JT Cover Story: Biased Reporting?

Reading your July 31 issue and viewing its cover (“A Time to Act” ) one could only conclude that the bulk of American Jewry agreed with the positions of ZOA and AIPAC and were vigorously opposed to the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. However, that is far from clear. In fact, as reported in The Washington Post, a national survey conducted by the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles showed that American Jews support the agreement by 20 percent more than the general population. The actual numbers were 48 percent in support, 28 percent in opposition and the remainder undecided. So was your July 31 issue yet another case of  “the squeaky wheel gets the {media} grease,” or is it evidence that your reporting suffers from gross bias, notwithstanding the little sidebar, “Most Jewish federations find ‘plethora’ of opinions on Iran deal.”

‘Victory for National Security’

In the JT’s article “Good or Bad?” (July 24), the BJC’s Cailey Locklair Tolle is right to find the inspections regimen positive.  But she also said: “Right now nothing stops. The centrifuges are still spinning.  Uranium is still being enriched.”  While this might be factually correct, it is extremely misleading, for Iran has agreed to give up most of its capacity (14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges) and will only be allowed to enrich uranium in small percentages (3.67 percent) while weapons-grade uranium requires 90 percent enrichment.

Arms control experts (and numerous former members of Israel’s defense establishment) are quite supportive of the deal.  For instance, Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a leading global security foundation, says, “This is a very good deal.  It is a major victory for American national security. The beauty of this deal is that Iran gets to keep its buildings, and we get to take out all the furniture.”

To summarize: Iran and the international community have agreed to measures that will ensure Iran will not be able to obtain a crude nuke for 10 years or longer with unprecedented inspections and the threat of snapback sanctions that will prevent it from cheating. This makes the region, Israel and the U.S. safer and is good for all concerned.  There are no viable alternatives. Congress should support the deal.

Make It an Outlet Mall

There have been a number of ideas kicking around for the last year as to what should become of the empty and failing Owings Mills Mall (Mall Remains Achilles’ Heel,” July 17). I can’t understand why no one has entertained the idea of turning it into an outlet mall such as Arundel Mills — something this area could sorely use. It is far enough away from Arundel Mills and Perryville to thrive, and I believe the demographics will support such a mall. Whoever has the final say should seriously consider this.

A Disastrous Deal

Shame on you, Stephen Arkan, for your uncivil tone in falsely accusing the Zionist Organization of America of preferring “scapegoats to solutions” (Your Say, July 17). Your comments relate to my July 10 Your Say letter (“Oren’s Words Are a Wake-Up Call”) in which I discuss former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s heartfelt analysis of the tectonic rift in U.S.-Israel relations that developed during President Barack Obama’s first term, as detailed in Oren’s new book “Ally, My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide”.

For your information, appropriate “solutions” are best found by correctly identifying the underlying problem. Obama’s particular brand of hostility toward Israel, and his insensitivity to its concerns, no doubt stem from his obsession with reaching out a hand of friendship to radical elements in an Islamic world rent by unbridled hatred and violence.

A relevant case in point: Obama’s headlong rush to legitimize Iran’s development of nuclear weapons that represent a clear existential threat to Israel and, at the same time, granting sanctions relief that economically empowers Iran to set the entire Middle East ablaze. Knowing the problem, the solution becomes transparently obvious: In a bipartisan manner, Congress must resoundingly reject Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran. In emphatic terms, we must all insist: Members of Congress, vote down this deal!

Listen to Michael Oren

As a noted historian and a member of the Knesset, the views of Michael Oren should have considerable weight (“It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Michael Oren,” July 10). His accurate description of the interaction between President Barack Obama and the leaders of Israel, which have been detrimental to U. S.-Israeli relations, discloses the arrogance of our president. This has been particularly the case when dealing with Israel’s security concerns, now exacerbated by a flawed agreement with Iran that threatens the very existence of Israel.

Michael Oren has reason to be concerned as do all individuals who have been appalled by the concessions given to Iran in return for its establishing in the not-too-distant future a terrorist state equipped with nuclear weapons.

What Are Synagogue’s Motives?

This letter is in response to the unenlightened claims by Janet Abramowitz (Your Say, July 17) about the community’s motivations for opposing the proposed synagogue on Stevenson Road.

The synagogue proposing a building on Stevenson Road is tasked with convincing Baltimore County that the development meets the intent and general welfare of the neighborhood. Their proposed building would encompass 8,000 square feet of space with an equally large occupancy and 22 parking spaces, which clearly does not meet the intent of a residential development. Stevenson is a community without sidewalks, where congregants will be forced to walk on shoulderless roads with limited driver visibility, putting both the congregants’ and the community’s general welfare in jeopardy. In this case, the synagogue’s motives should be challenged, not the Stevenson community.

Riots’ Silver Lining

I agree that determination is what gets things done, but I am saddened that editor-in-chief Joshua Runyan concludes that the “only accomplishment of the riots in Baltimore was the destruction of whole neighborhoods, the fracturing of a police force and the resultant rise in violent crime” (Opening Thoughts, July 17).

Please recognize that there have been several, albeit not enough, accomplishments. These include 8,000 youth summer jobs, corporate commitments to provide jobs/job training for the chronically unemployed, including ex-offenders, and the great work of faith-based organizations such as BUILD (Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development) to engage, rebuild and help heal underserved communities and populations that have been out of sight and out of mind for way too long.

Reject Iran Deal

The Iranian nuclear agreement is dangerous and should be rejected (“End Run around Congress,” July 24). It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure that openly or secretly permits weapons production. Other nations fearing Iran’s radical Shiite regime will race to get their own nuclear weapons. Moreover, ending sanctions will release $150 billion, allowing the mullahs to better finance their revolutionary and terrorist policies.

As Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei said on July 18: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not give up support of its friends in the region — the oppressed people of Palestine, of Yemen, the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the oppressed people of Bahrain and sincere resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine. Our policy will not change with regards to the arrogant U.S. government.”

Before talks began in 2013, sanc-tions were working. The Iranian economy was contracting at a rate of 6.8 percent, and inflation was over 40 percent, according to President Hassan Rohani’s victory speech July 14. Yet, rather than press Iran, the Obama administration bribed it to negotiate by easing sanctions. Their economy stabilized, allowing Iran to bargain for nearly two years until it won this diplomatic triumph, which includes phasing out conventional weapon and ICBM embargoes, a completely unnecessary gift to Tehran.

Congress should reject this agreement and restore the original sanctions, which in time will lead to a better deal. There is precedent for Congress fixing executive branch foreign policy errors.  In 1986, because of apartheid, Congress overrode President Ronald Reagan’s veto of a bill imposing sanctions on South Africa. Reagan was wrong then, and Obama is wrong now.

Abramowitz’s Statements ‘Blatantly False, Hurtful’

In her Your Say letter of July 17, Janet Abramowitz states that the goal of Stevenson Road synagogue opponents is ”to keep Russian Jews where they belong — out of Stevenson.”  I and anyone associated with speaking up about the proposed synagogue categorically reject Abramowitz’s assertion. It is blatantly false without any foundation and is offensive.

I take personal offense to her assertion. I am the son of Russian immigrants, and I was involved in the effort to help welcome and settle Russian Jews during the 1980s. I have sat on the board of a couple of organizations involved in that effort. As a former Baltimore County councilman I was proud of the County under the leadership of County Executive  Dennis Rasmussen, who fostered and led efforts to settle Russian Jews in Baltimore County.  So that vile accusation of me just won’t stand.

Now to the facts. The opposition to any particular group who would occupy a nonresidential institution at that location on Stevenson Road just south of Keyser Road has nothing to do with the ethnicity or religion of the members of such an institution. It is purely the size and the location of that institution in the neighborhood.  The new construction would be 8,000 square feet; far greater than any home in the neighborhood.  The synagogue is stipulated as having 88 congregants. The size of this building certainly suggests expansion of that number. The synagogue representatives indicated there would be more than a few occasions with events that would attract more than that number. There are 22 parking spaces proposed for the site. In response to the question of what if attendance exceeded the number of parking spaces, the representatives indicated they could park on Stevenson Road, Gardenview Road or Keyser Road. All are single-lane roads in each direction with no curbs or sidewalks — a clear danger to the neighbors but more importantly to the congregants who would have to walk on these streets at night time.  The members of this synagogue should really question the leadership of their own institution for putting them in danger.  If their leadership won’t protect the members, the county has an obligation to do it and reject this inappropriate and dangerous proposal.

This is a proposed nonresidential use in a residential zone. It is totally inappropriate to locate an institution of 8,000 square feet in the middle of a residential neighborhood on narrow roads. It is totally not comparable to the silly example cited by Abramowitz of the “mosque” that was located in an existing building at the corner of a major intersection of Slade Avenue and Park Heights Avenue. There is a traffic light there. There are nonresidential institutions located on two of the other three corners. The fourth corner has a high-density high-rise condominium. Each road is two lanes in each direction at that intersection.

While I and all involved in this effort take offense with Abramowitz’s insulting comments, I can assure all of one thing. The only agenda I and everyone has in this effort is to oppose a nonresidential use in a residential neighborhood that is too big, has too much paving, is out of character with this condensed residential neighborhood and doesn’t have any provision realistically to deal with overflow parking.

I have no idea as to what venal self-interested agenda Abramowitz is pursuing that would require her to make such  hurtful statements.

Abramowitz’s Letter ‘Disregards the Facts’

We wish to respond to the letter written by Janet Abramowitz (Your Say, July 17) regarding our opposition to the proposed synagogue on Stevenson Road. Abramowitz alleges that we are opposing the synagogue to keep Russian Jews out of the Stevenson community.  That is completely untrue and disregards the facts.

As two of the families most directly affected by the proposed development, we are concerned about the development’s impact on safety, the environment and the tranquil nature of our neighborhood. These reasons are fully described on our website friendsofstevensonroad.org.

Our concerns apply equally regardless of the religion or country of origin of the proponents of the development.  Frankly, to suggest otherwise is defamatory. The 2006 development plan for the properties at issue calls for a residential use and not an institutional use that will have major parking, safety, environmental and other impacts on the community.  These reasons are why we are joined by hundreds of Stevenson-area residents (of all religions and ethnicities) who have signed a petition in opposition to the proposed development.