AIPAC policy conferences – the annual pro-Israel extravaganzas meant to spotlight the power of the pro-Israel lobby group – are always the most interesting in presidential election years, or when they're a big fight brewing over U.S. foreign policy.
The New Jersey state Senate last week took a step toward ousting embattled state poet laureate Amiri Baraka when it voted to eliminate the post. The vote was 21-0, with 19 abstentions. The measure now goes to the state Assembly, but it is not clear when or if that body will take action.
As a backup plan, senators are considering a resolution to censure Baraka, who caused an uproar last year when he read his 9-11 themed poem "Somebody Blew Up America" at a poetry festival.
New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka says he will fight legislation aimed at removing him from the state-appointed position, telling The Jewish Week Tuesday he was prepared to take legal action if a bill being drafted this week in the state Senate passes. “I certainly will sue,” he said Tuesday by phone from his home in Newark.
Legal experts say the controversial poet could have a good case on free-speech grounds.
One of the Russian-speaking community’s top priorities in the just-ended legislative session in Albany was passage of a bill that would have mandated the New York City Board of Elections to translate into Russian all voting materials used at polling stations across the city.After all, those materials are already being translated into Spanish, Chinese and Korean, and the State Assembly had overwhelmingly passed a version of the bill in June.So when the State Senate scotched it at the 11th hour, speculation began to fly about who was behind it.
Amid the publicity given to Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s partially successful efforts to achieve significant savings in health care costs in the state budget, one little-noticed line item expanding state funding for health care was inserted with the support of the leadership of both houses of the State Legislature — $540,000 for thyroid cancer screening for New Yorkers who were exposed to massive amounts of harmful radiation during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
Remember the recent controversy over proselytizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy? And charges by some groups that the service branch has become a very uncomfortable place for religious minorities, including Jews?
That could change with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ appointment last week of a new Air Force chief.
His pick: Lt. General Norton Schwartz, a 1973 Air Force Academy graduate, onetime cargo aircraft pilot and official Member of the Tribe.
A few years ago at an immigration conference, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel said simply and powerfully, “No human being is illegal.”
The Jewish community’s point man on immigration, Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, recalled Wiesel’s elegant plea on behalf of immigrants this week as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on legislation that would provide a clear path to citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in this country.
Two major haredi organizations came out Tuesday against a bill pending in the New York State legislature that would extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and create a one-year window during which alleged victims could file civil claims, regardless of when the abuse took place.
Survivors for Justice, a support and advocacy organization formed by victims of child sexual abuse in the fervently Orthodox world, traveled to Albany this week to educate legislators about the problem of child sexual abuse in their communities and to discuss legislative efforts to help curb it and aid victims in seeking redress.
A prominent Orthodox rabbi and psychologist has been intimidated into quitting as head of a just-formed task force dealing with rabbinic sex abuse of minors, organized by Assemblyman Dov Hikind this week.
Dr. Benzion Twerski told The Jewish Week Wednesday that he was quitting the task force because “I was prosecuted in the street for daring to join such a venture.”