Judith's Java
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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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Jan 22, 2015 -- 12:25am

A recent 60 Minutes feature inspired this blog. It was the story of a current Broadway show featuring songs that had been popular among African-Americans in the 1940s-1960s. The characters also told their personal stories, and the piece concluded with the seniors joyfully teaching young black singers how to sing the older music. 

That piece touched a nerve. “Why can’t something like that Broadway show happen here?” I wondered. Senior citizens came out of a world we’ve lost. Only some vintage styles are left of the world that shaped me as an adult. Today’s culture focuses on the youth, the ones who shape the trends; the models in ads. Seniors are an invisible demographic. Surveys of the over 65 crowd on their views of culture, style and politics are rare.

Yet some local talented and motivated seniors have indeed been giving similar performances for years. Cases in point: North suburban residents Sally Jablo and Shelle’ Malina, both over 70 have retired, yet they continue serving their communities.

Malina professionally planned events, among other executive duties. Today she often chairs and plans events for Chicago and north suburban Hadassah. Malina also sings in the Skokie Community Chorus as a 1st soprano. Members of that chorus include children as well as senior citizens. The eldest singer is over 90. The older singers often mentor the younger members.

Jablo sang musical leads in community and professional theater. As a teen, Jablo ushered at the Lyric Opera. She recounts the time that the late Maria Callas invited all the ushers backstage after the performance. Jablo recalls fondly that Mme. Callas thanked them for their work. Jablo’s still singing. She’s a member of Still Acting Up, an acting and musical group of senior citizens sponsored by the Skokie Park District.

I’m lucky to know these women. They’ve found ways to continue giving to their communities. Its high time more seniors entered the limelight. They have a lifetime of experiences to share. And oh do we need their experiences.

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Jan 08, 2015 -- 9:36pm

On January 7th, two terrorists entered the conference room of Charlie Hebdo magazine and murdered 10 members of Charlie’s editorial staff and two police officers at point blank range. Suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi hated Charlie because it satirized Mohammed. When caught they’ll face France’s wrath.

The press figures mightily into French history. French pamphleteers spread the idea of “liberte, egalite, fraternite” during the French Revolution. Three French journalists refused to allow King Charles X to shut down their press in July, 1830, which touched off the revolution that drove the Bourbon kings out of France. In 1898, French journalist, Emile Zola accused the French military of railroading Alfred Dreyfus into life at Devil’s Island on a trumped-up treason charge. Zola’s writings led to Alfred Dreyfus’ exoneration.

Terrorists hate the press’ freedom. The attempt, apparently by North Korea, to suppress the Interview’s release is yet another side of the same terrorist coin.  What does this have to do with us? The events that occurred in Paris could happen here. We’re used to strong editorials and don’t usually worry about someone disagreeing to the point of murder. But since 9/11, the impossible has become all-too-possible. Journalists now must weigh the impact of their words.

The best journalists write according to the dictates of their consciences; they’re essential to a free society. Satire and well-worded editorials often make people think, then question and act, resulting in a free society. Terrorists cannot stand freedom; the Kouachi brothers and their ilk have twisted Islam into a set oppressive laws. A free society spurns, then ignores this type of religious fanaticism. Terror alone brought the Kouachi’s into the spotlight.

Scratch a terrorist and you’ll find a coward and a bully. The Kouachi’s have nothing to offer other than violence and mayhem…and they will pay.

Stephane (“Charb”) Charbonnier, Charlie’s editor said he would rather die standing up than on his knees. Alas, he got his wish, but his courage lives on. Vive la France.

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