- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Viewing Passover through the prism of Iraq

The throngs of Iraqi Shi'ites making a pilgrimage to Karbala, finally unafraid of practicing their religion ("Displays of devotion," Page 1, yesterday), made me think of what the scene must have been like as the Jews, finally free of Pharaoh's oppression, gave thanks to the same Creator that grateful Muslims addressed in the streets of Basra. The liberation of the Jews from Egypt may have been more miraculous, but if the citizens of Pharaoh's Egypt and their Hebrew slaves could have seen the pictures from Iraq, they might have argued that America's military might is no less impressive than the swarms of locusts and the Nile's blood-red water of the 10 plagues.
Jewish tradition insists that at Passover we act as if the experience of Exodus is as real for us as it was for the original generation taken out of slavery. Many times in the past few decades, we didn't have to rely on our imagination very much. We lived through such experiences as Jews began to settle in Israel after the horror of the Holocaust, as the near-certain second Holocaust was averted with Josef Stalin's death in 1953 and as Jews from the four corners of the world came to live in a free and democratic Jewish state. Since the late 1980s, many of the peoples of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa also have been freed from various forms of oppression.
What we are seeing in Iraq (and also Afghanistan) is the first glimpse of freedom in the countries of the Islamic world. I fervently hope for the sake of the citizens of the region and for Israel's sake that this freedom and the privileges it brings will continue to flourish. Much like my fellow former Soviet Jew Natan Sharansky, I believe only democracies can produce fair and lasting agreements. This conviction comes from having lived under a totalitarian regime. America's new Eastern European allies know this as well dictators won't give in without a show of force and won't keep their word if their grip on power is unchallenged.
But the good news in Iraq must be tempered by sorrow over lives lost, destruction wrought and chasms in relations among nations. The context for the war in Iraq included the global terrorist threat, the extraordinary rise in anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism and worsening economic conditions throughout the world. While we celebrated freedom at this recent Passover, we also were mindful of the other rituals and traditions of the holiday: caring for the needy ("Let all who are hungry come and eat"); remembering the tears shed and the bitterness of being enslaved (salted water and bitter herbs); passing on the tradition to our children (the children's four questions); and reaffirming our connection to People Israel and their land ("Next year in Jerusalem").
For the thousands of Jewish families in Greater Washington who make their contributions to the Jewish Federation at this time of the year, this act of tzedakah, or charity, is a powerful reinforcement of the spirit of Passover as they join in the Jewish Federation's mission to care for those in need, foster engagement in Jewish life and strengthen the bonds among Jews throughout the world.
Chag Sameach.

Executive vice president and chief executive
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Exercise regimen for Maryland

The budget situation in Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, is not good ("Whining his way to the State House," Editorial, Saturday). As your editorial pointed out, another tax increase is the proposed answer to cover a large part of the $320 million shortfall.
As a private citizen, I suggest that the state and county governments reduce or eliminate inefficient programs and services. This would be a reasonable alternative during the difficult economic times we face.
Small businesses and private citizens are having to make cuts in their spending. An increase in taxes will only hurt them further and make it less likely that many of them will stay in or move to Montgomery County. This would decrease our tax base.
It is time to make government leaner and more efficient before the call for new taxes is raised.


Partisanship's body count

It's sad to think that anyone, no matter how partisan, left or right, could condone the loss of additional American lives to further a political interest. Yet this seems not to be a problem for Gary Kamiya, executive editor of the Internet journal Salon. As Greg Pierce reported in his Inside Politics column Friday, Mr. Kamiya believes more casualties would have been a preferred alternative to the "larger moral negative" of a victory that boosted President Bush's chances for re-election.
If additional American lives is not too great a price to pay for a Bush defeat, one has to ask, what price would be too great? In other words, to what extent will leftists go to deny Mr. Bush a second term? Certainly wishing the economy to flounder for the next two years is less morally reprehensible then wishing for more American casualties. Perhaps this explains why so many Democrats are opposed to Mr. Bush's tax cuts. They realize the positive effect his plan would have on the economy. They also realize the effect a strong economy would have on his re-election chances. So, rather than support what would benefit all, they obstruct a beneficial plan. Apparently, having a flat stock market and higher unemployment is a small price to pay to avoid the "larger moral negative" of a second Bush term.


Manufacturing realities

I was misquoted in the article "Smaller factories seek aid, tax breaks" (Business, April 10) vis-a-vis my testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business concerning the problems faced by small-business manufacturers. The remarks attributed to me in the article are contrary to my values both as a businessman and as an American. Never have I said that it makes sense for American manufacturing companies to move to other countries for the cheap labor. Nor did I say I am forced to lay off people just to break even.
I do thank your reporter for covering the problems facing American manufacturers. The demise of manufacturing is accelerating at an alarming rate. Unlike typical business downturns of the past when manufacturers simply cut back and waited for recovery, in the current downturn, manufacturers are rapidly relocating outside the United States and large numbers of small and midsize manufacturers are closing down because of foreign competition. The resulting loss of family-sustaining blue-collar jobs is undermining the middle class and devastating rural communities where manufacturing is essential to the local economy.
This country's economic strength has been based on its manufacturing capability. In order for these companies to continue to improve and grow, they have relied on innovations in manufacturing. If we are to continue to grow economically, we need innovative American companies. However, as the industry's market continues to falter, fewer companies are open, and thus a large percentage of the creativity and innovations are lost.
The broader U.S. economy is suffering as well because manufacturing stimulates the economy more than any other sector. The average income of $44,700 for an employee and the consequent spending power of manufacturing workers is higher than that of any other sector. Because of its high multiplier effect, manufacturing directly or indirectly generates more jobs than any other sector. The manufacturing sector and the non-manufacturing industries that are directly linked to it account for 45 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and 41 percent of national employment. But as we see the closure of businesses, many of the new jobs created by small manufacturers in recent years are being lost permanently.
However, as important as manufacturing is to the economic well-being of the country, it is even more important to our national security. A healthy industry is an important component of defense production capabilities. Increasingly, prime defense contractors are subcontracting parts and tooling for defense systems to Asia. This practice is not being monitored by the Department of Defense, and as a result, the military is becoming dependent on foreign sources to supply critical parts and systems for weapons. An investigation into this by the Government Accounting Office could prove to be invaluable in fixing the situation.
In conclusion, there needs to be emphasis from Congress, the Bush administration and the academic community on promoting manufacturing to our schools and communities as a rewarding career and a vital factor of a healthy economy and our national defense.

Cockeysville, Md.

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