November 16, 2018

ADL Decries Anti-Semitic Robocall

Republican Senate candidate Patrick Little, who is running for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) seat, has openly called himself a white nationalist and made anti-Semitic comments that include calling for an America “free from Jews.”

Now, his supporters have created an anti-Semitic robocall, which calls Feinstein, among other things, a “traitorous Jew.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) posted the audio and transcript of the robocall — which began on May 14 — on its website. It begins with a man stating that “Feinstein isn’t just a Jew, she’s an Israeli citizen.”

A woman then responds, “She’s a citizen of Israel but she gets to vote as a U.S. senator from California to send billions of our dollars every year to her real country, Israel?”

The man then replies that Jews made it legal to do that. The woman then laments that Feinstein “gets to vote America into Middle East wars based on lies so that Israel can eventually expand its borders like it always planned.”

The man proceeds to call for people to vote for Little, in order “to rid America of the traitorous Jews like Dianne Feinstein,” and that Little will “get rid of all the nation-wrecking Jews from our country starting with Israeli citizen, Dianne Feinstein.”

The robocall ends with the shouts of “Goodbye, Jews!” from the movie “Schindler’s List.”

ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind told the Journal in an email, “We have heard from a wide swath of the Jewish community including synagogues, day schools, pre-schools and community organizations all over the State. People are understandably disgusted and shocked that, in 2018, this level of unabashed and vile anti-Semitism is being communicated on behalf of a political candidate.”

“Auschwitz had ice cream, swimming pools, orchestras, plays, soccer fields, soccer teams. They even had a whorehouse!” — Patrick Little

Such anti-Semitism seems to be in line with Little’s expressed views. He told Newsweek on May 2 that he used to be a pro-Israel libertarian until he read Kevin MacDonald’s book, “Culture of Critique.”

MacDonald is an academic who claims that Jews are undermining the West. Little said he believes Adolf Hitler was “the second coming of Christ” and advocates for Jews to be deported to Israel.

In a May 10 interview with The Jewish News of Northern California, Little said Auschwitz “had ice cream, swimming pools, orchestras, plays, they had soccer fields, soccer teams. They even had a whorehouse! I mean, s––, I’d like to take a vacation at Auschwitz.”

When Little was asked by The Jewish News if he was fine being called “anti-Jewish,” he replied, “For the most part, yeah.”

Little has received heightened media attention since he placed second in an April SurveyUSA poll with 18 percent support. Feinstein placed first with 39 percent support. Under California’s primary system, the top-two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, will face off in the November Senate election.

However, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the SurveyUSA poll is “an outlier,” as the vast majority of polls have State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) as Feinstein’s likely general-election opponent. The Chronicle also reported that Little hasn’t raised or spent any money on the campaign.

UCLA political science professor Matt Barreto told Newsweek in April that he did not believe Little had any outreach.

Little appeared at the California Republican Party convention in San Diego on May 5 but was removed by party officials. According to the Chronicle,  California GOP Executive Director Cynthia Bryant told Little, “You’re not welcome here.” GOP consultant Luis Alvarado told the Chronicle that Little was “kicking and dragging an Israeli flag on the ground” as he was being escorted out of the convention.

Following the incident, Little posted a YouTube video claiming that the California GOP was being run by “Zionist stooges.” In the video, Little steps on an Israeli flag and spits on it.

Regarding the robocall, Little told the Chronicle in an email that he had nothing to do with it but he refused to condemn it.

“Show me the lie,” he told the Chronicle, “and I will consider renouncing it.”

Moving & Shaking: Defending Israel, Standing Up for DACA

From left: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; Jessie Kornberg, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek; Ora T. Fisher, vice chair at Latham & Watkins; and Latham & Watkins partners David Schindler and Peter Rosen attend the annual Bet Tzedek gala dinner. Photo by Kim Silverstein, Silver Lining Photography

More than 1,000 people attended the Bet Tzedek annual gala on Feb. 1 at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, which raised more than $2.2 million for the pro bono legal aid agency.

Bet Tzedek provides free, comprehensive legal services for low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles.

Honorees included Kim Selfon, who received the Jack H. Skirball Community Justice Award; the law firm of Latham & Watkins, which received the Rose L. Schiff Commitment to Justice Award, presented by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to the firm’s vice chair, Ora Fisher; John Ly, who received the Rebecca Nichols Emerging Leader Award, presented by Brian Sun, partner-in-charge at the Los Angeles office of the Jones Day law firm; and E. Randol Schoenberg, an attorney and former president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, who received the Luis Lainer Founder’s Award, presented by David Lash, managing counsel for pro bono work at the O’Melveny & Myers law firm.

“The Bet Tzedek annual gala dinner is a powerful statement that ensuring equal justice for all is not just a tagline, it’s an ongoing commitment of our community to provide free legal services to those that need them most,” said Bet Tzedek President and CEO Jessie Kornberg.

After the gala, more than 100 young professionals gathered at The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott for the Bet Tzedek New Leadership Council After Party, which raises funds for, and awareness of, the work of Bet Tzedek.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra addressed approximately 60 people at Young Israel of Century City (YICC) last week. YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin (right) introduced Becerra. Photo by Ryan Torok

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeared at Young Israel of Century City (YICC) on the evening of Feb. 6 for a wide-ranging discussion on immigration, homelessness, mental illness and Israel.

Addressing about 60 people in the YICC social hall, Becerra called himself a “strong ally and supporter of Israel.”

“We endanger the fight for Israel if we make it a partisan issue in the U.S.,” he said to applause.

Asked about Democrats’ sometimes critical views of Israel, Becerra, a Democrat said Republicans were to blame for turning Israel into a partisan issue.

“Most of the Democrats I know have been strongly supportive of Israel,” he said.

Becerra began the evening with a discussion of immigration, saying the term “sanctuary cities” is a term of art. With no official legal definition, “sanctuary cities” generally describes cities whose law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with, but do not interfere with, federal law enforcement in identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants, he said.

An American of Mexican descent, Becerra became California’s chief law officer in 2017, after his predecessor Kamala Harris’ election to the U.S. Senate.

During a Q-and-A after the presentation, an audience member, who said his brother had a mental illness, asked Becerra what elected officials were doing to help people like his brother.

Becerra acknowledged the dearth of services for the mentally ill but did not have an answer. Instead, he drew a connection between untreated mental illness and the rise in homelessness.

Notable attendees at the event included YICC Senior Rabbi Elazar Muskin, YICC Past President Mark Goldenberg and Pico Shul Rabbi Yonah Bookstein.

From left: Marcia Brous, Steven Wynbrandt, Ariel Wolpe and Stacie Chaiken sing at a Jews for Dreamers rally at the West L.A. office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Photo by Ryan Torok

More than 100 Jews gathered Feb. 6 for a rally in support of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, outside the West Los Angeles office of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein at Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards.

“Let my people stay,” the protestors chanted.

The lively rally, organized by Leo Baeck Temple, the secular Sholem Community and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, drew Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, part-time rabbi-in-residence at Bend the Arc; Cohen’s wife, Andrea Hodos, program co-director at NewGround: A Muslim Jewish Partnership for Change; Rabbi Sarah Bassin, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills; Rachel Sumekh, founder of Swipe Out Hunger; Hillel at UCLA Director Emeritus Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller; and Marcia and Rick Brous, the parents of IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous.

While Marcia Brous banged a bongo drum, Rick Brous held a sign that read, “Republican for Dreamers.”

“I’m an American before I’m a Republican, and I can’t stand our current president,” Rick Brous said. “I think it is important for everybody to support Dreamers, not just Jews. It is the right thing to do.”

Sumekh, for her part, said she felt good being around likeminded people.

“Normally, I feel this when I’m listening to my podcasts, and now I get to feel this rage with hundreds of people,” she said.

Sumekh said she empathizes with young, undocumented immigrants because her mother fled Iran at the age of 21 “with a dream.”

LA Kids Challah Bake participants complete the first stage of making
their challah dough: adding yeast to warm water. Photo by Ricardo Cornejo

On the morning of Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday, about 200 people turned out for a different kind of food-centered tradition: the second annual LA Kids Challah Bake at The Majestic Downtown in Los Angeles.

Event organizer Brocha Yemini said “people who affiliate with the Jewish religion” were invited to participate. She added that she was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the attendees and heartened by the number who had never before attempted to make challah.

“That was one of our goals,” said Yemini, director of Camp Gan Israel, one of the event’s sponsors.

She said she hoped that many of the newbies would now feel confident enough to attempt making challah at home.

“Challah is delicious,” she said. “It’s something that is loved by all. We want to have unity through challah.”

She and her sister, Rochie Yemini, were inspired to start the event in December 2016 by a similar, albeit larger program in New York. They held the inaugural bake event at the Chabad Israel Center on South Robertson Boulevard in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. While they considered that event a success, they wanted to make sure everyone — affiliated Jews, unaffiliated Jews and interfaith families — felt welcome. So, they sought out a nonreligious venue for this year’s festivities.

Sarah Klegman, a writer and co-founder of Challah Hub, a local artisan challah delivery company, and Whitney Fisch, director of counseling at Milken Community School’s upper-school campus and creator of the Jewhungry blog, served as hosts and kept the proceedings lively with a competitive challah trivia game. But when they asked about the mitzvah of separating the challah, the hafrashat challah, the otherwise rambunctious crowd that included many school-age children grew quiet. The practice involves separating a small piece of dough after the flour, yeast and wet ingredients have been combined but before the dough is braided. Historically, these olive-size pieces of dough were offerings to temple priests, but these days the practice is to burn them.

Brocha Yemini said that when everyone joined together in blessing the challah, with their eyes closed, it was “a special moment.”

Then it was on to the braiding. Every child made a challah to take home and a second one to be delivered the following day to Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, whose representative, Kitty Glass, spoke to the crowd about the organization’s work.

Not surprisingly, given the age of the young bakers, chocolate chips and sprinkles proved to be the challah toppings of choice. Raisins, not so much.

Leslee Komaiko, Contributing Writer

From left: Jewish Family Service Los Angeles (JFSLA) Vice President Susie Forer-Dehry, “Laughing Matters” co-chairs Linda Levine and Wendy Silver; JFSLA board member Tami Stapf; JFSLA board chair Shana Passman; and JFSLA President and CEO Eli Veitzer attend “Laughing Matters,” a benefit for JFSLA, at the Laugh Factory. Photo by Michael Sidman

More than 200 Angelenos filled the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on Feb. 6 for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ (JFSLA) sixth annual “Laughing Matters” fundraiser, which features well-known stand-up comedians and benefits the organization’s domestic violence services.

“We are so grateful for the support of our community who came together to make this ‘Laughing Matters’ a night to remember,” JFSLA President and CEO Eli Veitzer told the Journal.

Originally founded in 1854 as the Hebrew Benevolent Society, JFSLA offers a broad range of services, including financial assistance and emotional support services for Holocaust survivors, mental health and addiction counseling, and citywide food drives.

This year’s lineup of comedians included Orny Adams, Preacher Lawson and John Mendoza, who performed their sets but also took time to stress the importance of assisting survivors of domestic violence.

The headliner was actor, comedian and talk show host Arsenio Hall, best known for hosting “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

Over the previous five annual events, proceeds from tickets, donations and auctions have raised more than $300,000.

This year, Veitzer said, “Thanks to our co-chairs, Linda Levine and Wendy Silver, we raised over $75,000 to support domestic violence services provided by JFS Hope, formerly known as the Family Violence Project.”

Tickets were $200 per person.

With counseling centers in North Hollywood and Pico-Robertson, two crisis hotlines and three residential shelters, JFSLA offers a continuum of care, from counseling and case management to housing assistance and job-readiness skills for survivors of domestic violence.

The evening also included a light dinner buffet and a live auction.

Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

U.S. Senate Democrats invite Netanyahu to meeting during visit

Two senior U.S. Senate Democrats invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators during his upcoming visit to Washington, warning that making U.S.-Israeli relations a partisan political issue could have “lasting repercussions.”

Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein extended the invitation “to maintain Israel's dialogue with both political parties in Congress,” according to a letter to the Israeli leader seen by Reuters.

Netanyahu has faced criticism at home and abroad for his plans to address Congress on Iran's nuclear program on March 3, just two weeks before Israeli elections and at a sensitive point in international negotiations with Tehran.

The Israeli leader accepted the invitation from Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress, who broke diplomatic protocol by consulting neither Democrats in Congress nor Democratic President Barack Obama's administration.

“This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach towards Israel – which as long-standing supporters of Israel troubles us deeply,” Durbin and Feinstein wrote.

“It sacrifices deep and well-established cooperation on Israel for short-term partisan points – something that should never be done with Israeli security and which we fear could have lasting repercussions,” they said.

Critics have accused Netanyahu of placing his ties to Republicans above Israel's relations with the United States, its most important ally. U.S.-born Ron Dermer, Israeli's ambassador to Washington, is a former Republican political operative.

Although some Democrats have said they would not attend Netanyahu's speech to the joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate, the session proposed by Durbin and Feinstein would be in addition to the address. It is not intended as an alternative, a Durbin aide said.

The two senators have not indicated publicly whether they planned to be at the Israeli leader's address, their spokesmen said.

Obama has declined to meet Netanyahu during his trip to Washington, citing what he has said is U.S. protocol not to meet world leaders shortly before national elections. Israelis are due to vote on March 17.

Durbin is the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein, who has been in the Senate since 1992, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.

The letter was sent on Monday evening. The Israeli Embassy did not have an immediate response to the invitation.

Netanyahu declines Dems’ invitation for meeting during visit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined on Tuesday an invitation to meet with U.S. Senate Democrats during his trip to Washington next week.

“Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic Senators, I believe that doing so at this time could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit,” Netanyahu wrote in a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Dianne Feinstein obtained by Reuters.

Durbin and Feinstein had invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democratic senators in a letter on Monday.

Barbara Boxer and the democratization of California politics

In 1992, California voters elected two Jewish women to the U.S. Senate, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Shortly after New Year’s Day 2015, Boxer, 74, announced that she would not run for re-election, and there is some speculation that the now-81-year-old Feinstein may do the same in 2018. With the most immediate attention focused on the race to succeed Boxer, I’d like to look at what Boxer’s career has meant for California politics, as well as for the Jewish role in transforming the state from a contested, Republican-leaning bastion to the overwhelmingly Democratic place it is today. 

The year 1992 was a turning point in California for more than the elections of Boxer and Feinstein. Bill Clinton and Al Gore broke the Republican hold on the state’s massive trove of electoral votes. Since Harry Truman’s 1948 upset election, no Democratic presidential candidate had won California except Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 44-state landslide.  

After 1992, Democrats won the state every single cycle.  

Republicans owned California’s governorship from Jerry Brown’s departure in 1975 until Gray Davis was elected in 1998, only to be recalled in 2003. Bracketing Boxer’s first Senate victory was Republican Pete Wilson’s 1990 election as governor over (guess who?) Feinstein. Then, in 1994, incumbent Wilson rode his attachment to the anti-immigrant Proposition 187, his support for the death penalty and a Republican wave to defeat Kathleen Brown, Jerry Brown’s sister. It was tough to be a liberal Democratic candidate fighting that 1994 weather front.

How Clinton won California in 1992 is as illuminating as the fact that he did. There was no great demographic or philosophical surge pulling Democrats forward. Republicans still basked in the post-Ronald Reagan glow of ideological ascendance, and Democrats feared being forced into a marginalized liberal corner. Clinton famously tugged his party to the center from its stereotype as the home of Northeastern liberalism, still won the party nomination and then put another Southern moderate on the ticket in Gore. The identity shift was phenomenally successful, aided by an economic recession that undercut President George H.W. Bush’s re-election. The Clinton-Gore ticket’s moderation on foreign policy helped reconnect Jewish voters to the Democratic Party after some drift during the post-Vietnam era when Republicans were sometimes perceived to be more strongly pro-Israel.

Clinton’s election marked the high-water mark of Democratic centrism and spawned a generation of moderates who held sway in the Democratic leadership even after their rationale and electoral appeal waned.  

In the short term, Feinstein and Boxer came to represent two very different types of Democrats. Feinstein, with higher approval ratings than Boxer, was the centrist, a major Senate player who formed alliances throughout the Senate. Boxer was the liberal fighter, often an outsider from the legislative leadership and deal making, but nonetheless effective in keeping issues alive and occasionally winning dramatic cross-party victories in such areas as open-space preservation, reproductive rights, ethics and oversight of the Pentagon’s spending.

That both senators are Jewish is more than coincidence. In the years before demographics and changing ideological lines allowed a bolder and more populist Democratic Party to be more successful in California, the Jewish linkage to the party did much to keep the party’s prospects alive.  

Stretching from the 1960s and into its twilight today, this was the era of the Jewish “bigs” — from the two U.S. senators to Henry Waxman and Howard Berman in Congress, to Zev Yaroslavsky and a host of other Jewish politicians in Los Angeles. With whites casting the great majority of votes in Los Angeles as well as throughout the state, a liberal, highly mobilized Jewish political community did wonders to move things in a more progressive direction. Jews helped build and sustain the historic Tom Bradley coalition in Los Angeles, and the Westside “Jewish” seat, held first by Ed Edelman and then by Yaroslavsky, made the L.A. County Board of Supervisors less of a conservative bastion.

Yet, for many years, being seen as too liberal seemed a potential liability in statewide elections for California Democrats, and Boxer always seemed to be fighting for survival. Republicans recognized the greater challenge in overcoming Feinstein’s center-left appeal. Boxer, the feisty liberal, provided a more tempting target. In each election, however, Republicans started out optimistic, only to fall short. She won in 1998, 2004 and 2010, an astounding record for a senator expected to lose just about every time, running twice in nonpresidential years when Democratic turnout was depressed, including 2010, when the Democrats suffered catastrophic defeats nationally.

Boxer’s career belied the electoral dangers of liberalism for California Democrats. Her feisty stances may have lost her a number of voters in the center, but she maintained a fiercely loyal base of voters and activists who considered her a champion. Just a year before her election to the Senate, while she was serving in the House, she led a delegation of House members to demand that the Senate hold a hearing on Anita Hill’s charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, hitting home with the party’s base. 

Even in Boxer’s first term in the Senate, the state’s politics were changing, becoming more diverse and potentially more liberal and Democratic. The ground was shifting under the Clinton-era Democratic consensus. 

Within two years of Boxer’s first election, massive demographic and political movements fundamentally changed the electorate to reflect the greater role of communities with large immigrant populations. The 1994 passage of Proposition 187, a measure that denied public services to undocumented residents and was eventually overturned in federal court, generated in reaction a phenomenal rise in Latino citizenship applications as well as voter registration. These political effects soon washed over to Asian-Americans as well.

According to the Field Poll, more than 1 million additional Latinos joined the voter rolls in the decade of the 1990s, and they voted overwhelmingly Democratic. They were organized and bolstered by a Latino-based labor movement far stronger than it had been when Boxer first ran in 1992. Asian-Americans, a Republican-leaning group in 1992, when they gave a majority of their votes to Bob Dole over Clinton, became drawn into the progressive camp by the immigration issue, to the point that they now constitute the fastest-growing Democratic bloc in the state. The Republican Party’s reputation among these groups plummeted, and their party’s share of the electorate entered a slow but apparently inexorable decline.

The Democratic surge and Republican decline following Proposition 187 drove the Democratic Party from a competitive to a dominant coalition. Being liberal earned even more credence in the latter part of the first decade of the 2000s, as the economic collapse discredited conservative economics and pulled the state leftward. The Democratic Party “base” today is far more unified and progressive than it was in 1992. The electability argument against liberal candidates that might have been persuasive in Republican-dominated early 1990s California rings hollow today, with Democratic prospects so secure statewide.

By the time Boxer made her decision not to run in 2016, the biggest problem for those trying to succeed her may be insufficient liberalism. Did Kamala Harris spend too much time as a prosecutor? Did Antonio Villaraigosa devote too much attention to centrist organizations like the Third Way? The Democratic base is more fiercely liberal today, and just as Republican moderates have trouble gaining traction in their party, the same is true among Democrats.  

Boxer’s exit, and the battle to succeed her (which will largely be fought out among Democrats), also reveal an evolution of the Jewish role in California politics. Jews continue to vote at high levels, to generally support Democratic candidates, to contribute to political campaigns and, in general, to participate in civic endeavors at an extraordinary level. In Los Angeles, all three citywide offices are held by liberal Jews. Jewish participation in Democratic politics is particularly critical in nonpresidential elections, when the turnout of newly empowered constituencies drops dramatically.

But with the rise of Latinos, organized labor and Asian-Americans, Jews are no longer the primary key to Democratic political success, particularly in presidential election years.

The potential candidates to succeed Boxer are highly diverse, and possible Jewish candidates simply represent one group among several. (Former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg may yet join the field, and billionaire Tom Steyer is half Jewish.) In short, the essential role Jews have played in the recent past — of mediating between whites and minority communities — is no longer the sine qua non of Democratic survival. And this represents, in fact, a success, an outcome of the achievements of a new progressive politics that Jews helped keep alive during the toughest of political eras.


Raphael J. Sonenshein is executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

Jewish lawmakers decry torture practices, welcome report

Jewish lawmakers and anti-torture umbrella groups with Jewish affiliates expressed dismay at revelations of U.S. torture practices.

“The CIA’s actions a decade ago are a stain on our values and our history,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in floor remarks Tuesday after the release of the report on torture she had authorized.

“Releasing this report is an important step to restore out values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society,” she said.

A number of leading Republicans had opposed the report’s release, saying it could lead to attacks on U.S. interests abroad, but Democrats and a minority of Republicans led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a survivor of torture while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said its release was necessary.

Practices described include waterboarding, subjecting detainees to extreme temperatures and continuous loud noise, forced rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and threats to the families of detainees.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) was among an array of Jewish Democrats to release statements Tuesday welcoming the report and expressing dismay at its revelations.

“The exhaustive report from the Senate Intelligence Committee documents that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were not effective and violated international commitments and the core principles of the United States,” Cardin said.

“It also resulted in fabricated information and did not lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence,” he said. “Years may have passed by since these egregious activities occurred, but the United States must confront the mistakes that were made as we responded to the devastating 9/11 attacks.”

Also welcoming the report’s publications were the Interfaith Action for Human Rights, an alliance of faith leaders whose executive director is Rabbi Charles Feinberg, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which includes among its affiliates the Reform and Reconstructionist movements along with T’ruah: The Rabbinical Call for Human Rights.

“As a nation, we have much to repent for – and true teshuvah, repentance, requires both acknowledgement and accountability for what we have done,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the T’ruah director, said in a statement. “The report is a step toward acknowledgement. A step toward accountability would be for Congress to act to make clear that the CIA will never be allowed to torture again.”

Haaretz reported that a section of the report describes CIA officials at one point considered citing a 1987 Israeli commission that recommended “moderate physical pressure” in “ticking bomb” scenarios as a means for making the case for torture among lawmakers. The Israeli Supreme Court in a landmark 1999 decision banned many of the 1987 report’s recommendations.

Sexual threats, other CIA methods detailed in new U.S. report

“Enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the CIA on militants detained in secret prisons were ineffective and never produced information which led to the disruption of imminent terrorist plots, a declassified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee found.

The report released on Tuesday said the CIA misled the public and government policymakers about the effectiveness of the program, which ran from 2002 to 2006 and involved questioning al Qaeda and other captives around the world.

The report prepared by the Intelligence Committee after a five-year investigation said the techniques used were “far more brutal” than the CIA told the public or the ever told policymakers or the public.

“This document examines the CIA's secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques – in some cases amounting to torture,” committee chair Dianne Feinstein said.

Specific examples of brutality by CIA interrogators cited in the report include the November 2002 death from hypothermia of a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor at a secret CIA prison.

Some were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads, and “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” without any documented medical need.

The report describes one secret CIA prison, whose location is not identified, as a “dungeon” where detainees were kept in total darkness, constantly shackled in isolated cells, bombarded with loud noise or music, and given only a bucket in which to relieve themselves.

It says that during one of the 83 occasions on which he was subjected to a simulated drowning technique the CIA called “waterboarding,” an al Qaeda detainee known as Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth,” though he later was revived.

President Barack Obama said the report reinforces his opinion that the interrogation methods did not serve broader counterterrorism efforts and significantly damaged the United States' global standing.

CIA director John Brennan acknowledged that the CIA detention and interrogation program “had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes” but the agency pushed back against the panel's criticism.

The agency insists that information gleaned from detainees held and questioned in the CIA program “advanced the strategic and tactical understanding of the enemy in ways that continue to inform counter-terrorism efforts to this day.”

It was unclear whether the report would lead to further attempts to hold those involved accountable. The legal statute of limitations has passed for many of the actions.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, said in an opinion piece in The New York Times that Obama should issue formal pardons to senior officials and others to make clear that these actions were crimes and help ensure that “the American government never tortures again.”

 

ADDED SECURITY

Preparing for a worldwide outcry from the publication of the graphic details, the White House and U.S. intelligence officials said on Monday they had beefed up security of U.S. facilities worldwide.

The report charts the history of the CIA's “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program, which President George W. Bush authorized after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush ended many aspects of the program before leaving office, and Obama swiftly banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics say are torture, after his 2009 inauguration.

Two Republican lawmakers issued a statement calling the release of the report “reckless and irresponsible.”

“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” senators Marco Rubio and Jim Risch said.

Senator Angus King, an independent, told CNN releasing the report was important because it could persuade a future president not to use these techniques.

“We did things that we tried Japanese soldiers for war crimes for after World War Two. This is not America. This is not who we are. What was done has diminished our stature and inflamed terrorists around the world.”

“Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work. No,” King said.

The 500-plus page report that the Intelligence Committee has prepared for release, a summary of a much more detailed, 6,000-page narrative which will remain secret, includes a 200-page narrative of the interrogation program's history and 20 case studies of the interrogations of specific detainees.

Sen. Feinstein says CIA spied on Senate panel, possibly broke law

A dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency and a U.S. Senate committee that oversees it burst into the open on Tuesday when a top senator accused the agency of spying on Congress and possibly breaking the law.

Senator Dianne Feinstein delivered a scathing critique of the CIA's handling of her panel's investigation into a Bush-era interrogation and detention program that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but was only made public in 2006.

“I have grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the Constitution,” Feinstein said in a highly critical speech on the Senate floor by a traditionally strong ally of U.S. intelligence agencies.

She said the CIA searched committee computers to find out how staff obtained an internal agency review that was more critical of the interrogation program than the official CIA report.

“Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA's search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance,” Feinstein said.

CIA head John Brennan denied the allegations.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

Feinstein's comments were the latest salvo in a long-running and bitter dispute between the intelligence committee and CIA over the agency's detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, a program that was phased out when inmates were transferred to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's own 6,300-page report criticized some of the harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA, and Feinstein has been pushing to make its findings public.

Feinstein said the internal CIA review mirrored some of the same concerns outlined in her staff's report, unlike the official CIA assessment of the program.

However, as the panel moved close to declassifying some of the information – a move she said was backed by the White House – the CIA acting general counsel went to the Justice Department to complain about committee staff.

“I view the acting general counsel's referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff – and I am not taking it lightly,” she said.

The California Democrat bristled at suggestions her staff had obtained information improperly, and said the CIA itself provided her committee with more than 6.2 million documents.

“The committee clearly did not hack into CIA computers to obtain these documents, as has been suggested in the press,” Feinstein said.

After the speech, Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior member of the Senate, said he had never heard a more important speech in the chamber.

Editing by Bernadette Baum

Are Feinstein’s fears about the Iran sanctions bill overblown?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in a half-hour speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, made her case against proposed new Iran sanctions. And she provoked some controversy with her take on some Israel-related language in the legislation.

Feinstein left the Israel component for the end of her speech (and thanks to Lobe Log for transcribing the entire speech). Here’s the relevant passage of her remarks:

And let me acknowledge Israel’s real, well-founded concerns that a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its very existence.

While I recognize and share Israel’s concern, we cannot let Israel determine when and where the U.S. goes to war.

By stating that the U.S. should provide military support to Israel should it attack Iran, I fear that is exactly what this bill will do.

The interim agreement with Iran is strong, tough and realistic. It represents the first significant opportunity to change a three decade course in Iran and an opening to improve one of our most poisonous bilateral relationships.

It opens the door to a new future which not only considers Israel’s national security—but protects our own.

What she’s referring to is this part of the bill:

If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.

The Republican Jewish Coalition called on Feinstein to apologize, saying she mischaracterized the relevant portion of the bill:

The ‘provision’ of S. 1881 that Feinstein points to is carefully crafted and subject to a special additional provision making it clear that it does not provide an authorization for war in any contingency.

“Moreover, the language of the provision Senator Feinstein cited is identical to language contained in S. Res. 65, which passed the Senate unanimously – and which Senator Feinstein cosponsored!

The “special additional provision” that the RJC refers to is at the end of the sanctions bill now under consideration:

Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force against Iran.

So is Feinstein’s characterization of the bill “reckless and false” and “incendiary and inaccurate” as the RJC says in its release? The broader question is whether the bill’s language commits the United States to militarily support of Israel should it strike Iran.

There is an amorphous hierarchy in the language of congressional legislation: On top, naturally, is the action portion of bills, and this itself has its own hierarchy of verbs (“will,” “shall,” “may,” etc.). Below that are the “whereases,” which set up the action language; there is along with that, “sense of Congress” portions of bills, which is where the language Feinstein refers to appears. Anything that is a “sense of Congress” is, by definition, not binding (the earlier resolution is also non-binding), which means that it does not commit the United States to an action. On the other hand, “sense of Congress” language exists for a reason — otherwise why include it?

So perhaps Feinstein’s concern that the inclusion of the language would compel the U.S. “go to war” is overblown, but she is not mischaracterizing the language. That said, the RJC poses an excellent question: Why does language that she co-sponsored in May so rankle her in January?

Dying in vain in Santa Monica and Sandy Hook

This coming Friday, it will have been six months since a shooter armed with an assault rifle killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The same day also will mark one week since another gunman, using the same type of gun, killed five in a rampage that ended at Santa Monica College (SMC).

In recent months, despite the defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate, some have suggested that Newtown fundamentally changed the politics of gun control in this country. And yet, the shooting in Santa Monica appeared to go almost entirely unnoticed, barely being mentioned in the public conversation.

“This incident is not getting the attention that some of the other shootings have had,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), whose district includes the entire city of Santa Monica, told me on Wednesday. “I think that people are getting to be inured to this kind of violence.”

Maybe. But it’s hard not to notice that even the strongest advocates of gun control legislation have been mostly silent in the aftermath of last week’s shooting.

Take Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). In the wake of the Newtown massacre, Feinstein introduced an amendment that would have banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which was voted down by the Senate in April. On June 7, while a deadly hail of bullets was flying in her home state, Feinstein was visiting Guantanamo Bay. Her office issued two press releases that day, neither of them about the shooting.

President Barack Obama told Congress in his State of the Union address in February that “The families of Newtown deserve a vote.” But last Friday he was a 10-minute drive away from SMC, and said nothing about the shooting — not that day, and not since. Obama’s advocacy group, Organizing for Action, has made gun control legislation a priority, but also made no public mention of the shooting in Santa Monica. Its Twitter feed was exclusively focused on the immigration reform bill making its way through the Senate.

Perhaps Waxman is right, that after Newtown (and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Columbine), five dead adults doesn't shock anyone anymore. Perhaps the seeming randomness of the violence made it harder to convey the horror of what happened in Santa Monica. Maybe the timing of the shooting (Friday afternoon, Pacific Time) and the ethnicities of the victims (three working-class Latinos and two members of the gunman’s family, both of Middle Eastern descent) helped bury the story.

But it’s also possible that Newtown hasn't changed the politics around gun control as much as advocates for stronger regulations would like to believe. The defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate earlier this year appears to have taken much of the energy out of the gun control movement nationally.

With no forward momentum in Washington, community leaders in Santa Monica have been left asking questions, and calling for unity and support.

“How do we make sense of the senseless? Comprehend the incomprehensible?” Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) said at a memorial service at a church on Sunday, according to Patch. The former mayor of Santa Monica, Bloom lives blocks away from the site of the shooting.

“Today, at this moment, we cannot know why,” Bloom said at the service. “Therefore it is today that we must be close to one another.”

Speakers delivered similar messages encouraging students to maintain hope in the face of tragedy at the SMC graduation on Tuesday evening, and the SMC foundation has set up memorial funds for the families of the victims who were killed on its campus.

But when it comes to passing laws that will reduce gun violence in this country, it’s hard to find reason for hope. There are a number of bills moving forward in the California legislature that will further strengthen gun control laws here, but the continued failure to pass national legislation makes it easier for illegal weapons to cross into the state. (Police are still tracing the Santa Monica shooter’s guns to determine how a person with a history of mental issues was able to obtain an assault weapon and high-capacity magazines that are already illegal in California.)

On Friday, in conjunction with the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, members of families of victims of the Newtown shooting will begin a national bus tour to urge Senators to take a second look at the background check bill that they failed to pass this spring.

Waxman met with the families in Washington recently, and he said they’re right to focus their attention on a measure requiring universal background checks on gun sales — which 90 percent of Americans support, polls say.

They’re also right to focus on Congress’s upper chamber.

“The Senate should be easier than the House,” Waxman conceded, “because we don't even know if the Republicans that run the House will even take up the issue.”

Will the six-month anniversary of Newtown on Friday bring out news cameras? Will the family’s bus tour help revive the stalled Toomey-Manchin amendment in the Senate?

Maybe.

But if the absence of any national reaction to last Friday’s shooting spree is any indication of how much energy Americans are willing to devote to this issue, well, the Newtown families might as well stay home.

Jewish groups push for action on gun control

In the wake of the shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., Jewish groups are looking to build alliances and back legislation to strengthen gun control laws.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), said his group is assembling a coalition that would be ready to act once the right legislation comes along.

“The point now is to create the atmosphere in which there is a demand for action, using our voices, organizing the parents in our pews,” Saperstein said in an interview. “When the parents across America start crying out for effective action, if there’s religious leadership, it will galvanize the community to create the moral demand that moves toward sensible legislation.”

Staff at the RAC, the locus in the Jewish community for gun control initiatives in past decades, spent Dec. 17 reaching out to other Jewish leaders, as well as to leaders of other faith communities.

“The best way is to rally the faith community and come together around shared policy,” said RAC spokeswoman Rachel Laser.

A number of Jewish groups have indicated that they will back a gun control bill proposed Monday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the first since the Newtown shooting. It would ban more than 100 assault weapons and ammunition clips that contain more than 10 rounds.

The Newtown killer, Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle registered in the name of his mother, whom he killed before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he murdered 20 children and six adults before killing himself. Police have said he used multiple clips, although their capacity has not been publicly reported.

Jared Loughner, the gunman in the January 2011 attack in Tucson, Ariz., that grievously wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others, had a 33-round magazine.

The legislation, Feinstein said in a statement Monday, “will be carefully focused on the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years while protecting the rights of gun owners by exempting hundreds of weapons that fall outside the bill’s scope.”

Feinstein helped draft the last iteration of an assault weapons ban, in 1994. It lapsed in 2004, after the National Rifle Association fought against its renewal.

B’nai B’rith International on Monday demanded the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.

“Assault weapons enable a shooter to fire multiple rounds without stopping to reload as they automatically expel and load ammunition with each trigger-pull,” B’nai B’rith said in a statement. “There is no sane, acceptable, reasonable need in a civilian setting to fire off large rounds of ammunition.”

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs circulated a petition through its constituent Jewish community relations councils that calls for “meaningful legislation to limit access to assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, aggressive enforcement of firearm regulations, robust efforts to ensure that every person in need has access to quality mental health care, and a serious national conversation about violence in media and games.”

Officials of Jewish groups planning on action said the likeliest vehicle would be Feinstein’s legislation, which she plans to introduce as soon as Congress reconvenes, in January.

“We have been in touch with Sen. Feinstein,” said Susan Turnbull, who chairs Jewish Women International, a group that has as a principal focus combating domestic violence. “We support her bill.”

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), which has also taken a leading role in the Jewish community on gun control initiatives in the past, announced its support on Dec. 18 for the Feinstein legislation and for legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would tighten background checks. The NCJW has in the past mobilized a grass-roots network of activists to push for gun control legislation. Hadassah also called on Congress to introduce reforms.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly on Monday called not only for a ban on assault weapons, but for longer purchase times, deeper background checks, coding ammunition for identification and banning online sales of ammunition.

President Barack Obama, attending a prayer vigil in Newtown on Dec. 16, said that he was ready to back action that would address such violence.

“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?” he said.  “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” Although he was short on specifics, a number of observers said that Obama’s strong language suggested he was ready to do what he had avoided in his first term: advance assault weapons restrictions.

In addition to Feinstein and Schumer, a number of other Jewish lawmakers also have weighed in. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who in the next Congress will be the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that “expressions of sympathy must be matched by concrete actions.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who is retiring, expressed support for an assault weapons ban and proposed a national commission on mass shootings.

In addition to banning assault weapons, Jewish groups also are seeking broader initiatives to address violence.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, said he would bring to the attention of lawmakers a study that links mandatory moments of silence to drops in juvenile violence.

Turnbull of Jewish Women International said that any legislation also should deal with identifying and treating individuals whose mental health should preclude access to weapons.

“We will back any legislation that bans assault weapons and the ammunition as well as giving families what they need to treat individuals with a proclivity toward violence,” said Turnbull, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “I think this will be the ‘big idea,’ that the president is not going to limit the conversation to just guns.”

Carmen Warschaw, Democratic activist, philanthropist, 95

 

Carmen H. Warschaw, passionate political activist, strategist, financial backer and “Jewish mother” to generations of Democratic office holders, died — fittingly — on Election Day, Nov. 6, after watching the television prognostications on the presidential race. She was 95.

“A week before the election, she had sent in her absentee ballot,” daughter Hope Warschaw said. “She never had the slightest doubt that President Obama would be re-elected.”

Rep. Howard Berman recalled, “Carmen kept her sharp mind, political focus and sense of humor until the very end. I visited her at Cedars-Sinai a few days before her death, and when Barbara Yaroslavsky, who was sitting at her bedside, told her I was at the door, Carmen called out, ‘Tell him that everyone I know has already voted for him.’ ” (She was referring to a hard-fought race that Berman ultimately lost to fellow Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman.)

Warschaw was born in what was then the still-rustic town of Arcadia, 13 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the daughter of Russian immigrants. Her father, Leo Harvey, founded an aluminum company bearing his name and passed on his liberal values and Democratic loyalty to his two daughters.

As a student at Pasadena City College, Carmen met and married Louis (Lou) Warschaw, and both later graduated from USC. According to friends and family,
the two remained sweethearts throughout their lives.

Lou Warschaw became a prominent business leader in banking, insurance and real estate, and the couple’s philanthropic gifts supported a wide range of medical, academic, artistic and politi-
cal causes, institutions and individuals.

Prominent among their beneficiaries was the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as The Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at USC.

Another of the couple’s endowments was the USC Chair in Practical Politics. “Carmen believed that most academic studies of politics dealt with the theoretical side, but what was really needed was an understanding of how real nuts-and-bolts politics actually worked,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime friend.

Carmen Warschaw held prominent lay leadership positions in many organizations, among them the Los Angeles Music Center, the Otis Art Institute, Truman Library Institute and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, serving as chair of its Community Relations Committee.

But Warschaw left her deepest imprint on politics and public service. She was a member of the Democratic National Committee, became the first woman to chair the California Fair Employment Practices Commission, and served on the boards of the state’s coastal and fair housing commissions.

In 1968, the Los Angeles Times selected her as Woman of the Year.

Warschaw’s oldest friends and allies in innumerable political battles, fundraisers, and during intimate dinners, were in close agreement on her chief characteristics: Intense loyalty to her friends, but no pardon to those who crossed, or, worse, double-crossed her.

In her private life, she shed her political armor and was a warm, gregarious friend, hostess and mensch.

Lawrence Fisher, who got to know Warschaw in the 1960s when he worked as press secretary for her close political ally, Jesse Unruh, and later when she headed the state’s Democratic Central Committee, recounted an illustrative incident.

“For many years, Carmen had an African-American housekeeper, Ossi Gray, who worked for her, but also became a friend and frequent companion,” he recalled. Eventually, Gray became ill and couldn’t work anymore.

At that point, Warschaw invited Gray to move in with her, saying, “I have a big home with lots of room. You took care of me for many years; now I’ll take care of you.”

An early civil rights advocate, Warschaw practiced at home what she preached outside, observed Grover McKean, who served as Unruh’s chief deputy.

“Carmen always gave these small, intimate dinners for one or a few couples, and often they included African-American friends,” he recalled of the 1960s era of civil rights tensions, when few trespassed the social barrier between blacks and whites. 

McKean, who became a Warschaw friend in the late 1970s while working for Unruh, remembered Warschaw from a much earlier encounter.

“When I was 11, my family lived in the Los Feliz area, and the Warschaw family was among our neighbors,” McKean said. In December, young Grover went from house to house selling Christmas tree ornaments.          

Although the Warschaws were not among the likely buyers for his wares, he knocked on the door; Carmen came out and bought his entire stock of decorations.

She also used her home to host large
fundraisers for her numerous causes, and she expected her wealthy friends to come across.

McKean attended one such event, and remembers Warschaw welcoming the assembled guests with the words, “You are all here because you gave to the cause — but you didn’t give enough.”

Whatever her other commitments, “She was always there for us, and she volunteered as room mother and Girl Scout Brownie leader,” daughter Susan Robertson said.

Grandchildren Cara and Chip Robertson remember how “Nanny” taught them to fish and ride bicycles, took them to political conventions and introduced them to important people.

Chip shared a particularly vivid memory: “When I was 10 years old, I really wanted to see the space shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base, so my grandmother picked me up in her car, and we were on our way.”

Unfortunately, en route to the landing site, the car broke down. Undaunted, Warschaw got out and stood in the middle of the road, forcing a bus carrying VIPs to the event to come to a stop.

She explained to the bewildered bus driver that her grandson had to see the space shuttle landing, and then boarded the bus with Chip.

By heredity and conviction, Warschaw was a true-blue Democrat, but she was a centrist and pragmatist in her ideology and tactics.

Berman said he learned this after he had finished UCLA Law School and applied for a 10-month fellowship to work with the state legislature in Sacramento. Through an uncle, he was introduced to Warschaw, who promised to write a letter of recommendation to the selection committee.

She did so, but added a note to the effect that young Howard, an idealistic college student and product of the West Los Angeles milieu, might be a tad too liberal and could use a touch of reality.

So Berman, a lifelong city boy, was assigned to work for the Agriculture Committee. For the next 10 months, he learned a good deal about pink boll weevils, but, fortunately, the legislature soon became preoccupied with Cesar Chavez and the increasingly militant farm workers, and the ties Berman had established with labor leaders stood him in good stead later on.

Many of Warschaw’s battles have become the stuff of political legend. Some of the fiercest infighting was among different Democratic factions and personalities, pitting, for example, Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh against Gov. Pat Brown during the 1960s, with Warschaw siding with Unruh.

“Carmen loved a political fight,” said Douglas Jeffe, press director for the Democratic State Central Committee in the 1960s. At that time, Warschaw had high hopes of being named one of two California representatives to the Democratic National Committee, and she thought she had a firm commitment from Brown and party powerbroker Eugene “Gene” Wyman to get the appointment.

When Wyman took the post for himself, an enraged Warschaw confronted him, charging that he had promised in person that the post would go to her. According to Jeffe, Wyman replied, “But you didn’t get it in writing.”

That set Warschaw off. As a first step, she ordered thousands of buttons with the legend “Get It in Writing — Love Carmen.” She topped herself in 1964, during the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, when she hired a skywriter plane to spell out the same message to the delegates below.

Her opponents inside and outside the Democratic Party took to calling her “The Dragon Lady,” an epithet she wore as a badge of honor, naming a succession of yachts Dragon Lady I, II, III and IV. As she got into the role, she passed out fortune cookies, and at the next party national convention, pulled up in a rickshaw.

Warschaw reserved much of her energy for Jewish and Israeli causes, and at one Israel Bonds dinner, for instance, bought $1 million worth on the spot.

During her chairwomanship of The Federation’s Community Relations Committee, she displayed her characteristic “strong sense of direction — she always knew what she wanted to do,” said veteran Democratic activist Howard Welinsky.

In addition, he said, whenever Warschaw was asked to support a candidate, she would first check whether he or she supported Israel.

She was a passionate Jew, but, as in all other things, she insisted on her own definition.

“She was nonreligious and nonobservant, didn’t belong to a synagogue and didn’t keep the holidays,” said Harvey Schechter, the longtime regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “She was deeply Jewish, but chose her own brand.”

According to Schechter, Warschaw was also an enthusiastic Dodgers fan and regularly took her seat behind the Dodgers dugout.

Her interest in politics never flagged. During the last few months of her life, as Berman and rival Sherman engaged in one debate after another, Warschaw showed up, “not once, not twice, but three times,” Berman said, adding, “I wouldn’t have done that myself if I weren’t running for the office.”

Warschaw was also an ardent Obama supporter, and visitors to her home were greeted by two larger-than-life cutouts of two personalities — Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

Journal columnist Bill Boyarsky, who has covered California politics for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, summed up Warschaw after their first meeting. “She was one of the most interesting, challenging people I had ever met,” he said, “an opinion that has not changed over the years.” 

On Nov. 7, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adjourned its session in memory of Carmen Warschaw.

She is survived by her daughters Hope (John Law) and Susan (Carl Robertson); grandchildren Jack Law-Warschaw, Cara Robertson and Chip Robertson; and great-grandchildren Louis Harvey Robertson and Rose Frances Harvey Robertson.

Memorial services are pending.

Feinstein accepts J Street endorsement

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein accepted the endorsement of J Street’s political action committee.

Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is seen as a mainstream pro-Israel politician, joins Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) as Senate candidates who have received JStreetPAC’s endorsement for the 2012 election cycle. 

“Senator Feinstein joins a long and growing list of American politicians who recognize that there is significant political support to be found from Americans who support Israel and deeply believe that American and Israeli interests would be better served through active American diplomacy to achieve two states,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “This is a sea change in American politics when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.”

Feinstein, who is Jewish, has consistently backed assistance for Israel, but in some areas she has departed from pro-Israel orthodoxy. She sponsored legislation in 2006 that would ban the sale of cluster bombs to countries that would use them in highly populated areas, which likely would have included Israel.

The legislation was defeated after a strong lobbying effort by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In 2010, Feinstein drafted a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she emphasized that “for too long,” Israel’s “expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermined confidence.”

J Street has tried to recover from a blitz in 2009 and 2010 by right-wing groups targeting politicians who associated with the group; a number of Jewish Democrats now distance themselves from the group.

Endorsing Feinstein, a mainstream Jewish Democrat whose influence as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has helped shore up support for a tough posture on Iran, recovers some of that ground. However, J Street also endorsed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who also had a solid pro-Israel record, in his failed 2010 reelection bid.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, five Jewish Democrats have accepted J Street’s endorsement: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Overall, in addition to the four Senate candidates, J Street is endorsing 47 House incumbents and eight House challengers.

Briefs: Palestinians riot near Jerusalem dig; Brandeis threatened with loss of donations

Palestinians Riot Around Jerusalem

Palestinians rioted at entry points to Jerusalem to protest a ban stemming from previous riots over an Old City dig. Police banned Palestinian males under age 50 from attending Friday prayer services at mosques on the Temple Mount, and extended a ban on Raed Salah, leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement. Police arrested 15 people in scuffles in and around the city. Worshipers have rioted in recent weeks to protest a construction project near the Temple Mount.

Israeli authorities say the renovation of a staircase leading to the Temple Mount does not threaten the integrity of the site, but Salah, who has frequently concocted imaginary Jewish plots against the Temple Mount to incite his public against Israel, has led protests at the site and scuffled with police officers. Last Friday, he called for a Muslim intifada to “save” the mosque from the Jews. The Israelis “want to build their Temple while our blood is on their clothing, on their doorposts, in their food and in their water,” Salah said.

Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter asked the attorney general to investigate whether Salah’s comments constitute incitement and sedition.

Brandeis Threatened With Loss of Donations

Mideast scholar Daniel Pipes called on donors to reconsider their support of Brandeis University. In an op-ed published Tuesday in the Brandeis student newspaper, The Justice, Pipes claimed that his planned appearance at the university had been put on hold pending approval from a new committee created to vet potential speakers on the Middle East.

The committee also reportedly is holding up an appearance by Norman Finkelstein, a noted critic of Israeli policy who has argued that the Jewish state exploits the Holocaust for political purposes. Evidence that pressure on the university may be intensifying came from a report Friday in the New York Jewish Week that “more than a handful” of major donors told Brandeis they would no longer contribute following a recent controversial visit by former President Carter, who discussed his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which is harshly critical of Israel. A Brandeis spokeswoman told the Jewish Week that she wasn’t aware of any communication from donors.

Hezbollah Seen Expanding Arsenal

Hezbollah aims to stockpile more weapons than it had before last year’s war with Israel, a top Israeli intelligence analyst said.

Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, chief of research in Israel’s Military Intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in a briefing Monday that the Lebanese terrorist group was smuggling in rockets to replace the thousands it lost fighting Israel during the summer war. Once it receives new shipments from neighboring Syria, Baidatz said, Hezbollah will have a larger rocket arsenal than it did before the war.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz interjected that this should not be a gauge of the threat posed to Israel by Hezbollah. Peretz noted that Hezbollah deprived of its border positions was in far less of a position to launch attacks.

Hezbollah admitted it has resumed stockpiling arms on Lebanon’s frontier with Israel.

“We can reveal that we have arms, and of all kinds,” Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said last Friday in a speech. “We move them covertly, and Israel does not know about it.”

Nasrallah said the smuggling would continue in defiance of Israel, foreign peacekeepers and the Lebanese army, which deployed in southern Lebanon as part of the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended last year’s war.

“We are not a burden to the Lebanese army but rather a supporter of its mission,” Nasrallah said.

Iran Defies U.N. Demands

Iran signaled that it will not honor a demand by the United Nations to halt sensitive nuclear projects. The Foreign Ministry in Tehran announced Sunday that Iran has no intention of meeting a Feb. 21 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for suspending uranium enrichment. Under Security Council Resolution 1737, which was passed in late December, Iran was subjected to limited international sanctions that could be expanded if it defied the 60-day deadline on uranium enrichment, a key potential process for making nuclear bombs.

While China and Russia surprised other Security Council members by backing the original resolution, it was unclear whether they would support further sanctions given their robust trade ties with Tehran and public skepticism over whether the Iranians are seeking nuclear weapons.

Feinstein Reintroduces Cluster Bomb Bill

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Israeli cluster bombs left behind in Lebanon in introducing legislation to restrict the sale of the devices.

“What gives rise, in part, to my bill are recent developments in Lebanon over alleged use of cluster bombs by Israel,” Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat who is seen as strongly pro-Israel, said last week in introducing the legislation with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Israel dropped some 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon during last summer’s war with Hezbollah, and 1 million failed to explode, she said.

“As Lebanese children and families have returned to their homes and begin to rebuild, they have been exposed to the danger of these unexploded bomblets lying in the rubble. Twenty-two people, including six children have been killed and 133, including 47 children, injured.”

Israel said it used the weapons in areas where civilians had already fled, and says the postwar casualty rate is due to U.S.-made bombs that have a high rate of delayed explosion.

Human-rights groups have noted that Hezbollah also used cluster bombs during the war, firing them directly into Israeli cities. Feinstein and Leahy introduced similar legislation immediately following the war, but it failed.

Jerusalem Opens Alcohol-Free Bar

An alcohol-free bar opened in Jerusalem with municipal funding. Lugar opened its doors in central Jerusalem on Monday with a teetotaling format geared toward minors.

The initiative was conceived by Mayor Uri Lupolianski following growing evidence that youths in Jerusalem, including many foreigners on study visits, were increasingly abusing lax controls on alcohol consumption in public places.

Lupolianski said he hoped other cities in Israel would emulate the Lugar pilot.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Key Jewish California lawmakers return to powerful roles in new Congress

The 2006 congressional election that brought the Democrats back to power on Capitol Hill was a moment filled with meaning for four Jewish lions of California politics — Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Reps. Henry Waxman (Los Angeles) and Howard Berman (Van Nuys).

After six years in the wilderness as the minority during the polarizing Bush presidency, they have suddenly been given an unexpected second chance to be at the center of national policy. And with the 2008 presidential race looking very competitive, both within and between the parties, the Jewish community in Los Angeles also finds itself back in the middle of things.

For Waxman and Berman, in particular, the moment is delicious because the highly disciplined House was a prison under Republican speakers, and the Democratic majority is now large enough to allow them to take their time planning hearings.

The key to the House of Representatives is the committee and subcommittee system. Members have little power individually, unless they are in the party leadership, but when they exercise their power through committees, they can move mountains. The majority chooses virtually all the committee chairs, and that means that each of these political figures will have a forum from which to issue subpoenas, run hearings and propose legislation.

Waxman has the premier spot as chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a perch from which he can roam throughout the government. The image of Waxman waving a subpoena must ruin the sleep of many White House staffers.

Undoubtedly, Waxman will explore the role of Bush administration officials in overriding the decisions of professionals in federal agencies, the secrecy that has surrounded government decision making, crises in public health and even profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq. Administration officials used to being coddled by Congress will find Waxman a much tougher customer. Barely able to contain his readiness, Waxman noted that there was so much to investigate that it was only a matter of deciding where to start.

Berman is a member of the Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Courts. Along with Judiciary Chair John Conyers, Berman has issued a call to close the loophole placed in the Patriot Act by Sen. Arlen Specter (a Jewish Republican from Pennsylvania) that allows the Justice Department to remove U.S. attorneys and replace them without Senate confirmation.

Two other Jewish Democrats from this area will have important roles in national security matters. Rep. Jane Harman (Wilmington) had a choice position coming her way as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, but conflicts with then-incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (San Francisco) ended that dream, when the new leader passed Harman over for chair in favor of Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas.

Harman did land a position as chair of the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment. From that spot, her considerable experience in intelligence and national security will showcase her, while she tries to rebuild her relationship with the speaker.

Meanwhile, Rep. Brad Sherman (Sherman Oaks) has earned a choice seat on the Judiciary Committee and the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. He has staked out a tough position on Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons, calling it a far greater threat than Iraq ever posed.

For Feinstein and Boxer, the world looks a little different. Individual senators are extremely important, regardless of their committee positions. But the Senate majority rests precariously on one vote, that of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a different sort of Jewish Democrat.

While winning re-election as an independent in very blue Connecticut, Lieberman appeared to be critical of President Bush’s Iraq policy. Once back in office, he has taken to implying that the president’s critics are lending “aid and comfort” to our enemies.

His fellow Democrats fear that he wants to join the Republicans and thereby swing control of the Senate back. Boxer, ever vigilant to electoral challenges as the more liberal of the two senators, can hear rumors that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might run for her seat in 2010. And yet, even with these unknowns, as senators they have great authority and public attention.

The two Senators will not only have key committee positions (Feinstein on Intelligence and Appropriations, Boxer as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee) but access to national media. Expect Feinstein to play a leading role in the Iraq debate and other military matters, and Boxer to be central to discussions about education, choice and the environment. Much of the social agenda of the Bush administration has been conducted quietly through administrative decisions (such as imposing limits on family planning in international programs), a situation that can only be rectified by active congressional oversight.

A great unknown is the political impact of America’s relationship with Iran on these leading Jewish Democrats. They have all become vocal opponents of the Iraq War, despite, in some cases, being initially supportive.

Iran presents a different case. Supporters of Israel consider Iran to be a profound threat, especially if it should acquire nuclear weapons.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be laying the groundwork for possible war with Iran. Based on the Iraq experience, few have much confidence in the ability of the Bush administration to handle this crisis well.

Yet Jewish Democrats will still want to make sure that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are not realized. Perhaps these California Democrats, some of whom are on pivotal national security committees or subcommittees, can craft a wise but forceful policy with Iran that can win public support and prevent another catastrophic foreign policy failure.

Having these long-serving members back in positions of power is going to make a real difference in national government. They have seen it all, from having great impact to being in the doghouse. Like athletes who know how hard it is to win a championship, they will be careful not to waste a second of their time at the top. They will question and probe, inquire and complain. An administration unused to being challenged will face oversight every working day.

But more than that is going on. Congressional elections always set the tone for the next presidential election, and 2006 has set the stage for 2008. California Jews, especially in the Los Angeles area, will play a significant role in that contest.

Up Front

Photo illustration by Carvin Knowles

The Sukkah Patch?

The annual fall festival and pumpkin patch is along tradition at the Farmer’s Market at Third and Fairfax. Thisyear, it will host an even longer tradition: the building of asukkah.

In conjunction with the Skirball Cultural Center,the market will erect a sukkah, the traditional booth that marksSukkot, in the midst of all the festivities. Visitors can helpdecorate the structure, learn more about the holiday and schmoozewith representatives of the Skirball.

The actual sukkah is being funded by the Farmer’sMarket, and Lopez Family Produce is donating the decorative produce.”We’re trying to bring out the universal aspects of Sukkot: shelter,hospitality and thanksgiving,” said the Skirball’s Joana Fisch.”We’re not only showing the Jewish side but the universalthemes.”

The sukkah will also be used as a collection pointfor a canned-food drive to benefit needy families in the season ofThanksgiving. You can visit the sukkah at the Fall Festival Oct.3-5.

The Skirball’s own Sukkot Festival will be held onOct. 19. The cultural center, along with Gelson’s Markets, will holda food drive during the festival to benefit the Los Angeles RegionalFoodbank. Bring canned or packaged goods to donate when you visit.The festival will feature art projects, live music, dance andstorytelling. You can also see an exhibition that celebrates Sukkot,”Temporary Quarters: Artists Build for Shelter and Celebration.” Formore information, contact the Skirball at (310) 440-4500.

A Mother’s Plea

Left to right:

Noam, Lior, Tzvi, Elana and ShiraRozenman.

Sixteen-year-old Noam Rozenman was walking downBen-Yehuda Street last month when a suicide bomber’s blast foreverchanged his life. The Los Angeles native, who moved to Israel withhis family seven years ago, suffered burns over 30 percent of hisbody. His eardrums burned. He remains in the burn unit at HadassahHospital in Jerusalem.

The cruelty and randomness of the violence thatinjured her son provoked Elana Rozenman to action. So did her son’sfear of the city she loves. Last week, he said to her, “I’m afraid toleave the hospital.”

A trained social worker, Elana has long beenactive in Israel, organizing women’s business networks. She turned toone of her networks of working women to mount a 24-hour vigil at thebase of Ben-Yehuda Street on the 30th day after the bombing, at 3p.m. — the exact time the first bomb went off.

In a speech to announce the vigil, Rozenman told agroup of women: “I beg you, let us transcend the religious, cultural,political differences that separate us. I pray to God, let him be thelast child to go through this horror.”

The Oct. 5 vigil will be silent. That way,Rozenman hopes to draw women from all different political andreligious persuasions, united by a common desire to make the streetsof Jerusalem safe for their families.

A similar vigil might be organized here in LosAngeles by the friends of the Rozenmans’. For more information, callMarilyn Hershenson at (310) 204-0600. You can reach Rozenman bye-mail at women@qanton.com.

Shooting Straight

When Israel needs a friend in Congress, it canalways rely on Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. But when Feinsteinwants something in return, can she rely on Israel?

What Feinstein wants is for the Israeli governmentto intervene and block the export of tens of thousands of Galil andUzi military-style assault rifles to the United States. IsraelMilitary Industries Ltd., a company owned by the state, recentlyreceived permission from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco andFirearms to export a modified version of these automatic weapons tothe States.

In a Dear Mr. Prime Minister letter sent toBinyamin Netanyahu on Sept. 11, Feinstein wrote that the weapons areeasily remodified to automatic, and that such weapons — designed torapid-fire up to 100 bullets a clip– have plagued the urban streetsof California for years. This year alone, there have been nineincidents involving assault weapons, used in bank robberies, drive-byshootings and revenge killings.

How ironic, wrote Feinstein, that while U.S.military equipment and assistance have made Israel safer, Israelwould endanger American lives by selling military-style weaponshere.

Copies of the letter were sent to about everymajor Jewish organization we know of. Feinstein knows American Jewssupport gun controls. Does Netanyahu?