U.S. Briefs 11-29-11

The latest news in the American Jewish community. 

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(Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Rep. Barney Frank. Credit: U.S. Congress.)

Rep. Barney Frank announces retirement

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) announced Monday that he is not seeking re-election in 2012 due to his dissatisfaction with the Massachusetts redistricting process and the stumbling blocks he faced with a Republican majority in Congress.

“I will miss this job, (but) the district is very substantially changed,” Frank told reporters, according to CNN. “I don’t have to pretend to be nice to people I don’t like.”

The Jewish legislator is best known for a very witty and blatant rhetoric, and for being one of the first openly gay members of congress. He also spearheaded the “Dodd-Frank” Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law by President Obama last July.

In response to Frank’s retirement, National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said in a statement: “I am truly saddened by the news that Representative Barney Frank will be retiring at the end of his current term.Through his fierce advocacy for many Democratic and social justice causes, Frank truly represented the Jewish value of tikkun olam—repairing the world.”

Frank, who has served for 16 terms, has recently been at the front of the legislative push for the release of Jewish U.S. prisoner Jonathan Pollard. In 2010 Frank lead a group of 39 members of Congress who submitted a plea of clemency to the White House, and he again asked for clemency in a speech on the House floor this past August.

“I wish I could be more optimistic [about Pollard’s chances of being released],” Frank told JointMedia News Service earlier in November. “I’ve written to the president, but I’ve never gotten any acknowledgement for any of this.”

—JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Rep. Steve Israel. Credit: U.S. Congress.)

PA using U.S. funds to pay released terrorists, congressmen say

U.S. Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro was asked to investigate how the Palestinian Authority (PA) uses American funding, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutsch and New York Democratic Congressman Steve Israel made the request after Moshe Matalon of the Israeli political party Israel Beiteinu revealed in a letter that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas systematically pays $5000 to convicted Palestinian prisoners freed from Israeli prisons. He also builds them new homes. Abbas is basically rewarding “unrepentant terrorists” according to Matalon.

The congressmen wrote a letter in which they stated that “many of the released prisoners were convicted of orchestrating and carrying out Hamas-sponsored terrorist attacks in Israel, including the bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people, the attack on a Netanya hotel that killed 29 people, and the bombing of a Sbarro Pizzeria that killed 15 people.”

Deutsch and Israel insist that there be more transparency and accountability regarding the amount of tax-payer’s money contributed to Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF), which they say is now controlled by Hamas.

—JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Jordan Farmar (9, far right) played for Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, but will return to the U.S. following the resolution of the National Basketball Association lockout. Credit: Ilan Costica.)

Maccabi Tel Aviv to lose star player as NBA lockout likely over

A tentative labor agreement to resolve the National Basketball Association’s lockout is welcome news for American basketball fans, but a loss for Israel’s premier team.

New Jersey Nets guard Jordan Farmar, one of six NBA players who opted to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv during the lockout, will leave a massive void at Maccabi upon his expected return to New Jersey. The 6-foot-2 player recently won the Euroleague’s Player of the Week honors after scoring 27 points in a game opposite Real Madrid.

Maccabi was also expecting to get a huge boost in January in the form of Israeli NBA star Omri Casspi, scheduled to join Maccabi if the lockout persisted. He will now remain in Cleveland with the Cavaliers. An accelerated search for replacements has begun.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Synagogues continue to go ‘green’

The Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and GreenFaith are allowing a new cycle of Reform synagogues to be certified as “green,” under the GreenFaith Certification Program.

“There are very strong Jewish values” demanding people respect their environment, said Joelle Novey, director of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light according to the source.

According to the Washington Jewish Week, congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Md., had torecheck and reinstall lights and appliances among other things in order to achieve the certification.

“The GreenFaith Certification Program has helped us attract and engage members of our community and we expect to see a reduction in our operating expenses…Knowing that we are undertaking this work with a community of other Reform congregations with shared beliefs reinforces our commitment to environmental advocacy and justice,” said Rabbi Bennett Miller of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ, a congregation which participated in the first cycle of the program.

—JointMedia News Service

Women aim to join all-male Hatzolah ambulance corps

Citing the need for modesty, women are seeking to join the all-male Hatzolah ambulance corps in the large Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn.

Hatzolah (translated as “rescue” or “relief”)—known in New York and around the world for its quick response time—will assign men to handle emergency births. Those seeking to create a women’s division of the corps say they want to better follow the community standard of avoiding physical contact with the opposite sex whenever possible, according to the Associated Press.

"It has nothing to do with feminism," Rachel Freier said, a Hassidic attorney representing the women in this matter, told AP. "It has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty."

Israel’s Hatzolah branch, by contrast, employs both male and female volunteers, its website says.

—JointMedia News Service

Elderly Jewish activist killed in LA car accident

A prominent Jewish activist and a rabbi were hit by a car Nov. 22 while crossing North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles. Activist Berish Landau of Los Angeles, 88, was killed while Rabbi Shmeul Jacobs was critically injured, NBC Los Angeles reported.

The two just left prayer services at Bais Yehuda Mikvah when they were struck by a 1999 Plymouth Voyage, according to theLos Angeles Times. Rabbi Jacobs was apparently helping Landau cross the street.

No arrests have been made but police released a statement saying that this was not a hit-and-run, rather just a tragic accident. “The driver and victims were part of a close knit Jewish community, which has been deeply saddened by the incident,” the statement said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

—JointMedia News Service

Jewish Democrat might run as Republican

Democrat Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Accounting of the City of New York, Simcha Felder, is contemplating running for Senate in the Brooklyn district as a Republican, theNew York Daily News reported.

Insiders privy to the negotiations said the idea was originally proposed by state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. It is reportedly a very serious possibility.

“It’s being discussed,” added a political source who knows Felder well.

Felder is apparently interested in the option, but only if the seat is created under the new redistricting plan in the region. The new boundaries are expected to bring in many Orthodox-Jewish voters.

—JointMedia News Service

Cancer doctor among semifinalists for Jewish Community Heroes Awards

Twenty semifinalists were chosen for the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual Jewish Community Heroes Awards. The contest honors exemplary volunteering acts in the Jewish community of North America, a Federations press release said.

Three hundred people originally submitted applications to the competition. More than 200,000 people voted and the 20 who received the most votes have now been named semifinalists. Among them is a doctor who treats people living with cancer caused by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, a woman who opened a center helping special-needs children and their parents, and a man helping small business succeed and avoid bankruptcy in a touch economy.

A panel of respected judges will name the winner of the competition, who will receive $25,000 toward his or her project. The four finalists will receive $1000 each. Visit http://www.jewishcommunityheroes.org/ for more information about the semifinalists and the competition.

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on November 29, 2011 and filed under U.S..