Daily Archives: October 11, 2012

Sherman vs. Berman

by Natalie Buchbinder

For voters in California’s newly redrawn 30th district, the election for a congressional representative has turned into a showdown between Jewish Democrats–with a twist.

Under California’s new top-two finisher primary system, the top two vote-gathering candidates in a race advance regardless of political party affiliation, pitting long-time Representatives Brad Sherman and Howard Berman in a fight for November. Some top Republicans have started to endorse Berman, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona. According to Roll Call, ten more Republicans were slated to announce their support for Berman today.

The new district in Los Angeles County includes a large portion of Sherman’s former 27th district based in Sherman Oaks, a community with a large Jewish population. But the familiar territory advantage may prove insignificant when Sherman faces Berman, who has a far better history of legislative success.  Sherman has maintained  a low profile over his close to 15-year congressional career.

The similarities between the two Jewish candidates are uncanny; both are long-time politicians with law degrees, Berman from University of California, Los Angeles, and Sherman from Harvard Law School. The two share an alma mater, as Sherman attended UCLA as an undergrad.

Berman may have a slight edge in an election where the Jewish vote is being targeted by candidates from various levels of government. Both are pro-Israel, but Berman has been a prominent force in his term as the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee. Berman introduced several bills promoting Israeli security and Iranian sanctions, including a bill that would provide American support for Israel’s anti-missile defense system.

But Jewish support may not be the only deciding factor in the predicted tight election. According to data gathered by Survey USA in mid-September, a non-partisan research firm, Sherman leads Berman 45% to 32% in votes.

Moment Wins Religion Newswriter Association Awards

Moment editor Nadine Epstein at the RNA awards ceremony

Saturday night I got to shepp a little nachas when Moment swept the Religion Newswriters Association awards ceremony, winning first place for Overall Excellence as well as three other honors.

In addition to the award for overall excellence, the magazine won first place for graphics with its Ten Commandments 2.0 Symposium. The illustration was created by uber-talented designer Navid Marvi, who also won third place for design and layout with a detailed photo essay on Jews in Iran.

Editor and publisher Nadine Epstein won an award for her 2011 investigation, The Other Rosenbergs, which recounted the never-before-told story of two innocent Jewish engineers who lost their jobs at the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, N.J. after the arrest of Julius Rosenberg because their last names were Rosenberg. The story was funded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

What a great start to the New Year!

Jewish Bahrainian ambassador to speak tonight

Houda Ezra Nonoo, Ambassador of Bahrain to the US, and the first Jewish ambassador posted abroad by an Arab country, is scheduled to headline the annual conference of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) outside Washington D.C.

Nonoo, who is also the first female ambassador to the US from Bahrain, has remained largely tight-lipped throughout her stint in Washington. And though she granted Moment Magazine an exclusive interview last year, she rarely speaks publicly about issues including her country’s suppression of the Shiite majority during the Arab Spring riots of 2011.

But that is starting to change and Nonoo now has her own blog, where she posts a few times a week on issues ranging from 9/11 to the UN General Assembly.

AMSEA was founded in 2007 by Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, as an attempt to counter the hegemony of Edward Said in American universities.

“In the democratic world, universities are free and you don’t have an imposed orthodoxy,” Lewis told Moment Magazine last year. “That’s not the case [in Middle Eastern Studies departments] where you have an imposed orthodoxy to a greater degree than any other time since the Middle Ages. It makes free discussion, if not impossible, very difficult.”

Moment readers on Ayn Rand

 

More than half of Moment readers say Ayn Rand’s ideas have no place in politics today, according to a reader survey.

Rand, the Jewish author and philosopher born Alisa Rosenbaum, is said to have influenced Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. And as Ryan prepares to take on vice president Joe Biden in the debates tonight, it remains to be seen how important her ideas will be.

According to the survey, just 43 percent of Moment readers say that her ideas belong in politics today.

Here are some of the top responses to our question, “Do Ayn Rand’s ideas belong in politics today?”

“Selfishness and rampant individualism will not help create a sustainable and livable society. Surely the years since the crash of 2008 have shown this to be true.”

“Since when are non-violent, non-hateful socio-economic worldviews beyond democratic discourse?”

“Capitalism has been successful because it is based on the very human qualities of greed, selfishness, and acquisitiveness–qualities extolled by Ayn Rand. Since no one in American politics today is suggesting that capitalism be eliminated, and since virtually all ideas (except those based on hatred toward identifiable groups of innocent people) should be subject to public discussion and debate, Ayn Rand’s ideas belong in politics today.”

“As Jews our imperative should be tikkun olam— i.e. to repair the world. This idea is incompatible with Rand’s philosophy of intense individualism and unbridled capitalism.”

“Rand’s ideas are appropriate for high school students who live in a world of absolute values. A mature polity must take care of its least powerful members.”

“All ideas are welcome, although some ideas are crazy. Still, crazy sometimes transforms. I think no ideas should be banned from politics but I do not think her ideas are good for America!”

“Her philosophy is timeless. It is based on the very best in human nature. Reading both novels should be required reading in every high school.”

“ALL ideas belong in American politics. We cannot be the Land of the Free without total freedom of thought and a willingness to consider, discuss, test, accept, or reject, all ideas of approaches and solutions. We must have extremes in our system (and Ayn Rand is not so extreme) in order to find a middle path that is the best solution for us.”

“It is selfish, an adolescent fantasy, overly, simplistic, and totally unworkable, for a society and the individuals within society. Anytime that any semblance of these ideas became a policy or law, the result was a disaster. It is also immoral and inhumane, catering to the selfish, grandiose impulses, while denying the human capacity for empathy, community, other measures of greatness, other than material. It shows both contempt and denial of human vulnerability that we all share.”

“All ideas should be able to be discussed in politics. Ayn Rand’s ideas can then be thoroughly aired and rejected.”

“Ayn Rand’s ideas represent an extreme of economic individualism divested of any sense of responsibility to others–either other individuals or to a broader community–to the point of being completely antisocial. It represents a sort of ethical solipsism.”

“Her ideas result in policies that are the opposite of tikkun olam. This is in conflict with the Jewish saying: if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world. Rand says your only duty is to save yourself. She is right to be suspicious of government; but wrong to assume that government is always and inevitably an enemy of the people.”

“When I was a young girl, I loved her books. Now that I am older and wiser, I see she had no compassion for the less fortunate or even the middle class as we know it today.”

“She stands for greed, cruelty, meanness, nastiness, and sheer psychopathy. Unfortunately, this crackpot philosopher and fourth-rate novelist is now becoming part of the US mainstream. If and when fascism comes to America, it will be in Randian garb! So no, Rand’s ideas don’t ‘belong’ in politics. But alas, they are well entrenched in American politics, both at the grass-roots level and among the corporate elites. And they are growing, like some sci-fi monster.”