Judith's Java
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Apr 01, 2015 -- 3:26pm

I didn’t plan on blogging this week. Passover starts sundown Friday and preparations for the joint Seder my friend and I host are rapidly consuming my life. I even dream in colorful matzo ball soup, cocoa powder, and potato kugel. But how could I celebrate freedom and stay silent about the havoc next door?

So I’m blogging about that excuse for a law the Indiana legislature just passed which, under the guise of religious liberty, gives citizens the right to discriminate against homosexuals and lesbians. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) states that citizens can’t be forced to serve people whose lives violate that citizens’ religious beliefs. Whew! This law sanctions hate, and grants haters the right of social discrimination.

Thankfully, the backlash came fast and furious. Governor Mike Pence looked like the Wicked Witch of the West just after Dorothy had thrown the bucket of water at her. George Stephanopoulos’ questions had the same effect; Governor Pence melted. But the law’s defenders repeatedly cite the need to protect religious freedom and define government limits.

Hoosiers, listen up. The battle to expand civil rights was decided by the Civil War and resolved in the Civil Rights Act in 1964. It’s “settled” law that everyone has equal protection. Same sex marriage is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. By this time next year it will be legal “from sea to shining sea.” Get over it.

Your hate-filled attempt at jurisprudence won’t slow same-sex marriages. Mayor Emanuel invited any Indiana resident who’s victimized by this law to come to Chi-Town to live and work. You can have the wedding of your dreams on the western shore of Lake Michigan. I’ll even help with your arrangements.

This law hit homosexuals and lesbians. They’re only the first stop. Women, Jews, Hispanics, blacks, Muslims—anyone who’s “Not Our Class, Dear” are next. The Passover story’s alive and well and still resonates. No! I can’t stay silent. Lay off you Hoosier bullies. Shame on you!

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Mar 26, 2015 -- 9:37pm

The runoff election for Chicago’s Mayor is now only 1 ½ weeks away and accusations are flying fast and furious. Both Mayor Emanuel’s and Commissioner Garcia’s campaigns are busy painting the other side as latter-day Lucifer’s. But this election differs in one crucial respect: Image threatens to totally blight out reality.

Images and elections go together like pizza and pie. The candidate with the more likeable image usually wins. This winner creates a self-image image that’s compassionate, fiery, efficient, thrifty and witty. He or she also tars the opponent as naïve, two-faced, uncaring and with a terminal case of tax and spenditis—and the winner makes his or her characterization of the opponent stick. 

Listen to Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Garcia sounds like a bumbling fool. Appointing commissions to solve Chicago’s pension woes etc. will further delay the solution. Commissioner Garcia should have appointed his issues committees and told them to start burning midnight oil immediately after the last election. He should have run on solutions, not promises of thorough review. He said he would also eliminate the cameras on stoplights near schools. What happens to Chi-Town’s credit rating if the city starts declaring signed contracts null and void?

Commissioner Garcia’s portrays Mayor Emanuel as uncaring. The Mayor closed 50 schools without consulting individual communities. Over 1000 teachers lost their jobs. Roughly 6000 children moved out of the Chicago school system to points unknown. Neighborhoods pay the price of having too many stolen or unregistered guns on the street. Remember Jamila Watkins, Heaven Sutton, and Dantrell Davis? The Mayor, Commissioner Garcia asserts, just doesn’t care about the average Joe or Jane Chicago citizen.

These images have taken center-stage,shoving the real questions into the wings. The next Mayor of Chicago will grapple with dwindling state funds for education; firearm proliferation; highly competitive job markets, and a weary citizenry. Mayor Emanuel has addressed the tough questions head on. That’s why I endorse Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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Mar 11, 2015 -- 9:26am

This tale would “cross a rabbi’s eyes.[1]” While shopping, a sign caught my eye in the strip mall’s kosher restaurant. It showed Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky with an international “no” sign over her face; its caption read “Shame on you, Jan.” My reporter’s instinct kicking in, I entered the store and asked for the owner.

After introducing myself, I asked about the sign. The owner answered that Congresswoman Schakowsky had “betrayed” the Jewish people, adding this would be difficult for a non-Jew to understand. I introduced myself in Hebrew. The owner then said this feeling came from those in the Orthodox community who believe that Congresswoman Schakowsky betrayed the Jewish people by not attending Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. His point: Netanyahu was right. Iran is dangerous and America’s Jews are in peril from a second holocaust. But Netanyahu is facing a serious election challenge; are the anti-Netanyahu Israeli voters also traitors?

Another customer told us where the Congresswoman could go. And another crowed that Keshet, an organization serving Jewish individuals with developmental disabilities, withdrew its invitation to honor Congresswoman Schakowsky. By the way, “traitorous” Congresswoman Schakowsky has a perfect pro-Israel voting record.

This isn’t Judaism; it’s politics…paranoid politics. After that exchange my inner clothes horse overcame my Lois Lane complex, and I bid farewell to this anti-Jan brigade.

But I wondered… Where in the 613 Jewish Mitzvoth (commandments) is the one requiring unconditional loyalty to Israel’s Prime Minister? If a Holocaust is imminent in America, where are the American equivalents of the Enabling Act; the Nuremberg Laws; the anti-Semitic government publications, Julius Streicher? Where are the Jewish stars that must be worn; where’s the ban against Jews in the public parks and on public transportation? Where are America’s Dachau and Auschwitz? Two days later the sign was gone.

The Constitution rightly separates religion and state. There’s shame here but not on Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

[1] Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, “If I were a Rich Man,” Fiddler on a Roof, 1964.

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Feb 26, 2015 -- 9:20pm

Election-Day in Chi-Town is history, noteworthy only because it settled nothing. Chicago has neither a triumphant incumbent nor an eager new “Your Honor.” This election was a primary which picked the top two vote getters to face off on April 7th. Just when most of us thought it safe to go back to campaign-free lives!

Mayor Emanuel received the most votes, roughly 45%. But Chicago’s winners need 50%+1 to win. Hence, Mayor Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia, (the next highest vote getter at nearly 35%) will go head to head on April 7th.

With three fewer candidates in the race it’s almost certain that one will received 50%+1 of the vote. But a 50/50 split is possible. Thus, we could have elections until the proverbial cows come home or one candidate manages to snag that needed vote. I’d hate to be the Civics teacher trying to explain that one.

What can we learn from an election that elected nobody? The first thing that hit my Java and I was the low turnout. A pitifully small amount of Chicagoans decided that Chicago will face another mayoral election.  Don’t blame these civic-minded citizens for taking their civic duties seriously. Where were the rest of you?

Some voters stayed home because there was no “none of the above” box on their ballots. Flash: Candidates come complete with human weaknesses. If you want a more perfect candidate, vote in the primaries. Better qualified candidates get on the ballot when everyone votes in the primary. Mme. Confucius notes, “The smaller the primary vote the scuzzier the candidates.”

Dirty campaigning lowers voter turnout. Last election one candidate used a racial slur; another charged a rival with unlawful use of real estate deductions; another charged Mayor Emanuel with not caring about poorer neighborhoods…And things will get dirtier. Both candidates can claim minority status. Let’s hope that doesn’t become an issue. As Mme. Confucius says: “He or she who slings mud gets hands dirty.”

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Feb 11, 2015 -- 10:02pm

Measles is alive and well--and infecting our children. It first reappeared in Disneyland (how apt) and has since spread to at least 14 states. Most Illinois cases center in Cook County. Besides a very ugly, itchy rash, measles attacks eyesight, brain function, and can cause pneumonia. Scratching the rash causes disfigurement. Here’s a killer worthy of the title ‘terrorist.’

Why has measles come roaring back? A London study in the 1990s claimed that measles vaccine caused autism and many parents believed it. The study was completely discredited and has been pulled from the files. But the fear lived on. Once parents stopped vaccinating their children measles took a victory lap.

 Autism has become our equivalent to the French Revolution’s “Great Fear.” A friend relates that she and husband were sitting for their newborn granddaughter. The child started to cry and Grandma picked her up and began to rock her. Just then the opera Manon by Jules Massenet came on the air. Baby nestled in Grandma’s arms, fell sound asleep and stayed asleep until Manon died her beautiful opera death. Then Baby screamed for an encore.

Grandma and Grandpa rocked her back to sleep; later told her parents what happened. The parents were horrified: Didn’t Grandma and Grandpa know that all operas including Massenet’s caused autism? Only small doses of Mozart are safe. Both grandparents had trouble keeping straight faces. If that were true 50,000,000 Frenchmen, not to mention the rest of Europe would be autistic.

Time for a reality vaccination.

Both my husband and I had measles prior to 1963. It was a harsh rite of childhood. Shortly afterward, we both needed glasses. For a friend measles resulted two brain tumors, and a paralyzed arm.

There was no question about vaccinating our child. He never contended with any childhood diseases. No child ever should.

Listen up parents; here’s the skivvy: Vaccinations prevent measles. Neither they nor operas cause autism. Let’s wipe out this disease before it kills or maims anymore of our kids. Vaccinate NOW!


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Jan 29, 2015 -- 11:00pm

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub and Mr. Chicago, died on January 23, 2015…and all Chicago mourned the no-longer-living icon. Banks’ statue will remain in Daley Plaza until Sunday February 1st. Banks was beloved by all of Cook County, even White Sox fans. I hoped he’d celebrate his 100th with us. But what an extraordinary life Banks lived. My thoughts walked down memory lane.

I first saw Banks play in 1953 during a family outing to Wrigley. When Banks came to bat my mother said, “That’s Ernie Banks. He’s our star.” We cheered, as did all Cub fans. There was no black and white, only our hero Ernie Banks. I don’t remember whether or not the Cubs won that day, but I do remember Banks hitting well.

I didn’t know then that Ernie Banks and Gene Baker were trailblazers, among the first African-American players in major league baseball. We’re still living with the mess left by the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision that black and white were “separate but equal.”

Banks got his playing experience in the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs before coming to the Cubs. Banks played on the Cubs until 1968. After that he remained a much-loved Chicago symbol. Banks promoted education, sports, and programs that help young people get ahead. In 2013 famed artist “Nico” Nicolosi painted a chair in Banks’ honor, which was displayed on Michigan Avenue and later sold at a celebrity auction.

Banks personally touched my family’s lives. My son met Banks when he worked at a golf club. Ernie talked with him and signed his autograph; he was beyond happy. They had other meetings and became friendly. Then I had a chance to teach in India for a year and my husband and I started planning to go. My son sadly told Banks about it, saying he’d miss us. Banks replied, “Then…I’ll be your father.”

If there’s baseball in Heaven, Ernie Banks will be playing slugger-shortstop on the Heavenly Cubs. Batter-Up!


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