Tag Archives: General Assembly

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Facing The Issues

Delegate Jon Cardin addresses  the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce at its Legislative Breakfast. (Heather Norris)

Delegate Jon Cardin addresses the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce at its Legislative Breakfast. (Heather Norris)

Oil pipelines, cybercrime, rain tax, minimum wage, common core, charity scams, health-care reform and the right of low-income defendants to public defense attorneys at bail review will be some of the most pressing issues facing the General Assembly when it begins its 2014 legislative session, said five local officials who joined the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce at its Dec. 4 Legislative Breakfast.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11) and Delegates Jon Cardin (D-11), Sue Aumann (R-42), Dan Morhaim (D-11) and Dana Stein (D-11) discussed their opinions about what the biggest issues will be before the floor was opened for questions at the members-only event.

Comments from the Chamber centered on taxes and minimum wage, as many business owners and community members tried to grasp what an increase in minimum wage or the possibility of even higher taxes resulting from new legislation could mean for their businesses and livelihoods.

When one questioner asked about the upcoming Foundry Row project and the decline of the Owings Mills Mall, Zirkin fielded the question, telling attendees that he shares a lot of the concerns many have over the repercussions the opening of a Wegmans and the other stores that come with it could have on the surrounding businesses.

“We can’t let bright, shiny new things kill everything else on Reisterstown Road,” he said. “[We] can end up with a lot of vacant places up and down Reisterstown Road if [we’re] not careful.”

On minimum wage, one Chamber member, who asked the crowd to consider the people who must survive on minimum wage, was countered by another attendee who noted that a raise in minimum wage could result in layoffs at small businesses and increased unemployment in the community.

“This is going to be a massive debate this year,” said Zirkin.

Stein added that there are two sides to the issue, and legislators will take both into account if the issue makes its way to Baltimore County, though Zirkin predicted it wouldn’t, at least this year.

Late last month, both Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties — where almost a third of the state’s residents reside — voted to raise the minimum wage from the current state and federal standard of $7.25 per hour to $11.50 per hour. The change will take effect gradually over the course of the next four years.

Other questions from attendees focused on state efforts to help the elderly with aging-at-home programs, concerns over the Common Core Standards that many teachers have been speaking out against, funding for volunteer fire departments and the process for determining the cost of new legislation to area taxpayers.

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter
hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Israeli President Shimon Peres told 3,500 GA listeners that Israel must have courage.

Peres Calls For Peace, For Courage

President Shimon Peres addressed the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Monday with a message of courage and call for a celebration of human life.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told 3,500 GA listeners that Israel must have courage.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told 3,500 GA listeners that Israel must have courage.

Peres, speaking to the close to 3,500 attendees at the federation’s annual conference, coined “The Global Jewish Shuk,” told listeners that he remembers the days of Israel’s founding, when the people arrived to a small piece of land, which was unfriendly, with swamps in the north and desert in the south and with only the mosquitos as neighbors – the rest were enemies.

“There was no water. We had two lakes. One was dead and the other was dying. There was one river, the Jordan River, which is full of fame and short of water – not for irrigation. … We had no guns. We were outnumbered with no support,” said Peres. “But you know what we discovered? The greatest treasure in life is the human being. When you have nothing, you have people. Israel is a story of people.”

Peres said that he has heard of the debate about whether or not Israel should be – or is – more Jewish or more democratic and at the notion that there would even be such a discussion he scoffed. .

“The first democrat on earth was Moses. … Every person was born in image of the Lord, which was first declaration of democracy. When it says [in the Torah] we should not be like slaves and what fight oppressors, a second declaration. When it says love your fellow man like yourself, a third declaration,” Peres said. “Democracy is a love of people and a belief in them.”

Answering questions posed by David Horovitz, founder and editor of “Times of Israel,” Peres made clear that the strength of the Jewish people is its brains and he said it is in science and education that the Jewish state should invest. He also called on the people to stay focused on peace.

“Peace is our goal,” he said.

Though he did not indicate that there would be an easy path.

Is peace at hand? He said people have to understand, “We are negotiating not because we agree, but because we do not agree. Negotiating is to convert disagreements to agreements, to convert enemies to friends. … When we start out it is difficult, complicated, we have to change many prejudices.”

And he said sometimes the greatest prejudices lie within your own people and it is them you have to convince.

A final call to action was to the young generation.

“We are not owners of land, we are creators of ambition,” said Peres. “The ambition is to do and to make a better world and now is your time.”

He continued: “Logic has a limit, not courage.”

Find out what is happening with the Washington, D.C. delegation>> 

 

 

Emergency Response to Typhoon Haiyan: Ways To Give

The Jewish Federations of North America are mobilizing a communal response to the super Typhoon Haiyan, which has wrought widespread destruction in the Philippines. JFNA on Nov, 10 opened a mailbox for Federations to support relief efforts by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which is raising funds for relief efforts.

JDC is consulting with local officials, the Filipino Jewish community and global partners to assess the evolving situation on the ground in the Philippines, where one of the strongest storms on record has wrought widespread destruction. More than 10,000 people are feared dead, with reports of ocean surges as high as trees. The central city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte is among the worst hit on the Pacific nation.

The Federation-supported JDC has led relief efforts for previous storms in the Philippines, and helped support the local Jewish community in a nation that sheltered 1,000 European Jews fleeing the Nazis during World War II.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Filipino people suffering from this terrible storm’s unimaginable destruction,” said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of JFNA’s Emergency Committee.

The JFNA Emergency Committee is coordinating the Federation response with JDC and its global disaster relief partners. Donations can be made on our online relief page or given by mail at Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund, The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, PO Box 148, New York, NY 10268.

Jewish Federations have a proud tradition of supporting the Jewish communal response to disasters around the world and at home, raising tens of millions of dollars for emergency assistance and longer-term aid. Most recently, Federations supported the national response to severe flooding in Colorado. In recent years, Federations responded to tsunamis in Japan and southeast Asia, the Haiti earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast.

Other ways to give:
>>The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore: associated.org/typhoonrelief or 101 W. Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore 21201 (Attn:Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund)

>>American Jewish World Service: https://secure.ajws.org/site/Donation2?df_id=6421&6421.donation=form1

>>B’nai Brith: 800-573-9057

>>Union of Reform Judaism: http://click.mail.rj.org/?qs=e3e3dccf3029c27b4295cd1d891f79d30e3a375361225b4a3e73ae6bbea4c64a


Follow JFNA at its
General Assembly in Jerusalem>>

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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people at this year's JFNA GA. The keyword: security.

Netanyahu At The GA: ‘Security’

Security. This was the only message that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered to a crowd of more than 2,000 people on Sunday, Nov. 10 at the opening plenary of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people at this year's JFNA GA. The keyword: security.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to a crowd of over 2,000 people at this year’s JFNA GA. The keyword: security.

“The most important thing is to assure the security and the future of the Jewish state, the one and only Jewish state of Israel,” said Netanyahu as he launched into a more than 30-minute speech.

The PM started with Iran. He told the audience of Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders that an Iran without nuclear weapons is essential not only for Israel, but for the entire world – the U.S., Europe, the Arabs, the Chinese and the Russians.

“But for us,” said Netanyahu, “it is a matter of our existence.”

Netanyahu lashed out at the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France, plus Germany) for agreeing to lighten sanctions on Iran when it came to the table pleading, ready to negotiate because the sanctions are having impact. He said the P5+1 placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs that have brought Iran to its knees, why now would we want to come to a deal without Iran dismantling anything.

“Why Iran has come for a deal is obvious. It is because the sanctions are biting, are crippling that regime. They came to the table because they have to,” he said, expressing exasperation that the group would agree to lghten sanctions when “not one centrifuge is dismantled – not one.”

He said Iran can in a matter of a few weeks take the capabilities it has and produce a nuclear weapon.

“Iran does not roll back its nuclear making capacity at all, but P5+1 are rolling back sanctions? That is a bad deal, it is a dangerous deal. … That affects our survival,” said Netanyahu. “I will not be silenced – never. … When the Jewish people were silenced on matters relating to our survival you know what happened.”

Then he told the audience that Iran was not only targeting his country, but most certainly the U.S., too.

“Who is Iran targeting when it builds the ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles)? They already have rockets and missiles to reach us. They need those [ICBMs] to reach North America. And they can be nuclear tipped. That is the plan –  coming to a theater near you. Do you want that? Well, do something about it,” he charged.

He said Israel is in charge of defending itself and that is what it will do.

And not only when it comes to Iran.

The PM next turned to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and said, again, that first and foremost was the safety, security and longevity of the Jewish state.

“We need to end this conflict once and for all and to end it there is a simple principle. That principle is two nation states, two states for two peoples. Not one state for one people, for the Palestinians. And then another state for two peoples. No, two states for two peoples,” said the PM.

He told the crowd that if the Palestinians expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian state, they must recognize a Jewish state for the Jewish people. He said, “That is what peace is about.”

Netanyahu walked attendees through Israel’s painful and bloody past, through the 1921 attack on the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa, through the horrible beheading of babies in 1929 with the Hebron massacre and on through the systematic attacks by the Arabs on the Jewish community between 1936 and 1939. During World War II, he reminded, it was Haj Amin al-Husseini who partnered with Adolf Hitler and called for a final solution. He then said that in 1947 the Jews accepted a two-state solution while the Arabs refused and when the Jews established their state, they were attacked on all fronts, attacks which lasted until the 1967 war.

“For 46 years there were systemic attacks on the very nature of the Jewish state. Not on settlements,” he said. “There were not any settlement. …. Not about a Palestinian state, they rejected it. … It was about the Jewish state. They have to recognize the Jewish state. … What is their struggle for? Palestine. What is Palestine? It is Kiryat Shemona to Eilat, it is from the river to the sea.”

And so, bringing the talk back to the issue of security, Netanyahu then said that even if the Palestinians agreed to recognize Israel, “there is no durable peace that is not based on security. … A peace agreement that is not based on absolutely robust security for Israel by Israel will not stand test of time. We need a peace based on security. That is the other fundamental piece. We need security to defend the peace — and security to defend Israel in case peace unravels. And in our region, peace has a tendency to unravel.”

Next, and also connected to Israel’s peace and security, Netanyahu spoke about shalom bayit between Israel and Diaspora Jews. He claimed it his responsibility as PM of Israel to keep the peace of the Jewish people. And he said it was he who asked Natan Sharansky to head a Kotel task force and that he is confident we are on the cusp of making a final solution come to fruition.

He cited an announcement made earlier this week at the Jewish Agency for Israel conference about new plans (see “Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection>>“) to further connect young Diaspora Jews with Israel and noted that he has agreed to invest Israeli money in the endeavor.

“We are committed to it,” said Netanyahu. “We know the challenge of Jewish unity. There are the forces of assimilation and intermarriage [in the States]. … We have sponsored this initiative to work together, to think through [these things] together, and to put forward programs to solidify … a Jewish identity that is so central to our future.”

Netanyahu continued: “When I think of challenges we have overcome over the last 4,000 years – challenges to our physical survival, challenges to our spiritual survival and cohesion — I know we have that inner strength to guarantee the Jewish future. … To defend and secure the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state.”

 View Earlier Posts:
Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection>>
GA 2013: Opening Plenary at 7:15 P.M.>>

Read what’s happening with the group traveling from Washington, D.C.>>

Misha Galperin discussed a new project that will focus on Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Exclusive Briefing: JAFI’s Misha Galperin On New Program To Ignite Stronger Diaspora-Israeli Connection

With change there is always opportunity, said Debs Weinberg of Baltimore at a morning session run by the Jewish Agency for Israel. And Weinberg’s message was one that will become increasingly more relevant as JAFI, working with the government of Israel and nonprofits from across the world, works to better engage young (between the ages of 13 and 35) Jews with Israel and to enhance their Jewish identities.

Misha Galperin discussed a new project that will focus on Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Misha Galperin discussed a new project that will focus on Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

Dr. Misha Galperin, president and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development, told a group of about 15 people in an exclusive briefing on Sunday morning that over the course of the JAFI conference, which is currently taking place in Israel, a group of more than 100 thought leaders met to more formalize plans for a collaborative initiative that will bring Diaspora Jews to Israel and invest in Israel education on campuses outside of the Jewish state.

Galperin explained that this program was nearly a decade in the making, as it was current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who signed the legislation in the ‘90s that launched invested by the government of Israel in Birthright.

“This was the first time in history that Israeli tax payers’ money was put into a pot that funded free trips for American kids, which many thought here [in Israel] was a criminal thing to do; it was supposed to the other way around,” said Galperin.

Since then, a number of other development occurred, like the formation of MASA Israel, which was co-founded and is jointly managed by the government and the Jewish Agency.

“At this point, about $120 million a year are allocated by the government of Israel for various prorams that have to with the Jewish Diaspora and Jewish communities [outside of Israel,” said Galperin.

When Natan Sharansky left his seat in the Knesset to become head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, he started exploring what might be next – after or in conjunction with Birthright and MASA.

About one year ago, the PM empowered a team to explore that question in conjunction with leaders in the Diaspora. A late April 2013 meeting help by the PM with Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett solidified that there would need to be something done.

“The prime minister said this is important for the Jewish people – that it is in the strategic interest of the Jewish people,” noted Galperin.

Several meetings, focus groups and a white paper later, led to the Nov. 6 to 7 meetings of world thought leaders in Jerusalem’s Binyanei Ha’Uma and the revelation that the government will invest likely double what it is investing now to ramp up programming for young Diaspora Jews. That money – though an exact amount could not be named – would be expected to be matched by overseas nonprofit organizations/philanthropists and by participants’ fees.

“I was personally very anxious about what would happen and how this would work,” said Galperin. “This is a very different planning model. For the government of Israel, it is revolutionary. The government has never done this before – engaged in a collaborative planning process with Diaspora and on-governmental organizations.”

What can Galperin say on the record now?

“This effort is moving ahead,” he said, noting that between now and April when the government would have to present a resolution and ensure funding for the initiative is allocated in the fiscal budget, “exactly what we are doing, in what sequence, how it is going to be evaluated and all that, has to be worked out.”

The outcome could have a fundamental impact on the destiny of the Jewish people – not so much in terms of the types of programming but in terms of how the programming is being worked out — this new method of Jewish collaboration.

Galperin said there will likely be a series of pilot projects in the first year, but details could not be available at this time. What he could say was that while initial talks were focused on growing Diaspora Jews’ connection with Israel, and while that is still a part of it, “now we are talking about Jewish identity.”

View previous GA 2012 posts:
GA 2013: Opening Plenary at 7:15 P.M.>>
‘We Want To Hear From You’>>

Read what’s happening with the group traveling from Washington, D.C.>>