March 20, 2019

Rep. Adam Schiff Discusses Israel at Temple Emanuel

Congressman Adam Schiff in conversation with Rabbi Sarah Bassin. Photo by Aly Blue Headshots

Although many view Democrats as having turned away from Israel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has been a consistent voice of support for the Jewish state. “The Jewish state is held to a completely different standard than any of its neighbors,” the Jewish congressman said during a March 19 discussion at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH) with TEBH Rabbi Sarah Bassin.

Schiff represents California’s 28th district and chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible collusion between President Donald Trump and the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign. During the Trump presidency, Schiff has become one of the most prolific faces in the Democratic Party.

Thus, the night of his appearance, people turned out in droves at the Beverly Hills synagogue to hear the 58-year-old congressman. Closed-circuit TVs were set up near the rear of the sanctuary for those seated far from the bimah as Bassin kicked off the evening by highlighting her synagogue’s advocacy efforts around anti-gun violence. Speaking about the recent mass shooting at the mosques in New Zealand, she asked Schiff his thoughts about the epidemic of gun violence.

Schiff said the United States was reaching a “tipping point” regarding gun policy thanks in part to the activism of the Parkland, Fla., students who experienced a mass shooting in 2018 resulting in 17 deaths.

Would that lead to gun safety legislation passed by the U.S. House and the Senate and signed by the president? Schiff said he could only hope so.

“I refuse to accept this is the best we can do,” Schiff said.

During the wide-ranging conversation, Schiff spoke about the dramatic changes social media have brought on society, not all positive. He compared the advent of the internet to the printing press, adding that people’s ability to have access to instantaneous information from their phones, coupled with social media, have had “unintended consequences,” including contributing to a society where “lies travel far faster than truth.”

He was speaking, of course, from personal experience. In his role on the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff has investigated how the Russians have used the internet to spread misinformation and sow division in the U.S.

The current world is one of “deepfakes,” he said, where the tech-savvy can take someone’s face, place that person in a video and have that person make statements they never said. For an outsider, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish between real and fabricated, he said.

“There is no easy fix for this,” Schiff said.

He spoke about global authoritarianism and dangers posed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The very idea of liberal democracy around the world is at risk,” Schiff said.

And Trump hasn’t done his part to remind the world that the U.S. is a force of good against evil, Schiff said. He expressed some of his deepest frustrations not with the president, however, but with the Republicans who haven’t taken a stronger stance against Trump.

“I think when this chapter of history is written, some of the most damning language will be for Republicans who did nothing when democracy was under attack,” Schiff said.

Asked by Bassin what message Schiff would like from the Democrats in the 2020 presidential election, Schiff spoke about the economy. He said that although employment figures are strong, people are not earning enough to keep up with the high cost of living.

The audience’s reception to Schiff was warm, with Bassin frequently reminding them to hold their applause until the end of the event — outside the synagogue, however, not so much. As people waited in line to enter the synagogue for the discussion, a protest of about 20 people on the opposite side of the street denounced Schiff’s stance on child vaccinations.

“Vaccines are not kosher,” a sign plastered to the side of a parked car said.

Recently, Schiff urged Google, Facebook and Amazon to remove content from their platforms promoting misinformation about vaccinations. He has also introduced a resolution in the U.S. House declaring that vaccinations save lives.

Bassin denounced the protestors at the start of her discussion with Schiff. She said that although Judaism values minority opinions, those who deny their children vaccinations are wrong.

Schiff took a more humorous approach, saying he was accustomed to demonstrators targeting him for his positions.

“I’m trying to branch out from the pro-Trump people who picket me often,” he said.

 

Schiff Addresses Trump, Anti-Semitism, Israel and 2020

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Photo by Lorin Granger

Although Rep. Adam Schiff was first elected to represent his Southern California district in Congress in 2000, and has been re-elected nine times, he didn’t become a household name until President Donald Trump took office in 2016.  

The 58-year-old Jewish congressman who represents the 28th Congressional District, was thrust into the national spotlight as the Democrats’ Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, where he struggled against the committee’s GOP leadership to conduct inquiries into Russian interference in the last presidential election. In January, he became the committee chair after Democrats took control of the House following the November midterm elections.

Over the past two years, Schiff has regularly appeared on cable news to talk about the importance of investigating the Russians’ interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved with it. As a result, he has become a target for Trump, who on Twitter has called him a “political hack,” “sleazy” and even “Little Adam Schitt” — a moniker the president later claimed was a misspelling. 

“I would say my typical day over the last two years has been anything but typical of the preceding decade in office,” Schiff said during a recent telephone interview with the Journal, ahead of his March 19 talk at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. “Going from minority to chair hasn’t changed the length of my days, which are already really long, or the nature of my work, except that it allows me to be in the driver’s seat of our investigation, rather than a passenger protesting that the driver isn’t serious about getting to the truth. So we now have the opportunity to bring in witnesses that we didn’t before, we have the ability to compel answers we couldn’t before, but we also have an adversary in the Oval Office determined to attack us and obstruct us in every way.”

Schiff said he is determined to have the committee’s investigation leave no stone unturned.

“The evidence of collusion has been hiding in plain sight for a long time,” he said. “The only way you can avoid seeing it is if you are willfully unwilling to look at the plain evidence.”

Schiff said he draws on his Jewish values in his work.

“My religious and cultural upbringing has instilled in me a respect for our institutions, a respect for fundamental decency and integrity, and appreciation of how much character matters,” he said. “And this is why I am so aghast at not only the occupant of the Oval Office, but how his fundamental lack of decency and morality has affected the whole of government.”

“There have been a lot of stresses and strains on the bipartisan nature of support for Israel. I think this is an enduring challenge we have yet to meet.”

— Rep. Adam Schiff

On Feb. 26, the House Intelligence Committee convened its first open hearing under Schiff’s leadership, during which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among others, testified about the rise of authoritarianism.

“There’s a real rise of autocracy around the world,” Schiff said, “and I think that my Jewish background has really made me keenly aware of history, of the dangers of authoritarianism, of the toxic mix of economic disruption and a xenophobic brand of populism, where populist leaders can blame ‘the other’ for any economic distress. Jews have often been the most vulnerable victims of authoritarianism, but it is a danger for any minority.”

It’s also why, Schiff said, bipartisan support for Israel is more important than ever.

“We have to make every effort to ensure the U.S.-Israel relationship is nonpartisan, that it is strong, irrespective of who is in the Oval Office or the prime minister’s office,” he said. “And there have been a lot of stresses and strains on the bipartisan nature of support for Israel. I think this is an enduring challenge we have yet to meet.”

Schiff made these comments to the Journal on March 7, hours before the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.

“I think [the resolution] properly identifies a number of anti-Semitic tropes and helps educate the public about the history of them and why they are pernicious,” he said. “I think it’s an appropriate response to the debate we’ve been having about a number of comments made the past few weeks.”

The House drafted the resolution following anti-Israel statements made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The ensuing controversy prompted Trump to remark that Jews and supporters of Israel were leaving the Democratic Party because of such comments. Schiff called Trump’s criticism of Omar cynical and hypocritical.

“I think the president is trying to exploit this situation for partisan purposes, which is singularly unhelpful after his comments equating people on both sides of the Nazi march in Charlottesville,” he said. “I don’t think he is in a position to weigh in on this credibly.”  

Schiff also discussed his concerns regarding the relationship between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coupled with Netanyahu’s aligning with a far-right, racist party before Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

“I am concerned that the prime minister’s embrace of these far-right parties is only going to further alienate a segment of the American-Jewish community, not to mention progressives outside the Jewish community,” Schiff said. 

While Schiff is now a player on the national stage, he’s still a champion of local issues. 

Earlier this month he introduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. If passed, the legislation would add more than 191,000 acres of mountain lands bordering the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo valleys to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and increase residents’ access to protected nature and wildlife in Los Angeles County. 

Schiff also recently urged Facebook, Google and Amazon to remove content promoting misinformation about vaccinations from their platforms.

“So, on all these issues, these are very high priorities for my constituents and obviously quite far afield from the Russia investigation,” he said. 

Regarding the upcoming 2020 presidential election, Schiff said the Democrats’ chances of unseating Trump were strong, but he declined to endorse any candidates.

“I think we’re going to have a very talented field running,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with my home-state senator, Kamala Harris. I think she is doing a phenomenal job. I’m looking to hold off as long as I can to make a judgment.”

He also declined to speculate on whether he would one day seek higher office.

“It’s always flattering to be asked the question, ‘Will you run for president?’ I’ve had a lot of those questions over the last year or two,” he said. “People are urging me to run and people are urging me not to run because they want me to remain focused on my day job. In terms of what is in my future, the honest answer is, I really don’t know.”

March 22, 2019

Jewish Fundraiser Hosts Schiff

Congressman Adam Schiff addresses the crowd gathered in Ada Horwich’s backyard Photo courtesy of JDCA.

Ada Horwich’s Beverly Hills backyard was a sea of Democratic blue, from the tablecloths to the napkins next to the buffet spread. And many of her home’s windows proudly displayed blue 2016 “Hillary for President” stickers.

“The theme of today is blue,” Horwich, development chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), told the close to 90 invited guests. “That’s because we’re going to turn red to blue this November.”

The May 6 luncheon was a JDCA event held to discuss campaign plans and mobilize the local Jewish community to help Democrats reclaim the House of Representatives in the November midterm election. The special guest and main speaker was Congressman Adam Schiff.

Founded in 2017 by former Florida Congressman Ron Klein, JDCA is a political organization that actively promotes Democratic officeholders, candidates and legislative policies that align with its members’ Jewish values and support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

“Republicans, for the most part, are not standing up to the president and are not fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities of representing us as Americans,” Klein told the gathering.

JDCA Founder Ron Klein discusses the midterm elections. Photo courtesy of JDCA.

Contending that damage is being done to the country every day by the Donald Trump administration and its GOP supporters in Congress, Klein said it was imperative that either the House or Senate be returned to Democratic control come November. His talk focused mainly on Congress, where a net change of 23 seats this November would give Democrats the House majority. Referencing JDCA research, he identified 43 congressional districts with at least 10,000 Jews living in them.

“Other groups will appeal to African-American voters and Hispanic voters, but our focus will be specifically on the Jewish community,” he said. “The belief is that Jewish voters are good voters, but we drop off in the midterms like everybody else.”

Klein said he believes Jewish voters can impact close races. He cited the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where Democrat Conor Lamb won the seat by a mere 657 votes against his Republican rival Rick Saccone — despite the fact that Trump won the district handily in the 2016 general election.

Klein said that in the lead-up to the special election JDCA identified 11,000 registered Jewish Democrats in the area and did extensive outreach to them.

“I’m not going to tell you that we were the only ones that caused the election to go that way, but we contributed to that,” he said. “When you have that kind of margin, it’s clear that every vote counts.”

Klein later told the Journal that JDCA is planning future luncheons around the country, including in Chicago and New York, to drum up support ahead of the midterms and to meet the organization’s $2 million fundraising goal to fund more outreach.

“The impact we’re capable of having depends on the donations we get,” he said. “That will dictate our resources and bandwidth.”

Robert Meadow, a Democratic pollster with Lake Research Group, told attendees the message of “every vote counts” needs to reach the Jewish community throughout Southern California. Among the districts he mentioned was the 25th, which has a 5 percent Jewish population and includes Palmdale, Simi Valley and Lancaster.

He also cited the 45th and 48th districts, which cover parts of Orange County. Both have a voter base that’s 4 percent Jewish.

“Those are also very competitive districts where [Hillary Clinton] won, that are currently represented by Republicans where we have excellent Democratic challengers,” he said. “The Jewish population can make a huge difference.”

Congressman Schiff, a central player in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling, helped drive home the message of the importance of the November elections.

“I know you’ve heard many times that this is the most important midterm,” he said. “Well, this time it is. It’s not hyperbole.”

“As Jews, we should be as concerned as anyone about Russia’s actions as they fit into the context of a global move towards authoritarianism.” — Congressman Adam Schiff

Schiff said Jews should be “as concerned as anyone” about how Russia’s actions fit into the context of a global move toward authoritarianism. Still, he added, referencing avowed neo-Nazis running for public office in the United States and recent attacks on a free press, the threat from outside powers like Russia is “less than the threat from within.”

He said taking back either the House or the Senate come November is “the only way to put a check on what’s going on until that time comes when we can replace the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Other  prominent community members in attendance included former L.A. City Controller Wendy Gruel, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and state Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern. Attorney Jesse Gabriel was also on hand to chat with guests ahead of his June 3 runoff in a special election to replace Matt Dababneh for the state Assembly’s 45th District seat, which represents much of the west San Fernando Valley.

Scott Racine, 67, a retired tax lawyer who lives in Gabriel’s district, told the Journal this was his first JDCA event. A lifelong Democrat, he came to see Congressman Schiff, an old acquaintance. He left encouraged by JDCA’s vision.

“I don’t want to get myself ‘kinehora,’ but this has me feeling optimistic about the upcoming midterms,” he said, invoking the Yiddish phrase that translates to “not the evil eye,” meaning essentially not to jinx. “There will be a lot of tight races,” he added, “and every little bit counts.”

Trump Attacks ‘Little Adam Schiff’ in Tweet. Here Are 5 Things to Know About Schiff.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

President Trump took to Twitter on Monday to launch an attack against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) as the House Democrats are preparing to release a memo in response to the Nunes memo:

Here was Schiff’s response:

Here are five things to know about Schiff.

1. Schiff’s district encompasses part of the Los Angeles area. According to a Journal cover story on Schiff in April 2017, Schiff’s district “extends from West Hollywood to the eastern edge of Pasadena and from Echo Park to the Angeles National Forest.” Schiff has served in Congress since 2001 and used to be a member of Glendale’s Temple Sinai.

2. Schiff is considered to be a moderate by some, others view him as a deeply partisan congressman. A 2006 profile of Schiff in The Hill described the congressman as “a moderate, a compromiser, a man who chose law school over med school because he thought it would give him greater opportunities to serve the public.” However, National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg tweeted, “I don’t think people appreciate Adam Schiff’s incredible talent to sound above the fray, non partisan and more in sorrow than in anger, while being hyper partisan. He’s better than Harry Reid was and is almost as good as Tom Daschle.”

Conservative Review has concluded that Schiff has voted with conservatives only 12% of the time during his House tenure.

3. Schiff has constantly hyped the narrative of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. For instance, Schiff told CNN in December, “The Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help and the president made full use of that help, and that is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.”

Schiff’s hyping of Trump-Russia collusion combined with his status as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee has caused him to become a frequent guest on cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, but his critics argue that Schiff has been unable to provide sufficient evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.

4. Schiff has constantly railed against the Nunes memo. Schiff argued vociferously against the memo being released, arguing that it would harm national security, although there is nothing in the memo to suggest that. Over the weekend, Schiff argued that the memo being released could result in more Oklahoma City bombings.

5. Schiff’s critics have accused him of leaking false information to the media and being a partisan hypocrite. Mollie Hemingway listed numerous examples of this at The Federalist, including an anonymously sourced Daily Beast story falsely claiming that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) snuck into the White House in the dead of night to obtain documents showing evidence of surveillance by the Obama administration – the same way Schiff had described it. Schiff has denied accusations of being a leaker.

Additionally, in 2013 Schiff argued for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reforms on Russian television, causing some to accuse him of hypocrisy for repeating a Kremlin talking point then, yet is now quick to hype Trump-Russia collusion. Others have noted that Schiff doesn’t appear to be interested in verifying the Steele dossier that is alleged to have been the basis of a FISA warrant against former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.

The untold story of DACA’s Israeli recipients

Picture in your mind a “Dreamer,” an immigrant brought to the United States as a child and now living without documentation in this country. Chances are you’re not picturing an Israeli. But here in Los Angeles, young undocumented Jews from Israel are among those facing the looming threat of deportation.

President Donald Trump’s administration recently rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, with a six-month delay to provide time for Congress to plan a path for DACA recipients to gain permanent legal status. Whether that pronouncement sticks remains unclear. 

After a meeting with Democratic leaders and a swirl of messages out of the White House, some of them contradictory, Trump said on Sept. 14 he supports legislation to protect the Dreamers, and further consideration of a wall on the southern border would be done separately.

The policy was created during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012 as a temporary reprieve to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Trump’s Sept. 5 announcement has been roundly criticized by Democrats, many Republicans and Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jewish organizations.

There are an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients, the vast majority of them Latino, with 79 percent coming from Mexico. More than a quarter of the total live in California. At a Sept. 10 rally, hundreds of pro-immigration demonstrators gathered in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, many holding signs written in Spanish and waving Mexican flags.

Israel isn’t among the two dozen countries where most DACA recipients originate. But for various reasons — often having to do with fraudulent legal advice given to their parents — these young Jews are caught in a legal limbo, unable to receive federal student aid or travel outside the country.

While their status is identical to that of other Dreamers, they are different in subtle ways, as their individual stories suggest. For example, because the number of Latinos facing deportation is so much larger, they tend to feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and anxieties with one another.

Not so for Jewish Dreamers. For many, their status is an embarrassing stigma, something they would just as soon hide from even their closest friends. 

On the other hand, because Jews are often lighter-skinned than Latinos, they tend not to be subjected to the stares and derision from citizens who support the administration’s decision to eliminate DACA protections.

Furthermore, Jewish Dreamers tend to be better off financially than those from other countries, a distinction that provides securities — even if temporary — that others might not have.

In the end, however, all Dreamers are equal in the eyes of a government policy that would remove them unless a change is forthcoming from a Congress that is deeply divided on immigration issues.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), one of more than a dozen Jewish House members, is among those who favor continuing protections for all Dreamers, including those from Israel.

“The history of the Jewish people is characterized by migration in search of safety and a better future, and I believe our own experience teaches us to empathize with the Dreamers, although relatively few are Jewish or came here from places like Israel,” he said in an email to the Journal. “The administration would treat these young people as unwanted guests in the only country they know. But I view Dreamers as part of the fabric of our nation and believe Congress must act to ensure these young people can continue to live and work in the United States without fear.”

Below are stories of a few undocumented Israeli immigrants. They agreed to share details of their lives with the Journal under the condition that their last names not be used, and in some cases, that their first names be changed to protect their identities. Although the specifics of their cases differ, they share a feeling of being Americans first and foremost, and face an uncertain future.

‘I don’t even remember what Israel looks like’

Bar, a 16-year-old high school junior in the San Fernando Valley, has known for her entire life that she was undocumented.

“It did suck not to be able to go to Israel and visit when all my friends would go,” she said. “All my family is in Israel.”

A resident of Sherman Oaks, her parents arrived on a tourist visa in 2001, when she was 6 months old. Their visas expired a year after they arrived.

“We were hoping we could fix everything before becoming illegal. We had other people giving us suggestions and it was wrong … bad advice, and we didn’t have the money at that point to fix it,” her father, Ron, said.

Ron ran a clothing factory in downtown Los Angeles and insisted on manufacturing in the U.S. but had to shutter the facility because of the high cost of labor.

“We’re paying all the debts that society is asking to pay, and we’re getting zero benefit out of it,” he said.

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like.” — Bar

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes but can’t collect benefits. He now runs a printing and packaging company that outsources to Mexico and China.

Bar’s mother, Karen, works for a catering business, serving and cooking food for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and other big events.

Bar joined the DACA program late last year. Some of her friends know she’s undocumented and hope one day she’ll be able to join them on trips to Israel and Mexico. She took a driver education course and hopes to get a license soon but might need to apply for an AB 60 license, available for California residents regardless of immigration status, if her DACA status expires.

She’s been a member of the Tzofim movement (Israel’s scouts program) since seventh grade. Her younger sister and brother are scouts, too. They were born in the U.S. and are citizens.

Bar counsels younger kids in Tzofim. “They all tell me before summer starts, ‘We’re going to Israel,’ and I ask them how is that. Even the youngest kids tell me about their experiences in Israel and their family. I’m very excited to be able to go,” she said.

Bar works for a birthday party business where she paints little kids’ faces, dances with them and dresses up as characters from the popular Israeli children‘s show “Yuval Hamebulbal,” a dinosaur and a fire-fighting dog. After she graduates from high school, she expects to go to community college and transfer to a four-year university to study business and fashion design.

If the DACA program is canceled, putting her at risk of deportation, she said it would be “really, really upsetting.”

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like,” she said.

‘This affects kids who are pretty much American in every way’

Eli grew up in Beverly Hills and describes himself as “a typical Persian-Jewish kid” in all ways but one: He’s in the country illegally. He was born in Tel Aviv and came here in 1991, when he was 8 years old. His parents overstayed their visa when their green card application was denied.

He earned a degree from UCLA, paying his tuition out of his own pocket, and hoped to go to law school but knew he wouldn’t be allowed to practice. He struggled for years with low-paying jobs.

“A soon as I got my DACA [status] in December 2013, three months later I got hired by a Fortune 500 company,” he said. “I knew I had the ability all along but I couldn’t prove it, because I didn’t have access to a real job.”

Now in his mid-30s, he owns his own business, offering “professional services” to corporate clients.

Outside of a small group of friends and his girlfriend, nobody knows about his status.

“I don’t want to jeopardize my business or do anything that can cause harm to that. In the Persian-Jewish community people talk, and I don’t want that information out,” he said.

Eli is a fitness enthusiast, spending hours a day at the gym training in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He considers himself a hard worker, a self-made entrepreneur, and can’t understand why people wouldn’t want him to be a citizen. After all, he said, he had no say in his parents’ decision to come to the U.S. and overstay their visa.

“You can’t blame somebody who didn’t commit the crime,” he said. “If you pull somebody over and their grandson is in the backseat, you don’t give the grandson in the backseat a ticket.”

He knows plenty of Iranian-American Jews who support Trump, and he doesn’t fault them for it.

“None of them go to KKK or neo-Nazi rallies or anti-immigration rallies. They’re pro-Trump mostly because of his pro-Israel stance, and they make good money and want tax breaks,” he said.

But he said he thinks a lot of them do have a racial bias.

“They look down on Mexican immigrants as low-skilled labor. They mow their lawn and garden their backyard and take care of their kids. … A lot of them probably think we should send them back to Mexico. They don’t understand this affects kids who are pretty much American in every way other than the fact that they don’t have their citizenship here, don’t have their green card.”

‘I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else’

Rebecca’s parents came to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. They planned to return to Israel after their B-2 tourist visa expired.

“When we got here, we started to feel like we wanted to stay here,” she said. They hired a lawyer who “ended up being a crook,” and their visa expired, she said.

Now 23, Rebecca has spent roughly half her life in the United States.

“My heart is in two different places. It’s hard every day to make the choice to be here. And it’s still a choice, despite all the inconveniences of being undocumented,” she said.

When she gained DACA status in 2012, “everything really changed.” The California Dream Act enabled her to receive state financial aid at UCLA, where she graduated with a double major in anthropology and Arabic.

While at UCLA, she participated in UndocuBruins, a research grant program for undocumented students and received funding to work with a South L.A. nonprofit that trains previously incarcerated people to work on urban farms in “food deserts.”

After she “decided that urban farming is really cool,” Rebecca completed a three-month fellowship at a Jewish community farm in Berkeley called Urban Adamah. Much like a kibbutz, the fellows live and farm together. This summer she worked as a garden educator at a Jewish summer camp in northern California and is now working with other UCLA grads at a startup nonprofit called COMPASS for Youth, which provides counseling for at-risk and homeless youth in Los Angeles.

Her undocumented status has inspired her to help others.

“I feel really blessed for that, because it’s opened my eyes and made me empathetic toward the stories of so many people that I wouldn’t have been able to empathize with beforehand,” she said.

“A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”— Rebecca

While at UCLA, she was active at Hillel and in the Jewish community, but she had to navigate her place among the mostly Latino undocumented students and the feeling of guilt that accompanies a recognition of privilege.

“Ironically, my dad is also a construction worker, just like the dads of many of the undocumented folks that I know … [but] my dad’s been able to be more successful because he has resources, and he’s not Mexican, so he’s not looked at in a particular way. I look like a white person, so I don’t experience the sort of racist reality that comes with being undocumented in America.”

Rebecca’s mother is a self-published writer of poetry in Hebrew and English.

“A lot of [the poems] are about being away from home and being separated from her family. Her dad passed away while we were here, a few years into being here. So she wasn’t able to see him for the few last years of his life, and then not at his death, not at his funeral, and not now, many years later,” she said.

Rebecca was afraid of deportation, but becoming a DACA recipient “has given me breathing room,” she said. She’d rather move to Israel on her own terms than be deported, but hopes to stay here. She’s trying to make the world a better place in her own way.

“If America doesn’t want that, too bad,” she said. “I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else.”

Despite the fear that comes with being undocumented, “the immigrant experience is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.

“I was totally uprooted and I had to cope, and assimilated to something that was 100 percent foreign to me. And that was really hard,” she added. “A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”

‘The dreams come true here’

In the heart of affluent Beverly Hills, 17-year-old Jason harbors a secret. His family came from Israel when he was 5, and someone posing as a lawyer botched their citizenship applications and disappeared. Their work permits expired, and now Jason, his parents, and his younger brother live in the shadows.

His friends don’t know. Neither did his girlfriend, whom he considered marrying in order to gain a path to legal status. His parents actually pressured him to propose even though he knew “she would freak out, like, big time” if she found out he was undocumented.

Jason became a DACA recipient in 2015.

“I had no idea what it was,” he said. In fact, until that point, his parents hadn’t told him or his younger brother about their immigration status.

“They didn’t know we were illegal because we didn’t want them to talk to their friends,” his father, Avi, said. “Only when the DACA program came out, after talking to Neil [Sheff, their immigration lawyer], only then we told the kids.”

Jason plays guitar and plans to enroll in a music program after graduating from Beverly Hills High School. But his immigration status has complicated his plans.

“I do want to travel at some point, and if I’m not documented I can’t do that,” he said.

Returning to Israel is not an option, his parents say.

“I have nothing to do in Israel,” his mother, Ravital, said. “It’s hard to live there. Here, it’s an easier life. The dreams come true here.”

Daniel, their 13-year-old son, wants to be an actor. Because he’s too young to gain DACA status, he can’t get a work permit and audition for roles.

“Now that [Trump] canceled it, it’s a lot harder. It’s impossible, unless I get married to an American girl,” Daniel said with a laugh.

Ravital owns a skin care company, and Avi works in software development. “We do everything by the book, and we find a way to pay taxes on time,” Ravital said.

“We probably pay more taxes than Trump,” Avi added.

Many of their Israeli and Orthodox Jewish friends are Trump supporters, and they fear social alienation if their immigration status is discovered. “Before you called, we closed all the windows around the house,” Avi admitted. “The stigma of people who are illegal here is very bad.”

‘Remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land’

There’s a disconnect between Jews and undocumented immigrants, says Beverly Hills immigration attorney Neil Sheff, who speaks Hebrew and Spanish fluently. About half of his clients are Israeli, and he hears a lot of rhetoric against immigration reform from his fellow Jews, even those born in other countries.

“Their responses are usually, ‘We came here the legal way.’ When many of the Jewish immigrants came here, the immigration laws were so relaxed and the process was so much easier, everyone could come here the legal way,” he said.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community.” – Neil Sheff

Sheff believes there are many Israelis living in L.A. without documentation, as well as Jews from South Africa, Russia and an increasing number from France, looking to escape their country’s rising tide of anti-Semitism.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community,” which supports Trump because they consider him to be pro-Israel, Sheff said.

The Torah extolls Jews 36 times to treat strangers well, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

“It’s part and parcel of who we are as Jews to remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land,” Sheff said. “That should translate immediately to empathy for the immigrants here, whether they are immigrants who have been here for generations or just arrived.”

Daily Kickoff: Where in the world are Jared & Ivanka for Passover? | Bret Stephens leaves WSJ for NYTimes | Trump team asked Safra Catz to join admin

When you can't come to an agreement on the Dan Hotel or the King David. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

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Ed note: Enjoy this quick mid-Passover briefing. We’ll be back after Passover…

EXCLUSIVE — Where In The World Are Jared and Ivanka for Passover? — by Jacob Kornbluh: Jewish Insider has learned exclusively that the President’s daughter and son-in-law have been spending the Passover holiday at the Four Seasons Resort in Whistler, a resort town in British Columbia, Canada. A Jewish Insider reader shared a photo with us of Ivanka in ski gear filling up a plate of matzah while chatting on her cell phone a few hours before Monday night’s Seder. [Pic

In past years, Ivanka has joined Jared’s family for Passover at the Biltmore in Arizona, at a program near the Mayan Ruins in Mexico, and last year at Ivanka’s own Trump National Doral in Miami. In fact, Jared first met Avi Berkowitz, now his deputy at the White House, on the basketball courts at the Biltmore Passover program.

— Among the featured speakers at the Whistler Passover program this year is Ami Horowitz. Horowitz is a frequent Fox News contributor and is credited with sparking President Trump’s controversial remarks in February about Sweden… After the backlash, Trump clarified via Twitter that he first heard about the stories in Sweden from Tucker Carlson’s Fox News segment with Horowitz… 

No word yet on whether Ivanka’s friend, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit the First Family in Whistler. [JewishInsider

MEANWHILE… Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a Seder with Jewish members of the Liberal caucus and staff [Facebook

“The White House hosted a Passover Seder, but without President Trump” by Juliet Eilperin and Julie Zauzmer: “Several aides to President Trump gathered in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to commemorate the annual Jewish holiday… But Trump did not attend the ceremony… After the Seder, a White House official… said that guests included Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Jeremy Katz, deputy director of the National Economic Council… The three Obama campaign staffers who initiated the tradition — Arun Chaudhary, Eric Lesser and Herbie Ziskend — all celebrated separately this year, and without the Obamas. “Hopefully President Trump is able to attend a White House Seder at some point because I think retelling the ancient story of liberation from persecution is an important exercise for the leader of the free world. Especially this one,” Ziskend said in an email. “Maybe he will do so next year…in Jerusalem!”” [WashPost]

The Seder – a Glatt Kosher meal – took place in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – the same room where the Seder was held by staffers of the Clinton administration in 1993. [Twitter] • Photo of the Seder shared by Sean Spicer — with a cameo from Menachem Shemtov [Pic

MEDIA WATCH: “Bret Stephens leaves Wall Street Journal for New York Times” by Hadas Gold: “Bret Stephens, the Journal’s deputy editorial page editor, will be The New York Times’ newest op-ed columnist, both papers announced on Wednesday. “He’s a beautiful writer who ranges across politics, international affairs, culture and business, and, for The Times, he will bring a new perspective to bear on the news,” Times editorial page editor James Bennet wrote in a memo… In a tweet, Stephens said he is “profoundly grateful for many years at an extraordinary newspaper. Looking forward to many more years at another.”” [Politico]  

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “‘I Screwed Up’: Sean Spicer Apologizes for Holocaust Comments” by Michael Grynbaum: “One day after he delivered a stunner of a gaffe from the White House lectern — favorably comparing Hitler to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, then clumsily referring to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers” — Mr. Spicer gave an abject apology on Wednesday… Mr. Spicer offered no excuses, describing his remarks as “inexcusable and reprehensible” and acknowledging that the timing — during Passover and the Christian Holy Week — “compounds that kind of mistake.”” [NYTimes

“Spicer, under fire, says he’s not going anywhere” by Josh Dawsey: “Spicer did not seem to be at risk of losing his job, two White House officials and two advisers said, even though the President was displeased with his comments… “Until you’ve stood at that podium, you have no idea how hard it is day in and day out to never make a mistake,” said Ari Fleischer, a press secretary for George W. Bush. “Sean made a big one today. He handled it properly. He apologized. Now, he’s going to take a pounding, and he’s going to move forward.” … Spicer called the office of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, a major giver to Jewish causes, soon after making the statements, according to Andy Abboud, an Adelson spokesman. “Sean called shortly after and said he made a terrible mistake and apologized if he was offensive,” Abboud said.” [Politico; CNN

ICYMI — Spicer’s comments that caused the uproar: “You look — we didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons… I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing… There was not — he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent — into the middle of towns.” [CSPAN; CSPAN]  

HEARD LAST NIGHT — at Republican Rep. Mike Coffman’s town hall in Aurora, Colorado: “The tensions came to a head with the final question of the evening, from a woman who said her great-grandparents had died in Auschwitz. She expressed dismay at what she said was a “president who has anti-Semitic people” in high-ranking positions, and slammed White House press secretary Sean Spicer for saying Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad ‘s actions were worse than Adolf Hitler’s. “Spicer made a terrible mistake yesterday,” Coffman began. “If you’re not familiar with what he did…” But the audience let it be known that it wanted no excuses about Spicer. Throwing up his hands, Coffman finally said about Spicer: “He needs to go.” [CNN]

PALACE INTRIGUE: “Trump won’t definitively say he still backs Bannon” by Michael Goodwin: “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said…He ended by saying, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.” [NYPost

“Inside Bannon’s struggle: From ‘shadow president’ to Trump’s marked man” by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Robert Costa: “Trump also is increasingly embracing more mainstream policy positions championed by daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner and their allies, including ascendant National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, instead of Bannon’s brand of combative nationalism…Trump’s three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and Kushner have been frustrated by the impression of chaos inside the White House and feel that their father has not always been served well by his senior staff, according to people with knowledge of their sentiments.” [WashPost; NYTimes

“Trump kneecaps Bannon” by Mike Allen: “Axios AM is told that President Trump didn’t like the stories about Bannon as the Svengali, or leaks against Jared and Ivanka, or planted stories that he blamed Bannon for.” [Axios

Bill Kristol: “I hope Trump dumps Bannon. But to be honest it would be a mistake: Trump’s new friends still won’t respect him & his enemies won’t fear him.” [Twitter]

“Trump adviser compares Kushner to Alexander Hamilton” by Max Greenwood: “Anthony Scaramucci, an informal adviser to President Trump, compared White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Tuesday to Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary and one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. “I think he’s like an Alexander Hamilton,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s “New Day.” “He’s a young man who has a tremendous amount of maturity about him.”” [TheHill] • What is the Kushner Doctrine? [NYMag]

“CEOs gaining power in Trump’s White House” by Josh Dawsey and Ben White: “The president is a business person, so he’s very comfortable being around business people and he learns best by talking to people and observing things,” Stephen Schwarzman (CEO of Blackstone Group) said in an interview after meeting on Tuesday with Trump and other business leaders. “I think he looks forward to these things and he likes being with business people who have run businesses that are bigger than his. It’s just a highly supportive environment, whether it’s Gary Cohn or Jared, certainly Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross and Dina Powell, these are all people who’ve had very similar experiences.” [Politico]

“Trump Team Talked to Oracle’s Safra Catz About an Administration Post” by Brian Womack: “The previous month, the Trump’s inner circle had shown interest in Catz, and spoken to her about the positions of U.S. Trade Representative and the Director of National Intelligence, according to people familiar with the matter. While she didn’t take a formal job, she assisted in the run-up to the inauguration, sitting on the executive committee of the transition team and penning a column for The Hill in support of Steve Mnuchin, the future treasury secretary.” [Bloomberg]

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Q — What could possibly unite such disparate figures as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid? A — The latest provocation from Ha’aretz, of course. An op-ed published by Ha’aretz on Wednesday claimed that religious Zionists are more dangerous than Hezbollah and car accidents, and lamented that the government can’t kill them… The outrage-filled comments came very quickly. Netanyahu called it “shameful and delusional,” adding that Ha’aretz has “totally lost it,” and that “the religious-Zionist public is the salt of the earth; their sons and daughters serve in the IDF and national (civilian) service for the State of Israel and Israel’s security. I am proud of them, as I am of most citizens of the state. Ha’aretz must apologize.”

It is Passover, so we have to ask: Why is this article different from all other articles? Yes, it’s a despicable thing to write, but Ha’aretz has plenty of in-house provocateurs like Rogel Alpher, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, who have written all kinds of outrageous things, for example, justifying Palestinians throwing boulders at moving cars. The author of the article, Yossi Klein, is not very well-known, but reached a new level of infamy in the past day. The reason is that, well, it is Passover. Everyone is busy with their families, and not much else is going on from a political perspective. The politicians don’t have much to say this week that will get them into the newspapers or shares on Facebook – so they’ve latched on to the latest hate-filled diatribe from Ha’aretz. In other words, today is a slow news day. Happy Passover! Today’s Kafe Knesset [JewishInsider] • Response from Haaretz [Haaretz]

TEHRAN WATCH: “Hard-line ex-leader Ahmadinejad stuns Iran with election bid” by Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell: “Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered Wednesday to run in the country’s May presidential election… Though Ahmadinejad still might not be approved for the ballot by Iran’s clerically overseen government, merely the mention of the Holocaust-questioning populist might energize discontent hard-liners who want a Persian answer to U.S. President Donald Trump… The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement and other efforts to improve the country’s sanctions-hobbled economy.” [AP• Chances that Ahmadinejad’s candidacy will be approved are slim [JPost

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Ron Perelman acquires online coupon site RetailMeNot for $630 million [TechCrunch• Barry Rosenstein’s Jana Partners Takes Nearly 9% Stake in Whole Foods [WSJ] • LeFrak sells Rego Park office building to tenant for $140M [RealDeal] • Geoffrey and Matthew Chaiken’s startup just raised another $90 million to help people save money on prescriptions [BusinessInsider]

SPOTLIGHT — “The making of Adam Schiff: Why is this man taking on the president?” by Ryan Torok:“Adam became a bar mitzvah at Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation in Lafayette, Calif., in June 1973. “I certainly do remember making tape recordings of my [bar mitzvah] practice sessions on cassette tape with a little cassette recorder, and I think I may even have one of those,” Schiff said. “It’s funny to hear your voice back then.” … Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in West L.A. met Schiff five years ago at a memorial service at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. Wolpe was leading the service, and Schiff said he was impressed with how eloquently and powerfully he spoke. The two struck up a friendship, exchanging book recommendations via email.” [JewishJournal

LongRead: “The Conservative Pipeline to the Supreme Court” by Jeffrey Toobin: “Leonard Leo has for many years been the executive vice-president of the Federalist Society, a nationwide organization of conservative lawyers, based in Washington. Leo served, in effect, as Trump’s subcontractor on the selection of Gorsuch, who was confirmed by a vote of 54–45, last week… Leo’s role in the nomination capped a period of extraordinary influence for him and for the Federalist Society. During the Administration of George W. Bush, Leo also played a crucial part in the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Now that Gorsuch has been confirmed, Leo is responsible, to a considerable extent, for a third of the Supreme Court.” [NewYorker]

PROFILE: “Brian Stelter has been training for this moment his entire life ” by Ellen McCarthy: “After following Jamie’s tweets during a blizzard in December 2010, he wrote a private message to Pat Kiernan, anchor of her morning show: “two innocent and unrelated questions: does jamie shupak have a boyfriend? and how often is she asked out by viewers?” Stelter started using Twitter in 2008, and it quickly became integral to both his personal and his professional life. When he wanted to lose weight in 2010, he turned to Twitter to keep himself accountable — and shed 75 pounds… Last year, he wrote 439 articles for CNN.com — a number he had at his fingertips because he compiles a list at the end of each year.” [WashPost]

“Has the mystery of Banksy finally been solved?” by Alex Matthews: “William Kasper took a photograph of an artist in Bethlehem in December 2007, who he believed was Banksy. The painter in the photograph was later identified as James Ame – also known as aka AM72 – a UK painter who lives in Israel. But Mr Kasper has now reiterated his claims, insisting Mr Ame is one of four people who has been responsible for Banksy’s work the whole time. He came forward with the nine-year-old picture after recognising Mr Ame from a recent video, which another woman claimed showed Banksy at work in Israel… The graffiti artist’s identity has been shrouded in mystery for years, but some claim that he is Robin Gunningham, a man in his early 40s from Bristol.” [DailyMail]

DESSERT: “Ben & Jerry’s in Israel Has Passover Ice Cream—and Now, So Do We” by Amy Ettinger: “Because Ben & Jerry’s in Israel is run by an independent licensee, Avi Zinger, that branch has a bit more creative freedom to roll out a limited-edition Passover flavor. Zinger also once created a chocolate matzo crunch ice cream. At hearing the news, I began to dream of a combination of these Israeli flavors: matzo and chocolate in ice cream with chopped nuts. So I decided to develop my own concoction, using my mom’s guarded recipe for caramelized, chocolate-covered matzo with almonds… Instinct would indicate that the matzo wouldn’t stand a chance in the ice cream… But it holds its own… Take my advice: Buy a few extra boxes of matzo this week so you can enjoy the flavor year-round.” [Food52

BIRTHDAYS: Aide to President George W. Bush (2002-2006), then became the youngest-ever Federal Reserve Governor (2006-2011), married to Jane Lauder, a granddaughter of Estée Lauder, Kevin Warsh turns 47… Film director and choreographer, famous for “Singin’ in the Rain,” Stanley Donen turns 93… Curator and then director of the Louvre, Pierre Rosenberg, son-law of Alain de Rothschild, turns 81… Geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate, Michael Stuart Brown, turns 76… Actor who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Vincent in the television series “Beauty and the Beast,” Ron Perlman turns 67… Longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and the bandleader for Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show, Max Weinberg turns 66… Member of the UK Parliament (1992-2005), she served as the UK’s first ever Minister of State for Asylum and Immigration under Tony Blair, Barbara Roche (née Margolis) turns 63… Pacifica Radio’s investigative journalist Amy Goodman turns 60… Guitarist and founding member of the rock group “Staind,” Aaron Lewis turns 45… Director of Operations at Israel on Campus Coalition, Ian Hersh… Glenn Dubin, Principal of Dubin & Co, turns 6-0…. Helene Cash

FRIDAY: Member of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (2008-2013), including a four-month stint as SEC Chair, Elisse B. Walter turns 67… Media executive Shari Redstone turns 63… Baltimore-born film, television, and theatre producer Marc Platt turns 60… Professional makeup artist and the founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown turns 60… US Ambassador to Mexico since June 2016, previously Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (2012-2016), Roberta S. Jacobson turns 57… Manager of MLB’s Detroit Tigers since 2014, previously an MLB catcher (1993-2010) and manager of Israel’s national baseball team, Brad Ausmus turns 48… Emmy Award-winning actress, producer, and entrepreneur, best known for her portrayal of Buffy Summers on the WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003),  Sarah Michelle Gellar turns 40… Author of three books, journalist for Monocle and Bloomberg Politics, co-founder of Votecastr to track elections in real-time, Sasha Issenberg

Gratuity not included. We love receiving news tips but we also gladly accept tax deductible tips. 100% of your donation will go directly towards improving Jewish Insider. Thanks! [PayPal]

The making of Adam Schiff: Why is this man taking on the president?

Rep. Adam Schiff speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on March 30 about the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

This is hardly the first time Adam Schiff has had Russia on his mind.

Years ago, and long before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Schiff was a United States Attorney in Los Angeles who led the prosecution of an FBI agent  convicted on spy charges.

“Sex for secrets,” he recalled in a telephone interview with the Jewish Journal last month. “He was seduced by an attractive KGB asset named Svetlana — they’re always named Svetlana. I had to work extensively with the FBI even though it was the first time an FBI agent was ever indicted for espionage. … It’s so odd to be working on a case again involving the bureau and Russia. But it does feel like it’s come full circle.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, 56, is one of 18 Jews serving in the House, and these days, one of the most prominent of the chamber’s 193 Democrats. He’s been everywhere lately — a guest on CNN and MSNBC, a focus of stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post. His Twitter following is growing exponentially. Already, people are suggesting he could become a presidential candidate in 2020.

And all this for one reason: Schiff is the ranking member — the top Democrat — on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had a role in it.

With Democrats in the minority, Schiff has only so much power in setting the panel’s agenda. Nonetheless, he has emerged as a forceful counterweight to President Donald Trump’s defenders, who insist the current investigations into Russia’s election activities — the Senate and FBI are holding their own probes — are little more than politically motivated witch hunts designed to undermine the Trump presidency.

“The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain [Trump’s] worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy.” — Adam Schiff

Undaunted, Schiff is pressing ahead, an effort that draws together the most salient parts of a life in public service — his Judaism, his law background, four years in the California Senate and his 16-plus years in the House — not to mention his role as a Big Brother to a young African-American boy who Schiff’s father, Ed Schiff, says made Adam “a better person.”

It’s a foundation that also has cemented his confidence in American institutions despite the current chaos of Washington.

“I think our democracy is resilient enough; we’ll get through this, I think, even if the president doesn’t operate within established norms of office,” Schiff said. “The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain his worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy. I think we’ll get through this. But certainly, there are some rough roads ahead.”

Schiff was born in Boston in 1960, a few months before John F. Kennedy was elected president, as the younger of two sons to Ed and Sherri Schiff. Theirs was a mixed marriage: Ed, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. — “living the ‘Seinfeld’ life,” his son said — is a Democrat; Sherri, who died around 2009 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, was a Republican.

Adam Schiff poses during his bar mitzvah in June 1973 at Temple Isaiah in Northern California. Photo courtesy of Ed Schiff

Ed Schiff was a businessman who moved around the country as a regional sales director for Farah, a men’s pants manufacturing company. Sherri, “bored with country club life … went into real estate, where her boss said, ‘You are wasting time writing copy. Why don’t you get into sales?’ ” Ed said.

After a few years of living in Arizona, the Schiffs moved in 1970 to Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, where Ed got out of the “rag business,” as he called it, and purchased a building materials yard.

In those days, Adam was a studious boy who, according to his father, always did his homework, adored his mother and had a friendly sibling rivalry with his older brother, Dan, a relationship Adam would later write about in a screenplay — never produced — called “Common Wall.” Adam became a bar mitzvah at Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation in Lafayette, Calif., in June 1973.

“I certainly do remember making tape recordings of my [bar mitzvah] practice sessions on cassette tape with a little cassette recorder, and I think I may even have one of those,” Schiff said. “It’s funny to hear your voice back then.”

In 1978, he entered Stanford University. A pre-med student, he also studied political science, and upon graduation, he was unsure if he wanted to pursue law or medicine. He decided on the former and enrolled at Harvard Law School.

After graduating in 1985, he clerked for federal Judge Matthew Byrne, a Los Angeles native who presided over the trial involving Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Later, Schiff spent six years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in L.A. During that time, he met his wife, Eve Sanderson Schiff — yes, they’re Adam and Eve — and prosecuted Richard Miller, the FBI agent convicted of espionage.

Schiff’s success against Miller, as well as Byrne’s influence, accelerated his interest in politics.

“After Adam convicted the FBI agent of treason, he called me and said, ‘Dad, can you imagine what it’s like to have representatives of the most powerful nation in the world calling you and offering to help you in any way they could? Dad, I will never have another case like that in my life,’ ” Ed recalled his son saying. “ ‘I’m going into politics.’ ”

Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the California Assembly but promised his supporters he would do better next time. In 1996, he was elected to the State Senate.

“Adam takes things in progression, and the learning curve … with each loss made it that much easier the next time,” his father said.

In 2000, Schiff ran for Congress to unseat Republican James Rogan in what was then the most expensive House race of all time. Rogan was a two-term Congressman who had his own national profile, in part, from working to impeach President Bill Clinton. Schiff sought help from his mother, asking if she’d make phone calls to voters on his behalf.

“He said, ‘Mama, I would like you to do something for me. I would like you to call these people and tell them a little about me and ask them to vote for me. She jumped into that for 2 1/2 years like it was eating ice cream,” Ed said. “Her spiel went like this: ‘Good evening. My name is Sherri Schiff. My son Adam is running for Congress in your district. May I tell you a little about him?’ ”

Schiff currently is serving in his ninth two-year term in the House, representing a district that now extends from West Hollywood to the eastern edge of Pasadena and from Echo Park to the Angeles National Forest. He has a reputation as a moderate who works with members of both parties. With a large constituency of Armenians, he has championed legislation that would formalize United States recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915-17. He once delivered an entire speech on the House floor in Armenian and worked with the Armenian members of a hard-rock band, System of a Down, toward seeking recognition of the genocide.

Regarding Israel, which is never out of the headlines, he said, “I’m deeply concerned with a trend I’ve seen over the last several years, where the U.S.-Israel relationship, which always had been very bipartisan regardless of who was in office in Israel or in the U.S., has been trending toward a situation where you have a GOP-Likud relationship and Democratic relationship with other parties in Israel. I think that’s a very destructive trend.”

In 2015, as Jews became polarized over the Iranian nuclear agreement, Schiff considered both sides, then came out in favor of it. Recently, he expressed concern that in the event Trump believes Iran has violated the agreement by developing a nuclear weapon, the president’s outlandishness on Twitter and elsewhere will undermine his credibility in efforts to galvanize allies into action against Iran.

“I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system.” — Adam Schiff

“If they are cheating and the president calls them out on it and thinks there should be some response to it, will the country believe it?” he asked. “The allies we’d need to participate with us, would they believe us? The intelligence agencies that he’s maligning? This is the reason why presidential credibility is to be treasured and not squandered.”

Like Trump, Schiff uses Twitter to communicate his positions. One of his most shared tweets — more than 43,000 retweets and nearly 83,000 likes — addressed Trump’s tweet aimed at the “so-called judge” who had blocked his executive order barring individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.:

This ‘so-called’ judge was nominated by a ‘so-called’ President & was confirmed by the ‘so-called’ Senate. Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution.”

Tweets aside, Schiff’s 17-minute opening statement during the Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russia on March 20 was less attack-dog and, befitting his usual public demeanor in television interviews, more lawyerly. He cited events of the presidential campaign that could suggest coordination between Russians and the Trump campaign, improving the Republican’s chance of victory.

“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and are nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible,” Schiff said, addressing FBI Director James Comey and Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency. “But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated, and that the Russians used … techniques to corrupt U.S. persons. … We simply don’t know.”

In the interview with the Journal, he said, “I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system, and so, I certainly think there is more than a grain of truth to the idea this is a different kind of role for me.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in West L.A. met Schiff five years ago at a memorial service at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. Wolpe was leading the service, and Schiff said he was impressed with how eloquently and powerfully he spoke. The two struck up a friendship, exchanging book recommendations via email. The first book Schiff recommended to Wolpe reflected Schiff’s earlier involvement with Russia. It was “Eugene Onegin,” a masterpiece by the Russian novelist Alexander Pushkin.

“When he’s in town, we have lunch,” Wolpe said. “I talk a little bit about politics, but we talk a lot about literature and life.”

“When I saw him at AIPAC [in March], I told him how proud I am of how he’s been conducting himself,” Wolpe continued. “He’s in a tricky position. This is a very fraught time and I think he has conducted himself with a great deal of dignity. I am not trying to take political sides; I try my best not to. I think he is a nice, thoughtful, decent, caring and very intelligent man, so I’m impressed with him.”

Schiff’s own rabbi concurs.

“I felt personally very proud that Adam has taken stances on issues that really move him personally, and he hasn’t backed down on that,” said Rabbi Baht Yameem Weiss of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

“From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now.” — Ed Schiff, father of Adam Schiff

For all his supporters, not everyone appreciates his approach to the investigation.

“Adam Schiff is a bright guy. He’s a talented legislator, but right now, instead of focusing on the substance of the investigation, he’s focusing on politics and partisanship,” Ken Khachigian, a San Clemente-based Republican strategist and former senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan, told the L.A. Daily News last month.

Schiff and his wife, who is Catholic, are raising their two children, Alexa, 18, and Elijah, 14, Jewish. The family has belonged to Temple Beth Ami since 2010. They formerly belonged to Temple Sinai in Glendale. Alexa is involved with the Hillel at Northwestern University, where she is a freshman. She has traveled to Israel with a Jewish summer camp and will be working as a counselor at the camp this summer, Weiss said.

As a House member, Schiff said he draws on the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world) to influence his work in Congress.

“We have a responsibility to mend the torn fabric of the world,” he said.

For all of his success as a prosecutor, state legislator and congressman, it might have been his experience with a Black kid from Inglewood that has shaped Schiff most. In his mid-20s, fresh out of law school, he volunteered to become a “big brother” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. He was paired with David McMillan, a child of a single mother who needed a male role model for her son.

The two hit it off immediately, bonding over “The Big Lebowski,” Billy Joel and the beach. Three decades later, they are still part of each other’s lives. McMillan, now a television writer and playwright living in Los Angeles, was in Schiff’s wedding and recently attended Elijah Schiff’s bar mitzvah. There, Adam’s father approached McMillan and said, “I want to thank you for making Adam a better person.”

“I certainly would like to hope my relationship has had a positive impact, not just in how he conducts politics but also as a human being,” McMillan said.

“My ‘big brother’ is leading the resistance and is emerging as a leader not just of the Democratic Party but of all people who care about our democratic institutions and making sure they just survive.”

schiff-bbbs

Left: In 1986, 25-year-old Adam Schiff gets together with David McMillan, his Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles “little brother.” Photo courtesy of David McMillan
Right: Congressman Adam Schiff and David McMillan were paired 30 years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters. The two would become lifelong friends. Photo courtesy of David McMillan

Speculation over Schiff’s future includes whether he might run for the Senate to succeed Dianne Feinstein, who is 83 and shares the same birthday, June 22, as Schiff. Feinstein, a senator since 1992, has not said whether she intends to seek another six-year term next year, but Schiff running to succeed her is a possibility his father won’t rule out.

“I think it would be a tremendous honor for him to step into the Senate if he wanted it, but I don’t know,” Ed Schiff said. “From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now. And where that goes, how that goes, and so forth, I think it all depends on which way our country is going.”

In March, Schiff gave a speech at the Westwood home of Karl S. Thurmond, a friend of more than 30 years. In his 40-minute talk, Schiff denounced the president and expressed hope for the future of the Democratic Party before taking questions from the audience.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon. Below: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon.
Right: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Thurmond is an attorney and member of the Milken Community Schools board of trustees. He and Schiff were classmates in law school and both moved to L.A. after graduation, becoming part of a group that committed to becoming involved with a nonprofit to affect change. It was a pledge that led Schiff to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

They were 30 at the time, and Schiff was living in Venice. Training for the Los Angeles Marathon, he and Thurmond went on runs from Venice to Malibu and back, using the time to discuss career ambitions. Adam confided in Thurmond that he wanted to be president one day, to follow in the footsteps of his idol, John F. Kennedy.

“We would talk about our aspirations in life and one of his biggest from Day One was to run for political office so he could give back. His idol at the time, and I think still is, was President Kennedy,” Thurmond said. “I firmly believe, as he moves up, one day he will be running for president. And I can’t think of a better person to hold that office.”

For his part, Schiff declined to address his future.

“I don’t have much time even to eat lunch,” he said, “let alone think about anything other than what’s going on in the intelligence world.”

NSC aide Cohen-Watnick said to have leaked intel to back Trump eavesdropping claims

White House aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick reportedly leaked sensitive information to House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), above. Cohen-Watnick's wife worked on behalf of Russia. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A National Security Council aide is reportedly behind a White House leak that is roiling Congress and the Trump administration.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, was one of two White House aides who leaked information to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, that Nunes and the White House apparently hoped would vindicate President Donald Trump’s claim that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had eavesdropped on him.

Trump made the claim, without citing evidence, on Twitter earlier this month. Intelligence and law enforcement officials, along with Democratic and Republican lawmakers, responded by saying there was no evidence to show that Obama had wiretapped Trump.

Nunes, who until then enjoyed a cooperative relationship on the committee with his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., initially was part of the no-evidence chorus. But after making a sudden visit to the White House last week, Nunes emerged with a claim that he suggested partially vindicated Trump’s assertion. But the evidence – that U.S. persons were caught up in routine intelligence sweeps of foreign officials – did not implicate Obama personally.

According to the Times, Watnick-Cohen started to review highly classified information after Trump posted his tweet in a bid to substantiate it. He and a colleague, Michael Ellis – formerly a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee – then contacted Nunes, who was on Trump’s transition team.

The affair has opened a rift between Schiff, who is Jewish, and Nunes and halted their committee’s review of allegations that Russia interfered in last year’s election. Top Democrats have called on Nunes to recuse himself from the inquiry, which may implicate Trump campaign officials. He has refused.

Earlier this month, Politico reported that Trump overruled a decision by his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in order to keep Cohen-Watnick in his position.

McMaster saw Cohen-Watnick as tainted because he had been brought to the NSC by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who quit after revelations that he had obscured the truth about his conversations with a Russian official. The CIA also perceived Cohen-Watnick as a threat because he shared Flynn’s distrust of the national intelligence community.

Cohen-Watnick appealed to two Trump administration officials with whom he was close, Politico said – Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Stephen Bannon, his top strategic adviser. Trump sided with them over McMaster.

Cohen-Watnick celebrated his engagement to Rebecca Miller in November at Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a Conservative synagogue outside Washington, D.C., according to a synagogue newsletter.

The Mets-Dodgers series is so Jewish, congressmen are betting bagels on it

Baseball doesn’t get much more Jewish than this year’s MLB National League Division Series, which starts Friday between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both teams feature notable Jews: Joc Pederson in the outfield for the Dodgers and Joe Wilpon in the owner’s box for the Mets. Plus, you’ve got the famously Jewy fanbases of New York and L.A.

But what really makes this series Jewish is the bet on the outcome between two Jewish Democratic congressmen.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is betting on the Dodgers, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y. is betting on the Mets. If the Mets win, Schiff pays up in popcorn from Pauline’s Premier Sweets in Burbank, California. If the Dodgers win, Israel is on the hook for bagels.

And not just any bagels: The word “fresh” appears twice in a press release about the bet:

“Schiff, who represents the areas surrounding Dodger Stadium, wagered gourmet popcorn from Pauline’s Premier Sweets in Burbank, befitting his Hollywood district. Israel, who is a Mets fan representing areas surrounding Citi Field, wagered New York bagels, flown in fresh.”

Then, quoting Schiff: “Please make sure the lox is fresh, Steve.”

That’s fresh. Not pulled out of the freezer. Not toasted. As these congressmen clearly understand, freshness is for bagels and lox what “no mayonnaise” is for a deli sandwich. Some traditions as simply unassimilable.

Congressman Adam Schiff, a Jewish Democrat, announces he will support Iran deal

Adam Schiff, a Los Angeles congressman who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, announced Monday morning that he plans to support the Iran nuclear deal. Schiff, who is Jewish with a record of strong support for Israel, serves a district that stretches from Los Feliz to Los Angeles’ northeastern suburbs; during the negotiations he expressed skepticism about the possible outcomes, but promised at that time to remain undecided until an agreement was reached.

In an interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg over the weekend and in a press release Monday, Schiff announced that while he remains concerned about some elements of the deal, he has come to view the plan as the best possible option.

“In the absence of a credible alternative, Congress should accept the deal and work with the Administration to strengthen its impact, while joining forces with our allies to better contain Iran’s conventional capabilities and nefarious conduct in the region and beyond,” Schiff said in Monday’s release.

“The primary objective of the United States in the negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Given the unthinkable consequences of Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, obtaining the bomb, this has been an overriding national security imperative of the United States for decades,” Schiff said. “As an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel, it is also intensely personal.  I believe our vital interests have been advanced under the agreement, since it would be extremely difficult for Iran to amass enough fissionable material to make a nuclear weapon without giving the United States ample notice and time to stop it.”

Schiff is the latest in a series of prominent congressional Democrats to come out in support of the deal. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced her support on Sunday, and on July 28,, Michigan Representative Sander M. Levin, the longest-serving Jewish member of Congress, announced he would support the agreement.

Schiff’s support could influence undecided members of the House Jewish caucus, as well as national-security minded Democrats. Many Democrats in both chambers of Congress remain undecided, and though a few Democrats have come out against the deal, none are considered influential voices on national security. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who is also Jewish, officially remains undecided, but a report in Politico on Monday said the influential senior Democrat is leaning toward voting against the deal.

Other prominent Democrats backing the agreement include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Pelosi has said that if Republicans are able to pass a “resolution of disapproval” to try to sink the agreement, a promised veto by President Barack Obama would be sustained.

In particular, Schiff said in the press release, given Iran’s history of cheating in its agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he remains concerned about 24-day notice that the agreement allows Iran prior to inspections, as well as about the size of the enrichment program that Iran could have in 15 years.

Rather than reject the deal, Schiff said, Congress “should make it clear that if Iran cheats, the repercussions will be severe.”

“It is important to understand that even after 15 years – or 50 for that matter – as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran is never allowed to develop the bomb,” Schiff said.

Schiff also expressed concern over how Iran would use the influx of money that would result from the lifting of international sanctions. Iran is said to have $100 billion in frozen assets that would be released. But instead of rejecting the agreement, Schiff said he wants Congress to use its authority to strengthen the deal by working with Israel and other Gulf allies to make sure that “every action Iran takes to use its newfound wealth for destructive activities in the region will prompt an equal and opposite reaction.”

Schiff also said if Iran’s nuclear facilities are hidden from aerial attack, he supports sharing with Israel “all the technologies necessary to defeat those systems and destroy the facilities, no matter how deep the bunker.”

“The Iranian people will one day throw off the shackles of their repressive regime, and I hope that this deal will empower those who wish to reform Iranian governance and behavior.  The 15years or more this agreement provides will give us the time to test that proposition, without Iran developing the bomb and without the necessity of protracted military action,” Schiff said. “Then, as now, if Iran is determined to go nuclear, there is only one way to stop it, and that is by the use of force.  But then, at least, the American people and others around the world will recognize that we did everything possible to avoid war.”

On Adam Schiff and Iran

Arnold Steinberg is a political strategist and analyst, the author of graduate texts on politics and media, and an expert on political campaigns.’ He also has been involved in foreign policy and national security.

I have just read the statement by Congressman Adam Schiff in support of President Barack Obama’s so-called “deal” with Iran.

What bothers me more than his position is his disingenuous and tortured statement.

As the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff is taken seriously.

Indeed, in that position, he would have known that President Obama was provided briefings by the intelligence community on the likely rise of ISIS. President Obama either did not read those briefings (he often refused oral briefings) or did not take them seriously.

His gross miscalculation of ISIS is a matter of record, but obviously not a concern to the partisan Congressman Schiff.

I only mention ISIS because you would think Obama's clear incompetence would weigh on Schiff.

Congressman Schiff is not as stupid as some of his colleagues, some of whom are clueless on foreign policy.

Thus, his position is significant and increases the probability the Iran “deal” will go forward.

My conclusion, harsh as it sounds, is that he wanted to back this “deal” to solidify his position among the Democratic leadership in the House; and, after a song-and-dance to suggest good faith inquiry, he went for the inevitable conclusion.

President Obama’s policies, in general, and this Iranian policy, in particular, are contrary to U.S. interests.

Congressman Schiff is in a malapportioned district that favors him.

I have called Congressman Schiff’s office and politely left a message.

If any viable Democrat opposes him in the primary, or any viable Republican opposes him in the general, I will VOLUNTEER my services to try to defeat him.

I find him nothing short of an embarrassment.

In post World War II America, major agreements — whether SALT I under Nixon or or the Reagan-Gorbachev arms agreement — are supported on a bipartisan basis — both parties are involved.

The lack of any Republican support for this agreement does not indicate Republican partisanship, but Obama’s arrogant recklessness.

Years from now, I hope people remember the political courage of those Democrats who stand up to Obama and Pelosi, and the cowardice of those Democrats, like Schiff.

Schiff's position will be part of his legacy.

Let him explain it to his children and grandchildren.

As time goes on during the 60-day period, there will be more disquieting information about this Iranian “deal.” That’s really a good word, rather than agreement, which is too dignified.

Obviously, Congressman Schiff felt the need to support it as soon as possible, to give it momentum.

Too bad he could not have been more deliberative and thoughtful, as he had earlier implied.

There will be opportunities in the coming weeks for Congressman Schiff and other impetuous supporters to reconsider.

Let’s see if he and others show the wisdom and courage to do the right thing.

He can still rehabilitate himself.

How Rep. Adam Schiff weighs the Iran pact vote

As he prepares to decide on the Iran nuclear deal, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) talks to advocates on both sides of the controversy. He consults well-informed, open-minded experts. From his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, he digs deep into classified details. Schiff knows he faces “one of the most challenging decisions” of his career, with “profound consequences of war and peace.”

Some time after Labor Day, Schiff, who represents a district ranging from Glendale to Echo Park, will vote on whether to support or oppose the agreement the United States, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany made with Iran to halt sanctions on that nation in return for Iran scaling back its nuclear program. The six nations said the agreement will prevent Iran from making a nuclear bomb. Critics of the pact strongly disagree, saying the deal clears the way for Iran to become a nuclear power and will permit it to extend its power throughout the Middle East.

If the Republican-controlled Congress votes to oppose the deal, President Barack Obama certainly will veto the action. It would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate and the House to override his veto, and nobody knows what would happen after that.

The pressures on Schiff are great. There are the special challenges of being a Jewish congressman concerned about Israel’s security. As a Democrat, he must decide whether to stand with Obama on the president’s biggest foreign policy initiative. And most important, as a leader in the House, the highest-ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Schiff must weigh the advantages and threats the Iran agreement presents for America’s national security.


The pressures on Schiff are great. There are the challenges of being a Jewish congressman concerned about Israel’s security. As a Democrat, he must decide whether to stand with Obama on the president’s biggest foreign policy initiative.

The man with all this weight on his shoulders is a thoughtful, cautious lawmaker.  “On Capitol Hill,” wrote The Atlantic’s respected journalist and analyst Jeffrey Goldberg, “I’ve come to rely on the Iran analysis of … Adam Schiff … who is a moderate’s moderate.”

I was curious about Schiff’s thought processes as he gathers information and analyzes what he has learned. Last week, I called him in Washington to find out.

“I have been meeting with people from both sides of the issue,” he said. “I’ve met with the White House, Secretary [of State John] Kerry, folks from AIPAC [the anti-agreement American Israel Public Affairs Committee], some of the Iranian-American groups opposed [to the pact]. Then I am reaching out to parties with no entrenched positions.”

Among these is Dennis Ross, who served in the State Department under President George H.W. Bush; he also was a Middle East coordinator for President Bill Clinton and special adviser to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. Another is veteran diplomat Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and adviser to the first President Bush and Colin Powell when he was secretary of state.

In addition, Schiff’s post on the intelligence committee has permitted him to find out government intelligence assessments of Iran’s ability to cheat on the agreement.

Schiff said he mentally arranges the information in “three different buckets of issues.”

One is: “How workable is the agreement?” This involves questions such as: How quickly can we get into sites if we suspect Iran is violating the agreement? What about the so-called “snapback” mechanism for re-imposing economic sanctions if Iran does not comply? What if the United States wants to “snap back” with sanctions, but the other nations don’t want to give up lucrative trade with Iran?  Suppose, for example, Russia signs a long-range oil deal with Iran and doesn’t want to stop.

The second bucket, he said, revolves around the question of what Iran will do with the billions of its funds that will be unfrozen by the agreement. “Iran will have more money for good and ill,” Schiff said. “Iran has been able to do a lot of bad things on a shoestring. So they are already doing a lot of things we don’t want them to do. How can we contain those actions? How can we work with our allies?”

And finally, there is the bucket with the most difficult question of all: What happens if Congress overrides Obama’s veto?

“There are many paths you have to walk down,” Schiff said. “You can have one scenario where Iran decides to go forward with the rest of the world and America goes ahead with sanctions. Another possibility is that Iran says, “We reached agreement, America reneged and we go back to enriching.’ ”

And if it does, what will be the response of the United States and Israel? To bomb Iran?

“This is the most difficult for critics [of the agreement] to answer,” Schiff said. “It is difficult for all of us because none of us have a crystal ball.” He said if Congress rejects the agreement, “You are in a game of chicken. … [the Iranians] may want to come back to the table [but] I wouldn’t want to bet on that.

“Anybody who says they know exactly what happens doesn’t deserve credibility,” Schiff added. “None of us know precisely what will happen. No one can say whether Iran will comply or cheat or that we can see a better alternative.”

In a statement he issued July 14, the day the Iran deal was announced, Schiff put the matter this way: “If the agreement is flawed, it should be rejected; at the same time, we must not compare the proposal to an ideal but rather to any credible alternative. Will rejection of the deal lead to additional sanctions and an Iran willing to concede more, or to renewed enrichment and a path to war?”

In the weeks ahead, pressure will increase on Schiff and other Democrats in Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the president and will work hard to line up votes for him, as will his supporters in the Senate.

As our conversation concluded, Schiff said, “At the end of the day, you want to make a decision where you can look your family in the eye, and I can look at myself in the mirror, and say, ‘I did the right thing.’ ”


Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Deal or no deal? A busy road ahead for Congress

The region’s Democratic Congressmen are speaking out about the Iran nuclear deal forged by a Democratic president — with reservation.

Speaking to the Journal hours after the landmark deal was announced on July 14, Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) expressed concerns about the deal but stopped far short of rejecting it. 

“If we accept the agreement,” Schiff said in a phone interview on Tuesday from Washington, D.C., “it means Iran will have a lot more resources to support Hezbollah and Hamas to continue its interference in places like Yemen, its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and it will also get to preserve its nuclear enrichment capacity, although to a lesser degree. On the other hand, if we reject it, we can’t be sure we’ll keep the international coalition together and I think it is unlikely Iran, as a result of new sanctions, will be forced back to make greater concessions.

“So, serious consequences flow in either direction. It would be much easier if this was a black or white issue,” Schiff continued, “but it’s just not.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) released a statement also suggesting he is unsure what to think about the deal, which involves the lifting of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran halting the development of its nuclear program for at least 10 years.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal and will vote to approve or reject it. President Barack Obama has veto power over any decision Congress makes. 

In the meantime, Congress members are bracing for days of meetings with various constituencies about the deal — with some already underway. Schiff said that he met with representatives of various Jewish groups the weekend before the deal was reached, including American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and 30 Years After, an Iranian-American Jewish organization. Sam Yebri, president and co-founder of 30 Years After, confirmed in an interview with the Journal that members of his organization met with Schiff. Yebri said that the meeting involved Iranian-American Jewish community members discussing with Schiff their firsthand experience with the governance of the Iranian regime. 

Sherman, for his part, took a more oppositional tone with regard to the deal than did Schiff and Lieu. Speaking to the Journal shortly after he delivered remarks before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which he is a member, Sherman said that although he is disappointed with the deal, his main concern is determining what happens from here. 

He told the Journal that the text of the deal amounts to more than 100 pages and that nearly every sentence in the text requires cross-referencing work. He anticipated there would be a lot of work ahead before he can make a decision as to how he would like to vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, denounced the deal outright during an interview he participated in with The New York Times on Tuesday.

Last month, Royce, during an appearance at local synagogue Bais Naftoli, said a deal with Iran would need to allow inspectors the right to visit the Iranian nuclear sites. He lamented the fact that the deal was based around a 10-year timeframe as opposed to a 20-year one. 

For Sherman, a longtime member of Congress, the issue of preventing the Iranians from building a nuclear bomb is a personal one. 

“I’ve been through the seven stages of grief on the Iran nuclear program. I declared in my first few months in Congress that the Iran nuclear program was the No. 1 threat to American security. No one was saying that then, so I’ve been through the grief, I’ve been through the denial, I’ve been through the anger,” he said Tuesday. “For me, the question is what do we do now, not to return to July 13 and to a president who might’ve wanted to get tougher on Iran, but what do you do today when you have a president who has agreed to a deal?
We have to keep working on this, and we cannot accept the ugly 10th year of this agreement.” 

Rep. Adam Schiff’s statement on Netanyahu’s speech

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

“This morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu laid out the concerns held by many Israelis about a possible agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Given the behavior of the Iranian regime and its threats to wipe Israel off the map, these concerns deserve our serious consideration. We must approach negotiations with Iran with our eyes wide open, aware that this regime has a long history of deceit and cynicism in its dealings with the international community.

“At the same time, we must consider the consequences of a failure to reach an agreement and whether there is a plausible alternative to military action. This was a subject on which I would have liked to have heard much more from the Prime Minister.

“My own belief is that in the absence of an agreement, Iran will again begin to enrich to 20% and beyond, bringing on a new line of faster and more efficient centrifuges. Congress will pass – with my support – a new set of even more stringent sanctions and we will work to keep the international community behind them. From here, it may be a race for time between increased pressure on Iran and the possibility it brings that country back to the negotiating table, and crossing a red line that brings Israel, the United States or both, to war.

“I am still deeply skeptical that an agreement will be reached, and that the Iranian clerics are prepared to make the concessions necessary to end their nuclear aspirations. But we will know soon enough, and I would encourage my colleagues to reserve judgment until we see whether in fact we have a good deal, a bad deal or no deal at all.”

Why not support President Obama?

Why should I, a liberal in the bluest of cities in California, the bluest of states — where President Barack Obama now has a 57 percent approval rating — be subject to the whims of the pro-Republican prime minister of Israel? 

And why should I or anyone else listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he allies himself with the most inflammatory elements of the Republican Party, which are portraying our president as unpatriotic and as a man who appeases Iran and Islamic terrorists?

[PRAGER: ” target=”_blank”>as reported by the Jewish Journal’s Aron Chilewich. Most will attend, Chilewich wrote, “but not without first expressing their displeasure with the Israeli leader and … Boehner.”

One point in the dispute between Obama and the Netanyahu-Boehner team is complex, and I sympathize with the members of Congress working their way through an issue that is both highly technical and politically charged.

It involves the negotiations between Iran and the United States and its partners Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia over curtailing the Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu wants the program dismantled, rather than limited. He says Iran is building nuclear arms, which he argues are a threat to Israel’s very existence. He places no stock in Iran’s insistence that it needs nuclear energy for uses beyond war. He sounds like a man willing go to war to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program, a war that could, in turn, drag the United States into the conflict on Israel’s side.  

This is not a partisan matter. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are co-authors of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran if negotiations with the six major international powers don’t reach a deal by June 30. Some other Democratic senators have joined Menendez. Faced with the threat of a veto from Obama, Menendez and the other Democrats told the president they will hold off on the legislation until after a March 24 deadline set by the negotiating countries for an agreement.

Intelligent people can argue over this. But there should be no argument over another purpose Boehner had in inviting Netanyahu to speak as well as in the prime minister’s acceptance. That purpose is to damage Obama and the other Democrats.

By going along with Boehner, Netanyahu is, in effect, supporting efforts to smear the president as an appeaser of Iran and as being unpatriotic. Here’s how Boehner described his take on Obama’s feelings on Iran, according to Fox News: “The president warned us not to move ahead with sanctions on Iran, a state sponsor of terror. His exact message to us was: ‘Hold your fire.’ … Hell no.”

The best-known purveyor of the virulent anti-Obama line is former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who, as reported in Politico, said of the president, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Giuliani is the most unrestrained of the Republican attackers. Boehner gives comfort to them. “I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian. I’ll take him at his word,” Boehner said Feb. 22 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But when asked if he didn’t think it was his duty to speak out against Republicans who say they think Obama is a Muslim, Boehner said, ”It’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. The American people have the right to think what they want to think.”

Also in recent days, asked about Obama’s religion by Washington Post reporters, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an early leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said he was not aware of the president’s religion.

“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”

But the representatives Chilewich interviewed — Democrats Brad Sherman, Ted Lieu and Adam Schiff — are not running in conservative Republican districts and don’t have to espouse some distorted truths about the president’s religion and patriotism. These men, who ran as liberals, are not being asked by an ultra-right constituency to prove their Republican chops so they can win an early primary in another more conservative state. In a straightforward, objective manner, Jewish Journal reporter Chilewich portrayed a Los Angeles-area congressional delegation wanting to have it all — to be seen viewing and presumably applauding Netanyahu while voicing mild criticism. But the reality is, sometimes in the political business you can’t have all. There are fences that can’t be straddled, and this is one of them.  

Rather than listening to Netanyahu and likely applauding him, the local Democratic members of Congress should denounce him for giving aid and comfort to those who oppose the progressive politics that got them elected. 


Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Some Democrats accede to Netanyahu and Boehner

Most of the outspoken supporters of Israel among Los Angeles’ congressional representatives will attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech on Iranian nuclear capabilities before a joint session of Congress — but not without first expressing their displeasure with the Israeli leader and Republican House Speaker John Boehner. 

Neither the White House nor the State Department was notified of the address — orchestrated by Boehner with the assistance of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer — prior to its announcement, a clear breach of protocol for a visit by a foreign leader. And the speech is set to take place just two weeks before Israeli elections, generating accusations that political motivations are at work. 

Although support for Israel typically has been a bipartisan issue in Congress, some Southern California House Democrats believe Boehner’s surreptitious invitation to Netanyahu is an attempt to divide their party’s allegiance to the Jewish state.

“I think Boehner’s goal was to try to drive a wedge between Democrats and Israel. That helps Boehner, but ultimately it hurts Israel,” U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who will attend the speech, told the Journal in a phone interview. 

U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) also will attend the speech, according to members of their staff, and Schiff has communicated frustrations similar to Sherman during various TV interviews in the past few weeks. 

“It is so important that the support for Israel be bipartisan,” said former U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, who for years was one of Israel’s most vocal Democratic supporters on the Hill. “Many Republicans have tried to drive a wedge between Democrats and the issue of the State of Israel, which I think is the wrong thing to do, and now the prime minister is helping them.”

As of press time Feb. 17, more than 20 House Democrats have said they will skip the speech, as have three Democratic senators. Many more Democrats are on the fence. According to media reports, Vice President Joe Biden also has declined to appear at the joint session, citing previously arranged travel plans. 

Although no members of Congress from the Los Angeles area have publicly declined to attend the joint session at this point, a few contacted by the Journal and other media outlets say they are still making up their minds, including U.S. Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-Panorama City), Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles). Sen. Dianne Feinstein also is still deciding. 

Sherman said he will speak with Democrats who have said they will not attend Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to communicate that “attendance at the speech does not constitute an endorsement of the fact that the speech is being given just two weeks before an Israeli election.” 

As Israel’s March 17 election approaches, Netanyahu’s Likud Party is neck and neck with Zionist Camp, a new center-left alliance between Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. In recent weeks, debate over the prime minister’s speech has consumed Israel, with parliamentary candidates and commentators on the left and right expressing disappointment with Netanyahu. Although a recent poll by Tel Aviv University found that most Israelis agree with Netanyahu that an agreement between the Obama administration and Iran could prove harmful to Israel, more than 57 percent think Netanyahu should not have accepted Boehner’s invitation, and 67 percent believe the timing of the speech is political. 

A similar incident took place in 2012 when Netanyahu and his Republican allies in Congress criticized Obama for declining to meet with the Israeli leader during his trip to speak at the United Nations just weeks before the American presidential election. Various Democrats, including Waxman and Sen. Barbara Boxer, defended the president and accused Netanyahu of turning a security issue into a political affair.

The prime minister’s present concern is the United States’ ongoing negotiations with Iran in Geneva over its nuclear program. Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, have called for Congress to immediately enact new sanctions against Iran, prior to the negotiations’ March 24 deadline. They fear, as does Netanyahu, that no agreement will satisfy their demand of a completely denuclearized Iran. Obama has promised to veto any such pre-emptive legislation because it would thwart any chance of a comprehensive nuclear deal. 

When the Associated Press reported recently that the U.S. and Iran were considering a compromise that would diminish Iran’s ability to manufacture nuclear weapons but allow it to maintain uranium-enrichment technology, Republicans in Congress expressed outrage.

“I know what Netanyahu’s standards are. The best possible negotiations in Switzerland will not meet Netanyahu’s standards, but he would be in a much stronger position if he were to wait until he sees what comes out of the oven before he makes his pitch,” Sherman said.

Both Sherman and Waxman told the Journal they believe Netanyahu’s concern for how a deal with Iran would affect his country is legitimate, but that the method he is using to deliver that message is a misstep. 

“[Netanyahu] said that he needs to come here to express his outrage about the deal that may happen with Iran, which he feels could jeopardize Israel’s survival. And I think it is important that he communicate that,” Waxman said. “But there are ways he could communicate that other than by stepping into our domestic politics, leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth of so many Americans.” 

In fact, Sherman said, many Democrats share Netanyahu’s concerns and would not support repealing sanctions on Iran.

“Obama isn’t even hinting to the Iranians that he can deliver a vote to Congress that he can lift sanctions. The question before Congress is, do we impose additional sanctions,” Sherman said.

Numerous Democrats, including Obama and Sherman, have said they would support additional sanctions against Iran if the negotiations do not result in an agreement. 

Even if the negotiations are successful, some Democrats are likely to find the agreement unsatisfactory and would support new sanctions against Iran despite the threat of a presidential veto. Netanyahu’s speech would make it more difficult for Democrats to vote for additional sanctions over Obama’s veto, Sherman said.

“If the purpose of speaking to the American Congress is to get Congress to vote in a particular way, then Netanyahu has already given the most spectacularly unsuccessful speech, and he hasn’t even reached the podium,” he said.

Regardless, Sherman plans to attend. 

“I have that much respect for the prime ministership of Israel.”

Local congressman urges decision on authorizing use of military force

Disagreement is brewing among elected officials over whether a bill empowering President Barack Obama to wage war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) should limit the scope of the military’s involvement in the conflict, arousing lingering unease over the length of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

On one side is local congressman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who introduced legislation Jan. 28 that would authorize the Obama administration to continue its military campaign against ISIL for three years. Schiff’s bill, which bars the use of ground troops, arrives just as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has promised a spring vote on a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Boehner has said he would prefer one that provides the president with more sweeping powers, though he believes it is up to the chief executive to propose draft language.

Either way, Schiff said it’s time for Congress to take on the issue.

“More than five months after strikes began against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, Congress has yet to debate and take a vote on an authorization to wage war, in clear abdication of our constitutional duties,” Schiff said in a Jan. 28 statement.

The Obama administration thus far has used the 2001 AUMF targeting terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks to justify its air campaign against ISIL, though it said in a September 2014 statement provided to The New York Times that it believes the 2002 authorization of the Iraq War would be a sufficient legal alternative. Schiff and others on both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration for what they feel are overly broad readings of the post-Sept. 11 authorizations. 

“Using either of these authorizations relies on expansionist interpretations,” Schiff, who is Jewish, told the Journal in a phone interview. 

Though the 2001 authorization was intended to focus on terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, it has proved malleable — having been used by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations to justify military actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Schiff’s bill would only authorize force “confined to the territory of the Republic of Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.” 

In addition to limiting the use of force to a distinct geographic region and to a hard three-year period, Schiff’s bill would immediately repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization and would sunset the 2001 authorization on the same three-year time frame. 

Secretary of State John Kerry recently said the Obama administration favors new language that does not restrict the time frame or the geographic area of the operation, a prospect that reportedly worries Democrats on the Hill who regret passing the 2001 authorization using such open-ended terms. 

Schiff, whose district extends from Hollywood to Pasadena and north to Tujunga, cautioned that Kerry’s approach will likely face bipartisan opposition. 

“I think there is a broad consensus on both sides of the aisle that we not have a new authorization that goes on indefinitely,” he said. 

“Three years, I think, is a responsible period of time,” he continued. “It is almost the length of World War II, and it doesn’t preclude a subsequent president from coming back to Congress and seeking out an extension.”

The three-year time frame is, in fact, an updated version of an 18-month authorization Schiff proposed in similar legislation last fall, but which failed to make it to the House floor. He also previously introduced two amendments to existing defense bills to sunset the 2001 authorization, both of which received bipartisan support but ultimately failed to pass by narrow margins.

“A lot of members of Congress, I think, are reluctant to stick their neck out one way or the other. I think this is the reason that we are almost six months into this conflict and we still haven’t had a vote or a debate on the topic,” he said.

Though Schiff has yet to receive public support from other members of Congress for his latest proposal, he said he is seeking co-sponsors. Meanwhile, the White House is expected to introduce a broader draft war authorization in the coming weeks. 

“I hope we will take up this authorization or another soon,” Schiff said.

Gaza, and Europe’s new wave of anti-Semitism

For weeks, the images filled the world’s television screens – of collapsed buildings, weeping parents and widows, and anguished calls for vengeance.  It was these scenes, of the genuine suffering of Palestinian civilians caught up in a war provoked by Hamas that have been seized on by some commentators to explain the wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping across much of the globe. 

It is certainly true that as the fighting raged on, demonstrations have broken out across Europe to protest Israel’s military response to Hamas’ rocket fire and tunnel threat.  In recent weeks, a synagogue in Germany was attacked by firebomb-wielding youths, while a Belgian cafe advertised that dogs were welcome, but “Zionists” were not.  French synagogues have been attacked for the first time since the Dreyfus Affair, and in Italy, storefronts have been vandalized with graffiti warning “Jews your end is near.”

I’ve seen it personally on my Facebook page – with one commenter saying “you should join your relatives in Auschwitz.”

But the reality is more disquieting and the threat to Europe's Jews will not abate even if another ceasefire takes hold and a relative calm returns to Israel's Gaza border.  Despite decades of concerted action by European governments, Christendom's ancient scourge has returned – this time to a continent once almost bereft of its Jews and fed not by a Christian blood libel, but by young people radicalized via social media and a new generation of media-savvy Jihadis.  And they have been active well before the Gaza crisis.

On May 24, weeks before the fighting with Hamas erupted, a French national, Mehdi Nemmouche, opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brusssels, killing four people.  Nemmouche had been radicalized during a five year stint in French prison and then had fought in the Syrian civil war before returning to France. Two years earlier, a gunman in France, also Muslim, targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians in the French cities of Montauban and Toulouse.

The growing Muslim population of Europe, often impoverished, and crammed into teeming, crime-ridden suburbs, has provided much of the energy and the foot soldiers for the new wave of anti-Semitism.  And with thousands of European jihadis fighting in Syria, Iraq, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan, not to mention the former European colonies in North Africa, a new generation is acquiring the knowledge and the motivation to take their fight to the remaining Jews of Europe.

In this they are aided by a stubbornly persistent fascist fringe that hates them, but hates the Jews even more, and a European population that appears ambivalent about combatting anti-Semitism, despite the fact that many European governments have reacted strongly to defend their Jewish citizens and to implore their countrymen to stand with them as well. 

And this is where the Gaza war has added fuel to the fires of anti-Semitism – the pictures that people saw on their computer screens and televisions have made the expression of Jew hatred seem less odious to some and, more alarmingly, increasingly attractive to broader European populations.  This is appalling, but it is also increasingly fact and all of us have a duty to speak out and to warn our European friends that if they follow this course, they risk returning to a dark path, trodden too many times and with horrible consequences, by their forebears. 

The spike in incidents in the aftermath of Gaza must also serve to remind us that the unresolved situation between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be allowed to fester forever and that there is a cost, separate and apart from the day-to-day trauma of living with rockets and tunnels and walls.  And that cost is manifested in the indifference of European publics when Jews are attacked and when a demonstrator in Britain is seen with a placard reading, “Hitler you were right.” 

Those who assert that Gaza is the cause of anti-Semitism are wrong, but those who deny its impact ignore reality.

The truth remains, as it did before Gaza, that there must be two states for two people, living side-by-side in peace.  A Palestinian state will not eradicate anti-Semitism, but it may suck away much of the oxygen that has enabled it to persist and grow in Europe.

These last weeks – starting with the horrific murders of three innocent Israeli boys, and murder of a young Palestinian teenager – have made the goal of two states living in peace seem ever more distant, but all the more urgent.  The future, not only of Israel, but also of much of the diaspora, is at stake.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) represents the 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barack Obama: A true friend of Israel

In three months, the American people will elect a President—either returning Barack Obama to the White House for a second term, or handing the reins of power to former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

This election will doubtless turn on domestic issues and the economy will be front and center.  But, as in almost all presidential contests, national security and foreign policy issues will also be on voters’ minds, and the security of Israel and prospects for peace in the Middle East will be central to that discussion. President Obama’s support for Israel has been strong and steadfast and he has compiled a record of leadership that is second to none. Governor Romney, on the other hand, must run on his rhetoric alone—a thin reed grown more thin when he recently pledged to do the “opposite” of whatever the President has done on Israel.

While past presidents since Harry Truman have rallied to the Israeli cause, none has provided greater material support than President Obama. Within weeks of taking office, Obama ordered the provision to Israel of more than 50 advanced “bunker buster” bombs that would be necessary were military action necessary against Iran’s nuclear program.  In providing the bunker busters to Israel, President Obama reversed the decision taken by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama more than doubled American funding for the Israeli Missile defense system known as David’s Sling—in the last year of President Bush’s term, the U.S. committed $52 million to the program; this year, that number rose to $110 million.

And only under this president’s watch has another important air-defense system, called Iron Dome, received funding. President Obama’s $205 million commitment jump-started Iron Dome in 2011, and his Administration has promised that hundreds of millions more U.S. dollars are on their way to assist with this vital defense system. These and other Obama-backed defense measures protect Israeli citizens from the threats they face every day -– threats from Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, and from the government or Iran itself.

Indeed, President Obama has led the way in confronting the danger posed by Iran. He has cajoled a sometimes reluctant group of nations to join him in hitting the Iranians where it hurts—in the oil spigot. In the face of withering sanctions the President championed, Iranian oil production has plummeted and their currency has so seriously deflated it is causing a crisis in the Iranian banking system.

No wonder that, only last week, the speaker of the Iranian parliament conceded for the first that the sanctions were responsible for Iran’s current economic plight.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the American and Israeli militaries are working more closely together than ever.  In 2009, they engaged in “Operation Juniper Cobra,” the largest collaborative missile defense exercise ever undertaken.  In 2010, they followed up with “Operation Juniper Stallion,” a joint exercise focused on stimulated bombing drills. Thousands of troops from both countries participated in these exercises, which forge the strategic bonds that help tie our nations together.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I can also attest to the strong cooperation between our two countries—a key priority in stopping the leading sponsor of terrorism from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

On the world stage, too, the President has shown that these bonds are unbreakable.  At the United Nations, where Israel is frequently the brunt of unjustified attacks by tyrannical countries, President Obama has used his powerful veto on behalf the Middle East’s only democracy and has a 100% pro-Israel voting record. In 2011, when the Security Council wanted to condemn the settlements, President Obama stepped in to stop them, using his first veto to do so. He has also promised to veto any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. And unlike his immediate predecessor, President Obama has not demanded hasty Palestinian elections -– elections that would might further empower and embolden Hamas.

If we take Governor Romney at his word—and on Israel he has no actions to guide us—should we assume then that he would do the opposite of all these pro-Israel steps taken by our President?

Last week, President Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which will help Israel to maintain its military edge over other states in the region. Would a President Romney have done otherwise?

Barack Obama has never wavered in his support for Israel. He is a stalwart friend and his actions speak louder than words.


Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Democratic Israel Working Group in the House.

Power of the Prez; In the wake of war; Children work for a cure

Power of the Prez

Century City attorney and Iranian Jewish activist H. David Nahai was elected president of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commission on Sept. 21. The five-person commission unanimously elected Nahai who was originally appointed to the board that overseas the city’s water and power service by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last September.

“For me it’s a great honor and a significant opportunity because there is so much more the DWP can do, such as renewable energy, finding new water sources, and doing outreach,” Nahai said.

This new position is significant in that Nahai becomes one of only two Iranian Jews currently serving in local government in Southern California, a rare achievement for the Iranian Jewish community which had never been involved in political office in Iran. Indeed, Nahai is no novice when it comes to environmental issues as he practices environmental law and is chairman of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. In January 2005, Nahai was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for an unprecedented third term on the Water Quality Control that overseas water quality in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. In addition, he currently serves as vice chairman of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

In the wake of war

Knesset member Arieh Eldad paid a rare visit to Los Angeles last week and spoke about current challenges facing Israel after the war against Hezbollah.
Eldad, a member of the Israeli Knesset Ethics Committee, served as the chief medical officer for the Israel Defense Forces (brigadier general, retired). He headed the plastic surgery and burns unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

While at Beverly Hills City Hall, Eldad met briefly with Mayor Steve Webb and Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad and later with Soraya Nazarian of Hadassah International Outreach. He explained about the treatment of burn victims of homicide bombings in Jerusalem. The professor is planning to visit the L.A. area again in December.

Children work for a cure

The Cure FD Foundation held a Sunday Morning of Fun event Sept. 17 to benefit children living with Familial Dysautonomia (FD). The event included a special showing of the “The Sound of Music” and featured free popcorn, raffle prizes, a live auction and brunch items for sale. All proceeds went to fast forward research to save hundreds of children with FD.

Charity Becomes Them

Creative Arts Temple volunteers celebrated Rosh Hashanah by distributing food to the needy on the Jewish New Year. More than 2,500 men, women and children enjoyed a dinner donated by L.A. caterer Joann Roth-Oseary and received blankets, socks, diapers and other necessities as part of the celebration. Celebrities who participated included: Stanley Kamel, Monty Hall, Joe Bologna and Dick Van Patten.

Mazel to Merkel

Herman Merkel, an L.A. resident for 26 years and a former chairman of Our Parents Home in Johannesburg, South Africa, was honored for years of devoted service to the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA). A donation in his honor will fund a major renovation of the JHA lounge, which was named for Merkel at a ceremony on July 11.

Merkel, 89, was deeply committed to serving Our Parents Home for more than 10 years. As a member of the board, he lent his expertise as a civil engineer and was known for the time he spent getting to know its residents. As chairman from 1975-1979, Merkel was a daily visitor at JHA, ensuring that it operated smoothly at all times. The ceremony at Our Parents Home was attended by Merkel’s granddaughter, Karen Berelowitz, of Washington, D.C, family members living in Johannesburg, JHA residents and Johannesburg Jewish community leaders.

Two to Cheer For

Democrats for Israel (DFI) gathered at its annual garden party recently to honor Rep. Adam Schiff and state Insurance Commissioner and lieutenant governor candidate John Garamendi. They used the opportunity to pay tribute to the 33 members of California’s Democratic congressional delegation who supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hezbollah, Iran and Syria by voting for a pair of resolutions expressing solidarity with Israel and demanding the return of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Schiff was selected for his staunch support of Israel in Congress, and Garamendi was picked due to his tireless work to ensure that European insurance companies honor their commitments to Holocaust survivors.

The well-attended event reiterated Schiff’s belief for the need for the United States to support Israel and commended the strong support of House and Senate Democrats for Israel’s right to defend itself.

DFI President Andrew Lachman praised the two honorees, saying, “We are thrilled that Congressman Schiff and Insurance Commissioner Garamendi accepted these awards and spoke before us today.”

Other elected officials and candidates who attended the Garden Party included Assemblymen Paul Koretz and Lloyd Levine; Los Angeles City Councilmembers Jack Weiss and Wendy Greuel; Democratic Assembly nominees Mike Feuer, Julia Brownley and Anthony Portantino, and Democratic Board of Equalization candidate Judy Chu.

Local Jews Win, Mostly

While Republicans swept in the national elections, with the GOP reclaiming the Senate and retaining their majority in the house, in California, Democrats made a strong showing, winning every statewide office.

In Southern California, Jewish candidates overwhelmed in the local races.

In California, where redistricting designed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature left very few competitive electoral races, “The best news is that there was no news,” according to Democrats for Israel Chair Howard Welinsky. He emphasized that top statewide offices were in good hands, noting in particular that “Gray Davis has always been very close to the Jewish community. He literally sits at Stephen S. Wise on Rosh Hashana on the bimah every year.”

Incumbent Jewish assemblymembers from the greater Los Angeles area produced strong re-election numbers. Republican Keith Richman retained his 38th District seat, and would have been mayor of the City of San Fernando Valley if such a thing existed. Jewish Democrats had the numeric advantage in the Assembly though, as Paul Koretz (West Hollywood), Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara), Jackie Goldberg (Los Angeles), Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach) and Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento) all won re-elections with at least 60 percent of the votes. “California’s pretty much a status quo situation,” Welinsky said.

Aside from Richman, Jewish Republicans did not fare as well in California. Jewish Democrat Lloyd Levine beat his Jewish Republican opponent Connie Friedman to take over the 40th District seat, vacated because of term limits by former Speaker Bob Hertzberg. Michael Wissot lost out to popular Assembly incumbent Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

“We are significantly unhappy about what happened [in California],” said Bruce Bialosky, Southern California chairman of the Republican Jewish Committee. “Unfortunately, California is not heeding the trends that the rest of the country is heeding.”

In an extremely close state office race with the potential to affect the financial relationship between California and Israel, the office of state controller went to Democrat Steve Westly, who took in only 0.4 percent of the vote more than his Republican rival Tom McClintock (the candidate with the funny ads featuring ethnic stereotypes of Scotsmen). The controller is a voting member on the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System pension funds, which some have suggested should divest the portion of their $250 billion from any country doing business with Israel. During the campaign, Westly said, “I’ve been very outspoken that this is precisely the wrong time to do that.”

Similarly, the state insurance commissioner can exercise significant leverage over insurance companies that owe money to Holocaust survivors or their heirs, by enforcing a law whose constitutionality was recently upheld in court. Democrat John Garamendi, who regained the office he held from 1991-1995, told The Journal during his campaign, “If companies in California don’t comply with this law, I will have no option but to pull the license.”

Six Jewish Appellate Court justices — Judith Ashmann, Arthur Gilbert, Richard Mosk, Dennis Perluss, Steven Perren and Laurence Rubin — won 12-year reappointments to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which covers Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

On the national stage, California’s eight Jewish members of Congress, all Democrats, cruised to comfortable victories, despite running in redrawn districts. (For more on the national race, see page 22.)

Incumbents Howard Berman, Susan Davis, Bob Filner, Jane Harman, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman and Henry Waxman all retained their seats.

Sherman defeated Republican Robert M. Levy in the only California congressional race pitting two Jews against each other.

In the San Francisco Bay area, Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress and a strong pro-Israel voice, easily defeated two opponents with pronounced pro-Palestinian views, Republican Michael Moloney and Libertarian Maad H. Abu-Ghazalah. The latter is a native of the West Bank and a former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

California’s two Jewish senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, were not up for re-election.

The majority of Jewish voters, who in pre-election polls had opposed the secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from the city of Los Angeles, saw the measures go down to defeat.

Bialosky added that local Republican Jews “could not be happier” about the national results of the elections, citing especially Norm Coleman, the new Jewish Republican senator from Minnesota, and Linda Lingle, the Jewish Republican governor of Hawaii.

Tom Tugend contributed to this report.