Israel’s Economic Impact On T he U.S.

Earlier this week I attended the annual Israel-America Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) dinner in Tel Aviv.

The honorary chairman of the AMCHAM is U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro.  In his remarks, he mentioned that the very first free-trade agreement that the U.S. signed with any country was the United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement in 1985. He indicated that bilateral trade between the two countries is now at $40 billion annually and will probably top $45 billion for 2014.

That is an amazing statistic for a country with just eight million people, yet it does not tell the whole story.  To complete the story, one must understand the additional economic impact of Israeli company operations in the U.S., both in benefits to the local economies and the number of jobs supported.

A case in point is Massachusetts.  An independent study by Stax Inc., a global strategic consulting and research firm, revealed that Israeli founded businesses generate enormous revenue, jobs and capital activity in that state.

The more than 200 Israeli-founded businesses located in Massachusetts booked over $6 billion of revenue there and generated nearly $12 billion in economic benefit to the state, inclusive of their own revenue, plus the multiplier effect of their spending in the local economy, for example, on office space and accounting, legal, marketing, health care and other services.  This represented 2.9 percent of Massachusetts’ GDP in 2012.  These companies directly employed more than 6,600 people and supported more than 23,000 jobs based on the multiplier effect of their demand for goods and services.

In Pennsylvania, just one Israeli company, TEVA, the world’s largest producer of generic pharmaceuticals, employs almost 2,400 people in the state in eight locations. The most recent figures available (from 2011) indicate that this one Israeli company generated 15,800 direct and indirect jobs, $1.2 billion in local income, $4.4 billion in economic output and $115 million in state and local taxes.

But that’s not all: Through TEVA’s corporate charitable donations program and its advocacy and medical education programs, the company made $2.9 million in contributions in Pennsylvania alone in 2013.

Thus far, no one has commissioned a study of the  impact of Israeli business on the entire U.S. economy. Should a study be commissioned,  the numbers would surely be staggering.

No doubt even more can be done to enhance and expand the economic gains and collaborations on both sides, as the foundation is strong enough to support additional activity.

Finally, this goes a long way in neutralizing the anti-Israel voices in the U.S. who complain about our getting $3 billion in foreign aid annually (even though most of it has to be spent in the U.S.).

Sherwin Pomerantz is president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm involved in promoting regional trade and investment. He is a member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Cooperation Committee.

More Kudos for Everyman

This is wonderful (“Have You Heard? New play at Everyman Theatre more accessible than ever,” June 20). As an accessibility consultant and occupational therapist for over 25 years, I have worked with many businesses to create greater accessibility for inclusion of people with disabilities as well as to support compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA ensures that reasonable accommodations are made for employees with disabilities (Title I) and that architectural barriers are removed and remedied for accessibility (Titles II & III). Title IV deals with telecommunications; therefore, the accommodations made for the deaf are in the spirit of Title IV and present a model for other businesses. Great job Everyman Theatre.

Shoshana Shamberg

Asheville Festival Has Tie to Baltimore

I enjoyed reading the article about Jewish food festivals in unexpected places (“Culinary Delights,” June 20, 2014). Upon Googling the events I learned that this year’s Asheville, N.C., festival has yet to take place. I was surprised that was not mentioned in the article.  I was also surprised that the Baltimore connection to Asheville was not mentioned. The 2014 HardLox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival will be held Oct. 19 in downtown Asheville. It is a fundraiser for Beth Ha-Tephila, whose rabbi, Batsheva Meiri, was previously affiliated with Temple Emanuel in Reisterstown.

Ann-Laurie Hyman

Where Are We Going With Iraq?

With their good cop/bad cop approach to foreign policy, it is hard to know exactly how far President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will go in order to achieve the administration’s frequently conflicting goals of a peaceful world and a United States detached from it. Up until now, we haven’t seen much success with this approach.

For example, we saw problems develop in the Middle East, where America’s supposed even-handedness appeared to morph into a prejudgment of the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, leaving no one satisfied. We saw the development of other problems in Eastern Europe, where fiery rhetoric from Washington catapulted Ukraine into a civil war, but the U.S.’s failure to back up its rhetoric gave Russia the room to annex Crimea. And there are more examples, including in Egypt and Syria.

Now, we are seeing a similar development in Iraq, from which Kerry told interviewers Monday that he is pressuring Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’a, to make political changes in order to give Sunnis and Kurds better places at the table of government. According to Kerry, these changes would blunt the ascent of ISIS, a Sunni terror group that even al-Qaeda considers extreme. We aren’t sure where this proposed approach comes from. Just last week, Kerry’s Iraq plan included the trial balloon of bringing Iran into the mix, as he announced that discussions with Tehran — a close ally of the al-Maliki government — would help the U.S. and Iran coordinate efforts to stabilize the situation in Iraq.

In any event, the plan may be too little, too late. ISIS — according to some estimates, the most highly funded terror group in history — has already made its move and has seized control of much of northern Iraq. And the ISIS designs on Baghdad are just part of a larger religious war that began in Syria, could spill into Jordan, and — like al-Qaeda before it — threaten the United States. Even President Obama acknowledges this, saying last week that developments in Iraq pose a medium- to long-term threat to our national interests.

For all of these reasons, we are at a loss to explain the administration’s questionable overture to Iran and can’t help but wonder what they were thinking. Iran remains a sworn enemy of the United States and an enemy whose nuclear aspirations are wholly unchecked. In the circumstances, what the situation in Iraq demands is American determination and resolve, not uncertainty and equivocation.

With friends like these …

062714_editorialWhat’s with the Presbyterians? On the one hand, the Presbyterian Church (USA) claims to love its “Jewish sisters and brothers” and believes in interfaith dialogue; and its member churches frequently partner with Jewish organizations to combat such societal ills as hunger and homelessness. On the other hand, the church has now become the poster child for the promotion of the boycott, divestment and sanctions agenda to delegitimize Israel.

At its biennial General Assembly last week in Detroit, the standard bearer of main-line Protestant groups voted to divest millions of its investment dollars from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard over those companies’ dealings with Israel’s security forces in the West Bank. This decision, coming against the backdrop of the horrific kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers just a week before, is not the work of a brother or a sister, much less a friend.

And it’s not as if the organized Jewish community didn’t try to work with the Presbyterians. Repeated efforts were made. For example, in a valiant plea to prevent the divestment resolution from coming to the floor, Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism appeared at the assembly and practically begged those gathered to steer their church back to a path of engagement. He even invited the Presbyterian leadership to join him in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest the Israel settlements in the West Bank, rather than embrace divestiture.

In the end, those pleas fell on deaf ears.

Some are arguing that the result of the vote, at 310-303, indicates that Israel and the Jewish community still have plenty of friends on the Presbyterian side. That may be true, since almost 50 percent of those assembled actually voted against divestment. But two years ago, when a similar resolution came to the floor in Pittsburgh, the outcome was again about half and half.

What this shows instead is that in two years, the concerted efforts of the Jewish community has failed to move the needle. And over the course of the past 10 years, when the Presbyterians first toyed with the idea of divestment, the sentiment within the church has increasingly moved toward the view of Israel being the aggressor against a victimized Palestinian population. Sure, the church proclaims that their vote shouldn’t be read as support of BDS. But who are they trying to fool? Boycott, divestment and sanctions by any other name is BDS.

Let’s make no mistake about what has happened: The Detroit fiasco has escalated the simmering tensions between Presbyterians and Jews from a dispute among friends to a slap in the face. It hurts.

From Strength To Strength

062717_friedman_howard_e_ftvTwo years ago, when I became chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, my first official act was to invite the guests at our annual meeting to roll up their sleeves and get involved with the many hands-on projects at a volunteer expo that followed the annual meeting. It was a fitting way for me to begin my term, which comes to an end later this month.

The room buzzed with people, as they touched and felt the work of The Associated in action. The various projects brought together a beautiful cross section of people, who all shared the same goal: caring for the health and vibrancy of Jewish Baltimore.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh.  All Jews are responsible for one another.  That is a value deeply held by The Associated and put into action every day. Thousands of Jews in Baltimore contribute their time, their resources, their passion and their commitment to The Associated system. And our whole community benefits from those efforts.

Our reach extends well beyond our borders to Israel and communities in need around the globe. This year, when Jews in Ukraine feared for their safety amid the political upheaval in their country, we were there for them. We helped ensure that older Jews in our sister city, Odessa, were able to get the supplies they needed, and we enabled the celebration of Jewish life to continue even amid the chaos. Around the corner or around the globe, we stand up as a community and take care of each other.

In the two years I served as chair of the board, I have experienced a spirit of cooperation that is a hallmark of The Associated and our community. I have had the privilege of speaking with or partnering with hundreds of members of our organized Jewish community. Together, we have looked at the needs in our community, identified priorities and sought solutions for challenges that face us today or in the future.

During my term, I saw firsthand what it is that makes our city so special. There is an enormous sense of passion and commitment to the greater good expressed by all those who work for the health of our community, from the professionals who manage the day-to-day operations of The Associated and our agencies to the volunteer leaders who dedicate themselves so tirelessly to our system.

And there is a deep and rich history of involvement in the community that laid the foundation for the work I was able to do as chair of the board. I am humbled by the strength and wisdom of the leaders who came before me. It is their guidance that has helped us become a truly inspiring community.

I will close out chairmanship in much the same way as I began it. I invite all members of our community to do what they can to get involved, to roll up their sleeves to make a difference for someone else, whether in Baltimore, Israel or overseas.

I also wish b’hatzlacha to my successor, Mark Neumann, in whose capable hands I leave The Associated board. May he and the lay leaders and professionals with whom he works go from strength to strength in the efforts on behalf of our community.

Bravo, Everyman!

Everyman Theatre should be applauded (“Have You Heard? New play at Everyman Theatre more accessible than ever,” June 20). This addition not only allows my deaf teenage grandchild to partake of theater, but it is also helpful to the elderly who are hearing deficient. Too bad all local theaters do not have this system.

The Coopers

No Vacation from Bigotry, Hate

runyan_josh_otIn the current economy, the concept of a vacation, especially for the working poor among us, is something of a luxury. And even among those for whom a vacation is a given, financial realities have made “staycations” a common feature of American life.

That’s why it’s great to live in a place like Baltimore, where historic sites, cultural offerings, entertainment and exotic walks — many of them free — beckon those looking to unwind. As you’ll read in this week’s JT, ours is a region bursting with life, giving plenty of options to young singles, blossoming families and senior citizens alike. Taking a personal day? You can follow in the footsteps of the neighbors quoted in our cover story and explore the city’s famous Shot Tower or embark on a local adventure of your own. And we’d love to hear about it.

But the freedom to explore one’s own town is, unfortunately, a luxury that is quickly disappearing from Jews living in one of the world’s most culturally rich locales: France. Researchers from the Anti-Defamation League have discovered that the Western European nation harbors the greatest concentration — at 37 percent of the populace — of anti-Semitic views as any on that continent. What’s worse, attacks on the Jewish community are increasing, leaving its members with little choice short of emigrating to Israel or the United States.

Those choosing to live in Israel are quite happy with their choice, for there truly isn’t anything like living in the Holy Land. But there are those elsewhere in the world, such as Rev. Larry Grimm of the Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church in Colorado, who feel that of all the places in the world Jews don’t belong, it’s Israel.

As reported in Tablet magazine, in the days leading up to his movement’s historic vote last week to divest itself from investments in companies doing business with Israel’s security forces, Grimm took to Facebook to tell Israelis that they were living on land that didn’t belong to them.

“Quit feeling guilt about what you are doing in Palestine, Jewish friends,” he wrote. “Stop it. Come home to America!”

The comment, which bore resemblance to former White House correspondent Helen Thomas’ rant that the Jews didn’t belong in the Jewish homeland, would have been a curious side note were it not for the fact that in the end the Presbyterian Church (USA) endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement seeking to delegitimize Israel.

In the minds of these critics, Jewish suffering — such as the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, who have yet to be found — isn’t just a non-concern. In their warped view of reality, any harm befalling Jewish people necessarily follows from their being Jewish. It’s all part of the same anti-Semitic sickness that has plagued the world since time immemorial.

The best answer to such threats, even here in the peace and tranquility of Baltimore, is greater Jewish identity. Only by standing up and seeing the plight of those in France and Israel as our own will we be able to drown out the voices of hate.


The Importance Of A Visual Sign

2013-axler-craigThere’s a small scar on my left index finger where the digit meets the hand. There since early childhood, it serves as a reminder of the time I decided to slice a frozen bagel by myself with a sharp knife. A little more force, a slip here or there, and I would have been one finger short. I don’t remember a lot about the incident, but I do think about it every time I slice a bagel.

This is, I admit, a ridiculous way to introduce a meaningful lesson from this week’s Torah portion. In the parshah, Korach assembles his band of rabble rousers against Moses and Aaron with a challenge to their leadership: “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, each and every one. And the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?!”

We see the showdown that unfolds over the next chapter, dueling firepans laden with incense. Ultimately, Korach and his company are swallowed up by the earth, and 250 firepans remain from the rebels who were consumed by God’s fire. It is a terrifying scene, to be sure. But what happens next is perplexing.

On order from God, Moses commands Aaron’s son Eleazar to clean up the scene of the confrontation — specifically to remove “the firepans of those who have sinned at the cost of their lives, and let them be made into hammered sheets as plating for the altar, for once they have been used for an offering to the Lord, they have become sacred, and let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel.”

What? The firepans used by this gang of rebels are used as copper plating for the altar, one of the most sacred places for our people? It seems completely counterintuitive. There has to be a reason why these objects get not only a “new lease,” but even a serious promotion in holiness — and it can’t simply be an environmental impulse to “reuse.”

Some look at this incident and assert that the holiness of the firepans comes from the fact that they were utilized in a sacred act and are therefore sanctified not as a result of their original sinful owners, but through contact with God.

Others side with Korach and his gang having some holy intentions, however misguided, and genuinely wanting to serve God. Their aim was pure, and this is the holiness that clings to the firepans.

A paraphrase of Rav Kook in Etz Hayim indicates that “the holiness of the firepans symbolizes the necessary role played by skeptics and agnostics in keeping religion honest and healthy.”

These seem to me reasonable interpretations, but I would push the symbolism further. What is the purpose of plating the altar with the firepans? It is so that anyone who uses it will be reminded — they will serve as an ot, a symbol, warning or sign.

Those who stand in front of the altar will remember, and this visual cue will bring the necessary meaning. Maybe it’s the awareness of the genuine spiritual strivings of the “whole community, each and every one” that leaders must keep in mind. Maybe it’s the validity of challenge and dissent within the tradition. Maybe it’s a memory of the limits of authority that any one person can hold.

The visual sign, the lesson of the scar, bears exactly the meaning that each individual needs to understand.

Rabbi Craig Axler is the spiritual leader of Temple Isaiah in Fulton.

Great Memories

I saw the very good article about the Tulkoff family (“It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Sting,” June 6). Marty Tulkoff, of the famous horseradish business, and I were friends in the 1950s. I even met my wife though Marty, and I took a photo of our guys’ group back then. A new book came out this year, “Around Mount Washington,” and on page 117 is my picture with Marty in the front row. My dad fixed all of Marty’s mom and dad’s appliances.

Gerald A. Yamin