Turkey and Gravy with a Side of Economic Justice

Thanksgiving is all about celebrating bounty — the bounty of family and friends and of the fruit of hard work. For millions of women and their  families, however, that celebration is muted by hardship and the effort it takes to survive without the wages and benefits that middle-income Americans take for granted.

For those families, especially families headed by women, the Thanksgiving table needs more than a turkey,  donated or purchased. It needs a solid underpinning of paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage and equal pay — social policies that offer the support needed to sustain a decent standard of living.

The struggle for equal pay goes back many decades. After untold years of job discrimination and sex-segregated want ads, Congress finally passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963. Women’s wages rose from 59 to 64 cents on the dollar to around 78 cents now, on average. But at this pace, it will be decades before equality is reached.

Indeed, the total dollars lost to gender inequality in wages are staggering to working-class families. The average full-time white working woman loses $440,000 over the course of her work life, compared with the earnings of white men doing comparable work. That’s certainly bad enough, but the pay disparities are especially burdensome to women of color. That is why passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to update and strengthen existing laws is so critical.

An increase to $12 an hour as  proposed in the Raise the Wage Act (which would also abolish the tipped minimum wage) would raise annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker by $9,500.

And, workers — especially women — need workplace policies that don’t force them to choose between their jobs and their health or the health of their families. As it is now, nearly one in four workers say they either lost a job or were threatened with firing for taking time off because of personal or family illness.

Most people understand the need for paid sick leave from their own  experience. In fact, 85 percent of voters in one survey agree that employers should offer paid sick days. Paid sick-days laws are or will soon be in place in 23 jurisdictions across the country — four states, the District of Columbia and 18 localities, including one large metropolitan county. While that progress is encouraging, four states doing the right thing leaves 46 more to go. The Healthy Families Act — which would guarantee up to seven days of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in businesses with 15 or more employees — is a good start.

A Thanksgiving dinner should mean that families can celebrate the blessing of a standard of living protected by laws that ensure workers, particularly women and families, are treated fairly. We can make next Thanksgiving the quintessential American celebration it should be if we push Congress to do the right thing for the least fortunate among us — pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Raise the Wage Act and the Healthy Families Act.

Settlement Amnesia Afflicts Martin Indyk

A form of amnesia must be affecting the Obama administration’s former chief Mideast negotiator, Martin Indyk. It is, however, a very selective kind of amnesia — he forgets only concessions that Israel has made.

Speaking recently at a conference in Tel Aviv, Indyk declared that the only reason there are no peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians is because of Israeli construction in Judea-Samaria. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas would “become a partner tomorrow for the deal you’d like to make if there was a settlement freeze,” he declared.

That giant sucking noise was the sound of Indyk’s amnesia kicking in. His memory bank appears to no longer include any trace of the fact that on Nov. 25, 2009, at great political risk, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated a 10-month freeze on Israeli construction in the territories.

For month after month, Israelis living in those areas were denied the right to add a porch or a nursery to their homes. Did peace result? Did even peace talks result?

Of course not.

“I can tell you from personal experience, [the settlements] are the problem,” Indyk said at the Tel Aviv conference.

Obviously, they are not the problem, because Netanyahu froze them for 10 months, and it made no difference.

Obviously, they are not the problem, because the Israeli government has not built a single new settlement since  then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin imposed the no-new-settlements  policy in 1992.

Obviously, they are not the problem, because no settlements even existed in June 1967, yet the Arabs went to war against Israel.

And obviously, they are not the problem, because no settlements  existed in 1964, when the Palestine  Liberation Organization was established to “liberate Palestine.”

Why, then, do critics of Israel, such as Indyk, continue to harp on freezing settlements?

It’s part of a salami strategy — slicing Israel apart piece by piece. They  demand a slice, and when Israel  finally gives in, they demand another. And another. And another.

They demanded that Israel recognize Yasser Arafat and the PLO. Rabin did it. Then they demanded that Rabin “end the occupation.” So he withdrew from the areas in Judea-Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinians live. And Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew from 100  percent of Gaza.

But that wasn’t enough. So they demanded an Israeli construction freeze. (Notice how they never ask the Palestinian Authority to freeze its own construction in the territories.) They got a freeze lasting 10 useless months. Now they demand another one. If they get it, it will only be a matter of time before they demand the dismantling of Israeli towns in Judea-Samaria and mass expulsion of their residents, just as was done in Gaza.

And you can bet that even as Martin Indyk and his ilk make such demands, they will act, with straight faces, as if the withdrawal from Gaza had not resulted in rockets, terror and no peace. Because in the end, remembering the past is the obstacle to Israeli  concessions — and amnesia is the key to bringing about another Israeli  surrender.

Smaller Numbers, Steady Engagement

Steven M. Cohen

Steven M. Cohen

When delegates to the biennial  convention of the United Synagogue of Conservative  Judaism met last week near Chicago, they sought a way forward for a movement challenged by numerical decline but holding steady in Jewish engagement.

These are the main overall trends that emerge from a comparison of two national studies of American Jews  conducted in 1990 and 2013. Though the two surveys, the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey and the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jewry used somewhat different methodologies, they nevertheless can help us see what has been happening in the Conservative movement.

The sheer number of American Jewish adults who identify as Conservative and belong to a synagogue has fallen by about 21 percent — from 723,000 adult Jewish congregational members in 1990 to 570,000 in 2013. And the number of non- synagogue Conservative Jews fell by an even more precipitous 47 percent, from 739,000 to 392,000.

Yet, while the quantity of Conservative Jews has diminished, the “quality” of Jewish involvement of those  remaining has stayed relatively strong. Among Conservative Jews affiliated with a congregation, we see little change in their feeling that being  Jewish is very important (91 percent in 1990 vs. 94 percent in 2013), attending a Passover Seder (91 percent vs.  94 percent), fasting on Yom Kippur (89 percent vs. 91 percent), attending High Holiday services (94 percent vs. 96  percent), belonging to a Jewish organization (58 percent vs. 61 percent), and donating to a Jewish charity (93 percent in both years).

The number who said they attend  religious services at least monthly jumped from 51 percent to 57 percent, and the number who said someone in their household usually lights Shabbat candles rose from 39 percent to 49 percent.

The one notable departure from these trends lies in marriage. Among Conservative synagogue members who were married, the percentage who were intermarried tripled from 1990 to 2013, from 4 to 12 percent.

Conservative Jewish adults who are not synagogue members showed even bigger increases in intermarriage rates, from 23 percent of all those married in 1990 to 58 percent in 2013. In other words, by 2013, few married Conservative Jews in synagogues had non-Jewish spouses, but a clear  majority of those outside synagogues were married to non-Jews. Similar gaps appear among Reform Jews, but the Conservativesí gaps are even larger.

In this and other critical ways, the Conservative comparisons mirror those reported for the Reform movement. In both movements, Jewish engagement indicators held steady both for  synagogue members and nonmembers.

Over the years, Conservative  Jewish institutions, such as camps and day schools, have worked to build a core group with high levels of Jewish observance and unusually strong capacities in Judaic literacy and skills. Some of the products of Conservative education have moved  toward Orthodox communities seeking like-minded Jews.

But if Conservative Jewish communities can succeed in nurturing and retaining more such Jews, they can fashion a sustained and distinctive offering in American Jewish life, adding to the panoply of attractive offerings for Jewish involvement and commitment.

Steven M. Cohen is a research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of  Religion and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.

A Tale of Israeli Bureaucracy

Eliana Rudee

Eliana Rudee

I remember taking my brother to the DMV in Seattle to get his driver’s license. We arrived early in the morning, took a number as we walked in, sat down in the orderly bench seats and quietly awaited our number to be called. The rowdiest the DMV got was when my brother said to me, “Who even wants to work at the DMV? It’s not like it’s anyone’s dream job. I’ve never heard anyone say [in a monotone voice]: Licensing is my passion.” I chuckled, and everyone around me shot a passive-aggressive look at me, their eyes telling me to quiet down.

Fast-forward five-and-a-half years, and there I was at one of Israel’s most notoriously boring bureaucratic  offices. And boy, was it different than the DMV in America.

First of all, instead of a quick  20-minute wait (which I thought was long back then), I was there for a whopping three hours and 45 minutes. Not exaggerating by even one minute.

Once in the door, I went to the front desk to ask if I could simply get my paperwork stamped. The woman at the desk laughed, and a nice Haredi woman behind me told me that nothing goes as planned in this office. She said that the first time she came here she cried.

I took a seat in the waiting room, and the floor was covered in babies — their parents nowhere to be found. A baby next to me started puking on the ground. Joy.

After an hour, my head began to hurt, and I was very, very hungry. At last, I was called into a cubicle officiated by a lady with bleached blonde hair and tanned, wrinkled skin. The look on her face told me that she didn’t give a schnitzel about helping me. She turned to her friend, complaining about her aching chest and then  finally stamped my paper. The whole thing took 30 seconds.

In such a technologically advanced country, you would thing they would come up with a more efficient way to serve customers. I asked the lady if I could complete another bureaucratic process, and she told me no, even though I knew I could. So I waited for another person to help me. While waiting, the same lady yelled at me from across the room because “I  already told you that you couldn’t do that!” When I did get another person to help, it was done with ease.

Top three lessons learned: First, bring Hebrew homework, food, Advil and possibly alcohol. Second, arrive 10 minutes before the office opens, and the process will be “chick chuck” (very fast). Third, if you come to the Ministry of Interior and get a  D number, just leave. If you don’t  follow these three guidelines, you likely will spend more time at the  office than the time recommended to arrive at the airport prior to an international flight. And have a whopping headache.

After three hours and 45 minutes, I was finally done at the Ministry of Interior — just to find out that I need to return in 10 days … Oy.

 

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org.

Thank God, Sanders Doesn’t Want to Talk Religion

At a campaign event in Virginia last week, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders invoked his Judaism in response to a question about Islamophobia in the media. The exchange drew widespread attention, in part because Sanders has mostly avoided discussion of how his religion informs his politics.

The contrast between his approach and that of other candidates is striking. But whatever else we might say about the merits of his candidacy, Sanders’ reticence to don the cloak of sanctimony is refreshing.

Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, must come to terms with the blatant hypocrisy that currently informs our political debate, on both sides of the aisle. Simply stated, we need to decide whether cloaking our political positions in religious principle is fair and legitimate discourse. And if it is, we must ask if we are willing to extend those same rights to our political opponents.

For many years, the putatively solid Democratic Jewish coalition voiced vociferous objection each time those on the right invoked religion to oppose seminal policy issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. On those occasions, it was argued that religion is a decidedly private matter that has no place in the public square. Evangelicals were told to stay out of our bedrooms and keep their fundamentalist views to themselves.

Curiously, however, American Jewish progressives seem to have noproblem incorporating their own religious language when advocating a decidedly liberal agenda, most notably through amorphous references to tikkun olam and social justice.

Among our coreligionists, both liberals and conservatives appear to agree that when it comes to advancing a “Jewish” political agenda, we would prefer that our rabbis and organizational heads speak out when we agree with them and stand down and know their place when we don’t.

The duplicity is striking. Such shameless cherry picking — in which we randomly select only those religious positions that conform to our political perspectives, discarding the rest as irrelevant or inconvenient — demands our honest evaluation.

If we are willing to hold up a mirror to our communal discourse, we would find that what often passes for religiously inspired politics is nothing more than the sin of Procrustes on a grand scale. American Jews would do well to recall the wisdom of our 16th president, who said: “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. … It is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party.”

Cloaking ourselves in nebulous religious principles, however lofty, to suit our political ends is disingenuous. Doing so while criticizing our adversaries for the selfsame behavior is self-righteous piety, whether it happens on the right or the left.

Hal Lewis is president and chief executive officer of the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago.

Women Rabbis: Saints or Vixens?

Chaim Landau is past president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and rabbi emeritus at Ner Tamid Congregation.

Chaim Landau is past president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and rabbi emeritus at Ner Tamid Congregation.

It happened … once again, and not in a very subtle, nuanced deliberation. The RCA, the Agudath Yisrael of America, hard-lined leaders of Orthodoxy in America, combined forces, both verbal and strategic, to denounce, reject, and neutralize the existence of a growing Modern Orthodox trend that accepts women clergy in synagogue leadership roles.

The attack is aimed primarily at Rabbi Avi Weiss, that firebrand of Modern Orthodoxy who made quite a name for himself decades ago fighting for the release of Soviet Jewry by getting himself arrested countless times that nevertheless succeeded against all odds in his goal, and that shared by many countless others. More recently, Weiss has founded a remarkable seminary for men called Chovevei Torah and another for women called Yeshivat Maharat, and within these walls of authentic Jewish learning and scholarship prepare the Modern Orthodox community for leaders who push the traditional limitations of halachic acceptability to new parameters.

For some six years now, the women’s branch of his Yeshivah has been producing female scholars and leaders within the community, and they are slowly becoming an accepted fact on the Jewish ground which they sanctify with their dedication, commitment and professionalism.

Nonetheless, the criticism of others against the existence of these women is strikingly disconcerting and worrisome. The Agudath Yisrael of America has proclaimed: “We inform the public that in our considered opinion Open Orthodoxy (referring to Rabbi Weiss’ philosophy of inclusivity ) is not a form of Torah Judaism and that any rabbinic ordination granted by any of its affiliated entities to their graduates does not confer upon them any rabbinic authority.”

Rabbi Weiss is not alone in his leadership for female rabbinic leaders. Rabbi Riskin in Israel is doing exactly the same in his established female seminary called Midreshet Lindenbaum, as well as the Har-el Beit Midrash. These represent a brave combination of forward-looking leaders who hold the female potential for Jewish leadership roles in the same regard as has traditionally only been associated with men.

And there are ways in which this can continue and prosper successfully. I suggest the following:

>> Completely disassociate with the right-wing Agudath Yisrael and Yeshivah University groups whose philosophy of where Judaism should be traveling (if anywhere at all) is out of sync with the Modern Orthodoxy of Rabbis Weiss, Riskin and others. Establish their institutions as the sole representatives of Modern Orthodoxy and allow a clear line to exist between themselves and the more right-wing, red-lines-in-the-ground Orthodox groups.

>> Maintain the title of Maharat already created for these female leaders so that they come to their positions of leadership with dignity, respect and hard-driven depths of assumed learning adding a newer and refreshing dimension of authentic Judaism to those whom they serve.

This is not only a Jewish fight. It has been happening in the world of Catholic and Protestant clergy as well. And in the 21st century, the role of female equality in leadership roles has been the subject of much, and continuing, debate and discussion in all of the areas of media.

It is time to accept the reality that there are female individuals who wish to bring a renewed sense of vision, vigor, love, and responsibility to their Modern Orthodox communities and that we could all be the enriched beneficiaries of their combined and extraordinary talents.

Today’s Civil Rights Issues, Yesterday’s Heroes

When Malcom Sherman entered this real estate market in 1949, his goals were simple. As he stated in the Maryland Realtor, “I wanted to help families find a better quality life.”

As Baltimore faces unresolved racial issues, we who love this city can draw inspiration from two local Jewish heroes of the civil rights movement. To Baltimoreans of the 1960s, Malcolm Sherman and Rabbi Morris Lieberman exemplified the ethical teachings of Hillel.

“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for my own self, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Mal Sherman moved to Baltimore to be close to his wife’s family and remained at heart a Baltimorean for the rest of his life. It was here that Sherman established Mal Sherman Realtors and began to challenge a segregated real estate market that dictated where Jews, blacks, and white Christians could live. This division traces back to a 1910 Baltimore City law, the first in the nation that prohibited blacks from moving to white blocks and vice versa. After the Supreme Court overturned the law in 1917, home buyers signed covenants promising not to sell their homes to people of a different race, including a separate discriminatory category for Jews. After World War II predatory block busting encouraged panic selling by white Christians and Jews who feared plummeting housing values when a black family moved into their neighborhood.

When Sherman entered this real estate market in 1949, his goals were simple. As he stated in the Maryland Realtor, “I wanted to help families find a better quality of life.”

Sherman tried to stabilize a white neighborhood decimated by blockbusting by urging white homeowners to stay put. He engaged with another realtor to open up white neighborhoods voluntarily and encouraged other realtors to join them. He found a partner in Mayor Theodore McKeldin, who helped Sherman’s group voluntarily integrate 10 apartment buildings. But voluntary measures had limited power. So Sherman testified on behalf of open housing legislation wherever he could.

Throughout this period, Sherman and his family belonged to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, then led by Rabbi Morris Lieberman. This is where the stories of two great men converge. In 1961, Lieberman established the Social Consciousness Committee in response to early civil rights struggles. As part of Lieberman’s civil rights efforts, he led multifaith clergy in escorting a distinguished black leader into two segregated restaurants. When their efforts failed, the press coverage resulted in the formation of the Clergyman’s Interfaith Committee on Human Rights. Later, in 1963, Lieberman was among several clergy arrested during a massive nonviolent demonstration to integrate Gwynn Oak Park, a privately owned amusement park that served only whites.

Lieberman used his arrest to speak passionately before his congregation about what he did and why he did it. On Rosh Hashanah in 1963, Lieberman acknowledged that some of his congregants might disapprove of him speaking about racial equality, claiming that it was a political topic.

But for Lieberman, racism was a spiritual issue. He recalled a visit to post-war Dachau, which took him past churches near roads and tracks used by death trains, death trucks and death buses. Said Lieberman, “I could only think to myself, ‘What did the priests and pastors talk about during those days? What did they preach to their congregations at Christmastime and at Easter?” He wondered if their congregants asserted that the death camps were a political matter, not a religious one, or if congregants said, “But they are only Jews.”

In the Rosh Hashanah sermon, he recalled too, the Haggadah that explicitly states, “In each generation each Jew must regard himself as though he, in his own person, had been a slave unto Pharoah.” This double memory of Dachau and the Haggadah compelled Lieberman to speak out “for the rights of those who are still in the slavery of discrimination and degradation.”

Sherman approached his rabbi the next day and, according to the book “But Not Next Door,” asked what he could do to help integrate housing.

Lieberman said, “What do you mean what can you do? You’re more powerful than any priest or any rabbi. You can open up neighborhoods and make it possible for everybody to live wherever they want to live.”

Sherman said, “Rabbi, if I do this, I’ll be run out of town. People don’t want it.”

Lieberman replied, “Well, you asked me what you could do.”

Sherman went home and talked with his wife, who encouraged him to act on his beliefs. He started making open housing sales in white neighborhoods, including the sale of a Pikesville home to John Mackey, a black player for the Colts, and later a home for Orioles superstar Frank Robinson. Working with Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., Sherman continued to seek sellers in white neighborhoods who would accept offers from black families. But according to Sherman, other real estate companies would no longer deal with him and shunned him, forcing him out of business.

His family also paid a price. In a recent speech to the Religious Action Committee of Reform Judaism, Sherman’s daughter, Wendy, recalled that people would call their house and “threaten to bomb it.” But Sherman’s family also received a gift — social action as a way of life.

In 1967, James Rouse, a deeply religious man, asked Sherman to join him in developing a new city, Columbia, which would be open to people of all races and religions. Sherman too “felt the power of G-d in my life” as he helped Rouse build this integrated community, today considered one of the most successful planned communities in the United States.

Lieberman died suddenly in 1970 at the age of 61, leaving a legacy of social action for his congregation and the larger Baltimore religious community.

After living briefly in Atlanta, Sherman returned to work in the Baltimore-Washington area, where he died in 2009.

May the lives of these men give us all the courage to resolve today’s lingering racial issues.

Carol Westreich Solomon is an author who lives in Montgomery Village, Md. Her book, “Imagining Katherine,” is set in the segregated Jewish suburbs of the 1960s.

The Times’ ‘Big Lie’ About the Temple Mount

Two weeks ago, I opened The New York Times to Rick Gladstone’s article, “Historical Certainty Proves  Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place,” happy that the newspaper of record would explain to its audience the  historical context of this embattled piece of real estate.

As I read on, I was horrified.

“The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never  definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and  Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise  location of two ancient Jewish  temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone,” Gladstone reported.

The article received an avalanche of comment from scholars and lay readers, Jews and Christians, who well understood that beneath this article was an attempt to problematize the very existence of the Jewish temples on Mount Zion.

While it is true that the temple shrine has not been found, the entire platform of the Temple Mount was built by Herod and his successors and are part of the temple complex —  visible to the eye and described in  detail by the first-century Jewish  historian Flavius Josephus and others. The attempt to throw doubt on this is obfuscating, taking advantage for political or religious benefit of the appropriate willingness of historians to question sources.

While this is quite disheartening, what is most disturbing about this  article is that The New York Times gave voice to yet another Big Lie about Jews and Judaism. Joining claims of deicide and ritual murder, which are broadly believed in the Islamic world, Muslim commentators in recent years have  purveyed the belief that there never was a Jewish temple on the Haram al-Sharif.

Palestinians have much to gain in claiming that there was no Jewish temple. If there was no temple on Mount Zion, then Jews have no claim on that hill, nor to the land of Zion and Jerusalem. Hence, no Zionism.

The Big Lie that there was never a Jewish temple is thus a cipher for discrediting and undercutting the  entire Jewish claim to the Holy Land — the very claim that, in fact, makes this particular land holy.

What Palestinians stand to lose by purveying this untruth, however, is the trust of those, like me, who are willing to listen carefully to legitimate claims and to act on them. The claim that there was never a temple is offensive and in no way furthers Palestinian  national aspirations.

The claim that there is no “Palestinian people” is similarly offensive to Palestinians. But while that claim has mostly disappeared among Jews and Israelis, the Big Lie that Jews are foreign to the Holy Land, and that the temple never existed, is alive and well.

What disturbs me most is that  The New York Times totally missed this complicated history and unintentionally gave the Big Lie a voice on its pages, as if it is equal to actual historical fact.

As the Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels is reputed to have said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Politics of Death, Anti-Semitism and Jewish Paranoia

Chaim Landau is past president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis and rabbi emeritus at Ner Tamid Congregation.

It was a sobering, sad and tragic month — and that’s before I approach the subject of Israelis killed and wounded in Israel.

Let’s examine the facts:

Saudi Arabia: Close to 1,800 people were killed during the Hadj, when uncontrolled forces created a surge of such intensity and fear that left an astronomic number of individuals crushed and asphyxiated. So much so that Iran is claiming the true figure is more close to 5,000 dead.

Ankara: A double suicide bombing harmoniously in sync with each other has left over 90 civilians dead, hundreds more severely wounded.

United States: Attacks on the grounds of three college campuses by individuals loaded to the teeth with weaponry more suited for an army battalion murdered 12 people and injured many more.

Now Israel: Attacks by Palestinians against Israelis have left, to date, four dead, and 18 injured. Revenge attacks by Israelis against Palestinians have left 13 injured. The new weapon against  Israelis is the knife. It’s easy to conceal.

Four examples of tragedies. Now which one do you think has elicited the loudest, drawn-out, international recriminations, not to mention newsprint, opinion and op-eds?

Adding fire to the body count, Ann Coulter fired off the “f——— Jews” tweet comment during the most recent Republican presidential debate. And to add a little flavor to the deteriorating atmosphere, Steve Colbert got plastered with howls of criticism from the BDS movement for having had the gall to mention a particular brand of hummus partially owned by an Israeli company during one of his late-night shows.

Have you gone paranoid yet?

When compared to life lost outside of Israel, everyone else’s will pale by comparison to the conflict still being fought out between Israeli and Palestinian. Everyone else’s life will just be a statistic when matched against the voluminous reporting about shootings, stabbings and fratricidal hatred still reminiscent of  Israeli-Palestinian relations. And while America may find itself repeating the very same mistakes as Israel with its recent bombing of a Medicine Sans Frontiers Hospital that it mistook for an enemy military threat, it will always be Israel that finds itself at the bull’s-eye of New York Times criticism.

This is the way I see it. The Palestinians are being sidetracked by Syria. The focus of international attention is so intense on bombing Syria to kingdom come that the Palestinians are desperately trying to return to the limelight of the Middle East causes. I find the use of knives as a weapon a desperate substitute by uncoordinated individuals who wish to bring the Palestinian-Israeli issue front and center in the international eye. The  reality is that the world is tiring of this issue; it no longer has any backbone when compared to the greater picture of a Middle East sinking in its own morass. And looking at the greater  picture, the unfortunate few Israelis who are killed and wounded by terrorists is a far cry from the numbers killed by car accidents and crime in Israel. Isn’t every life of major concern, not just those targeted by terrorists?

Meanwhile, postpone the paranoia and enjoy your hummus, whatever  brand you might embrace as your  favorite. Just make sure it’s a politically correct product that actually is made from chickpeas.

Henkin Murders: What American Jews Can Do

The heartbreaking murder of Rabbi Eitam Henkin and his wife, Naama, gunned down by Palestinian terrorists in front of their children, will generate tear-filled eulogies and anguished recitations of Psalms throughout the Jewish world. As they should.

But then what?

The depressingly familiar post-terrorist attack ritual is already unfolding before our eyes. The Obama administration issued a formalistic condemnation, adding its standard, amoral appeal: “We urge all sides to maintain calm.” (As if “all sides” are to blame for disrupting the “calm” in the first place.)

The news media will portray the murders as a response to something that some Israeli did or is suspected of doing or might have done, somewhere, at some point. And the United Nations will, of course, remain silent. Palestinian murders of Jews don’t interest anybody in that august building.

American Jews will watch all this in anguish and frustration. There will be some angry news releases, some heartfelt tears and more Psalms. As there should be. (It’s also a particularly personal cause for my own family, which has supported the Henkins’ work at the Torah-study institute Nishmat by endowing the Alisa Flatow Program for International Students in memory of my daughter, who was also a victim of Palestinian terrorism.)

What usually happens next, however, is that the news of the murders retreats from the headlines, the memories of the victims fade from public consciousness, and we all collectively turn the page and shift our attentions elsewhere.

But it shouldn’t be that way. There are concrete actions that American Jews can take in response to the Henkin murders:

First, urge President Barack Obama to put Fatah on the official terror list.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is the military division of Fatah, has publicly boasted that it committed the murders. Fatah is the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the parent body of the Palestinian Authority. (Mahmoud Abbas is chairman of all three: Fatah, the PLO and the P.A.) When the State Department first created its official list of “Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations” in 1997, it left Fatah off. It’s time to urge Obama to put it on the list.

Next, support the Meehan Bill for terror victims. The House of Representatives this month overwhelmingly approved legislation to take $43 billion from frozen Iranian assets and give it to American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism who were awarded that amount by U.S. courts. The Obama administration would like to just give the money to the Iranians. The bill now heads to the Senate. American Jewish organizations should be making it their top lobbying priority.

We can also advocate for action against killers of Americans.

Yes, this is a time for tears and prayers. But it must also be a time for action by American Jews. Let’s contact our Jewish leaders and our elected representatives and make it clear that the time for business as usual is over.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His family has established the Alisa Flatow Program for International Students at Nishmat and dedicated Nishmat’s building in Alisa’s memory.