdy campaign will lead the party to defeat in November.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 68, also captured the Florida primary as she aimed to put some distance between herself and rival Bernie Sanders, 74, a U.S. senator from Vermont, in primaries in the same states.

Trump, the 69-year-old billionaire businessman, was aiming to knock out his two mainstream rivals, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, who probably need to win their home states to keep their campaigns alive. His closest challenger nationally is U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, 45, a Tea Party favorite.

A Trump loss in any of the five states on Tuesday would give new hope to Republicans battling to deny the brash New Yorker the nomination and block him from capturing the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination at the party's July convention.

Jewish day schools in two US cities receive threatening phone calls


Threats to Jewish day schools in two U.S. cities prompted police investigations a day after Jewish schools in Britain received bomb threats.

The Perelman Jewish Day School in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, received a threatening phone call at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, MainLine Media News reported. The caller threatened to “kill Jews” before hanging up.

Police checked the school with officers and bomb-detecting dogs but found nothing suspicious.

The Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, received an anonymous threatening phone call shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

Local police, aided by the FBI and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, investigated and determined there was no credible threat.

Perelman is a Conservative day school, while Mandel is nondenominational.

7 employees of Jewish family company among dead in Ohio plane crash


Eight of the nine people killed in an Ohio plane crash have been identified, seven from a Jewish family company in South Florida.

The passengers were employees of PEBB Enterprises, a real estate firm in Boca Raton. No one survived the Tuesday evening crash of the chartered plane in Akron.

PEBB is a family business founded by the late Paul Wiener. Its name is taken from the first letters of the names of Weiner, his wife, Eleanor, and their two children, Barbara and Bruce, the Palm Beach Post reported. Among those identified as being killed in the crash is Jared Wiener, son of Bruce.

Also killed were Diane Smoot, Thomas Virgin,  Gary Shapiro, Ori Rom, Diana Suriel and Nick Weaver. Rom is Jared Wiener’s brother-in-law. Andres Chavez has been  identified as one of the pilots of the plane.

Rabbis at two Boca Raton synagogues told WPTV that victims of the crash were members of their congregations.

“As anyone might expect, it’s surreal, it’s a shock, ” said Rabbi Robert Silvers of Congregation B’nai Israel.

The jet was operated by Execuflight, based at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, and owned by Augusto Daniel Lewkowicz.

PEBB replaced its website’s home page with a message: “Our hearts are broken this morning with the news of the tragic accident that took the lives of two principals and five employees of Pebb Enterprises. We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished. Our first priority is to give our fullest support to the family members and loved ones of our co-workers.”

The plane, which made no distress signals, crashed into a residential apartment building, destroying several apartments. No one was in the apartments at the time of the crash.

Ohio man accused of plotting government attack pleads not guilty


An Ohio man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol with guns and bombs pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges in federal court on Thursday.

Christopher Cornell, 20, of Cincinnati, is being held without bail after prosecutors said he posed a threat to national security.

The charges against Cornell include attempted murder of government officials, possession of a firearm to commit a crime and solicitation to commit a violent crime.

Cornell, in gray prison garb, answered “yes” in a soft voice to U.S. Magistrate Stephanie Bowman's questions about whether he understood the charges.

Bowman on Thursday denied Cornell's request, made through his attorney, that he be addressed by his Muslim name, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.

Cornell was arrested on Jan. 14, after he researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased a semi-automatic rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition and made plans to travel to Washington to carry out the plot, according to testimony from an FBI informant.

Cornell began plotting the attack in August, according to the indictment which was filed on Wednesday.

The arrest came after Cornell, using the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, posted on Twitter that he supported the Islamic State, a militant group which has seized parts of Syria and Iraq.

According to court documents, Cornell met with an FBI informant to discuss his plans, and indicated to the informant that he considered the members of Congress as enemies and that he intended to conduct an attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

No future court date has been set.

Ohio man arrested for planning attack on U.S. Capitol


An Ohio man claiming sympathy with Islamic State militants was arrested and charged on Wednesday in connection with a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol with guns and bombs, court documents disclosed.

Christopher Cornell, 20, of Cincinnati researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased a semi-automatic rifle and 600 rounds of ammunition and made plans to travel to Washington to carry out the plot, according to an FBI informant's legal testimony.

Court documents showed that Cornell indicated on Twitter that he supported the Islamic State group under the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.

According to the documents, in instant messages to the undercover FBI informant, Cornell indicated that while he did not have support to conduct an attack on behalf of any group “we already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others.” Awlaki was killed by the United States in Yemen in 2011.

In a November meeting with the informant, Cornell said he considered members of Congress to be his enemies, and he outlined a plan to place pipe bombs at and near the U.S. Capitol and use firearms to kill employees and officials inside, according to the documents.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge John Barrios noted that the public was not in danger during this investigation.

Spokesmen for congressional leaders in both parties of Congress said they had no information beyond what was publicly disclosed in court documents.

Cornell has been charged in a federal court in Ohio with attempting to kill a U.S. government officer and possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence.

Ohio dedicates Holocaust memorial in Columbus


The state of Ohio dedicated a Holocaust memorial on the Statehouse grounds in Columbus.

The Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial was dedicated Monday at a ceremony that drew 1,500 people, including Holocaust survivors and former U.S. soldiers. The 18-foot-high memorial, which resembles a shattered Star of David, was designed by the prominent Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind, the son of Holocaust survivors.

The $2.1 million memorial was funded mostly by private donations.

Proposed in 2011 by Gov. John Kasich, the memorial was met with opposition from former state Sen. Richard Finan, chair of The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, for not following proper procedure, the Dayton Jewish Observer reported. Finan also said in an interview, “I don’t think a Holocaust memorial fits with the historical markers (at the Statehouse).”

Messages on the pathway leading to the memorial say it was “inspired by the Ohio soldiers who were part of the American liberation and survivors who made Ohio their home,” and that it was erected “In remembrance of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and millions more including prisoners of war, ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals, the mentally ill, the disabled and political dissidents who suffered under Nazi Germany.”

It is the second Holocaust memorial in the United States built on state-owned land, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. The first opened in Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

 

Anti-Semitic, racist incidents at Oberlin College were a ‘joke,’ student told police


Two students committed a series of racial and anti-Semitic incidents at Oberlin College to provoke a reaction, according to police in the Ohio city.

According to a police report released late last week, one of the students said he meant the acts as a “joke,” as well as to show how students and college staff overreacted to earlier racist and anti-Semitic fliers found around the campus with which he denied involvement.

The later incidents spurred the college to cancel classes for a day.

The student was detained on Feb. 27 after being seen posting anti-Islam fliers in a school building. He said he posted the fliers to show how people had overreacted to similar fliers posted earlier in the year.

“I put out these fliers to get a similar overreaction to prove this point,” the student told campus security after being detained, according to a report by the Oberlin city police.

In early May, Oberlin canceled classes after someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-like hood and robe was seen walking on campus. The cancellation also came after swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were discovered on the campus.

Oberlin City Prosecutor Frank Carlson, in deciding not to charge the students, said they broke no laws, according to the local Chronicle-Telegram.

The students, who were not named in the police report because they were not charged, have been removed from campus and are being tried in the campus judicial system, according to the newspaper.

The Daily Caller newspaper identified the students as Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, and said they have a background in working for liberal causes.

Life plus 1,000 years: Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro sentenced


An Ohio judge on Thursday sentenced Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro to life in prison for abducting, raping and holding captive three women for as long as 11 years, and murder for forcing one of the women to abort her pregnancy.

Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo imposed the prison sentence after an emotional court hearing at which one of Castro's victims, Michelle Knight, 32, said the former school bus driver put her through a life of hell.

“I served 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” Knight said of Castro in a statement read to the court.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to hundreds of criminal charges to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

Wearing leg shackles and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Castro listened to her testimony without expression.

[Related: Cleveland kidnappings: We must be our brother’s keeper]

Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Knight, all went missing from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004. They were discovered on May 6 after neighbors heard Berry's cries for help from Castro's home.

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro admitted at the hearing on Thursday that he was a sick man but said he is not the monster described by prosecutors.

Castro delivered a rambling statement to the court that he makes no excuses for his behavior, which he said was “wrong.”

Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gunna Dickson

You are a felon


“You are a felon.”  Those were the words texted by one high school kid to another after the boy bragged via text about raping an unconscious 16 year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.  The phrase was echoed again on Sunday when the verdict was handed down – guilty.  “You are a felon.”  It is a powerful phrase, an accurate phrase and we are undeniably caught in its crosshairs.

The case came to light through social media – images of a passed out girl being dragged from one party to the next to be violated.  Real time text messages gave a moment-to-moment account of the atrocity witnessed by countless teens.  One of the rapists sent a text describing his victim as “a dead body.”  Yet the girl’s level of intoxication ended up at the center of the trial – the determining factor in whether this was rape or not.  “How drunk was she?”  And somehow, even asking that question sounds stomach-turningly similar to “what was she wearing?”  The text says it all, “a dead body.”

When I read that phrase, “a dead body,” images instantly flashed through my mind – snippets of scenes I’ve seen on screen a million times.  Rape scenes, sex scenes, violence passed off as sex – a limp body beneath a thrusting male.  It was all too familiar.

Read more at hollywoodjournal.com.


Aimée Lagos is an award winning writer and director, a storyteller, an activist and an entrepreneur dedicated to a life of adventure and raising her daughter with her soulmate.

In historic move, Ohio buys $42 million in Israel Bonds


Ohio has bought $42 million in Israel Bonds, reportedly the largest single government purchase of Israel Bonds in U.S. history.

The March 1 purchase increases the total amount of Israel Bonds in the state's treasury portfolio to more than $80 million; the Cleveland Jewish News reported it as the largest such buy in U.S. history.

“We believe this is a sound investment for the taxpayers of Ohio and consistent with our strategy of investing in safe and strong securities,” Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is Jewish, told the newspaper.

The Ohio Revised Code was amended in 1993 to allow the state to invest in foreign bonds. In 2010, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill allowing the state treasury to increase debt earnings in foreign nations from 1/2 a percent to 1 percent of the state’s portfolio, according to the newspaper.

The previous highest single purchase of Israel Bonds in U.S. history was $25 million, made by several states, Thomas Lockshin, executive director for Israel Bonds in Ohio and Kentucky, told the Cleveland Jewish News.

Josh Mandel falls to Sherrod Brown in Ohio


Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republicans hoping to win control of the U.S. Senate had placed great hope in Mandel, a former Marine who is Jewish. Brown is a strong ally of organized labor and a pillar of the Democratic Party's progressive wing.

Berkley, Lingle, Mandel lose Senate bids


Jewish Senate hopefuls in Hawaii, Ohio and Nevada went down to defeat.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) lost her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who received nearly 46 percent of the vote to Berkley’s nearly 45 percent. Berkley, an outspoken supporter of Israel who has had a long-running feud with Las Vegas casino tycoon and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, will leave Congress after 14 years in the House.

In Ohio, Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel was defeated by incumbent Sherrod Brown. The Democrat, a strong ally of unions, garnered 50 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Mandel, a former Marine and Iraq War veteran.

In Hawaii, Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle lost her bid for a Senate seat to Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democat. Hirono won with nearly 63 percent of the vote to Lingle’s 37 percent.

Obama garners 69 percent of Jewish vote in CNN exit poll


President Obama won 69 percent of the Jewish vote according to an exit poll.

The poll, posted on CNN's website, was commensurate with projections by preelection polls by Gallup, the American Jewish Committee, among others, that Obama would win between 65 and 70 percent of the Jewish vote.

Both parties blitzed Jewish voters in swing states, particularly Ohio and Florida, ahead of the election.

Jews constituted 2 percent of the overall CNN response group, but the network did not reveal the total number of people polled, so it was impossible to assess a margin of error.

Republicans noted the discrepancy between Tuesday's numbers and the 78 percent Obama garnered in 2008 exit polls.

Democrats, citing a more recent broader study of the 2008 results, now say Obama earned 74 percent of that year's Jewish vote, and suggested that Tuesday's showing was within the margin of error.

On social media, Republican and Democratic Jews argued over whether Tuesday night's results showed a substantial drop in Jewish support for Obama.

Two organizations — J Street and the Republican Jewish Coalition — planned to release separate exit polls on Wednesday morning.

Four more years (of bickering)


So the Jewish vote didn’t make much difference after all. Not even in Florida. Had Romney taken Florida, had he won this election, we could have argued that the 31 percent of Jews he was able to win over in the Sunshine State played an important role in his razor-thin victory. But he lost the election, Jewish gains notwithstanding. Thus, the first lesson, then, for Jewish Republicans like Sheldon Adelson should be as follows: If you have resources to spend on campaigning, if you are truly committed to the cause, spend your time and money assisting your party in winning over the people without whom elections cannot be won: Latinos. 

Saying the 2012 elections were not as important as the candidates (and many of us) said they were is easy. The two candidates were uninspiring, as is clear from the fact that neither of them was able to attract many crossovers from the other camp. Obama was supported by Democratic voters and Romney by Republicans. They masqueraded a heated debate over issues of great significance when, in fact, they were battling over a technicality: Who’s the better man to fix the economy – an issue most well-trained voters told pollsters is the “most important” for them. 

Believing the answers voters give is as dangerous as believing the candidates’ promises. Obama and Romney painted their race in ways favorable to their main cause – getting elected. But the voters were just as unreliable: They know what they need to say; they know what is expected of them. These elections early on were defined as being about “the economy” – hence, voters’ tendency to put the economy on top. However, putting the economy on top and then saying that Romney is the better candidate on the economy, and then giving Obama the White House, is exactly what American voters did, according to the exit polls. Elections are never about one issue and are almost always about how comfortable the electorate feels with the candidates. 

That more Jews felt comfortable with President Obama is not such a big surprise. No one really expected it to go any other way. It was also quite obvious that Obama will not win as strongly with Jewish voters as he did four years ago. As this article is being written, on Tuesday night, we don’t yet have all the detailed poll data that is scheduled to be released on Wednesday by both the Jewish Republican Jewish Coalition and by J Street pollster Jim Gerstein. However, early exit polls have revealed that Obama’s standings with Jews have declined to 70 percent of the vote. Did the vigorous campaign to peal away Obama Jewish voters work at all? Romney got 30 percent of the vote. And one suspects that both Jewish Democrats and Republicans will find a way to spin these results without admitting failure. 

They will be able to do it, among other reasons, because there’s never been true agreement on the percentage of the Jewish vote that went for Obama in 2008. Hence, there will be no agreement on the percentage of Jewish voters who’ve moved away from him and into the Republican column. A recent study argued that Obama’s actual Jewish number of 2008 was 74 percent — while the 2008 exit polls gave Obama 78 percent of the Jewish vote. So the scale of the decline depends how much you believe the new research. 

Those responsible for the new research want you to believe that this is the more serious analysis of the Jewish vote. But Republican Jews want you to believe that this study is a spin aimed at making Obama look better as his 2012 numbers drop. And they did drop: 8 percent fewer Jews voted for him, compared to the 2008 exit poll. Four percent fewer compared to the recent study. Whatever the final count, there’s no denying that the climb in Jewish Republican votes appears to be a continuation of a trend. In my book about the Jewish vote, I described the drop in the Republican Jewish vote since 1992 – in fact, I described the last two decades as the decades of the-Republican-Party-is-no-longer-an-option for Jews. But the graph of the Jewish vote for the Republican Party since that big drop of the early ’90s shows a slow but steady climb back to the party being an option.

On the morning of Election Day, I spent a couple of hours harassing Jewish voters in Beachwood Ohio, not far from Cleveland. These are precincts that went 71 percent-28 percent for Obama in 2008, 65 percent-35 percent for Kerry in 2004, and 77 percent-22 percent for Gore in 2000. I can’t tell you what the numbers will be like this time, but based on the dozen or so interviews I had time to do, it is likely that Romney got numbers in these precincts closer to those of the 2004 Bush than to the 2008 McCain. Possibly even higher. 

The story of the 2012 Jewish vote, then, is a story of a growing gap between the conservative wing of the community, a large part of it Orthodox, and the rest of the community, who remain loyal to the Democratic Party. Earlier this week, in Columbus, I made a pact with a local rabbi: I could ask any question and quote any answer, as long as I didn’t give away his identity. Not a hint, not a clue. Is it not problematic for a Jew in America to have such fear of exposing one’s political beliefs? – I asked him. The rabbi laughed. “You realize”, he said, “that my so-called fear has nothing to do with non-Jews – it is the Jews that I fear.” He then asked if I’d read Roger Cohen’s article in The New York Times about “The Jews of Cuyahoga County,” which, of course, I had. The rabbi didn’t like Cohen’s use of the word “ugly” at the outset of his article (“Things are getting ugly among the Jews of Cuyahoga County, with family splits and dinner invitations declined”), but he also gave the impression that at times things are, well, becoming ugly. Not for all Jews in Cuyahoga or Columbus, not in all families. But in some cases, it does – hence, the rabbi’s obsession about not wanting to be exposed. “If I get into political issues, I’m definitely going to alienate some people from one side or the other, and more likely from both sides.” These are days of tension and bickering and highly partisan spirit. These are days in which “hardly anyone can see both sides’ arguments.”

Having met and interviewed many Ohioan Jews during my week here, I discovered that it was easy to find Obama voters (“Is there even an alternative?” one Cleveland resident asked me), and also not very hard to find Romney voters (the easiest way: look for the Orthodox shul and the kosher deli), and was more rare, but still possible, to find the 2008-Obama-disappointee. But, truly, it was easier to find people who claim to know people disappointed with Obama than to find those disappointed people in person. “Yes, I have some friends that voted for Obama in 2008 and are now voting for Romney,” Jerry Mayer told me. Stewart Ain of The Jewish Week got a better quote from a Bret Caller: “I’ve had dozens and dozens of Jewish friends who voted for Obama in ’08 say to me that they are on the fence and will make a decision in the voting booth.”

And, one must admit, many of the Ohio Jews I met in recent days tended to think about Obama and Romney in the same dichotomist manner. Romney will “ban all abortions,” a weary Bev (or was it Deb? Forgive my insensitive Israeli ears) Hart explained, knowingly. Obama is “an enemy of Israel,” an angry Rob Gold told me. No article on the 2012 Jewish race can be concluded without some discussion of the Israel issue.

My first 2012 story on the U.S. election was published on Jan. 1, reported and written in Iowa, where Mitt Romney began his long journey to win the Republican primary election and become the nominee. I had a catchy headline for it: “Witnessing European Menace Invading Des Moines.” The only real foreign reference made by Romney in the political rally I attended that week “was not about the Middle East or even China,” I wrote back then. “Romney – and some of the other candidates as well – have made Europe a topic of political conversation. As in: If we continue to have policies like we have now, we might risk “ending up being like Europe.” I was reminded of this event and of that post, as I was listening on Sunday to Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, in a well-kept medium-size hanger, where he made a short landing in Mansfield, Ohio. Ryan was at his very best at that event, sharp and amicable. But he had no intention of talking about anything but the U.S. economy. 

I was waiting to hear a word or two about foreign affairs. Two days before an American election, as the whole world was watching, one would have been justified to expect at least a pretense interest on the part of the American candidates in what’s happening beyond America’s borders. But no such words ever quite materialized. Obama, when I saw him last week, seemed to have little interest in talking about foreign affairs. In fact, Obama made it a habit to tell American voters that electing him is important because he’s the candidate that will do “some nation building here in America.” Obama, like Romney, is an internationalist. But both of them felt a political need to make the world disappear in the final stretch of the election.  

For Israel, a less involved America is a convenience on some matters – such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but really it’s a curse. Israel needs the United States to be leading the coalition against Iran, and needs the United States to project confidence and have influence in a region that becomes more volatile by the hour – recent exchanges of fire on the Syrian border being the most recent manifestation. Obama is likely not to have much appetite to be more engaged in the region, and even less appetite to have to deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, but will have no choice but to do it. 

Interestingly, not since Eisenhower has Israel had to make do with a president with whom it doesn’t quite get along for two consecutive terms. Carter, Ford and the first Bush – the three presidents at the top of Israel’s list of unfavorable presidents – were all one termers, annoying to Israel’s government, but gone quickly. With Obama, it will be eight years of bickering and mistrust and miscommunication, unless one of three things happens: If Netanyahu is not re-elected; if Obama or Netanyahu determine to put an end to the sour state of relations; or if the U.S. disengages. Option No. 1 will be an important component of Israel’s coming election – a tool that Netanyahu’s rivals are going to use in hopes of convincing Israelis that the relations with Obama are reason enough for them to replace the prime minister. Option No. 2 is the preferable option – the grown-up option – and hence the less likely one. Option No. 3 is the most dangerous of them all. Better for Obama and Netanyahu to keep the bickering going – and with it the involvement of the United States in Israel-related affairs. 

Last pushes for Jewish votes in Ohio, other swing states stir emotions


The family wedding. The entrance to the local synagogue. The future of Israel. Your precious grandchild.

In the final days of what has been a close and bitterly contested election, it’s not so much that nothing is sacred in the fight for the Jewish vote. It’s that little that is sacred has not been put to use.

Efforts to pick up Jewish votes in states such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia have stressed themes of Jewish vulnerability and of threatened Jewish values. Jewish voters said at times they were taken aback by the tone.

Ruth Sudilovsky-Pecha said she gasped when she read an open letter in the latest edition of the Cleveland Jewish News in which Josh Mandel, the Republican vying to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), was excoriated by some of his wife's cousins.

In the letter, nine members of the Ratner family, a prominent Ohio clan that made its fortune in real estate, recalled their happiness when Mandel, the Ohio treasurer and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, married into their family. But they noted their dismay over his opposition to same-sex marriage and allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. They cited a family member who married a same-sex spouse and also served in the military.

“This family is sprawling and diverse, but it has always believed strongly in the values of equality and inclusiveness,” said the letter, which appeared as a full-page ad in the paper. “Your discriminatory stance violates these core values of our family.”

“I was like, ‘whoa,' ” Sudilovsky-Pecha, 48, a social worker who lives in Solon, a suburb of Cleveland, said after leafing through the paper, the last before the election. “I may agree with them, but you’ve got to wonder what Shabbos dinner and Pesach is like.”

The family feud permeated the pages of the Jewish weekly and reflected the intensity of the election debate. In more full-page ads, two other Ratners, real estate magnate Ron and his wife, Susan, endorsed Brown and President Obama, while on a later page, two more Ratners and a dozen Mandels joined several hundred Ohio Jews in endorsing Mandel.

Another ad taken out in the paper by the Defend Israel Movement, which gave its address as a post office box in Israel, likened Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who appeased Hitler.

Such rancor was largely absent from a Nov. 1 debate organized by the Orthodox Union at Green Road Synagogue, an Orthodox shul in this affluent Cleveland suburb of 12,000. But the caliber of the speakers reflected the importance attached to Ohio by the campaigns: Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, acting in a personal capacity, argued for Obama, while Tevi Troy, a former deputy secretary of health and human services, made the case for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, whom he now advises.

The surrogates adamantly disagreed on a number of topics. Troy said that Obama sought to “create daylight” between the United States and Israel, while Lew said the president had defended Israel to a degree that few predecessors had and imposed tough sanctions on Iran.

Lew also faulted the Romney campaign for pledging to reduce the deficit without offering specifics.

Troy countered that Obama pursued a “unipartisan” strategy in advancing his own fiscal reforms, preferring to ignore Republican advice and contributions. Lew, in the single instance he raised his voice, vehemently denied the point.

Troy and Lew, however, reserved much of their passion for their wrap-ups, when each spoke of the joys of being an Orthodox Jew serving in a senior government position.

“I enjoyed their personal experiences as Orthodox Jews, their commitment to their work,” said Rebecca Miller, a retiree who attended with her daughter. “It made me proud.”

Outside, as the audience members headed into the night, the intensity returned. A Democrat argued with a few Jewish Republicans who had gathered earlier near the entrance carrying an “Obama, Oy Vey” banner over whether Romney would roll back abortion rights.

Holly Litwin, a teacher at the Conservative movement-affiliated Gross Schechter Day School who attended the debate, said she was exhausted by weeks of robocalls, campaign mailings and postings throughout her suburban Cleveland neighborhood.

“I’m shocked by the personal attacks on the integrity of individuals,” said Litwin, of Shaker Heights, who recently moved to Ohio from Oregon, a solidly Democratic state that is not subject to such intensive campaigning.

Litwin was mailed a DVD, “Dreams From My Real Father,” which presents a conspiracy theory alleging that Obama has covered up his true origins as the illegitimate son of a black American communist.

“I had a visceral reaction,” she said. “I took it as if it was contaminated and deposited it in the recycling.”

Stanley Stone, a textile business retiree, said he also has been subject to a stream of fliers and phone calls from Republicans and Democrats in recent months.

Saying that Obama “inherited a lot of problems,” Stone said he wasn't buying Republican claims that the president's strategies had failed to revive the economy.

Fred Taub, a Cleveland Heights resident who writes and speaks against boycott and divestment efforts targeting Israel, said he was supporting Romney.

“Two reasons — the economy and Israel, he said. “I can’t afford Obama, and he's snubbed Israel too many times.”

But Taub also said that his Republican Jewish friends were weary of the material targeting Jewish voters.

“I don’t look anymore, you get sick of hearing the complaints from both sides — and I think most people have decided,” he said.

Sudilovsky-Pecha said that Republican ads had raised questions in her mind about Obama.

“I'm not a hundred percent convinced Obama's as strong a supporter of Israel as I would like him to be, but he's not as weak a supporter as Republicans paint him,” said Sudilovksy-Pecha, who has family in Israel. “But as a social worker, I can’t imagine living in country led by Romney with his ‘47 percent.’ ”

She was referring to a secretly recorded fundraiser appearance in which Romney dismissed Obama’s voting base as the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income tax and, he claimed, are dependent on the government. The Obama campaign has bombarded swing states with ads featuring the remarks, for which Romney has expressed regret.

A September survey of 238 Jewish registered voters in Ohio by the American Jewish Committee found 64 percent saying they would vote for Obama, 29 percent supporting Romney and 7 percent undecided.

Ohio isn’t the only battleground state where Jewish votes are being sought aggressively.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a political action committee that has been criticizing the president and other Democrats on Israel since 2010, has been doing robocalls in Wisconsin, Ohio and Virginia.

The first round of ECI’s calls spliced together disparate statements by Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — some of them made years apart — and presented them as a “debate” between the two leaders, thus suggesting that they disagree on the need to confront Iran’s nuclear program.

But the Obama statements were not about the nuclear issue, and the statement excerpted from Netanyahu was taken out of context from a speech in which he praised Obama’s commitment on the issue. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist called the robocall “an Orwellian descent into falsehoods and misrepresentation.”

A second ECI robocall, also using spliced quotes to create a “debate,” focused on differences between Netanyahu and Obama over Israeli settlements and building in eastern Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, in the week before Election Day, Jewish Democrats and Republicans both made their final pushes.

In a National Jewish Democratic Council video, Barbra Streisand emphasized what she predicted would be a rollback of women’s rights under Romney.  “Mitt Romney does not share our values, I know Barack Obama does,” she said.

The Jewish Council for Education and Research — the pro-Obama political action committee behind a series of popular and profanity-laced pro-Obama videos featuring celebrities such as Sarah Silverman and Samuel Jackson — released a G-rated musical video, “Call your Zayde,” urging young Jews to phone their grandparents in swing states and tell them to vote for the president.

The Obama campaign released a video of Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, explaining his support for the president’s reelection. Koch and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz both wrote separate Op-Eds making the case for Obama’s reelection, defending his commitment to Israel and touting his positions on domestic policy issues. Footage of Koch and Dershowitz criticizing or questioning the president’s Middle East approach previously had been featured in anti-Obama videos.

The Republican Jewish Coalition released a video, which the group is running as a TV ad in Florida, featuring Bryna Franklin, a former chairwoman of Democrats Abroad-Israel, assailing the president’s record on Israel and the economy. With Jerusalem’s Old City in the background, Franklin urges American Jews to “switch sides and vote for Mitt Romney for president.”

A Jew tours for Mitt Romney


I spent last week speaking to thousands of Romney supporters in four “battleground” states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. I traveled with my Salem Radio Network colleagues Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved and the actor Jon Voight, one of the few Hollywood stars who is a politically outspoken conservative.

I thought I would share some of what transpired, as it should be of particular to interest to a Jewish readership.

During the tour, I wished frequently that all American Jews could have seen and heard what was said about Jews and Israel and how much time was devoted to Jews and Israel. Voight and Hewitt and whoever was the non-Jewish moderator of the evening emphasized support for Israel and the Jews — in combating Islamic anti-Semitism, in acknowledging the American and the Western world’s debt to the Jews, and in regard to the Jewish origins of Christianity — as much as they did any American domestic issue, including the economy.

Moreover, the audiences, overwhelmingly composed of non-Jews, reacted in kind. They cheered at least as enthusiastically when Jews and Israel were mentioned as they did regarding any other issue dear to conservative hearts, such as small government, lower taxes, oil independence, a strong military, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, etc.

I wondered what most Jews — i.e., Jewish liberals — would think had they seen this. Would they think it was phony? That it was done to procure Jewish votes? That Democratic Party rallies would similarly focus on support for Jews and Israel? 

I pondered these three possibilities. 

Surely a Jewish liberal could not have dismissed the time and attention paid to Jews and Israel as inauthentic. What would be the purpose? If people put on an act, there has to be a reason for doing so. But there was no reason for doing so. Virtually everyone present at each of the rallies was a fellow Republican. One doesn’t act among like-minded people. When you’re with 1,500 other people who share your politics and your values, you are at your most authentic.

Well, then, was it done to procure Jewish votes? That is as implausible as the first explanation. There were few Jews present, and every one of them was already on board as a conservative and as a Republican.

And what about explanation No. 3 — that the same passionate support of Jews and Israel would be expressed by the speakers and audience at Democrat Party rallies?

This, too, is equally implausible.

Indeed, we all had one opportunity to see how Democrats feel about Israel when we observed the Democratic delegates at the Democratic National Convention split down the middle when voting on whether to include mention of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the Democratic Party platform. 

But even without that spectacle, it takes an immense amount of self-deception to believe that the left is as passionately supportive of Israel and the Jewish people as is the American right.

Outside of the Muslim world, virtually all the world’s anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred comes from the left, while virtually all of the greatest supporters of the Jews and Israel are conservatives. The most pro-Israel world leader today is Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada: He is a conservative and a religious Christian. And the world leader most involved in activities to counter the Islamic and leftist worlds’ efforts to delegitimize Israel is the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, another conservative. Aznar founded the Friends of Israel Initiative, an international effort to “counter the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.”

The Initiative is open only to non-Jewish members. Aznar believes that if Jews were allowed to join his group, it would not be nearly as effective in its activities, so he has restricted membership to non-Jews only. Among the other founding members of his pro-Israel initiative is former United States ambassador to the United Nations — John Bolton, another conservative.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that 15 leaders of various Protestant churches called on Congress to reconsider giving aid to Israel. The lopsided anti-Israel letter so upset Jewish leaders, including liberal ones, that “the Jewish leaders responded to the action as a momentous betrayal and announced their withdrawal from a regularly scheduled Jewish-Christian dialogue meeting. … The Jewish leaders called the letter by the Christian groups ‘a step too far’ and an indication of ‘the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.’ ”

The churches were all liberal-left ones.

Meanwhile Evangelical and other conservative Christians regularly gather to honor Israel and the Jewish people in their churches.

At each of the rallies, Voight read a powerful statement he had written celebrating Israel and the Jewish people. No press, no cameras, no one to persuade. He just wanted to emote about his love for Jews and Israel before fellow Republicans and conservatives. In each case they gave him a standing ovation.

Is there a single other Academy Award-winning actor or actress reading love letters to Israel to non-Jews? Is there a single Democratic rally of mostly non-Jews where such support for Israel and the Jews is expressed?

I will end this column as I did my last:

None of this will matter to most American Jews. 


Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

Marty Kaplan: How to lose the next debate


President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3. Photo by REUTERS/Michael Reynolds

A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote a “martyk@jewishjournal.com.

In battleground state Ohio, Jewish voters favoring Obama handily, AJC poll shows


An American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish voters in Ohio, a battleground state, has the community favoring President Obama in similar numbers to polls elsewhere.

The survey released Wednesday by the AJC has Ohio's Jews favoring Obama 64 percent to 29 percent for Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate.

With a 6.4 percent margin of error, the numbers are commensurate with two other AJC polls last month that had Obama beating Romney 69 to 25 percent among Florida Jewish voters and 65 to 24 nationally.

As in those polls, the economy and health care topped voters' concerns.

The phone survey of 238 registered Jewish voters in Ohio was conducted Sept. 13-30 by QEV Analytics.

Dennis Kucinich decides to retire


Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) announced that he will not run for a House seat in Washington after losing the Democratic nomination for his seat in Ohio.

“After careful consideration and discussions with Elizabeth and my closest friends, I have decided that, at this time, I can best serve from outside the Congress,” Kucinich said this week in a statement posted on his website.

Kucinich, a perennial presidential candidate and former Cleveland mayor, will retire from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of his eighth term.

In March, following redistricting that placed his district in the same district with fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Kucinich lost the primary; however, he did flirt with the idea of running in an open seat race in Washington.

During his time in the U.S. House, Kucinich was a consistent critic of Israel.

He advocated increased U.S. pressure on Israel to make concessions toward peace.

He routinely voted against legislation backed by pro-Israel groups, most recently on Thursday, when he was one of 11 members to vote against a nonbinding resolution that rejected “containment” of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. The measure passed, with 401 members voting in favor.

In 2010, following Israel’s raid on the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla en route to Gaza, Kucinich,  in a letter to President Obama regarding the raid, condemned Israel for its “act of belligerence against Turkey.”

“The attack on the Mavi Marmara requires consequences for the Netanyahu Administration and for the State of Israel,” Kucinich wrote. “Those consequences must be dealt by the United States. They must be diplomatic and they must be financial.”

Kucinich was also a vocal critic of Iran sanctions, arguing that sanctions were “counterproductive” in 2009 and amount “to economic warfare against the Iranian people.”

Ohio charity removed from terrorist list


A now-defunct Muslim charity was removed from a U.S. government list of suspected terrorist organizations following a legal battle of more than four years.

KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development Inc., reached a settlement with the Treasury Department on Tuesday that would delete the Ohio-based group from the list and allow it to distribute nearly $1 million in funds raised for humanitarian causes, the Toledo Blade reported. KindHearts must remain dissolved, though its leaders can form a new organization.

The Toledo-based charity, which officially disbanded in February, essentially was shut down by federal agents in 2006 when the government froze its assets because of accusations that it funneled charitable money to terrorist groups, including the Hamas-affiliated Holy Land Foundation and the al-Qaida-affiliated Global Relief Foundation.

KindHearts filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Toledo in 2008 that challenged its inclusion on the list and asked that its assets be unfrozen.

The money raised by the group was collected originally for earthquake relief for Pakistan. Now it will be used to purchase food, school supplies and medicine for the needy in Pakistan, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, a charity leader told the newspaper.

Romney and Santorum in stalemate on Super Tuesday


Mitt Romney failed to land a knockout blow against rival Rick Santorum on “Super Tuesday,” raising the prospect of a drawn-out battle for the Republican presidential nomination between the party’s establishment and its grassroots conservatives.

Santorum and Romney were neck-and-neck in Ohio, the biggest prize of the 10 state contests held on Tuesday.

Romney won liberal-leaning Massachusetts and Vermont and cruised to victory in Virginia, where Santorum was not on the ballot.

Santorum scored convincing wins in conservative Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota.

Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia, while results from Idaho and Alaska were expected in the coming hours. More than 400 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination are at stake.

All eyes were on Ohio, a traditional bellwether state that could play an important role in deciding the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.

With 85 percent of the vote counted, Santorum and Romney were tied with 37 percent of the vote each. A Romney aide predicted victory and said votes from their strongholds had not been counted yet.

Exit polls showed that Ohio voters viewed Romney as more likely to defeat Obama, but thought Santorum was more sympathetic to average Americans’ concerns. Santorum won more support among middle-income voters who make up the bulk of the electorate.

“I think Santorum is believable, wholesome. When he talks, his ideas are genuine. I don’t put any stock in Romney,” said Lonnie Vestal, 36, a pastor from Mason, Ohio.

STRUGGLE TO CONNECT

Romney, who built a fortune of at least $200 million as a private-equity executive, has struggled to connect with conservatives and blue-collar voters. A convincing win in Ohio would have put many of those doubts to rest, but a loss could point to an extended, state-by-state battle.

Romney looked likely to extend his lead among delegates even if he does not win Ohio, as Santorum’s thinly staffed campaign failed to qualify for delegates in several swaths of Ohio. Under new rules designed to lengthen the nominating battle, most states at this stage of the process award delegates on a proportional basis.

“We’re counting up the delegates for the convention and it looks good,” Romney told supporters in his home state of Massachusetts.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, has won support of religious conservatives thanks to his opposition to gay marriage and his views on other hot-button social issues. His controversial comments about birth control and the role of religion have alienated moderate-leaning voters, and Romney has pelted him with negative ads.

“We’re going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole passel full of silver medals,” he told supporters. “We’ve won in the West, the Midwest in the South and we’re going to win across this country.”

Gingrich’s strategy of focusing on southern states did not pay off in Tennessee and Oklahoma, but he vowed to stay in the race after his Georgia win.

“There are lots of bunny rabbits to run through, I am the tortoise. I just take one step at a time,” Gingrich said.

Ron Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas known for his libertarian views, hopes to score his first win in Alaska.

In recent presidential campaigns, the Super Tuesday wave of primaries and caucuses has often settled the Republican race. But this year’s race is likely to stretch until April or May – or possibly until the last contest on June 26 – under new rules designed to attract more voters and boost enthusiasm.

But recent polls indicate the lengthy primary season may actually be alienating voters. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday showed that more voters view the candidates negatively than positively. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Monday found that 40 percent of voters view the Republican Party less favorably than they did before voting started in January.

Additional reporting by Sam Youngman in Massachusetts, Lily Kuo and Emily Stephenson in Washington and Colleen Jenkins in Atlanta; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Vicki Allen

Mitt Romney narrowly wins Ohio in Super Tuesday split


Super Tuesday Republican primaries were a race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Republicans selected a Jewish veteran for Ohio’s senate run, and Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for reelection.

Ten states went to the polls Tuesday in what is the biggest election day of primary season.

“Super Tuesday” usually helps determine a frontrunner, but Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won decisively in important southern states Oklahoma and Tennessee, and also picked up North Dakota.

Romney won his home state of Massachusetts and its neighbor, Vermont and as well as Idaho and Virginia.  Polls revealed Tuesday night that Romney narrowly defeated Santorum in Ohio.

The former Massachusetts governor faced only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the Virgina ballot; Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to place on the ballot.

Head to head with Romney in the state, Paul, a libertarian who rejects foreign assistance including for Israel, scored one of his most impressive outcomes this season: 40 percent to 60 Romney’s percent.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, keeping him in the race for now, although Santorum’s decisive wins in southern states Tennessee and Oklahoma seemed to dampen Gingrich’s prospect of a rally. It was too early to call Wyoming and Alaska, the ninth and tenth states voting on Tuesday.

The next primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13. 

Gingrich, Santorum and Romney each took time out of campaigning on Tuesday to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on its last day, Santorum in person at the convention center in Washington D.C. and Romney and Gingrich via satellite.

All three took shots at President Obama for not making more clear a military threat against Iran should it not stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

AIPAC did not invite Paul, who opposes increased confrontation with Iran.

In Ohio, Dennis Kucinich ended a colorful political career when redistricting in the state forced him into a primaries match with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio.).

Kucinich, elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, emerged from obscurity 20 years later when the fiscal policies that had driven him from office in 1979 were vindicated.

Elected to Congress in 1996, he became one of its most liberal voices and one of its most consistent critics of Israel.

At the other end of the state, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) lost her Cincinnati area seat to Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Iraq War vet who had challenged her from the eight—a signal that the GOP is not moderating, considering Schmidt’s own reputation had been one of combative conservatism.

Statewide, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel easily beat off five challengers to secure the GOP’s nomination for U.S. senator.

Mandel, 34, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and a Marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq, now faces Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Boehner talks to Chabad in Florida


Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, spoke to a Chabad synagogue in Florida.

Boehner, addressing the Shul of Bal Harbour on Sunday, said that his affection for Israel dates back to his days as a state lawmaker in Ohio, when he accepted a colleague’s invitation to visit the country.

Boehner “pledged to ensure that under his watch the trust between Israel and America is maintained to the benefit of our mutual defense,” according to a release from American Friends of Lubavitch, which organized Boehner’s visit.

“He additionally spoke on the importance of education in society (he was Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee) and noted how he is proud to have on his team the highest ranking Jewish official in US history, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.),” the release said.

Republicans and Democrats are heavily focused on Florida, a swing state with a substantial elecotral vote bloc, in this election year.

Survey of Cleveland Jewry finds stable population


A population study of the greater Cleveland area found that the Jewish population has remained relatively stable over the last 15 years.

The 2011 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study, the first comprehensive survey since 1996, found 80,800 Jews living in the greater Cleveland area, down slightly from 81,500 in 1996.

Among the findings:

* 62 percent of married couples are inmarried and 38 percent intermarried;

* 89 percent of children being raised Jewish have had some sort of Jewish education, as well as 43 percent of children being raised “Jewish and something else”;

* the Orthodox community grew by 2,200;

* 23 percent of Jewish Clevelanders are children up to the age of 17;

* 36 percent of Jewish households are “just managing” financially and another 5 percent can’t make ends meet.

The study also found that the community did not spread out geographically as much as was thought anecdotally.

“We are a significant Jewish community in North America, not only qualitatively, but numerically as well,” said the study’s chair, Enid Rosenberg. “We have the collective power to have an impact on making the world a better place for all people. This is our mission, and we are poised now more than ever to carry it out.”

The study was conducted by the professional research firm Jewish Policy and Action Research, an alliance between Ukeles Associates Inc. and Social Science Research Solutions. Together they have conducted 22 similar Jewish community population studies, including recent or current studies in Baltimore, New York and Chicago.

The survey employed random digit dialing of land lines and cellphones. Survey respondents in the 1,044 Jewish households that were the subject of extensive interviews after a short screening questionnaire were self-identified as Jewish.

Ohio Jewish retirement community opens elder abuse shelter


A Jewish retirement community in Ohio has opened what it is calling the state’s first shelter for abused elderly.

The Shalom Center for Elder Abuse Prevention opened Jan. 1 in the nonprofit Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason, near Cincinnati.

Abused seniors from four counties — Hamilton, Warren, Butler and Clermont — will be allowed an emergency stay of 90 to 120 days, during which they will have access to the community’s activities as well as medical care, the center said in a news release.

“As a faith-based organization, our commitment to the community and to our elders reaches far beyond our walls,” Carol Silver Elliott, Cedar Village’s CEO and president, said in a statement. “This is our obligation and part of our social and community responsibility.”

According to a 2004 study published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, 2 percent to 10 percent of elderly have endured some kind of abuse, with the range due to studies using different definitions of abuse and survey methods.

Cedar Village is providing the seed money for the center and has applied for grant proposals.