Letters to the editor September 9

Letters to the editor September 9

Comparing websites
After reading Abby Wisse Schachter’s Sept. 2 editorial advising voters to vote Republican in November (“Election 2010: Choice between dependence and independence”), I visited the websites of the Democratic and Republican National Committees.
The Democratic website has a section on their home page called “What We Stand For” and it reads as follows: “The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunities for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, open, honest and accountable government, and securing our nation while protecting our civil rights and liberties.”
If I remember my Sunday school lessons correctly, the Democratic philosophy reflects the major values of Judaism. Dan Onorato (candidate for governor) and Joe Sestak (candidate for senator) are Democrats.
When you visit the home page of the Republican National Committee website there is a large “Get Your Fire Pelosi Gear Now” section. There is no “What We Stand For” section.
And who are these generic Republican candidates we are supposed to vote for? Pat Toomey is devoted to privatizing (or abolishing) Social Security and allowing bankers and drillers to continue to rape our financial system and environment free of regulation. Ms. Schachter would find it challenging to prepare her children’s’ dinner if her drinking water were poisoned with toxins from irresponsible mining and drilling companies.
Tom Corbett has filed suit against the Comprehensive Health Care legislation. If Mr. Corbett is successful, low-income seniors will once again have to choose between eating and buying their medicine. Tom Corbett does not care if you would no longer be able cover your children with your health insurance until they are 26.
The real difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the Democrats are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard at achieving long-term security and prosperity for all Americans. The Republicans have a one-size-fits-all remedy for all of the nation’s ills — cut taxes. The Republican policies plunged the nation into the economic crisis we are digging out of and they are responsible for the explosion in the numbers of Americans who require assistance with the most basic needs of food and health care.
If voters enter the voting booth and vote their conscience and their pocketbook they, like me, will vote Democrat.
Mindy S. Fleishman
Squirrel Hill

[Editor’s note: The RNC website does include an “Issues” section, similar to “What We Stand For.”]
Sestak defended
As a Jew, a Zionist, and a resident of the 7th Congressional District, I must confess that I am a bit befuddled at the prevailing narrative surrounding my congressman, Admiral Joe Sestak.
The Emergency Committee for Israel, a Swiftboat-esque group, is running ads against the congressman in his race against Rep. Pat Toomey for the Senate.  These ads would have the voters of Pennsylvania believe that Rep. Toomey is a better friend of Israel than Rep. Sestak, that Rep. Sestak does not see Israel as a pivotal ally in the Middle East, and (most ridiculously) that Rep. Sestak is a terrorist sympathizer.  Unfortunately for the Emergency Committee, not one of those assertions is based in fact.
Rep. Sestak has been a perpetual friend to the state of Israel, a record that Toomey cannot boast. Israel relies heavily on American military aid. Rep. Sestak has voted in favor of this aid at every opportunity as a congressman; Congressman Toomey did not.
The Emergency Committee has run ads criticizing the congressman for signing onto a letter to President Obama requesting that the president suggest that the Israeli government allow necessities such as water, medicine and sanitation supplied into Gaza. The ads fail to mention that the Netanyahu administration (often criticized for its often right-leaning policies) has since adopted similar positions.
Congressman Sestak, lastly, has also been attacked for being a terrorist sympathizer over his speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2007.  CAIR, however, is a group that the FBI used for outreach to the Muslim community up until 2009.  Congressman Sestak, a three-star admiral in the Navy, was also selected personally to head the Navy’s counter-terrorism unit in 2003. 
Pennsylvania’s supporters of Israel are faced with a choice, and it is a choice as crucial as the Emergency Committee says it is:  a choice between a real friend of Israel and a hack who wants us to think he’s our friend. 

Seth Kennedy
As a teacher, autumn always represented the start of the academic year with new students, new challenges and new commitments of time and energy.
Since my retirement, it has been my privilege to devote some of that time and energy to one of the true treasures of the Pittsburgh Jewish community: the Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service.
As you may have read in The Chronicle, 233 Jewish students from western Pennsylvania received more than $440,000 in scholarships for the 2010-11 academic year from Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Sarah and Tena Goldstein Memorial Scholarship of Jewish Family & Children’s Service.  This vitally important program exists to ensure that local Jewish teens and young adults can access evermore expensive higher education.
Our program would not be possible without the generosity of the individuals and families who have established endowments through the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center, the Pittsburgh Foundation, National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International and Rodef Shalom Congregation. Central Scholarship and hundreds of its scholarship recipients are deeply grateful to all those who contribute to these philanthropic organizations.
I strongly encourage Jewish students with financial need for higher education at universities, seminaries, yeshivas, technical schools or community colleges to apply. The deadline for filing an application is Feb. 11, 2011.

Roz Sherman,
Squirrel Hill

(The author chairs the Central Scholarship Committee.)
Cultural assets at risk
One of the joys in my Jewish identification stems from our community’s
traditional thirst for “lifelong learning.” This pursuit is currently in jeopardy as government budgetary concerns have caused our public libraries, the true community jewels, to be imperiled as their appropriations are consistently cut.  Never have the challenges of the public library been more pronounced than now.
It is curious that there is plenty of money to further pad the pockets of powerful special interests, prominently featuring greedy and shameless sports team owners who have no compunction about taxing the working poor.  This is perpetrated upon society so that the owners will not have to dig deep into their bulging pockets to build the state-of-the-art new facilities that tell us they “need” in order to remain competitive.
Our community is part of the problem.  We not only cheerfully acquiesce to the demands of the greedy and shameless, but in moments of detachment from reality and good sense, we honor and praise those who have taken our money, thanking and bowing to them for keeping their teams in the region at our expense.  We gladly subsidize the cost of attending a sports event through our taxes.  I wonder how the forgotten Founding Fathers would view such an exercise of the police powers of government for something as nonsensical as a sports tax.
One significant symptom of a society in decline is on display when the cultural assets that enrich us are shortchanged while those who bring sports to us are considered to be the most important and praiseworthy individuals in society.  We have it backwards.

Oren M. Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair