Bintel Blog

Eric Cantor to the Forward: Administration Is 'Bullying Israel'

By Nathan Guttman

The lone Jewish Republican in Congress is taking the Obama administration to task over its latest spat with the Israeli government.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor phoned White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on March 15 — asking him to convey to his bosses the message that it is time to ease pressure on Israel.

“The administration needs to reduce the level of its rhetoric,” Cantor said in an interview with the Forward, “I don’t think that the notion of us telling Israel what is best for its security is a good one.”

Cantor and several other Republican lawmakers have criticized the administration’s tough stance on Israel in light of the dispute over the Jewish state’s approval of another 1,600 homes in contested East Jerusalem. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, have also said that the Obama administration was wrong in pressuring Israel.

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Waxman to Weiner: ‘Speak English’

By Daniel Treiman

A little mameloshn came spilling out of the mouth of Rep. Anthony Weiner (aka the future Mr. Huma Abedin) during a discussion of health care reform. New York Daily News blogger Michael McAuliff reports:

“We’re not going to take hundreds of billions of dollars a year and give it to insurance companies who give us bupkis,” Weiner said, veins bulging.

That prompted a gavel from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and a joking rebuke.

“The gentleman will speak English,” Waxman said.

We’re still waiting for someone to tell that to New York City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who drew the notice of The New York Times with his mastery of Yiddish put-downs and, more recently, proved his proficiency with Yiddish as a language of political praise.

For Weiner and Waxman’s mameloshn mash-up, fast forward the following video to 6:45:

Hat tip: Vos Iz Neias

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Colorado's Michael Bennet: America's Newest Jewish Senator

By Nathan Guttman

Those who delight in counting Congressional Jews have a reason to rejoice: Another Jew has joined the U.S. Senate.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that the Colorado’s new senator, Michael Bennet has a Jewish mother — thus making him a Member of the Tribe, as far as Jewish law is concerned

Still, that might not be the way Bennet, whose father is Christian, views himself. “I was raised with two different heritages, one was Jewish and one was Christian,” Bennet, who recently filled the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, told the newspaper. “I am proud that both heritages are part of me, and I believe in God.”

The freshman senator, whether he defines himself as Jewish or not, comes from a family of Polish Holocaust survivors. After the Nazi takeover of Poland, his maternal grandparents were taken to the Warsaw ghetto. His grandmother, Halina Klejman, smuggled Bennet’s mother to a safe house, while his grandfather hid in another part of the ghetto. After the war, the Klejmans reunited — only to discover that most of their extended family members were killed by the Nazis.

The family arrived in New York, via Stockholm and Mexico City, in 1950. Stateside, the senator’s grandfather John Klejman opened an art gallery, a business he had began in Warsaw before the war.

So here is where the Senate count stands now: 12 seated Jewish senators; 1 disputed Jewish seat (Minnesota’s Al Franken or Norm Coleman. No difference for the Jew-count), and one Colorado senator who Wikipedia defines as “Jewish (non practicing).” Grand total: 14 Jews. Almost.


Rep. Steve Cohen Makes History

By Daniel Treiman

The Associated Press reports:

The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.

“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” said Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

And who is behind this historic resolution? None other than Rep. Steve Cohen, the freshman Jewish congressman who represents a predominantly black district in Memphis, Tenn. — indeed, according to the AP, “the only white lawmaker to represent a majority black district.” Cohen, the AP reports, introduced the apology resolution as one of his first acts in Congress.

But Cohen has had his own fraught history when it comes to the issue of race. Originally elected two years ago following a primary contest that featured a crowded field of black candidates, Cohen had faced criticism from those who thought that his majority-black district should be represented by an African American. (Cohen had expressed interest in joining the Congressional Black Caucus, but the caucus has a policy of only admitting black legislators as members.)

Since then, as this resolution highlights, Cohen has made some progress in building bridges with black members of Congress. Many African-American representatives were among the original co-sponsors of his apology resolution, and the AP reports that several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are backing Cohen’s reelection bid against a black primary challenger.


For Rep. Moran, Truth Is a Defense

By Daniel Treiman

The New Republic’s John B. Judis defends Rep. Jim Moran from charges of antisemitism over remarks he made to Tikkun magazine about Aipac, American Jewry and the Iraq War:

Moran has certainly made his share of reckless and ill-founded statements–some of which have been directed at Jews. Four years ago, Moran said that “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.” That statement is false and reprehensible. But in this case, it is Moran’s critics who are making reckless charges. And although the controversy may remain confined to the Beltway, it’s no small matter when a politician is accused of anti-Semitism. This kind of charge, if wielded without caution, makes it more difficult for politicians and policy-makers to have a frank and open discussion about American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Judis’s defense is that much of what Moran said to Tikkun is actually correct.

Read the full article.



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