Loyola U. Chicago Suspends, Then Reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine

Loyola University Chicago suspended and subsequently reinstated its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

The action followed an anti-Israel protest this month by the SJP chapter that blocked an event promoting Birthright Israel.

According to a statement released by Loyola, the university informed the chapter on Sept. 19 that it was “temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with University representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations.”

After meetings with university officials on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26, the group was allowed to resume its activities.

— JTA

In a protest on Sept. 9, SJP members lined up in front of a table manned by Hillel students promoting Birthright Israel trips. A student news website, The College Fix, quoted Hillel chapter president Talia Sobel as recounting that students from SJP asked Hillel members, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?”

The temporary sanctions on SJP came shortly after a member of the group and of the student senate, Israa Elhalawany, was censured by the judicial board of the student government on Sept. 16 for “several Facebook posts over the summer in response to the attacks on Gaza” that included “profanity or expletives.” The board noted that the censure was for the manner of the posts, not the content.

In March, Loyola’s United Student Government Association took two votes on divestment resolutions. The measure at first passed unanimously. In a subsequent vote, it passed narrowly before being vetoed by the student president.

The university’s president dismissed the resolutions as irrelevant.

Death of Jewish Construction Worker Being Looked at as Terror Attack

JERUSALEM — Police in Israel are investigating the death of a Jewish construction worker in Petach Tikvah as a terror attack.

Nathaniel Roi Arami, 26, fell 11 stories from the side of a high-rise building where he was doing exterior work when both of his rappelling
cables snapped in an incident on Sept. 16. His co-workers had finished work and had walked away from the site before he fell.

A court-imposed gag order was lifted Tuesday in the investigation, which is looking at Arami’s death as a possible nationalistic murder.

An Arab co-worker had been taken in for questioning following the death but was released later, according to reports.

Arami was the father of two.

— JTA

An About-Face

The leader of France's far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, seen here at a May Day demonstration in Paris in 2012, has a growing following among Jews. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The leader of France’s far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, seen here at a May Day demonstration in Paris in 2012, has a growing following among Jews. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

From the window of his Paris home, Michel Ciardi can see into the waiting room of a government welfare agency, where a predominantly Arab and African crowd awaits government checks.

A former communist, Ciardi once believed the scene at the agency was a necessary element of French efforts to help integrate new immigrants. But that changed in 2000 after the second Palestinian intifada triggered a massive increase in anti-Semitic violence, much of it committed by Arab and African immigrants.

The violence was enough to shift his political allegiance to the National Front, a far-right party long demonized by French Jews as anti-Semitic and a threat to republican values.

“I never considered voting National Front,” Ciardi said. “But I realized you need to defend yourself, your community, society and country against those seeking to subdue us.”

French Jewry has long viewed the National Front as an enemy, an abominable vestige of the pro-Nazi Vichy state. But under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, the photogenic daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, a political provocateur convicted multiple times for hate speech and Holocaust denial, the party has tried to shed its image as decidedly outside the mainstream.

The younger Le Pen has aggressively courted Jewish voters by emphasizing its opposition to “the Islamization of France” and asserting that Jews have far more to fear from Arab anti-Semitism than from the racist rhetoric of some far-right activists.

Her strategy appears to be working.

A recently published survey of 1,095 self-identified Jews showed that the National Front had more than doubled its share of the Jewish vote in the 2012 presidential elections, earning 13.5 percent of Jewish support — a finding that has set off alarm bells among leaders of France’s major Jewish groups.

“Rich community bosses and well-educated students don’t understand what’s happening because they don’t live with the Muslims in the workers’ neighborhoods,” Ciardi said. “There, Jews are realizing that the immigration policies and political correctness of past governments created a reality where they cannot wear their kippah outside.”

Marine Le Pen assumed the leadership of the National Front in 2011, replacing her father. He had run the party with his deputy, Bruno Gollnisch, who was also convicted of denying the Holocaust, though the ruling was overturned by a higher court. Together, they seemed happy to make the National Front the bete noire of the political establishment.

Since taking the helm, Le Pen has worked to elevate the party to a level of respectability it could never achieve under her father, whose often blunt racism cost National Front many votes and left the movement isolated.

After assuming the party leadership, Le Pen stripped Gollnisch of his duties at the European Parliament, leading him to observe last year that she “seeks to keep me and her father in a certain state of virginity” — a phrase pundits took to be a euphemism for impotence. She repeatedly has condemned anti-Semitism and punished a party official who made anti-Semitic statements. In 2011, Le Pen dispatched her life partner and National Front Vice President Louis Alliot on a bridge-building mission to Israel.

“The fact that Marine Le Pen took the party in a more moderate direction is a major factor for many Jews,” said Gilles Goldnadel, a prominent attorney and a former member of the executive board of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. “Today in France, there is a greater danger from Islamo-leftism than the danger posed by the far right. It’s not surprising some Jews, like non-Jews, vote for the far right as a reaction to this threat.”

Under Marine Le Pen, party officials for the first time began courting Jewish votes by addressing letters to their communities. One such letter was sent this month by Julien Leonardelli, a party regional secretary from the Toulouse area, to a local Jewish community center that assailants earlier this year attacked with firebombs.

Leonardelli wrote of his “grave concern at the increase of anti-Semitic attacks” in France, which he said were the result of irresponsible immigration policies by the Socialist Party and the UMP party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“As a National Front representative and spokesperson for Marine Le Pen, I express deep indignation over these acts and assure all our Jewish compatriots of our full support in the fight against all forms of anti-Semitism,” Leonardelli wrote.

Within the party, such efforts have prompted a backlash from the old guard, including Le Pen’s father and Gollnisch, who wrote a 1,700-word blog post earlier this month in response to the IFOP survey in which he bemoaned the party’s failure to follow the ideological course set by its founders.

After Le Pen briefly removed her father’s blog from the party website after he said that a Jewish singer should be “put in the oven,” he accused his daughter of cowering before “the blood hounds that constantly search for anti-Semitism.”

“She is being criticized internally within National Front for her choices because there is still an anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying element within the party,” Ciardi said.

With Jews representing less than 1 percent of the French population, the bump in support is negligible in electoral terms. But the survey by the IFOP polling company grabbed headlines in major publications because it was seen as a worrisome indicator that a party once shunned by the mainstream is gaining traction.

“The glass ceiling that prevented National Front from becoming a majority party is beginning to seriously crack,” Valerie Igounet, a historian who specializes in the French far right, told Le Figaro.

Among Jewish leaders, the party remains well beyond the pale. CRIF President Roger Cukierman recently told the RCJ Jewish radio station that Le Pen’s disavowals of anti-Semitism are mere “lip service” from a party that still harbors “Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites in it ranks.”

But even he credited Le Pen with “taking care not to offend our community and making a step in the right direction.”

A ‘Murderous’ Debate

Researchers search for human remains in Wasosz, the site of a massacre of Jewish villagers in 1941. (Podlaska Archaeological Laboratory)

Researchers search for human remains in Wasosz, the site of a massacre of Jewish villagers in 1941. (Podlaska Archaeological Laboratory)

In September 1941, a group of villagers wielding axes and other tools descended upon the homes of their Jewish neighbors and murdered every last one, according to testimonies gathered by Holocaust scholars.

Not much else is known about the massacre in Wasosz, a village 100 miles east of Warsaw, including basics such as the number of victims. Current estimates range widely, from 180 to 1,200.

In an effort to provide conclusive forensic evidence about the massacre, in July, a Polish prosecutor asked Jewish community leaders for permission to exhume the bodies. The plan has split the community, with some passionately supporting what they see as a last chance for justice and others claiming it would violate the dignity of the dead and Jewish religious law, or halachah.

“Once the bodies are in the ground, halachah teaches us they are not to be disturbed except when it is done to protect the dignity of the dead or to save lives,” Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said. “I and other rabbis and the leadership of the Jewish community in Warsaw, among others, feel neither stipulation applies to Wasosz. A desire to clarify history is not enough.”

Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the country’s main Jewish umbrella group, called Schudrich’s position “a serious mistake, with detrimental implications.”

“We have tools to determine details about both victims and perpetrators in a matter which is still a criminal matter,” said Kadlcik, who is seeking an exhumation followed by Jewish burial of the human remains. “If we let this chance go, the case of Wasosz will become history — an unclear one and subject to falsification.”

In a move to undermine opponents to exhumation, Kadlcik has requested an opinion from Rabbi Yakov Ruza, a prominent authority in Israel on forensic medicine. Polish prosecutors have also reviewed the Israeli law that permits exhumation in cases involving a murder investigation, Kadlcik said.

Meanwhile, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance — the government body whose prosecutor, Radoslaw Ignatiew, initiated the investigation of Wasosz — is holding off on any exhumation until at least 2015 while the issue is discussed within the Jewish community.

The debate has ramifications well beyond an internal Jewish dispute over halachah and forensics. In the background are echoes of Jedwabne, an earlier investigation of another wartime mass murder of Jews by Poles.

The opening of that probe in 2001 was a watershed moment for Poland, according to Joanna Michlic, a historian at Bristol University, who wrote a 43-page paper chronicling how the debate split the Catholic Church, generated ultranationalist protests featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, led to the replacement of a memorial plaque that blamed the Germans for the murders and, finally, yielded the first admission by a Polish president of Polish guilt.

Before Jedwabne, Holocaust-era crimes by Poles were taboo because they undermined the communist narrative that all Poles were equal victims of Nazism. The subject remains divisive today because it undermines the current government’s focus on Polish wartime heroism and resistance to
totalitarianism.

From a forensic perspective, the dig in Jedwabne was inconclusive. Though an excavation of the site revealed some human remains, it never progressed to include exhumation — as per understandings reached between Polish authorities and rabbis, including Schudrich.

Without exhumation, it was impossible to answer such basic questions as how many people died, which in turn left the door open to revisionism in far-right circles. Several nationalist lawmakers, clergymen and journalists continue to dispute Polish complicity.

“Jedwabne was ultimately a missed opportunity,” said Jan Gross, the Princeton historian whose research triggered the 2001 debate. “Some important findings were recovered, but questions persisted because the probe was interrupted before basic facts could be recovered.”

For Kadlcik, Wasosz is a chance to correct the opportunity missed at Jedwabne.

“For the ultranationalists, the bottom line from Jedwabne is as follows: The Jews made accusations but hid behind their religious laws at the first attempt to corroborate,” Kadlcik said. “Well, this time we need to settle this and serve justice.”

But Schudrich also drew painful lessons from the Jedwabne probe.

“The entire place was littered with human remains — not just the area where we thought the bodies lay,” he said. “So as soon as the digging began, we saw bones fused together in fire, earrings of little girls. We found children’s bones. To any reasonable person, that settled any doubts there may have been about a massacre. There is no justification to violate the dignity of the dead.”

As for serving justice, Schudrich said, “The perpetrators will get justice from God. The small minority that refuses to face reality and historical evidence, no exhumation is going to change their minds.”

Landmark Ruling

Sixteen people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up on this Jerusalem bus. One of the injured was New Jersey Sen. Robert Singer’s daughter, Sarri. (Quique Kierszenbaum/Getty Images)

Sixteen people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up on this Jerusalem bus. One of the injured was New Jersey Sen. Robert Singer’s daughter, Sarri. (Quique Kierszenbaum/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Following a five-week landmark civil trial and two days of deliberation, a Brooklyn jury found Arab Bank liable of knowingly supporting terrorism in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the U.S. District Court ruling on Sept. 22, the Jordan-based bank provided material support to Hamas — backing that helped facilitate 24 terror attacks between 2001 and 2004.

The case was brought by nearly 300 U.S. citizens who had been injured or lost family members in the attacks, which took place during the second intifada.

It was the first civil case against a bank to be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, which allows victims of foreign terror attacks to sue for damages in the United States. The case had been tied up in litigation for a decade before finally going to trial in August.

The plaintiffs’ team of lawyers, led by Gary Osen, argued that Arab Bank knowingly processed large payments to Hamas leaders from a Saudi charity as well as “martyr payments” — payouts of $5,300 — to the families of suicide bombers.

Shand Stephens, a lawyer for the defense, contended that the bank had followed all the guidelines set forth by the United States and other governments in determining which payments to allow and which to block. Stephens said that Arab Bank used software designed to flag the names of terrorists designated by the U.S. government.

The defense insisted that the financial institution should not be held liable for transactions that passed muster with the U.S. government.

Among the plaintiffs in the case was Sarri Singer, who was injured in a 2003 suicide bombing.

“I started crying when the email came in,” Singer, the daughter of New Jersey state Sen. Robert Singer, said shortly after the verdict was announced.

Singer was on the No. 14 bus in Jerusalem on June 11, 2003, when the suicide bomber — standing a few feet from her — blew himself up. Sixteen people on the bus were killed, and 100 others were injured. Singer broke her clavicle, and she still has shrapnel lodged in her mouth.

“I feel very validated and acknowledged as a victim of terror,” Singer said. “The jury has given us a sense that there is someone responsible for what happened to us.”

A separate phase of the trial will determine how much the bank must pay the 297 terror victims and their families.

In a statement following the verdict, Arab Bank vowed to appeal and said the court proceedings amounted to a “show trial.”

Specifically, the bank said that due to foreign privacy laws, it could not turn over the documents requested by the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the lawsuit’s pretrial phase. As a result, sanctions were imposed, and the bank was not allowed to refer to those documents, precluding much of their defense, according to the statement.

“Today’s decision, if it stands, exposes the banking industry to enormous liability for nothing other than the processing of routine transactions and the provision of conventional account services even if all governmental requirements are followed and the parties receiving services were in good standing with these governments,” the bank wrote in its statement.

This precedent, the bank wrote, would “create vast uncertainty and risk in the international finance system,” thus limiting access to financial services in parts of the world. Other terror-financing trials are pending.

The case is significant in that financial institutions can be held responsible for the actions of their clients.

A similar case was thrown out in 2012 by a U.S. District Court over this issue.

“Hamas is not the defendant,” the judge, Jack Weinstein, wrote in explanation at the time.

A Life Wonderfully Lived

Ida Goldberg

Ida Goldberg (Photos provided)

Known for her many sayings, Ida Goldberg, who passed away Saturday, Sept. 27 at the age of 104, lived by the motto, “Old age is not for sissies.”

Born in Sosnowiec, Poland on Dec. 12, 1909 to Aaron and Sophia Noonberg, her family left Eastern Europe for America when Ida was only 3 years old. Leaving most of their possessions behind, Ida left her small town on the Polish-German border after authorities threatened to arrest her father. Ida’s family pretended they were going out shopping but instead boarded a boat to Baltimore.

Living in Baltimore for the rest of her life, Ida prided herself on promoting Judaism. Sacrificing her own schooling after the eighth grade to look after her mother, Ida always endorsed Jewish education.

“Our mother loved the fact she was born on the third night of Chanukah,” said son and author M. Hirsh Goldberg. “In addition, her son, my brother Victor, was born on Shabbat, and I was born on Yom Kippur. She even died Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

Ida was involved in the Talmudical Academy’s Ladies Auxiliary for many years, serving first as vice president and then as president. In addition, Ida was also involved in helping Bais Yaakov and Ner Israel grow. Since her father was president of Tifereth Israel, supporting Jewish causes was in her blood.

Ida Goldberg (center) sits with her granddaughter, grandson-in-law and two of her great-grandchildren. (Provided)

Ida Goldberg (center) sits with her granddaughter, grandson-in-law and two of her great-grandchildren. (Provided)

“Our dear mother chaired many luncheons and was always a huge supporter and fundraiser at TA, Bais Yaakov and Ner Israel Rabbinical College,” said Victor Goldberg. “Between my mother and my father, the two of them spent 80-plus years helping Jewish education in Baltimore grow. She helped make TA the institution it is today.”

Ida met her husband, attorney Herman Goldberg, at a party. Married from 1933 until Herman’s death in 1986, Ida inspired her husband to play an active role in the Jewish community.

“People have fond memories of my parents walking home from synagogue on Shabbat holding hands,” said M. Hirsh Goldberg. “They were married for 53 years and so in love. Due partially to my mother’s influence, my father quit his six-days-a-week job in favor of observing Shabbat.”

Truly a lawyer’s wife, Ida helped her husband study when he was at Georgetown’s law school in Washington, D.C. Revising the material, he would reteach her everything he learned in class. Her sons joke that she may not have graduated from high school, but she was extremely well-versed in law.

100314_goldberg_obit3After Herman’s passing, Ida lived by herself for many years, then for five years with Hirsh and his wife, Gail. Eventually moving to Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital for her final years, she lived every day to the fullest.

“My mother’s treatment at Levindale was wonderful,” said Victor Goldberg.

“One of the highlights for her was when the boys from Ner Israel came to Levindale to dance around her and the other residents on Fridays. That made everything come full circle.”

The sixth of seven siblings, Ida lived the longest. As the sister of the late Joseph, Charles, Morris and Herman Noonberg, Freda Blaker and Kate Savitz, she was one of two siblings to live beyond 100. Her mother passed away at the age of 102.

Ida’s funeral was held at Sol Levinson and Bros. on Sept. 28. She had two sons, Victor and M. Hirsh, nine grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

“All three generations of her descendants observe Orthodox Judaism. That truly shows how much of an influence and inspiration she was. She will be missed,” said Hirsh Goldberg.

afreedman@jewishtimes.com

Presbyterian Minister Addresses BHC

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation hosted the Rev. Andrew Foster Connors at its Friday, Sept. 19 service as part of the congregation’s one-week pulpit exchange with Brown
Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church.

“Tonight, I recognize that that peace has been jeopardized by the actions of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly in actions it took over the summer,” Connors told BHC congregants.

He went on to discuss the historical relationship between the two congregations, the June vote by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the most recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Presbyterian Church, he told congregants, has long seen itself as an advocate for peace. As such, many in the church viewed the move to divest from three American companies doing business with Israeli settlements as a means of forcing the Israeli government to halt its expansion into Palestinian territories. While he stressed that he did not agree with the ultimate decision to divest from the three companies — though the actual investment was negligible — Connors said that he did agree with the many people who believe that the expansion of settlements is a hindrance to peace in the region.

“The resurgence of anti-Jewish attitudes inside my beloved Presbyterian Church (USA) only reinforces my belief that the divestment strategy violates the church’s important, historic role in peacemaking in the region, as a broker for peace, rather than a cheerleader for one side,” said Connors.

Connors said the progress he has seen interfaith projects make in Baltimore City neighborhoods gives him hope for future peace in Israel and Palestine.

BHC Rabbi Andrew Busch addressed  Brown Memorial on Sunday, Sept. 14.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

No Rainout for Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars

Close to 4,000 people attended Rosh Hashanah Under The Stars at Oregon Ridge Park on Sept. 24. (Marc Shapiro)

Close to 4,000 people attended Rosh Hashanah Under The Stars at Oregon Ridge Park on Sept. 24. (Marc Shapiro)

Although it was a chilly night with the looming threat of rain, Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars went off without a hitch last week.

According to organizers of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s eighth annual event, thousands descended on Oregon Ridge Park Sept. 24 for an evening service featuring the synagogue’s rabbis and cantors, a choir and a sign-language interpreter.

“Families who aren’t affiliated, connected to the JCC, The Associated or a congregation, this is their ritual,” said Andy Wayne, director of communications and engagement at the Reform synagogue. “It’s important to us that everyone be able to be a part of the High Holy Days whether they’re a member of a synagogue or not.”

Based on registration numbers and polls taken at the door, he estimated that close to 4,000 people attended. While it featured songs, prayers and passages typical of a Rosh Hashanah service, the service also included a performance of Matisyahu’s “One Day,” which allowed two choir members to sing solo.

Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen focused her sermon on people’s relationship with technology. Although the service was projected on a screen and people could follow along on tablets or smartphones, Sachs-Kohen advocated for a healthy coexistence with the technology many people rely on so heavily these days.

“We need the solitude of not being constantly entertained,” she said. “Our humanity requires it.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Men May Have Been Targeted for Religion

At least one man believes he and two others were targeted because of their religion in an incident that took place on Old Pimlico Road around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 25, the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

Three males were walking in the 6800 block of Old Pimlico Road when a car pulled up to them, rolled the window down, and the man driving pointed something at them. Victims told police they heard a popping noise and thought the man in the car was shooting at them. There we no injuries reported.

The initial police statement said the man pulled up, yelled “Jews, Jews, Jews” and fired a BB or air gun at the men. After re-interviewing the three male victims, police reported that the driver did not say anything to them. Police said a hole in a window at Bais Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore that officers found after the incident was found to be old damage, according to an update from police.

The incident remains classified as a bias incident, the update said.

“We’re still looking to find out who’s behind it,” said police spokesman Cpl. John Wachter.

He said that police have someone at headquarters who keeps track of bias incidents and sends them to state police for filing. Wachter is not aware of any other recent bias incidents, he said.

“Anytime there’s an incident like this, we always adjust our operations accordingly,” he said.

Nathan Willner, a spokesman for Shomrim, said that on Rosh Hashanah, the organization made sure each shul had at least one member with a two-way radio so that communication could move quickly if an incident occurred that required immediate action. He anticipates a similar arrangement for Yom Kippur.

Baltimore County Police ask anyone with information regarding this incident to call 410-307-2020.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Shift in Power

100314_senateWith the Republican Party pushing to retake control of the Senate in the upcoming November elections, a partisan shift in power may significantly affect a broad range of foreign policy and domestic social issues that are prioritized by American Jews.

Midterm elections in the Senate and House of Representatives historically have been difficult for the party holding the presidency. Democrats have held the Senate since public disapproval with the administration of President George W. Bush led to a Democratic sweep of both houses in 2006. Similar backlash against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010 led to a GOP takeover of the House.

The past six years of the split Congress have seen increased partisanship, a government shutdown and an ever-drying supply of major legislation passing the legislature. With the status quo, the obstructionism Obama faces from Capitol Hill is unlikely to improve in his last two years as president.

Currently, the Senate includes 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans, and the GOP will need to pick up at least six seats to obtain a majority.

In Montana, Sen. John Walsh, a brigadier general in the Montana National Guard, was nominated by the state’s Democratic governor to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Max Baucus, who was tapped by Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. But Walsh’s term was short-lived, as allegations came to light that he had plagiarized a large part of a research paper that was required for his advancement to general officer ranks. Walsh admitted to the plagiarism and ended his campaign, creating an open seat.

Montana’s at-large congressman (the state’s population only entitles it to one member in the House), Republican Rep. Steve Daines, is running for the Senate seat and is seen as an almost guaranteed winner in a state that Mitt Romney won by 13 percentage points in the 2012 presidential election. He faces Democrat Amanda Curtis on Nov. 4.

In West Virginia, 77-year-old Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced in January 2013 that he would not seek re-election. In the race for his open seat, Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito leads her opponent, Democrat Natalie Tennant, 53 percent to 34 percent in the latest Real Clear Politics projection. In 2012, Romney won the state, 62 percent to 36 percent.

One of the most likely Republican pickups is in South Dakota. Last year, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson announced his retirement. The state’s current governor, Republican Mike Rounds, easily defeated his primary opponents and has a wide lead over his Democratic opponent, businessman Rick Weiland.

Another important gain for Republicans would be the hotly contested Senate seat in Louisiana, where embattled incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing two GOP challengers. Des-pite having his vote split by another Republican candidate in Louisiana’s unusual open election, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-District 6) leads Landrieu in most polls.

All told, there are six Senate seats currently held by Democrats that are either open seats or occupied by a weak incumbent. These include contests in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Polling in these states is too close to call, though most polls slightly lean Republican.

Although Jewish voters are unlikely to make a major difference in any of the contested races, a shift to Republican control in the Senate is sure to impact Jewish policy priorities. The Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council are thus both helping their parties get out the vote.

“I think there’s no question that support for Israel will, I think, increase dramatically with the Republican leadership in the Senate,” said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the RJC and the Jewish Policy Center think tank. “[This is] mostly because so much of what [Senate] Majority Leader Harry Reid has been doing is bottling up critical legislation, including pressuring members of his own party to not support bipartisan legislation for enhanced sanctions on Iran.

“I think it will be very clear that a top priority of the Republicans, if we get the Senate, would be to follow the lead of the House, which has already passed enhanced sanctions, and give the opportunity for Sen. [Mark] Kirk (R-Ill.) and [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert] Menendez (D-N.J.) to get their critical legislation through the Senate and to the president,” Brooks added.

Brooks also pointed to the August battle in the Senate to pass emergency funding for Israel to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system’s supply of interceptor rockets. Though the funding passed unanimously minutes before the Senate “adjourned for its August recess, Democrats included the Iron Dome assistance in a broader emergency appropriations bill that included funds for fighting fires in Oregon as well as funding requested by Obama to handle the influx of illegal immigrants from Central America. At the time, Republicans called for a separate bill for Iron Dome funding.

“Those kind of shenanigans, at a time when Israel was in the middle of a critical battle in which they needed to have strong support from America, [prove that] Majority Leader Reid would rather have played domestic politics than help Israel,” said Brooks. “In the end we got there, but that kind of stuff, I think, is not going to happen when it’s [the job of] Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.), who was one of the strong voices pushing Harry Reid to free up the $250 million emergency appropriation [for the Iron Dome].”

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the NJDC, does not believe Republicans will take control of the Senate, citing races in states such as Georgia, where Democrats are relying on an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort among a growing demographic of young and non-white voters to deliver the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss to Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn.

“I think bicameral Republican [majorities] in Congress will be problematic for the social issues that are of concern to 70 percent of the Jewish community,” said Moline. “I think it’s a pretty fair bet that you will see attempts to stymie meaningful immigration reform, you’ll see attempts to further restrict the ability for women to control their own health care.

“I think you will find problematic approaches to religion in government from a Jewish perspective,” he added. “I think that initiatives to create equal pay for equal work and to raise the minimum wage would be frustrated by a philosophy … that is more identified with the Republicans than the Democrats.”

Moline noted that the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of U.S. Jews showed that 70 percent of respondents still identify as or lean Democrat compared with only 22 percent identifying or learning Republican.

Unlike Brooks, Moline does not see a shift in control of the Senate changing American foreign policy in the Middle East.

“I think there will probably be some tension between the president and the Senate over his pursuit of certain foreign policy objectives, but I don’t think that’s any different from the way things are now,” he said.

dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com