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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Social Security’

Why I Am The Right Choice For Congress

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Living in New York is getting tougher and tougher. No matter how carefully some of us planned, much of our retirement savings and investments have been dwindling away. Additionally, many of my neighbors are scared that the benefits they have paid into for years – Social Security and Medicare – may be taken away.

They are right to be nervous. These concerns cannot go unaddressed.

My name is David Weprin and I am running for United States Congress to represent the people of the Ninth Congressional District in New York.

I was born and raised in Queens. I attended local yeshivas for elementary and high school, as did all my children. I am a member of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and the Young Israel of Holliswood. My wife Ronni and I have five children and one grandchild.

I was a member of the New York City Council for eight years and served as chair of the Finance Committee the entire length of my service. Currently, I serve in the New York State Assembly.

Growing up in Queens as a religious teenager and raising a frum family prepared me to uniquely understand the needs many of my constituents and of the broader Jewish community. I am also able to advise my colleagues in government on how to best serve the Jewish community.

There were several periods when Mayor Bloomberg was intent on cutting Priority 7 vouchers. These vouchers subsidize after-school care that is vital for many families in our community. I was front and center in the battle to combat this cut that would have hurt so many of my neighbors.

Part of what makes our Jewish community so special is the sense of responsibility we feel toward each other. Hatzolah is an organization that exemplifies this feeling. I am very proud that I have been able to secure two capital grants to assist Hatzolah in its vital work.

A few years ago I received a frantic phone call from a group of concerned rabbis. They had been notified that the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health was going to ban metzitzah b’peh, an important part of the bris milah ritual for many religious Jews. I immediately contacted the commissioner and, in conjunction with other leaders in the community, got the city to back off.

I mentioned above that times are tough for all of us. As somebody who sent his children to yeshivas, I understand what the added cost of yeshiva tuition can do to a family budget.

In fact, I had the opportunity this year in Albany to help pass TAP, or Tuition Assistance Program, legislation. This historic bill will provide up to $5,000 in tuition assistance for yeshiva students learning in post-high school yeshivas.

I have constantly fought for all members of our community. I have been a strong supporter of various organizations – Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Ohel, Chai Lifeline, Coalition of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, among many others.

In dealing with social service agencies for over a decade, I understand their importance to many in our communities. My opponent wants to cut 35 percent of all federal agencies. He wants to abolish the Department of Education that helps educate our special-needs children. He wants to end the Department of Agriculture that provides food stamps for the neediest among us and provides funding for the enforcement of kashrus laws.

Yes, there is fat in the federal government that needs to be cut. There are tax loopholes for giant corporations that pay a lower tax rate than teachers and small business owners. But there are ways to lower our unsustainable deficit that don’t involve turning our backs on our seniors and the neediest among us. Our social safety nets, like Medicare and Social Security, need to be preserved.

An issue especially close to my heart is Israel. I have led a number of missions there and also traveled as part of a delegation during the Lebanon War in 2006 to help raise soldiers’ morale and transfer food and clothes to shelters. We actually came under rocket attack ourselves while helping out.

As a Democrat, I was very outspoken against President Obama’s suggestion that Israel use pre-1967 borders to come to an agreement with Palestinian negotiators. One of the missions I’ve led to Israel was to Beitar Illit, a city of over 40,000 people. I have seen first hand the communities that would be displaced if Israel would return to pre-Six-Day War borders.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, when he endorsed my candidacy for Congress a few weeks ago, stated clearly and unequivocally that the best way to send a message to President Obama in disagreement with his Mideast policies is through me, not a new member of the Republican majority whose criticism would be dismissed as partisan politics.

I believe Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel. I believe Israelis want peace and are ready now, as they have been for years, to negotiate with a willing partner – but I am unsure that such a partner exists.

It is in America’s interest to have Israel as a secure ally in the region, and I will be passionate about explaining that to those in Washington who are uninformed or have been fed lies by Israel’s enemies.

I will be a hard working and strong representative for my community in Congress.

Mr. Weprin represents the 24th Assembly District in Queens.

Celebrating Social Security’s 75th Anniversary

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

This month Social Security, the most successful domestic program in our nation’s history, celebrates its 75th anniversary.

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. With one pen stroke he laid the foundation of modern American social policy. Today, millions of retirees live in dignity thanks to their monthly Social Security benefit payment.

Over the decades, Social Security expanded to not only protect against the risk of poverty in old age, but also the economic risk of career-ending disability and the premature death of a worker.

In his statement at the signing of the Social Security Act, President Roosevelt said, “If the Senate and the House of Representatives in this long and arduous session had done nothing more than pass this Bill, the session would be regarded as historic for all time.”

I could not agree more.

A little over a quarter century ago, I came to Washington to work on Social Security. Just a few months later, I got a very important lesson on how important Social Security is to families. My own father, who was almost the same age I am today, suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He started to recover, and then we got the bad news that he had a fatal form of brain cancer, so we began the process to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

That was a very anxious time for my family, particularly for my mother. We were all very concerned that the health care costs for my father would bankrupt her; it was a great relief when the decision came. That’s a lesson that has always stuck with me and why I push very hard as commissioner of the Social Security Administration to try to make sure that we get benefit decisions to claimants as quickly as possible.

As we celebrate 75 years, I reflect on how Social Security was there for my family, how proud I am to work for this remarkable program, and how lucky I am to lead such a talented and compassionate workforce.

I have two wonderful children who entered the workforce in the past year. One is being called up for active military duty in October and the other will teach inner-city children. It is imperative that they and millions of other young Americans have confidence that we will continue to honor the great intergenerational contract that is Social Security.

It is in this spirit that President Obama established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that in December will make recommendations regarding the future of Social Security.

With the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act upon us, the agency has been revitalized despite the huge workloads caused by higher unemployment. Compared to four years ago, productivity is up, backlogs are down, and an aging IT infrastructure is being replaced with state-of-the-art systems and the best electronic services in the Federal government.

I am excited about the next 75 years of Social Security, and you should be too.

Michael J. Astrue is commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Among his various government positions he served as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services and associate counsel to the president during parts of both the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Some Financial Help From Social Security

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I have written several articles, in the past years, about the Well Spouse Foundation. I became a member of this organization decades ago. The book Mainstay, by Maggie Strong, was really the start. When I read this book, written by a young woman when her husband became ill with Multiple Sclerosis, I felt I had found a friend who was dealing with the same emotions that I was coping with. Mainstay was the impetus that led to the Well Spouse Association. It is a wonderful organization that provides support for the spouses of the chronically ill.


Through their newsletter, “Mainstay,”(which I have often referred to as a support group in your mailbox) many well spouses get emotional and practical help. Their many programs include respite weekends, forums, listings of local support groups, book reviews, and online discussions that give many well spouses their only contact with others who are dealing with the same problems, situations and emotions.


Their Mentor Program is online support for members providing one to one support for a well spouse from a veteran caregiver.  For members without e-mail who want to communicate with other well spouses, their Round Robin Letter Writing Groups consists of communication among five to seven well spouses.


Always keeping an eye on what is current or new from the government agencies that can help us, the Well Spouse Association keeps its members informed of programs that might help us financially. Around Mother’s Day, I received this information that I thought I should share with my U.S. readers. I hope it can be of financial help to some of you.


                                                          * * * * *


Help Your Mom Save $3,600!
By Everett M. Lo

Social Security Administration in New York

People all over the country are helping their moms save as much as $3,600 per year on the cost of prescription drugs. You can too!
We all know the high cost of medicine can be a burden on mothers who have limited income and resources. But there is extra help available through Social Security that could pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.
The extra help could be worth up of $3,600 per year.
To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the extra help, she must be receiving Medicare and also have:
Income limited to $15,600
for an individual or $21,000 for a married couple living together. Even if her annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Some examples where income may be higher include if she or her spouse support other family members who live with them; Have earnings from work; or live in Alaska or Hawaii; and (have)
Resources limited to $11,990
for an individual or $23,970 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count her house and car as resources.
Social Security has an easy-to-use online application that you can help complete for your mom. You can find it at http://www.socialsecurity.gov. To apply by phone or have an
application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). Or go to the nearest Social Security office.
To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods visit
http://www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
So, this Mother’s Day, help your mom save up to $3,600 a year on her prescription drugs. Long after the candy and flowers are gone, the extra help through Social Security will keep on giving.


                                                          * * * * *


I hope this will help some of you ease the financial burden of chronic illness a bit. For more information on the Well Spouse Association, contact Well Spouse Association, 63 West Main Street, Suite H Freehold, NJ 07728 or you can call 800-838-0879, 732-577-8899 or fax 732-577-8644. Their e-mail address is info@wellspouse.org and their website is www.wellspouse.org. It may be one of the most supportive things you do for yourself as a well spouse.


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

A Lighthouse Of Reason In A Dark Shidduch Sea

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Dear Readers: I want to share a letter I received this week giving me hope that there are some level heads out there in the shidduch world, and that not everyone is caught up in the hysteria and/or ga’avah (arrogance) that accompanies a suggestion for a date.

The letter was in answer to my previous column, in which I pointed out that the level of “checking” into a prospective shidduch has gotten way out of hand, as has the “criteria” used to assess the boy’s or girl’s “worthiness.” Case in point: A fine young man in his mid-20′s was asked the names of his high school yeshiva rebbes- which he readily supplied.

However, despite a glowing report from the various rebbes and his chavrusah, etc., the girl’s parents decided that they needed further information and wanted the names of his yeshiva ketanah teachers – even though over a dozen years had passed and he was now an adult.

In another shidduch scenario, a young lady’s reference was asked how she would rate the girl’s communication skills (perhaps the boy’s mother wanted to know if she would be able to decipher baby talk so the future eineklach would not cry unnecessarily). In yet another case, a reference was asked how she would assess the sincerity of the girl’s davening. The startled but indignant reference stated that she was too engrossed in her own davening to notice!

I ruefully suggested in my column that if one’s child had successfully passed the intense scrutiny, inquiries and investigations launched by a prospective date’s family, a mazel tov might just be in order.


Dear Ms. Kupfer:

I have been following the shidduch crisis in all the Jewish papers in the last year or so. We live about 400 miles from New York City. Needless to say, I see the situation from another perspective. Of course, everything is subjective.

We have three married children who met their spouses in New York. We did not check out future sons- and daughters-in-law and/or their parents. Baruch Hashem, they are all happy. After raising our children in the Torah way by sending them to day school, we allowed them to make their own decisions. We respected their judgment. By the time they are grown, hopefully parents have instilled in their children Jewish values – and they should back off and let their children decide (I am not talking about extreme situations).

Judging people according to rigid and superficial categories, such as whether the “other family” serves on paper plates, linen or plastic tablecloths, the mother’s (or father’s) weight and when that person was toilet-trained (don’t laugh, I heard it!) breaks down communication – ensuring that there is no room for flexibility.

Parents who meddle too much should be told to respect their children and stay out, at least in the initial process. Our son met his wife through a girl whom he dated twice. One never knows how one can meet his or her bashert.

Young people (and their parents, if they are involved) should be looking for a person who demonstrates kindness, commitment, responsibility, honesty, integrity, respect to parents and older people, sense of humor, self-esteem, flexibility and, if possible, the ability to find out how a person handles his or her temper and disappointment.

Our last single son is a graduate student who is looking for a frum and independent girl who will be able to stand on her own two feet. (In fact, we made sure that our daughter had a profession, too.) He is talented and was considering staying in a yeshiva. But who will support him and his future family?

Those who wish to sit and study at the expense of others pay the price, in every sense of the word (and ultimately so do all of us). They mostly stay immature, depending on their parents’ financial support and just don’t grow up in a healthy way.

Since the parents pay for their adult children’s livelihood, some feel entitled to dictate to them where to live, how to space their children, how to dress them and what to name the grandchildren, among other demanding expectations. The adult children’s decision is often under a magnifying glass, and many times they are criticized about minor things. All this stress causes shalom bayis tension.

Now back to your article. Where do those young girls come from, wanting to stay home and have a husband who only learns? Are they realistic? Those who only study will not have earned money to get enough Social Security or any money for retirement, and will not benefit from all that goes along with the satisfaction of working and supporting one’s family. Having said that, I have no objection to parents occasionally helping out financially.

May we soon witness an improvement in this situation.

A Concerned Reader

Don’t Take The Bait – How Did We Get Here? (Part III)

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

         How did this generation of parents get to the point of being intimidated by their children? How did we get to where many of our children feel they are entitled to our financial and physical support from cradle through school, marriage and adulthood?


         It is not uncommon to see grandparents taking on a third job in order to support their married children. It is not uncommon for a woman in her early 60s to have children who never made a Yom Tov, but always came home instead; and choose to see the Yom Tov week as their vacation from children and any home chores.


         It is not uncommon to see a woman with several children who takes her family and goes to stay with her mother for the delivery of each new baby – leaving the aging mother to care for her, the new baby and the older siblings.


         Not only is this our children’s expectation, but it is ours as well. Guilt feelings overcome many parents who feel they can’t give their children the support their neighbors give their offspring, whether financial or physical. How did we get here?


         As I said last week, to my way of thinking, we created this situation. We planted the “seed of taking without limit or end,” nurtured it and supported its growth. And, now that we find ourselves getting too old or tired or too poor to continue, our children’s expectations remain where we set them, as we don’t stop trying to meet their needs even though they are adults.


         Ann was a bright and financially comfortable person. She was the dean at a local university. Every Sunday morning for the last 15 years, Ann left her chronically ill husband with an orderly and set off with her son to meet her mother for brunch. Last week, Ann told me, that when she called her mother to ask what time to pick her up, her mother replied that she could not go this week because she had forgotten to cash her Social Security check and didn’t have money to pay the bill for brunch.


         Ann told me that she was devastated, when it dawned on her for the first time, that she had been allowing her mother to pick up the tab for all these years. “It just was something that we always did. I never gave it thought. If I had, I would never have allowed my mother to pay. I guess it just became a thoughtless habit. I wish my mother had said something.”


         From the time they are born, our children are dependent on us. It is our job as parents to slowly, as is age appropriate, make them more independent and less dependent on us. How can we do that, if we don’t allow them to work at small jobs when they are young, and teach them to value earning?


         If we support them throughout high school, insist that they cannot work in the summer (not even at mowing laws or babysitting) but must attend summer camp instead and then continue this support years into marriage, whether through kollel and/or college degrees. Aren’t we teaching them to take? They clearly get the message we are giving. We will support you. We will be there to help in every way for whatever you decide to do. Working, even part-time, to be partly self-sufficient isn’t an expectation. Aren’t we doing exactly what Ann’s mother did and never letting them see that an end of support is appropriate and that we, as older adults, have needs too.


         If we behave in this manner, why are we surprised at our children’s expectations and even threats, implied or verbal. They are only doing what we have taught them.


         If we decide to give our children this support when they marry, perhaps it would be a better lesson if we made it a loan instead of a gift.


         It could be a loan that is for a specific number of years. Once the years agreed upon are up, the expectation could be for them to help support the next sibling in the same manner that they were supported.


         Or the debt could be returned with a bit of help to each future sibling, spread out over time. This would not only ease the parent’s burden, but it would give a cut-off date to the support and a responsibility toward repayment in a way that should be very understandable. The couple would then have the expectation of being self-sufficient in the long run.


         It is not the purpose of this article to give an opinion for or against kollel or college. These are very complicated issues that involve community needs, along with support. Its intent is to look at the possibility of how we taught our children to have such high expectations of us, and to reexamine where we are and “how we got here.”


         You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Distorted Reality

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

(Names Changed)


        We all have preconceived notions that we accept as real and never challenge. One of these is the concept of what is considered old. I have sat with a group of woman, and though many in the group qualified for a seniors discount, those that did, refused to acknowledge that they were that age. It was more important for them to maintain an imaginary age publicly, instead of getting the break financially. Those of us not in that age bracket could not believe it. Until the following year when the scene was repeated, only now we had more seniors who refused to acknowledge they were seniors and this included the very people who made fun of this group the year before. Interestingly, their view of being a senior seemed to change once they joined the ranks.


         Seniors today are certainly not the seniors I remember. Not only are seniors acting younger and doing more, but they are also actually a younger group. Once, you had to be the magic age of 65 to qualify for being a senior − when 65 was the usual retirement age. At that point, we the young and inexperienced, expected you to be too old to work and would go joyously to your rocking chairs. Today, more people are taking early retirement and the 50s is the age that many start second careers. There are many places that now identify you as a senior at the young age of 50 and let you qualify for many wonderful events and discounts. All you have to do is get past the word senior, in your mind, and not let it inhibit you from having fun.


         Shani was a former well spouse. Her husband had passed away just a year ago and she was adjusting to life as a widow. Fortunately for Shani, she no longer had to work. Now that the expenses for her husband’s care were gone, she found that if she was careful, she could live comfortably on her pension and Social Security. For a year now, she has been wondering how to fill her days. Caring for her husband had left her with no time for herself. Now that she had the time, she seemed to not remember how to use it.


         She had been asked to volunteer to visit the sick in her community and other illness-related tasks, at which  she was an expert. However, she just couldn’t bring herself to do that type of chesed right now. That was something she needed a break from. Along with helping out in her community in various ways, she wanted to have fun, make new friends and do different things she had not had time or energy for over the last few years. But, she did not know where to begin to find the things she wanted. Someone suggested she look into the seniors group at the local JCC. Shani was taken aback. After all she was only in her 50s and didn’t want to hang out with a bunch of 80-year-olds. What would they have in common? What were people thinking!


         A year later, in Shani’s well-spouse support group, Andrea also lost her husband and found herself going through the same journey as Shani. The difference was that, though only 55, Andrea wasn’t deterred by the title of “senior” and began to explore what the same JCC had to offer her. Yes there were older people in the building, but Andrea discovered that there were “seniors” there who were younger than she, as well. She was also open to who the person was and not the number of years they had been on this earth.


         Rather quickly, Andrea began to find many “senior” programs in which she wanted to participate. These groups had people of every age, but the common interests and wealth of experience made the group rich with diversity and knowledge. She started to fill her days with classes and activities. She made new friends. However, she could not get Shani past her concept of what a “senior” is  and join her. Today  Andrea is leading a new and fulfilling life. Shani is still looking for one.


         In any situation that faces you, it is important to challenge your preconceived notions and see what you are basing your decisions on. Perhaps they are based on something real and important. On the other hand, they may just be a reflection of something you once heard that has no basis in fact. If you refuse to examine your ideas and look into what is holding you back from going on with your life, you may be cutting yourself off for no reason, from a future that is wonderful and full. Just as Shani did.


         You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

Money Better Spent

As people prepare to fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot on Purim, may I remind them that the mitzvah involves sending a gift of two (2) different food items to one (1) friend. I do not believe the mitzvah is to send extravagant $300 baskets to everyone living within a three-mile-radius of one’s home. Wouldn’t that money be better spent by sending it to a worthy organization, such as Tomchei Shabbos or Hatzolah?

By sending money to Tomchei Shabbos, you ensure that needy observant families have the necessary items for a beautiful Shabbos – challah, wine, gefilte fish, and other traditional Shabbos foods. By sending a donation to Hatzolah, you ensure that your friend or neighbor will have immediate medical attention in case of any life-threatening emergency.

Now isn’t that money better spent than sending an overpriced basket containing a small bottle of grape juice, some jelly rings, some cookies, some imported chocolate, and other things that people really do not need in their home four weeks before Pesach?

Barry Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY

Workable Shidduch System

Chananya Weissman in his op-ed article “The Shidduch Crisis – The Case For Natural Meetings” (March 18) asks for any evidence that forbids mixed settings.

The Mishna in Sukkah 5:2, speaks clearly of the “tikkun gadol,” the great improvement, which refers to the balcony made in the Beis Hamikdosh, designed to keep men and women from mingling.

I think the shidduch scene in the U.S. is problematic primarily because it seems to be acceptable for a boy to date more than one girl at a time. Nevertheless, the answer surely is not to disband the system but to make it workable – as it is elsewhere in the world.

Rabbi B. Katz
London, England

C-SPAN Unfiltered

Jason Maoz hit it right on the head with his characterization of how the hosts of C-SPAN’s “Morning Journal” allow the most outrageously anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments from callers to go unchallenged (“C-SPAN Falls Over the Edge,” Media Monitor, March 18).

The argument that the public is intelligent enough to sort out fact from fiction is a demonstrably weak one in light of years of studies and surveys showing that a sizeable percentage of the public is blissfully ignorant of history and current events. By allowing misinformation to routinely be transmitted under its auspices, C-SPAN is guilty of poisoning the public discourse in a far more egregious manner than any of the radio talk shows that liberals love to hate.

Marion Arnold
New York, NY

Columbia’s Moment Of Truth

Columbia University is approaching a decision that will test its civilized thought and rigorous scholarship. The issue is whether the university will continue to welcome as a professor a man who espouses deeply offensive views about Jews.

Joseph Massad is an assistant professor in Columbia’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, where students have charged that some instructors enforced anti-Israel views through classroom intimidation. Massad is among those teachers. Citing a “witch hunt,” he has denied the charges, which are being probed by a university committee. He declined an interview.

This is not scholarship. It is an expression of belief that Jews are all but programmed to victimize others; that they are flawed to their essence. The idea has no place at Columbia. Or anywhere else.

Allen Slater
(Via E-Mail)

‘Solomon Plan’ For Social Security

We need to set aside a portion of the Social Security tax and place it in special accounts to benefit our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. That way, the more offspring one has, the greater his/her nest egg will be.

The majority of the Social Security tax revenue collected will, as it currently does, continue paying through the general fund to all who are qualified for its benefits, regardless of whether or not they have children. But let’s allocate a small portion of our Social Security to those who gave us life. Those who have offspring who work and pay taxes will reap additional benefits from the “Fifth Clause” (as in the Fifth Commandment), which will grant them the additional funds.

President Bush, a devout Christian, is pro-life and obviously would recognize that under this plan people would think twice before aborting their innocent babies. This new “Solomon Plan” would create a healthy cycle of more children being born, and after eighteen short years those children’s tax dollars would begin paying for their parents’ retirement cost of living.

As one of the most loyal fans of our brave president, I pray that he continue adhering to the very sound advice that his faithful advisers, men and women of faith, provide him by the grace of God. May Hashem always bless him, his family, and the noble work he is doing for all mankind.

Joseph Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY

Right Wing And Pragmatic? Readers Respond

Refreshing Change

The Jewish Press is to be commended for publishing Joseph Schick’s well-reasoned op-ed “Can One Be Right Wing And Pragmatic?” (March 18). His article represents a refreshing change from the “Israel is about to be destroyed” scenario constantly posited by so many right-wingers here and in Israel.

One can be an unreconstructed hawk on Israel and still be realistic enough to realize that it’s ludicrous at this point in time to be talking about “expelling all the Arabs” or insisting that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people” (historically speaking, that’s correct, but we lost that public relations battle years ago).

I admire Mr. Schick for his courage in stating convictions that no doubt will invite derision from extremists, and I thank The Jewish Press for providing a forum for views with which many of its readers undoubtedly disagree.

Yitzchak Cates
New York, NY

Benefits Of Absolutist Opposition

Although I always appreciate reading Joseph Schick’s thoughtful views on the Middle East, he falls prey to his own arguments in his March 18 op-ed. Schick says he disagrees with Prime Minister Sharon’s “disengagement” plan because he thinks it is a faulty strategy to bring about his (Sharon’s) goals “to retain all of Jerusalem’s Old City, part of the Jordan Valley, and more than the four percent of Judea and Samaria that Israel was left with under the Clinton Plan.”

But he is sharply critical of those opposed to any territorial concessions and who lack a “recognition that Israel will have to give up territory but must fight hard to keep whatever it can.”

“There is no understanding,” he says, “that both Oslo and Barak’s concessions greatly damaged Israel’s negotiating position, and that Sharon’s motivation is to preserve more than the four percent Israel would have kept had Arafat accepted the Clinton Plan.”

Why does Schick think that absolutist opposition at home does not strengthen Sharon’s hand internationally and tend to lead to fewer Israeli concessions over time? Isn’t that the flip side of Schick’s acknowledgment that Oslo and Barak’s unilateral concessions undermined Israel’s negotiating position?

And why does he not explore the consequences of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in terms of it representing a reward for terror, resulting in a boost for Hamas and an undermining of Mahmoud Abbas?

Moreover, doesn’t an uncompromising biblically-based Jewish claim, especially to East Jerusalem, add crucial weight to Israel’s position in the light of the Palestinian rationale of not only nationalism but also religious imperative?

Finally, to me it is not very seemly to criticize as politically naive those who unashamedly take the Five Books of Moses seriously. One man’s naivete is another’s faith. Schick may disagree with their interpretation of Scripture, but the religious Right really does have a point.

Glenn Friedman
New York, NY

Defeatist Attitude?

Joseph Schick seems to suffer from the same defeatist attitude that afflicts many in the Jewish community. No one respects someone who does not stand up for principle. When Arafat rejected the so-called Clinton Plan, it was only because he thought it was a gift so easy to come by that an even better deal was just around the corner. For good reason, he saw Oslo as a ground floor for future negotiations.

Nor has President Bush gone as far as he has because of Israel’s rolling over. Bush’s support is as strong as it is because of Israel’s willingness to take on terror and its refusal to knuckle under to the UN and the Europeans.

Barak’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon made heroes of Hizbullah and did more than anything else to glorify terrorism in the Arab world and encourage Palestinian recalcitrance. How can anyone think that Gaza will be any different? The problem is not that people don’t think that Sharon has a plan to keep as much as possible, but that he does not seem to have learned from recent history.

Leslie Millstein
(Via E-Mail)

Joseph Schick replies:

Yitzchak Cates’s kind words are appreciated. Glenn Friedman asks why I don’t explore the consequences of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. In fact, I have analyzed – in detail – Sharon’s plan in previous Jewish Press columns, and expressed my opposition to the withdrawal based upon such analysis. Those columns are available on the Jewish Press website.

Mr. Friedman believes that “absolutist opposition” will “lead to fewer Israeli concessions over time.” But history suggests the opposite. Prime Minister Shamir’s government was brought down by the far right following Israel’s participation in the 1991 Madrid Conference. Shamir was replaced by Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords and revived the PLO. The National Religious Party caused the collapse of the Netanyahu government following the 1998 Wye River Agreement to transfer 13 percent of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. When Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu in the ensuing election, the NRP was the first to join Barak’s new coalition. Barak’s concessions at Camp David and Taba dwarfed anything Netanyahu ever contemplated.

This does not mean that right-wing opposition to Sharon is always inappropriate or ineffective. As I wrote, my views are similar to those of Uzi Landau, who leads the Likud opposition to Sharon. Landau recognizes that territorial compromise will be necessary for real peace, but rejects the Sharon plan. Coherent opposition based upon pragmatic goals is distinct from “absolutist opposition.”

As for the Five Books of Moses, I too take them seriously – along with the rest of Tanach and the Talmud. Religiously, historically and morally, Israel has a right to all of Judea and Samaria. But a strategy that ignores the serious challenges Israel faces will not succeed in retaining disputed territory.

Leslie Millstein calls my attitude “defeatist” but his letter has little to do with my column. The column and previous ones clearly stated my view that Oslo, Ehud Barak’s acceptance of the Clinton Plan and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza were and are mistakes. Mr. Millstein’s failure to distinguish between my political views and goals and those of Barak are a good illustration of my column’s assertion that many on the extreme right have no ability to recognize nuance. Not everyone to the left of Kach is a leftist. Mr. Millstein’s apparent belief that President Bush’s vision for a permanent settlement differs greatly from Clinton’s ignores Bush’s frequent comments that indicate the contrary.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-108/2005/03/23/

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