Canadian Jewish Congress head running for office

The head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, announced he is running for public office.

Farber, who worked for the CJC for 27 years and has been its CEO since 2005, announced he is taking a leave of absence to run as a Liberal candidate in October’s provincial elections in Ontario.

Farber is running in the heavily Jewish district of Thornhill, north of Toronto, where he will face the Progressive Conservative party’s incumbent, Peter Shurman, a Jewish one-time broadcast executive.

Farber already has been criticized for allying himself with the ruling Liberals, who are steadfastly against any public funding of private and religious schools in Ontario.

Over the years, Farber and CJC have become synonymous with vigorous calls for funding of Jewish schools. The previous Conservative government provided a historic tax credit for parents of children in faith-based schools, which Ontario’s current Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty cancelled upon coming to office.

Funding is “probably something the premier and I don’t agree on, but on virtually everything else we are in agreement,” Farber said. “I will try to march on those issues where
we are in full agreement and continue to advocate on those issues I still feel strongly about.”

Shurman told the Canadian Jewish News he thought Farber is “a good guy” and wished him luck, but said he wasn’t concerned “in the slightest” by his rival’s entry into politics.

Nation World Briefs

Rebbe Commemorated at White House
A commemoration of the death of the Lubavitch rebbe culminated in a White House briefing. Leaders of both parties in Congress, as well as top Bush administration officials, attended the two-day tribute to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died June 12, 1994. The theme was education, and speakers included Elie Wiesel; U.S. Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff; and Australia’s defense minister. Chertoff and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, who are both Jewish, attended the White House briefing Wednesday morning. About 30 diplomats joined Lubavitch emissaries to their countries at the events. Thousands of people gathered at the rebbe’s grave in New York on the anniversary of his death.

Tourists Attacked in Mea Shearim
Fifty pro-Israel Christian tourists were attacked June 28 in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, according to reports in The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. The tourists, who arrived decked out in orange T-shirts that read “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” were seemingly identified as Christians by Charedi residents of the neighborhood, 100 of whom then gathered in the vicinity of the visitors and proceeded to hit them. Police broke up the attack, which left three tourists and one police officer with minor injuries. Israeli authorities have made two arrests but are waiting for the tourists to press charges before proceeding. — Ali Austerlitz, Contributing Writer

Kosher Suppliers Subpoenaed
Federal subpoenas were served against several kosher meat suppliers in the United States in connection with an antitrust investigation. The New York Jewish Week reported that AgriProcessors, in Postville, Iowa, is among those hit with subpoenas. The subpoenas could be focusing on collusion in the kosher industry. The Conservative movement currently is investigating complaints about working conditions at AgriProcessors, the country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. After an animal-rights group produced an undercover video of conditions at the plant in 2004, investigators with the U.S. Agriculture Department determined that some plant employees had violated humane slaughter regulations.

Darfur Postcard Campaign Reaches 1 Million
The Million Voices for Darfur campaign has reached its goal of collecting 1 million postcards against the genocide in Sudan. The postcards, which will be delivered to the White House and Capitol Hill, ask President Bush to “support a stronger multinational force to protect the people of Darfur.” The campaign has been a project of the Save Darfur Coalition, the group of 150 faith-based advocacy and humanitarian organizations responsible for April’s Darfur rally in Washington. The coalition now is planning a second major rally this September in New York City. Despite the signing of a peace agreement last month, the systematic rape, torture and killing of black Africans by government-backed Arab militias continues in Darfur, where some 400,000 have been killed since 2003.

Jewish Astronaut Asks for Ramon Mementos
A Jewish astronaut asked Ilan Ramon’s widow for mementos from the late Israeli astronaut to take on a shuttle mission in 2007. Garrett Reisman, 38, will fly to the International Space Station in 15 months. He underwent training and became friends with Ramon, who died in the Columbia shuttle crash in 2003. At Rona Ramon’s invitation, Reisman attended a ceremony Tuesday in Rehovot, Israel, naming the Kaplan Medical Center’s new emergency medicine department in Ilan Ramon’s memory. “It was so incredibly tragic,” Reisman said. “Ilan had a great sense of humor and worked very hard to represent not only Israel but every Jew in the world.”

Technion Tops Israeli University List
The Technion was named Israel’s best university. A poll conducted by the Israeli Student Union, released this week, put the Haifa technological institute at the top of 35 schools of higher learning in the Jewish state. Often described as Israel’s version of MIT, the Technion was followed by Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The study was conducted on the basis of 56 criteria, including the employment rates of alumni and quality of on-campus life.

Ashkelon Named Politest Israeli City
Ashkelon is Israel’s politest city, according to a study. Ma’ariv published a study Wednesday in which Israel’s biggest cities were scored on residents’ responses to basic etiquette tests such as holding doors for women or providing instructions to motorists. Ashkelon came out top, followed by Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Lowest on the list was Rishon le-Zion. According to Ma’ariv, Ashkelon’s average score an 86 percent responsiveness rate is higher than that of New York City in a recent courtesy test carried out by Reader’s Digest.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


‘Top Gun’ Lawyer Aims to Aid Likud

The latest, and certainly most colorful, addition to the ranks of the local Likud leadership is Beverly Hills lawyer Myles L. Berman.

He is better known to citizens facing drunk driving charges — and to connoisseurs of advertising slogans — as The Top Gun DUI Defense Attorney, but these days, it’s the defense of Israel that is uppermost on his mind.

Last June, fed up with what he considers the failure of established organizations to involve the American Jewish and Israeli expatriate communities, he founded the Beverly Hills Chapter of the American Friends of Likud.

So far, he has recruited 11 upscale families, drawn primarily from the Iranian Jewish community, to which his wife, Mitra belongs. The members make up in financial clout what they lack in numbers, with a combined worth of over $1 billion, according to Berman.

Born into a strongly Democratic family but later a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Berman, at 51, is a man of strong physique and opinions.

“I am fed up with intermarriage and with rabbis who reach out to gay and intermarried couples,” he said during an interview in his spacious Sunset Boulevard office.

A member of Sinai Temple, Berman fears that “to some extent, rabbis and lay leaders are unable to instill Jewish identity” into their constituents.

Currently, Berman is focusing his considerable energies on two primary issues:

One is to assure the election from America of a large pro-Likud slate for the upcoming quadrennial Congress of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), dubbed “The Parliament of the Jewish People,” and his own election to the No. 5 spot on the slate.

He is concerned, he said, that so few American Jews realize the importance of June elections for the WZO Congress, which plays a major role in determining relations between Israel and the Diaspora, the running of the Jewish Agency and the dispersal of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Berman’s second immediate goal is to persuade the Israeli government and Knesset to allow Israeli citizens living abroad to vote in Israeli elections.

“It matters to both Israel and American Jewry what the expatriates say and do,” he observed.

Berman has “grabbed [the two issues] in my teeth,” he said. With Berman that means putting his money and advertising savvy behind the effort. Indeed, his penchant for publicity elicits knowing smiles even from fellow Likudniks.

Berman is laying out $50,000 of his own money to place his messages on Israeli cable TV programs popular with Israeli expats, and in the Anglo-Jewish and Hebrew-language press in the United States.

“I hope the efforts will further my ultimate aim of bridging the gap between Israeli leaders and American Jews,” Berman said.

Any Jew over 18 is eligible to vote for delegates to the Congress of the World Zionist Organization online or via mail by Feb. 15. For details, go to or phone (888) 657-8850. The Congress will meet June 19-22 in Jerusalem.


Capitol Hill Gains

One influential Jewish representative was defeated, one venerated Jewish senator retired and the number of Jewish Republicans in the House may have tripled as a result of this week’s elections.Overall, the Jewish presence in Congress will increase, with several new faces in the House of Representatives.

The 107th Congress will have at least 27 Jewish representatives and at least nine senators. The 106th Congress had 23 Jewish representatives and 11 senators.

Two House races in which Jewish challengers were attempting to unseat incumbents were still too close to call Wednesday morning, as the nation waited to see whether Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) would become the first-ever Jewish vice president.

If Lieberman does not make it to the White House, he will return to the Senate, ensuring a Jewish “minyan” in the upper chamber.

But a Democratic Jewish colleague from Lieberman’s home state, Rep. Sam Gejdenson, will not be returning to Congress. Gejdenson lost his House seat and the important standing as the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee when he was unseated Tuesday by Republican Rob Simmons.

Gejdenson has long been viewed as a friend to the Jewish community and particularly strong on Israel issues.

Jews are losing another longtime friend on Capitol Hill with the retirement of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who stepped down after 18 years. His successor, Democrat Jon Corzine, who poured millions of his own dollars into the campaign, can thank the majority of the state’s 600,000 Jews who helped vote him into office.

Two other Jewish senators up for reelection – Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) – both won.

Republican Jewish numbers in the House, meanwhile, may increase from one to two or three, depending on whether Republican Dick Zimmer succeeds in unseating incumbent Democrat Rush Holt and regaining the seat Zimmer once held.

Zimmer was originally declared the winner in New Jersey’s 12th District, but by noon Wednesday, the race was still too close to call.

The new Jewish Republican in the House is Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) was reelected.

New Democratic Jewish members of the House are Susan Davis and Adam Schiff of California, as well as Steve Israel of New York, who was the regional director for American Jewish Congress on Long Island in the 1980s.

Jane Harman (D-Calif.) returns to the House seat she once held after defeating Republican incumbent Steven Kuykendall.

Another race, in Florida’s 22nd District, was still too close to call Wednesday morning. There, 20-year incumbent Republican Clay Shaw was trying to stave off a challenge from Elaine Bloom, a Jewish Democrat. The bitter campaign had both candidates hurling accusations at each other and vying for the votes of the more than 100,000 Jews in the South Florida district.

The district is 40 to 45 percent Jewish, and both Bloom and Shaw have strong relationships with the community, said Luis Fleischman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Palm Beach County.

Some races were watched closely because the Jewish vote could have made a difference, while others highlighted a particular candidate’s positions that either turned on or turned off Jewish sensibilities. Among the results from key Senate races are:

In New York, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton defeated Republican Rick Lazio. After a grueling campaign, the first lady rode to victory by an estimated 56 percent to 44 percent. But Jews, who made up 14 percent of overall voters, were deeply split.

Estimates were that anywhere between 53 percent and 58 percent of Jews voted for Clinton amid lingering concern over her controversial kiss last year of Suha Arafat, the wife of the Palestinian Authority president, and her support of a Palestinian state. But Lazio may have tried too hard with his charges that Clinton had ties to Muslim groups advocating terrorism.

In California’s 27th District, Democrat Adam Schiff won a decisive victory over Republican incumbent Jim Rogan, after the candidates waged what was one of the most expensive House campaigns in history. Over $9 million later, Schiff beat out Rogan, one of the House managers during at the Clinton impeachment trial, by 54 to 43 percent.

In Nevada, Republican John Ensign defeated Jewish Democrat Ed Bernstein. A well-known trial attorney, Bernstein had been down more than 30 points and then pulled within four points of his opponent, but it was not enough. Nevada is a conservative state, and Bernstein’s liberal message did not play well, as he lost 56 to 40 percent. The open Democratic seat is a major loss to Senate Democrats, who were hoping for a gain in numbers.

In Colorado’s 6th District, Ken Toltz, a Jewish Democrat, went up against Republican incumbent Tom Tancredo but did not manage to unseat him. Tancredo beat the Jewish businessman 54 to 43 percent, as Tancredo’s conservatism appeared not to give him problems. Gun control had become a major issue in the campaign particularly because this district includes the town of Columbine, the scene of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

In New Jersey, Democrat Corzine decisively beat Republican Bob Franks. For many Jews, the idea of anyone replacing Lautenberg, who was venerated by the Jewish community, will be tough. But Corzine spent $60 million on the campaign and reached out to a significant portion of the state’s 600,000 plus Jews. In the end, 72 percent of Jewish voters backed him.

In Michigan, Democrat Debbie Stabenow defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Spencer Abraham. In a very close race only declared Wednesday morning, Stabenow finally dealt Abraham, the only Arab American senator, a defeat.

Abraham was accused of running a lackluster campaign, while the two-term representative Stabenow’s health care ideas may have resonated with voters. The much-touted Arab-American voting bloc may not have come out strong enough for Abraham. Michigan has more than 100,000 Jews, and over 300,000 Arab Americans.

Among the House races involving Jewish candidates: In Illinois’ 10th District, Lauren Beth Gash, a Jewish Democrat, lost to Mark Kirk, a Republican. It was a close race for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Rep. John Porter, who was well regarded by the 50,000-strong Jewish community on Chicago’s North Shore.

Gash, who was an active member of the Jewish delegation to the State Assembly and serves on the regional board of the American Jewish Congress, tried to reach out to Jews, but she fell short.

Kirk may have enjoyed some advantage because he worked for Porter, knows the Jewish community well and is adept with issues of importance to the community, such as aid to Israel and immigration, said Jay Tcath, director of the Chicago Jewish Community Relations Council.

In Virginia’s 7th District, Republican Eric Cantor defeated Democrat Warren A. Stewart by a wide margin. Cantor, a Jewish real estate executive, was heavily favored to win the seat of retiring 10-term Republican Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr.

In New Jersey’s 3rd District, Democrat Susan Bass Levin gave Republican Jim Saxton a good run, but Saxton ended up winning by 58 to 42 percent. Saxton, a 16-year incumbent, beat Levin, the popular Jewish mayor of Cherry Hill, despite her work to get support of the area’s 30,000 Jews. Levin apparently did not boost her name recognition enough outside her home city.

Jews in the New Senate

Following is a listing of Jews who will serve in the next Senate. (An asterisk indicates senators who were elected or reelected Tuesday.) Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) was also reelected and will serve if he does not become vice president.

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) * Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) * Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)