Newsdesk June 6, 2003

Jerusalem Elects Mayor

Jerusalem will get its first ultra-Orthodox elected mayor. Uri Lupolianski defeated Nir Barkat by 51% to 43% in Tuesday’s election, according to incomplete results. Lupolianski has been serving as Jerusalem’s acting mayor. In Haifa, Yona Yahav of the Shinui-Greens list will become mayor after defeating Likud-One Nation’s Shmuel Arad. Yahav’s election marks the first time that Haifa will have a mayor who is not from the Labor Party.

UJC Backs Aid to States

The United Jewish Communities has opted to weigh in on a relatively small component of the $350 billion tax cut package, the $20 billion set aside to assist states coping with financial problems.

With President Bush’s signature, UJC declared in a statement, “the last hurdle has been overcome in providing assistance to our most vulnerable population.”

The statement quotes the director of the UJC’s Washington office, Diana Aviv, describing the $20 billion allocation as “an emergency lifeline that comes as cash-strapped states are making painful decisions to cope with the economic downturn. Major cuts still have to be made, but the blow has been softened.”

The UJC hailed the $20 billion as an important step for aiding states and low-income Americans. But to pay for the measure, House Republican dropped a proposed child tax-credit increase that would have helped millions of low-income families.

“The Senate preferred to have $20 billion in state aid,” said Christin Tinsworth, spokeswoman for the Republican majority on the House ways and means committee. House Republicans were upset that several moderate GOP senators insisted that the overall bill not cost more than $350 billion.

Had the provision been included in the final bill, the child tax credit for families earning between $10,500 and $26,625 would have jumped from $600 to $1,000.

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, a liberal economic Washington think-tank, said that the tax-credit increase for low-income families would have only cost $3.5 billion — “or 1% of the official $350 billion cost of the legislation, and 2.3% of the bill’s capital gains/dividends provision.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, as well as moderate GOP legislators, including Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, sharply criticized the decision to cut the aid to poor families and called for an accelerated restoration of the tax-credit provision.

Senate Republicans are now seeking ways to promptly pass legislation reinstating the child credits.

Aviv told the Forward that UJC had no position on the issue. “We had not dealt with the child tax-credits at all. This was not an issue that the federations had interest in,” Aviv said. She said that UJC is willing to express its disappointment with White House policies. In this case, however, the child tax-credits “have not been articulated by the federations as a priority for us.”

Group Pans Church Grant

The American Jewish Congress last week announced its opposition to the Bush administration’s decision to earmark federal funds to restore a building that is both a historic landmark and an active church. The administration’s decision to allocate $317,000 to help restore the windows at Boston’s Old North Church is a reversal of the federal policy preventing religious institutions from receiving government funding for restoration projects.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton authorized the funding that was awarded to the church, from which patriots in 1775 signaled to Paul Revere that the British were coming. Standing outside the church, Norton said: “Today we have a new policy that will bring balance to our historic preservation programs and end a discriminatory double standard that has been applied against religious properties.”

The AJCongress contends, however, that “neutral administration of grants is constitutional only when private citizens, not government officials, having a range of choices, independently determine to channel money to religious institutions.” The government deciding which religious institutions are to receive public funds is “contrary to constitutional principles,” AJCongress said in a statement.

The organization’s general counsel, Marc Stern, said: “There is something profoundly troubling about the Department of the Interior’s willingness to save a historic landmark of brick and mortar, while threatening the uniquely American landmark of church-state separation to which the American Founders were committed.”

Israel Requests Iraq Role

The United States government is examining the possibility of Israeli companies taking part in the rehabilitation of Iraq.

Israeli Foreign Minster Silvan Shalom delivered a request Sunday to Assistant Secretary of State William Burns to allow American ships to dock in Israeli ports en route from the Gulf region. Shalom also asked that Israeli companies be allowed to participate in the process of rehabilitating postwar Iraq. Burns said the government would examine the possibility in a positive light, as well as the request regarding docking.

Woman Dies on Ride

The daughter of a New Jersey rabbi plunged to her death from a roller coaster in Indiana. Tamar Fellner, 32, a roller coaster enthusiast and the daughter of Rabbi Azriel Fellner of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, N.J., fell off the Raven roller coaster this weekend at the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari amusement park in Santa Claus, Ind., the New York Daily News reported. Fellner’s fiancé watched in horror as the woman plunged 80 feet from the roller coaster, which typically accelerates to 60 miles per hour. A 1997 magna cum laude graduate of New York University’s Stern School of Business who earned her MBA from Harvard in 1999, Fellner was due to be buried Tuesday. “We lost a beautiful young girl” Cantor Kenneth Koransky of Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, N.J., told the Daily News.

Arab Group Leader Resigns

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the nation’s largest Arab-American organization, has selected a former congresswoman as its new president, following the resignation of Ziad Asali, a physician of Palestinian origin, who has held the position for the past three years.

The organization announced Tuesday that its new president would be Mary Rose Oakar, who represented Ohio’s 20th District as a Democrat from 1977-1993.

The group’s communications director, Hussein Ibish, had denied rumors and press reports that attributed Asali’s resignation to growing tension between the organization’s Washington headquarters and some of its West Coast activists. “It is a lie,” Ibish said, noting that Asali had committed himself to a self-imposed term limit of two-years.

According to a report in the magazine Arab American Business, the West Coast activists have had some disagreements with the national office. “At heart, the battle pitted the ADC national office against some of its chapters, particularly in the West, over where power truly lies,” the magazine report said. “Chapter activists argued that what they were demanding is accountability, transparency and the desire to be heard and consulted on decisions.”

The magazine quoted Elias Rashmawi, vice president of the Greater Sacramento-Davis Area ADC Chapter, who accused Asali of “removing the ADC from the needs of the grassroots and the community and submitting it on a silver platter to the needs of the Administration and those who like to be flirted with at the White House and State Department.”

In response, Ibish acknowledged that “a very small group of disgruntled members in California detest the way in which ADC is run.” But, he added, Rashmawi and his colleagues do not represent the organization’s grassroots operation. In an indication of just how bad the relations have become, Ibish referred to Rashmawi as “the lunatic in chief” and “a moron.”

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Newsdesk June 6, 2003

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