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January 27, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 27, 2012
 

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PAGE 18A Pitching From page 1A nor. as the party's impervious front-runner. The latest polls from Florida show Gingrich pulling ahead of Romney by 7 to 9 percentage points; just a week earlier Romney had enjoyed double-digit leads in the state's polls. Florida is a testing ground because it is the first large and diverse state, said Nancy Ratzan, a former pr'esident of the National Council of Jew- ish Women who is now active in the Democratic Party. "Florida is more reflective of what they're going to find in other parts of the country," she said. Romney and Gingrich head into Florida with few holds barred, each Striving to iden- tify the other as a member of the "elites" reviled by the Republican base. A Romney ad released Monday accused Gingrich of making money off the finan- cial crisis by taking money from a governmentbacked mortgage company. It said that the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Georgia congressman was a Washington "insider." Gingrich has depicted Romney as uncaring, drw- ing on his career as aventure capitalist. He also has seized on Romney's tax returns. just released, which show investments in the same gov- ernment-backed mortgage company that paid Gingrich for consulting fees. Noam Neusner, a former domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush. said that Gingrich had up- ended the race with his South Carolinavictoryand the race was now wide open. Neusner, who has not en- dorsed a candidate, noted that Romney had won the "Jewish donors" primary, drawing the largest assemblage of Jewish supporters. But he noted that Gingrich was a known quantity among Jewish con- servatives going back to his days as House speaker from 1995 to 1998. o Gingrich's Positions are "'very similar to Romney's and certainly very acceptable to Republican voters." he said. Tevi Troy, a deputy health secretary under President George W Bush who now advises the Romney cam- paign, suggested - very delicately - that Gingrich's mercurial personality would be an issue as the campaign rolls forward. "You have to choose wisely about who the right can- didate is," Troy said. "Here you have a guy wit h strong leade'ship experience and in business, and has a good chance of beating President Obama and running a strong, competent foreign policy." Neusner acknowledged that "there's a greater com- fort level with a certain constancy of perSonality in Romney.'" "Gingrich is admired" for his intellect. Neusner said, "but there's greater enthu- siasm that Romney could do better in the general" election. Both presidential hopefuls, as well as fellow candidate Rick Santorum the former Pennsylvania senator, have made Obama's relationship with Israel a key target of their foreign policy cam- paigning. "We're very comfortable saying that so long as Barack Obama or Ron Paul are not the president, Israel will be a much s:afer place," said Sid Dinerstein. chairman of the West Palm Beach Republican Party who has not endorsed a candidate. Dinerstein said he expects the eventual Republican can- didate to draw Jewish inde- pendents and centrist Demo- crats because of Obama's Israel record. "President Obama has no chance of getting 78 percent of the vote." he said, a refer- ence to the level of Jewish support Obama garnered in the 2008 elections, according to exit polling. The Republican National Committee has identified Florida as a swing state with a substantial Jewish popula- tion where Jewish votes could make the difference, accord- ing to an activist who saw an RNC memo late last year. Other such states listed in the memo were Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Nevada. according to the activist. The importance of Flori- da's Jewish vote is one area where there is bipartisan agreement. Obama proxies in Florida include Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman who now heads the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington. Democrats are emphasiz: ing domestic issues in their approach to Jewish voters as well as Obama's Israel record. Wasserman Schultz said on the call that Republican plans to privatize parts of Medicare threatened a key safety net for the elderly. Romney is planning Jewish events, a campaign official said. The campaign official HERITAGE FLORIDAJEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 27, 2012 also said that John Bolton. the former ambassador to the United Nations who is a favor- ite of many hawkish Jewish conservatives, will campaign in the state for Romney. .-Queries to Gingrich's cam- paign went unanswered. Reports say he is going into Florida without funds or organization comparable to those at Romney's disposal. Sheldon Adelson, the pro- Israel casino magnate who has long been close to the former House speaker, helped boost his prospects in South Carolina with a $5 million infusion to an independent pro-Gingrich group, Winning America's Future. And on Monday it was reported that the billionaire's wife, Miriam, was donating another $5 mil- lion to the group. Republicans emphasize the diplomatic disagree- ments that Obama has had with Israel over its settlement policies, and say the president has not done enough to iso- late Iran, Democrats stress the close security relation- ship with Israel cultivated by Obama and say Iran is more isolated than it's ever been because of his policies. Ratzan. who now speaks regularly to Jewish groups on behalf of Democrats. said she is encountering the effects of a Republican attacks on Obama's Israel record. "I'm definitely getting ques- tions." she said. but the Obama campaign and the administra- tion "are doing a good job of getting the message out." A case in point, she said. was the 7-minute video that the Obama campaign re- leased last week that culled from news footage a slew of testimonials to the presi- dent's commitment to Israel from a slate of Israeli leaders. including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Alan Solow. a key Obama fundraiser and the immediate past president of the Confer- ence of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiza- tions, said it is critical to get out Obama's pro-Israel message now. "We think it's important that we don't allow the Re- publicans to establish the narrative regarding what the president has done for Israel," he said. adding that the tim- ing was fortuitous. "We thought that this was a good time. generally, to do the video." Solow said. noting that the election season had been launched in earnest. "It's a happy coincidence for us that we're doing it at a time when there was attention for Florida.'" Honoring From page 1A time of segregation; we bring our community together as one. Shiloh Baptist Church was historically an African- American church, and it is fitting that the march takes us across the divide carrying flashlights, as we light up the sky." Keynote speakerand execu- tive director of the Interfaith Council, the Rev. Jim Coffin said. "There ha always been a small cadre of people turn- ing darkness into light, but it doesn't happen easily, (though we have made some major strides forward) .... Three years ago when Barack Obama was elected. Americans took elective action and chose to look beyond skin color...but we have a long way to go until Dr. King's dream becomes a (fulltime) reality." At 6 p.m. the lobby of Orlando City Halt bustled with diverse members of the Central Florida community including 25-year-old Sabrina Newton, whose mother works as the assistant director of community relations in the mayoral office. "I have beenwalking since I was a pre-teen to show my love for all people and to share the great message of Dr. Martin Luther King," said Sabrina Newton. Mayor Buddy Dyer sec- onded Newton's opinion, as he graciously welcomed visitors, stating, "Today is a wonderful expression of the diversity of the many ctltures within the City of Orlando. We are proud to showcase and honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King." The Jewish community congregated behind a large banner representing the Jew- ish Federation. Community member Karen Selznickspoke with the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park and Interfaith Council chair. He said that the great challenge presented by Dr. King was. "understanding love as a motivational force. as said in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail. Love is a great force and will change the world." BarbaraWeinreich. chair of the Federation's Community Relations Council said. "It's wonderful when the Jewish community comes together in su. pport of the greater Orlando community." Imam Ashiq Kermali, faith leader representing the Mus- lim community and executive member of the Interfaith Council, greeted Weinreich. "The Muslim community considers Dr. Martin Luther King a martyr in the human sense," he said. "He died to establish justice and equality." "It takes persistence to dispel the darkness and ig- norance of prejudice," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Ryu- gen Moriarty, an Interfaith Council executive member representing the Zen Bud- dhist community. Following a brief prayer where walkers were encour- aged by the Rev. Tom Mc- Closky, senior minister of the First United Methodist Church of Orlando to "love someone not like ourselves. so that others may see us as people living the ideal of love." the attendees walked in unison to Shiloh Baptist Church. The Rev. Derrick Wil- liams, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, welcomed visitors, as well as members from the Interfaith Council. including faith leaders from the Buddhist. Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities. He con- tinued the evening's mes- sage, saying, "We welcome all f you of all faiths." A moving hymn, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," ofted called the African-American National Anthem. was sung by the church choir, with accompaniment by event participants. The hymn's lyrics such as, "Let us march Members of the Jewish on 'til victory is won" were in tune with the event. The Rev. Jim Coffin ad- dressed the group, sharing stories about segregation from his childhood in Mis- souri. Growing up white in the1950s, he naively believed his family to be enlightened, as they shared a lunch table with their black farm work- ers. Adding, "If we thought we were enlightened then, what improvements can we still make now? What current (source of) darkness can we make into love?" Earlier in the evening, Cof- fin shared that he had retired from the pulpit of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Markham Woods Road to be- come executive director of the Interfaith Council, to explore these questions further. "I believe we all hav.e something to teach each other," he said. "Once we rub shoulders (with members of another faith) things that seem strange and foreign become ordinary and open us up for friefldship." The Interfaith celebration continued with entertain- ment from the various faiths and interfaith communities walk together in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King. and ethnicitie represented that evening. The Pan in Ex- celsis Steel Drum Ensemble treated the audience to the moving reverberations of "Yesterday" and the "Eliza- bethan Serenade." Rabbi Kay explained that the steel drum. which originated in Trinidad. was the first new instrument introduced since the 19th cen- tury. In addition, movement artists from the Muslim com- munity, made up of a team of youngwomen and young girls dressed in white, brought ad- ditional light to the evening as they sashayed with sparkling blue scarves. The little girls lit up the sanctuary with votive candles, and as they marched down from the stage they were welcomed back to their seats with a standing ovation. Kay culminated the eve- ning's events with a story. Kay has been involved with the interfaith community in Orlando when it originated as. "The National Council of Christians and Jews." and then became "The National Council of Community and" Justice," ultimately evolving into the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. Growing up in the Southwest side of Chicago in the 1950s. where there was just a smattering of Jews. Kay came to realize that interfaith relations were an essential part of getting along in the world (as well as the world getting along with one another). Kay shared a metaphor about angels, who sit by God's side, but lack the free will of their human counterparts. The angels frequently ask. "Where is the place of Divine Glory?" They are unable to see that they are in the midst of the glory, as they are unable to partake. Kay shared that as humans, Divine Glory is present in each one of us, and free for the taking. Adding, "It is the place where justice is established and freedom truly rings. The place Of Divine Glory is when the sick are fed, and strangers are met and not mistreated. Divine Glory is in this place and every place where there is love...But righteous words are meaning- Less without action, and with action we can still overcome." At that very moment the words to the well-known civil rights hymn. "We Shall Over- come" were projected onto the wall; and then projected from every voice in the room. The crowd rose in unison, as they clasped the hands of their neighbors, many of them strangers, as harmony filled the sanctuary. Words from Mayor Dyer rang as the participants ex- ited Shiloh Baptist Church. encouraging the Orlando community to extend the spirit of the holiday. Dyer said, "Today's participants (from all faiths and backgrounds at tonight's event) are exactly the kind of congregation Dr. Martin Luther King envi- sioned. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go to make his work a reality. He gave his life for the equality and freedom of everyone here today. (These kind of actions) shouldn't be limited to this weekend, but should be livea 24/7. May God bless America and the City of Orlando." Pamela Ruben is an Or lando author, educator and social-action writer.