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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 26, 2010 Claims Conference must bring in an ombudsman But we were haunted by the questions and concern posed most often. Survivors, in their 80s and 90s, were afraid. For all too many of our fragile remnant of the greatest Jewish tragedy of our time, the present circum- stances are one of bleakness and uncertainty. Often a reparations check supplemented by a Social Security payment are all that stand between an elderly survivor and their daily needs--food, medicine, utilities. They were too frightened to be angry. They wanted to know if their slim payments were in jeopardy or what was to be of their applications for restitution funds. Many knew that following discovery of the fraud at the Claims Conference, payments and applications for the Hardship Fund were sus- pended for three months. During that period even legitimate applicants in dire need could not receive payments from the fund. There By Elan Steinberg NEW YORK (JTA)--Elderly Holocaust sur- vivors are in fear. Two weeks ago the U.S. Justice Department charged employees of the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, known as the Claims Conference, with participating in a $42.5 million fraud that saw the plunder of two major programs of Holocaust reparations. According to prosecutors, the thefts had been going on for nearly two decades. At agencies and offices such as ours that deal with the survivor community, the phone calls were emotional and desperate. Of course the reactions reflected the palpable anger and outrage felt by the entire Jewish community. "How could this happen?" and "How could it have gone on for so long?" were the repeated refrains. UNESCO needs a course correction to host a conference at which philosophers from around the world would, according to a UNESCO official, hold "debates 'in which each and every person should feel free to participate according to his or her convictions." That is something not even remotely possible in Tehran, where protesting the government can at best send you to prison and, at worst, end in a state execution. As state policy, Tehran continues to violate even the most minimal standards of human rights. As the global leader in state-sponsored terror- ism, Iran arms and funds terrorists. Its leaders defy the demonstrated will of the international commun!ty by continuing to pursue an illicit nuclear weapons program in violation of U.N. sanctions and numerous U.N. Security Coun- cil and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions. .Hosting a prestigious global event, particu- larly one with the U.N. imprint, is an honor and elevates the host in stature. How can any legitimate international institution have con- sidered bestowing this honor on Iran, a nation that much of the free world has condemned? Iran publicly and defiantly--even proud- ly-threatens to destroy Israel, another U.N. member state. And yet a U.N: body, even if temporarily, deemed it a worthy host to an international gathering. Choosing Iran to host this meeting of the minds sent a significant message that its authoritarian regime is acceptable, and that a nation can simultaneously defy the United Nations in one arena and be honored by one of its agencies in another. This is a moral line that UNESCO should never have crossed. The Tehran government represents the polar opposite of free and open discussion. Philosophy is the study of wisdom and ratio- nal argument. It's about questioning what we thinkwe know and the way things could be. It's about debating ideas. The United Nations should have known that the free will and independence required in philosophy are unknown in Iran. UNESCO's track record in its just-concluded session bodes ill for its neutrality. Without a serious course correction, UNESCO will soon be defined by these bad decisions, and its abil- ity to orovide the opportunities to open doors and minds through cultural exchange will be severely damaged. Daniel S. Mariaschin is the executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International. By Daniel S, MaTiaschin WASHINGTON (JTA)---How's this for a philosophical question: Can you hold a confer- ence dedicated to the open debate of some of the biggest issues in society in a nation that is among the least amenable to any free and open public discussion? Apparently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization thought you could and cho Tehran to host its ninth annual World Philosophy Day scheduled for this month. After an international outcry, andjustweeks before it was to start, UNESCO withdrew its support from the Tehran location. The decision by Director-General Irina Bokovawas the right one, and we commended her for it. Still, it is hard not to wonder about UNE SCO's initial choice--just one in a string of recent puzzling UNESCO decisions. In late October, UNESCO's executive board decreed, in a 44-1 vote with 12 members ab- staining, that Rachers Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs should not be included on Israel's list of national heritage sites. UNESCO's resolution read that "the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the UNESCO decision, said that "The attempt to separate the nation of Israel from its cultural heritage is absurd." Historians--Jewish, Christian and Mus- lim-have long recognized Rachers Tomb as the burial place of Rachel, a matriarch in Jewish history. And historians also recognize the Cave of the Patriarchs as the grave site of Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebecca; and Jacob and Leah--Judaism's forbearers. The two ancient locations are tmcontestable Jewish holy sites. UNESCO's executive board also concluded its 185th session last month by passing a resolu- tion condemning Israers security fence, which has had success in preventing terror attacks emanating from the West Bank. The resolution made no mention of Palestinian terrorism. These incidents demonstrate how this U.N. body, like too many others, succumbs to political pressures. UNESCO needs to be abetter steward of its own mission "to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples based upon respect for commonly shared values." It is impossible to fathom how Iranwas tapped THE VIES EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   1SSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emfls Associate Editor Assistant Editor .HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (1SN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: news@orlandoheritage.com Gene Stare Lyn Davidson Mike Etzkin Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Produon Deptment David Lehman * David (;audio * Teri Marks Lori Apple Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky was also a great deal of misinformation, or more precisely a lack of information, which was driving these fears. We needed to assure survivors that the Claims Conference has said repeatedly that their future payments are not at risk. But no, we could not tell them what the full extent of the fraud might reveal and what the ultimate consequences might be. Our survivors needed answers and assur- ances. In these tense circumstances, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants called its National Executive Committee into emergency meeting. It was, of course, important to vent our outrage and demand that those respon- sible for this catastrophe be held accountable and brought to justice. But the burning issue before us was, what is to be done now? After long discussion, there emerged a sense that an institutional channel to credibly deal with survivors' fears and complaints was lacking. Simply put, most present agreed, there was no address for redress. The mood at the meeting was sober and realistic. We knew there could be no quick panacea, but something practical, doable and responsible had to be proposed. From this came the idea of establishing an office of ombudsman within the Claims Conference. By definition, an ombudsman could take on the critical role that.the present delicate situation demands--a trusted intermediary who can represent the interests and concerns of the ultimate constituency of the Claims Conference, the survivors of the Shoah. We therefore called for "the Claims Conference to engage an Ombudsman acceptable to the survivor community to advocate on behalf of and represent the interest of the survivors." For those present one thing was certain-- changes had to be made in the restitution and disbursement process to restore the confidence of shaken Holocaust survivors. An effective ()mbudsman can be one important element in those changes. But to fulfill this role the ombudsman must be more than a complaint office. He or she must act as an independent agent with a clear mandate allowing for broad authority to remove obstacles to the advance- ment of constituent fights and interests. The ombudsman can in fact serve as the herald of other necessary changes. We are under no illusion. The establishment and the effective functioning of the office of an ombudsman is merely a first step. At the same time, it is a categorical affirmation that the central purpose of Holocaust restitution funds is to address the needs, the concerns and the insecurities of the dwindling remnants of the Shoah. We have no choice. We must deal with the realistic fears of survivors today before an even greater and more shameful scandal emerges. Elan Steinberg is the vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. Shipley speaks Jim Shipley !!!i  The enemy within The Jewish people have survived for thousands of years. This much we know.. There is historical evident:e of that fact. How come? You know that any odds maker would have us in the dust bin of history by now. But we did it. By pulling together against all odds. Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Nazis and Arabs couldn't destroy us. Now, back in our own land, Israel, there is a real danger of pulling the Jewish people apart and in the effort, destroying the very land we have sought so long to be ours once again. Israel has an unusual elective system. In its effort tgive all its citizens a voice, Israel has created a political mess. If you, your brother Max and cousin Ari want to form a political party, then the three of you and a bunch of assorted cousins, friends from the neighbor- hood and some non-aligned hangers-on can form a political party and get one or more seats in the Knesset. OK, So I exaggerate, but not that much. In the present set-up, there is no way that a single political party can control the Knesset and therefore the premiership. Now, in many ways this is not a bad system. The British have been doing pretty well with a similar system for the past 200 years or so, but Israel is well, just different. One small, self-centered group can bring down tile government and bring the governing of the nation to a standstill. Here, in a word, is the problem: The hare- dim. The ultra-Orthodox. They for the most part do not even believe in the State of Israel. Like fundamentalist Christians, they are wait- ing for the Messiah to come and create a land for the Jews. Hello! We have one. Bought with blood and sweat and yes, money. Money paid for every inch of land for which there was a legitimate claim.. And for the most part, that is what they do: They wait. They do notwork. They study. They have incredible numbers of children. For which the State pays them. So they do not have to work. They do not serve in the army. Why? Religious principles? No. Many, many Orthodox Israelis serve and serve bravely. In a recent op-ed piece published on the website YNet, two of them held forth. They could not serve, they wrote, because they were exposed to "Swearing and non-religious practices." Hey guys: Think of the boys and girls from disparate cultures drawn to the Jewish State for its freedom, the fact that it is the Jewish State. They seem to survive and even thrive in the multi-cultural environment of the IDF. The fear is that because of their growing demographic numbers and the fact that they "block vote"--what the rebbe says is what goes--Israel will become a halachic state. Anyone committed to a democracy as envi- sioned by Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky could not live in such a state. I have always loved the way that Israeli politics are conducted. Loud, argumenta- t, ive, in your face debates. A cross between a synagogue board meeting and a bar room discussion. Not any more. The self-serving Religious Party, throwing its weight around with its grand total of 11 seats in the Knesset manages to hold the entire process hostage. Their attitudes on everything from mar- riage to dietary laws are from another age. Look, those who desire to live as "The Other" are entitled to do so. But not at the exor- bitant cost to the state that this minority foists on the majority. Their large families, often intermarried put an incredible burden on the overstressed medical system. ThEy have a large percentage of children disabled at birth cared for by the state. Money is not important to them--why should it be when the state covers most of their costs. Where in Torah does it say that "thou shall throw stones at buses and cars driving on Shabbat"? You don't want to drive? Fine. Englewood, N.J., is dead quiet on Saturdays because of the large percentage of Orthodox Jews who live there and walk to' shul. But, those who do drive do not have to worry about being pelted with rocks on their way to the doctor or the golf course or into Manhattan. There is another reason why they do not work. Their children graduate from their religious schools with no clue as to how to survive in a modern society. Untrained in- science, history (other than Torah history), mathematics, languages or philosophy there are no careers for them outside their own world.. They can be kosher butchers or bakers or even cand!estick makers. But not scientists, inventors, Nobel laureates or any of the other professions for which Israel is famous As I said, fine. Let them live their own separate lives. But, if they do not want to contribute to the state in any way shape or form, let them then fend for themselves. This is not meant to be cruel or even anti- religious. It is my own personal rant in favor of leveling the playing field. Of taking power away from those who have no right to it. People who live this way and take these advantages because they say, God told them they could. And if God is on your side, you cannot lose. But the State of Israel can--and is.