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Limbaugh slammed for comparing Democrats to Nazis

 
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WASHINGTON – Rush Limbaugh’s remarks comparing Democrats to Nazis drew swift condemnation from many corners of the Jewish community — and also sparked a fight between Jewish Democrats and Republicans over which side isn’t doing enough to stop the use of such analogies.

Several non-partisan Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, slammed Limbaugh’s comments. Some Democrats also pointed a finger at the only Jewish Republican in Congress, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, insisting that he condemn Limbaugh’s remarks.

In response, some Jewish GOPers criticized Limbaugh but attempted to turn the tables, noting that while Limbaugh was just a talk-show host, a Democratic lawmaker had generally avoided criticism over his use of a Nazi-related comparison.

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Rush Limbaugh on his radio show said the similarities between the Obama health care logo and the Nazi logo were “overwhelming.” Palm Beach County Sherif's Office

The controversy underscores the degree to which Jewish organizations continue to lose ground in their fight to keep partisans on all sides from demonizing their political opponents as Nazis.

The latest flap erupted last week with Limbaugh’s remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. He was upset that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had noted that some of those protesting the Obama health-care plan at town meetings across the country had carried signs bearing swastikas.

Limbaugh responded that the similarities between the Obama health-care logo and the Nazi logo were “overwhelming,” then launched into a lengthy comparison of “the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany.”

“Well, the Nazis were against big business,” Limbaugh said. “They hated big business and, of course, we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years of mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn.”

Jewish groups criticized the remarks, saying they not only were insensitive to Holocaust victims but also undermined American democracy.

The comments “are grossly offensive and intolerable,” the AJCongress said in its statement. “They reflect a nasty and hyperbolic tendency in our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics. It is not acceptable from either the right or the left, both of which have in recent memory used such analyses.”

The ADL and Simon Wiesenthal Center hammered home similar messages, though the latter stopped short of criticizing Limbaugh directly by name.

Democrats seemed almost as interested in shining a spotlight on Cantor as on Limbaugh, demanding that the Virginia Republican denounce the comments. They noted that just days earlier, Cantor had insisted that Limbaugh had a place in the GOP when he said, “My sense is that we need the Sarah Palins, Dick Cheneys, Rush Limbaughs, the Colin Powells. We need all of them.”

Cantor, who was traveling in Israel last week, had not commented as of midday Monday. Multiple JTA requests to his office seeking comment were not returned.

The National Jewish Democratic Council took aim at Cantor.

In a statement, President David Harris said Cantor “is wrong; we do not need anyone who abuses the memory of the Holocaust in our political discourse, period. It is incumbent upon Cantor and the Republican Party to condemn Limbaugh and these utterly contemptible tactics.”

Several prominent Republican Jews did slam the Limbaugh analogy, but also stressed that Limbaugh was a radio talk-show host and not an officeholder. For example, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, called Limbaugh’s comments “outrageous” and “not appropriate,” but said more attention and condemnation should be directed at a Nazi-related comment made by a Democratic lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird of Washington.

The congressman said he’d be holding “telephone town halls” instead of in-person meetings with constituents because he feared “an ambush.”

“What we’re seeing right now is close to brown-shirt tactics,” Baird reportedly said. “I mean that very seriously.”

“Rush Limbaugh is a talk-radio host,” Brooks said. “To try to hold him to the same level of accountability” as an elected official like Baird “is ludicrous.”

Fred Zeidman, a top Jewish Republican activist and chairman of the council that oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that “Rush is in the entertainment business, and so much of what he does” is meant to be “provocative.”

Still, Zeidman added, “any comparison to Nazism is offensive to the survivors and the victims, and I wish he wouldn’t do it.”

Harris agreed that Baird’s language was wrong, but asserted that such comparisons come more often from the right.

“We think all Holocaust comparisons used in politics are wrong and unfortunate on both sides of the aisle,” the NJDC leader said. “We’ve been careful to say over the years that nobody should be engaging in Hitler comparisons, Nazi comparisons.”

JTA

 
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The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

Hanging out together

Young Israeli and local young leaders meet through federation

“I expected everything in America to be big, but not that big,” said Yuval Calderone, 17, one of the 10 Israeli members of the young leadership delegation that recently met with peers in North Jersey through the NNJ Federation-sponsored Partnership2Gether, a people-to-people exchange with the northern Israeli city of Nahariya.

“The buildings and the food — it was all very big,” said the awed first-time visitor. “It was so much fun, and I got to know a new culture. You can see the teenagers there are so much like us — they love music and hanging out.”

From May 2 to May 8, the young ambassadors — hosted by local families — made presentations to students at the Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland, New Milford High School, the Frisch School, the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies, Paramus High School, and the Paramus Jewish Community Center. They participated in Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut events and met with U.N. Deputy Ambassador from Israel David Roet, representatives from the Israel advocacy group Stand With Us, and community leaders.

 

Keeping the malls safe?

Young Israelis denied U.S. tourist visas; local relatives react with disbelief

Geoffrey Lewis’s son is getting married this weekend.

The South African-born Mr. Lewis and his wife, Karen, live in Tenafly, where his three children, Larry, Kira, and Amy, grew up; but his family, dispersed by the Holocaust and freed to follow opportunities where they led, sprawls across four continents.

Because a wedding is a celebration not only of romantic love but also of family, it’s not just about the couple, but about their roots, and about the hope for the eventual flowering of their love into more branches on the family tree.

That means that it’s also a reunion. Everyone is invited, and everyone who can travel makes the pilgrimage; the chuppah is symbolic not only of the home the couple will create but also of the extended family itself.

 

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Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

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Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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