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Dry Bones JEWISH s gig
Let's Break The Deadlock
U S. Sen. Arlen Specter says the political debate
over an apparently deadlocked bill — as well
as several other proposals that would expand
federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in the
Senate — makes him "mad as hell."
Little wonder. The Pennsylvania Republican is suf-
fering from Hodgkin's disease himself You can see him
on C-SPAN, hairless and wan — his eyes red and nose
running — after undergoing numerous cancer treat-
Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells —
which can be transformed into many other types of
cells and are believed to have the potential to treat dis-
eases like diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as well
— offer more benign treat-
ments for numerous cancers.
Some researchers also believe
that embryonic stem cells may hold the potential to
help people recover from paralyzing spinal-cord
What's more, support for increased research funding
enjoys support across a broad swath of the Jewish com-
munity, including both the Religious Action Center
for Reform Judaism and the Orthodox Union. And
how often do the two groups agree so strongly on such
a singular issue?
When so many Jews can agree on such a vital issue,
more groups in our community need to remind their
lawmakers — and the White House — that increased
funding for embryonic stem-cell research is an issue
that unites us rather than divides us.
E-mail your opinion in a letter to the editor of no
more than 150 words to: email@example.com .
Hadassah — perhaps the leading advocate in the
Jewish community for embryonic stem-cell
research — did just that last week when it sent
1,500 members to Capitol Hill to lobby for the
"Many people here have relatives who have dis-
eases that could be impacted by stem-cell research,"
one Hadassah member, Rachel Schonberger, 63, a
physician from Atlanta, told aides to Sen. Johnny
"It is not a political issue; it is a health issue," Dr.
Schonberger told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
But, of course, everything is a political issue in
Washington. And Jewish backers of increased stem-
cell research can take some comfort that the presi-
dent and his advisers are not only counting votes in
Senate as well weighing how Bush's threatened veto
of a stem-cell bill might estrange the Orthodox
groups that have fervently supported Republicans
and Evangelical Christians on issues such as gay
marriage, the Terri Schiavo case, school tuition
vouchers and increased federal support for religious
charities. All are likely issues in the 2006 congres-
The president has criticized increased funding for
stem-cell research as "[taking us] across a critical ethical
line by creating new incentives for the ongoing
destruction of emerging human life."
But after the House passed its own stem-cell funding
bill in May, the Orthodox Union issued a statement
affirming that embryonic stem cells' "potential to save
and heal human lives is an integral part of valuing
What's more, the statement added, "The traditional
Jewish perspective does not accord an embryo outside
Rollin' On The River
went out and purchased a gondo-
la and a long pole. My mission
was to find this mainstream I
keep hearing about. I know
it's out there somewhere.
Every politician in America
seems to think he's floating
smack dab in the middle of
But I was puzzled over the geogra-
phy. Exactly where does this main-
So I asked Ted Kennedy.
He told me that the mainstream
rejects all restrictions on abortion, sup-
ports affirmative action and gay mar-
riage whole-heartedly, opposes capital
punishment, thinks the answer to the
country's economic problems is to stop
globalization, believes that protected
species trump property rights every
time, wants the Patriot Act repealed
and would ban all SUVs.
"But senator," I said. "All the
polls indicate that the majority
of public opinion believes just
the opposite. Besides, your
boat seems to be stuck in the
weeds. The river is flowing
past, and you're not moving with it."
"Nonsense," he said. "We're doing
fine. It's the river that's wrong."
I thought I'd ask Jerry Falwell where
the mainstream was; but he was busy
praying that the river would reverse its
course, and I didn't want to disturb
I went to ask Bill O'Reilly about the
mainstream, but he wanted to sell me a
book on how to navigate the rapids
I waded over to where Hillary
Clinton was supposed to be looking for
George Cantor's e-mail address is
JEN firstname.lastname@example.org .
CAN'T BOTH BE
MY DEAR, YOU
of the womb the full status of humanhood and its
As Nathan Diament, the O.U.'s public policy direc-
tor, quietly warned the White House in the Forward
last year: "Orthodox Jews are not merely evangelicals
who read the Bible right to left."
We trust our lawmakers have also read a recent CBS
News poll that found that a majority of Americans
approve of using embryonic stem cells in medical
the mainstream, but I was told
is out of the mainstream, too.
that she had gone off the deep
My little boat was drifting
end and never came back.
away, and my pole was tangled
I tried to ask President Bush,
but he was having a big splash
Maybe there is no main-
fight with his brother Jeb, and
stream, I told myself Maybe
I didn't want to get wet.
everyone who feels the water
I paddled over to Michael
lapping around his ankles mis-
Moore and he said the main-
takes it for the mainstream
stream had been deliberately hid-
it is only a leaky toilet.
den by the auto companies and
it Heracleitus who said
big oil because they wanted you
that you can never step in the
out of your boat and into a big,
same river twice? Or maybe it
filthy polluting car.
was Pancho Villa.
I saw an aged rabbi in the water and
Maybe it is not the business of a jus-
decided to ask him. "It is where it is,"
tice of the U.S. Supreme Court to be in
he said. "It don't plant taters; it don't
the mainstream, anyhow. Maybe his
plant cotton; it just keeps rollin' along."
sole focus should be on understanding
At that point, my gondola tipped
what the Constitution means and let
over. I never realized the mainstream
the elected branches of government
would be this hard to find. Maybe a
concern themselves with streams, main
Harvard-trained attorney would have
an easier time of it.
It was only then that I realized I was
According to many voices in
up the creek without a paddle. This
Washington, though, John Roberts, the
can happen when you seek wisdom.
nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court,