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November 14, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 14, 2014
 

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 14, 2014 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Results late Tuesday showed Republicans winning control of the United States Senate as well as wins for flesh faces with close Jewish and pro- Israel ties.' In Long Island, Lee Zeldin, a state senator, was set to become the sole Jewish Re- publican in Congress, ending a short drought that com- menced with the defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor in the Republican primary in June. As of 11:45 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, Republicans were projected to pick up seven Senate seats, one more than the six they need to win control of the upper chamber. Sen. Mitch McC0nnell (R-Ky.), the minority leader who handily beat back a chal- lenge from Alison Lundergan Grimes, spoke in his victory speech as if he was ready to leadthe Senate. "Friends, this experiment in big government has lasted long enough," he said, allud- ing to Republican claims that President Obama overreached with his signature health care Lee Zeldin, pictured, de- feated Democrat Tim Bishop in New York's 3rd District to become the sole Jewish Republican in Congress. reform. "It is time to go in a new direction. It is time to turn this country around." As of late Tuesday, two other Jewish House candidates had come up short, while the two Jewish senators up for reelection both kept their seats. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) lost to Robert Dold in Illinois' 10th District after serving just one term in Congress. And in Colorado, Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff failed in his bid to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Coffman. In Minnesota, Sen. A1Fran- ken defeated Republican Mike McFadden to win a second term. And in Hawaii, Brian Schatz defeated Republican Cam Cavasso to hold the seat he was appointed to when Daniel Inouye died in 2012. In New York's 3rd District, Zeldin defeated Democratic incumbent Tim Bishop. Zeldin had campaigned in part by saying he would revive the Jewish GOP presence in Con- gress after Cantor's defeat. Dave Brat, the Tea Party candidate who defeated Can- tor, also won the general election on Tuesday. Jack Moline, who directs the National Jewish Democratic Council, said the Democratic defeats in the sixth year of Barack Obama's presidency demonstrated a frustration with gridlock. "Results produce results," Moline told JTA. "For what- ever reason, and I would at- tribute it to the obstinacy of Republicans in Congress, the president hasn't been able to accomplish what he wants to accomplish." Matthew Brooks, the direc- tor of the Republican Jewish Coalition, agreed that the election was a referendum on Obama's inability to get results. "The Republicans have made significant gains and the American people have clearly spoken and clearly want a different direction for the country." he said. Brooks predicted early action on Iran in the next congressional session. The current majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D -Nev.), has been able to head off GOP bids to intensify sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which the Obama administration opposes while negotiations are underway to reach a long- term deal over the country's nuclear program. "Obama is going to have real tsuris because he won't have Harry Reid to block and tackle for him," Brooks said, using the Yiddish word for "troubles." The RJC congratulated the national party and noted its own role in bringing about the gains. "Our members contributed and raised millions of dol- lars for campaigns around the country," its statement said. The RJC political action committee "made significant contributions to critical races. And our grassroots events energized our members to participate in get-out-the-vote efforts." Moline also faulted Demo- crats and his own organiza- tion for ignoring Jewish voters in key states, including Geor- gia and Virginia. In Virginia, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Ed Gillespie, with the race still undecided by Wednesday morning. In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the long-serving Democratic senator Sam Nunn, was defeated by Repub- lican David Perdue. "There are more Jewish vot- ers in Georgia than in Michi- gan," Moline said. "There was a tremendous effort to turn out Latinos and African Americans, but very little ef- fort for Jewish voters." There were some wins for candidates with unusual Jew- ish community ties. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), named by the state's governor to the seat in 2013 after Jim DeMint retired, was elected outright, remaining the only African-American Republican in the Senate. He is close to Nick Muzin, an Orthodox Jew who formerly served as his chief of staff and now advises Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nod in 2016. In New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who was elected in a special vote last year after Sen. Frank Laut- enberg (D-N.J.) died, won his first six-year term outright. Booker, an African-American who headed a Jewish studies group when he studied at Oxford University, remains close to the New Jersey Jewish community. In Pennsylvania, Demo- crats scored a rare win with Tom Wolf picking up the governor's mansion. Wolf is close to the small Jewish community in his native York and is,a major contributor to its JCC. ease By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--The Israeli government has adopted a major reform expected to ease the path to conversion for hundreds of thousands of Israelis now prohibited "from marrying in the Jewish state. In the most significant response in decades to the estimated 400,000 Israelis who are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate, the Cabinet expanded authority for conversion beyond a small group of approved haredi Orthodox courts. Since only Orthodox Jewish marriage is permitted in Isra- el, such Israelis--the majority of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union--must convert if they wished to be married in Israel. Under the new law, which was passed Sunday and be- came effective immediately, the conversion process is Custom Print Market~ng lnvitsfiom g- ~ts Digital C-- Offset Pdndng Brochures ~ Booklets Direct .M.,~ Servk:es Forrns&- ~ 407-767-7110 expected to get significantly easier. The measure, which allows any city rabbi in Israel to per- form conversions, is expected to pave the way for the elimi- nation of some provisions seen as overly stringent, such as the ChiefRabbinate's require- ment that converts send their children to Orthodox schools. Currently, only four rab- binic courts appointed by the haredi-dominated Rabbinate are authorized to perform conversions. "Every rabbi in every city will be able to set up his own tribunal according to Jewish law," said Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who brought the bill to a Cabinetvote along with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. "It also gives a choice. People will be able to choose the tribunal they want to go to, and warm, friendly tribu- nals will be used more than others." Flash90 Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, right, and lawmaker Eliezer Stern at a news confer- ence on the government's conversion reform, Nov. 2, 2014. Conversion policy has dogged Israel since the 1990s, when about 1 million immi- grants from the former Soviet Union entered the country. The immigrants qualified for citizenship under the Law of Return, which requires immi- grants to have just one Jewish grandparent. But hundreds of thousands did not meet the Chief Rabbinate's stricter standard for Jewishness--ei- ther having a Jewish mother or undergoing an Orthodox conversion--and thus could not marry in Israel. The ChiefRabbinate's strin- gencies led many to balk at the process entirely, in many cases choosing instead to marry abroad. Israel recog- nizes non-Orthodox conver- sions performed overseas. The Cabinet vote on Sun- day is the latest attempt at a compromise to make the conversion process friendlier. In 1999, the government established the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, a body intended t6 teach potential converts about Judaism from a range of non-Orthodox per- spectives in preparation for an eventual Orthodox conver- sion, but the effort foundered. In 2010, the issue heated up again afterYisrael Beiteinu became the Knesset's third- largest party. The party, fo- cused on Russian immigrant interests, proposed a measure similar to the one that just passed, but a provision would have given full control over conversions to the Chief Rab- binate. That provoked the ire of non-Orthodox groups and the law was Shelved. "This government resolu- tion doesn't give more power to the Chief Rabbinate," said Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an organization that aids Israelis with personal status issues. "The hope is that this bill will enable a much more understanding and friendly set of rabbinical courts to emerge without the Chief Rabbinate imposing their monolithicview on every conversion." " The reform chips away at longstanding haredi Ortho- dox dominance of conversion policy. Both of Israel's chief rabbis, who are haredi, op- pose the new law. Should the chief rabbis attempt to block the conversions, Farber has pledged to petition the Su- preme Court. The passage of the law marks the end of a lengthy legislative process. Though it passed an initial Knesset vote last year, a ministerial committee vote required to move the measure along was postponed continuously until Prime Minister Benja- min Netanyahu removed it from the legislative agenda entirely two weeks ago, re- portedly to appease haredi parties. A group of ministers led by Bennett and Livni responded by pushing the law through the committee anyway, and a modified version passed in the Cabinet. While the reform doesn't go as far as recognizing non- Orthodox conversions--a step many non- Orthodox and Diaspora groups would liked to have seen--those groups nevertheless heralded its ar- rival. Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Israeli Reform move- ment, said he supports any reform that eases conversion as long as it doesn't hurt non- Orthodox streams. "Now there are no more excuses for [Religious] Zionist rabbis," he said. "Now is the time for them to deliver."