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January 30, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 30, 2009 Leader of the free world? Try. being leader of the shul By Rachel Freedenberg j. the Jewish weekly of northern california SAI~ FRANCISCO As I watched President Barack Obam~l's swearing-in on Jan. 20, it d~wned on me that I now have s~mething in common with Malia and Sasha Obama. Both oiJr dads are president. My ~dad isn't exactly the leader bf the free world or the comm~nder in chief of the U. S. military. But even though Obama will have to deal with at least~fouryears of Democrats and Republicans. pro-choicers and pro-lifers, corrulStion, war, health care and the entire Middle East, I think he has it easy compared to my dad's new job: president of a 450- family synagogue in suburban Washirlgton, D.C. PAGE 5A My dad tookoffice earlier this month. 16 days before Obama. The shul doesn't yet have its own Air Force One so I wasn't able to be there, except in spirit. Like Obama's rise to the highest office in the land. my father's ascension to synagogue president still seems somewhat improbable. A few years ago my family would go to shul for all the Jewish holidays and some Shabbats, but we were hardly regulars. After my younger brother's bar mitzvah, my dad volun- teered to repaint a railing in front of the shul. He got to talking with the rabbi, who asked him if he wanted to do somethingwith the synagogue. My dad said yes, he wanted to paint the railing. "I have a better idea," the rabbi said. A member of the synagogue was starting a class for adults who wanted to learn how to read Torah. Was he interested? "I got into this through re- ligion, and not through maybe the more conventional way that people become leaders ." my dad said when I talked to him on the phone the other night. "I got involved because I started reading Torah." After my grandmother died in 2005. my dad started going to minyan every day to say Kaddish. Eventually he became cqmfortable with the shul in a way he'd never felt before. And then people started asking him to do things. He was asked to serve on the religious practices committee: when the head of the commit- tee left to become president, he became chairman. Then he became vice president. And about six months ago, it was announced that he would be the next president. When it comes to what they actually do as president, Obama's .job and my dad's sound kind of similar. My dad will oversee the synagogue's lay leadership and meet with the heads of the com- mittees-such as fundrais- ing and membership--just like Obama will oversee his Cabinetand the governmental departments. My dad is the public repre- sentative of the synagogue. He'll provide weekly addresses during the service and write a column in the synagogue's bulletin. He'll even have his own State of the Union-style speech during Kol Nidre. I asked my dad what advice he might give to our new president after all. he has two weeks of experience on Obama. "Accept your limitations," my dad said sagely. "Don't be afraid to take small steps. Trust other people, when you can, and ask a lot of questions." Being president of the shul isn't entirely unprecedented for my dad. His mother was very involvedwith hersynagogue in Harrisburg, Pa.. and his father- in-law, my grandfather, was a rabbi in Milton, Mass. "We do kind of have a family tradition," my dad noted. As First Daughter, I'm emi- nently proud of him--although I'm still trying to get a grip on the idea that that guy reading announcements and welcom- ing you at Kiddush is my dad. I hope people appreciate him. I hope they listen to and respect him, and know how much he cares about the shul. And I hope my dad knows that even though I can't be in the sanctuary with him. I'll be thinking about him every Saturday morning. Being president, the old man admitted, is a pretty thank- less job. It's unpaid, and often unsung. But he does get a prime spot on the bimah during services. Andmaybe most important- ly--he gets a reserved parking space. No more walking from the satellite lot on the High Holy Days---at least for the next tx~o years. Rachel Freedenberg is a copy editor at j, from which this column is reprinted with permission. She can be reached at Federal government must act to help most vulnerable By William C. Daroff and Hadar Sussklnd precipitously, and volunteers and service providers have been stretched to the limit. Local Jewish federationagen- cies are reporting a profoundly disturbing nationwide trend whereby a whole new group of workers--bus drivers, teachers and trash collectors, who once made a steady and sufficient living--are now joining the long lines of thoseseeking as- sistance. Jewish communities across the nation are finding that increased levels of poverty, hunger and economic inse- curity are growing concerns of social service agencies and other partners that do not have the financial resources to meet the increased need. It is becoming quite apparent that without federal interven- WASHINGTON (JTA)--Of- ficials at the National Bureau of Economic Research an- nounced last month what economists and most people had known for quite some time--our nation is suffer- ing through one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression. The need for chesed (kind- ness) and tikkun olam (repair of the world) has never been stronger than it is today. Despite numerous signs of a worsening economy and pleas forassistance, the lines of those seekinghelp have grown longer, the demand for food pantries and sot~p kitchens has risen Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations,we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to The Boy In The Striped Pajamas I went to see this movie in December and have been trying to gel my thougti~s about how to write this piece. This was the only movie on the Holocaust that I have seen that I did not feel terribly dis- tressed about after viewing. On the contrary, I was somewhat at peace that two boys, one tion, it is only a matter of time before our nation's safety net for the most vulnerable wilt be in severe risk of collapsing. It is no coincidence that tzedakah, the word we com- monly translate to mean the Jewish obligation to give char- ity, literally means "justice." As Jews, we are commanded to act so that there will be "no needy among you." not only because it is moral but because it benefits the whole. Now is the time to raise our voices in support of federal aid for those who are most affected by the recession to advocate to our elected repre- sentatives that they institute comprehensive legislation to protect our nation's most vulnerable. Gerrrian and one Jewish. did not die alor~e, but died together in friendship in a most difficult situation. After the movie I went to the ladies room. As I sat there. I heard three or four young ladies enter and at first they were sniffling, and then crying. What were they crying about? They were crying about how he died. Not about them. those two boys, or for everyone else in the gas chamber who perished that day, but him. Who was this him they were crying about? As their conversation progressed. it became obvious that it was the G.erman boy. So I thought to myself, I guess this movie missed some point. How could people choose to only grieve for one person out of the many that were murdered? I felt that the movie did not do a good job of Dear Editor. For those ofyouwho have not yet seen the movie, "The Boy In the Striped Pajamas," you may not want to readwhat I have to say because itwill give away the ending of the movie. For those ofyouw~o have seen the movie or knov~ they will not see the movie, l~lease read ahead. Our country worked its way out of the last economic reces- sion in 2004 by implementing a series of tax reforms and direct aid to states. Most notable was a multibillion-dollar infusion by the federal government to increase the federal medical assistance percentage rate, or FMAE Simply put, FMAP provides funds for Medicaid that help make health cover- age affordable to low- and moderate-income families, whose members are gener- ally the first to be laid off and lose company health benefits when the economy goes into a downturn. The FMAP increase, was cred, ited as one of the most effec- tive and immediate measures taken to reverse the previous educatingthepublic, especially young people, about the tragedy of the Holocaust. But that was not the worst of it. When I left the bathroom. I learned that you young ladies were on a field trip and that they were all Jewish. How, I thought, could they have not felt sorrow or pity for the Jewish boy? Or, for thatmatter, everyone whose life ended that day in that gas chamber. How could they single out one person from this ter- rible travesty? Where was their empathy for all people? I spoke to a few people about this trying to make sense of it. I also thought about a class I recently took at the Holocaust Memorial Research and Educa- tion Center of Florida on anti- semitism and came up with a few answers. This movie is filledwith anti- semitism. The Jew who is beaten to death because he spilled some wine on the dining room table got what he deserved. Itwas the Jews' fault that the German boy died because he befriended this imprisoned Jewish boy and this new found friendship leads to his death. How could you not feel badly about the German boy dying? He did nothing wrong. Unfortunately, neither did the sixmillion Jews whowere murderedduringthe Holocaust. And yet, these young people only felt badly over the German boy's death. I think this movie did not accomplish what it could have accomplished and on the con- trary, did more damage than it should have. Shari Yudenfreund-Sujka Winter Park recession. Since then, despite repeated calls from our nation's governors and others, Congress has not used this tool to ward off or reverse today's current economic decline. It is time to dust off this option and take serious steps toward ending the recession. Somewill argue that it is the responsibility of the states and notthe federal government to 'provide food. health care and shelter to those most in need. But no state is immune from the economy's collapse. Nearly every state is now experiencing severe budget shortfalls and deficits that are paralyzing their efforts to provide needed services for the mostvulnerable among us. Unlike the federal government, the vast majority of states are required by law to have a balanced budget. This means that when a state's reve- nue declines, the legislature has two options to fill the void: cut spending or raise taxes, both of which have dire ramifications for an ailing economy. The federal government has more flexibility in setting its budgets. Increasing aid to FMAP would allow states to avert further budget cuts and enable governors to allocate limited resources to other programs. It also would allow themostvulnerabletocontinue to access affordable health care when they need it the most. Congress can immediately implement this action without having to raise taxes or cut services elsewhere. President Obama. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional decision makers from both sides of the aisle already have pledged their sup- port for a temporary, timely and targeted increase for FMAP.Ad- ditionally they have promised that an economic recovery bill would be among the first pieces of legislation considered in the 111th Congress. As economic conditions across the United States. and specifically within 43 statesgrowsworse, we must ensure that any economic re- covery legislation includes an FMAP increase. Historywilljudge our nation by the quality of life it provides for its mostvulnerable citizens. We as a community must advo- cate in favor oftheseproposals if they are to become reality. William C. Daroff is the vice president for public policy and director of the United Jewish Communities' Washington office. Hadar Susskind is the director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs' Washington office. Dry Bones ~IZ TIME co l 6 I t4rd5