Monday, December 19, 2016



I am proud to be living in the sanctuary city of New York, which has taken steps to ward off mass deportations of immigrants and to give legal protections to those living here.

The following is excerpted from an editorial appearing in The New York Times, December 16, 2016.

If the next president’s immigration agenda includes a pitched battle over “sanctuary” cities, a term Donald Trump uses with disgust, the proper response from places like New York will be: Bring it on.

The word “sanctuary” as Mr. Trump deploys it — a place where immigrant criminals run amok, shielded from the long arm of federal law — is grossly misleading because cities with “sanctuary” policies cannot obstruct federal enforcement and do not try to. Instead, they do what they can to welcome and support immigrants, including the unauthorized, and choose not to participate in deportation crackdowns they see as unjust, self-defeating and harmful to public safety.

New York City wears that kind of “sanctuary” label proudly. As California considers bold steps to shield its residents from a possible Trump immigration assault, the New York City Council has already built its own strong web of protections.

A groundbreaking City Council program has provided free legal representation for children who fled violence in Central America and arrived unaccompanied at the border. Of 1,265 cases accepted under the program, 72 children were granted asylum and 55 obtained lawful permanent residency. The Council has expanded health and legal services in immigrant communities. And it passed bills to keep federal immigration agents out of the Rikers Island jails, and to forbid city police and corrections officers from detaining suspects for deportation, unless there is a judge’s warrant.

Mayor Bill de Blasio who signed both bills, has also promised since the election to defend immigrant residents from other possible threats, like a registry of Muslims and a roundup of unauthorized immigrants. The city will stop saving the personal records of residents who apply for its municipal ID card, to prevent the data from being abused for a deportation purge.


ANOTHER SIGN OF OUR TIMES: This one is positive and hopeful

Thumbs up for this sign I spotted on a storefront in my neighborhood. It's a project of Jewish Voice for Peace. Hope to see these everywhere!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

ACTION: Write A Letter to the Editor

Back in 1948, in the wake of the horrific atrocities of World War II, the United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (link here), drafted by individuals with "different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world."  

In its preamble, this document acknowledges its creation as arising from a situation in which "disregard and content for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind." But it goes on to express the enduring vision of a revitalized world "in which human beings all enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want."  

In this blog entry, let's consider Article 19, which asserts that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." 


In 1948, no one anticipated the advent of social media and the ability of those who know how to tap into its power to attract multitudes of "followers," a highly engaged like-minded audience prepared to spread opinions, information, and misinformation indiscriminately and instantaneously.

Twitter posts and the like represent a world of "sound bites," formerly the exclusive domain of 24-hour TV and talk radio news cycles.  You can't pack subtlety within 140 characters.  And, what's more, the proliferation of "fake news" that is spread rapidly through social media makes it even more difficult to separate truth from outright and deliberate lies.

One avenue that still retains the ability (if not always the practice) to provide more comprehensive and factual information is that old stalwart, the newspaper. Print news may very well be on the way out, but a free press still has the power to keep the public informed and to uncover falsehoods and opinions that are masked as truth. If you don't already have a paid subscription to a newspaper, you might consider getting one. Consider it a donation toward defending freedom of the press.



If you have ever wanted to write a letter to a newspaper in response to an article, editorial, or opinion piece then, by all means, take the time to do it.  

No promises that it will be published, but it is something you can do, a way for your voice to be heard  in a way that is different from Facebook or Twitter or a conversation with a friend.  

I have had a good number of my letters published in The New York Times.  I've also had quite a few that were not published.  

But even when a letter is not selected for publication, I do not feel I have wasted my time.  First, nothing goes to waste. I generally find a way to recycle and repurpose unpublished letters.  Indeed, you'll find one further down in this blog post.

More importantly, preparing these letters has allowed me to clarify my thoughts and narrow them down to the essence of what it is I want to say. 

Here are three points to keep in mind if you want to improve your chances of having your letter published.  

1.   Write in response to a specific article or editorial that appears in the paper, and get it written and sent off as quickly as possible after it appears. I always e-mail mine within hours after the article has appeared.

    2. Keep it brief, and focus on just one or two specific points you want to make.  This is the hardest part for me, to keep it very narrow and not say everything I want to say about the topic.

 3.  Be mindful of the tone.  Make your feelings be known, but keep it professional and controlled.  The angrier the tone, the less likely it is to be published. 

Here is one of my letters that was not published. It was written in response to an op-ed piece that appears in The New York Times in September. The piece I was responding to was written by conservative radio talk show personality Glenn Beck and was titled "Empathy for Black Lives Matter." (Link Here).  Here is what I wrote in response:

To the Editor:

Re:  “Empathy for Black Lives Matter” (Op-Ed, September 7, 2016)

As a professional educator and a social progressive, I was quite taken with conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s cogent plea for greater empathy in our current climate of absolutism. The Black Lives Matter movement will truly mean something when we can join together and say not just that “Black lives matter,” but that “Black lives matter to me.”  And mean it. And act on it.

I offer it as an example of brevity and specificity that is the hallmark of the letters I have had published. I chose The New York Times for several reasons.  For one thing, it is my local newspaper and the one to which I subscribe. But I also understand that it has a national readership, and so what I have to say has the opportunity to reach a wide audience indeed. But when I lived in the midwest, I wrote and published a number of letters in the local newspaper about local and statewide issues. 

You might ask, does any of this really make a difference?

My answer:  You never know.   Remember:  



Friday, December 9, 2016

CALIFORNIA'S STANCE ON IMMIGRATION: When Social Justice and Politics Unite to Uphold the U.S. Constitution

The following is excerpted, shortened, and slightly edited from a New York Times Editorial, published Dec. 9, 2016.  

Three bills were introduced this week in the California State
Legislature, seeking to protect the rights of immigrants.

One would create a program to finance legal services for immigrants fighting deportation. Another would provide training and advice on immigration law to public defenders’ offices. 

A third bill would bar state or local resources from being used for immigration enforcement, a strictly federal duty. No state or local law enforcement agency would be allowed to detain or transfer anyone for deportation without a judicial warrant.

Nothing in the bill would obstruct the federal government. 

This is not a nullification of federal laws or a rebellion against the Constitution. 

It’s upholding the Fourth Amendment, preventing unreasonable search and seizure, so mothers and fathers can go to work and children go to school without fear of losing one another. 

It’s also upholding the First Amendment, so day laborers can solicit work on a sidewalk. 

Finally, it allows local police to keep the trust and cooperation of crime victims and witnesses, who will not fear every encounter as a prelude to deportation.


What I like about these proposals is that they seek to uphold both a set of social justice values and the inclusiveness of the U. S. Constitution. At the same time, none of these would obstruct the legal acts of the federal government or of its agents. Immigrants would be subject to the law, just as non-immigrants are. That's as it should be.    

If you want to read the New York Times editorial in its entirety, here's a link: 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

KELLOGG'S: To Boycott or To Join the Anti-Boycott? That is the question we ask of you.

If you are a regular visitor to Breibart, the conservative and controversial news and opinion website, you probably know that it is encouraging readers to boycott Kellogg's products. This came about after the cereal maker announced its decision to stop advertising on the site because of its opposition to the values the Briebart espouses, values which many view as sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic.  

In pulling its advertising, Kellogg joins Target and Allstate in taking this stance.   

The call for a boycott has been zipping around social media postings by Trump and Breibart supporters. 

The website, which for a long time flew under the radar of the mainstream media, gained national attention when its former chief Steve Bannon become President-elect Donald Trump's senior advisor.  

The situation here is somewhat different than that of the previously-discussed threats against the founder of Chobani Yogurt, who is under fire by many on the right for his support of African and Middle Eastern refugees. In that case, we suggested that an anti-boycott (i. e. intentionally buying Chobani products) might be a good way to go for those who find such threats to violate the core values in the struggle for social justice.    

In the case of Kellogg, this appears to be a business decision as much as a "values" decision -- on both sides of the fence. Kelloggs (and Target and Allstate) may very well be driven by their values, but they also know their customers. For its part, Briebart doesn't want to lose any more advertising revenues.  

Don't be a pawn. If you support Breibart and its values, then, by all means, join the boycott and encourage others to do so.  If you stand in opposition to Breibart, then join the Anti-Boycott and stock your shelves with Kellogg's products.  

Social justice may be a verb, but actions without thought are dangerous no matter your political views.  Make up your own mind, and then act.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

ACTION: The Anti-Boycott

Boycotts can be an effective means of convincing a business to rethink its policies. On an individual basis, it makes sense to refuse to patronize businesses that discriminate or otherwise engage in practices that violate principles of social justice. But boycotts generally require a large group effort and tons of publicity to pull off successfully. Too often they don't accomplish much beyond the noise they might generate. 

Case in point, when President-elect Trump castigated the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton for addressing VP-elect Mike Pence following a performance he attended (the company's message: "we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us"), there was a hue and cry among Trump supporters. They immediately declared a boycott of the show as a means of showing their disapproval. The problem is, of course, tickets to Hamilton are pretty much sold out for the next year and things are likely to continue at capacity for a very long time indeed, rendering a boycott a meaningless if self-satisfying gesture.  

Here's a different approach you might consider.  Call it the Anti-Boycott.  

Go out of your way to patronize businesses that make it a point of supporting social justice causes. The next time you crave ice cream, you might want to choose Ben & Jerrys, whose foundation ( has a mission of engaging in "philanthropy and social change work" both locally and around the country.  Or take a look at Bombas (, a company that sells socks and donates a pair to homeless persons for every pair purchased.  

You buy ice cream.  You buy socks.  Right?  So, here's a way to be part of the solution.  

Then there is the Chobani Yogurt story. Check out this excerpt from an article by David Gelles, that appeared in the October 31, 2016 edition of The New York Times:

By many measures, Chobani embodies the classic American immigrant success story.

Its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, is a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent. He bought a defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York, added a facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, and now employs about 2,000 people making Greek yogurt.

But in this contentious election season, the extreme right has a problem with Chobani: In its view, too many of those employees are refugees.

As Mr. Ulukaya has stepped up his advocacy — employing more than 300 refugees in his factories, starting a foundation to help migrants, and traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos to witness the crisis firsthand — he and his company have been targeted with racist attacks on social media and conspiratorial articles on websites including Breibart News. 

Now there are calls to boycott Chobani. Mr. Ulukaya and the company have been taunted with racist epithets on Twitter and Facebook. Fringe websites have published false stories claiming Mr. Ulukaya wants “to drown the United States in Muslims.” And the mayor of Twin Falls has received death threats, partly as a result of his support for Chobani.

Death threats for reaching out a helping hand to refugees!!! Really???!!!

Here's where the Anti-Boycott approach comes into play.  Show your support by making a point of purchasing Chobani Yogurt over other brands. Simple.  

You could even go one step further and let others know about this and see if you can spread the word. You might even want to drop the company a word of encouragement if you've a mind to.  Gotta do something, folks. Remember: