Reform Biennial to Feature Presidential Hopefuls

“Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd has been tapped to host a presidential candidates’ forum at the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial in November.

The NBC News political director will interview 2016 presidential candidates one-on-one and give the hopefuls an opportunity to answer questions from URJ leadership and biennial delegates at the event scheduled for the evening of Nov. 7 at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla.

“URJ’s Biennial, because of its timing, location and audience, will be a must-attend event for the top presidential candidates,” Todd said in a statement released by the URJ. “Florida has long been a key state in presidential elections, and I am very much looking forward to this unique presidential forum.”

Candidates will be confirmed closer to the fall. A spokesperson for the URJ stated that the organization has been in ongoing conversations with candidates from both parties.

An estimated 5,000 Reform Jews are expected to attend the 73rd URJ Biennial from Nov. 4 to 8. Confirmed speakers include New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit and Israeli Knesset member Stav Shaffir.

Anti-Semitic, Racist Flier Condemned ‘Israel lobby’ accused of financing Van Hollen campaign

An  anti-Semitic, racist flyer was distributed at a Prince George's County budget hearing  Monday night.

An anti-Semitic, racist flyer was distributed at a Prince George’s County budget hearing Monday night.

An apparent anti-Semitic and racist flier that featured manipulated images of two African-American county executives was distributed Monday evening at a Prince George’s County budget hearing.

The flier, titled “From Baltimore to Jerusalem It’s the Same Game,” invokes several anti-Semitic tropes denigrating U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-District 8), who is not Jewish, and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who is. In bold typeface, the opening statement reads: “In 10 years, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin sent $1.2 billion of Maryland federal taxpayer money to the apartheid state of Israel to build schools, roads and other infrastructure while saying Maryland doesn’t have the money to help develop our communities.”

On the left side of the page, Cardin, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-District 5) and Van Hollen are depicted standing over Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, both African-Americans, whose heads were digitally placed on the bodies of dogs.

A speech bubble emerges from Van Hollen’s image, saying, “I thought they’d want millions in school funding for their loyalty, but they sold out their community and Donna Edwards for a few doggy treats.” The accompanying text accuses Baker and Leggett of selling out fellow African-Americans in order “to further their interests.”

Edwards, an African-American congresswoman from Prince George’s County representing the 4th congressional district, is running against Van Hollen for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Mikulski.

A speech bubble emerging from Leggett says, “I’d trust these guys over Donna Edwards any day. Hey Baker: Where did you get that ‘secret’ $500K for your campaign? I want some ‘doggy-treats’ too! After all the barking I did for you to get the MGM casino — you owe me dawg.”

The accompanying text goes on for several paragraphs playing on common anti-Semitic themes, such as the “Israel lobby” financing Van Hollen’s campaign “to ensure blacks don’t get political power in the Senate.”

On the bottom half of the page, the flier links Israel to cases of police brutality in the United States, relates recent Ethiopian-Israeli protests in Tel Aviv to last week’s protests in Baltimore and repeats discredited reports that Ethiopian Jews are being injected with birth control.

While it remains to be seen who was behind the fliers’ production and distribution, condemnation from the Jewish community and from Edwards was swift. Calls to Baker and Leggett were unanswered as of press time.

“This is … vile anti-Semitism. It’s grotesque, it’s vulgar, it has no place in politics [and] in American political discourse,” said Ronald Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “It’s an attempt to inject race into a contest where the voters will make a decision.”

Halber added that this is not the first time anti-Semitism has been brought into campaign season. When Cardin ran successfully against former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Steele supporter sent out a flier that read in part, “Ben Cardin Promises to Attack Jesus Christ, Pastors, Churches and Christians and to Take Away Blacks’ Freedom If He Is Elected.”

Edwards was incensed by a message that purported to support her candidacy.

“I am outraged and disgusted by the anti-Semitic hate speech in this flier,” she said. “It has no business in our discourse, let alone American politics.”

Van Hollen’s campaign chair, Yvette Lewis, called the flier “disgusting.”

“I know our voters won’t stand for it,” said Lewis. “This kind of hate has no place in the debate about the future of our state and our country.”

Virginia-based Sabra recalls 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus

Image via Sabra.com

Image via Sabra.com

Colonial Heights, Virginia-based Sabra Dipping Co. announced that it is voluntarily recalling around 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus sold in the United States because of a possible contamination with the food-borne illness Listeria monocytogenes, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium “that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems,” according to the FDA, adding that “although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.”

According to a review article in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection, “Listeria is more likely to cause death than other bacteria that cause food poisoning. In fact 20 to 30% of food borne listeriosis infections in high-risk individuals may be fatal.”

The recalled items are Sabra Classic Hummus 10 oz, Sabra Classic Hummus 30 oz, Sabra Classic Hummus without Garnish 32oz, Sabra Classic Hummus 17oz Six Pack and Hummus Dual Pack Classic/Garlic 23.5oz.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with these products.

Sabra recently expanded its Richmond area operations with an addition that doubled its plant capacity. Sabra’s decision to open the world’s largest hummus production facility in Virginia was made possible by the Virginia Israel Advisory Board – a government agency that incentivizes Israeli companies to locate in Virginia.

Bail Set for Ohio Rabbi

Booking photograph of Frederick Martin Karp

Booking photograph of Frederick Martin Karp

Rabbi Frederick “Ephraim” Karp made his first appearance in Baltimore County court Thursday for a hearing at which a judge set his bail at $500,000 and forbid him from any contact with his accusers, witnesses or children under the age of 18.

Karp, an Ohio resident, was extradited to Maryland yesterday from New York City, where he was arrested Jan. 15 at the John F. Kennedy International Airport as he awaited a flight to Israel. He is charged with second- and third-degree sex offense, sexual abuse of a minor and perverted practice stemming from an accusation made on New Year’s Eve that Karp had been sexually abusing a young girl in Baltimore County over a period of time.

Karp made his appearance via closed circuit television from the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.

Karp was not aware of any investigation surrounding him until Jan. 14, when Baltimore County police came to his home in Beachwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, to speak with him, his lawyer, Marc Zayon, told the court. Furthermore, he stated, the rabbi had planned his trip in September, long before a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Lisa Dever, a representative from the state’s attorney’s office, detailed some of the allegations against Karp to the judge. The alleged victim, she said, came into contact with Karp through a close relationship between the rabbi and her family. The abuse, the state claims, took place over a span of five years, from the time the victim was 7 years old until present day. Furthermore, the attorney added, two of the victim’s sisters have since come forward and accused Karp of inappropriately touching them as well.

Karp’s wife, Sarah Epstein Karp, was present at the bail hearing, along with Karp’s brother-in-law. Both sat quietly while the judge told Karp and his lawyer that his bail would be reduced from the initial $5 million that the state had requested, citing the serious nature of the allegations and the rabbi’s status as a non-resident, to $500,000 in light of what the judged described as evidence that Karp had not been planning to flee the country, as investigators feared at the time of his arrest, but rather to meet his wife in Israel for a family vacation.

A pretrial hearing was granted and Zayon said his client intends to defend himself “vigorously.”

Karp, who founded Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains and served as its president, was suspended from the organization on Jan. 23.

“We have no knowledge of any details other than those published in the media,” the organization said in a statement. “NAJC must trust the legal process of the State of Maryland and, until these charges are either proven or dismissed in a court of law, have suspended his membership in the organization.”

Baltimore County Police said last week that there is no evidence that any incidents of abuse occurred at any Baltimore-area Jewish facilities.

In Ohio, Karp was director of spiritual living at the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living. He was suspended from his post as soon as the facility learned of his arrest.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Israel, Palestinians agree to new cease-fire

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt announced a new open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian groups shortly after an Israeli struck by a Gaza mortar died of his wounds.

The official Egyptian News Agency announced Tuesday evening that the cease-fire would begin at 7 p.m.

In the hour leading up to the announced cease-fire, dozens of mortars and rockets were fired at southern Israel. One Israeli was killed and at least two more were seriously injured in the Eshkol region.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a televised speech at the start of a leadership meeting in Ramallah, said, “We announce the Palestinian leadership’s agreement to Egypt’s call for a comprehensive and lasting truce beginning at 7 p.m. today.”

Israeli Cabinet ministers reportedly were informed earlier in the evening that the cease-fire proposal had been accepted. The proposal did not require a Cabinet vote.

According to reports, the cease-fire would see the immediate opening of border crossings from Gaza into Israel and Egypt, and the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone.

The second phase would begin in a month, with discussion of the construction of a Gaza seaport and the Israeli release of Hamas prisoners.

The sides have agreed to numerous cease-fires since Israel launched its military operation in Gaza early last month to stop rocket fire from the coastal strip.

The U.S. State Department welcomed news of the cease-fire.

“We call on all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms, and hope very much that the cease-fire will prove to be durable and sustainable,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the daily briefing.

Calif. Synagogue Ponders Legal Action Against Former Exec

The just departed executive director of Adas Israel Congregation has admitted to intentionally stealing at least $390,000, deceptive record keeping and illegal transferring of funds from a California synagogue during the time he was executive director there.

Eric S. Levine, who was asked to resign on Tuesday from the D.C. synagogue after being executive director for about a month, “apologized and did not deny any of the accusations,” Sonia Israel, president of the Beth El Congregation in La Jolla, Calif., announced in a letter sent to congregants Feb. 12.

Levine, of Bethesda, allegedly stole the money over a five-year period, beginning in 2008, Israel noted. He likely will face time in jail if the California congregation decides to press charges and Levine is found guilty.

Adas Israel’s president also sent out a letter to members of his congregation.

“While there is no indication of any improprieties during Eric’s short time at Adas, we have nonetheless commenced a thorough review of our financial and administrative records,” wrote Arnie Podgorksy.

Right now, Adas Israel is satisfied that no money has been taken from its synagogue, as there were no irregularities found during the audit, a source close to the synagogue said.

After being confronted by the leadership at Beth El, Levine not only admitted what he had done, but he also informed the leadership of Adas Israel of the theft. Adas Israel is not contemplating legal action as the synagogue has not been harmed, the source said.

However, the leadership at Congregation Beth El is considering pressing charges.

“We are consulting with experts in the appropriate areas of law to determine how to proceed with the authorities,” wrote Israel wrote. The synagogue also is investigating how to recover the money from Levine, if possible.

In an effort to keep congregants informed, a town hall meeting has been set for Feb. 26.

Solomon Wisenberg, a partner at the D.C. law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough LLP who specializes in white collar criminal defense, said that Levine is likely to face federal charges.

Wisenberg is not familiar with the case but when told the details, he said that it probably would be a federal case as embezzling almost always involves interstate bank, mail or wire fraud.

“That’s serious,” he said. “He’ll probably do some time” in jail unless the synagogue decides to keep the matter quiet. But considering the entire congregation has been informed and a meeting is planned, Wisenberg said it didn’t sound like that is what Beth El had in mind.

In cases like this, a judge must follow guidelines but is allowed leeway. The final amount of money stolen and the number of people harmed play a role in the sentencing, he explained.

“Presumably if you are stealing from a congregation, you are stealing from all the members who contribute,” said Wisenberg.

Under federal guidelines, a loss of less than $400,000, combined with the harming of more than 250 people, could translate to a sentence of between 21 months to 63 months. A source close to Adas Israel, however, said on Wednesday that Levine’s alleged theft could be closer to $500,000.

Considering that Levine confessed right away and assuming he cooperates with any law enforcement investigation, said Wisenberg, his sentence may be lighter.

According to Beth El’s president, Levine’s financial irregularities “came to light” at the end of January, about 45 days after he stopped working there. Then, in a phone call Sunday, Feb. 9, Levine was confronted by synagogue officials.

“He admitted that the deceptive record keeping and illegal transfer of funds was intentional. He then apologized and did not deny any of the accusations,” Israel wrote in the letter to congregants.

While not everything is known, Israel noted that “Eric was budgeting for improperly used funds. Therefore, we anticipate that our current cash balance and projected receipts for the rest of the year will cover our operating expenses.

“It is never easy to learn that someone you trusted has violated that trust,” continued Beth El’s president. “It is never easy to learn that someone you relied on to guide and protect an institution’s financial security has instead stolen funds for personal use and then covered up his misdeeds. When the institution is a religious organization, a community held together in part by moral and ethical bonds, such a betrayal is even more painful.”

Rabbi Philip Graubart also sent out a message to Beth El congregants, questioning how a community recovers from betrayal and calling the time since he learned of Levine’s misdeeds “a dark several weeks for me personally.”

“We made serious mistakes in trusting Eric,” wrote Graubart. “We were victimized by a skilled liar. We will carry the brokenness with us for a long time.”

Prior to working at the California synagogue, Levine was associate director/director of planning and allocations at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County from April 2005 to July 2007.

When asked about Levine, Michael Sonduck, president and CEO of the Federation in San Diego, told Washington Jewish Week, “I am not going to have any comment at all regarding this matter.”

Calls and emails to Graubart, Israel and others on the rabbinical and staff leadership at Congregation Beth El were not returned.

Levine started working at Adas Israel last month; he had been executive director at Congregation Beth El from July 2007 until December 2013.

Levine is married with young children.

spollak@washingtonjewishweek.com

Synagogue Without Exec After $500K Theft

After little more than a month of work, the new executive director for Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., was let go after admitting to stealing close to half a million dollars from a synagogue in California when he was its executive director.

Eric S. Levine “will no longer be serving as executive director for Adas Israel Congregation due to alleged, serious financial irregularities in his previous synagogue position in California,” read a letter sent to congregants and signed by synagogue president Arnie Podgorsky.

Levine admitted on Tuesday that he took between $400,000 and $500,000 over a five-year period from Congregation Beth El in La Jolla, Calif., according to a source close to the D.C. synagogue. His admission to the Adas Israel leadership followed one made to Beth El’s leadership, the source said.

Adas Israel officials immediately conducted an audit of its funds and found no irregularities at all, the source added. The synagogue is not contemplating charges as it experienced no harm.

Calls and emails to rabbinical and staff leadership at Congregation Beth El were not returned.

“We are persuaded that these alleged wrongdoings were unknown to Eric’s previous synagogue when we verified his performance and integrity prior to his being employed,” Podgorsky noted in his statement. “Obviously this news comes as a tremendous shock to both congregations.”

Adas Israel already has begun the process of finding a new executive director.

Levine started working at Adas Israel last month; he had been executive director at Congregation Beth El from July 2007 until December 2013, according to his LinkedIn page. On that page, he listed his experience as having “successfully navigated [an] organization’s finances through one of the worst economic disasters in U.S. history with six years of balanced budgets and modest surpluses each year.”

He also claimed to have “raised over $6 million for [a] congregation’s endowment with an additional 60-plus future legacy commitments.”

Prior to working at the California synagogue, Levine was associate director/director of planning and allocations at the Jewish Federation of San Diego County from April 2005 to July 2007.

Levine is married with young children.

“Our hearts go out to Eric’s family during this difficult time,” wrote Podgorsky. “We appreciate the immensely difficult circumstances that his wife and young children are experiencing. As a Jewish and holy community, we have an obligation to respect their privacy and be supportive.”

Everybody’s talking about the State of the Union

state-of-the-union-Barak_2Moments after President Barack Obama finished his State of the Union address Tuesday, members of Congress were already picking apart the speech.

Some, like Tea Party favorite Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, thought the president was less antagonistic to congressional Republicans than in previous speeches.

But, he said, “He could have pulled all of the Obamacare out of the speech…then I think I could have sat there relaxed,” King said after the address. He said the speech was predictable and that since the president spent a large part of his address extolling the Affordable Care Act, the GOP should continue to focus on its repeal.

Obama told the joint session of Congress that while he wanted to work with Republicans, he would use to executive orders to get around gridlock.

“The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress,” Obama said. “For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government… When our differences shut down or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and chair of the Democratic National Committee, applauded the president’s approach.

“I thought the speech was resolute,” she told the Washington Jewish Week. “I thought it was visionary; I thought it was clear; and that it really struck the right balance between reaching out his hand to the Republicans and very clearly telling them, ‘Look, a time for intransigence and obstructionism is over.’”

Compared to employment and the economy, the president spent little time on foreign policy. He said that his administration’s diplomacy has succeeded in launching an international effort to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons and initiating the Joint Plan of Action with Iran to roll back the threat of its nuclear weapons program.

“As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb,” Obama said.

He tried to put to rest the overwhelming distrust among Americans about whether Iran intends to be forthcoming about its nuclear program. He said that trust will not be an element of any long-term agreement with Iran. “Any deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb,” he said, adding,

“If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., did not share the president’s optimism, telling WJW that the testimony she heard from Iran experts earlier in the day did not paint the same picture.

“They said: ‘You know, we can call it a success if that makes us feel better, but it is not. It’s a very weak deal,’” Ros-Lehtinen said of the West’s agreement with Iran. “It’s a very low standard.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., was also critical of the interim agreement with Iran. “It was wishful thinking at best and it’s a rotten agreement at worst,” he said. “We are giving up what we are doing right now and they are giving up not doing something in the future. In other words they aren’t giving up anything and we’re giving up something.”

Applause in the chamber predictably followed party lines. Yet when president Obama said that he would veto the Menendez-Kirk bill – which calls for new sanctions on Iran after the JPA expires – if the Senate passed it, there was little applause from either side of the aisle.

Asked about the president’s position against Menendez-Kirk, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, said that even though he supports the president’s efforts at diplomacy, he still maintains that the Menendez-Kirk bill will not stand in the way of diplomacy as the administration has suggested.

“My conviction is that the sanctions bill expresses the view that tougher sanctions will be needed if the talks fail, and that a vote is unnecessary as long as the progress in the negotiations is meaningful and visible,” Blumenthal said. “We can delay a vote until the negotiations no longer are producing visible and meaningful progress, and I think the president should view us as strengthening his hand rather than detracting from his effort.”

By far the shortest part of the president’s speech was the single sentence on the Israel-Palestine peace process.

“As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there: to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the state of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side,” Obama said.

The significance of the president’s use of the phrase “Jewish state” was not lost on the lawmakers. Israel demands that the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish state, and the term signaled to Israel’s many supporters in Congress that the president saw eye to eye with them.

“I think it’s the substance that matters and he was very clear in terms of his determination to achieve peace,” Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said, “But with Israel’s security is absolutely essential, you don’t have to make a long speech to be clear where you stand.”

Rohrabacher, who visited Israel where he met with Israeli security personnel, was unconvinced.

“We met with a Palestinian negotiator and our conversation confirmed for us that the Palestinians are not serious about reaching an agreement because they are unwilling to commit to an agreement with Israel that does not include their right to return millions of people to the pre-1967 borders,” Rohrabacher said, referring to the Palestinian demand for a right of return. “Unless they can do that, they are not serious and that would destroy Israel.”

Levin wouldn’t say what he thought the chances for the success of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were, but said at least they’re trying.

“That’s exactly what should happen,” Levin said. “Because someday, the issues will be worked out and Israel’s security will be absolutely sustained.”

dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com

State of the Union: Jewish groups’ priorities

President Barack Obama will present his annual State of the Union address before Congress and the nation this evening. Like presidents before him, Obama has traditionally used this opportunity to lay out an ambitious agenda – and he probably still will – but it would be difficult to do so without acknowledging the saga of last year, when the great plans he touted in that State of the Union became a series of failed policy initiatives.

One of his highest priorities, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, has been plagued by errors and delays. Undoubtedly, the president will point to the success stories resulting from the legislation while reminding the public that the errors and missteps – some of which he attempted to solve through executive order – are to be expected from any monumental, but fledgling government program.

Judging from statements emanating from the White House, however, even recalcitrant Republicans might not hinder Obama, who has previously shown his willingness to use his executive authority to enact regulations without the backing of Congress; today, the office of Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that while the president will tout raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, through Congressional passage of the Harkin-Miller bill, in tonight’s speech, he will also commit himself to using “executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services.”

Other Obama accomplishments in the past year that might see a little review in the State of Union include his recent reforms in accountability and transparency, both instigated by the revelations that the Internal Revenue Service was putting extra scrutiny into their auditing of Tea Party and right-wing affiliated groups, and the National Security Agency was collecting information beyond what many Americans believed was acceptable.

What appears to interest the Jewish community most, however, is the president’s stance on the negotiations being facilitated by Secretary of State John Kerry between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the P5+1 conferences in Geneva aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear capability. If the subject comes up tonight, the president will likely hail the Joint Plan of Action initiated earlier this month as a major breakthrough in relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran – a nation that the United States had not had diplomatic relations with in 30 years. At the same time, he will urge the public to have patience and faith in the process and urge lawmakers to not support the Menendez-Kirk bill and avoid interfering with the diplomacy currently underway.

To preview the speech, the Washington Jewish Week asked numerous leaders in the Jewish community to identify what they think should be included in the president’s speech tonight. Here are their responses:

Jewish Federations urge President Obama to reiterate his commitment to ensuring Iran does not develop a nuclear weapons capacity, while keeping “all options on the table.” Federations also urge the President to continue promoting the critical importance of charities in our society, speak out in support of Senate passage of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to advocate for assessable long-term care for older Americans and services for their care-givers.

– William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America


I think that he will definitely address the two major issues: Iran and the Kerry initiative for the two state solution.

We know that the president is committed to this effort; what I think we would like to hear is a renewed commitment to Israel, to Israel’s security, and to the idea that this conflict with the Palestinians can be settled and it could be done now, this year. And that he will back to the hilt Secretary Kerry’s efforts, and that he will personally intervene at the right moment, and that this is a time for the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to show leadership and to take bold decisions for peace. But that the United States will always have Israel’s back and would never abandon that.

– Alan Elsner, vice president of communications at J Street


I would like the President Obama to clearly state that the United States and Israel are engaged in a shared and existential struggle with radical Islam and that the greatest threat facing the United States, Israel and most of Europe is a nuclear Iran.

I’d be encouraged to see him say that “yes, we’d like to see two states living in peace side by side, but it is unlikely to come about, as long as the Palestinians continue to teach their children that one day all of the land will be theirs. In order to achieve the lofty goal of peace, the Palestinians must end their incitement, which is based on an unjustifiable hatred that is unacceptable. If and when that day comes America will be ready to assist the Israelis and Palestinians in peace.”

On the topic of negotiations with Iran, I’d like to see the president assert that it is necessary to use all means to defeat a nuclear Iran, including negotiations, sanctions and the military option. I’d like to see the president say, “I have taken notice of the Iranians’ claim that the negotiations do not impede their goal of nuclear capability. I differ in that view, but if that is their view, then they have proceeded to negotiate in bad faith, and it is reasonable to prepare new sanctions, and I support such efforts.”

– Sarah Stern, president and founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth

Seasons Kosher Market Pursuing Baltimore Property

The Fields of Pikesville building won’t be getting a kosher market anytime soon, the realtor redeveloping the building said.

Seasons, a New York-based kosher market, is instead planning to open at 401 Reisterstown Road, which was once home to Danielle’s Bluecrest Caterers.

“We feel it’s a good growth neighborhood,” said Mayer Gold, Seasons’ owner. “It’s a nice, vibrant kosher community.”

He said his company, which has been looking for a Baltimore location for about a year and a half, is under contract to purchase the Reisterstown Road building.

Baltimore County held a public parking variance hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The building’s parking lot is not properly zoned, Gold said. If all goes as planned, he hopes to open in Baltimore in one year.

Carl Verstandig, president and CEO of America’s Realty, LLC, said Seasons needed almost 5,000 more square feet than the Fields building could offer.

“Logistically, we couldn’t get the space to fit,” said Verstandig, whose company is redeveloping the Fields building.

Advanced Auto parts will be opening in its stead, Verstandig said.

Seasons, a gourmet kosher market, offers takeout food, deli meats, fish, produce, a butcher, a bakery and floral arrangements, according to its website. It has four locations in New York: Lawrence, Scarsdale, Queens and Manhattan. The company will also be opening a store in Lakewood, N.J., in about 18 months, Gold said.

He likened Seasons to a kosher Whole Foods, a family-friendly, clean and upscale store with fresh food, but not “upscale prices,” he said.

Although Verstandig couldn’t work things out with Seasons, he is optimistic about the future, having recently acquired the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Reisterstown and Old Court roads for $1.45 million.

At the Wells Fargo building, he hopes to have the 14,000 vacant square feet leased to a law firm and a real estate company within the next few weeks.

At the Fields building, he expects Advanced Auto Parts to open in March and self-defense and fitness studio Masada Tactical to open the month prior, in February.

When his company’s pending deals are wrapped up, it will own 227 centers in 31 states. With the recent Pikesville acquisition, his company now owns 10 buildings within three blocks of each other in Pikesville, he said.

“That’s gives us quite a bit of confidence in Pikesville,” Verstandig said.