Jews, judaism, politics, social action
On the Friday night immediately after Rosh Hashanna, my son Dan called for Shabbat dinner at Occupy Wall Street. There were about 25-30 of us who made kiddush, ate cholent (translates these days into vegetarian chili), had tuna fish instead of gefilte fish and drank lots of juice while eating home-made challah. When a CBS reporter found us under the sculpture on the northwest corner of Cedar and B’way, he didn’t want to know why we made Shabbat in Zuccotti Park. He didn’t care that there were ethical, principled reasons to have Shabbat at a protest, to sanctify a day by speaking out for justice. This guy wanted us to be hippies having pot luck dinner. Sorry we didn’t fit his stereotype. “I only have 10 seconds, no time for this Shabbat thing,” he said.
I was the senior in the bunch, and David Peel, a real hippie who hung with John and Yoko back in the day (and was singing Tevye’s greatest hits), was one person who asked me why I was there, as did a struggling freelance journalist. They both looked pointedly at my gray hair and my grandmotherly physique.
“I am here because when things were circling the drain, the banks wouldn’t renegotiate our mortgage. The credit card companies hiked their interest rates. My husband got sick and lost his job. And the co-pays on drugs have become obscene. My Nexium went from $30 for 90 pills to $640+ on a co-pay. Full price for that formerly $30 bottle is $1080. That’s why I am in Zuccotti Park. I marched against Vietnam in 65 (and married a Viet Nam vet). I marched in the Women’s Lib Parade in 1970, because my Orthodox Jewish husband refused to grant me a Jewish divorce for seven long and bitter years. I marched on behalf of Soviet Jewry and for the State of Israel. Now I am marching for me.”
In bankruptcy and foreclosure, after paying every bill for 21 years, we lost a state tenant in our investment/retirement home in Arizona and lost the house. Then clients bailed on us because they had no money, others canceled projects because of investments with Madoff and other shaky stuff. Now our home in New Jersey is underwater.
We write books, we edit books, we print books. We are a necessary niche market business. But the trustee for U.S. Bankruptcy court will not allow us to sell the books we print for our clients, let alone our used books, and is demanding $21,500 for the books I need to do my work, for the mementos of a full and not-boring life, for my beloved Brooklyn Bridge collection, and my Judaica. That’s why I go to Zuccotti Park and exercise my first amendment rights.
If anyone missed what the media says about people like me and my son Dan—they are saying we are young (I wish), smelly, nasty, ignorant know-nothings who do not believe in the system, we are criminals, etc. You really have to see the Jon Stewart take on this to see what they say about people like you and me. CLICK HERE.
We are not who the media says we are. We know who we are. We are those who struggle just to keep it together, to rescue something from everything we had ever worked for. And those of us who have parents watch them in the last days of their lives as they suffer along with us. And trust me—it is infinitely more difficult when those elderly parents are Holocaust survivors.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Isaiah speaks for God, who essentially says, “Who needs you to fast and say all these prayers of repentance and offer me all of these sacrifices if you don’t take care of your widows, your poor and your orphans?”
That’s why it is precisely on Yom Kippur that I am with my son in Zuccotti Park. It is precisely here that I can, with a clear conscience, ask for forgiveness for selfishness, apathy and pride. I want people to understand that it’s not just about ATM fees and interest rates; it’s about human beings who are just like you and me. It’s about millions of Americans who are teetering on the edge of the abyss, and nobody out there with the means, the power and the vision wants to step forward and give us the help we need to survive as our American dreams turn into nightmares.
I knew it a long time ago, but you cannot, like Isaiah, be a prophet in your own hometown. Check out youtube.com. On May 1, 1979, Ayn Rand, the grand diva of the free market, was a guest on Donohue, who at the time had the only intelligent talk show on TV. My sister-in-law and I were in the audience. I wore a white dress and had long, black curly hair and big glasses. I was eight months pregnant with Dan, my son who called for Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. Rand and I had a knock down drag out with Donohue as referee, and it dominated the show. For Rand, it was all about keeping whatever you make, charity is a waste and it’s not the government’s job to protect anyone or give them a leg up, and how dare Donohue allow her to be attacked by hippies!
For me it was quite the opposite. When Donohue explained to me that according to Rand, corporations will do the right thing, I said that I didn’t believe that. “The more money you have,” I said to him, “the more power you have.”
Now, if anyone on Fox Not the News cares to show up at Kol Nidrei services at Occupy Wall Street, I would be proud to answer any questions intelligently. But I have learned, again, through bitter experience, that Fox never lets reality get in the way of Fox facts.
local stories/community, new jersey news, news, politics
Read about Congressman Bill Pascrell’s take on what’s going on. Click Here.
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middle east, news, politics
by Jeanette Friedman April 1, 2011
Surrounded by maps and wielding a laser pointer to illustrate the complicated geography of Afghanistan, its volatile neighbors, and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) held a press conference in his Paterson office last Friday on his recent fact-finding visit to the region and the American northern Africa command in Italy. He discussed the budding revolutions in the Arab countries and their causes and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and suggested ways to hasten the departure of American troops from Afghanistan and bring peace to the regions in turmoil.
He also strongly condemned the murders of members of the Fogel family in Itamar last month. “This family,” he said, “their throats were slashed…. There is nothing in the Koran that justifies such a barbarous act. The trouble comes from those — the true infidels — who pull lines out of context from the Koran.”
Pascrell said the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and other North African and Gulf countries have nothing to do with Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and that Islamic extremists, notably from al-Qaida, were not involved in most, except perhaps Yemen. Al- Qaida today, he said, is active in the Yemen peninsula and in Pakistan.
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politics, women in america
Soul or Pocketbook? You Decide.
By Jeanette Friedman
Thirty-seven years ago, this very week, there was a snowstorm swirling outside my kitchen window, but my sixth floor apartment was so hot and dry I cracked the window facing the fire escape before I went to bed. It was about 3 a.m., and I had just fallen asleep when I woke up to find a man cutting the wires to the phone on my bedside table. Next thing I knew, I was blindfolded with my bathrobe, and could feel the point of a knife pushing into the top of my scalp. I kept thinking that what was happening couldn’t be happening, and remembered what my cop friends had taught me. “Don’t fight back, give them what they want or they won’t think twice about hurting or killing you.”
So I did as I was told, and about half-an-hour later, wrapped in a blanket, I went pounding on my neighbors’ doors, begging them to call the cops. One of my big kitchen knives was laying on the third step of the staircase.
I was not bruised or battered physically, but I demanded to be taken to a hospital for a rape kit. (I was the editor of my college paper and had access to information most women didn’t have. It was 1973 and women were starting to learn how to take care of themselves because, generally, men proved unequal to the task. Mostly I wanted a massive dose of penicillin, just in case I’d caught something disgusting.)
The first question these police officers asked me was what I had done to encourage my attacker. I thought that only happened in movies! I was so furious, I shot back that at 3 a.m., as the snowstorm raged across the city, I had climbed out on the fire escape, and while swinging my panties in the air, had yelled “Here ‘tis, come and get it.”
They finally believed me when they heard the names of my cop friends and saw the evidence: the broken screen in the kitchen window, the knife on the stairs in the hall and the cut phone wires. A few weeks later the rapist got his just desserts. His face was plastered all over the NY Daily News, and more women came forward to identify him. He was a serial rapist who didn’t have to beat his victims black and blue because he carried a weapon.
I wasn’t battered because I had done what the cops taught me to do. And now, thirty-seven years later, Chris Smith, a Republican congressman in my home state of New Jersey, is pushing the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” that invalidates the terrible experiences of millions of American women who were raped. His law basically says that only bruises prove rape and that it isn’t incest if the victim is over 18. By his lights, because we weren’t beaten to a pulp, we weren’t raped. And that means victims of date rapes or designer drug rapes haven’t been raped either. Never mind marital rape. It doesn’t exist. He is saying it’s no longer rape even if there is a knife to the victim’s head—and it isn’t incest because she’s over 18, and she’s not bleeding.
So far there are 173 Congressmen rallying behind this bill—one Smith claims will cut the deficit dramatically by eliminating abortions. What this law really does is pull the rug out from beneath women’s bitterly won rights to do what they want with their own bodies. And that’s precisely the point. They are creating a ruse to stop legal abortions.
I never went back to my apartment after that terrible night, except to move out. I stayed with a friend when I was released from the hospital and spent the rest of the night trying to scrub myself clean. For weeks afterward I held my breath until I got my period. Thank God, Roe V. Wade was passed just two weeks before I was raped. Had I gotten pregnant, I have no doubt I would have gotten an abortion—by hook or by crook. Such a pregnancy would have been life-threatening to me, since I wanted to marry and have children with someone I loved—and not have to commit suicide in despair. (A victim of rape is four times more likely to commit suicide.)
Maybe I believe that women have the right to choose because I am a Jew, and in Judaism, abortion is permitted even during full-term delivery if the life of the mother is at stake. The differences of opinion among the Jews lay not in the act of abortion, which is clearly permitted; they lay in the definition of the word “life.” There are those rabbis who say that a woman’s emotional and mental state matters—especially when it comes to raising children. For some women forced to give birth to a child of rape or a severely damaged child with no hope of recovery, the situation becomes life-threatening—not only to the mother, but to the mental and emotional health of her other children. On the other hand, there are rabbis who say a mother’s life needs to be literally physically threatened by conditions of pregnancy and birth before an abortion can take place. In all cases, the final decision is between a woman, her rabbi and her doctor—and together they face God, come what may.
What is happening right now is that Smith and his cronies have wrapped their religious beliefs in the deficit and are attempting to coerce the rest of us to adhere to those beliefs by abusing the separation of Church and State. True, the separation of Church and State is not explicit in the Constitution. Neither is the right to privacy. Yet both of these principles are considered basic American human rights. They reinforce democratic ideals and allow American women to choose what they want to do, without having someone else’s beliefs jammed down their throats.
Smith’s bill is designed to demolish these long-established American freedoms as he and fellow Republican Mike Pence—whose companion bill aims to prohibit private insurance companies from covering legal abortions—attempt to bring the full force of Federal legislation to bear down on poor and middle class women. They are forcing American women to abide by the rules of Christian beliefs that differ even from those of other Christians. They use doublespeak to redefine rape and incest, words that have accepted meanings, legally and literally, that go back to biblical times. They manipulate the Constitution and lie about the costs of the havoc their bills will create.
If Smith’s bill passes, you will have to suffer contusions, blunt force trauma or open wounds to prove rape, and if you are an incest victim over 18, it won’t be incest. Any resulting pregnancies of these non-rapes will have to be carried to term because Chris Smith will make abortion impossible unless you are wealthy and pay for it “out of network.” It’s already awful to know that if you are a poor woman in America who relies on federal funds for health care, you can’t get an abortion if your fetus was damaged by prescription drugs, a disease you contracted, or a genetic disorder. The government doesn’t allow it.
If these Republicans have their way, women will be forced to go back to pre-1973 kitchen table abortions. These back-alley homemade procedures force women to risk their lives by using Betadyne and knitting needles or coat hangers to accomplish what the United States government will not allow them to do safely. The only women who will escape this desperate trap are the rich.
The rest of us will wonder what we can do for the women who develop complications from butchered abortions and how we will care for the damaged and unwanted children that will be the issue of this insane policy. Will the greater costs lie in our souls or our pocket books?
Call your congressman and tell him or her that you won’t stand for this abuse of legislative power. This is still America—and we are still Americans—of different faiths and belief systems, and no one’s religious agenda speaks for us all, not even to lower the deficit.
(America has more reported rapes, by a huge number, than any other country that gathers such statistics, and researchers note that as many as 60% of all rapes are never reported. Here are the facts and here.)