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Israel Shouldn’t Be The Main Course

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Israel has always suffered from an inability to form an all-inclusive strategy. In the words of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger: “Israel doesn’t have a foreign policy; it has only internal politics.”

This failure to form a strategy is not due to some Jewish intelligence deficiency; it is because we have been evading the fundamental truth of our national existence. We justify the existence of the state of Israel with pragmatic – not destiny-based – reasons. The Holocaust memorial museum, Yad Vashem, has become our holy temple. The Temple Mount, on the other hand, is a source of primal fear for Israel’s leadership, which will do everything possible to rid itself of it – and the sooner the better.

So despite the fact that we are the most (actually the only) advanced state in the region, we are the only state in the region that has no regional interests. Our only interest is to survive. That is why we are capable of nothing more than reacting. We will never initiate. If the Syrians attack, we will attack them even harder. Until then, though, we will simply wait.

Strategy means formulating general policy to foster a goal that is beyond mere existence. Tactic is a policy of actions and reactions.

In the Middle East, you either sit down for the dinner – or you are the main course. Western democratic countries can maintain static relations between them; in other words, “I do not desire what is yours, and vice versa.” Israel would love to conduct its foreign policy in such a reality. But the Muslim culture in our region rules that out. Here the rule is: if you do not trample me, I will trample you.

Strategically, Israel must strive to be a regional power in the Middle East. Due to the fact that we see ourselves as strangers and foreigners in our own land, we show no interest in strategic objectives – nothing beyond basic survival.

The Middle East is crumbling, taking on the shape of the original, pre-World War I Sykes-Picot Agreement. It will fall into the greedy hands of Iran or Turkey. Everybody wants to be the new Salah al-Din of the greater Arab nation, which is shedding the national masks forced upon it by the West. Iran bids for hegemony by threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation. Turkey does the same by repeatedly humiliating Israel.

Meanwhile, the vacuum that has been created is sucking in the world’s superpowers. First Russia, and now, reluctantly, the U.S., which is taking advantage of the chemical weapons massacre in Syria in an attempt to rehabilitate its image.

Having a strategy means that if there is a massacre in Syria, Israel must intervene and prevent it from happening again. What? Are we crazy? We should intervene on behalf of the Syrian nation and be the target of missiles in Tel Aviv?

Tragically, we are heading straight for a repeat of the U.S. attack on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1991. If the U.S. attacks Syria (for its own interests) it will be Israel that will pay a heavy price. In 1991, Israel passively sat out the Iraq war, relegating its security to the U.S. As a reward for our “good behavior” we got Iraq’s Scud missiles exploding in Ramat Gan and diplomatic pressure that led to the Madrid Conference, Oslo, the Expulsion in Gaza, and the serious deterioration in Israel’s existential legitimacy that we witness today. If there is an American attack on Syria, we will pay the same price for our passivity.

If we take the initiative, our first step should be the neutralization of Syria’s missile capabilities. This would diminish potential harm to Israel and in the future, whoever would want to exert influence in the Middle East would understand that they must include Israel in the equation – not to exact a price, but to pay Israel its strategic due. In other words, in the Middle East, either you sit down for dinner or you are the main course.

I know that currently, this idea does not have many supporters in Israel. Israelis feel like guests in their own land. They cannot yet absorb this line of thinking. For now, this is food for thought. Until I am elected to lead Israel, we can all relax in our sealed rooms, contemplating life on the Saudi dinner plate.

Honoring our Parents: Can We Learn from China?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

It is well known that millions of elderly Americans are neglected at their most vulnerable time. Jewish law, however, requires multiple times and in multiple ways that we honor our parents (Exodus 20:11, Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 19:3, Deuteronomy 27:16).

The ancient exhortations to honor one’s parents endure into our age. As of July 1, 2013, China has required that adult children take care of their parents. The amended Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly states that adult children must visit their elderly relatives, and they are prohibited from insulting, mistreating, or abandoning them under pain of lawsuit. Wu Ming, the deputy department head in China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said, “Family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly. And they should come often to visit.” Today, millions of Chinese workers live thousands of miles away from their parents, families are limited to one child per family, and the tradition values of filial piety have become more challenging to put into practice. But those who fail to take care of their parents will now be fined. This act may be in recognition of the aging of the Chinese population: There will be 221 million elderly (age 60 and older) in the country in 2015, and the percentage will reach about a third by 2050.

In Japan, another country with the longstanding value of filial piety, modern legislation assists families in paying for hired caregivers (although they cannot be family members). Elsewhere, many nations mandate some level of care for the elderly. While the Soviet Union no longer exists, some of its policies survive in the areas it used to control. For example, in much of the former Soviet bloc, the elderly can sue their children for child support, and siblings can sue each other to make sure the money is raised and the burden shared. In Western Europe, eldercare is typically ensured through social insurance programs. The most inclusive policy for the elderly can be found in Norway, where all of the elderly are guaranteed long-term care.

How does the United States, which has traditionally been reluctant in implementing social welfare policies taken for granted in Europe, compare with rest of the industrial world? Currently, nearly 10 million adults age 50 and older care for elderly parents, with little governmental assistance. This number has tripled in 15 years, so now about 1 in 4 adult children provide personal or financial care for their parents. A study conducted by a group of insurance, caregiving, and policy think tanks concluded that, taking into account wages and Social Security and pension money, the average adult who becomes a caregiver for an aging parent spends nearly $304,000. In addition, caregivers undergo tremendous stress, and suffer higher rates of cardiovascular disease and alcohol abuse, among other illnesses. On top of this, Social Security benefits here do not increase when personal care costs rise, as they do in some European nations.

One bright spot is that many adults can now take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for an ill parent (or any other family member) without losing their job under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Unfortunately, this does not go far enough, because this leave is without pay and therefore an unaffordable option for nearly all working Americans. Medicare may help pay for some short-term care, and Medicaid can cover expenses for those with in adequate resources, although these are dependent on individual state requirements, which are constantly under attack today. Currently, as the Medicare website notes, private funds are used for eldercare: “About half of all nursing home residents pay nursing home costs out of their own savings. After these savings and other resources are spent, many people who stay in nursing homes for long periods eventually become eligible for Medicaid.” In other words, if you want nursing care as an elderly person, be prepared to lose all your resources. Other programs, such as Meals on Wheels, are also dependent on state funding (with some federal aid that is also under attack), and we cannot assume that it will continue as is in the current atmosphere of austerity. Other options usually rely on independent insurance or health plans that require additional payments.

While the United States remains a wealthy nation, and many can afford their own care, we should heed Jewish law and truly honor our parents. The rabbis tell a story which is codified as law (Shulkhan Arukh YD 240:3).

They inquired of Rav Ula: “How far does honoring/dignifying parents extend?”

He said to them: “Go out and see what one [non-Jew] did in Ashkelon. His name was Dama ben Netinah. Once the Sages sought merchandise for a price of sixty myriads, but the key was resting under his father’s head, and he did not disturb him…. When Rav Dimi came, he said: Once he was wearing a gold diadem and sitting among the greats of Rome, when his mother came and tore it off him, and hit him over the head and spit in his face, but he did not humiliate her” (Kiddushin 31a).

Even when mistreated and shamed by a parent, many demands to honor parents still remain. To be sure, there are limits too!

One whose mother or father breaks down mentally – He must make the effort to behave with them in accordance with their condition until [Hashem] has mercy on them; but if he it is not possible for him to stand it, because they have become greatly insane – he may go and leave them behind, so long as he commands others to treat them properly (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240:10).

Jewish law wisely and prophetically notes the mental and physical strain that an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia can have on a family. However, the law also mandates that we provide some degree of proper care for them. We should not force families to go into bankruptcy in order to avoid placing their parents in virtual warehouses where their parents will be neglected and mistreated.

The thing is that this is not only an ossified, unrealistic demand based on an idealized or no longer extant religious society. We see models for contemporary implementation around the world today, in China, Norway, and beyond. Our parents sacrificed so much for our well-being throughout their lives, when we were not able to fend for ourselves. As a society, we must recognize this and provide for them when they are no longer physically independent themselves.

Jewish ‘Leading Mayoral Candidate’ Needs your Help to Get on Ballot

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The following is an email sent by NYC mayoral candidate  Ceceilia Berkowitz sent last night to her (handful of) supporters, pleading for help in the remaining days left to get on the ballot for an independent run for mayor:

Hi Friends, Colleagues, Neighbors, Friends, and Citizens,

As a leading 2013 Mayoral Candidate in New York City, I wanted to share with each of you the Youtube.com video of a Mayoral Forum I attended at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City on June 30th.



I wanted to show my commitment to the Arts & Culture, my strong and sophisticated and well-educated political views, and how important it is for New York City and its stakeholders (each one of you) for me to get on the ballot for our November election.

The only requirement to be on the ballot is to obtain 3,750 signatures via a signature drive. Some of you have seen in the news that Elliot Spitzer did a last minute signature drive. This costs anywhere between $20,000 and $500,000 if professionally done.

It can also be done with volunteers. At St. Peter’s University today, I met with Former Mayor of Bayonne Joseph Doria, who said he knew my father Dr. Berkowitz, from his business in Bayonne. He advised me to gather over 100 signature gatherers for shifts between now and August 12th, in order to secure our position on the ballot. We also need volunteers who can assist us with recruiting more petitioners, and others who are interested in this management and leadership building activity.

It is truly a privilege to have such a dedicated, talented, and sophisticated list of friends and contacts. I hope some of you can assist us with this, whether you are part of churches, synagogues, clubs, associations, universities, or other organizations in the NYC Metro area and beyond.

Would you be able to help me out with the signature drive, just to get the 3, 750 signatures to get on the ballot? If so, I copied my political strategy firm, Nino at Savi Political Consulting who flew in from Washington, DC to help me with this election.

I have had reoccurring severely sprained ankles from a previous injury at work in late 2010, so I cannot get all the required signatures on foot myself. In addition, I was robbed by my first fundraising firm, Apa Firm and Anastasia Apa, which the NYPD police told me was considered larceny, so I could not raise enough money afterwords.

Due to City Hall scheduling processes at 100 Gold St., I could not yet get an appointment yet from my good friend for almost two years, Mayor Bloomberg, to potentially borrow or receive enough funding for a signature drive. My credit also was stolen at work in 2006 and this identity theft was already proven in court with an affidavit -I hired some credit repair firms in Staten Island, and it will take one year to fix.

So since I have been a victim of theft and robbery, perhaps I could ask you all to assist me with a signature drive? I can perhaps give you all some compensation in pay expenses / prizes.

I think it would be great for NYC to have a younger, up and coming mayor, as they do in other cities and in Jersey City.

I just met at St. Peter’s Univ., where I taught MBA Finance this summer Mayor Doria of Bayonne and Dean of Education / former Director of HR, and he suggested to ask community groups to assist.

I also took on and hired (for pay in the future, assuming it is possible), Laurens Hunt, who is a long time member of your club and Now NYC, and who is vested in Hudson County Jersey City government with over 10 years of work experience and a graduate degree.

So we have a good and up and coming team, and NYC may need us this November if we can get on the ballot.

I am asking each of you to help do your part to email me and let me know how you can assist with recruiting signature gatherers. If you are too busy to help, perhaps you can donate $10 online to our political campaign, which will enable us to pay for commuting expenses for our volunteers who may have to work long shifts in the next week.

Also, if any of you is interested in cosigning a loan, and I can negotiate the terms and why it is good for you, please contact me.

 

Right now, we are most looking for team building activities with people of good leadership skills, interns and volunteers to help with signature gathering, and finance interns and employees who want to fundraise for some pay.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-leading-mayoral-candidate-needs-your-help-to-get-on-ballot/2013/08/08/

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