Archive for May 30, 2010

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish news

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Australia expels Israeli diplomat

CANBERRA, 26 May – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced on Monday his Government had evidence  that the Israeli Government forged Australian passports.

A three month investigation by Australian  intelligence organisations revealed “beyond
doubt”, according to Smith, the link between the  passport fraud and Israel. In response, the
Foreign Minister expelled a member of the Israeli  Embassy in Canberra effective this week, a decision he said was taken “with sorrow”.

An initial investigation launched in February and  led by the Australian Federal Police, was backed
up this month with a visit to Israel by the  director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Smith said there were three findings from the  investigation. First that there was no evidence the four Australians – Joshua Krycer, Joshua  Bruce, Nicole McCabe and Adam Korman – were anything other than innocent victims.  Second,  the forged passports were of such a high quality  that they pointed to the involvement of a  national intelligence agency. Third, that the  Australian investigation “left the Government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports”.

He reiterated that Israel remained a friend of  Australia but said “time will tell” how long it  will take until the relationship between the two countries gets back on track.

Michael Danby MHR has released the following statement:
“I have previously & publicly (on Jon Faine’s 774  program) said I condemn the misuse of Australian passports by any other country. However, I do not  agree with the government’s decision to remove an  Israeli diplomat from Canberra. Neither France,  Germany or Ireland have asked for an Israeli  diplomat to be withdrawn as a result of the Dubai affair”

“This announcement comes at a time when Australia  is supporting just resumed Middle East peace negotiations”

“I accept that this decision has been made but  Australia has always been a good friend of Israel  and I have no doubt that this relationship will remain intact”, Mr Danby said.

Australian Governmenr reaction excessive – Jewish Leaders

CANBERRA, 27 May – Jewish community  representatives have expressed dismay at the Federal Government’s decision to expel a diplomat  from the Israeli embassy in the wake of the passport forgeries.

In a joint statement, Executive Council of  Australian Jewry president Robert Goot and Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester described the expulsion order as “an overreaction”.

The organisations pointed out that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s statement to Parliament this week “does not disclose any specific =evidence in support of his conclusions about Israel’s involvement in the matter”.

“Little good can come from taking punitive action  in relation to this matter against Israel, which is the Middle East’s only stable democracy and  the only Middle Eastern country that can be  relied on to act resolutely against international terrorism.

Goot and Chester said they were confident the  longstanding friendship and cooperation between
Australia and Israel would endure, “and that  Australia’s strong bipartisan support for Israel,
and for a just and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours, will remain steadfast”.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)  executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein said the expulsion was “unhelpful”, as the Government had  gone far enough when it “made clear its  displeasure over the abuse of Australian passports in the strongest of possible terms”.

“While Australia followed a British precedent in  its overreaction, no similar step has been taken
by Ireland, France or Germany, all of whom also  allegedly had forged passports implicated in the
killing of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.”

AIJAC national chairman Mark Leibler said claims by Dubai authorities over the incident “should not be accepted as necessarily unbiased and  neutral, given Dubai’s apparent past tolerance of [Mahmoud] al-Mabhouh’s open and dubious activity on behalf of Hamas on Dubai soil”.

Leibler predicted Australia and Israel would continue to remain close allies.

“Australia and Israel have a longstanding  friendship and common interests, with the threats  of a nuclear-armed Iran and anti-western  terrorism just two of the pressing world concerns  that both countries will continue to confront  together, despite today’s decision.”

Deputy PM in Election mode at Jewish Affairs luncheon

MELBOURNE,  25 May – Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard looked to be in election mode as she  addressed a lunch of community philanthropists,  senior business people and top members of the legal profession on Friday.

In a wide-ranging address and in question time  afterwards, Gillard spoke on a range of topics  from the ongoing economic crisis to climate  change, from Israel to Jewish schools. She spoke c andidly, but still managed to focus on the Rudd Government’s successes.

Despite being in election mode, she refused to speculate on a possible polling date but added “I’m looking forward to it, I like campaigning”.

She warned that Australia is not yet out of economic danger, referring to the ongoing crisis  in Europe, particularly Greece, which has  impacted this country. She also reminded guests  that the Rudd Government has worked hard to keep Australia from tumbling into recession.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “And there have been legitimate criticisms of some of the stimulus we have rolled out.

But, she added, “We have managed to keep the country in a productive cycle.”

She confronted community concerns, including changes in Australia’s position on a small number  of votes in the United Nations relating to Israel, whether Australia aid to the Palestinian territories was remaining out of terrorists’  hands and assurances about the continuation of Jewish school funding.

The lunch was hosted by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

Reaping the benefits

MELBOURNE, 28 May – Pioneering, original and innovative were three of the words Mount Scopus Memorial College principal Rabbi James Kennard  used to describe the school’s new kitchen garden.

Officially opened last week, the Stephanie  Alexander style garden adjoins a five station kosher kitchen, enabling the students to plant and till the produce before cooking with it.

“The Mount Scopus community garden provides  students with the opportunity to grow, cook, eat and learn in the process,” Rabbi Kennard said.  “It is a community enterprise that has brought together students, teachers, parents,  grandparents and supporters, all growing in the garden together.”

Planned by a group of year 6 mathematics students  last year, the garden is designed in the shape of
a Magen David, with fresh, organic vegetables and  herbs growing in sections and a chicken coop off
to the side. Years 4 and 5 students spend  fortnightly lessons in the garden with a  qualified horticulturalist where they attend to  the vegetables before spending a double class in  the home style kitchen classroom with kitchen teacher Delia Baron.

“The kids are learning so much; culturally,  through science, maths, English. It’s coming into  every lesson,” Baron said at the opening. She  praised the foresight of Greg Hannon, head of  Smorgon Family Primary School, and Rabbi Kennard, saying that when approached with the program they “took it on with such gusto”.

Attendees at the opening, including Stephanie  Alexander herself, watched as a year 4 class  completed its kitchen lesson where students  prepared afternoon tea for the guests using produce from the garden.

The formalities concluded with college rabbi  Shamir Kaplan affixing a mezuzah to the kitchen door and a foundation tree planted by key  supporters. A deciduous tree, its leaves will be  composted to add to the garden.

Reform urged for Yeshivah

MELBOURNE, 28 May – The Yeshivah Centre this week said it is planning to remedy a set of problems
identified in a recent survey conducted among synagogue members.

Responses gathered from congregants revealed  dissatisfaction with services; a need for a  greater focus on youth minyans; greater efforts  at inclusiveness, particularly towards women; a  need for improved governance; and a demand for  renovations to the building. Also suggested was the removal of the controversial Yechi sign from the centre’s shul.

The one-off poll, conducted late last year, canvassed members of the centre to obtain a  snapshot of attitudes since the passing of Yeshivah’s leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner.

Although all 614 members received the survey, only 155 responded, with survey firm Platinum  Edge Consulting stating the centre has 371 members regularly attending the main Yeshivah shul.

More than half the respondents thought the minyan in the main synagogue, particularly on Shabbat, “requires considerable improvement”, with  two-thirds calling for improvements to youth  minyans. Less than 10 per cent of those surveyed  believed there was enough emphasis on the needs of the congregation’s youth.

A survey summary stated that “one of the most  contentious issues . is whether congregants feel a sense of community and belonging to the shul”.  Just over half of the respondents did not fully  agree that “their family feel[s] part of the community formed by this congregation”, with more than a fifth stating the shul “is not at all
warmly and openly welcoming to visitors and newcomers”.

There was strong demand for women to play a  greater role in the running of the shul, with  suggestions that women be admitted to the committee.

The survey found dissatisfaction with Yeshivah  shul’s governance, with a majority calling for the committee to be elected, not appointed. There was also concern about congregants not being kept in the loop on major developments.

Issues about the physical state of the building and its upkeep figured prominently, with a third of respondents identifying air conditioning and basic facilities needing a facelift.

Yeshivah Centre general manager Nechama Bendet said the centre commissioned the survey “to assist with the process of identifying the current and future needs of our shul community, particularly in light of transition issues” since Rabbi Groner’s death almost two years ago.

“Based on feedback from the survey, there will be particular focus on creating a greater sense of belonging for congregants, increasing pastoral care services, ensuring that the shul is meeting the needs of the youth and making women feel more connected. In addition, improvements to the shul environs and facilities will be undertaken.

“Shul life is an integral part of the Yeshivah Centre community, and we are committed to ensuring that we are providing quality programs and services to our shul community.

Renewed call for supreme kashrut authority

CANBERRA,  28 May -Shops, restaurants or products that define themselves as kosher without the blessing of a legally recognised kashrut authority could face prosecution if a proposal submitted to the Federal Government last week gets the green light from legislators.

The submission, put forward by the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), calls for one  body – namely ORA – to be given the legal right to endorse individual kashrut authorities, setting the guidelines they must adhere to.

Those not receiving an endorsement would not be able to operate as kashrut authorities within the
law, preventing them from bestowing hechshers (kosher licences).

And in what was described as a “monumental and historic”  achievement, the proposal received the backing of the country’s principal communal kashrut authorities, including Kosher Australia, Chabad Kashrut and Adass Kashrut in Victoria, the Kashrut Authority in New South Wales and the Kashrut Authority in Western Australia.

The submission was put forward in response to the Government’s Issues Consultation Paper on Food Labelling Law and Policy Review, which asked whether there was a need to establish agreed definitions of terms such as “halal”
and  “kosher” and, if so, whether the definitions should be included or referenced in the Food Standards Code.

Though the ORA and ECAJ submission recognises that, to date, the self-regulation of kashrut authorities has created “very few problems” and that the Jewish community feels it “has served it well”, it adds: “the rabbinic authorities in Australia have no capacity to prevent a producer from labelling or self-certifying a product as ‘kosher’.”

It also notes that “in a self-regulated environment, there is potential for confusion and even fraudulent conduct through the potential for rogue producers to use the word ‘kosher’ with impunity.”

To tackle that problem, the submission states: “The only viable means of regulation of kosher labelling would be to enshrine (by legislation or regulation) the present self-regulated system, that is, to give legislative or regulatory authority to the endorsement of the rabbinic or kosher authorities within Australia.

“Such legislation could provide that the word ‘kosher’ may only be used on a label if the product bears a form of endorsement that it has been certified as kosher by a recognised rabbinic or kosher authority in Australia. Such
recognition can be conferred by ORA as the designated body representing the religious Jewish leadership for this purpose.”

Insisting that individual kashrut authorities would retain their autonomy, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Klugwant, chair of the ORA kashrut subcommittee, said as an overarching, endorsing body, ORA would be responsible for laying down the guidelines and overriding principles that the authorities would have to abide by. Quite what those principles would be are yet to be hammered out, Rabbi Klugwant noting “There is much work to be done and these are early days.”

However, he added: “What is encouraging is that all parties at the table . were happy and prepared to consider the concept of a centralised national body to endorse kashrut authorities in Australia. This is monumental and historic in nature.” The sentiment was echoed by Benjamin Koppel, president of Adass, who said he was
“heartened by the united approach of the kashrut authorities and was pleased to be involved in the
discussions and deliberations. It was good to be able to sit around the table together and to work towards a common goal.”

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, head of the NSW Kashrut Authority, added: “It was extremely gratifying to have all the kashrut agencies working together for the common good, and if these recommendations are accepted by the Government – this will be to the benefit of all kosher consumers”

Winning run hits brick wall

MELBOURNE,  27 May – AJAX has suffered its first defeat of the season in a heart-stopper against Beaumaris, losing 8.15 (63) to 9.11 (65).

After a last-minute winner last week, the Jackas couldn’t repeat the dose on the weekend, as Beaumaris was too strong from start to finish.  Ajax had few winners, with the Kalmus brothers, Ben and Josh, both impressing, while Jarrod White battled hard in the ruck.

Warren Steinberg was the other standout for the visitors, proving solid in defence. While the  side worked hard to keep its winning streak  intact, turnovers and poor kicking in front of goal was the difference between the sides.

Beaumaris won more contested possessions early, and dominated the clearances from the opening bounce. The side kicked the first three goals of the game within the opening five minutes, before Ash Kalb found space in the forward 50 to kick the Jackas’ first of the game. Beaumaris capitalised on an Ajax turnover to extend itslead to five goals, but David Fayman responded, slotting the last two goals of the term.

Coach Bernie Sheehy was pleased with his side’s forward pressure, but pleaded with his charges to hit their targets by hand.

As the wind picked up in the second quarter, the players started to lift their work rate and intensity. Ben Kalmus and Fayman, kicked the only two goals for the term, giving the Jackas the slenderest of leads at the main break, but it could have been further ahead if not for some wayward goal-kicking. In the shadows of half time, Jackas veteran Mark Segal went down with a hamstring injury.

With both sides applying intensive pressure, the third term was an arm wrestle, with just two goals kicked in 30 minutes of football. Ajax had the better of the quarter, but failed to take advantage of opportunities in the forward 50, and went to three-quarter-time with a slender two-point lead.

Coach Sheehy urged his players not to “waste what’s been a good effort”, adding the game was “there for the taking”.

After missing the third term with a leg injury, Jason Israelsohn was back on the ground for the final term, and quickly goaled to extend his side’s lead. But Beaumaris responded in emphatic fashion, taking the game on and slotting three  consecutive goals to wrest the lead. Josh Ludski kicked truly to give Ajax a sniff with only 30seconds on the clock, but it wasn’t to be, as Beaumaris claimed an upset victory.

The Reserves side won their second game in a row with a hard-fought victory over Beaumaris 12.9(81) to 11.7 (73), while the Under-19s suffered their second defeat in a row, losing a see-sawingaffair against Old Mentonians 12.5 (77) to 11.13 (79).

Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh on Australian speaking tour

MELBOURNE–During his recent trip to Australia, Israeli-Arab journalist and authority on Palestinian issues
Khaled Abu Toameh answers questions on a range of issues.

How do you feel as an Arab Muslim living in Israel?

You know, I always say that it’s very easy to solve the problem between Jews and Palestinians. Why? Because at the end of the day, there is going to be separation, in one form or another, from the Palestinians.

One day, they will be there and we will be here.  But what do we do with the 1.4 million Arabs living inside Israel. What’s their future? I’m  very worried about the serious deterioration that has happened with relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

If I were a Jew living in Israel, I would be very worried about the deterioration of relations between Jews and Arabs inside the country. We, the Israeli Arabs, have been extremely loyal to the State of Israel ever since its establishment. We are the Arab who in 1948 did not challenge Israel’s right to exist. We accepted Israel. We welcomed Israel. We helped build Israel. Israel gave us passports, citizenship, okay. But although the overwhelming majority of us were  loyal to the State of Israel, sadly, the State of  Israel or the Israeli establishment were not equally loyal towards its Arab minority.

And what am I talking about. I’m talking about employment, services, infrastructure. We continue to suffer from what [former prime minister] Ehud  Olmert called a policy of systematic discrimination against the Arab minority.

Now, the good news is that Israel is not an apartheid state. But the bad news is that there is discrimination inside Israel. It’s not just against Arabs – it’s against Russians. It’s against Ethiopians. It’s against the elderly. It’s against the disabled. If this policy
continues and the Israeli establishment does not wake up and embark on an emergency plan to improve its relations with its Arab minority, the third intifada will be on the streets of Haifa and Akko, and the Negev and the Galilee.

[However, that said], if you ask me on a personal basis, and I think I represent mainstream Israeli Arabs, we would rather live in Israel under any circumstances. It’s much better than living as a first-class citizen in Cairo, Amman, Gaza or Ramallah.

Q.You say Israel is not an apartheid state. Can you elaborate?

If Israel were an apartheid state, an Arab would not be allowed to live in a Jewish neighbourhood.An Arab would not be able to go to a Jewish school, and so many other things. Or an Arab would not be able to go to the same restaurant as a Jew. You have to look at the apartheid system and study it and see what it was. Compare it toIsrael. Are there problems with discrimination?
Yes. But I wouldn’t call it apartheid.

Q. Do Israeli Arabs find Hatikvah alienating as the national anthem?

Maybe Hatikvah does not represent what I, as an Arab Muslim, feels – my aspirations and all that – but I have no problem with it. A Jew can sing whatever he wants, and a Muslim will sing whatever he wants. I don’t care about the colours of the flag. I don’t care about Hatikvah. I respect them. I’m not challenging them. I’m just saying, if you want to be a Jewish state and sing
whatever you want, do whatever you want, fine. But give me full rights in this Jewish state. You can be a Jewish state for all of your citizens.

So Israel is not trying to impose Hatikvah on me. That’s also good. It shouldn’t be imposing anything on anyone. If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, that’s also fine with us Israeli Arabs. We never thought that it was a problem until Israel raised it. It’s like, why are you chasing me, asking me to accept you as a Jewish state? You are a Jewish state anyway. You are the homeland for the Jews.

But why are you asking me to start saying “yes I accept” or “I don’t accept it”? What does it matter to you? Israel should not be begging or chasing anyone to recognise Israel or accept Israel as a Jewish state. Israel is a fact. It exists. Whether people accept Israel or not, that’s their problem. But Israel should have enough self-confidence and stop raising these issues. There’s no need for it.

Q. What is your opinion of Foreign Minister AvigdorLieberman’s proposal to make all Arabs swear oaths of loyalty to the State of Israel?

Why is he raising this? We are citizens of Israel. Who is he to come now and ask us to do this? By the way, this is a dangerous idea,because today you will demand it from the Arabs. Tomorrow you will demand it from the Russians. Then you will demand it from the Ethiopians. Israel is a state of law and order and should have more confidence in itself than this man.
This man’s message, unfortunately, is very negative, and he is also damaging relations between Jews and Arabs. If Mr Lieberman wants to incite and say these awful things, I say something like this: he who came last, should leave first.

If Mr Lieberman stands up and says “All citizens should be equal and loyal to the state of Israel”, I will say, “yes Mr Lieberman, thank you”. I will even serve in the army. But once you single out one group, that becomes too dangerous. This is not what Israel wants and fortunately, he does not represent the majority of Jews in Israel.

Q. What can you tell us about the recent arrests of two Israeli Arabs [on charges of espionage forHezbollah] and the response from the [Israeli-Arab] community?

These charges will be tested in court. But what is for sure is that the arrest itself and the allegations that are flying do not contribute to coexistence. They only widen the gap between Arabs and Jews. And if it turns out to be true that these guys are actually guilty of what they are accused of, it just shows that the radicalisation [of Israeli Arabs due to discrimination] is continuing.

Q. How well are your lectures received overseas, in particular at universities?

First of all, you should ask me how they arereceived by Palestinians [in the Palestinian areas]: very well. I go to Gaza, I’ve been at Palestinian universities in Gaza. I’ve been at Palestinian universities in the West Bank. I go back there every day. I talk, most people tell me what I’m saying makes sense, that these are reasonable things I am saying. So over there I have no problem.

Where do the problems start? As soon as I show my face at a university campus in Canada or in the US, or even here at Monash University, where people – most of them not even Palestinian, not even Arabs – stand up and say to me “how dare
you” [and then start throwing around words like] apartheid, war crimes, massacres, death to Israel and death to Zionism.

Their message is hatred and delegitimisation of Israel and demonisation of Jews. I ask [these protesters], “Who are you?” And they say, “We are the pro-Palestinian group”. I tell them, “Excuse me, what’s pro-Palestinian about you? That you are wearing your kaffiyeh? That doesn’t make you pro-Palestinian. You are just Jew-haters and Israel-haters. If you really cared about the
Palestinians, why don’t you come to Palestine and teach Palestinian children English, for example? Why don’t you come to Palestine and promote the rights of women under Hamas? Then I will call you pro-Palestinian.

“But sitting over here on a campus in America,and telling me that Israel is bad and to dismantle this Jewish State and to get rid of it,that does not really help me as an Arab Muslim living in Israel. Your message is no different than the message of Hamas. We have enoughincitement, thank you. If you have anything good to offer us, please come.”

I passed by some Lebanese girls who were organising Israel Apartheid Week in Canada. I stopped at their information table and I asked them, “Excuse me, which apartheid are you talking about?” They said, “Of course the Jewish State, and apartheid against the Palestinians.” And I asked them if they were from Lebanon. “What about the apartheid in Lebanon against the Palestinians, where in Lebanon there is a law that prevents Palestinians from working in morethan 60 professions? By law, it’s written in the law.”

Can you imagine if the Knesset met tonight and passed a law banning Arabs from working in one ­profession?

They said, “You know, you are right, but don’t tell these folks over here. Don’t bring the dirty laundry out, please.” I told them that washypocrisy. If they want to wage a campaignagainst apartheid, they need to go against all the apartheid they are talking about.

I don’t like these negative messages. They don’t bring us anything. The same goes for campaigns for divestment and boycotts. Again, I asked howit could help me? Boycott – negative. I told some folks who were calling for boycotts: “Instead of
wasting all this energy calling for boycotts of Israel, why don’t you come to that part of the world and bring Jewish and Palestinian professors together, for example? You guys are actually undermining the moderates over there who want
peace, through your messages of hatred.”

The battle today against Israel is not in the form of a suicide bomber and a rocket. We have answers to that. Israel has been able to deal with them. You can always strike back at a rocket. You can always fight against suicide bombers. Israel has succeeded at that. I’d be much more worried as a Jew at what’s happening on the university campuses. This is very serious, what we encounter over there.

Q. You are a Jerusalem Arab. Do Jerusalem Arabs want a divided Jerusalem?

I don’t think anyone wants Jerusalem to be divided. I don’t think Jerusalem can be divided. Jerusalem can perhaps be shared. But you cannot really divide Jerusalem. It’s not practical.

This transcript includes answers given by Khaled  Abu Toameh during a Q&A in Melbourne. His trip to Australia was sponsored by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, the United Israel Appeal and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.


Fabian is Australia bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seems more sensitive to religious bias

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA–No wonder Rand Paul is horrified by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Six months ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission posted a 10-page fact sheet on its Web site that should force any repugnant employer to cringe.
The fact sheet addresses concerns crucial to victims of workplace discrimination that have long been ignored by past administrations. The document impressed me since it appears to cover forms of possible anti-Semitic actions which affected me in the past. Some provisions specify protection for the disabled, older workers and speakers of a non-English language. The fact sheet is entitled “Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination – Questions and Answers.”
Paul, the latest Tea Party poster boy, upset people when he suggested that private businesses should not be subjected to government regulation over their civil rights practices, though he was not very clear beyond that. Maybe Paul’s Democratic opponent in the Kentucky Senate race will compel him to be more clear. I happened upon the fact sheet, dated last Nov. 21, while checking on the status of civil rights matters.
It is not unusual when a law created to right a wrong produces new complications. However, I know from personal experience that the Civil Rights Act is not sufficiently funded by Congress nor enforced by the EEOC and the network of state and local agencies charged with policing workplace discrimination. It was documented in news reports that the EEOC is understaffed and overwhelmed with complaints, and the state and local organizations have the same problem.
These agencies likewise have strange ways of interpreting the CRA. The Clinton administration apparently thought so when it introduced guidelines stating that religious harassment violates the CRA. Yet Clinton’s EEOC swiftly backed off this plan after Pat Robertson and the rest of the religious right launched a holy war to prevent the guidelines from going into effect.
Before President Clinton took office, an employer at a New Jersey company invited me to dinner along with a colleague when they both made remarks indicating that I should consider converting to Christianity. An investigator for New Jersey’s anti-bias agency informed me that my experience did not constitute a violation of the law.
The Obama administration’s new fact sheet lists the following as “discriminatory practices”: “Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information or age.”
I can only speculate how this might have affected my complaint, but it gives me hope. This clause in combination with other new provisions might have strengthened a different complaint I filed in 2002 against a high-level manager, in a city agency no less, who posted a confusing poster on her bulletin board about Israel. Most Jewish employees along with union leaders interpreted the posting as blatant Israel-bashing.
The agency’s commissioner ordered the sign removed and the manager posted a similar sign two days later. The manager – let’s call her Vanessa, as in Redgrave – should have known that the first sign would infuriate her Jewish colleagues. If she was unaware, she had to know she was creating a “hostile environment” when she posted the second sign.
The EEOC determined that this was a “free speech” issue, and the investigator indicated that Vanessa might have been told by the commissioner in a memo not to repeat this action. She repeated this kind of action later and retaliated against me a few times. Retaliation was considered a discriminatory practice long before President Obama took office.
My take was that Vanessa deliberately produced a “hostile environment,” a term specifically employed in sexual harassment cases. Now “hostile environment” applies to all forms of discrimination covered by the CRA.
The revised provision reads: “Sexual harassment – This includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex harassment. (The ‘hostile environment’ standard also applies to harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age and disability.)”
The fact sheet addresses employees who are ordered to speak English at work at all times. The document states: “A rule requiring that employees speak only English on the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement is necessary for conducting business. If the employer believes such a rule is necessary, employees must be informed when English is required and the consequences for violating the rule.”
Paul can sigh with relief that the gay community is not covered in this fact sheet, but he and his allies know they cannot relax over that.
I do wonder why Paul would raise his concerns now. Perhaps he has always felt this way and brought it up as part of his introduction on the public stage. Or, business leaders have complained to him that Obama’s EEOC has intensified the pressure while investigating complaints.
If the EEOC has thrown offending employers off balance, that’s progress.
Bruce S. Ticker is a Philadelphia freelance journalist. He can be reached at

Craig Noel as I remember him

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Craig Noel with his bust

By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO — It’s not my intention to write another obituary about Craig Noel. So many others have already written volumes. He died peacefully April 3rd 2010 at home surrounded by his loved ones. He was 95. If you opened any newspaper that day and read either the Arts or obituary section or both you would have read all the news and then some about him; how and when he came to San Diego and his accomplishments in our fair city and particularly at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Craig Noel was a fixture here in San Diego for as long as I’ve been alive. He came here in 1937 and well… By the time I arrived here in 1959, he was already a living legend. By the time I was reviewing theatre his was a household name when it came to theatre talk.

I will never forget stories my long ago friend Fran Bardacke (she used to review theatre for the San Diego Magazine) would tell me about writing a play The Ballad of Yankee Jim that was produced at the Whaley House in 1966 and put on by the Tanner Troupe. I believe there was a Craig Noel story there, but I can’t say for sure.

She was colleague of Noel’s at the beginnings of his career with The Old Globe. I wish I had paid better attention to the stories she told of their escapades. But she was one of the old timers who could remember him best then along with the others who spoke at his Memorial. (Back to that later)

I can’t say I was a personal friend, although as most in my position as theatre critic, I knew as much about him as was revealed in the papers, to each other or in shoptalk or in interviews. I never interviewed him, but somehow I was invited to his 70th birthday party. I got to see the twinkle in his eyes up close and personal at least once a year at the San Diego Theater Critics Circle Awards night.

He was the man of honor at our event giving out awards. My colleagues and I appropriately name our awards ceremony, honoring some of the best in San Diego Theatre for /after him; “The Craig Noel Awards For Theatre Excellence.” He was so shy about it but the artists who received the plaques bearing his name will become treasures.  He did this for the last five years of his life.  That was a treat.  

His many accomplishments either preceded or followed him and he was always busy improving and contributing to the well being of not just The Old Globe, but also other local venues as well being an advocate on the national scene. For someone as busy as he, it always amazed me to see him attending other local productions. He always impressed me as a shy man, and yet he was always surrounded by those who just wanted to be in his company.

Being a personal friend or someone he met on occasion never seemed to matter, though. Whenever we met either going to or coming from a performance or just in the courtyard of the Old Globe, he always wore that irresistible smile. He was always present and eager to give hugs or get them. When I think of Craig Noel, and I will often as will many others, I will always remember his wonderful smile. I never saw him without a smile on his face.

Recently a public memorial service was held at the Spreckles Organ Pavilion in celebration of Craig’s life. Some said that there were 800 or so in attendance who wanted to be a part of San Diego history and honor the icon of theatre in San Diego.

Louis G. Spisto, Executive Producer opened the ceremonies. Spisto, who has been at the Globe for the past eight years, said a few words about Craig mentioning that it was he who established one of the first resident theatre companies outside Broadway.  He directed over 200 works and produced over 270 shows himself. “He made theatre the center of San Diego’s cultural life.” That included his 1983 introduction to Teatro Meta a Latin theatre project that became a bi lingual writing program serving thousands of San Diego Youths. 

He mentioned how important his city, the theatre, and his artists were to him. Both Mayor Jerry Sanders followed by City Councilmember Todd Gloria spoke on behalf of the city of San Diego talking about the Gardens in Balboa Park recently named for Craig. Several references were made to his being the Master Gardener. He loved gardening. 

Jeff Smith, long time member of The San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and Reader Theatre Reviewer spoke about his time as well with Craig just before the awards ceremony. Jeff was the informal keeper of the ‘Craig’, meeting his needs as they came up during the sometimes-long award process.

Others paying tribute to Craig were Darlene Shiley, former member of the Globe Board and one time wanna be actress who auditioned for Craig. She told some pretty funny stories along with personal memories of Craig. She and her husband Don are major contributors to the Old Globe in particular and to the Arts in particular. They established a Distinguished Professorship at USD in Noel’s honor.

Former USD Provost Sally Furay, R.S.C.J. talked about a Chair in his name to promote budding young playwrights. He was instrumental in developing Junior Theatre and the Old Globe/USD MFA Program along with multicultural programming. In 2007, President George W. Bush gave the National Medal of the Arts to Noel for his decades of leadership as a pillar of the American Theatre. The medal is the government’s highest medal for artists and art patrons. Shiley was one of those fortunate to have been with Craig in Washington when he received his Medal.

But the evening was really about those who knew and worked and were personal friends of Craig’s and those included no less that eleven associate artists (who were there) who spoke of Craig with fondness, adoration, Shakespearean quotes, song and humor. Long time associate of Craig’s and several times Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien introduced them all. Kandis Chappell a long time favorite of mine and of the Globe’s was so moved she could barely speak. Deborah May dedicated the song “Look To The Rainbow” from Finians Rainbow” by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy. She and Harry Groener (another associate who played Billy Bishop Goes to War to perfection in the old Cassius Carter Theatre moons ago) sang “My Buddy” to nary a dry eye.

May and her husband George DelHoyo met on the set of an Old Globe production many moons ago when they were both cast in Shakespeare’s As You Like It in 1982. She played Rosalind to his Orlando on the outdoor Festival stage.

Craig Noel was to Shakespeare as Rodgers and Hammerstein were to Broadway Musicals. It was Craig who in 1947 launched “the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival, and ten years later he guided the Globe from community to professional status, establishing the first full Actors’ Equity company in California”

It was no accident then that more than one of the associates including another long time San Diego icon, Jonathan McMurtry also paid tribute to Craig, quoted from the Bard, Diane Sinor who has been with the Globe for 47 years spoke fondly of how Craig was not just a colleague but a loving family friend who helped house her family in times of stress and need. Sinor who acted as a younger woman remained at the Globe until her retirement in 2007.

She too was a good friend of my friend Fran Bardacke. She edited publications and later became the theatre’s Education Director. She also supervised Camp Orbit its summer camp, Teatro Mata all the while giving seminars and lectures to adults. My late husband was one of her pupils who attended one such lecture on the occasion of a class he was taking at San Diego State.

Those there, and so many others from local theatres, David Ellenstein from North Coast Repertory Theatre, William Virchis director of performing arts, former professor of the Theatre at Southwestern was sitting next to me and the list goes on. David Ogden Stiers, Robin Pearson Rose, Robert Foxworth, Jim Winker, Andrew Traister, Mitch Edmonds and designer Ralph Funicello were on hand. Some I knew (Jimmy Saba another of our local actors who directed with Craig came in from New York) others were pointed out to me, the crowd was so dense.  Others I remembered from their works over the years. They came.

The friendships run deep and there were many more stories to tell. Bill Roesch, Deborah Taylor, Katherine McGrath and of course the Dowager Princess (Jack O’Brien’s words not mine) Marion Ross.  Jack O’Brien, his sidekick and Artistic Director Emeritus and Tom Hall the third wheel of the Troika in the heyday of the Globe’s growth also spoke of their times with Craig. Curmudgeon, uncle visionary, kind, leadership and Zen Master were words mentioned in almost every accolade to Craig. Some, who knew him very well, said that the whole thing would have embarrassed him. O’Brien’s remarks were followed by a beautiful slide show of Craig’s life and career.

The most poignant moment however came when Deborah Szekely, Honorary Director of The Old Globe quoted a passage from William Sorayan’s “The Time of your Life”.

In the time of your life, live – so that in good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed. 

“In the time of your life, live – so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

And as was quoted from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” more than once.

“Now cracks the noble heart. Good night sweet prince.

All flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”


Theatre critic Davis is based in San Diego

Kassam rocket hits near Sha’ar Hanegev municipal building

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment


Shattered windows at Shjaar Hanegev regional council building

-Staff Report–

SHA’AR HANEGEV, Israel — A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza struck near the municipal government bguilding of the
Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in the early hours of Sunday, May 30, causing some damage but no injuries because no one was in the building at the time, according to Sha’ar Hanegev Mayor Alon Schuster.

Impact area, Kassam rocket attack, May 30, 2010

Used to isolation in world opinion, where does Israel put its trust?

May 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–It is sad, even pathetic, but not surprising that the UN meeting of parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons concluded their month long conference by calling for the monitoring of Israel’s nuclear program without mentioning that of Iran. 

The United States participated in the consensus, but senior officials note their criticisms of its language. They are saying that they aspire to a nuclear free Middle East, and there has been no change in long-standing American positions including an assurance of Israel’s defense.

This is diplomatic talk for having one’s cake and eating it, too. The United States is joining Israel in the language of nuclear ambiguity. 

Israeli media coverage is not friendly to the American maneuver, and is featuring Israeli government statements ridiculing the conference document and indicating that Israel will not be bound by it. 

Israel is used to political isolation. It recognizes the bias in UN organizations due to the one country-one vote arrangement, the weight of Muslims and the influence of money, oil and gas. It also understands diplomatic double talk, such as that currently heard from the White House, and the prominent role of Egypt in pressing for resolutions against Israel’s nuclear capabilities. Israel also benefits from public and not-so-public lines of cooperation with the United States, Egypt, and other governments that  participate in verbal lynching.

It is not easy to calculate the damage to Israel of the frequent diatribes against it, and the damage to those who participate in them, or participate while distancing themselves from what they formally accept. Outright condemnations and singling out may cost Israelis something in respect and access to international opportunities. But the lack of support also has costs for others–including the United States–due to Israeli suspicions of their intentions. 

The next embarrassment for Israel is not far off. A limping flotilla aspiring to break the blockade of Gaza has been organized by Turkish and Palestinian Islamists with the participation of activists from other countries. How many of the ships will approach Gaza is no longer certain, given mechanical problems the organizers are blaming on Israel. The Israeli navy intends to keep the participants from reaching Gaza, and bring them instead to Ashdod, deportation, or prison. 

Whatever happens, there will be criticism of Israel’s blockade, with or without a serious consideration of the reasons that Israel maintains the blockade, or the food, fuel, medicines and other material that Israel allows through.

Alongside Israel’s demonization is the realization that the country has supporters. 

Questions always are on the agenda are:

Is their support stable? Do those who support also oppose specific actions? Are supporters capable of influencing their governments? 

There are also questions about Israel’s critics. 

How intense are they? Do their comments portend hostile action? How to decipher comments that express both criticize and support, or criticism for Israel as well as its adversaries?

Alongside all of these questions is:

Can Israel rely on anyone other than its own population and institutions? 

This leads to the next question: 

Who within this contentious and beleaguered country is the ultimate arbiter of what the country should be doing?

What this boils down to, here as in other democracies, is that there is no ultimate arbiter. The current government runs the country, with procedures for weighing inputs from its various components. Outside of the government, with a powerful word–but not necessarily final word–is the Supreme Court and its capacity to decide if a decision of the government or one of its functionaries departs from established law. Beyond that is the plurality of media, opposition politicians and independent commentators.

Not to be discounted is familiarity with balancing opportunities and constraints, honed by several millennia experience with more powerful others and internal dispute.

Along with concerns for their standing among others, Israelis also calculate whether to cooperate with others, and by how much. The economic, military and moral weights of the country are far from absolute, but they are not negligible.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University